Category Archives: Mansion Musings

Just Up the Road: Henry James’s Cousin Minny Temple

About two miles up the road from the Bartow mansion—near the border of Pelham and New Rochelle, New York—24-year-old Mary “Minny” Temple (1845–1870) died of tuberculosis on March 8, 1870. Her first cousin the novelist Henry James (1843–1916) received the … Continue reading

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Multitasking Furniture: A Ladies’ Writing Fire Screen

Ladies, take your pick. Writing desks, worktables, dressing tables, and even a writing fire screen. All made just for you. Some pieces can even multitask. Starting in the 18th century, task-specific furniture—some made especially for women—appeared increasingly on the market. … Continue reading

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The Pleasure of Your Company (but No Gaucheries, Please!): Dinner Parties in 19th-Century America

Let’s say that you wanted to give a dinner party in the 19th century. Or maybe you were invited to one. What were these dinners like? And how did you avoid making ghastly faux pas? A selection of at least … Continue reading

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Fantasy at the Ball: Fancy Dress, Masquerades, and Tableaux Vivants in the 19th Century

It was the ball of the century. The red carpet in spades. The event was Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt’s fancy-dress ball on March 26, 1883, when 1,200 elite guests danced the night away in extravagant costumes at the Vanderbilts’ newly … Continue reading

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Fit for a Lord of the Manor: A Tester Bedstead Attributed to Duncan Phyfe

On November 29, 1955, Justine Bayard Erving—an unmarried descendent of the Van Rensselaer lords of the manor—died in a New York nursing home at the age of 73. The following year, a classical tester bedstead—later attributed to the influential cabinetmaker … Continue reading

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Reimagined: A 19th-Century American Apple Orchard

Americans loved apple orchards in the 19th century (and we still do!). Apple blossoms in the spring, apple picking in the fall, cider making, and apples served every which way have all helped to make the American apple orchard a … Continue reading

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Alice Vaughan-Williams Martineau: An Englishwoman’s Crusade to Cultivate American Gardeners

On September 24, 1913, the British writer and garden designer Alice Martineau (ca. 1865–1956) set sail from Southampton for New York on the White Star Line’s legendary RMS Olympic, the enormous luxury ocean liner that was the sister ship of … Continue reading

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