Thursday, December 22, 2011

Franklin on Electricity


Book, Franklin on Electricity 5th Edition

Ascension#: 1988.017

As members of the gentry, the Randolphs likely would have shown an interest in the scientific advancements of the day and owned copies of books that dealt with the subject.  This book by Benjamin Franklin, Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made in Philadelphia in America, has a blue marbleized cover with Leather corners and spine. The edges of the book are also marbleized and on the front end sheet is a bookplate that reads “Buddle Atkinson presented 1898”. It is the fifth edition printed in 1774, which is actually a reprint of the fourth edition that was edited and footnoted by Franklin himself.

Benjamin Franklin was an apprentice to his older brother James in the printing business before going to work for William Bradford in New York and later Samuel Keimer in Philadelphia. Determined to start his own printing business, Franklin traveled to London where he secured employment sufficiently remunerative to set himself up back in Philadelphia by 1728. At the annual expense of approximately $80,000, he bought rags which he sold to paper mills which, in turn, produced the newsprint he required. By the end of Franklin's diplomatic service, some fifty-five years later, Pennslvania boasted a total of eighteen paper mills that had been established with Franklin's assistance, while his own press produced more than 850 titles of books and pamphlets. Nearly all of Franklin's work was done on an English Common Press, wherein each character was formed by an individual piece of type and produced by hand. Four to eight pages were usually printed on a single sheet of paper, which could be produced by two skilled workmen at a rate of four sheets per minute. By 1748 he retired from active participation in the printing business, turning management of the entreprise over to his partner, David Hall.

He concentrated his efforts on experiments conducted in his “electrical laboratory” where he built an electrical generator  and his electrical experiments drew ever growing crowds of curious spectators. He also wrote letters concerning this work to a number of correspondents including London merchant and naturalist, Peter Collinson, who collected them and subsequently had them published in three separate pamphlets in 1751, 1753, and 1754. By 1774, five editions had appeared, and by 1783 the work had been translated into French, Italian, and German. According to one historian, “Benjamin Franklin's Experiments and Observations is the most important scientific book of eighteenth century America and established Franklin as the first American scientist with an international reputation. In this famous treatise on electricity, Franklin outlined experiments which proved that lightning is an electrical phenomenon and deduced the positive and negative nature of electrical charges.”

In regards to when his papers on electricity were first published, Franklin remarked,

Obliged as we were to Mr. Collinson for the present of
the tube, etc., I thought it right he should be informed of our success in
using it, and wrote him several letters containing accounts of our
experiments.  He got them read in the Royal Society, where they were at first
not thought worth so much notice as to be printed in their Transactions.  One
paper, which I wrote to Mr. Kinnersley, on the sameness of lightning with
electricity, I sent to Mr. Mitchel, an acquaintance of mine, and one of the
members also of that society, who wrote me word that it had been read, but was
laughed at by the connoisseurs.  The papers, however, being shown to Dr.
Fothergill, he thought them of too much value to be stifled, and advised the
printing of them.  Mr. Collinson then gave them to Cave for publication in his
Gentleman's Magazine, but he chose to print them separately in a pamphlet, and
Dr. Fothergill wrote the preface.  Cave, it seemed, judged rightly for his
profession, for by the additions that arrived afterward they swelled to a
quarto volume, which has had five editions and cost him nothing for

Illustrations of devices used in his experiments with electricity were printed on the end sheet opposite the title page in the pamphlet published. Franklin was honored by the Royal Society of London with the Copley Medal for his experiments in electricity. The results of Franklin’s experiments led to the invention of the lightning rod which protects buildings and ships from lightning.

Printing press supposed to have been used by Ben Franklin in 1725-26


Bigelow, John“Benjamin Franklin Experiments with Electricity”. A project by History World      
            International. 21 Dec. 2011 <>.
Fish Durost, Bruce and Becky. Colonial Leaders: Benjamin Franklin: American Statesman,
Scientist, and Writer. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.
Fleming, Candace. Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s
Life. New York: Athenuem Books For Young Readers: An Imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2003.
Gaustad, Edwin S. Benjamin Franklin: Inventing America. New York: Oxford University Press,
Krensky, Stephen. Benjamin Franklin. New York: DK Publishing, 2008.
 “18th Century Printing.” Crandall Historical Printing Museum. 21 Dec. 2011
“Ben Franklin Inventor.” Resources for Science Learning. 21 Dec. 2011
“Ben Franklin Facts: 27 Interesting Facts About Ben Franklin.” The Ben Franklin Busy Body. 21 Dec. 2011
“Benjamin Franklin-Scientist.” University of Delaware. 21 Dec. 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Room for Guests


Birch Press Bed, c. 1810
Accession #: 1992.0002
Around this time of year the Randolphs would have been anticipating visitors for their Twelfth Night celebration which took place 12 nights after Christmas day. They prepared their house for the celebration not only by decorating, but also getting the bed chambers ready for guests who might stay the night. A press bed like this one might have been one of the pieces of furniture pulled out for use by the Randolphs’ guests. The family would have had this bed taken out from where it was stored to get ready for the guests who would stay at their house during the Twelfth Night celebration.
This one is a birch press bed, or folding bed, painted red with a shaped headboard. Press means “cupboard or cabinet”. The beds were called this because they could be easily folded and stored in these types of furniture when not in use. They became popular when carpenters designed beds to become part of the d├ęcor of the room. The beds could masquerade as wardrobes or sideboards, or be concealed behind bookcases or other furniture when not in use. Some folding beds were put behind curtains or had curtains hung on them when they were not being used as well. As one historian describes this, “The side rails had cleverly designed hinged joints very near the bedhead allowing the bed to be raised and hidden behind the curtains”. They were also ideal for houses with limited space. The Randolphs may have not had room for the number of regular beds necessary to accommodate their overnight guests.
The press bed would have solved this predicament for the Randolphs. It could be easily stored either in or behind a cabinet or clothes press or behind one until it was needed. Not made to impress the guests, the press bed nevertheless served as a comfortable place to sleep at night. It would remain against the wall until the visitor needed it. “Its hinged legs sit flat against the frame” waiting to be folded out while the rope, in the word of one writer, “pulled taut through holes in the frame [would] form a springlike netting”.  Beds which had ropes that had to be tied tight to support the mattress were thought to be where the expression “sleep tight” comes from. Roping could have been held by “small turned knobs” on the “better quality” beds which is like the one the Randolph's owned. Simpler ones just had holes through which the rope was strung. The straw, corn husks, or pine boughs stuffed mattress put on the birch press bed would have been a welcoming resting place for a guest of the Randolphs after a night of celebrating.
Come to Wilton to see how the Randolphs might have also decorated as they anticipated guests arriving for the Twelfth Night celebration. You can get a taste of what this night meant to the Randolphs by joining us for our Twelfth Night Ball, January 6th, 2012. Visit for more details.
Old and Interesting. “Box Beds, Bed Recesses, Press Beds, and Bedsteads”. 18 July 2007. 6             December 2011. <>.
Furniture Styles. “Early American Colonial Beds”. International Styles, 2011. 6 December 2011.             < >
Obbard, John W. Early American Furniture.  Kentucky: Collector Books, 2006.
"Projects from your workbench" Colonial Homes. July-August 1985.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Colonial Meal Fit For Thanksgiving

This week’s entry is a little different than recent entries.  Since Thanksgiving Day is upon us here are some recipes from Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife Or, Methodical Cook.

If you have visited Wilton recently you should have seen the elaborately decorated table setting in the Dining Room.  At the center of the table was one of the many delicacies of the colonial era, a boar’s head.  I know it sounds gross, but in the 18th century this was considered a “fancy” dish.  Mary Randolph provides a recipe for the head of a shote, also spelled shoat.  Mary’s recipe includes directions for all parts of the head.

If a pig’s head is not your thing here is a recipe for a more Thanksgiving appropriate dish, a boiled turkey.

If you are looking for a simple side dish, Mary has a simple recipe for potato balls.

Lastly is one of my favorite dishes, a syllabub.  This dessert drink is usually made with cream, wine, and your choice of fruit.  Mary provides a recipe for those who wish to try their hand at the historic method. 

If you are interested in trying your hand at a colonial dish, but with a modern recipe visit Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Foodways blog History is Served.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Randolph Christening

Accession #: 1986.14A-B
Item: Christening Gown        

This cream colored christening gown made of silk, satin, and cotton was reportedly made by Mary Scott Randolph for her first child. She was married to Brett Randolph I of Warwick Plantation (a few miles south of Richmond).  Their first child, Richard Randolph II was born August 17, 1754. Brett Randolph was the first cousin of William Randolph III.  The gown was also worn by Richard’s siblings, Henry, Brett, and Susanna. The gown is plain but has hand knotted fringe. The fringe surrounds the square neck, down each front side, and around the bottom of the robe. A silk cord draws the gown closed at the front neck.

Parents arranged christening and baptisms-usually within a few weeks after birth to celebrate the birth of the new child. Christening or baptism of an infant marked the “beginning of [a] child’s religious beliefs” and followed closely after births because of the belief that “an unbaptized child is a child unprotected by God”. For many it was the “first public appearance for mother and new baby” and for those who had the money, a “special gown” was made for the occasion.  As Phillis Cunnington sustains in her book Costumes for Births, Marriages, and Deaths, “Whether it was to be wholly or only partly undressed for the actual ceremony, the baby in a well-to-do family was generally taken to church in rather elaborate robes”. The christening of Richard Randolph II, may have been held in the family’s church or their home. 

Baptism represented “the social birth of the child” as well as being done for the security of salvation if the baby were to die. Laymen stressed the responsibility of the parents to bring their child for christening or baptism.  Virginia layman John Page (1627-1692) wrote that the parent,

procure[s] it an early right in all those precious advantages which sacrament conveys to it. This you ought not to delay, it being reasonable that you who have instrumentally conveyed the stain and pollution of sin to the poor infant, should be very earnest to have it washed off, as soon as may be: besides the life of so tender an infant is but a blast, and many times gone in a moment.

In her book A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith: Anglican religious practice in the elite households of eighteenth century Virginia, Lauren Winner describes the gown presumably stitched by Mary Scott Randolph as “displaying the Randolphs’ wealth and taste”.  Winner goes on to tell how the gown would have shown that the Randolphs were keeping the latest styles. She also points out that the gown was fashioned to fit theological symbols. Winner affirms “in the eighteenth century, most christening outfits were white; the white cloth symbolized the purity of the soul after being cleansed by the baptismal waters”. Richard Randolph II, “was to be washed clean, made pure by the water and certified as such by his white gown”. The design of the gown enforced the beliefs behind the christening ceremony that Richard Randolph II and the succeeding wearers of the gown were involved.

For the past 257 years this gown has been passed down and used through the generations following Richard Randolph II emphasizing the importance of this intricately and thoughtfully designed gown. Its last use was on April 20, 1986 at the christening of a descendant of Susanna Randolph, sister of Richard Randolph II, through whom the gown was passed. It now lays to rest at Wilton as a generous gift of direct descendants of Susanna, Janet Randolph Turpin Ayers, Augustine Royall Turpin Jr., and Carter Mosby Turpin. 

Cunnington, Phillis and Catherine Lucas. Costumes for Births, Marriages, and Deaths. New York: Harper
and Row Publishers, Inc., 1972.
Chatham -Baker, Odette. Baby Lore: Ceremonies, Myths, and Traditions to Celebrate a Baby’s Birth. New
York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.
Baumgarten, Linda. What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America.
Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002.
Winner, Lauren. A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith: Anglican religious practice in the elite households of
eighteenth century Virginia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alive after Death

Accession #:  2002.0002
Item: Mourning Ring
Brett Randolph, son of Richard Randolph of Curles and cousin to William III,  may have made a request for a mourning or memorial ring to be made upon his death, bequeathing money for this very purpose. It may have also been possible that the family had a desire to have a piece of him with them, to keep him alive after his death. Brett Randolph had four children- Richard, Henry, Brett and Susanna. Any of which could have been the wearer of this ring.
The mourning ring is black enamel and inscribed on the enamel in gold is the name of the deceased, “Brett Randolph” and the date of his death “ 4 September 1759”. The ring is set with nineteen diamonds in a circle surrounding a piece of hair under glass.
Mourning rings date back to William Shakespeare (1564-1616), who mentioned them in his will. He states:
“I gyve and bequeath to [Mr. Richard Tyler thelder] Hamlett Sadler xxvj.8. viij.d. to buy him a ringe; to William Raynoldes gent., xxvj.8. viij.d. to buy him a ringe; to my dogson William Walker xx8. in gold; to Anthonye Nashe gent. xxvj.8. viij.d. [in gold]; and to my fellowes John Hemynges, Richard Brubage, and Henry Cundell, xxvj.8. viij.d. a peece to buy them rnges”
The wealthy in the 17th and 18th centuries could afford mourning rings. In their wills they would specifically write out how they were to be designed and made. The fact that there was a ring made in memory of Brett Randolph at his death showed that the family had the money to have a ring produced just for them in the way requested.  The popularity of mourning jewelry accelerated when Queen Victoria had one made after Prince Albert’s death in 1861. “Commemorative jewellery” was also mass produced with images of royalty to remember a monarch such as for Charles I who was executed in 1649 (; see image 1).
In the I8th century, if the details of the person were put on the stem of the ring in white enamel then that meant the person was single. If they were put in black enamel then the deceased was married.   Family members liked to included hair from the deceased for its close connection to its previous owner and it was a “symbol for life” (  An excerpt from Godey’s Lady Book (c. 1850), a magazine popular in the United States, declares:
"Hair is at once the most delicate and last of our materials and survives us like
love. It is so light, so gentle, so escaping from the idea of death, that, with a
lock of hair belonging to a child or friend we may almost look up to heaven
and compare notes with angelic nature, may almost say, I have a piece of thee
here, not unworthy of thy being now" (qtd. in Harran)
These types of jewelry, like the mourning ring, kept the life of a loved one in the wearer’s memory. It was a way of physically having a part of the person with them by having hair incorporated into the mourning jewelry. Mourning jewelry is also known as memorial jewelry because of its ability to be a permanent memorial of a person’s life. Memorial rings are still sold today (see image 2).
However, these modern mourning rings are not as personal as the rings of Brett Randolph’s day, when the pieces were fashioned specifically with the intention of physically having a part of the deceased with the wearer. It takes being alive after death to a whole different level.
Image 2 "Sterling Silver Memorial Message Ring (25 Characters)":
Works Cited
Harran, Susan and Jim. “Remembering a Loved one with Mourning Jewelry” .  Antique Week. December 1997. 25 October 2011.
Peters, Hayden. The Art of Mourning. “An Overview of the History and Industry of Hairwork”. 25 October 2011.
Victoria’s Past . “Mourning Rings”. 25 October 2011.
 “The Last will and Testament of William Shakespere”.  25 October 2011.
Things Gone By Museum. “Mourning Jewelry Museum” .  25 October 2011.
The British Museum. “Memorial Ring Commemorating Charles  I”. 25 October 2011.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Feeding the Baby

Accession #: 1998.11
Item: Pap Boat/Invalid Feeder

Today, when a baby needs feeding a plastic battle and rubber nipple are utilized. The simplicity of this design is both spell-proof and unbreakable. The modern day bottle did not exist in the late 19th century and early 20th century when a pap boat or “invalid feeder” was implemented in the task of feeding a baby. The Wilton House Collection includes a delicate porcelain, German (Meissen) pap boat with a cobalt “blue onion” design. The design itself has no reference to an onion; rather the decorative elements remotely resemble an onion with blue outlines and fleur de lis decoration.
            Gifted to the museum in 1998 from Mrs. Brantley Knowles, the pap feeder, c 1850’s, is on display in the children’s bedchamber. The name “pap” is allegedly from the sound babies make when opening their mouth to receive food. However, the more likely reason for the name ‘pap’ is for the food mixture called pap; "pap" is Dutch or Flemish for "porridge" or "gruel". Pap recipes consist of bread, flour, and water. A pap base “panada” is a more nourishing mixture with added butter and milk, or cooked in broth as a milk substitute. Ingredients may also include raw meat juices, wine, beer, Lisbon sugar, and Castile soap. Occasionally to sooth a baby drugs were added. Kept warm pap could be used for multiple daily feedings. For this an open flamed device was kept under the pap holder.
As for the remainder of the name, “boat” derives from the shape of the porcelain feeder. Pap feeders can be found in many different styles. Some feeders may resemble an animal such as a duck, or a teacup with an exaggerated spout. Materials used for the making of a pap feeder were pewter, wood, bone, pottery, porcelain and in some rare cases glass. Most pap boats are mistaken for the liking of a gravy saucer, with their wide mouths, long spouts and finger with thumb inlay handle. The Wilton House pap feeder is 2in. in height, 7in in width and 2 ¼in deep, and most resembles a gravy saucer.
Pap boats, more often then not, were produced out of the country and brought in. No direct connection can be made of the pap boat or “invalid feeder” to either the Randolph family or the Randolphs of Wilton.  

Oakes, J. The Web Child Museum, "Pap Boats and Invalid Feeders." Accessed September 28, 2011.

Rubell, Martha. Rubell’s Antiques, "My antique “Blue Onion” invalid feeder/pap boat – 19th." Last modified Sept. 12, 2008. Accessed September 28, 2011.

Mead Johnson Nutritional Division, "The History of the Feeding Bottle: Pap Feeders & Feeding Cups."Accessed September 28, 2011.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Music To My Ears: Wilton's Pianoforte

Accession #: 1903.5
Item: Pianoforte

Of all the furnishings in an elegant eighteenth century house that suggested the wealth, culture, and refinement of its inhabitants, none articulated status more clearly than the presence of a finely crafted harpsichord, clavichord, or piano forte. For most of this period however, the harpsichord and its variants, along with the flute and the fiddle, provided much of the musical entertainment for Virginia’s gentry. Far from being considered mere embellishment to gracious living music, and the dance, were an essential part of the colony’s social life, as reflected in diarist Philip Vickers Fithian’s famous observation that “Virginians are of genuine blood; they will dance or die.” That William Randolph III and his family shared this enthusiasm is suggested by the beguiling portrait of his daughter, Lucy Randolph Burwell, whom the artist captured playing a mandolin, and it may be imagined that a harpsichord would have found its way into Wilton sometime sooner rather than later. This is only conjecture, alas, as the earliest extant inventory of the Wilton’s furnishings was done in 1815, subsequent to the death of William III’s grandson, William IV. There, occupying pride of place as the most costly item in the house, was a harpsichord valued at a princely $200.

Interestingly, the harpsichord already represented old technology by this time, having been displaced by the more versatile pianoforte. Developed in Italy during the early eighteenth century the pianoforte, since abbreviated to piano in modern terminology, provided greater variation of tone and more volume than the harpsichord could offer. The musical terms “piano” and “forte” actually mean “quiet” and “loud.” By 1800 most English and American makers of keyboard instruments had abandoned harpsichords in favor of the pianoforte. Foremost among them was the London firm of “John Broadwood and Sons” which traced its lineage to a young Swiss immigrant, Burkat Shudi, who apprenticed himself to a maker of harpsichords in Soho in 1718. Later establishing his own workshop, Shudi achieved some reputation producing instruments for such notables as George Frideric Handel; Frederick, Prince of Wales; and King George II. In fact, the firm which he began has made instruments for every British monarch since. Little wonder that in 1765 when the child prodigy Mozart visited London, he performed upon a Shudi.

Produced in 1800 by “John Broadwood and Son, Makers to His Majesty and the Princesses,” it is a tribute to the cabinet builder’s art with its mahogany-veneered case, satinwood keyboard surround, and boxwood inscription cartouche identifying its origin. Featuring Chippendale type legs with beading, and Hepplewhite bolt brasses with a Hepplewhite brass to secure the top, it has long served as a principal adornment of Wilton’s magnificent parlor. Though missing a pedal, it is in otherwise excellent condition since its expert cleaning and refurbishment in 2002. As rare as it is beautiful, it is estimated that during the period of its manufacture there was only one grand piano produced for every twenty to thirty of the less costly square pianos, and that there are currently but fifteen Braodwood & Son grand pianos dating from between 1795-1805 in the United States. An enduring testimony to Mrs. Hugh McGuire’s esteem and affection for the Colonial Dames of Virginia and for Wilton, as well as to her own “discriminating taste,” it is in every way a fitting centerpiece for what has been termed one of America’s one hundred most beautiful rooms.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Love Ten Thousand Times

Accession #: 1906.0009
Item: wedding dress belonging to James Madison's mother
Mermaid, princess, A-line, shift, or column. Potential silhouettes of any dress for any sort of occasion. But more importantly: the dress, for the occasion many dream about starting from their adolescence. Although most only wear their wedding dress on the momentous day itself, it serves the purpose of honoring matrimonial tradition. Today's dream of the big, white dress was not always the case. It was not until Queen Victoria's wedding in 1840 when she dressed in white satin and lace that the trend was set. Before then, it was of fashion to simply wear one's “sunday best” for the special occasion.
            It is typically unheard of that a modern bride will wear a color other than white to her wedding. Today's interpretations of wedding white bring to mind purity, innocence, and virginity. In past centuries, however, it was the color blue that symbolized these qualities, as witnessed by the silk and cotton wedding gown (1860),  given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Brooklyn Museum. In fact, the color of the bride's dress was much more focused on demonstrating she and her family's wealth, rather than symbolizing virtuous characteristics. This proved that the family was able to afford a dress that their daughter would most likely never wear again. The rarer the color, the better showcasing of wealth. A silly poem was published in the 19th century about the color of your dress predicting the outcome of your marriage. It states,
            “Married in white, you will have chosen all right. Married in grey , you will go far away.    Married in black, you will wish yourself back. Married in red, you’ll wish yourself dead. Married in blue, you will always be true. Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl. Married in green, ashamed to be seen, Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow. Married in brown, you’ll live out of town. Married in pink, your spirits will sink.”
Even after Queen Victoria's wedding in 1840, white was not a popular choice until the end of the 19th century thanks to the rise of the upper-middle class who strove to emulate the upper class while now having a more expendable income.
            It was not uncommon for a woman to alter or dye her wedding dress after the special occasion. Some brides even purchased separate bodices to accompany the dress for later occasions. Necklines were higher and more conservative on wedding dresses than on typical evening attire so the bodice was often switched or altered for later use.
            Wedding gowns of the 18th and 19th centuries were created as two separate, adjoining pieces: the bodice and the skirt, as seen in the dress of James Madison's mother found in Wilton's collection. In the 1700s, the bodice would most always cover one's elbows as well as establish a narrow waist for the wearer. Elegant women of the time, such as Empress Josephine of France, greatly popularized certain silhouettes of the early 19th century, such as the column-like gown, complete with an empire waist situated under the woman's bust. The silhouette was inspired by Ancient Greek and Roman dress however it was brought back into style thanks to Empress Josephine.
            By the 1840s, the circumference of the skirt grew to an exaggerated fullness thanks to increased petticoats and caged crinoline. The size of the skirt reached its climax by the 1860s, but then quickly fell out of style by the 1870s thanks to the rise of the bustle. Large leg-of-mutton sleeves often accompanied the bustle at the time up until the 20th century. Thanks to the reverse “S” shape silhouette popular of 1900, women were forced to squeeze and contort their bodies into unnatural and painful feminine shapes. This sort of unnaturalness sparked the rebellion against corsets just before the 1920s, creating loose, diaphanous, and much shorter dresses. The silhouettes of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s echoed the natural shape of a woman, redefining the waist-line and took inspiration from Hollywood, World War II uniforms, and influential women such as Jacquelyn Kennedy and Grace Kelly.
            Wilton's upcoming exhibit opening February 4th, 2012, entitled “My Love Ten Thousand Times: Love and Courtship since the 18th century,” chronicles love and marriage in the 18th, 19th, and 20th century. This exhibit will include a variety of wedding dresses spanning two hundred years.

Druesedow, Jean L. "In Style: Celebrating Fifty Years of the Costume        Institute." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 45.2 (1987): 5-63.Web. 20 July 2011. <>.    

Meehan, Norma Lu, and Mei Campbell. Victorian Wedding Dress in the United States: A History Through Paper Dolls. Lubbock, TX: Texas   Tech University Press, 2009. 2-5. Print

McIntyre, Kelsey. "The History of the White Wedding Dress." From Times Past. Johanne Yakula, Web. 15 July 2011. <>.

Oakes, Leimomi. "Queen Victoria's wedding dress: the one that started it all." The Dreamstress. N.p., 18 April 2011. Web. 15 July 2011.  <>

Remington, Preston. "A Special Exhibition of Victorian and Edwardian Dresses: March 14-April 23." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34.3 (1939): 55-60. Web. 20 July 2011.

Thieme, Otto Charles. "The Art of Dress in the Victorian and Edwardian Eras." Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 10. (1988): 14-27. Web. 20 July 2011. <>.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peyton Randolph's Secretary Desk

Accession #: 1938.2
Item: Desk with bookcase

Walking through Wilton visitors might notice the countless pieces of period furniture on display throughout the house. Due to our wonderful collection, the most frequent question asked during tours is always “Is it a Randolph piece?” Visitors might be surprised that Wilton only boasts one original piece of furniture belonging to the Randolphs, and that is Peyton Randolph’s Secretary Desk currently on display in the Study. His great-granddaughter, and the last Randolph of Wilton, Catherine Randolph Mayo, bequeathed the piece to her son Robert Randolph Mayo. Robert’s wife, Betty, sold it to her nephew, John Brander, where it left the Randolph family line. He in turn sold it to his brother, Thomas Brander. The Dames purchased it from him around [1938], where it later became a centerpiece for the Study.
The desk was made sometime around 1770-80 in New York and it is attributed to Samuel Prince. Some of the fine craftsmanship includes: scrolled and dentil carved pediments; adjustable shelves and a slant front lid; and four graduated molded doors. It was made in the Chippendale style and is constructed out of Mahogany. The desk has some Poplar and White Pine in it as well. Secretary desks were first used in the 17th century and mark the beginning of permanent storage spaces over portable traveling pieces, such as traveling desks.  (See example below)

Peyton could have possibly used this desk in the very same room it is today.  From the 1815 inventory of Wilton it is very likely this desk resided in this very room. Peyton Randolph would have written his correspondences from this desk as well as taken care of the business aspect of running Wilton. When the Marquis de Lafayette stayed in the house for ten days during the Revolutionary War he could have used this very desk as well.
Home Decorator's Collection. "'History of the Secretary Desk.'" Home Decorator's
               Collection, Decorating Ideas. Accessed July 1, 2011. Last modified 2011.
Wilton House Furnishing Committee. "Report from the Furnishing Committee." Letter to
               the Item file, October 27, 1939 Wilton House Loan File Item #1938.2.  
Wilton House Museum. "Item file # 1938.2." Wilton House Museum to Researchers of
               the Collection, 1938 Collection file.