Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Lees and Independence

It's early for me to be posting something about an event in June, but I want to make sure you all mark your calendars! On Saturday, June 5, 2010, we will be presenting our annual Lees and Independence event at Stratford Hall. This free event commemorates the day when Richard Henry Lee made the motion for independence from England, which is arguably as important as the Fourth of July.

This year’s Lees and Independence event will take place in the late afternoon, beginning at 3pm. This event is free and will be fun for all ages! Our activities include:

- A Revolutionary War encampment and firing demonstrations by the 2nd Virginia Regiment
- Fun children's activities, including signing the Declaration of Independence with a quill pen; getting a photo taken in colonial costume; and colonial games with the Rappahannock Colonial Heritage Society
- A 5:30pm talk and book signing by Albert Tillson, author of Accommodating Revolutions: Virginia's Northern Neck in an Era of Transformations, 1760-1810. Tillson’s talk will be entitled “The Abduction of the Atwell: A Northern Neck Incident of the Revolutionary War.” His lecture is based upon a small set of documents he found after completing his book. These documents deal with two deserters from the British army who made their way into Westmoreland County in September 1779 and met two local loyalists who urged them to kidnap the commander of the Westmoreland militia and steal a sizable quantity of money from Richard "Squire" Lee, then join with a group of John Tayloe's slaves, seize Robert Carter's ship, the Atwell, and sail off to rejoin the British forces. Although ultimately unsuccessful, they did in fact implement much of the plan.

The Lees and Independence event culminates in a concert by the 380th Army Band out of Richmond, VA. This concert will be at 7:00pm. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets to sit in front of the Great House and enjoy the music of the 380th Army Band, which served as an integral part of the 80th Division (Institutional Training) as the 80th Division Band for many years. The band was initially constituted on August 2, 1943 as the 80th Infantry Division Band and activated on August 12, 1943 at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The band received the Meritorious Unit Citation for service in the European Theater during World War II with Campaign Participation credit in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. The Band was relieved from assignment to the 80th Division, reorganized, and re-designated October 16, 2008 as the 380th Army Band.

(Please note: If it rains, the concert will be held in the Council House, and admission will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.)

Come and join us for a fun time!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interesting Collection Finds

Managing a library collection sometimes has its surprises, especially when you open a book and find little treasures saved within its pages. How many of us have ever used a photo or other piece of paper to mark a place in a book? And have forgotten to remove it after we finished with the book? Without a doubt, librarians over the years have encountered many pieces of "ephemera" (printed matter of passing interest, such as postcards, tickets, ads, etc.) inside volumes upon their return.

Luckily, my find was better than generic ephemera: two precious little watercolors painted by two young girls in 1858 and saved by their father, Charles M. Taynton, in one of his personal books. Each painting was carefully dated as to when it was painted and when its caption was written. Although my search for information about the family has been unsuccessful, I hope Mary and Phebe would be pleased that their father inadvertently saved their artwork for posterity.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A week in the work shop with the M-WTCA

 Last week we had the pleasure of hosting a group of members of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association (M-WTCA).  This knowledgeable group had agreed to help us with the furnishing and installation of our work shop and were very eager to get the job done.  Using research collected regarding the skilled craftsmen who worked at Stratford in the 18th and early 19th centuries, a wish list of tools typical of an 18th-century work shop, and images of period work benches, the group was able to gather a donation of period tools appropriate for the shop as well as construct a reproduction work bench from native poplar.

Phil Baker and Jack Sciara of the group came armed with a plan for a reproduction work bench based on one in the shop of the Dominy family of East Hampton, New York (now at Winterthur Museum), as well as period paintings and illustrations. With help from our own Phil Mark and Doris Sciara, the team constructed a 14-foot work bench with back boards to hold tools.  Although they used modern saws and nailers for efficiency, they made sure to finish the wood with hand planes to take away any indication of modernity.

Meanwhile, Neil Bohnert, Henry Caudle, Herb Caudle, and Jim DePoy worked with our Collections staff to identify and assess the group of tools donated by M-WTCA members.  The men examined each tool, noting any maker or owner marks, recording time period, woods, and other important factors.  Through the members of the M-WTCA, Stratford Hall now possesses a group of 18th- and 19th-century woodworking tools of great quality - perfect for our plantation work shop.

With the exhibit set to open to the public on April 22nd, we still have some way to go:  Collections and Preservation staff still need to finalize tool donations, reinforce the bench top with reproduction rose-headed nails, and arrange the tools in the shop to mimic period images of working shops.  A big thank you goes to the M-WTCA and their contributions to this exhibit.  The progress made last week was invaluable to the display and what we hope to teach our visitors about skilled crafts at Stratford.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Music of the Stratford Lees

Throughout my time serving as Stratford Hall’s director of education I’ve hoped to develop a program examining the music enjoyed—and performed—by the Stratford Lees. It is indeed a richly detailed subject. The 18th-century Stratford Lees shared with their Virginia friends a love of music and dance that stands out as a salient feature of their society. Especially in the grand days of Philip Ludwell Lee, their Great House resonated with music of great composers, while fair weather extended the entertainments to a roof-top platform as well as a barge on the Potomac.
It was not just in Virginia, however, or even in other colonies, where the Lees enjoyed some of the era’s best music. Studying law in London just before the Revolution, Arthur Lee took in the famous concerts of Carl Friedrich Abel and Johann Christian Bach. His merchant brother William Lee, also in London, wrote rapturously in 1771 of hearing performances by renowned French cellist Jean-Pierre Duport and violinist Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen, famed student of the Italian-Venetian master Giuseppe Tartini. It’s fascinating to imagine what concerts or operas the two heard while later serving as “militia diplomats” in France and elsewhere on the continent…heady stuff indeed!

Now, on the afternoon of Saturday, October 2, 2010 the Great Hall will again ring with “Music of the Stratford Lees,” through a program presented by The Four Nations Ensemble, a group internationally praised for their historically informed performances.
(We’re coordinating research efforts with Four Nations harpsichordist, Andrew Appel, to ensure the most accurate possible selections. And fortunate blog followers here for the 2008 Great Hall performance of the highly acclaimed Muir Quartet will recall just what a fine venue this is!) There’s more however. This full day of “Lee Music” will begin in the morning with scholarly talks featuring Charleston, South Carolina historian and musicologist Dr. Nicholas Butler, author of Votaries of Apollo, the widely praised history of Charleston’s St. Cecilia Society.

Perhaps Dr. Butler can then tell us more of the fate of Philip Ludwell Lee’s runaway indentured servant, Charles Love. In an advertisement of October 6, 1757 in the
Maryland Gazette, Lee noted of Love that “he professes Music, Dancing, Fencing, and he plays extremely well on the Violin, and all Wind Instruments.” Carrying with him a “very good Bassoon” belonging to Lee, it was “supposed he will make towards Charles-Town in South Carolina.” Did he make it to Charleston, or did someone claim the reward Lee offered of up to £10 if Love were “taken?” Indeed, as said before, the music of the Stratford Lees is a richly detailed subject. Look for further details soon.