‘Tis the Season of Traditions

Papier-maché impression from cookie mold, Carl W. Drepperd, ca. 1942.
Bequest of Henry F. du Pont 1961.11716.001-.004

Yuletide has arrived at Winterthur, and visitors can enjoy the treasures of Christmases past by exploring various customs, decorations, and stories. Whether it is sending holiday cards, trimming a tree, or eating festive cookies, families  have new and old traditions. An intriguing set of papier-maché impressions in Winterthur’s collection reflect some of those traditions, tying together multiple Christmases past.

The papier-maché impressions are attributed to decorative arts specialist Carl W. Drepperd (1892–1956), who made them from old family molds and then sent them to Henry F. du Pont. In a letter dated January 2, 1942, du Pont wrote to Drepperd thanking him for his “Christmas greeting in “Marchpane,” and that “The little figure is most interesting.” (1) Later in April of 1943, Drepperd sent more of these impressions, adding:

… Also, purely for your data files, I will send pressings of Chinese paper of the Marzipan, Marchpane or Matzebaume moulds which have come down to me from the family. They were used from 1780 to about 1850. Then ‘boughten’ ornaments replaced them. Thank heaven the old aunt saved the moulds. (2)

The remainder of the impressions in the collection probably come from this letter. They include figures of a stork with a baby, a sunflower, a beast, another tall bird, and a rooster. In fact, Drepperd frequently included these molds in his books as illustrations. In his Primer of American Antiques (1944), under the chapter on woodenware, he featured a mold with a stork and baby in its beak. The same mold appears in his Pioneer America: Its First Three Centuries (1949), but this time the mold seems to be carved from the same block of wood as the sunflower mold. Under Drepperd’s definition of machpane and marchpane molds in A Dictionary of American Antiques (1952), he claims that he has “a dated example of 1563,” (3) probably referencing the triangular figure.

These molds were made using the intaglio manner, carving into the wood rather than creating a raised surface. They were pressed down into the dough, thus leaving an impression behind. Many times the designs were taken from printed sources, which can help with dating, though molds continued to be long used after they were made. Some molds have been attributed to specific carvers, such as the best-known American mold carver John Conger, who worked in New York City from 1827 to 1835. More often, molds remain unattributed and without a date. It can be difficult to differentiate between the various types of molds, as terms such as cake molds, marzipan molds, cookie molds, and springerle molds, have been confused and conflated, and it is possible that they were sometimes used interchangeably with various types of cookies. While Winterthur does not have Drepperd’s molds, we have similar ones, as seen on display in Shipley Hall on the Yuletide Tour, which feature animals, flowers, elaborately dressed women, and letters.

Cookie display in Shipley Hall

The molds Drepperd had in his collection were most likely used in Pennsylvania during the early 19th century. He believed that they were used with matzabaum (also known as marzipan or marchpane), which he defined as “a sweetmeat made from almond meal and honey, molded in wood forms, and often decorated with vegetable colors,” (4) though more recipes use sugar and almond paste as well as orange or rosewater. (5) The treat has a long and diverse history, as noted by the various names by which it is known. One of the key ingredients, almonds, were cultivated along the eastern Mediterranean, and spread throughout southern Europe during the Roman Empire. It is believed that the word marzipan has either a German (marcipan) or Italian (marzapane) origin, but it could also refer to the Persian martabān, possibly pointing to the city of Martaban that was famous for exporting glazed jars filled with sweetmeats. Other scholars have attempted to tie the Latin phrase Marci panis, meaning the bread of St. Mark, to the Italian word. (6) Regardless of etymology, the sweet has a history of being used for elaborate sculptural sweets for holidays throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Europe, and recipes appear in many cookbooks starting in the medieval period. One of the earliest marchpane recipes printed in America is found in Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife, or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion­.

In Christmas in Pennsylvania, Alfred L. Shoemaker asserts that matzebaum was also a common Christmas candy to the Lancaster-York area, used to decorate Christmas trees. (7)

For those who did not want to use expensive almond paste to create ornaments that would not be consumed, people sometimes used corn meal or wheat flour and glue. (8) While the cookies rarely survived, Winterthur has a framed collection of brightly colored ‘marzipan’ cookies that were probably used as ornaments, and now featured on the Yuletide Tour. Preserved for at least 150 years, the actual ingredients used in this grouping are unknown. Conservation conducted in 2000 to remove mold and make repairs led us to believe that they are more likely made out of wheat flour than almond paste.

Left: Marzipan ornaments, ca. 1800-1875. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont. 1959.0844.
Right: Marzipan ornaments, ca. 1800-1875. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont. 1959.0845.

Similar to the impressions on paper, these ornaments show brightly painted raised figures  in various forms, e.g. patriotic, religious, and fanciful themes.

It is also possible that Drepperd’s molds were used to make springerle cookies, an anise-flavored cookie popular in Pennsylvania-German tradition. Springerle cookies originated in Germany and were associated with holidays and special events, not just Christmas. Food historian William Woys Weaver claims that springerle cookies have a 17th-century origin as “‘water’ marzipans, or ersatz marzipans, a poor man’s substitute for almond marzipan.” (9) Though it is difficult to find early recipes of springerle cookies, they can be found in Pennsylvania-German cookbooks from the twentieth-century and in newspapers during the holiday season. Ruth Hutchison’s The New Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book, published first in 1948, includes a springerle recipe. Her recipe instructs:

6 eggs, 1 teaspoon hartshorn, 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1 lemon, juice and grated rind, 3 cups sifted flower, 1 tablespoon anise seed, Pinch of salt

The old recipes required that sugar and eggs be beaten together for at least an hour. Then the flour was sifted several times, resifted with the hartshorn, added to the eggs and sugar, and the whole stirred again. Then lemon, anise seed, and grated rind were added and the dough rolled out. The pictures were separated along the dividing lines to form square cookies.

Bake on a greased cookie sheet in 300-degree oven for about 20 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning and coloring. When baked they should be pale. Makes about 40. (10)

Springerle molds are usually flat boards that can contain anywhere between two and thirty-two squares of designs. Since Drepperd created two of his pressings in pairs, it is possible that they came from springerle boards. These cookies were also used to decorate Christmas trees, sometimes painted to create a colorful effect.

Drepperd’s papier-maché impressions show that molds  were once used to create cookies, for either consumption or decoration, possibly during the holiday season. In the same spirit, Drepperd decided to use the molds to create a lasting Christmas wish to his friends, including du Pont. Today, Winterthur uses papier-maché pressings inspired from these designs on the Yuletide tour. You can find some of these impressions on the Christmas tree in Empire Hall, representing pieces of history that show multiple traditions and long-lasting appreciation.

Christmas tree featured in Empire Hall with ornaments inspired by Drepperd’s impressions.

Post by Amanda Hinckle, Robert and Elizabeth Owens Curatorial Fellow, Museum Collections Department, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

Winterthur is very grateful for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, which has given us the ability to photograph and digitize works on paper in the collection, including these papier-maché impressions.


Makanowitzky, Barbara Norman. Tales of the Table: A History of Western Cuisine (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972).

Weaver, William Woys. “Cake Prints, Carved Molds, and the Tradition of Decorative Confections: The Adomeit Mold Collection.” The Magazine Antiques (Summer 2010): 158-167.


(1) Henry Francis du Pont to Carl W. Drepperd, 2 January 1942, Series 69HF3, Box HF552, Folder Dreppard, Carl W. (1941-1949), Henry Francis du Pont Papers, Winterthur Archive, Winterthur Library.

(2) Carl W. Drepperd to Henry Francis du Pont, 23 April 23 1943, Series 69HF3, Box HF552, Folder Dreppard, Carl W. (1941-1949), Henry Francis du Pont Papers, Winterthur Archive, Winterthur Library.

(3) Carl Drepperd, A Dictionary of American Antiques (Boston: C.T. Branford, 1957), 234.

(4) Drepperd, A Dictionary of American Antiques, 234.

(5) Linda Campbell Franklin, 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles, 4th ed. (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1997), 151.

(6) Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, 1st ed., s.v., “Marzipan” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

(7) Alfred L. Shoemaker, Christmas in Pennsylvania: A Folk-Cultural Study (Mechanicsburg, Penn: Stackpole Books, 1999), 21.

(8) Phillip V. Snyder, The Christmas Tree Book: The History of the Christmas Tree and Antique Christmas Tree Ornaments (New York: The Viking Press, 1976), 46.

(9) William Woys Weaver, America Eats: Forms of Edible Folk Art (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1989), 116.

(10) Ruth Hutchison, The New Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1958), 190.

Posted in Academic Programs, Decorative Arts, Du Pont Family, Library, museum collection, Uncategorized, Yuletide | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting on the Bus

Ken Kesey’s DayGlo painted bus, a functional object that has come to symbolize the counterculture of the 1960s. Although the students in our group traveled in minivans, the spirit of camaraderie flowed on our own traveling caravan.

In his 1968 classic book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe traveled the country in a bus with writer Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters. During a trip that came to encapsulate the counterculture, Wolfe quoted Kesey as saying, “Now you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place—then it won’t make a damn.”

This semester, nine students from Winterthur and the University of Delaware Program in American Material Culture literally and figuratively “got on the bus” when they enrolled in my class, Cities on a Hill: Material Culture in America’s Communal Utopias. Although the hippies of the 1960s often come to mind when communes, utopias, and intentional communities are mentioned, the impulse to fashion a new way of living in opposition to mainstream society that involves social cohesion, relative isolation, and at least some communal sharing of ideology, property, space, and material goods, dates to the first European settlers on the shores of North America.

Throughout the course, we dove headlong into the history of American communal utopias using the Winterthur collection and field studies to come to a greater understanding of the diverse and unbroken tradition of communal living in America. Students were asked to seriously consider the concept of communal living and utopia by coming to terms with the humanity, practicality, and materiality of communal living, and their attempts to make a better world.

Students explored the internal network of rustic paths that cut through the dense woods to connect homes and recreation centers in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania—an intentional community inspired by William Morris’s utopian novel News from Nowhere.

However, students literally hopped on the bus when we took a weekend field trip to upstate New York, home of the famed Burned-Over District of the 19th century that still smolders with the embers of reform. Field-based learning is a hallmark of courses based at Winterthur. They help students visualize, experience, and, in this case, live like the individuals who had, until then, only been known in books and photographs.

The trip began at Byrdcliffe, an art colony outside Woodstock, New York, inspired by the English arts and crafts movement. Here, renowned artisans and craftspeople came together to create furniture, ceramics, textiles, and fine art in the bucolic setting of the Hudson Valley. Though Winterthur holds the entire Byrdcliffe archive, traipsing the mountainous terrain of Byrdcliffe brought those documents and artifacts to life for the students. We were led by Director of Exhibitions Derin Tanyol and board member Henry Ford through some of the most stunning architecture of the American arts and crafts movement, including the founder of the community Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead’s own magnificent manor house, White Pines, and other buildings that are still used for artist-in-residency programs at the community. Indeed, although Woodstock is usually associated with the hippies of the music festival that bears its name, it was Whitehead who brought the avant-garde to the area more than 60 years prior.

The class poses with our hosts, Derin Tanyol and Henry Ford, in front of the Byrdcliffe Theater, a large wooden space that once housed studios for artists and craftspeople who traveled to Byrdcliffe in the early 1900s

From there we headed to central New York and the fascinating Communal Societies Collection at Hamilton College. The delightful Christian Goodwillie, director and curator of special collections, came in on a Saturday night to show us their collection of the material culture of community—including ephemera from the House of David, comics from the Kerista Community, and amazing material from the Amana Community. In total, Goodwillie pulled more than 75 items for us to examine. But what’s more, he and his wife Erika Sanchez Goodwillie, a leading expert in the replication of historic paints who has done work at museums nationwide, opened their home to us with a feast of central New York foods such a Utica Greens and Tomato Pie. Christian even curated a pop-up exhibit of Shaker chairs!

Christian Goodwillie shows the students the riches of Hamilton College’s Communal Societies Collection in the reading room.

Winterthur field trips are a total immersion experiences, and as such we stayed the night at the famed Oneida Community Mansion House, the home of the 19th-century Perfectionists led by John Humphrey Noyes, and still a home today to descendants of the original communards. These communards practiced, among other things, “bible communism,” “complex marriage,” and “mutual criticism,” but are better known today as a flatware company. The students woke rested as we embarked on a tour of the Mansion House with Curator of Education Dr. Molly Jessup, who explained how the material culture of the Mansion House, especially the architecture, reinforced and reflected the tenets of Perfectionism.

Molly Jessup addresses the students in the “Big Hall” where the Oneida Perfectionists held family meetings. This immense, theater testifies to both the material wealth of the community as well as their self-proclaimed status as one “big family.”

The class poses outside the Oneida Community Mansion House. Even though the Perfectionists led an unconventional lifestyle, the architectural elements are taken from fashionable architecture of the time, such as this Italian villa design popular in the mid-19th century

There is little rest on the road to utopia, and the afternoon brought another 19th-century group to the fore. Palmyra, New York, is the site where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (colloquially known as the Mormons or LDS Church) was founded by Joseph Smith and where the Book of Mormon was first translated. Here, church elders toured the students through the Hill Cumorah Visitor’s Center, the Smith Family Home, and the Whitmer Log Home—all sites held sacred by Mormons. Here we were immersed in the teachings, history, material culture, and current missionary efforts of the LDS church and learned how this area today functions as a pilgrimage place for Mormons worldwide.

The class poses in the Peter Whitmer Log Home. This re-created rustic farmhouse was the site where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was initially organized.

Our weary band of travelers rested their bones in Ithaca, New York, a town that in many ways still embodies the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s. During our last day on the bus, the students visited a present-day intentional community, the EcoVillage at Ithaca, a co-housing ecovillage that is dedicated to showing the world a new way to live that involves green energy, permaculture, and an overall emphasis on sustainability. We toured the village led by Liz Walker, the founder of the community, which has been in existence more than 25 years and now numbers more than 200 residents. We talked about sustainability, net-zero energy construction, and gardens as we went into homes and walked the community paths. Craft and creativity also thrive at the EcoVillage as we visited Graham Ottoson at “Gourdlandia,” where she shared her passion for creating gourd lamps and specially grown gourds with the group. Sustainably and eco-friendly farming are a staple of the village, and we met with farmer of West Haven Farm, John Bokaer-Smith, who told us all about the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), the importance of the EcoVillage to community and restaurant life in Ithaca, and practical green problem solving at the farm. The students were even put to work cleaning garlic for the farmer’s market!

Inspired by the gourd art of Graham Ottoson, the class posed in front of her shop, aptly named, Gourdlandia!

Students got a chance to give back to the EcoVillage at Ithaca by helping John Bokaer-Smith trim the stalks and roots from bulbs of garlic.

At the end of the trip, thankfully no one had gotten off the bus. However, I think that Kesey’s sentiment will stay with these students, it surely will with me. No matter where we go, what we are doing, the experiences we had, the people we met, and the things we examined, touched, and felt, will always stay with us. If we do find our way off the bus—if we have forgotten to dream of a different, better world—we will find it again. I am sure.

But, for those who aren’t on the bus, well, “it won’t make a damn.”

Post by Thomas A. Guiler, Manager and Instructor, Academic Programs, Winterthur

Posted in American Culture Studies, Library, museum collection, Students & Alumni, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shop of Robert Stewart: Work and Wealth in the Antebellum Natchez Furniture Trade

The life and work of antebellum cabinetmaker Robert Stewart (1796–1866) spanned one 
of the most contentious periods in American history in one of the country’s most complex
places: Natchez, Mississippi, a river town of great diversity and incredible wealth. For
planters whose riches grew in sugar and cotton fields elsewhere, Natchez was a social
center where large, fashionable homes communicated success. In furnishing these homes,
and others from all levels of Natchez society, Stewart played a significant role in shaping
the community. His imported and locally made pieces created a unique material culture
that speaks to the town’s distinct identity—influenced by geography and slavery—as well as
its deep connection to the Northeast and the rest of the Atlantic world.

Stewart’s early life largely remains a mystery. Born in Chester County, Pennsylvania,
he likely learned cabinetmaking from a relative. (1) As a young adult, he set out with
his brother, Miller, for the southwest, eventually landing in Natchez by 1818, when
he first advertised his trade. (2) Throughout the 1820s, Miller remained a partner in
his brother’s Natchez store, R. & M. Stewart, but was also listed in Cincinnati
directories as operating a furniture business in that city. (3) Miller died in 1831, and
four years later Robert announced that he was closing his brother’s business. (4) Robert’s
connection with Cincinnati persisted, however, and throughout the antebellum
period he sold furniture from Cincinnati makers like Mitchell & Rammelsberg to
Natchez customers.

Undertaking, traditionally associated with cabinetmakers because of their
manufacture of coffins, played an important role in Stewart’s business. Coffins of
varying quality, from “plain pine” for the enslaved to cherry cases lined with fine
textiles, provided the artisan with a constant revenue stream, with receipts noting
yellow fever epidemics, natural disasters, and war. Undertaking allowed him to operate
among all classes and races in Natchez and expanded his prominence in the
community. Coffins were a significant product of the business in its earliest days,
when Stewart, rather than an apprentice or journeyman, most likely produced the
pieces himself. As a result, some of the clearest evidence of his hand as a craftsman
can only be found underground.

Fortunately, not all examples of his work are lost. A chest of drawers featuring
elaborately carved columns with scrolled capitals is one of two known pieces
signed by Stewart or his firm. The exuberant classicism of the chest as well as the
signature “R. & M. Stewart/Natchez” date this piece to before 1835, when
Robert stopped using his late brother’s initial. (5) Although the finish today is the
product of a modern restoration, Stewart did have access to imported mahogany
veneer, evidence that throughout the antebellum period, local craftsmen were making
and embellishing furniture, not just retailing imports.

Chest of drawers, Robert Stewart,
1828−35. Mahogany, unidentified secondary
woods. Courtesy of Historic Natchez Foundation

Signature on chest of drawers.

Robert Stewart’s business continued to expand and evolve up until his death, in 1866,
but it is unclear how much of his own hand is visible in extant pieces from the mid-
1830s onward. Utilizing the labor of, at times, dozens of apprentices, journeymen,
and hired enslaved men and women, Stewart documented the bustling activity of
his shop in his account books. Journeymen created everything from washstands to
secretaries. Dosia and Bob, likely enslaved, collected moss for mattresses and
upholstery. Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Sylvester made ticking for beds. Apprentices
installed bedsteads and ran deliveries from the river to the downtown store. Workers
from the shop made house calls, adding locks to furniture, a compulsion of a slave
society. Some of Stewart’s thirteen sons even trained in the furniture business; Samuel
made a sideboard, not yet located, which sold for $100, a high sum that suggests
costly wood and stylish details. (6) Robert Stewart may have signed the receipts, but
myriad hands produced the furniture from his firm.

One journeyman in particular, Harper Hamerton, brought considerable skill to
Natchez and to one of its most enviable residences. The furnishings of Melrose,
home of cotton planter John T. McMurran, highlights the ways in which the richest-of-
the-rich not only relied on Stewart to create their domestic statements of status
and power but also looked elsewhere to do so. For example, Stewart simply
“unboxed” Melrose’s striking, Gothic-revival dining chairs, likely made in Philadelphia.
Such furniture came to Natchez from major manufacturing and design
centers in the Northeast, with local retailers like Stewart taking advantage of the
river for transportation.

Bookcases, Harper Hamerton (possibly with Robert
Stewart), ca. 1848. Walnut, tulip-poplar, pine. Courtesy of
Historic Natchez Foundation

Dining table, possibly Robert Stewart, ca. 1835.
Cherry, cypress, unidentified softwoods. Courtesy of Historic
Natchez Foundation

Larger pieces, however—more like architectural elements than movable furniture—
required on-site manufacture and created opportunities for local cabinetmakers to
add their work to homes otherwise furnished with imported items. The Melrose
library’s towering walnut bookcases with imposing molded cornices appear in
Stewart’s account books as being made by Hamerton, who received $109 for his two-and-
a-half months’ work in 1848. (7) The nature of Hamerton’s relationship with
Stewart remains unknown. Do the bookcases represent the skill of an exceptional
journeyman or the careful management, teaching, and even the hand of Robert
Stewart as master cabinetmaker? Regardless of the balance between the two men,
the bookcases speak to what Stewart’s shop was capable of creating for its wealthiest
clients, who called on local cabinetmakers to fill the gaps where Philadelphia or New
York furniture could not meet customer needs.

Lastly, a cherry dining table sold by Stewart to William Harris demonstrates
the complex nature of Natchez furniture as the amalgamation of imported,
Northern-made parts and pieces with the work of local craftsmen. (8) The use of cherry, a
local wood, is consistent with Mississippi manufacture. Stewart and his
competitors employed it for everything from coffins to case pieces, but the wood
was rarely imported. This ample table has fourteen legs; the center four of cypress
are turned in a straightforward style, but the outer legs are twist-turned. Stewart’s
account books note that he purchased furniture parts, like bedposts, throughout
his career. For this fascinating table, the use of two different styles of turnings may
be evidence that Stewart imported twist-turned legs—which required a machine
lathe—as the basis for the table and then constructed the top locally, adding the
simpler center legs to extend the length to fit the room. Ongoing work on this
unique piece will help shed light on the nature of the furniture industry in Natchez
and the networks of trade that connected the town socially, politically, and
economically with the rest of the country.

In 1861 Stewart’s son Robert Hill took over the business. (9) His decision to emphasize
fine imported household wares and metallic burial cases demonstrates the continued
influence of geography on the Natchez economy: retailing came naturally along the
river. With his son continuing the business in Natchez, the elder Robert purchased a
cotton plantation across the river, worked by dozens of enslaved laborers, having
finally achieved the Southern dream he had furnished for others for decades.

Learn more during the Young Scholars Lectures at the Delaware Antiques Show on
Saturday, November 11, at 2:00 pm. The Delaware Antiques Show takes place November
10–12 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, Wilmington, Delaware.

Post by Candice Roland Candeto, Lois F. McNeil Fellow in the Winterthur Program in
American Material Culture.

This article originally appeared in the Delaware Antiques Show Catalogue.



1 The author credits Betty Stewart’s extensive work on her family history, partially compiled at the Historic Natchez
Foundation, for contributions to Robert Stewart’s biography.
2 “The Cabinet Business,” Catesby Minnis and Robert Stewart ad, Natchez Gazette (Mississippi), January 31, 1818.
3 Cincinnati City Directories, 1829, 1831.
4 R. & M. Stewart ad, Daily Gazette (Cincinnati), February 26, 1835.
5 Natchez Court Records at the Historic Natchez Foundation document the timeline of the legal names under which
Robert Stewart’s business operated as well as changes in partnership.
6 Account with Buckner Darden, December 13, 1834. Ledger, Furniture Accounts, 1834−1836, Robert H. Stewart
Family Account Books, Mss404, 4742, Vol. 37, Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University.
7 Account with H. Hamerton, September 23, 1848. Ledger, Furniture Accounts, 1834−1857, Robert H. Stewart Family
Account Books, Mss404, 4742, Vol. 38, Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University. The bookcases were
documented by the Classical Institute of the South in 2013.
8 Account with William Harris, March 29, 1834. Ledger, Furniture Accounts, 1834−1836, Robert H. Stewart Family
Account Books, Mss404, 4742, Vol. 37, Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University.
9 “Robert H. Stewart, successor to Stewart & Burns,” Natchez Daily Courier (Mississippi), February 9, 1861.

Posted in Academic Programs, antiques, Delaware Antiques Show, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Southern Collecting in the Post−Civil War Era: A Case Study of Barbara Fritchie’s Desk-and-Bookcase

Desk-and-bookcase, Frederick, Maryland, 1780−90. Walnut, poplar. Collection of the
Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), Winston-Salem, NC

On November 21, 1885, Ariana Trail wrote to her son-in-law, Reverend John Harding, 
with a tone of urgency, imploring him to send his wife, Nan, $18, “so that she can buy
Barbara Frietchie’s secretary, a lovely antique genuine, & in perfect order.” (1) The
desk-and-bookcase, dating from around 1780, was “perfectly clean” as “Mr. & Mrs. F were
the most orderly couple in the world,” and it had “the most fascinating drawers (secret
ones!).” (2) Harding should send the money quickly, Trail pleaded, or risk the rare piece
being “grabbed up by the rich Mrs. Buckler of Baltimore in a day or 2.”(3)

Cabinet card of Ariana McElfresh Trail, Gilbert & Bacon, Philadelphia, 1880−90.
Collection of Maryland State Archives

The perceived importance of the desk-and-bookcase was due to its ownership by
Barbara Fritchie, who died in 1862 at age 96 and was memorialized in 1863
by John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem bearing her name. The verses document how
Fritchie purportedly waved an American flag from the window of her home in
defiance of Confederate soldiers marching through Frederick, Maryland. In
Whittier’s account, Stonewall Jackson, confronted with the flag draping from
Fritchie’s window, gave the orders:

“Halt!”—the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
“Fire!”—out blazed the rifle-blast.
It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.
Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff.
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf;
She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.
“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
but spare your country’s flag!,” she said. (4)

Accounts of the incident have since established that the woman in question was Mary
Quantrell, not Barbara Fritchie. Nevertheless, as a result of Whittier’s poem, a
mythology emerged surrounding Fritchie, ultimately leading Ariana Trail to acquire
the desk-and-bookcase on behalf of her daughter and son-in-law. The purchase
importantly illustrates that collectors were interested in Southern-made objects as
early as 1885, much earlier than scholars of the antiques trade have previously
assumed. It also highlights the fact that items such as the desk-and-bookcase, locks
of George Washington’s hair, and Benjamin Franklin’s gold-headed cane were sought
after because of their associative qualities.

Barbara Frietchie, Brady & Co., Washington, D.C., 1862. Carte de visite
printed in 1863 or 1864 for the Great National Fair. Library of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division

After Fritchie’s death, her niece, Catherine Hanshew, inherited her estate. (5) Then in
the 1870s or 1880s, Henry Etchison, the operator of a popular furniture store in
Frederick, acquired the desk-and-bookcase. (6) Etchison dabbled in the antiques trade
alongside local auctioneers who regularly advertised antiques in Maryland
newspapers in the 1880s. Trail, an abolitionist and one of Frederick’s most prominent
citizens, visited the Etchison store in November 1885 before penning her letter to
Harding. After discussing the merits of the piece, she signed off, “Nan works so hard
over the holidays that I think she ought to be gratified, don’t you?”(7) Harding replied
two days later, on November 23, 1885: “Many thanks for your happy suggestion. Of
course I think Nan ought to be gratified and if she wants the secretary and bookcase
why here is the money . . . I’ve made it for $25 in case she should have to bid against
the rich Mrs. B. of Baltimore.”(8)

A strong candidate for “the rich Mrs. B. of Baltimore” is Eliza Ridgely White Buckler,
whose wealthy family had strong ties to the Confederacy. Following the
conclusion of the Civil War, the Bucklers moved to Europe, where they stayed until
around 1890. Despite their absence, the couple was listed in the Baltimore Blue Book
in 1888, and other period documents indicate that they maintained social connections
in the city throughout their time abroad.(9) Eliza Buckler, born the same year as Ariana
Trail, certainly fits the profile of the “rich Mrs. Buckler of Baltimore.” The wealth
of the Buckler and Ridgely families also helps explain why Trail was so adamant that
Harding send money immediately, and why Harding, upon reading the letter,
responded with nearly 40 percent more than requested.

Eliza Ridgely White Buckler. Courtesy Hampton Historic Site, National Park Service

It seems unlikely, however, that Mrs. Buckler would have been aware of, or interested
in, Barbara Fritchie’s furniture. The Etchison Furniture Store was located in
Frederick, but the Bucklers’ social connections were primarily in Baltimore.
Additionally, the political leanings of the Ridgely and Buckler families suggest that
the Fritchie provenance would not have appealed to them. If Eliza Buckler was the
Mrs. Buckler identified in Trail’s letter, her interest in the object challenges
assumptions. It is likely that Trail mentioned Mrs. Buckler to her son-in-law simply
to encourage him to send money expediently.

In 1929 Florence Trail, Ariana’s daughter, explained why her mother was so intent
on acquiring Fritchie’s desk-and-bookcase. She wrote that her mother,

remembered distinctly hearing all about Mrs. Barbara Fritchie’s keeping out her flag
while the Rebels passed her house, and as the immense flag which waved from the
cupola of our house was always taken down . . . under similar circumstances, Mother
at once gave expression to her admiration for the old lady, and ever afterwards used
to say that ‘Aunt Barbara’ was the only person who had ever excited her envy. (10)

The object about which Trail wrote served to reinforce the mythology surrounding
Barbara Fritchie and helped to sculpt a post−Civil War American history that focused
on valor and heroism.

Creations of legends and mythologies often exclude more complicated aspects of the
past. Fritchie was not, to modern understanding, a model Union supporter, as she and
her husband owned two slaves. (11) Furthermore, Fritchie’s father-in-law, Caspar Fritchie,
was a Tory who was sentenced to be drawn and quartered in Frederick in 1781. (12)
Despite these questionable circumstances, Barbara Fritchie became a symbol of
patriotism and American values.

After Nan and the Reverend Harding acquired the desk-and-bookcase, they
bequeathed it to their daughters, who in turn left it to a neighbor, Julia Hanna. (13) In
1989, Frank Horton, the founder of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
(MESDA), acquired the piece for the museum. In his correspondence with Hanna,
Horton noted that he appreciated its fine condition and thought that “it would make
a real important statement of the skills of the cabinetmakers of the Frederick area of
Maryland,” omitting any mention of Fritchie. (14) His writings highlight how motivations
for collecting Southern objects had shifted over the course of a century, from one
premised on an object’s association with historical figures to one that valued
connoisseurship and visitor experience.

Ariana Trail and John Harding were part of a rich network of early collectors
interested in Southern objects, and they were attracted to those objects primarily
because of their association with historical figures, even if those associations were
apocryphal in origin. Such objects now form the core of numerous museum collections
across the country, and it only by studying their histories, including who collected them
and why, that one can begin to reveal the complex issues they illuminate.

Post by Trent Rhodes, Lois F. McNeil Fellow in the Winterthur Program in American Culture.

This article originally appeared in the 54th Annual Delaware Antiques Show catalogue and was generously sponsored by Tom Savage. The Delaware Antiques Show takes place November 10–12 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, Wilmington, DE.


1 Ariana Trail to John Harding, Frederick, Maryland, November 21, 1885, MESDA object file, acc. 3985.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 The verses here are an excerpt from the poem: John Greenleaf Whittier, “Barbara Frietchie,” Atlantic Monthly 12, no. 72 (1863).
5 Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629−1999, images, FamilySearch,
: Frederick, Wills, 1860−1865, vol. 15, image 117 or 173, Hall of Records, Annapolis.
6 Julia Hanna, object history, MESDA object file, acc. 3985.
7 Trail to Harding, November 21, 1885.
8 John Harding to Ariana Trail, Frederick, Maryland, November 23, 1885, MESDA object file, acc. 3985.
9 Dr. & Mrs. Thomas H. Buckler, Baltimore Society Visiting List (Baltimore: Thos. E. Lycett & Co., 1888),
10 Florence Trail, A Memorial of Ariana McElfresh Trail (Boston: R. G. Badger, 1929), 72.
11 Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629−1999, images, FamilySearch,
: Frederick, Wills 1849−1854, vol. 1, image 34 of 210, Hall of Records, Annapolis.
12 Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia), August 18, 1781.
13 Hanna, object history.
14 Frank Horton to Julia Hanna, Winston-Salem, N.C., MESDA object file, acc. 3985.

Posted in Academic Programs, antiques, Decorative Arts, Delaware Antiques Show, Furniture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

At Twenty-Five: Distinguishing the Biggs Museum of American Art

Biggs Museum of American Art, seen with the first permanent sculptural installation, Aloft, by Erica Loustau, professor at West Chester University. Aloft is the capstone of the museum’s 2011−14 renovation.

As we look forward to the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Biggs Museum of
American Art, our focus is one dedicated to the objects, stories, and supporters who
have made the institution not only notable—thanks to founder Sewell C. Biggs
—but unique among the nation’s art museums. Through the vision and
generosity of Mr. Biggs, the museum opened in 1993 on the Delaware state capital’s
impressive Legislative Mall and has, in the years since his passing in 2003,
continued to grow through public sponsorship, private philanthropy, careful choices,
and significant good fortune. This anniversary celebration presents the perfect
opportunity to reflect on that sustained growth.

Sewell C. Biggs, Peter Egeli, 1979. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Sewell C. Biggs 2004.469

After 2003 the staff and trustees of the museum initiated a series of ambitious
exhibitions, engaging programs, capital campaigns, and aggressive communications
to elicit greater attention and support from the community. A new spirit of
engagement within the Biggs began with the hiring in 2004 of the museum’s
curator, Ryan Grover, and culminated in a three-year expansion and renovation
of the galleries; several groundbreaking publications; a widening of the base
of support; and an enviable list of educational partnerships. Inviting this level of
public participation had a positive impact upon the museum operations, strategic
goals, and permanent collection—a collection that has doubled in size under
Grover’s stewardship.

The Marcia and Henry DeWitt Gallery in 2015, after the museum’s three-year renovation. Featured are works by the family of Charles Willson Peale as well as Federal furnishings from Delaware.

As noted by Charles Guerin, executive director since 2013, “The key stakeholders
of the Biggs Museum have guided its recently explosive pattern of growth with a
wise deference to the founder’s legacy. The core of Mr. Biggs’s intellectual and
collecting interests are continually maintained within his timeline presentation of
the permanent collection.”

Walnut side chairs, 1740−65. Gift and partial gift of the Loockerman / Bradford Family 2013.10.1-.2;
Mahogany pembroke table, Benjamin Randolph (?), Philadelphia, 1760−80. Museum purchase 2006.17; A Map of the World, Mary Tobias Putman, 2006. Acrylic on panel. Museum purchase 2010.7

The museum continues to celebrate Sewell C. Biggs’s passion for early Delaware
decorative arts with the addition of well-documented examples to his collection,
and few are as prized as the four compass-seat side chairs (1740−65) made for the
Dover home of wealthy merchant Vincent Loockerman. The chairs are
among the earliest known furniture believed to have been made in Delaware.¹ The
pembroke table on view with the set was perhaps made by Benjamin Randolph,
who supplied chairs to Loockerman, presumably in the 1760s.²

The American Rococo Gallery features exceptional Philadelphia furniture and silver in front of the 1758 Shipley mantel from Wilmington, Delaware.

The respect paid to Biggs’s interests in the growth of the museum collection is
matched by an equally ambitious desire to forge new directions and illuminate new
relationships within the galleries. The modern and contemporary art collections are
among the fastest growing portions of the museum. As examples of national trends
of the past hundred years are added to expand the original Biggs collection further
into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, much of the newest and most exciting
work being collected comes from within the Mid-Atlantic region, especially
Delaware. Displayed above the notable Loockerman chairs is A Map of the World
(2006) by Townsend, Delaware, resident Mary Tobias Putman, winner of the
Hassam, Speicher, Betts & Symons Purchase Fund Award from the American
Academy of Arts and Letters. This minimalist landscape features the timeless fishing
village of Leipsic on the Delaware Bay, only a few miles from the Biggs Museum.

Within a ten-year period, Mr. Biggs opened and nurtured a small American art
museum with a collection that reflected important early art forms of Delaware.
During the past fifteen years, the museum staff and trustees have built on that
foundation, creating one of the finest regional art museums in the country. The
Biggs Museum of American Art is the only institution working to give national
attention to the full range of artistic achievement and cultural strength within
Delaware and the greater Delmarva region (fig. 5). Its most distinguishing
characteristic is its courage in building an important American art collection that
offers a better understanding of a unique cultural geography—displaying the best
of the nation next to the best from right here.

At Twenty-Five: Distinguishing the Biggs Museum of Art is the special loan exhibit at this year’s Delaware Antiques Show, November 10–12, 2017.

The original article featured in the Delaware Antiques Show Catalogue was generously sponsored by Stratus Foundation/flyAdvanced.

Excerpt from the article submitted for publication in Antiques & Fine Art (Winter 2017).

¹ Two chairs have been gifted, and two are promised gifts of the descendants of Vincent Loockerman.

² The museum owns one side chair from this set; it is inscribed with Randolph’s name and the partially obscured date of 1762
or 1765.

Posted in antiques, art collections, Delaware Antiques Show, exhibition, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Long Journey of the Charleston Dining Room

Seldom seen by visitors today, the Charleston Dining Room on the third floor of Winterthur contains woodwork and windows from what was once a fashionable gathering place in antebellum South Carolina. The 18th-century paneling, cornices, fireplace and mantle, and windows come from a hotel that stood in Charleston near the intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets. During its heyday in the 1820s and 1830s, the hotel hosted visitors from across America and Europe.

Site of the old Jones Hotel in Charleston

If appreciating the carved woodwork today is easy, grappling with the hotel’s legacy is more difficult. As was common during that time in Charleston, many of the workers who earned the hotel its reputation were enslaved, but what was more unusual was the proprietors were free people of color. Jehu Jones was a tailor who purchased his freedom in 1798 and soon began acquiring real estate—and enslaved human beings too. He purchased the hotel for $13,000 in 1816, but it was probably his wife Abigail, a pastry cook, who put the hotel on the map.

“Every Englishman who visits Charleston,” wrote one foreign guest in 1833, “will, if he be wise, direct his baggage to be conveyed to Jones’s hotel.” The old world elegance of its dinners included iced claret that “might have converted even Diogenes into a gourmet.”(1) Another guest was Samuel F. B. Morse, who was still known as a painter rather than as an inventor. Around 1821, Morse came to Charleston and rented rooms behind the Jones Hotel as a portrait studio.

Both guests would have spent time in the Charleston Dining Room. Located on the second floor of the main building, it probably served not as a dining room but as a drawing room, where guests might gather after meals. The bay window projected over the hotel’s main entrance on Broad Street, giving guests a clear view of Charleston’s city hall.

The Jones Hotel was also just a few hundred feet from the headquarters of Charleston’s city guard. After nine o’clock at night, the guard would arrest black residents, whether enslaved or free, who ventured out of doors. A German duke staying at the hotel around 1825 recounted hearing a warning call; he was “startled to hear the retreat and reveillé beat there” from inside his room.(2) The Joneses, for all their importance to the social life of the elite—and although they were slaveholders themselves—were among the people being targeted.

If you get the chance to see the room today, you are viewing what may be the only identifiable surviving part of the main hotel.

The building fell into disrepair in the late 19th century. Around 1928, it was dismantled and placed in storage. Some pieces, including the paneling from this room, were eventually acquired by the Yale University Art Gallery, where Henry Francis du Pont discovered them in the 1950s. What is now the Charleston Dining Room, was shipped from New Haven and installed at Winterthur, originally to serve as a lunch spot for visitors taking all-day tours.

Today, the warm sandy color of the walls is based on the earliest original layer of paint, applied around 1774 when the hotel was constructed as a private home. The white tiles lining the fireplace suggest the patterned Delft tiles popular in Charleston at the time. What comes from the building itself is the carved wood—including the windows, the elaborate decorations above the fireplace, and the two closet doors. The entrance, however, was moved from its original location opposite the bay window in order to fit the current space.

Post by Jonathan W. Wilson, a historian and adjunct faculty member at the University of Scranton and Marywood University. He is working on a book project about the Jones family.



(1) Thomas Hamilton, Men and Manners in America, vol. 2 (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and T. Cadell, 1833), 278.

(2) Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, Travels through North America, during the Years 1825 and 1826, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey, 1928), 7.


Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 99-100.

Albert Simons, “Report of Matters Pertaining to the Removal of the Mansion House, Charleston, South Carolina,” n.d., Winterthur Archives

Harriet P. and Albert Simons, “The William Burrows House of Charleston,” Winterthur Portfolio 3 (1967): 172-203.

South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Public Programs Packet no. 1, Jehu Jones: Free Black Entrepreneur [1989]

John A. H. Sweeney, The Treasury House of Early American Rooms (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963), 12 and 76-77.

Marina Wikramanayake, A World In Shadow: The Free Black in Antebellum South Carolina (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1973), 79 and 103-111.

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Creating Places to Call Home

Gil Schafer photo by Rebecca Greenfield

For award-winning architect and Delaware Antiques Show co-chair and keynote speaker
Gil Schafer, the measure of a house does not lie in the structure itself or in any particular
element of its design. Instead, he says the most successful houses are the ones that
celebrate the small moments of life—houses with timeless charm that are imbued with
memory and anchored in a distinct sense of place. Essentially, Schafer believes a house is
truly successful only when the people who live there consider it home.

It’s this belief—and Schafer’s rare ability to translate his clients’ deeply personal
visions of how they want to live into a physical home that reflects those dreams—
that has established him as one of the most sought-after, highly regarded architects
of our time.

Kitchen, carriage house in Charleston

In his new book, A PLACE TO CALL HOME: Tradition, Style, and Memory in the New
American House (Rizzoli, October 2017), Schafer follows up his best-selling The Great
American House by pulling the curtain back on his distinctive approach, sharing his
process (complete with unexpected, accessible ideas readers can work into their own
projects) and taking readers on a detailed tour of seven beautifully realized houses in
a range of styles located around the country—each in a unique place, and each with
a character all its own. Lush, full-color photographs (250) of these seven houses and
other never-before-seen projects, including exterior, interior, and landscape details,
invite readers into Schafer’s world of comfortable classicism.

Mantel detail, new residence in New Jersey

Opening with memories of the childhood homes and experiences that have shaped
Schafer’s own history, A PLACE TO CALL HOME gives the reader the sense that for
Schafer architecture is not just a career but a way of life, a calling. He describes how
the many varied houses of his youth were informed as much by their style as by their
sense of place and how these experiences of home informed his idea of classicism as
a set of values that he applies to many different kinds of architecture in places as
varied as the ones he grew up in. Because while Schafer is absolutely a classical
architect, he is in fact a modern traditionalist, and A PLACE TO CALL HOME
showcases how he effortlessly interprets traditional principles for a multiplicity of
architectural styles within contemporary ways of living.

Library, Fifth Avenue apartment

Part I of the two-part book, aptly titled “The Essentials,” outlines Schafer’s
architectural “toolkit”—both the concrete techniques he uses for every project and
the more emotional and intuitive elements he takes into consideration, the so-called
“lightning in a bottle” that fills his work with soul. Sections that include the delicate
balance of modern and traditional aesthetics, the juxtaposition of fancy and simple,
and the details that make each project special and livable—from the doors and
windows to fireplaces, mouldings, and hardware—are informative and enlightening.
Schafer also delves into what he refers to as “the spaces in between,” those often
overlooked spaces like closets, mudrooms, and laundry rooms, explaining their
underappreciated value in the broader context of a home. Part of Schafer’s skill lies
in the way he gives the minutiae of a project as much attention as the grand aesthetic
gestures, and ultimately, it’s this combination that brings his homes to life.

New residence on the Navesink River, New Jersey

Part II of the book is the story of seven houses and the places they inhabit
(figs. 1–4) each with a different character and soul: a charming cottage completely
rebuilt into a casual but gracious house for a young family in bucolic Mill Valley,
California; a reconstructed historic 1930s Colonial house and gardens set in lush
woodlands in Connecticut; a new, Adirondack-camp-inspired house perched on the
edge of Lake Placid with stunning views of nearby Whiteface Mountain; an elegant
but family-friendly Fifth Avenue apartment with a panoramic view of Central Park;
a new timber frame and stone barn situated to take advantage of the summer sun
on a lovely, rambling property in New England; a new residence and outbuildings
on a 6,000-acre hunting preserve in Georgia, inspired by the historic 1920s and 1930s
hunting plantation houses in the region; and Schafer’s own, deeply personal, newly
renovated and surprisingly modern house located just a few feet from the Atlantic
Ocean in coastal Maine.

In Schafer’s hands, the stories of these houses are irresistibly approachable. He guides
the reader through each of the design decisions, sharing anecdotes about the process
and fascinating historical background and contextual influences of the settings.
Readers will find themselves wandering the pages just as they might wander the
rooms, absorbing every detail and every anecdote.

Ultimately, the homes featured in A PLACE TO CALL HOME are more than just
beautiful buildings in beautiful places. In each of them, Schafer has created a dialogue
between past and present, a personalized world that people can inhabit gracefully,
in sync with their own notions of home. Because, as Schafer writes in the book, he
designs houses “not for an architect’s ego, but [for] the beauty of life, the joys of
family, and, not least, a heartfelt celebration of place.”

Gil will be the keynote speaker at the 54th Annual Delaware Antiques Show, November
10–12, 2017, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, Wilmington, Delaware. His keynote
kicks the show off on November 10 at 10:00 am. For more information on the Delaware
Antiques Show or to purchase tickets, please visit winterthur.org/das.

Post by John Hanlon, assistant and marketing coordinator, G. P. Schafer Architect

Posted in antiques, Architecture, Delaware Antiques Show, House, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Winterthur After Hours

Photo, Bob Leitch

On select Friday evenings, Winterthur comes alive for a little after-hours fun. Enjoy music, a beer garden, and a stroll around the grounds, explore the Galleries after hours, and, on some Fridays, enjoy a guided garden stroll or talk with one of our staff.

This Friday, September 8, 5:30–8:00 pm, After Hours heads to Clenny Run, which comes alive with the sounds of Naked Blue, who draw from the Americana tradition and are firmly grounded with a pleasing pop sensibility. The performing songwriter team, Jen and Scott Smith, have become a mainstay on the national folk/pop scene with their fun, intimate, award winning vocals, and crazy-good guitar work. 

For the history buffs, join Jeff Groff, estate historian, for a 20-minute walk around the complicated Winterthur building known as the Coach House, an 1850 barn rebuilt and re-purposed continually for over 150 years. In the past, horses were stabled there, dogs were kenneled there, coaches were stored, and automobiles garaged. The stone work, building shape, windows, and door frames help reveal the changing use.

Welcome the weekend with an evening at Winterthur. Admission is Pay What You Wish. Reserve your tickets online. To find out more about our Winterthur After Hours program, please visit our website

Post by Jeanie McCuskey, Senior Manager, Adult & Community, Continuing Education Programs

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The Brew of American Independence: Tea and Coffee after the Revolution

In 1876, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution, Congress passed a joint resolution to devote the Rotunda of the Capitol to celebrating the Boston Tea Party. Joining celebrations nationwide, this was the first time this governmental building was used for public ceremonies of this kind. Apparently, theses centennial celebrations directly correlated tea with American independence.

Centennial Tea Party in Rotunda of U.S. Capitol, Washington, December 16, 1875. Source: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, January 2, 1875 [sic], 281, Library of Congress, accessed July 4, 2017, available at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005694685/

In reflecting on the Boston Tea Party, popular histories claim that the Boston Tea Party marked the beginning of the end of the popularity of tea drinking in the U.S., and after ten years of boycott from 1773 to 1783, tea was phased out and a taste for coffee developed. But is that true? In this coffee-drinking country, this explanation appears convenient and convincing, especially when considering the statistics: while per capita coffee consumption was only 0.125 pounds in 1783, it reached 7.09 pounds in 1880. By contrast, tea consumption was 0.8 pounds per person per year in 1770 and 1.39 pounds a century later.  
However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a different story. In reality, the official ban on tea sale lasted less than two years, and colonists’ demand for tea often outpaced their political activism. These writers, most of whom may be coffee drinkers, may have also forgotten that tea leaves are much lighter and more economical than coffee beans. With a six-ounce cup, a pound of tea yields about 180 cups of tea, while a pound of coffee makes only about 50 cups. Moreover, tea leaves can be used more than once. Bohea, the once-popular cheap black tea, lost its strength with three waters. Hyson and Gunpowder, the most popular green teas in nineteenth-century America, bore four to five waters. Once making a second cup with the same tea leaves, Americans still took more cups of tea than coffee through the century.

While tea-taking was a marker of social status during the colonial period, Robert Waln Jr. of Philadelphia noticed in 1819 that tea had “obtained, in actual use, an importance almost equivalent to that of bread.” Few families in the U.S., “however humble their situation,” could not afford this exhilarating beverage. Waln’s statement was not an exaggeration. Before the more well-known afternoon tea was introduced into the U.S. in the mid-nineteenth century, tea had played a big part in Americans’ home lives. Tea remained essential to people’s breakfast and sometimes served as an after-dinner beverage. Moreover, tea was the evening meal for nineteenth-century Americans. Supper, served at a later hour, was the fourth meal for some people, particularly the well-offs.

During the Civil War, Union hospitals maintained the three-square meals—breakfast, dinner, and tea—for soldiers. On Sunday, the evening meal was supper and, even though it was at a late hour, tea and bread were still served. Diet Table for Union Hospitals, 1862, source: “ARMY AND NAVY NEWS.: THE SURGEON-GENERAL’S NEW BILL OF FARE FOR THE HOSPITALS,” Medical and Surgical Reporter (1858-1898), November 22, 1862.

Exchange Hotel in Richmond, Va., 1873. Tea, the evening meal, was served from 7:00-8:30 pm at this hotel, while supper was served half an hour later. Source: Menus, 1854-1930, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library.

During teatime, a well-equipped tea table had a set of items, including a tea pot, cups and saucers, cream pitcher, sugar bowl, slop bowl, tea chest, tea urn, teaspoons, and tongs. A hot water kettle and coffee pot were often included as well. In the 1880s, when afternoon teas were considered informal events, hostesses’ tea trays still “should contain cups, saucers, spoons, doilies, plates, sugar-bowl, slop-bowl, cream-pitcher, thin slices of lemon, tea-pot, caddy, and kettle.” ¹ Although households of humble backgrounds might reduce the pieces of their tea sets, most of these items remained basic to tea taking through the nineteenth century.

Tea set (tea pot, coffee pot, teacups, coffee cups, sugar bowl, cream pitcher, waster bowl, and plates.), Tucker Factory, 1825-38, Winterthur Museum. Gift of Philip Hammerslough 1957.0009.

The democratization of tea consumption, however, gradually diminished the visibility of tea, as everyday occurrences are usually too unimpressive to note. Tea no longer served as a status marker. George L. Miller and Amy C. Earls, archaeologists specializing in ceramics, noted that while before the 1860s, 70 to 100% of teawares were painted and printed vessels, the postbellum years saw a dramatic shift to creamware and white granite wares (vessels without color decoration), which had been more common for tablewares. The tea table had also been an item of conspicuous consumption by the mid-century, but according to furniture experts at Winterthur Museum and the National Museum of American History, tea tables from the latter nineteenth century are rare. Smaller and cheaper teapoys were likely to be used to hold the tea sets.

Teapoys, 1900, source: Russell C. Fisk & Son (New York, N.Y.), Illustrated Catalogue of Chairs, Bedsteads, and Furniture, circa 1900, Winterthur Library.

The fast pace of industrialization and urbanization furthered the inconspicuousness of tea. In the late nineteenth century, professionals and factory workers didn’t have time to rush back home for a hearty mid-day dinner, so they had lunch instead and dined in the evening. While the evening meal shifted from tea to dinner, the composition of the vessels used to serve them also changed. Teaware and dinnerware, which had been separated in function and decoration, were combined into one set of service from the 1880s.

Dinner Sets, 1889, source: Geo. F. Bassett & Co. (New York), Catalogue and Price List of All the Latest Designs in China, Crockery and Glassware, 1889, George L. Miller Collection.

In the meantime, the popularity of coffee grew during this period, not only because of the influx of coffee-drinking immigrants, but also due to the modernization of coffee making in the U.S.. Before the 1870s, housewives had to roast and grind coffee beans themselves at home. During the Civil War, grocers in the Union began to roast coffee for consumers. The invention of vacuum-packed coffee and modern stove-top percolators at the very end of the century allowed people to brew palatable coffee more easily, thus greatly promoting its consumption.

Consequently, the composition of tea and coffee service changed. For most of the nineteenth century, coffeewares were subordinate to tea services. A complete set of a coffee service was rare, and the coffee pot had been a vessel included in a tea set. However, in the late nineteenth century, coffee services appeared in trade catalogues, which also advertised coffee tables, resembling tea tables in shape and size. Moreover, hardware companies even suggested the same pot or service for both tea and coffee, indicating a growing casualness in taking tea. In a word, no matter whether the line between tea and coffee wares hardened or blurred, tea consumption lowered in stature.

Invoice book, crockery store, N. H., ca. 1865. Teaware was available in sets and pieces, but a complete coffee set never appears in the records. Coffeewares were sold in pieces: either a coffee pot or coffees (cups with matching saucers) or a dozen coffee cups. Source: Business Papers of John Sise, 1851-1867, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library.

Tea sets and coffee sets, 1904, source: Unger Brothers (Newark, N.J.), 1904, in Dorothy T. Rainwater, ed., Sterling Silver Holloware, American Historical Catalogue Collection (Princeton: The Pyne Press, 1973).

Coffee tables, circa 1920, source: [Art Colony Industries (New York), The Book of Treasures: New and Unusual Things from All the World], Trade Catalogs Collection, National Museum of American History Library, Washington D. C. [October 20, 2016 consulted]

Tea and Coffee Pots, 1897, source: M. Schrayer’s Sons & Co. (Chicago, Ill.), Illustrated Catalogue, 1897, Trade Catalogues Collection, Winterthur Library.

Tea or coffee (or chocolate) service, source: Adolph Silverstone Inc. (New York), Silverstone’s Fine Metal Ware, Trade Catalogues Collection, Winterthur Library.

Although per capita tea consumption continued to grow during the Gilded Age, tea culture started to fade away from Americans’ memories, while coffee became more visible in popular culture. Centennial celebrations of the American Revolution during this era inspired people to interpret the “decline” of tea consumption as a consequence of Americans’ urge for liberty, thus re-politicizing tea as a symbol of American independence. However, is this history or merely a story that people were more willing to tell?

Post by Dan Du, Research Fellow, Winterthur, and Visiting Assistant Professor, History Department, Wake Forest University

¹ Florence Howe Hall, Social Customs (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1887), 158.


Merritt, Jane T.. “Tea Trade, Consumption, and the Republican Paradox in Prerevolutionary Philadelphia,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol.128, no. 2 (2004): 117-148.

Miller, George L. and Amy C. Earls. “War and Pots: The Impact of Economics and Politics on Ceramic Consumption Patterns.” Ceramics in America (2008): 67-108.

Shammas, Carole. “Changes in English and Anglo-American Consumption.” In John Brewer and Roy Porter, ed., Consumption and the World of Goods (New York: Routledge, 2013), 177-205.

Topik, Steven. “How Mrs. Olson Got Her Full-Bodied Coffee: The Industrialization of the Coffee Service Sector in the United States, 1760-1950.” American Studies Group, University of California at Irvine, April, 2004.

Posted in Ceramics, declaration of independence, Decorative Arts, Ephemera, Library, museum collection, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ornamental Arts at Moravian Boarding Schools

Winterthur is renowned for its incomparable Pennsylvania German collection, but few realize that it also has an excellent small group of Moravian objects. Thanks to a recent research fellowship, l have been able to study the latter pieces that were, in part, acquired by late curator of textiles Susan Burrows Swan as examples of the role fancy needlework played in the lives of young girls attending schools such as the Seminary for Female Education at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Lititz School for Girls at Lititz, Pennsylvania, and the Female Academy at Salem, North Carolina. The Moravian embroidery and paintings we find in today’s museums, private collections, and antique shops often represent needlework and art projects completed by pupils from these boarding schools, including embroidery or artwork that was either sold as souvenirs to tourists visiting the Moravian communities or sent home as proof of one’s accomplishments.

Eliza Southgate Bowne (1783–1809), daughter of a well-to-do landowner in Scarborough, Maine, toured Bethlehem in the summer of 1803 and mentioned to her mother in a letter, “We went to a room where they keep their work for sale—pocket-books, pin-balls, toilette cushions, baskets, artificial flowers, etc.” (1)  The Winterthur collection contains representative examples of such artwork and ornamental sewing, including this needle case made circa 1819–1827 by a still-to-be-identified Bethlehem Moravian boarding school student.

Needlework case by Wilkinson, Moravian School, Bethlehem, PA, 1819-27. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Embroiderers Guild of America 1989.0049 A, B

Instead of using yarn or thread to work the embroidery designs, the young girl opted for a ribbon work technique taught by the Moravians. Using specially shaded and dyed narrow silk chiffon ribbons, she raised the design from the ground, creating a three-dimensional, lifelike scene of freshly plucked field flowers. The above smaller “pocketbook” fits into the larger envelope case below and, what at first glance appears to be a beautifully embroidered purse, is really intended to hold sewing needles.

Needlework case by Wilkinson, Moravian School, Bethlehem, PA, 1819-27. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Embroiderers Guild of America 1989.0049 A, B

Embroidering on paper rather than linen or silk required a great deal of skill as a wrong stitch could not be undone. In 1779 Moravian Elisabeth Horsfield Lindenmeyer (1737–1814) (2) embroidered roses, carnations, violets, and other blossoms onto laid paper, creating a border around the Moravian daily Losung or watchword for September 21, 1779.

Needlework picture by Elisabeth Lindenmeyer, Moravian School, Bethlehem, PA, 1779. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Special Fund for Collection Objects 1985.0051

Elisabeth penned the two separate texts—the first from Isaiah 29:19 and the last from a prayer of meditation found originally in the Meditationes sanctorum partum of 1587—and signed her name in Fraktur script within the floral cartouche. The watchword reads in English:

“The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor
among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 29:19 [KJV].
If I have You, then to be sure I have found eternal pleasure. (3)
Elis[abeth] Lindenmeyer.” (4)

The use of a Losung began in 1731 when the Moravian leader Count Nicholaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700–1760) began choosing daily meditative verses for his followers. They were published in a booklet and distributed to all members. No matter where one found himself in the world, and for the Moravians that meant everywhere, all were to meditate as a unified body on the designated biblical verse(s) of the day.

The Moravian Museum of Bethlehem has several similar examples of embroidery on paper, attesting to the high level of sewing expertise among the women and girls in the Moravian community. It is also worth noting that Moravian artists/scriveners created birthday Fraktur watercolors on paper that featured daily watchwords within a floral wreath. (5)

Class II Art Exam Exercise by Conrad B. Oppelt, Nazareth Hall Moravian Boys’ Boarding School, Nazareth, PA, 1818. Winterthur Library 71 x 211, 45a

Conrad B. Oppelt of Ohio, age 13, Class II, drew and painted the above watercolor of a fresh bouquet of narcissus and roses tied with a rose-colored ribbon as his art exam exercise on May 9, 1818, at Nazareth Hall, the Moravian Boys Boarding School, Nazareth, Pennsylvania. (6)  Similar drawings from art classes/exams frequently became patterns for embroidery on work bags such as the Moravian example below. Besides the needlework, the student also painted or penned inscriptions in black on the front and reverse of this reticule: “Where Lehi flows & feeds sweet flow’rs, T’was wrought in Bethlehem’s pleasant bow’rs. 1807,” and “Friendship sweetens the cares of life.” (7)  Both boys and girls made birthday greetings, friendship cards, watch papers, quill boxes, etc., and ornamented them with beautifully-wrought ribboned garlands of flowers, adding either inscriptions in Roman script, such as seen here, or in Fraktur script.

Purse (reticule) by M. G., Moravian School, Bethlehem, PA. Museum purchase 1980.0006

The Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravians had an ebullient love of all living things: the flowers, trees, the glowing verdant land upon which they grew, and the hushed sheltered walkways. The tangible productions these communities made reflect the unspoken universal sacred connection between man and nature. Perhaps this is why they so often ornamented whatever they utilized in their everyday lives with flowers. One thing is certain: the early Pennsylvania material culture housed in the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library reflects what Henry Francis du Pont sensed in his garden. As  noted in the book The Winterthur Garden: Henry Francis du Pont’s Romance with the Land by  Denise Magnani, “His message is a simple one: cultivate your garden; your soul will follow. Everything is connected.” (8)

Winterthur view from top of hill left of Quarry Garden. “Keep this view open forever,” H. F. du Pont, 1962.


Post by Del-Louise Moyer, a Winterthur Research Fellow who has been researching the incredible resources at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library for a book she is writing entitled Heavenly Fraktur: How Fraktur Influenced Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravian Material Culture.



 (1) Eliza Southgate Bowne.  Letters of Eliza Southgate, Mrs. Walter Bowne.
[ New York: The De Vinne Press, 188-?], 239/414. Accessed 10/16/2016 at

 (2) Elisabeth Horsfield Lindenmeyer (1737-1814) was the daughter of Timothy Horsfield, Sr. (1708-1773), a very wealthy butcher from Long Island, who touched by the spiritual teachings of the Moravians, moved to Bethlehem, Pa. in 1749.  Here he served as Justice of the Peace, and came to play a major role among those of political and civic responsibilities in the greater Philadelphia area.  His daughter was known to be very high-strung, and to suffer from nervous disorders.  Elisabeth married the Rev. Henry Lindenmeyer (1728-1817), who served the Moravian churches at Emmaus and York, Pa.

 (3) Cunrad Höier. “Ein Trostgebet…aus Meditationes sanctorum patrum, 1587” cited in Philipp Wackernagel’s Das deutsche Kirchenlied…5ter Band. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1877, Nr. 121, 5. Strophe, 84.

 (4) [Original German] Loosung den 21sten Sept 1779 | Die Elenden werden wieder Freude haben am HERRN und die Armen | unter den Menschen werden fröhlich | seyn in den heiligen Israel. Jes. 29, 19. | Wenn ich dich hab so hab ich wol | Was mich ewig erfreuen soll. | Elis. Lindenmeyerin.

 (5) Birthday greeting to Jacob van Vleck (3/24/1751-7/3/1831) for 24 March 1795 by Anna Rosel Kliest. Fraktur watercolor Ms. Moravian Archives at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

 (6) Carl B. Oppelt’s watercolor is found in a scrapbook collection of drawings done by the boys of Nazareth Hall for their art exam exercises from 1793-1828 entitled “Drawings by Students of Nazareth Hall.”  The drawings were pasted to the scrapbook pages, and on the inside front cover is a printed notice about the school, ca. 1860, issued by Rev. Edward H. Reichel, Principal. Winterthur purchased the scrapbook from Parke Bernet Galleries.

(7) Hand- embroidered and painted Moravian Reticule made by M. G. of Moravian Girls Boarding School at Bethlehem, Pa. in 1807, 1980.006. Accessed 30 January 2017 at Winterthur Museum Collections, http://bit.ly/2kLQUd6

(8) Denise Magnani. The Winterthur Garden: Henry Francis du Pont’s Romance with the Land. NY: H. N. Abrams in association with the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1995, 162.

(9) Ibid, 160.


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Eliza Southgate Bowne.  A Girl’s Life Eighty Years Ago. New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887, 13, 172-175, 188-190.

_______________.  Letters of Eliza Southgate, Mrs. Walter Bowne.
[ New York: The De Vinne Press, 188-?], 239/414. Accessed 16 October 2016 at

Susan Swan Burrows. A Winterthur Guide to American Needlework. Winterthur, Del.:Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1976, Fig. 16, 24.

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Denise Magnani. The Winterthur Garden: Henry Francis du Pont’s Romance with the Land. NY: H. N. Abrams in association with the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1995.

Del-Louise Moyer. “A Little Flower Embodies the Wisdom that was Forever with God,” Pennsylvania German Blog, Post 14, published  29 December 2016 at https://alyssumarts.com/2016/12/29/a-little-flower-embodies-the-wisdom-that-was-forever-with-god/

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_________________. Zeichen-Mahler-und Stickerbuch zur Selbstbelehrung für Damen welche sich mit diesen Künsten beschäftigen. Leipzig: Bei Voss und Compagnie, 1795, Accessed Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek/Klassik Stiftung Weimar elektronische Reproduktion 30 January 2017 at  http://haab-digital.klassik-stiftung.de/viewer/image/1638490465/135/LOG_0021/

“Nur einer ist…” in Gesangbuch zum Gebrauch der evangelischen Brüdergemeinen. Barby, gedruckt durch Lorenz Friedrich Spellenberg, 1778, [Hymn]1344, Verse 2, Mel. 14, 650, Accessed 1 November 2016 at http://bit.ly/2gutwvd

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German Folklore Society, vol. 28, Allentown, Pa., Schlecter’s, 1966, 348.

Gerhard Tersteegen.  Geistliches Blumen=Gärtlein Inniger Seelen, Oder kurtze Schluß=Reimen Betrachtungen und Lieder Über allerhand warheiten des Innwendigen Christenthums;  Zur Erweckung, Stärckung, und Erquickung in dem Verborgenen Leben mit Christo in GOtt.  Nebst der Frommen Lotterie. In Teutschland zum 4ten Mahl gedruckt; und nun in America das erste Mahl Gedruckt zu Germanton bey Christoph Saur/ 1747, verso of Title Page.

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Candace Wheeler. The Development of Embroidery in America. New York, London: Harper & Bros., 1982, 67-70.


All transcriptions & translations by author.  

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