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Lions and Tigers and Bears – oh, my!

 

Dr. Figgat and Telegraph Office Building, Christiansburg, Va., 1903 (D. D. Lester Collection)

A poster in a shop window is captured in a glass plate negative from the museum’s collection. It is a simple building, which stood on East Main Street, across the street from the present-day Police Department building. The building housed the office of Dr. William Figgat and the telegraph office. The poster itself allows us to date the photograph because it advertises Wallace’s Show coming to Christiansburg on Saturday, October 3. A check of historic calendars at www.timeanddate.com shows that October 3 fell on a Saturday in the year 1903.

            Even more interesting is the show itself. The poster touts “Wallace Show with Herr Becker’s Troupe of Performing Animals.” Benjamin Wallace, a livery stable owner from Peru, Indiana created the show in 1884. He purchased the Carl Hagenbeck Circus in 1907 to form the Hagenbeck-Wallace show; it became the second largest circus in the country at its peak.

Historian Rodney A. Huey, Ph.D , writes in “An Abbreviated History of The Circus in America” that the 1900-1920 period was the golden age of the American circus with nearly 100 circuses traveling in the United States by 1903. According to Huey, the circus was “indelibly fixed in everyday life” even changing our vocabulary to include phrases such as “hold your horses” (a warning to local horsemen when the circus elephants paraded through town) and “get the show on the road” (a directive shouted at roustabouts to break down the show and move to the next town).

Onlookers view an act from Wallace Show on the town square in Christiansburg, Oct. 11, 1904. (D. D. Lester Collection)

Wallace Show parade in town square, Christiansburg, Va., Oct. 11, 1904. (D. D. Lester Collection)

            Circus show days were local holidays, when stores and schools closed and everyone came to town to witness the spectacle. That this happened in Christiansburg is vouched for by Arthur Sullivan in a letter to his sister on July 25th, 1869. His letter, a part of the museum’s collection reads: “we had a big Show and to tell the truth about it nearly everybody in town went to see the animals and did not get away until the Circus broke up.” The excitement surrounding the circus was still strong in 1904, when two additional glass plate negatives record another visit by Wallace’s Show, this time on October 11 – 13. Crowds line the streets in the photographs watching the show’s wagon parade. In another image, a circle of viewers surround an act, obscuring it from the camera.

Wallace Shows Poster (courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

            All of the photographs in the museum’s extensive collection record a single moment in time, but by looking at them closely we can link them together, hopefully with written documents, to understand more about everyday life during our history.

By: Sherry Joines Wyatt, Curator

Sources:www.circusfederation.org/uploads/circus_culture/about/america-huey.pdf
Wikipedia
Wikipedia Commons

 

A Quilt and Its Many Connections

Research often leads you in directions you never considered.  An unfinished quilt top in the Pine Burr pattern, now on exhibit at the museum, is intriguing because it is a friendship quilt made by at least twelve women whose names or initials are on the quilt top. A color guide for historic fabrics provided an approximate late-nineteenth century date. To learn something about the women who made the quilt top, we started with the genealogy of the Stanger-Silvers family, who donated the quilt and other items in 1988. Women whose first and last names were on the quilt were also researched. We found that many of the women had lived in the Belmont community of Montgomery County. 

Pine Burr pattern friendship quilt top made in Belmont Community circa 1890. (gift of Bob and Yvonne Silvers)

Marriage records were the logical place to find out more. The marriage dates of the women could lead to a more accurate quilt date, since friendship quilts were often done in honor of a marriage. In fact, even more information came to light! Two of the women were married by the same minister: Reverend D. Bittle Groseclose. This was a new idea – what if the women were not only neighbors or relatives, but also attended the same church.

 

Three women believed to be connected to the quilt were married in 1890, 1892, and 1896 by Rev. Groseclose. Rev. Groseclose served as chaplain at Virginia Polytechnic Institute from 1897-1902 and organized New St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in the Glade community of Montgomery County in 1903 shortly before he moved to South Carolina. A search of all the marriage records for 1889-1903 revealed that Rev. Groseclose had married 98 couples. These couples ran the social gamut including African Americans and whites, miners and farmers, railroad wo

 

rkers and physicians. An additional twelve couples related to the quilt makers were married by Rev. Groseclose. In the end, the study of Rev. Groseclose created a richer history of the lives of these women.

Although there are still many questions and suppositions, we believe the quilt top was made for Amanda Linkous (1864-1906), probably upon her marriage to Sylvester Stanger (1866-1942) in 1890. The identified quilt makers are thought to include: Mattie Hawley, who may have been the daughter of James and Catherine Hawley; Mary Keister, who may have been the daughter of James Ballard and Nancy Hawley Keister; Hattie B. Long who is thought to have been the daughter of William and Rebecca Long; and Luvenie (or Louvenia) Sheppard who was married to James C. Stanger in 1896 by Rev. Groseclose. The fifth name on the quilt top is partially illegible: “ ___ Linkes” [sic, Linkous]. Are you able to identify this Miss Linkous?

Join us to see the Pine Burr quilt top and many other quilts during the museum’s exhibit: A Pieced History: Quilts in Montgomery County.