Monday, February 14, 2011

New Aquisitions

Glessner House Museum is pleased to announce three new additions to the Prairie Avenue Collection. The items were generously donated by Roberta Nichols, descendant of the Fisk, Botsford, and Harvey families who resided at 2100 S. Calumet Avenue. This address is the only home known to exist in the neighborhood that was passed down through the female line. At one point, all three generations were living simultaneously under one roof.

The first part of the donation includes newspaper clippings relating to several Prairie Avenue families. We are grateful to Roberta for enriching our archives. Two clippings of particular significance relate to the shooting of Marshall Field, Jr. They were saved by Dr. Robert Harvey who rode with Field in the ambulance to Mercy Hospital prior to the young man's death. The Harvey family, because of the eye-wittiness of their patriarch, always held that Field's injuries were accidental and self-inflicted, though others suspect differently.

The second donation is a upright "squirrel cage" yarn swift. A tool for winding skeins of yarn, the swift's vertical shape has the advantage over other models of taking up less floor space. Two cylinder-shaped wheels, made from flat disks spanned by dowel rods, rotate on long wooden pins. These cylinders, commonly called "squirrel cages" because of their unique shape, can be moved closer or further apart by sliding the pins through holes drilled incrementally along the frame. The positioning of the cages determines the amount of tension that will be applied to the yarn as it is pulled by the user.

A turned wood cup sits atop the frame, presumably for needles and pins. The base is painted with scrolled initials, slightly worn from past uses placing their feet on top to sturdy the swift. This piece has been placed in the Female Servant's Room.
Painted initials on base

Squirrel cage and pin

Cup at top of frame

Tried & True Recipes: The Home Cookbook of Chicago
The third item donated to the museum is the Home Cookbook of Chicago, published in 1874 by J. Fred. Waggoner. The title page indicates that the cook book was "compiled from recipes contributed by ladies of Chicago and other cities and towns: published for the benefit of the Home for the Friendless." The cookbook is inscribed "Mrs. D. B. Fisk 614 Wabash Ave Chicago" on the front fly leaf. The book still has its pasted-in errata with corrected measurements and spellings for several recipes. The Home for the Friendless, founded in the 1850s, was an orphan asylum that housed hundreds of needy children. The book has a very dark green cover with marbled page edges. It is currently housed in the Glessner House Museum Archives.

Inscription on front fly leaf


  1. Cool stuff. It helps us understand 19th-century life a little better.

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