Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Carpet Bag's Story

I recently came across this accounting of one of the objects in the museum collection. This carpet bag belonged to William Miner's uncle John, and is now safely tucked away in storage. Its history teaches us of Uncle John and Aunt Huldah's lives as well... John and Huldah raised two orphans - Dora and their nephew William. I hope you enjoy the tale. To read more about Eva and Dora see my blog post from September 12, 2008, or click this link http://minermuseum.blogspot.com/2008/09/family-returns.html

"Written by Eva Simonds Vincent, daughter of Dora LaPorte Simonds, in her late eighties. She donated the carpet bag to the Alice T. Miner Museum.

After Eva's death in February of 1983, her sister Anna had Eva's story typed and gave it, too, to the Alice T. Miner Museum.

As we grow older our memory wanders back to days of long ago. I opened my closet door one day and found my old - but not quite forgotten - carpet bag hanging there. That old bag seemed to be trying to tell me a story, so I listened to what it had to say.

A Carpet Bag's Story

Many things have happened to me in my life - me, an old carpet bag! Did you know that Eva you are the third girl to care for me?

But my story begins with a very young man. Oh, he was tall, handsome, and very anxious for travel and adventure. He came into the store in this very small settlement in Northern New York State and bought me. My colors were bright, and fine leather handles had I then. I was very excited, for he packed me with what clothes he had and we headed for the west coast! a far place from my little settlement home.

It was 1849, and many times I heard men whispering the words "Gold in California!" The trip was not easy, but my new master, John Miner and I were young and eager for adventure.

While we were prospecting, a different kind of fever than the one that brought us out there broke out in camp. John, only 20 years old, came down with yellow fever. The Doctor did all he could for him, but John was very bad. Water was forbidden to the sick, but that was what he craved.

Now young Master John had a belt around his middle. In it he kept the gold nuggets that he had collected. Even while he was so sick, he bribed a small boy who ran errands for the men to bring him a watermelon. He hid that watermelon under his cot with me. He would suck on it piece by piece for the water that he craved.

When the Doctor visited again, Master John's condition was very much changed! The Doctor claimed that John had 'fever-eating watermelon', and that's the reason he lived to bring me back to the east and my home again.

When we returned, John decided to take part of the homestead and marry. He found a pretty young girl named Huldah. She was very young - yes, twenty years younger than John. Huldah was the first girl to love and care for me, and she layed (sic) me safely away with the belt in which my master had carried his California gold. The gold was gone now. Some of it John used to buy gold banded dishes for his bride.

When John and Huldah had been married for three years, Dora, a child whose mother had died, came to live with them. She became the second girl to love and care for me. When she was old enough to play dress-up, she carried me everywhere!

Dora, Uncle John, and Aunt Huldah, ca. 1867
Many happy years passed and before I knew it, it was time for Dora to be married. She was married in John and Huldah's home, but afterwards I lost sight of her for awhile. It was a very lonely time for me.

Before I knew it though, Dora's children came, and I was happy again! Her little girl came to visit Aunt Huldah and Uncle John and to play with me. What happy years those were!

Then came a time when Master John grew sick. He had no 'fever-eating watermelon' this time. It was very sad for me when my young Master John died.

Dora is the woman seated on the left... and could that be Aunt Huldah next to her?
Dora and her family came to live again in Master John's house with Huldah. We were to have a happy time again. My first and second little girls were together again. Dora's child, Eva, was the third little girl to love and cherish me.

Eva and Anna Simonds
As time goes by, those we love pass away. Huldah, my first little girl, went to be with my Master John. 

Dora packed me away for a long time in her closet. When she went to live with her daughter, my third little girl, I was happy once again. Eva took very loving care of me for I was nearly one hundred years old! Many happy years passed.

My Dora is long gone now, but I am still with old friends. Eva has no little girls to pass me on to, but she has arranged it to return me to the very spot where I was bought so many years ago by my young Master John! Where the old store stood, there is now a very fancy stone museum! It will be wonderful to be loved and at rest - and home!"

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Renovation Season

This winter we have moved our renovation projects to the first floor of The Alice to a space that will be noticeably changed to every visitor of the museum, whether they have come for tours or events. We are putting the finishing touches on the first floor hall soon! Here are some before photos along with current photos of the new wall color. With the help of our volunteers everything has been taken from the main hall and the south hall to clear the space to work. We then removed the old 1960s wallpaper and Steve has been working his magic with paint.

The work should be done by April when we are open by appointment. Hope you enjoy the photos... Once the collection items are back in their proper places this will be a most welcoming entree into The Alice.

the stairway down to the first floor - before

and after

the hall leading to the front (west) door with the old wallpaper

and transformed by paint!

with the front door at my back and looking toward the Colonial Kitchen - before

and after

looking toward the front door - after

the entry to the south hall - before

the south door - before

the south door - after

looking toward the stairs with the south door at my back - before

and after

alcove by the stairs - before

and after - the steam heat is still exposed

north wall of the main hall - before

and after

just left of the front door, you can see the damage on the rough wallpaper - before

and after
this shows the difference in the woodwork - old color to the left and new to the right

Friday, January 3, 2014

Busy Hands - The Barn Frame Loom

In March 1917 Alice Miner received a note from CE Hamilton, Manager of Heart's Delight Farm. He had recently fetched objects she purchased in Beekmantown and he listed them off in the note: "One red high chair (one arm off), One Rag Carpet, One high spinning Wheel (no belt), One low spinning wheel, One straight back rattan chair"... etc. The second page lists more acquisitions including: "One loom (one old board missing)"... This loom is a large Barn Frame Loom that now resides at The Alice T. Miner Museum in Chazy, NY.

The Barn Frame Loom in the Weaving Room

This is a miniature Barn Frame Loom with similar construction to the loom at The Alice

A Barn Frame Loom is constructed of large beams with mortise and tenon joints and dowels as fasteners. The construction is like that of a barn, which gives the loom its name. In our case the bench is built right into the loom and slightly tilted for comfort in the same way as the bench on the right of the miniature loom shown above. The machine is made in a way that keeps constructing and deconstructing relatively simple - in order to be taken apart and set aside when space was needed. Our Barn Frame Loom has been taken apart, stored and reassembled twice in the last eight years to make room for changing exhibits in the Weaving Room - its usual home.

Mortise and tenon joints - the only nails in our 
loom were those used to affix the replaced seat bench

Here in the museum there is space for this lovely, large work horse of a loom. And today would be a good day to sit at its replaced bench board and get some work done to stay warm! As I mentioned, this loom gets its name from the type of construction methods used to create it - like a miniature barn frame - and not because it may have been placed in the barn for use. Although it is large it would have been a very necessary tool for early homesteaders and afforded an honored place when weaving work needed to be done.

The bench can be seen at left - when constructed and placed in the museum in 1924 they managed to find an appropriately old strong board to serve as the weaver's seat

lovely details such as using a branch to hold tension on the threads

The three photos above were taken during one of the disassembly 
campaigns and show the solid construction of the loom

Another note in the archives indicates two names of women who may have once owned the loom - Mrs. Olive Culver and Mrs. Louisa Stilwell. The only information I found on either woman indicated them both as being born around 1830 in Beekmantown. Perhaps the loom was sold by later family members who no longer had a use for such a large machine in their home. The note also shows numbers next to various objects that were later crossed out - perhaps the purchase price? If so, it would indicate that Alice paid $60 for the Barn Frame Loom back in 1916 or 1917.

Museum legend talks about a friend of Alice wanting to contribute something to her museum. The woman had no appropriate antiques, but she did know how to weave. She sat down at the loom and wove a large rug that was then used in the Weaving Room for many years... Now in its old age it is safely stored away in the museum collection storage. The Barn Frame Loom serves as a handsome center piece to the museum Weaving Room. We are currently closed for tours, but come get acquainted with the loom in the spring!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Europe With Alice

On March 9, 1929 Alice T. Miner and three friends embarked on a journey to Europe. Alice wrote about the trip in a small black leather travel journal given to her as a Valentine's Day gift by Will. In addition, she bought numerous postcards in the places they visited and wrote dates on each one to record when they experienced these cities, sites and landmarks. This post is a continuation of their journey, to read earlier installments you can go to the first article, the second article, or the third article by clicking the words. You can also just scroll down the home page of the blog to get to the earlier installments.

When we left Alice and her friends they had just spent the day with a guide named Mr. Gallo who showed them around Ravello, Amalfi and Sorrento. Alice writes,

"Mar 27th
Got up early. I will never forget our lovely rooms in the Tramontano Hotel We overlooked Bay of Naples & it was lovely. We shopped and bought shawls, inlaid boxes & lace table cloths. Started for Pompeii at 11AM. Had an interesting drive to Pompeii. Had same guide and chauffer. The drive was lovely. Lunched at Grand Hotel where manager recognized me, having spent years in the Waldorf. Spent two hours seeing the excavations. Returned to Hotel Vesuve feeling very tired."

Tramontano Hotel

Pompeii - artists rendition on the top half and photograph of the same spot below - very interesting!

Mar 28th
Naples, Hotel Vesuve
Took motor to National Museum. Had guide for two hours. Saw Pompeiian relics, statuary, jewels, mosaics and spent a short time in the Art Gallery.
Went & had lunch at Belolino. Beautiful view of Naples & the Bay. Delicious food and we all felt like a million dollars. Enjoyed everything. Went to the Am. Ex. & shopped near by. Bought hand colored photos of Naples, Sorrento and Ravello from Bowinkle's Art Store. Also two silhouettes. Bought antique pin, Mother of pearl & small turquoises. Had fun. 

Pompeii Anglo American Hotel - says "Mar 29 lunched..." on back

Mar 29th
Went to Am. Ex. Bought nothing. Walked through principal street. Saw narrow Italian flower market & also regular market street. Had luncheon Via Roma. The food tasted good but restaurant not very inviting. We wished to go to the ladies room, young man took us across the way & down stairs to a barber shop. Paid 4 Lira. Had a good laugh. Walked down Via Roma met man who had been in America. Also another who wished to go. Talked with them. Went to Sapios (?), Mrs. H bought necklace.

Mar 30th
En route from Naples to Rome
Left Naples at 9:10 arrived Rome at 12:15. It was a lovely ride through rich cultivated country. Many sheep & long horned cattle. Mts in distance. Stopped at Hotel de Russi, the best yet. We were treated like Queens. After a delicious luncheon we walked over to Am. Ex. where I got a long letter from Lou (her sister Louisa). Then drove to St. Peters and certainly was awed by the magnificent edifice. Talked with verger who told me, in French, that he would have seats in the chancel for four of us & to be there at 9:30. Had pleasant visit with two Chicago girls. Saw much of interest. Drove back in carriage. 

(At this point there is a gap in post cards so I will borrow from other sources for the purpose of illustration.)

St. Peter's

Mar 31st
Easter Sun. in Rome
Rec'd cable from Will. Arrived at St Peters at 9:30. Vast crowds were gathering. Had no difficulty in finding verger who gave us good seats in front. The pomp & display was wonderful to see. Cardinal Merry de Val celebrated Mass and the music was lovely. It was a beautiful warm day. We had luncheon at Fagians on Piazza Collona. Walked to Scala Spagna & mounted stairs to Pincio gardens where we sat, rested & enjoyed watching the people. In looking over the paraphet from the top of the hillwe found ourselves looking into the garden of our hotel. Birds were singing. Visited Santa Marie del Popolo. 

Santa Maria del Popolo

Apr 1st
Am. Ex. guide met us at 9:30 (Achille Renzi). Fine auto took us to Vatican. Saw the beautiful marble statues, Nero's dining room with marble fountain. Sistine Chapel. Bought 2 pictures. Bought rosary & had it blessed by Pope Pius 11th for Mrs. Jeffery. Returned to hotel for lunch & rested. At 2:30 started with guide visited the coliseum & down the Appian Way to church of Saint Sebastian & Catacombs. Back to hotel & had tea. Wrote letter to Lou. Had fine dinner. All well.

Alice T. Miner. Sylvia Silver, Laura Haynes, Jessica Johnson 
and the guide Achille Renzi in Rome

We will leave Alice and her companions enjoying their stay in Rome. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Touring the Settee

We recently made another trip to Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Williamstown, MA. This time we were picking up the two tables on which we had necessary work done. While there I had a tour of our early 19th century settee - currently in the process of conservation with furniture conservators Hugh Glover and Gretchen Guidess. 

Gretchen and I examine the original fabric and hair stuffing on the arms of the settee

Furniture conservators employ a method I affectionately call "furniture forensics" to determine the many lives and looks a piece like this settee has gone through over the years. They photograph the object as it looks before work begins and then strip it's show cover to determine the history of the piece. From the description written by the conservators, "By examining and comparing the relative position of the layered textile attachments and the location of occupied and unoccupied tack holes, the following items were determined:

The settee has had four show covers... a black cotton satin weave fabric, followed by a gold fabric of undetermined weave structure, and finally the jacquard tapestry (on the settee since approximately the 1920s). The earliest show cover was a dark colored hair cloth, remnants of which were found under two tack heads along the underside of the front seat rail... the textile structure was observed to have two different elements woven together - one thick and one fine... most likely linen warps and horse hair wefts..."

"The haircloth show cover was decorated with a row of domed nails that were used to outline the seat back, the bottom of the sides and along the front seat rail of the settee. The broken shanks remaining in the frame are square and are corroded green, indicating copper containing metal alloy. The shank shape and alloy components signal early historic brass domed nails. The close spacing and clustering of broken nail shanks suggest two campaigns of decorative domed nails applied to the frame."

The parts remaining on the settee that are original include linen webbing, loosely woven linen base cloths, and curled horsehair stuffing. "During the investigation some inscriptions were revealed. 'AH Bullard/Winchester, Mass' was penciled down the frame element support of the proper right seat back. The proper right arm letters run vertically upward along the top third of the arm: 'Hooky??? Bi???' The outside seat back appears to have several inscriptions but they appear too faint to decipher..."

Gretchen explains the textile structures of the settee, and those of it's original fabrics and elements that are still intact - you can see the curled horsehair stuffing on the settee arm. The white cloth and new stuffing are being added before the new haircloth show cover is applied

Inscriptions too faint for the naked eye were revealed through UV light photographs

"This is an early 19th century straight back sofa with six mahogany legs, brass casters and concave armrests on the ends. The only show-woods are the legs and one stretcher; the front legs have a tapered saber form with reeding on their forward faces; the rear legs are slightly curved..."

Hugh shows the options for domed nails

Tools of the trade

Christine Puza, Gretchen Guidess, Amanda Palmer and Hugh Glover after a wonderful tour of the settee, and a tasty lunch in Hugh's garden