Expectations

Small actions often lead to unexpected outcomes in the course of our lives, if we take the time to recognize and appreciate them. Looking back at my time with the magazine, for instance, reminds me that finding a career that merged my passions for editing, writing, proofreading, and American history started with a simple letter.

In this issue, the story of young love in the early 1800s started similarly when Jonathan Wheeler, a Massachusetts store clerk, wrote to Elisabeth Davenport, daughter of an affluent farmer in a nearby town, seeking to rekindle a previous acquaintance.

A recently discovered cache of letters between the two, written over the span of more than a year, traces how their reconnection blossomed into a marriage proposal as the couple navigated changing social expectations of what courtship and marriage meant. Perhaps in an effort to convince Elisabeth of his intentions, Jonathan gifted her with small tokens of affection.

One such token is the focus of our antiques story, which looks at small, often hand-held, looking glasses that a young suitor in the 18th or 19th Century might have purchased for his beloved. Dubbed &ldqou;courting mirrors” by antiques collectors and dealers, the mirrors came from northern Europe before creative woodworkers began making them in America.

Surprisingly, though courting mirrors turn up frequently in antiques shops and at auction, little is known of their history. They come in myriad variations and usually sell for three figures, making them affordable and charming additions to your period home.

As a young mother, Lorraine Kamp likely had different aspirations for her Ohio home until a truncated vacation introduced the entire family to 18th-Century architecture and antiques. She fell in love with the New England saltbox, convinced husband Jim they should build a reproduction, and began filling it with antiques. They invited us in to see the results.

Illinois artisan Stacee Droit, best known for her beautifully crafted Santa figures, each with his own personality, decided to change her surroundings by building a new log cabin to house her collection of early primitive antiques, especially anything painted blue. We also share her cozy new home.

Elsewhere in this issue you can experience the merriment of a traditional English Twelfth Night, as celebrated by one of the richest men in the American colonies. Pottsgrove Manor, the home of Pennsylvania ironmaster John Potts, invites visitors behind the scenes to watch the family and their servants prepare for a party focused on food and frolicking.

We also take an in-depth look at two current exhibitions. One explores the fascination historians and visitors have always held for the witch frenzy that engulfed Salem Village in the late 1600s, and how that trauma still echoes among the descendants of those accused. The other takes a more nuanced look at American- made quilts and the messages their makers conveyed within their respective time periods, from the 1700s through today.

In exploring these topics, I enjoy finding unexpected connections, such as learning that Karen Kashary, who penned tips for roasting meat in a tin kitchen, is related to John Potts. We hope you find some small delights in this issue that fulfill your expectations.

Jeanmarie Andrews

Executive Editor

Click here to post a comment about this letter.
Subscribers Partners Advertisers About Us Contact Us
EarlyAmericanLife.com Copyright © 2021 Firelands Media Group LLC