Latest Event Updates
Today Thanksgiving is a national holiday where we gather with family and friends with a feast, football game, and a remembrance of what we have to be thankful for. Many believe that Thanksgiving has been a tradition since the time of the pilgrims, but it turns out that this holiday has Victorian origins.
Originally, New England Protestants were the only ones to celebrate this holiday. However after a seventeen year campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale, an editor for Godey’s Lady’s Book, President Lincoln officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Both Hale and Lincoln hoped that creating a national day of thanks would help the nation heal from the devastation of the Civil War.
Some Victorian Thanksgiving traditions have died out, such as poor children dressed in costumes begging for fruits, vegetables, and money. However, many traditions started in the Victorian era have remained. Today we decorate our homes with pumpkin and turkey themed items. However, the Victorians decorated with more natural elements, such as seasonal autumn leaves, chrysanthemums, asters, palms, ferns, dried grasses, and grains. The Victorians set the table with their finest dishes, whether they were china, crystal, or silver. Children even had their own table set with brightly colored decorations.
Some items on the Victorian Thanksgiving menu are very similar today: turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, stuffing, potatoes, fruits, nuts, cider, coffee. Yet today very few of us will sit down to eat mincemeat pies, scalloped oysters, clams, plum pudding, and boiled onions. Overall, the Tinkers had smaller, more intimate gatherings – sometimes with no guests at all. Whether you have a small gathering like the Tinkers or a large feast this Thanksgiving, the Tinker Swiss Cottage staff wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!
Halloween is quickly approaching. Kids are getting their costumes picked out, neighbors are buying candy, and families are carving jack-o-lanterns. Halloween originated in Celtic regions as a transition from one year to the next. Once Christianity reached the Celtic lands, the church turned October 31 into All Hollow’s Eve and November 1 into All Saints Day in an effort to convert the Celtic people. However, a large portion of our modern Halloween traditions date back to the mid-1800s, when the superstitions and thoughts of spirits gave way to parties formed to entertain children and adults alike. Advertisements and suggestions for Halloween party décor and ideas could be found in Victorian newspapers across the country, along with the location of community events. Although it originated from the British Isles, the celebration of Halloween quickly spread across the U.S. and found its way to Rockford, where the Tinkers celebrated in their cozy cottage.
Like most families with little ones, Teddy’s arrival made holidays at the Cottage more lively. The Tinkers celebrated Halloween with energetic parties held in the Annex. The excitement of the season was so great that homes would fill with the chatter of the upcoming holiday weeks before the parties. Robert wrote in his journal on October 16, 1915, “Coming Halloween already absorbing attention of household.” Jessie’s plans for Teddy’s Halloween party paid off. The Cottage was decorated to such a degree that Robert brought friends over to observe the set up days before the party was to take place. “After settling an old a/c at Cottage bro’t Miss Gulliver + dog ‘Don’ in my electric dray over to see decorations in annex for hallowe’en party to be.” What a sight that must have been!
Halloween parties of the Victorian era focused on games, seasonal foods, and sometimes even costumes. Bobbing for apples, jumping over candles, and fortune telling all played a role at these events. Young ladies would play a game in which they sliced an apple in front of a mirror in order to catch a glimpse of their true love. Pin the Tail on the Donkey, scavenger hunts, and Blind Man’s Bluff were also popular among children. Some families turned their cellars into “haunted houses” while others threw themed parties. Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cornstalks, and crepe streamers could be found decorating homes. Nuts, apples, pudding, and cakes were served to guests. Some cakes even held small objects inside of them, which the Victorians believed could tell your future for the upcoming year.
According to Robert, the Tinkers’ Halloween party in 1915 went well. “Hallowe’en party in Annex for the kids – great success – 3 of them remaining thro the night + Saturday.” The Tinkers continued to celebrate Halloween each year, yet parties were not always thrown. In 1916 the Tinkers attended the “Seventh St Halloween jubilee in evening.” As Teddy grew older and more independent less parties were held at the house. The last Halloween party Robert records in his journal was held in 1918. “Wife gave a little Halloween blowout for neighboring kids in Annex to keep Ted at home.”
Don’t forget to come and check out the spooks around the Tinker Swiss Cottage before Halloween is over. The parlor is staged for a funeral, a phrenology skull is on display, and a witch’s ball can be found in the library. Of course there’s always the upcoming paranormal tour on October 28! The staff at Tinker Swiss Cottage hope that you enjoy your Halloween parties as much as the Tinkers did and that you have a safe weekend!
Everyone gets excited when October rolls around. Halloween parties, pumpkin patches, and visits to the apple orchard are always on the top of our fall bucket lists. Pumpkins are carved, and kids pick out their costumes. Like everyone else, the staff at the Tinker Swiss Cottage get excited about preparing for the month of October.
What’s new (and maybe a little creepy) at Tinker Swiss Cottage for the month of October?
In the library you will find a Witch’s Ball sitting on a root wood table. Legend has it that a homeowner with children would place string inside of the Witch’s Ball in order to protect their little ones from the witches who would sneak in through the windows at night. The Victorians believed that the witches would be attracted to the ball with the string inside of it. They would waste away their nights trying to pull the string out one little piece at a time until morning came and they had to flee. The children’s souls would be safe from the witches, and enough string would be left in the ball to protect the children the next night as well.
On September 4, 1901, Mary Tinker passed away in her home at the age of 72. The clocks were stopped at the time of her death, and her portrait in the parlor was adorned with flowers. In the Victorian era whenever a death occurred in the family the clocks would be stopped at the time of death, as if time itself stopped with the passing of the loved one. If a portrait existed of the departed, it would be strewn with beautiful flowers. When you visit us this month you will notice that the clock in the parlor has been set to the time of Mary’s death, and her portrait is once again decorated with flowers and crape.
Yet the most obvious difference you will find in the parlor is the authentic Victorian coffin. Don’t worry, nothing is going to pop out at you, but it does bring a creepy feel to the room. Along with the coffin, you will notice that the full-length mirror is covered in black. There were two purposes to covering the mirror. First, it allowed the family to mourn without having to watch themselves cry. However, the second purpose is far more interesting – a spiritual movement in the Victorian era. During this movement, not only were Victorian families going to church every Sunday and reading their Bibles, but they also believed heavily in the spirit world. Some tried to make contact with their departed through séances and Ouija Boards, while others simply did not want their loved one’s spirits to be trapped in the home. The Victorians believed that if all of the mirrors were covered, the departed souls would not get trapped inside of it and could find their way out of the home more easily.
Apparently, covering the mirror did not work here at the Tinker Swiss Cottage. As I’m sure you’ve heard, there are many who believe that the Tinkers never left their home and still inhabit it today. Curious as to whether or not this is true? Come out to join us for a paranormal tour on a Friday night in October and get a chance to make contact with their spirits yourself! (See schedule below)
What other aspects of death were the Victorians interested in?
Although not on display at the Tinker Swiss Cottage, the Victorians had many other mourning traditions. For example, the family of the deceased would wear specific mourning garb. The style, fabric, and color varied depending on one’s relationship with the departed. Wives wore mourning clothes longer than any other member of a family. The women wore black veils covering their faces for 3 months after their husband’s death, and then the veil was moved to the back of their bonnet. Widows wore veils for approximately one year and the rest of their mourning attire for a total of two years. After two years they did not need to wear the deep black dresses, but they had to slowly transition from dark colors to lighter ones. Many widows never returned to the brightly colored dresses, choosing to remain the muted colors for the rest of their lives. Men would wear their black suits, gloves, and neck ties for a year after they were widowed. Parents would mourn the loss of their children for a year, and children would mourn their parents’ deaths for approximately a year as well. Siblings mourned for approximately six months.
Mary in mourning for her first husband John Manny
In an era before Facebook and Instagram, the Victorians did not have many images to remind them of their loved ones who had passed. Post-mortem photography became very popular, since it was possibly one of the only times a person could have their portraits taken (generally due to the high cost). During these sessions the body of the deceased would be propped up in an effort to make them seem more lifelike. It was also very common for other family members to gather around the dead in order for their picture to be taken at the same time.
Along with post-mortem photographs, the Victorians would also take pieces of their loved one’s hair to fashion into a keepsake. Some locks of hair were turned into jewelry, while others were fashioned into flowers and framed. There were many Victorian families who collected hair from every family member who passed and fashioned the strands into pieces of art. While we do not have any post-mortem photos or locks of hair from the Tinkers, one can easily find examples with a quick online search.
Come visit us on an upcoming Friday night for a paranormal experience of your own!
October 7 from 7-10 pm: Meet us in the barn!
October 14 from 7-10 pm: Meet us in the barn!
October 28 from 7-10 pm: Meet us in the barn!
As I’m sure you’ve heard, the All That Glitters Silver exhibit has been open at the Tinker Swiss Cottage since August 9. Curious as to what is on display in our red and yellow rooms? Here’s a sneak peek!!
The Manny Reaper
We know that John Manny created and produced a new harvester aptly named the Manny Reaper. Curious about this latest and greatest technological innovation in the farming community and its competition with McCormick? We have some answers for you!
John Manny’s new harvester even won many silver trophies. However, they do look a bit different from what we know as trophies today. Here’s a sneak peak at one of the many trophies on display:
The Cleaning Process
We’ve spent a lot of time this summer preparing the Tinker’s pieces for display. Curious as to how we polished these silver pieces or how to polish your own silver? We’ve got the yellow room set up to show you the stages of tarnish, how to shine them up, and what materials are best to use on your silver.
On top of our display, one of our staff members may be polishing up more pieces in the yellow room while you’re visiting. If you happen to catch us in there, feel free to stop and ask us about the piece we’re cleaning or to get more information about the cleaning process!
Of course the exhibit wouldn’t be quite the same without some of the Tinker’s personal items. In the red room you’ll find a lot of neat pieces the family used on a daily basis, such as ivory handled knives, a mirror, a hair brush, and – my personal favorite – the early stages of the spork!
Before you leave make sure to check out the infamous “Gifted Tea Set” inside of the display case!
That’s all the sneak-peeking we’ve got for you today! We can’t wait to see you soon at one of our tours. Remember, we’re open Tuesday through Sunday at 1pm and 3pm, and we hope you enjoy the exhibit as much as we do!!
What is more stunning than a table full of silver pieces?
Silver pieces can be very simple or exceptionally intricate with engravings and etchings. The new exhibit, All That Glitters, showcases the many and varied pieces belonging to the Tinker, Manny and Dorr families.
The Tinker family collection boasts silver tea sets, trays, and flatware that are all delicately designed and decorated. Each piece has a story to tell. The collection also showcases the many trophies and medals awarded to the Manny Reaper Mower.
Various aspects of silver will be explored in this exhibit, including silver fabrication and decorative techniques, and the social role of silver objects in Victorian America.
Periodically throughout of the exhibit, staff will be on site during tour times actively working on cleaning the current collection. Feel free to stop by and ask questions you may have about your collections and treasures!
The All That Glitters exhibit will be on display from August 9, 2016 until December 18, 2016. The exhibit will be housed in the Red Room and is a part of the general admission tour. Please visit during our tour times Tuesday through Sunday at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.
When visiting the Tinker Swiss Cottage visitors delve into the history of the Tinker and Dorr families. We learn about the architecture, the pieces of art in the home, and the gardens surrounding it. We also get acquainted with some of the family members who once lived in the cottage, with a heavy focus on Robert Tinker. Yet, we only briefly mention that Robert was once the Mayor of Rockford – an honor which only few have received. During tours many visitors ask when Robert served and what he accomplished.
At the age of 39 Robert Tinker was elected as one of the youngest mayors of Rockford, serving from 1875 until 1876. He did not seek the position out; rather, his friends circulated the idea and pushed for Robert to accept. On April 3 of 1875 Robert officially accepted their call and announced his decision in the Rockford Journal. On April 12 the election was held, Robert was announced mayor, and his small office was flooded by his close friends and supporters. By April 14 Robert’s success had officially circulated throughout Rockford, and he wrote in his diary that there was a “Band + 2 or 300 [people] at the Cottage in evening.” Clearly, the Tinkers had a lot to celebrate.
During his year in office, Robert continued to play an active role with the Manny Reaper Works and presided as the president of the Chicago, Rockford, and Northern Illinois Railroad. With such a busy schedule and very little pay from the city many wonder how Robert managed to still thrive in his elected position. Truly, it was the citizen’s confidence in his abilities and judgments that continued to push Robert to do his best. Under his administration Robert assisted in acquiring both a public library and an opera house. He also deliberated on the new law banning wandering cows and the debate on the new water works. Robert contributed to the layout of the railroad through town and on widening and lighting up the streets. In the years following his mayoral term Robert continued to play an active role in the Rockford community by serving on numerous boards, including as a founding board member of the Rockford Park District.
Gail Ravitts. Robert Tinker’s World. Rockford, IL: Gail Ravitts, 2016.
Marge Bevers. Cedar Street: Early Families and Businesses. Rockford, IL: 2009.
Rockford Journal. Rockford, IL: 1875-1876.
Rockford Weekly Gazette. Rockford, IL: 1875-1876.
Rockford Weekly Register-Gazette. Rockford, IL: 1875-1876.
On Sunday April 3rd, we were happy to conduct an introduction to bobbin lace workshop with instructor Sylvie Nguyen. Sylvie, a life-long educator (secondary through adult education) has had a life-long interests in textiles and art, and has worked intensively with bobbin lace for 15 years. She recently did continuing advanced study in Amsterdam, Dutch National Teacher Proficiency Course of Torchon Lace and brought in several examples of her own handiwork!
After a brief introduction to bobbin lace, our participants jumped right in and begin creating their very own masterpieces!
Sylvie was an amazing instructor and those who joined us begin a new skill! We are looking forward to hosting another workshop in the future, so keep your eyes on our calendar of events!
Image Posted on
On March 5, 2016 Tinker hosted our first CPR for Your Silver Workshop!
The workshop was an interactive discussion and hands-on demonstration on how to properly clean your silver pieces using simple techniques and materials.
We had some amazing pieces come in and our participants did a GREAT job!!
Check out our action shots and some AMAZING before and after results!
What is a cabinet of curiosity anyway?
From the Renaissance to the 19th century, the cabinet of curiosities showcased the hobby that was collecting. During the Victorian era, people who were interested in science and the natural world would have a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ in their homes. These cabinets could either be a physical a piece of furniture—like a bookcase or shelf, or they may just be a simple box filled with many small drawers or stacking trays.
Victorians had a desire to collect, observe and acquire objects that seemed inaccessible and it became a wide-spread phenomenon. The previous generations of wealthy society members started this trend as they, “were hoarding things—strange things—into obsessive personal collections” ( Mueller, 785). The objects contained in the cabinets of curiosity were meant to stir up a sense of curiosity and awe in the spectator.
The growth of public exhibitions boomed under the Victorians. Exhibiting spaces were crowded by curious spectators wanting to get a glimpse of the unusual, the rare, or the bizarre. The collections exhibited often displayed scientific and natural objects alongside the unique and unclassified. The mixtures of objects in these collections pushed the on the boundary of scientific classification systems. Victorians sought out objects for their cabinets of curiosity based on the objects rarity, foreign origin, and any example that broke the rules of scientific classification.
Any natural specimens could become a part of these cabinets. Robert Tinker has such a cabinet. It resides in the upper left corner cabinet in the Library. Guests are not allowed to truly view the wonderful objects inside, due to the low balcony on the second floor of the library. Therefore, we have decided to open the cabinet and display all the wonders it holds! The collection contains : seashells, fossils, mineral specimens, preserved animals,and even cultural objects from all over the world.
The Tinker’s Cabinet of Curiosities exhibit will be on display from February 2, 2016 until June 30, 2016. The exhibit will be housed in the Red Room and is a part of the general admission tour. Please visit during tour times Tuesday through Sunday at 1:00PM and 3:00 PM.
*Mueller, William. “Mathematical Wunderkammern.”The American Mathematical Monthly 108.9 (2001): 785.
As a historic home, we receive several questions everyday. From “ How much did this home cost to build?” to “What wood is in the floors?” to general statements like “I wish I could live here!“, all of these come throughout our daily guided tours.
However, these questions turn a bit macabre as October and the Halloween season comes creeping in.
“Have you seen anything? “, “Have you heard anything strange before?” …“Is the house haunted?!”
This much is certain, as a home that just celebrated our 150th anniversary, we have a lot of history. We have a lot of stories to share. That is why we have paranormal tours.
Join us every Friday in October for scintillating tales from paranormal experts. Each tour brings a new author or investigative group to Tinker to share their knowledge and experience in the paranormal field. Many of these speakers have investigated the Cottage and will share their stories throughout the night. Audio clips, video footage and pictures of investigations inside the Cottage and at many other haunted locations are showcased.
Then comes the best part- a tour of Tinker Swiss Cottage and a chance to have your own paranormal encounter! Tour all three floors of the historic house as you listen to stories of Victorian mourning culture, family history and (of course) personal experiences and paranormal encounters that have taken place over the past 70 years.
You are welcome and encouraged to bring your own equipment (cameras, audio recorders, emf). The first tour is October 2nd, with many to follow. Each tour brings a new guest paranormal expert that is sure to leave you in the “spirit”!
So don’t forget to join us for our 2015 paranormal events!
2nd: Paranormal Tour, with Steve Litteral 7-10 pm
9th: Paranormal Tour with Sylvia Schultz , 7- 10 pm
16th: Paranormal Tour with Kathi Kresol of Haunted Rockford, 7-10 pm
23rd: Paranormal Tour , 7-10 pm
30th: Paranormal Tour, 7-10 pm with Wisconsin and Illinois Paranormal investigation Team (WIPIT)
All too often, we forget the beauty, history and culture that is in our own backyards. We frequently think of visiting these cultural treasures but regretfully do not. Lack of time or money seem to get in the way. Therefore, it is the job of institutions to connect with the communities that surround them. The biggest question is how? How do to provide access to these resources? How to create a memorable interaction? How do make a rewarding experience? Most importantly, how to make it affordable?
In 2013, a collaboration between organizations, museums and restaurants was born out of a desire to answer these questions and connect Rockford back to its history. Rockford was born on the Southwest side. Germanicus Kent, Thatcher Blake and Lewis Lemon arrived on the Kent Creek in 1834 and begin Rockford’s story. Today, South West Ideas For Today and Tomorrow (SWIFTT) along with Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens, Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden and the Ethnic Heritage Museum will partner to offer tours for citizens and visitors to “Explore Rockford’s Roots.”
On May 31, these southwest Rockford attractions will open their doors to the public and offer food coupons that may be redeemed at eight area eating establishments. Admission is free to the three destinations, and patrons will receive coupons worth up to $8 each for lunch or dinner at participating restaurants: Zammuto’s, La Chiquita, Delicias Bakery, Las Palmas, Luichi’s Hot Dogs, Chiquita Food Market, Mi Ranchito Restaurant and Guanajuato.
We invite you to come and explore any or all of these locations:
• Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens, 411 Kent St., was built in 1865 by former Rockford mayor Robert H. Tinker. It was modeled after a chalet-type architecture he saw on a trip to Switzerland. Tour this historic house museum and park. Guided tours of the first floor are given every 20 minutes from 1- 3 pm. Limit of 15 people per tour. The museum is not accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Animals are not permitted inside the buildings. Info: (815) 964-2424 or http://www.tinkercottage.com
• Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 2715 S. Main St. Enjoy the beauty of spring on 155 acres as the flowers are blooming. A former tree nursery, Klehm has a century of horticultural development and features a combination of plants native to the Midwest and from around the world. Friendly dogs on leashes are welcome. Hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (Memorial Day – Labor Day). All buildings and paved garden paths and trails are accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Info: (815) 965-8146 or www.klehm.org.
• The Ethnic Heritage Museum, 1129 S. Main St., celebrates the cultures and heritage of southwest Rockford, the place where Rockford began. It houses six galleries: African-American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and Polish. Special exhibits are featured throughout the year. The museum is open Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Info: (815) 962-7402 or www.ethnicheritagemuseum.org.
Rockford’s creativity happens all year long, but it being highlighted this May through Rockford Lutheran School’s Out of the Box movement. This collaboration is only one of many happening in Rockford. As a participant, we are proud to see many organizations think out of the box every day. We celebrate these partnerships and their continuous effort to promote variety and depth in the creative opportunities given in our community. For more information on Out of the Box events and activities, visit the calendar of events at rockfordlutheran.org
A very merry unbirthday to me! To who?
To me! Oh you!
A very merry unbirthday to you!
Who me? Yes, you!
Who doesn’t love the 1951 classic Walt Disney movie, Alice in Wonderland? (I know I do!) Ever want to attend that magical, endless tea party? Drink tea all afternoon? Eat sweets and savories to your heart’s content? Do you want to meet Alice or the Mad Hatter? Or perhaps her Majesty the Queen of Hearts?
Celebrate with us as Wonderland invades Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens !Join us as these three characters come to life at our Alice in Wonderland Tea on June 6th at 11:30 am. Speak with Alice, joke with the Mad Hatter and by all means…DO NOT offend the Queen!
It is fun for the entire family! Come and spend the afternoon as you enjoy endless amounts of tea, treats and merriment. Enjoy three delectable courses of scones, various kid approved sandwiches, along with an array of desserts to compliment your tea.
The Queen of hearts herself will be in attendance and she demands that everyone plays croquet or it will be OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!
Tickets are:Adult $20
Children 4-12 are $10
Children three and under are free
Contact Tinker at 815-964-2424 and reserve your space before Wonderland goes away!
Dance in the Victorian Era
February 28, 2015
Though the North and South were divided on many issues, dancing was not one of them. The same dances were enjoyed on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, and united everyone regardless of which side they were on.
It was in the ballroom that Victorian society was on its best behavior, and etiquette at the Victorian ball was thoroughly mastered. Victorians drew upon dancing to flirt, court, and simply associate as upper class society.
This hands-on lecture looks at the Victorians and their passion for dance. Key discussions will focus on etiquette in the ballroom and how Victorian “Contra” dancing is both similar and differs from the way people dance today. Then lecture participants will learn short Victorian dance choreographies, such as the most popular Virginia Reel, and have the opportunity to experience vintage dancing first-hand.
The dances taught in this lecture are suitable to all skill levels and most ages, with the majority of dancing nothing more than fast walking in a pattern. Each dance is instructed by walking through the steps before dancing them to traditional music.
Domestic Servants in the 19th Century
February 21, 2015
Having live-in domestic servants seems like the height of luxury today, but in the nineteenth century, “hired girls” were common in middle-class households in Illinois.
In a society without electricity and running water, household chores were onerous, and in the nineteenth century, a wave of immigrants made labor cheap and plentiful. The result was a society that grew increasingly stratified as the century wore on and the social hierarchy became more entrenched. In domestic servant situations, working-class men and women lived and worked side-by-side with their employers yet were considered second-class citizens, often leading to tense relationships.
Who were these individuals?
What were their duties?
What was their experience like within the household?
What were their employers’ experiences living and working intimately with a cross-section of society that they might never have encountered otherwise?
How did the nature of domestic service evolve as the century progressed?
This presentation will address these questions and more. The audience will be invited to handle period artifacts associated with domestic service.
POW of the Civil War at Camp Douglas
February 14, 2015
Opened in 1861, Camp Douglas was a Union training and reception facility for over 40,000 Union soldiers in Chicago. Camp Douglas became a prison camp, housing over 30,000 Confederate prisoners, from 1862 until it was demolished in 1865. Containing over 200 buildings on 60 acres, Camp Douglas was the most significant Civil War facility in Northern Illinois.
Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum
411 Kent Street
Rockford, IL 61102