Welcome to Staatsburgh State Historic Site's blog! Learn more about the Gilded Age home of Ruth and Ogden Mills!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Hidden Treasures of the Collections: Marriage Certificate of Francis Lewis & Elizabeth Annesely

One of the initial hopes for this blog was to create an avenue that showcased some of Staatsburgh's collections that are not always noticeable or highlighted on the tour. The house has so many collections that it is impossible to cover everything in a single visit.  In addition, some objects or paintings are positioned in such a way that is is hard to see them from the tour path. The "Hidden Treasures of the Collection" blog series provides a closer look at some of the interesting pieces throughout the house.

The newest entry in this series takes a look at a document that hangs on the wall in the library.  This document dates from 1745 and is the marriage certificate of Ruth Livingston Mills' great-great-grandparents, Francis Lewis and Elizabeth Annesely.  Several documents signed and written by Ruth Livingston Mills' ancestors grace the wall of the library as a way to emphasize Ruth's Livingston heritage and the history of her family at this site.  Francis Lewis signed the Declaration of Independence, which was a clear point of pride for Ruth.  It created a clear link from Ruth to the foundation of the country.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Book Review: Tragic Mansions by Mrs. Philip Lydig

Life and relationships in wealthy Gilded Age society is a fascinating topic, but there are only a few first hand accounts from the women who ruled the upper echelons of society during this era.  Maverick in Mauve: The Diary of a Romantic Age by Florence Adele Sloane (a great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt) is a published account of diary entries in the years before and during the author's marriage.  Another great example written by Sloane's cousin, Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, was entitled The Glitter and the Gold.  Both provide unique insights into love and marriage within a society with very strict rules.  A third example provides an equally fascinating and perhaps darker look into the lives of those who appeared to have it all.  Published in 1927 by Rita de Acosta Lydig, the book came at a time when Rita was in ill health and a lot of debt.  She wrote the book to earn money and in the meantime provided a unique window into her world.

Portrait of Rita de Acosta Lydig by Giovanni Boldini, 1911

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Ruth Livingston Mills: Graceful & Proficient on Ice

While researching Ruth Livingston Mills, one of the last things I expected to find, was a news article that extolled her skills as an ice skater! I have always had an impression of Ruth as very proper, a bit fragile health-wise, and rather cautious as well. Whenever she went outside in the summer she would be covered head to toe and wore a veil over her face to protect herself from the sun. So when I read that she was known as an excellent skater, I was a bit surprised. First of all, I could not picture her falling on ice in front of other people. And even if falls were rare and she was not doing anything risky, it is inevitable that a fall will happen once in a while. You might click your blades with another skater, or hit a rut…outdoor ice is nothing like the smooth ice in rinks today. And second, it takes a while to feel comfortable and confident on skates so that means she must have been doing it her whole life and she must have put in some time on the ice. Her involvement with skating also showcases how fashionable skating had become. It was an enjoyable winter hobby for the masses and the elite!

Skating in Central Park

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Gilded Age Christmas: Christmas Crackers

During the Gilded Age, place settings for Christmas dinner would frequently include a Christmas cracker.  First created in Victorian England, crackers also became very popular in the United States in wealthy and middle class homes.

A Christmas cracker consists of a wrapped cardboard tube with items inside that may include a small trinket or toy, candy, a paper crown, and a motto or joke.  There is also a popper or cracker snap inside, which makes a popping noise when you pull it open.  Christmas crackers are a great addition to traditional Christmas festivities.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Preventative Conservation Workshop 2018: Part II - Gilded Age Fire Suppression

During June 2018, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2 week intensive preventative conservation workshop at Staatsburgh.  This was the third year that the workshop was held at Staatsburgh with sponsorship from The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation along with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The workshop taught in-depth methods of caring for many different types of collections. Participants gained insight into artifact conservation and the conditions that cause deterioration. After the workshop, several of the participants wrote blog entries about their experience and a specific aspect of the workshop.

Independent Conservator Cathy MacKenzie organized this workshop to occur at Staatsburgh collaborating on its organization with NYS Bureau of Historic Sites Furniture Conservator, David Bayne.  Several conservators participated in the workshop's instruction including  Kirsten Schoonmaker from Syracuse UniversityValentine Talland formerly of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Michelle Cornelison Smith, the Assistant Paper & Book Conservator at SF Art Conservation in Oakland, CA.

Part II in this series was written by Andrew Foster who is currently a Conservation Technician at Maymont Mansion in Richmond, Virginia. Andrew has a B.F.A. in Painting and Printmaking as well as a B.S. in Anthropology from the Virginia Commonweath University. He has previously worked at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Blog Author Andrew Foster moves furniture during the workshop.