Archive for December, 2011

Last weekend, I was talking with some patrons about the Heurich Mansion in Washington, DC. Built by Christian Heurich in 1892-1894, it is, according to the Heurich Mansion’s website “one of the most intact Victorian houses in the country, and a Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.”  Christian Heurich was also a German immigrant and local brewer, which lead to a discussion about a brewery which operated in Harper’s Ferry before prohibition.

James McGraw was a local hardware merchant who lived in a building on the corner of Shenandoah and Market streets, which was the old master armorers’ house. He added 30 rooms.  There was a privy in the SE corner through the first decade of the 1900s.  Several artifacts were recovered from the privy including a porcelain holy water container, a crucifix, glass beads, and a white clay pipe with “home rule” stamped on it. The “home rule” stamp indicates that there were tenants in the building who were Roman Catholic and ethnic Irish.

After James McGraw’s death in 1893, his son and two daughters opened a large brewery along the Shenandoah River. Several owners operated the brewery until 1914 when prohibition was enacted.  The brewery was converted into a soft drink bottling plant.

See Interdisciplinary Investigations of Domestic Life in Government Block B: Perspectives on Harpers Ferry’s Armory and Commercial District, by Susan E. Winter and Paul A. Shackel, 1993.

Read Full Post »

The New York Ledger 1892 Christmas number’s exterior wrapper depicts a contemporary mother and child encircled by a wreath from which cherubs peep.  The illustration is by Warren B. Davis and Stafford Northcote. On the backside of the wrapper are various quarter page advertisements. One quarter is dedicated to Ayer’s Products (Ayer’s Sarsaparilla and Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral), Chocolat Menier beverage (link in French), Waterbury watches of Connecticut and the Crown Perfumery Co.’s Crab Apple Blossoms perfume.

Which of these companies exist today?

Ayer’s products are no longer in production. The Menier chocolate business was bought by Nestle in 1988.  (Watch Anticosti au temps des Menier, a short film depicting the island of Anticosti at the outlet of the St. Lawrence River in Canada which was purchased by Henri Menier for $125,000.)

Crown Perfumery was ultimately purchased by Clive Christian Perfumery company. Apparently the Crab Apple Blossoms fragrance as well as the other famous Crown Perfumery perfumes are no longer being produced.

The Waterbury watch stopped being made in 1898, however, it was reorganized as the New England Watch company, which was in turn bought by Robert Ingersoll who started producing Ingersoll Waterbury watches. The Ingersoll-Waterbury business manufactured “Mickey Mouse” character electric clocks.  You can download a personal use desktop watch here. Norwegian investors bought the company in 1942 and renamed the U.S. Time Corporation which introduced the Timex watch after World War II.

So, believe it or not, the only business advertised in this 1892 edition that remains to this day operating in the same business line as it did in 1892 is the Waterbury company of the United States, today in its current form as Timex.

The relationship to Harper’s Ferry?

In 1897, Mark Twain wrote the travel book “Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World.” In Chapter IV, he talks about his frustrating experience with the ship’s clock and the reliable Waterbury watch which he had received as a prize.

“In a minor tournament I won the prize, which was a Waterbury watch. I put it in my trunk. In Pretoria, South Africa, nine months afterward, my proper watch broke down and I took the Waterbury out, wound it, set it by the great clock on the Parliament House (8.05), then went back to my room and went to bed, tired from a long railway journey. The parliamentary clock had a peculiarity which I was not aware of at the time-a peculiarity which exists in no other clock, and would not exist in that one if it had been made by a sane person; on the half-hour it strikes the succeeding hour, then strikes the hour again, at the proper time. I lay reading and smoking awhile; then, when I could hold my eyes open no longer and was about to put out the light, the great clock began to boom, and I counted ten. I reached for the Waterbury to see how it was getting along. It was marking 9.30. It seemed rather poor speed for a three dollar watch, but I supposed that the climate was affecting it. I shoved it half an hour ahead; and took to my book and waited to see what would happen. At 10 the great clock struck ten again. I looked – the Waterbury was marking half-past 10. This was too much speed for the money, and it troubled me. I pushed the hands back a half hour, and waited once more; I had to, for I was vexed and restless now, and my sleepiness was gone. By and by the great clock struck 11. The Waterbury was marking 10.30. I pushed it ahead half an hour, with some show of temper. By and by the great clock struck 11 again. The Waterbury showed up 11.30, now, and I beat her brains out against the bedstead. I was sorry next day, when I found out.” See http://www.classicbookshelf.com.

Jules Verne wrote the book “Le Tour de Monde en Quatre-Vingt Jours” or “Around the World in Eighty Days” in 1873. Coincidence?

Mark Twain’s book “Pudd’nhead Wilson” was adapted for television and filmed in Harper’s Ferry in 1984. Mark Twain’s lecture manager was James Redpath who met and wrote about John Brown and was one of the few who remained loyal to Brown after his raid on Harper’s Ferry. Legend has it that Mark Twain stayed at Hill Top House in Harper’s Ferry.

Unfortunately, Jules Verne did not stay at Hill Top House, nor did he visit Harper’s Ferry, but he did refer to Edgar Allen Poe and Baltimore in the book “From the Earth to the Moon” which was about the fictional Gun Club established after the War of the Rebellion. Jules Verne wrote:

“Now when an American has an idea, he directly seeks a second American to share it. If there be three, they elect a president and two secretaries. Given four, they name a keeper of records, and the office is ready for work; five, they convene a general meeting, and the club is fully constituted. So things were managed in Baltimore. The inventor of a new cannon associated himself with the caster and the borer. Thus was formed the nucleus of the ‘Gun Club.’ In a single month after its formation it numbered 1,833 effective members and 30,565 corresponding members.”

How’s that for social networking?

This Christmas Number of the New York Ledger is available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry along with Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens bookmarks and Jules Verne novels .

Read Full Post »

Take a look at these rare Harper’s Ferry postcards. 

The first one has a copyright date of 1911 by W.L. Erwin. In this view, you can see the Island Park bridge.


The next image may be from 1927 because the postmark is August 19, 1927 Luray, Va. and was sent to Walkerton, Ontario, Canada. The sender writes:

Franklin and Mr. Cliwe and myself are on a motor trip, taking in some wonderful signts. Crystal Cave, Pa., Shenandoah Valley, Va., Luray Caverns, Natural Bridge, and then home by way of Eastern Shore.

Anna E. Cliwe

The next two postcards are more recent.

Have you noticed anything? Take a look again at the images. For the most part, the skyline is familiar. If you’ve seen images of Harper’s Ferry before, the train tracks, rivers, lower town are photographic mainstays. But what isn’t there?

Give up?  Look at the first postcard again. Do my eyes deceive me, or is the HILL TOP HOUSE MISSING? Is it hidden by trees? Almost every photograph of the town I have seen from this perspective includes the Hill Top House in the background. I understand that it was burned down in 1912. Does anyone know if that 1912 date is incorrect and that, in fact, Hill Top House was burned down earlier?

What a sad view! 

Come see these and other historic Harper’s Ferry postcards at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

Read Full Post »

I was able to stop by and see the results of the Academy experience on November 13. The Harper’s Ferry National Park Service Living History captured the goings-on in the video below. It was a good time!


Read Full Post »

Gearing up for the festivities this weekend. We have some pretty exciting new work which will go up today (if I can get it together!).  Angelica Temoche’s show is extended through Sunday, so if you haven’t seen her work yet, come on out!

In the meantime, check out the Town’s schedule for the next few weeks.  This weekend should be nice and sunny – even seasonal!

Happy Friday!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: