New to the Collection: A Miniature Chair in a Bottle

Miniature Chair in Bottle, 1924, George Barnhart (b. 1851), Liberty, Missouri, Museum purchase, 2015.044. Photograph by David Bohl.

Recently, this small chair inside a bottle caught our eye because it is inscribed on the legs, "Liberty / Odd F. Home / FLT / IOOF / G.G. Barnhart 1924."  We were charmed to add it to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.  I am pleased to share what I've learned about it so far, but I hope that readers will help us to learn even more about it.

The bottle is only 4 1/2 inches high and 1 3/8 inches square, just to give you a sense of its diminutive size.  Crafting small items like this and placing them in bottles was a popular pastime during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Perhaps the most well-known example is the ship in a bottle.  However, chairs were not unusual.  There are several known examples that show a strikingly similar style to this one and most are inscribed with Odd Fellows initials, or "Odd Fellows Home."  Several also have inscriptions suggesting that they originated in Liberty, Missouri, like ours.

The Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, Missouri, was one of many institutions erected and run by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternity across the United States.  Odd Fellows members are encouraged to visit the sick, educate the orphan and bury the dead, so homes like this, which offered lodging and care for orphans, the elderly and the destitute, fit well with the tenets of the organization.

The first home in this location burned down in 1900 and was subsequently rebuilt.  The "School Building" was erected in 1904; the "Old Folks Building," originally known as the "Old Folks Pavilion," was built in 1907 and 1908; and the hospital went up in 1923.  Given the inscriptions on this chair, it seems likely that it was made by a resident at the Home in 1924.  Further research suggests that the "G.G. Barnhart" named on the chair was George G. Barnhart, born in Missouri in 1853.  According to the 1920 United States Census, he was living at the "Odd Fellows Home" in Liberty, Missouri.

Have you seen other chairs in a bottle like this?  Do they have a connection to the Odd Fellows Home in Missouri?  Do you know anything about George Barnhart's life?  If so, please write a comment below!


Raise a glass to the season! Happy Holidays from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

Happy Holidays from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library!  At this celebratory time of year, thoughts turn to festive beverages of all types.  The next time you visit the Museum, you may want to take a look at some of the special vessels we have on display in “Prized Relics:  Historic Souvenirs from the Collection.”

Covered CupMany years ago this wooden cup (pictured at left) held festive beverages made with alcohol, sugar and spices mixed to share on special occasions.  Originally, this vessel likely had a bowl adorning the handle on the middle of the lid, as well as small cups—made from the same material as the large cup—arranged on small pegs set into the lid.  You can see a similar example here.  Celebrants filled their small individual cups from the large shared standing cup.  Although quite stylish in its day, this type of wooden vessel eventually fell out of fashion. Even when it was out of date, worn and missing pieces, this cup was saved. The cup’s association with Pieter von Stoutenburg (1613-1689/9), a prominent resident of New Amsterdam, likely contributed to its preservation.

Members of Grecian Lodge of Lawrence, Massachusetts, made this blue and white punch bowl (pictured at right) part Grecian Lodge punch bowlof their ceremonial occasions from the 1890s into the twentieth century.  Age and damage eventually rendered the bowl too fragile to be used, but it was preserved at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts as a tangible part of Grecian Lodge’s history. 

A member of Saint Paul Lodge in Groton, Massachusetts, John Walton (1770-1862) of Pepperell, Massachusetts, gave this huge decorated pitcher (pictured below) to his lodge (a staff favorite, you can read more about it here). A lodge history suggested that members may have used the pitcher to fuel toasts “that Records tell us were frequently drank.”  Decades later, Walton’s gift served as a striking table decoration at special events. In the 1850s, the elderly Walton attended selected lodge ceremonies, where his brothers feted him as an original member and living link to the lodge’s founding in the late 1700s.  Walton also presented the silver ladles displayed in the same case to Saint Paul Lodge. Unlike the pitcher, which Walton purchased new, these ladles—old-fashioned in style by the time Walton presented them—may have belonged to Walton before he gave them to his lodge. Crafted by well-known Mason and  Walton pitcher and ladles in gallerysilversmith Paul Revere (1734-1818) and connected to the lodge’s early history, the lodge valued these ladles as “unique and notable” treasures in later years.   

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, we wish you all the best from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Photo credits: 

All pictured in “Prized Relics:  Historic Souvenirs from the Collection.”

Covered Cup, 1600s.  Possibly Netherlands.  Gift of Mr. Lawrence B. Hunt, 77.73a-b.

Punch Bowl, 1893-ca. 1900. Maddocks Lamberton Works (1893-1924), Trenton, New Jersey. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.7703.

Pitcher, 1802.  Wedgwood, Staffordshire, England.  Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.10165.

Ladles, 1760-1780. Paul Revere (1734-1818), Boston, Massachusetts.  Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.1869 and 2088.


New to the Collection: Odd Fellows Gavel

 2014_036DP2DBBy 1900, over 250 fraternal groups existed in the United States numbering six million members.  To fully understand and appreciate Freemasonry in America, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collects objects and documents associated with all types of fraternal organizations.  Many of these groups were inspired by Freemasonry and adopted similar structures and rituals.  We recently acquired this carved gavel with the three-link chain symbol of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  The gavel represents fifty years of American history.  An inscription on the head of the gavel reads “Presented to Grant Lodge No. 335 by H.W. Swank Lookout Mtn. April 29, 1914.”

In November 1863, Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, was the site of the Civil War’s “battle above the clouds.”  Under the leadership of General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), the Union Army was able to attack the Confederate troops who occupied the mountain and drive them away.  The following day the Union forces continued to Missionary Ridge and broke the Confederate lines around Chattanooga.  Unfortunately, H.W. Swank’s connection to Lookout Mountain is unknown.  Was he one of the soldiers that fought in that battle?  Did he have a relative that fought there?  Did he just enjoy the natural beauty of the site?  The mountain continued to be a tourist destination, as shown in this cabinet card from the Museum’s collection.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Americans began to visit Civil War sites as they healed from the war and remembered those who were lost there. 85_80_29DS2

Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch of the Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861).  The group took several cues from Freemasonry – they share some symbols, as well as the three-degree structure for initiation, although the specific rituals are different.  Presumably, Swank was a member of Grant Lodge No. 335, which was located in Redkey, Indiana, a town about halfway between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.  Thirteen members instituted Grant Lodge No. 335 in Redkey in September 1869.  According to a 1922 local history, Oddfellowship “prospered in Jay county [where Redkey was located] and…several lodges are reported to be doing well.”

The gavel is currently [September 2014] on view in our lobby as part of a changing display of recent acquisitions.  Consider coming by to see it – or leave us a comment below about whether you have been to Lookout Mountain!

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Gavel, 1914, Tennessee, Museum purchase, 2014.036.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Unidentified Group at Lookout Mountain, 1870-1920, J.B. Linn, Tennessee, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 85.80.29.

Eliakim Libby's Hook and Eye

Libby Hook and Eye 75_35DI3 for blogAs noted in a previous post, getting ready for the exhibition “Prized Relics:  Historic Souvenirs from the Collection,” opening  June 14, 2014, at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, has afforded staff a great chance to learn more about some of the lesser-known objects in the Museum’s collection. Among the group is this small hook and eye owned by Eliakim Libby (1745-1836). This humble fastening gives us a glimpse of the ordinary people who fought in the Revolutionary War and deserves a close look.

When this hook and eye was donated to the Museum, it had been sewn to a card (as you can see to the left). The message on the card helps explain why the hook and eye eventually made its way to the collection:  “This hook and eye w[as] worn on an army cloa[k] in the Revolution.” Underneath this statement is an inked name, Eliakim L[i]bby. Histories and pension records document Eliakim Libby’s service in the Massachusetts Militia. Libby, from Scarborough, Maine, joined in May 1775, as a sergeant. During his eight months of service near Boston he dug trenches and kept guard at Lechmere Point. 

Like most relics, this object and its accompanying information raise some questions. One was inspired by the card the hook and eye is attached to—a business card for John P. Moulton (1849-1909), carpenter and contractor of Saco, Maine. From the design and paper, it appears to date from the late 1800s or early 1900s. Saco area buisness directories list Moulton from 1890 through 1904. Since Moulton’s and Libby’s lives did not overlap, Libby could not have signed Moulton’s business card. As well, the name written on the card does not resemble Libby’s witnessed signature on his 1832 pension application.     Letter from Eliakim Libby Nov 26 1775 front smaller

Adding interest to the story, two letters (one of them is pictured to the right, both are in the Museum’s collection) that Libby wrote to his wife, Mehitable Cummings Libby (1746-1822) bear the same distinctively written and inked name--Eliakim L[i]bby--as the hook and eye’s card. Although we don’t know who, it appears that someone--possibly one of Libby’s descendants--added Libby’s name to the letters and to the card. Perhaps prompted by a desire to underscore the antiquity of the objects associated with Libby or to emphasize their connection to Libby, the person who added the name scripted it in an approximation of an old-fashioned style. Does this addition detract from the letters and the hook and eye?  A purist might argue that the signatures, appended to the letters more than one hundred years after they were written, take away from the object.  On the other hand, linking the letters and hook and eye with Libby may have contributed to their long-term preservation.

Regardless of what you think about the added signatures, the letters are evocative. In one Libby speaks of prosaic matters like how much money he plans to send home and his health, noting, “I have had a Bad Cold But am Better.” He also writes about missing home, saying, “my de[a]r wif[e] I Long to Sey you and my De[a]r Child,” and touchingly concludes as, “you[r] Loving husband and Loving fri[e]nd til…de[a]th.”  These letters, and the hook and eye saved with them, hint at the human concerns that Libby and others like him experienced while serving far from home during the Revolutionary War.  


Hook and Eye, 1770s. New England. Gift of John H. Barthelmes, Jr., 75.35.

Letter from Eliakim Libby, November 26, 1775. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Gift of John H. Barthelmes, Jr., A75/009/1.