3/30/2015

Storeroom Stories: Souvenir spoon and machine dies

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Souvenir spoon and machine dies
James Allan & Company
Charleston, 1900-1905


On April 14, 1865, four years to the day after surrendering Fort Sumter to the Confederacy, Union General Robert Anderson was back in Charleston reclaiming what was left of it for the United States. For Charleston, the long and disastrous war was over, and a long road to recovery just begun. For the next few decades, however, Charleston’s economy steadily improved, as did some of its agricultural and mercantile interests. James Allen, a Scottish-born silversmith, jeweler, and retailer who had established his Charleston firm just before the War in 1855, was one of several who actually flourished in the post-bellum period.

For years, James Allen’s company produced all manner of jewelry and silverwares for local consumers, and by the fortieth anniversary of the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter, was producing souvenir spoons stamped from iron dies. These spoons – made in both table and tea size – depict iconic images from both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. On the handle, a stoic Sergeant William Jasper of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment points toward the defeated British fleet after the 1776 battle of Fort Sullivan. Below in the spoon’s bowl are embossed the unmistakable blasted out ruins of Fort Sumter circa 1865.


Downtown Flooding

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LIDAR Map of Charleston Peninsula

Have you ever wondered why downtown Charleston can sometimes get such horrendous flooding? Anyone who has had to drive through deep ponding on downtown streets surely has. A Museum staff member’s minivan literally floated in one of these floods! The answer lies in the natural history of the area. Long before people settled in Charleston numerous tidal creeks from the Ashley and Cooper Rivers cut into the peninsula formed by these two rivers. The historic landscape can be seen in the “LIDAR” map above. LIDAR is an acronym for “light detection and ranging” and consists of pulses of light directed at the ground from above to measure distances to the Earth. The red areas represent the highest ground on the peninsula, yellow next highest, green next, and light blues represent the lowest possible ground. The rich blue denotes the waterways that currently surround Charleston.

A look at an historic map of the Charleston peninsula shows that the tidal creeks present in the early settlement of Charleston correspond very closely to the light blue areas of the modern LIDAR map. So where did the tidal creeks go? Over time as the city’s population grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a need for more space to live and work. Charlestonians filled in these waterways with trash, discarded brick, pieces of old buildings, ship ballast, and various other debris to provide more living space.

Area bordered roughly by Jonathan Lucas/Barre, Cannon, Coming, and Bull Streets as shown on LIDAR map.

This area included one of the largest tidal creeks that cut into the peninsula well into the nineteenth century. Today, with heavy rain and a high tide some parts of this area are prone to flooding. The tidal creek is shown clearly in the accompanying 18th century map related to the Siege of Charleston. Spring Street and Cannon Street, constructed on higher ground, represent safer ways in (Cannon) and out of the City (Spring) during flooding.

Although the creeks were filled in, they still represent the lowest areas of the city. When heavy rains fall over several hours, especially combined with a high tide, the laws of gravity require that water flow to the lowest point. If the water cannot run off fast enough, it soon inundates these depressed areas, often creating very deep pools. Unfortunately some of these places are on major thoroughfares such as Calhoun Street, East Bay Street and the Crosstown.

The City of Charleston has made significant improvements to the underground drainage system over the years and has long-term plans for further work, but only so much can be accomplished when facing Mother Nature and the laws of physics. Ultimately, water will almost always win. Interestingly, the Native Americans who lived in the Lowcountry prior to the arrival of Europeans avoided settling on the lower Charleston peninsula. They may have been on to something.

Area bordered by Charlotte, Meeting, Mary and E. Bay Streets as shown on LIDAR map.

The area in dark red at the bottom of this detail immediately above Charlotte Street includes Wragg Square and the grounds of the 2nd Presbyterian Church, one of the highest points on the Charleston peninsula. A crucial part of the American defense line during the Revolutionary War was constructed along this natural “high ground.” Note that The Charleston Museum sits atop a former tidal creek. During the British siege of the city in 1780, this creek fed a moat that ran across the peninsula directly in front of the American lines.


Thanks to Dr. Jon Marcoux, of Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, for his assistance in providing the LIDAR map.

2/27/2015

"My table must be well supplied without waste…"

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Charlotte Drayton Manigault was born to Charles Drayton and Hester (or Ester) Middleton in 1781 on their plantation in Goose Creek. Hester Middleton Drayton was the sister of Arthur Middleton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and died when Charlotte was eight years old. By all accounts Charles Drayton was a man of enlightened thought and experimented in diverse avenues of industry, including botany and animal husbandry. He had received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1770, had served as a captain during the Revolutionary War and Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina in 1785.

Charlotte married Joseph Manigault on May 27, 1800 at her family home, Drayton Hall Plantation. They moved to 8 Maiden Lane in Charleston where she had their first two children, Joseph in 1801 and Ann in 1803. In 1801, Joseph and Charlotte started building a home in the Wraggborough area on the Neck and moved in soon after the birth of their daughter. Viewing the Joseph Manigault House today, details of Drayton Hall can be seen in the architectural as well as the ornamental design - strong evidence that Charlotte had given her opinion in designing the house.

Charlotte would have six more children, all boys, including twins, her last child born in 1824 at the age of forty-three. Her household not only consisted of eight children but also included anywhere from eleven to twenty-one slaves. Raising children and managing such a large domestic unit took patience and required much of her time. Just a month after her last child was born, she reflected: 

     “I every day see the great necessity of forbearance, patience and command of temper – particularly if one mixes much with the world or has to direct a large household of persons of various tempers. These directions will be negligently obeyed, frequently with ill will & excuses for not doing as much as was required.
      It will require all the attention of an over-looker to have business correctly and faithfully executed. It cannot be my intention to make such a sacrifice of time, or to attempt such a tryall [sic] of temper - therefore be satisfied if things are done tolerably. You cannot change others, though you might with judgment rule with comfort to yourself and your domestics also.”


Along with everyday household duties, Charlotte was active with the Charleston Orphan House and would give often of her time and financial support. She was also an accomplished artist and enjoyed sketching and painting the buildings and landscape scenes that surrounded her in daily life.

Family and household were the most important elements of Charlotte’s life and her writings reveal this desire to be the best wife and mother as well as caretaker to her “domestics”.
     
     “Endeavour not to be put out of humour or flurried by any circumstance - many things require your attention and they can all be attended to one after another and will be best done calmly. You are desirous of accomplishing all that is in your sphere of duties,
toward my Husband, my Children, my domestics, my people &c. Lastly my own improvement in thoughts, words and actions.

      Perseverance with gentleness will go a great way in accomplishing any of these, and is essential in a woman - and as I must depend on my own exertions, singly, Caution and Prudence, Perseverance and Gentleness aided by Liberality must be my prime ministers. I must frequently turn my attention to medicine, I must sometimes umpire, I must excite the indolent to industry, my house must be clothed in scarlet, that is well clothed, or kept well or in order by the exercise of the needle; It must be cleansed and purified, it must be governed by good regulations steadily and gently enforced. My table must be well supplied without waste, carefully teaching and encouraging Cook and Pastry-cook to perform their parts.”


During the course of their life together, Charlotte and Joseph split their time between their home in Charleston, now called the Joseph Manigault House, and their plantation, White Oak. Charlotte seemed to enjoy plantation life more than living in town and after Joseph’s death in 1843 began to spend more time at White Oak. She sold the Wraggborough home in 1852 and moved to a “hired house on the corner of Calhoun & Washington Streets” equipped with gas and “very convenient for the house keepers”. She would later move to South Bay Street where she died peaceably on February 5, 1855.

Charlotte Drayton Manigault was not an abolitionist, she was not an activist, and she did not speak in front of large crowds. She was a simple woman with strong beliefs about how a woman should conduct herself as a wife and mother. Supporting and loving her family unconditionally, she rejoiced in their successes and encouraged them through their failures. Charlotte buried two sons and helped raise several grandchildren and managed it all with style and grace. She will always be remembered as a devoted wife, mother and grandmother – a woman who always had a table well supplied without waste.

Excerpts were taken from the journal of Charlotte Drayton Manigault located at the South Carolina Historical Society; The Charlotte Drayton Manigault Papers, 0436.01.01.07


2/23/2015

Storeroom Stories: Centennial of the Museum’s independence

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March 10 marks the Centennial of the Museum’s independence! On March 10, 1915, Thomas Pinckney, R.L. Montague and William M. Bird, officers appointed to manage the Museum, filed paperwork with the Secretary of State of South Carolina for the incorporation of The Charleston Museum. With this filing, the Museum officially separated itself from the College of Charleston, and became an independent organization. Per its Articles of Incorporation, its declared purpose was “to increase and diffuse knowledge,” preserve objects and places of artistic, scientific and historic interest, and furnish “public instruction and recreation.”

After the Museum’s founding in 1773 by the Charleston Library Society, it was subsequently overseen by the Library Society, the Literary and Philosophical Society of South Carolina and the Medical College of South Carolina, which later became MUSC. In 1850, the Medical College turned over the collections and management of the Museum to the College of Charleston. It would remain there for the next 65 years.

These images show parts of the Museum collection on display in Randolph Hall at the College, c. 1900. The top image shows a significant geology collection and placards above the entrance doors which note “Mineralogy.”



In the second image, two gentlemen, possibly students at the College, enjoy themselves at the expense of plaster casts of Amenhotep III (rear) and Sety II (front). One of the young men has placed his hat on Amenhotep’s head while the other gazes deeply into Sety’s eyes. The two casts, along with the larger cast of Ramses to the right and an Assyrian example barely visible in the left of the photo, are currently on display just outside the Museum’s Early Days exhibit. The casts were copied from original statuary at the British Museum and were purchased by Museum Curator Gabriel Manigault in the 1890s.

1/30/2015

Dave Jars

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At some point in his early life, Dave, a man born into slavery circa 1800, learned the fine art of throwing, turning, and glazing various forms of pottery including churns, storage jars, pitchers, and jugs. While it is popularly presumed that Dave learned pottery while enslaved under Harvey Drake, Dr. Abner Landrum, and Amos Landrum, “copartners in the business of a pottery establishment” in the Edgefield district of South Carolina, who was most responsible for this training remains unknown. Moreover, can only currently speculate just how Dave became literate. After all, any slave from the early and middle 1800s who could read and write typically raised suspicion. Worse, in some areas around South Carolina and the greater south, it was outright illegal.


Nevertheless, beginning in the 1830s and continuing on up to the start of the Civil War, and thanks to his knowledge of the written language, Dave freely, and oftentimes boldly, signed and dated much of his work, even occasionally inscribing it with poetic verses. These poems, in fact, have come to provide invaluable insight as to who Dave really was - as a person and not just bonded property. One particular jar displayed at The Museum nears the poignant inscription “Dave belongs Mr. Miles, wher the oven bakes and the pot biles.” (The last word is believed to be an alteration or corruption of the word “boils,” Which Dave likely made purposely in order to form a proper rhyme.” His liberties with the English language notwithstanding, these lines are significant because they interpret Dave’s familiarity with his own enslavement and further convey that, contrary to the popular belief of the time, slaves were neither ignorant nor blind to their predicament.



After emancipation, Dave took the surname “Drake” after his first owner. He died sometime during the 1870s. Today, however, Dave’s wares, particularly those inscribed with his own brand of poetry, are among the most celebrated products of southern folk art, and often reach record sums at auction. Furthermore, because of its early studies and collections of Edgefield pottery, The Charleston Museum holds (and exhibits) the largest public collection of Dave’s work.


1/28/2015

Oligocene Whales: Evolution and Biodiversity

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Xenorophus Skull

The Charleston Museum houses the largest collection of exquisite Oligocene whales in the world. The Oligocene epoch, a period of geologic time that spans from roughly 34 to 23 million years ago, is unarguably and important time period in regards to whale evolution and diversification. All of these Oligocene whales were collected in and around Charleston from two incredibly rich fossil formations: the Ashley formation (29.2 million years old) and the Chandler Bridge Formation (27.5 million years old). These two fossil beds together make up the richest deposit of Oligocene marine vertebrates ever described. From these two beds, there have been fossil specimens discovered that represent 25 new species of cetaceans (the scientific term for whales, dolphins, and porpoises).
Xenorophus Skull

The Order Cetacea contains two suborders; the Odontoceti, or toothed whales, and the Mysticeti, or baleen whales. Odontocete cetaceans include whales like the well-known Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) as well as dolphins and porpoises. All of the toothed whales share several characteristics in-common that aid in separating them from mysticetes. For example, all odontocete cetacean teeth are virtually identical. They also possess a fluid filled melon that is used for echolocation of prey, have a single blowhole opening, and are typically smaller than their mysticete relatives. Odontocetes are more closely related to primate cetaceans, a group commonly referred to as “archeoceti” meaning ancient cetaceans. The oldest archeocetes bridge the gap between the exclusively marine modern whales and terrestrial animals as they possess hind legs and other land-based adaptations. Current genetic research names the Hippopotamus as the closest living terrestrial relative of cetaceans.
Eomysticetus Skull






Mysticete whales do not extend as far back in the fossil record as odontocetes and have many unique adaptations such as either having a vestigial (reduced) melon (or completely lacking one) as well as having two blowhole openings. Mysticete whales began to diverge from their toothy relatives during the Eocene epoch, a geologic time period ranging from 56 to 33 million years ago. Five Oligocene representatives of early mysticete evolution were excavated in Dorchester County, three of which are formally described: Eomysticetus whitmorei, Eomysticetus carolinensis, and Micromysticetus rothausemi. These species are the earliest known mysticetes that completely lack teeth. Rather than using teeth to capture solitary prey, these three species (as well as modern mysticetes) relied solely on baleen to filter many small organisms out of the water for food. Baleen is a fibrous set of plates in the mouths of mysticetes that is similar in composition to human fingernails and rarely fossilizes. However, the absence of cavities in the jaw for tooth roots is evidence for true mysticetes being present during the Oligocene.
Archaeomysticetus teeth: Incisors (left) & Molars (right)








Earlier mystecetes relatives do possess some teeth; however the teeth are very different from modern odontocete teeth. Rather than possessing a single cusp, early mysticete teeth would possess several cusps and, like baleen, would act like a filter. The teeth in some early mysticetes even have large spaces between their teeth. This suggests these species may have been utilizing teeth and baleen simultaneously until modern mysticetes began to solely rely on baleen.



Storeroom Stories: Washington Sash

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When George Washington launched his grand Southern Tour in 1791, overwhelming enthusiasm and gratitude greeted him at every step. Charleston, of course, was no exception. Arriving that May and staying in what is now The Charleston Museum's Heyward-Washington House, President Washington attended numerous balls and receptions in his honor during the weeklong visit. For these events, attendees dressed in their finest. Some local ladies, in fact, even made special sashes for the occasion.

Miss Harriott Pinckney, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Motte) Pinckney and granddaughter of indigo-famous Eliza Lucas Pinckney, for example, wore (and likely made) this sash especially for these celebrations. Made from light blue silk taffeta and measuring 3 ¾” wide by 165 ½” long, a miniature portrait of George Washington is painted at the center and while a dove and an eagle with an American shield appear at opposite ends. One particular account of a May 6 reception held on May 6 makes note of these sashes.

The President attended a ball given by Governor (Charles) Pinckney at his home, where was gathered a “select company” of ladies and gentlemen. The ladies, sacrificing their elaborate floral headdresses and imposing feathers, wore handsome fillets or bandeaux upon which was drawn or painted Washington’s portrait, the national colors entwined.

In 1949, Thomas Pinckney’s great-great granddaughter, Sallie Morris Pinckney Burton, donated this remarkable piece to The Charleston Museum. At that time, Mrs. Burton was the wife of the museum’s director, E. Milby Burton.
About Storeroom Stories

Founded in 1773, The Charleston Museum is, in fact, America’s first. Needless to say, over the centuries the Museum has acquired many incredible artifacts. A myriad of items exemplifying the rich history of South Carolina, the Lowcountry, and Charleston itself are on display permanently. However, one must also wonder about the artifacts not typically displayed in our formal galleries. Furthermore, with such a magnificent, vast collection as well as an intelligent and passionate curatorial staff, The Charleston Museum has incredible resources. We would like to use these resources to share more with the public. Therefore, the Museum will now be offering a special monthly exhibit, titled Storeroom Stories, which highlights a specific and unique artifact, personally hand-picked by a curator to share with the public.

A “story” related to each item will be included along with its description, providing the viewer a unique and intimate perspective on each individual piece. This an incredible opportunity for the public to take a look into our collections as well as see some of the items that our curators are most excited about sharing with you! We invite you to keep up with Storeroom Stories via our website, blog, Facebook, or twitter account. Please come and take a peek into our storeroom, view some of the pieces our curators our most passionate about, and learn the story behind these incredibly historic items!

12/29/2014

A Word from the Director, January 2015

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Happy New Year!!! I send a sincere thank you to all those who made contributions to the 2014 Annual Appeal. Your donations, memberships, and support helped us achieve a great deal in 2014 and we are looking forward to an exciting 2015.

Among our achievements in 2014 were two excellent exhibits: Unfurled: Flags from the Collections of The Charleston Museum and “You'll regret the day you ever done it”, the last in a series of Civil War Sesquicentennial exhibits. If you have not seen them, hurry to the Museum as both will close in the coming weeks (January 4 and February 1, respectively). Thanks to dedicated work by the Board of Trustees Strategic Planning Committee, we also finalized our 2015-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan sets ambitious, but achievable goals for the next four years and provides a roadmap as we move into the future. Our FANS (Friends and Needed Supporters), meanwhile, put on an outstanding gala in April which raised nearly $30,000 for maintenance and repair of our education facilities at the Dill Sanctuary and funding for Title I schools to visit the Museum in the future.

Among the accomplishments of which I am most proud in 2014 were visits this fall by every third grader in Charleston County School District to the Museum and every fourth grader in the District to the Heyward-Washington House. The latter was part of the Patriots Day program done in association with the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon and the Powder Magazine. Much credit goes to Stephanie Thomas, Chief of Education and Interpretation, Museum staff, and our partnering institutions for hosting and teaching all these wonderful school children.

During the year, we also filled two vacant positions in our Natural History Department. Mr. Matt Gibson joined the Museum as Curator of Natural History in June, and Curatorial Assistant, Ms. Jessica Peragine, came on board in November. With a Natural History Curator in place, we will now begin a fundraising campaign for much-needed renovation of the Museum’s Natural History Gallery. More on that to come! Other new staff who joined us were Marc Meech (CFO), Dawn White (Finance Clerk), Shelby Duff (PR & Events Coordinator), Katrina Lawrimore (Historic House Administrator) and Jessica Runyon (Museum Educator). Hopefully you will have a chance to meet them all.

If you have visited the Museum recently, you were sure to notice our new breezeway gates. Designed by Mr. Glenn Keyes, of the Board of Trustees, these gates not only better secure the Museum but add character to what was a stark, brick walkway into the building. Thank you to Glenn for his tremendous assistance in this.

Much will be happening at the Museum in 2015. We will present two exhibitions in our Historic Textiles Gallery – Fashion Flashback: 1920s -1960s: Five Decades of Style that Changed America, opening in January, and On Parade, Into Battle: Military Uniforms from the American Revolution to the Present, opening in June. We are also pleased to feature two special lobby exhibits with material from the Museum’s previously rarely-shown fossil collections. From Land to Sea: 35 Million Years of Whale Evolution will kick off in February and will be followed by a display of Pleistocene land mammals in August. In addition, we will be implementing a major upgrade and redesign of the Museum website and undertaking a paint restoration project at the Joseph Manigault House. The Manigault project is being funded in part by proceeds from The Charleston Art & Antiques Forum. We are grateful to them for this generosity!

Thank you again for all your support of the Museum. I look forward to great things together in 2015.

Sincerely,

Carl P. Borick
Director





12/19/2014

Storeroom Stories: Xenorophid Whale

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The Charleston Museum holds the largest collection of Oligocene cetaceans, or whales, in the world. The Oligocene epoch is a geologic time period spanning from roughly 23 million years ago (mya) to 34 mya, and it represents a very important time period for cetacean evolution. Many species of Oligocene cetaceans have been described from South Carolina, with several discovered in and around Charleston.


The genus Xenorophus, which is within the cetacean family Xenorophidae, was originally described by R. Kellogg in 1923. Xenorophids were predatory whales that most likely fed on fish and perhaps small sea birds. Xenorophids are an extinct group and have only been found in the Ashley and Chandler Bridge formations of South Carolina. This specimen, found in Charleston County, is potentially a new species of xenorophid.


About Storeroom Stories

Founded in 1773, The Charleston Museum is, in fact, America’s first. Needless to say, over the centuries the Museum has acquired many incredible artifacts. A myriad of items exemplifying the rich history of South Carolina, the Lowcountry, and Charleston itself are on display permanently. However, one must also wonder about the artifacts not typically displayed in our formal galleries. Furthermore, with such a magnificent, vast collection as well as an intelligent and passionate curatorial staff, The Charleston Museum has incredible resources. We would like to use these resources to share more with the public. Therefore, the Museum will now be offering a special monthly exhibit, titled Storeroom Stories, which highlights a specific and unique artifact, personally hand-picked by a curator to share with the public.

A “story” related to each item will be included along with its description, providing the viewer a unique and intimate perspective on each individual piece. This an incredible opportunity for the public to take a look into our collections as well as see some of the items that our curators are most excited about sharing with you! We invite you to keep up with Storeroom Stories via our website, blog, Facebook, or twitter account. Please come and take a peek into our storeroom, view some of the pieces our curators our most passionate about, and learn the story behind these incredibly historic items!

Fashion Flashback is taking shape

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As we were preparing the garments that will be shown in our upcoming textile exhibition, Fashion Flashback, 1920s-1960s: Five Decades of Style that Changed America, one dress seemed to stand out as a marvelous selection for a December holiday party. Made of changeable taffeta, the dress would shimmer between a luscious green and vibrant blue, as the wearer swirled around the room, the focus of everyone’s attention. And this wearer might have done just that. She was Margaret Middleton Rivers, the wife of Congressman L. Mendel Rivers. First elected in 1940, Rivers served in Congress for 30 years and was the influential chairman of the Armed Services committee from 1965.

Mrs. Rivers’ dress, dating from the late 1940s, has the stylish wide neckline and pleated full skirt of the period. The enormous bow in back sets the figure off without being cumbersome. Margaret (1913-2004) was a debutante from old Charleston families (Simons & Middleton); she attended Memminger High School and graduated from the College of Charleston in 1935. It is not surprising that she would have selected such a stunning garment.


Changeable taffeta is taffeta (a plain weave silk with considerable body and sheen) with warp of one color and weft of another, giving different effects in different lights. This dress does not have a label and could have been made here.


A photo of her from her memoirs, co-authored by her daughter and son and published in 2007 by History Press.  This Image is Courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston. 

To see this dress and other beautiful garments, come by the Museum January 12 - June 14, 2015 for this special exhibition or join us, dressed in your favorite vintage attire, on January 15, 2015 from 6-8 pm for our Fashion Flashback Opening Reception!

Fashion Flashback
1920s-1960s: Five Decades of Style that Changed America
The Charleston Museum presents a journey back through time with a decade-by-decade look at clothing styles, beginning with an exploration of the hip 1960s and working backward to the swinging 1920s. Women’s and men’s clothing and accessories will be displayed, offering a light-hearted look at fifty years of fashion. Learn More