Thursday, January 31, 2013

Portraits Abound

Now that the museum has closed for the season, we have turned to the job of preparing the lone remaining 3rd floor room in need of renovation - the Lincoln Library. The work will include having the 1950s era wallpaper removed, repairs done to the plaster walls and ceiling, and painting of the ceiling, walls and floor. This means carefully storing our Civil War exhibit objects. It has also required some major furniture relocation with the help of our docents and staff.

The Lincoln Library is one of my favorite rooms in the museum. It has a high domed ceiling and a huge Victorian converted gas light chandelier, circa 1864. The room was named by Alice and holds the collection of President Lincoln objects, letters, books and photographs that she gathered for the museum and for her husband, William. Other interesting pieces include a custom-built case holding World War I era commemorative medals, and a beautiful late Federal mahogany Ladies' secretaire bookcase. The bookcase, or desk, holds many interesting smaller objects and is always fun to look through during a tour.

Among the Lincoln associated objects in the collection are two I want to provide more detail about. One is a Hanley Staffordshire pottery plaque, "Portrait of Abraham Lincoln" modeled in 1909 from a portrait taken in 1864, and made by Sherwin and Cotton Eastwood Tile Works. The tile is an amazingly lifelike image of Lincoln that was probably transfer-printed onto the porcelain before glazing. The glaze is similar in tone to a sepia photograph, and the porcelain itself is subtly shaped, or raised, to represent Lincoln's facial features. This piece was produced and sold in honor of the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth - February 12, 1909.

Lincoln was the first United States president photographed while in office. There were over 100 photos taken of him during his lifetime. The inscription on the back of the tile claims the image was created using "the only untouched negative in the United States", later this photograph was reproduced in another wonderful object in our Lincoln collection. The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln, 1911, compiled by Frederick Hill Meserve, contains a chronological record of all of the photos taken of Lincoln in his lifetime. Incidentally, the earliest known photo of Lincoln was captured circa 1848 when he was a Representative in Congress from Illinois.

There were just 102 copies printed of the first edition of the Meserve book - with a listing of recipients in the front. Our copy, signed by Mr. Meserve, is number 96. According to "Supplement Number One" published in 1917 - our copy first belonged to Mr. William C. VanAntwerp, who worked for stock brokerage EF Hutton. Frederick Meserve (1865-1962) was likely inspired to collect Civil War era photographs (at a time when mot people did not significantly value them) partly due to the fact that his father, Willian Neal Merserve, was a soldier of the Civil War and was wounded in battle at Antietam.

When we open again for tours in the spring the Lincoln Library will be an even more wonderful room to visit. The Civil War exhibit will again be on display for all to enjoy. Until then, one can visit the museum to attend events and perhaps peek through the door at the renovation in progress.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. Amanda is right, the Lincoln Library is a wonderful room and I hope to some day get back to Chazy, NY to visit and admire Alice's amazing collection. The pottery plaque is so real looking in person it is almost eerie. A must see on the tour.