Published: November 15, 2011
On view through February 5, the Flynt Center’s exhibition, “Curators’ Choice: A New Look at Old Objects,” has a display of some 22 selections from Historic Deerfield’s sizeable decorative arts collection which contains more than 27,000 objects. Ranging from well-loved favorites and overlooked gems to recent acquisitions and objects with new stories to tell, the show offers a diverse assemblage drawn from the museum’s collection of furniture, ceramics, silver, glass, silver, base metals, prints, maps, paintings and textiles.
“The show includes objects where new research has come to light and completely changed our view of it,” said Amanda Lange, curatorial department chair and curator of historic interiors at Historic Deerfield. “A scratch-decorated jug made by Thomas Crafts (1781‱861) of Whately, Mass., is a good example of this.”
Peter Heslip, a student from Bates College, took the opportunity to study the unusual, scratch-decorated jug during his participation in the Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program in 1999. The jug features decoration, which runs around the shoulders, depicting a fort flying the British flag from which four rowboats have been launched full of men with firearms heading towards the anchored steamship inscribed Carolina. The ship has her crew on deck, a bellowing smoke stack, and a 28-star American flag flying from the bow and to the left of the ship are fish in the water, a great waterfall, and a small domed island below the falls.
To previous researchers and curators, the scratched scene proved inexplicable and mysterious. But dogged pursuit by Heslip discovered that Crafts simply misspelled the name of the ship †the Carolina should have been the Caroline †thus creating the initial confusion and solving the mystery.
It turns out that the jug commemorates the attack on the American steamship Caroline by Canadian militiamen while the ship was lying at port in the Niagara River on December 29, 1837. This ship transported provisions and recruits to Navy Island where William MacKenzie’s Canadian rebels and American sympathizers had retreated after the abortive 1837 Upper Canadian Rebellion. On the night of December 29, Canadian militia, led by Commander Andrew Drew, Royal Navy, boarded the Caroline , killed one of her crew and destroyed the ship by sending it over Niagara Falls.
Thomas Crafts may have learned of this incident from accounts published in the Greenfield Gazette and Mercury on January 9, 1838. Why Crafts created this commemorative jug is still unknown. Some mysteries yet remain to be solved.
Other highlights of the exhibition include a gown which was worn for three weddings in the Hopkins-Worthington-Dwight families between 1759 and 1824; A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain on ye Continent of North America by Herman Moll, circa 1735; and a tall case clock by Richardson Miner of Stratford, Conn., circa 1760.
The exhibition was organized by several Historic Deerfield staff members, including Philip Zea, president; Ned Lazaro, collections manager; David Bosse, librarian and curator of maps; Joshua Lane, curator of academic programs and curator of furniture; and Amanda Lange, curatorial department chair and curator of historic interiors.
The Flynt Center is at 80 Old Main Street. Visit www.historic-deerfield.org or call 413-775-7214 for information.
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