Monthly Archives: April 2011

Friday Photo: Feeling Blue

Today’s photo is one I stumbled upon on the Internet. I wanted to see what photographs of the House were out there, so I went to Flickr and put in “Hammond-Harwood House” as my search term. When the results popped up, this gem was about halfway down the page:

Thanks to the Smithsonian, we have another early photograph of the House, this time in lovely blue tones. The photograph is a form called a cyanotype and dates to 1890. The process for making cyanotypes was developed by Sir John Hershel in 1842, and was one of the earliest forms of photography. According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, to make a cyanotyope “a sheet of paper was brushed with iron salt solutions and dried in the dark. The object to be reproduced – a plant specimen, a drawing or a negative – was then placed on the sheet in direct sunlight. After about 15 minutes a white impression of the subject formed on a blue background. The paper was then washed in water where oxidation produced the brilliant blue – or cyan – that gave the process its name.”

The cyanotype of Hammond-Harwood House was made by Thomas Smillie (1843-1917), who eventually became the head of the Smithsonian’s photography lab. To view the photo online, click here to go to its Flickr page. Or if you want to see the real thing, pay a visit to the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

An additional bit of trivia: the Director of Hammond-Harwood House, Carter Lively, wondered why there were no streetcar tracks in the late 19th and early 20th century photographs of the House. Apparently, streetcar tracks were not installed in Annapolis until 1909. One of the streetcar routes ran down King George Street, next to the Hammond-Harwood House, and the tracks are still there, buried under the modern pavement.

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Collections Highlights: Ann Proctor’s Doll

It is nearly impossible to choose favorites from Hammond-Harwood House’s extensive collection of objects because all of them are beautiful, have a story to tell, or, in many cases, are both attractive and expressive. One of the items in that last category is this doll:

She is a Queen Anne style doll and dates to about 1785. She may have been made in England, starting as a block of wood and slowly taking shape as a carver turned the block on a lathe. It is easy to see why six-year-old Ann Proctor would have been attached to her, perhaps so attached that she insisted her doll be included in this portrait of her:

Ann was painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1789 and, as you can see, Peale took a bit of artistic license with the portrait. The doll is much larger in real life, but perhaps Peale thought it wise to focus on the little girl instead of her toy. Peale may have been going through a phase of painting dolls; he painted at least two other portraits that included little girls’ dolls in the years 1788 and 1789, including this one of Peggy Sanderson Hughes and her daughter:

This may be indicative of the shift in thinking about childhood going on in the mid to late 18th century. Rather than just being thought of as little adults, children were seen as being in their own distinctive phase of life, one that required the care and supervision of their parents to ensure that they grew up properly. Toys kept children amused and also trained them for the roles they would fill later in life, which for girls was that of a wife and mother. The doll can also be seen as indicative of a high social status, as only wealthier families would have been able to afford such a toy.

On a side note, we also have a portrait of Ann’s older sister Mary at Hammond-Harwood House. As grown-ups, the Proctor sisters actually married the same man. Mary married John Ensor Stansbury in 1796 and had one daughter. She died in 1800 and John married Ann two years later; they had four children together. Mary, Ann, and John are buried at Taylor’s Chapel in Baltimore, MD.

Mary Proctor, Painted by Charles Peale Polk

For examples of two Queen Anne style dolls in the collection of The Strong Museum, click here and here.

Image of Peggy Hughes from Schwarz Gallery.

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Friday Photo

Every Friday, I will upload an interesting or aesthetically pleasing picture of Hammond-Harwood House, an object in the collection, or anything else I find relevant and appealing. This week’s feature is a photograph of the house taken in 1905. You can see that not too much has changed, but there are a few small differences. For example, the doors are a different color and the roof is metal. Spot anything else? Let me know in the comments!


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Hammond-Harwood Myths

One of the stories surrounding the building of the Hammond-Harwood House in 1774 suggests that its original owner, Matthias Hammond, wanted such a large house because he was engaged to be married. But, the story has it, he spent too much time thinking about the design of his house and not enough wooing his fiancée, so she called off the wedding and ran away with another man.

Until yesterday, I was mystified as to the origins of this story. Matthias Hammond never married and there is no documentary evidence to suggest that he was ever engaged. Thanks to two sources I happened to be consulting for other reasons, I now know the answer! Annapolis historian Jean Russo wrote a monograph about Hammond in 1992, and in it says that “there does exist correspondence describing a similar episode in the life of a different member of the family” and that “the incongruity of a bachelor building such a large and elegant home led to the attachment of the story of the broken Hammond engagement to Mathias Hammond as a way of explaining that incongruity.”

The book John Shaw: Cabinetmaker of Annapolis provides the name of the Hammond family member who was actually jilted, and manages to bust another Hammond-Harwood House myth at the same time. That myth is that James Nourse rented Hammond-Harwood House for a time in the 18th century.  Actually, Nourse rented Acton, the home belonging to Philip Hammond. So, when he wrote in his diary that Hammond’s fiancée ran away with another man while Hammond was buying furniture in Philadelphia, he was talking about Philip, NOT Matthias.

I don’t know if it’s possible to counteract two hundred years of Annapolis gossip, but I’m sure Matthias Hammond would feel better knowing that the truth is out there!


Jean Russo, “Mathias Hammond: 1748-1786.” The Hammond-Harwood House Association, 1992.

William Voss Elder III and Lu Bartlett, John Shaw Cabinetmaker of Annapolis. Baltimore: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1983.

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Do You Have What It Takes?

Calling all charismatic, historically inclined people looking for something to do with their free time! Hammond-Harwood House will be holding training for new docents soon. The House is open six days a week from 12 pm – 5 pm, and we depend on our docents to introduce visitors to the rich history of the House and the wealth of objects in our collection. They also have the option to work with the schoolchildren who come to the House on field trips, dressing the children in colonial clothing and facilitating hands-on activities related to art and architecture.

Our docents are an eclectic, knowledgeable, and welcoming group of people. Janet Williman, who has been a docent here for over twelve years, says that there is an “inclusive sense of community here” and that the people who work here “care about each other.” Janet actually “fell in love with this house in 4th grade,” when her teacher brought her class here on a field trip, and many of our docents seem to have a similar special connection to the House. All of them have diverse interests in historical topics including architecture, decorative arts, and portraiture, and we encourage them to share their expertise with visitors.

Becoming a Hammond-Harwood House docent gives you the satisfaction of educating the public, as well as some more tangible rewards. Docents attend staff field trips, lectures, and social gatherings, and receive a discount in the Museum Store. If any of this sounds appealing to you, please e-mail me at for more information.

Hammond-Harwood House Docents on a field trip at Blandfield, an 18th century Palladian home in Virginia

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What We Found…

Hammond-Harwood House is currently in the midst of Phase II of a four-phase roof restoration process. The roof structure on the southwest wing is being reinforced and the slate will be replaced. Pictures and up-to-the-minute updates on the progress of the project can be found on our Facebook page,

When the cornice on the northeast side of the wing was removed last week, the roofers found several items stashed inside it. The most intriguing were a shoe and buckle that may date to the original construction of the house in 1774. As you can see in the picture below, the shoe currently consists of a leather sole with bits of the outer leather and inner linen layers of the shoe still attached. The buckle apparently broke in half at some point, so we have a complete inner lache but only half of the outer rectangle. Staff, docents, and roofers all came up with their own theories on just how a shoe could have ended up sealed in a cornice, but our speculation ended when an astute trustee alerted us to an old custom of concealing shoes inside a home during construction or renovation. These shoes are called, appropriately, “concealment shoes,” and the practice was so common in Britain that the Northampton Museum has a concealed shoe registry.

It’s believed that people as far back as the 14th century thought that concealed shoes would ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. They are often found near chimneys, perhaps because evil spirits would enter through the highest point of the house, as well as near other access points like doors and windows. The shoes are usually well-worn, and are more likely to have belonged to children or women than men. Our shoe seems to fit these descriptions: it was found in the roof, definitely looks to have been worn, and wouldn’t have been longer than about eight inches. The shoe and buckle will be added to our permanent collection so that we can preserve and share this story, and we may just ask our Executive Director to seal one of his shoes in the roof to ensure that Hammond-Harwood House will have good luck for years to come.

More Information on Concealment Shoes

An article by June Swann, formerly of the Northampton Museum:

Six 18th century shoes were found in the wall of Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, Massachusetts:

A writer for the Toronto Star found a 20th century shoe in her wall:

A 19th century shoe found in a wall at Augusta State University:


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Welcome to the brand new blog of the Hammond-Harwood House, a historic house museum located in Annapolis, Maryland. The Hammond-Harwood House staff will use this space to explore the House’s rich history, provide an in-depth look at ongoing restoration efforts, showcase exemplary items from our collection, and alert you to upcoming special events. Please feel free to suggest topics for future posts, ask questions, and share your own knowledge of 18th century history.

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