Category: DeeDee Wood

Sailor’s Valentines

Sailor’s valentines were shells arranged in intricate, symmetrical designs, encased in glass cases, hinged in the middle, so when you opened them, it was a sort of “valentine” made of shells. They were marketed to sailors as gifts to bring home after long voyages in the service to the sea, to loved ones who were awaiting their arrival from the journey. The name of the item implies that sailors made these shellcraft boxes themselves. However, most of them were made and sold to sailors, a large number of these objects being made in Barbados, which was a large seaport to sailors during the period the valentines were most popular, 1830 to 1890. Research into the boxes of shellcraft suggests that the women of Barados made the valentines using local materials and shells, although sometimes they would import items needed from areas of the world such as Indonesia. Some valentines that are deconstructed have newspapers backing them from Barados, further supporting the story that many were made and sold in that area. The idea of an encased glass case with shell mosaics was initially developed by a few seaman wanting to bring home a special gift to loved ones, but two Englishmen, George and B.H. Belgrave, changed all of that. Entrepeneurs in their own right, they recognized that seaport shops could make money in Barbados using the local shells and...

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The Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered linen cloth that is nearly 230 feet long, and depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England, famous warriors, and the ultimate Battle of Hastings. It is said that it dates to the 11th century, and most scholars agree that it was made in England. The tapestry is miraculous because it has survived almost intact for over nine centuries. It fascinates restoration experts and admirers for it’s subject matter, workmanship, coloring and condition. The tapestry’s earliest known recognition comes in the form of a 1476 inventory of Bayeux Cathedral. French legend says the tapestry was commissioned by Queen Matilda, William the Conqueror’s wife, and her ladies-in-waiting. Analysis and research of this time period conclude that it was probably commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half brother. It is said it was possibly commissioned to coincide with the building of the cathedral for display at the dedication. There are many theories about who ordered the design of such a large work of art. The tapestry is actually an embroidery, not a tapestry, which is woven into a piece of cloth. It is crewel wool yard on a woven linen. The colors used in the tapestry were primarily terracotta, dull gold, blue, olive, sage green and later repairs worked in orange and lighter tones. It used two different types of stitch, an outline...

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Victorian Christmas traditions

The Industrial Revolution in England helped Christmas reach more homes in the Victorian Era, an influence we still see today in our holiday decorating, cards we send, and traditions we hold dear. Queen Victoria and her family set the example of the ideal family unit, with children, presents and times at home. The Victorian era and mass production helped fuel what we see today in the holiday market. One very Victorian tradition was the Christmas card. A process called chromolithographic reproduction aided the mass production of the Christmas card, and it made this product more affordable for the average person. Scenes of religious depictions, nature, snow and the season adorned beautiful cards that could be sent, via post, to relatives and friends far and wide. Instead of time-consuming letters and hand-rendered depictions, one could send a mass produced card over and over with ease. The tradition of sending a card had begun. Industrialization of the era caused more of the middle class to have disposable income. Due to this new concept in households, there was a rise in the mass market for toys, decorations, and trinkets of all kinds. The Christmas cracker, or cookie, was inspired by French sweets wrapped in paper, and was first invented by Tom Smith, a candy store owner in England in the 1840s. The first Christmas cookies coming out of this era included a...

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The Gilded Age

The term “Gilded Age” was coined by Mark Twain to describe a period of United States history in the late 19th century, spanning a time period between the 1870s to 1900. Twain was poking a satirical finger into society at the time, describing serious social problems in society and class differences, covered by a thin gilt of gold. Rapid economic growth, industrialism and expansion of wealth all contributed to interiors, exteriors, home decor and the building of some of the finest mansions and public venues the United States, or the world, had ever seen. Everything that glittered was truly gold in the Gilded Age. The Gilded Age saw very rapid economic growth in the US, as industrialization led to huge wage growth, strong labor forces, and a quick, massive amount of wealth for business owners and the social elite, especially in the North and West. Railroads, mining, factories and finance ruled the day in this era. During this time period, as well, there was a huge divide between immigrants, impoverished regions, lack of labor laws and unequal concentrations of wealth. It was a tumultuous time period in this country’s history, as the engines that ran the machines symbolized the might of the bank rolls driving the homes, furnishings and decor of the wealthy, all built to impress with jaw-dropping results. Some of the finest examples of the Gilded Age...

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The legend of the Robert the Doll

“Robert the Doll” lives in Key West, Fla. Innocent looking with his sailor suit and toy bear, Robert is said to wreak havoc on anyone that takes his photo or chides him in any way. Hundreds of letters are sent to Robert, begging for forgiveness, as visitors’ lives fall apart after crossing the infamous doll. His history is an interesting one, and the haunting even more so. Robert the Doll started out his life as a gift to a lonely boy. The doll was given to Robert Eugene Otto (known as “Gene” to family and friends), who lived in Key West, Fla. The doll was German, made by the Steiff Company, and was purchased by Gene’s grandfather while he was on a trip to Germany in 1904, and given to young Gene as a birthday gift. The doll wore the same little sailor suit that the young boy liked to wear, and the doll and the child became inseparable. The Ottos had servants who would be cleaning the upper floors where the young boy’s room was located, and would swear they would hear conversations in different voices and tones coming out of the bedroom, only to find the child and the doll were completely alone in the room. Sometimes at night, the parents would find young Robert Eugene screaming and crying, furniture upended and his room a mess. As...

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Upcoming Events

  1. 74th

    February 22 - February 23
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    February 24 @ 1:00 pm - 4:30 pm
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    February 24 @ 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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    February 26 @ 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm