Category Archives: Artifacts – Heirlooms

Wedding Heirlooms for Valentine’s Day

The love story of Harriet Morgan and newly minted doctor William Stout starts on the bridge just outside Killbuck, Ohio. Before I show you some of the things that my great-grandmother saved from her wedding in 1860, you can click on this link and read about how the couple met.

If you have been following the story of Harriet’s mother and father–Mary and Jesse Morgan–you will understand why Harriet’s mother, Mary, may have been cautious about this young man who showed up at her doorstep with her daughter. At any rate they married. The newly weds stayed in Killbuck, perhaps a requirement by Mary or perhaps because Harriet did not want to leave her mother alone. Doc Stout started practicing medicine at a time when there were already two doctors practicing in the tiny town.

My mother told the romantic story over and over. The fact that mother knew the story so well, indicates to me that great-grandma Harriet (Hattie) Morgan Stout liked to tell the story herself.  Thank goodness for her romantic soul. Without her devotion to preserving famly memories, my family history would lack all this tangible reminders of my ancestors.

We got a peek at great-grandmother Harriet’s wedding dress when I photographed the crazy quilt that she made with the help of her mother-in-law in the early 20th century.

crazy quilt

Emeline Cochran Stout’s crazy quilt.

 

The small pieces of green material were from Harriet’s wedding dress.  The embossed silk material does not show up to the best advantage in this picture. And why green?  After all, when Queen Victoria married in 1840, she wore white, starting a trend that now rules bridal choices.  At any rate, Hattie chose green. Perhaps the material was easily available, or marked down. Most likely she wanted a material that could be reused for something more practical in the future. The material is shiny–slightly duller in the background than the very shiny embossed design, which made it dificult to photograph.  The color is actually a bit deeper than I could persuade my camera to reflect.

wedding dress

Harriet Morgan Stout’s Wedding dress material 1860

Mother’s note, pinned to the scraps of material, says that the wedding dress had three skirts made of this material.  Harriet’s mother was a seamstress, but nevertheless it would have taken some time to make such a complex dress. Although no wedding picture survives the-is picture from the Metropolitan Museum helps me imagine what Hattie might have looked like in her green wedding dress.

1860s dress

1860s dress, photo from Metropolitan Museum

How practical my grandmothers and great-grandmothers were! It would not occur to me to cut up a preciouis dress and make something else out of it–like a quilt.  But Great-Grandma Harriet Stout remade more than the dress. Here is what happened to a vest belonging to “Doc” Stout. (I do not have a record indicating that it is a wedding vest, but doesn’t that seem likely?) I have read that white was the common color for men’s waistcoats/vests in the 1860s, but I wonder if Hattie would have bothered to save a piece of any old vest

Doc Stout's vest

Doc Stout’s vest made into a doily, Maude Bartlett’s note.

The crocheted edge is beautifully executed as is the embroidered edge around the circle to serve as a hem. Someone–I assume it was Harriet–worked very hard on this beautiful little gem.

My Great Aunt Maude Stout Bartlett wrote the attached note identifying the piece. (Thank you Aunt Maude!) She also added “for Harriette.”  For the last ten or fifteen years of her life, this childless woman sorted her family treasures, from furniture to tea cups and put notes on them as to who was to inherit them.  Her determination to control her belongings beyond the grave become a family joke. When my sister and brother were visiting last summer and we went through Mary Morgan Stout’s chest of treasures, my sister Paula found a beaded bag with a note I had stuck inside “For Paula when I am gone.” As I get older, I am no longer laughing at Aunt Maude’s attempt to be sure that precious memories would go to someone who would appreciate them.

Back to Hattie and Wiliam’s wedding–In Victorian times, no lady would go out of the house without gloves or without a pretty handkerchief. In fact, this tradition continued for the next one hundred years. As a newlywed in the 1960s, I would wear gloves even if I was making a trip to the department store. Paper tissues had not yet pushed aside handkerchiefs in the 1960s, either. But I never have seen such a gorgeous handkerchief as this one from the 1860 wedding. The wide border of delicate lace is absolutely stunning.

Wedding clothes

Aunt Maude’s note on 1860 gloves and handkerchief (note circa 1960)

Harriet Stout wedding gloes and handkerchief 1860

I tried to put on these soft leather gloves that belonged to Harriet Morgan Stout, but they are way too small. It surprised me because I have pretty small hands, and pictures we have of “Hattie” in later years show a fairly “substantial” lady. She must have been quite petite when she married.

Not to be outdone, William Stout also carried a fancy handkerchief (known as a pocket square). When I say fancy, I am implying that it is decorative rather than practical!  Silk,  in taupe, with a gold embossed design.

wedding handkerchief

Doc Stout’s wedding handkerchief

I wish I had a photograph that could be identified as a wedding picure of William and Hattie, however we’ll have to settle for these pieces of the wedding clothing–not a bad substitute, in my opinion.

All of these famly heirlooms came from Mary Bassett’s wooden chest.

 HOW I AM RELATED

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • William and Harriette (Morgan) Stout.

Family Heirloom Bloggers

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, Everyone Has a Story to Tell,  started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join me in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Here are some of the bloggers who who also blog about heirlooms.

Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
True Lewis at Notes to Myself  
Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Kathy Rice at Every Leaf Has a Story
Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog

Family Heirloom: Gift Book for Christmas

This post is dedicated to those of us who are tempted to give an Amazon gift card for a present. Here is a hint on how to make a gift book into a family heirloom.

My Gift Book

Our family frequently gave gift books for Christmas presents.  My mother and father almost always wrote inscriptions in the front of the book and dated and signed them.  I treasure those gifts, particularly this one which probably accounted in large part for my life long fascination with Greece and the culture of the Golden age.  I read that book so much that the hard cover is long gone.  Here is the title page, and the very treasured inscription written by my father, Christmas 1947 when I was eight years and nine months old.

Grandma Vera’s Gift Book

What a nice surprise it was to discover that this tradition went back two generations before me. I found books that my great-grandmother, Harriet Morgan Stout gave to my grandmother and to my great-uncle–writing an inscription in each.  Even more fun, my Grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson) did what many young people do–she “wrote” on the pages. The inscription indicates that she would have been six years old when she received this book, but the book seems a bit young for a six-year-old, and she surely would have known better than to draw in a book by that age!

The book is beautifully illustrated and teaches us much about how children dressed and what they played with. Some things have not changed–skipping rope and blowing bubbles. Some toys have disappeared–whipping tops and hoops.

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Great-Uncle Will’s Gift Book

Vera’s older brother William Morgan Stout (Willy or Will), received a very different book for Christmas 1886 when he was 13.  The inscription is in the handwriting of my great-grandmother, but my mother added the “age 13”.

Review of Davy and the Goblin in American Magazine advertising section January 1888.

Review of Willy's Book

Review of Davy and the Goblin in January 1888 issue of The American Magazine.

This is a very odd book. The author, Charles Carryl, was known as the Lewis Carroll of America–writing humorous fantasy, perhaps as an escape from his day job as a stock broker.

This book published in 1894, obviously aims to cash in on the popularity of Alice In Wonderland which was first published in 1865, and continued to be a best seller.  Carryl tells some original stories, like Davy’s confrontation with the giant Badorful, but he also riffs on familiar tales like Sinbad the Sailor, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Robinson Crusoe.

The illustrations are black and white, but surely would appeal to an adventure-minded young man.  Thirteen year olds today might find this a bit young for them, but I can imagine my great-uncle “Willy” eating it up.

Willy's gift book.

Willy Stout’s gift book, Davy and the Goblin meet Giant Badorful, 1887

I post this in the hope that it will influence you not only to give books to family members, but always, ALWAYS, write the date, their name, an inscription and your name. It will enhance the value of the book in the century or two to come.  Amazon gift certificates may disappear in the cloud, but books will stick around for a long, long time.

A Slice of My Life: A Very Special Christmas Gift

Christmas Scarf

Knit Scarf heirloom Christmas gift.

Really? 1986?  I got this keepsake Christmas gift thirty years ago??

Yes, it is true.  I have not had occasion to wear it in southern Arizona, I seldom have to swaddle in a woolen scarf. And on those rare occasions when I did wear a warm scarf, I chose one in colors that I like better than green.

But of course this is green–it is a Christmas gift.  And a very special one at that.

Christmas Scarf

Both ends of Christmas scarf from president Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan , 1986

Nancy Reagan sent it to me as a reminder of our meeeting at the White House.  Me and several thousand other people.  The party I attended was just one of a dozen or so Christmas parties given by the President and his wife each year.

In 1986, I was working for Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona.  When he got his invitation to the White House Christmas party that year, his wife, Sarah Dinham, was unable to fly from Tucson to Washington D.C. to attend, so he needed “a date.”  I was the lucky choice of staff members.  I flew into Washington from Tucson where I headed up the District Office, and spent a few days on Congressional office business with some excursions for Christmas shopping at the Smithsonian Museum gift shops.

However, the highlight of the week was getting all dressed up and going to the White House.  Several weeks before, we had to submit my name, address and social security number to the White House so that the Secret Service could be sure I was not a menace.  We arrived that evening and passed through a metal detector and a cordon of watchful men in suits and uniformed marines.

We made our way up the grand staircase to the main level.  At the top of the stairs, president Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Regan stood shaking hands with every guest that came into the hallway.  The President was as friendly as his familiar smile and his warmth took away some of the nervous feeling of actually being a guest at the White House.

It was an interesting moment when Jim Kolbe introduced me to the President.  He used my nickname, Bunny, which all my life I thought I would shed when I became a real adult. After that evening, my fate was sealed. I had been introduced to the President of the United States by that silly child’s name.  I knew I was fated to be known by some people as Bunny for the rest of my life.

Nancy Reagan left quite a different impression than president Reagan. Many people comment about how tiny she was–particularly standing next to the robust “cowboy” figure of Ronald Reagan.  But despite being beautiful and tiny as a doll, Mrs. Reagan, while formally correct, did not radiate the warmth that her husband did. In fact, as she limply shook my hand, she was quite obviously looking over my shoulder to see if there wasn’t somebody more important coming.

There were quite literally hundreds of people packing the Blue room, the Red room, the Green Room, the Grand Foyer, the enormous East room and every hallway in between. After all there are 535 members of Congress and each attendee brought a guest.  Even the most jaded old- timers could not pass up the opportunity to be able to chat with old friends and frenemies at the White House.  Some probably even had plans for lobbying the President on some pending piece of legislation.

Since my Congressional “date” was an old hand at visiting the White House, he graciously asked me what I wanted to do.  Without hesitation, I told him that I wanted to be able to meet George Bush, then the vice president.  We wove our way through the crowd, Jim stopping to chat with Congressional friends, and then I spotted George Bush.  He towered above the crowd–people don’t always realize how tall he really is.

When we got there, the two men–Kolbe and Bush are two of the most gracious men I ever met–had a semi-awkward moment.  Jim, trying to make sure that Bush would not be embarrassed by assuming that I was Jim’s wife, stumbled over an introduction in which he wanted to say “Mr. Vice President, this is Bunny Badertscher, my chief of staff, not my wife, who had business in Tucson.”  Instead, he only got out, “This is not my wife….” when the vice president enveloped me in a hug and said, “Oh, that’s all right!”

Our conversation was brief because a mob formed around the vice president, but I was satisfied that I had been able to say hello to the man I admired.

Reagan Christmas Tree

The Reagans in front of the Christmas Tree in the Blue Room in 1986

I am sorry to say I do not remember a lot of the details. There were tables of refreshments in the East room where the Marine band was playing and we even managed to dance briefly. The towering official Christmas tree was decorated with vintage children’s toys that year, I believe. [Click on the photo to see the real story–I was close–it was Mother Goose characters.]Gorgeous decorations filled every room, but is all a blur–a blur of faces and bodies filling every foot of floor space.

And I got a keepsake Christmas gift to prove that it was not just a dream, but a real Cinderella experience.

———-

Details of a 2016 White House Christmas party for the volunteers who did the decorating.