M-A-U-SThese decorative iron letters, each a little over a foot tall, came from the facade of the Masonic Lodge in downtown Rockville. The Maus family (pronounced “Moss”) was a prominent one in Rockville. Col. Louis Mervin Maus owned a two-story brick building at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Washington Street, built around 1890, which he rented out to the local Masonic lodge (he himself was a Mason). These letters spelled out the owner’s name on a gable at the top of the roof.

In 1930 the building was picked up and moved to a new location, to make room for the new District Courthouse. According to a 1967 article in the Montgomery County Sentinel, the move involved “weeks of preparation . . . the building was jacked up and moved, intact, by mule and windlass on rollers . . . 90 degrees clockwise, 300 feet south along Washington Street and 150 feet west across the street.” Some time after that, the facade was altered in several ways, including the removal of Col. Maus’s name (in fact, the whole gable was taken down). Col. Maus sold the building outright to the lodge in the early 20th century, but a series of photographs taken before, during and after the move show that the MAUS name was not removed until the mid 1930s or so. (A note to my readers: I know it’s frustrating to read a description of photographs that I’m not showing you. In this case, the photos are not in the Historical Society’s own collections. But photos from our library may eventually make it onto this blog.)

In addition to its Masonic duties the building had other tenants on the ground floor, including a millinery shop, a small movie theater, and a PEPCO office.  The local Lodge continued to meet there until the 1960s when a new Lodge was built some blocks away, and the old building was sold. Its fate was debated for several years, and in 1974 the building was demolished altogether. As for the MAUS name, the letters may have languished somewhere inside the building for several years, or might have been saved by someone when they were removed in the 1930s. They were donated to the Historical Society by Clyde W. Milor, who owned a local plumbing company; his father Rufus Milor was a building contractor active in Rockville in the 1930s. Probably father or son was involved in the building’s move, remodel or demolition, and saved the letters.

Disclaimer: The fact that I finally finished researching the Maus building this week is purely a coincidence, and has nothing to do with the plots of recent blockbuster novels. I love the MAUS letters and wanted to get them up for others to enjoy!

WCTU bannerThis hand-painted silk banner was created by the Spencerville Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, probably in the early 20th century. It is one of two banners donated in 1978 by the Spencerville WCTU; this one reads “MONTGOMERY COUNTY, WE SHALL WIN.”  An elaborate WCTU logo is in the center, with three sprays of leaves around the edges. Beaded fringe adorns the bottom edge, and it is hung from a metal rod with a silk, tasseled cord for display.

The National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – it is officially “Woman’s,” not “Women’s” – was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1874. Although temperance (abstinence from alcohol and drugs) was the WCTU’s main concern, it also agitated for women’s suffrage, labor reform, and many other issues related to the rights of women and children.  (And still does; the WCTU is an active organization.)  Local “unions”  were formed all over the country. Spencerville is a small community along Spencerville Road (naturally enough), between Sandy Spring and Burtonsville; their branch of the WCTU was most likely formed in the late 1870s. According to a brief history of the group written in the 1970s, “a Hall was built in Spencerville by and for the WCTU before anyone living can remember. It was torn down approximately forty years ago [probably during the 1930s] and the meetings carried on in the churches.” The first two Presidents, Mrs. Mary Jane Duvall and Miss Lillie B. Stabler, each served in the position for several decades, although later in the 20th century the position changed to an elected one, with short terms. Membership “reached the peak of 121” during the 1950s, and the group was still active in serving the needy in the 1970s, but this particular branch of the WCTU seems to be gone.

I’m not sure of the banner’s specific purpose; it was probably created for a parade or protest, possibly a local one (although our county’s proximity to D.C. means it’s relatively easy for local groups to carry their message to national events) since it seems to be addressed to residents of the county. It could also have been intended as inspirational decoration for the Spencerville WCTU Hall. I hope someday to track down the minutes of the group, or find reference to their participation in various events in the local newspaper.  I wish the banner said “WE SHALL WIN . . . IN 1907” or some other convenient hint, but that would make my job too easy.

p.s. For more information on the community of Spencerville, the Sandy Spring Museum’s website has a great summary and a little map.

Garden Club trophy 1931In honor of the upcoming Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, this week’s artifact is a silver trophy cup awarded to the Community Garden Club of Rockville at the 1931 Rockville Fair.  The prize was awarded by the Washington Evening Star newspaper for the best display at the Flower Show.  Here’s the full text, as inscribed in a nice early-1930s font: “Rockville Fair Flower Show / The Evening Star Gardens Club Cup / Aug 18-21 1931 / Winning Club / Community Garden Club of  Rockville Md.”  The Rockville Garden Club had a good year; we also have their trophy awarded by the Fair Association, again for “winning club” at the flower show in 1931, as well as their winning Evening Star Cup for the previous year, 1930.  The Rockville Garden Club donated these three trophies to us in 1973. 

The Rockville Fair – essentially the County Fair – was held at the fairgrounds in Rockville, where Richard Montgomery High School is today. The Montgomery County Agricultural Society began the annual fair in 1846; it moved to the permanent fairgrounds in 1856, and continued there every year (with a few breaks during the Civil War) until 1932. At that point the Agricultural Society, like much of the country, was having financial difficulties, and the fairgrounds were sold to the Montgomery County School Board; that was the end of the first incarnation of the County Fair. In 1949, after several years of planning, local 4-H leaders held the first revived County Fair in Gaithersburg; today it is the largest County Fair in Maryland.

I do realize that this is the second fair-related item on this blog (and it’s only, what, the seventh post?) but what can I say, I’m in a summer mood and am ready for the Fair.  Bring on the pig races, Bunny Barn, funnel cake, Home Arts show, and random vendors!  (You can have the rides.)