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December 2008

An "affable and gentlemanly man"

Open 2005_040 cropped Even an object smaller than a deck of cards, such as this pocket-sized silver memo book, can offer a window onto a past life. 

This silver book's owner’s name, Oliver Arthur Pennoyer (1826-1882), his town and a selection of Masonic symbols decorate one side.   A date and an engraved image of Niagara Falls embellish the back.  These elements--and the book itself--are clues that reveal much about Oliver Pennoyer.

In his 20s, Pennoyer moved to Penn Yan, New York, where he worked in the county clerk’s office.  In 1854 he joined William C. Morris in running a downtown jewelry store.  Their weekly ads proclaimed they sold “the fullest and most complete stock of watches, clocks, jewelry and fancy goods that has ever been offered to the citizens of Yates County.”  Although the partnership lasted only a few months, it appears that the business associates formed a more enduring connection.  Oliver Pennoyer married Margaret L. Morris (1830-1912)  (possilby a relation of Pennoyer's partner) on June 13, 1854.  Although we do not know where the couple spent their honeymoon, a trip to famed Niagara Falls, 130 miles from their home, is an intriguing possibility.

Pennoyer’s memo book may have been a gift to mark a new chapter in his life.  Or, perhaps he designed the book himself and had it made and engraved by associates in the jewelry business.  Articles in the local paper noted that Pennoyer practiced “rare and beautiful penmanship.”  The flourishing designs surrounding his name on the memo book may allude to Pennoyer’s calligraphic skills.  His obituary suggests that Pennoyer could have engraved the book himself as,  "He was a skillful engraver, and had expressed a desire to become employed in the silver plate works." Back 2005_040 cropped

A man of many interests, politics also captured Pennoyer’s attention.  He represented the Whigs at an 1854 county convention and later served as the Schuyler County Clerk.  He also held various county positions after he moved to Illinois, worked for the Grant administration, passed the Illinois bar and engaged in the insurance business. 

Although records of his Masonic affiliation are elusive, the engraved symbols on the book show that Freemasonry held a place in Pennoyer’s life.  With so many pursuits, he doubtless needed to track his engagements.  The ivory pages of this memo book--originally the book held one for every day of the week except Sunday--gave him a place to note an appointment in pencil.  He could easily erase the note when done.

In 1855 a contemporary described Oliver Pennoyer as an “affable and gentlemanly man.”  This elegant accessory serves that description.  Its owner must have cherished the book as a precious reminder of the year he embarked on many new ventures. 

Oliver Pennoyer’s memo book, 1854.  National Heritage Museum, 2005.040  Photograph by Jonathan Olly

The back of the memo book features an image of Niagara Falls.  National Heritage Museum, 2005.040.  Photograph by Jonathan Olly


Yates County Whig, Penn Yan, New York, Jun. 8, 1854

Penn-Yan Democrat, Penn Yan, New York, Jan. 1, 1855

Rockford Daily Register, Rockford, Illinois, Dec. 14, 1882, p. 3

Many thanks for help from the Rockford and Penn Yan Public Libraries in tracking down these sources.

"To reform drunkards and to prevent others from becoming drunkards."

Sons_of_Temperance_1851_web The Sons of Temperance was the oldest of many temperance and total abstinence "secret societies" that existed in the United States in the nineteenth century. It was founded in 1842 in New York City by sixteen men, who met for the first time on September 29, 1842 at Teetotallers' Hall at 71 Division Street. Up until the founding of the Sons of Temperance, temperance and total abstinence societies only required members to pledge that they would abstain from consuming alcohol. The Sons of Temperance took this pledge many steps further: the organization was a fraternal group and a mutual benefit society which incorporated passwords, grips (i.e. handshakes), and rituals into the organization's activities, and also provided both life and funeral benefits to its members. But their stated aim was blunt and to the point: "to reform drunkards and to prevent others from becoming drunkards."

Pictured above is a detail from the cover of an 1851 edition of a book that was originally published in 1847, entitled The Order of the Sons of Temperance: Its Origin, Its History, Its Secrets, Its Objections, Its Designs, Its Influence: Comprising a Full, Authentic History of This Deservedly Popular Institution from Its Origins to the Present Time. It depicts a member of the Sons of Temperance, wearing a collar, holding a pledge, and standing by a fountain of water (drinking a glass of water was part of the initiation ceremony - "the beverage prepared by God himself"), beside which there is a staff with a banner that reads "Order of the Sons of Temperance to the Rescue of the World from Reign of Alcohol."

The question that comes to mind when first learning about temperance and abstinence societies in the United States in the early 19th century is, why was there such a strong movement toward abstinence from alcohol? There are a combination of factors, but W.J. Rorabaugh's The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition goes a long way in giving context to the social role that the act of consuming alcoholic beverages played in American life in the 18th and 19th centuries, and also shows how it laid the groundwork for the temperance movement. In the introduction to his book, Rorabaugh writes of being startled to discover that "Americans between 1790 and 1830 drank more alcoholic beverages per capita than ever before or since." But what I think makes this most interesting is to see how directly this led to an influential social movement in the 19th century. As Rorabaugh points out, knowing about the vast quantities of alcohol that were consumed in America during the late 1700s makes it easier to understand the temperance movement that started in the 1820s.

Sons_of_Temperance_Blue_Book_1872_circle_web Another book in our collection, Blue Book for the Use of Subordinate Divisions of the Order of the Sons of Temperance, contains the ritual of the Sons of Temperance. It perfectly illustrates how the first fraternal temperance society sold the idea of the benefits available to those willing to come together for a shared purpose. In the initiation portion of the ritual, the head of the group, called the Worthy Patron, addresses the candidate by saying:

Intemperance is peculiarly a social evil. We therefore resist its terrible power by a social and fraternal Combination. We join hand in hand, and heart to heart, in this Institution, to protect ourselves and meet a common foe with victorious power of organization.

In brothers and sisters here assembled, you behold a type of our mission's fulfillment. This is a sober world in miniature; and we seek to enlarge this circle of sobriety until it shall embrace the entire race of Man.

Interestingly, this idea of a communal "circle of sobriety" was not simply spoken of, but was part of the actual "floor work" of the ritual, as can be seen in the illustration above from the Blue Book, which included this illustration to instruct members of various "Divisions" (i.e. lodges) how they should arrange themselves during this part of the ceremony. Below this circle, the ritual instructs the members to join in a rousing sing-along, with temperate words, arranged to a tune not usually associated today with temperance, Auld Lang Syne:

Once more we here the pledge renew
 Of strict FIDELITY;
Still to our maxims ever true,
 To LOVE and PURITY...


The Order of the Sons of Temperance: Its Origin, Its History, Its Secrets, Its Objections, Its Designs, Its Influence: Comprising a Full, Authentic History of This Deservedly Popular Institution from Its Origins to the Present Time. Syracuse: Agan & Summers, 1851.
Call number: RARE HV 5296 .S6 L8 1851

Blue Book for the Use of the Subordinate Divisions of the Order of the Sons of Temperance. Boston: The National Division of North America, 1872.
Call number: HV 5296 .S6 B4 1872

Rorabaugh, W.J. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Call number: E 161 .R68 1979

Quarterboard Carving Demonstration with Nick Lonborg, December 28, 1-3 PM

Lonborg_resave Master quarterboard carver Nick Lonborg will be on hand at the Museum for a free demonstration of his craft on Sunday, December 28 from 1-3 pm. Born in South Korea, Nick came to the United States when he was seven. This veteran of Desert Storm is "carving a future by preserving the past" in his quarterboards, the rectangular, wooden signs once used to name ships. He uses only hand tools to create these masterpieces adorned with scallop shells or flowers and bold 24-karat gold-leaf letters. He is one of the artists featured in "Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage in Massachusetts" currently on view.

The National Heritage Museum's Masonic and Fraternal Apron Collection

Established in 1975 by Scottish Rite Freemasons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., the National Heritage Museum tells America’s story.  For over thirty years, the Museum has collected, by gift and by purchase, objects that help tell that story.  Today, the collection numbers over 16,000 objects.

The collection’s primary strength is its American Masonic and fraternal items.  The Masonic and fraternal apron collection is a particular highlight.  With over 400 aprons in the collection, the Museum serves as an important resource for the study of these intriguing pieces.  Spanning three centuries and the globe, the apron collection offers potential for new interpretations not only of Masonic history, but also of American history.

84_15di1_cropped Our website includes a section called Treasures, which highlights about 100 objects in the collection, including some aprons.  One of my favorites is shown here – it was probably made in Herkimer County, New York in the early 1800s.  In addition to its Masonic symbolism, the apron depicts two Masons dressed in their lodge finery, including their aprons.  The apron offers a Germanic interpretation of a popular Masonic design that appeared in English and American engravings between 1790 and 1815.  

We encourage scholars and researchers to contact us if our apron collection could be helpful for their research.  And, we continue to add to our collection, looking to increase our strengths and to fill our gaps.  We are very interested in aprons that have a story about who owned, made or used them.  If you have a special apron that you would like to consider donating to the Museum, please contact our Senior Curator of Collections, Aimee Newell, at anewell@monh.org.

Masonic York Rite Royal Arch Apron, 1800-1820, probably Herkimer County, New York, National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 84.15. 

"Keepers of Tradition" Comes Alive In New Audio Tour. Tour is FREE to All

Tin_men_smaller “Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage in Massachusetts” now offers an Acoustiguide audio tour for visitors. The tour features the voices, sounds and music of 18 keepers of tradition who have been documented by Massachusetts Cultural Council folklorists in years past. The audio tour, available to visitors for FREE, highlights artists such as accordion player Joe Derrane, sheet metal workers from Boston Local 17, ship’s wheel builder Bob Fuller, duck caller and hunter Jonathan Detwiler, tap dancer Jimmy Slyde and his apprentice, Rocky Mendes, as well as master icon writer Ksenia Pokrovsky and her student, Sister Faith Riccio, along with others. Exhibition curator and Massachusetts State Folklorist Maggie Holzberg is also featured.

“Keepers of Tradition” draws on eight years of fieldwork by folklorists at the Massachusetts Cultural Council. This investigation took researchers into homes, dance halls, boat yards, places of worship, and festival sites--places where folk art is produced and valued. These folklorists talked with, and recorded people practicing folk art traditions, with the goal of understanding these practices from an insider’s point of view. Now this first person viewpoint is available to museum visitors. The audio tour offers visitors a personal and lively take on what motivates and interests some of the commonwealth’s own keepers of tradition.

“Keepers of Tradition" is on view through June 7, 2009. Find out more at www.massfolkarts.org or at the Museum's web site.  Funding for the exhibition is provided by Bank of America, an anonymous local foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the National Heritage Museum, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ellis Island: Gateway to America

A thought-provoking new exhibition of portraits of immigrants, taken at Ellis Island by registry clerk Augustus F. Sherman, recently opened at the National Heritage Museum, and will be on view until April 26,2009. Equally as intriguing is Ellis Island’s place in American history as the primary immigration processing center at the height of immigration.

Main gallery Ellis Island Leaving their homelands to escape poverty or religious or political persecution, or lured by the promise of economic opportunity, more than 20 million people immigrated to America between 1892 and 1924. Some traveled with their families, but many sent a husband or older child to America to work for several years to pay for the rest of the family’s passage. More than 70 percent of them traveled through Ellis Island. Today, historians believe that more than 40 percent of Americans are descended from these trailblazers.
Augustus F. Sherman took the photographs featured in the exhibition from 1905-1920, during Ellis Island’s heyday. In 1907, the peak year, more than 1 million immigrants passed through its halls. The largest numbers were Catholics and Jews from eastern Europe, as well as Italians and Greeks. Many Germans, Dutch and Irish immigrated to America during this period as well.

Officials at Ellis Island processed immigrants primarily to weed out the sick and the indigent. Well-off travelers were assessed aboard ship, but the passengers traveling in steerage or third class disembarked at Ellis Island. There, doctors inspected them for “a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease,” mental illness, or physical deformities, writing codes in chalk on the immigrants’ clothing to indicate potential health problems. Then, aided by interpreters, inspectors questioned each immigrant about his or her name, place of origin, literacy level, job skills, and financial means, to determine whether he or she was likely to become a burden to American society. Officials detained those suspected of problems for anxiety-ridden hours, days or weeks. These were the people Sherman photographed. Although most immigrants ultimately made it to New York, 2 percent were deported.

World War I intensified native-born Americans’ fears of foreigners. The U.S. government soon passed new immigration laws, enacted in 1924, which set quotas and slowed the influx of immigrants to America. As immigration legislation changed, Ellis Island’s role as a processing station became unnecessary. Its function shifted to law enforcement—arrest and deportation of foreigners suspected of crimes—until it finally closed in 1954. It reopened in 1990 as a museum, paying tribute to the many intrepid travelers who passed through its doors to start new lives in America.

The Great Hall seen from the west balcony, pre-1916. Augustus Frederick Sherman. Ellis Island, New York. Courtesy of Aperture Foundation and Statue of Liberty National Monument/Ellis Island Immigration Museum

“I See My Own Face Everywhere”: Augustus Frederick Sherman’s Portraits Resonate with Visitors

Copy of Dutch siblings We thought you would be interested to hear that in the few weeks that “Augustus Frederick Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits, 1905-1920” has been open, it has touched a chord with visitors.

We greatly appreciate the comments visitors offer verbally to staff, and on comments cards. Many of the thoughts we have received have been funny, insightful, and intriguing. Here is a sampling:

In answer to the question, “If you were immigrating to another country, what you bring and why?,” one visitor said, “No matter what country I immigrate to, it will be my home if my family is with me.” A young visitor noted, “If I didn’t have to be selective, I would take a lot.”

Some visitors shared their immigration stories with us, including this one: “My husband’s grandmother got on a ship from Europe to Ellis Island with her fiancé. She got off the boat engaged to my husband’s grandfather, NOT the original fiancé. We only wish we knew the stories of what happened on board!”

Many of Sherman’s portraits inspire curiosity. More visitors have responded to the query, “Who in these photos would you like to meet?” than any other. One visitor wrote, “I would like to meet the two German stowaways and ask them where they got their tattoos. I am sure they have a story for each one.” Another said, “I would like to meet a mother of many children and ask her how she managed such a large group on such a long and uncertain voyage!”

In sharing their impressions of the exhibition, visitors left these thoughtful remarks. One commented, “This interesting exhibit clearly shows how similar … we are to these brave people who faced adversity, change and the future with courage in their hearts and hope in their eyes. Just as we need to today.” Another observer said simply, “I see my own face everywhere.”

In addition, the exhibition warranted a full-page review in The Boston Globe by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Mark Feeney. He called the exhibition “deeply affecting,” and characterized Sherman as the unlikely bureaucrat who became an “inadvertent artist.” Margaret Smith, art critic for The MetroWest Daily News sees the portraits as “studies of hope, fear, bewilderment and often pride in one’s place of origin and determination in one’s destination.” We hope you will visit! 

Dutch siblings from the island of Marken, holding religious tracts
Augustus Frederick Sherman (1865-1925)
Courtesy of Aperture Foundation and Statue of Liberty National Monument/Ellis Island Immigration Museum

New and recommended books: December 2008

Though our collection doesn't necessarily include the kind of popular titles one finds on holiday gift idea lists, a few recent acquisitions come to mind as potential gifts for just the right person....

Books as History: the Importance of Books Beyond Their Text by David Pearson.  New Castle, DE:  Oak Knoll Press, 2008.  Call number:  Z 4 .P43 2008.  This well-illustrated, unusual look at books -- their form, content, ownership and value -- from the earliest examples right up to recent advances in electronic publishing is fascinating and a real treasure.

Boston Beheld: Antique Town and Country Views by D. Brenton Simons.  Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2008.  Call number:  N 8214.5 .U6 S47 2008.  This book, recently published in association with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, presents over 60 18th and 19th century views of Boston and environs along with informative descriptions about the work of art, artist and setting.  Included are a number of scenes from collections at the Boston Athenaeum, Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts Historical Society, Bostonian Society which individually are stunning -- but taken together present Boston as never seen before.

The Houses of the Founding Fathers: The Men Who Made America and the Way They Lived by Hugh Howard New York: Artisan, 2008.  Call number:  E 176 .H866 2007.  Leafing through this beautiful, over-sized volume filled with full-color photographs makes you feel you're actually traveling up and down the Atlantic coast visiting the homes of notable Americans of the 17th and 18th centuries.  Several well known homes are included (Jefferson's Monticello, Washington's Mount Vernon, and the Vassal-Craigie-Longfellow House in Cambridge to name a few) but many other lesser known homes stand out as well.  Biographical information, maps and a timeline are included along with descriptive entries for each of the forty homes highlighted.

Masonic Lodges of Massachusetts: 275th Commemorative Anniversary Edition. [Boston]: Masonic Leadership Institute of Massachusetts, 2008.  Call number:  17.9763 .M375 2008. This recently published book presents beautiful color photographs (exterior and some interior) and information about Massachusetts lodges from some 251 cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth.  At a glance you can see the great diversity of historic buildings as well as the more modern meeting places.  For more information on ordering a copy contact the Caleb Butler Lodge.

And, for a complete list of the new titles we've added in the past couple months, please check New Acquisitions on our website.

Model Trains Display and A Special Jewelry Trunk Show This Weekend!

The Museum has a some special happenings this weekend! We hope you'll visit.

Train_kid_shoulders Model Trains Are Back!
Saturday, December 13, 10 am-5 pm
Sunday, December 14, noon- 5 pm

Up mountain climbs, past coal mines and small villages, through tunnels and city crossings chug the passenger and freight trains of the HUB Division of the National Model Railroad Association in the annual Model Train Weekend at the National Heritage Museum, Saturday, December 13 and Sunday, December 14, 2008.  Hours on Saturday are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon till 5 p.m. Admission to the train display is $7 per family; members $5/family.

CercaTrova Cerca Trova Jewelry Trunk Sale
Saturday, December 13, 10 am-5 pm   
Sunday, December 14, noon- 5 pm

The Heritage Shop announces a special Truck Show featuring Cerca Trova, the new line of exquisite handcrafted jewelry by Marie Fiedrich of Carlisle, MA. Her beautiful necklaces and bracelets feature American artisan lampwork beads and Italian Venetian beads finished with gold and silver findings. Show hours at the Museum are Saturday, December 13, 10 am-5 pm, and Sunday, December 14, from noon-5 pm.

The artist's words best describe the works of art she creates: "A few years ago I fell in love with Venetian beads made in Murano, Italy. I marveled at the artistry involved in making these tiny works of art. I began using these beads in my jewelry designs and then discovered the many talented American artisans that are creating beautiful beads in their home studios. I began the search for the perfect beads and my handmade jewelry is the result of my finds. I search throughout North America and Europe to find these tiny works of art, and that is how I came to name my business Cerca Trova, which means ‘seek and you shall find.'"

Prices range from $40-$200. Members always save 10%. Call the Heritage Shop for more information at 781-457-4108.


Masonic Master's Chair from Ohio

85_20_1_1t1 The Grand Lodge of Ohio celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2008, commemorating generations of Freemasons who were raised in the state.  Today there are more than 520 Masonic lodges in Ohio with a combined membership of 114,000 men.  The National Heritage Museum holds over 600 items in its collection that can be documented as made in Ohio.  One of the more unusual of these items is a handcrafted Master’s chair fashioned in a rural style and painted with Masonic symbols.  Some of the paint used on the chair employs metallic powders, which would have glowed under the lodge room lights.

The chair was made around 1870 and is marked by maker John Luker (b. 1838).  Another inscription on the chair reads, “JHM Houston’s.”  Historical records tell us that Houston was Master of Swan Lodge No. 358 in New Mount Pleasant, Vinton County, Ohio, from 1867 to 1873.  The lodge was relatively new when the chair was made, having been chartered in 1866.  In 1871, a lodge building was dedicated, so the chair may have been made for the new space.  The chair came to the Museum accompanied by a pair of matching columns and two candlestands (presumably a third completed the set originally, but is now lost).

Records about maker John Luker’s life are sparse.  His Masonic membership is unclear, although a Joseph Luker was initiated into Swan Lodge in 1870.  That same year, John Luker is listed on the U.S. Census as living in Washington Township, part of Ohio’s Hocking County, and north of Vinton County, where the chair was used.  At the time, Joseph Luker, 21 years old and presumably John’s younger brother, was living in the same house.  Joseph’s job is listed as “metallic roofing business,” suggesting a supplier for the metallic powders that John used when painting the chair.

The chair is decorated with Masonic symbols.  The most prominent symbol appears at top center – a square and compasses with G in the center.  When the chair was originally painted, the G must have stood out – it was painted bright blue and has blue glass mixed in, giving it a texture that glints in light.  The sides of the chair's back form columns topped with globes.  Additional symbols are painted on the back, the arms and the front of the seat, including five-point stars, candelabra, sabers, an apron with an all-seeing eye on the flap, and a cabletow.  In addition, there are symbols for officers – a square, level and plumb; a slipper representing the Entered Apprentice degree; and symbols for the Royal Arch Mark Master – chisels, crossed mallets and an archway with a keystone.

The symbols are painted onto the chair, but give an appearance comparable to popular inlay motifs on high-style furniture from the mid- and late-1800s.  Inlay was often made of mahogany or ivory – materials that were expensive and hard to find, so were used sparingly.  The inlay was usually darker or lighter than the base wood.  This contrast set off these elements and motifs.  Many of the painted motifs on this chair are lighter than the darker blue paint. 

The chair's maker mixed elements of several furniture styles.   The “legs” are X-shaped supports known as “Grecian” or “curule” bases.  Initially made popular in the 1810s and 1820s by high-style craftsmen like Duncan Phyfe (1795-1856), this element enjoyed a resurgence as part of the Renaissance Revival in the 1860s and 1870s, when this chair was made.  The “curule” style was originally taken from a Roman magistrate’s folding chair.  And, the carved paw-shaped feet seem to be inspired by the elegant ball and claw feet that were so common on Chippendale-style furniture from the 1760s.  By combining these features, the chair is a great example of folk art and rural style.

Masonic Worshipful Master’s Chair, ca. 1870, John Luker, Vinton County or Hocking County, Ohio, National Heritage Museum, gift of the estate of Charles V. Hagler,  Photograph by David Bohl.