Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Hogmanay!

From the Reformation in the 16th century, up through the middle of the 20th century, Scotland did not officially celebrate Christmas. Through the 1960s schools and work places were open and mail was delivered. Paradoxically, it was for religious reasons that Christmas was removed from the calendar –Protestant reformers saw it as a Catholic, or Papist, tradition.

What the Scots did celebrate was Hogmanay, or New Year’s Eve. Up until 1600, New Year’s Day was March 25. Forty years after Christmas was removed from the Scottish calendar, New Year’s was moved to January 1 in order to “bring Scotland into line with other civilized European nations.” By moving the New Year, Scots were able to have a winter holiday and it took the focus off of Christmas.

Hogmanay was brought to Scotland by Vikings in the 8th and 9th centuries as a celebration of the winter solstice. To properly celebrate, there are several traditions or superstitions that need to be taken care of. These include cleaning the house, taking out the ashes and clearing all your debts before “the bells” sound midnight on December 31: the underlying message being to clear out the remains of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in the New Year. Immediately after midnight it is tradition to sing Robert Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne.”

Once the business left from the old year is taken care of, the festivities to welcome in the New Year begin. An integral part of the celebration is to welcome friends and strangers with warm hospitality. “First footing” (or the “first foot” in the house after midnight) is still common across Scotland. To ensure good luck the first foot should be that of a dark male, and he should bring symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a dram of whisky. The dark male is believed to be a reference to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your doorstep was not a good omen! The traditional celebration involved dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village while being hit by sticks. Animal hide wrapped around sticks and ignited produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective in warding off evil spirits: this smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay. Today the festivities still include parading through the streets with torches and lighting bonfires.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What Is It? Where Is It? (December): The Redware Plate Found in the Dining Room

This month's "What Is It? Where Is It?" is a piece of the redware plate that was found underneath the floorboards in the dining room of the Keith House in July, 1991. It is currently on display in the Visitors' Center. I was unable to confirm why the floorboards were removed in 1991 - the floor in this room was actually replaced in 1969 when the state was doing restoration work, so it is a mystery why the plate was not discovered then.

Redware is a type of pottery that was common in the 17th and 18th centuries and made with the red clay that is abundant in southeastern Pennsylvania (as well other places). It was cheap to produce because the materials were available locally and was fired at a lower temperature than other, harder potteries. It was very common among the German immigrants in this area. This piece is considered "slipware" or decorated in "slip." The pattern is made by mixing clay with other minerals and water and then squeezing or painting this watered down mixture onto the red clay body before firing. Original glazes often contained lead.

Another common decorating technique is sgraffito, in which a solid coating of slip (the watered down clay mixture) is applied to the redware and then a design is scratched into it (the word comes from the Italian verb sgraffire, which means "to scratch"), revealing the background layer and color. Both techniques can be executed in layers and with multi-colored and complex designs, making this utilitarian pottery a true art form which is still created to this day using the same techniques used by artisans 300 years ago.

To review all of the "What Is It? Where Is Its" from the year, click here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What Is It? Where Is It? (December)

Well, we've finally reached the end of 2013, so it is time for our final installation of "What Is It? Where Is It?", our monthly guessing game where readers are asked what is featured in the photo and where it is located at Graeme Park. In the past months, we've included things like Elizabeth's commonplace book, the dasher from the butter churn, the lifting stone located outside the Keith House, and the marriage marks in the barn office. December's pick might be pretty obvious - consider it your Christmas gift.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What Is It? Where Is It? (Octo-vember): The Commonplace Book

Did you guess that this is a page from one of Elizabeth's commonplace books?

If you're a friend of Elizabeth's on Facebook, you might even recognize it as her cover photo. So what the heck is a commonplace book anyway? Well, as you might have gathered from our blog name and blurb, it is a collection of writings, some original, some quoted, that is meant to be shared with others. There are three commonplace books of Elizabeth's known to be in existence: ours, known as the Willing Commonplace Book, was created for the Willing sisters between 1787 and 1789. Dickinson College owns a second volume that was created for Annis Boudinot Stockton, mother-in-law of Dickinson's founder Benjamin Rush. This volume contains Elizabeth's poetry and the poetry of her niece, Anny Young Smith. The third volume is known as the Yale Commonplace Book and is held by the Library Company of Philadelphia

Elizabeth's writings are also prominently featured in Milcha Martha Moore's published commonplace book and provide us with access to parts of Elizabeth's lost journal that she kept while she traveled in Europe. This multi-volume journal was sent back to America as she finished each part and was eagerly anticipated by her friends and family, who enjoyed reading about her experiences and observations. Unfortunately the original, complete, journals disappeared and have not been seen since prior to the mid-19th century, but this loss demonstrates the importance of commonplace books as a recording method. 

If you're interested in learning more about Elizabeth, we've recently stocked paperback copies of her biography, The Most Learned Woman in America by Anne Ousterhout in our shop, which is open Fridays-Sundays.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What Is It? Where Is It? (Octo-vember)

October was such a busy month with weddings, parties, and our annual Halloween tour, that we didn't get a chance to post an October "What Is It? Where Is It?", so once again we're combining two months together to bring you the Octo-vember edition!

Can you guess what the following document is and where it resides?

We'll be back next week with the answer and a bit of history.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Soldier's Christmas

Peace on Earth. It’s what we all wish for, not only at Christmastime, but throughout the year. Wars don’t stop for Christmas, but soldiers not actively engaged in fighting on Christmas day strove to celebrate the holiday in ways that reminded them of home. In fact, many of our beloved Christmas traditions came out of wartime celebrations and Christmas became a federal holiday in 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War, in an attempt by President Grant to reconcile the still divided north and south. 

Prior to the Revolutionary War, Christmas in America was a quiet, religious occasion and not celebrated with a lot of outward festivities and fanfare. Many historians credit the Hessian soldiers from Germany, who fought in America alongside the British, with introducing Christmas trees to the United States. Decorated trees were just starting to become popular when the Civil War broke out, and at least one account records Civil War soldiers as decorating their tree with “hard tack and pork” – materials they had on hand, just as they would have used popcorn, dried fruit, pinecones, and homemade paper decorations had they been celebrating at home. Later generations of soldiers did their best to maintain established traditions, with visits from Santa, wrapped gifts arriving from loved ones, singing carols - many of which originated during the years leading up to the Civil War, and decorations made from foil, tin cans, and anything else they could make with salvaged materials and creativity.

On Saturday, November 30 the grounds and first floor of the Keith House at Graeme Park will be open for free tours from 12:00 noon-6:00 p.m. with soldiers representing different wars encamped on the property demonstrating how Christmas was celebrated on the battlefront during different eras throughout our history. Crafts, ornaments and refreshments will be available for purchase in the Visitors’ Center and we're working on rounding up some musical entertainment.

Call 215-343-0965 for details. Directions are available on our website at www.graemepark.org.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Historical News and Notes: Welsh Strawbridge Injured

Welsh Strawbridge after a fall.
Photo courtesy of the Horsham Preservation & Historical Association.
The following notice appeared in the October 27, 1911 New York Tribune.

Philadelphia, Oct. 26. - Welsh Strawbridge, a well known clubman, was injured yesterday by a fall from his horse at the Whitemarsh Club. He was rendered unconscious by the accident. Mr. Strawbridge is a member of the Philadelphia Cricket and Radnor Hunt clubs.

The Library of Congress has made historic newspapers dating from 1836-1920 available through its Chronicling America series.

A Wedding at Graeme Park: Jessica & Wayne

We wrapped up wedding season here at Graeme Park with the wedding of Jessica and Wayne. They had a beautiful sunny, although slightly windy, October afternoon to say their vows with the historic Keith House and a beautiful white rose bedecked garden arch (supplied by them) as their backdrop. 

After the ceremony their guests retired to the Open Aire Affairs wedding tent on the property for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres catered by Centre County Caterers of State College, Pennsylvania. After passing the initialed and "I do" pumpkins on the way into the tent, they picked up their place cards from an antique table at the entrance.

Hors d'oeuvres were served along with cocktails at one end of the large tent, leaving plenty of space for seating for their 125 guests at the other end.

The dinner tables were all set with neutral linens and vintage mismatched china and glassware and the buffet had mismatched plates as well to load up with roast turkey, mashed potatoes, several green salads, vegetables, and more.

The head table got an extra punch of color with cranberry colored napkins and glassware.

The cranberry theme was reflected in the centerpieces, which were all unique vessels filled with water, cranberries and floating candles; scattered tea light completed the tables and provided a nice glow throughout the evening. 

The table numbers were printed on framed sheet music, as the groom is a musician. In fact his band played throughout the reception.

The cake and a huge variety of pies were provided by Lochel's Bakery of Hatboro.

When the band finished playing or took a break, a DJ cranked up the tunes and turned on the lights and almost all of the guests were up and dancing.

Congratulations Jessica and Wayne and thanks for choosing Graeme Park to start your life together.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Wedding at Graeme Park: Maggie & Tom

Maggie and Tom had a traditional church wedding, then invited guests back to Graeme Park for cocktails, dinner and dancing in the Open Aire Affairs tent on the property. The party started with drinks and hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, catered by Blue Monkey Catering of Feasterville, in the tented barn yard.

The tent was set with brown and orange linens, with lace toppers on the tables. Centerpieces were roses, Gerber daisies, and other seasonal flowers in reds, oranges, and yellows set on unique wooden boards. Blue Monkey had incorporated various antique elements onto the buffet tables and bars, along with baskets, flowers, and seasonal pumpkins and gourds. 

The menu was a homey selection of braised short ribs, roasted turkey, mushroom risotto, green salad, haricots vert, and best of all a potato bar with mashed potatoes and pureed sweet potatoes served up in a martini glass with a selection of help-yourself toppings.

Somehow I managed to miss getting a picture of the cakes, which were baked by Zake's Cafe of Fort Washington. There was a delicious choice of lemon or mocha with tons of cream filling between the layers of cake. In keeping with the season, the figures on top were none other than Jack Skellington and Sally.

Congratulations Maggie and Tom and best wishes for the future. Thank you for celebrating at Graeme Park.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Wedding at Graeme Park: Cassie & Brian

Brian and Cassie had a lovely October afternoon to say their vows on the ramp to the barn. They did without all of the pomp and circumstance of a formal processional and instead just gathered friends and family around while they stood up on the hill and got married.

Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres were served in the tent, and Birchtree Catering, who focus on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and have a green philosophy, put out a gorgeous spread of delicious nibbles for guests to enjoy.

The tables were all set with sustainable bamboo flatware, mismatched, printed napkins in seasonal colors and the bar, appetizer and gift tables all had matching pennant banners. In lieu of flowers, centerpieces were a gathering of lanterns and candles.

The seating chart, bar menu and party favors were identified in custom chalkboard graphics, and guests were given a mug featuring a silhouette profile of the couple.

After a meal of homey comfort foods, including roasted chicken, pork roll, mixed vegetables, potato fritters and mac and cheese, guests were treated to a dessert buffet. Not only was everything cutely styled on hollowed out logs and tiered trees made from slices of logs, but the mother of the bride made a lot of the homemade goodies, including the adorable cupcakes. 



And  because you can never have too many pictures of desserts, here are a few more.

Congratulations Cassie and Brian! Thanks for celebrating at Graeme Park and best wishes for a long and happy future.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...