Collections

  • Collections Spotlight: A Re-Discovered Kentucky Treasure at Liberty Hall

    By Mack Cox

    Fig. 1Figure 1. This fancy chair (one of six) and fancy settee date from about 1820 to 1830 and were early furnishings of Liberty Hall. They are attributed to the same anonymous chair making shop, which was likely located in Frankfort or Lexington.

    A gilded ball over a spike and ball foot caught my eye. It was visible below a protective sheet in Liberty Hall’s attic. As I raised the sheet, a magnificent Kentucky fancy chair appeared (Figure 1). It was painted vermillion red with chromium yellow, black, and gold leaf accents. The paint was original and pristine, and the original rush seat intact. It was as if the chair had been stored, untouched for centuries. Under adjoining sheets were five more matching chairs.  Although exhibiting heat damage (bubbled & faded paint with craquelure), perhaps from a mid-20th century fire at Liberty Hall, the additional chairs were in unusually good condition.

  • Collections Spotlight: China Painting

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    China Painting Blog illustration one

    Plates. Liberty Hall Historic Site has a lot of them. I know this because I’ve been doing an inventory of the museum’s collection. Some of the more interesting ones (if plates can be interesting!) are a series of nineteen hand-painted plates dating to the 1880s. The designs are floral scenes and they are all painted on Haviland and Co. Limoges porcelain from France.  Some are signed by Brown family women.

  • Collections Spotlight: French Fashion

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    French Fashion Blog Image 1House of Worth gown, ca. 1906; Weeks gown, 1910-1915; Cheruit gown and suit, 1910-1920, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections

    Among the fifty pieces of historic women’s clothing in the LHHS collection there are four early 20th century Parisian garments, three gowns and a suit.  Who in the family owned these clothes and did they travel to Europe to acquire them?  It seems that someone in the Brown family knew that Paris, France, was (and still is) the fashion capital of the world. American women who wished to be in style in the early 1900s bought French clothes.[i] 

  • Collections Spotlight: Sunday Night at Chickamauga

    By Julie Payne

    Chickamauga Painting image 1Sunday Night at Chickamauga, attributed to Samuel Woodson Price, oil on canvas, ca. 1870, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections.

    When my husband, Warren, and I were asked to join the Liberty Hall Historic Site’s Collections Committee, we never dreamed it would result in finding a treasure.  Our first assignment, to evaluate a standing plate warmer, was interesting, but not exactly in our area of expertise. Since our area of expertise is Kentucky antique art, we asked, might there be a print we could evaluate?  The answer was yes.

  • Hail Glorious Day! Early American Fourth of July Poems

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    Fourth of July poetry image 1Title page from Margaretta Mason Brown's commonplace book, 1785-1807 and portrait of Margaretta Mason Brown, watercolor on ivory, ca. 1790s, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections

    One of my favorite items in the collection is a commonplace book owned by Margaretta Mason Brown (1772-1838).  The book contains 52 poems.  Margaretta wrote many of the poems in the book, but she also copied some of them from magazines and newspapers.  They are arranged chronologically, and she titled the book “Fugitive Pieces, or, Juvenile Essays.” Margaretta began writing and copying poems into the book in 1785, when she was just 13 years old and lived in New York City. The last poem in the book is dated 1807. 

  • Holiday History at Liberty Hall: Clues from the Library

    By Vicky Middleswarth, Educator

    Holiday plate optHand-painted plate, Haviland & Co. Limoges, porcelain, France, ca. 1880, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections.

    “There never has been a more delightful Christmas” wrote Margaretta Brown to her son Orlando in 1828.  But what exactly did she mean?  She went on to describe warm weather that was expected to last until New Year’s day and she implored Orlando to “be born to the newness of life” through his faith.[i]  What she did notmention was how they celebrated December 25. 

    In fact there are few references to Christmas in Brown family letters we know of, even later in the nineteenth century. No one wrote about hanging a wreath, trimming a tree, or expecting a visit from Santa.  A plate decorated with a winter scene is one of our only artifacts with a holiday theme. The library at Liberty Hall probably holds the most clues to how the Browns may have observed the winter holidays.

  • Old-fashioned Election Cake

    By Vicky Middleswarth, Educator

    Cake 4Election cake loaf made with a recipe developed for the Old Farmer’s Almanac based on the one in The American Frugal Housewife.

    What special days do you assoicate with special foods? Is Election Day on your list? In some parts of early New England, Election Day was observed with a yeasty cake thought to be an American original.  Sometime after 1829, Margaretta Brown copied a recipe for “Election Cake” in a small oblong journal, one of several family receipt books in Liberty Hall’s archival collection.

  • Robert Burns Wilson: Frankfort's Resident Artist

    By Beth Caffery Carter

    Robert Burns Wilson Blog
    Robert Burns Wilson from The Magazine of Poetry A Quarterly Review, vol. 2, no. 4 (1890) and Blossoming Trees by Robert Burns Wilson, 1880-1890, Liberty Hall Historic Collections.

    If you’ve visited Liberty Hall and the Orlando Brown House, you may recall the paintings that hang on their walls of these two houses. The Kentucky artists exhibited at Liberty Hall Historic Site include Oliver Frazer, Matthew Harris Jouett, and Paul Sawyier. However, one Kentucky artist represented in the collection stands out with because of his friendship with the Brown Family: Robert Burns Wilson.