I Spy With My Little Eye…


Guest blog by Kennedy Pope, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS


Pupils of Mrs. Piatt’s School (PHO-UT-PSC.1.2)

“The utmost attention is paid to the moral culture of the heart and the formation of graceful and elegant manners.” – Catalogue of the School 1837-38

The Utica Female Academy opened in 1837, offering courses such as geography, bookkeeping, and natural philosophy. There were many rules under Principal Miss Jane Kelly. Among the “not allowed,” were expensive clothing and receiving calls from men unless they were certain family friends or relatives. However, the girls didn’t lack in companionship, as many had a suspiciously large number of male “cousins.” The school burned down in March 1865, and didn’t reopen until 1871 due to funding difficulties.


Hopefully the misspelling of the name wasn’t by a student of the school! (1882, PHO-UT-PSC1.1)


By 1875, times were changing. The school became Mrs. Piatt’s Female Seminary, with a new headmaster in charge. Rules were less restricting and the motto “Als Ikh Kan” was adopted (Dutch for “the best I can.”) With no graduation exercises or exams, women were instead encouraged to keep learning throughout their lives. Still, many of the old traditions stayed to keep their reputation, including a daily curtseying ceremony.

Mrs. Piatt personified this blurring line between the traditional and modern. She wore tailored clothes with a “mannish collar and tie,” but made sure her pupils didn’t do the same. At night, she wore soft silks and pearls to demonstrate proper, ladylike apparel.

These images are from dorm rooms at the “Fem Sem,” and shed light on the everyday lives of the students. They’re like the photos in I Spy books, as these girls clearly didn’t hold back when it came to packing for school.


The sign above her door reads “destinies.” Influenced by philosophy class perhaps?

 All the girls have either a guitar or banjo, as music was a major part of the curriculum.


There’s a poster of a soldier hanging beside the bed, the pop star of the times?

Physical exercise requirements included walking and lawn tennis, evidenced by the racquets on their walls.


How many carpets does one room need? 

Every surface is covered in family photos, the only way they had to connect with their families, as contact between the two was highly discouraged.


The small table in the middle is set up for a tea party, but doesn’t allow for many guests

 All of the girls have paper fans hanging up, a somewhat luxurious object showing they were relatively well off, able to afford the school and other niceties.


A lot of patterns happening here

These images are packed with really interesting things, so look closely and see what you can find!

~Kennedy (kpope@colgate.edu)

(Interior photos PHO-UT-PSC.1.3-.7)

1920s Ice Cream Clipart

ice cream, Pride O'Utica, Ice Cream Tray, The Henry Ford, Kaufmann & Strauss, K&S,


Object: Tray, Ice Cream
Description: Tray with woman and two children eating ice cream.  Written around the sides:
Date: 1920-1930
Height: 10.75”
Length: 13.25”
Depth: 1”
Weight: 13/16 lb

ice cream, Pride O'Utica, Ice Cream Tray, The Henry Ford, Kaufmann & Strauss, K&S,



I had only a passing interest in the ice cream tray; my true interest was in finding out more about Pride O’Utica, a local ice cream brand.  But when I Googled, “1920s Ice Cream tray,” imagine my surprise when I found my tray on The Henry Ford’s blog “Past Forward!”   Only it’s not my tray because the words are different.  The Henry Ford’s tray reads, “Allen’s Ice Cream/ NOT A FAD/ ICE CREAM/ IT’S A FOOD.”  Their Tray was created by Kaufmann & Strauss Co., New York based lithographers for Allen’s Ice Cream Co., in Rockford, Illinois.  (Read their entire blogpost here: The “Scoop on American Ice Cream”)

Established in 1890, the New York City firm Kaufmann & Strauss (K&S) manufactured lithographed tin signs and trays.

ice cream, Pride O'Utica, Ice Cream Tray, The Henry Ford, Kaufmann & Strauss, K&S,

Kaufmann & Strauss

Now I know where the trays came from, but why do they share the same image?!  It is best explained by this blog excerpt about Antique Advertising:

The advertising company sales rep carried a binder or book with them that had an extensive selection of “stock” images. (These are known as “salesman sample books” …) These were far less expensive to purchase as there was only a marginal cost for printing your business name and address and/or product on top of the stock image. It’s relatively common to find the identical image on a sign, calendar or tin serving tray that was used by several different businesses.  (http://antiqueauctionforum.com/antique_advertising__phelps_fullerton)

So, ice cream trays in museums and private homes around the country likely share the same image as the ones in the OCHS collection and at The Henry Ford.  1920s clipart!



ice cream, Pride O'Utica, Ice Cream Tray, The Henry Ford, Kaufmann & Strauss, K&S,

When I write for various media outlets, I try to showcase different artifacts but my interest in this object began with research into Ice Cream in Utica for the August issue of Mohawk Valley Living. For the complete story, look for the magazine at these locations: click here !


Hello, Dolly!


Guest blog by Kennedy Pope, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS

doll in chair

1970.55.2 (seated in doll chair c. 1890, 1967.51.1)

Description: “Doll, canvas painted head & body, 18” long.  Dressed in pink cotton dress, buttoned in back, white cotton petticoat.  Made by Isanna Foster before 1850.  She was the first to make canvas dolls & copyrighted them after 1850…”

Height: 18″

Date: Pre-1850


If you’re anything like me, opening a box and seeing this:

"We've been awoken..."

“How dare you disturb us” – the one without eyes

is a nightmare come true.  However, there was a time when these were slightly less terrifying and loved by their owners, so I put my doll prejudice aside to learn more.  I was initially drawn to this doll because of its folk art style (and that it was one of the only ones that couldn’t blink at me when I moved it…).

The doll was donated along with an 1883 photograph of two-year-old Hannah E. Calder holding it.   Notes indicate the doll belonged to the Walcott family, and given the age of the doll compared to that of the photo, perhaps it was passed down to Hannah from her mother, Adelaide Walcott of N.Y. Mills.


hannah calder


With some online sleuthing, I discovered doll-maker “Isanna Foster” in the accession record was likely a misspelling, instead supposed to read “Izannah Walker.”  Walker was known for her innovative cloth dolls and while she didn’t patent her designs until 1873, many think she was producing them as early as 1845. Her dolls were unique because they were intended as playthings, specifically designed as small and durable at a time when most dolls were just for looking at and collecting.  Now they’re also viewed as folk-art in their own right, a kind of mid-19th century children’s portraiture.

no clothes doll

Look at that Barbie-proportioned waist!

Comparing it with known Walker dolls, it has many of the same characteristics, including arm and knee “joints,” a head painted the same color as the limbs, and individually stitched fingers.  I’m obviously no doll-expert, but it seems to be a match.  Given the enthusiasm I saw online for these dolls, this is an exciting find!

~Kennedy (kpope@colgate.edu)

close up

Unlike those paintings where the eyes follow you, this doll never looks directly at you…


(Source:  O’Neill, Edyth, and Dixie Redmond. “Izannah Walker’s Iconic Dolls.” Early American Life, Christmas 2011.  Accessed July 8, 2014. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1XmvypimSNNdHMteUliUGFwMUU/edit?pli=1.)


Job Title: Aeronaut

Career, Aeronaut, H D Squires, Prospect NY, hot air balloon, balloonist

Prof. H. Squires – Ballon
Albion, N.Y., July 4th, 1868


Object: Photograph
Description: Photograph on cardboard backing.  Image of a hot air balloon being filled in the middle of a large crowd.
Date: July 4, 1868

Some job titles are cooler than others.  Yeah, being president would be great, but astronaut sounds way more exciting.  I had never heard of aeronaut, but I found it intriguing when I accidentally discovered the file labeled: “H. D. Squires, Aeronaut.”

Sometimes referred to as a balloonist, Herman D. Squires, of Prospect, NY, dedicated his life to creating and ascending into the sky in a hot air balloon.  He traveled New York State and the Northeast showing off his contraption at town festivities and anniversaries.  It was exhilarating stuff in the mid to late 1800s, as evidenced by this description of one of his ascensions: click here.


Career, Aeronaut, H D Squires, Prospect NY, hot air balloon, balloonist

“The first anniversary of the Thousand Islands House in Alexandria Bay was marked by a celebration including a balloon ascension by H. D. [Squires], ‘practical aeronaut, Utica’ on July 24, 1873.”

Career, Aeronaut, H D Squires, Prospect NY, hot air balloon, balloonist

“A grand balloon Ascension by Prof. H. D. Squires, the world-renowned aeronaut.”

The Aeronaut has an additional intriguing local connection.  “Why prospect?… ‘Prospect limestone’ was very famous for its many building uses. But for this story limestone was a vital ingredient in purifying hydrogen for use in inflating balloons. It was a lengthy and expensive process in which there was combined a ton of oil of vitiriol, a ton of iron shavings, 30 tons of water and sufficient lime to purify the gas.” For more information on local balloonists, click here.

Aeronaut Director of Collections & Outreach

Career, Aeronaut, H D Squires, Prospect NY, hot air balloon, balloonist

“The writer states that he is determined to make an ascension in this county, to satisfy the people that he understands his business, and is not the pretender many put him down as being.”