Curators' Choice

Visit Us on Patriots' Day!

Join Us for Patriots' Day Activites!

DSCF7856There is always plenty to do in Lexington when April vacation rolls around. The town and neighboring communities have many traditional events that commemorate the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775 and celebrate the community spirit of today. While you and your family are out, plan on dropping by the Museum for some fun programs. We've scheduled them conveniently so that they fall before or after the main reenactments and parades. Please note that the Museum will be open on Patriots' Day, Monday, April 16.

Farmer-soliderSaturday, April 14
11 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Gallery Talks: “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution”
Get the inside scoop on the tendencies and tensions in Lexington before the British marched into town on April 19, 1775. Join Museum staff for this free gallery tour.

Monday, April 16
10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Patriots’ Day Activities
Celebrate Patriots’ Day with arts and crafts activities exploring life in 1775. While you are here, take the opportunity to view "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty:  Lexington and the American Revolution." $5/family (members); $7/family (non-members).

You'll also find the Lexington Alarm Letter on display in the Museum's lobby.

Revere ladleVisitors will be interested in exploring our exhibition "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection." There, you'll find two objects related to the most famous midnight rider, Paul Revere. One is a wonderfully crafted silver ladle that showcases Revere's great talent as an silversmith. It's no wonder his works were coveted in their day. The other is much more recent - it dates to 2009. It's an ice cream carton. Brigham’s, a local ice cream company, created a special edition flavor called “Paul Revere’s Rocky Ride.” The name was the contest-winning suggestion by a couple from Charlestown, Massachusetts, where Paul Revere began his ride late at night on April 18, 1775. Come see what else you can discover in Curators' Choice.

For more information about visiting the Museum, call 781-861-6559 or see our website,

Photo Credits

Farmer, 2007. Joe Farnham, National Heritage Museum.

Ladle, ca. 1765, Paul Revere, Jr. (1734–1818). Boston, Massachusetts. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2088.

Do You Remember this Stroller?

2005_026_2a-cDI5 This Taylor Tot stroller is a popular feature in the National Heritage Museum's current exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection. Originally made in 1952, this particular stroller was purchased by the donor at an antiques shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1975. She used it to walk her son in 1975 and 1976.

Many visitors, as well as some of our staff, remember their own mothers using similar strollers during the 1950s, 1960s, or earlier. The Frank F. Taylor Company was founded in Norwood, Ohio, in 1921. In 1964, the company relocated to Frankfort, Kentucky, and continued to manufacture strollers in bright colors.

Did you ride in one of these strollers during your childhood? Tell us about it in a comment below!

Taylor Tot Stroller, 1952, Frank F. Taylor Company, Norwood, Ohio, National Heritage Museum, gift of Lilla Stevens Willey, 2005.026.2a-c.


Keep Within Compass, or, A Tempest on a Teapot

Teapot, man, smaller Teapot, woman, smaller






This transfer-printed teapot from the late 1700s is not only charming, it also communicates an important social message. Through slogans and illustrations, it reminds both husbands and wives to abide by a moral code of self-restraint and to “keep within compass.” The prints on each side of the teapot—one featuring a man; the other, a woman—depict the rewards of proper behavior versus the dangers of temptation. A large central image, contained within a compass’s legs (“within compass”), presents an idealized view of the perfect life in the late 1700s.  Around each of these main illustrations, four vignettes provide cautionary tales of the ruin that awaits those who eschew a virtuous life.

In the large vignette on one side, the well-dressed gentleman, bags of money at his feet, is surrounded by bountiful fields, a large mill, and men working on his farm. On the other side, the fashionable lady is similarly surrounded by her elegant home, a trunk of pretty things and her loyal dog. Both sides also feature the proverb, “Keep within compass and you shall be shure to avoid many troubles which others endure,” as well as the brief admonitions, “Fear God. Know thyself. Bridle thy will. Remember thy end.” The vignettes around these central images show dangers that an imprudent person could easily fall into, including ruined reputation, prison, and shipwreck—a metaphor for lost fortune. Biblical sayings—“The end of the upright man is peace” and “The virtuous woman is a crown to her husband,” respectively—appear below each image.

98_007T1 98_007T2 A large percentage of the Museum's collection relates to Freemasonry and other fraternal organizations, so we found the iconography on this teapot familiar. The compass is a central Masonic symbol, representing restraint, but this teapot’s manufacturers may have selected it because its meaning of self-control was familiar to society at the time. The images on this teapot appear to be inspired by, though not directly copied from, a pair of prints made in 1786 by London printmaker Carington Bowles (1724-1793), also in the Museum’s collection, reproduced here. These prints may in turn have been inspired by two series of prints by William Hogarth, “A Harlot’s Progress” (1732) and “A Rake’s Progress” (1735), which depict the downfall of a formerly innocent woman and man through drink and seduction.

In the late 1700s, when this teapot was made, tea-drinking was a socialactivity. According to 1700s French lawyer Méderic Louis Élie Moreau de St. Méry, in America “friends, acquaintances and even strangers are invited” to join the family for tea. How you set your table told your guests something about your financial standing, taste and place in the world. So this teapot not only reminded the family to be honorable people, it also conveyed a message about the family’s moral character to their guests—that they valued—and perhaps aspired to—the morals that the prints' designers highlighted. The Museum’s Public Programs Coordinator, Polly Kienle, selected this teapot to include in the exhibition, "Curators' Choice," which features the staff's favorite objects from the collection. Of this teapot, she said, “I wonder what kind of teatime discussions this pot triggered between the couple who owned it.”


David Drakard, Printed English Pottery: History and Humour in the Reign of George III, 1760-1820 (London: Jonathan Horne Publications), 1992.

Rodris Roth, “Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America: Its Etiquette and Equipage,” United States National Museum Bulletin 255 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution), 1961.

 S. Robert Teitelman, Patrica A. Halfpenny, and Robert W. Fuchs II, Success to America: Creamware for the American Market, featuring the S. Robert Teitelman collection at Winterthur (Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors’ Club), 2010.


“Keep Within Compass” Teapot, 1796–1801. Attributed to Ferrybridge Pottery, Yorkshire, England. Museum purchase, in part through the generosity of Helen G. Deffenbaugh, in memory of George S. Deffenbaugh, 2008.040a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.

 “Keep Within Compass” Prints, 1786. Carington Bowles (1724-1793), London, England. Museum purchase, 98.007a-b.

A Masonic Cash Box

90_3T1 This unusual cash box, which the National Heritage Museum purchased for its collection in 1990, is a favorite with several staff members. So it comes as no surprise that it is currently on view in our exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection.

The inlay work draws the eye around the entire box. On first glance, you may think that it is inlaid with ivory, but it was actually made using sulfur! The preference for this material seems to have been localized to German woodworkers in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, area during the early and mid-1800s. Despite the unpleasant smell of the sulfur, these craftsmen seem to have enjoyed the speed and ease of completing the inlay this way. Initially, the sulfur dried into a yellow color, which has lightened to its current ivory shade over the decades.  Our box is helpfully dated to 1861 (along with the Masonic date of 2395), although it is not signed by its maker.

The box's maker melted the sulfur and poured it into the wooden sections while in a liquid state. Once it hardened, he polished it and, in this case, it was decorated with pen and ink. The delicate illustrations are copied from the sixteenth edition (1851) of The True Masonic Chart, or Hieroglyphic Monitor by Jeremy L. Cross (1783-1861). Cross first published his book, with illustrations engraved by Amos Doolittle (1754-1832), in 1819 after witnessing the “improper classification” of Masonic symbols at degree lectures. Cross soon became America’s leading Masonic lecturer, and his book became a best-selling and influential source of Masonic symbolism. 90_3T2

The box has a tray inside with spaces fitted for coins and bank notes, suggesting that it was used as a cash box by the Treasurer of a Masonic lodge or Royal Arch chapter. Do you know of other examples of household accessories made using sulfur inlay? If so, let us know in a comment below!

Masonic Cash Box, 1861, Pennsylvania, National Heritage Museum Special Acquisitions Fund, 90.3a-b. Photographs by David Bohl.

An Example of Tiffany's Favrile Glass

77_70_10S1 Although this bowl may not be as recognizable as the famed stained-glass Tiffany lamps or windows, it does bear Louis Comfort Tiffany’s (1848-1933) name on the bottom. The soft colors and elegant style of the bowl made it a natural for inclusion in the “beauty and craftsmanship” section of the National Heritage Museum’s current exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection.

The ruffle-edge rim gives the piece a natural feel, which was one of the hallmarks of Tiffany’s work with glass vessels. In the early 1890s, Tiffany developed a method of blending different colors together in a molten state. He initially used this technique when crafting his stained-glass windows, extending it to three-dimensional objects in 1893. Initially, Tiffany christened this glass “fabrile,” from an Old English word meaning “hand-wrought.” By 1894, he changed it slightly to “Favrile” and the name stuck. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is fortunate to have 27 Favrile pieces from Tiffany’s personal collection.

Do you have a favorite Tiffany piece? Let us know in a comment below.

Favrile Bowl, 1909, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), Corona, New York, National Heritage Museum, gift of Dorothy A. Richardson, 77.70.10.

There Is Rest in Heaven

There is rest in heaven print, 86_62_29bDS1 When George Washington died on December 14, 1799, grief at the loss of the first president united many Americans. Although Washington’s funeral was held at Mount Vernon, over the following months, cities and towns throughout the nation staged their own funeral processions and other memorial events. Soon after, works of art—prints, ceramics, and jewelry—told of the new nation’s sorrow at the death of its leader and hero. Although mourning art was popular in Europe and England in the late 1700s, George Washington’s passing precipitated a new market for the genre in the United States.

The National Heritage Museum is fortunate to hold a number of pieces that mark the passing of America’s first president. Many came to us as part of the Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton Collection of more than 600 prints and ephemera related to Washington. This collection demonstrates the way that the memory of George Washington has developed over the past 200 years.

The print seen here, on view in our current exhibition, “Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection,” and through our online catalog, was made around 1801, not long after Washington’s death. It is one of the earliest pieces in the Guyton collection. Typical of mourning art of the time, it features sentimental images of a man and a woman, shedding their tears before a monument that features Washington’s portrait and the inscription, “There Is Rest in Heaven.” In this imaginary garden setting, complete with a weeping willow and other symbolic flowers and trees, the allegorical figure of Hope, symbolized by the anchor at her feet, stands behind the mourners.

There is rest in Heaven plate, 86_62_29cDP1 The Museum holds not only two copies of this diminutive print—the image is less than 3½” in diameter—but also the copper plate they were made from. Engraved by Thomas Clarke in Boston, this print is a smaller version of one that is held by a number of institutions, including Old Sturbridge Village, the Fraunces Tavern Museum, and the Boston Athenaeum. The only other copy of the smaller version that I have located so far is at the American Antiquarian Society, which holds both. The larger version is more obvious about its role as a George Washington memorial piece. It includes an inscription below the image: “SACRED to the MEMORY of the ILLUSTRIOUS G. WASHINGTON.” I found it curious that the two versions are mirror images, except for the bust of George Washington on the obelisk, which faces to the right in both prints. There are other, more subtle differences in the figures, tree, and monument as well. Finally, the larger print sports a more ornate decorative border around the central image.

I am intrigued by the existence of two versions of the print, especially since ours is smaller and slightly simpler than the more common one. Did Thomas Clarke think there was enough of a market for both? Which came first? Was ours drawn from the larger, more complex print, or was it a study done beforehand? Did the inscription exalting George Washington help the larger version sell better?

If you have any information about this engraver or these prints, please leave a comment or get in touch with us.

There Is Rest in Heaven, print (top) and plate (bottom), 1801. Thomas Clarke (active 1797-1801), Boston, Massachusetts. National Heritage Museum Collection, Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton Collection, 86.62.29a-c. Photographs by David Bohl.


Is This a Masonic Painting?

90_14T1 Can you tell what makes this ship painting a “Masonic painting”? Look very closely at the flags it is flying and you’ll be able to make out the square and compasses symbol on the blue one atop the ship’s mizzenmast (third from the left - if you click on the picture, you can see a larger version of the image). One of the most well-known Masonic symbols, the square and compasses signify reason and faith.

The painting depicts the bark Isaac Rich as it entered the port of Leghorn, Italy, in 1876. The artist, Luigi Renault (1845-ca. 1910), was active in Leghorn from 1858 to 1880 and was appointed marine painter to King Victor Emanuel.

Ships might fly a Masonic flag if the owner or the captain were Freemasons. In the case of the Isaac Rich, the ship’s captain, William Bartlett Sheldon (d. 1903), joined New Jersey’s Burlington Lodge No. 32 in 1863. Sheldon served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. While Acting Master of the gunboat steamer U.S.S. Flambeau in South Carolina, he was captured in May 1863, but was exchanged in June 1863 and continued serving until October 1865. See our previous post about the preferential treatment that some Masonic prisoners received during that conflict.

If you would like to see the painting in person, please visit our current exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection.

The Bark Isaac Rich, 1876, Luigi Renault (1845-ca. 1910), Leghorn, Italy, National Heritage Museum collection, Special Acquisitions Fund, 90.14. 

The Adventures of Foxy Grandpa, Freemason. Or Is He?

77_36S1From 1900 to 1918, cartoonist Carl Edward Schultze (1867-1939) drew a popular comic strip about an old man and his young grandsons. Unlike “The Katzenjammer Kids” and other cartoons in which children get the better of their parents and grandparents, Schultze wanted the grandpa to be the smart one. Thus Foxy Grandpa was born. He plays practical jokes on the boys or makes their practical jokes on him backfire.

The comic strip’s popularity led to related products for sale, from toys and postcards to ornaments and doorstops. They also included the doll seen here. Made by Art Fabric Mills Company of New York, the dolls were sold in printed cloth sheets, meant to be cut out, sewn and stuffed. In a December 1904 issue of McCall’s magazine, the dolls were advertised for 25¢. Malted Cereal Company also promoted them. The Museum's doll is now featured in the exhibition "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection."

Carl Schultze signed the cartoons “Bunny”—his childhood nickname—along with a drawing of a rabbit. The doll holds a rabbit, Schultze’s alter-ego, under his arm.

The Museum purchased this doll in 1977 because of the watch fob he wears, which features a square and compasses, a common Masonic symbol. However, no one at the Museum has been able to identify a Masonic connection for the character. We haven't found any evidence that Schultze was a Mason, nor have we seen any references to Masonry in the cartoons.

Foxy_Grandpa_Rides_the_Goat_web Then a few weeks ago, I discovered a book entitled Foxy Grandpa Rides the Goat for sale. As mentioned in an earlier post, some late 19th- and early 20th-century initiation rituals involved gags, such as “pushing a hoodwinked (blindfolded) candidate around a lodge room on a wobbly-wheeled fake mechanical goat,” one of which we have in the Museum's collection. I thought the book’s title might be a reference to Freemasonry, as did my colleagues in the various collections departments, so we purchased the book. And we were disappointed to find only one reference to Freemasonry in the book:

“Come and ride our goat, dear Grandpa,
     We see you’re a mason true,”
Said the boys as they glanced below
     At the mortar on his shoe.

Between the watch fob and the poem, it seems clear that Schultze was familiar with Freemasonry. Membership in Masonic lodges was at a peak in the early 1900s, so even the uninitiated likely learned about the fraternity through friends, colleagues, or family members who were Masons.

Schultze's references to Freemasonry are rather subtle, perhaps noticeable only to those who are looking for them. Especially since we have not been able to identify a lodge that Schultze belonged to, these clues seem like his wry joke, in the same vein as the cartoon itself.

If you know anything about Carl E. Schultze's Masonic membership or activities, please leave a comment on this post.


"Foxy Grandpa" Doll, 1903-1912. Art Fabric Mills Company, New York. National Heritage Museum Collection, 77.36. 

Foxy Grandpa Rides the Goat. (Chicago: M.A. Donohue & Co.), 1908. National Heritage Museum, Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives Collection

Aboriginal Style and Victorian Excess

91_055_55DI1 I love the aesthetic shown by beaded purses like this one, which were made during the late 1800s and early 1900s by members of Native American tribes in upstate New York. The two-tone beading, the rich velvet and silk fabrics and the floral designs make these artifacts recognizable at one glance. So, when selecting objects from the National Heritage Museum collection for our current exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection, I just had to pick one of the Native American-made purses from our collection.

Capitalizing on the Victorian love of decoration, Iroquois women beaded purses, wallets, pincushions and numerous other kinds of “whimsies” to sell to tourists at Niagara Falls and other popular vacation spots. Making and selling souvenir beadwork was a means of cultural as well as economic survival. The beadworkers created a successful mixture of aboriginal style and Victorian excess, allowing them to make a living in an manner deemed “acceptable” by white society, while also manipulating the market to not only accept, but prize, their aesthetic, which retained a sense of ancient beliefs and an independent spirit.

Paper patterns were frequently employed as guides to create the beaded motifs. The beadworker would anchor the pattern to the fabric and apply strings of beads across the surface, filling in the space. Some purses include a beaded fringe around the edge. This was a recognizable “Indian” characteristic for consumers, bringing to mind “traditional” Indian costumes made from animal hide and fringed at the ends.

Purse, 1860-1890, probably New York, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Prescott Richardson Collection, 91.055.55.

There are Masons in Foxholes

Lamp smallerFighting boredom as well as the enemy, soldiers have long passed the time between battles making gifts and souvenirs using available materials and improvised tools. With these objects, these men often sought to remember or mark their extraordinary experiences during their service. A previous post on this blog highlighted a Masonic pendant made by a French prisoner in England between 1793 and 1814, during the Napoleonic Wars. During World War I, however, in part because spent shells and other war-related debris littered the trenches and battlefields, this so-called trench art like this three-armed lamp, which is featured in our new exhibition, "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection," became more common. Despite its name, however, not all of this trench art was made by soldiers on the front lines or in prison camps. Soldiers and civilians who lived through the conflict also purchased commercially produced souvenirs, often after the fighting ended.

According to a brass plate attached to the base of the lamp, Brother Robert T. Woolsey presented it to Union Lodge #31 in New London, Connecticut, on December 25, 1922. The lodge used it to let late-arriving members know which of the three Masonic degrees the lodge was working in, depending on whether one, two, or three of the bulbs were lit. The Museum purchased the lamp from the lodge in 2000.

Born in Appleton, Missouri, in 1893, Robert Woolsey enlisted in the Navy on June 5, 1917, just two months after the United States entered World War I. Following the war, he landed in Connecticut, where he was initiated in Union Lodge on March 22, 1922, and was raised a Master Mason on April 19, 1923, several months after giving the lamp to his lodge. It appears that he made a career of his military service. The 1930 census lists him as a mariner in the navy, living in Vallejo, California, with his wife, Jean, and two small children. By World War II, still in the navy, Woolsey had moved back to New London, Connecticut. He died in November 1944.

Although we made some inquiries, we don’t know if the shell is from naval or land-locked artillery. This information would help us figure out whether Brother Woolsey collected the shell himself or purchased it during or after the war. Neither do we know if he made the lamp himself. He may have bought it ready-made from one of the many vendors in America or Europe who created trench art. Unfortunately, Union Lodge #31 had a fire in 1923, and all previous records were lost. If you have any insights or questions about this object, please leave a comment or e-mail Aimee Newell, Director of Collections at [email protected].

Reference: Jane A. Kimball, Trench Art: An Illustrated History (Davis, CA: Silverpenny Press, 2004).

Photo: Lamp, 1922. France or America. National Heritage Museum purchase, 2000.059.8. Photograph by David Bohl.