Well, winter is here. Time to figure out how to occupy ourselves indoors! Pick up that novel you’ve dogeared, dust off the treadmill or finally learn a new craft. Take a leaf out of a Victorian-era woman’s book and take up embroidery or needlepoint. The “Cult of Domesticity”, first named and identified in the early part of the century, was solidly entrenched by late 19th century, especially in rural environments. The beliefs embodied in this gave women a central, if outwardly passive, role in the family. Women’s role, it stated, was as wife and mother, keeper of the household, guardian of the moral purity of all who lived therein. The home was to be a haven of comfort and quiet, sheltered from the harsh realities of the working world and protected against alcohol, poverty and the decay of urban living. Women’s leisure activities included in large part traditional pastimes such as reading, embroidery, music, and traditional handicrafts.
This month’s Collections Curiosity, comes to us from Miss Julia Baulrofer of Alsace Lorraine. She married Lucas Westermeyer of Wittenberg, Germany. Their son, Henry Lucas Westermeyer, came to America and settled in Bethlehem, PA. Early catalog records indicate he was a great musician and among his students were such musical greats as John Philip Sousa, Arthur Prior and Florence Hoffmann. Though no evidence has been found yet, it was noted that each year a concert is given in Bethlehem in honor of Henry Lucas Westermeyer.
This particular item, dated 1814, is a beaded needlepoint on linen and bordered with yellow and black beads with a center motif of flowers and leaves. Beaded lettering in the center reads “Par Re Couinois Sance” which means “For Remembrance” in French. This piece would have originally been a drawstring bag but the back has been cut off and the drawstring was removed. It was donated to the museum by descendants of Westermeyer on the occasion of the Sesquicentennial of 1968.
Yet another example of a beautifully crafted piece dating back to the early 19th century with a neat story but no proof to be found to substantiate the claim! Hopefully someday we can find the answers. Until then, back into the flat files it goes to await conservation.
Remember to stay tuned every month for the newest installment of Collections Curiosities!