From Beautiful to Practical: My Internship in Historic Clock Repair

Image of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. The clock seen above the fireplace extends from the carved and arched hardwood top to just above the stone mantel, approximately 4 feet in total from dial and mechanism to the lower end of the pendulum bob. Image courtesy of

I have always been fascinated with clocks. If you were to see me in a museum or auction gallery—whether on one of our field studies with my Winterthur classmates or on my own—chances are that you would find me by the clocks. While my time at Winterthur so far has allowed me to study clocks from a historical perspective, I realized that I really did not understand how they worked: how do different movements work differently in similarly-sized cases? How does one assess a clock movement, understanding the best way to repair or restore it to working order without altering its historical significance? Thanks to a WUDPAC lecture this past February, I found an opportunity to answer some of these practical questions. I interned with Lili von Baeyer, clockmaker and historic clock repairwoman, in her Philadelphia studio this summer. Through my work with Lili, I was able to better understand the practical side of working with clocks, seeing not just beauty in their historical significance and patina but understanding their functional needs and learning ways to weave together practicality and beauty.

One of Lili’s long-term clients is the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Lili is responsible for cleaning and repairing all of the Capitol’s 208 wall, shelf, and mantle clocks, and I accompanied her on one of her twice-monthly trips to Harrisburg.

All of these clocks in every office are expected to keep accurate time 24/7. The state employs several people (called winders) to wind these clocks on a weekly basis, but if the movements stop ticking, Lili is responsible for repairing them—no easy feat. I was particularly surprised by the mantle clocks: not your typical cased clock which sits on a shelf, these clocks are literally built into the space over certain offices’ mantlepieces, with three- to four-foot-long pendulums and weight-cords, sturdily encased behind heavy, carved mahogany and oak and brushed brass dials. Lili often relies on the curatorial team at the Capitol when these clocks need to be removed, as it can be a two-person job to lower the weights, remove the dial, and finally extract the movement from its chamber. However, these clocks are all located in active offices and as such must continue to function even if their movements are at Lili’s studio. To comply with this requirement, Lili places a battery-powered quartz movement behind each dial so the clock will continue to appear functional even though its movement is gone. Hardly any of these clocks would be considered antique or valuable in the museum sense, but they are a vital component to daily life and work at the Capitol and a large responsibility to maintain—both in the number of work hours and their significance to Pennsylvania politics.

Assisting Lili with client work allowed me to gain a unique understanding of her day-to-day job but my main project throughout my internship was perhaps the most significant to my understanding of clocks as material culture. On my first day with Lili, she handed me an Ansonia 5 ½ shelf clock to assess, clean, and repair. I quickly realized how little I knew about the ways clocks truly function and that bringing them back to working order after years of disrepair is a true feat. I sketched the gears on both the time and strike side of the clock, carefully disassembled the front and back plates from gears and springs, and cleaned the clock in a solution with electrical charge to gently remove any old oil, dirt, and corrosion. When Lili works on a clock like this one, she will typically take it apart and put it back together between two and eight times; I think I did this at least 20 times. A deceptively simple instrument, this Ansonia 5 ½ pushed me to think about the amalgam of interlocking components, making sure the delicate posts and pins were straight, punching the correctly-sized holes for new bushings, and ensuring everything was reassembled to prevent friction.

My Ansonia partly assembled to check for alignment of gears, pins, springs, etc. This was after I had cleaned and examined it for any bent or broken teeth (thankfully none), straightened out posts and pins that had bent, and re-done bushing holes so the pins would sit evenly in the front and back plates. Here you see a close-up of the strike side of the movement with its spring, gears, and flywheel in the lower right. Image courtesy of the author.

This project also included a trip to Merritt’s, a clock and watch shop and supply store, where I purchased the bushings, pendulum spring, pendulum bob, key, and hands necessary to have my clock working in full order again. I was pleasantly surprised to find how affordable many of these parts were, especially since I had to purchase multiples of a few of them—inserting the new bushings and cutting and shaping the new pendulum spring took a few tries! Working on this Ansonia gave me the exact experience I hoped to have during my internship: I was able to comprehend a particular clock from both a historic and practical perspective.

Here the author is adjusting the assembly of the clock components between front and back plates—a tricky thing to do! Each time one pin fits into its place another one seems to slip, which necessitates a process of carefully adjusting gears and posts until everything fits together before clamping it to test their fit. This was just after finishing redoing the bushings, the punch set for which can be seen opposite me on the bench. Image courtesy of the author.

Secured with clamps on my desk, this clock currently has no case. Someday I hope to make one, but for now I am happy to see my “deconstructed clock” on its own, ticking away the minutes since I was able to repair it and until I find the right house for it.

Post by Katharine Fitzgerald, Lois F. McNeil Fellow, Class of 2019, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, University of Delaware

Many thanks to Peter D. and Susan R. Finkel for their gracious funding for this internship through the University of Delaware Center for Material Culture Studies

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A Winterthur Interview: Thomas Chippendale at 300

Thomas Chippendale at 300: Treasures from the Collection exhibit, July 20, 2018- May 27, 2019

In celebration of the 300th anniversary of Thomas Chippendale’s birth, Winterthur Museum has organized an exhibit featuring its collection of rococo-inspired furniture, Thomas Chippendale’s publications, and related publications and objects influenced by Chippendale’s designs. Cecilia Aquino, Winterthur intern, sat down with Josh Lane, the Lois F. and Henry S. McNeil Curator of Furniture at Winterthur Museum, to get a deeper understanding of Thomas Chippendale’s prominence as a cabinetmaker, an interior designer, an author, a teacher, a businessman, and a major influencer in the decorative arts.

CA: What do we know about Thomas Chippendale?

JL: Not a lot. It’s so interesting. He has international name recognition, yet little is known about the man himself. We know where he was born, whom he married, how many kids he had, and where he lived and worked in London. His name is synonymous with rococo-style furniture, but did you know that some of the best furniture from his workshop is in the later neoclassical taste?


CA: What do we know about his early life?

JL: In a nutshell, he was born in the north of England in Yorkshire, in a town called Otley, and apparently was the only surviving son of the family. Where he went to learn cabinetmaking, and from whom, is a mystery, but around the age of 30 he had moved to London. He settled in an area of the city that was already on the map as a hive of artistic activity and the place to go for luxury shopping. There were other immigrant artists and craftsmen already in the neighborhood who had introduced a new style—the rococo. It was there that William Hogarth, the painter and satirical printmaker, established an art school that promoted rococo drawing and design work. The French had invented this new style decades earlier, and immigrant craftsmen brought it to London, where it was considered very chic, exciting, and expressive–though it didn’t appeal to everybody. So Chippendale encountered rococo furniture designs from others already working in the style and from artists who had published design books featuring rococo ornament. For example, the exhibit features a little gem of book called Sixty Different Sorts of Ornaments that an Italian immigrant artist named Gaetano Brunetti published in 1736. His engravings of looking glasses and sconces dripping with rococo flourishes helped introduce the new style to Londoners. This book suggests that by the time Chippendale was settling in London, craftspeople were beginning to apply the rococo aesthetic to consumer goods.



CA: So if Gaetano Brunetti published Sixty Different Sorts of Ornaments in 1736, when was Thomas Chippendale’s design book, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, published?

JL: In the early 1750s, he conceived of his own design book and had signed up over 300 subscribers, who each paid a fair amount of money to support its production and publication. The book was published in 1754, and subscribers received their copies. It was jaw dropping in its unprecedented large format, lavish engraved illustrations, and length. Producing the book meant coming up with designs, drawing them, and then overseeing the artist who engraved the copper printing plates with reverse copies of the drawings so that they would print properly. It was a major endeavor: he had to buy the copper plates and printing paper; arrange for binding; and pay the engraver and printer. Chippendale was really creative. He produced this lush, fabulous, beautiful book. Although he wasn’t the first to publish a book of furniture designs, his was the most lavish and ambitious to date. And he did it because he had a vision for a high-quality product that would guide other cabinetmakers in the latest furniture fashions and also because he viewed the book as a means of self-promotion.


CA: Would you say that was the start of his career?

JL: Having already established himself in London as a skilled and successful cabinetmaker, the book helped launched him on the next phase of his career, enabling him to transform his business. Chippendale was ambitious and wanted to advance to the next level—from cabinetmaker to upholsterer. At the time, upholsterer was the term for a professional who provided comprehensive decorating services. Chippendale viewed his book as a way to attract the attention of aristocratic clients and induce them to hire him to decorate their country houses. And it worked! Clients called on him to choose everything from wallpaper to the carvings over the doorways and the mantles, carpeting, and lighting fixtures. His team of cabinetmakers supplied all the furniture and upholstery. The success of the first edition of his book prompted him to issue two more editions, and soon business was booming. With the financial backing of a wealthy investor, he expanded his workshops and hired craft specialists including carvers, gilders, paper hangers and paint decorators, eventually overseeing as many as 60 craftsmen. He acted not only as business entrepreneur, negotiating with clients, managing payroll, ordering supplies, but also as artistic director and manager of quality control.

However great his fame, his expanded role as upholsterer didn’t make him rich because costs were high and profits had to be shared. He actually flirted with bankruptcy after one of his backers died. His son took over the firm in the late 1770s and went bankrupt in 1804, although he continued to make furniture beyond that date.

CA: Did he get offended if anybody published sketches after his? Or was it more of a compliment that they were inspired by him?

JL: Well, here is the thing, although Chippendale took credit as sole author of the Director, we don’t know if he invented all of the designs in his books. We will probably never know because we don’t know what he was looking at for inspiration, what kind of furniture he was making, or even what works from other shops he was basing his ideas off of. In the end, his drawings of furniture designs probably are a mix of original ideas and riffs on the works of other London cabinetmakers. He made friends with lots of artists in his London neighborhood such as Matthias Lock, a carver and engraver, whom he also employed and who had published a modest book of rococo ornaments before the appearance of Chippendale’s Director. We don’t know, for example, whether Matthias Lock contributed designs to Chippendale’s book.

In turn, Chippendale meant his designs to be shared, studied, copied, and to serve as sources of inspiration. Essentially, the idea was that one could take this new style, the rococo, and work at it, practice it, develop it, and publish interpretations of it—and in so doing, advertise one’s artistic skills. The idea of the “inspired genius artist” who came up with original designs unlike those of any others, is just not the way it worked. Artists and craftsmen shared ideas, putting their own spin on them.

Chippendale prefaced the Director with drawings of the five orders of classical architecture and in the text exhorted workmen to study and learn these orders. He believed that familiarity with the classical orders was an essential component of every cabinetmaker’s education NOT because they needed to know what an Ionic or Corinthian capital looked like, but because the concept behind the orders was that of proportion. Each order had a slightly different proportional scheme that could be extrapolated to buildings, furniture, and other objects, to differing effect. The implication being that the most successful furniture designs were those adapted from his book by craftsmen grounded in principles of classical proportion.


CA: Would you say that is a distinguishing factor of Thomas Chippendale’s work versus other cabinetmakers?

JL: At the same time Chippendale offered full-service interior design work, he and his journeymen used high-quality materials to produce consistently well-made furniture for sale in his showroom. In this regard, he wasn’t different from other top-flight cabinetmakers. In terms of his furniture design book, I think the notion of design sharing—designs intended for use and adaptation by others—was spread across the decorative arts. Ornamental designs were to be adapted for use in textiles, carving, metalwork, and other goods as well as in furniture. The craft community was fluid and the legal concept of “intellectual property” as we know it today—exclusive ownership of creative content, protected by law against copying and imitation—had not yet become a major concern, at least regarding published designs.


CA: What would you imagine Thomas Chippendale saying about the type of furniture we see being created today?

JL: Well, here is the other thing about Chippendale that is so interesting to me, he published rococo designs and his name has become virtually synonymous with rococo, but his work was far wider. Going back to the idea of rococo itself, he didn’t invent the style. He is just working in it and selling it to fashionable people. It was a French idea that first appeared the early 1700s. At the time, France had a royal system of patronage and state-sponsored art schools, where rococo design was refined and promoted. By the time Chippendale published the Director in 1754, the style had been around for 30 years. The third edition of his book wasn’t published until 1762. Over that period of eight years, tastes had begun to change. Chippendale himself, for his most fashion-forward clients, started to work in the neoclassical style.

So Chippendale had his finger to the winds of change in fashion and was ready to embrace new ideas and create designs in the latest style. I think he appreciated the spark of creative flair in other craftsmen. From a design, methods, and materials standpoint, were he to visit us today, I think he would probably find high-end studio furniture intriguing and inspiring. From a business standpoint, he would probably be flummoxed by the business model of small furniture studios producing “art furniture” independent of one another. He would certainly recognize professional interior designers as kindred spirits. On the other hand, I imagine he would dismiss factory-made furniture out of hand—and imagine his chagrin and horror at the use of particle-board and plastic laminates!

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Dining by Design Meets Terrific Tuesdays! Who Says Kids Don’t Like Old Stuff, Too?

What is the most common lament that we curators hear from collectors and those lucky individuals who have inherited family heirlooms? Young people today have absolutely no interest in objects from the past. But is that really true? Perhaps, we just need to find the right “hook” to capture their interest.  I had the chance to test this theory out at a recent Terrific Tuesdays event, our popular summertime series for kids ages 3 to 10, orchestrated by Winterthur’s talented Education Curator Lois Stoehr.

Lois invited me to participate in the Terrific Tuesday in July that was focused on pattern and suggested that I do something relating to Winterthur’s major Galleries exhibition Dining by Design: Nature Displayed on the Dinner Table (open through January 6, 2019). Many of the plates and dishes in the show feature brilliantly colored designs, from butterflies and flowers to birds and sea creatures. So, I took a look at our demonstration collection (objects that can be handled by the public) and brought along a nice selection of nature-themed ceramics from the 1700s and 1800s.

I also found photos of a wide range of objects that are included in the Dining by Design exhibition and hung them on the wall, so the kids could see the colors of those original objects. I modified copies of the same photos in PhotoShop and brought duplicates of these along so the kids could color the images any way they liked. 

I was astonished by the dozens of children who stopped at my table and asked lots of questions during my discussions of the demonstration objects. “Why is there a caterpillar on that plate?” “Did little kids eat cookies off of a plate like that one?” “How did that teapot get broken?”

I was particularly tickled by their astonished expressions when I told them that the flower- and bug-filled plate they were holding in their hands was made “back when George Washington was a kid.” (Nope, George wasn’t responsible for the big chip out of the plate rim!)

After we finished discussing the ceramic dishes, kids young and old grabbed favorite pictures, threw themselves on the floor, and dove into the colored pencil containers.

I think that I enjoyed myself even more than the kids did. (Lois, count me in for Terrific Tuesdays next year, too!)

Terrific Tuesdays runs through August 28 with activities and special guests focused on color, form, and other elements of art. Join us for the next Terrific Tuesdays!


Post by Leslie Grigsby, Senior Curator of Ceramics and Glass, Winterthur

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Joyous Memories and Dining by Design

Suki and the Hundred Butterflies pattern dish set

Among the greatest joys an exhibition curator can experience is seeing the pleasure with which guests respond to their displays. Very high on my list relating to Dining by Design: Nature Displayed on the Dinner Table (open through January 6, 2019) was the recent visit by my friends Suki and Tony, owners of Lily Asian Cuisine, a highly-rated local favorite in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The couple brought along their two charming daughters, so I could show the whole family how we much we westerners have admired Chinese wares over the centuries.

We spent about an hour viewing the exhibition. We talked about how dinnerware and foods were acquired from the 1600s onward and then looked at dining traditions, setting the table, folding napkins, and the like.  Eventually, we arrived at the area focusing on dinnerware with nature designs in Western styles, such as portrayals of Aesop’s Fable animals and soup tureens in the forms of rabbits and turkeys.

Just before we left that space, Suki came to a halt and said, “I have to tell you a story about dishes!” With sparkling eyes, she reminisced that when she was young she often went with her siblings and cousins to have dinner at their grandparents’ house. “Of course, we were never allowed to start the meal before Grandfather came home.” Just before he was scheduled to arrive home, Suki’s grandmother would bring out a special, covered lacquer box.  She would place it, somewhat ceremoniously, on the center of the table and then slowly lift the lid to unveil an enticing display of little dishes, all fitted together and filled with treats such as nuts, pickled fruits, and the like.  The children selected their favorites, munching on them as they awaited their grandfather’s arrival. “Ah, that is such a happy memory,” said Suki, sighing.

The Moon Gate portal, through which one enters the world of Asian designs inspired by nature

So now, I was filled with suspense as I had an inkling of just what sort of dish she might be talking about. As we were about to pass through the exhibition’s Moon Gate to enter the gallery of nature designs in Asian styles, I rushed ahead and whipped out my phone. The result? Well you can see Suki’s expression in the picture, above.  The butterfly dishes on display in the exhibition were much like the ones her grandmother served treats in.

Tony provided fascinating insights into Chinese meanings of symbols on the displayed tableware.  He told me that the number associated with the dish set Suki admired was meaningful.  The set has nine little dishes, which is a number connected with couples and good things, and when added to the box, the number becomes ten, which is a number associated with the whole family and many good things. What a wonderful concept to be able to share with their family, my own, and yours, too, of course!

See more Dining by Design blogs.

Suki and Tony at Dining by Design: Nature Displayed on the Dinner Table

By Leslie B. Grigsby, Senior Curator of Ceramics & Glass, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

Posted in Ceramics, China, chinese export porcelain, Decorative Arts, exhibition, Exhibitions, museum collection, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Calling Santa Claus

Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys
81×481-49m, Winterthur Library

It’s hard to imagine a time when telephones were not a part of everyday living. Today, phones are found in our homes, offices, and even in our pockets—modern life would shut down without them. In the late nineteenth century, however, some consumers questioned the value of owning a telephone, seeing them as either a luxury item for the wealthy or as a disruptive and unpredictable nuisance. Winterthur’s collections contain a number of items relating to the evolution of those concerns, including a rare children’s book in the Saul Zalesch Collection of American Ephemera.

Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys 81×481-49b, Winterthur Library

Hello! Santa Claus! Or, How a Telephone Upset Christmas was written by Mary Bissell Waterman in 1886, only ten years after Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone. Waterman, a Utica-based children’s author and poet, explored some of the popular anxieties surrounding the new invention. Her tale opens on a noisy Christmas Eve in the Claus household, which had been flooded with nonstop calls ever since Santa decided to install a phone. To make matters worse, all of the calls were from spoiled rich children whose families could afford the new device. Following a chat with a girl on Fifth Avenue asking for a gigantic diamond ring, Santa finally lost his patience—he screamed at the child, quit his job, and ran off to his room determined to sleep through Christmas.

The story continues with a poor girl calling on a borrowed phone asking for a blanket. Mrs. Claus then decided to steal Santa’s sleigh and deliver his gifts to poor neighborhoods, hospitals, and orphanages. When Mrs. Claus returned home and told Santa what she’d done, he was aghast at the thought of dealing with angry phone calls from rich children about their missing toys. On Christmas morning, however, the phone calls were from wealthy children happy at the joy their gifts brought to others.

The ‘Santa Claus on the phone’ trope remained popular for several more decades. As telephones became more affordable and widespread, however, themes of sentimentality and consumerism overshadowed most traces of social criticism related to phones. Two cards in Winterthur’s Maxine Waldron Collection express this development.

A 1907 Christmas card illustrated by Ellen H. Clapsaddle shows Santa and a child on the phone, separated by a partition bearing a line from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. The two are speaking on a wall telephone, possibly the Western Electric Model 1317. An undated card from the turn of the century shows Santa reaching for a similar style phone.

The Model 1317 remained in production all the way up until 1937 when technological changes finally made its design obsolete. The well-known Western Electric model 302, which exemplified the trend toward more compact designs, was introduced the same year that the Model 1317 was phased out.

US Forever Postage Stamp crediting the 1937 Western Electric 302 desk telephone design to Henry Dreyfuss, ca. 2011, US Postal Service.

In the Winter 2017 issue of Winterthur Portfolio, authors Russell Flinchum and Ralph Meyer look back at the Model 302 in their exploration of twentieth-century telephone design and the firm of Henry Dreyfuss. “Henry Dreyfuss and Bell Telephones” sheds new light on the histories of iconic models like the 302, the Princess, and the Trimline. Flinchum, a professor of design history at North Carolina State University and former archivist at the Dreyfuss firm, and Meyer, a physicist and expert on Bell System telephones, challenge accepted knowledge about Henry Dreyfuss and telephone design, including their own earlier work. Through July 1 this article can be accessed free of charge. Click here for access to the article. 

Winterthur Portfolio 51, no. 4

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A Whimsical Walk through Dining by Design: Nature Displayed on the Dinner Table

Porcelain water buffalo or ox-head tureen and stand, China, 1760–80. Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens at Winterthur 1996.4.234 a-c

We need more whimsy in this world. For me, ever the fan of anything bovine, that whimsy struck as I turned to enter the final room of the Dining by Design: Nature Displayed on the Dinner Table exhibition and was met with the exuberant gaze of an 18th-century soup tureen in the shape of a water buffalo’s head drawn from the Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens at Winterthur. In his contemporary usage, the top of his head would be removed so that the bottom half of the tureen could house hot soup, and once the top was replaced, plumes of steam would have risen from his open ceramic nostrils; ever the diversion then as now.

This tureen is only one of approximately 560 objects in Dining by Design, and museum-goers will surely find that particular object that piques their own curiosity. Naturally I hope that our bovine friend will achieve his own celebrity, but there is a veritable range of objects on display here. Similar tureens in the shape of geese and rabbits occupy their own cabinet, while examples of more traditionally ornate and decorative examples of tureens—including one gilded in its entirety with brass—form a distinctive pyramid of objects as one immediately enters the exhibition. There is no shortage in the range of designs that decorate the surfaces of plates, dishes, and bowls, including architectural drawings upon 18th-century Worcester ware, the botanical drawings of Hans Sloane ware, and moralized depictions of Adam and Eve from as early as 1601, among many, many other designs. All of these objects are on display across three spacious rooms in the upstairs galleries. The first room is an exceptionally light and airy space showcasing the range of object types in the ceramics collection. Moving on, guests walk through a more distinctively European collection that captures the different types of representation these objects could achieve before arriving at the end of the exhibition where a room of Asian objects is punctuated by its own pagoda.

Porcelain plate with classical ruins in landscape, Worcester Porcelain Factory, Worcester, England, 1770–75. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Mayer 1977.86

It’s in this first room that some of the most powerful displays are located. A set dining table is displayed against a mirror, which makes it emphatically clear that the material extent of early modern dining accouterments was as important as the precision and care with which they were constructed, composed, and consumed. Placing these objects in the physical settings of their original use reinforces one of the central messages that this exhibition communicates: dining was an everyday act, but it was also a heavily performative and skilled one. Visitors may see up close a collection of flatware: spoons, knives, and forks all made of ceramic, or with a ceramic component. The agate-esque handles of a collection of knives illustrate the trickery that producers were able to employ and the skill with which they transformed their materials to resemble something entirely different. Furthermore, the floral designs that embellish the handles and bodies of these ceramic spoons show how the designed motifs of dining extended beyond the plates and dishes which held consumers’ food and were an integral part of the key objects that they handled.

Finally, there is a vertical wall display comprising 27 individual dishes and plates, arranged in a typical 18th-century table layout. There is something almost disconcerting seeing these objects laid out in this way. When table layouts and the precise positioning of ceramic pieces are typically displayed in museums and heritage properties, they are usually placed on top of a dining table by way of a re-creation – complete with sad plastic grapes. It is easy to appreciate the perspective that this comes from, attempting to educate visitors in the full swathe of objects that formed the material culture of dining in homes. But by extracting the table from this equation, and affixing the display of ceramic dining ware to the wall, so that it sits alike a canvas in a gallery or graffiti on a building, guests are able to see how thoughtfully put together such dining tables were. The attention to symmetry is striking, but so is the sheer expanse of space that these objects occupy. On a table they may seem more in place, but displayed in this way they speak for themselves. Elizabeth Raffald, upon whose 1769 The Experienced English Housekeeper this display is based, would be excited to see such a use of dining ware.

There is far more to see than a blog post could seamlessly tie together, and one strength of an exhibition curated of such a large number of objects is that it enables the museum-goer to draw their own connections between different corners of the gallery. For others the buffalo tureen will not be the main event—he may be a starting point or a waypoint on an individual’s itinerary through the exhibition. It seems almost blasphemous to say that some attendees may not be interested in the buffalo at all. Either way, Dining by Design makes a very interesting comparison to the Treasures on Trial exhibition which preceded it. Both are thought-provoking displays, but while Treasures on Trial encouraged museum-goers to play Columbo with things and assess authenticity, Dining by Design asks its viewers to be imaginative and immerse themselves in an almost alien culture. It illustrates a very important role of the museum to preserve heritage, provide escapism, and present splendor. If Elizabeth Raffald would have been excited by the exhibition, so too would the museum’s founder H. F. du Pont.

Post by Tom Rusbridge, a Ph.D. student from the University of Sheffield and former visiting scholar at Winterthur

Posted in antiques, Ceramics, culinary, Decorative Arts, Design, dining, exhibition, Exhibitions, galleries, museum collection, tableware, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Powered by Portfolio: Teen Activist Inspired by Journal Article

Desmond Herzfelder didn’t set out to make history, but he did. On February 1, 2018, the first day of Black History Month, the Massachusetts high school student was on hand as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke journeyed downstairs in his own department’s building to honor a mural.  There, Mitchell Jamieson’s 1940–1942 An Incident in Contemporary American Life received the first-ever designation as a site in the new African American Civil Rights Network.  With time, this network of monuments will preserve and interpret sites associated with the civil rights movement.  

The New Deal-era mural that Zinke recognized recalled African American contralto Marian Anderson’s stirring 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial, an event that historians have identified as a seminal moment in the modern civil rights movement. Yet the painting was not simply a monument to one of the movement’s successes nor a celebration of an accomplished mission, but instead an active instrument in the campaign for social justice of that moment.  It applauded contemporary advocates and activists for the cause.  It looked to the future even more than the past.  It was a call to action; a summons to a commitment to a goal not yet reached.  And it remains that today.

Mural (detail) An Incident in Contemporary American Life by Mitchell Jamieson at the Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.; Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Program from designation ceremony, February 1, 2018

Photo of Marian Anderson from designation ceremony program, February 1, 2018

Marian Anderson mural dedicated. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8b07840

Herzfelder’s campaign to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 1943 dedication of the mural began with a high school history paper assignment, which led him to Sara Butler’s 2005 article “The Art of Negotiation” for Winterthur Portfolio, a journal of American material culture produced by Winterthur Museum. Herzfelder credits the article as having “inspired me to pursue the celebration in the first place.”  Little did he know what an extended journey it would end up being.  Along the way Herzfelder approached the Interior Department about his plan, pressed forward with an op-ed in The Washington Post, and wrote letters to Zinke, various members of Congress, and Oprah Winfrey, among others.  He was the spark plug who pushed the project forward.  We never know where our work will lead, but we are proud to have played a small role in this effort to honor a brave voice in the civil rights movement. 

Winterthur Portfolio: A Journal of American Material Culture is available for subscription through the University of Chicago Press . Winterthur members at the Patron level and above receive a 20% subscription discount. To learn more about the journal, subscription information, or submission guidelines, click here.

Post by Sara A. Butler is professor of art and architectural history at Roger Williams University and contributed three articles to the Winterthur Portfolio: “The Art of Negotiation: Federal Arts, Civil Rights, and the Legacy of the Marian Anderson Concert, 1939–43” in 2005; “Groundbreaking in New Deal Washington, D.C.: Art, Patronage, and Race at the Recorder of Deeds Building” in 2011; and “A Plant Hunter’s Legacy: Japanese Trees in a New England Landscape, 1870–1930” in 2016.

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Celebrating a Milestone: A Lithograph Honoring the Fifteenth Amendment

“The Fifteenth Amendment, Celebrated May 19th, 1870.” James C. Beard (designer), Thomas Kelly (publisher), 1870. Winterthur Library 1973.0568

A lithograph in the Winterthur collection depicts a grand parade on May 19, 1870, in Baltimore, Maryland, celebrating the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote. Published by Thomas Kelly and based on a painting by James C. Beard, the print shows a central parade scene framed by portraits of individuals important to the cause as well as scenes that display hope for the possibilities of a brighter future—although the fight for equality and full citizenship would be a long road.

Center detail

While we do not know if Beard attended the parade or if he read an account in the newspaper, it is clear that his work draws on the scenes and speeches reported in newspaper articles from the day. The center vignette depicts the celebration in Baltimore. Described as an “Imposing Procession of Civil, Military, Trade and Beneficial Associations” by the Baltimore Sun, black and white spectators thronged to the streets to watch the grand procession. Leading the crowd was a large chariot drawn by four horses and mounted with a large bell and a banner proclaiming, “Ring out the old, ring in the new, ring out the false, ring in the true.” The chariot was followed by a procession of distinguished guests and speakers including famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Other members of the parade comprised various social organizations, clubs, schools, work associations, political societies, and more from the Baltimore area, all on display in their finery and with eye-catching contraptions. A rigged ship sits in the background of the center scene of the print, which the Baltimore Sun’s article mentioned accompanied the Good Intent Club, Caulkers’, and Live Oak.

Bottom left

Bottom right

The parade ended in Monument Square, where spectators gathered to hear the speeches given by Isaac Meyers, the president of the organizing committee; H. J. Brown, who read a letter from abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison; Howard University Dean John M. Langston; John A. J. Creswell, Postmaster General; Frederick Douglass; Judge Hugh L. Bond; F. A. Sawyer, senator from South Carolina; and many others. Speakers quoted the Declaration of Independence, which appears on the print, believing that the country now fulfilled the statement that “All men are created equal.” Other themes that the orators professed made their way into Beard’s rendition. They gave credit to the brave African American soldiers who fought for the Union. They celebrated the autonomy in their work and their ability to marry at will and form a family unit without the danger of being sold and separated. Most frequently, they celebrated and promoted education with Frederick Douglass entreating parents to send their children to school in order to “show that besides the cartridge box, the ballot box, and the jury box you have also the knowledge box.”

Top center

The individuals featured on the lithograph were celebrated that May day because they were important to the abolitionist cause. At the top of the lithograph, three men are pictured: Martin Robison Delany, the first African American field officer in the U.S. Army, who served as a Major in the 52nd U.S. Colored Troops Regiment; Frederick Douglass, famed abolitionist, orator, and publisher of The North Star; and Hiram Rhoades Revels, who served as the first African American senator in 1870, filling the seat left vacant by Jefferson Davis in 1861. In addition, Ulysses S. Grant and Schuyler Colfax appear opposite of each other in the top corners. Grant, who had served as the General of the Union Army, was President of the United States at the time of ratification and pushed for the passage of the amendment. Vice President Colfax opposed slavery and helped found the Republican Party—which was celebrated that day as the party that brought freedom and rights to African Americans. Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator,” and John Brown, who led the Harper’s Ferry slave rebellion, also appear on the print as martyrs for the rights of African Americans.

While the print may be a sign of optimism for the future, its publication was very much rooted in entrepreneurial acumen. Publisher Thomas Kelly had worked with his father John Kelly in Philadelphia before establishing his own firm in New York in 1863. The earliest Kelly prints focus on Civil War themes, publishing images marketed toward the North and the South. In fact, Thomas Kelly published two lithographs in 1865: President Lincoln and His Cabinet and Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet. Such choices indicate Kelly’s opportunistic business practices more so than any political beliefs. James Carter Beard had moved to New York City as a staff artist for D. Appleton & Co. and for Charles Scribner’s Sons, but he also worked as a freelance illustrator.

In understanding Beard’s rendition, it is important to acknowledge the complicated and often negative feelings toward African Americans. The Fifteenth Amendment was not widely popular, and in order for former Confederate states Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, and Georgia to be readmitted to the Union, they had to ratify the amendment. Not all white citizens felt the same enthusiasm represented in the lithograph. The Baltimore and American Advertiser reported:

“It was a noticeable fact yesterday that while the procession was wending its way through the streets many dwellings were shut up, presenting the appearance ‘that nobody was in,’ and a curious inquiry revealed the fact that out of fifteen of those houses closed twelve of them were occupied by persons who refused to witness the procession, they declaring they could not gazed upon such a humiliating scene.”

While much progress had been made to free African Americans and amend the Constitution to acknowledge their rights as citizens, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would see restrictions and attempts to circumvent those rights including poll taxes and literacy tests. It would not be until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which aimed to prevent racially discriminatory legal barriers to voting, that African Americans would truly obtain the right to vote. This lithograph represents America’s complicated history, allowing us to reflect on a moment that celebrated a brighter possible future.

Winterthur is very grateful for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts that has given us the ability to photograph and digitize works on paper in the collection, including this lithography.

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


1. Edmund T.K. Delaney, The Kellys: Printmakers of New York and Philadelphia (Chester, Conn.: Connecticut River Publications, 1984), 5.

2. Jeffrey Weidman, Artists in Ohio, 1787–1900: A Biographical Dictionary (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2000), 60.

3. “Lithograph Celebrating the Fifteenth Amendment, 1870,” Shaping the Constitution: Resources from the Library of Virginia and the Library of Congress, Education @ Library of Virginia, accessed March 6, 2018,

4. “The Fifteenth Amendment,” Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser.



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Pushing Buttons (Into New Storage Housing)

The first year of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) begins with a block on Preventive Conservation taught by Dr. Joelle Wickens. This specialty addresses an object’s environment and aims to prevent or reduce degradation of entire collections and therefore is a fitting introduction to our graduate program. Preventive conservation is relevant to all conservation specialties. The concepts discussed are crucial to an ethical understanding of interventive treatment approaches. What began as a preventive conservation project became a valuable lesson in fully understanding the historical context of the objects we conserve and not just their physical characteristics.

One of my projects in the class began as a straightforward re-housing assignment—creating a protective box for an object in the Winterthur Library—but quickly evolved into interesting discussions about more than just the object and its materials, pushing me to think more deeply about my work as a conservation graduate student.

 The object I chose to re-house is a double-sided, pin-backed George Washington ribbon and button, consisting of a silk ribbon and a metal-backed celluloid button. I was immediately drawn to this object because of my previous experience with Washington-related artifacts as well as a desire to work with a variety of materials. The ribbon was in need of a better housing to safely display the fragile components. After a discussion with Laura Parrish, librarian in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, to which the ribbon belongs, we determined that the ideal housing would be minimal in size and would display the “In Memoriam” side. Laura generously offered to help research the cultural context of the ribbon, such as who would have worn such a ribbon and why. Our joint research and the entire project, in fact, proved to be an invaluable experience in approaching and discussing complex artifacts.

Before re-housing. Recto with a celluloid button hanging from a ribbon overlay (left) and verso showing the In Memoriam side (right).

My new housing for the ribbon consisted of a modified sink mat with front and back covers so that both sides could be accessed, with the pin nestled into a protective foam-lined insert. A piece of Mylar was placed behind the ribbon to support it between the mat boards while providing verso visibility.

After re-housing. Recto (left) with Tyvek padding on the front cover to prevent the ribbon from shifting during handling and verso (right) with the In Memoriam side visible through Mylar.

The materials used to create the sink mount were carefully chosen so as not to interact with the materials of the ribbon and button. As mentioned, silk and metal-backed celluloid were identified as the primary materials of the object, both through visual examination and by researching the manufacturer. An inscription on the verso of the button tells us it was made by Whitehead & Hoag, the largest advertising novelty manufacturer in the 1890s through the 1910s and the first company to produce pin-back buttons (Gold 1987). The company’s patent history confirms silk and celluloid were the primary materials used. My housing therefore included a rare earth magnet (the strongest type of permanent magnets) to hold in place the metal-backed celluloid button and sink cutouts in the acid-free, buffered mat board that were lined with acid-free Tyvek to prevent dye-bleed from the silk.

With Laura’s help, I soon learned more about the ribbon than just its material makeup. The ribbon was made for the Patriotic Order Sons of America, an organization founded in 1847 by Dr. Reynell Coates of Philadelphia. The order was formed during fractured political times in the United States and adhered to an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and pro–native-born American platform. Learning this, I could not help but think of anti-immigration sentiments felt widely in today’s political landscape.

Commemorative ribbons from Larksville, PA. Courtesy of

This particular ribbon was issued by the order’s Washington Camp No. 47, based in Penn’s Grove, New Jersey, and would have been worn for a variety of public functions. The red, white, and blue side would have been displayed when the organization participated in national or local events such as marching in parades. The black “In Memoriam” side would have been worn at the funeral of one of its members.

Member George Bohner in P.O.S. of A. uniform with ribbon, 20th century. Courtesy of B’s Books and Curios

The image on the button reflects the pride of the P.O.S. of A. in helping the Valley Forge Centennial and Memorial Association raise money to preserve the house used by George Washington as headquarters during encampment at Valley Forge. The button portrays a common legend about George Washington kneeling in prayer beneath an oak tree during the winter encampment at Valley Forge.

The Prayer at Valley Forge, painted by Henry Brueckner and engraved by John McRae, 1889. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

An early form of what is now a ubiquitous object may be of interest to those studying American manufacturing or novelties, but this particular ribbon also has a cultural context that is still relevant today. Partnering with Laura in researching the ribbon, I realized my initial approach was entirely materialistic and that I did not consider the other stories this ribbon had to tell. My preventive conservation assignment presented me with additional ways of seeing an object. Is it ethical to treat an object without knowing all of its contextual information? Conversely, is it ethical to consider such information when it may oppose my own moral beliefs? These questions have become constants as I continue to work with a variety of artifacts in my first year of study.

In writing this blog post, I struggled with how to discuss the ribbon’s connection considering today’s political environment and discussions surrounding immigration. In an engaging lunchtime conversation with interdepartmental museum professionals, what became clear is that being able to ask and discuss these questions may be just as, or even more, important than answering them. May the conversation continue…

Post by Joanna Hurd, Graduate Student in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation      



Gold, Anita. 1987. “You Can Make More Than Pin Money With The Right Button.” Chicago Tribune.

Hake, Ted. n.d. Whitehead and Hoag Company History. Accessed 10 1, 2017.

Trotter, G. 2007. Valley Forge Issue. Arago. Smithsonian National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C.




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Mass-Produced Relics: The Story of a Mount Vernon Gem

Memorial to Washington mounted on wood from Mount Vernon, James Crutchett (manufacturer), American Bank Note Co. (engraver), and Hammatt Billings (designer), 1859. Anonymous donor, 1977.0586 A.

This past President’s Day there was much love for, and celebration of, our first POTUS, George Washington. This sentiment was widely shared by our mid-19th-century compatriots, who were enamored by the story and glorification of George Washington. Winterthur has a large collection of objects depicting the “Father of His Country,” including paintings, statues, printed textiles, clocks, glass flasks, ceramics, and more. But one item in particular, a framed engraving representing a medal of Washington in front of Mount Vernon and his tomb, highlights the exceptional Washington fervor of the 1850s. Beyond the antebellum idolization of George Washington, this delicate 3.3 inch engraving and its frame tell us a story of cultural entrepreneurship in the mid-19th century.

On the back of the medallion, a plethora of information is provided.

The very bottom portion contains information from similar pieces:


framed in Mt Vernon Wood,

can only be had, wholesale

and retail, at HORACE BARNES & CO,


or their agents throughout

the United States.”

Rear view of the medallion.

The story of this memento starts with James Crutchett, the English-born civil engineer responsible for installing a large gas lantern on the dome of the Capitol. In the early 1850s, Crutchett set his eyes on Mount Vernon, which had become a pilgrimage for patriots. The current owner at the time, John Augustine Washington, was struggling to fund the plantation. Capitalizing on the George Washington fervor and the monetary problems of Mount Vernon’s owner, Crutchett approached John Augustine with a business proposition. Around 1854 the pair signed a deal, which Crutchett characterized as allowing him to purchase the “many thousand trees around the mansion and tomb, and all on the estate of the homestead at Mount Vernon, the sacred home and resting place of the immortal George Washington,” (1) with the purpose of manufacturing canes and wooden souvenirs. News of the sale was met with some consternation. The Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, MA) reported the deal in 1858, commenting, “We hope the bones of the ‘Father of his country’ will not be dug up to be manufactured into toothpicks.” (2) Regardless, Crutchett’s enterprise moved full steam ahead.

Crutchett first focused on manufacturing canes. He established the Mount Vernon Cane Manufactory near the Baltimore and Ohio depots, and used steam machinery to speed up production. (3)Crutchett quickly turned to other forms of Mount Vernon mementos, including pictures frames, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, goblets, and more—all using the Mount Vernon wood. On August 1, 1860, he posted an advertisement for one specific souvenir:

PATRIOTS AND LOVERS OF WASHINGTON can now be supplied with engravings representing Mount Vernon, east and west fronts, the Birth-place and the Tomb of Washington. Each are neatly set in a glass crystal, and framed in circular frames of wood grown at Mount Vernon, from three to four inches in diameter; each frame is stamped, polished, and warranted, and accompanied with the certificate of Mr. Crutchett, the publisher and proprietor of the Mount Vernon factory. These will be sent by mail free of postage in any part of the Union on receipt of 5[?] cents each, (where 3-cent postage prevails,) or $1.50 for the set of four. (4)

Out of many of the other items Crutchett claimed to have sold, this one seems to be the most enduring and these “Mount Vernon gems” can be found in the collections of the National Museum of American History, Historic New England, and private collections. The Winterthur collection has three! Crutchett believed that his customers were “Patriots, collectively and individually, and all who admire the memory and virtues of the late Gen. George Washington,” and he believed that they would be “neat, pretty presents, and rewards for societies, schools, &c.” (5) Though it is unclear exactly how the souvenirs in the Winterthur collection were initially acquired or used, at some point an attachment was added to two so that they could be mounted. Others on the market have also been fixed with a hanging attachment, all of which seem to be unique and probably done by the owner of the memento, while also giving a hint as to how these pieces were enjoyed.

James Crutchett (manufacturer), American Bank Note Co. (engraver), and Hammatt Billings (designer). Memorial to Washington mounted on wood from Mount Vernon, 1859. Anonymous donor. 1977.0586 B.

As Crutchett worked to produce his Mount Vernon mementos in various formats, he partnered with other entrepreneurs. Along the top perimeter of the print, an inscription claims, “DESIGNED BY H. BILLINGS, ENGRAVED BY THE AMERICAN BANK NOTE CO.,” and around the bottom half, “Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1859 by H. Barnes in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.” Horace Barnes was a Boston merchant who sold looking glasses and picture frames. Advertisements from the period indicate that he would sometimes exhibit works of art by local artists in his shop windows to sell, so it is entirely possible that he commissioned famous Boston architect, illustrator, artist, and designer Hammatt Billings, who also completed the original illustrations for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the design for that National Monument to the Forefathers at Plymouth. Crutchett may have known Barnes from his gas lighting business, since the Boston man was listed as the president of the East Boston Gas Light Company during this time in the Boston City Directory. It is likely that the two went into business together on the mementoes with Barnes focusing on the prints, and Crutchett focusing on the frame.

Close-up of the memento.

Even though Crutchett aimed to capitalize on the Washington craze sweeping the nation, he seemed concerned that these mass-produced relics would be perceived as exploitative. He attempted to paint his endeavor with a noble brush, dedicating a portion of his sales to “ultimately [aid] the building of the ‘Washington National Monument,’ and also the purchase and restoration of the ‘Home of Washington.’” An 1860 Boston Courier advertisement explicitly stated that one-tenth of the proceeds would go to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and Crutchett bragged in 1861 about the multiple thank-you notes he received from the Washington National Monument Board and Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association for his contributions.

The Mount Vernon Cane Factory after it was turned into a Soldiers Rest. Soldiers Rest, Washington, D.C., Charles. Magnus, 1864. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

George Washington’s popularity soared during the antebellum period as people tried to use his image to unify an increasingly divided country, but as the Civil War broke out, the focus on Mount Vernon and George Washington waned. In 1861, the Union army seized Crutchett’s house and factory, converting the house into a headquarters for the officers and the factory into a soldiers’ retreat. The army maintained control of the property for five years, during which much of his material was “used, destroyed, and taken away, and the larger portion, which has required the longest time and the largest outlay to prepare for final use, […] rendered unfit and valueless.” (6) During his deposition against the U.S. government in 1871, Crutchett grumbled that this loss made him unable to “resuscitate and revive his former business.” (7) He attempted to sell his mementos again in 1881, though he was not as successful since the popularity for cheap, mass-produced Washington mementos had declined.

While the “Mount Vernon gem” highlights the enduring popularity of George Washington, it also provides a window into the spirit of antebellum America. Manufactured on the cusp of the Civil War, the memento celebrates the unifying “Father of His Country,” who fought a war to create the nation that was about to be torn in two.

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 souvenirs.


O’Gorman, James F. Accomplished in All Departments of Art: Hammatt Billings of Boston, 1818-1874. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.

Rotenstein, David S. “The Civil War, George Washington, and the Mount Vernon Factory.” History Sidebar (blog). July 18, 2011.

1.  Crutchett, Appeal.

2. James Crutchett, Before the Joint English and American Commission: James Crutchett (British Subject) vs. The United States (Washington, D.C.: National Republican Office Print, 1871), 4.

3. James Crutchett, Appeal of James Crutchett to the Government of the United States for Property They Forcibly Seized and Destroyed. Washington, D.C.: 1861.

4. The Lowell Daily Citizen and News, January 2, 1858, 2.

5. “Washington Canes,” Farmer’s Cabinet, Jan 5, 1858, 2.

6. “Mount Vernon Mementoes,” Daily National Intelligencer, Aug 1, 1860.

7. “Mount Vernon Mementos, Mount Vernon Mementos, Mount Vernon Mementos!” Daily National Intelligencer Feb 26, 1859.

Posted in antiques, collection, Conservation, Decorative Arts, George Washington, museum collection, President's Day, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment