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.
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.
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.