Thursday, November 20, 2008

Research Karma

Here at the Museum, we've coined the term "Research Karma" to describe what happens when diverse threads of research come together in an "aha!" moment.

One of the first instances of research karma happened a couple of years ago, during a visit from Sally Bush. That's Sally Bush Petcoff, who is a descendant of Asahel Bush II's older brother Seth; she and her husband Tom were visiting from their home in Florida. In the course of our conversation, Sally mentioned that her father, Ralph, and grandparents had driven from Michigan to Oregon in the 1930s to visit our Miss Sally and her siblings. It was the mention of Michigan that reminded me (aha!) of a little album I has seen in our archive, filled with neatly annotated black-and-white vacation photographs, that was labeled "Unidentified." When I showed the album to Sally and Tom, she recognized the photographs and her father's handwriting. The album is no longer unidentified.

The most recent moment came last week, when we were preparing our current exhibit of autograph albums. We have borrowed several albums from the Marion County Historical Society, and were looking through them for signatures of Bush family members or other prominent Salemites. One of the names, "Ella Pohle," seemed familiar to me, so I went to check the records. It turns out (aha!) the Museum owns a dress that belonged to Ella Pohle McGowan. Ella's name seemed so familiar because her dress is currently on display, and I had reviewed the collection notes at the time we dressed the mannequin. Ella's signature is now exhibited next to her beautiful, bottle-green dress. We'll have to return the autograph album to MCHS at the end of the month, but we get to keep the karma!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Darling Sugar Lump

"Sure as the vine grows 'round the stump,
You are my darling sugar lump."

"When you get married,
And your wife is cross,
Come to my house and eat applesauce."

"Remember me you must, you must,
As long as your teeth can chew a crust."

These charming rhymes come to us courtesy of a number of vintage autograph albums that are on display at the Museum through the end of the year.

Autograph albums came to the United States with German immigrants during the 19th century, and were popular especially among young women from the 1870s through the 1910s. The oldest album in our exhibit dates to 1849. It belonged to Eugenia Zieber, who later married Asahel Bush II. She was a student at a boarding school in Pennsylvania before coming to Oregon with her family in 1851. The people who signed her album copied elegant poetry in their finest handwriting; some of the entries are written in German.

Entries in later autograph albums were shorter but still sentimental, or just silly.

"I wish you health,
I wish you wealth,
I wish you golden shore.
I wish you heaven after Death,
What can I wish you more?"

"When you see a rabbit run up a tree,
Pull his tail and think of me."