“Autumn” by John Collet, printed by Carington Bowles in 1779. From the collection of the Lewis Walpole Library.
By Educational Programs Coordinator Tara Owens
This week’s picture is an 18th-century depiction of autumn. It feels appropriate as we have been feeling the beginnings of fall. The temperature has cooled off and this week has been filled with absolutely beautiful weather, and I couldn’t be happier. I am so excited for fall and all it brings: the wonderful weather, the changing of the leaves, and of course, all the holidays that fall (pun not intentional) within this season.
For some unknown reason, fall is perhaps my favorite season. Every year about this time, a comforting sense of nostalgia sets in as I remember fall as a child. Granted I grew up in Texas, so there was no changing of the leaves, but I vicariously enjoyed the changing of the season through movies, television, and photographs. Even though I didn’t live this particular aspect of fall, it is a prominent image in my memory and brings with it the anticipation of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Both are holidays I thoroughly enjoyed as a child, and still do to this very day. I loved deciding what I would be for Halloween and my elementary school had the best carnival. There was the soda ring toss, the cake walk, the haunted house, and other activities which I enjoyed while wearing that year’s costume. Once Halloween passed, it was only a matter of weeks until Thanksgiving. Each year my family and I visited my grandmother outside of Houston and my absolute favorite vegetables were served: green beans and mashed potatoes. And of course, there was the annual viewing of college football games between rival teams. In Texas, it was the University of Texas Longhorns versus the Texas A&M Aggies. Sadly, this will no longer be, as Texas A&M has switched athletic conferences. While things have changed since I was a child, as should be expected, I still experience a sense of innocence and peace when I think about the arrival of fall.
By Collections Assistant Brianna Arnold
Over the past few months I have been tasked with compiling an inventory of the collection here at the Hammond-Harwood House. This has consisted of me scouring the house searching for objects and listing where I have found them. While on my latest hunt for a few hard-to-find pieces I came across a sword hidden the linen press in the upper passage of the house. I was instantly intrigued with the sword and decided to do some sleuthing to find out more about the piece.
The sword, in situ in the linen press
Starting with its collection file, I found that this sword was referred to as a rapier dating from 1760-1770 and was “used for slashing and thrusting.” The file also stated that the sword was of either French or Northern German origins, but other than that it was a mystery. So where did the sword come from and when was it made? Wanting to try to answer these questions, I contacted an acquaintance who is somewhat of a sword expert. His response to the photos I sent him was quite surprising. His opinion is that the sword is a small sword (not a rapier), which was more popular with gentlemen in the later half of the 18th century, but that the dimensions of the sword are off. If the sword is in fact a small sword the blade is a bit too long. He also doubts that all the pieces of the handle are original, thinking instead that they were added later. Although he only saw photographs of the sword, he is fairly certain that it is not from the late 1700’s but rather a more modern (and by modern I mean the last 100 years) decorative reproduction.
So it would seem that I uncovered a fake! Not so fast, though, because the sword was included in a Sotheby’s inventory of our collection a few years ago and was labeled as a “French Brass-Handled Steel Rapier” dating from the late 1700’s. So is it a genuine 18th century sword, or a more modern reproduction? At this point, we are not sure, but would love to hear more opinions.
Hats from Dames a la Mode, 1778
Although it may not seem like it in today’s 90 degree heat, summer has come to an end. Labor Day has passed, the kids are back in school, and we’re already planning the Christmas decorating at Hammond-Harwood House. However, I think we should all honor the end of summer one last time by donning a fabulous hat like those in this French fashion print from 1778. I want the straw hat with the striped pouf on the upper left. Which one will you be sporting this weekend?