A 179 Year-Old Secret Revealed!

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Impressions of Visits to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center.

by Sally Booth

My first trip to the elegant Stone Hill Center, new home of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Williamstown, Mass. last May, was courtesy of the Alice T. Miner Museum and my good friend Amanda Palmer.  In Amanda’s van, we were delivering artifacts in need of conservation: KDHM’s paintings of Betsey Delord and Henry Webb and a 19th century settee from the Miner Museum.

On that clear, blue-sky spring day, we chatted happily all the way down the Northway and across the Mohawk Trail to Massachusetts and back.  I was excited and curious about our destination having seen the older conservation center nearly 20 years earlier. 

I remembered a short walk behind the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute to a house with rooms filled with paintings, sculpture and furniture.  I still see, in my minds eye, a technician gently brushing clear liquid on a painting with a very tiny brush and wonder, “will that really do anything?”  We were given a brief introduction to this meticulous, painstaking work and left with more questions than there was time to ask.

The new facility is also near the Clark, set into a steep slope; a massive grey building with large expanses of glass.

To deliver the settee, we entered the loading dock entrance.  Inside we were warmly greeted by several members of the staff and given a brief tour of the spacious painting, furniture and object studios with the floor to ceiling windows and carefully patterned duct work throughout where no toxic fumes could linger.  The Painting Studio is large enough to accomodate several conservators and every type and size of artwork.

We were taken to a smaller room where KDHM’s paintings were laid out on a table and the bubble wrap carefully cut away.  Conservators noted the age of both paintings and frames, but it was the over-painting on Betsey Delord’s portrait that held their attention.  “Did we want it taken back to the original?”  I wasn’t sure, but would ask my colleagues.

The answer was to keep the overpainting because it is so much a part of Betsey Delord’s story.

At the KDHM, the void of the missing paintings had everyone; staff, volunteers and visitors, asking if the work had started and when the paintings would return.  There was no answer until a November call to the Center revealed removal of grime and varnish had just begun and that this would be a perfect time to visit.

I was even more excited on this journey down the Northway, this time with my husband Kit.

Painting Conservator MC Betz welcomed us and ushered us into the large painting studio. There, on two of the easels, were our beloved Betsey and her son-in law Henry Webb.Image 

In front of Betsey’s portrait, I was speechless for a few moments at the freshness of it and then began to notice other things:  a very delicate lace at the edge of the dress, the skin tones were richer, more detailed and the ugly yellow blotch on her left breast was gone! 

MC pointed out other campaigns of previous retouching, some higher up near the neckline.  The lace around the top of the dress was barely visible before.  Do we want to keep it?  Again I say I will ask my colleagues.Image

And then we looked at Henry!  Could this be the one I remembered? Now, comparing the before photograph, we could see that over the years, the accumulation of grime had blurred the artist’s fine brushwork and the details of Henry’s handsome face.Image

And finally, we are shown the x-radiograph revealing the original painting and design of Betsey’s dress!  Here at last was the answer to all our wonderings about what was underneath that red shawl.Image

 

When the money has been raised and we can bring the paintings home, we’ll be able to show everyone what has been a secret for 179 years!

Mommy I’m Bored! Try Some 19th Century Parlor Games to Cure these Rainy Day Blues!

Rain, rain go away.

How sick are you of this rain?! It feels like the rain is never going to stop! Summer has officially started for kids and there is nothing to do outside because it constantly pours! Many parents and childcare providers struggle with things to do during the rain, especially when it never stops. Toys can be repetitive, TV can get old and release the kid’s energy. And what if the power goes out? What do you do with your kids then?

Well, besides bringing your kids for an educational visit to a local museum like the Kent-Delord House Museum, there are 19th century games that kids used to play that will not only teach your child a new game, but teach them about how kids used to live back in the time before TV, internet and even electricity!

Here are a few old parlor games to try with your kids:

Pinch, no smiling!

The object of this game is not to smile! Everyone sits in a circle, and each player pinches their neighbor’s nose (gently of course!). The first one who smiles or laughs, has to pay a forfeit. A forfeit is often just a marker or toy, nothing fancy. When a player loses a round, the player has to put a forfeit in the circle.

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absolutely no smiling allowed in this game 🙂

When the game is done, usually when there are only a few players left who never had to forfeit anything, the players who had to give up their forfeit have to earn it back from the winners, and the winners decide the terms! The winners would dream up of ways to buy back the forfeit, from having them answer a question while getting tickled under your chin, or even imitating animal sounds named by other players, or even a five minute silence! Nothing actually painful or costly, but something that makes everyone laugh! Say the alphabet backwards while jumping on one foot and rubbing your stomach…now that would be a pain! Often kids had just as much paying for the forfeits as they did trying not laugh as their noses were pinched!

Um

Similar to musical chairs, all but one player sits on chairs set up in a semicircle. One player is blindfolded and then has to sit on someone’s knee on the chair and says um. The person in the chair then says um three times in a disguised voice. If the person who is blindfolded guesses whose knee they are sitting on, they give that player the blindfold and he or she is the next one to plop down and say um. If the blindfolded person guesses incorrectly, then they must move on to the next person and sit on their knee and say um. Keep playing until you are tired of saying um.

Shadow Buff

Hang a white sheet or tablecloth in a room. One side of the sheet has a light source (candle, lamp, etc.) to show shadows. One player who is it stands on the side of the sheet without the light source, while the rest of the players must stand on the other side of the sheet so the it person can see the shadows. The it person has to guess who is on the other side of the sheet based on the shadow. Players may think of many ways to disguise their identity by making themselves different shapes and sizes. Be creative! Maybe even use props!

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play this game with a candle when the power is out!

Grandmother’s Basket

Sit in a circle. Each kid has a piece of paper or some sort of token to put into a basket. Pass the basket around the circle and have the kids answer the following question beginning with a letter in the alphabet, starting with A and continuing through the whole alphabet, A,B,C, etc: What are you bringing to Grandma’s House?  For example, it could sound like apple, ball, cake, dog, etc. For each answer, the kid puts in a token or paper. If you go through the whole alphabet once, go through it again until someone cannot think of something to bring! Time players based on age and ability. I bet some objects Grandma does not necessarily ever want in her house will be mentioned in this game!

Tell us how these games go and share some of your favorite games to play indoors when the weather is so gloomy!

The Case of the MISSING Portraits!

Dun Dun Dun!

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the scene of the crime!

Two of our portraits are not at the Kent-Delord House Museum! Some docents were concerned what happened when they came to the Museum following the incident. I could assure them though that they were not missing, but instead are getting evaluated for conservation! Phew!

Often when you walk into an old historic house museum like the Kent-Delord House, you are told immediately not to touch anything. The words of caution tend to be off putting at times, but people who work at old museums worry about the age and delicacy of the artifacts. We have artifacts that are over 200 years old, and we would like to keep them around for 200 more years! So if you ever feel offended by the requests not to touch anything- it is not about you but about the artifacts. Oils on hands will speed up the aging of any artifact, and the smaller number of hands to touch them, the better.

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Where in the world is Henry Livingston Webb?

Occasionally we have to repair some of our artifacts. Right now we have sent two of our portraits to be evaluated for conservation. We are not restoring these portraits, but merely conserving them to prevent future damage. A couple of weeks ago, one of our board members, Sally Booth, accompanied Amanda Palmer, curator of the Alice T. Miner Museum, to Williamstown, Massachusetts to bring our two portraits to be evaluated along with an artifact from Amanda’s Museum.

The two portraits that were sent for conservation are of Betsey Delord and Henry Livingston Webb. We used reports from the 1980s to decide which portraits needed it the most (just to show you how long it’s been since this issue was investigated). Betsey’s frame is damaged and is in the worst shape of all the paintings, with Henry Livingston Webb not far behind.

Betsey Delord's Portrait, by Tuthill, 1818

Betsey Delord’s Portrait, by Tuthill, 1818

Betsey Delord’s portrait was painted in 1818 in Plattsburgh by Abraham G. B. Tuthill. It was painted along with two other portraits, one of her husband Henry and one of her daughter Frances Henrietta. These portraits were sent to Nismes, France in the fall of 1820 as a way to show Henry’s sister, then his only living relative, what his family looked like. These portraits were truly a precursor to  photographs! Before sending the portraits to his sister, Henry wrote on October 24th, “My portrait and those of my family are already in boxes and ready to ship…These portraits have been painted two years ago- people say they are not perfect as possible- the ones of my wife and of Francoise, which I can vouch, are of exact likeness and strikingly natural. My wife since that time gained weight- she is very beautiful and elegant woman well bred and educated and I may say quite truthfully and without flattery that her virtues even surpass her beauty.”

The artist who painted the portraits, Abraham G.B. Tuthill, was born in 1776 on the northeastern tip of Long Island and later moved with his family to a farm in Vermont in 1799. During the 19th century, Tuthill traveled around the United States looking for painting commissions, and in 1818 he found himself in Plattsburgh painting the portrait of the Delord family.

So how did we get the paintings back from France? Well, in 1832 Frances Henrietta married Henry Livingston Webb and spent the next eight months in Europe on their honeymoon. Frances and Henry made it to Nismes, France on October 11, 1832 and retrieved Henry and Betsey’s portrait and sent it to the states in January of 1833, leaving behind the portrait of Frances Henrietta because Henry’s sister’s servant so adored the painting. Frances Henrietta’s portrait was retrieved by Frances’ daughter Fannie during her honeymoon in Europe in 1857.

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Henry Livingston Webb’s portrait by Inman, 1832

After Betsey’s portrait was returned to the states, the leading portrait painter in New York City, Henry Inman, “improved” the portrait by adding a shawl to her outfit. Adding the shawl was probably an effort to make Betsey’s appearance more modest, especially because she became more religious later in life. Henry Inman was born in Utica, New York on October 28, 1801, and in 1814 started his apprenticeship to John Wesley Jarvis, who painted two other portraits that are on display in the Blue Parlor at the Kent-Delord House Museum. Inman also painted other portraits on display including the one of John Hayes Webb, Frances Henrietta Delord Webb’s posthumous portrait, and the two of Henry Livingston Webb, one of which is in Williamstown to be analyzed for conservation.

The portrait of Henry Livingston Webb that is in Williamstown was painted as his wedding portrait before marrying Frances Henrietta in 1832 when he was 37 years old.

Considering that Betsey Delord’s portrait made it to France and back in the 19th century (before planes and barely after the development of steam power) and also the normal wear and tear on these artifacts because of their age, it is amazing that these portraits are still around today!

The Kent-Delord House Museum is applying for grants to preserve these portraits, but nothing is set in stone yet. The portraits are in Williamstown to get an estimate on what it would cost to conserve them, and from there we will apply for funding.

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We need your help!

We are conserving these portraits for the people who come to the Kent-Delord House Museum and enjoy these wonderful pieces! It is thanks to our members and continued supporters that we are able to send these portraits to be examined, however, we still need help! Please consider making a donation to preserve these paintings and their stories for future generations to come!

Sustainable Late Spring Cleaning!

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Spring cleaning usually happens earlier in the spring, but it is not too late to get started or to get started again! With these rainy days, and the fresh new muddy footprints coming into our homes, it is a perfect opportunity to clean the house!

I am a very meticulous cleaner. I am very particular about what brands and cleaners I use because some just don’t make the cut! I have found in the last couple of years, that brands that are returning to old formulas from the 19th and early 20th centuries, like using vinegar as the main disinfectant, are not only the best cleaners, but the gentlest on my system. Anyone who has spent the majority of the day cleaning with chemicals knows how dry your hands get, and how much the smells can upset your stomach. While your house is left smelling “clean,” your body is left burning with toxic chemicals that are inhaled into your lungs.

Cleaning was not always dealing with harsh chemicals. Back when the Delords lived in the Kent-Delord House Museum in the 19th century, cleaning was what today is called sustainable. Cleaners were natural, and used materials commonly found around the house. Many cleaners today are using what the Delords once used to clean their houses because of a national movement to use more natural, sustainable, and green materials in our day to day lives.

Instead of spending the extra bucks on the green and sustainable cleaners at the grocery stores, use these common household items to make your own cleaners!

ImageFresh Lemons: Have some pesky stains on brass and copper around your house? Lemons are the answer! Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle salt on the halves, and rub the lemon halves on the metal. Then rinse thoroughly.

Are some of your dishwasher safe dishes still have acidic food stains on them? Do your wooden spoons still smell like the food you cooked with it? Again, lemons are the answer! Rub lemon juice on the spots and let items dry in the sun. After that, wash as normal and your stains and food smells should be gone!

Essential Oils: Mix some lavender oil or lemongrass oil for this next trick. 10 drops of either essential oil to 2 ounces of water will create a wonderful window cleaner that not only leaves your house smelling fresh, but removes bothersome grime on the windows. It might even repel unwanted flies!

Cornstarch: Grease is a problem in our day to day lives. If you spill grease on the carpet, on a rug, or on some upholstery, just sprinkle some cornstarch on top to soak up the grease. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes and then vacuum it up. Voila! Stains are gone!

ImageVinegar: Vinegar is truly the go to for cleaning. Vinegar stops the growth of mold, mildew and some bacteria so it is great to use as a cleaning agent in the bathroom, and kitchen. It is also great to use to clean old wooden cutting boards and to clean the shower door. Just mix equal parts vinegar and water to use as a spray cleaner.

Using vinegar in laundry is also smart! Some use it as a laundry detergent, and others let it soak in problem areas like the armpits to deodorize. Just add vinegar to your washing machine like you would add laundry detergent. It is not the same fresh scent as Gain, but it is fresh without the harsh chemicals.!

Mixing vinegar with equal parts hot water also makes a great window cleaner. Mix vinegar with equal parts melted beeswax and you can remove the rings left on furniture from wet glasses.

If all else fails, try some vinegar!

Hydrogen Peroxide: A simple way to clean your fresh produce and to disinfect cutting boards. Mix 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup of water to make a fresh cleaner. If you mix hydrogen peroxide with some dish soap it will help deodorize litter boxes and nasty garbage cans.

ImageBorax: Borax is just as useful as vinegar. If you mix it with some dish soap, it is great to clean the refrigerator shelves. Take boiling water and mix it with some borax, and it will unclog the drain. Sprinkle it around the outside of the house to get rid of insects (anyone else have a house centipede problem?). Have a mildew problem? Forget about it! Dilute and spray borax to tackle the mildew!

Have hard water rust stains in your toilet? Pour some borax into the toilet and let it sit over night. The next morning you can swish a brush around to get rid of the rust stains.

You can clean the walls and countertops with borax after you mix a ½ cup of it in a gallon of hot water. With borax, you are invincible so start cleaning!

ImageBaking Soda: You might just keep baking soda in your refrigerator or cabinets to keep them smelling fresh. However, it has more uses! Mix it with an equal amount of water to make a paste unstoppable in defeating the stains on washable wall paper. Have grout on your floors? No problem! Take 3 cups baking soda and mix it with 1 cup of warm water and apply. Let it sit and rinse well. Baking soda is also great on a damp cloth to remove heel marks from linoleum floors.

You can also purchase some of the same products as back in the day such as Castile soap, Bissell carpet sweeper, the cotton dust mop, and Fels-Naptha soap. Using old cloth diapers is also recommended as the best washing cloth, and it won’t leave lint on windows or mirrors!

Don’t go to the grocery store the next time you need new cleaning supplies…go straight to your pantries! Clean your house the old fashioned way and leave those chemical filled cleaners behind!

Source: April 2013 Real Simple Magazine, “The Best Cleaning Ideas: Past, Present, and Future;” by Marjorie Ingall; pp. 180-189.

Spring is Here! The Coming of Spring through Betsey’s Eyes and the Opening of Lake Champlain

Spring is starting.

You might not feel it, but it’s there. The ice is clearing from Lake Champlain, and little buds are starting to appear on the trees. Geese are returning home. And it is almost time for the Kent-Delord House Museum to open its doors for the season! Time to dust off the artifacts, heat up the house, and let the sunshine in! Oh and the garden…it’s almost time to prepare a garden in the memory of the women of the house!

Back in the times of Betsey Delord, the coming of Spring did not just mean warm weather. It meant a pathway down south was opening again for the season. Lake Champlain was a major avenue of travel in the 19th century. Once it was frozen during the Winter, it prevented many travelers from as close as Albany to reconsider the journey. To come to Plattsburgh meant exposure to high winds, ice, snow, and bitter cold of the Adirondacks. It also meant a very long journey compared to sailing the Lake Champlain waters.  Once Lake Champlain was clear of ice, a new world of visitors and commerce opened up throughout the North Country community because traveling was so much easier on a boat than trying to navigate the treacherous roads leading north to Plattsburgh.

To see the ice clearing meant that Betsey would see her beloved granddaughter Fannie again. Fannie was living in Hartford with her Aunts and could not travel up to Plattsburgh during the winters because of the cold, harsh conditions. Betsey wrote to her son-in-law Henry Livingston Webb on March 26, 1844 from Plattsburgh about the coming of Spring,

 I’m glad to learn navigation is open between Albany and New York. We shall rejoice to see our lake once more clear of ice. We shall better accommodate the comeing [sic] season as to steam boats. They are to leave Whitehall in the morning and arrive here about five in the afternoon. The boats meet here. The one from the north will leave here as usual and arrive at Whitehall in the morning. So much less time will be taken in the northern jaunt and objections of stopping so long at Whitehall will be obviated. If there is a rail road from Schenectady to Whitehall, I hope I shall see you oftener. I have recently read all of Bishop Hopkins letters in one volume. Once more may I trouble you to send me one paper of Double whit stock and one of Cauliflower. Your kindness in sending me bulbs last fall has afforded me beautiful sweet flowers during the winter. The Polyanthus narcissus is now in bloom. I hope to hear soon that you have been to Hartford and seen our child.

The coming of Spring is exciting to us because it means warm weather, sunshine, flowers, and it means we are closer to Summer. But for Betsey, it meant a time of visitors and traveling. It meant it was time to prepare the house for visitors, to start on her gardens, and come out of hibernating in Plattsburgh during the cold.

So in celebration of Betsey, come out of hibernation and start preparing for Spring and warm weather and the gathering of friends and family!

What do we do in the Wintery Months?

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It’s cold. It felt like it was -16 out this morning, and let’s just say that is more than unpleasant especially in this old house. We are currently not open for tours at the moment because of the poor weather and we are rearranging some of the artifacts after the house was beautifully decorated for the Holidays. So what exactly do we do during the off season?

Besides planning for future events when the weather is tolerable, I have been busy looking through the old files at the Museum. Old files is not exactly a very descriptive term, however, that is really the best term I could muster. The old files have research on the families and local history from decades ago, and documents of some of the earlier celebrations of the Battle of Plattsburgh. The files also contain old education programs from the 80s, 90s and 2000s that tell of a time where schools had budgets to actually go on field trips. There are also files that cover old programs and events held at the Museum and old grants that helped out the Museum in the past. There is even a very detailed folder on the restoration done at the house in the early 1980s.

From these folders I have come up with quite a few ideas for future programming. I have also found some real interesting pieces of information about life in the 19th century. Here are some of the gems I found:

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Frank Hall’s last Valentine to Fannie

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Not dated but from the early days of the Museum

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Waving a fan was more than for keeping yourself cool…

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women were so weak…

I plan on writing blogs on what I have found also along with using all this information for future programming. But for now- back to the grind! I can almost see the end of the tunnel of files and I must continue on!

Editorial: House tours delightful

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On Sunday December 9th, the Kent-Delord House Museum hosted our annual Secret Holiday House Tours. There were six houses in total, and members of the community were able to visit and tour each house to view the beautiful decorations.

This year, we had three judges who toured the houses to write a review. The judges were Lois Clermont, editor of the Press Republican; Caroline Kehne, editor of the Lake Champlain Weekly; and Joshua Krester of POD studio. Here is the review as featured in the Press Republican:

December 14, 2012

Editorial: House tours delightful

Press-Republican

Ever drive by a house and wish you could take a look around inside? A few local organizations have turned that desire into fundraisers that are satisfying to their budgets and the public’s interest.

The Kent-Delord House Museum in Plattsburgh was one of the first to capitalize on the idea when it introduced Secret Garden Tours years ago. Participants paid a donation and picked up maps that took them to several area houses featuring beautiful gardens. The host homeowners stood in the yards to greet guests and talk about their backyard bounty.

It was a hit with the public right from the start and remains a popular fundraiser. So, eight years ago, the Kent-Delord House seized on that summer success and created a winter version: the Secret Holiday House Tour. The fundraiser lets you go inside homes and look at how they are spruced up for the holidays.

This year, Press-Republican Editor Lois Clermont joined Lake Champlain Weekly Editor Carolyn Kehne and Josh Kretser of Pod Studio as judges.

We share their reviews (in order of their tour stops) as an acknowledgment to the generous people who opened their homes to about 150 people that afternoon:

Clinton Community College Alumni Cottage: The cottage was cozy and warm, with a fire glowing under a decorated mantle and the large conference-room table set with blue and white Royal Copenhagen dishes and Finish and Swedish glassware. Crystal candleholders of varying heights, placed on a rectangular mirror, held white candles. A window mantle was decorated with a collection of German smokers — wooden figurines in which incense is placed.

Allene Davis, Peru: This was a homemade Christmas, with the Davis family talents on display in every room: hand-crafted Santas and dolls; a hooked holiday rug; a small, painted sled; and a tree full of handmade decorations. Topping it off, trays of delicious homemade cookies, including gluten-free.

Sharon Bell, Peru: A step into the past, with a collection of old-fashioned wax Christmas candles and snow globes, a cross-stitch nativity set and delightful bubbler decorations on the tree. A large wooden dough bowl cradled evergreen boughs.

Mark and Tracie Fountain, Plattsburgh: The two children were the highlight of this stop; the boy giving tours of the family’s thoughtfully arranged miniature village and the girl playing Christmas songs on a keyboard and singing. Also seen: a tall, decorated tree, holiday Beanie Babies and the Elf on the Shelf.

Scott Miller and John Mashtare Jr., Plattsburgh: The scents of Christmas — cinnamon, balsam — greeted guests as soon as they stepped into this exquisitely decorated home. The beautiful furnishings provided the perfect setting for eight themed trees, mostly live but including two shimmering, gold, decorative trees. Lighting was a highlight as candles glowed in holiday arrangements in each room.

The tour ended back at the holiday-bedecked Kent-Delord Museum, which holds special collections on display.

Other organizations around the North Country have sponsored similar tours. They make for a fun afternoon, and we hope the idea continues to grow.

Holidays at the Museum: Collections Old & New

Every year, the house is beautifully decorated by our Garden Club. This year, the Garden Club has truly outdone themselves thanks to the hard, dutiful work done by Melanie Waugh, Geri Rickert, Evelyn Heins, Carol Lindberg and Frank and Diane LaBombard! It truly looks amazing and you do not want to miss it!

This year, the Museum is decorated with collections old and new from throughout the North Country. The collections include many things: from lusterware to crocks, to walking sticks, to antique lace to antique lingerie, folk dolls and tin toys. There is certainly something here for everyone to enjoy!

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In the Gold Parlor is our collection of Lusterware, a pottery made with an overglaze finish containing copper and silver and other materials that affect the iridescence. Lusterware became popular because gaslights that were starting to be available for the rich, accentuated the colors of the pottery. Also in the gold parlor are lace collars, handkerchiefs, and coverlets, along with sheet music and Peignoir.

In the Winter Bedroom, are collections of antique shoes, Christening gowns, dress clips, Wedding dresses, vintage clothing and accessories, along with antique buttons displayed in holiday shapes.

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The Cumberland Bay Works Office is decorated with folk art and primitive dolls made by Diane LaBombard, along with antique toys, teddy bears and tree ornaments.

doll and toy collections

In the Small Bedroom are father Christmas figurines, undergarments and leaf collection. In the Back Hall are Arto Monaco items and bears and tree decorations.

antique undergarments

The Dining Room is decorated with a Hummel Village, demitasse cups, bells and pewter. The Kitchen as salt and pepper shakers, angels, and an Adirondack tree.

The Blue Parlor has Molas, which are handmade panels of colorful layers of fabric using a reverse applique technique made by the Cuna women – the native people who live on the coral islands in the San Blas Archipelago along the coast of Panama, along with Inuit art, Zuni bears, postcards, political campaign buttons, pins, German beer steins, cameos and dirndl dresses and lederhosen.

our German collection

our German collection

Make sure to stop by to see these magnificent collections! Click here to see more of the collections!

Holiday Cookie Contest!

Since I started working at the Museum in July, I wanted to add new exciting elements to the holiday season. One way I did this was to start a Holiday Cookie Contest.

I mean, who doesn’t love cookies? And everyone makes them around the holidays,and I am sure there are family favorites that you claim are the best. Why not submit these cookies to win a prize?!

Cooking to me is very special. It means community, family, and sharing something that you work so hard to create. I wanted to provide our community the opportunity to share something that is just as close to them.

The Holiday Cookie Contest is sponsored by Parker Chevrolet. There will be three categories for submissions: Holiday Cookies, Old Fashioned Cookies, and Young Baker’s Division.

For the Holiday Cookies category, we are asking for participants to enter cherished holiday favorites. For the Old Fashioned Cookies category we are asking for participants to submit their old family cookie recipes to find out which is the best! For the Young Bakers Division, participants must be under 18 years old to enter. Each category will have a $75 first prize.

Cookies will be due for judging on Tuesday December 11th. Judges will convene on December 12th, and the winner will be announced on Thursday December 13th. To enter the contest, the deadline for the application form is December 1st. All who wish to participate just need to call the Museum at 561-1035.

Women in the War of 1812

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Recently, I had the opportunity to give a short presentation to a group of home schooled students in the North Country about women in the War of 1812. I thought I would share with you all a brief outline of my presentation to learn more about the women who served their country.

First it is important to remember the status of women at that time. Women did not have the same rights as men- they were expected to live and work at home and care for their families, and they did not have the same access to education as men. Women were not expected to work outside the home, and if they did it was a supplemental income for their families usually doing domestic duties like sewing.

The evidence that is left behind by women is more from the upper class. These are the women whose husbands were higher up in the armed forces and held prestige. These were the women who could read and write from the upper class. Other women who were of the lower class would not be able to read and write and leave behind primary sources for us to learn from. These lower class women were the camp followers, the laundresses and servants to the soldiers.

—Women were not allowed to join the armed forces or to fight in battle.Women were only able to join the military after the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed by President Truman on June 12, 1948.
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—Women had their own roles during the War of 1812.
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Some women were on the battlefields, others at the camps. Even more women stayed at home to manage the home, and to pick up the slack of the men off at war. There are not many accounts of camp followers on the American side, but they were definitely there on the British side.
—Women would help deliver water to men in the battlefield.
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—At camp, women were laundresses, seamstresses and companions to the soldiers.
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—At forts and garrisons, women worked as servants, cooks, nursemaids, and laundresses.

Some wives accompanied the soldiers. However, there was a lottery at times to decide how many wives were able to go with their husbands during these battle campaigns. The number was even as low as 6 wives per 100 soldiers. Other women who were there were employed as laundress or servants, and still looked after their families when they worked.

—Lydia B. Bacon was the wife of Lieutenant and Quartermaster Josiah Bacon who served during the War of 1812.
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Mrs. Bacon traveled with her husband, and her journals leave an important story of women in the war that is often forgotten.
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—The journals provide another perspective of camp life,  covering the smallest details from weather to her travels. Most importantly, it highlights how many women were proud to serve their country.
—From August 2nd, 1811 Bacon writes: “…tents are pitched on the side of the river, & fires made for the Soldiers to prepare their suppers, plenty of business going on–Mrs A is making up her Husbands bed, & reprimanding Mrs. G. who being a little offended will not do the same for hers. I wish you could take a peep at us.”
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—”Altho I wish much to see you yet as my husband was obliged to come, I never have for a moment regretted accompanying him, It is a great source of happiness that we can be together, & I have the satisfaction of knowing I am performing my duty.”
Heroines of the War of 1812
Dolley Madison was the wife of President James Madison.
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In 1814, the Whitehouse was attacked by the British. President Madison was in Maryland assessing the situation, while Dolley was left at the Whitehouse with only a few faithful servants.
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—Thanks to Dolley, the portrait of George Washington, and a copy of the Declaration of Independence were saved from destruction when the British destroyed the Whitehouse.
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Laura Secord is famous in Canada as a name for chocolates, sweets and ice cream.
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—What many do not know, is that Secord was a heroine during the War of 1812.
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—Secord’s husband served in the British Army. Once Secord heard he was wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights, she left for the battlefield.
—After the Battle of Queenston Heights n 1813, Americans occupied the Canadian side of the Niagara River. All able-bodied men were sent to the American side as prisoners of war.
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—Because Secord’s husband was wounded, the Secords were spared. However, the Secords had to host American soldiers in their home.
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—When Colonel Boerstler, head of the forces at Queenston Heights, was at the Secord’s home, he revealed plans to attack the British at Beaver Dams. Secord then walked for 18 hours to warn the British troops.
—It was not until 1860, when Secord was 85, was she rewarded for heroism by the British government.
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—Here is an excerpt from her speech to the Prince of Wales,  “Here [Beaver Dam] I found all the Indians encamped; by moonlight the scene was terrifying…Upon advancing to the Indians they all rose, and, with some yells, said “Woman,” which made me tremble…I was determined to persevere. I went up to one of the chiefs, made him understand that I had great news for Capt. Fitzgibbon, and that he must let me pass to his camp, or that he and his party would be all taken. The chief at first objected to let me pass, but finally consented, after some hesitation… I then told him [Capt. Fitzgibbon] what I had come for…that the Americans intended to make an attack upon the troops under his command, and would, from their superior numbers, capture them all. Benefiting by this information Capt. Fitzgibbon formed his plan accordingly, and captured about five hundred American infantry, about fifty mounted dragoons, and a fieldpiece or two was taken from the enemy.”
Women of Plattsburgh
The Delord family moved from the Peru Quaker Union to Plattsburgh in 1811.
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The British occupied the Delord home during Murray’s Raid in 1813, and during the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814.
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Before the British arrived in Plattsburgh, Betsey buried the family silver in the backyard so it was not looted. What possession would you save if the British were coming?
Sources:
—Galafilm. “Women and War.” Accessed October 27, 2012. http://www.galafilm.com/1812/e/people/ womenatwar.html.
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—Upper Mississippi Brigade. “The Role Women Played in the War of 1812.” Accessed October 27, 2012. http://umbrigade.tripod.com/articles/women.html.