Once Upon a Time…08.15.2014

Posted on April 21st, 2015 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

1997134630Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  August 15, 2014

PastPerfect Accession #:  1997.134.630

Status:  Partially Identified! NWC Center 6/24/1986 – Back row, L-R: 1. Jack Zager, Ellen Kahn Zager’s husband  2. unidentified  3. Roger Levin  4. Neil Senote or Serrote. Front row, L-R: 1. unidentified 2. Naomi Levin, active in the Women’s Division of the Associated.

Special Thanks To: Ira Askin, anonymous caller

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Exhibit spotlight: The Cohen family’s wine cooler, early 19th century

Posted on April 20th, 2015 by

The artifacts on display in “The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen” exhibit are few, but fabulous.  Take, for example, this early 19th century silver-plated wine cooler, from the Cohen house on North Charles Street, Baltimore.

JMM# 1978.30.4, donated by Florence H. Trupp.

JMM# 1978.30.4, donated by Florence H. Trupp.

Donated to the JMM in 1978 by Florence H. Trupp, this 11 inch cooler is in excellent – if tarnished (more on that in a moment) – condition. It is unmarked, but was likely made in Sheffield, England, where many factories turned out a wide variety of silver-plated tableware and decorative items in what came to be known as Sheffield Plate.

Wine coolers were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Both functional and decorative, they were available in a variety of styles and materials, including silver, silver-plate, glass, ceramic, and wood; take a look at some examples in the collections of the Met, here. Our particular artifact was originally one of a pair, intended for use on the table in the dining room (or other party venue), each holding a single bottle. Crushed ice would be packed into the base and covered by the canister-shaped liner or insert, leaving the bottle sitting cool and dry inside the liner.

With the insert removed.

With the insert removed.

 “Wine Cooler with Bottle,” Anonymous, Italian, 19th century.  From the Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1953, Metropolitan Museum of Art. www.metmuseum.org

“Wine Cooler with Bottle,” Anonymous, Italian, 19th century. From the Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1953, Metropolitan Museum of Art. www.metmuseum.org

The donor informed us of the artifact’s history at the time of donation.  The Cohens were one of the first Jewish families of Baltimore, and they were members of the city’s social elite. A wonderful description of a fancy dress ball, given by Benjamin I. and Kitty Etting Cohen in 1837, can be found in a letter written by Rebecca Lloyd Post Shippen to her mother; Mrs. Shippen focused mostly on the important guests in attendance, but she also described the house itself:

“You remember that everything about the house is rich and expensive . . . . The principle Table extended the length of the Room, decorated with beautiful China, cut glass and Silver . . . . [Everything was] served in the best style.”  (Published in the Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume XIV, 1919.)

“The best style” certainly applies to this artifact. The campana (bell or urn) shape was a popular form; other fashionable elements include the shell handles, and the gadrooning around the collar and base.  When polished and gleaming, holding the best selection from your wine cellar, it would have been an impressive part of a well-set table.

A close-up look at the gadrooning around the top edges of the insert.

A close-up look at the gadrooning around the top edges of the insert.

That certainly lends credence to the idea that this particular piece belonged to a well-to-do family like the Cohens.  Even better is the fact that our cooler matches, almost exactly, the description found in the catalog of the 1929 auction of the Cohen household’s effects:

 “224. Pair Sheffield Wine Coolers. Urn shape on baluster foot. Handles with shell gadroon. All parts complete. Gadroon motif about foot and edge of mouth. Part of Judith Cohen wedding presents. 18th century. Height 11 inches. Width 11 inches.” From the catalog for the sale of “The Antique Furnishings of the Cohen House,” 1929.  JMM# 1984.20.2, donated by Arthur J. Gutman.

“224. Pair Sheffield Wine Coolers. Urn shape on baluster foot. Handles with shell gadroon. All parts complete. Gadroon motif about foot and edge of mouth. Part of Judith Cohen wedding presents. 18th century. Height 11 inches. Width 11 inches.” From the catalog for the sale of “The Antique Furnishings of the Cohen House,” 1929. JMM# 1984.20.2, donated by Arthur J. Gutman.

(It is worth noting that the cataloger, Robert Frank Skutch, assigned too early a date; this style is more typical of the 1810s-30s than the 18th century.  Sadly, that rather negates the wedding gift story, since Judith Solomon married Israel I. Cohen in 1787.)

The multi-day auction was covered by the Baltimore Sun in a series of articles; unfortunately, not every item caught the reporter’s attention, so I’ve not yet discovered the purchaser of the Sheffield wine coolers, nor their final price. (I did learn, however, that a delegate sent by Henry Ford – yes, that Henry Ford – got into a bidding war with Manny Hendler over a pair of lamps. Mr. Ford won.)  The newspaper reports indicate that the auction was a big deal both locally and in the broader antique-collecting community, in part because of the age and quality of the items up for sale, but also because of the Cohen family’s prominence in the city.  As Skutch noted in his Introduction to the auction catalog:

“The Cohen family from the beginning of the last century maintained open house. Here, mingled the culture, public spirit, and social grace of early Baltimore. Fine living was an inborn characteristic of this family, and they maintained a home worthy of the best traditions of Baltimore, and of Maryland.”

…As for the wine cooler’s current lack of shine, there is a good reason for it.  Silver is, in its way, quite fragile; the polishing and buffing you give your household pieces can be extremely damaging over time, and museums are particularly careful with their silver goods.  Removing tarnish actually removes a layer of silver, which is definitely to be avoided with silver-plated items; the mechanical process of handling and cleaning an artifact is an opportunity for accidental damage; and any polish residue – or even water – left in the nooks and crannies of decoration is both unattractive and harmful.

Left-over polish residue can be seen in the details of the handle’s shell motif.

Left-over polish residue can be seen in the details of the handle’s shell motif.

In an ideal situation, silver and silver-plated items are initially (and gently) polished, then stored and/or displayed in appropriately tarnish-inhibiting environments, thus minimizing the need for future cleaning.  In this case, however, the wine cooler was already in a tarnished state, and our exhibit design did not allow for an elaborate case; tarnish would have built up again over the months the artifact was on display.  Rather than create a need for multiple polishing sessions, we concluded it was safer to leave it be for now.  Though the visual impact is somewhat diminished, the wine cooler’s elegant form, expensive material, and general “extra”ness (what, you think I’d just put the bottle on the table? Oh no! I’ve got a fancy silver container!) nonetheless help us illustrate the Cohen family’s important position in Baltimore society.

Come see the Cohen family’s artifacts – and read the entirety of Mrs. Shippen’s letter – in person! “The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen” is on display at the Jewish Museum of Maryland through June 14, 2015.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.

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JMM Insights: Dear Abby

Posted on April 17th, 2015 by

Dear Abby,

I have a fixed lunch date on Sunday afternoons at 1pm with my machatonim (in-laws). As much as we—or at least I—would much rather come to the JMM for one of your many, fabulous lectures and programs at that time, skipping these lunches is just not a negotiable matter. Sadly, it seems that all of your programs are at 1pm on Sundays. It’s very frustrating! Can’t you ever have them at a different time or day?

Sincerely,

Filial Obligations

Dear Filial Obligations,

The good news is that we do, in fact, offer public programming at times other than 1pm on a Sunday afternoon. The bad news is that, yes, the majority of our programs do take place on Sunday afternoons because we’ve consistently gotten the best attendance at those programs. It’s probably because they are on a weekend afternoon when people are likely to want to do something fun downtown.

However, we do periodically host events at other times, including our quarterly Late Night on Lloyd Street events, which are typically on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, from 6pm-9pm. We even have a lecture coming up on May 7th that everyone should mark on their calendars! This is the Sadie B. Feldman lecture; we present this lecture annually, and this year it features professor of History and Jewish Studies, Pam Nadell, who will speak about the lives of early Jewish American women such as Judith Cohen (Mendes Cohen’s mother).

Also, this summer we will host several outdoor movie screenings in our back lot in conjunction with the upcoming exhibit, Cinema Judaica. More information about that will be arriving in the next few months—so stay tuned, folks!

Best Wishes,

Abby

 

 

Dear Abby,

Hypothetically speaking, if an extremely wealthy person were to be inspired by a few ghostly visions of the past and future—which demonstrated to said person the errors of his or her miserly and uncharitable ways—to donate a vast fortune to the JMM, how would that person go about it?

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Asking for a “Friend”

 

Dear Asking for a “Friend,”

Hypothetically speaking, if a person were to decide to donate any sum of money to the Jewish Museum of Maryland, that person should speak to Sue Foard, our administrative assistant who handles monetary donations (not to be confused with Joanna Church, our collections manager, who handles object donations). Sue will be happy to lead you through the process.

Thank you very much for your generosity! As a relatively small non-profit organization, we appreciate any gift, small or “vast”!

Best Wishes,

Abby

 

Dear Abby,

I read in one of your earlier columns that you answered the question of how to schedule an adult group tour (6/21/14 “The Fairest Housekeeper of Them All”); could you tell me how do I arrange a visit for my students?

I’m a very unconventional, hands-on kind of educator. I prefer for my students to really get inside the subject that we’re learning—whether it’s the digestive system or outer space, I make sure my students have a magical learning experience! I’ve heard from other teachers that the JMM has a similar approach to learning, and I’d love to learn more about what my students can do at your museum.

Is it true that you can offer transportation to and from the museum to school groups? If it is, then that’s a very generous offer, but thankfully, I have my own trusty school bus that we use for everything. How much is the admission for school groups? Is there a minimum or maximum for how many students I can bring?

Sincerely,

The Teacher with the Magic School Bus

Come down for a visit!

Come down for a visit!

Dear Magic School Bus,

We would love for you to bring your students to the JMM, and I’m sure we can find activities that will complement their studies in a very immersive way! It’s true that our Education Department prides itself on developing educational programming that builds multiple, core skills while also teaching content. For example, students from 2nd to 8th grade can put on their archaeologist’s hats while learning about the early history of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Many—if not most—of our exhibit activities involve practicing critical thinking skills that are easily adapted for different grades and abilities.

To schedule a group visit, you will need to contact our Visitor Services Coordinator, who is in charge of the museum’s calendar. She will tell you which dates and activities are available to you—it’s best to contact her at least three weeks in advance. It helps if you describe what it is your students are currently studying, so we can find the best match of activities that will deepen your students’ knowledge and their museum experience.

The maximum number of students that we can accommodate at one time is 55. If you have 100 students, this means that we could, potentially, serve 50 of them in the morning and 50 in the afternoon. We require that each group have at least one adult chaperone (a teacher, a parent, etc.) per ten students.

For private schools, we charge only $2 per student and $3 per non-teacher chaperone. Teachers accompanying school groups to the Museum are always free!

For all Maryland public K-12 schools, we are happy to waive the admission fee and to provide up to one free school bus (which typically holds 44 passengers). We know this makes a big difference for many public schools. For schools that are coming from farther away than Baltimore County, we ask that the teacher find a bus charter company that is local to their area, and we will still pay for it.

Once you have scheduled a visit with the Visitor Services Coordinator, she will send you a confirmation form to fill out and return as soon as possible. Then, two business days before the scheduled field trip, each teacher is required to contact the JMM—by phone or email—to confirm the number of students and chaperones coming. This may sound redundant, but it is really helpful for us to have a final head count ahead of the visit! The numbers almost always change between the time of booking and the visit itself, and we need to know how many educators and materials we need for the group. We also need to know that the school group is prepared with the right number of chaperones.

I look forward to speaking with you in more detail about bringing your class on a field trip here!

Best Wishes,

Abby

 

 

 

 

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