Treasures of the Past: Details
Channeled Whelk (busycotypus canaliculatus), a type of conch, originated on the east coast of North America. This smooth, pear shaped univalve can reach 5 to 8 inches and have 5 to 7 whorls with a straight siphonal canal. It is usually buff gray to light tan, brown or orange with brown-red vertical banding, but on rare occasions can be white or light purple. This very large predatory sea snail is edible. It tends to be nocturnal and is know to prey on bivalves. It invaded San Francisco Bay around 1940 and became abundant there.
In The Shell Book Julia Ellen Rogers (1931) states that "The Indians cut the long, white columella of the giant whelk into beads to make their wampum belts. Three beads were worth an English penny in early Colonial days in Massachusetts." She also reported that drinking vessels and cutting tools were made from whelk.
Having existed over 300 million years ago in the Earth's ancient seas, trilobites are remarkable, hard-shelled, segmented creatures that became extinct before dinosaurs came into existence. Although dinosaurs are the most well-known fossil life forms, trilobites are the single most diverse group of extinct organisms and a favorite among those familiar with the study of the development of life on earth or paleontologists. Found in the rocks of all continents, trilobites are one of the signature creatures of the Paleozoic era living roughly between 542-300 million years ago.
Trilobite fossils are all made up of three main body parts: a cephalon or head, a segmented thorax or middle, and a pygidium or tail piece. They were among the early anthropods, a phylum of 20,000 species with multiple body segments and jointed legs. The name "trilobite" actually refers to "three lobes" running from the head to the tail longitudinally, as opposed to the horizontal divisions of head, middle, and tail. From the amazing variety of trilobites, this one can be identified as a Calymenidae Calymene.
Within the Museum’s exhibit showing the formation of the earth and its geologic ages are examples of volcanic glass formed from acid lava. On the top to the left is obsidian (black, glassy) and to the right, is the same volcanic material which cooled and hardened before the gas bubbles escaped.
Glowing rocks or fluorescent rocks are rocks that contain phosphors. Phosphors are substances that give off light - or fluoresce - when they are exposed to ultra-violet light. A black light is a special bulb that emits ultra-violet light while blocking nearly all of the visible light (you can only see a purplish glow). When a black light shines on the phosphors in the rocks the electrons in the atoms of the phosphors are energized. As the electrons settle down, they release their energy in the form of light. Phosphors come in a variety of colors as can be seen in the rocks pictured here. Other things containing phosphors also "glow in the dark" such as teeth, fingernails, and detergent. Phosphors are added to paint and ink to create Halloween masks, posters and other products.
From 1889 to about 1912 controversy swirled around the question of eoliths. These stones originated in a geological time far earlier than the times for which we have any other evidence of human existence. Excitement about the possibility of eoliths as human artifacts had been rising since 1889. Could prehistoric human hands have shaped them, or did natural processes such as wave or stream action, glaciation, and temperature changes form them? Did our human ancestors make them, or did some other extinct primate more cousin than ancestor?
By the 1930s, research had shown definitively that natural forces shaped these stones, and the eolith debates faded away. Even though they are now known to have no connection with human or proto-human activity, they are still valuable and enlightening. They illustrate one of the dead-end byways along the course of scientific research and endure as a chapter in the story of our growing understanding of human evolution.
If you would like to know more about this treasure and beyond, follow the link to a longer article in the Wilson Museum Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 27.
The period in human prehistory that we call the Middle Paleolithic falls between 250,000 years ago and 40,000 years ago. Homo neanderthalensis (Neandertal) fossils are dated from about 300,000 to 30,000 years ago. We call their culture Mousterian, after the early archaeological discoveries at Le Moustier in southern France.
The Mousterian tools shown in the Wilson Musuem exhibit all come from France and include the later Mousterian development called Levallois, in which a core was specially prepared ahead of time so that thin, flat flakes with a continuous sharp-edged perimeter could be struck off and made into small tools.
If you would like to know more about the peoples or tools related to this treasure, follow the link to a longer article in the Wilson Museum Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 28.
This small flint tool comes from the area of Amiens, France. It dates from the Magdalenian period of the Upper Paleolithic, or late Old Stone Age, about seventeen to eleven thousand years ago. The tool, called a "burin" was used for engraving on bone, antler, and stone. It shows how finely the people of the Upper Paleolithic could shape and retouch their stone tools.
If you would like to know more about the peoples or tools related to this treasure, follow the link to a longer article in the Wilson Museum Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 28.
Eleven thousand to four thousand years ago tools became quite different from those of the Paleolithic. Polished stone axes and adzes, fitted in bone and wood handles, not known previously, were common in the New Stone Age.
In 1921 water levels were exceptionally low in Switzerland and remnants of ancient occupation were visible and retrievable. Dr. Wilson wrote to Paul Vouga asking if it would be possible to purchase material from the Neolithic Swiss Lake Dwellers. Dr. Vouga responded [translated] "I have the pleasure of informing you that I am able, at this moment to deliver to you a very attractive collection of lake dwelling objects, enough to give to the visitors to your museum a complete idea of the age of polished stone."
This knife which is about 3 1/2 inches long came from the shore of Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. It was purchased in 1921 by Dr. Wilson from Paul Vouga, a well-known archaeologist. He was the son of Emile Vouga, also a noted Swiss archaeologist.
From 4000 BCE to 500 BCE Swiss lake-dwellers constructed wooden houses on posts at the shores. Metals, first copper then bronze, were introduced in Europe around 2000 BCE. While copper was too pliable for making useful tools, tools of an ideal hardness could be fashioned from bronze (an alloy of copper and tin). At first, Bronze-Age tools were basically copies of late stone age tools; however, as the toolmakers became more familiar with bronze's properties and adept at working with this new medium, new tools emerged.
Iron Lance Points
The leap from bronze tools to iron tools took several centuries. The process of creating iron was more complicated, requiring quite advanced ovens to smelt the ore. The early Iron Age period in Europe (800-450 BCE) is named after Hallstatt, an Austrian village with rich deposits of ore. A second period (450-50 BCE) bears the name of La Tène, an excavation site on the shore of Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. Swiss archaeologists Emile and Paul Vouga, father and son, separately investigated the Iron Age site of La Tène. They found predominantly weapons and little in the way of domestic goods, leading them to believe that the site was either a military encampment or arms depot of some sort.
The lance points pictured to the right were from La Tène and were purchased by Dr. Wilson from Paul Vouga in 1922.
Mediterranean Cuneiform Tablet
In eastern Mediterranean areas clay was chosen as the standard medium of writing as it was readily available, malleable, and recyclable yet durable when dried in the sun or baked. For most types of records and documents, clay was formed into rectangluar tablets, but for certain purposes cones, balls, prism, and other shapes were used. Reeds, growing in marshes and along riverbanks, were used to make writing implements called styli. To write on clay, one would impress the tip of the reed stylus into the surface and draw it along to make each stroke of a sign. Due to the shape of the reed stylus, these strokes had a wedge-shaped appearance, having a triangular head and a slender tail. Thus, the modern discoverers of this ancient writing system called it "cuneiform" - Latin for wedge-shaped. Although the signs were originally oriented so that the pictures were right side up, they came to be turned on their sides and written left to right because this was the easiest way for right-handed scribes to write without smearing their clay.
The megalithic ruin known as Stonehenge stands on the open downland of Salisbury Plain, two miles west of the town of Amesbury in Southern England. It is not a single structure but consists of a series of earth, timber, and stone structures that were revised and re-modelled over a period of more than 1400 years. Due to the ravages of time and lack of records Stonehenge remains shrouded in mystery. In the 1940s and 1950s it was proposed that construction occurred in three phases. Our diorama of Stonehenge depicts the time period circa 2550-1600 BCE or the theoretical phase III.
The six dioramas in the Wilson Museum's main hall were commissioned by Dr. Wilson in 1926. These were constructed by Ned J. Burns in Staten Island early in that year, and were brought, in August, to Castine, where Mr. Burns assembled and finished them. Mr. Burns was at the time working at the American Museum of Natural History where displays of outstanding quality were being developed. Some of Ned Burns finest work was done at the Museum of the City of New York during the more than six years he was chief preparer. From 1939 until his death in 1953, Mr. Burns was Chief of the Museum Division of the National Park Service.
Dioramas not only depict a moment in time, they spark imaginations. In 2006 the movie "Night at the Museum" highlighted the dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History in a story about the scenes coming alive at night.
Egyptian Bronze Statuette
This bronze statuette is from Ptolemaic Egypt which began when Ptolemy I Soter declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt in 305 BCE and ended with the death of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and the Roman conquest in 30 BCE. Our records state that the statuette was found in the debris beneath the ruined forts of Alexandria after the bombardment by the British fleet on July 11, 1882.
In 1875 Britain and France had an economic interest in the Suez Canal which made shipping between Europe and India a much shorter journey. A movement inside of Egypt and a defiantly independent government alarmed Britain and France who were concerned about access to the Canal and their financial investments in Egypt to the point of stationing a small fleet at Alexandria. Egypt began strengthening Alexandria's forces. Britain demanded that the guns be removed and gave an ultimatum. France refused to participate in the ultimatum and withdrew. Egypt refused to remove the guns. On July 11, 1882 the British began the bombardment at 7 a.m. and continued until 5:30 p.m. The following day a fire broke out and raged for two more days until finally burning itself out. Chaos and looting ensued. Eventually, order was restored and Egypt became a British protectorate until 1922.
Balinese Rangda Mask
This Rangda mask was purchased in Bali in 1936 by Ellenore Doudiet for the Wilson Museum. Rangda masks are used in traditional Balinese performances which have become popular tourist attractions. In Balinese mythology Rangda is a demon queen who represents evil and is often depicted struggling against Barong, the leader of the forces of good. A Rangda mask is made to be terrifying to behold using predominantly white, black and red with long, unkempt hair, google eyes, a long protruding tongue, fangs and claws. Rangda literally means "widow." The character of Rangda has its origin in historical fact. At the beginning of the eleventh century a Balinese prince (Erlangga) became the king of Java. His mother, Mahendradatta, was a Javanese princess who ruled Bali with her Balinese husband, Dharmodayana, until the husband, suspecting his wife of practicing evil magic, exiled her to the forest. After her husband's death, widow or rangda Mahendradatta was blamed for a legendary series of plagues and misfortunes against her son's kingdom.
African Thumb Piano
This thumb piano comes from Barotseland in East Africa. Barotseland is a region in the western part of Zambia once a part of Northwest Rhodesia, and is the homeland of the Lozi people or Barotse. Its heartland is the Barotse Floodplain on the upper Zambezi River, but it includes the surrounding higher ground of the plateau comprising all of what is now the Western Province of Zambia.
No instrument is as distinctively southern African as the thumb piano or mbira, a hand-held instrument with small metal keys which are twanged with the player's thumbs. In order to amplify the sound, mbiras could be installed within large gourds or even human skulls. Like many other south central African countries, Zambia once had a vibrant tradition of thumb pianos, each with a different name depending on tribal origins, size, tuning and number of tines.
Mbira is also the name of the music played on this instrument. It was originally mystical music which was played for over a thousand years by certain tribes. During colonial times, when the area was part of Rhodesia, Christian missionaries characterized the playing of the mbira as evil and it fell out of favor. Today mbira is enjoying a resurgence of popularity due to its intense, joyful spirituality, its complex rhythms and beautifully arranged melodies.
Peruvian Whistling Jar
Whistling jars are a north coast Peruvian pottery form first appearing around the 5th century BCE and continuing until after the Spanish conquest of Peru, well into the 16th century. A whistling jar consists of two chambers connected by an upper bridge handle, which emits the whistle sound, and a lower tube that enables liquid to flow from one chamber to the other. One chamber is usually modeled in the form of a bird, animal or human figure; while the other contains the pouring spout. It has often been thought that the whistle acts as an air vent to permit the flow of liquid from one chamber to the other. However, another theory is that this type of vessel was used for religious or ceremonial rites and was purposefully blown into to create a much louder and inspiring sound.
Pueblo Katchina Doll
Katchina dolls are carved from cottonwood root. The cottonwood tree grows relatively well in the arid territory of the Pueblo Indians. Moreover, its root is dense and soft, making it easy to carve and able to withstand cracks as it dries. Dolls are traditionally carved in secret by katchina dancers. However, as the demands of modern katchina doll collectors have increased, more and more katchina dolls are now carved by "artists" and not necessarily by the dancers. This particular katchina was purchased around 1950 in an Indian crafts store in New York City. It stands approximately 11 1/2 inches high, with the feathers on the headdress adding another two inches to its height. Other items of the Southwest on display include additional katchina dolls, arrow points, basketry, and fine examples of pottery.
Piegan Bear Necklace
The Piegan tribe was part of the Blackfoot Confederacy of the Northwestern Plains. The Blackfoot were nomadic hunter-gatherers, living in teepees and subsiding primarily on buffalo and gathered vegetable foods. Originally living in the northern Great Lakes region, the Blackfoot were one of the first tribes to begin moving westward. They ranged the northern plains from Saskatchewan to the Rocky Mountains. While Piegans are most closely associated with buffalo, killing a bear unassisted, without the aid of a gun, was considered the most dangerous hunt to undertake. That feat of bravery, determination and strength elevated a man's standing as warrior and leader. A bear claw necklace was considered a most prized possession and when bestowed upon another denoted the highest form of honor. As firearms use increased and claws became more obtainable through easier kills, trade and purchase, bear claw necklaces lost some of their uniqueness and value.
This bear claw necklace was given by Dr. Truman Michelson, an authority on Algonquian tribes of North America. He was an ethnologist at the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, from 1910 until his death in 1938.
This belt was made and worn in the family of Thomas Gerome Canadien, Onondaga Tribe of Iroquois Indians, from Caughnawaga Reservation, Quebec, Canada in the early 1800s. It was a gift to the Museum from John T. Hill in 1969.
Iroquois is a name adapted by the French from an Algonquian term that is thought to mean "snakes" because of the silent manner that the Iroquois attacked their enemies. The Iroquois began as a confederacy of five nations - Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca - which centered around the area now known as upstate New York. Caughnawaga Reservation is on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec about 10 miles above Montreal. It began as a Jesuit mission established in the mid-1600s to protect and educate Catholic Iroquois from their "pagan" tribesmen.
Iroquois have shown their adaptability to the marketplace. Archaeological evidence confirms their widespread trade networks with other tribes across the continent. After European contact, they became leaders in the fur trade and in the production of decorative objects for the tourism trade. Beadwork began with beads made from bone, antler, stone, shell, quills and pottery shards, but with the European introduction of colorful glass beads, beadwork grew from a craft for personal adornment to an income producer of decorative items. Over time traditional designs gave way to the design trends of the marketplace.
Eskimo Drinking Tube
This Eskimo drinking tube, about 3 1/2" long and made of bone, is from Cumberland Sound. Cumberland Sound is between Baffin Island's Hall Peninsula and Cumberland Peninsula in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Baffin Island is the largest member of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the largest island in Canada, and the fifth largest island in the world.
Snow melted on warmer days leaving puddles on the sea ice. Using drinking tubes of bone or ivory the Inuit sucked fresh water from these pools. Eskimos were noted for their carvings in ivory. These range from very detailed and tiny figurines to intricate designs incorporated into everday functional tools such as this drinking tube.
Eskimo or Esquimaux is a term used to describe the various indigenous peoples who have traditionally inhabited the northern circumpolar region. The people of the Cumberland Sound area are Canadian Inuit with close ties to the Yupik and Inupiat of Alaska and Russia, and with the Inuit of Greenland. The Aleut are more distantly related biologically and linguistically. Europeans "discovered" the Cumberland Sound area in the 1500s. By the early 1700s whaling activity introduced the Inuit to materials, technology and diseases that would change their way of life.
1865 Meat Cutter
Leroy S. Starrett, born in 1836, was one of twelve children of a farm family of China, Maine. He started to work at seventeen, and by the age of twenty-six was running a dairy farm in Newburyport, MA. From an early age he was interested in the use of tools and machines and applied his mind to the problems of farming. The "Improved Meat Cutter" patented May 23, 1865, was the first of one hundred inventions. He sold his farm interest to develop, manufacture and market the cutter. He was known to slip straps over his shoulders and carry as many of these machines as he could, peddling them around the countryside in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The cutter was quick to catch on with housewives who used it for chopping vegetables as well as meat. It was particularly useful for preparing mincemeat and preserves. The cutter became known as the "hasher." Manufactured in several sizes, this hasher (Number 401) sold for $5.00 and claimed to cut three pounds of meat in three minutes.
Molding (or moulding) planes are used to shape wood used as jambs, cornices, chair rails and window trim. Usually made to cut only one shape, several planes were used in combination to create more complicated designs. Woodworkers often owned large numbers of molding planes so that they could create a variety of moldings. The Museum is fortunate to own a large collection of planes; the largest portion of planes were donated by Stanley Tallman in 1966.
During the Georgian era (1720-1780), molding planes were made by the craftsmen who used them. Apprentices were expected to learn how to make their tools as well as to learn how to use them. Most planes were about 10 inches long and were made from birch, apple, maple and beech. Makers often personalized their planes with a distinctive wedge finial.
From the late 18th century to 1830, production moved from the craftsman's bench to the planemaker's shop. Plane length became standardized at about 9 1/2 inches and beech became the material of choice. Wedges became less dramatic; however, planemakers signed their work with both embossed and incuse stamps.
From 1830 to 1900, beech was still preferred and the length remained standard at 9 1/2 inches. The distinctive wedges gave way to a characterless elliptical form, so most planes made in this period look much alike, so much so that the same woodblock engraving could be used by several makers as illustration in their catalogs.
The lovely black evening dress pictured at right is made of black net layered over black rayon. Gathered black silk ribbon adds the ruffle that meanders over the bodice, puffed sleeves and border around the bottom of the skirt of this 1940's era gown according to Lynne Bassett, an independent textile consultant, who has conducted an in-depth assessment of the Wilson Museum's textile collection.
This photograph is the engagement photo of Ellenore Wilson taken at the Bachrach Photographers Studio in New York around 1939 and used here with their permission. Ellenore, the daughter of J. Howard & Georgia Wilson, married Norman Doudiet on June 14, 1941 on Nautilus Island in Castine Harbor. Ellenore took over the direction of the Wilson Museum in the 1950s and continued until her death in 2004.
2001 Salmon Sculpture
"Glory of the Moment" was created by local artist George Motycka (1924-2003). Upon his first visit to the Wilson Museum he was moved to offer one of his sculptures in memory of his wife and friend Dale Motycka. As a noted sculptor of marine and wildlife art, Mr. Motycka chose an apt subject, the jumping salmon rising above Bagaduce waters.
During the 1870s the most productive weir of Hancock County was that at the entrance of Castine Harbor, which produced in one year more than 1,600 pounds of salmon, far surpassing the published average catch of fifty pounds of salmon per weir from Castine to Orland, according to the 1878 Survey of Hancock County by Samuel Wasson.
Alice McLaughlin Painting
Alice McLaughlin was sixteen in 1885 and the eldest of five children when her Bangor family built their summer home "Otter Rock" across from Otter Rock Ledge on Perkins Street. It still stands today at the opening of the harbor on the shore with a view of the Camden Hills and Penobscot Bay. For the next twenty years Alice recorded in fresh clean colors the views, shores, buildings, streets, and coves of Castine which are of historic interest. A part of Alice's Castine neighborhood, the painting here is of the Dr. North home, also still standing today.
From the woods and fields Alice collected local mushrooms which became subjects of numerous and exquisite sketches worthy of mycologists' admiration. Many of Alice McLaughlin's visual gifts are on display on the second floor of the Doudiet House.
1815 Castine Map
The original map, located at the Nova Scotia Archives, was drawn by Captain Bonneycastle of the Royal Engineers "for Sir J.C. Sherbrooke April 1815" apparently for the purpose of recording the situation of Castine and its defenses at the time of the September 1814 - April 1815 British occupation. The photo to the right shows a detail of Ft. George and Castine Village, while the photo below shows the map in its entirety. Color prints of the full size map are available by following the 1815 map link or by clicking on the image below.
World War I Memorial Research
Located on the town common, the World War I memorial is a rounded granite boulder with a bronze plaque of names attached. Money in the amount of $250 for a "Soldiers' Memorial" was appropriated in 1920 according to the 1920-21 Castine Town Report. For years the money remained listed as "balance unexpended." Finally, in the Castine Town Report of 1927-28, the Selectmen's Report lists "Soldiers' Memorial Expenditures" totaling $237.45 with $200 going for the tablet to F.F. McGann, $5 to Leon Perkins for the stone, and $25 to Grover Witham for labor. Other small expenditures finished the project.
The Wilson Museum staff has been researching information both on the monument and, more importantly, on each of the 39 men named on the World War I stone. We acknowledge the many other Castine service people whose names are not represented on the memorial (we have not been able to determine who designated those choices and what criteria was used for inclusion as yet). We have a working portfolio containing biographical information such as vital statistics, education/occupations, families, affiliations, and anecdotes. Resources have included friends, relatives and associates as well as books, internet and town records. To date all have not been documented. If you have information about any of these or other World War I veterans from Castine, please contact the Museum.
World War II Memorial Research
Located on the grounds of the Town Hall, the World War II memorial stands as three vertical pieces with engraved names on a base of Marshfield granite quarried near Machias, Maine. The original order of 1949 was found in the Fletcher & Butterfield Company's ledger book now in the archives of The Maine Granite Industry Historical Society Museum in Mount Desert, Maine.
Names Inscribed on Monument:
The Wilson Museum staff has been researching information both on the monument and, more importantly, on each of the 76 people named on the World War II stone. We acknowledge the many other Castine service people whose names are not represented on the memorial (we have not been able to determine who designated those choices and what criteria was used for inclusion as yet). We have a working portfolio containing biographical information such as vital statistics, education/occupations, families, affiliations, and anecdotes. Resources have included friends, relatives and associates as well as books, internet and town records. To date all have not been documented. If you have information about any of these or other World War II veterans from Castine, please contact the Museum.
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