What’s New at WDS – July 15, 2020

Everyday Living at WDS

Women have always needed to gather to discuss and process the world around them. Just as today’s book clubs, girl’s nights, paint nights, and wine parties often serve this purpose, early American women also created their own social outlets.

In “The Environment and the People in American Cities, 1600s -1900s: Disorder, Inequality, and Social Change,” author Dorceta E. Taylor notes that public events during the period were largely male affairs. Middle-class women, such as those living in the Stevens House, spent a good deal of time at tea parties and sewing circles in the privacy of their homes. During the 1820s -30s, women began discussing social issues, such as moral reform (temperance), religious freedom, abolition, and, later, women’s right to vote.

Throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, rooms were often multi-use. Though the Stevens House parlor you see here is sometimes exhibited as a dining room, the current interpretation shows it prepared for a ladies’ sewing circle. As you’ll note from the photo of the children’s chair and toys, women brought their children with them to these gatherings.


Collections A to Z – “M” is for Mortar!

Mortar is certainly a word with multiple definitions. Some people immediately think of masonry mortar used in laying courses of brick or stone. And while archeologists have recently found lots of mortar left over from the 1752 construction of the Webb House, that isn’t the topic we’re tackling today. Nor are we discussing the type of short-range artillery piece used in siege warfare. No, we’re examining an ancient tool found in many American households from the period of settlement to today.

The kitchen mortar at its most basic consists of a heavy, hollowed vessel used for grinding or pulverizing seeds, spices, or other foods. Examples made of stone, wood and iron may be found in the kitchens of the Deane and Webb houses. For a mortar to be useful, however, it needs a pestle; a club-shaped tool used to crush and grind foods in the mortar. Since neither mortar nor pestle can be successful without the other the term “mortar and pestle” has entered the lexicon much like peanut butter and jelly.

In passing it should be noted that traditionally the mortar (and its accompanying pestle) has been a familiar tool in other settings as well, including pharmacies and laboratories.

Around the Grounds

Things are really looking up at the Webb Deane Stevens Museum! This week in “Around the Grounds,” Dick points out the beautiful ceilings that are taking shape in the new Education and Visitor Center. The first photo shows a shiplap ceiling in progress, designed to maintain the same height as the old Education Room in the main entrance from the courtyard. The second and third photos show the tray ceiling in the Meeting Room, with bright window lighting from north and west sides. This signature room, equipped with AV functionality, will be used for various meetings and lectures throughout the year.