Cobblestone Museum very close to $750K fundraising goal for Visitor’s Center

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 12 May 2022 at 2:51 pm

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Dick Remley, right, shares an update on fundraising for the Orleans County Visitors’ Center with guests at the Cobblestone Society’s annual membership meeting Wednesday at Carlton Recreation Hall. Looking on at left are Gail Johnson, chairwoman of the dinner, and Cobblestone Society director Doug Farley.

CARLTON – The Cobblestone Society’s fourth annual membership dinner took place Wednesday night at the Carlton Firemen’s Recreation Hall.

Cobblestone Museum director welcomed guests and introduced Dick Remley, fundraising chair of the drive to raise funds to build an Orleans County Visitors’ Center.

Larry Albanese, left, and retired Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower examine U.S. Post Office boxes from the 1940s which were donated to the Cobblestone Society for a live auction.

Remley announced that $735,000 of the $750,000 goal for the Visitors’ Center has been pledged, and $354,000 has been collected – enough to complete the purchase of the building across the street which will become the Visitors’ Center. He said pledges were received from 115 different people and 12 names had been accepted for naming rights. A naming opportunity still exists. Museum director Doug Farley said they will announce the naming rights for the Visitors’ Center in the near future.

The architectural firm of Clinton Brown in Buffalo has been hired to create a master plan to rehab the building and add a meeting room. They hope to have a conceptual drawing in June.

“This will add a new dimension to the Cobblestone Society Museum and be a terrific asset for the entire county,” Remley said.

The grounds of the future Visitors’ Center will be the site of a Summer Solstice event June 22.

One of the couples attending the dinner was Amy Machamer of Hurd Orchards. She has attended other dinner meetings to support the Cobblestone Museum, and was amazed to see a grill in the live auction, similar to one on which she was the successful bidder at a previous dinner. The grill donated by Lowe’s in Brockport was one of nearly two dozen items in the live auction Wednesday night.

“Our house overlooks a beautiful peach orchard which slopes on the way to Sandy Creek,” Machamer said. “Our grill sits there in the back yard, where we love to sit.”

Prizes were awarded to five individuals in an early bird drawing for purchasing tickets by March 31.

A money tree raffled off was donated by Shirley Bright-Neeper, Camilla VanderLinden and Doreen Wilson.

The evening also featured a split club drawing, a silent auction featuring 40 donated items and a basket raffle. Former Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower lent his expertise as an auctioneer for the evening and Larry Albanese was announcer.

Albanese called Bower the “auctioneer extraordinaire.”

“We’ve got this down,” Albanese said. “We’ve four years into doing this together.”

The meal, prepared by Zambistro’s in Medina, was entirely underwritten by Roy Bubb, John Nipher and Erin Anheier, all of Holley; and Gail Johnson of Albion.

Special thanks were extended to Scott B. Schickling, CPA, CFA of Medina for underwriting the cost of the Carlton Recreation Hall; Jackie and Bill Bixler, Leroy and Shirley Bright-Neeper and David Mitchell of Mitchell Family Funeral Homes for monetary donations; Diane Ecker Wadsworth of Bend, Ore., Grace Denniston and Tops Markets of Albion for the evening’s appetizers; Brenda Radzinski of Albion for the sheet cake; and Doreen Wilson of Albion for the cost of table coverings.

Events at the Cobblestone Museum include the spring exhibit of Victorian Mourning Art, Music of the 1920s on an Edison Victrola and upright player piano in May/June, the Summer Solstice Soiree June 22, Flea Market August 13, Fall Open House Sept. 10, Ghost Walk at a date to be announced in October and the Holiday Shoppe on dates to be announced.

Historic Childs: Musical Instruments – Part 3 – The Melodeons

Posted 9 May 2022 at 8:27 am

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director – Vol. 3 No. 12

GAINES – As we mentioned in an earlier article, the Cobblestone Museum musical instrument collection has been enriched with a variety of artifacts that represent by-gone eras of musical entertainment.

The Museum is actually quite fortunate to have in its possession two historic Melodeons. The first melodeon came to the collection in 2010 from Kent, NY and the second one came a decade later from the Fancher family in 2020.

During the latter half of the 19th century, Buffalo, NY was described as the “Melodeon Capital of the World,” which is odd considering many folks from this area today probably don’t even know what a melodeon is.  By definition, a melodeon is a small, reed organ with up to a five- or six-octave keyboard, usually housed in a piano-like cabinet.

The melodeon’s popularity in 19th century homes even exceeded that of the piano, which was more costly to produce and required frequent tuning.  The melodeon produces its sound by drawing air in through suction produced by a foot pedal bellows, the air then passes over metal reeds, to produce specific musical notes, all without the need for tuning.

The Buffalo connection was forged through the partnership of Jeremiah Carhart and Elias Needham, working under the employ of George A. Prince & Co. Music Store at 200 Main Street, Buffalo.  Their patent in 1846 solved several deficiencies found in earlier melodeon versions, hence their model became known as the “Improved Melodeon” as shown above.

The Cobblestone Universalist Church probably used an early melodeon, historically, to provide accompaniment for congregational singing. The Universalist congregation found here in the 19th century had ceased regular services in the church in the 1890s, when the parishioners moved to their new Pullman Memorial Church in Albion.

Daniel Heater of Kent donated a melodeon and stool to the Cobblestone Museum in 2010. On this instrument, players must continuously pump the right foot pedal to power the bellows while playing the keyboard. The left foot pedal is for volume control.

On some melodeons the legs are collapsible so that they could easily be moved. One local family in the past folded the legs up under their melodeon and loaded it on to their sleigh to take it to a gathering in order to have music. Unfortunately the museum’s melodeon is not currently playable, but it is still a lovely example of a popular instrument of the times and is a great addition to the museum’s collection.

Fancher House, South Main Street, Albion, circa 1905

More recently, the Museum was fortunate to receive another, albeit smaller, melodeon that harkens back to the “Fancher House” in Albion, having been passed down from Ida Baldwin Fancher (1858-1929), wife of Rev. Edward Fancher, and then to Mrs. Archie (Irene Hayes) Fancher (1897-1940). In 2020, Sandra Fancher-Bastedo donated her Fancher family heirloom to the Museum for posterity, on behalf of her siblings, children and many extended family members.

The Fancher melodeon, stands approximately 30″ high, 30″ wide, and 14″ deep, has a four-octave range with ivory keys. The bellows are attached beneath the keyboard and are pumped using the musician’s knees instead of feet.

In his book, “Trivial Tales,” author Bill Lattin tells a story about a certain Irishman who was his great-grandfather’s tenant in 1880.  Lattin knew that the Irish family was hard up and needed whatever help they could get. He approached the Poormaster and explained the family’s dire straits.  (At that time, before our current Social Service system, each town selected a Poormaster who made the decisions on who in that town should receive public assistance.)

The Poormaster agreed to check in on the Irish family.  A few weeks later, Lattin inquired once again of the Poormaster who offered the following reasoning for not extending public assistance to the Irish family. He said, “I went to see them, but we can’t help them, they have a melodeon in the house.”

His reasoning was, if they could afford a melodeon, they didn’t need assistance.  But actually, the story just goes to show the universal appeal and affordability of the simple melodeon in the 19th century household, unlike its more expensive cousin, the piano or reed organ.  The Irish family’s melodeon may well have been acquired second hand, or even been given to them at little or no cost.  By 1880, reed organs were replacing the melodeon as the instrument of choice.

Historic Childs: Musical Instruments, Part 2 (The Estey Reed Organ)

Posted 3 May 2022 at 8:26 pm

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director – Vol. 3 No. 11

GAINES – In this installment of “Historic Childs,” we take a look at another musical instrument in the collection of the Cobblestone Museum.  This 1904 Estey Reed Organ, by far the largest musical instrument in our collection, is now at home at the National Historic Landmark Cobblestone Universalist Church (1834). It is unusual by appearance, in that the rank of pipes on top of the organ are strictly non-functional and have been placed there to give the illusion that the instrument is a pipe organ (i.e., fake pipe top).

The first organ in the Universalist Church was perhaps a small Melodeon that proved insufficient for the size of the building. It was replaced by a pump organ, and later, the one shown above. This organ has now been moved to the lower level of the Church following the donation of the Estey Organ. Notice the foot petals that pumped bellows that provided the moving air that produced the musical notes.

The Cobblestone Universalist Church followed the custom of the time and placed the organ in the choir loft located in the rear of the sanctuary and the preacher at the opposite end.  At one time, all of the churches in Albion followed this tradition, until more modern times saw all of the churches (except the historic Cobblestone Church and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church) place choir and clergy in the same area in the sanctuary.

The Estey Reed Organ was built for church performance in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1904, and features two full keyboards and a pedal board.  Estey Organ Company was founded in 1852 by Jacob Estey, who bought out another Brattleboro manufacturing business. At its peak, the company was one of the world’s largest organ manufacturers, employing about 700 people, and selling its high-quality items around the world. Estey built around 500,000 to 520,000 pump organs between 1846 and 1955. Estey also produced pianos, made at the Estey Piano Company Factory in New York City.

Wade Gidley at the Pullman Memorial Church Centennial Celebration, April 17, 1994

The Museum’s Estey Organ was secured for the Cobblestone Society in 1996 by Wade Gidley, a local organist that later moved to Texas. It was acquired through a donation by Mrs. Katherine Tuthill of Williamsville NY.  The organ was moved from its former home in Williamsville by movers who carried it upstairs to its current location in the Cobblestone Church organ/choir loft.

Wade Gidley was born in Albion and lived in Orleans County most of his life. His love for the organ began when he was a small child. He studied under the late Harold Suzanne in Medina, taking lessons on the pipe organ at the old Masonic Temple in Medina and also on the organ of the First Baptist Church there.

He received his first appointment as a resident organist at the age of 14 at the Lyndonville United Methodist Church. He also played at St. John’s Lutheran Church at County Line in the Town of Yates and the Knowlesville United Methodist Church.

Following High School, Wade spent three years in the Army as Chapel Organist at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and while stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany, he played at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in the Hanan Military community.  Upon returning to the United States, he played at the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church, Albion; First Baptist Church, Medina; and St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Cheektowaga.

Announcement of the intended organ donation was made to the Cobblestone Board of Trustees at their April meeting in 1996, and the board, along with Museum Director/Curator Bill Lattin, quickly began to plan a dedication service for the “new” organ to be held on June 1st.

Pat Morrisey volunteered to prepare refreshments and Mary Anne Braunbach offered to video-tape the event so it could be shared with Mrs. Tuthill, the donor, who was not able to attend.

Mr. Gidley, assisted by Ken Root, began to make preparations for the permanent installation of the organ in the church choir loft.  The men installed a four-inch pipe in the attic for the blower motor, which cut down on the noise.  In the organ’s earlier placements, it would have been “powered” by bellows which were operated by a “blow-boy.”  This young man would have provided the man-power needed to force air into the reed organ by pumping bellows, usually located behind a screen (shown above), so as not to be a distraction to the musician or audience.

A plaque was ordered to honor the donor, Mrs. Tuthill, who taught 6th grade for 45 years in the Buffalo Public Schools. She studied music at the University of Buffalo and played the organ and piano throughout most of her life. For 22 years, she led the Children’s Choir at the First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo.

When June 1st arrived, the Dedication was attended by 63 guests. Bill Lattin remarked that there were many first-time visitors among the guests. Following the Dedication in the sanctuary, guests retired to the Proctor Room in the lower level of the church to enjoy the delicious refreshments prepared by Pat Morrisey.

Throughout the years, the Estey Organ has continued to provide wonderful music, reminiscent of an earlier form of church music. In addition to countless weddings that have taken place over the years in the church since the organ’s arrival in 1996, the Estey organ has also provided music for hymn singing twice each year, when the congregation from the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion visits their old “stomping grounds” for summer services, usually held on the last Sunday of June and first Sunday of July.  The later service is a community patriotic event that includes hymn singing as well as patriotic readings, designed to celebrate the Fourth of July.

On May 12, 2018, the Cobblestone Museum held its first Progressive Organ Concert, and its own Estey Organ became the first stop on the tour that day.  Mr. Andrew Meier, principal organist at Trinity Lutheran Church in Medina, performed selections designed to highlight church music from the early 1900s and demonstrated the full melodic function of the instrument.

Born and raised in Medina, Andrew Meier graduated from Medina High School in 1997, and graduated magna cum laude in political science from the University of Rochester in 2001 and cum laude from the Syracuse University College of Law in 2004.

The 2018 Progressive Organ Concert included a beef bourguignon dinner prepared by Maarit Vaga and served in the Fellowship Hall at Christ Episcopal Church, Albion.  A sell-out crowd of 80 guests filled the hall. Now that COVID is declining (we hope) the Cobblestone Society & Museum again hopes to have another Progressive Organ Concert in the future.

Historic Childs: Musical Instruments, Part 1 – The Bass Viol

Posted 14 April 2022 at 8:03 pm

The Cobblestone Museum owns a Bass viol that is more than 200 years old. It is displayed in the choir loft of the Cobblestone Church on Route 104.

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director – Vol. 3 No. 10

Lately, I’ve enjoyed teaming up with retired museum director Bill Lattin to produce several recent articles of the “Historic Childs” series, including the eight article series on “Popular Images of Yesteryear.”

I always learn a lot when I work with Bill and, having been a “Niagara County boy,” I’m pleased to have firmly extended my horizons into Orleans County. And, it’s very nice that Orleans County readers have made me feel so welcome.

The crunch to produce weekly articles has required me to open my eyes and take a good look at the great wealth of history in and around the Hamlet of Childs, and particularly, the Cobblestone Museum. That being said, I pitched the idea to Bill about a new series of articles about historic musical instruments at the Museum, and we decided that while we are at it, we could throw in some articles about some of Edison’s earliest devices that reproduced the human voice, too.

Let’s begin with a Bass viol that has been displayed in the choir loft of the Cobblestone Church since well before my arrival in 2017. The idea of a Bass viol on exhibit at the church makes perfect sense.  The bass was one of the early instruments that would have accompanied hymn singing in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Bill Lattin wrote about this particular instrument in his Directors Report of August 1996:

“The museum was given an old Bass viol by Marion “Mickey” Lusk. I did a story on it for my weekly column (Bethinking Old Orleans) and also a news release for Batavia, Lockport and Niagara Falls. Jim Orr took a photo for these.”

The Bass viol in question was believed to be over 200 years old at the time of its arrival at the Museum. The instrument itself, when examined closely, shows that it has seen a lot of use over the years, decades, and even centuries of music making. To quote Paul Harvey, I was pleased to learn “the rest of the story.”

Marion “Mickey” Lusk (1921-2012) and her mother, Rose Foreman, circa 1940s

Prior to the instruments arrival at the Cobblestone Museum, Marion “Mickey” Lusk had played the bass with a variety of musical groups including the “Rhythmnaires” and “Troubadours.”

Mickey related that both she and her mother, Rose Foreman, played the bass. Her mother began by first using a bow, until someone said, “Rose, just pluck it!” Mickey said, after that she just plucked it, “but used to get some pretty sore fingers.”

Mickey Lusk and the Rhythm-Aires providing Country-Western entertainment, Medina Journal Register, Feb. 1, 1973

In 1939, Mickey Lusk played with the “Rhythm Ramblers” at the Corfu Grange. Others who played with the ensemble were Joe Colby, Pee Wee Southcott and Jack Lacy. Years earlier this popular group could be heard on radio stations in Lockport and Batavia. This group broke up in the 1940s and another group known as the “Rhythm-Aires” was formed in the mid-1950s. In 1955 Mickey also played with Cy Roberts and the “Troubadours.”

In 1963, Mickey Lusk and her “Rhythm Ramblers” performed in the Holley “Hootenanny Show” to benefit the Cancer Society. The presentation followed the same format as the “Hootenanny” TV Show that was popular at the time. Other entertainment at that event included the “Epics” of Mount Morris, and the “Cyclones” of Medina.

Going back even further, Mickey Lusk offered more history about the old Bass viol:

“Sometime in the early 1920s, Frank Bissell went to the Bragg Schoolhouse Road and bought the bass from Veteran Bragg for five dollars. He brought it home and taught his daughter Rose to play it for house dances. In the late 1920s, Frank sold it to Walter Lusk, again, for five dollars. Then in 1940, Alvie Culver had an auction and Rose and Mike Foreman saw it there. They bid on the bass and bought it for fifty cents. They brought it home and took it over to Fred Hagadorn at Royalton to fix it. He wanted to buy it and offered $300. At that time, it was about 150 years old. Rose told him “no” and took it home and played it with her daughter in their orchestra. It was played until about 1955.”

In 1996, Mickey Lusk said the Bass viol represents “a lot of good times and a lot of tears.” Today, it is an artifact which represents the cultural climate of a bygone era. The bass is unusual in that it was built with only three strings (which helps to date it.) Fred Hagadorn thought it might have been built by a German maker of musical instruments.

This photo from 1996 shows Marion Lusk playing the three-string bass next to the Cobblestone Church at the time of her donation.

Fast forward to 2022 during a digitization project for the Museum’s old photos, and the Bass viol became the topic of conversation once again. The archivist became intrigued with this photo of Marion Lusk and the three string bass from 1996.  He offered his observations at that time:

“I emailed the photograph (above) to my older brother who is the retired double bass symphony musician. Over the years he has done repairs and restorations of string bass instruments. He replied that 3-string basses were common in the 18th-19th centuries in parts of Europe, especially in Italy and France. He bought (for $3,000) a c.1880 French bass from a friend several years ago that needed some work. It had been crudely converted to 4-strings…and over about six months of part-time fooling, including rebuilding the peg box completely, made it more playable. He sold it a couple of years ago to a friend for $25,000. The pegs (“hat-peg”) in this picture aren’t French, I think; maybe German or Eastern Europe?  The bass shape could easily be French though.”

While the Museum doesn’t focus on the monetary value of its collection (We don’t intend to sell our artifacts!) it is interesting to note that an item purchased for 50 cents at auction in the 1940s has possibly appreciated into five-figure territory.

Unfortunately though, the Museum’s Bass viol has many condition issues that the 1996 photograph didn’t depict, such as modern metal screws holding several parts of the instrument’s 1800s wooden body together.

Perhaps a music lover would be willing to help fully restore this cherished piece of history for future generations to enjoy?

Historic Childs: Popular Images of Yesteryear, Part 8 – The Light of the World

Posted 7 April 2022 at 8:15 am

By Doug Farley & Bill Lattin – Vol. 3 No. 9

CHILDS – This late 19th century lithograph of Jesus knocking at the door is one of several Victorian prints which hang in the Cobblestone Church. It is a variation on a famous painting entitled, “The Light of the World,” by William Holman Hunt, completed in 1853. Our example at the Museum is simply based on the text:

“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone listens to My voice and opens the door, I shall come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  Rev. 3:20

The print above, circa 1900, from a private collection, is much more like Hunt’s original painting, also based on the text:

“I am the Light of the World, the one who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.” John 8:12

With these two texts in mind, biblical validation is given for what became a very popular evangelistic image, widely reproduced in many forms and places.

One of the most outstanding examples of this subject may be found in the Carlton United Methodist Church, off Archbald Road. Here Hunt’s famous painting was recreated in stained glass by Haskins Studio from Rochester NY, circa 1935, for the Waterport Methodist Church. When that church building was given up in 1988, the window was moved to its present location. It is the only stained glass window of this subject matter in any Orleans County church.

Great symbolism was used by the artist in portraying Jesus in this manner. In essence, He is knocking at your door, but because there is no latch on the outside, you must open it up from the inside in order let Him into your own heart. The lantern Jesus holds is the light which has become symbolic of Him.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) in his famous hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” wrote, “Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light.” It portrays the moment when human destiny hangs in the balance, when Divine Love patiently waits upon human reluctance. Its basic message calls for a decision.

Jesus is dressed in a white robe which in itself is a symbol of light, faith, joy, life and purity. Over it is draped a red mantel which symbolizes divine love. This is fastened with a large breast plate which signifies His priesthood. A golden crown denotes Him as Christ the King. Entwined with this is a crown of thorns, which signified suffering and the crucifixion, while the halo reflects His holiness. He stands at the door of the human heart, barred with nails and rusty hinges. The threshold is overgrown with brambles as He approaches in the night time.

He brings a twofold light. The lantern represents the light of consciences, for it reveals sin. Its radiance sheds light upon the door, thicket and an apple on the ground-a symbol of the first sin. The other light is from Christ’s face which proclaims hope. His expression is one of tenderness, thus asking admittance.

“There’s a stranger at the door

Let Him in.

He has been there oft’ before

Let Him in.”

Now for a moment, we return to our first print located in the Cobblestone Church. In this variation we note Jesus is dressed in a yellow or golden colored mantel which symbolically represents the goodness and bounty of God. By contrast however, the color purple of the robe underneath symbolizes His martyrdom.

The famous painting that these works is based on are shown here. It is located at Keble College in Oxford, England. It measures a little less than 36 inches in height.

William Hunt (1837-1910), self-portrait, 1867

William Holman Hunt was born in London and studied painting at the British Museum and the National Gallery. In 1844 he entered the Royal Academy where he joined with two other artists, Sir John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, to develop the Pre-Raphaelite theories of art.

In 1848 they formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. During the 1850s, Hunt went to the Holy Land to portray scenes from the life of Jesus of Nazareth, aiming to achieve historical and archaeological truth. He returned to Palestine in 1869 and again in 1873 for further study.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood attempted to restore the artistic principles and practices regarded as characteristic of Italian Art before Raphael. They seemed to lower the exalted to the commonplace, but never aimed to protest injustice, ugliness or misery. Hunt strove to fuse truth, beauty and decorum in biblical and evangelical culture with which he was absorbed.

Another one of Hunt’s famous paintings is shown above.  It is entitled “The Scapegoat,” 1854, which has a most haunting aspect of its overall imagery.

We end the story with Hunt’s famous painting, seemingly a prediction, entitled, “The Shadow of Death,” 1870-73.

Canalbank stabilization project starts next week in Gaines

Posted 1 April 2022 at 3:53 pm

A 1.8-mile segment of the Erie Canalway Trail will be closed during work

Press Release, State Canal Corp.

GAINES – The New York State Canal Corporation today announced an embankment stabilization project along the Erie Canal in the town of Gaines, Orleans County, will begin the week of April 4.

The Canal Corporation and its contractor will be installing a “filter blanket,” comprised of layers of sand and gravel earthen material, along the canal’s northern embankment between Eagle Harbor-Waterport Road and Gaines Basin Road to mitigate water that is seeping through the embankment at this location.

To facilitate this repair, a 1.8-mile segment of the Erie Canalway Trail will be closed between the Eagle Harbor and Gaines Basin trail access points.

Throughout the duration of the project, residents will notice contractors, wearing hard hats and high-visibility vests, as well as trucks and heavy equipment operating at and near the construction site.

The seep being mitigated through this stabilization project is one of more than 200 known seeps on canal earthen embankments, which comprise approximately 125-miles of the Canal system.

The Canal Corporation continuously monitors and inspects these earthen dams on foot through “bank walk inspections” as well as using advanced technologies like drones and thermal imaging.

The work being performed along the Erie Canal in Gaines has been reviewed under a project specific State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) evaluation and is not part of the Canal Corporation’s proposed Earthen Embankment Integrity Program.

It is anticipated that this stabilization work will be completed in May ahead of the Canal’s opening on Friday, May 20.

The Canal Corporation appreciates the public’s patience while this work is completed.

Cobblestone Museum offering lectures on blacksmithing, women’s temperance movement

Photos by Ginny Kropf: This historic marker on Route 98 stands between the home of blacksmith Joseph Vagg and his wife Nellie and the blacksmith shop to the south. Joseph Vagg, a blacksmith, and his wife Nellie, a devotee to Women’s Temperance, lived in this home which was recently acquired by the Cobblestone Society Museum on Ridge Road and Route 98, north of Albion.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 31 March 2022 at 7:51 am

GAINES – The Cobblestone Society Museum will present a virtual lecture series April 5 and 26, organized by assistant director Sue Bonafini.

“Last year, because of Covid concerns, I proposed to director Doug Farley we do a virtual lecture as a fundraiser in October,” Bonafini said. “The beauty of a virtual program is the ability to reach a wider audience and the Museum doesn’t have additional costs for a speaker to travel to Orleans County.”

Farley agreed, and last year’s event was a great success with registrants from eight states and Australia.

Joseph and Nellie Vagg lived on the corner of Route 98 and Ridge Road in the hamlet of Childs in 1909. He was an early blacksmith. His profession will be the focus of a virtual lecture sponsored by the Cobblestone Society Museum on April 5.

“This year I’ve chosen a local speaker and one from Michigan, both knowledgeable about topics connected to Joe and Nellie Vagg,” Bonafini said.

Joe was a blacksmith and his shop, as well as the Vagg home, are part of the Cobblestone Museum Complex. Nellie was active in Women’s Temperance. Joe’s blacksmith shop is a popular stop for visitors who take the Museum’s campus tour, Bonafini said. His work was highly valued and critical to a rural farming community.

Nellie was known to help Joe in the shop, especially to help fit wide metal tires over the wooden wagon wheels quickly before the hot metal burned them. A support of the WCTU, she was a member of the Orleans County Women’s Christian Temperance League for 25 years, serving as treasurer and rising to the position of delegate to area and state conventions.

Farley is offering an option for people who want to watch the program in person on a big screen television at the Cobblestone Church, Bonafini said. Advance registration is required by calling the Museum at (585) 589-9013.

The first lecture from 7 to 8:15 p.m. April 5 will feature Jonathan Bernard, an American Civil War re-enactor and hobbyist blacksmith. He will present an interactive overview of blacksmithing and the manufacturing of metal products in the United States between the 1700s and 1800s. This will include the influence of the American Civil War on the evolution and use of the traveling forge.

Having moved to Rochester from West Springfield, Mass., Bernard presents with the aid of a working traveling forge wagon, one of only three working replicas in the USA re-enacting community.

The second lecture on April 26, also from 7 to 8:15 p.m., will feature Lori Osborne, director of the Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU Archives in Evanston, Ill. She will talk about one of the most influential women and the organization she led. Osborne will cover the story of Willard’s life and evolution from teaching to social reform and the story of the WCTU under her leadership.

Osborne has master’s degrees in public history and is an expert on Willard and the role of the women’s temperance movement in the 19th century. She is also director of the Evanston Women’s History Project and served as coordinator for the National Votes for Women Trail initiative in Illinois.

A $5 minimum registration fee is required to obtain a program link to attend the virtual lecture, and can be obtained by visiting the Museum’s website at

For a donation of $20 or more, individuals or businesses will be recognized as community sponsors for the lecture series. Full details are available by contacting Bonafini at or called (585) 589-9013. Current sponsors include the Rochester Arc and Flame Center, Newstead Equestrian Center in Akron, Bloom Wellness in Churchville and Royal Equine Veterinary Services in Lockport.

Historic Childs, Popular Images of Yesteryear, Part 7 – The Chubby Cherubs

Posted 26 March 2022 at 4:56 pm

By Bill Lattin & Doug Farley – Vol. 3 No. 8

GAINES – This circa-1875 Victorian print of “The Chubby Cherubs” hangs in the Cobblestone Museum’s Ward House. It’s shown here in its original rustic style or Adirondack frame.

Who is not familiar with this famous duo?  The cherubs are not only popular in today’s world, but were reproduced many times over in the 19th century. These two cute little fellows actually date back to the 16th century and were the creation of one of the greatest artists of all time, Raphael.

Although recognizable on their own, many people do not know that these cherubim are actually a small detail extracted from a much larger painting, known as “The Sistine Madonna,” shown above. This painting was commissioned in 1512 by Pope Julius II for the church of San Sisto, Piacenza.

The commission required that the painting not only depict the Madonna and Child, but also Saint Sixtus and Saint Barbara. It is an oil on canvas and measures 104 by 77 inches. Raphael is known for painting around 40 Madonnas, but this is thought to be his last and most extraordinary one.  He was 29 years old when this great masterpiece was completed in high Renaissance style.

In 1753, the painting was sold for $45,000 and placed in a Dresden Gallery where an entire room was allotted for it. After World War II, it was relocated to Moscow for a decade before being returned to Germany.

Here we see a small hand colored print, circa 1875, of the Chubby Cherubs.

Now, regarding the legend about these two children in this famous painting. One story is that these were children of a model that Raphael worked from, and they frequently came into his studio to watch. Another story is that they were just street urchins who peered through an open window into Raphael’s studio. He supposedly portrayed them as they rested their chubby arms on the window sill.

Two small portraits painted on porcelain, circa 1890.

In a photographic print from the 1870s, shown above, we catch a glimpse of Raphael’s workshop studio. The artist is seated in the middle with a drawing tablet. A model for the Sistine Madonna, holding a baby, is standing on a platform. In back of her, to the far left, we see one of these chubby children posed in the usual manner just looking on. To the right in this picture, a church cleric appears to be looking over Raphael’s shoulder, and of course, other people are doing various things within the studio.

It is said that these two cherubs were added to the painting as Raphael finished his work. They may have been introduced to give depth to the piece, throwing the larger figures more into the background. As early as 1913, an art critic declared that “No cherub or group of cherubs is so famous as the two that lean on the altar-top indicated at the very bottom of the picture.”

These two chromo-lithographic prints mounted on canvas appear in original frames circa 1870.

Heavily marketed for decades, the cherubs have been featured on stamps, postcards, T-shirts, bath towels and wrapping paper. A child’s mug from the 1870s depicts one of these cherubs and a modern note card shows both of them.

Shown above is a contemporary wristwatch depicting the cherubs.

Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) was born among the Apennine Mountains on the borders of Tuscany and Umbria. At the age of 17, he entered the studio of Perugino, and at age 19 he began to paint independently. At age 21 Raphael visited Florence, where he learned the precision of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

This self-portrait, an oil on wood panel, was done in 1509, when Raphael was 26 years of age. He was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop as seen in a previous picture showing the interior of his studio. His last 12 years were spent in Rome, where he worked for two Popes. Many of his works are found in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central and largest work of his career.

The double portrait above shows Raphael at left with his fencing master. This painting, an oil on canvas, was completed in 1520, the same year Raphael died at the early age of 37.

Raphael left an immense amount of work for being so young, and as a result, remained and continues to remain an inspiration for artists. Our last illustration, an engraving by F. M. Spiegel, dated 1886, shown above, was surely inspired by Raphael’s Chubby Cherubs.

Historic Childs: Popular Images of Yesteryear, Part 6 – The Angelus

Posted 20 March 2022 at 7:58 am

By Doug Farley and Bill Lattin – Vol. 3 No. 7

GAINES – Surely one of the most recognizable and renowned fine paintings of the 19th century is “The Angelus” by Millet, an image that was widely reproduced. The Cobblestone Museum has two such images on view.

The one above, circa 1885, is a lithograph which was affixed to canvas on stretchers and put into a style of frame normally used for paintings.  This gives it a more realistic appearance as a painting. Our rather dark colored version here hangs in the Cobblestone Ward House dining room.

The other example at the Cobblestone Museum which is represented below, appropriately hangs in the Vagg House. This particular print dates to circa 1925 and is also in its original frame.  A companion print, “The Gleaners,” by Millet hangs nearby.

The reproduction of this famous painting remained very popular with the general public over many decades. The original painting was completed in 1859 by Jean-Francois Millet, and is an oil on canvas, measuring only 25½ by 21¼ inches. Certainly, through improved printing techniques of the Industrial Revolution, great art such as this became accessible to middle-class people.

In these two small porcelain vases, circa 1900, we see transfer images of The Angelus on one, and The Gleaners on the other.

The imagery of these two peasants praying in a potato field was a popular sentimental 19th century religious subject. Although Catholic in origin, the subject matter seemed to cross all denominational boundaries.

The print below dating to 1890 was originally mounted in this frame with an oval format.

The potato diggers have stopped their evening work to pray because of the tolling of the Angelus Bell that they hear from the church spire in the distant village.

In the Catholic tradition, the Angelus Bell sometimes referred to as the Ave Bell, was typically rung three times a day at 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. This tolling consisted of nine rings each time, with three rings followed by a pause, three more rings followed again by a pause, and ending with a final three rings.

An older interpretation commemorated the Resurrection of Christ in the morning, his suffering at noon, and the Annunciation in the evening. In 1907, the Orleans Republican reported an interview with a local Polish resident, then a member of St. Mary’s Assumption Church, who described the frequent ringing as follows:

“At the hour of work it rings to remind them that God has given them the strength of labor. When it rings at noon, Poles are again reminded of the Giver of Temporal Blessings, and at night it calls for Expression of Thankfulness for what God has done for the people throughout the day.”

Here we see a decorative plate in the Museum collection, circa 1900, about 10 inches in diameter.

As a side note, when a church bell is tolled, it does not swing or move but rather is rung by pulling a second rope which hits the bell with a large hammer.

Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) was the first child of Jean-Louis-Nicolas and Aimee-Henriette-Adelaide Henry Millet. They were members of a farming community in the Village of Gruchy, in Greville-Hague (Normandy). He first studied painting in 1833 with Paul Dumouchel, a portrait painter in Cherbourg.

By 1835, he was able to move to Paris, where he studied at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1840, his first painting, a portrait, was accepted at the Paris Salon. In 1841, he married Pauline-Virginie Ono, but she died of consumption two years later. In 1853, he married Catherine Lemaire and they would have nine children.

Millet became one of the founders of the Barbizon School of Landscape Painting in rural France during the mid-19th century. Other noted artists of the group included Corot, Daubigny and Rousseau. Barbizon is a small village near Paris.

The Barbizon style is realistic, but done with great respect for technique of brush work and use of paint for speaking on its own behalf. It is a style which bespeaks the oncoming Impressionists in the later 19th century. Millet spoke of The Angelus as follows:

“The idea for The Angelus came to me because I remember that my grandmother, hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us stop work to say the Angelus Prayer for the poor departed.”

This miniature plate, only 1½ inches in diameter, was probably a souvenir that an American tourist acquired on a trip to France in the 1940s.

This great painting is a reflection of the simplicity of peasant life, so dependent upon the rhythms of life and the Catholic faith. It was actually commissioned by an art collector from Boston, MA, and was somewhat finished in 1857. However, Millet later added the church spire in the distance and changed the title which originally was “Prayer for the Potato Crop.”

When the purchaser failed to take possession of it in 1859, Millet later sold it receiving only $400. Other well-known and famous paintings by Millet include The Sower, 1850, and of course, The Gleaners, 1857.

(Left) The Sower, Millet, 1850              (Right) The Gleaners, Millet, 1857

The popularity of The Angelus remained steadfast even into the 1950s, with the paint-by-numbers version below.  We can only add that real artists, those with training, scoff at renditions such as this. It does however show the undying appreciation of The Angelus theme.

“The Bells of Angelus call us to pray with sweet tones announcing the Sacred Ave.” 1st Verse of Lourdes Hymn.”

Historic Childs: Bear Trap from early 1800s among treasured Cobblestone Museum artifacts

Posted 14 February 2022 at 9:20 am

Bear Hunting, Currier & Ives, undated

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director – Vol. 3 No. 5

GAINES – The Hamlet of Childs is probably one of a very few locations in Orleans County where one can still find a bear trap from the early 1800s.

At one time, a necessary evil in pioneer days, bear traps have now become a rarity in the modern landscape of Orleans County.

The bear trap at the Cobblestone Museum is about 200 years old.

Since trees were heavily abundant in the “Black North,” Orleans County provided a perfect sanctuary for animals. Wolves and bears were numerous in the area and often posed a safety problem for the settlers.

In order to catch them, traps were often used. Bear traps were made by blacksmiths from the area. Food was placed inside the trap, under the pedal, and the bear would sniff it, go for the food and then would get caught.

The settler or farmer would check the trap and shoot the bear if caught, as the trap would not kill the bear. Bear traps were set to protect livestock: chickens, pigs, and cows, and set to protect the farmer, his family, and their food supply.

The bear trap in question is now a treasured artifact at the Cobblestone Museum. The story of how this pioneer necessity survived the ages will be told, again, here.

The first known written telling of this story took place in 1879 in the “Historical Album of Orleans County, NY.” The “Historical Album” was written to record and commemorate the first 50 years of Orleans County History. Our bear story was contained therein, and dates to the early 1800s. So, to “stick with the facts,” we’ve quoted it here verbatim:

“Nearly every pioneer has his “bear stories.” Were all these to be repeated here they would be like Mark Twain’s misfortunes, “somewhat monotonous.” One, however, may be related: Some thirty years since, Mr. George Batchellor, of South Barre, went some distance into Tonawanda swamp, with a neighbor, to assist him in bringing out a bear which he had killed.

“On his way the nails in his boot-heel grated upon something which gave a metallic sound. On examination he found that some moss had been scraped from what proved to be a large bear-trap. It was lying with its jaws downward, nearly covered with muck, and the roots of trees had grown through the jaws and springs in all directions. One of these, a black-ash root, was nearly as large as a man’s wrist. The trap was but very little corroded.

“Some years afterwards Mr. Batchellor learned from a man who assisted the owner of the trap in his hunt, that 22 years previous to the finding of it, it was set in the usual way, with a clog attached, in the town of Byron, Genesee county; that a bear was caught in it, and that they followed his trail through a light snow 7 or 8 miles to within 80 rods of where the trap was found, and that they here abandoned the pursuit because night was approaching, and the melting of the snow rendered the trail indistinct. Mr. Batchellor has the trap in his possession still…” (1879)

Asher & Adams, New Topographical Atlas, 1871

So there we have it, a nearly 200-year-old story of a missing bear who walked from Byron to Barre with his foot caught in a metal trap. To bring this story more up to date we need to take a look at the Batchellor family and how the trap came to be in the collection of the Cobblestone Museum.

As the “Historical Album” indicated, Mr. George Batchellor lived in the Town of Barre. What the book neglected to report was that George Batchellor was an early resident of the county, and proud owner of a cobblestone home. (As an interesting aside, most of us have heard of the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory that states that anyone on earth is connected to any other person on earth by a chain of no more than six people. I think the degrees of separation between any person and a cobblestone home owner is actually much smaller.)

The Batchellor cobblestone home, located on Old Oak Orchard Road, was built in the 1830s by Ogden Sears and his wife Betsey (Harding) Sears. Mr. Sears was a cooper by trade in Connecticut before coming to Barre, though once there, he worked as a farmer. To build his substantial stone residence, Sears picked up the stone on his own land, burned the lime used in erecting it, made the plaster and mortar and carried it to the workmen in a sap-bucket. The beautiful cobblestone house was constructed using glacial stones (fieldstones) of various sizes and red sandstone quoins.

The Sear’s daughter, Betsey, married the aforementioned George Batchellor, and the newlywed couple lived happily ever after in the Sears cobblestone home (complete with bear trap) and lived out their lives there.

Photo courtesy Richard Palmer, 5306 Oak Orchard Rd., Barre

The home passed down through several generations of the Batchellor family and is now the residence of Jack and Debby Batchellor, proud Patron Members of the Cobblestone Society & Museum. Jack’s family has lived in the home for 7 generations, nearly 200 years. He is probably the only man who lives in a cobblestone home that was built by his great-great-great grandfather.

Published 1966, Cary Lattin

In more recent times, the Batchellor family decided to put the famed bear trap into the public domain so it could be preserved and enjoyed for posterity by a larger audience. Its first home was the Buffalo Historical Society Museum. But later, Barre Town Historian, Helen Mathes, actively lobbied to have the bear trap transferred to the Cobblestone Museum where it would be closer to its original  home. The donation took place in the 1970s.

Fast forward to 1979, and Former Cobblestone Museum Director, Bill Lattin, remembers when artifacts were being placed in Farmers Hall for public display. The bear trap was among the valued artifacts that found their new home within those walls.

At that time, Mickey Burroughs and Mike Kilborn had summer jobs as interns at the Museum. While examining the bear trap, curiosity got the better of them, and they requested permission to set the trap and test it out. Bill Lattin agreed as long as the experiment was undertaken under his watchful eye.

So, the trap was set, and one thing led to another, and the duo decided they would like to spring the trap. Bill selected a suitable old broom stick, which quickly became kindling when the powerful jaws of the bear trap clamped shut!

Ortt, Hawley present state proclamation honoring Tillman’s Village Inn

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2022 at 9:44 am

Photos courtesy of Kelly Dudley

GAINES — State Sen. Rob Ortt, center, and Assemblyman Steve Hawley, right, present a proclamation from the State Legislature on Wednesday evening to Mark Tillman in honor of the Tillman family’s long-time operation of Tillman’s Village Inn.

The family closed the popular restaurant on Dec. 30 after 70 years of service.

The restaurant earned numerous awards over the years, including from the USA Beef Council for menu excellence. The Village Inn was well known for its prime rib, steak and lobster. It also was a premier wedding destination in Orleans County through the ownership of brothers Mark and Tom Tillman, according to the proclamation..

The Village Inn also hosted numerous community events over the years, including the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce awards event and Legislative Luncheon.

“Mark, Tom and the whole Tillman family have shown the true meaning of investing into a community,” the proclamation states. “Their departure from the Village Inn will truly be felt by the Western New York hospitality community and most important the entirety of  Orleans County.”

Mark Tillman and his wife Susan hold the proclamation from the State Legislature.

Historic Childs: One-of-kind Cyclorama adds beauty to Farmers Hall

The Cyclorama is shown at the Cobblestone Museum, 2022.

Posted 5 February 2022 at 11:51 am

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director – Vol. 3 No. 4

GAINES – The historic hamlet of Childs is home to a one-of-a-kind local artifact that the Cobblestone Museum refers to as “The Cyclorama.” Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as a curtain or backdrop for a stage, which was exactly the original purpose of our Cyclorama.

The colorful “curtain” was prepared for the Murray Grange, No. 1292 (Patrons of Husbandry) in 1929, and was used as a theatrical backdrop for their invited musicians who entertained at dances and meetings held in the Grange Hall.

The backdrop was produced by the Anderson Scenic Company of Buffalo. The Murray Grange was formed in December 1912, and they held their meetings in a building known as the “Modern Woodmen Hall,” located in Murray. (Modern Woodmen was a fraternal organization formed in the late 19th century.)

The Murray Grange existed until 1917 when many of their members went off to war.  The Grange surrendered its charter with many members joining Clarendon Grange, while others elected to take a dimit card, hoping the Murray Grange would be reinstated after the Great War. About ten years later in 1927, the Murray Grange was reorganized with an enrollment of 32 Charter Members.  The organization continued meeting in their original Grange building.  Eventually, the Grangers outgrew their building and their large membership forced the Chapter to seek a larger building.

In February 1928, Murray Grange No. 1292 purchased the 19th century building at the northeast corner of Routes 104 and 237 in Murray. For many years prior, the building had served as a second-hand store operated by William Fuller. The building was modernized and electric lights were added to accommodate Grange meetings.

Four years later in 1932, the Orleans Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) dedicated a monument in front of the Murray Grange building, honoring George Washington and Revolutionary War soldiers from the County.

The former location of the Murray Grange as it looks today is shown above.

The historic marker honoring George Washington was dedicated at the corner in 1932 and remains in place today.

In 1929, the Murray Grange purchased the aforementioned theatrical backdrop and used it in their new building to provide a colorful way to decorate their hall and provide acknowledgement for the many businesses that had supported their efforts.

The drapery around the advertisements was painted bright red, and the individual ads were painted blue, pink and yellow. Advertisers on the backdrop are:

  • F. G. Buell Footwear and Clothing, Holley, NY
  • F.W. Newman-Lincoln/Ford & Fordson (Tractors & Trucks)
  • Duffy Mott Co., Cider and Vinegar
  • W.J. Hawkins Drugs, Rexall Store, Holley
  • Hudson & Co. Inc., Packers of Fancy Canned Goods, Holley
  • Holley Canning Company
  • B.L. Geyo Garage, Holley
  • Henry M. Clarke Drugs, Holley
  • McCrillis & Co., Farm Supplies & Produce, Holley
  • McCrillis & McKechnie Plumbing & Heating, Holley
  • C.M. Webster Clothing, Holley
  • Ira Edwards & Sons, Winchester Store, Paints, Holley
  • Charlies’ Barber Shop, Charles Padaman, Proprietor, Holley
  • Magin’s Department Store, Holley
  • State Exchange Bank, Holley
  • Evarts & Salisbury Furniture & Undertaking, Holley
  • Warren & Lee, International Harvester Tools
  • Bauch Chevrolet, Brockport-Holley-Hamlin
  • Bruce Seager, Hudson, Essex
  • N.L. Cole, Lumber, Coal & Buildings Materials, Holley –Albion
  • J.B. Merrill & Sons Furniture & Funeral Directors, Holley-Albion-Kendall
  • W.J. Hatch, Feed & Seeds, Holley.

In the course of over 80 years of business, most of these businesses have closed without a trace today. However, two business still operate in some fashion. Merrill-Grinnell continues today as part of Mitchell Family Funeral Homes and N.L. Cole Lumber carries on through the name Stockham Lumber.

The Murray Grange (Patrons of Husbandry) flourished for several decades until declining membership forced it to dissolve in the mid-1960s. At some time after this, the Cyclorama, a colorful piece of local history, was given to the Murray-Holley Historical Society. But, because of very limited hanging space, the Cyclorama had to be rolled up and stored, out of public view.

Fast forward to 1997, after several decades of storage, Murray-Holley Historical Society representative, Marsha DeFilipps, approached Bill Lattin about donating the backdrop to the Cobblestone Museum.  The Museum board gladly accepted this outstanding piece of local Americana and hung it on the west wall of Farmers Hall on their Route 98 Artisans Campus. This position of honor is still the home for the Cyclorama, today.  Shown above, Town of Murray Historian Marsha DeFilipps (right), receives an honor at a meeting of the Murray-Holley Historical Society in 1988, presented by Dee Robinson.

The picture above shows the appearance of the west wall of Farmers Hall prior to the installation of the Cyclorama.  Local Social Studies teacher, Gary Kent, is seen standing with his class of students from Kendall School in 1979. (Gary’s students were the first school group to tour Farmers Hall.)  The raised platform on which Gary is standing was originally the choir loft when the building was used as the Kendall Universalist Church. Later, the building became the Kendall Town Hall, before being moved from Kendall, board-by-board, to the Cobblestone Museum and reconstructed in 1978 and 1979.

The Cyclorama adds its beauty to the collection of farm tools proudly displayed in Farmers Hall.

Historic Childs: Popular Images of Yesteryear, Part 4 – Alice Blue Gown

Posted 30 January 2022 at 8:32 am

By Doug Farley & Bill Lattin – Vol. 3 No. 3

GAINES – For our forth image in this series we have selected the print entitled, “Alice Blue Gown,” which hangs in the Vagg House at the Cobblestone Museum campus.

The print measures 11 by 14 inches and is a portrait of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, eldest child of President Theodore Roosevelt. She was born in 1884 and died in 1980.  During her early lifetime, she became very popular as a trendsetter and remained a Washington, D.C. socialite most of her life.

This picture became immensely popular in the 1920s and it was widely published in various sizes. The original painting which this print was copied from was created by English painter, Arthur Paine Garratt. However, during the 1920s, Garratt spent several years in New York. He is best remembered as a fine portrait artist, with considerable success during his lifetime.

Arthur Paine Garratt (1873-1955)

Many of Garratt’s female subjects were elegant, high-society ladies who expected a high degree of finish and detail in their portraits. Lavish gowns of exotic textiles were usually a feature. This painting of Alice was no exception. She was a beautiful young girl who was the equivalent of a princess and whose style signature were her azure blue gowns.

The press constantly followed her around to record many of her escapades. Her portrait would suggest a demure young woman but quite the contrary was true. Her father, the President, once said, “I can run the country, or I can control my daughter, but I cannot do both.” She often smoked in public which was a “no-no” for women at the time. She had a pillow in her salon embroidered with the statement, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”

In the portrait above, we note that it is signed in the lower left corner, “Arthur Garratt.” It is entitled, “An Old Sweetheart of Mine.” No publisher is noted on this print which measures 11 by 15 inches.

“Alice Blue Gown” is purposely displayed in the Vagg House (shown above) which represents the Teens, ’20s, and ’30s through its furnishings. Our print appears to be in the original frame which we believe is circa 1930. Framing of this time period is much more simplistic than picture frames of earlier decades.

It is not unusual to find “Alice Blue Gown” in antique malls today, because it was once so popular. This small 5 by 7 inch copy was framed in an octagonal frame.

The painting likely partly inspired the song “Alice Blue Gown” written by Harry Tierney with lyrics by Joseph McCarthy.  It was sung by Edith Day in the 1919 play “Irene.”  It became a top seller in 1920 and was revived several times in the following decades.  You can listen to the 1920 recording by clicking here.

We end this story with a portrait of Alice Roosevelt Longworth done by Peter Hurd in 1965. This is a Tempura on Masonite and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution.

Historic Childs: Popular Images of Yesteryear, Part 3 – ‘Pharaoh’s Horses’

Posted 22 January 2022 at 1:49 pm

By Bill Lattin and Doug Farley – Vol. 3 No. 2

GAINES – For our third famous painting from the 19th century we have selected what is known as “Pharaoh’s Horses,” or “Pharaoh’s Chariot Horses.” The painting seen here has hung in the Cobblestone Museum’s Ward House for over 30 years.

It was done, no doubt, by an amateur painter around 1890. We might add that it was poorly executed as the lower left area is supposed to represent “a wall of water.” We also note that this painter chose to use a monochromatic color scheme of yellow ocher.

John Frederick Herring, Sr. (1795-1865)

By 1900, this popular image was widely viewed with nearly ubiquitous fake paintings and prints. It is also most usually seen as a “tondo,” meaning in round format.

Many of our readers might be a little more familiar with this image, rather than the images shown in Parts 1 and 2 of this series. However, in today’s world, it is mostly forgotten and its meaning is often not understood.

The original “Pharaoh’s Chariot Horses” was painted in 1848 by John Frederick Herring, Sr. He was born in London, while growing up, he took great interest in drawing horses. In 1814, he moved to Doncaster in the north of England where he was employed as a painter of inn signs and insignias on the sides of coaches.

In his spare time, he painted portraits of horses for inn parlors. His talent was soon recognized by wealthy customers and he began painting hunters and racehorses for the local gentry. In 1845, Herring received a commission from Queen Victoria, who remained a patron for the rest of Herring’s life.

In order to get a better understanding of this painting we need to go to the biblical Book of Exodus to find answers contained in the description of the Ten Plagues of Egypt.

The Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out for help?” Tell the people to move forward. Lift up your walking stick and hold it out over the sea. The water will divide, and the Israelites will be able to walk through the sea on dry ground. (Ex. 14:15-16)

This large painting measuring 32 x 34 inches is an oil on canvas in tones of grey. It would have been done by a Sunday Painter in the 1880s. Unlike most copies it is rectangular in format. Note the waves of water in the lower left corner. The painting hangs in the home of Bill Lattin.

…and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on both sides. The Egyptians pursued them and went after them into the sea with all their horses, chariots, and drivers. (Ex.14: 22-23)

The oil on canvas shown here measuring 24 inches in diameter was done around 1890 by Harriet Wyman Kilner from the Town of Shelby. She was a Sunday Painter who often copied other artists works. Known as “Aunt Hattie,” she was an older sister to Bill Lattin’s Grandmother Wilson. This painting is now currently owned by local art connoisseurs. We note that it was largely done in tones of blue.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Hold out your hand over the sea, and the water will come back over the Egyptians and their chariots and drivers.’ (Ex. 14:26)

Here we have another oil on canvas by a Sunday Painter dating to the 1880s. It measures 12 inches in diameter and belongs to a local collector. This piece was done largely in tones of brown.

The water returned and covered the chariots, the drivers, and all the Egyptian army that had followed the Israelites into the sea; not one of them was left. But the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on both sides.  (Ex 14:28-29)

We judge this print measuring 20 inches in diameter was published around 1900, and appears to be in its original frame.

In all of the images we see, it is obvious that the horses saw what was coming at them as there is great fright in their eyes.  Moses parting the Red Sea and the Children of Israel “passing over” onto dry ground, is still celebrated by Jewish people today, as part of their observance of Passover.

This small print measuring 6½ inches in diameter was published in the 1890s and is mounted in its original frame.

The popularity of this picture was widely accepted, especially by Protestants, who were often reluctant to have other overtly religious pictures in their homes, mainly because of anti-Catholic sentiment.

Therefore, “Pharaoh’s Horses” was much more acceptable and popular in rural 19th century America than any of Raphael’s beautiful paintings of the Madonna and child.  Above we see a copy of Raphael’s famous “Madonna of the Chair,” done on porcelain, circa 1890.

This 3½ inch diameter painting in a Florentine frame belongs to a local collector. It was probably originally purchased by an American tourist on a trip to Italy. Raphael did a number of Madonna portraits in the early 16th century. In this one, Mary is seated in a chair holding baby Jesus while John the Baptist looks on. Now in the 21st century, there is more public recognition of this than the once very poplar Pharaoh’s Horses in the 19th century.

We end this story with an illustration which shows a conclusion to Pharaoh’s Horses and the Parting of the Red Sea.

The prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took her tambourine, and all the women followed her, playing tambourines and dancing.  Miriam sang for them: “Sing to the Lord, because he has won a glorious victory; he has thrown the horses and their riders into the sea.”  (Exodus 15: 20, 21)

In this rare engraving we see in the foreground, Miriam with tambourine leading the women in joyful triumph. In the middle ground we observe Moses with walking stick, and Aaron, both standing on a cliff. In the background note the sea and pyramids in the far distance. This Victorian print measuring 9” in diameter dates to around 1880 and is in a local private collection.

Historic Childs: Popular Images of Yesteryear, Part 2 (The Parting of Ruth and Naomi)

Posted 15 January 2022 at 8:36 am

By Doug Farley and Bill Lattin – Vol. 3 No. 1

GAINES – For a number of years this oil painting on canvas, measuring 22 by 36 inches, in its original frame, has hung in the back of the Cobblestone Church under the organ loft. It is correctly entitled, “The Parting of Ruth and Naomi,” and was undoubtedly done by a “Sunday Painter,” around 1890.

It is, of course, a copy of a famous painting from the late 19th century by Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833-1898) who began his training in painting in London in 1850 and also studied in Paris in 1851, inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites. Throughout his career, his subjects were often historical, biblical or literary in theme.

This is a close-up picture of the painting in the Cobblestone Church.

We may ask, “How did this painting become so famous and popular back in the day?”  Perhaps that question is answered by the accompanying chromo advertising card measuring 5×6 inches. The front shown here is what our Sunday Painter copied.

But it is the obverse side (back) that tells the story. Yes it was Charles E. Hires of Root Beer fame who truly brought this image into public recognition at the time. Every reproduction that Hires had printed carried the biblical quote from Ruth 1:16 (Old Testament):

“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God…”

Shown above is a second chromo lithographic advertising card. In fine print, at the lower left on the front of the card, it states: J. Ottmann Lith. Co. NY.” The earlier card shows “Donaldson Brothers Lith. NY.” The color scheme varies quite differently between the two printers.  We also note that the obverse side of the second example, while carrying the same information as the first, is in its own format.  We believe the colors in our first two examples are more true to the original painting by Calderon.

The framed print shown here is one of those 15×20 inch souvenirs. “Donaldson Brothers, NY” were the printers. Framing of this piece appears to be original from the 1890s. Credit on the print is: “Published and copyrighted by Charles E. Hires Company.” You may wonder, “Why does this picture hang in the Cobblestone Church?”

It was just fifty years ago that Bill Lattin, the first director of the Cobblestone Museum, made an inquiry. He noticed regularly placed nails in the church walls centered between windows and doorways. He asked Homer Brown, then in his eighties, “Why are those nails there?” Homer’s answer was, “There were pictures there.”

Now it seems Homer had attended the church as a child, prior to the Universalist Church being built at Albion in 1894. Those missing pictures and other furnishings were sold at an auction in 1934. Consequently, over the years, to make the interior of the Cobblestone Church more authentic in appearance, prints and this painting of appropriate subject matter for a Universalist Church have been acquired by the Cobblestone Museum.

The biblical quote on the print of Ruth and Naomi is sometimes used as a reading during wedding ceremonies. Therefore, our Sunday Painter’s work fits well for the Cobblestone Church which is often the scene for weddings, as shown above.

We include here a copy of one of Calderon’s most noteworthy and well-known paintings. It was completed in 1856 and is entitled, “Broken Vows.” It appears the beautiful young woman behind a fence, shown wearing a wedding band, overhears a tryst between her mate and another woman. We see obvious tension in the genre story. Likewise, in our painting of Ruth and Naomi, we also see some tension between them. Another similarity with these paintings is Calderon’s desire to show women wearing rich, silky clothing. “Broken Vows” is in the extensive art collection of the Tate Gallery in London.

The theme of Ruth and Naomi was a very popular subject matter, especially during the second half of the 19th century. We show a couple examples below From Bill Lattin’s antique collection.

This 10” tall pitcher with a salt glaze and pewter cover perhaps dates to the 1860s. It depicts Ruth clinging to Naomi while Orpah rests on the ground. The pitcher is marked on the bottom: “Naomi and her Daughters-in-Law.”

In this beautiful Parian-ware rendition we see Naomi, Ruth and Orpah. On the base it is entitled, “Naomi and Her Daughters-in-Law.” This  figurine measures 13” tall and was published circa 1860. It is not uncommon in antiquing today to find images of just Ruth alone. This particular piece of statuary would have been a focal point in someone’s parlor 150 years ago.

Let us end with a more updated story concerning our subject. We are all familiar with the well-known celebrity, Oprah Winfrey. Allegedly, Oprah’s name was supposed to be Orpah, after the daughter-in-law of the biblical Ruth, but her doctor mixed up the letters and spelled the name Oprah when filling out her birth certificate. It was never corrected, so Oprah it is!