Sir William Johnson’s 1774 inventory of his New York western frontier estate, Johnson Hall, revealed a superb collection of books and other reading material.
Books were a bit more difficult to acquire in 18th century Johnstown than at present, so one could presume that selecting titles was considered, even more precisely than today, by recommended taste, by familiarity with an author, or perhaps from curiosity after having read a report of the book in the newspapers that arrived from New York City or from England via a New York City agent.
On August 7, 1862, Henry Graves, physically exhausted from walking, fighting, and from four days detail digging trenches under a Petersburg, Virginia, sun and not “a breath of air stirring,” sat down and wrote to his wife, describing the importance of the imagination to survival.
He saw himself standing – not with spade in hand – but eating from a bowl of peaches in the midst of “homefolk” with his coat off, moving across the piazza, enjoying the cool breeze “that almost always is blowing fresh through there.” He told her that he often went into this place in his imagination to pass time swiftly and shared that “soldier mortals” would not survive if they were not “blessed with the gift of imagination and the pictures of hope.” The second “angel of mercy,” he said, was the night dream, which presented him even more vivid pictures of hope than any daydream. Read more
The goal of every museum and historic site is to make history come alive in the imagination of the public. The past few days have witnessed a number of celebrations of holiday greenery, music, and feasting, commemorating early festivities in the Mohawk Valley. Most of the greenery and more usual trappings of holiday spirit that are near and dear to our imaginations and hearts did not become common in household celebrations until the nineteenth century. More common in the 18th century secular celebrations were simple gifts of trinkets or money and feasts involving food and drink. There were additional rituals in colonial New York German and Dutch households where ceremonies were brought over from their countries of origin. Read more
The question was raised on “what are bed rugs?” in a recent living history association [ALHFAM] on-line thread. Bed rugs, often spelled “bed ruggs,” were common bed coverings that appear in both 18th and 19th century house inventories. Bed rugs were inventoried in Johnson Hall in Johnstown, NY, in a 1774 inventory of household goods by Daniel Claus. Johnson Hall was built in 1763- but the inventory was completed in 1774, a common recording for wills and cataloguing household goods. Read more
Please join us in welcoming Wanda Burch, New York History‘-s newest contributor. Burch has an MA in History Museum Studies and has spent 42 years of in historic preservation, both in Arkansas and New York State. Early in her career she was a registrar at the Arkansas Arts Center and a curator at Arkansas Territorial Restoration. She recently retired as site manager of Johnson Hall State Historic Site and now serves as Vice-President of Friends of Johnson Hall.
Burch is the author of several articles in the NYSHA journal New York History and other publication on Sir William Johnson and was the Upstate History Alliance’s 2010 recipient of the Commendation of Merit Award for individual lifetime achievement and in the same year, the NYS Parks and Recreation Huttleston Award for outstanding achievement, the highest agency honor awarded.
She is the author of She Who Dreams (New World Library, Novato, CA, 2003)- a co-presenter of Arts and Healing retreats at Great Camp Sagamore and Arts and Re-integration retreats for women veterans at Wiawaka in Lake George, NY. [www.creativehealingconnections.org].
With her husband Ron Burch she is the owner of two historic houses and author of the nomination for the Glen Historic District. Both were part of the founding committee for the Western Frontier Symposium, hosted at Fulton Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY. They also jointly authored Of Beams to Brackets, Architecture in the Mohawk Valley.
Her first piece for New York History will appear this morning.