Decluttering the Desk

I found this reading timely. I just moved into a new building on campus last week, so my things, especially small things, were strewn around my new room in comforting chaos. My desk both at home and here is the go-to spot for little papers, junk in my pockets, as well as my laptop, vitamin bottles, and anything else imaginable. So, you can imagine what it looked like in the recent days while I was unpacking all my bins. While doing this reading, I was sitting at said desk in Lefevre Hall. I suddenly became horrifically aware of everything that was in front of and around me. There was, at the time, a bright orange file holder (of which I put things in never to take them out again), a notepad labeled “shopping list,” a stray dryer sheet, my favorite pen with no cap, my checklist for the day, one of those round Eos chap-stick things, and a mug of tea. Those being but a few of the items, I immediately felt the need to clear my workspace. I contemplated using the “joy test” that KonMari praises and recommends, however, I thought the junk on my desk was not up to the standards of the joy test. If I applied the joy test, my desk would probably be totally empty. After our discussion in class on Tuesday, many of the things on my desk were those practical items; my set of mini drawers holds writing supplies and post-it notes, which I need but do not necessarily bring me joy. If the joy test extends beyond the object itself, though, then you could say it does bring me joy. If I did not have any pens, pencils, or post-it notes, I would have to take the bus that always runs late, as I do not have a car. Alternatively, I could walk to the store in the freezing cold. So, all in all, those pens and pencils in my little green set of drawers in a way does give me joy.

I picked up each item, trying not to think in such an extended way. Instead, I asked myself “do I need this?” I am usually a “I might need this later” type person, but once in a while, I get into those moods where I need to clear everything out. This turned into one of those moods. I picked up small papers that laid helplessly around and got rid of them. I put the chap-stick away in my first aid box. The dryer sheet found a permanent home in the garbage, and the orange file holder found a temporary home under my bed and out of the way.

It was strange going through my items, I think because I used a modified version of what we read about. Instead of asking if my shopping list notepad gave me joy, I asked myself if I really needed it. I became acutely aware of each item I had on my desk. Some of them were there because it held objects I needed like pens, scissors, and erasers. Some of the things were there simply because I placed them there days ago while unpacking, and I forgot about them. It was definitely not difficult because, as I stated before, the items I was dealing with were practical. Not a lot of them gave me any kind of joy. I am glad I got to do this experiment while also experiencing this move across buildings. If I hadn’t been assigned to do something like this, the poor desk would most likely be cluttered until the end of time.

The Necessity of Self-Evaluation in Tidying

Considering all the clothes I have, I figured it would be simpler, as far as the experiment is concerned, to examine my book “collection”.  Not to be a contrarian, but based on the discussion in class, I appear to have a much lesser affinity for books and literature than the others taking this seminar.  Recently, I tidied up my room, essentially cramming unnecessary objects in places where they will be out of the way.  Among those objects, at least for me, were my books.  Now not to get it twisted, I have not yet thrown away, donated, or otherwise disposed of my books, nor do I know if I eventually will.  When I looked at the collection, I discovered the books of my childhood, the some of the first series and books I’d ever read, including Harry Potter and even the works of Shel Silverstein, of whom I was a fan, and still am today.  Those books, ones that are all-time favorites, and ones I would like my children to read, ones with that great level of sentimentality that even my parents (who didn’t read the aforementioned titles) can appreciate, have been moved to a separate bookcase in our “extra room” in the house.  For the most part, the books that remained in my room were kept in a crate placed on top of a dresser, which in hindsight is a little dangerous, as I tried to get them down and it was not a simple task.  And therein lies the rub, since I put the crate up there about a year ago, this was the first time that I actually went to take anything from it.  Immediately I knew that if I adopted the KonMari practice, all the books would go.  I must admit though, when I took the books out of the crate, I became nostalgic and realized why I kept them in the first place.  Many of them are sports related, most heavily based on the Yankees, of whom I have been a huge fan for years, even though my dad is a Mets fan..  Anyway, I had moments where I remembered when I chose to buy the books, or who gave them to me.  Some came to me a long time ago, and others fairly recently.  Two were heavily a part of the beginning of my collegiate life, two books that I actually read for English 101 back in Senior Year of high school.  I remembered my appreciation of these books as I read them, and a lack thereof for those I never got around to reading.  I have long realized that I do not enjoy reading the way many others, like those in the seminar, do.  It’s certainly not something I take pride in, but something I’ve learned to “deal with”.  It’s entirely possible, and in my opinion likely, that I will never again have the compulsion to pick up a book and begin reading, although there have been books that have made me feel so before, and there have certainly been required scholarly materials that have felt glued to my hands.  So my pile on the floor is probably underwhelming and exceptionally modest to some, though to me, the weight of sentimentality outweighs that of the physical weight of my pile.  My after picture is of the crate, empty, fittingly so, as if I were to fully participate in the experiment, at least 90% of those books would no longer be in my possession, and there would be no need for a crate.  I wish that there was, or maybe for a personal bookshelf instead, but alas, I am not a reader, only a collector of things.

A blurry reminder of what once wasDisplaying IMG_2488.JPG

 

Perhaps what the future should beDisplaying IMG_2489.JPG

All your books are not belong to us: a brief exploration of the KonMari method

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Due to a strenuous work schedule, I was not able to actually empty my whole bookshelf and go through each item. Instead, I focused on the top bookshelf, where I seem to keep most of my plays and books that I classify as “reference.” Like most English majors, I have more books than I have space for, and the thought of parting with any of them is just as painful as pulling teeth. However, for the sake of this exercise, I decided what I would “keep” and what I would “discard” based on the KonMari method mentioned in The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up.

On this shelf I have 51 items; 49 books and 2 objects. I have read about or drawn in about 45 of the books. The other 4 were given to me, and I simply wasn’t interested. However, the thought of parting with any book was almost too much to bear, and like KonMari mentions within the book, I was tempted to riffle through the pages to remember what the contents were. It was actually difficult simply to hold the book in my hands and think about whether or not it made me “happy.”

(I think the concept of  happiness as pertaining to books is so subjective. A book can make you cry your eyes out, and still cause you to love it. I tended to think of “happiness” when it came to books as a book or play that moved me in some way.)

Going through the books also caused a deep sense of nostalgia, especially because the shelf contained yearbooks from my secondary school years. Again, I had to try hard not to confuse this nostalgia for “joy”, and try not to go through the books and read the inscriptions inside. Thinking about what really caused “joy” was hard, and in the end I only really had about 9 objects that made me objectively “happy” to look at.

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The “keep” pile

These contained the most sentimental value, and the plays that I enjoyed most out of my collection. Likewise, in this pile there is a precious book that my one of my teenage best friends gave to me on my sixteenth birthday. But I did not “hold” onto it because of the nostalgia, but because the thought of that friendship gave me joy, and therefore the object imbued it.

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The “discard” pile

On the other hand, naturally the discard pile was much larger. Most of these things I cared very little about, even if I had enjoyed the story at the time. A lot of these were plays I’d had to read for a class, and according to the KonMari method they had therefore “fulfilled their purpose in [my] life”. Not that any of these works were necessarily bad, but they did not provide as moving an emotional experience (either during the deliberation process or at the time I’d read them) as the objects in the first pile.

I find the KonMari method fascinating, but I’m not sure it would be very effective for me. As idealistic as it is to think about having as few things as possible, someone like me can’t simply get rid of books. It is food for thought, though, that I continue to cling to books that didn’t necessarily have a great weight to them.

Venerable Veneer: The Bronze Door Knob and Escutcheon on the Deyo House

The front entrance of the Deyo-Brodhead house.

The Deyo-Brodhead house.                                           -Picture Credit: Elise Bruce                                  

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Picture Credit: Elise Bruce

Caption

On February 27, 1895, Abraham and Gertrude Deyo-Brodhead opened the doors of their newly renovated home, “fitted up in the most elegant manner,” to “a large company who had come to pay their respects” (“At Home”). With their rococo design and burnished gold finish, the bronze door knob and escutcheon which grace the front door of the Deyo House are the first of many elegant fittings meant to impress visitors. Yet, their highly ornamental nature hints at the economic and cultural impact of the Industrial Revolution on the New Paltz community as well as one family’s fall from fortune.

Physical Description

Both the knob and the escutcheon have an elaborate floral pattern cast on the surface, giving the set an eye-catchingly elegant (or ostentatious, depending on one’s tastes) air. The escutcheon is especially attention-grabbing. Measuring sixteen by three inches, it is a roughly rectangular shape. However, the top and bottom have been molded into the form of acanthus leaves, creating an asymmetry that draws the eyes away from the relatively simple wood door to the more impressive hardware. Although the bronze has become dull and tinged with verdigris, one can imagine that its original burnished gold color would have made the set even more beautiful to those coming to greet the Deyo-Brodheads as they settled back in, particularly when it was lit by the house’s recently installed electrical lighting, a feature that would have been something of a luxury at the time.

The acanthus leaves  at the top and bottom of the escutcheon are beautifully molded, giving the otherwise rectangular shape a fluid appearance.

The acanthus leaves at the top and bottom of the escutcheon are beautifully molded, giving the otherwise rectangular shape a fluid appearance.       Picture Credit: Elise Bruce

Provenance

Picture credit: Reading Hardware Catalogue

Picture credit: Reading Hardware Company

Reading Hardware

Picture Credit: Reading Hardware Company

The set was manufactured in the late 1800s by the Reading Hardware Company, located in Reading, Pennsylvania. According to Morton L. Montgomery’s history on the area, the company, founded in 1852, specialized in “furnishing all the necessary hardware in the construction of large hotels and office buildings” in large cities such as New York and Chicago and was particularly well known for its “unique and artistic designs in fine bronze” (Montgomery 189). The design found on the Deyo house knob and escutcheon, a rococo style called Belfort, was available for purchase through the company’s widely circulated Illustrated Catalogue of Fine Locks and Builders’ Hardware. It is likely that the Deyo-Brodhead’s selected the door knob and escutcheon from this catalogue as they planned their renovations. The set has remained on the front door ever since although the house has changed hands three times. The last owner, Harold L. Wood, sold the house to the present owner, the Huguenot Historical Society, in 1972.

Historical Narrative

The knob and escutcheon embody a much larger struggle in terms of the culture and economy in New Paltz at the turn of the century, a struggle that comes to a head in the 1895 renovation of the Deyo house. Built by Pierre Deyo around 1692, the original Deyo house was modest stone structure not unlike the neighboring Bevier-Elting house. While later descendants added a wing to accommodate the growing family, the exterior of the house otherwise remained relatively the same. This changed when the Deyo-Brodheads inherited the house in 1893. Although indubitably proud of their Huguenot heritage (both could trace their lineage back to Christian Deyo, patriarch of the Deyo family and one of the twelve signers of the original patent), Abraham and Gertrude nonetheless desired a much more ornate space than the stone house built by their ancestors. As Jaquetta Haley notes in her summary of Deyo House history, the couple was highly involved in New Paltz social life, at one point even hosting a masked ball for a group of notable local figures (8). Their decision to modify and expand the house seems motivated partially by their desire “to entertain on a grander scale” (8).

Yet, Haley implies that the couple’s social ambitions may have been curbed had it not been for a modest inheritance bequeathed by a wealthy relative. Although they owned a significant amount of land in New Paltz area, the Deyo-Broadheads were not a particularly wealthy family. Instead, their social prominence was tied to the family’s deep roots in the area as well as the Deyos’ long standing participation in community leadership, starting with Christian Deyo and extending on through Abraham’s great grandfather (a judge) and grandfather (a local sheriff). However, in 1890, the death of one of Abraham’s paternal great uncles left the newly wed Abraham and Gertrude with $150,000 (Haley 7). While it was not a huge sum, this inheritance allowed the couple to pursue their interests on a much larger scale than they had previously. For Abraham, this meant investing in the construction of a small horse racing track, the Brodhead Driving Park. Built on some of Brodhead’s holdings on the other side of the Wallkill, the track helped to supplement the couple’s income as well as bolster their reputation in the community. Although it is less clear what Gertrude’s interest were, Haley indicates that she enjoyed her role as a “social doyenne of New Paltz” (17). It seems plausible, then, that in her drive to throw larger and more tasteful events, Gertrude would be the one to prompt the renovation of the old stone house into the elegantly fitted space that so impressed the reporter of the New Paltz Independent on that February night in 1895.

Regardless of who proposed the renovations, the Deyo-Brodheads began making plans to modify the house almost immediately upon taking ownership, transforming it from a simple stone house to a Queen Anne Style manor. It is in, in the words of Kenneth Hasbrouck, “an example of how a residence must submit to remodeling as the occupants acquire wealth” (Hasbrouck). Hasbrouck’s comment hints at the discomfort with which New Paltz residents met the Deyo-Brodhead’s plans to renovate. An article in the New Paltz Independent dated July 13, 1894 laments, “The changes in the building will make it scarcly [sic] recognizable” (NPI).  Indeed, the stone first floor is the only vestige of the original structure still visible. The same article argues that “at least of them [the old stone houses on Huguenot Street] should be set apart and strictly guarded from the march of modern improvement in order that future generations may know in what manner of houses their ancestors lived” (NPI).

The fear of “modern improvement” obscuring the historical character of New Paltz indicates the community’s fierce loyalty to their heritage, but it also suggests the conflict between traditional local values and the cosmopolitan trend towards the ornate, even theatrical, sensibilities amongst the area’s wealthy citizens. Almost every feature of the Deyo-Brodhead’s home is meant to inspire reverence and respect not only for the Deyo-Brodhead’s heritage but also the family’s more recent wealth and achievements. Positioned prominently on the front door, the bronze door knob and escutcheon affirm this prestige, reminding all visitors that this house belonged to influential individuals. Yet, the grandeur rests on a certain superficiality made possible in part by the relatively new ability to mass produce luxury items using machine labor. The result was seemingly elegant items that were relatively affordable, especially when bought in bulk. The advertisement in the Reading Hardware Company’s catalog notes that the Belfort knob and escutcheon could be purchased for around $3.90 (roughly $100 today) (RHC). While that might seem expensive for a door knob, it pales in comparison to the cost of purchasing a similar piece from a blacksmith.

However, what they might have saved by buying machine fabricated hardware, the Deyo-Brodheads spent or invested elsewhere, requiring them to eventually take out two mortgages on the property. A confluence of financial problems, starting with the collapse of the race track as a source of income, would at last cause the couple to lose the house and their ancestral land holdings. Unlike most of their property, which was auctioned off to recoup the family’s losses, the grand door knob and escutcheon would remain with the estate, a silent testimony to their hopes and dreams as well as an embodiment of the changing times.

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References

“At Home.” New Paltz Independent. 1 Mar. 1895. Print.

Blumin, Leonard. Victorian Decorative Art: A Photographic Study of Ornamental Design an Antique Door Knobs. California: Victorian Design Press, 1983. Print.

Davey, Weston. Personal Interview. 9 Apr. 2015.

Haley, Jaquetta. “Furnishing Plan: Deyo House.” New York: Huguenot Historical Society, 2001. Print.

Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. Old Stone Houses: Huguenot Street, New Paltz, N.Y. New Paltz: n.a., n.d. Print.

Montgomery, Morton L. Historical and Biography Annals of Berk County, Pennsylvania. Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1909. Print.

New Paltz Independent. 13 Jul. 1894. Print.

Reading Hardware Company. Illustrate Catalogue of Fine Locks and Builders’ Hardware. New York: 1899, Print.

The Spinning Jenny

Caption: This spinning jenny is a typical specimen of the kind often found in homes during colonial and post-colonial times. 837.1It was given to the Memorial House (the Jean Hasbrouck house) by its owner, William Henry Dill Blake, whose family owned the spinning jenny before him and whose wife and daughter (both named Matilda Booth Blake) likely used it regularly as a household chore. Built in the late 18th century, this spinning jenny is a reminder of the role of women in the establishment of one of New Paltz’s successful families.

A photograph of the Jean Hasbrouck House where the jenny is located.

A photograph of the Jean Hasbrouck House where the jenny is located.

Physical Description: This spinning jenny is comprised of a wooden frame and a large, slightly corroded iron wheel with four spokes placed at even intervals. On the right-hand side of the wheel is a grooved iron cylinder (also sporting slight corrosion with age), likely used for winding the finished thread. On the front left pole of of the frame are scratched the initials “HB;” additionally, the spinning jenny is marked with the number 213, likely a production or maker’s mark. According to the file in Historic Huguenot Street records, there are likely some pieces  missing.

Diagram of a Hargreave spinning jenny

Diagram of a Hargreave spinning jenny (since the image above is the only one available of the Blakes’ jenny.

Provenance: The first clue to determining the origin of the spinning jenny is the inscription “HB” on the frame. As this spinning jenny was built in the late eighteenth century, while the invention was still fairly new (American Fabrics Magazine 220), and also considering that William H.D. Blake was born much later, in 1843 (according to the Blake family papers on file at Huguenot Street), it is logical to assume that the spinning jenny was probably first owned by Blake’s grandfather or great-grandfather.  Also according to Huguenot Street records, the spinning jenny was owned by the family until Blake’s donation of the piece in 1910; it most likely came into his possession as a family object that was passed down to him. The maker’s mark, “213,” yields no significant results, though a search of the history of the spinning jenny reveals that several were manufactured underground (that is, without the inventor’s permission) because the design was so brilliantly simple and that there was dispute during the time of the spinning jenny’s true inventor and origin (Baines, Arkwright); Blake’s spinning jenny therefore could have been manufactured by any number of individuals.

Narrative: The Blake family moved to New Paltz in 1881, when they purchased the DuBois farm; shortly thereafter, William and Matilda, the two youngest Blake children, were born. During this time, spinning, weaving, knitting, and almost all other forms of textile production were considered “women’s work,” as such activities allowed them to work primarily in their homes (thus fulfilling the typical duties of wife and mother) while still providing the family with additional income from selling the resulting product. Family workshops were the norm, to such an end that almost every household contained at least one “knitting frame” (loom) and one spinning wheel (AFM 217). According to Historic Huguenot Street records, the Blake spinning jenny replaced an older spinning wheel previously owned by the family; one can easily imagine the mother Matilda spinning yarn at home on a typical day to the sounds of her children’s laughter and the pitter-patter of little feet. Later, as the daughter Matilda grew bigger, her mother would have taught her how to spin the yarn herself, to the end of her being expected to produce her own quantity of yarn as an adult. Unlike her brothers, Matilda spent her entire life on her family’s farm on Libertyville Road in New Paltz. It is likely that she continued to make use of the spinning jenny through her school years up until her enrollment in the New Paltz Normal School. Beyond that, the latest mention of the spinning jenny in historical records is a newspaper clipping, dated May 6, 1910, that announces William H.D. Blake’s donation of the piece to the Memorial House. While a seemingly random choice, the spinning jenny is actually a quite significant piece, as it symbolizes an industry and a community of workers that played a very large role in shaping the economy of New Paltz, as well as a symbol of the financial success of one of New Paltz’s most successful farming families.

Works Cited:

American Fabrics Magazine. Encyclopedia of Textiles. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1960. Print.

Baines, Edward (1835). History of the cotton manufacture in Great Britain;. London: H. Fisher, R. Fisher, and P. Jackson.

Roth, Eric. Ed. “William H. D. Blake Family Papers (1794-1982).” Historic Huguenot Street Archives. Historic Huguenot Street, 10 July 2002. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.huguenotstreet.org/william-h-d-blake-family-papers/&gt;.

Infinite thanks to Ashley Trainor and Carrie Allmendinger from Historic Huguenot Street for sharing their records, knowledge, and expertise with me for this project.

Colonial Revivalism in the Deyo House: The Purpose of a Print

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This late 19th century print depicts a romanticized scene of the Huguenots as they fled religious persecution in France. It is one of three such images in Abraham Brodhead’s office that act as a visual reminder of his cultural participation in the Colonial Revival movement that once swept through the Hudson Valley. (Personal Photo)

“Escape of a Huguenot Family after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew”

London published June 1st 1880 by Henry Graves & C° the proprietors publishers to HM the Queen and TRH the Prince & Princess of Wales, 6. Pall Mall – copyright registered. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1880 at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Engraved by J. Scott

Printed by Holdgate Brs.

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“Escape of a Huguenot Family after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew” (Courtesy of betheafamily.org)

Caption: This late 19th century print depicts a romanticized scene of the Huguenots as they fled religious persecution in France. It is one of three such images in Abraham Brodhead’s office that act as a visual reminder of his cultural participation in the Colonial Revival movement that once swept through the Hudson Valley.

Physical Description: Hanging on the north wall of Abraham Brodhead’s small second story office is a 25.5 in. x 34 in. print, set within glass and against a 3 in. linen mat. The frame is ornately carved wood, about 2 in. thick and decorated with gold colored paint. The prints’ somewhat ostentatious frame very much reflects the propagandistic nature of the scene, and both serve to catch the visitors attention almost immediately. The composition pictures a young peasant woman standing at the back of a raft, steering it through tall reeds while the elderly woman sitting next to her looks worried as she consoles the disheveled elderly man leaning on her shoulder. Behind the couple are two bearded gentlemen, one who leans down to aid them, and another who stands proudly turned towards the front of the raft while a woman wraps her hand around his neck and gazes desperately at his profile. Just in front of them are two men wearing armor, one faces frontally while the other looks back towards the party sympathetically. Lastly, two young peasant boys crowd the front of the boat, one attending to his weapon, and the other standing with his head up, looking eagerly towards whatever might lie ahead.

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The northwest corner of Abraham Brodhead’s office. Half of the print is visible on the right side of the picture. It is the first decoration that a visitor encounters upon entering the room, and is situated directly opposite the door. (Personal photo)

Provenance: The printed inscription that lies just below the image is a key factor in discovering the origin of the print. James Scott (ca. 1809-1889), whose name is found on the lower right hand corner, was one of the finest English engravers of the mid to late 19th century. Not much is known about his art education, but he became equally talented in the genres of portraiture, history paintings, and sporting subjects. Scott earned notoriety when his portrait of the Duke of Wellington was published in 1837, and over the next fifty years he engraved a large number of designs after the works of contemporary painters. Henry Graves & Co. was a publishing house in Pall Mall, London that was active between 1844 and 1899, and it ended up publishing over one hundred of Scott’s prints within that time period. The National Portrait Gallery in London now houses over two hundred prints published by Henry Graves & Co., twenty-two of which are attributed to the artist James Scott. The inscription informs us that this print was published on June 1st, 1880, and dedicates the work to Her Majesty the Queen of England, and Their Royal Highnesses the Prince & Princess of Wales. This formality may seem odd in modern practice, but it was customary to honor the head of state in all matters of fine and high art especially for those who distributed prints & literature. Although it is not known how this particular print came to be in the Deyo-Brodhead family collection, we are able to infer that it was some point after 1880 when, as the inscription tells us, it travelled to Washington and passed through the Library of Congress.

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The northeast corner of Abraham’s second floor office. (Personal photo)

Narrative: You may wonder how this unique foreign print became a part of the modern day Historic Huguenot Street collection. It’s a dramatic image of a purely fictional event; the raft that all ten Huguenots seem to be floating on could have never held the weight, and the socioeconomic diversity of their fleeing party (as is evident in the clothes they’re wearing) appears democratic, but highly improbable. It is true that over 5,000 French citizens were killed during St. Bartholomew’s massacre on August 23, 1572 in Paris alone, and thousands more fled the country permanently, but this particular rendering of the escape is inaccurate. What, then, is the point? Why would a respectable descendent such as Abraham Brodhead want a romanticized print that remembers this traumatic moment in French Huguenot history hanging in his primary office? Understanding the owners’ personal history and examining the broader cultural context of the Hudson Valley during the late 19th century yields quite a fruitful explanation.

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A detail of the printed inscription. Only the title is visible without a magnifying glass. (Personal photo)

In 1894, Abraham and Gertrude Brodhead received notice that they had inherited what they believed to be a large sum of money from a “rich banker uncle”. Pierre Deyo was one of the original Patentees of New Paltz and had built his stone house along the main thoroughfare of the settlement in 1720. Slowly over the years, Deyo’s grandchildren added other stone additions to the rustic house, but none as dramatic as what Abraham and Gertrude decided to build nearly two centuries later.

At the ages of 37 and 32, Abraham and Gertrude regarded their inheritance as an opportunity to join a new, upper-echelon of society. The period of Colonial Revivalism that emerged in 1876 was a national expression of Early North American culture; although its underlying goal was to create a particular historical consciousness pertaining primarily to the original East coast colonies, the movement manifested itself as a style of architecture, decorative art, and landscape design. In keeping with the trend, the couple took out several bank loans (all of which they believed they would be able to pay off after the family money came through) and began reconstructing their small ancestral stone house into a three-storied mini-mansion. The stone foundation was retained as an important reminder of the family history, and once construction was complete, the original one room stone house became the couples’ main entertaining space. Abraham and Gertrude were able to welcome their guests into their lavish, contemporary home and point to the exposed wooden beams of their sitting room as a visual reminder of their ancestors’ hard work (and more importantly, of the Brodhead’s inherent privilege to that status).

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Studio portrait of Abraham Deyo Brodhead (b. 1863-1926). Photo ca. 1880-90 (Courtesy of Hudson River Valley Heritage)

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Studio portrait of Gertrude Deyo (b. 1868-1926), daughter of Matthew Deyo & Julia Etta Dubois Deyo. She married Abraham Deyo Brodhead in 1890. Photo ca. 1890 (Courtesy of HRVH)

At this point in history the Brodheads were “competing”, for lack of a better term, to be part of this new realm of American society, and were hoping to achieve the same level of opulence and grandeur that they saw in families like the Roosevelts & the Rockefellers. The Hudson Valley had turned into a hot spot for Colonial Revivalism and in an effort to stand out, the Brodheads chose to advertise their heritage.

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A modern view of the Deyo House. Evidence of the original stone structure built by Pierre Deyo in the 18th century can be seen on the exterior of the first floor. (Courtesy of Tania Barricklo/Daily Freeman)

Besides their newly impressive home and manicured gardens, what better way to display that particular connection than through decoration? This is where the interior of the Deyo-Brodhead house becomes important to the underlying Colonial Revivalism theme; family heirlooms and antique furniture inhabit every room, and dozens of prints & portraits dot the walls. In 1894, the Brodhead’s family home had become a stage, and these objects, their props. The image that James Scott created in 1880 is obviously sympathetic to the Huguenots, but more importantly, it portrays them as a resilient and brave people. The proud man comforting the emotionally distraught woman on his chest as he looks towards the future is an overt symbol of the Huguenots’ heroism. They were persecuted as French Protestants and run out of their own country, but instead of dying out and accepting defeat, the Huguenots became pioneers of a new land. When Pierre Deyo and the eleven other founders of New Paltz came to settle the area, they faced deadly inclement weather, starvation, and hostility from the Esopus Indians who were ready to fight for their land. These are the types of stories that would have been told as esteemed friends and colleagues visited with Abraham in his office, and these are the pieces of history that served to glorify the Brodhead name.

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Studio Portrait of Gertrude Deyo in Hat. Photo ca. late 1890’s. (Courtesy of HRVH)

It seems somewhat strange that the true value of this print is indeed the lie that its able to tell. Its ornate frame indicates that the print was most definitely displayed and appreciated as a piece of fine art, but its true function was that of an ancestral advertisement. Although a modern perspective could perceive the Brodhead’s as power-hungry, it is crucial to remember that they were one family among a large scope of the American population who participated in this cultural obsession. In many ways, the Deyo House and the 19th century art and artifacts that are now kept protected inside are able to add to the rich history of the original settlers. By examining the Brodhead’s and the way in which they attempted to re-establish a family legacy, we are able to better understand the complexity of this noteworthy print, and the role it had in reviving an idealized memory of the Huguenot settlers.

REFERENCES:

“August 24: This Day in History, St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.” History. A&E Networks Digital, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/saint-bartholomews-day-massacre&gt;.

“Henry Graves & Co. (active 1844-1899), Publishers.” The National Portrait Gallery. NPG, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp12751/henry-graves–co?search=sas&sText=Henry+Graves+%26+Co&OConly=true&gt;.

“James Scott (ca. 1809-1889), Engraver.” The National Portrait Gallery. NPG, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp15031/james-scott?role=art&gt;.

“Massacre of St. Bartholomew in France.” The Bethea Story: First Generation of Bethea Family in North America . N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2015. <http://www.betheafamily.org/Bethea-Story.htm&gt;.

Mitchell, Paula A., and Tania Barricklo. “Fleeing French Founders and 300 Years of Huguenot Street History.” The Daily Freeman. San Jose Mercury News, 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 8 May 2015. <http://www.mercurynews.com/digital-first-media/ci_23772113/fleeing-french-founders-and-300-years-huguenot-street&gt;.

“The Katherine Deyo Cookingham Downer Collection.” Hudson River Valley Heritage. N.p., 19 Mar. 2007. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://www.hrvh.org/cdm/search/collection/hhs/searchterm/Katherine%20Deyo%20Cookingham%20Downer&gt;.

Trainor, Ashley. “Professor Mulready’s Class.” Message to the author. 2 Apr. 2015. E-mail.

Weikel, Thomas. “Professor Mulready’s Class.” Message to the author. 3 Apr. 2015. E-mail.

The Tiger Maple Grandfather Clock

IMG_3857

A grandfather clock that served to keep time but also served as a decorative piece of furniture, this 19th century clock belonged to Dewitt Chauncey LeFevre’s aunt and was passed down to him. This elegant clock not only functioned as a timekeeper and a living room furnishing; it’s uniquely patterned wood symbolizes the wealth of the LeFevre family.

Caption: A grandfather clock that served to keep time but also served as a decorative piece of furniture, this 19th century clock once belonged to Dewitt Chauncey LeFevre’s aunt and was passed down to him upon her death. This elegant clock not only functioned as a timekeeper and a living room furnishing; it’s uniquely patterned wood symbolizes the wealth of the LeFevre family.

 

Physical Description: The grandfather clock is about eight feet tall and it’s casing is composed of Tiger Maple wood. Tiger Maple wood is commonly referred to by many different names such as flamed maple, curly maple, ripple maple, fiddleback or tiger stripe. These names are derived from how the wood looks: the growth of the wood fibers is distorted in an undulating chatoyant (cat-eye) pattern, producing wavy lines known as “flames”. This type of wood is known for it’s beauty and is often used in making instruments. This clock’s wood is very noticeably striped and stained a golden hue. The face of the clock is white with a red, yellow, and green flower design and black numbers. According to Huguenot Street’s file, it once could have been a “Wag on Wall” clock – meaning before it was a grandfather clock, it did not have a base and the face of the clock probably hung on a wall on it’s own at one point. It is also said to have been reconverted from an electric clock, and while it looks like it is in good condition it has been repaired several times.

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Provenance: The Tiger Maple Grandfather clock is currently in possession of Historic Huguenot Street. It was gift to the foundation by DeWitt C. LeFevre, and in the archives it says that this clock was once his aunts. DeWitt LeFevre was the first president of the organization. I believe that the aunt it belonged to originally was Minnie Mariah LeFevre Jameison.

 

Narrative: On April 28, 1677, twelve Huguenots were granted a license that allowed them to purchase land along the Wallkill River for a settlement. The original Patentees of New Paltz were: Louis Bevier, Pierre Deyo, Christian Deyo, Antoine Crispell, Louis DuBois, Abraham DuBois, Isaac Dubois, Hugo Freer, Abraham Hasbrouck, Jean Hasbrouck, Andries LeFevre, and Simon LeFevre. Simon LeFevre was born in France around the year of 1640.

“Simon and Andries LeFevre, brothers and very much alike, were most likely the scholars of the group. From the records we would assume them to be quiet, somewhat withdrawn, giving the group of Patentees a touch of refinement, which love of books and study can bring. They were not fond of labor like some of the group, but did their share because it was the honorable thing to do. Both brothers died before old age came, so that we must draw most of our records from the children of Simon. Andries never married. By nature easy-going, they believed in peace and harmony. There has always been a tendency toward frugality. By tradition, the ancestors of the LeFevre family were scholars and most closely allied with royalty by blood and position.”

 

A descendant of Simon himself, DeWitt C. LeFevre also held a position of power and scholar as the first president of The LeFevre Family Association. One could say that he is almost a grandfather of the society, and the clock symbolises his family’s wealth and longevity. Bestowed as a gift by DeWitt, the clock resides in the LeFevre house on Historic Huguenot Street.

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The LeFevre House

My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,

So it stood ninety years on the floor;IMG_3964

It was taller by half than the old man himself,

Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.

 

In watching its pendulum swing to and fro

Many hours he spent when a boy

And through childhood and manhood, the clock seemed to know

And to share both his grief and his joy.

“My Grandfather’s Clock”, a song written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work, from which the term Grandfather clock came into existence.

References:

Gannon, Peter Steven. Huguenot Refugees in the Settling of Colonial America. New York, N.Y. (122 E. 58th St., New York 10022): Huguenot Society of America, 1985. Print.

“History of Grandfather Clocks.” Klockit. Klockit, Inc., 2010. Web. 09 May 2015.

LeFevre Wright, Diane. “DeWitt LeFevre – The First President of the LeFevre Family, 1967 – 1973.” LeFevre Family News [New Paltz] 2002, Summer 2002 ed.: n. pag. Print.

(post in progress)

Breaking Traditions to Preserve an Heirloom: The Napkin Ring

This 19th century napkin ring depicts an intricate engraving of cupid riding on a dragonfly.

This 19th century napkin ring depicts an intricate engraving of cupid riding on a dragonfly. Photo Credit: Historic Huguenot Street

Caption:

A dining accessory that also functioned as a place card, this 19th century napkin ring belonged to the family of Gertrude M Deyo. This uniquely square napkin ring embellished with the owner’s initials marks cornerstones of a woman’s life, from childhood to marriage, and serves as a reminder of the traditional passing of possession of family objects, as well as the need to break tradition to preserve its heritage (Historic Huguenot Street).

Description:

Despite the name, napkin “ring,” this item is one and a quarter inch square napkin holder made of silver (Historic Huguenot Street). It has scalloped edges, two curves to a side, along both the top and the bottom edges. Given the approximate date of creation for the item in the late-19th century, it has suffered minimal damage, leaving the only traces of wear and tear small areas of old sticky tape (Historic Huguenot Street).  The main aesthetic feature of the napkin ring is the unique pairing of Cupid and a dragonfly. Cupid is riding atop the intricately engraved wings of the dragonfly (Historic Huguenot Street). However, the cursive engraving of “GMD” is the eye to the history of tradition and financial status in New Paltz.

“GMD” stands for Gertrude M Deyo, who would later marry Abraham D Brodhead. Photo Credits: Historic Huguenot Street

Provenance:

The initials engraved on the item distinguish it has property of Gertrude M Deyo, born 1868, and this particular pure silver napkin ring was donated with three other napkin rings, one belonging to each of her parents, and one belonging to Gertrude’s younger sister (Historic Huguenot Street, The Deyo Family). Gertrude’s napkin ring most likely stayed with her for a large part of her life, entering into her role as a wife to Abraham D Brodhead, and finally rested in the hands of Gertrude’s niece, Mrs. Henry E Downer (Historic Huguenot Street). The exact date of transfer out of Gertrude’s possession is unknown, and depending on the date, the ring could have passed first into the hands of her sister, Elvira, and then to Gertrude’s niece.

Narrative:

The path of possession of this simplistic dining accessory is remarkably influenced by the culture of the era in which it was created, as well as by the elasticity of the society in which it served its primary function. The ring’s engraving of Gertrude’s initials prior to her marriage designate the ring as a part of childhood. At the time of Gertrude’s marriage in 1890, the dining accessory that she had carried on with her into her marry life, most likely as a part of her dowry to her husband, Abraham Deyo Brodhead (The Deyo Family). Although by this point in time the traditional use of the dowry was being phased out of European culture, it was still a part of American culture. The dowry’s function as a way to initiate the furnishings of the newly wedded couple’s home engaged the passing on of household furnishings, and it is in this way that the napkin ring, possibly along with the napkin rings of its set, most likely came to rest at the Abraham D Brodhead estate (“Dowry”).

The New Paltz Independence reported in July of 1894 that the Brodhead estate would be renovated, expanding the house and implementing the most up to date amenities. The renovations would preserve the character of the existing home in remembrance of the family’s sole ownership of the property (New Paltz Independence). Over the next few years, the estate was under renovations, but by March of 1895, the Brodheads were hosting parties and gatherings in their completed home, which was furnished in the most elegant of fashions (Waite). By the turn of the century, the home exuberated the wealth and status that Abraham tried to keep as his persona.

The dining room was the showcase of the family heirlooms, and undoubtedly where the napkin rings would have resided. As recorded by the Deyo House Furnishing Plan, the dining room was encapsulated in mahogany Empire side boards, with a mahogany drop leaf table in the center, both of which dated to the 19th century. The side boards and dining table shaped the style of furnishings in the Brodhead house, as did the late-19th century dining set (Haley). The napkin rings would complete the ode to the family heirlooms of the Deyo-Brodheads and would serve as an elegant match to the style of the dining room furnishings.

Just a few years after the home was completed, the illustrious 19th century dining set would soon be out of fashion, and a proper 20th century style called for the elegance of simplicity (Haley). The walls would be left plain, and any silver or glass objects would be used minimally and in rotation (Haley). The tiny napkin rings would, at best, be displayed occasionally as the Brodheads kept with the trends of the time and continued to improve their home.

The home, however, was sold at auction in 1915 due to the alleged bankruptcy of Abraham D Brodhead (New Paltz Independence). For the first time since the home was built, it passed out of the hands of the family that built it and the Brodheads lost their family home. In 1926, Abraham passed away; at that time, an inventory for sales was completed of the dining room’s furnishings (Haley). The napkin rings, absent, must have already passed from Gertrude to either her sister or the last known owner of the rings, Gertrude’s niece. The napkin rings could have passed back into the hands of Gertrude’s family at the time of bankruptcy, preserving the family ownership of the napkin rings and avoid being sold to an outside citizen as was the case of her husband’s family home. The idea of preserving the family’s possessions is keen, even a tiny dining accessory could be the tie between family members and remain as one of the persevering items of the family lineage.

References:

The Deyo (Deyoe) Family. Ed. Carol Van Wagner et al. New Paltz: Deyo Family Association & Huguenot Historical Society. 2003. Print.

“Dowry.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 24 April 2015.

Haley Jacquetta. “Furnishing Plan – Deyo House.” New Paltz: Huguenot Historical Society. 2001. Print.

Historic Huguenot Street. “Ring, Napkin.” New Paltz: Historic Huguenot Street, 2015. Information Pamphlet.

New Paltz Independence. 13 July 1894 New Paltz : Print.

New Paltz Independence. 6 August 1915 New Paltz : Print.

Waite, John C Associates. “Deyo House Historic Structure Report.” New York: Historical Collection Elting Library. Print.

Family & Faith in a Chaotic and Changing World: The 1650 Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, dated 1650. Belonging to one of the original patentees of New Paltz, the leather bound French bible includes a listed genealogy of the Hasbrouck family and the entire Bible.

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, dated 1650. Belonging to one of the original patentees of New Paltz, the leather bound French bible includes a listed genealogy of the Hasbrouck family and conveys the importance of religion to the French Huguenots who fled France from religious persecution. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

Physical Description of the Object 

Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, 1650. Detail showing copper ornament and leather bound cover. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

The Hasbrouck Family is synonymous with Historic Huguenot Street and with the French Huguenots.  An object of great interest to the foundations of Historic Huguenot Street and one if its founding families is the Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible form 1650. This leather bound bible is extremely large and ornate. With over 500 pages, the bible remains almost in entire original form. With some restoration work done, the bible has a new bounding done by the historical society that reads “ Jean Hasbrouck French Bible.”

The cover and back of the 1650 Bible show wear and tear, revealing a strong wooden interior bound over the leather. Also, the front and back reveal copper straps that would have held the locks for the book. The first 11 pages of the Jean Hasbrouck bible are missing, including the important copyright page.

Provenance

Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, 1650.

Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible, 1650. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

Interior of the Hasbrouck Bible, including a handwritten genealogy. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible holds a rich and telling history of both the Hasbrouck Family and the greater religious identity of the French Huguenots who settled in New Paltz, NY.  According to the Hasbrouck Family Website, the family name Hasbrouck is derived from a location, near the Ville d’Hazebrouck in Flanders (near Calais), France.The bible belonged to Jean Hasbrouck, one of the original patentees of New Paltz.  His exact birth date is unknown, but family histories put it at around the 1630s-1640s, outside Calais in France. Records show that Jean Hasbrouck died in 1714.  The history of the Hasbrouck Family comes to life when the bible is opened. Alongside the front cover and the back cover, lay hand written scripts detailing genealogy of the family. Unfortunately, many of these entries have given into deterioration and time, but many can be read. The eligible entries reveal to be the names of the children of Jean Hasbrouck and Anna Deyo. Their children were: Maria, Anne, Hester, Abraham, Isaac, Elizabeth and Jacob.  Jean married Anna Deyo in in 1676 in Manheim, Germany.  Jean Hasbrouck, left France and ended up in Mannheim, Germany alongside many other refugees. The bible stayed in the Hasbrouck family for years but the exact donor is unknown to Historic Hugeunot street, lost in time.

Narrative

Inside front cover of the Jean Hasbrouck Bible.

Inside front cover of the Jean Hasbrouck Bible. (Photo: © Miriam Ward)

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible is essential to the history of New Paltz. First of all, the bible reveals the incredible and rich religious history and ties that New Paltz was founded on. The bible, surviving and in the hands of Historic Hugenot Street today, shines immense light and importance of religious ties to the identity of the French Huguenots.

According to a family history compiled by descendant Kenneth Hasbrouck, the protestant church in Marck France burned around 1640 and the protestant population was forced to flee. Many French Huguenots at this time, fled to Mannheim, Germany for protection and with this haste transition could not bring many belongings with them. Even though it is not certain for sure, we can be fairly certain that Jean’s bible was made in France and that he brought it with him to Manheim, Germany.  Of the many objects to save and which to leave, the sheer fact that Jean saved this bible through such a tumultuous and changing time is very important.

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Jean Hasbrouck Letter of Recommendation, 1672 (Photo: © Historic Huguenot Street, Hudson River Valley Heritage)

Jean Hasbrouck, a founding patentee of New Paltz, received a ‘letter of recommendation’ from the French Church in Germany, confirming his and his wife’s good standing in the church, in preparation for his voyage to New York. The so called ‘letter of recommendation’ is striking. Written in 1672, this letter confirmed the relgious identity of Jean Hasbrouck and his wife. The fact that such a letter even existed gives us tremendous insight into not only the chaotic world that Jean Hasbrouck and his family lived in, but the importance of their religion to their life and identity.

The 1672 letter of recommendation shines a great light on the story of Jean’s bible. First off, it’s of importance because the weight and influence of such a letter of recommendation speaks to the importance of religion in the colonies. Further, the letter of recommendation speaks to the identity Jean and Anna Hasbrouck: that of French Protestant. The letter reads, “Jean Hasebruck and his wife are members of the Church Christ, and have lived among us during the time that they spent here, honorably & in a Christian way, attending the holy services, and taking Holy Sacrament of the Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ without scandal known to us. Thus we recommend them as such to our brothers in the Church where God will send them. Written at Mannheim in the Lower Palatinate this 17 March 1672 The leaders of the French Church in the said place & in the name of all…..” The letter of Recommendation from the French church in Germany cemented Jean Hasbrouck’s place in the colonies. The corelation between the family bible and the letter of recommendation goes hand in hand: the certificate allowed Jean and his family to join the church in the colonies by establishing their faith. The bible, materializes this faith.

The identity of French Protestant was central to the identity of Jean Hasbrouck, manifested in the family bible. On May 16th, 1672 Jean Hasbrouck and his wife Anna left Mannheim and sailed to Wiltwyck, New York in the Spring of 1673. In 1675, Abraham Hasbrouck sailed from Mannheim to Boston and ended up in New York to join his brother Jean and their small group of French Protestants. Jean and Abraham ended up becoming founding patentees of New Paltz, NY where they eventually settled.From a journey from Calais, France to Mannheim, Germany on a boat to New York Jean held onto his family bible. Jean and Anna ended up having seven children that they raised in New Paltz, NY. The names of the children are written in beautiful handwriting on the insides of the bible: Maria, Anne, Hester, Abraham, Isaac, Elizabeth and Jacob. In 1701, Jean Hasbrouck received permission from the Colony of England to “buy, sell, and trade lands, tenements, and hereditaments in this Kingdom…” The 1701 edict reveals the merchant nature of Jean Hasbrouck and how involved his family was. Jean, as a founding patentee of New Paltz, was extremely involved in the community. Along with his brother Abraham Hasbrouck and Louis Bevier, he served as the founding commissioners of the early courts of New Paltz. Serving in the court as a commissioner, Jean Hasbrouck held a very high status in the town.

Jean Hasbrouck will of 1712.

Jean Hasbrouck will of 1712. (© Historic Huguenot Street, Hudson River Valley Heritage)

In 1712, Jean Hasbrouck died. His last will and testament survives and has been translated by Historic Huguenot Street. The will, written in Dutch, reveals how Jean and his family were fluent in both French and Dutch. New York, after being a Dutch colony, certainly held onto its Dutch roots. The will conveys extremely devout and emotional language, conveying the importance of faith to Jean Hasbrouck. Jean writes, “…so I commend my Soul To God almighty my Creator and To jesus Christ my redeemer and To the Holy Ghost my sanctifier And my body to the Earth whence the same came from to be buried in A Christian fashion And rest there until my Soul and Body will be united upon the day of resurrection And receive the Eternal Bliss of salvation which God of his grace through the One merit of our savior has promised and prepared To all who have sincere and complete faith In him….” Jean Hasbrouck’s will of 1712 conveys how important and essential faith and religion were to his life. His bible reveals just that.

The Jean Hasbrouck Family Bible of 1650 conveys the centrality of faith to the life of the French Huguenots. In settling, and fostering, a community fleeing of religious persecution, Jean and his family were guided through faith.


Special thanks to Carrie Allmendinger of Historic Huguenot Street.

Works Cited

Fosdick, Lucian J. The French Blood in America. London: Flemming H. Revell, 1906. Print.

Hasbrouck, Jean. “Jean Hasbrouck Will 1712.” 1712.  Handwritten text. Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz. Hudson River Valley Heritage. http://hrvh.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hhs/id/1491/rec/11

Hasbrouck, Jean. “Jean Hasbrouck Letter of Recommendation 1672.” 1672. Handwritten text: Manheim, Germany. Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz. Hudson River Valley Heritage. http://hrvh.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/hhs/id/16/rec/2

Hasbrouck, Jon. “Hasbrouck, Our Family Name.” Hasbrouck Family. Web.  http://www.hasbrouckfamily.org/name.htm

Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. The Hasbrouck Family in America with European Background. Vol 1. New Paltz: Hasbrouck Family Association, 1961.  Print

Lawrence, Thomas. “Notary- Certificate to Jean Hasbrouck.” 1701, London. The Hasbrouck Family in America with European Background. Vol 1.

Roth, Eric. “New Paltz Town Records (1677-1932).” Historic Huguenot Street. Web  http://www.huguenotstreet.org/new-paltz-town-records/?rq=jean%20hasbrouck