Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Treasure Chest

It's not that often that you find a mysterious chest tucked away in a corner. During the inventory on the Owaneco Train Depot my fellow volunteer Jon Meyer and I came across this seemingly ordinary trunk.

Because we were doing an inventory, we needed to open it up and catalog the contents. What we found inside was a pleasant treat!

Inside the chest we found some family photos, a quilt, and some old photographs of a mysterious shop. Besides the information in the photos, we had nothing else to go on. However, the photos were remarkably preserved. We just had to do a little detective work to figure out more about this shop and its owner.

With a little help from genealogy meister Chuck Courtwright, we began our information quest. As luck would have it, one of the photos gave us a name and shop description: Henry Biermann - Tire and Top Shop. With name in hand we turned next to ancestry.com to get a time/location for Henry Biermann. Markings on one of the photos gave us a general time-frame covering the early 19th century. We found one matching entry for a Henry Biermann in Taylorville, IL. Other information, such as the name of the wife and children confirmed our match.

When doing genealogy research of your own, be sure to widen your search by trying out different name combinations. For example, Henry Biermann's name was listed as: Beirmann, Biermann, and Bierman.

Then we began to research in the genealogical archives located on site. Looking through the local paper's microfilm near the time of Henry Beirmann's death gave us an obituary that provided invaluable information on the entrepreneur.

From that clipping we confirmed the number of children he had, the location of his shop, the name of his wife, his local charity work, and so much more! Who knew an old chest would contain such a wealth of information about Taylorville's history!

If you have your own adventure you would like to unravel, come drop by the Historical Society and Museum and Chuck can help you - or at least point you in the right direction!

- In case you are wondering, all the photos are being properly stored now, as well as digitized so they can be preserved. For more information about proper photo storage please see this great article. To see more resources from the Christian County Genealogical Society, click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Wide World of Trains

Here in central Illinois trains are everywhere. Trains sometimes make me late or wake me up at night since I live close to a track. It's true that trains can be loud and inconvenient at times, but they also have a rich history. I know I see them every day and I hardly stop to to think about everything that goes into keeping a train running

The Christian County Historical Society and Museum is lucky enough to have the old train depot from Owaneco, IL on it's premises. Right now some volunteers are working on cleaning up the depot and researching some of the pieces.

If you remember the Owaneco train depot, or have knowledge about depots in general, please stop by the Historical Society and tell us about it! We would like to discuss trains with you! If you have old pictures, even better! We can scan them in while you visit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Good turnout for the lecture

We had a fantastic turnout for the archaeological lecture on the 24th. 40 people were in attendance!!

Thanks to everyone who came out and heard Dr. Hambacher speak! Also, a special thanks goes out to Dr. Hambacher and the Rockies Express-East Pipeline Project for providing us with an information and entertaining evening.

Here are some pictures from the event:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Archaeological Lecture

I know I am supposed to be blogging about Dolls part 2 this time, but I wanted to let everyone know that the Christian County Historical Society is having a special event in a few weeks!

In case you didn't know September is Illinois Archaeological Awareness month. On Friday September 24th at 7:00 pm at the Historical Society Dr. Michael Hambacher will give a free lecture about the archaeological finds uncovered as a result of the Rockies Express-East Pipeline Project, which covered part of Central Illinois. Dr. Hambacher will talk mostly about finds associated with Woodland and Archaic peoples.

Also, if you want to come early and get a tour of the grounds (suggested donation is $2 per person) we would love to have you come on down! You can have a chance to see all the wonderful objects housed at the Historical Society. I know Chuck and I at least will be out there early (5 pm at the latest).

For more information about the lecture, feel free to e-mail the Historical Society at cchs254@gmail.com.

P.S. I'll be brining cookies - let that sway your vote as it will!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dolls Part 1 (of 2)

Researcher’s Caveat: I’m an archaeologist by training and I’m currently finishing my master’s thesis in the subject. That said, I’m not used to researching whole objects; it’s such a refreshing experience! Although I’m no expert in antique identification, this blog will attempt to chronicle the process of identifying an object from start to finish. My preliminary assessments are just my best-educated guesses and I will provide all the sources I used when I can.

If any of you have any information about a particular object or a research source that can help me out in the process it will be most appreciated! Research is always a work in progress! Also, if you are handling antique dolls of your own you need to be aware of the damages simple things like your hands and sunlight can do to your collections. To help you take the best care of your dolls I have included a link to an online source in preservation techniques called Preservation 101 in the left hand side of the blog.

I hope this will be a fun and informative read for you all!

Dolls are an iconic part of childhood. No matter if you had one of your own, or knew someone who had, chances are you have a childhood memory involving dolls. My favorite, for instance, is my best friend and me tormenting her little brother with our Barbie dolls. Aww, memories! What is your favorite doll memory?

Despite the fact that dolls are so commonplace, dolls are complex and come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. At the Historical Society we have dolls of all colors, kinds, and descriptions. Today we are going to research one that particularly caught my fancy.

Darling Hilda and accessories

Darling Hilda is just that - DARLING! I was initially amazed by this paper doll’s excellent condition! Darling Hilda had such whimsical and fashionable clothes that I could easily see how she would be a favorite with children of the day. The doll and her accessories came in a box dated from 1894 and sold by Tuck and Sons. I chose to highlight Darling Hilda first because it shows the power of identification marks in determining a doll’s origin.

I started the identification process by examining her box in great detail, which provided some exciting tidbits all on its own! The first picture is kind of hard to read so I have zoomed in on the box cover to help you follow along.

Besides the obvious name embellished across the top of the box, the container was also helpful in determining a date and a manufacturer – two things most doll collectors, or researchers of any kind, try to find out first. Date and manufacturer are so important because if you can identify these two variables it is easier to do more in-depth research. On non-paper dolls these marks might be anywhere, but they tend to be on the neck, the back, or the bottom of the foot of the doll. On paper dolls the best place to check is the box, if you have it, or the back of the doll.

The printing on the picture to the right is hard to read through the photo, but near Hilda’s green sleeve is a small cluster of words that say: DATE FEB. 20th arched over the year 1894. This date is likely the patent date and Darling Hilda may not have been produced precisely in that year. But, it's a good starting point since now we know that is the earliest possible date of manufacture. Let me just say it is a rarity to find your information laid out in front of you in such an easy manner! Thank god for capitalism and the need to brand and date everything!

The picture on the left comes from the base of the box. The lettering says:

Raphael Tuck & Sons

London Paris New York

Publishers to her Majesty the Queen

That small imprint lets us know that Raphael Tuck and Sons is the manufacturer of the doll. Now that a manufacture has been established, it’s easier to do research about the specific company. My information comes from Barbara Chaney Fergunson’s (1982) book The Paper Doll (see the references below). Tuck's company started in 1866 as a joint enterprise between Raphael and Ernestine Tuck. It turns out Tuck and Sons were a popular paper doll manufacturer and collector's have extensively researched their productions. Tuck's dolls have a similar look and seem to come with fashionable dresses (typically 4 dresses) and accessories (typically hats).

According to Ferguson (1982:74), Tuck and Sons produced more than just paper dolls; they pioneered the Christmas card, the scenic postcard, and the valentine card. They specialized in chromolithographs, oleographs, and lithographs – or as I like to think of it- paper. They began doing paper dolls in 1893 and continued to do so until 1940 when their headquarters were destroyed by bombing during WWII (Ferguson 1982:74).

Tuck and Sons’ style changed over the years and if you are an avid collector and can’t establish a production date you can look to certain stylistic differences to get a range. Anything from the cut and construction of the doll right on down to the style of clothing can help you date an object. If you are interested in the stylistic changes of Tuck and Sons, a good overview is found on pages 75 and 76 of Ferguson. My guess for Darling Hilda is that she was produced around the turn of the 20th century.

This concludes our look at Darling Hilda. I could go on and on – trust me – but I wanted it keep it simple, sweet, and to the point. I hope you learned some fun stuff and please share with me your doll stories!

Next Time – Dolls Part 2

We are going to research this fun guy right here!

Print Resources:

Ferguson, Barbara Chaney, 1982 The Paper Doll: A Collector’s Guide with Prices. Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Des,Moines.

Goodfellow, Caroline, 1993 The Ultimate Doll Book. Dorling Kindersley, London.

Herron, Lane R., 1998 Warman’s Dolls: A Value and Identification Guide. Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin.

Online Resources:

This blog is a good comprehensive doll guide that I would recommend if you are just starting out. They have just about everything covered.

This is a cute website with some very interesting articles.

This page tells how to protect and preserve your dolls. A must-read for all doll owners.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Welcome to the Christian County Historical Society and Museum's blog!

In case you didn't know, the Christian County Historical Society (CCHS for short) is located in Taylorville, Illinois! If you don't know how to find us, take a look at the Contact Information tab on the left side for help.

We are a volunteer-run enterprise and if you are a history buff, or just looking for something fun to do, please contact us and we can find a way for you to help!

Now just what can you do at the CCHS you might ask? Well, we have several resources for you to enjoy!

First, we house an extensive genealogy collection managed by the Christian County Genealogical Society (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ilchrgs/). If you are looking to start your own family tree, or even just to learn more about Christian County residents, you should stop on by or email the Genealogical Society at ccgs28@gmail.com to get started!

Next, we have a fantastic collection of objects from Illinois' past! Our collections are stored in 7 buildings. The majority of items range from the early nineteenth century (1800s) up to the modern day! We offer tours during normal business hours, with a suggested donation of $2 per person.

Here is just a sneak peak at some of the things you could see and learn about:

Currently the Historical Society is digitizing some of its material collections to put online. This blog will chronicle this process and provide information about some of the unique objects housed at the museum. Each post will have a theme and outline the history of some of the collections related to that theme. Also, in case you have a collection of your own you would like to research, we will post helpful identification and other resources so you can be your own history detective.

Next time we will take a look at dolls through the ages!