Muted by Time

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Today it sits silently in the corner of the Gold Parlor; it’s melodious voice muted by the ravages of time.  Noting its strange appearance, visitors have asked if it they can hear what it sounds like.  Unfortunately, we have to tell them it no longer can be played.  After 185 years, the sounding board has dried and cracked and the strings are loose and brittle. However, the Chickering Square Grand Piano does have a unique and fascinating story to tell. 

The Chickering Square Grand Piano sits in the corner of the Gold Parlor

The Chickering Story

The story starts in New Hampshire when a young cabinetmaker, Jonas Chickering, was asked to fix a locally owned piano that had fallen into disrepair.   The piano was made in London and reportedly had once been owned by the daughter of King George III.  In the early 1800s, there were very few American piano manufacturers.  Chickering successfully accomplished the task and realized this was the direction for his life’s work.   By age 20 Chickering moved to Boston and found employment in a piano-making establishment.  Within five years he had mastered every detail that went into making a piano and also developed improvements of his own.  

In early 1823, Chickering began his own business and sold his first creation, a Square Piano Forte, to James Bingham for $275.00.  Other pianos followed as rapidly as the small Chickering “factory” could produce them. From the beginning, his pianos were highly regarded and his fame spread throughout the United States. Besides making improvements on his first model, he also invented a new method of string direction and over-stringing that became a standard in the construction of pianos into the next century. 

In 1850, Jenny Lind, known as the Swedish Nightingale, began a concert tour of the United States.  Chickering was commissioned to make a custom grand piano for the first two performances. Attending the opening night in New York City was Henry Steinway who had to be encouraged to move back to his seat before the concert could begin.  This was due to his infatuation, not of Lind, but the piano!  Within a short time period, Steinway was producing his own pianos.  An interesting side note:  Fanny Webb and her step-sister Hetty Swetland attended one of Lind’s concerts during the early part of her tour.

In 1851, Chickering brought his pianos to the International Exposition at the Crystal Palace in London.  The pianos became an instant sensation and received the highest awards.  Unfortunately, the next year Chickering’s factory in Boston was destroyed by fire. He began building a much larger structure but died suddenly at the end of 1853,before the factory was completed.  Chickering left behind three sons who had been carefully trained in his craftsmanship and integrity, and were partners in the business, Chickering & Sons.  They continued making pianos until 1909, when the Chickering Company affiliated itself with the American Piano Company, and later the Aeolian American Corporation.  Chickering pianos continued to be made until 1983.  Luckily, all the files including sales invoices that Chickering meticulously kept had been saved.

1916 Letter from Chickering & Sons, Boston, giving some facts about the Museum’s piano

Frances ”Fannie” Delord Webb’s Piano

Those files included the sales invoice for the Square Grand Piano that sits in the Gold Parlor of the Kent-Delord House Museum today.  In 1916 after locating a manufacture number, Jeannette Tuttle, DAR Regent and Delord House advocate, wrote to Chickering & Sons inquiring about the piano.   Their reply stated that the piano “was finished and left the Chickering Factory June 17th, 1835, delivered to Jonathan Chapman at #52 Chestnut Street, Boston.  The price paid was $400.00.”   Further research indicates that the Chapman address was a retail store.  John Webb later acquired the piano and presented it to his young niece, Fannie Delord Webb, who lived in Hartford, CT, at the time. The piano remained there until Fannie moved back to Plattsburgh in 1864. 

In 1957, the KDH Museum Director contacted the Chickering Company to get more information about the piano.  Their reply included a description of the shape of the instrument; “Pianofortes were made in uprights and grands and wherein the shape of the grand was of rectangular contour it was called a square grand.”   [The Square Grand has sometimes been referred to as the “coffin piano” due to its resemblance to a coffin when fully closed.]

Original Chickering Label

There was also an explanation of the serial number in the piano, “Our piano serial numbers now number 209,000 and this would include all those instrument manufactured other than concert or 9’ grands.  Your instrument was the 2085th to be manufactured.”  

Most interesting is the explanation of the keyboard, “The fact that this instrument has only 73 notes (keys) is not peculiar since in the early days of piano development many different height keyboards were manufactured and the manufacture of the keyboard was varied some what at will in order to produce a more attractive instrument.”

In 1976, a local piano tuning/repairman guru was hired to make the instrument playable again.  His three-page assessment of the piano basically said that time and climate had taken a hefty toll on it.   He detailed the problems ranging from dry rot to the lack of the original types of wires and the various leathers used on the hammers. However, those of you who remember Art Pierce know he did work magic on pianos.  He was able to get the piano in playing order but cautioned that it wouldn’t last.  He was right, it didn’t! 

1976 Assessment of the extent of damage to the Square Grand Piano by Art Pierce

At a  Christmas party later that year, Susan Johnson Aceto, a very talented musician, played Christmas carols while visitors gathered around to sing.  Almost the next day, the piano sounded as if it had never been tuned!  It has never been tried again.  About a decade ago, another piano repair expert examined the instrument and determined that it needed extensive costly repairs.

Susan Johnson Aceto playing Christmas carols during a Christmas program 1976

Although Fanny Delord’s Square Grand Piano sits silently in the Gold Parlor, the museum will be filled with recordings of songs played on some early Chickering Square Grands that will revive the atmosphere of the 19thcentury in the Delord House.  Hope you can visit us soon to listen!

The Chickering Square Grand Piano in the Gold Parlor

by Patricia Tupper Loughan

Kent-Delord House Museum Quarterly Newsletter, Winter 2020

Fannie Hall’s Fanoline

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Throughout their married life the Rev. Frank and Fannie Delord Hall were partners in his church work, the temperance movement, charities and social reform.  

Frances Delord Hall and Reverend Francis B. Hall

In the 1890’s their fifth and last joint venture was the manufacture and sale of a healing ointment created and used by Fannie during the twenty years she was a self-taught nurse and apothecary serving the poor throughout Clinton County.  On October 28, 1890 that ointment, named Fanoline for its inventor, received a U.S. patent. 

Fannie’s patent issued by the U.S. Government Patent Office

One of Henry Delord’s old outbuildings was converted into a factory.  Here Fannie brewed her salve, a mixture of sweet oil of almonds, white wax, spermaceti, subnitrate of bismuth, glycerine, carbolic acid crystals and tannic acid.

These jugs contained some of the ingredients in the salve.

Frank’s job was to make the little round boxes in which the cure-all antiseptic ointment was sold.  According to the blue label on the box, Fanoline would promptly heal such ailments as; eczema, fever-sores, catarrh-colds, piles, sore nipples, burns, blisters, corns, sore eyes, chapped hands and lips, insect bites, wounds and pinworms.

The building, formerly known as the baker’s house, was moved and attached to the rear of the Delord House

The retail price for the half-ounce box was 25 cents; the wholesale price was 13.8 cents.  Fanoline must have had stiff competition from the old-time ointments available at that time; Lanasol, Resinol, Pond’s Extract and Cuticura, which sold for the same price.

In 1894 the Halls incorporated a business called the Cumberland Bay Works to sell Fanoline. Fannie was named president and Frank the secretary-treasurer.  They issued 500 shares of stock of which Fannie owned 490 shares (an Albany attorney had advised her from selling stocks outside Plattsburgh.)  

Cumberland Bay Works Stock Certificate

Frank Hall conducted an extensive and expensive promotional campaign as far west as Colorado.  Of all the advertising methods used by the Halls, the most costly and probably the most effective was the publication of testimonial letters written and signed by the satisfied users of Fanoline.  These letters were written at the request of Frank Hall and were printed on handbills and in the Plattsburgh Sentinel from 1895-98.  The Halls’ friends in Plattsburgh and as far west as Indiana wrote that Fanoline did wonders for piles and skin problem.  A.W. Lansing, editor of the Sentinel, had this to report:  “From personal experience I can assert that Fanoline is a certain cure for hemorrhoids or piles.  It allays the pain while it works a speedy cure by restoring the parts to a healthy and normal condition…”  Mrs. M.O. Myers (grandmother of Peggy Myers Byrne) wrote; “During a severe attack of eczema…I used Fanoline with the most satisfying results…I am never without the remedy.”  A local printer said he used Fanoline to cure a “severe wrench of the knee” and to lessen the “pain of a finger jammed in a printing press.”  A wheelwright in Mooers cut a “gash in his leg and finally got relief from Fanoline.”

Ad and Testimonials in the Plattsburgh Sentinel newspaper 1985-89

About 1898 the advertising through testimonial letters had run its course.  The expense of their voluminous correspondence and mail orders plus the cost of advertising must have consumed much of the profit of producing the ointment.  By the turn of the century the Cumberland Bay Works business began to wind down as Fannie and Frank’s other pursuits took priority of their time.  As minister of the Peristrome Presbyterian Church, Frank’s attention was on his expanding pastoral duties.  Fannie’s time was being consumed by her Temperance activities.  However, Fannie continued to make and sell Fanoline after Frank’s death in 1903 until her death ten years later.

Fannie Delord Hall wearing her Women’s Christian Temperance Union white ribbon.

**If you are afflicted with piles or skin ailments, you may purchase Fanoline at the Kent-Delord House or Murray Hyatt’s Pharmacy.  However, we promise you will not be asked to write a testimonial letter about your ailments for the Press-Republican.

**Editor’s note:  This re-creation of Fanoline salve in 1984 was a fund raising activity by the KDHM.  Unfortunately, the salve is no longer available for purchase

This was the ninth in a series if articles on the Delord women, researched and written by Virginia M. Burdick for the Kent-Delord House Museum’s newsletter, “The Quarterly” in 1984.  Burdick enjoyed researching and writing articles about local nineteenth century portraits and local history.  While a trustee of the Kent-Delord House Museum in the early 1980s, she became interested in the Kent-Delord Collection at the Feinberg Library’s Special collections.  Burdick wrote a series of twelve articles as a result of her research.  

 Then in 1987 Burdick published “Love & Duty, Letters & Diaries of the Delord-Webb Women 1794-1913.”  It was an intensive labor for Burdick.  She spent four years at Special Collections locating, transcribing, and then selecting which letters were needed to tell the story of the Delord women.  The next task was to write the narrative to connect the letters into a seamless story of people who for over a hundred years were the “movers and shakers” in Plattsburgh.  

Updated edits have been add by Patricia Tupper Loughan, KDHM Trustee and Historian.

Celebrating the Women of the House

March has been proclaimed Women’s History Month, dedicated to reflect on the often-overlooked contributions of women to United States history.  While this calls to mind many nationally well-known women, we must recognize that Plattsburgh has its share of women who have made a contribution to the social, political, economic, and cultural development of our area.  The Kent-Delord House has been home to a number of these women.  The house stands today as a testament to the determination and fortitude of the three generations of Delord women and several other women who passed through its doors

The enormous amount of letters and journals produced by Betsey, Francis Henrietta and Fannie give us a glimpse of their hopes and aspirations, as well as their elations and despairs.  Their correspondence is a chronicle of the development of Plattsburgh from the grand (victory at the Battle of Plattsburgh) – to the devastating (destruction of downtown in the fire of 1849) – to the mundane (the cold winter of 1851 that froze Betsey’s indoor plants.)

The Delord women led remarkable lives during a rapidly evolving period in the country’s history.  

Betsey entertained a President and military heroes.  She traveled to Washington, D.C. to plead her husband’s case for war debt reimbursement.
Frances Henrietta wrote poetry and traveled throughout Europe. 
Fannie was in the forefront of the women’s social movement with her activism on behalf of the poor, the orphans, and mistreated women. She was also a patented inventor and a successful businesswoman

Through the three generations of Delord women, we are privy to their contacts with prominent people from Plattsburgh to Washington to Europe.  These Delord women were educated, inquisitive, and ambitious.  However, their over-riding goal was to lead good Christian lives.

There were Other Women who contributed to the Delord Legacy

In 1879, a Plattsburgh Sentinel article called for the establishment of a kindergarten for the city.  Shortly after, an advertisement appeared stating that Miss Helena Augustin would be opening a Kindergarten School in a building on the corner of Oak Street and Protection Avenue.  This was made possible when Frances (Fannie) Delord Hall, who had met the teacher at a WCTU convention, invited her to be a guest at the Hall home.  Helena Augustin lived at the Delord residence for more than 20 years while she taught the first Kindergarten established in Plattsburgh.  Many of the region’s leading citizens were her early pupils.  Helena’s teaching career ended with her marriage to prominent businessman James Cavanagh, but her community involvement continued.  She was a member of the WCTU, elected president of the local chapter for many years.  She also was a leader of the Loyal Temperance Legion, a children’s temperance organization, and a frequent speaker at local WCTU conventions on the need to provide more activities and guidance for young boys to dissuade them from turning to alcohol.  At the time of her death, she was one of the managers of the Home for the Friendless (which is now the Children’s Home of Northern New York) and President of the Woman’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society. 

The Plattsburgh Sentinel regularly extolled the successes of Helena’s school.

When Fannie died in 1913, her will left the house and some money to the Physicians’ Hospital, the furnishings and personal items were to be placed in a museum and personal correspondence and all the portraits, except the one of Henry Delord, were to be burned.  Enter another amazing woman, Ada Beers, with only her real estate background, was successful in navigating the court system to get those terms overturned and set the stage for the securing of the Delord story for future generations.

Jeanette Brookings Tuttle was the Regent of the Saranac Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) in Plattsburgh, and the author of Three Centuries in the Champlain Valley, a compilation of historical events from 1609 – 1909.   Jeanette lived next door to the Delord house and knew the history of the family and its historical value to the community.  A eulogy in 1938 appeared on the editorial page in the Plattsburgh Daily Press praising Jeanette’s work on behalf of the KDH:

“Mrs. Tuttle’s crowning achievement, and one upon which the memory of her work for the preservation of the traditions of old Plattsburgh will rest, was the establishment of a museum of local history in the historic Kent-Delord House.  …It remained for Mrs. Tuttle to collect all the historical facts concerning these treasures and to add to them in every possible way.  The outstanding part of her life work was to arrange, add to, catalogue and place in a proper setting the invaluable collection she found and the manner in which she aroused the interest of others until the Kent-Delord House stands today as a treasure house unique of its kind and one that is known far and wide.  Mrs. Tuttle saw all the possibilities of this old house and she never rested until these possibilities were made facts.  She has left a work that will cause her to be remembered as long as the house itself exists. Plattsburgh owes her a debt of gratitude which should keep her memory warm as long as there are hearts that beat with love for the old town and its glorious past.”

Thus it was the dogged insistence of Jeanette Tuttle that convinced William H. Miner to purchase, repair and restore, and create a Board that allowed the Kent-Delord House to be chartered as a museum and educational institution. 

The stories of the Kent-Delord House’s residents and visitors could not be told without the dedication and perseverance of the group of women who worked as housekeepers, maids, and cooks. 

There were several immigrants from Northern Ireland, including Catherine Dowling, Maggie Shanks and Margaret Kirkwood. These women stayed in the house until their deaths – thirty years after the death of Fannie!

Catherine Dowling, Fannie’s housekeeper, was the first to see the house as an historic community treasure, offering to show the house to tourists for 25¢.
Catherine Dowling was Jeanette’s ally in preserving the house’s contents and the legends of the Delord family
After Catherine’s death in 1924, Margaret “Maggie” Shanks continued as caretaker/museum director until her death in 1933, when Margaret Kirkwood served in that capacity until her death in 1943.   

 –Patricia Tupper Loughan, KDHM Board of Trustee

A Miniature of a Hero and a Friend

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As we commemorate Commodore Thomas Macdonough’s 1814 victory on Lake Champlain this 2020 season, the Kent-Delord House Museum would like to share a personal story relating to one of our most prized artifacts of that time period. 

While assigned to prepare ships and seamen on the Vermont shores in 1812, Thomas Macdonough frequently came to Plattsburgh to confer with Peter Sailly, Collector of Customs, and officers of the land forces.  Here he became a close friend of Henry and Betsey Delord who enjoyed entertaining officers and friends in their lovely home.  Eventually Macdonough, and on some occasions when his wife Ann accompanied him, stayed at the Delord house.

About 1815, Macdonough had his miniature painted by George Freeman, a self-taught miniaturist.  A miniature portrait, six inches by five inches, would be easy to carry to Plattsburgh and an appropriate hostess gift for Betsey Delord.  The Commodore may have given Betsey the portrait during his last trip to Plattsburgh in 1822.  Henry Delord recorded the visit in his Day Book:

“We have had a visit of Commodore Macdonough in the beginning of October & he was received with much regards by the inhabitants of this place.  A committee was appointed so as to invite him to a public dinner which he declined as having received an order to attend a Court martial in New York.  I think he was partial of his time with my family.”

When Macdonough presented his little portrait to Betsey Delord, she must have been extremely happy and proud to have his picture.  It was painted in watercolor on paper.  Upside down over the left epaulet the artist signed his name, “B. Freeman-painter.”  

Perhaps the Delords noted that Macdonough looked tired and thin as was the young captain depicted in the miniature.  It was well known that Macdonough’s health was failing.  The artist tried to paint the portrait of an ailing hero as he appeared at that time.  This portrait became the Delords’ cherished memento of a nation’s hero and a grateful friend.  

Today this miniature of Captain Thomas Macdonough continues to occupy an honored place in the Kent-Delord House Museum. 

Thomas Macdonough won fame at an early age and died at an early age. After his victory on Lake Champlain, he commanded ships sailing to a number of ports including Portsmouth, the Mediterranean, Russia, England,and Denmark. In 1818, he was stricken with tuberculosis but continued to remain on duty. His visit to Plattsburgh in 1822 was part of a tour that went from Niagara Falls to battling the rapids on the St. Lawrence to Quebec. In the summer of 1824 he commanded the USS Constitution, nicknamed “Old Ironsides” sailing to the Mediterranean. While he was at sea the following August, he received word of the death of his wife. In October Macdonough’s health had deteriorated so rapidly he resigned his commission and boarded a ship for home. With him were his four-year old son, Rodney and the ship’s surgeon. On November 10, 1825, six hundred miles from the shores of his country, Captain Thomas Macdonough died. He was forty-one years old. He was buried beside his wife in Riverside Cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut.

The Artist

George Freeman was born in Mansfield, CT in 1789.  As a young man he left his family’s farm to paint miniatures in eastern NY.  In 1813 he opened a studio in New York City.  It is possible that Macdonough sat for his portrait in that studio.  In 1816 Freeman was in Cooperstown, NY working on a miniature portrait of the mother of James Fenimore Cooper.  Later that year, he was living in Montreal and advertising for patrons.  Within a year he sailed for England and for the next twenty-one years he studied to improve his work.  He became an expert miniaturist and painted the likenesses of nobility and royalty, including Queen Victoria, before returning to the United States.  George Freeman died in Hartford, CT at the age of 79.  

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Henry Delord’s Daybooks 1818-1824

Visitors touring the Kent-Delord House Museum not only get to see artifacts from the 19th century but also get to hear the stories of how the family and people of Plattsburgh lived during that time.  We know the daily details due to the tens of thousands of personal letters exchanged between family members and others, the documents that guided their personal and public affairs, and many other items saved by Betsey Delord and Fannie Delord Hall.

We have been very fortunate that a number of local historians have researched much of this accumulation of primary documents and written either books or essays that give us a look at the interactions of the Delord generations and the people of the North Country.  Mainly we rely on two books that tell us the Delord story:  Henry Delord and His Family by Allan Everest and Love & Duty, Letters and Diaries of the Delord-Webb Women by Virginia Mason Burdick.  Both Everest and Burdick did extensive research in that mountain of documents to create a narrative that incorporates the essence of the Delord legacy

However, there is a lot of information that they had to leave out!  For example, Henry Delord kept records of his Red Store business in ledgers, of which we have quite a few.  After the Battle of Plattsburgh we know this business went bankrupt and his partnership with William Bailey ended.  Yet what the Everest and Burdick books don’t tell you is that Henry continued to do the same type of mercantile business as he had but on a smaller, more personal scale.  He again kept records, now in journals, referred to as “daybooks.”  We are fortunate to have three of them covering the years 1818-1824.

Cover of Henry’s 1823-24 Daybook

These daybooks contain the lists of items that Henry procured for individuals and how much they owed him and when and how they paid their bills.  Henry already had connections to suppliers from the earlier business, so he could still get the items his customers needed.  Most of these items were boards, bricks, bread, sugar, vinegar, butter, pork and beef.  However one item stands out in his record keeping- – gin!  Over the month of July,1819 to the beginning of August John Blacketer bought 12 quarts of gin for a whopping total of $4.00!  Compare that to Samuel Hugh who bought 5 quarts of gin during a 10-day period in August of 1819!  By the way, a quart of gin cost 25¢!

Henry covered many pages with a detailed record of what, where, and when he planted his garden.  By 1818 according to county tax records, Henry owned about 9 acres in Plattsburgh, three of which surrounded his house.   So what Henry called “his garden” was a small farm.  Many entries refer to the various types of peas and beans as well as six different kinds of cabbage, along with the carrots, potatoes, beets, etc., etc., he planted.  I must point out that Henry was a “gentleman farmer” who did the planning and organizing, but he did have indentured servants who did most of the manual labor.  In the 1818 daybook, there is a map of the side yard drawn by Henry with labeled walkways.  He used these as boundaries for the various crops.

          Henry map of his side-yard garden with walkways

Henry also records the rents for the various houses he owned on the property around his house.  Those rents varied from $2 to $5 a month.  He also rented a room within those houses for $1 a week or $1 to $2 a month.  Not one to pass on any means of making money, Henry also rented his horse and waggon (note Henry’s spelling).

           Invoice for rent of room and horse&waggon

There were other entries that didn’t focus on his business or gardening.  Henry added observations on his personal life.  One entry records that he “Loaned to Cousin Calvin Averill – 30 December 1819 – Frances, chess & chess Board.”  No further entries indicate if these were returned.  Another entry records that “Anne Green wife or widow of Henry Green & Sister of William Bowron loaned her 1 August 1820-Books Biography Dictionary & four volumes of Arts & Science belonging to my Daughter Frances Henrietta & again lend her other books – & She Did not return any books.”  (writer’s note – did Henry possibly start the first lending library in Plattsburgh?)

                                     Loan of Chess* Set
*note that when there were 2 letter “s” together, the first was written looking something like an “f”

 

 

 

 

                                         Loan of Books

Several of the most interesting entries were recipes for medicines to cure ailments from toothaches to dysentery.  Note that during the 19th century recipes were called receipts.  Most of the recipes were copied from newspapers.  Two of the “cures” were from newspapers  in Albany and Baltimore.  It was common for people who traveled to bring newspapers back to share with friends and relatives.  For all the “cures” that Henry copied from those newspapers, there is no evidence that he actually used any of them.  The only receipt that Henry did acknowledge taking was from one of his personal physicians, Dr. Hichock. Given the directions to take it before eating, it must have been for a stomach or intestinal problem.

                        Henry’s prescription from Dr. Hichcock

                Whooping Cough and Rheumatism Recipes

This prescription for a Tooth Ache was for Frances Henrietta who was 11 yrs. old at the time!

                               Toothache Remedy

A couple things to note about these “cures” is that the main ingredient in most of these “medicines” is alcohol- so yes, use it enough it will numb the pain (and the brain!)  Also it is distressing to think that mothers would mix lye with milk and give it to a young child!  I present these as examples of what Henry Delord thought was interesting in the early 1800s as cures for the ailments of the times.

THESE ARE NOT CURES FOR ANY MEDICAL AILMENT –                                                      PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO FOLLOW THEM!!

I leave you with a final example of what Henry included in his daybooks – doodles, enjoy!

   

Unraveling the Webb web!

This is the third of several articles telling the amazing stories about the people and history of the Webb Family paintings that are hanging on the walls in the Kent-Delord House Museum.

August 13, 1832 was an important date for two prominent families in two historic areas in two different states.  On this day, Frances Henrietta Delord married Henry Livingston Webb in the Gold Parlor of the Delord house.  The child of this union, Frances Delord Webb, would become the last direct descendant of each of these families.  Thus she inherited the many treasures accumulated throughout the families’ histories.  This included many portraits of her father’s family, which now hang on the walls of the Kent-Delord House Museum.  These portraits were painted by a number of acclaimed artists of the early 19th century.

 

The eldest of these Webb brothers was Joseph Hayes Webb (1781-1814).   In 1807, Joseph and his brother Thomas (1793-1821) had started a store in Albany, NY, selling imported China, glass and crockery (earthenware).   By 1821, brothers, John, Henry, and Charles had taken over the business located at 51 State Street.  It was here in Albany that the Webbs and the artists Ames and Flagg would become acquainted.

Joseph H Webb.jpegThe portrait of Joseph Hayes Webb is oil on canvas painted by Ezra Ames c.1812.  Joseph died at the age of 33 in 1814.

Thomas Chester Webb.jpeg

Thomas Chest Webb’s portrait is oil on canvas and also painted by Ezra Ames about the same time as his brother’s portrait – 1812.  Thomas died at the age of 28 in 1821.

Ezra Ames (1768 – 1836)

In his early years, Ezra Ames painted miniatures, carriages, fire buckets, fences, mirror frames, and furniture.  In 1795 he moved to Albany, where he opened a sign painting and portrait painting business.  As his work took off, Ames became know as one of the nation’s most talented portrait painters.  During his thirty year career he painted more than seven hundred works of art including portraits of Gov. George Clinton and Alexander Hamilton.

JohnWebb1834.jpegJohn Haynes Webb’s portrait is oil on canvas painted by Henry Inman.

In 1834 John was best man at his brother Henry’s marriage to Frances Henrietta Delord.  He gave his niece Fannie the Chickering pianoforte that stands in the Gold Parlor.  John’s friendship with the portrait painter Henry Inman undoubtedly was the reason for the number of portraits of the Webb family attributed to Inman.

Henry1832.jpg     HenryWebb1834.jpeg

Henry Webb 1832                                                 Henry Webb 1834

There are two portraits of Henry Livingston Webb in the Museum’s collection.  The first is an oil on canvas painted in 1832.  This was to complement the portrait of Frances Henrietta on the occasion of their marriage.   The second is also oil on canvas and was painted in 1834 while He and John were in New York City.  Henry stated in a letter to Betsey that they were going to exchange their portraits.  Henry will later have Inman paint a copy of the wedding portrait of Frances Henrietta.

Henry Inman (1801 -1846)

Henry Inman was born in Utica, NY in 1801.  The family moved to New York City in 1812.  In 1814 he began a seven-year apprenticeship to John Wesley Jarvis, the most fashionable portraitist at that time.  They traveled to New Orleans and then Boston where his tenure with Jarvis came to a conclusion.  Inman’s career soon began to outshine that of Jarvis  He gained the patronage of many of New York City’s most illustrious families and became the first vice-president of the newly formed National Academy of Design.  His fame won him commissions for portraits for New York City Hall.

AuntEliza.jpeg

Elizabeth Bancker Webb (1783-1858) portrait is oil on canvas painted by Jared B. Flagg in 1846. 

Eliza Webb was one of the sisters to all those Webb brothers.  Known as Aunt Eliza, she was Frances Delord “Fannie” Webb’s principal guardian after Henry moved his daughter from Plattsburgh to Hartford, CT in 1836.

Jared B. Flagg (1820 -1899) 

Jared Bradley Flagg was born into a family of artists.  As a young man, he attained degrees from Trinity College and Columbia University in the study of theology.  He served as an Episcopal minister for a while but eventually resumed his art career specializing in portraits.   Some of his notable portraits include NY Court of Appeals judges, a Rhode Island Governor, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

These six portraits along with the ones that were discussed in previous Blog posts are just a few of the works in the Kent-Delord House Museum collection that were produced by renown painters of the 18th and 19th centuries.  We hope you will stop by to see these treasures when we open for tours!

 

 

Unraveling the Webb web!

This is the second of several articles telling the amazing stories about the people and history of the Webb Family paintings that are hanging on the walls in the Kent-Delord House Museum.

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The two portraits prominently displayed over the pianoforte in the Gold Parlor are the parents of Henry Livingston Webb, Frances Henrietta Delord’s husband.  Henry’s father was Joseph Webb, Jr. and his mother was Abigail Chester Webb.  These and other Webb family portraits were inherited by Fannie (Delord) Webb Hall as she was the last of the Webb family lineage.

                                                       Joseph Webb, Jr. (1749-1815)

Joseph Webb, Jr. was the oldest of the six children of Mehitabel Nott Webb and Joseph Webb, Sr.   Webb Sr. had been a merchant in Wethersfield, Connecticut and had ships trading in the West Indies prior to his death at the age of 34.  Joseph Jr. was only 12 at the time of his father’s death, but being the first born, he inherited the house and the family business.  However, it wasn’t until his mother’s death six years later that Joseph assumed control of that store and the trading ventures.

 

 

A miniature locket with a portrait of Joseph painted on ivory (date and artist are unknown, but it is attributed to the American School of the 18th century)

 

 

 

In 1774, Joseph married Abigail Chester and they began their family in the Webb house in Wethersfield. Revolutionary sentiment in the colonies was building at this time.  The Webbs and the Chesters played critical roles during this period of our Nation’s history.

During the Battle of Bunker Hill (1775), Abigail’s father, Colonel John Chester commanded the Wethersfield militia. Both Joseph and his younger brother, Samuel Blachley Webb fought during this battle.   During the winter of 1775-6, Joseph Webb was a generous supplier for Henry Knox’s expedition that commandeered 59 pieces of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga, recently seized from the British.  In 1778, Army Quartermaster, Nathanial Greene, sent a letter to Joseph requesting him to supply the Army at Valley Forge with portmanteaus (large, hinged suitcases) valises, and canvas for tents, knapsacks and mattresses to “lessen the quantity of baggage in the army & enable it to move with greater ease.”   Greene promised that in short time sufficient money for expenses and “compensation” would be paid to him.  That same year, Joseph was appointed to a committee in Wethersfield to look after the families of soldiers who had died as a result of the war.

During the Revolution, Joseph and Abigail had hosted many prominent individuals at their house, including notables of the Patriot cause.  Thus their home became known as “Hospitality House.”  One especially prominent visitor stayed in May 1781. The Webbs hosted George Washington for six days.  In the Webb house, General Washington met with the Commander of the French forces, Comte de Rochambeau to plan what proved to be the final British surrender at Yorktown, VA.

It was Joseph’s ardent support of the patriot cause that ultimately led him to financial ruin.  In all his dealings with the American Army, Joseph accepted Continental money.  Unfortunately the value of this money depreciated badly so that by the end of the war it was virtually worthless.   “Not worth a Continental” was a common saying as the money retained only a thousandth of its initial value.  By the end of the War, Joseph found his financial troubles eventually led to him going to debtor’s prison for 12 years!

In 1790 Mrs. Webb’s family, the Chesters, bought the Webb House and Abigail and her children lived there until 1802 when it was sold.  When Joseph finally got out of debtor’s prison, he and his family had to live in the Chester home as Joseph could not find employment.  Joseph Webb, Jr. died in 1815 at the age of 66.

This embroidered vest is one of the items in the KDHM collection connected to Joseph Webb, Jr.

John Singleton Copley

The painting of Joseph Webb, Jr. is a pastel on paper mounted on fabric attributed to John Singleton Copley. It has been estimated that it was painted in the early 1770s.   It is believed that Copley was born in Boston around 1738 and spent most of his early life in that area.  Copley has been viewed as one of the greatest and most influential painters in Colonial America.  Throughout his life he produced about 350 works of art. Through his realistic likenesses of persons and things, he came to define the realist art tradition in America.  Among his works are portraits of illustrious Revolutionary War persons as John Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.  He also painted a portrait of Elkanah Watson in 1782.  However, Copley was ardently apolitical, saying that “political contests being (were) neither pleasing to an artist or advantageous to the Art itself.”  With the political unrest beginning to increase in the early 1770s, Copley’s Loyalist connections were a threat to his family.  In 1774, he decided to go to Europe to study and paint, eventually settling in London where he died in 1815.  He never returned to the United States.  Boston’s Copley Square, Copley Square Hotel and Copley Plaza are named in his honor.

 Abigail Chester Webb (1754-1827)

The other portrait over the pianoforte is that of Abigail Chester Webb, wife of Joseph, Jr. and mother of Henry L. Webb.  The painting is oil on canvas by an unknown artist.  It is estimated that it was done in the early 1800s.  She married Joseph Webb, Jr. at age 20 and moved into the Webb home in Wethersfield where she was the hostess of what was known as “Hospitality House.”  Between 1775 and 1797, Abigail gave birth to 12 children, ten of which survived to adulthood.  The Kent-Delord House Museum has portraits of five of those children.  Abigail Chester Webb died in 1827 at the age of 72.

 

Our collection of artifacts include a carved ivory fan with the monogram
AC” in the center.  This fan was presented to the museum in 1922 from Dr. George C. Kellogg who noted:

“This is the Wedding fan of Abigail Chester [who married Joseph Webb, Jr. Nov. 22, 1774].  Made in and brought from Japan by an uncle of Abigail Chester.  Came from Frances D. W. Hall’s estate into ownership by George C. Kellogg who donated it when the KDH Museum was being created in 1924.”

Gallery

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!

This gallery contains 19 photos.

The Kent-Delord House Museum houses an astonishing collection of late 18thand early 19thcentury portraiture along with many other works of …

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No Horsing Around

 

Our stories relating to the one hundred year history of the Kent-Delord House always focus on the family, friends, acquaintances, and visitors.  However, there were other inhabitants that contributed to that illustrious history—the animals!  The Delord property was a working farm for most of the 19thcentury with the various animals kept on the property essential for the livelihood of the residents.  Obviously pigs and chickens were prevalent on the property, but there also were ducks, a milk cow and usually a horse to pull the carriage.

There was one horse that became a celebrity of sorts in Plattsburgh; his name was Zollicoffer.

In 1862 Fannie Delord Hall came to Plattsburgh to care for her ailing grandparents while husband Frank went to serve as Chaplain in the 16th New York Volunteer Infantry in Northern Virginia. As a Chaplain, Frank had to provide his own transportation and equipment to use in his duties at camp. He had been advised to bring “…a good pair of boots with tops to reach the knee, haversack to carry food on the march, three or four of underclothes, and his own saddle.” Frank used a type of saddle designed by Gen. George McClellan and adopted as the standard issue of the US Cavalry. In his journal letters to Fannie, he wrote:

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Rev. Francis “Frank” Bloodgood Hall

Dec. 3, 1862 Washington, DC

“…So left for Washington at seven.  Very pleasant baggage men.  Checked my box right away when I told him it was my saddle & charged me no freight; checked it through.”

 

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Frank’s saddle, boots, travel trunk and haversack.

That left him to purchase a horse when he settled in with the 16thNY Volunteer Regiment encamped at Belle Plain on the shores of the Potomac outside of Washington, D.C.

 

Belle Plain VA Dec. 6, 1862

“Early in the morning, I went to the Dr. Crandall’s tent & asked him to let me take his horse old Zollicoffer.  We had seen a horse in a stable on the way over & I thought I would go back before breakfast & see if it was worth anything & buy it if it was and it could be bought.  I had a splendid ride, my first ride on old Zollicoffer.  I went over several miles to Col Corceran’s head quarters & saw three horses or at least found them.  The last & only one that was worth anything was Col. Corceram’s head quarters.  The saddle horse of a Virginian lady but she looked at me very decidedly & said “no, you don’t have my horse if you pay $1200 for it.” So I contented myself with buying two turkies & a chicken, strapping them over my saddle horn & sailing into camp with them, much to the amusement of the officers.”

 

Dec. 7, 1862

“At breakfast I happened to ask Dr. Crandall, (not supposing that he would sell his horse), happened to ask him what he valued him at.  When he said he valued him at $150, I told him at once that I would give him that price for him when to my surprise, a few days afterwards he consented to sell him to me. He said he would not have sold him out of the regiment.

 It is a great black horse with strong legs & easy gate & very fully quite sound, & about 6 years old.  Just what I want & it seems as if God has very surely provided for me.  The horse can outrun any thing in the regiment, is accustomed to the battlefield, don’t wind among the cannon & shells, as he well showed shortly after & is finely trained, reins very well & my rig out, they tell me is complete.”

 For the next five months Frank and Zollicoffer were inseparable as Frank made the rounds of hospitals and provided spiritual services to the soldiers.  The last major event that the duo was involved in was the Battle of Salem Heights, VA, on May 3, 1863.  It was during this battle that Frank and Zollicoffer went onto the battlefield to rescue fallen comrades and bring them back to safety.  For this action Rev. Francis B. Hall was awarded the Medal of Honor. Within two weeks of the battle, Frank had mustered out with his unit and returned to civilian life.  He did not return alone.  He brought both Zollicoffer and his groom, Sam, back to Plattsburgh with him.

As I mentioned earlier, Zollicoffer was somewhat of a celebrity.  According to the local paper the horse led every Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day) parade up until his death.   He might be the only horse in the area (state?) that was eulogized in the paper after his death!  Zollicoffer died at age 30 and was buried in the middle of the garden in the rear of the Delord property.   The eulogy maintains that “a bed of white flowers grew upon his grave, a spontaneous floral memorial to the noble pet beneath”

Irony:

Frank Hall had very strong negative feelings toward Gen. McClellan and openly said, “McClellan is a traitor & that the Army of the Potomac was rotten at the corps core.” The incident worried Frank for a short time but soon subsided.

 General Felix Zollicoffer was the first Confederate general to die in the Western/Kentucky Campaign, Jan. 19, 1862.

 Think about it—here’s Frank Hall, a Union Chaplain riding a horse named after a Confederate general, and using a saddle named after a Union general he despised!

Article commemorating Flag Day in the

Plattsburgh Press RepublicanJune 13, 1944

Excerpt from  STORY OF FLAGSTAFF AT KENT DELORD HOUSE

…From the south, Mr. Hall has brought the fine large black horse he had ridden and likewise his Negro groom, Sam.   Sam, very black and thin and tall, did not long survive his transplanting to the northland.  His room was over the stable but when he became ill he was removed to the house and cared for…On that memorable day (in 1865) when in the length and breadth of our war-worn country, the bells were jubilantly proclaiming the end of the bitter conflict, ‘mid the pealing, Sam’s soul was wafted to his Maker.  In Riverside cemetery now rests all that was mortal of the master and Zollicoffer’s groom.

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Cart d’visite of Sam

Article eulogizing the horse

Plattsburgh SentinelMay 26, 1899

“ZOLLICOFFER”

 “He was want to take part in the Decoration day ceremonies and drew the loads of flowers that were used in decorating the graves of dead heroes every year.  It was fitting and beautiful, but also had something of the pathetic in it.  He was an intelligent horse and did not forget the stirring times of his earlier life.  At a strain of martial music, he would prick up his ears, showing evidences of the old patriotic fire.  He was only a horse, but a good one who never shirked a duty.  He served faithfully in the War of the Rebellion, and carried his master, Rev. F.B. Hall, then chaplain of the brave 16thN. Y. Vols., on his errands of mercy and duty.

How proud and willing he was to do his part in helping decorate the graves of comrades, after the cruel war was over, in the years that followed!

When Zollicoffer died a few years ago, he received honorable burial in the middle of the garden in the rear of his master’s home.  It is a pretty and true story, that a bed of white flowers grew upon his grave, a spontaneous floral memorial to the noble pet beneath, who died, aged thirty years.”

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Betsey Goes To Washington

 

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On January 24, 1823, Betsey Delord and her niece Maria Ketchum Averill Walworth set out from Plattsburgh to Washington, D.C. to join Maria’s husband, Congressman Reuben H. Walworth. Betsey hoped to renew her acquaintance with President James Monroe, VP and Mrs. Tompkins, and many of the officers and their wives whom the Delords had entertained in their home during 1812-1815. Henry and Betsey were hoping these friends could help persuade Congress to settle Henry’s claims against the US Government for his losses during the War of 1812.

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Betsey wrote many letters home, both to husband Henry and also to 12 year-old daughter Frances Henrietta. These letters provide details of her trip, from the hazards of travel during that time to the Washington social scene of the early 19th century. We also see Betsey’s little homesick moments when she chastises Henry to write her; “I wrote you from Newyork, Baltimore and twice since Ive arrived which was a week last night and have received but one from you & Frances. I have been so anxious I could not sleep well at night.”

While such a trip today would take 9 hours of straight driving (more with rest stops!!) or less than 2 hours by plane, it took Betsey over three weeks to get there. In those three weeks she endured several hazardous modes of transportation.

Via stagecoach:

“I dread very much the stage coach. They drive so furiously I shall be in a fever all the time. They carry passengers for almost nothing. Mr. Flagg says he will speak to the proprieters to have them more careful.”

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Drawing from an advertisement for the Phoenix Line, which ran stagecoaches between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md. c.1835

And steamboat:

“On Wednesday morning at six o’clock we went on board the steam boat and were detained about two hours breaking the ice which obliged us to travel until late at night. “

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The steamship Phoenix operated on Lake Champlain from 1815-1819. Built in Vergennes, Vermont at a cost of $45,000 it could reach a speed of 8 miles per hour. It burned and sank off Colchester Reef in 1819.

When they couldn’t get lodging in Havre de Grace on the Susquehanna at in the early hours of the morning, Betsey and Maria had quite an adventure crossing the river to find some rest:

“We were tired and Maria most sick, but could not get a bed and was compel’d to cross the river a mile in width on the ice where boats had pass’d the evening before. Maria much alarmed, but as a great number were to pass with us and a boat put on a sleigh to be draw’d by men, I thought it best to venture. If the ice broke, we were in a boat. I remained on the boat and Maria walk’d. It seemed really venturesome. We arrived here very comfortable at 3 o’clock, taken a good nights rest, the first we have had since we left Newyork. “

Even when Betsey arrived in Washington, she found getting around an issue:

“There is no such thing as going out without a carriage. The families live so scattered and it costs three or four Dollars every time we go out. “

Betsey and Maria arrived in Washington just as the “season” was beginning.  The” season” was the time when Congress was in session(from January 1st to Lent.) During this time the “elite” of Washington held balls, dinner parties and charity events. During the first quarter of the 1800s, a strict code of etiquette was followed, including when these social events were held and who hosted as well as who attended.   Wives and daughters of cabinet officers usually held receptions every Wednesday. Some of the events were just “visits” where attendees went from house to house between 2 o’clock in the afternoon to 5:30pm. Visitors did not stay long at each home, just time enough to meet the hosts and maybe have a tea and a treat before going on to the next home. If the house parties were close together, ladies preferred to walk from home to home instead of riding in a carriage, weather permitting.

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During his visit to Plattsburgh in 1817, President Monroe had dinner at Henry and Betsey’s house.

Just after their arrival in the Capital, Betsey and Maria were visited by Mrs. Wool (spouse of Col. John E. Wool) who “told us all the etiquette of the place.” Starting the next day Betsey and Maria began several weeks of visiting homes or attending receptions and parties, some hosted by Pres. And Mrs. Monroe, Mrs. John Quincy Adams, and Mrs. John Calhoun. Betsey also met with many of the military personnel that she had entertained when they were in Plattsburgh (1812-1815) including Gen. Macomb and Gen. Brown. Betsey was most impressed with the party hosted by British Foreign Minister George Canning. She described it:

“How I wish, dear pa, you and my Child, indeed all my friends, could have been there to see the Elegance, order and style of everything. A number of Servants dress’s in white long Coats, Dark Dove Silk Small Clothes with vests of the same and White Silk Stockings. Upstairs we paid our respects to Mr. Canning. Coffee was soon handed around on elegant silver waiters. Immediately after, all walked into the dancing room splendidly lit up. Sofas cover’d with red merino were all around the room. The floor was chalk’d most beautifully, wreaths of flowers and different forms, with a large circle in the center with a harp and musical instruments. They danced Cotillions. Waltzing was introduc’d and a Spanish dance quite new here.”

That was the last event that Betsey attended. After several more days of visits with friends, Betsey summed up her trip in a letter to Henry by saying:

“All your friends here seem to feel much indebt’d to you for your hospitality. But as to congress they can do little. I have attended twice (sessions of the House of Representatives) and can Judge how difficult it is to get anything through that meets opposition.”

 On March 1, 1823, Betsey and Maria started their trip home. After her arrival in New York City on March 7, Betsey informed Henry that due to the weather (citing icy travel conditions) she was going to stay a while longer. While in NYC, Betsey made the most of her time visiting relatives and friends and attending parties. She and Maria finally left on April 12th and arrived in Plattsburgh the last week of the month.

During the three months she was gone, Betsey wrote to Henry almost every day.   Betsey’s letters were highly descriptive of what she saw and did. She tried to contain each letter to one page due to the postage.*  In one letter she stated, “I shall not have room to say half I wish as it would add to the postage.” Henry’s letters were few and far between, but he was also concerned about the cost of postage, ending one letter for “fear to increase the postage.”

*A single letter was defined as consisting of one sheet of paper. The cost to send letters from 1816-1845 was determined by mileage:

Up to 30 miles was 6¢

30-80 miles was 10 ¢

80-150 miles was 12.5¢

150-400 miles was 18.5¢

over 400 miles was 25¢

“Double letters” (more than one sheet) were charged double the mileage fee. If possible, people tried to save money by sending letters with travellers going to or near the destination of the correspondence.

 –The Historian of United States Postal Service, 2008

 

So the cost of three months of daily letters from Albany, New York, and Washington would have added up, especially for the Delord family that was now trying to live frugally.

You can read many of Betsey’s letters from her trip to Washington in Virginia Mason Burdick’s book, Love & Duty; Letters & Diaries of the Delord-Webb Women 1794-1913 (Chap. 3). The book is available in the Kent-Delord House Museum’s store.