We welcome in autumn this week with the latest issue of the MTS e-Magazine. Flip through and learn more about the past year's coolest projects, what is upcoming for 2016, and see who is on the MTS team. You can share the newsletter with your friends or print out a PDF copy.
As soon as we're done publishing the e-Magazine, we will turn our attention to our impending move to a bigger, better studio right here in our historic Andover neighborhood. We will have more space, including four small rooms for our library, supplies, and collections, and an additional 8 feet of ceiling height, which will come in handy with large flags and tapestries.
Stay tuned for our next blog about our cool new digs.
Museum Textile Services recently conserved an early 20th-century Brooks Brothers three-piece suit. It is a family heirloom of Edward Phillips-Jones, who continues to wear it on special occasions despite some thinning and small tears. Edward, a scholar and farmer in western Massachusetts, inherited the suit from his uncle Owen Jones, who was given it by Edward's great grandfather, James Morison Faulkner. Other than being a bit short in the leg, the suit fits Edward perfectly.
After conservation dry cleaning, we stabilized several holes on the jacket and pants with hand stitching and cotton fabric underlays. Conservator Morgan Carbone rewove thinning areas in the arms, legs, and seat with matching wool yarns. These repairs, along with light use and continued care, will assure that Mr. Phillips-Jones can pass his sack suit on to the next generation.
This is the third in our series of MTS Blogs about samplers we have conserved from the New Hampshire Historical Society. Sarah’s sampler is a simple upper and lowercase alphabet stitched with silk thread on a piece of undyed linen. She stitched only the numerals 1 through 4 but spent quite a bit of time perfecting the decorative floral border--perhaps nine- or ten-year-old Sarah adored flowers more than numbers. According to the NHHS digital catalog, Sarah Folsom Cochran lived from 1811 and 1844 in Pembroke and Epson, New Hampshire. Although she did not record the date she made her sampler, she did include her exact birthday as August 26th, 1811. So happy 204th birthday anniversary Sarah! (August 26th also happens to be Director Camille Myers Breeze's birthday, though she's a bit younger.)
In the early 19th century, all the dyes used to color Sarah’s bright silks would have been made from natural substances like madder for pinks and reds, and indigo or woad for blues. Many natural dyes, and the natural fibers of silk and linen, slowly degrade over time, losing their intensity and saturation as a result of things like light and heat. However Sarah's sampler is almost the same color on the front as on the back, indicating that it has been well cared for.
We know that Sarah's sampler was once framed because it came to Museum Textile Services glued onto an acidic board. Moisture in the top-left corner had caused soil and discoloration to migrate, but fortunately not the dyes. Prior to cleaning, Conservator Cara Jordan removed as much of the cardboard and adhesive residue from the reverse with mechanical action. Director Camille Breeze then used the suction table to flush deionized water through the sampler and control any potential dye bleeding. The first blotters showed a great deal of discoloration coming out of the sampler, which was exhausted after several rinses. The sampler was allowed to fully dry on the suction table beneath a piece of blotter. It was then hand stitched to a fabric-covered mounting board for display at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Sarah’s gift to history was her sampler, and Museum Textile Services is pleased to restore some of the light and delicacy back to her work. If you are concerned about your own historic textile being damaged due to light exposure, pests, or acidity, take a look at the our MTS Handouts on Choosing Storage Materials and Displaying Textiles, located on our website.
Nine-year-old Junia Bartlett stitched this sampler of the alphabet in large bold letters around 1819. She chose pinks and blues to start her alphabet but over the years her brilliant pinks have faded to pale beige, and the blues and greens have lost some of their lustrous vibrancy. Luckily conservation allows us to peek at the back of the sampler to see the silky pink, sea-foam green, and Prussian blue she chose for her composition. Junia’s stitching techniques include the common satin stitch in blue, and a less common open work Alsatian stitch in pink. The sampler was gift in 2012 to the New Hampshire Historical Society by Gift of Klaudia S. Shepard.
Junia’s famous grandfather, Josiah Bartlett, was the 4th Governor of New Hampshire and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The family’s wealth and status afforded Junia opportunities to learn and write, and she went on to become the wife of Maine US Representative, Francis O.J. Smith. Junia’s correspondence with her brother Levi Bartlett is part of the Maine Historical Society collections, and--most unusually--she was given author credit alongside her husband on many legal and political documents in the Library of Congress catalog.
It is easy to imagine Junia sitting in the parlor, or on the front porch, stitching away at her sampler, with no idea her writings and work would be saved for almost 200 years and counting. Junia’s sampler is just one of the many pieces of her legacy that museums, libraries, historical societies and conservation specialists are working to preserve.
Museum Textile Services conservator Cara Jordan humidified Junia Bartlett's sampler to deacidify it and allow it to be safely blocked to square using pins. She then hand stitched the sampler to a fabric-covered, archival support to allow it to be safely displayed by the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Museum Textile Services has been conserving a selection of samplers from the New Hampshire Historical Society over the last few years. Each one of these beauties will be featured on the blog. First up is Bridget Walker’s 1795 sampler, so let’s dive in!
Bridget, as she proudly states in her work, was 12 when this sampler was finished in 1795. Young Miss Walker was growing up as one of the first generation of Americans born after the revolution in her town of Concord New Hampshire. In 1795 Concord was a bustling town, about to be named New Hampshire’s state capital. With industry, wealth and success in a city, education for children usually follows, and this sampler is a testament to educational values of the time.
We can see Bridget’s eye for color and form along with her alphabet, numbers, and a well-known sampler rhyme. The rhyme is slightly different in the groundbreaking 1921 compilation American Samplers by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe. As you can see from this excerpt, Bridget chose to alter the full rhyme to suit her taste and ideas of correct spelling in 1795 Concord.
Bridget’s fine sampler was stitched carefully on natural linen in silk thread, and then carefully saved through the generations. As you can see from the wrinkles and fading before conservation, it was in need of some skilled care. Museum Textile Services conservator Cara Jordan surface cleaned, humidified, and blocked the sampler before stitching it by hand to a fabric-covered archival board for storage and display. These conservation measures will improve the visual qualities for viewers and aid in the preservation of this beautiful sampler for generations to come.
Check out more details on Bridget and her sampler at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Cataloging and documenting the objects, clothing, and personal effects in the military collection of Max W. Krell feels a bit like getting to know the man himself, which is a pleasure for everyone at MTS. Born on September 13th, 1922, Krell rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant before the end of World War II. He and his wife Phyllis J. Krell raised a family in Kingsport, TN. Following Phyllis' death, he spent his final years in Charlevoix, MI.
1st Lieutenant Krell's collection consists of thirteen uniform pieces and a metal box containing dozens of items belonging to Max and his wife. These include numerous military pins and rank badges, an emergency signaling mirror and time-distance computer, Dutch biscuit tins, and more personal items including a pocket watch, a lady’s watch and a man’s gold ring. The items Krell chose to save give us a personalized history of one man's military service and participation in the amazing events of 'Operation Manna,' also known as the 'Chowhound Mission' during the war.
While Max Krell's collection of clothing and personal effects shows the diligence and orderliness that military men and women are often famous for, MTS is eager to improve the condition and storage of these items up to conservation levels. By doing so we will help preserve them so the coming generations can enjoy getting to know Max Krell and his military and humanitarian efforts in World War II.
Museum Textile Services welcomes Morgan Carbone as the newest member of staff. Morgan recently graduated with her Masters degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology studying conservation of fashion and textiles. Prior to attending FIT, she obtained her BA in Art History from Grinnell College in Iowa. While at FIT, Morgan interned in the conservation lab at the Museum at FIT and at the Hispanic Society of America. She also worked part time as a sales associate for Juli Raja Hand Built, a modern textile and fashion business specializing in wood block printing.
This blog concludes our four-part series on the Solon A Perkins flag, cared for by the Greater Lowell Veteran's Council, here in Massachusetts. It took nearly 18 months for the Vets to administer this complicated project, including hiring Museum Textile Services to conserve the flag and MasterWorks Conservation to conserve the frame. The flag will be rededicated on May 31, 2015, in a public ceremony at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
A solid-support panel was manufactured by Small Corp. Inc. to fit perfectly into the flag's inner frame. We covered the panel with padding and fabric before laying out the red and white polyester organza
underlays. Camille then placed the striped section of the flag on top of this ghost image and hand stitched them both to the fabric-covered panel. Next, she transferred the canton, already stitched to its blue organza underlay, onto the panel and stitched it into place. The final step prior to framing was to tediously straighten all of the shattered silk and slowly cover the entire flag with silk Crepeline. Camille hand stitched around the perimeter of flag and beneath each white stripe to hold the tattered flag in place and to prevent any fragments from slipping down. This sheer overlay is invisible from even a short distance and provides a extra barrier between the flag and the acrylic above.
The pressure mount was created by placing a sheet of UV-filtering acrylic over the mounted flag and screwing it down into the top of the panel. Because the rabbet of the green inner frame does not fully cover these mounting screws, we used an archival linen-covered mat between the underside of the frame and the top of the acrylic to mask the holes. Although the reinstalled flag looks as if it is a single framing system, this is an illusion; the flag panel, followed by the frames, were installed separately into the marble wall of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and won't be going anywhere for a long time.
Museum Textile Services would like to thank the members of the Greater Lowell Veteran's Council, especially John Mitchell, Bob Casper, and Thayer Eastman; Grant Welker, staff reporter from the Lowell Sun; and Larry Glickman of Traveling Framers. To contribute to the ongoing fundraising efforts for this project, please visit the Lt. Perkins Flag Restoration GoFundMe page.
The Solon Perkins Flag, recently conserved at Museum Textile Services, underwent a long and arduous journey to arrive at our studios. By tracing this path we learn about the history of the flag, the man, the city of Lowell, Massachusetts.
This flag is one of two Cavalry Guidons referred to in a letter written by Major General Benjamin F. Butler of the 8th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. The soldier's mother, Mrs. Wealthy Perkins, was given the flag by the estate of General Butler. (Butler, who outlived Perkins by 30 years, went on be a congressman, Governor of Massachusetts, and presidential candidate in 1884. He is also the namesake of the B. F. Butler Post 42 of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was established in Lowell in 1868.) A letter from Butler to Wealthy Perkins was published in the Lowell Daily Sun on December 15, 1894, in an article stating that the flag and Butler’s letter were, “to be put in Memorial Hall.”
From a 1919 Lowell Sun article we learn that the Perkins flag was at that time displayed on the wall above Middlesex Bank President F. P. Gilly. After several more years at the bank, it returned to the Knapp home. According to Charles Knapp’s wife Mary Sawyer Knapp, it was they who, “carefully preserved [the flag] by mounting under glass in a beautifully hand-carved frame.” In 1929, Mrs. Knapp invited Trustees of the Lowell Memorial to view the flag with the aim of donating it to the new Lowell Memorial Auditorium, constructed 7 years prior. The flag was installed at the Auditorium on November 12, 1929.
It is not known how long the Solon Perkins Flag was displayed in the Hall of Flags at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium but its condition at the time it was rediscovered holds some clues. It hung across from a set of large doors which let in light and dirt from the busy street. There is also a return vent nearly the width of the frame located directly below where the flag was hanging before its removal. Although the tattered condition of the flag may not have changed much since its early 20th-century framing, the combination of dirt and its ragged appearance likely moved trustees to retire it from display.
Discovery of the Perkins flag must be credited to Steve Purtell and Gus Kanakis, who saw it in the basement propped against a wall behind a piano. They brought it to the attention of the Greater Lowell Veterans Council, who began the search for conservators for both the frame and the flag.
Rarely does a textile arrive at Museum Textile Services with as much history and legend as the Solon Perkins flag. Discovered in the basement of the Lowell Memorial Arena, the key to unlocking its story was found right on its elaborate wood frame. Painted on the green inner frame is an inscription reading, "Under this flag at Clinton, La., on June 3, 1863, Solon A. Perkins was killed." Perkins is one of nearly 500 men from Lowell who died in the Civil War.
of the 19th Corps. Mark Hudziak of Iron Brigader, tells us that on the day of his death, Perkins was part of an expedition under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin Grierson that was sent to engage Confederate cavalry near Clinton, LA, during the Port Hudson Campaign.
There are no fewer than three detailed accounts of Solon Perkins' heroic, but ultimately fatal, final charge. Testimony delivered by Rev. Owen Street of the Lowell High School Chapel, in late June, 1963, was based on details from letters written to Perkins' mother. They read, in part:
By far the most passionate and detailed account of the life and death of Solon Perkins can be read on his grave marker in Lowell Cemetery:
He was killed in battle near Port Hudson. Performed his duty in life, and died bravely in the defense of his country and of liberty. He helped recruit a company of cavalry in the fall of 1861 and receiving the commission of a Lieut. went out with Gen. Butlers expedition to the Gulf. His Captain being lost overboard near Fort Jackson April 62, he commanded the company from that time till he fell. He was a true type of the cavalry officer, dashing, brilliant, brave and highly strategic and for these qualities was often complimented by his superior officers. In a letter urging his promotion to the rank of Major. Gen. Weitzel spoke of him as, “The man who to-day has the finest and most serviceable cavalry company to whom is due the honor of making it what it is. Who is the bravest and ablest of officers, and has accomplished more than any officer in this department. He has deserved promotion (he said) by his ability, his industry, his efficiency, his bravery and his success.” This recommendation was approved by Gen. Banks, and the Majors commission made out but never reached him. During the last year of his service he was constantly skirmishing with the enemy. He led Gen. Banks advance to Red River and Port Hudson was four times wounded and had seven horses killed under him. Very few could bear hardship to the same extent or with less injury. Yet in a letter closed the day before he fell, he said, "I would rather lose an arm than endure what I have aside from my wounds, the last eight months." The changes of war he counted from the start and in that last letter he said, "I often think it more blessed to die on the battlefield for ones country, than to live long years in civil life."
Solon Perkins never married. He was survived by his father, Apollos Perkins (1799–1877,) his mother Wealthy Porter Perkins (1813–1896), and a brother Henry Porter Perkins (1844–1908.)
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