Posts Tagged ‘collections’

Exhibit Hightlight: Reverend Samuel Jackson’s dressing gown

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
     In a corner of the exhibit hall at the Andover Historical Society is an old bathrobe, or “dressing gown,” as it would have been called in the nineteenth century.  These were worn before bedtime and served much the same purpose as a bathrobe does today – but the one currently on display at the Common Indecency exhibit is very special.  It is the only piece of intimate apparel with a direct connection to the roots of Andover’s West Parish Church.  Its original owner was the Reverend Samuel Cram Jackson, first minister to that congregation.  The robe passed from the Jackson family to the Abbott family early in the twentieth century.  A member of the Jacksons gave this treasured family heirloom to a person who would see that it was well looked after.  That was Charles Edward Abbott, the Historical Society’s first president.  The piece was officially accessioned in 1935.

      Samuel’s father William was a congregational minister in Dorset, Vermont, and Sam seems to have studied for a time at Middlebury College.  By March 13, 1825, Sam Jackson was enrolled at the Andover Theological Seminary.  It was a Sunday, and like a good son, he wrote his mother:

My dear Mother,

I know not how the evening of a birthday can be more agreeably and dutifully employed than in speaking a word of the goodness of God toward me during the 23rd year of my life to one who deeply sympathizes in all my joys & sorrows, hopes & fears.  I was glad that this anniversary occurred on the sacred day of rest, when, free from secular concerns, I could without interruption review the past & look forward to the future…eternal consequences hang upon a single year…It will no doubt bring unspeakable pleasure to a kind and solicitous mother to learn that her son, who was lost & wandered far from his father’s house, has been found & restored…

There is more than a hint, in Jackson’s emphasis, that he hadn’t always been a well-behaved altar boy.  Still his letter is insightful and thoughtful as he reflects on the year gone by.  He does not close, however, without asking for money.  He explains that tuition costs $3.60 per quarter, room, board and washing another $1.75, and an extra forty cents for lighting.

     And, like any college student, Jackson needed to relax before bed.  The simple yet elegant dressing gown now on display would have made a perfect gift for the young graduate when, on April 21, 1827, Reverend Jackson accepted an invitation to be the pastor of the newly formed West Parish Church.  The twenty-five year old had impressed his parishioners so deeply with his gift for speaking that West Parish’s vestry voted “unanimously” to make Jackson the offer of more than six hundred dollars a year – a fortune for a recent college graduate at the time.
     Perhaps the robe was a later anniversary gift from Jackson’s wife Caroline.  Many a night it may have hung close to the bedstead, listening to Jackson’s talks with his wife about the state of his parish.  By the 1840’s, questions on abolition were at the nexus of scholarship in the United States, and tempers flared in classrooms and churches alike over the issue.  One prominent – and boisterous – parishioner at West Parish was the Scotsman John Smith.  Liberal-minded academia was overwhelmingly Republican in political persuasion, meaning that antislavery attitudes quickly became the rule in the North, even among theologians from the supremely conservative Andover Theological Seminary.  However Rev. Jackson knew that every word he said would be closely scrutinized by his flock, and wisely he wished to avoid the subject altogether when speaking in the pulpit.

     By April of 1840, John Smith was boiling with resentment over a “gag law” that West Parish had imposed upon itself by majority vote.  It was now not allowed to discuss the issue of slavery in the West Parish Church, and John Smith – a staunch abolitionist – did not appreciate his right to free speech hindered by a clergyman with reputed “pro slavery” tendencies.  Jackson later commented, “I had objections to church action on the subject…[but] my great objection had been [to] the evils of debates and contentions among brethren…”  As any pragmatic leader during tumultuous times, Jackson was accused by one side of not taking enough sincere action, and by the other of going too far.  John Smith eventually moved on, in 1846, with his family to worship at the Free Christian Church where Smith became a deacon.  But for now, Smith was stuck with West Parish and West Parish was stuck with Smith.  Jackson commented privately that he pitied Smith, “for no other place will have him.”  Still slavery was too big an issue to avoid altogether, and by the next year, 1841, it was clear that the church would have to adopt some official and public resolution on the subject.  Jackson’s famous “New Year” sermon, which always drew the biggest crowd of the year, would have to wait until Sunday January 3rd.  This business would be tended to before then.  On Friday the 1st, the West Parish Church unanimously adopted a resolution written by Jackson himself, and he read it out to the entire parish.  Here are some highlights:

      Resolved, that we regard American Slavery as a great physical, political, social, and moral evil…oppressive to men & offensive to God…that buying and selling men for gain, holding and treating them as mere property…disregarding and sundering their domestic relations, keeping them in involuntary ignorance…is a sin against God, & ought, like every other sin, to be repented of & immediately forsaken.  While we are constrained to “receive one another” as Christ has received us, we nevertheless can have no fellowship with this unfruitful work of darkness, but must rather reprove it, and rebuke those who encourage and persist in it.

     Resolved, that we view with surprise and regret the painful fact that, in this day of light, some professed ministers and followers of Christ justify involuntary servitude as a permanent condition of society and a scriptural institution which we regard as obviously contrary to the principles of natural justice…& which is condemned by the opinion and example of nearly the whole civilized world.

Attest. Samll C. Jackson

If Reverend Jackson’s dressing gown could only tell us what it was like to hear Jackson speak…still, he has left us his graceful words.


You Gotta Have Standards

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

ADEPT has started revising our handbook again. The handbook sets our data entry standards which helps everyone put the same information into the database the same way (so we can find it again later). It also helps us avoid this:


We’re Done! For Now.

Friday, July 15th, 2011

ADEPT has finally finished inventorying all of the collections in the Blanchard House Museum!

Although we hosted a couple of inventory work days in February and March, there were still a few spaces that needed to be done. The ADEPT staff took a week off from their regular data entry duties and plowed through these remaining spaces. They’ve even got most of the 1,500 or so object locations entered in the database already. Now we know where almost everything in the Blanchard House is.

Inventorying any museum collection is like putting it under a microscope. You find lots of little irregularities, redundancies, and mistakes. It happens. Especially at a museum that’s been collecting for one hundred years, like the AHS. Staff, procedures, and record keeping change over time and collections items can get lost in the shuffle.

For the most part, we found what we expected to find: multiple objects sharing the same tracking number (in the museum biz we call those object identification numbers; often shortened to object ID number), items that don’t have object ID numbers on them which should, and objects which have been formally deaccessioned but are still stored on our shelves. There are also lots of little (unless you’re the one doing them and then they’re big) issues to resolve, like is that number a 3 or a 5? Can you even read these numbers? or, my personal favorite, why is this number on the object but not in the register? Fortunately, we’ve solved most of these problems.

There were a couple of things we found which we didn’t expect.

The AHS has a Polaroid “OneStep” instant camera in the collection which was accessioned in 2007.

When we had it out to inventory, we opened the lid (exposing the lens and flash) when we noticed the red power light came on. Out of curiosity we pushed the shutter and wham! Out comes this photograph:

The film was old, having been in the camera since at least 2007, and the photo took a while to develop. Turns out in these Polaroids the film cartridge contains the battery. We removed the cartridge because it’s not good for the camera to leave the batteries in for so long.

That wasn’t even the most inexplicable thing we found. We also found a magic lantern that had a bit of a numbering problem, as you can see:

The magic lanter came in two parts: the body (which contained the light source) and the removable lens.

The body was numbered 1941.35.1a, which meant there was a second part, numbered b.

Naturally, we thought the lens, as the second piece, would be marked with the b number. But the only number we could find was this cryptic 19 or 61 in white ink.

We put the two together and it hit us...

...somehow they had put the b number on the lens while it was attached to the body. It had the right number on it, just not all of it.

Now that we’re done with the house, we’re going to start the barn, where all the farm and industrial collections are.


Found It! Findings Update

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Since our first inventory day on February 26th, we held another inventory day on March 26th and continued inventorying smaller spaces within the museum. Thanks to our dedicated and diligent volunteers we have…

…Hosted over 40 inventory volunteers

…A total volunteer time of over 350 hours (almost the equivalent of nine 40-hour weeks for one person)

…Completed almost 450 inventory sheets

…Inventoried and entered over 7,000 items (the database is now accurate for all 7,000 locations)

And we are continuing to inventory the house (in fact there is someone up there right now working on more shelves). We hope to finish the Blanchard House collection soon. And then we can turn our attention to the Blanchard Barn collection.


Object of the Week

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Is this type of postcard you send to good friends, or what? Object #1987.598.2020

The Andover Historical Society counts hundreds of postcards among its collection and although many feature bucolic landscapes, picturesque old homes, or notable landmarks — more than a few are simply humorous and meant to elicit a quick chuckle from the recipient.

This example is postmarked Feb 2, 1913 from Waltham – a city nearly 30 miles south of Andover. With the popularity of stamp collecting  throughout the 20th century, it is not entirely surprising that the postage stamp is missing.

The back side doesn't allow much space... but the sender still made her (or his) message clear!

W. J. Mitchell of 123 Elm Street, Andover was the addressee on this comical piece of mail and the message reads:

Dear Will,
Here is one suggestion for a good time. Mr. H says he will meet you in Boston any time and he will show you a good time. I told I did not think you would care for that kind. Take care of yourself and do get some rest. Drop me a card once in awhile and let me know how Olive is.
Edna (sp?)

The postcard appears to be signed Edna… but could also be Edwin, or Edward. Depending on whether the sender was male or female, certainly puts the message in a different context.

A William J. Mitchell did indeed live at 123 Elm Street in Andover, according to the 1916-1917 Andover and North Andover Mass. Directory. His occupation is noted as ‘baker’ and he appears to conduct his business from the same address as his home. Interestingly, only 2 years later, an Agnes C. is listed as his wife in the 1918-1919 directory. Which begs the question… who is Olive? Is it a nickname for his future wife, or was there an earlier romance?

As with many items at the Historical Society– more research is needed! Check back for more details in coming weeks.


Object of the Week

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

The Andover Historical Society is fortunate to possess a large collection of pewter spanning from the 18th century through the early 20th century. However, many of the pieces, like the the pitcher pictured here, have very little information in their records. What we do know is that it came to us from C.M. Underhill via Mrs. Dodge. It is a 4 footed pitcher measuring 3 3/8″ in height. It bears no makers marks which might help guide in a search to determine the creation date and location. With items like this, we encourage staff, volunteers and members of the community to help us research and share information they might have. We never know where the answers might come from!

Object ID #1964.007

If you recognize any details on this pitcher, post a comment on our blog or facebook and let us know. Perhaps you have the key to the mystery!


Object of the Week

Monday, April 25th, 2011

After a bit of a hiatus… here’s a new object of the week: A Quassia Tonic Cup

Object ID #1950.048.1

This interesting item became part of the Historical Society’s collection from the Estate of William A. Trow in 1950. A wooden cup approximately 4″ tall, it is made of quassia wood and has a label pasted on the side that reads:

Quassia tonic cup G & H.   Pour into the cup  a wine glass or two of water or wine which will partake instantly of the properties of the cup and may be  drank at once.

The item is carved in one piece with a round pedestal base supports a cup with a rounded bottom and straight sides.  The inside of cup is cone shaped and shallow.

Although we don’t know the date for this particular tonic cup, the following description of quassia comes from an 1830 book titled A treatise of the materia medica and therapeutics, Volume 1 By John Eberle


The quassia excelsa is a large tree growing spontaneously in Surinam, from which its wood was first brought into Europe in the year 1761.

The wood of this tree, and more especially that of the root, is of a pure and intensely bitter taste, which, according to Thomson, depends on a peculiar bitter principle to which the name of quassin has been given. According to Crell and Tromsdorff, the quassia contains a greater proportion of gummy matter than of resinous, and hence they infer that the infusion of it in cold water is its best preparation.

The quassia is a very excellent tonic, and may be very usefully employed in all cases where remedies of this kind are indicated. It possesses scarcely any stimulating of heating properties, and is, therefore, peculiarly calculated to improve the digestive powers of the stomach in weak and very irritable subjects. It was at one time a good deal employed in the cure of intermittent. It has, however, not sustained its reputation in this disease, and is now but very seldom employed in its cure. It is said to be very efficacious in suppressing bilious vomitings, attending bilious and putrid fevers. Alibert states that he succeeded in curing a female, by this remedy, of habitual vomiting, which had prevented her for a long time retaining any nourishment on her stomach. He also says, that he has used the quassia with much success in cases of dyspepsia. In the depraved appetite in chlorosis, particularly when there is a disposition to eating dirt, chalk, &c. the quassia is said to be a very efficacious remedy.*

References to quassia tonic cups continue to appear in medical texts as late 1918 and proponents of herbalism were still listing quassia as an effective tonic in the 1960s. While bilious and putrid fevers may have given way the flus, colds, and common infections of the 21st century, many of the tried and true practices of early medicine lasted for centuries. Who knows what other elements of the medicinal trade are tucked away in the Historical Society’s collection!


Found It! Findings

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Inventorying a museum collection is a basic task for any museum. Inventories allow you to identify and record the precise location of each item in the collection. In the Andover Historical Society’s case, we record our collection locations in the PastPerfect database so researchers can easily find stuff (a professional term) they are interested in. It’s an important responsibility, but it’s also a time consuming one. It helps to have a large staff to inventory everything. Especially when you have over 40,000 items in the collection like we do.

The Historical Society was fortunate to have a large volunteer staff willing to inventory the Blanchard House collection. We hosted two “Found It!” inventory days, one on February 26th and the next on March 26th. Both days were wonderfully successful.

We invited anyone interested in helping out to participate. Some people made it a family affair bringing their spouses, parents, and kids to help.

Everyone worked in pairs: one person handled an object, described it, and read off its identification number, while the other person recorded everything on the inventory sheet.

We inventoried collections from the basement... the third floor and everywhere in between.

We are far from finished inventorying everything in the collection, but so far we have:

Hosted 33 interns and volunteers

Put in over 200 inventory hours

Completed 215 inventory sheets

Inventoried over 5,000 objects

Thanks again to all of our fantastic interns and volunteers. We couldn’t have done it without you!


A Vamp With Sole

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The L-O-N-G sigh. That’s when you know a member of the ADEPT team has found something complex, frustrating, or foreign. Recently the sigh slipped out because of a word.

We were entering the information for a pair of shoes, which were described as a “pair of women’s shoes with thin leather sole and satin-covered heel. White satin slipper upper, bound edging. White silk and net rosette on vamp….”

It was the word vamp. Looking at the paperwork didn’t help. Nor did looking at the photograph of the shoes.

So we consulted the Oxford English Dictionary (or the really BIG book of words).  It stated that vamp was, “the part of a boot or shoe covering the front of the foot.”  In the United States it specifically means “that part between the sole and the top in front of the ankle-seams.” In other words the vamp covers the instep.

We dug a little further and found the entry for vamp from the Footwear of the Middle Ages webpage:

Vamp (Vampethe, Vampet , Vawmpe, Vampey, Avant pied, Forefoot, Pedana, Pedula)

  1. The front section of a shoe’s upper covering the wearer’s toes and part of the instep. The earliest use of this term, in a shoemaking context, in English was at least by 1654 [OED 2d Ed.]. It likely derives from an older term “vampey” (c15th C), and from that “Vaumpe”/”Waumpe”, from the Anglo-Norman “avanpie” (or “avant-pied” – “before the foot”) and refers to the portion of the footed hose that covers the foot from the instep and ankle forward. If there was another term used for the vamp of a shoe before 1654, I do not as yet know what that is — however see Forefoot (q.v.)
  2. If the upper does not have a separate Vamp and Quarters, the front of the upper can be referred to as the “Vamp portion” rather than the vamp. Do NOT use “Forepart” as this refers to the sole, not the upper. [Saguto]
  3. For one piece uppers, use Forepart [Thornton/Swann, 1983]
  4. The part of the tipper covering the fore part of the foot up to the instep. [Goubitz, 2001]
  5. The Vamp “is all the piece that covers the top of the foot instep, the top of the shoe at the tying place toe and toe lining, the lower part of the vamp [Holme, 1688]
  6. The front of the shoe, consisting of one piece (in the slip-on) or several (toe cap, vamp insertion). Its shape depends on the shoe style. [Vass]

The things we learn…


Object of the Week

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Object Id #1984.123.1c

Milk bottle lid /cap: circular disc with an indented center, where label/writing is.
Label design: Purple rim around center indentation and purple line across diameter. Writing in black.

Gift of James Batchelder

made of waxed cardboard/paper

from from Rolling Acres Farm on Argilla Road, Andover, MA. Farm bought  1928; sold 1952

imprinted: “TEL.122R” in white at top of label; MILK PASTEURIZE” “ROLLING ACRES” in black script ” ANDOVER, MASS.” at bottom in small block letters.

dates to late 1940s