I’m off camping in the Maine woods for the next week, so no posts for a while. IF I survive, I should have some nice pictures next weekend………..
Monthly Archives: July 2013
Georgian Houses in Salem
“Georgian” can be a deceptive architectural designation, especially here in Salem: there are Georgian colonial houses built before the Revolution, and Georgian colonial revival houses which date from the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They might share the distinctive gambrel roof and other architectural details, but the proportions are often very different. Within the colonial category, it is readily apparent that “Georgian” is both a style and a period, and not all houses built in the period conform to the style. There is also the issue of construction conservatism: walking through my neighborhood I easily spotted many houses that looked “Georgian” to me, but they date from the 1780s and 1790s and even after 1800: now you can’t have a Georgian house after the end of King George’s rule, can you?
On this same walk, I did find several Georgian houses that conformed to both the style and the period, at a few more that left me confused (see below). This is just a sampling from the McIntire Historic District; I am omitting several of the iconic Georgian houses of Salem, including the Derby House, the Crowninshield–Bentley House, and the Miles Ward House. No one could mistake these houses for anything but Georgian, but I have written about them before in various posts and doubtless will again. The houses below are hardly off the beaten track, but I haven’t featured (most of) them before.
Georgian corner: at the intersection of Essex and Cambridge Streets, the Ropes Mansion (later 1720s) faces the Capt. Thomas Mason House (1750).
Walking down Essex Street, there are smaller Georgian houses on either side of the street, and the amazing Cabot-Endicott-Low House, built in the 1740s for Salem merchant Joseph Cabot. The house remained in the Cabot family for more than a century, and was then purchased by William Endicott, Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Secretary of War under President Grover Cleveland. The house is spectacular in terms of both scale and detail, and it has great outbuildings too. Unfortunately the other really stately, and unabashedly Georgian, house on Essex Street, the Lindall-Barnard-Andrews House (c. 1740, below) is not as well-preserved as its neighbors: the present owner maintains it as a commercial establishment, complete with vinyl siding and hot top parking lot on what was once fenced-in garden. I’ve never been inside, but its interior has been preserved in photographs, at least, and wallpaper taken from its walls is now in the collection of Winterthur. The beautiful fence that you see in the c. 1910 Detroit Publishing Company photograph below (Library of Congress) is long gone.
Over on Federal Street, there are houses that are both Georgian in period and style, and a few that require a bit more interpretation and expertise–a bit more than I have! I’m curious about the three houses below: they have Georgian elements, but as you can see, alterations have been made over time.
A narrow–and charmingly crooked!–house with a modified gambrel roof and a gambrel-roofed addition: is it Georgian in style and period? I’m not sure. And look at the brown house below: it has two roof styles in one! I wonder which one came first? I assume the gambrel. Apart from the roof, it looks like a mirror image of its neighbor, and that house’s plaque indicates that it is solidly Georgian, at least in period.
Back to where I began, the Ropes Mansion on Essex Street, where the gardens are in perfect high summer bloom.
In the midst of a royal-birth-dominated media week I found myself in my graduate class, interpreting two iconic Renaissance portraits with ermines in them. And thus a post was provoked. How did this little weasel get associated with royalty, pretentious nobility, and the academic and clerical hierarchy? The answer lies in the (rare) white fur of this beast (more scientifically know as the stoat, or short-tailed weasel) as well as the emblems incorporated into what became a distinct ermine design: for no animal has the “ermine” black and white coat, it is a heraldic invention.
Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan), 1489-90, The Czartoryski Museum and Library, Krakow; Nicholas Hilliard, The Ermine Portrait of Queen Elizabeth, 1585, Hatfield House.
Leonardo has a real ermine in his portrait of a woman who is presumed to be Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of his powerful patron Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan–whose heraldic emblem was an ermine. But the little creature on Elizabeth’s arm, wearing a crown collar, is an artistic creation based on the ermine pattern, in which the distinctive black tips of the animal’s (several animals actually) tail is stitched onto the fur, sometimes cut into distinct heraldic shapes. I think you can see this most clearly in the portrait below, in which a sixteen-century German merchant’s wife is wearing very distinct ermine sleeves (and a lot of jewelry) with her family crest in the corner.
Bathel Bruyn the Younger, Portrait of Woman of the Slosgin Family of Cologne, 1557, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
As eminent (and wealthy) as she might have been, this woman is not a Queen–or even the mistress of a Duke: it seems like anyone can wear ermine in the sixteenth century, at least outside of England. The black-and-white (or white-and-black) patterned “fur” had become a device of conspicuous consumption and social mobility, because of its long-held associations with majesty, wealth, and a Christ-like “purity bought with his own death”, in which it was said that the ermine would give himself up to the approaching hunter, so not to sully his pure white winter coat (not quite sure why this was royal). The sheer expense of ermine is most likely the ultimate source of its desire and association with the wealthy and privileged: the stoat’s coat is pure white only in winter, and then there are all those little black tails. I do think ermine maintains its exclusive association with royalty longer in England than on the Continent, but I could be wrong.
Ermine in various incarnations, through the ages: The Duke of Bedford prays before St. George in his ermine-lined robe, c 1423, the Bedford Hours, 1423 (Additional Ms. 18850 ), British Library, Mezzotint of King George I by John Smith, 1715, British Museum; Drawing for a sign for the Crown Inn, c. 1750, Victoria & Albert Museum, London; The Stout wearing his summer and winter coats, Prang & Co., 1878, New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Appendix: as a stark contrast to Leonardo’s portrait, I could not resist adding this Ermine with a Lady “portrait” by Ellen Paquette!
Well, I’m a bit disappointed (but not surprised) that the new British prince has not been named Alfred, but I must return to my more mundane life. The heat wave is over, thank goodness, but I am remain aggrieved: bruised and beaten from gardening and various athletic activities, bitten by a variety of bugs, burned by the sun. Consequently I have become completely dependent on, and enraptured with, witch hazel. I can’t get enough. I love its simplicity, its cheapness, its effectiveness, its old-fashionedness. Yet I know little about it–there are so many bottles around the house my stepson asked me what it was, and I had to admit complete ignorance. So I looked it up.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginica): fruiting stem with flowers and seed. Colored engraving, c. 1792, after F. J. Schultz; Pierre Redouté, Hamamelis Virginica = Hamamélide de Virginie, c. 1801-19, New York Public Library.
I do know quite a bit about European medicinal plants and their history, but witch hazel is a North American native (actually there are Asian varieties too) so it doesn’t turn up in any of the medieval or Renaissance herbals with which I am familiar. The Native Americans used its bark medicinally, but Europeans (in typical European adaptive fashion) amplified its potency by mixing it with distilled alcohol–and consequently it became a stillrooom/medicine cabinet staple. The standard recipe seems to be 84% witch hazel extract and 16% alcohol today; I’m not sure what is was several centuries ago, but certainly not standard. From past to present, it has been prepared in a variety of forms–poultices, lotions, potions, tinctures and salves–as well as the common “tonic”.
John White’s depiction of a Virginian chief with witch-hazel bow, c. 1585-93, British Museum; an advertisement for Hazeline Witch Hazel, c. 1903, Wellcome Library, London. This latter image reminded me of John Derian‘s apothecary series of decoupage trays, so I clicked over, and there was witch hazel, of course.
Apparently the witch hazel shrub is also beautiful, and a very early bloomer: I might have to get one of my own. Or I could just by a print. And lots and lots of more bottles of this panacea.
Witch Hazel at the New York Botanical Garden this early spring, photograph by Ivo M. Vermeulen; “Witch Hazels on Salmon Wood” by Kate Halpin, Etsy.
Why not Alfred?
Very soon we will have a name for the new royal prince and it will probably not be Alfred (all the odds seem to be on boring George or James), but I say: why not? The Anglo-Saxon kings are the most English of all English monarchs, and Alfred was, of course, the Great. His lifetime (849-899) was contentious and “dark”, but he shed light whenever he could. Though officially King of the West Saxons, he styled himself King of the Anglo-Saxons, and most historians think of him as the first King of England–at least that part not occupied by the Vikings. Alfred contained these same Vikings, by building a strong fortification system and a navy (again–what could be more English than this?) He was also that very rare early medieval king–a scholar–and as such translated classical and religious works into the language (Anglo-Saxon, Old English) of his countrymen, promoting knowledge and his native language at the same time. Alfred was truly a keeper of the peace and a unifier of England–both in terms of his military and administrative systems and his codified laws–and the only English king to be titled “the Great”: what better namesake?
The only way to see Alfred as his contemporaries did is on the many coins from his realm, another sign of his effective kingship. Much later, his image becomes much more legendary: Ninth-century coin, and 1712 print by John Faber Sr., both National Portrait Gallery, London; “King Alfred the Great forming a Code of Laws and Dividing the Kingdom into Counties, Tythings, Hundreds, &”, Charles Grignion illustration from Raymond’s History of England, British Museum, King Alfred the Great attributed to Samuel Woodforde, c. 1810-15, The National Trust @ Stourhead; Print of Frank O. Salisbury’s King Alfred the Great Rebuilding the Walls of the City of London, 1912, British Museum.
Like much of the country, last week was hot and humid, with nearly every day in the 90s: it was hazy, still, and repressive. On Friday it reached 100 degrees. By Saturday I had almost lost the will to live, but on Sunday we woke up to a “cool” and clear morning in the 70s, and this week is forecast with more typical New England summer weather. I’m not really a summer person anyway and triple H weather generally drives me inside, but as it was an event-filled week and I was determined to save my garden (every single day the weather report indicated “chance of thunderstorms” but there was not a single drop of rain all week) I spent considerable time outside. What got me through the week: a bedroom air conditioner, garden hoses, sunscreen, bug spray, soft Splendid tee shirts, Witch Hazel, gin & tonics, tents (see below), movie theaters, the Accuweather extended forecast which gave me hope for the future.
With daily watering, the garden survived, despite this bug, which is eating a lot of the larger-leaved plants. Fewer slugs, though, and my lacecap hydrangea has bloomed for the first time in years.
Our summer camp at Winter Island, a very packed harbor, and the reenacting Redcoats’ camp at Derby Wharf early Sunday morning.
A Victorian Firehouse
With all the new development going on in Salem there is, happily, also news of an upcoming preservation project: the city just received a matching grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission to restore the masonry and windows of its oldest firehouse, an 1881 structure very much in service. All the newspaper stories reporting the grant referred to Station #2 as the third oldest continually operating firehouse in the United States, but I found a few more that were older: it is the fifth or sixth by my count. Everyone seems to agree that the oldest operating station is a charming Greek Revival structure in Madison, Indiana, built in 1850.
Salem’s Station no. 2 (1881) and Washington Fire Company no. 2 (1850), Madison, Indiana.
There are many people who know much, much, much more about the history of firefighting in Salem than I do, so I’m not going to provide too much historical context here, but a few interesting facts did surface in my very brief foray into this field. From almost the date of its founding, Salem’s government seems to have been focused on fire prevention, indicated by some rather notable initiatives: in the 1640s Salem’s residents were compelled to have ladders in their homes (presumably to stop chimney and roof fires before they got out of control), and a century later, Salem was one of the first American colonial towns to import a Newsham hand-pump fire engine, the cutting-edge firefighting technology of the eighteenth century, from Britain. At the same time, and into the next century, Salem’s firefighting clubs or companies were established, leaving their material legacy of decorated–and much sought-after– leather fire buckets. There were certainly firehouses in Salem before Station no. 2, built both before and after the acquisition of steam engines by the city, as there are several references in the municipal records to the “accommodations” made to transform them into “steam houses”.
Player’s Cigarettes Fire Engine Series cards, New York Public Library Digital Gallery, and a pair of McIntire family fire buckets from 1833, which sold at a Northeast auction for $52,000 in 2007!
I do wonder if any accommodations were made to Station #2, particularly its entrance bay, for modern fire trucks. It was built to house steam engines–both horse-drawn and self-propelled–that were much smaller than the big red engine that is in there now. Again, Salem seems to have been an early adopter of fire engine technology in the second half of the nineteenth century, and owned several Amoskeag engines, which were manufactured in Manchester, New Hampshire from 1859 to 1913 and shipped worldwide. These replaced the earlier “handtubs” in service, but the latter did not go away: they became the vehicles of intensely competitive fireman’s musters, at which crews would compete to see who could pump out the longest stream of water. In Salem and other New England towns (and elsewhere???), this tradition continues, creating events which mix athleticism and engineering, civic pride and historic preservation.
The interior of a New York City engine house, c. 1887, New York Public Library Digital Gallery, and Salem’s victorious White Angel handtub, c. 1894.
Mapping the Book
For some reason, I belong to all of these membership shopping sites. They send me daily notices of their “special” sales, which usually just annoy me; seldom do I click through and look at their wares. But I did click on the Fab link the other day, and found some really neat pictorial maps of the scenes, plots, characters and places of some classic books, including Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, and Robin Hood, produced by the Harris-Seybold Company of Cleveland, Ohio in the 1950s, presumably to showcase their cutting-edge printing equipment. These are different from the make-believe maps you find in children’s books (Neverland, Middle Earth) because they are representations of real places, superimposed with fictional characters (well, all of them except for Treasure Island). The Library of Congress also featured these maps, in its exhibition and accompanying book Language of the Land: Journeys into a Literary America.
Harris-Seybold Literary Maps of Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, and The Virginian, 1953, Library of Congress, and of Robin Hood and Treasure Island, 1953, Fab.com.
So much better than those old-fashioned literary maps where authors’ heads are placed on their state or town–but many of these can be found in the Library of Congress’s exhibition as well. I spent considerable time (now lost) trying to make a literary map for Salem based on Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables following this Google Earth procedure, with less than impressive results. Instead, I’m featuring a cropped image from another vivid mid-century map, Alva Scott Garfield’s Scott-Map of SALEM Massachusetts “The Wealth of the Indies to the Uttermost Gulf!” Scott’s maps are always extremely well-annotated–and often very cleverly so: the caption underneath the requisite witch on her broomstick reads “aviation started in Salem” while a nearby musket-bearing Puritan is captioned “the anti-aircraft is surprised” (see below). In the proximity of the actual House of the Seven Gables she has assembled many of the characters from the House of the Seven Gables (Clifford and Hepzibah, Phoebe, Judge Pyncheon), creating a perfect literary map of this little corner of Salem. And in another corner, Scott has placed characters from The Scarlet Letter, and the author himself, near the Mall Street house where Hawthorne penned his first novel, charting more literary territory.
Alva Scott Garfield, A Scott-Map of Salem, c. 1950s, Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps, Inc.
The revelation that J.K. Rowling is actually “Robert Galbraith”, the author of the now-bestselling crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, got me thinking about anonymous authorship in general and in history. I’ve never really understood the motivation: all that work and no credit? But of course there were lots of individual motivations depending on the context: political, religious, and social factors which favored, or mandated, discreet publication. Pseudonyms or pen names became a way for female authors to publish when that just wasn’t done, and for intellectuals to public works that seemed a little beneath their areas of expertise: children’s works, satires, common novels. For a variety of reasons, it seems to be common practice for contemporary mystery and romance authors to publish under pseudonyms, so perhaps that was Rowling’s motivation.
J.K. Rowling’s / Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling and two other books issued under pen names: Lewis Carroll/ Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and through the Looking Glass and George Eliot/ Mary Ann Evans’s Middlemarch. These editions are from Penguin‘s series of clothbound classics, with covers designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. I want every single title in the series, whether I like the book or not.
In the period that I study and teach, anonymous authorship by pseudonym or initials was very common: this was the first age of print, a conspicuous craft, and also an era of intense religious division in much of Europe. Authors who penned strident religious (or political, because the two go hand in hand in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) had to be careful, but I think that anonymity was used by authors of less controversial, more entertaining works to conjur up an air of mystery or provoke a guessing game, almost as a marketing tool. The best examples of satirical, oppositional anonymous authorship in early modern England are the tracts penned by “Martin Marprelate” in 1588-89, protesting Archbishop of Canterbury Richard Whitgift’s increasing control over the press and espousing early Puritan sentiments. Martin’s identify was never revealed, and he was resuscitated on the eve of the English Revolution several generations later.
The Protestation of Martin Marprelate, 1589: who “makes it known unto the world that he fears neither proud priest, anti-Christian pope, tyrannous prelate, nor godless cater-cap”. STC 17459, 1589.
Jumping forward to the end of the eighteenth century, when two of that era’s most influential works were both published anonymously: Common Sense (1776), “written by an Englishman” soon revealed to be Thomas Paine, and An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) by Joseph Johnson, later identified as Thomas Malthus. I can understand why both men would wish to retain their anonymity, at least at first: Paine was inciting a revolution (once “outed” he would donate the proceeds from his immensely popular pamphlet to the Continental Army), and Malthus’s analysis of the relationship between population growth and natural resources was both frightfully modern and thoroughly dismal.
Annotated copies: the first edition of Common Sense, and Charles Darwin’s edition of Thomas Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population, from the Cambridge University Library’s digital exhibition,”Books & Babies: Communicating Reproduction”.
Another big jump, to the near present. Even though it seems like ages ago, I remember the sensational revelation that the author of the bestselling roman à clef of the first Clinton campaign, Primary Colors, was in fact Newsweek columnist Joe Klein, who published the book as “Anonymous” in an effort to protect his sources and preserve his journalistic integrity. That seems like a rather quaint motivation now, twenty years later.
Rails to Resorts
Even before our university archivist posted a 1914 Boston & Maine Railroad map of the “Summer Resorts of the Coast, Lake and Mountain Regions” along its routes (and despite this past week’s terrible train derailments in Quebec and Paris) I had been planning a vaguely conceived “summer railroads” post. I know all the wealthy people who lived on my street a century ago who summered (or “rusticated”) in Maine took the train, and since we’re going camping (!!!!!!!) in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in a few weeks, I had the romantic notion of throwing all our stuff in the cargo car and making our connection to the Bar Harbor Express. The train does indeed run through Salem, but no place in the U.S. is as connected by rail as it was a century ago, and the Bar Harbor Express no longer runs (we’ll need the car anyway, so I can sleep in it).
Two Railroad Advertising Maps: Boston & Maine “Summer Resorts” 1914 map, Salem State University Archives; an earlier (1882) version for New York’s train tourists, New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
These maps were just part of the railroads’ multi-faceted print advertising campaigns, which must have been extremely effective during hot summers like this one, when people were eager to leave the sweltering cities for cooler spots at the coast and mountains. In conjunction with its maps, the Boston & Maine railroad, which dominated the New England market until the 1960s, issued a series of stunning posters by Charles W. Holmes in the 1920s which focused on the appeal of summer resorts near (there’s even one for Revere Beach) and far. They really capture that air of interwar elegance, and represent the increasing accessibility of New England’s “vacationlands”.
And for later in the year, the Snow Train………………..
Travel posters by Charles W. Holmes for Boston and Maine Railraod, 1920s, Boston Public Library travel poster collection.