Monday, July 31, 2017

Dr. Truman H. Squire: Civil War Surgeon

by Erin Doane, Curator

The Battle of Antietam took place on September 17, 1862. It is considered the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War with approximately 3,650 men killed and over 17,000 wounded. Around 9,550 of those wounded were Union soldiers. Those who were too badly wounded to make the trip to Frederick, Maryland were treated at two nearby Union field hospitals. Dr. Truman H. Squire of Elmira was in charge of one of those hospitals at John Greeting’s Farm near Keedysville, Maryland. The hospital was known as Crystal Springs or the Locust Spring hospital, and, with 24 tents, was the largest hospital on the Union left.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the Union army only had 98 medical officers. At first, the military did not think an official medical corps was needed because the war was not going to last very long. As the conflict dragged on, however, more medical personnel were recruited. Most men who became doctors in the mid-19th century did not attend medical schools. Rather, they would apprentice with established doctors. Those who did go to medical school were trained for two years or less and received practically no clinical experience. In general, little was known about keeping sanitary condition or the use of antiseptics to prevent infection at the time. “Surgical fevers” were a common cause of death for those wounded in battle. Only 1 in 7 wounded soldiers survived.

Surgical kit used by Dr. T.H. Squire during the Civil War
Conditions within the hospitals that treated the Union soldiers wounded at Antietam were notoriously bad. They were so bad, in fact, that the government performed inspections of the facilities that November because of all the complaints. While other hospitals won no praise during those inspections, the Locust Spring hospital was declared a model operation by Assistant Medical Inspector W.R. Mosely. Dr. Squire’s work at the hospital was specifically lauded by Jonathan Letterman, surgeon and medical director of the Army of the Potomac. He wrote in a letter to the Assistant Adjutant General of the Army of the Potomac that “great care and attention were shown to the wounded at the Locust Spring hospital by Surgeon Squire, Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers.”

Cases of gunshot fractured femurs at Battle of
Antietam treated at Locust Spring Hospital by
T.H. Squire – half of those treated died
Dr. Squire got his medical training at the Albany Medical College and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He graduated from the latter in 1848 and moved to Elmira the next year. There he set up his private practice and married Grace Smith. The couple had three children and Squire spent the entirety of the rest of his life in Elmira except for the years he served during the Civil War.

University of the State of New York College of
Physicians and Surgeons Matriculation Ticket,
session of 1847-48 for Mr. Truman H. Squire
The 89th New York Volunteer Infantry was organized in Elmira starting on August 29, 1861. On December 7, the regiment mustered in under Col. Harrison S. Fairchild with 870 officers and men for a three-year enlistment. Squire had been commissioned as surgeon for the regiment on November 28. During the course of the war he became a division field surgeon and then the Director of Field Surgery under General Burnside with the Army of the Potomac.
List of sick to be sent to the rear from 1st
Brigade, 3rd Division, June 29, 1863, signed
by T.H. Squire, Surg.
Squire was also commander of several field hospitals including Locust Spring in Maryland and later on Folly Island in South Carolina. The island served as a major staging area for Union troops that were attacking Confederate forces around Charleston. The field hospital there helped in part to distribute medicines and medical equipment to other regiments. Joseph K. Barnes, Surgeon General of the United States Army, praised Squire for having “gained a high reputation for zeal, intelligence and fidelity,” during the war. “His service was in the field, and he was considered one of the most efficient and useful surgeons of the Army of the Potomac.”

List of medicines and hospital stores received
of T.H. Squire, Surgeon, 89th New York Volunteers
by surgeon of the 14th Pennsylvania Volunteers,
November 19, 1863
After the war, Squire returned to private practice in Elmira. He served as manage and a consulting physician at the Arnot-Ogden Memorial Hospital and was active in local and national medical organization. He continued to work as a surgeon until his death at age 65 in 1889. During his 20 years in medicine, he became known as a talented surgeon, a world-famous inventor of medical appliances, and one of the foremost medical writers of his time. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Real Dog and Pony Show

By Kelli Huggins, Education Coordinator
Whenever you call something a “dog and pony show” today, you’re probably not referencing a literal dog and pony show. But travel back in time a mere 1o0 years or so and you would be surrounded by actual shows with dog and pony performers. In fact, in the late 19th and early 20th century, people wouldn’t understand any other meaning of this term. 
1897 ad for a Norris Brothers Dog and Pony show in Elmira.
Dog and pony shows were small travelling shows in the late 19th and early 20th centuries comprised of trained domestic animal actors. They were different from other circuses of the era. Those often featured large wild animals, like elephants or lions. Starting a dog and pony show was easier than those larger circuses because the talent was cheaper and easier to acquire, even though a considerable amount of training and skill was still necessary to create a successful offering.

Some locals got in on the dog and pony show game. Elmiran George Carrier reportedly had a troupe of trained dogs that were “marvelously intelligent” and did shows in 1891. There are unfortunately, however, no further references to these dogs. Elmira’s Globe Theater manager Eugene Johnson served as the general agent of “Darling’s Little Darlings.”
1901 Darling's Little Darling's ad.
Elmira was also frequently host to dog and pony shows from around the country. The most famous dog and pony show proprietors were the Gentry Brothers of Indiana. Beginning in 1885, they grew their "Gentry's Equine and Canine Paradox” into an impressive force in the world of late 19th century entertainment.  They had multiple touring groups operating at the same time, each with upwards of a few dozen dogs and ponies. 

The Gentry show frequently came to this area. An 1893 show included 16 ponies and some of their babies that drilled, danced, and answered questions. There was also “an army of dogs, poodles, greyhounds, pugs and all kinds of fine dogs. One of the most wonderful feats is the complete back somersault of Barney, a little fellow whose breed is doubtful. Three of the dogs ride ponies at full speed. The greyhounds do some wonderful high and distance leaping. The performance closes with a pyramid of dogs and horses.”

1893 Gentry show in Elmira.
The Gentry brothers weren’t the only game in town. Other shows came through the area with great frequency. One Professor Williams and his dog and pony show gave a performance to an audience of children from the Orphans’ Home children in 1896.
1896 advertisement
Children at the Orphan's home enjoyed a Professor Williams show
 The dog and pony shows ultimately fell out of fashion by the early 20th century. Americans turned their attentions to other forms of entertainment, including vaudeville, larger circuses, and the newly emerging film industry. Now we’re just left with a phrase for which most people don’t even realize the real canine and equine origins.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Well Done Sister Suffragettes

By Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

2017 is the 100th anniversary of the passage of women’s suffrage in New York. It was passed as a ballot initiative on election day, November 6, 1917. It was the second time such a referendum had appeared on the ballot. The first was proposed in 1915. It passed in Chemung County with 52% of the vote, but failed state wide. So, what made the difference between failing in 1915 and passing in 1917? The hard work of countless suffragists.
The Women’s Suffrage Party of Chemung County worked tirelessly throughout the spring and summer of 1917 to raise support for their cause. They went door-to-door to speak with potential voters. They lectured on women’s suffrage at local churches. They handed out informational brochures and free soft drinks out the county fair. Who were some of these women and what did they do when they weren’t crusading for the vote?

Letterhead of the Women's Suffrage Party of Chemung County, ca. 1917

Mrs. George Pickering
Pickering of Elmira was the chair of the Women’s Suffrage Party of Chemung County at the time of the referendum. Deeply concerned with politics, Pickering was also involved in the Women’s League for Good Government, an impartial group working to end political corruption, and ran for local office in the 1920s.  She was active in the League of Women Voters for the remainder of her life. In addition to her political activities, she was also involved in the Women’s Federation for Social Services, worked as a fundraiser for various charitable causes, and enjoyed whisk. She was the wife of a prosperous dye manufacturer and thus had the money and time to devote herself to charity and politics. 

Miss Clutha Ralyea
Ralyea was the treasurer of the Women’s Suffrage Party of Chemung County and organized various fundraising efforts including a stand at the public market. During World War I, she was also involved in fundraising for the Red Cross. A graduate of Vassar, Ralyea also took summer classes at Cornell. As the daughter of a wealthy tobacco dealer, she appeared frequently in the social pages hosting and attending parties and bridge tournaments. In 1918, she married a Rev. Charles E. McAllister of Maryland and moved away.

Mrs. Harriet Frasier

Mrs. Harriet Frasier
Frasier was a resident of Wellsburg. She volunteered as a census taker in that village for the Census and Inventory of the Military Resource of the State of New York in the spring of 1917. As part of her duties, she visited every home in the village and took the time to spread the suffragist message in the course of her official duties. In addition to her suffragist work, she was an active member in the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and served as the chairwoman of the Wellsburg Liberty Loan Committee.  Her husband Robert was a commercial artist who served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the war.

Monday, July 10, 2017

200 Years in Time: The Lowman Family Clock

by Erin Doane, Curator

For over two hundred years, the clock that now lives on the first floor of the museum near the admissions desk has ticked away the seconds of history. George Lauman acquired the clock sometime in the late 1700s and it was passed through five generations of the family before finally ending up in the museum in 2016.

Lowman Family Clock
The clock’s dial is marked Osborne, Birmingham. The English foundry firm made dials from 1772 through 1813. At that time, it was common for dials and clockworks made in England to be shipped to the United States. While Osborne made the dial, the company did not make the wooden case. It was impractical and expensive to ship full clocks overseas so American cabinetmakers would construct the clock cases around the imported works.

The clock’s first owners, George and Esther Maria Lauman, lived in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Both had German ancestry and were members of the Lutheran Church. George served in the Revolutionary War and then made his living as a stone mason. He died at the age of 65 in 1809 when a horse kicked him in the stomach. Esther lived until 1831. Upon her death, the family clock was passed down to Jacob, the oldest of their nine children.

Headstones of George and Ester Lauman
in the Middletown, Pennsylvania.
(from The Lowmans in Chemung County, 1938)
In 1788, at the age of 19, Jacob started a business transporting goods on the Susquehanna River to Tioga Point, Pennsylvania. He loaded a boat with 20 tons of goods including tobacco, liquor, dry goods, clothes, guns, ammunition, and tools and traded those goods for grain, flax, hemp, and animal pelts. The enterprise was very successful and he expanded it to the Chemung River. In 1792, he purchased land in Chemung, New York and started a lumber business. At that time, Jacob changed the spelling of his last name to Lowman. Over time, he acquired hundreds of acres of land, including a parcel at the mouth of Baldwin Creek near where the hamlet of Lowman is now located. The hamlet is named after Jacob Lowman.  

Home of Jacob Lowman, Sr. built in 1819
(from The Lowmans in Chemung County, 1938)
Upon Jacob’s death in 1840, the clock passed into the possession of his youngest child, Jacob, Jr. His son also inherited the family homestead and other property. Eventually, Jacob, Jr. became the largest land owner in Chemung County with more than four thousand acres of productive farmland. He was involved in the tobacco industry and established the first tobacco warehouse in Elmira in partnership with John Brand. He also operated a distillery in Lowman with his cousin George S. Lowman which produced Old Lowman Rye Whiskey.

Original Sullivan Monument
Jacob Lowman, Jr. was one of the first trustees of the
Newtown Monument Association and was involved in
the building of the first monument to the battle and the
organization of the 1879 commemoration ceremony.
Jacob, Jr. never married or had children so when he died in 1891, the family clock went to George S., his cousin and business partner. George S. and Jacob, Jr. operated their distillery in Lowman until high taxes during the Civil War forced them to close. In 1872, George S. purchased a homestead in Wellsburg and built a block of stores downtown. A large hall above the stores was known as “Lowman’s Hall.”

Benedictus Ellwyn, grandson of George S., became the next owner of the Loman clock. B. Ellwyn was born in the family home in Wellsburg and attended Wellsburg Union and High Schools as well as Elmira Academy and the University of Pennsylvania. He was involved with the Thatcher Manufacturing Company in Elmira.

B. Ellwyn had one daughter but when he died the clock went to his sister Georgia’s family. Georgia was married to Chester E. Howell, Jr. The last owner of the family clock was their son George Lowman Howell. George Howell was well-known in Elmira and the wider community as a businessman and philanthropist. He was devoted to community service and the preservation of history. Before he passed away on November 22, 2015, he arranged to have the Lowman Family clock donated to the Chemung County Historical Society.

Lowman Family clock on display at CCHS

Monday, July 3, 2017

Naked and Steamy: Turkish Baths in Elmira

By Kelli Huggins, Education Coordinator
Public bathing was popular in antiquity, but came to the United States in full force by the 1890s. Larger baths were in cities like New York and Philadelphia, but Elmira had its own, too. There were different types of public baths in this time. One type was for poor people to bathe to help curb the spread of infectious disease in cramped cities. In addition to the germ-cleansing benefits, other people saw bathing and water as a cure for ailments, an idea put into practice at places like the Elmira Water Cure.  Another type were Turkish, Roman, or Russian baths, which were places for wealthier folks to relax and seek the health benefits of the steam. This post will be about the latter.

The Robinson Building where the Palace Bath Rooms were located.

The most impressive bath house in the city was The Palace Bath Rooms in the Robinson Building at the western corner of Lake and Water Streets. The business was originally operated by William Ware, and was then taken over by Peter Flynn in 1896. 
Circa 1912 advertisement for Flynn's Turkish Baths on an embroidered coverlet designed by William Brownlow and embroidered by the Friendly Class of the First Methodist Church on Baldwin Street, Elmira.
There were separate men’s and ladies’ days and hours so that the genders would never mix when folks were in such compromising states of undress (people had to find other places to pick up a member of the opposite sex). The Ladies and Men's days and hours changed over time, but in 1899, the hours were as follows: Tuesday and Friday, 8am-6pm were for ladies only. Monday, Wednesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 8am-10pm, and Tuesdays and Fridays, from 6 to 10pm were for men only. Local gentlemen took to the baths after they had spent an evening drinking to “boil it” out of them.

Patrons of the Palace could partake in Turkish, Roman, and Russian baths. These baths involved combinations of steaming in sauna-like rooms and dipping into bathing pools. The set up at the Palace was rather luxurious, as you can see from the images below, taken circa 1891.
The first hot room at the Palace.
The plunge and shower baths.
The roving room.
A trip to the baths ended in the cooling room.
The cooling room
 Baths were really popular and there were several books about how to set one up properly. In fact, Robert Owen Allsop’s 1890 book, The Turkish Bath: Its Design and Construction even included a chapter about how to set up a Turkish bath for a horse. It was primarily for the therapeutic treatment of race horses, but the author helpfully noted that “a bath for a horse will evidently be suitable for a cow, and might not be wholly beneath the dignity of a pig.” 

The Palace stayed open until at least the mid-1930s. Now, the idea of going out and getting platonically naked and steamy with our friends on a Saturday night is not so popular. But, public bathing culture is having a bit of a resurgence. Just last year, the New York Times ran an article, “After 124 Years, the Russian and Turkish Baths Are Still a Hot.” Apparently, the baths are gaining popularity with young people and “hipsters.” No word, however, on if the trend will be making its way back to Elmira anytime soon.