Object of the Month

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Object of the Month

Explore a selection of our collection, including some pieces you might have seen on a tour, and some from “behind the scenes.” Our Object of the Month series is featured in our email newsletter: sign up HERE.

Jar, Connecticut, Hartford, Redware, Acc# 63-111, Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

This jar is one of the many impressive redware pieces from the Hargis and Brush Collection. Redware ceramics were the common storage and tableware ceramics produced until its decline in the mid-nineteenth century. Acquired in 1963, this redware piece is attributed to the Connecticut area and is likely to be from a Hartford-based potter.

One such potter was Nathaniel Seymour (1763-1849) from West Hartford, Connecticut. He established his kiln in 1790 at the intersection of Park Street and Quaker Lane. Seymour produced both stoneware and redware pottery and employed a handful of men and apprentices to work at his pottery. Like many redware potters, Seymour did not mark or sign his wares. But, an ovoid pitcher, acquired by the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, became the touchstone of Seymour Pottery attributions. The pitcher was acquired from one of Seymour’s grandsons, Major Seymour (b. 1819), and it employs his signature brushed-on slip decoration.

Seymour’s signature mark-making is described as “… fat brushed, slip decoration with green spotting …” (Cullity 1991) Seymour used slip, liquid kaolin clay, to apply bright yellow-white swatches to his wares. His pieces were thrown on a wheel, partially dried to the “green-ware” state, and then slip-decorated with a brush in a daub and stroke manner. The random, energetic strokes have speckles and dashes of green. The green was accomplished by applying calcined copper filings to the slip or by dusting copper oxide on the still-wet slip. The ceramic pieces were coated with a clear lead glaze on the interior and the exterior before being fired.

Nathaniel Seymour produced a variety of ceramic products until 1825. His ten-foot wide kiln reportedly fired fifty times a year. Seymour wholeheartedly believed that Connecticut clay was one of the best and he solely used it in his work. For his lead glaze, it was mixed with local sand. His pottery continued to operate under his grandson Major Seymour until 1842.

Further reading:

Cullity, Brian. (1991). Slipped and Glazed: Regional American Redware. Sandwich, Mass. : Trustees of Heritage Plantation of Sandwich. http://archive.org/details/slippedglazedreg0000unse

DiCicco, V. (2013, December 5). Folk Art (Winter 2002/2003) by American Folk Art Museum—Issuu. https://issuu.com/american_folk_art_museum/docs/folkart_27_4_win2002-03

Spargo, J. (1948). Early American pottery and china. Garden City, N.Y. : Garden City Pub. Co. http://archive.org/details/earlyamericanpot0000spar

Bill of Lading for Jonathan Belcher, 1716, ink on paper, Acc# 1961.119, Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

Framed bill of lading from 1716 from Jonathan Belcher. One month before Adonijah Bidwell’s birth on October 18, 1716, his father Thomas Bidwell (1682-1716) was lost at sea, en route from Barbados with a shipment of rum and sugar. You can read more about him, including a letter written to his wife before his return voyage, HERE. Thomas was a merchant and ship owner, along with operating a store in Hartford with his brother John, and bills of lading such as this would have been a regular part of his business.

This particular example was for a load of goods shipped by Jonathan Belcher (1681/2-1757), a contemporary of Thomas Bidwell’s and later the governor of the Provinces of New Hampshire and Massachusetts Bay (1730-1741) and the Province of New Jersey (1747-1757). Prior to his political career, Belcher worked for his father, Andrew Belcher (1646-1717), a prominent merchant whose trading empire made him, for a time, one of the wealthiest men in the province, though a portion of his wealth came from being one of the first slave traders in the colonies. In December of 1716, the same year as Adonijah Bidwell’s birth and Thomas Bidwell’s death, Jonathan Belcher shipped fish, candles, lumber, and oil (see image and/or transcription) from Boston to Antigua. Besides the details of the cargo and the terms of the shipment, a notable feature on the document is the elaborate “S” marking the beginning of the document. A fascinating account of the evolution of embellished initials can be found in Hannah Farber’s article “Sailing on Paper: The Embellished Bill of Lading in Material Atlantic, 1720-1864” (Early American Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Winter 2019), pp. 37-83). Some of you may remember Farber from her lecture, “Underwriting the United States,” part of our History Talk Series in 2022.

Jack Hargis and David Brush acquired this piece relatively early in their collecting, in 1961, just a year after purchasing this house. It came from Kingston, NY, antique dealer Fred J. Johnston (1911-1993), who, like Hargis and Brush, restored an old house, furnished it with period antiques, and left it to become a museum upon his death. The Fred J. Johnston House, operated by Friends of Historic Kingston, can still be visited today.

Here is the transcription of the receipt:

Shipped by the Grace of God in good Order and well Conditioned, by Jona Belcher
in and upon the good Ship called the Mary whereof is Mafter under
God for the prefent Voyage Cap.a Rich.d Foster and now riding at Anchor in the
harbour of Boston and by God’s Grace bound for Antigua
to fay forty four hhds of Fish, Eight boxes of Wax Candles,
One hundred bbs Mackrill, thirty one thousand, Six hundred, & Eighty six
feet board & Joyst, Seventy two thousand & one hundred of shingles, two bbs
Oyle, for accol & risq (?) of the Owners ofsd Ship —
Also Seven thousand of red Oak hhd staves on same accot & A small boat
being marked and numbered as in the Margent, and are to be delivered in the like good Order and
well Conditioned, at the aforefaid Port of Antigua ( the danger of the Seas only
excepted ) unto the s.d Cap.a Rich.d Foster  —
or to his Affigns, he or they paying Freight for the faid Goods —
with Primage and Average accuftom’d. In Witnefs whereof the Mafter or Purfer of the faid Ship hath
affirm’d to four Bills of Lading, all of this Tenor and Date; the one of which Bills being accomplifhed,
the other – to ftand void. And fo God fend the good Ship to her defired Port in fafety. Amen. Dated
in Boston 8d Decem 1716

P             Rich.d Foster

Lantern Clock. Thomas Watts (1729-1777). Mid-18th Century. Brass. Lavenham, England. Acc# 1967.103. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

Humans have looked for ways to measure time since the earliest history. Methods such as sundials and water clocks gave way to early mechanized versions in the 14th century, and innovations have continued to develop since then.

Rev. Adonijah Bidwell’s death inventory does list one clock, but with no additional details. It’s possible that he had one similar to this particular example in our collection, a lantern clock produced around the middle of the 18th century. This clock was purchased by Hargis and Brush in 1967 from Connecticut antiques dealer Lillian B. Cogan as part of their efforts to furnish the house as accurately as possible based on Bidwell’s inventory.

Lantern clocks came into popularity in the 17th century and became one of the first clocks to be commonly found in the home (though generally homes of people of a certain status). They used weight-driven movement, which was gradually replaced after the invention of pendulum movement in the mid-17th century. They fell out of popularity in urban centers such as London, but still remained in production in more rural areas through the early 19th century.

The name “lantern clock” originates from the shape of the clock, similar to the shape of a lantern, as well the word “latten,” which was an earlier term used for a range of copper alloys, including the brass that was used in the construction of lantern clock.

The lantern clock in our collection was built in the mid-18th century by Thomas Watts (1729-1777) of Lavenham, a village in Suffolk, England. Thomas’ father, also named Thomas Watts (1694-1741), was a clockmaker too, and Thomas, Jr., presumably learned the trade from him. Besides creating the clocks for which he is known, Thomas was also known as an “ironmonger, clock and watch-maker, brazier, tin-man and whitesmith.” The interior of this clock is more crudely made than other examples of Watts’ work, and was possibly created by an apprentice.

If you visit the Museum today, you’ll see the clock on a shelf on the south wall of the Dining Room. The weights have been removed and it’s not currently in operation, although it was restored to working order in 1999.

Stew Pot. John M. Safford (1811-1880), Potter. 1850-1860. Redware. Monmouth, Maine. Acc# 1972.101. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

Redware stew pot. Ovoid shape with a handle on the left side and a lidRedware was a common sight in a colonial home. Though it had European roots, it was one of the first forms of pottery produced in America, using local clay throughout the northeast. Because of being so readily available, and often being priced quite affordably, it was often seen as being disposable. The soft clay would break relatively easily, and the pieces would simply be disposed of: consequently, redware fragments are far more common today than intact pieces.

During their time furnishing the house, Jack Hargis and David Brush assembled an impressive collection of redware, much of which can be seen in both the Keeping Room and 1840s Room at the Museum. This particular piece, a mid-19th century lidded stew pot, was made and stamped by John M. Safford (1811-1880) of Monmouth, Maine. Safford was born in Exeter, NH, and moved to Maine at 19 to study with his cousin, a potter also named John Safford (who, in turn, had learned his trade from an uncle named John Safford). The two formed a partnership which ran from 1832 to 1838. After John M.’s marriage in 1840, he built his own house and pottery, which was passed on to his son, George Llewellyn Safford (1847-1921). Through the various family members, Safford pottery operated from the late 18th century through the early 20th century.

The stew pot is covered with a clear lead glaze: the porous clay required a glaze for use with food, and the dangers of using a lead glaze had not yet been firmly established. There are drips of yellow glaze around the rim; beyond that, decoration is limited to a row of four incised rings around the lower neck of the pot. It retains its original lid, which is slightly chipped, as is the strap handle. “John M. Safford” is stamped on the body of the pot, near the handle.

Jackfield Tea Set. Late 18th Century, Ceramic, English. Acc# 1984.107. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

When Jack Hargis and David Brush set out to furnish the Bidwell House using Rev. Adonijah Bidwell’s (1716-1784) probate inventory, they had a list, by category, of everything in Adonijah’s possession at the time of his death. The section of the list labeled “earthenware” included the following: 6 small punch bowls; 15 earthen plates; 2 small earthen plates; 4 china tea dishes and saucers; a set and a half other tea dishes; 1 cream cup; another cream cup; 1 earthenware cup; 1 black tea pot; one white tea pot; 2 chamber pots; mustard pot.” Today, we’re going to look at a set in our collection that reflects the “1 black tea pot.”

This Jackfield tea set includes far more than just one tea pot: it also includes two creamers, a covered tea caddy, a bowl, a coffeepot, and five cups and saucers. This elegant set is currently on display in the Parlor, where the Reverend might have used similar pieces to serve his guests. Adonijah’s father, Thomas Bidwell (1682-1716), was a wealthy trade merchant who passed away the year of Adonijah’s birth, and some of the finer pieces in the Reverend’s collection reflect the wealth inherited from his late father.

Jackfield pottery originated in the first half of the 18th century in the town of Jackfield, in Shropshire County, England, with production later spreading throughout the country. Production of Jackfield-type ceramics in other parts of England included work by Thomas Whieldon (1719-1795), an influential Staffordshire potter and early partner of Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795). The striking black tone comes not only from glaze colors: the firing temperature is high enough so that both the glaze and the clay itself darken, creating a deep, vibrant black. Though the popularity of Jackfield began to decline in the late 18th century, black Jackfield-type wares saw revivals, often with lesser quality imitations. One such revival occurred after the death of Prince Albert (1819-1861), when Queen Victoria’s (1819-1901) lengthy mourning shaped much of the material culture and rituals surrounding mourning. Jackfield-type teapots, pitchers, and more were produced for Queen Victoria’s Golden (1887) and Diamond (1897) Jubilees.

Staved Tankard. c. 1800, possibly European. Acc# 1964.127. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

Blue 18th century lidded wooden tankard sitting on a table in front of a window in the Keeping RoomThis staved tankard resides on a table along the north wall in the Keeping Room. It’s finished in a striking robins-egg blue paint, with a well-worn patina from use over the years since its construction in the late 18th or early 19th century. Wooden tankards had been used as drinking vessels for centuries, with early examples dating from the first and second century AD.

This particular one does seem rather large for one person in a single sitting: these pieces often held several pints, and were passed around between multiple people. You might also notice its lid, which isn’t a feature seen on most contemporary drinkware: there are different theories for this, but the most predominant being that, in many early homes and taverns, there were concerns about getting debris in one’s drink. Thatched roofs, without finished ceilings, could easily drop dirt and insects onto drinkers below. The lid served a very functional purpose.

During the time when this piece was constructed, there was another place besides kitchens and taverns where staved tankards such as this were commonly found: on ships. Coopers were responsible for constructing storage vessels for the sailors’ provisions and other cargo needs, and often a cooper would travel on the ship to maintain and repair barrels as needed. They also would have made vessels for daily use, like these tankards. They were durable, stable, and didn’t react to the salt air and water, making them a much better option than ceramic or metals drinking vessels.

In the 19th century, lidded tankards became less common, but existing ones were often repurposed. As they were made of wood, they could be used to store vinegar or other acidic liquids in the kitchen without corroding. This one looks quite at home with our other treenware in the Keeping Room, and would have looked equally at home in an early kitchen.

18the century brown wooden spinning wheel

Saxony Wheel. c. 1745, Oak, American. Acc# 2021.001. Gift of Glendyne Wergland in memory of Gertrude (Cosper) Beemer Weber.

In visiting the Bidwell House Museum, you might have noticed the two spinning wheels, along with other tools related to textile production, in the Second Bedroom. This past spring, we acquired a third to add to our collection.

Though they were still reliant on import for certain specialized fabrics, such as silks, the colonists sought to produce more textiles on their own, both in the home and commercially, particularly leading up to the Revolutionary War. During the time in which Rev. Bidwell lived in the house, his wives and daughters would most likely have learned to spin, possibly on a wheel much like this one.

This Saxony wheel was made in America sometime between 1740 and 1750, and was passed down through the family of the donor, Glendyne Wergland, a Berkshire-based historian known for her Shaker research and publications. It came to her from her grandmother, Gertrude (Cosper) Beemer Weber, who was believed to have been given the wheel by her grandmother, Marietta Arabella (Clark) Cosper. Marietta’s grandfather, Wells Clark, was from Blandford, MA, just a few towns over, during the Revolutionary War. Prior to the wheel’s donation, it was professionally restored, and is actually in excellent working condition: the restorer described it as one of the finest wheels he’s worked on, as “the Cadillac of wheels.”

Tobacco Pipes. 18th Century, Pipeclay. Acc# 2007.1001.82-85
Pipe Tongs. Late 18th Century, Iron, Massachusetts. Acc# 1966.104. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.
Pipe Kiln. 18th Century, Iron, American. Acc# 1974.101. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

This month, we’re looking at a group of objects in our collection: clay pipes. One can perhaps picture Adonijah Bidwell sitting at his writing table, composing his sermons, with pipe in hand. These pipes, while smaller and with a longer, more delicate stem than what we see in contemporary pipes, were the most common style through the early 19th century. Tobacco was brought back to Europe by the French and Spanish from South and Central America in the 16th century (though Sir Walter Raleigh sometimes gets credit), and this style pipe then was developed in England. As colonists began to settle what would become the United States, they would have brought them along, and Adonijah and his family would have been in possession of similar. They were simple and inexpensive to manufacture, and were also quite fragile, so many small fragments but few intact early examples remain. An early theory for the quantity of pipe fragments discovered by archaeologists was that taverns would have “communal” pipes that were passed between patrons, and in the interest of hygiene, the end of the stem would be broken off between users. While this wasn’t necessarily the case, the pipes did need to be cleaned: as the stem holes were so narrow, the best way to do this was to set them in an iron pipe kiln, comprised of three iron rings, and set in an oven overnight to cleanse them with heat after being rinsed. Another necessary tool associated with the fireplace was pipe tongs: a tamper near the handle was used to pack the bowl, and then the tongs were used to remove an ember from the fireplace to light the pipe.

Shaker Yarn Swift. 1850-1880, Maple, Mount Lebanon, New York. Acc# 1966.143. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

Shaker objects are an important part of our collection at the Bidwell House Museum. However, Adonijah Bidwell himself may or may not have been acquainted with the Shakers: at the time of his death in 1784, coincidentally the same year as the death of Shaker founder Mother Anne Lee, only the Watervliet Shaker Village had been established. His sons and daughters were likely familiar with the Tyringham Shaker Village (active 1792-1875), located a few miles away on Jerusalem Road in Tyringham, along with the other local Shaker communities that were founded in the late 18th and early 19th century, including Hancock, Mount Lebanon, and Enfield (CT). The Shaker objects collected by Hargis and Brush during their time as the residents of the house range from boxes from Harvard to tables from Canterbury, though the piece we’re looking at here is a little closer to home: a swift from Mount Lebanon.

Shaker history is filled with a rich history of invention and manufacture, with goods marketed and sold to people from “the World,” or non-Shakers. One such object was the swift, which improved efficiency in textile work: instead of relying on an additional person to hold the skein of yarn while another rolled it into a ball in preparation for knitting or crocheting, an individual person could instead place the skein around the adjustable slats of the swift and roll a ball of yarn themselves. A thumbscrew at the base clamps the swift securely to the edge of a table. When not in use, the slats collapse for easy storage. This particular piece was most likely constructed between 1850 and 1880, and Adonijah’s granddaughters might have used something similar, if not identical, when preparing yarn to knit garments to keep their families warm in the winter.



Portrait of Mary Gray Bidwell

Portrait of Mary Gray Bidwell (1764-1808) by Joseph Steward (1753-1822). Circa 1793, Oil on Canvas. Massachusetts. Acc# 2014.001. Gift of John and Judy Herdeg.

If you have been following our Bidwell Lore series, you have come to know Mary Gray Bidwell. If you are not familiar with the series, you can check it out here to learn more about Mary and the entire Bidwell family: https://www.bidwellhousemuseum.org/blog/. Her image has appeared in several of the entries, written by Bidwell descendent Richard Bidwell Wilcox, and you might have seen the portrait up close when visiting the Museum. In discussing Mary’s image in relation to her letters, Wilcox says, “It was a pilgrimage to the Bidwell House Museum where I sat with Mary Gray Bidwell and I thought how wonderfully the artist had captured her essence…. Drawn to the painting and reminded of the adage ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul,’ I drank in a woman who begged to tell her own story.” Mary herself is a fascinating character, and her portrait itself has a story as well. Explore more in the below three-part series.

Part One          Part Two          Part Three



Settle. Circa 1775-1825, Pine, American. Acc# 1975.104. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

Even though there might be a few days of summer warmth coming up, the chill of autumn is definitely in the air. We’ve looked at ways to keep warm in previous installments: bed warmers, foot warmers, and more. But sometimes, the cold could be kept away simply through the design of the house or the furniture within it. One such piece of furniture is a settle, a sort of bench with a high, solid back. Settles originated in medieval Europe, and were used in taverns, inns, and homes. Placed by the hearth, the solid back would help to retain heat, while blocking out cold drafts coming in from doors or windows. The example in our collection features a chest under the seat that could be used for storing blankets or a number of other things, and there were variations that could serve other functions: a hood at the top of the back to retain even more heat; a back that could flip down to become a table; and even a seat that could fold out to become a bed. Our particular settle dates from the end of the 18th century through early 19th century, around the time that settles lost popularity to settees and sofas. Rev. Bidwell might have had a piece very similar to this one, proving a warm resting place in the Keeping Room, or even possibly by the fireplace in the bedroom.

For an upcoming series of object highlights, we’ve reached out to our Board of Trustees to discover some of their favorite objects in the collection. This particular piece is a favorite of Dr. Richard Greene: “I also love the settee in the Keeping Room and imagine snuggling in it by a fire.” What’s your favorite piece at the Bidwell House Museum?



Bed Warmer. Circa 1775-1825, Maple and Brass. Acc# 1975.117. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

As temperatures fluctuate in March, we might experience some 70 degree sunshine, followed just a few days later by nights in the 20s. Like us, people of the 18th century would use blankets and quilts to stay warm at night, but would also prepare their beds to be a little extra cozy with a bed warmer, or warming pan. Filled with hot coals (or, for those more conscious of health and safety, with hot sand, stones, or brick), it was placed between the blankets and sheets and moved around to warm up the entire bed. This had to be done quickly to avoid burning: think about leaving a hot iron sitting on the item of clothing that you’re working on. This example from our collection features a hinged brass pan, decorated with a floral design, and a turned wooden handle. You may have noticed on your visits to the Bidwell House that it’s always a little cooler and snowier up here than at the bottom of the hill, so Adonijah and his family would most likely have gotten good use out of their warming pan!




Standing Cup. 17th Century, Coconut and Silver. Acc# 1978.107. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

Even though we’re blanketed in snow and experiencing single-digit temperatures here in Monterey, there are some objects in our collection that might remind us of warmer climates, perhaps a piece made of coconut. This 17th century coconut and silver standing cup was acquired by Jack Hargis and David Brush in the 1970s, and is perhaps slightly more elaborate than what one would associate with a rural New England minister. However, Adonijah’s father, Thomas Bidwell, was a wealthy merchant from Hartford, CT, involved in trade in the Caribbean, and Adonijah grew up in a comfortable household. This particular style of cup descends from earlier standing-cups, or hanaps: large, elaborate vessels, usually covered and used for formal occasions. They were commonly made of precious metals, but could be found in a variety of materials. In the 16th century, explorers including Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan brought coconuts back to Europe from their travels. The exotic fruit was initially thought to have healing properties, including as a defense against poison, making it the ideal base for a drinking vessel, particularly for someone suspicious of those around them. Coconuts were only available to the wealthy, and this diminutive cup would have been an indication of the affluence of its owner.


Fireback. Late 18th Century, Cast-Iron, American. Acc# 1962.109. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

Throughout history, people have devised ways to make the most of their heat sources during the chilly New England winters. As the snow starts to fall, we can reflect on one of the items that the Bidwell family would have utilized to increase the heat in their house: the fireback. Firebacks were developed in the 15th century to help offset the damage that an open fire caused to brick and soft stone, and by placing a cast-iron panel in the back of the fireplace, not only was the structure protected, but heat was also radiated back into the room. This particular example features a tombstone-style form with a central medallion including a bas-relief portrait of George Washington (1732-1799) surrounded by a ring inscribed with “George Washington 1788,” the year in which he won the first quadrennial presidential election. The piece was produced at Paul Revere’s iron and brass foundry in Boston’s North End. Before Jack Hargis and David Brush purchased this piece in 1962, it had come from the home of Esther Stevens Brazer (1898-1945) a pioneering historian in the decorative arts field.



Wall Pocket. Circa 1760, Tin-glazed Earthenware, Liverpool, England. Acc# 1965.115. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush. 

One of a pair of delftware wall pockets that flank the fireplace in the Dining Room here at the Bidwell House. You might have noticed them on your visit due to their striking white and blue contrasted with the more subdued hues of the room, or maybe due to their unique decorative elements. Though delftware, a form of tin-glazed earthenware, was influenced by the Dutch ceramics from which it took its name, these particular pieces came from Liverpool, one of the hubs of delftware manufacture in the 17th and 18th century. Hargis and Brush purchased them on a trip to London.  We often think of wall pockets as hanging vases, as that’s the purpose for which they’ve been most often used for the past century and what these would have been used for, but they originated simply as wall mounted storage for small objects. As time progressed, they evolved from utilitarian to decorative. This particular design features two faces: a female centered at the top, and a man on the lower point, both crowned in flowers. These have alternately been attributed as an angel and a devil or a nymph and satyr, both popular motifs in the mid-18th century. These particular pieces date from around 1760, around the time when delftware began to fall away in favor of sturdier creamware, and also around the same time that Adonijah was building the Bidwell House here in Monterey.



Flame Stitch Wallet. 1725-1760, Wool, Massachusetts. Acc# 1990.202.082.

This piece is an excellent example of flame stitch embroidery, a popular choice for men’s wallets and pocketbooks in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Not only used for carrying money, they would also house letters and other important documents for safe transport, fitting easily into the pocket of one’s jacket or breeches. The distinctive pattern was often seen on both men’s and women’s pocketbooks at the time, and the intricacy and bright colors were seen as a sign of the status and wealth of the bearer. They were often constructed and embroidered in the home rather than purchased, so they would also indicate the needlework talent of the bearer’s wife. It should be noted that the prominent use of pink was not uncommon in menswear – until the 1940s, a stronger pink was considered to be a more masculine color, and a softer blue was thought to be more feminine.




Food Warmer, or Veilleuse. Circa 1760, Earthenware, Lambeth, England. Acc# 1966.119. Founding Collection, Gift of Jack Hargis and David Brush.

This interesting object is called a food or “pap” warmer (semi-liquid food was also called “pap”). In France, it was called a “veilleuse” or night light. It was meant to keep soup or tea warm on a bedside table if someone was bedridden or ill. There are four parts to the food warmer in the Bidwell House Collection:  a hollow pedestal, a bowl, a cover with a candleholder on top, and a small burner cup to hold oil. It is made of earthenware with a tin-glaze in a blue floral pattern. These food warmers were introduced in England in the 18th century. The well-to-do Bidwell family would have known about this fashionable item, and perhaps even acquired it from Adonijah’s father, who was a wealthy merchant in Connecticut.