Famous Civil War Spirits are Back in Baltimore

For Immediate Release:

Maryland Historical Society Contact: Marc Apter, mapter@mdhs.org 301-904-3690

Famous Civil War Spirits are Back in Baltimore!

Meet John Wilkes Booth, Harriet Tubman and Clara Barton

December 29-31

Kids Free and New Folk Art Exhibit for Holiday Viewing

Win a Free Luncheon at the Museum for 12

Baltimore, Maryland (December 16, 2011) – It’s been 150 years since Civil War came to Baltimore and now the ghosts of those turbulent days have returned to the halls of the Maryland Historical Society (MDHS). Not since the days when the Monument Street Girls wore Confederate colors and dared the Yankees to arrest them has there been so much drama in the Monument City.

The Maryland Historical Society is offering holiday adventure and gifts to area families. From Thursday, December 29 thru Saturday, December 31 kids will be free and a special “Famous Civil War Spirits are Back in Baltimore” theatrical production will be offered featuring John Wilkes Booth, Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman. In addition, a new Folk Art exhibition will feature Baltimore painted screens, quilts and relics of the 1904 Baltimore fire. All visitors to the museum from December 29-31 will be entered in a drawing for an executive luncheon for 12 in the Victorian era Counting Room. For more information, contact (410)-685-3750 or mdhs.org.

Burt Kummerow, MDHS Director asks, “Did you ever want to meet John Wilkes Booth and ask him why he shot a beloved president? Have you wondered how Clara Barton was inspired to found the Red Cross? Like Harriet Tubman, would you have the nerve to flee slavery and then return to lead others to freedom?”

Museum visitors on December 29-31 will get those questions answered because the heroes and villains of America’s greatest tragedy are back in town and eager to tell their stories. Harriet Lynn, Co-producer of the MDHS Players said, “You’ll be spirited back to a holiday season when Baltimore’s mayor and chief of police were in prison and thousands of troops were enforcing martial law. If you speak your mind you just might end up in a jail cell at Ft. McHenry. No one knows what’s going to happen next and no one is looking forward to the New Year of 1862.”

Kummerow continues, “If you’re looking for a special experience this holiday season, bring your family into the center for Maryland History.Ms Barton, Ms Tubman and Mr. Booth will tell their own special stories and guide you through a fascinating collection of flags, weapons, uniforms, dresses and personal possessions that will make the Civil War live again.”BetweenDecember 29 and 31, the Maryland Historical Society Players will be in residence at MDHS, 201 W. Monument St., a block west of the Washington Monument in the heart of the Mount Vernon District, Baltimore’s most historic neighborhood. The museum will be open from 10-5 pm and the Players will perform from 12:30- 5:00 pm. Go to mdhs.org for the detailed schedule. Adults: $6, seniors $5, kids under 12 are free.

The Maryland Historical Society Players is a group of professional actors offering museum theater with Civil War vignettes portray fascinating individuals who played a major role in our state and country’s heritage. These historic figures include African American Union soldier Christian Fleetwood, Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, and John Wilkes Booth. The players also provide costumed tours of the exhibition “Divided Voices: Maryland in the Civil War”. In addition to the December 29-31 production they are offering theater and tours on Saturdays and Sundays in December from 12:30 to five pm.

Every visitor to the museum from December 29-31 is entered in a drawing to win a free executive luncheons for 12 valued at over $2,000 in the museums historic Counting Room. Classic and elegant this room is perfect for sophisticated meetings or intimate meals. The luncheons are provided by Potbelly Catering. Visitors are also entered into daily drawings for free dinners for four at Potbelly’s Restaurants.

The expanded folk art exhibit includes quilts, pottery, painted screens, fire panels, weathervanes, original barbershop poles, relics of the 1904 Baltimore fire and more. Folk art is often described as turning utilitarian objects into artistic ones. Alexandra Deutsch, Chief Curator said, “The artist is untrained, making the artistic creations they produce all the more astounding.”

A particular art form unique to the city of Baltimore is screen painting. William Oktavec, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, is considered to be the first screen painter in the city. He began by painting screens for his grocery store in the heart of the city’s Czechoslavakian community known as “Little Bohemia.” One day, a neighbor asked him to paint a screen for her front door and soon other neighbors wanted screens for their homes. Oktavic trained many other Baltimore screen painters and started a legacy that continues today. The exhibit displays screens painted by Alonzo Parks in 1952, featuring two nearly identical bucolic landscapes, as well a screen painted by Charles Bowman (or one of his apprentices) for the Sullivan family in Fells Point.

The visitor to the exhibition is greeted by an array of quilts from the 19th century, four of which were made during the Civil War era. Visitors will be introduced to “crazy” quilts of the 1880’s. These stunning textiles may appear at first to be random assortments of fabric and patterns, but on closer inspection, they represent intentional artistic patterns and designs, Baltimore Album quilts of the 1840’s and 50’s, the precursors to crazy quilts, are also highlighted, as well as “album-style” quilts made outside of the city. “For quilt enthusiasts, this is an exhibition to see,” concluded Deutsch.

In eighteenth and nineteenth century Baltimore, volunteer fire companies would compete for the best decorative panels for their wagons. These panels usually depicted scenes of valor and strength. The exhibit features three examples from Richard Henry Sheppard who was regarded as the finest panel artist in the city. His works reference the power of water and the importance of liberty, as well as Grecian Gods and images that inspire the same awe today as they did more than 100 years ago.

The Maryland Historical Society possesses the most significant surviving examples of Perine stoneware and earthenware. Many of the examples on view have not been on display since 1955. An inkwell from 1793, the earliest known example of Baltimore-made pottery, is one of the highlights of the impressive pottery installation.

The collection also includes the works of Anthony W. Bacher, whose pottery is considered the rarest and most valuable of the Shenandoah Valley examples. Luke Zipp, Curatorial Volunteer and pottery expert, said, “Although Baltimore potters made stoneware and earthenware for utilitarian purposes much like today's Tupperware, they saw it as a means of artistic expression. As a type of American folk art, many early nineteenth-century examples of stoneware and redware bear elaborate decorations and complicated forms”.

Additionally, MdHS holds a significant collection of pottery by Baltimore queensware manufacturer Edwin Bennett, including many examples donated by Bennett's grandson. Bennett erected his pottery in 1847 and became one of the most accomplished American potters by the time of his death in 1908. Three important examples of his work are on display in the folk art exhibition, including one of the earliest pieces of pottery Bennett successfully made in the city.

The folk art exhibition is an eclectic instillation and includes weathervanes, sewing implements, furniture and Cigar Store Indians among the many folk art genres on view. There is a nineteenth-century barber shop pole, the red stripes of which document a barber’s early practices of bleeding patients to promote health and healing. The red and white stripes of the iconic pole represent two long bandages, one twisted around the arm before the bloodletting and one to bind afterwards. A relic of the 1904 Baltimore fire, a memory bottle, features a pottery jug that is covered in clay and embedded with various charred and battered objects that survived the fire.

The Maryland Historical Society was founded in 1844 and is the world’s largest museum and library dedicated to the history of Maryland. Occupying an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore, the society’s mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland’s diverse cultural heritage.” The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled “Maryland Historical Magazine.” More information about the Maryland Historical Society can be found online at http://www.mdhs.org.



Photo Cut Line: Britt Olsen-Eckerportrays Clara Barton at the Maryland Historical Society on December 29- 31 as part of the Famous Civil War Spirits are Back in Baltimore theatrical program along with John Wilkes Booth and Harriet Tubman.


Clara Barton

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