Monday, February 8, 2016

Becoming George: The George Washington Manuscript Collection at Morristown National Historical Park

WHAT: Drew Library Conversations on Collecting Series

WHERE: Drew University Rose Memorial Library 2nd floor Pilling Room
SPEAKER: Dr. Jude M. Pfister, Chief of Cultural Resources, Morristown National Historical Park Discover more than 400 of George Washington’s manuscripts held by the National Park.

WHEN: February 25 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

COST: Free

Thursday, February 4, 2016

America Writes Its History Lecture & Book Signing

At the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum
Saturday, March 5th, 1:00 PM

Allentown, Pennsylvania—Prominent public historian and prolific author Dr. Jude Pfister will visit the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum on Saturday, March 5th at 1:00 p.m. to speak on his book, America Writes Its History:  The Formation of a National Narrative 1650-1850.  The announcement was made today by Joseph Garrera, executive director of the Museum. 

Dr. Pfister’s talk will examine how history was shaped by events, and how events were shaped by history, and especially by historians.  “This presentation will fascinate everyone interested in the making of history,” said Garrera.  “Dr. Pfister’s work examines how Americans have used history in their efforts to explain and define themselves.”

The writing of American history has followed the development of the country from the first tentative outposts in the early 1600s to the free, independent, and confident, nation of the early 1800s.  During that time writers sought to fashion the guiding narrative of the unfolding American drama as it played out against great upheavals in colonial and Revolutionary America.  How would Americans define themselves and their new land?  Their fears, anxieties, triumphs, and defeats are all chronicled in the multiple ways Americans chose to document our past. From plays, to novels, to poems, and non-fiction narratives, Americans strived to explain themselves to themselves.  Equally important, they sought to tell their history to non-Americans as well.

Dr. Jude Pfister has worked with the National Park Service in the field of historic preservation and cultural resource conservation since 1993.  He currently serves as Chief of Curatorial Resources at Morristown National Historical Park, where he oversees the museum, archival, and library programs.  He is the author of several books, as well as multiple articles and reviews.  Copies of Dr. Pfister’s book, America Writes Its History, will be available for purchase, and the author will sign copies following the presentation.  Admission to the presentation  is FREE to members, $8.00 for adult non-members, and $3.00 for non-member children. 

The Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum is a 30,000 square foot teaching institution that attracts a diverse audience.  Its collections of historical Americana include over 35,000 three-dimensional objects, 3 million documents and more than 80,000 vintage photographs.   The Museum is located at 432 W. Walnut Street in Allentown.   Parking is available in the rear of the Museum, on the street, and in nearby lots.  For more information, contact Joseph Garrera, Executive Director, at 610-435-1074.  Visit or visit us on Facebook.  Members of the Press can also reach Mr. Garrera any time of day or night at 484-553-2592 (cell).

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey to Perform La Giuditta at Morristown NHP

On May 1, 2016, Morristown NHP will partner with the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey to present the epic drama of Judith and Holofernes based on the oratorio by Alessandro Scarlatti entitled La Giuditta. The original 1693 score is part of the Lloyd W. Smith Rare Book and Archival collection at Morristown NHP. Maestro Robert Butts will led the orchestra for this very special performance. 

Stay tuned for time and ticket information.

Read more about the Maestro and some of his work, below.

Maestro Robert W. Butts & The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey 

Maestro Robert W. Butts, founder and conductor of The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey for 20 years, was named one of five 2015 Honored Artists by The American Prize. Maestro Butts was also awarded the 2011 American Prize Citation for Arts and Education outreach. He was named the 2004 Arts Professional of the Year by Morris Arts (then the Arts Council of the Morris Area), the DeMarsh Award by The American Recorder Society, and twice was a finalist for The Leo M. Traynor award.    For the American Prize, he has been a finalist as opera and orchestra conductor and as composer. He also was awarded The 2011 Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award. 
Maestro Butts has developed The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey from a specialized period ensemble to one of New Jersey's most dynamic orchestras with the most far-reaching repertoire.   While still performing the music of the 17th and 18th centuries (Monteverdi through Beethoven), Maestro Butts has expanded the orchestra to include music of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Further, he and the orchestra have become leaders in the performance of new music, having premiered a dozen works by local composers over the past four years.   

In addition to his own compositions, Maestro Butts has led the orchestra in premiere works by Derwyn Holder, Richard Russell, Amy Reich, and Monsignor Marco Frisina who visited from the Vatican for the premiere of his work Puccini Suite. Maestro Butts has maintained a commitment to young artists through work with The Pearl & Julius Young Music Competition, sponsored by the orchestra. Finalists of the competition have been invited to play concerti with the orchestra, and to perform with the orchestra to enjoy the experience of playing with the more seasoned players Maestro Butts has also been a leading force in conducting opera in the New York area. Working with The Little Opera Company, New Jersey Concert Opera,  BONJ Opera, Eastern Opera, Touring Opera Company of New York, and Opera Theater of Montclair, Maestro Butts has led acclaimed performances of operas from the 17th through the 21st centuries. He is the only conductor to have conducted concert performances of three Handel operas (Semele, Acis and Galatea, and Giulio Cesare) and three Wagner operas (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried) in addition to operas by Mozart, Pergolesi, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, Bizet, Weber and Johann Strauss. He has worked with singers and directors from around the world. In March 2015, Maestro Butts made his conducting debut in Italy with a performance of Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona. He later conducted the opera with an international cast at The Bell and Barter Theatre in Rockaway, New Jersey.

As a composer, Maestro Butts finds influences from all styles of music ranging from the contrapuntal complexity of Johann Sebastian Bach to the passionate lyrical works of Tchaikovsky and Puccini to modern composers such as Schoenberg and Stravinsky.   Pop music has also influenced his highly lyrical style, particularly the compositions of Stephen Sondheim. In 2015, Maestro Butts had his compositions performed in Italy, England, China and Korea. His chamber operas were performed in January 2015 at The National Opera Center in New York. His Early Morning Suite was recently premiered at Schott Recital Hall in London. His Symphony #1 - The Joshua Symphony, commissioned by the Plaut family, was premiered in 2014.Other compositions receiving performances and critical attention include the operas The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and Mark Twain and the General, as we ll as the popular Browning Songs, Bassoon Concerto, Five Poems on Emily Dickinson, Suite for Mid-Winter Afternoons, and Saturnalia Strings.

As an educator, Maestro Butts has taught courses on music history, conducting, American Music, Opera, and Early 20th Century Music at Montclair State University, The Casperson School of Graduate Studies at Drew University, The College of Saint Elizabeth, and Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has presented musicological papers at conferences of The American Musicological Society, The Country Music Conference, The Sonneck Society, The American Byron Society, The Symposium on New Classicism, and Friends of Mead Hall Annual Meeting.   He is renowned around New Jersey for his passionate and warm teaching and lecturing style which he has brought to many adult education programs, libraries, and retirement communities. He lectures regularly for The New Jersey Council for the Humanities and has lectured for The New Jersey Symphony, New Jersey State Opera, and Elderhostel. He has participated on opera education panels at The Metropolitan Opera.  With The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, he created the education broadcast series Concerts and Conversations.  

Maestro Butts has done extensive media work - recently appearing on television broadcasts in  Cremona and Castlefranco in Italy; in London, England; as a Comcast Newsmaker in New Jersey; and on Ask the Expert with Jesse Frees on WMTR. The November issue of New Jersey Monthly featured a special story on Maestro Butts and the orchestra.

The American Prize, begun in 2009, is awarded for excellence in all areas of musical performance and education. Performances are judged on artistic quality, based on the full breadth of possible criteria, including the overall effect of the performance, musicality, rhythmic incisiveness, ensemble, tone quality, accuracy, intonation, knowledge of style. Founder and Director David Katz was selected as as one of Musical America's "Professionals of the Year—a Key Influencer" for 2016.  The other "Honored Artists for 2015" include Donald Appert, conductor, of Vancouver, WA; Peggy Dettwiler, conductor, of Mansfield, PA; Jonathan Handman, conductor, of LaGrangeville, NY; and Robert Wendel, composer, of New York, NY.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Museum Selfie Day 2016

Join people in museums around the world (on January 20th, 2016) and take a selfie at one of our park sites to help raise awareness of these wonderful cultural resources. Show your support by snapping your #MuseumSelfie with an artifact or historical landscape, at the Morristown NHP.

Read more about this day: The Guardian

Friday, January 15, 2016

Washington’s Headquarters Museum Store Remodeling Begins

Washington’s Headquarters Museum and Ford Mansion Remain Open during Project

Morristown, NJ – Morristown National Historical Park (NHP) is pleased to announce that it has commenced the redesign of its Washington’s Headquarters Museum sales area. The project will reconfigure both the museum’s visitor information desk and its Eastern National store to improve accessibility and visitor orientation in the space.

During the improvement project, the museum store will be closed but the Washington’s Headquarters Museum and historic Ford Mansion will remain open on their winter schedule of Saturdays and Sundays only. Before visiting, please check the museum’s hours at

Eastern National is the Cooperating Association that operates Morristown NHP’s sales areas, as well as many other sales areas throughout the National Park Service. For more information on Eastern National, please visit

Morristown National Historical Park preserves, protects, and commemorates the landscapes, structures, features, and museum collections of the Continental Army winter encampments, the headquarters of General George Washington, and related Revolutionary War sites at Morristown, New Jersey for the benefit and inspiration of the public. The park interprets the history and subsequent commemoration of these encampments and the extraordinary fortitude of the officers and enlisted men under Washington’s leadership. Morristown NHP also represents a continuum of our nation’s efforts to protect our common heritage: as the very first “national historical park”, the park was also established to commemorate, preserve, and memorialize American history and heritage.

For more information about the park, please visit our website at

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ghostly Revelations of the Ford Mansion

Morristown National Historical Park and the Morris County Tourism Bureau recently co-hosted author and paranormal investigator, Gordon Ward, for a seasonal event called Ghostly Revelations.

This presentation was not your traditional ghost hunter's story. Ward discussed varying interpretations of spirits/ghosts/apparitions, reviewed procedures for conducting credible research, and shared the mansion's own haunting tales.

Following the lecture, Ward took participants through the Ford Mansion, where he shared audio evidence he had collected in the historic structure.

Microsoft's GhostWhat a truly chilling experience! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Featured Manuscript: Eliza Hamilton’s Correspondence

Alexander Hamilton has been blowing up lately. The nation’s first Treasury Secretary and founder of the National Bank has been making headlines as debate continues over ​proposed changes to the ten dollar billand a hit musical based on his life debuts on Broadway.In keeping with the demands of popular culture, we’ve got a document written by his most trusted confidant and companion. Today’s featured manuscript is a letter written by Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, to their third son James.

A little background about Eliza Hamilton: She was born in Albany, New York in 1757, the second daughter of the affluent and well­to­do General Philip Schuyler. The fiercely independent Schuyler sisters were renowned for their intelligence, beauty, and charm throughout New York. Eliza (nicknamed Betsey) met the dashing young Alexander in 1777 while he served as aide­de­camp to George Washington during the Revolutionary War and they were married in December of 1780 (fun fact: Eliza was the only one of her five sisters who did not elope). Together, the couple had 8 children and adopted one. Their marriage survived venomous party politics, the nation’s first sex scandal, and the death of their oldest child, but it was brought to a violent end when Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804. Left widowed and nearly destitute, Eliza raised 8 children and served on the boards of multiple charitable organizations, raised money with Dolly Madison to build the Washington Monument, and founded the first private orphanage in New York City. She died on November 9, 1854 at age 97, five months after the passage of the Kansas­Nebraska Act sparked separatism and violence in the country her husband had helped to build from the ground up.

Some of the grammatical errors in this letter made it a bit difficult to decode. Like most women of her time, Betsey Schuyler did not have access to formal education. Because of her aristocratic background she received private tutoring, but that luxury was not available to women of less wealthy families. (It’s worth noting that this woman was married to the economic mastermind of the early republic without a formal acquaintance with mathematics.) Betsey never let that hold her back from involvement in politics and society, however, because she attended private dinners at the White House until very late in her life as presidents continued to court the favor of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton.

Here are some photos of the letter and the envelope in which it was sent. Some parts are pretty tricky to read, so I’ve transcribed what I could below (and fixed some of the mechanics along the way):

New York October 24 1836

My beloved son,

How devotedly I, in my minds eye, followed the movements of the ships that contained the favorite son of my beloved departed Husband. how often must your mind [have] been roused to that great disposer of the Universe that was guarding you on your perilous voyage, could my wishes have wafted you [more] swiftly and smoothly than a Bird your passage would soon have terminated. I have greatly feared your delicate lungs would suffer from sea sickness. Let me hear particularly from you and all about my daughter and her children.

Should the weather be favourable, I wish to go(?) to Nevis, your road to the River will always remain the same and as your farmer may find time to put the side of the road next the fence in order so as to have early planting to ornament it, this Hobby of yours I feel desirous of cherishing more than (?), my Alexander must make drawings of every thing that may qualify (?) the House and ground.

I hope you will have time to examine the police of London, something may be observed beneficial to that of this city. My grand Daughters frequently visit me, the Mother of their departed father claims a closer Union. They are both in good Health, Fanny has become a teacher in Mr (?)’s Sunday school, very gratifying to Mrs Sullivan. A great talk to get General Harrison the Presidency, these garing elections, I fear will cause a tottering to our Constitution, have in seen the [unique] labour of your father In it, perhaps I feel more than any one [else]. Your Brothers are all well, Eliza requests (document is damaged)

wishes In you and all with you, may the Almighty son (?) guard and keep you prays your affectionate Mother

Elizabeth Hamilton

The above is my beloved mother’s

and a letter in her hand writing    

James A Hamilton

April 12 1869

Below her signature we can see she attached a lock of hair and a wax seal to the letter. There’s something written below it, which my grandma promptly deciphered (thanks grandma):

We also have a picture of the envelope the letter came in:

The "envelope" is the back page of the folded pages.

Just from looking at the envelope, we can tell Eliza had some trouble sending this letter. Part of the recipient’s address is crossed out, and it looks like the correspondence was originally sent to Paris, only to be redirected to Marseilles, as evidenced by the French writing below the original address (“aux soins de” means “care of”). There are also three postal marks instead of one, so this letter probably made a pretty rocky journey to reach James Hamilton. The stamp at the very top is also dated December 21st, 1836, and is marked “London”, meaning this letter took almost two months to cross the ocean­ and still had a ways to go.

The content of the letter at first does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary. Eliza writes as an aged matriarch concerned for the health of her “departed Husband[‘s]...favorite son”. She’s worried about James’ “delicate lungs” which, knowing her late husband, doesn’t come as a surprise. Throughout his life, Alexander Hamilton was prone to disease and took great precautions to avoid testing his weak immune system. It appears that James Hamilton, much like his father, was highly susceptible to illness and injury. She also writes about her grandchildren, James’ son Alexander and daughters Eliza and Fanny. We can tell that Alexander is an artist and a keen observer and Fanny has recently become a schoolteacher. Sadly, some damage to the otherwise well­preserved document prevents us from knowing what “Eliza request[ed]”, but it’s a safe bet that she asks either for a souvenir or her father’s safe return home.

What makes this letter so unusual is that it provides an incredibly unique perspective into the psychology of the pre­Civil War era. Eliza briefly mentions “a great talk to get General Harrison the Presidency”, hinting at her involvement in politics which continued thirty years after her husband’s death, and shows that her interest in current affairs did not arise out of necessity. As a staunch abolitionist, it’s no surprise that Eliza would have opposed the Democratic candidate (Harrison would have actually lost the election by the time this letter reached James. It’s okay though, he was elected in 1840, holding office for all of 32 days before dying of pneumonia). She also conveys fear for the future if acidulous party politics continue to undermine national unity; in this way, Betsey Hamilton’s views mirror those of her late husband. Hamilton, like Washington, valued the union above all else and believed it was the job of the executive branch to preserve it at all cost. It would be six years after her death until Abraham Lincoln would take the same approach to executive responsibility. With sectionalism quickly taking hold of Congress, it is easy to imagine Betsey’s mounting anxiety that the country would fall to pieces less than 50 years after its inception.

In spite of the hardships of life as a single mother of eight and fear for the future of her country, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton was an incredibly strong woman who loved her family more than anything. If this letter shows anything, it’s that Alexander is not the only Hamilton who lived a life of enduring relevance.

This blog post by rising
West Morris Mendham senior, 
Sami Heyman, 17. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Find Your Park and Celebrate the 99th Birthday of the National Park Service

Morristown National Historical Park Will Offer Free Admission on August 25

Morristown, NJ – The National Park Service is turning 99 years old on August 25 and Morristown National Historical Park (NHP) wants to give you a present – free admission! The usual entrance fee of $7.00 will be waived for all visitors on August 25th! Come to the park and see where George Washington slept, hike a trail in Jockey Hollow, or explore the beautiful Cross Estate Gardens.

In preparation for next year’s big centennial celebration, the National Park Service is inviting everyone to Find Your Park. To encourage people to discover everything a park experience can be, there is a fun list of 99 ways to Find Your Park. Try #9 – “Walk through a doorway of a historic house,” at Morristown NHP’s Washington’s Headquarters at the Ford Mansion. Or visit Jockey Hollow and try #53 – “Improve your health – get a park Rx;” and #68 – “Walk nature's treadmill.” You can also share your park experience with others by posting on social media with the hashtag #FindYourPark.

“Birthdays are a time to celebrate and we want everyone to join the party,” states Morristown National Historical Park Superintendent Tom Ross. “Morristown National Historical Park offers something for everyone, so I invite you to visit and Find Your Park.”

On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation to create the National Park Service. Today, there are 408 national parks throughout the country and each one tells an important part of the American story. Some commemorate notable people and achievements, others conserve magnificent landscapes and natural wonders, and all provide a place to have fun and learn. And, on August 25th all national parks will offer free entrance for everyone.

Morristown National Historical Park was established in 1933 to preserve, protect, and commemorate the landscapes, structures, features, and museum collections of the Continental Army winter encampments, the headquarters of General George Washington, and related Revolutionary War sites at Morristown, New Jersey. Last year, more than 264,000 park visitors enjoyed the site, added $14.8 million to the local economy and supported 197 area jobs.

The mission of the National Park Service also extends beyond park boundaries. Community partnerships help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. To see what is happening in New Jersey, go to

For more information about the Morristown NHP, please call 973-539-2016 ext. 210 or visit our website at

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Ultimate Teaching Tool

For the last two weeks, I conducted two sets of two day teacher immersion workshops at Morristown National Historic Park (MNHP) and the Jacobus Vanderveer House (JVH). My biggest take-away so far from these sessions with teachers is that there is no limit to the use of our national parks and historic locations for our schools and students. The teachers on these workshops developed lesson summaries on topics as diverse as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work at MNHP during the Great Depression, the nutritional and herbal uses of the colonial era garden to enhance food and life and lesson ideas probing the perspectives of Loyalists, Patriots, children, slaves, Native Americans and women during the Revolutionary War time period.  Other teachers used the historic, cultural and recreational resources at MNHP and the JVH to create lessons on invasive plant species, tree canopy coverage and kindergarten level lessons on place over time and wants and needs as they related to the children of the Vanderveer and Ford families.   My personal favorite part of these workshops was leading teachers on the process of “sit-spotting” in nature. This practice was done by Native American groups as a form of meditation and nature observation. We connected sit-spotting to everything our ancestors and elders learned about their world. For example, at MNHP and the JVH, nature awareness and observation utilized by inhabitants of these areas at different times led to very simple yet powerful outcomes. Their survival depended upon being nature-aware. Observation gave our ancestors the knowledge of the best direction to build the front of one’s home (south facing to gain the most Sun), the simple concept of selecting the best geographic areas for winter encampments, what herbs to use for medicinal purposes, the usage of plants to make linens, the best woods to use to make fires, build cabins and craft boats and so much more. More importantly, sit-spotting allows teachers and students the time and space to imagine what it was like to be that historic figure on that property during a specific moment in time.   For me, that simple concept of experiential, nature and place-based education is probably the most powerful teaching tool we as educators still have in our bag of  tools.

--Chris Bickel

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Featured Artifact:Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts Bay

Thomas Hitchinson,
Wiki Commons image.
Long before the burgeoning patriot movement became bold enough to attack the King, governor Thomas Hutchinson was the original bogeyman of the revolution. To a reader of the Boston Gazette he would represent the worst of the imperial government; an arrogant uncaring aristocrat who abused the power of the many offices that he held because of his family name rather than merit. Sensationalist news isn’t a recent invention however, and the real Hutchinson scarcely resembles the one created and demonized for over a century by his opponents. The real Hutchinson is almost a tragic figure, torn between his love for New England and his loyalty to the government despite a painful awareness that many of their actions were mistaken. Further contradicting the image of Hutchinson as a snobby aristocrat is his work as a historian. With a lifetime of experience and reference material as a politician, Thomas Hutchinson labored in his free time to produce a three volume history of the Massachusetts Bay colony, spanning from 1692 to his departure to London in 1774. Although the tone of his work is a bit dry by modern standards, Hutchinson’s History is still impressive for its thoroughness and objective retelling of the colonies past. That he was fair and impartial to his harshest and most bitter critics such as Samuel Adams and James Otis is telling of his character. As part of the extensive collection of Lloyd Smith, the Morristown National Historical Park is fortunate enough to have an original manuscript of Vol. 3 of Hutchinson’s History series. In this blog, we will discuss Hutchinson’s family and early life up to his appointment as acting governor in 1760.

      Thomas Hutchinson was born in 1711 to a family that had already achieved renown in New England. Arriving in 1634, William and Anne Hutchinson initially had a troubled start, being exiled from Boston for religious disagreements and later being murdered by Natives in Long Island. One of their surviving sons, Edward, worked hard and gradually redeemed his family name in Boston, having a varied career as a member of the General Court and chief commander during King Phillips War. Ultimately, he too would be killed by Natives, though not before firmly establishing a tradition of public service in the Hutchinson family. This tradition continued through his grandchild, Thomas Hutchinson Sr., father of the historian-governor. Along with inspiring his son with his dedication to public service, the elder Thomas makes an exotic appearance in history having been present for the capture of the famed pirate captain William Kidd.  The younger Hutchinson grew up with a profitable trading business already established for him, along with a firm conviction that he was meant to lead the people of his colony.

Eighteenth-century Boston,
Wiki Commons image.
Hutchinson began his long career in public service at age twenty-six in 1737, as a member of the lower house of Boston’s General Court. Almost immediately his behavior and beliefs made him a controversial figure, despite his low position in government. An expert on currency, Hutchinson strongly supported ‘hard money’ as opposed to the paper currency favored by his opponents as well as his constituents. Against their wishes, he voted in opposition to a bill they had mandated. This was keeping with his troublesome tendency to defer to the elite (in this case himself) over the public in matters of leadership, unafraid to make what he believed to be the right decision just because it was unpopular. His defiance would come off to many as arrogance for years to come, and his fiscal policy earned him much enmity, including from his most prominent lifelong critic Samuel Adams. Years later some would grudgingly agree that Hutchinson’s decisions as far as economic matters went were correct, with even John Adams admitting he knew of no greater expert on the subject of currency. Regardless, it should come as little surprise that good policy presented in a standoffish manner wouldn’t endear Hutchinson to his fellows.           

Hutchinson’s political career advanced at a steady pace, securing the position of speaker of the lower house in 1749, as well as a seat in the upper house. This would mark the start of another point of critique by his critics; the fact that he held multiple powerful offices at the same time. All the while he continued to court further controversy and lasting disdain with his self-assured policy on economic matters. Still, throughout the 1740’s and early 50’s he proved himself a capable and compassionate politician, showing genuine concern for not only the many refugees of the period but even for the Native American tribes in the region. Following the death of beloved wife in 1754 he threw himself into his work to an extent matched only by his ambition, having a firm eye on the role of governor which he felt he was destined to hold. His ambitions would be aided by a healthy relationship with the upper classes both in the colony and back in England. If he was not one to explain himself to those he considered lower than him, Hutchinson was flattering and deferential to his superiors almost to the point of brown-nosing. Whatever the case, his actions paid off with an appointment to lieutenant-governor in 1758 under Governor Thomas Pownall. His departure in 1760 placed Hutchinson in the role of governor as he awaited the arrival of Pownall’s replacement, Francis Bernard.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Acorn Hall Book Promotes Morristown History Beyond Washington

 (Photo: Courtesy of the Morris County
Historical Society at Acorn Hall)
 At long last, Acorn Hall, the 1853 Georgian-style house at 68 Morris Ave., has its own biography.
The story of those who owned the Italianate estate, now home to the Morris County Historical Society, spans three families—the Schermerhorns, Cranes, and Hones— and many chapters of American history.
“Morris County’s Acorn Hall” was penned by Jude Pfister, chief of cultural resources at the nearby Morristown National Historical Park, known for commemorating the encampment of Gen. George Washington and his ragtag Continental Army during the bitterly cold winter of 1779-80.
“I’ve been driving by Acorn Hall every day for 10 years on the way to work. It’s always fascinated me,” said Pfister, a 20-year veteran of the National Park Service who has penned four other books.
When he uncovered connections between Acorn Hall and the historical park, the project became irresistible.
Among the park’s Revolutionary War attractions is the Ford Mansion, another Georgian-style home—an eighth of a mile from Acorn Hall—built in the early 1770s for Jacob Ford Jr., an iron manufacturer. Ford’s widow allowed Gen. George Washington to use her home as his headquarters during that fateful winter.
“I came across the deed that the Schermerhorn and the Hone family signed, where Schermerhorn bought the property for Acorn Hall, and it was attested by Henry Ford (grandson of Jacob Ford),” Pfister said. “Right there, from the beginning, you have this connection.”
Yet, he explained, it’s easy for historic sites like Acorn Hall, located next to Westin Governor Morris Hotel and just outside the park, to be overlooked.
“Whenever anyone thinks of Morristown history,” Pfister said, “they think of the winter encampment.”
The park attracts some 275,000 visitors annually, with 30,000 of them touring the Ford Mansion, he added. Yet last year Acorn Hall attracted 448 visitors, according to the Morris County Historical Society.
The new book, Pfister explained, can be used to increase public awareness of Morristown history that’s not related to Washington and help the national historical park forge partnerships with other historic sites.
Not that the partnering idea is new. In the two years since park Superintendent Tom Ross took the reins, he has formalized partnership agreements with a dozen nonprofits to keep up the grounds, which include 27 miles of hiking trails and specialized gardens. The agreements are particularly important given the $2.6 million park budget this year—a 3.5 percent decrease from 2010, he said.
But Pfister pointed out there’s another plus to partnering among historical sites. It increases awareness of more historical options – and more historical stories – in the public eye.
Recently, for instance, Acorn Hall used five Windsor chairs on loan from the historical park to create a display that enabled it to participate in the multi-day Revolutionary Times festivities this past July 4th.
“It’s not 1933, when our park was founded, anymore,” Pfister said. “People simply do not look up to the founding generation the way they did 80 years ago. There’s no way we, as the park service, or any historic site, can survive telling the same story of the starving soldiers the same way to the same people for 80 years. It’s not going to happen.”
New stories to tell
Acorn Hall certainly provides some different and animated Morristown narratives.
On one end of its timeline is the 1876 death of 27-year-old Mary Crane Hone, who grew up in the house and succumbed to typhoid fever. On the other is the colorful, globe-trotting life of her granddaughter and namesake, a glamorous Broadway actress and Franklin Delano Roosevelt supporter who stayed single her whole life.
It was the younger Hone who, in 1971, donated Acorn Hall to the historical society, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.
In its 154 pages, “Morris County’s Acorn Hall” romps through the triumphs and tribulations of the two first patriarchs of the home—Dr. John Schermerhorn, who built the place but could not bear to live in it more than five years after his wife’s untimely death, and Augustus Crane, who listed his profession as “gentleman” on the 1860 Census and who named the estate after the many oak trees on its premises.
So, too, the book follows the interesting lives of their spouses, children, and children’s spouses.
No personality so stands out, though, than that of Mary Crane Hone, born in 1904 to Augustus Crane Hone, who owned a consulting engineering business, and his wife, Alice Castleman, a Southern belle who hailed from Kentucky and was the daughter of John Castleman, an officer for the Confederacy during the Civil War who later fought for the U.S. in the Spanish-American War.
As an only child with such a pedigree, Mary Crane Hone had the money and freedom to follow her every impulse as an independent thinker.
“She knew she had talent. She knew she was photogenic, and I think she knew she had some inherent drawbacks,” Pfister said. “As an actress, she was her own worst critic. She was almost David Letterman-esque in being self-deprecating.
“Though she wasn’t self-conscious of her lineage, she certainly was self-conscious of her accent,” he added. “In one letter she compared her language to what she would have heard from African Americans in the cornfields when she was growing up.”
Consequently, she journeyed to England to learn proper English for a stage career that brought her as close to home as a Broadway production of Ibsen’s “Lady from the Sea,” in which she played the lead, and to as far-flung places as Egypt, her only chance to act in Shakespearean roles.
But as women gained the right to vote, the Depression came and went, and World War II unfurled, Hone, a Southern Democrat evolved into a New Deal Democrat.
“As a Southern Democrat, she was an anti-Lincolnian,” Pfister said. “We first see her in politics in 1920 in San Francisco with her mother and her grandmother at the Democratic National Convention, which was the first year that women were allowed to vote in a presidential election.
“It’s also the first appearance, on a national ticket, of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” he added. “He was the vice presidential nominee for the Democrats. Of course, they lost that year. I’m guessing she and FDR met in 1920 because her grandmother was very much a figure in Democratic circles.”
‘Re-Re-Re-Elect Roosevelt’
Immersed in the political issues of the day, Hone left acting and embraced the initiatives of FDR.
In his book, Pfister writes Hone cared deeply “for the advancement of labor causes through organized unions.” Combining her love of theater and the Democratic Party, she contributed to FDR’s final and fourth campaign with a song called “Let’s Re-Re-Re-Elect Roosevelt.”
She also loved the notion of the League of Nations, and then the United Nations, to the extent she was offered a job at the UN in the early 1950s, which she declined, though she accepted a number of secretarial jobs through the years, including one for the BBC.
All these activities distinguished Mary from her mother.
“They were two different people when it came to their world views,” Pfister said. “Mary’s mother came from a time and place where women certainly did not act and certainly did not work outside of the house.
“All the evidence points to her mother being more of the Southern belle,” he added. “She was concerned with the proper number of servants and the proper place settings at a table, all, of course, with a Southern twist. To her mother, there was certainly a class that ruled, or a class that led society. From what I’ve been able to tell, Mary didn’t see it that way.”
That preoccupation is shown in Acorn’s Hall interior opulent displays and bedazzling first floor, complete with dining room, library, music room, and more, all open for tours.
Other facets of Hone’s life also are explored, including the tough time she had bequeathing Acorn Hall, finally settling on the county historical society in 1971 and then subsequently moving, in a state of somewhat typical unrest, to Nantucket.
A beautiful woman with many suitors, Hone never settled down.
“I think,” Pfister said, “she was a wanderer at heart.”
Amy Curry, director of the society, said it was an honor to have an historian as distinguished as Pfister chose Acorn Hall, and its generations of owners, as a subject.
“He illustrates why Acorn Hall is so special,” she said, “and why it’s so important to preserve this gem.”
Lorraine Ash: 973-428-6660;

Learn More
WHAT: Meet Jude M. Pfister, author “Morris County’s Acorn Hall” (The History Press)
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2
WHERE: Washington’s Headquarters Museum Auditorium, 30 Washington Place, Morristown
COST: Free
INFORMATION: 973-539-2016, ext. 210 or
WHAT: An exhibit of Mary Crane Hone’s stage costumes
WHEN: Coming in early September
WHERE: Acorn Hall, 68 Morris Ave., Morristown
COST: Free
INFORMATION: 973-267-3465;

*This article written by Lorraine Ash was originally published July 26, 2015. 
Permission to republish here, courtesy of The Daily Record.