Maryland at the Beginning

Maryland at the Beginning

From the desk of
Burt Kummerow

Volume 2 Issue 3
March 5, 2013

Maryland Day has always been about beginnings. After a long, difficult Atlantic winter crossing, the ships Ark and Dove, bearing their precious cargo of adventurers, sailed up the Potomac River in March of 1634.

The March 25th mass on St. Clements Island celebrated the beginning of spring and the planting season, the Feast of the Annunciation and a fragile but hopeful escape from the religious bigotry that was rampant in 17th century Europe. In 1903, Maryland leaders set aside March 25 as a day devoted to remembering Maryland history.

Ark and Dove
Ark and Dove, John Moll, MdHS, M1955.44.1
Thirteen years later, as the United States entered a world war, the Old Line State turned Maryland History Day into an official holiday.

Just three years shy of Maryland Day's centennial, the Maryland Historical Society is pausing for some fascinating stories and a reception with drinks and edibles as we honor Maryland's brave and hopeful first settlers. Almost four centuries and twenty generations of dramatic history have followed those humble beginnings. Dr. Henry Miller, Historic St. Mary's City's director of research and a great storyteller, will be on hand to bring the tale of Maryland's first century to life.

Other surprises are also in store.

Come welcome the arrival of spring and an evening devoted to "Maryland at the Beginning" on Thursday, March 21, at 6pm. The cost is $25.00 for MdHS members and $35.00 for non-members. You can get more information by calling 410-685-3750 or going to

The 'Year of Betsy'

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was one of the femme fatales of the War of 1812 generation.


Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte
"Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte," Firmin Massot, 1823, MdHS, XX.5.69.

As a gorgeous 18-year-old, Betsy set the gossipmongers all atwitter with her revealing empire dresses at local society events. Her marriage to Napoleon Bonaparte's young brother Jerome became an international drama. Even at ninety-four, Betsy was still making news as one of America's richest women. See the image above for a snapshot timeline of Betsy's dramatic life. For the complete story, we have volunteer Barbara Meger to thank. You can view her exhaustive timeline of Betsy's life by clicking here.

With over 800 objects and reams of documents, the Maryland Historical Society is the official keeper of Betsy's memory. This will be our Year of Betsy with a major exhibit, entitled "Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Quest for an Imperial Legacy" that will open on June 9.

And while we're preparing for our June 9th opening, we would like to fill you in on the fascinating behind-the-scenes details of our exhibit making process. Our Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch just returned from Brooklyn, New York, where she oversaw the creation of custom mannequins to exhibit one of Elizabeth's gowns and one of her mother's. Alexandra has all of the details below.

Bringing Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte To Life:
At StudioEis In Brooklyn

By Chief Curator, Alexandra Deutsch
You just never know what you might have to do as a curator! In the past month, I had to "strike a pose" twice, all in the name of my curatorial duties for our new exhibition, Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Quest for an Imperial Legacy, opening in June, 2013.

For this exhibit, StudioEis in Brooklyn, New York is creating two life-like mannequins. The first mannequin is of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte as she would have stood in an elegant salon in Paris.

Gown of Dorcas Patterson
Original gown worn by Dorcas Spear Patterson (MDHS XX.5.152) on a temporary form with Colleen Callahan who is determining the original shape of the gown when it was worn.
The second is of her mother, Dorcas Spear, in her elegant embroidered silk gown, the one she may have worn for her wedding to William Patterson. This was the first step of many in customized mannequin production.

Next StudioEis needed muslins (a sort of mock-up) of all original garments to help them recreate the correct body shape for the mannequins.

Using the original garments could damage them, so we enlisted the help of Colleen Callahan of Costume and Textile Specialists, Inc. She created a muslin reproduction of the dress worn by Elizabeth and a shift that would have been worn underneath the original. The dress Colleen copied is simple, yet incredibly elegant with a long train and exquisite openwork and embroidery on the arms.

In the process of making the reproduction of Elizabeth's original gown, we learned some interesting details about her. Most published sources described her as very small. In our minds, this meant she was as short, somewhere around 4'11". In fact, her dress indicates that she was 5'3" or 5'4", not short at all for the period. The proportions of the dress attest to her very small frame. With a 28" rib cage and arms the size of a modern adolescent girl, Betsy was indeed petite in size though not in stature. Perhaps the most striking measurement revealed by the original gown was her overall bust size, a notable 35". Voluptuous is definitely an apt descriptor for Betsy.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte
Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, Gilbert Stuart, 1804, Private Collection
Colleen is about to begin the muslin reproduction of Dorcas Spear's dress and has already examined the original to determine how it may have looked when she wore it. Curiously, Betsy's mother seems to have had a similar figure, although she was an inch or so shorter than her daughter. Dorcas's gown was a stunning ivory patterned silk with polychrome floral and foliate embroidery. The original loops sewn into the interior of the skirt document that the gown could have been drawn up in the back and worn "polonaise-style."

The last step was choosing an image for the faces that seemed to best represent written descriptions. Elizabeth and her likeness are based on the Gilbert Stuart triple portrait and Dorcas Spear is modeled after a portrait by Robert Edge Pine. Here is a look at the earliest version of the Elizabeth mannequin. The final version will not be revealed until the exhibition opens, but here is a sneak peek.

Stay tuned for the next installment on these show-stopping mannequins!

Our Curatorial Department isn't the only part of MdHS making news this month. I'm very proud to announce that selections from our Paul Henderson Photograph Collection will soon be on view at City Hall!

The Henderson Photograph Collection:
Heading To Baltimore's City Hall

Unidentified and Untitled
"Unidentified and untitled," Paul Henderson,
Maryland Historical Society, HEN.01.09-23.
A selection of Paul Henderson's photography will be on display in the Rotunda at Baltimore City Hall beginning in early May. Henderson (1899-1966) was an African-American photographer who worked in Baltimore from the 1930s to 1960s. Most of his career was spent at the Afro-American newspaper where he documented significant events and everyday life in Baltimore's African-American communities, leaving behind a collection of over 6,000 photographs.

MdHS acquired Henderson's collection from the Baltimore City Life Museum (also known as the Peale Museum) when it closed its doors in 1997. The collection came to the Society unprocessed and with little useful description. In 2010, Towson University's Historic Preservation class began reprocessing and over the past three years interns, volunteers, and staff have worked to complete the project. The final phase of processing is to identify the people and places in Henderson's pictures.

The exhibit Paul Henderson: Baltimore's Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960 has been on display in the Hackerman gallery since February 2012. Originally intended as a temporary exhibit, its run was extended when the Education department began to integrate the photos into its Civil Rights programs and public interest in the collection grew stronger. The next phase of the exhibit is to send it traveling throughout the state where Marylanders can learn about this important and unparalleled visual record of African-American life in Baltimore during the Civil Rights era.

Baltimore's City Hall is located at 100 N. Holliday Street, Baltimore MD 21202.

Other March 2013 Events:
"These gems have life in them"
The Jewelry Collection at MdHS

Scottish Bracelet
Bracelet, circa 1850-1865, probably Scottish, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Ellen Channing Day Bonaparte, xx.5.276
The agate and silver link bracelet in the photograph at right is part of the Bonaparte Collection. On Thursday, March 7th at 6 pm, Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch will introduce the audience to the museum's rarely seen jewelry collection, highlighting jewels owned by Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte as well as other prominent Marylanders.

Examples from the collection will also be on view for that evening only.

Although we do not know who in Betsy's family owned this bracelet, it would have been the height of fashion in the 1850s and 1860s. When Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral Castle in 1848, proclaiming her love of the Scottish countryside, designers followed her cue and created Celtic-style jewelry like this example. The bracelet's charm holds a lock of blonde hair which may have belonged to donor Ellen Channing Day.

This event is part of the Francis Scott Key Lecture Series. Tickets are $40 per lecture, or $175 for the complete series (couples series for $300). See our website for more information and to register. Call 410-685-3750 Ext. 399.

Road to Emancipation:
Reflections on Slavery and Emancipation

Harriet Tubman
"Harriet Tubman," Maryland Historical Society, Z24-1136
On Thursday, March 14th at 6 pm, we will begin a two-year journey walking the road to emancipation in Maryland. To slaves in Maryland, the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation was just out of reach - as a state loyal to the union, Maryland slaves were not included in the promised freedom of January, 1863.

It took almost two years before slaves in Maryland were officially freed from bondage. The last years of the Civil War were an intense, distressing, and liberating time that we want to truly understand by walking in the footsteps of those who struggled each day to achieve the promise of freedom and the many roads they took to get there.

Reflection on Slavery and Emancipation is the first of a series of programs that will start us on this road. Please join historians Kate Larson, author of Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, Steve Whitman, author of Challenging Slavery in Maryland and Antietam 1862: Gateway to Emancipation, and archivist Chris Haley, director of the Legacy of Slavery project at the Maryland State Archives.

Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers; visit our website to register or call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

This program is organized in partnership with Freedman and Southern Society Project at UMD College Park and the National Park Service - Hampton National Historic Site.

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Speaking of Trivia...

Trivia Time!

Congratulations are in order! We received many correct answers to last month's question. The Copycat Building has presided over the 1500 block of Guilford Avenue for over a century and has hosted a variety of tenants in its long life.

The Copycat Building
The Copycat Building, courtesy David Belew
After the Crown Cork and Seal Company relocated to Philadelphia, the building began hosting several manufacturers and businesses at any given time. Its new moniker "The Copycat" is derived from a billboard advertising the Copycat Printing Company that sat atop its roof. In 1983, the building was purchased by Charles Lankford and the industrial spaces were converted to artist studios. Artists began living in their studios and the building was rezoned for mix use. It has been a vital hub for Baltimore's art and music culture ever since.

Ready for this month's question?

Question: This German-immigrant decided to make a home for himself in Western Maryland when it was still wild frontier. Within three years of stepping on American soil, he was building a homestead on top of a cool Maryland spring. The house soon led to a trading post and by the 1770’s, what was once untamed frontier was a bustling town with more than a hundred dwellings. When he wasn’t founding towns he was serving the Colony of Maryland, earlier in life as scout-captain in the French-Indian War and later as a delegate to the General Assembly. A staunch patriot, he was a major advocate of American Independence in the years leading up to the war. Unfortunately he would not live to see the Revolution. On November 6, 1775, he was struck dead by a wooden roof beam at a church construction site.

Name that Marylander!

Email us your answer, and best of luck!

And Now... A Word from our Friends

We frequently partner with the folks at the National Park Service, the Star Spangled 200 Committee, and the Baltimore National Heritage Area, to name just a few. So to make sure you know all of their going's on, as well as ours, listed below is a 'thumbnail' list of their upcoming events.

We thank you, as always, for your support in making History come alive in Maryland!

Until next month,

Burton Kummerow
President, The Maryland Historical Society
From Enemies to Allies
Commemorates the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the resulting two-century special relationship between the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. This three-day conference will feature the most current and distinguished scholarship on the causes, conduct and consequences of the War of 1812.
learn more
"Humanizing the War
of 1812:
Join the National Park Service Trail staff and partners in this day-long workshop at Harford Community College in Bel Air, MD.
learn more
Maryland's Civil War Photographs - The Sesquicentennial Edition
Learn more about Ross Kelbaugh's acclaimed work, and pick up your own limited-edition hardcover or softcover copy today!
learn more
Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." The Society is located at 201 W. Monument Street and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday from 10 am-5 pm, and Sunday (library only) 12 pm-5pm.