Key to the Past

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR


Object: Key
Description: Brass skeleton key with attached tag.  Tag reads, “Please Return to Bagg’s Hotel, Utica, NY”
Date: pre1932
Height: (Key) 1″ (tag) 2″
Length: (Key) 2 7/8″ (tag) 3 1/2″

Last November, I wrote my first blogpost about  a curious box I found in the collection room with the simple label, “cannonballs.”  Similarly, I recently came across a box labeled keys.

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

If Carried Away
Return Unsealed
We Guarantee Postage

I hesitantly opened it, fearing a box full of fascinating but anonymous keys, but I was pleasantly surprised by the labels accompanying the keys and including several noted Utica hostelries: Hotel Utica, the Butterfield House, and Baggs Hotel.


Baggs Hotel (Library of Congress Photo)

In 1980, the Oneida Chapter, NSDAR donated the Bagg’s Hotel room 59 key (said to be for the bridal suite) to OCHS.  According to the accession paperwork, “these keys were in an envelope with the notation on outside, ‘rec’d from UPD/ 6-29-73…’ apparently having been recovered from a burglary and theft of DAR items from Baggs Square Memorial Building.”  For more information about Bagg’s Hotel, click here or here.

Whether the trembling hands of nervous newlyweds did or did not use this key to unlock their wedding chamber is unknown, but Bagg’s hotel registers in the OCHS collection do tell us some of the people who stayed in room 59.

In 1868:
March 6th            C. H. Whieler, Boston, MA
March 17th         Col. L. Smith, Buffalo, NY
April 29th             P. J. Kennedy, Bradford, PA
May 16th               George N. Crouse, Utica, NY

In 1914 (100 years ago)
September 22nd       F. J. Molhem & Wife, Troy, NY
October 8th                Mr. & Mrs. H. Barnard, Rochester, NY
October 14th              William West & Wife, New York

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

On back of postcard: “Dear Sister,
Mamie is finding fault with the butter we get here. I wish you would send some as soon as possible and while you’re at it, you might answer one or two of my letters.”

Better stop here…this key (like all of the other artifacts I have shared with you on this blog) has unlocked many stories about local landmarks and people, some still here, some almost forgotten except for the rediscovery of relics and works of art hidden away on the shelves, behind the cupboards, in the drawers, and around the corner.

Thanks for reading!


key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

A key to the City, a key to the Past
A key to my future, for this is my last


The Mysteries of the Mug

Butterfield, Butterfield House, E.V. Haughwout, New York City


Object: mug
Description: Silver-plate mug, engraved on body, “Butterfield House,” stamped on bottom, “E.V. HAUGHWOUT/ NEW YORK.”
Height: 3 ¾”
Diameter: 3 9/16”
Weight: 0.75 lbs

What does a historical object tell us?

Butterfield House, Butterfield, E.V. Haughwout

Not-so-mysterious-looking Mug

Let’s look at this mug. It is a silvery color, but the rim, the band toward the bottom, the stamped writing, and parts of the handle are golden.  While it’s possible that some was meant as decoration, the gold color on the handle is more likely a sign of wear.  This mug was silver-plated (a process that made it look like a silver mug, but cost significantly less); However, after too much cleaning or wear, the silver plate is partially rubbed off!

E.V. Haughwout, New York City, Butterfield House, Mug

Maker’s Mark

What other clues does the mug offer?  A stamp on the bottom reads, “E.V. Haughwout/New York,” which suggests the mug was made by the E.V. Haughwout company in New York City, seller of upscale items such as china, crystal, and silver.  Built to match the loveliness of the items for sale inside, the E. V. Haughwout & Company was the first building with a safe passenger elevator and also holds the distinction of being one of New York City’s architecturally most important cast-iron buildings.  To see images of the building, click here.  Our little mug originated in the same building where Mary Todd Lincoln shopped for her White House service.  (For more information, click here .)

Butterfield House, E.V. Haughwout, New York City, mug

In Elegant Script, Butterfield House

Why was this fancy New York City mug in Utica?  For this answer, we can look at the other stamp on the mug,  in fancy script opposite the handle, “Butterfield House.”  John Butterfield built Utica’s largest hotel, the Butterfield House, which opened in 1869 on the corner of Genesee St. and Deveruex St.  The elegant hotel hosted many important people as they passed through Utica, including a reception for President Cleveland in 1887.  It is fitting that a fancy hotel would have nice New York City silver (or silver-plated) mugs.  Read more about the Butterfield House here and see another picture here.

One more dot to connect – and one thing that this mug can’t tell us.  How did it get from the Butterfield House to the Oneida County Historical Society?  In 1985, Mrs. Martha Patrick Huxley, a former Utica resident, art teacher, and artist, left the mug to the Society in her will.  Where Mrs. Huxley got the mug from is a mystery left to further research!

Martha P. Huxley, Will, Butterfield House, Mug, E.V. Haughwout

excerpt from Mrs. Huxley’s will, 1985


Butterfield House, Butterfield Hotel, Utica NY, Utica

Utica’s “it” place for the well-to-do, a mere 140 years ago