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

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. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Preventative Conservation Workshop 2018: Part I - Theodore Roosevelt Print

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 I in the series was written by one of this year's student participants, Meredith French.  Meredith has a BA in Studio Arts from Bard College and has spent nearly a decade working in screen printing and textile conservation in California.  She currently works in the San Francisco area at Chrysalis Art Conservation, a private conservation firm, where she focuses on textile conservation.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hidden Treasures of the Collections: Greek Vases


Recently the site was delighted to receive a visit from Vassar Professor of Art History, Eve D'Ambra, who was encouraging her undergraduate students to explore and research works of art in local collections.  The essay below is drawn from a research and observation paper completed by her student, Lily Palaia, Class of 2019, who chose to research the five ancient Greek vases on view in the mansion.  The site thanks Lily for her contribution to our blog!

In Staatsburgh's drawing room, five Greek vases sit on two bureaus on the south side of the room. Ogden Mills purchased these vases in 1909 from Henri De Morgan at an auction in New York City. These five vases feature diverse subject matter, yet are from the height of the classical period, from early 6th through 4th century B.C. Three of these objects would be described as “Attic” because they come from the city of Athens or the surrounding area, one from Boeticia and one from Southern Italy.  

A page from the 1909 Henri De Morgan sale catalogue.  Ogden Mills purchased the center amphora.