Museum Musings - The Harvester Wars?

It is on record that Cirus McCormick did not come up with the actual idea of a grain reaper, rather he dramatically improved upon the original farm-made equipment. One reaper was crafted by William Benton, a English-born master brick-maker, builder and farmer, and his enslaved blacksmith, Chas. McQuay, who had crafted a corn reaper prior to McCormick’s. Benton was known to have worked in the Piedmont Region beginning in the 1820’s. Purchasing 250 acres in Loudoun County (1822), Benton built his own home, Spring Hill, after one he had seen while in Wales. His reputation was such that he had been hired by both James Madison and James Monroe. In 1820 Benton made the bricks and built Monroe

Museum Musings - The Curtain Dress from "Gone with the Wind"

Everyone who has seen "Gone With the Wind" where Scarlett goes to meet Rhett to flirt her way into money to pay taxes on Tara, wearing a velvet gown made from draperies, complete with the tassels as a belt; or Carol Burnett's unforgettable scene of the green curtain dress ("Went With the Wind," complete with curtain rods!) may wonder, did women of the South really turn curtains into clothing? (Photo courtesy of Christina Stewart, "Scarlett's Gowns, Gone With the Wind Costume Restoration," Pretty Clever Films, YouTube: Dress appe

Museum Musings - The Fan

One of our current exhibits includes a case with several of our fans, which brought to mind the thought that using a fan incorrectly in the 1700-1800's could send the wrong message. Did you know that fans had a language all their own? I found a wonderful letter to "The Spectator" - a briefly lived (1711-1712) daily publication founded by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele in England. The Spectator aimed to "provide readers with topics for well-reasoned discussion, and to equip them to carry on conversations and engage in social interactions in a polite manner"[1] The Spectator also had many readers in the American colonies - "James Madison read the paper avidly as a teenager. It is said t

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