Now that cooler weather is upon us, we’d like to give you a quick overview of what will be coming your way from here until the end of the year.
Our Victorian Mourning Customs exhibit has been taken down as of November 1st. Missed your chance to see the exhibit? No worries, we have another exhibit coming your way! Starting the weekend after Thanksgiving and running through January, you will be able to visit our Victorian Christmas exhibit. Join us as we discuss Victorian Christmas traditions, parties, and how the Victorians still relate to us today.
You’re also going to want to stop by to see the Victorian Childhood Exhibit before it is taken down in the new year!
Looking for something to get you in the holiday spirit? Join us on December 1st for our final paranormal tour of the year: Ghosts of Christmas Past! You can get your tickets HERE!
Tinker Swiss Cottage will be closed November 21-23 in observation of Thanksgiving, but we will reopen for our usual tour times on Saturday, November 24.
Please also note that Tinker Swiss Cottage will also be closed from December 22 through January 1st in observation of the holidays. Our regular business hours will resume on January 2nd, 2019.
We can’t wait to see you soon!
Trinkets of memento mori, such as postmortem photography, literally means “remember, you must die”. Pictures and paintings serve as wonderful windows to the past that allow us to get a glimpse of what life was like over a hundred years ago, reminiscent of the way Tinker Swiss Cottage allows its visitors to.
Although by modern standards taking photographs or painting portraits of the deceased is somewhat peculiar, in the nineteenth century it was a common practice. Often post-mortem photographs were the only images families would have of their loved ones. This was due to the unfortunate fact that it was much more difficult and expensive to have your photograph taken during the Victorian era.
A stark contrast to the incredibly effortless way we take photographs today, prior to the invention of the daguerreotype, the only way to capture any family pictures was through painted portraits. Fortunately, here at Tinker Swiss Cottage we boast two fantastic portraits of Mary’s grandmother Amy Chase Bull and uncle Milton Dorr. These were done by one of the most prolific and important portraitists in nineteenth-century America, Ammi Phillips. Phillips created these paintings in 1815. Interestingly enough, Ammi passed away in 1865- the very same year Robert Tinker began construction on the cottage.
While there are plenty of gruesome post mortem looking photos on the internet, many are inaccurate and feature staged actors and modern visual effects. However, we do have an authentic postmortem photograph currently on display in the Cottage. The photograph is of Mrs. Mary Johns, from Rockford Illinois in 1866.
There is also a postmortem painting on constant display in the upper level of the library in the museum. This painting is of John Manny, Mary Dorr Manny Tinker’s first husband and inventor of the Manny reaper. We know this was a post mortem piece because of the blue grey hue the artist gave to the skin, a common feature of postmortem portraits.
We hope to have you in soon to check out our fantastic, and somewhat eerie works of art this fall!
Hollander , Stacy C. “Reads.” Ammi Phillips – Self-Taught Genius, selftaughtgenius.org/reads/ammi-phillips.
With October nearing a close, everyone is heading out to the local apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and haunted houses. While you’re carving pumpkins, drinking apple cider, and telling ghost stories, don’t forget to check out Tinker Swiss Cottage for a historical twist to the fall season!
What’s new (and maybe a little creepy) at Tinker Swiss Cottage for the month of October?
On September 4, 1901, Mary Tinker passed away in her home at the age of 72. The Tinker family stopped the clocks 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.
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. The Victorians covered mirrors for two purposes. 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 covering the mirrors stopped the departed souls from getting trapped inside of it, thereby allowing them to find their way out of the home more easily.
In the library you will find a Witch’s Ball sitting on the fireplace mantle. 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.
What other aspects of death were the Victorians interested in?
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 their wives passed. 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. Be sure to stop in to see Mary Dorr Manny Tinker’s Mourning gown on display in our sitting room for yourself!
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. In the Tinker Dining Room you will get a chance to see one of these images.
Along with post-mortem photographs, the Victorians would also take pieces of their loved one’s hair to fashion into a keepsake. Some fastened locks of hair into jewelry, while others were arranged into floral shapes and framed. Many Victorian families even collected hair from every family member who passed and fashioned the strands into pieces of art. In Jessie’s bedroom, you will find a lock of Jessie’s first husband Gye Hurd’s hair next to his photo on her dresser.
Remember, these pieces are only out on display for the month of October! Hurry in to learn about mourning customs in the Victorian Era before October’s over!
It’s also not too late to join us for one of our unique Paranormal Tours! Our final tour for the season will be this Friday, October 26 at 7pm.
Some extra reading:
Victorian Funeral Customs and Superstitions
A somewhat foreign concept to Americans today, with our paper plates and tendency to opt for disposable table settings whenever possible, setting a proper dinner table was of the upmost importance during the Victorian era. Contrary to the fast-paced dinner rush most Americans experience, Victorian dinners had an air of pageantry. Dinner time would grant families and close friends time to get together and discuss current events and happenings in their daily lives.
Today there are so many new modes of communication that it often seems as though we neglect one of the simplest ones – talking to each other. The Victorian table settings represent so much more than utensils used to eat; they remind us of a time before modern technology when the dinning room was where meaningful conversations were had.
The importance of the dinning experience was significant during the Victorian Era, and while not all families could afford to create elaborate table settings, many could. As historians we are very fortunate to have ample evidence of just what a Victorian table setting looked like. Many had pieces made from beautiful materials such as: silver, ivory, porcelain, and pearl. Both water and wine glasses could be glass or crystal, some even boasted beautiful frosted etchings. Many families owned china sets that featured over one hundred pieces.
Along with the beautiful utensils and plates there were numerous ways to add extra decorations to one’s dinner table. For example, place cards or fancy tablecloths may adorn the table during a special gathering. It was also common for table napkins to be folded. The Victorians even had instruction manuals with intricate diagrams illustrating up to 25 different ways to fold one!
When you visit the Tinker Swiss Cottage, you will find the dining room set for a traditional Victorian dinner party. The Tinkers’ silver flatware sets had handles made of both ivory and mother of pearl. Victorian flatware was set up so the utensils used first were the furthest from the plate, and then one would work inwards during the different courses. There would be at least 5 pieces of flatware surrounding each plate. Once the table was set, they would place name cards on the guest’s plates along with menus so that guest’s may choose which courses they would eat and which they would pass on; after all, with multiple courses it was not uncommon for Victorians to pass on one or two.
The Tinkers’ dining room also dons a Waterford crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, which features a painting of Mary’s favorite table cloth.
In the dining room the Tinkers also had portraits of Benjamin Franklin, Peter Paul Ruben, and William Gladstone painted on the wall. These were placed there to encourage conversations of philosophy, art, and politics – things all well-to-do Victorians were particularly invested in. During the Victorian Era men would start the conversations and women could only join in afterwards.
Victorian dining became somewhat of a pageant, with beautiful pieces on display followed by multiple courses of extravagant food, ending with the gentlemen retiring to the smoking room and the ladies to the parlor for music and socializing. Every aspect of a dinner party was meticulously planned and served as a way to assert wealth, status, and power.
Next time you’re visiting the Cottage, be sure to stop and check out the beautiful details adorning the Tinker’s dining room. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find!
— Stephanie —
Have you heard? Tinker Swiss Cottage has opened its latest exhibit in the Cottage: From Rockford with Love: Postcards of the Victorians. Between the Red and Yellow rooms, you will find a fun collection of various postcards sent to the Tinkers from around the world and ones of our own Rockford area as well! Before you come to take a look at the beautiful Tinker postcards, here’s some more information on the history of the postcard for you.
The History of Postcards
Postcards were first introduced in Britain in 1870. To begin with, the Post Office issued pre-stamped, plain cards. Because there were no images on the card, one side was used to address it, while the other side was used to write out a message to the receiver. It is believed that the first picture postcards were sent out in 1894. These cards required the sender to add a halfpenny adhesive stamp before mailing. In 1902 the British Post Office officially allowed divided back postcards on which senders could include both the address and message on the back of the postcard, while the face of the card contained an image.
Before postcards became widely available in the United States, during the early- to mid-19th century many envelopes would depict small images on their exteriors. While many displayed holiday images, thousands of patriotic pictures were printed on envelope exteriors during the Civil War. It is believed that these images on the envelopes in some part led to the creation of the postcard.
Records indicate that a copyright on a private postcard was issued as early as 1861. However, these were privately sold, non-pictorial cards. The first governmental postcards issued in the world came in October of 1869 in Austria; whereas, the United States issued the government postal card four years later in 1873. It wasn’t until 1907 that the U.S. Government permitted the use of divided back postcards. This development ushered in what is known as the “Golden Age” of the postcard. This era reigned from 1907-1915 where millions of postcards were printed and sold throughout the United States and Europe. The first “high-speed” photo printers were invented in 1910 and allowed real-photo postcards to be mass produced throughout the world. This invention shifted the emphasis of handmade postcards to large scale commercial printing.
What Purpose Does a Postcard Serve?
Postcards served a variety of purposes in the Victorian era. One of many reasons postcards became popular is due to the fact that it was a cheaper way to send messages; whereas, letters would take more postage to send, especially when they were a few pages long.
The first postcard printed with the intention to be sold as a souvenir debuted in 1893 at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. During the following years, the private printing of pictorial postcards boomed throughout the United States and Europe. Before 1893, many postcards contained advertisements for various businesses. However, after the Columbian Exposition, many saw the potential for producing other types of souvenir cards for tourists. By 1895, many postcards were printed with images depicting larger cities or famous tourist attractions of both natural and historic interest.
Advertisements on postcards were widely distributed, imploring one to buy this product or another. However, postcards could be used as propaganda as well. During times of war, the government issued postcards depicting images and advertisements convincing civilians to join the military and serve their country. Politically, postcards were used as a means to show who was running for office and who people should vote for.
The surge in souvenir postcards opened a new hobby for many people. Collecting postcards from one’s travels allowed one to revisit locations and bring back memories of their trips. It also allowed many people to see parts of the country, and even the world, that they would not have been able to visit for one reason or another. Collecting postcards also assisted in learning about new locations or the history of various places, such as our very own Tinker Swiss Cottage.
Postcards were used to not only write to family or friends from one’s vacation, but also as a means of showing off various tourist points of interest. By this means, postcard senders became a means of advertisement and propaganda for various industries and cities. These postcards became a means to draw in new and repeat visitors to locations across the world.
Themed postcards became widely popular as well, especially around the holidays. One of the most popular themes was Christmas. These Christmas postcards would be colorful and captured the Christmas spirit. As such, postcards would be used as decorations during the holidays – such as Christmas greeting cards are today. Throughout the year, in order to add colorful decorations throughout their homes, many would place the postcards they received from family and friends on tables, mantels, and shelves.
In the early 1900’s, cameras with the ability to print photographs directly onto the backs of postcards were invented. This development allowed people to photograph and share their images of their families, homes, and surroundings.
Our postcard exhibit will run through mid-January, so hopefully everyone will get a chance to stop by the Cottage to see these exciting pieces on display! After your tour, don’t forget to grab a few postcards from our gift shop as souvenirs of your visit to Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens!
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.
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.