Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Pies for Preservation





In the fall what is better than to make, eat and talk about pie.  Not just sweet dessert pies but what about savory dinner pies.  Eating pie as part of a meal is a very old tradition. 
The origins of pie can loosely be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. The bakers to the pharaohs incorporated nuts, honey and fruits in bread dough, an early form of pastry. Drawings of this can be found etched on the tomb walls of Ramses II.  But mainly the Greeks are given credit for originating pie pastry. Pies during this period were made using a flour-water paste wrapped around meat, which served as a container to cook the meat and seal in the juices.  The Romans, sampling the delicacy, carried home recipes. The wealthy and educated Romans used various types of meat in every course of the meal, including the dessert course. The pie spread throughout Europe, via the Roman roads, where every country adapted the recipes to their customs and foods.1
By the Middle Ages these pastries are named for the French word for basket or case, “coffin/coffyn”.  The pastry itself is the container and baking dish for the contents not necessarily for eating.  The coffin crust is mostly what is now called a standing crust or hot water crust.  This means the crust is thick and can support it’s own weight.  The hot water method of melting the fat and adding it to the flour mixture means the crust will be thick and similar consistency to playdough for building up the walls that will support the pie and hold the lid.  Here is a recipe for hot water crust from the 16th century. 
The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen, 1588. 


To make Paste, and to raise Coffins. Take fine flower, and lay it on a boord, and take a certaine of yolkes of Egges as your quantitie of flower is, then take a certaine of Butter and water, and boil them together, but ye must take heed ye put not too many yolks of Egges, for if you doe, it will make it drie and not pleasant in eating: and yee must take heed ye put not in too much Butter for if you doe, it will make it so fine and short that you cannot raise. And this paste is good to raise all manner of Coffins: Likewise if ye bake Venison, bake it in the paste above named. 2       



The contents of these pies were a wonderful mix of sweet and sour.  Spices, citrus juice or verjuice (sour grape) and sugar along with dried fruit and preserved or cooked meat.  A meal for everyday or a luxury for a banquet depending on the meats, fruits and spices used.  For a banquet the idea was to present a centerpiece or ‘subteltie’ at the table which was part entertainment and part show.  The foods presented at the king’s or aristocrat’s table were suppose to wow the guests, disguised in ornamental ways.  This could mean having a stuffed bird on the pie or the pie pastry shaped to look like the animal inside.  In the 16th century it was popular to have live birds fly out of large pies as in the nursery rhymn “Sing a Song of sixpence – four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.”  Here is an English translation of an Italian recipe from Epulario (The Italian Banquet), published in 1598, the following is written on making this type of surprise pie:

 To Make Pie That the Birds May Be Alive In them and Flie Out When It Is Cut Up – Make the coffin of a great pie or pastry, in the bottome thereof make a hole as big as your fist, or bigger if you will, let the sides of the coffin bee somwhat higher then ordinary pies, which done put it full of flower and bake it, and being baked, open the hole in the bottome, and take out the flower. Then having a pie of the bigness of the hole in the bottome of the coffin aforesaid, you shal put it into the coffin, withall put into the said coffin round about the aforesaid pie as many small live birds as the empty coffin will hold, besides the pie aforesaid. And this is to be at such time as you send the pie to the table, and set before the guests: where uncovering or cutting up the lid of the great pie, all the birds will flie out, which is to delight and pleasure shew to the company. And because they shall not bee altogether mocked, you shall cut open the small pie, and in this sort you may make many others, the like you may do with a tart.3
Note the stuffed bird on top of the pie which is most likely made with the meat of that bird. 


In the late 19th century the sprung metal pie form was invented and raised pies became popular again.  These useful molds were sold by braziers and kitchen equipment retailers, who marketed a great variety of designs.  Because of the support the metal form afforded the pie during baking, it was possible to use a finer edible pastry than the old fashioned inedible hot water crust which had been used since medieval times.  Here is an interesting recipe from Agnes B. Marshall “Cookery Book”, 1880:

Prepare a raised pie paste, and with it line a No. 2 size French raised pie mould to scarcely a quarter of an inch thick; then prepare a farce or mince as follows: Take then ounces of veal, twelve ounces of fresh pork, and chop very fine, or pass twice through a mincing machine; season with coralline pepper, salt, and arrange this on the paste in the mould.  Fill in with fillets of pigeon, chicken, or any game you may have, strips of tongue, ham, or bacon, hard-boiled yolks of eggs that are masked with chopped parsley and seasoned with pepper and salt, button mushrooms, pistachios, truffles, pate de foie gras, coekscombs – and any farced birds, such as larks, quails, or ortolans, so as to stand higher than the mould; cover in with more of the farce or mince, and then put a somewhat thinner layer of paste over the top, first wetting the edges of the paste round the mould, press the edges together, and trim off the paste; brush the top lightly over with cold water, stamp out some rounds of the paste and work them into leaves or other pretty designs, and ornament the top of the pie with them; fix a buttered paper round the mould standing some six inches higher than the top of the pie.  Bake gently for about two and a half to three hours, taking care that the paste is not browned, as it should be a rich fawn colour when done; when cooked put the pie aside in the mould till it is cold, then remove the top by cutting the paste through round the edge of the mould, and fill up the pie with any nice meat jelly that is not quite set; then cover the top with some chopped aspic and replace the paste cover.  Remove the mould, dish on a paper, and it may be garnished round with aspic jelly.  Care must be taken when filling up the mould that the jelly is not too liquid or it will go through the paste.  This is excellent as a side dish, or for wedding breakfasts, ball suppers, and, in fact, for use generally.4  





    Sweet pies or fruit tarts

Tarts spring from the Medieval pie-making tradition, and are in fact a kind of flat, open-faced pie.  Enriched doughs or short crusts came into common use about two hundred years after pies, about the 1550s.  Pies and tarts differ in that while pie could be found on a king’s table and a commoner’s,  tarts were the stuff of high cuisine. They were extremely popular among the nobility. Court cooks employed tarts not so much for their taste but because of their looks. Often custard-based, a large, open tart presented a broad canvas upon which an artistic chef might compose a work of edible art. Thus brightly-colored fruits, vegetables and spices all found their way into them. They could be sweet, savory, or more often than not, a mixture of both.  Over time culinary trends took tarts primarily in the sweet direction (citrus tarts like orange and lemon are two all-time classics) though it’s important not to forget their famous savory cousins, quiches.5 



The decoration or trellis work on a tart is what made it especially grand.  The great heyday of this kind of pastry trellis work lasted from the second half of the sixteenth century to the first half of the eighteenth. The practice almost certainly had its origins in a burgeoning fashion for knotted strapwork ornament inaugurated by Mannerist architects such as Sebastiano Serlio (1475-1554). Interlacing decorations like those published by Serlio found their best known expression in architectural detailing and garden design, but food ornamentation was strongly influenced by the same.  The curious knotted biscuits or sweetmeats known as jumbals emerge at this period and elaborate tarts and pies in knot-garden form start to adorn the tables of the wealthy. Edible strap work was all the rage.  Although tarts with intricate strapwork lids appear from time to time in Netherlandish still life paintings like that of Clara Peeters below, it was not until the 1660s that designs for these tarts were published in recipe collections.6 


These European traditions came to America with the first settlers and many of these tart and pie recipes can be found all around the country.  Pies were a practical way of using ingredients, they used less flour than bread and could be easily and cheaply baked. They provided a sustainable food source that could be rationed out to hungry immigrants.  Pie continued to sustain early Americans as they settled the west. Once pioneers found land to claim as their own, their pies began to reflect the regional differences of the areas where they settled. Pumpkin pies and pies sweetened with maple syrup were enjoyed in northern states, where Native Americas taught new settlers how to extract sap from maple trees. In Maine, the plentiful blueberry crops were often baked into pies, and over time blueberry pie became the official dessert of that state.
“Chess pie” was popular in the South—a silky pie with a rich filling of sugar, cream or buttermilk, egg, and sometimes bourbon. The Pennsylvania Dutch made molasses “shoofly” pies, as well as stew-like savory meat pies known as “bott boi,” or pot pie. Settlers in Florida, utilizing the plentiful local citrus, turned native limes into key lime pie. The state of New Hampshire became known for its fried hand pies, quaintly called “crab lanterns.” The Midwest, famous for its dairy farms, favored cheese and cream pies. French immigrants to New Orleans created the pecan pie after the Native Americans introduced them to pecans. Massachusetts invented the beloved Boston Cream Pie, a hybrid pie-cake. This colorful variety of pies reflects the diverse tapestry of early American culture.  If one wanted to, one could tell the story of our nation through pie.7


2.       Jones, Richard.  “The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin”, 1588.
4.       https:www.historicfood.com/Pie



Monday, September 4, 2017

17th Century Dollhouses in the Rijksmuseum




Dollhouses were common in the seventeenth century, but the ones that survive are anything but child’s play. They combine the cabinet of curiosities- strange and wonderful specimens of art and nature collected by the rich to show off their wealth, taste, and education- with the cult of domesticity that grew up in the seventeenth century. Three Dutch dollhouses from the late 1600s survive. The houses of Petronella Oortman and Petronella Dunois are in the Rijksmuseum, while the house of Petronella de la Court is in the Centraal Museum. Their collections are virtually complete and have been added to since their creation in the late 1600s, and the detail with which they were decorated can give us marvelous information about life in New Netherland and Dutch New York.



Many of the rooms of dollhouses are grander than almost anything in New Netherland, but there are humbler rooms as well. The kitchens of all three seventeenth-century houses preserve the workspace of the seventeenth-century cook. Oortman drew on the Netherlands’ large supply of silver miniatures (such toys are mentioned in the 1690s inventory of Margaretha Van Varick) to stock her house, and her cook room displays tiny silver dishes, colanders, a spoon rack with spoons, and, astonishingly, two chickens on a spit in a reflector oven.



All three houses also have cellars to store food and drink. Dunois’s cellar shelves hold tiny pies, rolls, and a cow’s head as well as herbs in jars covered with bits of leather. Barrels of butter sit on the floor and salted fish and a rolling pin and breadboard hang from nails high up on the walls, free from the damp and any attack by mice or rats. All three cellars placed the supplies of beer and wine behind a locked grill; such a grill still survives today in the cellar of the Cornelis Wynkoop house in Marbletown, New York.  Beer barrels marked with the signs of local breweries are tapped, their contents ready to be decanted into a pitcher or bottle; in Oortman’s cellar, bottles of green and brown glass stand on a shelf drilled with holes, probably so the bottles could be stored upside down.
The dollhouses are also a source of information for textiles. Dutch inventories list huge numbers of household linens, and each dollhouse has its own linen room to iron, starch, and arrange them all. Dunois’s best room has an exquisite cabinet filled with tablecloths, napkins, and lengths of linen very much like the ones that filled the kasten of New Netherland households.

There are also fabric furnishings. Oortman’s tapestry room is named for the chain stitch tapestry on the walls, and her lying-in room is hung with red velvet. Meanwhile Dunois’s salon is hung with pale yellow silk and her lying-in-room in bright Indian chintz- perhaps a similar fabric to Jan Gerritsen van Marcken’s “small red flowered curtains.” To a modern observer the effect is overwhelming, but a seventeenth-century viewer would have known immediately that a room decorated that way would have required a fortune in silk or imported cotton print.

Another relic of Dutch settlement that has not survived is the artwork. Petronella de la Court was an art collector, and she filled her dollhouse with dozens of paintings, prints, and sculptures. Dunois and Oortman also collected tiny examples of artwork. But this was not the only way the Dutch enjoyed art in their homes. The salons of Oortman and de la Court are painted with landscapes that completely fill the walls. Oortman’s front hallway features grisaille paintings in shallow niches, imitating marble statues (grisaille painting is done entirely in shades of black, white, and gray). Ceilings, shutters, chimneypieces, and cupboards are painted, as are pieces of furniture. A few examples of such decoration survive from New Netherland and Dutch New York. A kas owned by the Monmouth County Historical Society and dated between 1700 and 1740 is beautifully painted with fruit and flowers in shades of gray. The Van Bergan overmantel, showing the landscape and people of the Van Bergen farm, has survived, and the cradle in Crailo’s Dutch room, dated 1680-1740, still has its original painted garlands.

The final aspect of Dutch home life that these dollhouses portray was actually outside the house. Both Oortman and de la Court included gardens in their dollhouses; Oortman’s was an extra box that could be inserted behind the front hall containing a tiny garden. This has been lost, but a painting of the house from about 1710, also in the Rijksmusum, shows a fountain and statues, as well as trees arranged around a pool.

Vegetable gardens, herb gardens and orchards certainly existed in New Netherland. But the Castello Plan, a detailed map of New Amsterdam in the 1660s, shows many formal gardens as well. De la Court’s garden room gives us an idea of what we might have found there. It shows classical statues, a small pergola, and flowerpots holding small fruit trees. The Dutch love of fruit was recorded by Adraien van der Donck, and the list of fruits grown in New Netherland included cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, persimmons, currants, figs, and gooseberries, as well as wild grapes. For the doll inhabitants of de la Court’s miniature house, this garden would have represented a source of fresh and preserved fruit for the family. The garden also includes plants grown for their beauty such as rosebushes and, against the left wall, a cheerful North American import- a sunflower. 

To see these dollhouses online, search “doll’s house” at https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en and “de la Court” at www. http://centraalmuseum.nl. This article also drew on the book The 17th-century Dolls’ Houses of the Rijkmuseum.





Saturday, June 10, 2017

Spring Activities - Cheese and Butter Making


Spring is the perfect season for butter and cheese making.  Cows are having calves, producing more milk and providing one of the ingredients for cheese making, rennet.  The grass is new, the cow’s milk is sweet.  Milk preservation was very important in the spring and dairy production has a long history in the Netherlands.  The grass in the lowland, damp areas of the Netherlands is the most abundant resource.   The highest producing dairy animal is the Friesian breed of cow which was developed in North Holland and Friesland.  From the beginning of time cheese and butter have been one of the best ways to preserve milk.  In the Netherlands cheese production was regulated in the middle ages, sold at markets in the center of town by local farmers, where guilds could balance the price of cheese.  

 Dairy production was mainly a women’s job.  The environment for cheese and butter making needed to be clean and sanitary.   Anything less than clean could be lethal or unprofitable.  Small buildings or rooms in the basement would be fitted with brick or stone floors, ceilings and inside walls plastered and whitewashed against dirt.  Because coolness was also vital floors of dairy buildings were mostly below grade and well ventilated to keep cool.  Gervase Markham in his 1615 book “The English Housewife” describes the keeping of a dairy “the main point belonging there unto is the housewife’s cleanliness in the sweet and neat keeping of the dairy house; where not the least mote of any filth may by any means appear, but all things either to the eye or nose so void of sourness or sluttishness, that a prince’s bed chamber must not exceed it.”  


The first step in processing the milk for cheese and butter is to strain it, removing the chunky bits, cow hair, and flies. Then you pour the milk into wide, shallow pans, leaving it twenty-four to forty-eight hours on the shelves while the cream rises. The pans were earthenware, glazed on the inside, metal pans were rarely used because they could change the flavor of the milk.  Once the cream rises, it's skimmed off with big flat spoons and stored.  As with meat in a smokehouse, water is the enemy; it makes things go off. Since cream is more  fat than water, it has a longer shelf life than milk. To make butter, the cream is worked in a plunge churn. The agitation causes a physical change in the cream, so the fat accumulates in bunches while the water gets separated. Dairymaids learn to listen to the churn for the diagnostic slop, slop. . . slush. That thin watery sound means the butter has formed. The long job of making butter had its own rhyme.  This was as a song which went with the rhythm of the work.  It was widely known on both sides of the Atlantic, with many variations and was probably already old when mentioned in print in 1685.  Many cultures had their own churning songs. 


After the cream had formed lumps of butter, it still wasn’t ready for serving or preserving.  It was taken out of the churn, probably with wooden scoops, ready to be salted and shaped.  Buttermilk, which had separated from the butterfat, had to be rinsed off.  This would improve texture and flavor, and also help the butter keep well, since milk turns rancid more quickly than fat alone.  Salt was usually mixed in at this stage, for flavor and preservation.  Working or “kneading” the butter with a pair of wooden butter hands was the last step to shape the butter then store in a cool place until the time to use. 



 To make cheese, take the fresh milk, heat it slightly then and add rennet, which is derived from the lining of a calf's stomach. Rennet is an enzyme that curdles milk and starts the solidifying process. After standing for twelve hours, the rennet-milk mixture resembles Jell-O. If you take the pan and shake it, the whole thing wiggles. You then cut the cheese into squares with a knife.  This makes lines where the whey, the watery part, can weep out of the solid curds. The whey is strained off and used in some recipes or given to the farm animals as a protein drink.  The curds are then ready for the cheese press, to force out the rest of the water.  The cheese will stay in the press for a few days then dry on a slated shelf, being flipped daily, for a couple of months.  This produces a hard cheese that will last for years.  Flavor and texture come from the type of milk used for cheese making, what the animal eat, drying time and even the environment the cheese dries in.  There are many varieties of cheese and each country has its own varieties as well.  


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pinkster

Pinkster, or Pinxteren as the Dutch called it, was an annual rite of spring that accompanied the celebration of Pentecost.  In New Netherland, references to Pinkster appeared as early as 1628, and as the colony grew, so did the size and scale of Pinkster celebrations.  For instance, on May 9, 1655, a tavern owner in Beverwijck received permission from the Court of Fort Orange to hold a Pinkster celebration featuring a traditinal game of "shooting the parrot".  In this game, armed participants took turns shooting at the figure of parrot that was affixed to the top of a pole.  The 1655 celebration in Beverwijck turned into a raucous and boisterous affair though.  Dutch West India Company authorities reported on extensive property damage associated with the festival, and Peter Stuyvesant himself chastised the Pinkster merry-makers for "much drunkenness and other insolences" as well as "unnecessarily wasting poweder" for the firearms.

Despite its Dutch origins, Pinkster became the most important holiday of the year for enslaved Africans and African Americans living in New Netherland and New York during the 17th and 18th centuries.  By the early 1800s, Pinkster was still being celebrated in Albany on Pinkster Hill, the current site of the NYS Capital.  But by then it had become a distinctly African American celebration.  Historical descriptions of Albany's Pinkster celebrations have survived to reveal a clear pattern for the festivities.  First, in the weeks or months before Pinkster, enslaved people would have negotiated and probably insisted on receiving time off to travel to Albany and join the celebrations, which could last as long as a week.  African Americans made other preparations as well, including gathering and crafting items to be sold and traded at the festival.  A witness to Albany's 1803 Pinkster festival took note of a hastily assembled bazaar where Pinkster attendees sold food, alcoholic beverages, as well as essential ingredients in various folk medicines including sassafras bark, roots, and herbs.

Pinkster began on Pentecost Sunday, which was filled with religious ceremonies and events for children.  On Monday, the atmosphere became more festive.  The day opened with a parade featuring a "Pinkster King," who was elected from within the enslaved community.  After the parade, the designated grounds were given over to music and dancing, all presided over by the Pinkster King.  A spectator named James Eights specifically commented on the music and dances that followed the Pinkster Monday parade in 1803.  According to Eights, women and men spontaneously joined in singing with the performers.  African drumming dominated the musical stylings, and Eights identified the lead drummer as a man named Jackey Quackenboss, probably one of the nine enslaved people "owned" by Hendrick Quackenbush, who resided in the Quackenbush house on Broadway in Albany, which still stands today.

Pinkster Festival at Philipsburg Manor



In the past, historians tended to see Pinkster as a "safety valve" for slavery.  Those historians claim that by allowing even a small amount of liverty around the Pinkster holiday, slaveholders actually made it easier to perpetuate enslavement and to prevent all-out uprisings and resistance.  But a new book by the historian Jeroen Dewulf entitled The Pinkster King and the King of Kongo challenges that "safety valve" notion.  Dewulf and other historians point out that the enslaved participants on Pinkster HIll essentially prganized the festival themselves, and they did so in a very specific way.  In music, dance, food, and even in the election of Pinkster King, a number of West African traditions informed and shaped the way revelers celebrated.  The Pinkster holiday was more than a break from lives of forced labor; it was a major way that enslaved men and women preserved culture through the generations.



Just as importantly, Pinkster was also a political demonstration showcasing the effective methods of organization and resistance within the enslaved population.  Every spring, hundreds of enslaved people in various locations in the upper Hudson Valley started negotiating, possibly even arguing with their enslavers in order to be granted time to travel and celebrate Pinkster.  Also, the Pinkster King was also politically significant since he was elected by the slave community and not as a mere figurehead.  The Pinkster King was usually an enslaved man selected for his leadership abilities, especially his capacity to negotiate with his enslavers and gain significant concessions from them, including time off for holidays, visits to his family members in other areas, even promises of emancipation in exceptionally rare cases.  The Pinkster King was also usually a physically imposing man, capable of defending himself and others.

Pinkster Festival at Philipsburg Manor


In 1804 the Common Council of the City of Albany severely restricted Pinkster celebrations.  Then in 1811, they banned Pinkster altogether, citing the boisterous and raucous elements that had been part of the festival from the very beginning.  It was only in 2011 that Pinkster ban was officially repealed.  On April 22nd, Crailo's Pinkster Festival marked the first time that Pinkster has been celebrated in the Upper Hudson Valley in nearly two centuries.  More importantly though, the event commemorates the lives of the Pinkster celebrants, who preserved and defended their culture, humanity, and political traditions in the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Link Between Alexander Hamilton, Two Presidential Assassins and Christian Science

     
    




      What or who is the link between those three disparate entities in the title of this article?  The answer is Allan McLane Hamilton.   A.M. Hamilton, was the grandson of Alexander Hamilton and the great-great grandson of Hendrick Van Rensselaer of Crailo.  Allan McLane Hamilton was the son of Alexander  Hamilton’s youngest son, Philip.  Philip Hamilton was only two years old when his father was shot in the duel with Aaron Burr.
       Allan McLane Hamilton was born on Oct. 6, 1848 in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1870, he graduated from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.  He would specialize in psychiatric    illnesses.  Psychiatrists, during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, were also called  alienists.  Allan McLane Hamilton became one of America’s foremost forensic alienists of that time period.
       On July 2, 1881, President James A. Garfield was shot by Charles Julius Guiteau.  Dr. Hamilton was called in to examine the assassin. Hamilton believed “. . .Guiteau is only a shrewd scamp.” (NY Times 1/14/1917).  Hamilton felt that Guiteau was not insane, that “. . . he (Guiteau) felt his only successful defense was one of insanity. . . I had several occasions to see Guiteau in jail, when he talked quietly and sensibly.”  Guiteau was hanged on June 30, 1882.
       Nineteen years later, on September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was shot.  The assassin in this case was Leon F. Czolgosz.  After being summoned to examine Czolgosz,  Dr. Hamilton was not allowed to meet with the prisoner.  “. . . the people’s experts had evidently made up their minds that the prisoner was sane and that no  further examination was considered necessary. . ."                                              
        Even though he had not been allowed to examine Czolgosz, Dr. Hamilton attended the trial on September 23, 1901 and came to the conclusion that, “. . . the assassin (Czolgosz) was really a defective who had long been drifting into paranoia.  Hamilton’s final judgement of the Czolgosz trail was as follows,  “I really do not think in all my experience that I have ever seen such a travesty of justice. . .”
        Dr. Hamilton was called in to examine and give his professional opinion as to the sanity of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science Church.   “Early in 1907, George W.  Glover instituted legal action for an accounting of his mother’s (Mrs. Eddy) estate on the ground that she was mentally incompetent.” (NY Times, 10/11/1909).  Dr. Hamilton examined Mrs. Eddy in the summer of 1907 and found her to be     “. . . absolutely normal and possessed of a remarkably clear intellect. . .” (NY Times, 8/25/1907).
        Dr. Hamilton’s opinion of Mrs. Eddy is interesting when compared to his testimony about Christian Science in another trial.  In February 1901, while sworn under oath, declared that “Christian Science is an insane   delusion. . . any person believing that the Devine mind can cure disease. . . without material aid,  is to that extent insane.” (NY Times, 2/19/1901).




Friday, February 24, 2017

Dutch Jambless Fireplaces



Image result for image of jambless fireplaceThe most basic hearth in a house is a simple fire pit in the middle of the floor, with smoke filling the living space. The first great change to this form was the move from the center of the room to one side or end of the room, where the wall could give support to a smoke hood to direct smoke outside. Smoke hoods could usually be put into and removed from a building without affecting the rest of the structure, and from them developed the chimney, a permanent, integral part of a building. Although chimneys were difficult to remove or change, they were also easy to put on an interior wall or use in a house with a second story or attic, because they did not need to vent directly through a wall or roof. By the late medieval period hearths were generally wide and shallow. The mantel was supported by corbels and occasionally pillars. During the sixteenth century much of Europe saw the fireplace recede between the two sides, or jambs, that enclosed the hearth.

 But in the Netherlands the opposite happened. The hearth moved into the room, the walls never materialized, and even the corbels and pillars of the medieval fireplace disappeared. Pieter Aertsen’s 1552 painting The Egg Dance shows an extremely shallow hearth with cloth hanging from the mantel. Interestingly, no other type of smoke hood or chimney is shown with this cloth, perhaps because the jambless fireplace is uniquely terrible at drawing up smoke.



The jambless fireplace may have developed because of the Netherlands themselves. The country is marshy, and in some places construction can only be done by sinking beams into the earth to support the building above. The Renaissance scholar Erasmus once described Amsterdam as a city of people living in the tops of trees because the entire city was built on these posts. The weight of a large enclosed hearth may have been difficult for builders in this style to support. Instead they shifted the weight of the chimney to the house’s support beams. Alternately, some surviving smoke hoods in Scotland (where they were called hingin lums and used into the twentieth century) appear similar to the jambless fireplace, and the smoke hood might have been integrated into the house’s structure to allow better venting for large buildings.
By 1650 the jambless fireplace was obsolete. The mid-17th century saw an increased control of airflow in fireplaces and chimneys as people developed a greater understanding of venting. Stoves were becoming popular for heating rooms, and there were hearths developed specifically for cooking, laundries, and industrial uses. The Dutch continued using the jambless fireplace, but the form was so impractical that in the 1750s it began to disappear in favor of the smaller English-style hearth we recognize today.
Few examples of the jambless fireplace survive, all of them from the first half of the eighteenth century. The Luykas Van Alen house in Kinderhook, the Jean (Jacob) Hasbrouck house and Bevier-Elting house on Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, and the Roeloff Westervelt house in Tenafly, New Jersey are the most famous  examples. Restored jambless fireplaces are in the   Cornelius Schermerhorn House in Kinderhook, the  Peter Winne house in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Schenck House in the Brooklyn Museum. Other surviving or restored hearths are in private homes.  One example is in the Half Moon Tavern (www.halfmoontavern.com) in the Ostrander-Elmendorf house in Hurley. These restorations are not only meant to restore the buildings’ original character.
They are thoughtful choices to value the early Dutch history of the area and to represent the Dutch protectiveness of their distinctive, precious culture.



Jean (Jacob) Hasbrouck house, Historic Huguenot Street 




Further reading:
The Hudson Valley Dutch and Their Houses, Harrison Meeske
Dutch Vernacular Architecture in North America,   1640-1830, John R. Stevens
Dutch Colonial Homes in America, Roderic H.Blackburn

The Jean Hasbrouck House

Mabee Farm

Wyckoff House jambless fireplace
The Egg Dance, 1552



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Hamilton Men's Nemesis


                 



                  Alexander Hamilton” has become the latest “super star” of the Broadway stage. The musical has been widely and almost uniformly praised for its presentation of one of the United States’ Founding Fathers – albeit to a hip hop, rap beat.
                  Hamilton’s has connections to the New York State’s Hudson River Valley elite through his marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler – daughter of General Philip Schuyler, granddaughter of Hendrick Van Rensselaer. Hamilton married into the New York Dutch aristocracy. Marrying Elizabeth Schuyler opened the door to power, privilege and prestige, to say nothing about wealth, for this illegitimate young man from the Caribbean.
                  The Knickerbocker society of New York was based on the inter-marriage of the most powerful  families, much like the dynastic families of Europe. When Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler were joined in wedlock, they began their own dynasty – generations of Hamilton/Schuylers, whose lives reflect all the variations of human-kind, both good and bad.
                  The negative view of the Hamilton family’s legacy was the subject of an article in the Montgomery Alabama Advertiser.  The article, of Sunday, October 4, 1903, was entitled  “Hamilton Fate Throughout The Ages.” Generation after generation of Hamiltons were portrayed as hardly deserving the high standing they occupied in society.
                 This same theme of lackluster Hamilton familial achievements was brought forth in an Atlanta Journal.  In the Journal’s article, entitled “Evil Fate –Pursues The Hamilton Family”, a listing of the less than stellar descendants of Alexander Hamilton is examined.  “Legends of the middle ages relate how an evil spirit of disaster was wont to pursue certain ancient noble families. . . such a  nemesis seems to have followed the house of Hamilton in the United States.”
                 According to this newspaper article, “In all the tragic chapters of the Hamiltons there has been a baleful enchantress. . . some beautiful woman had in each instance been largely responsible for the undoing of these men’s lives.”
                 It is well known that Alexander Hamilton had an eye for the ladies and had been “led astray” on more than one occasion.  Hamilton’s son, John Church Hamilton, was known, it was said, to have been involved in a number of breach of promise lawsuits.
John Church Hamilton’s son, General Alexander Hamilton, was “. . .said to have been expelled from the Second Reformed Church in Tarrytown, and to have threatened on more than one occasion to kill his wife.”


                Another of John Church Hamilton's sons was General Schuyler Hamilton.  Schuyler Hamilton had a son named  Robert Ray Hamilton, who was an attorney and an Assemblyman in the New York State Legislature.  According to the New York Historical Society, Museum and Library, “In the mid-1880’s,  Hamilton began an unfortunate relationship with Eva Mann, which resulted in a scandal. . . . Hamilton secretly married her in June of 1889 after she convinced him that he had fathered a baby, Beatrice, who she had reportedly purchased from a midwife”.  Later that  year, Robert Ray Hamilton discovered that not only had he been lied to about Beatrice’s paternity but that Eva was still married to her first husband. “Eva attempted to attack Hamilton with a knife; however, failing to hit him, she turned her attack on a maid, Mary Donnelly, who she suspected of telling Hamilton the truth.”
                The scandal and ensuing divorce and criminal trials drove Robert Ray west for a fishing and hunting trip at Yellowstone in Wyoming.  He stayed in a remote cabin with John D. Sargent, a relative of the famous artist, John Singer Sargent.  John D. Sargent was known as a strange, reclusive man.

                In late August 1890, Hamilton went out on a hunting excursion by himself.  When he failed to return home, a search party was organized. His horse, with its saddle overturned, was found.  Days later Robert Ray Hamilton was found floating, face-down, in the Snake River.  It was determined by the authorities to have been an accidental drowning.  Rumors began to spread that the body found was not Hamilton’s.  It was reported in The Rockford Daily Register Gazette of February 10, 1891, that “. . .he (Hamilton) was plunged into the very depths of shame by his infatuation for a notorious woman and was now absconded to Australia."  His family said they believed him to be dead and denied he was still alive and using a false identity.  Sightings of Robert Ray Hamilton were reported in Europe, Australia, and other places around the world.  
                There had even been rumors that Robert Ray Hamilton had been murdered by John D. Sargent, a man with mental problems.  This was not the first murder that Sargent was believed to have committed- he was thought to have killed his first wife.  In August 1913, Sargent killed himself in his isolated cabin in the Rockies.