Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Faces of The Farmers' Museum: Ted Shuart

By: Garet Livermore, Vice President for Education

Ted Shuart, Printer, The Farmers' Museum. June 2011.
How did you get involved in museum work? 
You could say that I was born into it.  My whole family was in the antiques business, and I even slept in a rope trundle bed as a small child.  When the centennial of the Civil War came around in the 1960s, it really stimulated my interest because I read everything I could about the units and the battles. Eventually I became involved in reenactments and helped to start a local group of reenactors who traveled to schools and historical societies to do presentations.  My day job as a graphic artist at a local newspaper gave me some of the basic skills that I continue to practice here in the Printing Office.  I came here as a Museum Teacher twelve years ago to get a foot in the door of the museum and eventually became the printer when that job opened up.

What did it take to learn the craft of Letterpress printing?
The first thing I did was review the notes and books of the museum printers who had worked here for more than sixty years; they are a treasure trove of information.  After that I started working with other museum printers, including staff from the Shelburne Museum and the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  They helped me understand the finer points of printing from typesetting through inking and on to printing pressure and press mechanics.

What is your favorite object in the Middlefield Printing Office?
It would probably be the Robert Hoe Washington Hand Press.  It was made in 1828 and is one of the oldest presses of its kind in America.  It was used by the Freeman’s Journal here in Cooperstown for many years.  A few years after the paper bought it, they moved to a larger page size that required a new press.  Most small town presses were used intensely, and the surviving presses are suffered and are difficult to use, but this press was put in storage for many years until it came to The Farmers’ Museum in the late 1940s. As a result it is a pristine piece of equipment in wonderful condition that is great to work with.

What is your next big project?
I’m presently setting up a children’s book based on one printed by Elihu Phinney here in Cooperstown in the nineteenth century.  That edition will run to 1,000 copies and will use the original illustrations.   Also, since this is the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, I am researching and reproducing recruitment posters from the early years of the war.

Why do you think it is important for people to understand early printing techniques?
Letterpress printing is the basis of all of our graphic arts today.  Books, magazines and newspapers all had their start in printing offices like this. Even the basic terms of printing – like font, typestyle, upper and lower case – all refer to letterpress techniques that have carried over to digital printing. Many of the visitors who are most interested in the shop are modern designers and printers who have become interested in letterpress printing not only because it is the roots of the current industry, but also because the quality of work printed on presses like these has yet to be duplicated digitally.

A Note about the Faces of The Farmers' Museum series: This series of blog posts combines staff portraits made in the style of nineteenth-century occupational photographs using film-based photography. The idea came for this when I found a box of long-expired film in a museum storage area. Using the film from the early 1990s, a fifty-year-old Rolleiflex camera and ancient photographic chemicals gave a reasonable facsimile of the images of farmers, tradesmen and community leaders that were popular 150 years ago.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Empire State Carousel’s Sam the Bear

By: Mary Margaret Kuhn, Supervisor, Empire State Carousel and Country Fair

After going around in circles for five seasons with the animals of the Empire State Carousel, I have gotten to know the animals intimately.  All the animals have names, and stories as to why they are part of the museum you can ride.

One story that is especially fun to share with our guests is that of Sam the Bear.  Created by William Cooper, Sam tells the story of Waterloo, NY.  You can find Waterloo hugging Route 20 as you drive between Seneca Falls and Geneva.  It is a pretty little town that has a connection to the anniversary weekend of the Empire State Carousel – Memorial Day.  In fact this year marks the 145th time Memorial Day has been honored in Waterloo, and Sam is part of the celebration’s logo.

If you look at Sam, you might wonder why he holds a flag from the American Revolution in his jaws.  The current town was founded in the year 1792 by Mr. Samuel Bear – get it? 

Sam’s saddle blanket has a map of the Finger Lakes, with a medallion marking his home town.

If you see the items Sam carries behind his saddle, a canteen, bedroll & saddlebag – they are reminiscent of those carried by Civil War soldiers.  Waterloo held the first formal observance of Decoration Day on May 5, 1866, honoring both Union and Confederate soldiers who had given their lives defending their homes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dezemo Family of Walden, New York

By: Christina Ely, Registrar for Plowline: Images of Rural New York

One of the remarkable things about working with the Plowline: Images of Rural New York Collection are the stories that you see through the images from small family “snapshot” collections. Plowline has two such groups of negatives and photographs, both acquired in 2010. The Dezemo Family Snapshots Collection were the first that The Farmers’ Museum attained. The Dezemo’s were a farm family from Walden, New York located in Orange County. The photographs and negatives show the children of George and Myrtle Dezemo from infancy in the 1930s through their late teenage years in the early 1950s. In the photos you can see them grow from the days they were photographed on Dad’s lap until they themselves were helping to run their small family farm.
Man with a baby and toddler, ca. 1933-1934, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(136). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
George, Anna, Myrtle and Don Dezemo, 1947, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(047). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
George, Myrtle and Anna Dezemo on a tractor, 1947, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(049). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
Images in this collection not only show the children posing with the prized families Farmall H, but also with rabbits, calves, dairy cows, horses, chickens and ducks, large mounds and heaps of hay, in the apple orchard, shoveling snow, and with a recent catch (a woodchuck).
Two children in an apple orchard, ca. 1939, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(009). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
Since the negatives were not in chronological order, it took me some time to piece together who was who at various ages (especially the children), and thankfully there were a handful of photos with names, ages and/or dates on the back which helped even more. My favorite notation was in a child’s early elementary handwriting stating "$200 cow. George Dezemo and Myrtle. Name daisy."

Another fascinating aspect of the images in this collection is “Grandma.” Grandma appears often throughout the collection. We see her with the children, posing with them in front of a car, presumably the family’s prized car. And she appears incrementally throughout the years. In the images, she is rarely dressed up, only once is she in her “Sunday Best”, usually she is posed in stained work clothes and apron, which tell us she was a hard worker. I think Grandma was the cornerstone of the family, taking care of the household while Myrtle (mom) helped out on the farm. Given that Grandma seems to always be around for the family photos, in all seasons, it is my thought that she might have lived with George, Myrtle and the children. Here we see Grandma in a typical photo with the grandchildren and the other without her hair covered and in her best clothing – making it almost hard to recognize her!
Grandma Dezemo with children, ca. 1939, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(152). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.

Two women, a young boy and young girl posing outdoors, ca. 1935-1940, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(121). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
These are the types of collections that are really enjoyable as you can follow a family’s history, triumphs, defeats and see the very fine aspects of a country life, which is what this collections initiative is all about.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Legacy of Family Recipes

By: Sue deBruijn, Visitor Services and Retail Manager

Churches, Ladies Auxiliaries, Fire Halls, Animal Shelters: these are just a few of the multitude of charitable organizations who produce cookbooks chock full of recipes from friends and neighbors.  These cookbooks come in all shapes and sizes, handwritten or typed, bound or stapled.  They are a collection of tried and true recipes compiled by hard working volunteers, and there are legacies of love inside.

To go along with the New York’s Good Eats! exhibit, we decided to carry some of these locally produced cookbooks in The Farmers’ Museum store.  I put out an All Points Bulletin looking for organizations that may have some for sale.  Immediately I received several responses, but only two with cookbooks that we could procure – The Grace Episcopal Church of Cherry Valley and Susquehanna Animal Shelter.  Everyone else had a story they wanted to share about their own cherished local cookbook.  One friend responded that his favorite included a recipe for Turtle Soup.  It began with “Step 1 – Go down to the crick and catch a turtle.”  One of my personal favorites was in the “Men’s Recipes” section where I found a recipe submitted by my Uncle Rudy.  It read, “Sloughter Pot Pie – Ingredients:  1 chicken stolen from a hen house, plucked and cleaned.”

This prompted me to pull out my favorite – the Middleburgh Reformed Church Cookbook.  As I leafed through the yellowing pages, I found recipes from my grandmother, my mother and my aunts, all of whom are no longer with us, but left a legacy behind in their recipes.  I felt myself drawn closer to these women as I read their recipes and pictured them, wearing homemade aprons, lovingly making these meals for our family.

The cookbook also had a surprise for me.  In what I consider the best section, Desserts, I came across Hot Fudge Sauce by Sue Grogan.  Wait, that used to be me!  In my family, the recipe was more commonly referred to as Soozers Sooper Sauce.  I had completely forgotten about the recipe, which had actually been my mother’s.  I always helped her make it so that I could lick the spoon and dip my finger in the fudge sauce while it was still warm.  Graciously, my mother pretended that it was my own special recipe and must have submitted it to the cookbook 30 years ago when it was first printed.

A few months after finding that recipe again, my five sisters and I were gathering for our annual Sisters’ Weekend.  To their surprise, each of them received a jar of homemade Soozers Sooper Sauce, and we spent hours reminiscing about cooking with Mom.  All thanks to that beautiful old cookbook.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fourth of July at The Farmers' Museum

By: Mary Margaret Kuhn, Carousel Supervisor

The Fourth of July was celebrated at The Farmers' Museum with gusto this year. The weather was lovely, and lots of happy families came to share in the fun. It was my pleasure to bring the efforts of many talented folks together to make a memorable day for our guests. Like many of our special event days, this fun was made possible by a cadre of volunteers who willingly shared their time and talents.

Visitors were greeted at the Country Fair by Martha Duke and Katie Curran taking registrations for the Apple Pie Eating Contest, sponsored by the Fly Creek Cider Mill, who donated the pies and the prize of a $50 gift certificate. Folks could also sign up for an iron skillet throwing contest and a quoit pitch.

Next, our guests found a fabulous puppet show titled "Rabble Rousing" in the blue and white fair tent. Performed five times by Jai and Nancy, the story was about the colonists rebelling against the British government after one tax after another was levied on them.
The ladies researched and wrote the show, made and clothed the eleven puppets and even created the scenery! Nance teaches puppetry in the Theater Arts program at Utica College and generously shared her expertise.

Volunteers John LaDuke, Hannah Blystra and Michaela LaChance ran old fashioned contests like sack races, egg races and wheelbarrow races all day on the green between the Empire State Carousel and Todd's General Store for the delight of young and old alike.

Ted Shuart marshaled the (truly volunteer) militia on the Bump Tavern Green and led the musket salute as Tom Heitz read the Declaration of Independence from the tavern's upper porch. Katie Boardman entertained with her varied repertoire of patriotic songs played on the lower porch for the enjoyment of all.

Guests could quench their appetite and thirst at the new Crossroads CafĂ© housed in the William’s Carriage Shed next to the Tavern.  Zeb pulled the ride wagon as Farmer Rick and Ray took turns driving and Doodle Grubb gave his time as the wagon rider.

A highlight came in the afternoon when Garet Livermore announced the name selected for the horse who returned to ride the Empire State Carousel mechanism after 15 years.  Cooper the Colt was chosen from over 500 submissions.  This name was suggested by Osha & Jaia French, Jennifer Evans, Diane Williams & Emily Davidson, Marty Smith, Kevin Carley, Jim & Joan Ford, Siobhan Hayden, Claire Reichard, Dakota Halwig, Jeff Dickert, Ian Garvin & Tracy Olmstead and Gage Halverson.  Our congratulations go out to these folks who will all receive the brand new Empire State Carousel cloisonnĂ© bookmark. 

Gage Olmstead and his mother, who were present for the announcement of Cooper the Colt.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to all who did so much to make this a day of fun at The Farmers' Museum!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Week Down on the Farm

By: Jenna Peterson, School and Farm Programs Intern
Have you ever wondered what it would be like growing up on a farm in 1845? The Down on the Farm Week-Long Experience gave a gaggle of five to seven year-olds the chance to find out. This program ran during the last week of June, 9:00am to 12:30pm. Each day was assigned a season to show the sixteen children how the changing weather impacted farm life. We began with year-round activities, followed by fall, winter, and spring, and ending with summer.
Like any day on the farm, the kids started out every morning doing chores with the farmers. They learned how to feed the chickens, to brush the cows and oxen, to gather both chicken and duck eggs, and how silly geese act when you let them out of the barn. Their favorite activity was learning all about what it takes to be a shepherd, especially “herding” the sheep into their pen every morning. This involved lining up, yelling “Good Day!” very loudly to get the sheep ready, and then following them as they ran to their pen. They also learned about shearing and even got to take home a little piece of wool.

Once the morning chores were done, we explored our seasonal themes. On Monday, we talked about things that would have been done all year, regardless of the weather. We made fritters over the hearth, got the chance to try on some period clothing, and had a lesson on etiquette before making some stops around the village. Tuesday was all about autumn. We got to practice some harvesting and food preservation techniques, and made cobweb chasers out of broom corn. We also took a ride on the carousel and visited the Country Fair tent. On Wednesday, we focused on wintertime. We got a special ride into town on the ox cart, and stayed busy visiting the pharmacy, the schoolhouse, the blacksmith, and the print shop. Thursday was focused on the spring. The kids got to do the bean baby activity that was done as a part of Museum Quest, and they all enjoyed wearing their seed necklaces. We also practiced weeding in the Lippitt kitchen garden and fed baby animals in the Children’s Barnyard.
Finally, Friday came around and it was time for summer. It was a very full day, but a good one. We got to watch the cow being milked, see the cheese that had been made in the Lippitt House, and then make our very own butter using small glass jars. Everyone got their own jar with a little cream, and they had to shake the jar while we practiced our patriotic songs for the parade later that day. Eventually, everyone’s cream turned to butter, and we got to taste it on some bread. It was voted better than the kind you buy in the store! Once the butter was done, we took a quick nature hike up on the hill behind the museum. There were lots of things to look at, and puddles to jump over! The rest of the day was devoted to getting ready for the Down on the Farm Independence Day Parade. There were banners for every season that needed to be colored, and sashes with their names on them to be assembled. Finally, we got in line behind the steer calves and paraded around town. We ended the parade, and the camp, with one final ride on the carousel.
For me, this experience was very special. When I was the same age as these kids, I attended the day camp at Living History Farms, a museum in Iowa that is similar to The Farmers’ Museum. Now, I am a graduate student in History Museum Studies, and I have no doubt that going to that camp is what started me on this journey. Being able to work with these children this week was incredibly rewarding, and I feel like part of my life has come full circle. We were thrilled to have the camp wrap-up successfully, but also a little sad to say goodbye to the kids that we had gotten to know so well. Hopefully, they will be back to visit the museum soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Poultry Progress at the Farm

By: Meredith Doubleday, Public Programs Intern

Since Marieanne’s last broody coop update, we have had a lot of poultry excitement. Most of our eggs have hatched, and we now have chicks, poults, goslings, and a duckling scurrying around the Lippitt Farmstead.

On May 18th, our broody hen hatched three Dominique chicks. Marieanne fed them the traditional 1840s diet: a mixture of chopped hard-boiled eggs with breadcrumbs, oatmeal, and milk. It was quite an experience to hold in my hand a trembling bundle of new life. As I gingerly held this ball of feathers, its quiet cheeps were a delicate contrast to the persistent clucking of the mother hen nearby.

Now, a month later, they have been out of the coop for a few weeks and are no longer mothered and guarded so closely by the broody hen. They are starting to look and act much more like grub-pecking chickens.

Though I have spent most of my life in either Otsego or Herkimer County, I have never lived on a farm nor raised poultry so I was unprepared for the following. I had always assumed that chickens would only set on chicken eggs, and turkeys would only nest on turkey eggs. However, I soon discovered that this was not the case!

A chicken hen nested on five duck eggs and hatched two ducklings on June 4th. Not one, but two hens played mama duck with the ducklings as they adjusted to the world (or the coop) around them. Like chicks, ducklings also had a very specific regimen: usually a wet mash of bran, flour, cornmeal and beef scrap moistened with water. Unfortunately, only one duckling survived, but I managed to get a picture of both of them following one of their “mama” hens when they were just a week old.

Our one duckling is now growing rapidly, but it still thinks it is a chicken! Hopefully soon it will realize it has webbed feet and will waddle into the water.

As Marieanne mentioned in her last post, our turkey hen was sitting on nine eggs in the turkey house. On June 6th, one of the eggs hatched. Much to our surprise it was not a poult but a chick! A chicken must have snuck into the turkey hen’s nest and laid an egg unbeknownst to the turkey and farmers alike. Since turkey and duck eggs take twenty-eight days to hatch, and chicken eggs take only twenty-one, the five poults hatched a almost a week later on June 12th and 13th. Here is a picture of two of the baby poults exploring the barnyard on their second day.

The last fowl update is news on our goslings. They are now over two months old and always travel in a cackling mass. Their voices are starting to change as they mature into grownup geese.

Come to the Lippitt Farmstead and visit our growing brood of our lively feathered friends!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Quest for Bean Babies

By: Jenna Peterson, School and Farm Programs Intern
The school year is coming to a close, which means that school tours at NYSHA are wrapping up. This year, students visiting had the opportunity to participate in the brand new Museum Quest activity. Museum Quest is a series of up to eleven stations scattered across the Farmers’ Museum and the Fenimore Art Museum, including the Mohawk Barkhouse and the newly relocated Seneca Log House.

Each station boasts its own theme, and lasts around twenty minutes. Museum Teachers lead students through activities like discovering just what 1840’s underwear looks like, learning how to barter and trade using limited supplies, or seeing what materials make up the art in the Thaw Gallery.

Last Wednesday, I got to teach the “Bean Babies” activity. Planting is such an important part of agricultural life, and being able to see a plant grow is always an amazing sight. The activity starts by looking through the gardens at Lippit Homestead. I asked kids to decide which plant was their favorite, and to tell me five words that described each one. This led to discussion of the parts of plants and seeds. Funny thing was, one of the visiting schools had just taken a test on plants, and knew a lot more than I did!
Once the kids taught me everything I had forgotten from 6th grade biology, we moved to actually making the Bean Babies. It is pretty simple, but I think they are pretty neat. A damp cotton ball and a bean are put into a small plastic bag. The baggie is then put onto a string, and the bean baby necklace is complete. I had a handful of bean babies that had been made over the previous weeks, so the students could see just how quickly their beans would grow!
Even though things have been a bit chaotic, we have been thrilled to have so many students at the museums. Our record was 651 in one day! Around 3,500 students were able to participate in the Museum Quest program. We cannot wait to offer this program again next spring.
Next stop, Week-Long Experiences!
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