Following on from last week’s post, here’s another book where the owner noted her hometown:

x20130103My New Home. By the author of “Win and Wear,” “Tony Starr’s Legacy,” “Faithful and True,” “Ned’s Motto,” “Turning the New Leaf,” Etc., published in New York by Robert Carter & Brothers, 1881.  This novel, written by Sarah Stuart Robbins, was first published in 1865; it’s a gently religious story, written for young ladies, about a woman moving out of her childhood home after the death of her mother. (Many volumes of the “Win and Wear” series, of which this is a part, can be found online.)


The book is well-read, with a partly-detached cover, rubbed corners, some water damage, and dog-eared pages; there are also a number of inscriptions.  The earlier ones, on the inside cover (above), include the name “Dr. Ayler” and a sticker from the Library of the Poolesville Presbyterian Sabbath School.  (Note that “This Book must either be returned or reported to the Librarian each Week.”)  The Poolesville Presbyterian Church was founded in the late 1840s; though it appears to have had a rather small congregation, it was active enough in the late 19th century to support both a Sabbath School and a Library with at least 104 books in it.  (This book being No. 104.)

Dr. John W. Ayler (1839-1916) was a physician from Virginia who made his home in Poolesville from the 1870s to the 1890s; he was active in the Poolesville Presbyterian congregation, and in fact his wife’s brother was a minister in the Rockville Presbyterian Church. It’s not clear why his name appears in the front of the book, though perhaps he donated it to the Sabbath School.

The Poolesville Presbyterian Church lost its full-time minister in 1902, and while I haven’t found mention of the Sabbath School in any of our records so far, it seems possible that the school closed around the same time, and the library books dispersed.  By 1903, this book was in the hands of young Margaret Lee, who identified herself clearly on the copyright page:

my house where I live Feb. 19, 1903.
Margaret Lee age 17 years
Poolesville, Md is my staying place but Sugarland is my house where I live

Sugarland is an African American community near Poolesville, founded soon after Maryland abolished slavery in 1864.  The Lees were one of the first families to purchase land and set up their households in the new community.  Margaret Lee can be found in the 1900 census, living at home with her parents Wallace and Martha; she’s noted as “at school,” probably attending Sugarland’s one-room schoolhouse. The book inscription indicates that by 1903 she was living, and likely working, in the larger town of Poolesville – but we are not to mistake that for her actual home!  Like many small towns, Sugarland inspires a strong sense of community in its residents and their descendants.  Miss Lee’s inscription – whether or not it was prompted by the theme or title of the novel, and whether it was meant for other readers’ eyes or only her own – emphasizes those ties in a particularly affecting way.

For more information about Margaret Lee’s community, visit the Sugarland Ethno-History Project website. The rest of Miss Lee’s history is currently unknown, though the people at the Project – some of them related to Miss Lee – are looking into her story.  The book itself was donated to the Historical Society’s used book sale fundraiser many years ago; we rescued it from the sale, but were not able to identify its donor by name.  If you have any information about the post-1903 history of Miss Lee or her book, please let us know!


Today we have a celebratory pennant, welcoming four new Metro Red Line stations to Montgomery County:

DSC07850This 30″ red felt pennant, donated by Trish Graboske, is printed in white with the Metro logo and text: “Montgomery County Welcomes Metro Red Line   December 15, 1984   White Flint   Rockville   Twinbrook   Shady Grove”

Montgomery County is on the Washington Metro’s roughly-U-shaped Red Line, with its upper reaches in the county and the base in D.C.  (Current map here; a history of the system, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, here.) The first station in Montgomery County – Silver Spring, on the eastern arm of the line – opened in 1978.  In 1984, the western arm was extended into the county in two increments, with stations from Tenleytown (in D.C.) to Grosvenor opening on August 25th, and the final four stations from White Flint to Shady Grove opening on December 15th.  (The eastern arm was eventually extended as well, with Forest Glen and Wheaton opening in 1990, and Glenmont in 1998.) 


Metro’s 1984 arrival was seen as a boon for Montgomery County’s commuters and shoppers, particularly as it would relieve heavy traffic on Route 355.  County and municipal governments took the opportunity to revitalize development, entice new suburban residents to the area, and improve roads and infrastructure.  The Red Line caused a few problems just as it alleviated others, however.  Metro construction threatened some historic buildings; residents of Lincoln Park, a predominately African-American neighborhood in Rockville, fought (unsuccessfully) against the closure of a main vehicular access road, which the Red Line crosses.  New traffic woes appeared – a December 16, 1984 Washington Post article suggested alternate routes to “avoid traffic congestion near the Shady Grove Metro station,” on only the second day of operations – and parking lots were quickly overcrowded.  As many current riders know, sometimes Metro travel can be a love-hate situation.

. . . But opening day, December 15, 1984, was a time for celebration, not grievances.  Fares were waived for part of the day; there was free coffee at Shady Grove, a live radio broadcast from White Flint Mall, and musical performances at Shady Grove and Rockville.  A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Rockville station was attended by “about 300 officials, development representatives and Chamber of Commerce types,” according to an article in the Post (“A Rainbow Coalition Flocks to Red Line,” December 16, 1984).  And of course there was giveaway swag, including balloons, cardboard train conductor hats, and red felt pennants like our friend here –  which, judging from photos in the Post, were particularly popular among the children on hand.  WMATA estimated that 26,500 people tested out the four new stations on opening day.

As I read newspaper articles from 1984, looking for mention of our artifact, I found myself wondering, Why a pennant?  True, it’s always fun to wave flags around at events – these pennants were originally on sticks, inserted into the strip of white felt on the end – but why not a rectangular flag?  Perhaps because pennants, so often associated with sports, convey a sense of victory, achievement, and team spirit – all good things at the opening of a major, long-in-coming development.  Those red pennants waving on opening day proclaimed, “Hooray, Metro!”

Bonus photo: Following on the sports/team spirit pennant theme, here’s a 1913 student’s room at the Briarly Hall Military Academy, Poolesville, totally done up with school pennants:

From the 1913 school catalog, courtesy Byron Thompson.

From the 1913 school catalog, courtesy Byron Thompson.

Bonus question, first posed to me by Eileen McGuckian: There’s something slightly off about the wording on the pennant – can you spot it?

For many years, MCHS held a yearly used booksale; our booksorting volunteers found all kinds of interesting things between the pages of donated books, from greeting cards to photographs to money.  I’ve been a little disappointed in the ‘finds’ from the books in our permanent museum collections, though I’ll note that the 1909 Reference Bible from Miss Claggett’s trunk contains a 1973 Safeway receipt, and there are a few homework assignments stuck inside various textbooks (which I’ll save for a future post).  I’ve had better luck – because, yes, finding something inside another artifact is totally Curator’s Luck – with our textile collections.

T2407bHere, for example, is a handkerchief found tucked away in the pocket of a late 19th century cotton print dress.  It was discovered during an inventory by one of our interns; she was appropriately excited.  (I mean that sincerely.)  The dress was donated by a Poolesville family who wished to remain anonymous; as such, I won’t speculate too much on the name behind the embroidered “W.”

T1570On the other hand, this embroidered handkerchief – forgotten in the front pocket of a pair of tuxedo trousers – is quite helpful. The R stands for Riggs, as in George, husband of the donor Eugenie LeMerle Riggs.  Mrs. Riggs gave us several tuxedos and formal suits, but with the exception of her father’s Prince Albert coat (“Daddy’s morning suit”), she didn’t specify the original owners.  Thanks to the handkerchief, we can assign the 1950s-60s “Formals by Haricon” tuxedo to George H. Riggs, Jr. (1904-1983) of Ashton.

T2340Purses and handbags are another frequent spot for forgotten personal objects. This 1920s leather bag was donated by Barbara Mullinix Grigg, who wasn’t sure if it had belonged to her grandmother Clara May Benson Mullinix (1871-1964) or aunt Connie Mullinix (1905-1993), both of Damascus.  Inside the bag are a small leather change purse, empty, and three calling cards: Miss Constance C. Mullinix, J. Collins English, and Lillian E. Whitehead.

T2340 calling cardsLillian Estelle Whitehead (b. 1907) of Wicomico County, Md. was one of Connie Mullinix’s classmates at the Maryland State Normal School (now Towson University); Connie graduated in 1924, and Lillian in 1923.  Mr. English is not as positively identified, but he may be James Collins English (b. 1907) who lived in Gaithersburg in the 1920s.  Since Miss Whitehead and Mr. English were likely Miss Mullinix’s friends, I’d hazard a guess that this well-used purse belonged to the daughter, not the mother.

T2344-45Ruth Ramsdell Stout (1918-2013) donated these two beaded handbags, from her young adulthood in Gaithersburg; both bags still contained her calling cards: Miss Ruth Marie Ramsdell.  True, in this case we didn’t need the cards to identify the original owner, but it was still great to discover them tucked inside.  These left-behind cards help us make a tangible connection between the 1930s (in this case) and today.  Calling cards may be scarce in 2013, but think how many of us have business cards – our own or our friends’ – stashed away in unused handbags and briefcases?

Hat tip to the Forgotten Bookmarks blog for inspiring today’s post.

It is often the case that, as soon as you start to research a topic, you see it everywhere.  This is particularly true for me when it comes to exhibits, and it can last for years; I still find myself noticing past themes (pets, pianos, fences. . .) in our photograph collections.  While working on our current exhibit, I realized how ubiquitous laundry is: clotheslines in the background of snapshots; advertisements for detergents in magazines; references to wash day in letters, memoirs, novels. . . . Once you’re on the alert, laundry is everywhere.

Laundry can even be found on the back of this postcard.  Its primary use in the library is as an historic image, capturing “Main Street, Poolesville, Md.,” but the message on the back is another way to look at life in Poolesville circa 1910.

059009a-2059009a-3Addressed to Mrs. J.S. Poole, 1520 R St NW, Washington D.C.  Postmarked Beallsville, year not visible. Message: “Package received – many thanks.  Hope the buttons will soon come.  I had a pr. of gloves cleaned & sent to 1520 R., please keep them for me.  Hope to see you next Thursday  [kindly] N.D.P.   Please hurry buttons.”

The recipient of the postcard was Annie Evelyn Poole, who has shown up on “A Fine Collection” several times this summer; she and her daughters had a summer home near Rockville, but wintered in an apartment on R Street in D.C.  The sender, N.D.P., is not positively identified, and it’s possible that this card came from Mrs. Poole’s bachelor brother-in-law Nathan Dickerson Poole (1843-1912); but I suspect it was sent by Nannie Dickerson Poole (1869-1928), Mrs. Poole’s niece by marriage.  Nannie D. Poole was born and raised in Poolesville; she lived with her younger brother, farmer William Wallace Poole, Jr., and his family for many years before marrying widower Harvey White (1869-1950) in 1922.  We have no photos of Miss Poole/Mrs. White in our own collections, but three images can be seen online thanks to the Monocacy Cemetery project – take a look here – she is stylishly dressed, and if she took as much care of her wardrobe as the images suggest, she might well have needed those buttons in a polite hurry.

Whether the Poolesville-area sender was Nathan or Nannie, he or she was willing and able to have accessories purchased (buttons, and whatever was in the other package) and maintained (gloves) in Washington D.C., some 30 miles away.  (Convenient relatives in the city probably helped; I wish I knew whether Mrs. Poole was expected to make the button delivery in person.)

In this era, both men and women wore gloves much of the time; thus, gloves were often subject to both staining and the critical eyes of friends and neighbors.  They also weren’t necessarily cheap, and must be treated with care. (Think of Jo and Meg March, left with only one pair of spoilt gloves to share, early in Little Women.)  Household advice guides from the 19th and early-mid 20th century provided a variety of hints on cleaning leather, silk, and cotton gloves, such as. . .

–“Wash-leather gloves should be washed in clean suds, scarcely warm. . . . Cream of tartar, rubbed upon soiled white kid gloves, cleanses them very much.”  Lydia Child, The American Frugal Housewife. Dedicated to Those Who are Not Ashamed of Economy, 1833

–“Clean kid gloves with gasoline, rubbing till dry.” Mrs. C.H. Merrill, ed., Cookery Craft, As Practiced in 1894 by the Women of the South Church, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 1894

–Put your gloves on your hands on and “wash them in gasoline in the same fashion as the hands are washed in water.” Sidney Morse, Household Discoveries, An Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes and Processes, 1908

Gloves also must be carefully dried, to maintain their shape.  There were tools to make this easier, like this pair of plastic “Handiform Glove Dryers,” circa 1960.  As the instruction sheet notes, “When you have dried your gloves on Handiform’s Glove Dryers, you have treated them as the manufacturer did when they were made.  You have dried your gloves without stretching, smoothed the seams, restored their shape, finishing them like new.”


With all these complications, it’s no surprise that many people chose to send out their gloves, cuffs, collars, and other finicky accessories to be professionally cleaned by someone else.  In 1910 there were many hand laundries, including several owned and operated by Chinese gentlemen, to choose from in Montgomery County and D.C.; unfortunately, the specific cleaner is not identified here, so we don’t know which business was patronized by this Poolesville resident.  Nonetheless, N.D.P.’s postcard message – the kind of thing we might send over email or text today – serves as a concrete, if brief, reminder that all my abstract “people used to do laundry in this manner” research applied to specific individuals, once upon a time.

Postcard donated by the Poole family; glove dryers donated by Millicent Gay.

Laundry exhibit status: Neither the postcard nor the pink glove dryers made it into the exhibit, but the display does include a pair of metal glove-drying frames (1930s), as well as a number of 19th and 20th century gloves in various states of cleanliness.

Happy Tuesday!  Yes, the blog is a day early today, because tomorrow I will have on my Assistant Museum Shop Buyer hat rather than my curator hat.  But at any rate, on to today’s topic. 

As most Americans are aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Less well known is that November is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.  To help raise the profile, so to speak, of cancers that affect men, an organization called “Movember” encourages men to grow moustaches and raise money for a variety of charities.  Keeping in mind that MCHS has no stake in this group other than a general wish for the well-being of all people, please enjoy a selection of Montgomery County gentlemen – all with fine moustaches – to inspire any of my readers who will be participating in Movember this year!

William Rich Hutton (1826-1901) of Clopper (now part of Gaithersburg), shown here in 1880.  He was a civil engineer and a farmer.  From the Woodlands collection, MCHS Library.

John Holmes Magruder, Jr. (1889-1963)… or, perhaps more likely, his father John Holmes Magruder, Sr. (1850-1925), since the photo appears to date from the 1890s.  The Magruders are a long-time Montgomery County family.  MCHS Library.

Louis W. Hicks (1883-1974) of Lincoln Park, shown here in the 1930s.  Mr. Hicks was a cabinetmaker; here he is posing with the flag stand he made for the White House in the early 1930s.  Donated by Evelyn Hicks Gaunt, MCHS Library.

Thomas Carroll, circa 1880s.  Unfortunately we haven’t researched this gentleman’s specifics yet, but his moustache is too great to be left out.  [See the next post for more info on him.] Donated by Hania Warfield, MCHS Library.

John Jones (1838-1916) of the Poolesville area, circa 1880s.  Mr. Jones was a farmer.  Donated by Ethel Hott, MCHS Library.

The young lady in the middle is Helen Muncaster (later Gassaway) of Rockville; one of the gentlemen is her brother, Dr. Stewart Muncaster, an oculist who practiced in D.C.  The other man’s identity is unknown, and I don’t know which guy is which.  At any rate, both are sporting some fashionable facial hair in this 1887 photo.  Donated by the Anderson family, MCHS Library.

Frank Dorsey (ca. 1861-?) of Jerusalem (upper Montgomery County) with his wife Mollie, shown here circa 1950s.  Mr. Dorsey was born enslaved just prior to the Civil War.  After his 1893 marriage, he built a house in Jerusalem where, according to research done in the 1970s, he lived the rest of his life.  From George McDaniel’s research on African American communities in upper Montgomery County, MCHS Library.

John Henry Parsly (1851-1927) of Brookeville, with his wife Cornelia Search Parsly, 1907.  Mr. Parsly was a storekeeper.  Donated by Lewis Parsly, MCHS Library.  [Mr. Parsly is not showing up in my preview; if he doesn’t appear, I will try to fix that later!] [Solved by giving him his very own post.]

…Well, this could go on for a long time, so I’ll end here.  If you’re local, and want to check out some more inspirational historic moustaches for your Movember challenge, stop by our library in Rockville!

four fishLast week’s fish made me think of. . . more fish! Here we have four pieces of what is probably a homemade “fishing” game or toy. Each fish (ranging from 5.5″ to 7″ long) is cut from a flat piece of wood and decorated with a hand-drawn face and fins, plus a number. Large metal screw-eyes are attached to their heads (not that it seems to bother them; they’re pretty jaunty little fish). On the back of each fish is written some variation of the label, “Custom Built by Hershey’s Toy Products, Poolesville, Md.”label

The Historical Society bought these fish on eBay several years ago, because of the Poolesville connection. The seller – an antiques/collectibles dealer – was unable to provide any further information on their history, and I couldn’t find any records of a toy company by that name in the county. However, a quick look through the basic records (i.e., The History of Poolesville by Dona Cuttler and Dorothy Elgin, and several years of census records) seems to have confirmed my feeling that these were homemade toys made for one family, with the “Toy Products” name a nice little joke.

David R. Hershey appears in the Montgomery County census records in the 11th, or Barnesville, District in the early 20th century. Although Poolesville is in a nearby election district, Hershey is associated with Poolesville by virtue of the fact that he helped found the Poolesville Telephone Company in 1909. In the 1910 census, Hershey (described by the census taker as a farmer) is living with his wife, his mother, and his four young children. Ten years later Hershey and his wife have eight children, age 14 to “infant.” (His mother, now in her 80s, is still living with them.) It seems likely that Mr. Hershey (or Mrs. Hershey, or even one of their older daughters) made this little fishing game to entertain the children of the household.

Thanks to the little “joke” product information label, we were able to trace our eBay purchase back to the individuals who owned it. We’ve found a few gems (figurative, not literal, gems) on eBay over the years, but we don’t often buy collection items this way. Personally I feel we have accumulated enough vaguely-provenanced artifacts over our 65 years without seeking out more. Simply being “from” Montgomery County is not enough; we need a story, too.

number 3

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