Archive for February, 2012

Photo of the Week

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Abbot Academy was founded in 1829 by Sarah Abbot. This was the first completely female school in the country. Ms. Abbot gave all of her widow’s money to the school’s committee, mostly powerful men in Andover, and named the school after her for her generosity.

Abbot had a shaky start. The school had 6 headmasters in its first 15 years. But the school entered a golden age under Philena and Phebe McKeen in the 1950’s. The McKeen sisters expanded the campus and improved the academics. The curriculum matched or surpassed that of Phillips Academy, especially in modern languages.

Abbot Academy pushed the students into the Andover community. Many of the women attended town meetings and heard lectures at the Theological Seminary. The thoughtful and powerful women, including the first 70 graduates, launched themselves into the community.

In 1973, Abbot Academy merged with Phillips Academy. Though today many don’t know that Abbot even existed, that part of campus remains large and beautiful. The Abbot Academy Association honors the old academy by funding many of the projects within the Andover bubble. Last year, my hockey captain even got a grant to get speakers in our locker room at the ice rink. Thanks, Abbot!

Andover Stories saves the day again: http://www.andovertownsman.com/local/x1498155410/Andover-Stories-Abbot-Academy-a-leader-in-its-own-right-for-150-years

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Exhibit Highlight: The Smoking Cap of the Lord Mayor of London

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
In 1911, an elderly widow named Winifred Tyer lived on the outskirts of town on Spring Grove Road in Andover.  Her wealthy husband, Henry George Tyer, had died nearly thirty years before, yet she still corresponded on stationery under the heading:
Mrs. Henry G. Tyer
100 Spring Grove Road
Andover, Massachusetts 01810
Winifred’s beloved son, Horace, had passed away in 1907.  Mrs. Tyer was left with a rather extensive collection from her husband’s colorful past, and that she still remembered him proudly and fondly is to be expected.  In 1911 she donated much of the collection to the newly-formed Andover Historical Society.  One of those items is displayed in the current exhibit, Common Indecency.
The object is a Turkish-style fez made of deep purple velvet, also called a smoking cap.  It originally belonged to Henry George Tyer’s uncle, Sir John Musgrove.  Musgrove made his fortune in real estate, and by 1850, he was in the booming textile business.  In November of that year, Musgrove was elected Lord Mayor of London, a post discrete from the position of Mayor of London, and largely a ceremonial title.  On May 1st of the following year, John Musgrove, along with the rest of London, attended the opening of the Great Exhibition at the recently constructed Crystal Palace.  Queen Victoria herself opened the festivities under a great canopy of royal purple trimmed with silver before countless spectators.  The intention of this exhibition was to create “an occasion which might be celebrated by the whole human race without one pang of regret, envy, or national hate.”(London Times, 2 May 1851)  As was customary for an elected Lord Mayor of London, Musgrove was, upon leaving his position in 1851, granted a knighthood.
Henry George Tyer was born in Hackney, London, a neighborhood populated by middle class merchants.  He emigrated to New Brunswick, New Jersey, and started a business in rubber.  Throughout the 1840s and 50s, Tyer was granted no less than six U.S. patents for his novel rubber weaving techniques, and in 1856, he established the Tyer Rubber Manufacturing Company in Ballardvale, and soon afterward he opened a shop in Andover.  His biggest seller was, unsurprisingly for New England, a “Compo” shoe guaranteed to keep out melting snow.  Tyer became big enough in the business that he even found himself peripherally involved in legal action against the more famous Charles Goodyear over patents.
In 1881, when his uncle John Musgrove died with no heirs, Henry Tyer inherited his estate, as the oldest living male relative.  Amongst the vast amounts of money and real estate, Tyer inherited some personal effects, including the fez.  Before Musgrove’s estate could be entirely settled, however, Henry George Tyer himself passed away, leaving Winifred to inherit everything.
In 1988, possibly because of the hat’s festive look, it was put on display for a Christmas exhibit.  Little was known about the piece at that time; it was dated to circa 1880s – probably because this was when Musgrove and Tyer both died.  In 2004 the fez was reexamined by the Andover Historical Society.  It was found to contain “some small bugs and frass in [the] brim…bugs looked old and long dead.”  It is beyond question that in the late nineteenth century, smoking caps were considered very stylish in England, particularly among “aesthetes” like Oscar Wilde who frequented opium parlors.  However, the fez currently on display must date to before 1881.  The fact that it has such an unusual provenance strongly suggests it was either made for or purchased from the 1851 Great Exhibition.  Often, the simple fact that a particular object has been preserved rather than thrown away makes an argument for its past.
Consider this painting of Victoria opening the ceremony.  In the foreground are some officers dressed in purple coats, and wearing hats in much the same style as the one on display.  Could one of these attendants depict the Lord Mayor himself, standing at a respectable distance from her majesty?
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crystal_Palace_-_Queen_Victoria_opens_the_Great_Exhibition.jpg
It is entirely possible that the fez was made or purchased later as a novelty by the Musgroves.  But the other possibilities are very intriguing indeed.
James Miele, AHS Staff
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Visit us next Week!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Learn, Engage, and Participate as an Education Volunteer for Andover at Work in the 1820s.   Throughout May and June, students from over 25 classes will visit the Andover Historical Society and we are looking for people with an interest in local history who enjoy working with children to join us as part of our school program Andover at Work in the 1820s.

This two hour interactive and interpretive program provides and enriching opportunity for children and adults to learn about the history of Andover.  Visit the Andover Historical next week, February 28 or March 7 between 10:00-11:00 a.m. for an informational session about participating in Andover at Work in the 1820s.  Speak to long-time volunteers and see program demonstrations.  If you would like to learn more about volunteering at the Andover Historical Society, contact Museum Educator, Debbie DeSmet at 978-475-2236 or email ddesmet@andoverhistorical.org

Photography by Gretchen Chingris
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Exhibit Highlight: Crazy Quilt

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

In the main room of the Common Indecency exhibit is a stunning yet often overlooked object, the quilt covering the bed. This particular object is not only a historical artifact, but also a work of art. Its swirling shapes and intricate needle work suggest that the women who made it were artists, not simply making the quilt to keep them warm at night. The quilt is made of polychrome silk and velvet, with sturdy silk thread tying together the haphazard shapes and colors of the quilt. It is roughly 164 square centimeters, and is made using a “Japanese Fan” pattern of chunky circles and bright colors.

Object 1911.0648.1P

This type of quilt was made in the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s, and is known as a “Crazy Quilt.” Many American women were caught up in this raging fad, and all the popular women’s magazines of the time offered new patterns and tips as to making your very own Crazy Quilt. Crazy Quilts were originally intended for only wealthy people, made with fancy silk and expensive velvet, but the fad soon caught everyone, and the quilts were made of all sorts of different and less expensive materials. Crazy Quilts were meant to be creative and different from the highly organized quilts made before. Women loved the idea of cutting up asymmetrical shapes and putting them together to form abstract shapes and quilts. Although these particular styles of quilts may look haphazard, the makers always planned out the quilt in advance, and sometimes tried many ways before landing the right one.

The Crazy Quilt was just another way for women to show off their prowess, but this time it was in sewing and their brilliant needle skills. There was a great variety in Crazy Quilts, as each woman wanted to bring their own special skills to the quilt. Women used intricate stitches to hold the pieces together, and sometimes embroidered small motifs or names onto the quilts that they made. Stitches had interesting and mystifying names like herringbone, feather, and chain.

The quilt on display now was made by Caroline Perkins Blunt Kimball and her mother, Jane Blunt, sometime in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Jane lived from 1862-1927. There is a very old Blunt family history in Andover, though it is not certainly Jane and Caroline’s family. If they had, in fact, been part of the original Blunt family of Andover, then their family name goes quite a long way back. The first Blunt in Andover was William Blunt, who moved to Andover from England in 1634, and had many descendants in Andover, one of which could be the women who made the quilt. William Blunt, also known as William Blount, was part of an archaic English and European family, who was descended from royalty.

The Blount family in Europe was descended from Emperor Charlemange, and included royalty like Emperor Louis the First, King Harold of Denmark, Alfred the Great, who was the first king of England, and many other Lords, Barons, and Counts of Europe. If they ladies who made the quilt were descended from the Blounts, then that quilt is very special indeed. The Blount/Blunt family was famous both in Europe and in America, when they later moved to New England headed by William Blunt. Sir Walter Blount in England was killed in the famous Battle of Shrewsbury, and made immortal in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1. Another Blunt, Captain Jonathan Blunt of Portsmouth, was the navigator standing in front of the boat in the well known painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

All in all, the quilt made by Jane and Caroline is almost as rich and vibrant as the history of the Blunt family from which they may have been descended. If only each polka dotted or richly embroidered section could speak, and tell us the unknown and mysterious stories of a family as old and interesting as the Blunts.

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Photo of the Week

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

This is Warren Fales Draper, an townie who changed the Andover Schools forever. Draper was born in Dedham in 1818 and attended Phillips Academy. After high school he went to Amherst College in 1847, and upon graduating he began his dream of studying at the Andover Seminary. After one year, however, Draper had to change career paths due to his failing health.

Draper entered the bookselling business in 1849, and from there he started printing books in Andover. In 1850, he published the Bibliotheca Sacra, and later, Littell’s Living Age.

His wife, Irene Rowley Draper, attended Abbot Academy (more on Abbot next week) at the same time he attended Phillips. They wed in 1848.

Draper could be considered a typical New England Christian: frugal, loving, energetic, and charitable. He strongly believed in education, and donated to many of the schools in town. He granted a scholarship to the seminary and the Draper Prize Speaking for forty years at PA. He also gave Phillips Draper Cottage, a dorm that is still used today. Draper was also the treasurer at Abbot Academy for 25 years, and gave many funds, including money to the McKeen Memorial building and Draper Hall. Draper even supported public schools by giving $1000 to Punchard Free School (see last week’s post for more on this school).

Draper was a simple man. He did not splurge on any luxuries, but instead invested in the town he cared about. A newspaper reported about Draper on his death and said, “He loved Andover and all of its institutions. Her hills were his pride and her forests his joy.”

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Participate…In Andover at Work in the 1820s

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Would you like to Participate as an education volunteer for the Andover Historical Society’s school program Andover at Work in the 1820s?

Without children, Andover at Work in the 1820s would not be possible, but without a crew of dedicated education volunteers, Andover at Work in the 1820s would not be a cornerstone program of the Andover Historical Society and a significant educational resource in Andover.  Participating in Andover at Work in the 1820s is fun and offers a variety of benefits, one of which is an opportunity to continue learning.  Andover at Work mentors and the Andover Historical Society Museum Educator offer training for new volunteers on relating more than 360 years of local history to students.  As an education volunteer, you can step back in time and lead hands-on activities as well as fulfill a role as an educational leader in the community.

Andover at Work volunteers participate in the program eight to ten mornings throughout April, May, and June.  With over twenty-five visiting classes, and over eighty opportunities to participate, Andover at Work in the 1820s is a flexible volunteer opportunity for people who enjoy working with children and have an interest in local history.  Join us as part of our school program Andover at Work in the 1820s and support Andover community history for generations to come.

The Andover Historical Society will be hosting two informational sessions to learn more about participating in Andover at Work in the 1820s visit 97 Main Street on February 28 and March 7 from 10-11 a.m.  If you would like to learn more contact Museum Educator, Debbie DeSmet, at 978-475-2236 or email ddesmet@andoverhistorical.org

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Exhibit Highlight: Toilet Paper

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Known to hikers as mountain money, one of its least offensive nicknames, toilet paper is a very important, if not crucial, part of everyday life. Today there are grocery store aisles full of it, advertisements all over television, and so many brands it makes your head spin. One hundred years ago, toilet paper was not nearly as famous as it is today. In fact, it was practically a curse, a whispered word never to be mentioned out loud.

 

The Historical Society has a package of toilet paper in its exhibit Common Indecency on display now, and it is a great way to learn about sanitation in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. The package of toilet paper is not opened, and it is from a time when toilet paper was not sold on rolls, but as sheets in packages. The toilet tissues are folded in a paper wrapper with a red printed label on the front, and it is covered in clear cellophane.

 

Object 1987.482.1

On the front is this message:

SANITARY TOILET PAPER

PURE TISSUE, VELVET FINISH

On the back it reads:

This package contains 1000 sheets full size 5 by 7, of the finest quality Bleached Jute Tissue. We know of nother better at any price. The name “SANITARY” in constant use since 1887 is Registered for Your Protection. 

The first packs of toilet paper were sold in 1857, and it was not until 1890 that toilet paper was first sold on a roll. Even then, it took some time for the roll to become popular. The particular package on display at the Historical Society was sold sometime between 1887 and 1900. As I mentioned earlier, toilet paper was tabooed in the time when this particular pack was made, and people were careful not to mention it in company, as it was considered “unmentionable.”

Even companies hesitated and took steps not to have their name on a product. Toilet paper and other sanitary items were sold through private labelers and drug stores, and there was rarely company information on the packages. The package on display now is from Sunset Mills, but that is the only information we get regarding the manufacturer.

At the turn of the century, sanitation was going through a bit of a reform. Indoor plumbing was introduced for the wealthy, and the country was changing its views on sanitation. We went from a filthy and disease ridden 19th century to a cleaner 1900’s with indoor plumbing and toilet paper.

The toilet paper was donated to the Historical Society by F. Tyler Carleton, who lived from January 1904 to August 1968. He lived in Andover his entire life, graduated from Northeastern Engineering School in Boston, and was a president of the Andover Historical Society.

So now there is a whole article on toilet paper, the cursed and “unmentionable” bathroom necessity. On the bright side, there is now something for you to think about when you next use the restroom.

 

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Photo of the Week

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Before any other schools existed, there stood Punchard High School. Benjamin Hanover Punchard donated a large sum of money to have a free school built. The Punchard Free School was finished in 1856. The first class, seven students, graduated three years later.

In 1868, the building burnt down, and students had to relocate to the Town Hall for four years. The school was renamed Punchard High School in 1902. Thirty years later, East Junior High was added to the building when renovations were made to the high school. Punchard was jewel of Andover, with new laboratories, a cafeteria, gym, and auditorium.

Due to an increase in children after WWII, in the fifties and sixties Andover built six new schools, including Bancroft Elementary and West Middle Schools. All this building, however, marked the end of Punchard High School. A new school, renamed Andover High School, was built in the spot where West Middle School is now. Punchard was ceded by East Junior High, now called Doherty Middle School. In 1968, Andover High was moved to it’s current location.

Today the old Punchard is home to the senior center, town offices, and Doherty Middle.

Check out the full history here:  http://www.andovertownsman.com/local/x930494980/Andover-Stories-Punchard-High-School-the-Heart-of-Andover

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Engage…Students in Learning Activities

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Education volunteers for the Andover Historical Society’s annual school program Andover at Work in the 1820s engage students in a variety of learning activities that inspire interest and leave a lasting impact on their knowledge of local history.

Each year a group of dedicated volunteers take visiting classes to five stations throughout the Historical Society.  Students visit the house and practice their best manners in the formal parlor, find and trade eggs in the barn and general store, printing use a historic printing press, take part in a bucket brigade as part of the Friendly Fire Fighting Society, and grind spices to make bagged carrot pudding in the kitchen.  Each station includes a guided hands-on activity.   Andover at Work in the 1820s  has been an educational fieldtrip for over 30 years following both town and state curriculum standards.

After students have visited the Historical Society they are asked to fill out an evaluation letting us know what they think of the program.  Many draw pictures of their favorite volunteer who guided them throughout the house.

The Bucket Brigade

We are looking for volunteers to join us this spring to engage children in the school program Andover at Work the 1820s.   If you would like to learn more, join us for an informational session held at the Andover Historical Society on February 28 and March 7 from 10-11 a.m.  If you would like to learn more, contact Museum Educator, Debbie DeSmet at 978-475-2236 or email ddesmet@andoverhistorical.org

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Object Highlight: Brush and Mirror Set

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Our next exhibit highlight from Common Indecency is one of those things that most people take for granted. When you wake up in the morning, get dressed, and brush your teeth, you don’t usually spend time contemplating your hairbrush or staring in the mirror, admiring not yourself, but the high quality of the glass. Brushes and combs were more important in earlier times, because good grooming was essential to maintaining your status and your personal items were just another way to show off your wealth.

Object 1956.036.1

On display now is a beautiful brush and mirror set, containing a small brush with thick soft bristles, a larger brush with strong, firm bristles, and a hand held mirror. The three pieces obviously match, and are set in authentic tortoise shell, which shows that the family originally owning them must have been well off. The small brush has an intricate vine motif on the back, and all three pieces are in excellent condition. The set was donated to the Historical Society by Susanne Smith Purdon in June of 1956.

Susanne was a wonderful woman who cared about and cherished the past, and it was her who donated the money to create the archives and the research library of the Andover Historical Society. Her generous donations have fueled the Historical Society in its quest of unearthing the past, and we thank her for it. She lived from 1882-1974.

Susanne Smith Purdon was part of a large and incredibly interesting family, one who has been in Andover for quite a long time. Susanne’s grandfather was Peter Smith, one of the most intriguing settlers to come to Andover in the early 1800’s. He and his brother John came to the United States in 1825 from Brechin Scotland. Peter was a business man and philanthropist, as well as a deacon of West Parish Church for part of his life. He started the first flax mill in the United States in Andover, known as the Dove & Smith Company. Later in life, Peter wrote an autobiography entitled Memorials of Peter Smith, which included his move to Andover and his life there. Peter lived from 1802-1880.

Object 1911.0417.1P 
Smith Family Photo, taken circa 1851

In fact, the Historical Society has a picture of the Smith Family of Andover, with Peter Smith standing proudly with his extensive family. Susanne was not born at the time, but perhaps one of the smiling girls was the lucky owner of the brush and comb set, which was later given to Susanne. We will never know whose brush it was, but we know that it was an important part of someone’s life. Every piece at the Historical Society tells a story, and this brush and mirror set of Susanne’s is no exception.

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