Monday, November 30, 2009


Now that December is upon us, the gardens at the Study have been prepared for winter. Lantana has been lifted, pruned and repotted. They are kept alive in a cool greenhouse over the winter months, pruned and fertilized in the early spring, and will be ready for planting outdoors in late May.

Cannas and elephant ears have been lifted, cleaned and are ready for storage in the basement of the Study. In the past, we have had only mild success storing cannas, soI'm trying new technics this year. The cannas have been dug, the foliage cut back and bulbs have been cleaned of most soil.

Storage space is limited, so the bulbs will be layered in boxes with a soil-less mix (mostly peat moss) cushioning the bulbs. In the past, no soil was added and some of the bulbs shrivelled. Hopefully, the soil-less mix will help incubate the bulbs. The Study basement is not quite cool enough (45-50 degrees is ideal for storing), but I'm placing the bulbs in the coolest, darkest, dry spot in the basement.

Most of the perennials are cut back and shredded leaves are added to the garden for some extra winter protection. Plans are underway for a great 2010 season. Planting the gardens to look different every year, using period (1885-1905) plants and flowers require loads of research and many enjoyable hours looking through gardening catalogs, books and historical periodicals.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Third Annual Holiday High Tea Benefits General Lew Wallace Study and Museum

One-of-a-kind event features holiday d├ęcor, refreshments, fashion show and door prizes

CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN, November 22, 2009— Holidays and history bring the community together for the third annual Holiday High Tea and Fashions, a benefit for the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society scheduled for Friday, December 4, between 3:00 and 5:30 p.m.

This year’s event will be at the Herron House at 406 W. Wabash Ave., an historic building owned by Wabash College and carrying a great deal of community history. “General Lew Wallace used to sit on the veranda for hours at a time,” said Alice Phillips, who currently resides in the house with her husband, Dean of the College Gary Phillips. “He and William [Herron] were good friends and they would talk for hours about the issues of the day.” Among some of the house’s most beautiful features are the curved grand staircase, five hand-carved fireplaces, and stained glass windows that grace the front of the house and the lower level of the stairs.

The Holiday Tea is an open house complete with tea, sweets, and savory snacks served from the built-in dining room buffet. Local models will show off fashions from Formal to Fireside by heathcliff, and the Herron House will be decorated with seasonal floral arrangements by Milligan’s Flowers & Gifts. Door prizes from local merchants will also be drawn every half hour, giving event-goers several chances to win accessories and decorations to brighten their own homes.

“The holidays are about celebrating and giving, and we do both with this event,” said Anita Klein, chair of the Planning Committee. “The Holiday High Tea and Fashions is a chance to get together to enjoy food, fashion, and a festive atmosphere while supporting one of the gems of Crawfordsville.”

Reservations are $20 per person and due by December 2. No tickets will be available at the door. To reserve places for you and your guests, call the Museum at 765/362-5769.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pack rats

How do you pack over 1,200 books for storage? Very carefully...

Volunteers learned the procedure for packing up General Wallace's books.

Working in pairs, packing volunteers pulled books from the shelves individually, cross-referenced each title with the list to make sure we have a record of it, and made a packing list for each box. We did NOT use white cotton gloves like we usually do to handle artifacts because the cotton can catch fragile pages or bindings and do more harm than good. Instead, we washed our hands REALLY well several times during the workday.

The books were packed carefully in boxes lined with buffered tissue, and more fragile books were tied with white twill tape to make sure they don't fall apart when moved.

Collections Manager Amanda McGuire (center) led the charge by instructing volunteers and troubleshooting problems, and Wabash Archivist and Museum Board Member Beth Swift gave a ton of professional assistance!

We got a few surprises, too: who knew there were books behind books? No wonder we couldn't locate them during the inventory!

Now the boxes are numbered and ready to store. Thank you to all our packing volunteers and staff who came in especially for packing day!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lew and the Snooze

Archaeologists have found evidence that clocks have existed as early as 400 BC clocks run on water existed in China and the Greeks had early mechanical clocks in the 1st century BC. In the early 13th century clocks even had alarms set on them to make a motion or sound at the same time everyday, which were often used to call monks to prayer or meals. These signals were fixed and in order to change them you had to change the fundamental mechanisms of the clock itself. It was also around this time that scholars find references to clocks made of gears and weights. These clocks worked in much the same way as the water counterparts in their use of gravity, but now there was a physical weight instead of pouring water. Whether it is by gears or water, clocks stayed the same for hundreds of years until the advent of microchips and digital technology.

So where, you ask, does Lew Wallace factor into all of these useless clock factoids? Well, the clock has undergone several innovations and improvements, one of which is the advent of the snooze button. Some people have mistakenly credited this to General Lew Wallace, but this just is not true. Says one blogger (, “Stated simply: the snooze button has left me less than satisfied. Given this, I naturally wanted to find a place to lay blame. Who better than the inventor of the snooze button: Lew Wallace.” A careful examination of the history of the clock and its many assets shows us why this just cannot be, but first we must absolutely decide what the snooze button really is.

The snooze button allows the clock owner to set an alarm on his/her clock and when the alarm signals the proper time the owner has the option of resetting that clock for a prescribed amount of time. It is possible to reset a mechanical alarm and even to do so with little effort, but it involves actually changing the alarm time. You cannot patent an action like that, so the snooze button must also involve the owner triggering some kind of predetermined signal that does not necessarily have to go off. This kind of manipulation of a clock was only really available until the General Electric-Telechron in 1956. Not too much later the digital revolution changed clocks forever.

General Wallace died in 1905, a full 51 years before the first marketed snooze alarm. He also could not have invented the alarm itself because an Ottoman engineer, Taqi al-Din, writes about a mechanical alarm clock in his book, The Brightest Stars for the Construction of Mechanical Clocks, which was published somewhere around 1556. Even in the United States the first clock patent goes to Eli Terry On November 17, 1797. It is just not possible for Lew Wallace to have invented the snooze alarm and in fact his own clock is a weight-driven Tiffany timepiece that is still functioning at the Museum.

Researched and written by museum intern Will Finney, Wabash College '10

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Time to Move

Before the onset of any cold rain typical of November in Indiana, we decided to remove some of the most significant artifacts from the Study in preparation of the Study Restoration Project. This week we moved Lew Wallace's custom-made grandfather clock from the Study to the Carriage House Interpretive Center.

Museum Director Larry Paarlberg and local clock specialist Hubert Danzebrink remove the weights and pendulum from the body of the clock.

Larry and three of the Crawfordsville Park and Recreation Dept. maintenance crew carry the clock from the Study building to its temporary home in the Carriage House Interpretive Center. Collections Manager Amanda McGuire instructed the guys not to wear gloves because gloves may make it more likely for the clock to slip from their hands, doing much more harm than the oils in their skin.

Larry, Chris and Bill carefully put the bonnet back over the works of the clock. There was not much room to spare! The clock looks even more stately in the smaller space of the Lynne D. Hohlbein Education Room than it did in the Study.