Posts by Anne Starr

"We Have Met the Enemy and They Are Ours": Perry's Victory on Lake Erie

Perry, 74_3_2DI1 This print depicts a signal moment in the career of Oliver Hazard Perry (1785–1819), the commander of the U.S. naval fleet on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, a conflict which ended in 1815. On the morning of September 10, 1813, British Naval Commander Robert Barclay fired the first shots of what would become one of the most important naval battles in the war. The confrontation took place on the western end of Lake Erie, near what is now Sandusky, Ohio. You can see a map of its location here. After hours of fighting, Perry abandoned his badly damaged flagship, the USS Lawrence, and took command of a relatively unscathed vessel, the Niagara, from her less-experienced commander, Lieutenant Jesse Elliott. The battle began anew, and the British ships—whose senior officers had been wounded or killed—soon surrendered. Perry informed U.S. General William Henry Harrison (1773–1841) of the victory with the now-famous words, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” This strategic triumph ensured American control of the Great Lakes and secured Perry the name, “The Hero of Lake Erie.”

Although publishers Kurz and Allison did not identify the original painting that inspired this print, two monumental paintings by William Henry Powell (1823–1879) clearly served as a jumping-off point for the engraver. The legislature in Ohio, Powell’s home state, commissioned one in 1857. Completed in 1865, it now hangs in rotunda of the State House. The U.S. Senate's Joint Committee on the Library commissioned the other, larger version in the months after the first painting went on view. It has hung in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol since 1873.

GW Crossing the Delaware, 74_2_13DI1 Like many historic prints, this image reflects the era in which it was made as much as the event it depicts. For example, both Perry’s heroic stance in the boat and the flag behind him recall Emanuel Leutze's iconic 1851 painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware, an image that a far-reaching audience found familiar, thanks to a widely available 1853 print. In addition, although a number of the sailors in Perry’s fleet were African American, Powell may have included the black sailor in his 1857 painting to highlight the issues of slavery and race during the years leading up to the Civil War. Several decades later, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, Kurz and Allison followed suit when making their copy of the image.

You can see both Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie and Washington Crossing the Delaware in the exhibition, “The Art of American History: Prints from the Collection,” now on view in the Museum’s newly renovated lobby area.


Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie, late 1800s. Kurz and Allison (1880–1903), publishers, Chicago, Illinois. Special Acquisitions Fund, 74.3.2.

Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1853. Emanuel Leutze (1816–1868), artist; Paul Girardet (1821–1893), engraver; M. Knoedler (1823–1878), publisher, New York, New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 74.2.13.

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.

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.


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

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.

Chief Two Moon Meridas: Native American Healer or Snake-Oil Salesman?

75_72_1T1 Advertising is one of my favorite primary sources for historical research. Ads can tell you so much about the time in which they were made. They can also tell you about some of the compelling characters who made and sold products.

Not much is known about Chief Two Moon, whose real name was Chico Colon Meridas, before 1914, when he moved east and began selling his patent medicines in New York and Philadelphia. Soon after, he met and married Helen Gertrude Nugent and set up shop in Waterbury, Connecticut. Although his marriage certificate states that he was born in Devil’s Lake, South Dakota, in 1888, historians have not been able to confirm this information. As his product’s name implies, he claimed to be of Native American descent, but this information is also unconfirmed. In fact, his 1933 obituary states that when he died, the Department of the Interior had recently refused to certify him as an Indian. Biographers have suggested that his father, Chico Meridan, was Mexican, but this too is unconfirmed. One thing seems clear, however. He took his pseudonym from his mother’s maiden name, Mary Tumoon.

Chief Two Moon’s popular patent medicines and his practice as a naturopath made him a wealthy man. Sales took off following the 1918 influenza epidemic, when, according to newspaper accounts of the time, none of his patients died. By his death in 1933, “his immense [medical] ‘practice’ was more than mere legend,” according to the New York Times.

A clever salesman, he hawked his products by combining modern advertising practices with Americans’ romantic ideas about Native Americans’ healing powers in the 1920s. As seen in this advertisement, which is featured in our new exhibition, "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection," depictions of his motorized advertising bus—“The Only one of its Kind”—and his 1925 Waterbury, Connecticut, laboratory—implying that he used scientific manufacturing techniques—flank the mystical central image of a contemplative Indian above a powerful waterfall. The word “Health” magically floats between the waterfall and the moon. At the time, a number of patent medicine companies featured Indians in their advertising because the American public believed that Native Americans, especially their medicine men, had knowledge of herbal remedies through a deep connection with the natural world. But Chief Two Moon claimed to be the real deal.

The last few years of Meridas’s life contained both honors and difficulties. The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council named him an honorary chief on August 6, 1930, for his philanthropy, providing cash, food and other supplies for the tribe. However, he was also faced with several lawsuits in New York and Connecticut for practicing medicine and naturopathy without a license. He died on November 3, 1933, of liver failure. His wife continued to sell the Chief Two Moon products long after her husband’s death.


"Chief Two Moon Dies in Waterbury," The New York Times, November 3, 1933.

Tom Fillius, "Chief Two Moon Meridas":

Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, "Indian in a Bottle," unpublished paper, February 2008

The Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center has a number of objects related to Chief Two Moon and his products. Here is one example.


Advertisement, 1925–1933. Parker-Brawner Co., Washington, D.C. Gift of Deborah Hills, 75.72.1. Photograph by David Bohl.


Phony as a $3 Bill

3-dollar bill cropped “Phony as a $3 bill.” Today, this phrase conjures up images of smarmy swindlers selling counterfeit merchandise. So I was surprised to learn that legitimate $3 bills, like the one seen here, once existed. So did bills in a variety of denominations that might seem strange to us today, from 1/2¢ on up.

In the early 1800s, the newly formed United States made several attempts to nationalize banking. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton convinced Congress to create the First Bank of the United States in 1791. Its charter expired in 1811. To control inflation and pay debt from the War of 1812, Congress established the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. President Andrew Jackson vetoed its recharter in 1836, letting loose a banking free-for-all.

From 1836 to 1866, no Federal laws regulated banks. Each state chartered its own financial institutions, and each bank issued its own currency. According to one source, over 30,000 different bank notes were created during this 30-year time period. Not always backed by gold or silver and often easy to counterfeit, many of this wide variety of bills could prove worthless—or, as we say might today, phony as a $3 bill.

The U.S. government reestablished control of the banking system to finance the Civil War. In 1861, it began issuing bank notes. Then the National Bank Act of 1863 created a national banking system and uniform national currency, printed by private companies under contract to the U.S. government.  In 1865, the government levied a 10 percent tax on state bank notes, rendering them unprofitable for the banks to issue, thus ending what is now known as the free banking era. Since 1877, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has been responsible for printing all U.S. currency, and it hasn’t printed any $3 bills. But you can see this one at the National Heritage Museum, on view in “Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection.”
Reference: Gene Hessler, The Comprehensive Catalog of U.S. Paper Money, 4/e (Port Clinton, OH: BNR Press), 1983.

Photo: Bank Note, 1800–1860. The Merchants and Planters Bank, Georgia; Bald, Cousland and Co., Philadelphia; Baldwin, Bald and Cousland, New York. Gift of Clinton E. Brooks, 78.17.1.


Travel to Treasured Lands

For the past twenty-five years, I have been privileged to travel, trek, and climb in some of the most remote and beautiful corners of the earth. My goal has always been to bring back the wonders I’ve seen to people who can’t get there.
 --Quang-Tuan Luong

The Museum’s new exhibition, “Treasured Lands: The Fifty-Eight National Parks in Focus” features breathtaking large-format photographs taken by computer scientist-turned-photographer Quang-Tuan Luong. “Treasured Lands” offers the perspective of a world traveler whose personal commitment to preserving America’s beauty and natural resources shows in his work. By capturing the distinguishing features of each national park, Luong shares his understanding of what makes each place unique.

Luong’s experiences in traveling to all 58 national parks, as described in the exhibitions text, are also unique. He kayaked through iceberg-laden waters, canoed down wild rivers, scuba-dived tropical seas, climbed to the summit of Mt. McKinley, and frequently trekked the trailless terrain of the backcountry, all while lugging his 75-pound large format camera, photo gear, and camping equipment.

Gates of the Arctic, gaar21072.large When reviewing the text before the exhibition was installed, I looked on the National Park Service’s web site for additional information about some of the parks. I was struck by how remote many of them are. Only an experienced backpacker and outdoorsperson would be able to visit Gates of the Arctic National Park, for example, since it has no roads and is only accessible by floatplane. Much of the information provided on the NPS’s “Things To Know Before You Come” link have to do with wilderness survival and bear safety. Not a vacation that will appeal to everyone! Although I love visiting national parks, I prefer a hotel bed to a sleeping bag. I knew I would never visit this park in person, and welcomed the opportunity to see it through Luong’s photograph.

For a trip to a wide variety of landscapes that you might not otherwise see—from the rugged glaciers and mountains to lush, tropical islands and everything in between—visit “Treasured Lands,” on view through October 20, 2010. Mr. Luong will speak at the Museum about his experiences as an adventurous photographer of the national parks on March 14, 2010, at 2 PM as part of our Lowell Lecture Series. 

Photo: The Maidens, Gates of the Arctic National Park, August 2000. Alaska. © Quang-Tuan Luong

Tippecanoe and Log Cabins, Too!

Hard Cider and Log Cabine Almanac 1841 This Hard Cider and Log Cabin Almanac, from the Van Gorden-Williams Library’s collection, is an enlightening 24 pages of political memorabilia. Like other almanacs of the time, it contains valuable astronomical information for farmers and others. However, interleaved with charts of sunrises and sunsets, phases of the moon, and high tides, are illustrations and articles supporting William Henry Harrison’s 1840 presidential campaign.

Historians often view the 1840 election as the first modern campaign, in which the parties began promoting their candidates nationally, using events and advertising to create their nominee’s image and push their agenda. The Whig Party backed William Henry Harrison, the 68-year-old former governor of the Indiana Territory and hero from the War of 1812.

This almanac’s title comes from Harrison’s campaign symbol, the log cabin. It appeared on ribbons, medals, banners, brooches, buttons, prints, plates, needle cases, snuff boxes, and many other items. Some Harrison supporters even built log cabins to house their campaign rallies. Ironically, the Whigs adapted the image from an insult by Harrison’s Democratic opponents, who said he would prefer retirement in his log cabin, drinking hard cider, to being president. His campaign co-opted the log cabin idea to make Harrison—born to an elite Virginia family—seem more like a man of the people.

Touting Harrison’s accomplishments as a general and referring to him as “the Washington of the West,” the almanac features engraved illustrations of his treaty negotiations with Shawnee leader Tecumseh, as well as the battle against the Native American uprising at Tippecanoe. There Harrison earned his nickname “Old Tip,” which later led to his (other) campaign slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Illustrations of his War of 1812 victories at Fort Meigs and the Thames are also presented.

The almanac came to the National Heritage Museum bound into a newspaper, the Auburn Daily News and Log Cabin Herald, from Auburn, New York, dated June 17, 1840. The newspaper, like the almanac, includes articles endorsing Harrison and ads for rallies in his honor. It also denounces his opponent, incumbent Martin Van Buren, for “having brought the government to the state of bankruptcy” and “pocketing the people’s money until there was no more to filch.”

In the election, Harrison narrowly won the popular vote, but the tally translated into a landslide in the Electoral College. His presidency, however, is infamous for its brevity. His inaugural address, the longest on record, clocked in at 8,445 words and nearly two hours. After standing in a cold wind without a coat, hat or gloves during the ceremony, Harrison caught pneumonia. He died on April 4, 1841, after only 32 days in office. 

Photo: Hard Cider and Log Cabin Almanac for 1841: Harrison and Tyler. Washington City: Sold wholesale and retail by John Kenedy, 1841. Call number: RARE AY 81 .P7 H3, Gift of Doris Hudson May

Remembering Bertha Hills' Wedding

77_8_22 Wedding dress S cropped The National Heritage Museum collects objects that help its staff tell America’s story, which in turn, helps our visitors understand the lives of people in the past. Sometimes we are lucky enough to receive an object with its complete history, but more often, we receive bits of information and need to fill in the blanks. This was true of the wedding dress recently featured in the exhibition “Remember Me: Highlights from the National Heritage Museum.”

A favorite with visitors, as evidenced by the number of times it was drawn or described on the comment cards in the gallery, the wedding dress came with a donation of objects from its original owner’s family. With it came a note saying that it was Bertha Hills’ wedding dress, made of “India mull” —a soft, delicate, white, imported fabric—and that it had been dry-cleaned in 1964. The note also included the prices for some of the wedding expenses, taken from Bertha’s father, Thomas Hills’, account book:

Dress maker: $92.50
Caterer—wedding supper:  $110.20
Florist—decorations: $29.50
Gift to groom for railroad tickets: $50.00
For bride—a trunk: $10.00

This note gave us a lot of information about Bertha’s wedding. The one thing it didn’t tell us, however, was who Bertha married. Other items in this gift offered some clues. A silk bag contained a note saying, “Ribbon- held by cousins of the bride - (Bertha Hills) to form an 'aisle' as she came down the stairs and into the parlor of her father's (Thomas Hills) home (at 157 K St) South Boston to marry Harold Hershall [?] on Sept 11 1893.”

A little research helped round out the story. The September 21, 1910, obituary for Bertha’s father stated that Mr. Hills, Boston’s City Assessor, was survived by two children, Joseph Lawrence Hills and Bertha Marshall, wife of Rev. Harold Marshall of Melrose. We now had a married name for Bertha, well as her husband’s name and occupation, and a town they likely lived in. Census records told us that Bertha Hills was born in 1868, and that Bertha and Harold had a daughter Elisabeth, born in 1901. By delving into the historic records, we could imagine the wedding and married life of Miss Bertha Hills.

Wedding Dress, 1893. National Heritage Museum, Gift of Alden M. Perkins, 77.8.22a-f. Photo by David Bohl.