A Strong Foundation

Heritage Frederick’s Research Center is temporarily closing this month to allow masons from Gruber Latimer Restoration to remove loose mortar and repoint the stone and brick foundation walls of our historic headquarters at 24 East Church Street. This crucial preservation work is possible thanks to a grant from the Delaplaine Foundation.

The foundation walls supporting the museum are two hundred years old. Architectural remains offer clues to the historical uses of the basement space. Portions of whitewash remaining on the walls reveal the outline of the back stairway that once descended to the basement. This stairway provided direct access to all four levels of the building and was likely used by enslaved servants as they completed daily domestic jobs in the household. Houses built in the same time period as 24 East Church Street typically had cellars or basements for storing food, kitchens, and spaces for storing fuel sources for heating the structure. Surviving documents and archaeological evidence indicate that coal was in use on the property as early as 1854, and part of the basement likely held a bunker for coal storage.

The basement before the 1993 renovations, showing the mixture of brick and stone used in the foundation walls. This view is looking through the center hall of today’s Research Center.
A whitewash outline indicates the original location of the back stairway.

From 1882 until 1956 when the building served as Loats Female Orphan Home, the basement continued to house equipment for heating while the long room in the center (beneath the main hallway) was used by the girls for indoor exercise and roller skating. After the closure of the orphan home and the transformation of the house into the Historical Society of Frederick County, the basement continued to be used for children’s activities where antique toys were exhibited. 

By the 1990s, the Historical Society’s library and archives, housed on the second floor and in the attic, were overflowing with manuscripts, photographs, maps, and books. The weight of these collections became a problem, placing too much stress on the wood floors up of the upper stories of the building. The Society looked to the large basement space as an opportunity for alleviating this problem while simultaneously expanding the capacity of the archives and research collections. The project was spearheaded by longtime volunteer and Historical Society President Bill Willmann. Work spaces, a library, a reading room for researchers, and collections storage facilities were designed into the basement space. At that time, extensive repairs were made to the foundation walls, including the replacement of over 1,200 bricks. The organization also installed new HVAC units to maintain consistent temperature and humidity levels for the preservation of archival resources. On September 28, 1993, the renovated basement and new Frederick County Research Center opened its doors to the public.

Dedication of the new Research Center in 1993. Bill Willmann is pictured on the front row, second from the left.

Thirty years later, Heritage Frederick remains committed to the preservation of the building our organization has called home for the past sixty-five years. Once masonry restoration is completed, we plan to reopen the research center in mid-April.

March 6, 2024, By Jody Brumage, Heritage Frederick Archivist

Celebrating the Holidays in Downtown Frederick

The holiday season has been marked with special displays and decorations throughout downtown Frederick for much of the city’s history. 

Some of the earliest mentions of holiday decorations in Frederick are found in Jacob Engelbrecht’s diary. In December 1864, he wrote that “at the United States Hospital sick and wounded had a real Christmas dinner. Plenty of turkeys, geese, and chickens. All the Barracks were rigged out with evergreens, flags, etc., all in first rate style.” Frederick’s newspapers of the late-nineteenth century record Christmas trees and holiday decorations in the churches and display windows of stores along Market and Patrick Streets. As early as 1892, a large Christmas tree occupied the Morse Fountain at North Market and West Seventh Streets. Later municipal leaders displayed Christmas trees at the Clarke Fountain in front of the Frederick County Courthouse (now Frederick City Hall).

Christmas decorations in Saint John’s Catholic Church (left) and the store windows of Dutrow’s Confectionary on North Market Street (right) in the late-nineteenth century.

The advent of electricity ushered in a new generation of dazzling light displays during the holidays in downtown. In 1934, The News celebrated four strings of multicolored, electric lights strung over the Square Corner. Within a few years, these displays grew to include lighted garlands with illuminated bells and wreaths suspended over the Square Corner and along Market and Patrick Streets in the heart of Frederick’s commercial district. Photographs from the time period capture the glow of these light displays amid the brightly-illuminated signs on many downtown businesses. These displays also provided a festive backdrop for annual parades with Santa Claus, which drew families from across Frederick County. The energy crisis and decline in patronage at downtown businesses significantly curtailed Holiday light displays in the 1970s.

(Clockwise from top left) Electric Christmas lights over North Market Street, the Square Corner, and West Patrick Street, and Santa Claus in a 1956 parade on North Market Street.

The revitalization of downtown Frederick presented a new opportunity to create beautiful holiday light displays on the numerous trees planted along Market and Patrick Streets during the 1980s. The City of Frederick began stringing lights in the trees, with support of local business owners and residents, in the early-1990s. This tradition continues today under the auspices of the Downtown Frederick Partnership.

More recently, a beloved addition to Downtown Frederick’s holiday traditions is “Sailing through the Winter Solstice.” In 2016, Peter Kremers and Kyle Thomas crafted a miniature Coast Guard ship decorated with lights, which they displayed in the Carroll Creek Park. The display was a tribute to Kremer’s son who was serving a deployment in Iraq. The event quickly grew and attracted more floating displays, which were formalized into an annual event that raises money for local charitable causes. This year, the eighth annual “Sailing through the Winter Solstice” includes twenty-eight boats, which are on display until March 2024.

December 4, 2023 by Jody Brumage, Heritage Frederick Archivist

A Family Piece

One of my favorite quilts in Heritage Frederick’s collection is this triple Irish chain pattern quilt with an unique appliqued oak leaf and acorn border. Although the object is over 160 years old, it is in amazing condition. The material is not faded, yellowed, stained, or deteriorating. The whites and colors are crisp and the hand-stitching and quilting are expert level and very intricate. The quilt also has an amazing story, which is always my favorite aspect of any artifact. This story is about a young woman named Eliza Ann Webb who came to Frederick County just before the outbreak of the Civil War.

Eliza was born in 1834 in Cazenovia, New York, located about 20 miles Southeast of Syracuse; she was the eldest daughter of master carpenter and joiner David Baldwin Webb and his wife, Elvira Olivia Gage. In 1857, Eliza suffered from ill health, and she took the advice of others who suggested she move south to get a change in climate. At the age of 23, she came to Frederick County where she got a job teaching at the seminary in Liberty (now Libertytown). The following year Eliza started teaching the youngest children of John and Ann Gore Kinzer of Johnsville. John Kinzer was a local merchant, and during the time that Eliza spent in their home Ann was engaged in making this intricately patterned, red and green quilt.

The Libertytown Seminary building, from the Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress

As political tensions escalated across the nation in advance of the 1860 presidential election, Eliza decided to return home to New York. The Webb family’s hometown of Cazenovia was considered to be the abolitionist headquarters of the country, in part because it hosted the Fugitive Slave Law Convention in August of 1850. Once back home, Eliza began trying to replicate the red and green quilt she had seen Ann Kinzer making. Her diary tells us that she also received letters from a Mr. Milton Urner, whom she met and fell in love with during her stay in Liberty, but the relationship soon ended. Eliza, along with her younger sister Mary, continued to teach in Cazenovia throughout the Civil War. At the end of the 1860s, Eliza became the second wife of Mills P. Pharis, a salt manufacturer from Geddes, New York, whose first wife died following the birth of their third son. Eliza and Mills had one child, a daughter named Mary Pharis, born in 1871.

At some point after Ann Kinzer completed her own quilt, she sent it as a gift to Eliza. The quilt’s sustained beauty and perfect condition make plain the gift remained a treasured memory for generations of a time and place – and person. Ann’s quilt and its replica, made by Eliza, were passed down together through the family to Eliza’s granddaughter, Katherine Salisbury Hazen, who donated the Johnsville quilt to Heritage Frederick in 1973.

November 9, 2023 by Amy Hunt, Heritage Frederick Curator

Thurmont’s Garment Industry

Heritage Frederick’s exhibit Stitches Through Time: Women’s Work from Farm to Fashion explores the history of textile production in Frederick County. One facet of this story is the local garment industry which emerged in the late-nineteenth century and grew to include factories producing menswear, dresses, shirts, hosiery, and other articles of clothing. While many of these factories were concentrated in Frederick City, garment factories were found in communities across the county as well, such as the town of Thurmont.

Employees of the Thurmont Branch Factory of Union Manufacturing Company in 1911 (Courtesy of Thurmont Images).

The Union Manufacturing Company of Frederick opened a branch factory in Thurmont in the fall of 1911. Twenty knitting machines were installed in a space on the first floor of the Odd Fellow’s Hall on Main Street. Union Manufacturing Company produced hosiery from silk, wool, cotton, rayon, and eventually, nylon. The Thurmont Branch Factory quickly outgrew its space in the Odd Fellows Hall and was moved to an old school building in town. During World War I, Union Manufacturing Company employees produced woolen stockings for the United States Army at its Thurmont Branch as well as a second branch factory in Emmitsburg and the main knitting mills in Frederick City.

Claire Frock Company’s first factory building on East Main Street (Courtesy of Thurmont Images)

A second garment factory in Thurmont was established in 1935 by A. Jules Bernstein of York, Pennsylvania. The Claire Frock Company began operations in a factory on East Main Street producing cotton dresses. By 1950, the plant employed 125 people and added spaces for sewing, packaging, and shipping to its facility. In the 1960s, the company constructed a second manufacturing facility on the northeast side of Thurmont. By this time, Claire Frock was producing women’s casual and athletic clothing that was distributed across the United States through department store chains like J.C. Penney and Sears and Roebuck. The company was one of Frederick County’s largest employers.

Claire Frock Company employees on strike in April 1950 (Courtesy of Thurmont Images)

While employees of Claire Frock held the factory and its owners in high regard, there were challenges to that harmony throughout the company’s history. In 1949, the employees organized with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). A year later, several employees approached the management with complaints that wages and benefits were not in accordance with the agreement between the union and Claire Frock. When one of these employees was fired, the factory workers went on strike in April 1950. A picket line formed along East Main Street in front of the original Claire Frock factory building. After a week of picketing, attorneys for the Claire Frock Company and the ILGWU reached an agreement and work resumed. 

Claire Frock Company’s East Poplar Street facility in 1972.

In 1974, Claire Frock founder A. Jules Bernstein retired and Calvin E. Sayler succeeded him as president of the company. Sayler began working at Claire Frock Company as a shipping clerk in 1958. Garment production, like many other forms of manufacturing industry in the United States, became increasingly globalized in the latter half of the twentieth century. In an effort to keep Claire Frock operating as part of a larger chain of factories, Sayler sold the company to I. A. Appel Company of New York in December 1986.

Workers inside the Claire Frock Factory in the mid-1970s.

Soon after the acquisition of Claire Frock by I.A. Appel, employees’ hours and wages were cut back and the company ceased pension payments. On April 6, 1987, Claire Frock employees went on strike. A federal mediator was appointed three weeks later to begin negotiating an agreement, by which time the strike had grown to I.A. Appel factories in Tennessee and New York. The strike continued for six months until the union leaders acquiesced and accepted an agreement following short of the workers’ original demands that their wages and benefits be restored to the levels they were prior to the I.A. Appel’s acquisition of Claire Frock. Within two years, I.A. Appel announced that the Thurmont factory would cease operations. There were 175 employees of the former Claire Frock Company who were left unemployed when the factory closed in June 1990.

The closure of Claire Frock Company brought an end to over 80 years of industrial garment production in the town of Thurmont.

October 2, 2023 by Jody Brumage, Heritage Frederick Archivist

Pieces from the Past

Super-sleuth Nancy Drew, Creative problem solver Angus MacGyver, Hero Librarian Nancy Pearl—just a few of the real and fictional characters that I, as a museum curator, frequently try to emulate.  Recently while knee-deep in a complete inventory of the object collections of Heritage Frederick, I came face-to-face with 7 boxes that I have been trying to avoid for months.  They contained the findings from an archaeological excavation that took place on the Heritage Frederick property at 24 East Church Street in 2000.

With the exception of those marked metal, glass and miscellaneous, the majority of the boxes are labeled stoneware, redware and ceramic sherds.  While confident that I knew what a shard was, I at first assumed the word was misspelled on the boxes. A quick online search cleared things up, revealing that while a shard is a broken fragment of something, usually glass which typically has sharp edges, a sherd is a broken piece of pottery that was once part of a vessel or container.  There are 604 of these individually catalogued items, many smaller than a dime and a few that are fully intact glass bottles.  Through the process of inventory, photography and then research, I have come to really appreciate what a unique and marvelous window these items have been able to reveal about Heritage Frederick’s personal history as the fifth occupant of this beautiful home.

Glazes, decorations and forms are all traceable clues that can be used to identify pottery fragments.  Even small pieces of a transferware or spatterware saucer reveal information about the time period in which it was made and the people who would have owned such things.  This story is about a fragment of white ironstone that was anxious to reveal its secrets.

At first glance the piece shows itself to be the fragment of something that once had a handle.  The base is intact and octagonal in shape with crisp lines and a smooth white finish.  The underside is stamped with a diamond-shaped English registry mark, a symbol that any good ceramics researcher will immediately recognize.  This mark was used by the English patent office from 1842-1883 to identify pieces of English pottery or porcelain and once you know how to read it, it will tell you the exact day, month and year that the design for the item was registered.  Letters and numbers appearing in the four corners of the diamond allow you to decode the information.  The diamond mark on our piece was used from 1842-1867 (Mark A) while a slightly different mark was used from 1868-1883 (Mark B).  By consulting a table showing the codes for type of material, year and month, our mark can be deciphered as follows: “IV” in the circle at the top of the diamond tells us that the piece is ceramic, rather than wood, metal or cloth; “I” in the top point of the diamond stands for 1846; “B” in the left point of the diamond stands for October; “26” in the right point is for the day of the month and the “5” at the bottom of the diamond tells us that this was part of parcel number 5.  So we know that the design for the English ceramic piece found in our garden was registered with the English patent office on October 26, 1846.

We are also very fortunate that the maker’s mark is also intact on this piece and appears below the patent mark.  While it is very difficult to read, it says “Registered October 26, 1846 by James Edwards.

James Edwards was born in 1805 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire England.  James was the son of a potter in an area of England which continues to this day to be known for its many potteries. He was working with pottery from a young age and at 14 became an apprenticed thrower under a man named Spencer Rogers at Dalehall pottery in Burslem.  Burslem is one of six towns that form the city of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England.  In the years to come James Edwards worked in several regional potteries as a manager and then in partnership with other potters running his own company.  In 1842, he purchased the Dalehall pottery where he had once apprenticed and over the next 18 years worked to enlarge and extend the potteryworks, installing all the latest machinery until the company’s output was more than 6 times what it had been when he purchased the property.

James Edwards was a pioneer of white ironstone china which he made almost exclusively for export to markets in the US and Canada. In 1851, James brought his son Richard into the operation as a partner and for the next 10 years they ran the pottery together.  James retired in 1861, leaving Richard to manage the company alone.  In 1882, Richard sold the pottery to Knapper & Blackhurst.

Our fragment of James Edwards white ironstone also has a number which reads “37864.”  As luck would have it, James Edwards’ design catalog still exists today and we can see what our small fragment would once have looked like.  Design 37864 is for a Full Panel Gothic shape cream jug.

What can this little cream jug tell us and how is it important here in Frederick, Maryland, more than 3,500 miles away from the town where it was made?  The date of the pitcher tells us that it most likely belonged to the original owner of our property and the builder of our house, Dr. John Baltzell.  Dr. Baltzell bought the property here on the corner of East Church Street and Maxwell Alley in 1823 and we believe, the house was built by 1825.  He and his wife Ruth, lived in the home, where at least the 8 youngest of their 10 children were born.  It is believed that Dr. Baltzell may have seen his patients from an office in basement which would have originally had its own private entrance from the alley.  The family lived in the house until John’s death in 1854 when the house was sold. 

Dr. Baltzell was a prominent citizen of Frederick and a much respected doctor, a tea service or table settings imported by an English manufacturer would have been the height of luxury at the time and would have found an appropriate home among the Baltzell’s belongings.  Aside from reproductions of portraits of John and Ruth Baltzell, Heritage Frederick has never before had an object that we knew to have belonged to them.  While an inventory of Dr. Baltzell’s property remains, we are left to speculate which objects on the list might be related to our 8” English cream jug.  When and how was it broken and when was it tossed into a garbage midden on the property?

The fragment of Dr. and Mrs. Baltzell’s full panel Gothic cream jug will be on view, along with several additional artifacts uncovered during the 2000 excavations, in a new installation of the house’s history due to open in 2024.

September 1, 2023 by Amy Hunt, Heritage Frederick Curator