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My Dear Boy…

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections December 6, 2022 MCHS is phenomenally lucky to have 59 letters written to Augustus “Gus” Crane, Jr. by his father, Augustus Crane, Sr., and sister, Mary, when he was away at military school in Worcester, MA. Providing a highly detailed view of life at Acorn Hall between April 1868 […]

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Snapshots of Morristown’s Italian Community, Part II

by MCHS Staff November 29, 2022 In 1982, when MCHS published New Neighbors, Old Friends, a book on Morristown’s Italian community, the book’s author donated nearly 1,000 images for the endeavor . Documenting weddings, family gatherings, clubs, social events, and every day life, the photos are an immersive portrait of the life of its members […]

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Put Your Records On

by MCHS Staff November 15, 2022 By the turn of the 20th century, the Industrial Revolution in Morris County had moved beyond the iron mines and rubber works into middle and upper-class homes. Electric sewing  machines and washing machines, along with other mechanisms that eased the load of housewives and housekeepers throughout the nation became […]

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Going to the Chapel

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections November 8, 2022 For much of the fall of 1869, the Cranes were “busy as bees” preparing for perhaps the grandest social affair they would ever host. Thanks in large part to family letters from the time, we know far more about the momentous event than any other in […]

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International Travels of a Gilded Age Couple

by MCHS Staff November 1, 2022 Soon after their marriage, Walter and Emma Stone Kemeys set sail for Europe, joined for at least part of their journey by Emma’s sister, Margaretta “Daisy” Stone Spedden, and her new husband, Frederic. Walter and Emma would ultimately spend a year and a half traveling abroad before returning to […]

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You Jump, I Jump, John Josiah

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections October 25, 2022 It isn’t much of a stretch to say that if you are ever wondering why Augustus Crane of Acorn Hall did something, check if his big brother John Josiah did it first. Orphaned as teenagers, John Josiah was closest in age to Augustus out of all […]

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A 1960s History Experiment

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant October 18, 2022 As national interest in historic preservation grew, resulting in the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act (1966), the oldest existing house still on its original foundation in Morristown became the site of an ambitious, experimental endeavor known as the American Civilization Institute of Morristown (ACIM). Focused […]

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Morristown Through the Lens of a Local Family

by MCHS Staff October 11, 2022 Over the course of the summer, two of MCHS’s dedicated volunteers, John and Mary Lou Skillin, catalogued an collection of many hundreds of historic photographs donated from a family that lived in Morristown for generations. Below is a selection of their favorites.               […]

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The Next Big Restoration Thing

by Amy Curry, Executive Director October 4, 2022 In 1860, when Augustus Crane transformed his newly purchased country home, he had a clear vision for its style. Inspired by his brother’s NY estate as well as the very popular works of contemporary Andrew Jackson Downing, Crane made major exterior and interior changes to Acorn Hall. […]

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Back (in Time) to School

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant, and Sally Capone, Publicity Coordinator September 27, 2022 Located at the intersection of routes 10 and 202 in Parsippany-Troy Hills, the Old Littleton Schoolhouse has been in session for over two hundred years.  Since its construction in 1796, the one-room wooden building has assumed a variety of roles, witnessing more […]

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The Bracket King of Morristown

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections September 20, 2022 Certain episodes in the centuries-long story of Acorn Hall and the Crane family can be rendered in remarkable detail thanks to extant records. Others were lost to time and will likely always remain hazy, or so we thought. It was long believed, though never definitively verified, […]

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Snapshots of Morristown’s Italian Community

by MCHS Staff September 13, 2022 In 1982, when MCHS published New Neighbors, Old Friends, a book on Morristown’s Italian community, the book’s author donated nearly 1,000 images for the endeavor. Documenting weddings, family gatherings, clubs, social events, and every day life, the photos are an immersive portrait of the life of its members in […]

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Morris County’s “City Upon a Hill”

by Michelle Munn, Mt. Tabor Historical Society September 6, 2022 Morris County’s unique, historic, and unforgettable Mount Tabor community was established as a permanent Methodist camp meeting in 1869 and evolved from a religious retreat to a wholesome summer resort to a much-loved, year-round neighborhood within Parsippany-Troy Hills. Mount Tabor still enjoys the strong sense […]

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This One’s Fore the Girls

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant August 30, 2022 Near the end of the 19th century, the name of the game was golf and the ladies of Morris County were playing. Recognizing the popularity of the sport, some of the wealthiest women in Morristown teed up the idea of creating a local course to be known […]

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Deed Searching in Morris County

by Sara Weissman, MCHS Volunteer and Reference Librarian (Ret., Morris County Library) August 23, 2022 One of the most frequent research requests posited to MCHS is the history of the inquirer’s home. With historic houses both grand and quaint dotted throughout the county, there are always residents curious to know who once called their abode […]

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Constructing a Gilded Age Mansion (Photo Blog)

MCHS Staff August 16, 2022 Documented through photographs in their family albums, construction of “Tranquility,” the Washington Valley estate of newlyweds Walter S. & Emma Kemeys, began in the summer of 1903. The couple had purchased the land that spring following an extended honeymoon tour of Europe. Teams of men completed the monumental endeavor by […]

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Finding a Johnston in a NYC Haystack

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections August 9, 2022 This side of “John Smith,” John Johnston is about as common a name as can be imagined. In 1886 alone, the year MCHS’s St. Cecilia stained glass window was completed, there were 24 listed in the New York City directory. So, when it came to piecing together […]

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Chronicling Morris County, Part 2: The Crane Snowbirds

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections August 3, 2022 After the last Crane child had “flown” around 1885, Augustus and Mary Crane found themselves empty-nesters at Acorn Hall. Soon after, they began wintering with their sons in Washington DC, annually spending so much of their year in the nation’s capital as to have a listing […]

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Gone Camping in Cedar Knolls

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant July 26, 2022 Though initially just over 100 acres, Cedar Knolls had a big reputation as a summer destination. The area drew visitors from near and far with the help of branding and advertising, and as many turned their weekend retreat into a forever home, the Morris County community transitioned […]

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It Takes a Village

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections July 19, 2022 In Summer 1861, construction began on a new school in Morristown, the Morris Female Institute. Eight local builders and masons were contracted to erect the three-story building on South Street: Cyrus Pruden, Silas Norris, Ira J. Lindsley, Oswald J. Burnett, Silas D. Cory, Edwin L. Lounsbury, […]

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Paradise Calling, I Have Your Treasures…

by Amy Curry, Executive Director July 12, 2022 MCHS regularly receives ‘out of left field’ phone calls, but in May 2015, we received an unforgettable one from Pacific National Bank on Nantucket Island (top photo). Aware that Mary Crane Hone moved to the island after donating Acorn Hall to MCHS in 1971, we were instantly […]

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You Are Hereby Summoned to Henry Mooney’s Tavern

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections July 5, 2022 This spring, MCHS received an extensive donation of local documents including everything from very early 19th-century daybooks to early Morris County newspapers, all carefully preserved by generations of one family in Flanders. A treasure trove waiting to be fully explored, organizing and carefully cataloging the donation […]

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Morris County’s Explosive Revolutionary Secret

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections June 28, 2022 In addition to archaeological exploration of Jacob Ford, Jr’s (gun)powder mill on the Whippany River just behind Acorn Hall in 2019, MCHS, with the aid of Hunter Research, also dug into the historical record to unearth the mill’s role in the American Revolution. From previous research […]

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Move Over Jay Leno…

by Amy Curry, Executive Director June 21, 2022 Augustus Crane spent nearly half a century as a well-respected gentleman farmer, pillar in the Morristown community, and general man-about-town. However, there was a side of him that would’ve been lost to history if not for the auction of Acorn Hall’s carriage house contents held shortly after […]

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Fashion, Served Haute

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant June 14, 2022 By the time the Levilion fashion house debuted in mid-1860s Paris, the city of light was the undisputed capital of haute couture. In the decade prior, the world-famous House of Worth and others had begun revolutionizing the industry and drawing international clientele to France. With its rapid […]

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Furniture Gone Wild

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant June 7, 2022 American interior décor went absolutely wild by the 1870s as furniture made from animals, particularly their horns and antlers, gained popularity. Encapsulating a burgeoning interest in the artistic and natural worlds, such furniture also reflected global developments in communication and transportation that occurred in the decades just […]

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Chronicling Morris County, Part 1

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections May 31, 2022  In researching the 480 known students of the Morristown Sewing School, historical records are often plentiful. Insight into who they were as people, however, is scarce. Very few personalities shine through in birth, death, or census records. Perhaps the best, and certainly the most fun, opportunity […]

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An Heirloom Close to the Heart

by Noel Grabow, Collections Assistant May 24, 2022 One of the newest items in MCHS’s collection is a wooden busk from 1785. Busks varied widely in terms of size, shape and configuration, but all performed the same function. Inserted or sewn into the front of a corset or stays, a busk provided support and shaping […]

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Celebrating Historic Preservation Month

by Amy Curry, Executive Director May 17, 2022 The passage of the National Historic Preservation Act on October 15, 1966 brought unprecedented public awareness and recognition to the urgency of safeguarding our country’s historic legacy. To this day, it and its later amendments serve as core motivators for historic preservation professionals. It also authorized the […]

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An Apple for Every Season

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections & Amy Curry, Executive Director May 10, 2022 Today, when MCHS looks back at Augustus Crane, we see him as he was for almost fifty years: a family patriarch and country gentleman. From apple pickers to letters about greenhouses and escaped cows, evidence remains among MCHS archives, collections, and […]

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The Six Weeks to Showtime

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections May 2, 2022 Ever wondered what goes into the installation of an exhibit? As MCHS prepared for our current exhibit, From the Waist Up: Bodices, Vest & Jackets, 1840-1920, Acorn Hall’s exhibit galleries transformed over a whirlwind 6 weeks from a sea of boxes to an array of fitted and […]

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Washington’s Horse Was Shod Here

by Sally Capone, Publicity Coordinator April 26, 2022 While many historic homes boast that “Washington slept here,” the Luke Miller House in Madison can boast that “Washington’s horse was shod here.” Built by Andrew Miller in 1730, and renamed for his grandson Luke, it is considered the oldest existing home in Madison and the centerpiece […]

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A Tale of Two Cities: The Morristown Sewing School

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections April 19, 2022 When 45 teacher’s books from the Morristown Sewing School were donated to MCHS in 2018, they opened a window into a previously unknown facet of local history. Although the school taught over 500 young girls practical sewing skills such as hemming, darning, and dressmaking throughout the […]

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A Lamp of Art

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant April 12, 2022 A light bulb went off in 1885 for Philip Julius Handel of Meriden, Connecticut that would glow brightly for half a century. Utilizing experience gained as an apprentice at a silver and plate manufacturer and as an employee of the Meriden Flint Glass Company, young Handel decided […]

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1868 Atlas of Morris County (Photo Blog)

by MCHS Staff April 5, 2022 Throughout the mid to late 19th century, cartographer Frederick W. “F.W” Beers published atlases of towns and cities across the US. In 1868, he published one such of Morris County that provides a fascinating glimpse of local towns following the Civil War. Below are a selection of plates from […]

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A Bevy-wyck of Condits

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant March 29, 2022 Almost 100 years after General Washington crossed the threshold of Beverwyck (see A Tale of Two Beverwycks), a new family entered the mansion: the Condit family. Purchasing the home from descendants of Lucas van Beverhoudt in the 1850s, the Condits created a home at the Parsippany-Troy Hills […]

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Parsippany’s Hidden Gem

by Sally Capone March 22, 2022 Just a hop, skip, and a jump from one of the busiest stretches of highway in the state, waterfowl and brightly colored sailboats glide along a serene body of water. Sunbathers stretch out on beach chairs while children frolic in the sand. Anglers try their luck in a lake […]

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Wax on, Wax off

Sara Weissman, MCHS Volunteer March 15, 2022 Acorn Hall brims with historic furniture, much of it mid-19th century, and some of which has lived at the Hall since it was first owned by Dr. John P. Schermerhorn (1853-7). From monitoring their environment to the specific needs of each piece, there are a variety of factors […]

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The Legacy of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge

by Sally Capone, Publicity Coordinator March 8, 2022 Born into one of the most powerful families in the country, Geraldine Rockefeller married Marcellus Hartley Dodge, Sr. in 1907 and moved to Madison in 1916.  Recognized as a philanthropist, a benefactor to Morris County communities, and a patron of animal welfare, Mrs. Dodge used her wealth […]

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In With the Old and New

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant February 28, 2022 When it was built in 1903, Alnwick Hall, the commanding home of General Edward P. Meany of the American Bell Telephone Company, was nothing new. In fact, the estate was influenced by and named after 800-year-old Alnwick Castle in England. General Meany was also far from alone […]

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Happy Birthday, Lincoln… Park!

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant February 22, 2022 While renamed in 1872 after the 16th President, Lincoln Park began as a small, rural community within Pequannock Township. In fact, the area went unnamed until 1825, when it became known as Beavertown, due to the number of beaver which may have rivaled that of early residents. […]

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The Bass Family of Acorn Hall

by Erin Feith February 15, 2022 While Acorn Hall served as the home of the Crane-Hone family for over a century, another family played an integral part in the Hall’s long history: the Basses.  Both born in Oxford, NC, William and Mary Alice Bass moved to Morristown around 1930, and shortly after, their two sons […]

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Puttin’ on Your Sunday Best

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections February 8, 2022 In 1890, Robert McEwan and his seven sons took over the 100-year-old papermaking industry in Whippany. In the following years, they took control of 3 mills, the Morristown and Erie Railroad, and Hanover Brick Company, running these enterprises well into the 20th century. Their successors would […]

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Greetings from Morris County!

by MCHS Staff February 1, 2022 Some of the most dynamic historic images within MCHS’s archives are in fact postcards depicting various historic sites, local landmarks, and streetscapes. Frequently hand-colored, they offer an often unmatched peek at early 20th-century Morris County and provide a captivating record of its environs. Below are a selection from our […]

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King Kahn and His Royal Court

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant January 25, 2022 Among the estates dotting the Morris County landscape in the late 19th and early 20th century, “King of New York” Otto Kahn’s Cedar Court in Morristown matched its contemporaries in opulence. Built between 1895 and 1898 by Frick mansion architects, Carrère & Hastings, the 1,100 acre park […]

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Enduring Legacy: Windows to the Past

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections January 18, 2022 Windows, both literal and metaphorical, into the history of Morris County’s Greystone Psychiatric Hospital are on display at Acorn Hall. A pair of stained glass windows from the chapel grace the Hall’s family art gallery, and kitchen lists from both the main building and annex are […]

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Heating Acorn Hall, A Tepid History

by Amy Curry, Executive Director January 11, 2022 Suffice it to say, today we don’t give much thought to how our homes are heated and many thermostats can be programmed or controlled remotely. But, a trip to Acorn Hall during the winter months will remind one of earlier days when staying warm was not as […]

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Six Degrees of Morris County

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections January 4, 2022 Top photo: Silas Byram Condict (son of Silas Condict and Charlotte Ford), wife Mary Johnson, and children Charlotte Ford, Dr. Alice Byram, and Henry Vail Condict. As research was conducted into the individual histories of objects slated for inclusion in our current exhibit, A Storied Past: […]

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The Father of the American Christmas Card

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections December 21, 2021 Top image: L. Prang & Co. card, 1884 When imagining a holiday card, one might envision holly, reindeer, poinsettias, Santa – y’know, Christmas stuff. However, the imagery on the earliest Christmas cards could be downright summery with rarely a wreath or sleigh bell in sight. Like […]

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Dashing Through the Snow…

by Amy Curry, Executive Director December 14, 2021 Each year, MCHS lavishly decorates for the holidays with Acorn Hall’s rooms, mantels, doorways, and banisters impressively festooned. The season also marks the return of our most well-recognized exterior holiday decoration to Acorn Hall’s front lawn, a wooden “one-horse open sleigh.” This year, however, our throngs of […]

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A Tale of Two Beverwycks

by Erin  Feith, Research Assistant December 7, 2021 Once located along the route known as Washington’s Trail for the Founding Father who traveled it and even considered a gathering place for patriotic figures, the Beverwyck estate holds its own place in Morris County’s Revolutionary history. However, leading up to that point, the story of Beverwyck […]

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A Not-So-Sparkly Holiday Tradition

by Sara Weissman, MCHS Volunteer November 29, 2021 For many, the approaching holidays bring the continuing tradition of family silver gracing the dinner table. Even at Acorn Hall, the holidays typically mark the return of Crane-Hone family silver to the dining room. It also allows the opportunity to determine what care may be needed after […]

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Who Were the Hones: The Engineer & the Southern Belle

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections November 10, 2021 Upon taking ownership following the death of his maternal aunt, Julia Crane Corning, in 1935, Augustus Crane Hone and his wife Alice spearheaded the only significant moderization of Acorn Hall. The Hones added electricity, a whole-home steam heat system, modern first floor kitchen (it had previously […]

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Morris County Did Its Bit

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections November 9, 2021 As the nation plunged headfirst into WWI in April 1917, millions of American men signed up to fight, including over 340 from Morristown. For the next 19 months, a nationwide call went out for those on the homefront to find ways to support the war effort. […]

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To Lenapehoking and Beyond!

by Pat Goodfriend, Membership & Volunteer Coordinator November 2, 2021 Morris County Historical Society is fortunate to have in its collection various objects that represent Native American history. Donated to MCHS over the years by Morris County residents, they include artifacts that broaden the scope of our collection and its interpretation. These artifacts evoke a […]

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Ancestor Searching in Morris County

Sara Weissman, MCHS Volunteer and Reference Librarian (Ret., Morris County Library) October 26, 2021 So many resources – books, databases, indexes, maps, etc. – have gone online in the last 25 years that for better or for worse one can do a reasonable genealogy without ever getting up from the computer. In addition to national […]

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What About the Horses?

by Amy Curry, Executive Director October 19, 2021 In the 19th century, nearly every country home, like Acorn Hall, had a place to stable/house their horses. While these structures varied based on property type and personal means, carriage houses were somewhat ubiquitous across the landscape. Today, however, few remain to tell a once-so-common story of […]

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A Different Type of Mobile Home

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant October 12, 2021 The phrase “moving house” historically was often very literal. Since the 1700s, the process of transporting an existing structure from one location to another was somewhat common. But while the general processes remained largely the same, the mechanisms and motivations involved in moving buildings have evolved. Today, […]

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She’s Ready for Her Close-Up, Mr. DeMille

By Anne Motto, Curator of Collections October 4, 2021 An amazing journey that began for MCHS in the Summer of 2020 is nearing the home stretch! St. Cecilia, the 1886 stained glass window commissioned by the Cranes of Acorn Hall in memory of their eldest daughter Mary Hone, has completed conservation. Every inch of the […]

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Who Were the Cranes: Gus Leads, Ben Follows

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections September 28, 2021 Top photo: The Cranes at Acorn Hall, 1870. Although the Crane’s younger children, Augustus Jr. and Benjamin, inherited Acorn Hall alongside their sister Julia, very little trace of them remains. Often eclipsed by both Mary and Julia, what we know of them comes from sources outside […]

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Who Were the Cranes: Two Very Different Sisters

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections September 21, 2021 Top photo: The Cranes at Acorn Hall, 1870 Augustus and Mary Crane of Acorn Hall had four children who all grew up at the Hall. Their two eldest, Mary and Julia, were doted on by their parents as archival records and collections objects illustrate. It is […]

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(Nearly) Untouched by the Passage of Time

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections September 14, 2021 When Acorn Hall was built for Dr. John P. Schermerhorn in 1853, it began its eventful 168-year life (and counting!) as a Georgian foursquare known as “Schermerhorn Place.” Constructed by Madison carpenter Ashbel Bruen and mason William G. Sayre in the spring of that year, it […]

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The Phonograph of the Road

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant September 7, 2021 While all roads might lead to Rome, navigating them can still prove tricky. Today, Google Maps may eliminate some of the navigational guesswork involved in driving, but the idea of putting directions into the hands of drivers is not new. In the early twentieth century, the automobile […]

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Who Were the Cranes: The Country Gentleman & the Doting Mother

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections August 31, 2021 Top photo: The Cranes at Acorn Hall, 1870 Today, and for the past 50 years, Acorn Hall has been the headquarters of MCHS, but for 114 years prior, it was the home of the Crane-Hone family. Populated by multiple Augustus and Marys (seriously, when in doubt […]

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Be Our Guest

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant August 24, 2021 The gates at Florham, the palatial Madison Avenue estate of Hamilton McKown and Florence Vanderbilt Twombly, began greeting guests nearly as soon as the couple took residence in 1897. Even before the opulent 110-room mansion was completed in 1899, an elaborate party was held in a large […]

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Victory Gardens: A Homegrown American Dream

by Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant August 17, 2021 Nestled between Randolph and Dover, lies Victory Gardens, Morris County’s smallest municipality. Originally established during WWII, it provided housing and fan easy commute for workers needed in Dover factories. At the time, nearby Picatinny Arsenal was the only military installation in the nation capable of producing larger […]

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The Societal Olympics

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections August 10, 2021 By 1863, Mr. and Mrs. Crane of Acorn Hall had settled into life in Morristown relocating from New York City a few years prior. However, they never quite severed their connections with their old home, apparently preferring the prestige offered by New York City establishments, merchants, […]

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Come Along on a Magic Carpet Ride

by Pat Goodfriend, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator August 3, 2021 Visitors to Acorn Hall are often surprised to learn that most of the furnishings they will see are original to the Schermerhorn and Crane-Hone families who once lived in the house, and most unexpectedly, one of the most significant can be found under their feet! […]

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You Again?!

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections July 27, 2021 Ever come cross something you’ve never seen before, but after learning about it, suddenly it’s everywhere? Well, that was the Hoffmans for the staff of MCHS. Before a few weeks ago, the name held little significance. Then, in preparation for the conservation of our one-horse open […]

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Seventy-Five Years Serving You, Morris County

by Amy Curry, Executive Director July 20, 2021 Across the US in late 1945, and with the formal end of WWII just weeks before, civic and national pride were at a fever pitch. In consideration of all our country had been through and the sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of civilians, it was well […]

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Going Along for the Ride: A Trip to Bertrand Island Amusement Park

by Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant July 13, 2021 In 1910, the construction of a trolley line that connected Newark to Bertrand Island’s popular dance hall made numerous attractions even more accessible. No longer brought only by train, NJ entertainment and thrill seekers flocked to Morris County’s premier amusement park. One of Bertrand Island’s first draws […]

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The Lasting Legacy of a Progressive

by Amy Curry, Executive Director July 6, 2021 Mary Crane Hone (1904-1990) of Acorn Hall had an impressive career by the time she came to Morristown in the late 1940s. Raised in Kentucky, she’d lived the life of a society debutante, as well as Broadway ingénue, leading lady, and producer, yet, Mary is most remembered […]

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I Wish I Could Tell You What I Know

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections June 29, 2021 Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. Today, when we look back at historical events, we do so with knowledge not afforded the individuals who lived through those moments. From at least September 1862 to December 1864, Eliza Howell and her niece Mary Darcy wrote letters to their […]

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Frogs in Our Faucets: A Ribbetting History of Mountain Lakes, NJ

by Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant June 22, 2021 Mountain Lakes is known for its Arts and Crafts style homes, but the story of its shaky and colorful development has faded from memory. Conceived in 1908 by land surveyor Lewis Van Duyne and developer Herbert Hapgood, the area was promoted to New York city-dwellers, despite its […]

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Order Up! Milkweed for Monarchs

Pat Goodfriend, Volunteer & Membership Coordinator June 15, 2021 Land use on Acorn Hall’s six acres continues to evolve. In the 19th century, gentlemen farmer Augustus Crane planted fruit trees, grew garden vegetables, and even raised poultry and small animals on the grounds of his “country home.” Our property, now within an urban environment and […]

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A Rose by Any Other Definition

by Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant June 8, 2021 Floriography, the use of flowers as a means of communication, became a popular method of covert flirtation and discreet communication in the late 18th century. Its popularity bloomed nearly 75 years later in the Victorian era when flower dictionaries that ascribed specific meanings to different flower varieties […]

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You Are an Enigma, Sir

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections June 1, 2021 Some of history’s 19th-century mysteries likely can’t be solved, but if there was any place with best odds of success, it’s Morristown. The sheer volume of Morristown’s historical records makes it possible to at times trace an individual’s movements year by year. Some records are relatively […]

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Silk Gown for a Society Wedding

by Noël Grabow, Collections Assistant May 25, 2021 When plans for A Storied Past: History That Made Morris County were first discussed, prominent Morristonian Lucy Fitz Randolph’s elegant, opulent 1889 wedding gown by NYC dressmaker Mme. Lambele de St. Omer was one of the treasures we most wanted to be able to share. We also […]

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A Great Victorian Cover-Up!

by Amy Curry, Executive Director May 18, 2021 Augustus and Mary Crane had a definite aesthetic for Acorn Hall. They invested in decorative arts, like John Crossley & Sons carpets, mahogany furniture with silk-blended fabric, and draperies with 3 foot repeating patterns. Miles of gessoed gold trim to offset these style choices. Nowhere in Acorn […]

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Do 19-Year-Olds Often Get Hemorrhoids?

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections May 11, 2021 Rheumatism. Hemorrhoids. Pulmonary trouble. Loss of teeth. Joint stiffness. General debility. While the conditions attributed to the 134 men whose Civil War medical exemptions are held in MCHS’s archives read like those of geriatrics far past their prime, all were of draft age between 18 and […]

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Shippenport, Ever Heard of It?

by Amy Curry, Executive Director May 4, 2021 The Morris Canal is one of Morris County’s largest sources of industrial and engineering pride. In operation for nearly 100 years, the Canal was instrumental to the industrialization, settlement, and economic growth of all the communities it passed through, from Phillipsburg in the west to Jersey City […]

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The Little Red Schoolhouse – Florham Park’s Pride & Joy

by Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant April 27, 2021 In 1830, the residents of Columbia, now Florham Park, sought to improve their thriving farming and broom-making community by establishing a public school for the local children. Therefore, a small schoolhouse, Columbia School #5, was built on the corner of Columbia Turnpike and Ridgedale Avenue and dedicated […]

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Look Out Bugs! We’re on Our Way!

by Pat Goodfriend, Volunteer & Membership Coordinator April 20, 2021 Acorn Hall’s native hardwood forest once seemed to fill the sky. The trees grew side by side, tall and straight with green leaves so thick in the summer there were no gaps. Entering the cool, dark woodlot under this nearly seamless canopy, the bright sun […]

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Say Cheeeeeeeeeese…!!!

by Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant April 13, 2021 Not since the advent of portraiture some 5000 years ago had a new means for capturing likeness been invented, until 1837 and the introduction of the daguerreotype. The first stable and commercially available photographic process, the daguerreotype not only offered people the opportunity to capture an exact […]

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“Is It Alright If I Get Arrested, Dear?” -Mrs. Garrett Hobart IV

by Amy Curry, Executive Director April 6, 2021 Today, most intrepid travelers on State Route 287 would have a hard time imagining life, let alone the daily commute, without the road. But 287 isn’t an ancient roadway, it was installed as part of the expansion of the federal highway system in the 1960s and, while […]

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Ford’s Secret and a Revolutionary Discovery

by Amy Curry, Executive Director March 30, 2021 In 2018, MCHS and the Morris County Park Commission partnered on a grant for the development of New Jersey & National Register Nominations as well as an Archeological Management Plan for a small, unassuming spot along the Whippany River located just behind Acorn Hall. On that spot […]

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Madison, the Rose City

by Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant March 23, 2021 Nicknamed “the Rose City” in the late 19th century, roses still hold a prominent place in Madison’s identity. Upon accessing the borough’s official website, rosenet.org, the letter “o” in Madison is replaced by a rose and accompanied by a photo of brilliant red roses. Though few vestiges […]

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Lucille Hobbie: Our Local History in Images

Born in Boonton, renowned artist Lucille Hobbie (1915-2008) was noted for her depictions of local historic landmarks. Enjoy an assortment of prints from within MCHS’s collection that deftly capture some of Morris County’s most famous residences, churches, businesses, and public buildings. (top photo: Randolph Friends Meeting House)

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The Turnpike Era

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections March 9, 2021 The Turnpike Era dawned in the US in the early years of the 19th century. At the time, the average speed for stage coaches north of the Potomac River was a measly 4 mph. Constructing well-maintained turnpikes offered the potential benefit of lowering the cost of […]

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A Botanical Journal’s Place in Local History

by Pat Goodfriend, Membership & Volunteer Coordinator March 2, 2021 Tucked between volumes on landscapes and gardens, is a plain brown book in MCHS’s Research Library. Opening the cover of Apgar’s New Plant Analysis finds a rich botanical world that once existed in Morris County. Who documented 100 plant specimens for this historical resource? The […]

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Uncovering St. Cecilia’s Artistic History (One Stone at a Time)

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections February 23, 2021 Armed only with two names, an old photograph, and a brief 1886 news article, research into the artistic history of MCHS’s unsigned “St. Cecilia” window began in the summer of 2020. The local history had long been established (see The St. Cecilia Window), but who created […]

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Don’t Be Fooled by Unassuming Packaging

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections February 16, 2021 This past spring, in a giant case of taking lemons to make lemonade, MCHS undertook a reorganization of our archives and library. Among the sea of boxes that screamed “open me!” from “Autographed Letters” to “Civil War Photographs, Exemptions, Court Martials”, two archival boxes simply marked […]

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From Chains to Plates: The Surveys, Maps, and Atlases of Morris County

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections February 9, 2021 Documentation of Morris County in maps and surveys evolved over time. Some of the oldest visual records were early surveys that delineated property lines and new routes for roads and canals. The Morris Turnpike*, New Jersey’s first toll road, was surveyed in 1802, the Parsippany & […]

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Hair to Stay: A Look at Victorian Hair Art

By Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant February 2, 2021 Trends popularized by Queen Victoria often made their way across the Atlantic Ocean and were adopted as part of American cultural norms of the time. From tartan plaids to a white wedding dress, Queen Victoria’s style choices were very influential. One of the more common trends made […]

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MCHS Anniversary Year: What It Means and What We Want to Accomplish

By Amy Curry, Executive Director January 26, 2021 This year, Morris County Historical Society (MCHS) will celebrate the 75th anniversary of our incorporation. A milestone naturally brings about reflection, pride, and enthusiasm. MCHS is preparing and positioning itself to celebrate the anniversary with a slew of new initiatives, programs, and achievements that even COVID-19 can’t […]

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Prohibition: Speakeasies, Stills, and Organized Crime

By MCHS Staff January 19, 2021 Much like the rest of the U.S., Morris County felt the effects of Prohibition following the ratification of the 18th amendment and passage of the Volstead Act in 1919. Restaurants and bars had to either change their stock or close their doors. Here, the production of alcohol, however, had […]

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In 2021, Morris County History Comes to You

By Anne Motto, Curator of Collections January 12, 2021 2021 is a landmark year for MCHS, representing both the 75th anniversary of our incorporation and the 50th anniversary of Mary Crane Hone’s donation of Acorn Hall. To celebrate these milestones, we’ll be highlighting Morris County’s vibrant history as told through the remarkable objects and images  […]

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Just Ad Animals: A History of Advertising with Animals

by Kat Kurylko, MCHS Research Assistant January 5, 2021 Cute dogs make for a great advertising logo, right? Victor Talking Machine Company (VTMC) must have thought so, too, when they made Nipper, a terrier from England, their mascot after seeing him in an 1898 painting titled “His Master’s Voice.” VTMC opened shop in 1901 in […]

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A Change of Air: A Brief History of Randolph’s Resort Past

by Kat Kurylko, MCHS Research Assistant December 2020 In the late 19th century, Randolph, as a resort destination, flourished as doctors from New York City and Philadelphia recommended the area for its healthy climate and clean air. To sustain the influx, early Jewish residents established boarding houses which transformed into hotels as demand increased. Many […]

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Taking the Waters: A Brief History of Lake Hopatcong’s Resort Past

by Kat Kurylko, MCHS Research Assistant December 2020 Attempting to escape noxious city air and dusty plough fields, many people reinvigorated themselves annually by visiting sea or lakeside resorts. As class distinctions grew, leisure travel expanded and, by 1850, over 9,000 miles of railroad had been laid primarily throughout the eastern U.S. Upscale hotels became […]

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Morris County Taverns

by Kat Kurylko, MCHS Research Assistant December 2020 Long recognized for distributing spirits and information in equal measure, taverns played an important role in the history of Morris County. Tavern-keepers were well respected members of their communities; their establishments not only offered shelter, but served as gathering places and municipal buildings for fledgling towns. Throughout […]