Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Furniture in the Carriage House

Deb working on her desk
Thanks to the generosity of one of our board members, we have a new desk in our office upstairs. Deb King, our garden and grounds expert, had been using a tabletop supported by two filing cabinets until this past week, when outgoing board member Roger Adams presented her with a new desk!

 The desk was delivered last week, and staff spent some time assembling it. Now Deb has a comfortable and attractive workspace.

Thank you, Roger!

The completed project!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Greenery Workshop Planned

Just in time for the holiday season, the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum will host a garland making workshop on Saturday, December 1, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Tannenbaum Cultural Center, located at 107 W. Spring Street, directly behind the Rotary Jail Museum.

The workshop is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Please RSVP by calling 765-362-5769 or e-mailing

All garlands made at the workshop will be on display at the Dorothy Q Chapter DAR House during the annual Holiday High Tea & Fashion Show on Friday, December 7.

Live greenery will be provided, but attendees should bring their own gloves and clippers. Refreshments will also be provided. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving and the Wallaces

We talk a lot about Lew and Susan Wallace here at the blog, but someone who isn't mentioned often is Lew's father David Wallace. David  attended West Point Military Academy and began practicing law in Indiana in 1823. He served in the Indiana State Legislature from 1828 to 1830. In 1831 he was elected Lieutenant-Governor of Indiana.

From 1837 to 1840, David Wallace served as Indiana's sixth governor. On October 30, 1840, David signed the first state proclamation for Thanksgiving and a day of prayer. So if you live in Indiana and are planning to have turkey and pumpkin pie later today, you have Lew Wallace's father to thank!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving Week Hours

photo by tinaxduzgen on flickr

The Lew Wallace Study and Museum will be open Tuesday and Wednesday for tours. We will be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.

We wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Holiday High Tea is fast approaching

As I write this, the weather is sunny and warm, but as impossible as it seems, the holidays are right around the corner. Christmas is less than two months away!

Here at the Lew Wallace Study, we always ring in the holiday season with our Holiday High Tea and fashion show. This year, the event is scheduled for December 7 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Join us for a sneak peek into two of Crawfordsville's most prestigious historic homes, specially decorated for the holidays!

The Colonel Isaac C. Elston Home, chapter house for the Dorothy Q chapter of the DAR, and the Elston Homestead, home of the President of Wabash College, serve as the host locations for the fashion show and boutique, high tea, holiday concert, and the spirit of the season.

As in past years, hand-designed holiday wreaths like the one pictured at right will be available at the "Making Spirits Bright" sale beginning at 4 p.m. Local merchant Homestead Greetings and Gifts will be providing a Vera Bradley boutique and other home decor.

Reservations are $25 per person and due by December 5. For reservations, please call 765-362-5769 or email Proceeds from ticket sales directly benefit the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum and the Dorothy Q Chapter DAR.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lew Wallace and Veterans Day

Veterans Day 2012 poster
Since Veterans Day wasn't established until 1919 (as Armistice Day), you may wonder about the title of this blog post. But although Veterans Day was not observed in Lew's day, Decoration Day (the precursor to Memorial Day) was. Lew was also very interested in the fate of veterans, and remained involved in veterans organizations.

On several occasions Lew spoke at the dedication of war memorials, in locations such as Shiloh National Battlefield in Tennessee; Greencastle, Indiana; and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis. Some of the words spoken at the dedication of the monument in Indianapolis are worth remembering as we observe Veterans Day:
It has been said 'The world loves, not those who would sacrifice themselves for others, if they could find an opportunity, but those who have found one and used it.' She, our mother, the state, saw the distinction, and applied it to her sons of the sword and gun; and now it is the text of the sermon she means these stones to preach immemorially. In other words, making this matchless structure speak for her, she says: 'They are my best beloved, who in every instance of danger to the nation, discover a glorious chance to serve their fellow men and dare the chance, though in so doing they suffer and sometimes die.'
Happy Veterans Day, and to all who have served this country, in peacetime or in war, in the United States Armed Forces, thank you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A unique--if uncomfortable--piece of furniture

I'm often asked about this rocking chair in the Study. It doesn't look as if it would be very comfortable, thanks to the face carved on the back. The nose would probably poke the hapless sitter in the middle of the back!

But whether or not the chair would be comfortable, it is certainly ornate and intriguing. Why is there a face carved on the back? Is there some meaning to it? Where did the chair come from?

We don't have much information in our archives about the history of the chair, but the carved motif is very similar to one that can be found throughout Europe--that of the Green Man.

Depictions of faces surrounded by foliage, or with foliage coming from their mouths, can be found dating back as early as the Eleventh Century in England, and dating back to the First Century in Rome. There might be a link between the Green Man and the Greek gods such as Dionysus, Silvanus, Bacchus, and Pan. Celtic deities such as Cernunnos and the Oak King and Holly King may also be represented in these figures.

Whatever the symbolism, Lew must have appreciated the workmanship of this chair...even if he found it uncomfortable to sit in.

A close-up of the carving
For more information about the Green Man, visit The Enigma of the Green Man or The Mythology of the Green Man.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Memento Mori

I frequently have visitors ask me about the little paperweight displayed on a shelf in the Study. Titled Memento Mori, the paperweight depicts a human skull. So why would Lew want to display a skull on his desk?

The phrase "memento mori" is Latin, and means "remember you will die" or "remember you are mortal." It has a connection to the Roman era, when victorious generals were often given a triumph. As the general was being lavished with praise and glory, a servant stood nearby, whispering to him, "Remember, you are mortal." Wouldn't want those generals to get any ideas!

The Victorians embraced the concept of mortality and had a complicated relationship with death. There were strict guidelines about how long mourning should last and how long it should be done. Brooches were made from the braided hair of dead loved ones. Victorians often took photographs of their deceased.

Viewed in that light, Lew's little reminder of his own mortality doesn't seem quite so macabre!