What’s New at WDS – October 21, 2020

Everyday Living

Did you know that Margaret Fenn, who lived in the Deane House in the early 20th century, was the first woman in Wethersfield to vote? In a nod to the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, WDS staffers Cindy Riccio and Katie Sullivan used Fenn and her inspiring deed as the basis for this year’s WDS entry in the annual Wethersfield Scarecrows Along Main celebration. WDS staff also included quotes from other history-making women, ranging from Abagail Adams to Sojourner Truth.

Fenn, a member of the NSCDA-CT, the Mayflower Society and the DAR, was known as Aunt Margaret to all who came to know her. During the First World War she rolled bandages and served refreshments to the volunteers. She also taught knitting to Wethersfield school children so they could make socks for the soldiers. Leading an active and outgoing life, she loved to fish and hunt as much as her husband, Edward. She became a political wife in 1912 when Edward was elected U.S. State Representative.

WDS Collections A-Z

“U” is for Union Blocks

The WDS toy collection includes examples from the late 18th through early 20th centuries and includes dolls, games and other amusements. As the 19th century progressed there was a shift away from handmade to manufactured toys. As noted in an earlier column (“E” is for Elephant), toys could also include an instructional component. One example is a box of “Union Blocks” found in the toy display in the Stevens house. Manufactured in Germany in the early 20th century, the architectural forms allowed a child (and, according to the box apparently adult, too) to build miniature structures. The cover artwork is reminiscent of A. C. Gilbert products like Erector Sets or American Flyer electric trains which featured families gathered around educational playthings.

Curator Rich Malley notes that this set reminds him of the Lincoln Logs and American Bricks of his own 1950s childhood, or perhaps the Duplo and Lego systems so popular in recent decades. However, Union Blocks differ in one particular way—they are actually quite heavy, a molded mixture of quartz sand, chalk and linseed oil! Don’t try tossing one of these pieces at a pesky sibling—that would hurt!

Around the Grounds

This week in “Around the Grounds,” Dick shows us how the landscaping is taking shape following construction of the new Education and Visitor Center! New plantings were recently completed in two areas of the museum property. The first photo shows evergreen yew shrubs and ground ivy in planting beds on three corners of the newly paved courtyard – note the Webb House on the right. The second photo shows the area behind the Webb Barn with four designated spaces for visitors with disabilities.