Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chapter the Eighth: In Which I Call In An Expert

We had previously, in one of my, hey-let's-start-a-demolition-project-at-bedtime extravaganzas, uncovered the original wallpaper in the downstairs bedroom. This room was created by placing a wall a third of the way across the cabin thereby making 2 rooms. What I believe happened was that for whatever reason they put horizontal boards over the green paneling and then papered directly over that.

At some later date they nailed fabric over the wallpaper and then put up another layer of wallpaper and later papered 2 more times and then painted it green and *then* they put up drywall. I have been trying to ascertain when this first wallpaper layer was installed in hopes of it helping us to date the time frame in which the cabin was constructed.
Historic New England has a fabulous online collection of old wallpaper and the Smithsonian  Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has a phenomenal collection as well. After looking at tons of examples of wallpaper online I was pretty sure that this paper was fairly old, but I really needed confirmation so.....I called the Smithsonian! I thought "hey what do I have to lose, they'll either be helpful or tell me that peons should direct their questions elsewhere." I spoke with Greg Herringshaw, the assistant curator of wallcoverings and he was so nice and helpful. He had me email him some pictures and sent me this reply:
Dear Paris, it is difficult to place a date on patterns like this as they are not really indicative of any style, and have pretty much been 200 years.  That being said, the density of the pigment on the paper pasted to the boards suggests this is a block print. Block-printed papers use very chalky opaque pigments to print, and the colors are printed one on top of another so you get a buildup of colors. Machine-printed colors are much thinner usually allowing you to see through to the color below. If your paper is block-printed I would put its date as 1850 or earlier. Manufacturers started machine-printing around 1840, and this paper with its small design would have been a good candidate for a machine print had it been available at the time of production. I really can't see enough of the other two papers to give you any information. If you happen to get off more of the top layers of wallpaper I would suggest looking for horizontal seams or joins. This would confirm an early production date.
I had Micah take off the rest of the drywall above and below the above picture and guess what we found? Horizontal seams! My hunch was correct and this is in fact an early block printed paper. I'm so excited, you'd think I just won the lottery!  :-)
The horizontal seam indicating an early wallpaper
 This is the response I got from Greg after we sent him pictures of the horizontal seams:

Paris, congratulations! That is a good find. Speaking in general terms, France started making continuous paper by machine around 1820, England around 1830, America around 1840. This transition to machine-made paper did not happen overnight as the machines were expensive. Also, for a while after this the better wallpapers were still printed on handmade paper. I'm just curious, is there a secondary pattern going on behind or around the leaf and floral motifs? These early papers could not be cleaned so the majority of the surface area was covered with some type of pattern to help disguise the dirt. I would guess your paper was produced in America based on its simple design "formula" so could safely date it around 1840.  Greg

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chapter the Seventh: Use Primary Sources!

New Market isn't much of a town and though its zenith is long past it has never been historically of much account either. In most histories of East Tennessee it merits a 3 sentence entry in the laundry list of small towns with nothing much to recommend them.

In Historical Background of Jefferson County by J.B. Malone we read: "About 1819 James Tucker opened a house of entertainment ten miles northwest of Dandridge on the stage route from Knoxville to Abingdon, Virginia. The place became known as Tuckertown, and during the next few years a small village grew up in the vicinity. As the town became established it provided a new market for produce and passengers on the stage route and was later given the name of New Market."

In Touring the East Tennessee Backroads by Carolyn Sakowski the same information is repeated: "In 1819, James Tucker started a house of entertainment on the Great Stage Road. The village that developed was known as Tuckertown until a general store opened that sold its wares for anything that was available for barter. People in the area started talking about "the new market" and the name stuck."

So that's the official story, Tucker builds his tavern in 1819 and the area becomes known as Tuckertown and then morphs into New Market as people begin to settle the area. Except that the Jefferson County Court Minutes don't support that story at all. I've been doing the deed research for a few months and have wandered down several interesting rabbit trails, one of which is the history of James Tucker and his tavern. I decided to look at the Minutes book last week and began reading it page by page starting in late 1818.

On Friday March 12, 1819 about 1/3 of the way down the page we read: "James Tucker Jr hath leave to keep an ordinary at his own house in New Market who entered into bond with security for the faithful discharge of his duty therein and took an oath more effectively to prevent gambling." And with that we turn history on its ear. He established the tavern in a place already known as New Market and I have yet to read of any mention of a "Tuckertown", I'm not saying I won't come across it, but I haven't yet.

 I am reminded again why it's so important to go back to the original sources whenever possible and not just repeat the words of another writer/researcher. It takes more time, but in the end we are assured that the facts we are stating are indeed facts and not fantasy.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chaper the Sixth: Wiring, Lighting and the never ending porch saga

I haven't blogged recently because there isn't much new to report. We did end up removing all existing wiring in the house after uncovering little gems like this.
Scary wiring

When we took down the plaster and lath in the parlor ceiling that's when we discovered that the previous electrician had never really updated the wiring system, they had installed new wiring at the box and then just spliced into the old knob and tube stuff. Beautiful. We have only safe wiring in the house now, so I can stop worrying about burning the house down and fixate on other worrisome things.
light fixture #1

My parents remodeled their house in the 1980s and thankfully saved the original light fixtures. We are going to install one of them in the parlor and the other in the dining room. They are lovely, heavy, brass fixtures with a great patina and I just love them! I can't decide which fixture should go where though.

light fixture #2

Gill and the boys are still working on the porch, instead of a simple floor tear-off and redo it has turned into a gigantic hassle where nothing is square, level or logical at all. It doesn't help that Gill works 7 days a week and has so little time.  :-(   They are progressing, just s-l-o-w-l-y. We're making great strides with the kitchen ceiling, approximately three and a half decades from now we might be ready to tear out the floor and replace it and *then* we can start building the kitchen. I have days where "whoever thought this was a good idea?!?" runs in an endless loop through my brain.

Just a picture of Magdalena (which, we discovered, is a family name on Gill's side!) loving up Levi.