New to the Collection: Ezekiel Bascom's Mark Medal

P1030275 In previous posts, we’ve shared the King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter mark book, one of the treasures of our archives collection, and our discovery of its artist.  The excitement around this book continues as the National Heritage Museum announces the recent acquisition of a silver Masonic mark medal originally owned by one of the members of King Hiram Chapter!

Mark medals were often made to order for men who received the Mark Master degree, part of the York Rite, a Masonic organization through which a Freemason may pursue additional degrees.  The degree is named after the marks that stonemasons chiseled into the stones of buildings to identify their work.  Like medieval stonemasons, Masonic Mark Masters create their own symbol, which they register in their chapter’s Mark Book.P1030277

Originally owned by Ezekiel Bascom (1777-1841), this medal was made in Massachusetts around 1816.  Ezekiel Lysander Bascom was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1777 and pursued a vocation as a Congregationalist minister.  In 1806, he married Ruth Henshaw (1772-1848), who is known today for her prolific work as a rural artist.  Ruth Henshaw Bascom drew profile portraits in pencil, pastel and watercolor (follow this link to see an example of her work).  Ezekiel joined Boston’s St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter in 1806.  Ten years later, in 1816, when King Hiram Chapter was formed in Greenwich, Massachusetts (much closer to his home than Boston), Bascom became its initial High Priest, or leader.  The design on the mark medal closely resembles the depiction of Bascom’s mark in the Chapter’s mark book (as you can see in the photo below). 

Mark Book Ezekiel L. Bascom The medal was purchased with the assistance of the Kane Lodge Foundation and the Cogswell Beneficial Trust.  The National Heritage Museum deeply appreciates their support.

Masonic Mark Medal (front and back), 1816, probably Boston, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, acquired through the generosity of the Kane Lodge Foundation, Cogswell Beneficial Trust and William W. Lewis, 2009.031.

Mark of Ezekiel Bascom, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1.

Exciting Discovery - Artist of Mark Book Identified!

A92_001_1T1Tabbot One of the staff’s favorite objects in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives collection at the National Heritage Museum is the mark book for King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter (see Archivist Catherine Swanson’s previous post about the book).  For several years, we theorized that the artist of the book, an “M.S. Harding” who signed several pages, might be a young woman.  The technique exemplified in the drawings and the use of watercolors to create them suggest the kind of work taught in numerous New England academies for young ladies during the early 1800s (see an image of one page on the left).

New research has led to the exciting discovery that “M.S. Harding” was indeed a young woman, Martha S. Harding of New Salem, Massachusetts.  Born in 1813, Martha was the daughter of Alpheus Harding (1780-1869) and Sarah Bridge (b. circa 1788).  Her father belonged to King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter, which was established in nearby Greenwich, Massachusetts in 1815.  Massachusetts history buffs will recognize Greenwich as one of the towns submerged in the 1930s to create the Quabbin Reservoir.  Alpheus Harding, the pastor of New Salem Congregational Church, chose a mark that reflects his vocation.  It shows a lamb holding a Christian cross.  Two other pages from the book are shown here; the one on the right depicts the mark chosen by Thomas Thwing and shows Martha’s signature at the bottom.A92_001_1Thwing

Alpheus also served as a preceptor at New Salem Academy.  School records show that his children - including Martha, who was a pupil from 1822 to 1829 - attended.  It is possible that she learned to draw and paint while at the Academy, perhaps even making the mark book while she was a student.  When she was 25, in 1838, Martha married Asarelah M. Bridge (1810-1865), who was a student at New Salem Academy in 1830.  Sadly, Martha contracted consumption soon after her marriage and died in 1841 at the young age of 27.  But her drawings live on in the King Hiram Chapter mark book, allowing us to admire her artistic skill and teaching us that the families of 19th-century Freemasons were familiar with the symbols and values of the fraternity.

Left: Mark of William K. Talbot, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

Right: Mark of Thomas Thwing, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

Mary Devlin Booth

Mdbooth_portrait One great advantage of working in a museum library is the likelihood of being surrounded by interesting artifacts or works of art. One of our favorites, a haunting painting of a young woman, watches over us in our staff work area.

Mary Devlin Booth, 1883, (shown at left) was painted by an important 19th-century artist, Eastman Johnson (1824-1906).  Johnson was born in Maine, worked in Boston as a lithographer early in his career, but eventually turned to illustrations, genre painting and later, portraits.  Many of his best known works, A Ride for Liberty and Negro Life at the South were painted around the time of the Civil War.

The subject of the portrait is the first wife of Edwin Booth, actor, and sister-in-law of the more infamous Booth brother, Abraham Lincoln assassin, John Wilkes Booth.  Mary Devlin Booth (1840-1863) was an actress in her own right, and in The Letters and Notebooks of Mary Devlin Booth (PN 2287 .B5 A4 1987) she details her passion for her own career as well as her early relationship, courtship and marriage to Booth.  The letters and notebooks provide an interesting glimpse of theater life in the 1850’s and 60’s, with comments on Edwin Booth’s roles and reviews and thus make it all the more tragic that she died so young.  One can only imagine the value of this kind of commentary after her brother-in-law’s actions in 1865.

This oil portrait, painted from a photograph 20 years after her death, is one of several Booth family portraits done in the early 1880's by Johnson.  He painted Edwin's father from a miniature, a portrait of Edwina, Mary and Edwin's only child born in 1861, and Edwin.  Our records don't indicate whether the portrait of Mary was a paid commission or not, but it is signed 'E.J. Xmas 1883' so there is the possibility it was a present from the artist.  It is clear from several of the sources noted below, and Edwina Booth Grossman's Edwin Booth; Recollections by his Daughter, Edwina Booth Grossman, and Letters to Her and His Friends, (New York: Century, 1894) that the artist and actor were good friends.  And when Edwin Booth died, according to this article in the New York Times, Johnson was a pallbearer at the funeral.

Img_0409 Mary Devlin Booth died in Boston and is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.  Edwin Booth, who died in 1893, is buried beside her and their daughter and her family share the plot. (A recent photograph I took of their tombstones is shown at left.)

Quite a bit of documentation exists for the entire Booth family.  McFarline Library at the University of Tulsa, the New York Public Library and the University of Rochester all hold materials in their special collections.  Many of Eastman Johnson's letters are available online at the Smithsonian.  We also hold titles about the Booth family and artist Eastman Johnson.  A few are listed below; additional titles may be found in our online catalog.

Carbone, Teresa A. Eastman Johnson: Painting America.  N.Y.: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1999.  Call number:  ND 237 .J7 A4 1999

Kimmel, Stanley.  The Mad Booths of Maryland.  Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1940.  Call number:  PN 2287 .B49 K5 1940

Oggel, L. Terry, ed.  The Letters and Notebooks of Mary Devlin Booth.  N.Y.: Greenwood Press, 1987.  Call number:  PN 2287 .B5 A4 1987

Ruggles, Eleanor.  Prince of Players: Edwin Booth.  N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 1953.  Call number:  PN 2287 .B5 R9 1953

Stainton, Leslie. "Players: Edwin Booth and the 19th Century American Stage" Common-Place, April 2008.

Winter, William.  Life and Art of Edwin Booth.  N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., 1894.  Call number:  PN 2287 .B5 W5 1894

Mary Devlin Booth portrait above is included courtesy of the National Heritage Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Manney, 79.78.2

Portrait photograph by David Bohl.


Early Images of Flagg's Uncle Sam

In an earlier post, we mentioned the WWI-era artwork of James Montgomery Flagg. Today, we've got a bit more to say about the image that most people associate with Flagg.

While preparing for the Library & Archives upcoming exhibition on illustrated American sheet music, I came across a fairly early visual reference to James Montgomery Flagg's famous, iconic image of "Uncle Sam." The cover of "What Kind of American Are You? What Are You Doing Over Here?" published by the Broadway Music Corporation in 1917, shows a very similar image, clearly borrowed from Flagg's, with Uncle Sam's finger pointing (or is that wagging?) at the viewer.

The sheet music cover was published the same year that Flagg's image of Uncle Sam first appeared on U.S. Army recruitment posters - what James Montgomery Flagg himself called "the most famous poster in the world" - the "I Want You" U.S. Army recruitment poster.

As the Library of Congress notes, Flagg's illustration was first used the year before, on the cover of the July 6, 1916 issue of Leslie's Illustrated Weekly with the title "What Are you Doing for Preparedness?"  - a question asked as the United States prepared to enter World War I.

Flagg_uncle_sam_web_2We have issues of Leslie's Illustrated Weekly from around this period and so I decided to see if we have this issue where Flagg's Uncle Sam image makes its first appearance. It turns out that we do. In the end, what turned out to be most interesting wasn't the image on the cover of Leslie's Weekly however, but something I found when flipping through the issue from the following week (July 13, 1916), where I found the same image of Uncle Sam - reappearing just a week after his debut. This time his image was being used to sell books in an advertisement. A detail of the ad can be seen here.

The publishers of Leslie's Weekly were selling a 4-volume set called The Great Republic: An Illustrated History of the American People, by The Master Historians - all for the low price of $1.97.

Beside the image of Flagg's Uncle Sam, the ad - playing on the upcoming presidential election of 1916 - reads, in part:

"Know The Facts About Your Own Country. You are soon going to exercise your most important right as a citizen of this great republic by helping to decided who is to be your next president. To make a wise choice of candidates it is important that you should know American facts bearing on the vital questions of the hour."

The ad goes on to echo the previous week's appearance of Flagg's Uncle Sam by tying Flagg's image and the question of "preparadness" by stating: “Trade conditions have made it possible for us to secure on favorable terms a few sets of these intensely interesting volumes, and as our own contribution toward real PREPAREDNESS at this opportune time we will offer these sets, while they last, to quick buyers at a wonderful bargain.”

Of course, this image of Uncle Sam has been repurposed over and over again since Flagg first created it. However, it was striking to stumble upon the second time that the image ever appeared and see that his image was being used to hawk history books - all in the name of "preparedness," and just a week after his debut.

F. Earl Christy: Postcard Artist

91_0441_1_f_earl_christy_2 Among the many postcard collections at the VGW Library and Archives are a set by the artist F. Earl Christy (1882-1961).  He was an illustrator for many magazines and noted for his images of college women or beautiful young women sometimes playing sports.

The set of postcards in our collection includes four cards of college women from Harvard (shown here), Yale, Princeton, and Cornell.  In each, the young women are waving banners with their college colors and symbols.  Each woman is wearing a dress to match the college colors - for example, crimson for Harvard and blue for Yale.  The dresses on the postcards are made of silk.  The images are embossed onto the postcards. The postcards were signed before the printing process so each card holds Christy's name.

These postcards were produced around 1905 and were published by the Illustrated Postal Card Company of New York. At this time, F. Earl Christy was only 23 and attending Pennsylvania Academy of Arts.  These were some of his early works.

As with many travel postcards from this "Golden era," these cards served as souvenirs of their schools.  They were probably collected by college graduates of the time period and are still very collectible today.

The Jonathan Poor Mural

El_poor_wall_overall_from_the_sid_2Gracing one wall of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives is a mural that appears to have been created expressly for the space. Upon closer inspection, however, one sees its age and learns it began on the dining room wall of the Silas Burbank home in Mt. Vernon, Maine.

The peaceful scene, signed 'J D Poor 1830' was created by Jonathan Poor (1802-1845) of Sebago, Maine.  When Poor was 16 he began traveling with his more well-known uncle, Rufus Porter, (1792-1884).  He started as Porter's portrait painting assistant but around 1824 they switched from portraits to landscapes and found a market for painting murals in houses and taverns in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  Poor became known as one of Porter's most productive apprentices and has murals attributed to him throughout rural Maine, N.H., Groton, MA, and a fireboard at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.

The mural was discovered in 1967, deteriorating under layers of wallpaper. Thus began a series of activities to save, conserve, remove and preserve the mural. A new, specially-made paint was applied to match the fading 178 year old colors and to help prevent further peeling. A dedicated group of volunteers worked together to save this treasure.

El_poor_wall_detail_with_signatureJonathan Poor's work is thought to closely resemble his uncle's and they often worked together. In fact, as reported in a letter from a great-granddaughter, "Jonathan and Rufus visited relatives in Vienna and Mt. Vernon while they painted, as they had plenty of them to stay with as they worked."  A small detail of our mural also suggests Jonathan Poor and Rufus Porter worked together: the man with a hat in the sailboat is a Porter signature.

More about Rufus Porter (and some mention of Jonathan Poor) may be found in:  Lipman, Jean. Rufus Porter: Yankee Pioneer.  N.Y.: Clarkson N. Potter, 1968.  (ND237 .P8135 L48 1968)  The author's thorough research about Porter and his work, including a detailed list of murals, helped his rediscovery in the 1960's.  Lipman revised the work as Rufus Porter Rediscovered: Artist, Inventor, Journalist, 1792-1884 (ND237 .P8135 L56 1980) and included more information about his many other interests and inventions, including that as founder and first editor of Scientific American.  See also The Rufus Porter School of Wall Mural Painting, (A/V ND237 .P8135 R8 2000) a videotape that tours 10 New Hampshire homes with outstanding original and restored murals by Porter (and Poor).

Click here for information on where to find many Rufus Porter murals today.  And, if you're traveling in Maine this summer, the Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton is on the Maine Folk Art Trail.

The Jonathan Poor Mural, 2007.048, was acquired through the generosity of Judy and John William McNaughton, 33°,  Dorothy A. and Albert H. Richardson,  Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA,  Trustees of the Supreme Council Benevolent Fund,  The Webber Memorial Fund and Scottish Rite Masons in the fifteen states of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.            

Photography by David Bohl.

What is a Liberty Cap?

A2000_37_05flaggposter_2 The VGW Library & Archives has a collection of over 600 World War I and World War II posters.  There are many well-known illustrators represented in this collection. One of them is James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960).  He designed the 1918 poster “Sow the seeds of Victory!”

The woman planting seeds in the garden symbolizes America.  She is draped in an American flag and wearing a stocking cap called a Liberty cap.  This cap symbolized freedom and was used during the American Revolution and French Revolution.  Here, the illustrator makes reference to this symbolism for those seeking freedom during World War I.

The poster was produced by the National War Garden Commission in Washington, D.C.  They encouraged Americans to garden, can, and dry foods during WWI.  It is on cardstock, small in size, and meant to be placed in windows.