Curators' Choice: Home & Community Life
24 artifacts in this set
This mold-made, pressed glass box was intended to hold a middle class lady's jewelry. It was made in the lacy glass technique, in which decoration covers the entire surface of the mold, and is raised against a background of small dots, to create a stippled appearance on the surface. The dots catch any ambient light, making the surface shimmer.
Eli Terry pioneered the use of interchangeable wooden parts to make his clock works inexpensive. He combined this with a second innovation, his standardized "pillar and scroll" shelf clock, consisting of decorative pillars, supporting a scrolled top, a painted dial, above a reverse painted, decorative scene. For the first time clocks were affordable to all Americans, not just the wealthy.
Silversmith Jesse Kip created this "brandywine bowl" for Jacob and Maritje Van Dorn, a New Jersey couple of Dutch descent. The Van Dorns probably used this bowl, dated 1699, to share a mixture of brandy and raisins among family and friends during special family events -- births, weddings, or funerals. The two handles made the bowl easy to pass from person to person.
Ammi Phillips was an itinerant portrait painter, working in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and eastern New York. Like other "Folk" painters, he employed standard poses yet meticulously individualized the sitter's face and hair and added other personalized touches. This mid-1820s painting of Julia Barton Hunting along with one of her husband may have been commissioned as wedding portraits. The couple moved to Michigan in 1849.
In the German immigrant areas of Pennsylvania, painted wardrobes with floral scenes were commissioned by prosperous farmers and merchants to show off their wealth and sophistication. This wardrobe is larger and more elaborately decorated than most, retaining much original paint, including extensive faux finishes on the drawer fronts.
The tradition of hand-painted shop signs dates back to colonial days in America. These colorful signs, usually painted on both sides, confirmed to customers that they had indeed reached their destination and enticed potential customers to stop in. The number "5" on this sign also indicates that, by this time, stores were required to post street addresses.
This is a rare survival of a Charleston high style, colonial-era card table. Wealthy southerners tended to purchase expensive furniture from London, rather than from local craftsmen. This piece is executed in the Chinese Chippendale taste -- the decorative carvings are derived from an illustration for a "China Case" in Thomas Chippendale's famous pattern book.
In the early 20th century, amusement park goers dressed in their Sunday best climbed aboard colorful, hand-carved animals to enjoy a carousel ride. Horses were most common, but riders could choose from more exotic creatures found on some carousels. Herschell-Spillman made this whimsical frog -- the only carousel manufacturer to do so. It's the only American carousel animal you'll see wearing human clothing.
24-year-old-artist Vilktor Schreckengost designed a punch bowl in 1930 depicting New Year's Eve festivities in New York City as a celebration of the Jazz Age. He was commissioned by Eleanor Roosevelt who was so pleased with it that she ordered two more copies. Three versions were produced; this is the third version, intended for mass-production, dubbed "The Poor Man's Jazz Bowl".
The upscale Partio -- an all-in-one electric range, charcoal barbeque, and rotisserie -- evokes America's sense of optimism during the Eisenhower era. This particular example was owned by Dwight D. Eisenhower and used by the former President at his Palm Springs, California, home. Vivid postwar styling aside, the Partio points forward to the present day interest in well-appointed outdoor living, as served up in lifestyle magazines and lavish...
Henry Chadwick was a sports journalist and leading promoter of early baseball. He regularly wrote about baseball and helped develop standard rules for the game. Chadwick's 1867 reference helped teach the game to interested audiences and set rules for teams to follow. The twenty-four clubs who competed in the 1867 World's Tournament of Base Ball, held in Detroit, used it as the official rulebook.
This heating stove was intended to blend with furnishings made in the Victorian Aesthetic Movement. Aesthetic designers sought to transform Victorian taste away from popular revival styles toward something new and elegant. There was no single Aesthetic style, rather a common set of design motifs, including stylized botanical forms, and an interest in elegant decorative tiles, which appear on this stove.
From the mid-17th century until the Civil War, young girls learned useful embroidery skills by stitching samplers. Embroidered with alphabet letters, a verse, designs, or images, samplers demonstrated achievement and refinement. Young Mary Wakefield stitched this sampler in 1799 -- it was likely her first effort. Mary probably created more elaborate and ornamental works as she grew older.
When cooking in a fireplace, a woman could adeptly adjust cooking temperature by moving food closer to or farther away from the fire. Controlling heat distribution on early cast iron stoves proved a bigger challenge. Henry Stanley offered this solution: a cookstove with a revolving stovetop to rotate food directly over or away from the firebox.
Indiana farmwife Susan McCord made this stunningly beautiful quilt -- indisputably her masterpiece. This trailing vine design is a McCord original. McCord pieced together printed and solid cotton fabric scraps to create the over 300 leaves on each of the thirteen vine panels. McCord used variations of this vine in the borders of several quilts. But McCord's vine design is rendered to perfection in this work of genius.
This prototype synthesizer--a collaboration between engineer Robert Moog and composer Herbert Deutsch--is a musical icon. Synthesizers create unique electronically produced sounds. Moog's solid-state synthesizer was musically superior and much more portable than earlier vacuum-tube-based systems. In 1968, the album Switched-On Bach introduced the Moog synthesizer to a wider audience. Synthesizers quickly became a mainstay of popular...
Grace Storey Putnam designed this doll to look and feel like a real three-day-old infant. But such realism was looked down upon by male industry executives. The manufacturer made design changes, smoothing facial creases and using a bisque head instead of rubber. Still, women eagerly lined up outside toy stores just before Christmas 1923 to buy the "Million Dollar Baby."
Amana's Radarange, introduced in 1967, was the first compact microwave oven made for home use. By 1975, when Ed and Flo Harper bought this Radarange as a family Christmas gift, sales of microwave ovens outpaced gas ovens for the first time. The convenient, time-saving microwave oven was becoming a practical necessity for a fast-paced world. People had less time to devote to cooking.
During the early 20th century, older boys' toys reflected the modern world of science and technology. The engineer was the new ideal for boys. A.C. Gilbert's Erector Set, introduced in 1913, inspired boys to build dozens of structures using girders, panels, wheels, pulleys, gears, and small electric motors. This beginner's set introduced boys to skills they would need in the working world.
As World War II wound down, American factories stopped manufacturing military equipment and resumed making consumer products. There was plenty of pent-up demand for labor-saving appliances like the Hoover Model 28 vacuum cleaner, introduced in 1946. Hoover marketed these vacuums as great gifts for brides -- and there were many, as returning soldiers married and couples equipped households of their own.
After working the fields of her rural Alabama tenant farm and tending to her family's needs, Susana Hunter sat down to lavish her creativity on quilt making. On-the-fly inspiration -- rather than tradition -- guided this African-American quilt maker's improvisational creations. Susana made over a hundred quilts -- each of them unique -- from the worn clothing and fabric scraps available to her.
Harry Tyler was an extraordinarily skilled weaver, a master of design whose coverlets display meticulous attention to detail. Tyler changed some element of his designs almost every year. These changes required extra work, but likely encouraged repeat orders from old customers. This is the second coverlet Tyler wove for Clarissa Garter, a young Orleans County, New York, farmwife.
The amateur musicians of the Lowell Brass Band presented this impressive gold bugle to David C. Hall, the leader of their band and an accomplished bugler. The members of a community band often honored their leader with the gift of a special instrument. David Hall and the Lowell band played at events like concerts, parades and dances in this prosperous industrial city.
Charles Eames, co-designer of this chair, felt it had "a sort of ugliness" about it--although he conceded that "it has apparently given a lot of pleasure to people." In production since 1956, it is one of the most recognizable pieces of 20th Century furniture--a design that meshes elemental luxury with the finely honed simplicity of Charles and Ray Eames' best work.