Posts Tagged ‘history’


This particular medal belonged to Joseph Albie Sewall (1839-1922) of York who served as a private in Company G, 27th Maine. Contracted to a 9-month campaign, the 25th Maine was first asked to stay behind to defend Washington, D.C. in June, 1863,  due to the invasion of Pennsylvania by Robert E. Lee (the Gettysburg Campaign). They declined. The 27th Maine was then asked to help and 300 men agreed to stay behind. Initially, these soldiers were told that “Medals of Honor would be given to that portion of the regiment that volunteered to remain.” The battle was soon over and they left Washington for home on July 4th, reuniting with the rest of the regiment in Portland for their mustering out on July 17th. Later there was a disagreement as to which of the men actually served since records had not been kept. Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Mark F. Wentworth, who had witnessed great sacrifice and valor in the battlefields, did not believe that the soldiers of the 27th deserved the medals. A few of the medals were distributed unofficially, but were purged by congress in 1917. This medal was given to the Museums of Old York by Joseph’s granddaughter, Anne Elizabeth  (Sewall) Bowden in 1970.

There were a total of 949 men listed on the muster rolls for the 27th Maine. During their service, the regiment lost nineteen men by disease and one was killed by the accidental discharge of his musket.

The medal is also known as “Minerva Repulsing Discord”. Taken in the context of the Civil War soldiers and sailors struggling to overcome the discord of the states and preserve the Union, the design was as fitting as it was symbolic. The medal depicts Minerva, the Roman virgin goddess of wisdom, fighting Discord, the Roman goddess of strife.


Reverse side is engraved, “The Congress to Joseph A. Sewall, C. G. 27th Me. Vol.”





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This week’s mystery object belonged to WWII veteran Roland Winslow Junkins (1925-2002). He served with the 83rd and 89th infantry divisions during WWII in Germany, France and post-war Austria. 

This shell casing-turned into shot glasses and carrier-set was made for Roland’s 20th birthday by two German prisoners of war, Erich Ellinghausen and Hans-Jochen Falk, whom Junkins had befriended while serving at Camp Lucky Strike, in Normandy, France. The German shells date between 1936-1938 and were brought together in their new form in 1945.

Decorative items made by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians from the refuse connected to war are commonly called “trench art”. The Museums of Old York has trench art from both WWI and WWII in its collections.


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This little doll was purchased at the Marshall House in York Harbor, Maine in 1935 or 1936 for little Betsy Evans, whose grandparents owned and operated the fashionable hotel.

The style of the clothes the German-made doll wears is more typical of clothes worn ca. 1845-1850. However, this style was also worn by a communal religious group known as the Shakers well into the 20th century. The Shakers (The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing) were one of many groups of people, including Native Americans, who used to come to the Marshall House to sell their wares to tourists.

The doll’s clothes appear to have been made by Sister Eleanor Philbrick (1899-1976), originally from the Alfred Shaker Village. When the Alfred community was forced to close in 1931 due to an aging and dwindling membership, Sister Eleanor joined the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community, which actively sold its wares in York. Sister Eleanor’s dolls can be identified by the dresses’ large yokes and by the use of felt and muslin.

Sabbathday Lake, located in New Gloucester, Maine is the only active Shaker community in the world.


                                          A second example of the mystery doll!

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This week’s mystery object is a bedkey! Bedkeys were used to tighten the ropes which served as boxsprings for mattresses  on early beds. The old saying, “Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite”, refers to the fact that the bed’s ropes had to be tightened from time to time to keep the mattress from sagging, and that there were often bugs in the straw ticking!


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This pine restraining chair dates to about c1810-1830. There are slots throughout the chair, on the back, on the wings, under the armrests and on the base which prevented the person seated from moving freely. There is a hole in the center of the seat and a shelf located under the seat to hold a chamber pot suggesting that a person would have been kept in the chair over long periods of time. It has a history of being used in York County, Maine.

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This week’s mystery object was used to lend a little comfort to long Puritan Sunday sermons. The Museums of Old York has two armrests in the collections.

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Last week’s mystery object was brought back to York from China by Louise Caroline (Wilcox) Putnam (1822-1894). Louise, the wife of Captain William E. Putnam (c1811-1868), traveled to China with her husband several times in the mid-19th century. The headrest was donated to the Museums of Old York by her great-niece, Dorothy Hungerford. The Museums of Old York owns and interprets the Emerson-Wilcox House, the home in which Louise was born and died. The house still contains many things Louise brought back from China. If you have the chance, come and visit us!

As uncomfortable as a wooden-framed rattan-covered pillow may seem, China also made headrests out of porcelain!

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