Category Archives: From the Intern Desk

Secret Gardens

SGT 08 (3)It’s that time of year again! This weekend is our annual Secret Garden Tour from noon to 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Attendees will be able to tour 13 beautifully landscaped gardens within the heart of Annapolis’ historic downtown that are otherwise closed to the public. The tour this year features such historic gems as the Chase-Lloyd House, the Peggy Stewart House, and, of course, the Hammond-Harwood House. You don’t need to be an avid gardener to enjoy the sights and smells of these wonderfully maintained urban oases. Whether large or small, roses or hydrangeas, these gardens promise to be a special treat.

Tickets are still available. You can purchase them for the advance price of $25 by calling 410-263-4683 or by visiting our website. Please note that advance tickets end today, Friday, May 31 at 4pm. Tickets will be available at the Hammond-Harwood House (19 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401) on Saturday and Sunday for $30. We hope you come smell the roses!

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A New Look

By Tara Owens

The Hammond-Harwood House opens for the season this Saturday, April 6 at 12pm.  In preparation for opening day, my fellow intern Brianna Arnold and I rotated the objects in the exhibit gallery.  The overall goal of this redesign was to provide a better introduction to the House for visitors and give them a glimpse of what they will encounter on the tour.  After many hours scouring our collections, three themes emerged: occupants of the Hammond-Harwood House, highlights from the collection, and architecture. One section of the gallery focuses on the history of the occupants of the House with examples of family crests, a visual timeline of the owners, and items owned by the last occupants, Hester and Lucy Harwood. This will help visitors to understand the historical timeline of the House and make the information presented in the tour more relatable. Highlights from the collections present visitors with examples of the decorative and fine arts they will encounter within the House. The architecture section introduces the visitor to one of the key elements that makes the House historically significant. The Hammond-Harwood House is one of the best examples of American colonial architecture and the new exhibit gallery offers information on the House’s architectural details and history. We hope the new exhibit gallery will enhance your experience at the Hammond-Harwood House.  So, starting this Saturday, we hope to see you there!

A photograph of Hester Harwood as a young girl, now on display in the exhibit gallery

A photograph of Hester Harwood as a young girl, now on display in the exhibit gallery

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Polishing Things Up

By Tara Owens

This Monday the Hammond-Harwood House hosted the event “Collector’s Corner Workshop: Silver Cleaning & Care.” Cohosted by our very own Allison Titman and the wonderful Samantha Dorsey from The City of Bowie Museums, the event welcomed other museum professionals and interested members of the community. The workshop discussed the differences between sheet, raised, and cast silver, what tarnish is and how to remove it, and the best methods of storing and displaying silver pieces. After the discussion, everyone got down to business and tried their hand at polishing some silver. Everyone put on their nitrile gloves and dipped their cotton balls into a mixture of calcium bicarbonate and distilled water. The results were quite astounding – pieces that originally looked dark brown or almost black transformed into a shiny silver. Interns Brianna Arnold and Tara Owens spent the next couple of days putting their newly acquired skills to work polishing various pieces of the Hammond-Harwood House silver collections.

This workshop was just the beginning. Planning for additional Collector’s Corner Workshops are underway. Topics to be discussed include furniture and textiles. Stay tuned for additional information regarding the dates and locations of future workshops, and please let us know if there is a topic of interest you would like to have included in an upcoming workshop. We are always open to suggestions.

Polishing Silver


Filed under Collections, Friday Photo, From the Intern Desk

The Other Hammond House

By Educational Program Coordinator Tara Owens

Occasionally, the Hammond-Harwood House becomes confused with another Hammond house in Maryland, the Benson-Hammond House. It is easy to see why this happens, as both have hyphenated names containing the surname Hammond. However, these are two distinct houses in different locations that happen to be linked together by a name.

The Hammond-Harwood House was constructed for Matthias Hammond (1748-1786), a wealthy landowner who owned several tobacco plantations and served in the Maryland legislature. In 1774, Matthias hired joiner and architect William Buckland to erect an Anglo-Palladian brick mansion in downtown Annapolis. Buckland embraced classical design elements reminiscent of ancient Greece and Rome, which can be seen in details throughout the house. The pediment with its denticular molding and the front door encased with Ionic columns harken back to the great buildings of that classical era. The House consists of a five-part main block with wings on either side connected by hyphens, and its design has remained unaltered since its original construction. The Hammond-Harwood House was designed to be a place that made left an impression, a place that symbolized the wealth and status of its owner.

The Benson-Hammond House in Linthicum, Maryland

The Benson-Hammond House in Linthicum, Maryland

The Benson-Hammond House, on the other hand, is a simpler home. Located in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, not far from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, it is a 19th-century farmhouse. Between 1809 and 1815 Thomas Benson acquired three tracts of land and, according to family tradition, constructed a log cabin. Eventually, circa 1820 or 1830, the Bensons built a two-story brick farmhouse. Sometime after the Civil War, the house was lengthened and a half-story was added. This addition was done in the architectural style known as Greek Revival. By 1854, Thomas had conveyed ownership of the house and land to his son Joseph. Joseph died in 1882 and indicated in his will that the house should be sold. In 1887, John T. and Rezin H. Hammond purchased the house for $13,600.

So, how exactly is Matthias Hammond connected to John T. and Rezin H. Hammond? Well, that is a great question, and one that took some digging into genealogical records to answer. Bear with me as I try my best to connect the dots with as little confusion as possible. Rezin Howard Hammond is Matthias Hammond’s great-great-great nephew. Matthias had a brother named Rezin, who had a son named Andrew, who had a son named Rezin, who had a son named John Thomas, who is the father of Rezin Howard Hammond and the “John T.” referred to in the previous paragraph. So, the two Hammond houses are connected, but not as directly as confused visitors often think.

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Filed under Architecture, From the Intern Desk, Hammond, History

Parties with Punch

By Educational Programs Coordinator Tara Owens

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, and no party would be complete without punch. This party staple is more than just a mere thirst quencher. In fact, punch has a rather interesting history. The exact origin of punch is debatable, but the most popular theory is that 16th-century British soldiers discovered the drink while in India. The word punch is said to derive from the Hindi word ‘paanstch’ meaning ‘five,’ implying an alcoholic concoction made from five key elements – Sweet, Sour, Alcohol, Water, and Spice. Punch could have also originated as the shortened version of the word “puncheon,” which refers to a wooden cask that holds 70 to 80 gallons.

Another take on the origins of punch dates back to the Anglo-Saxons of early Germany who would give a toast of “waes haeil,” literally meaning “be healthy,” while drinking a heavily spiced mead or ale punch. This tradition, in conjunction with the Pagan festival of Wassail, developed into the tradition of Wassailing. It was likely brought to England by the Anglo-Saxons and, over time, Wassailing became associated with Christmas. In the early days of the Christian Church, Christmas was not an observed holiday but Wassailing was. Wassail was celebrated on the twelfth day of Christmas, January 6; this Twelfth Night celebration now commemorates the adoration of the Magi before the infant Jesus.

Punch is regarded as the first cocktail drink, and whether it dates back to the first millennium or the 16th century, has been making an appearance at parties ever since.

The Peggy Stewart punch bowl in the Hammond-Harwood House dining room (and a sneak peek at a beautiful holiday arrangment)

The Peggy Stewart punch bowl in the Hammond-Harwood House dining room (and a sneak peek at a beautiful holiday arrangment)

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Filed under From the Intern Desk, History

Historical Halloween

Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise, 1833.
Snap-Apple Night was a kind of Halloween celebration.

Since it’s October, our thoughts have turned to the annual Hammond-Harwood House Pumpkin Walk, which will take place on October 26 from 4-6pm. In preparation for our celebrations, former Marketing Coordinator Elisabeth Berman did a bit of research on the historical origins of Halloween…

Halloween has quite the spooky history. Also known as “All Hallow’s Eve,” the annual holiday dates back to the 16th century. The term is derived from the fact that, in Christian religions, November 1 and 2 are typically celebrated as All Saints Day and All Souls Day, respectively. These two days allowed people to honor saints and pray for the recently departed.

However, it was believed that the souls of those departed wandered the earth until All Saints Day. All Hallow’s Eve gave them one last chance to exact revenge on their enemies before moving on to the afterlife. How could Christians in the 16th century avoid being recognized by a dead soul they had wronged? Wear masks and costumes! This tradition has carried on to present day.

They may not have had Snickers bars back then, but trick-or-treating does have a meaningful past. On November 1, the late-medieval poor would go from door to door in a practice known as “souling.” They would receive food in return for their prayers for the dead. Jack-O-Lanterns served a purpose as well – they were originally turnips carved into lanterns as a way of paying respect to the souls held in purgatory.

Halloween certainly has a darker past than I imagined, and I will be sure to pay my respects this year while handing out candy! Have a safe and happy Halloween!


Filed under Friday Photo, From the Intern Desk, History

Musings on Fall

“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.

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An Unexpected Find

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.

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18th Century Marriage

Wedding scene from Ramsay’s The gentle shepherd, Act V, Printed for G. Reid and Co., 1798
From The Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University

By Tara Owens, Educational Programs Coordinator

According to U.S. Census data for 2009, the average age of first marriage for men is 28.4 and 26.5 for women. I was married in 2009, when I was 22 and my husband was 24. As a married 22-year old woman, I felt out of place since most people my age were still single. My husband and I were both four years ahead of the 21st-century average. But, if we were living in 18th-century America, we would have been typical.

In 18th-century America, the typical age of marriage for middle-to-upper class white women was 22 and 26 for men. Women began courting as early as 15 or 16, but most delayed marriage until their early twenties. The years of courtship were a time when 18th-century women could enjoy some freedom and power. They had the right to refuse any suitors and were not bogged down with running a household. Thus, it is easy to see why women began courting at such a young age but did not usually marry until several years later.

The actual wedding day for white 18th-century Americans looked quite similar to the weddings we attend today, although it should be noted that most weddings did not take place in a church as it could be difficult to travel to one, especially for those living in rural areas. The custom of the father giving away his daughter, the exchanging of rings, and having a reception were all practiced in 18th-century America. Typically, the reception was held at the bride’s house where toasts were made and games and dancing entertained the guests. So, some of the wedding rituals and traditions we partake in today were already  in existence in the years prior to 1800.


Filed under Friday Photo, From the Intern Desk, History

18th Century House, 21st Century Museum

The Hammond-Harwood House is lucky enough to have interns and volunteers who use their unique skills and talents to accomplish projects that add immeasurably to the experiences we are able to offer to the general public. One current example is summer intern Jeran Halfpap, a rising senior at St. Mary’s College, who created a 3-dimensional digital model of the Hammond-Harwood House that is now available for viewing on our website. Below, Jeran talks a bit about the technology that allowed him to create the model.

By Jeran Halfpap, the Intern Who Does Stuff

Using modern technology and software is a great way to keep museums in the public eye, and to engage kids with the topics. It brings the “wow!” factor to the table, and is sometimes just plain fun.

Pictured is the post-process picture of the back of the Hammond-Harwood House for use in the 3-d model. It has been distorted and photoshopped to remove the bushes and look even.

With more powerful computers, and more and more developers making new, more powerful software, the tech world is getting more advanced. Since April 2010, a new web standard called HTML5 has been brought into the mainstream. It is still being developed, but the world is starting to see more and more of it, and it is promising. It will replace HTML4 in time, and even has the potential to replace Adobe Flash, which is clunkier and slower to load. Modern web browsers, like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera are all focusing on getting HTML5 to work, to bring fancy new content to you faster! Internet Explorer will get it eventually, but it’s a bit behind the game.

With HTML5 getting more popular it is important to take advantage of the opportunities that it provides! This means updating websites and bringing our educational sites into the future. The Hammond-Harwood House has recently gotten such an update; using WebGL and a service called, we have embedded a 3-d model on our website! It took me a while, but after gathering pictures of the house and stretching them out to fit the model, you can spin and zoom into the building! With all new technologies, you might have to upgrade your software, which is usually a simple update.

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Filed under Architecture, From the Intern Desk