Archives for category: Cooperstown Graduate Program


Bustle, 1880s, wire, metal and tape, (12 ¼”x 5”:, x 4 ½”). Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Josephine L. Thompson, History Collection, N0301.1944. Photograph by Ashley Gallagher.


According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons there were a total of 17,721,671 cosmetic minimally-invasive and surgical procedures performed in 2018.[1] Among the most pervasive surgical procedures exists a trend regarding body-shaping.[2] Historically speaking, the concept of altering the body to achieve a desired silhouette is nothing new. Yet, prior to the accessibility of surgery and injections, an individual primarily relied upon clothing to achieve an altered physical form. Influenced by culture and fashion, women in particular, have manipulated their silhouette through undergarments for centuries.

Arguably the most infamous historical female undergarment is the corset, but have you ever heard of a bustle? The bustle functioned as a near and dear accessory of every fashionable woman of the late 1800s. During the 1870’s female fashion dictated the collapse of the wide crinoline hoop skirt that dominated the first half of the century. The new mode of fashion featured a skirt that was tight to the front of the body and full with volume of excess fabric in the back.[3] The bustle, or dress improver, aided in the enhancement of size and fullness of the derriere and took a variety of forms.[4]

The bustle pictured is constructed of hollow wire coils layered to create dimension. This commonly used design is lightweight but sturdy. Other bustles were made of steel, cane or padded cushion stuffed with horsehair, down or straw to provide fullness.[5] Although the wire of the bustle pictured is bare and uncovered, some bustles were decorated in a variety of fabrics ranging from expensive silk and cashmere to cheaper flannels and cottons.[6] Regardless of appearance, a bustle remained hidden beneath the skirt or dress of its wearer. Placed under the outermost garment and over petticoats, bustles were secured by tapes fastened at the hips and under the bottom.[7] Tapes were adjustable and could be tightly pulled to alter the overall shape or size of the bustle and ultimately, the rear as a whole. The accessibility of the tapes provided the wearer the additional flexibility of securing the bustle on and off herself, a small and subtle gesture of control in regard to the shaping of her own body. Yet, the impermanence of the bustle as a body-shaper truly proved most effective when high fashion shifted once again and modified the ideal female form into a different silhouette.

The new focus of interest was an accentuated bust rather than derriere. With the use of an elongated corset women achieved the new “s curve” silhouette, which thrust the chest up and forward and the hips and rear down and back. Yet, within 10 years the ideal silhouette shifted once again further proving the benefit of removable shape-wear.

-Ashley Gallagher


[1] 2018 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report. Report. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2019. Accessed March 17, 2019.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Bustle.” Accessed March 19, 2019.

[4] “The New Phantom (Bustle).” V&A Search the Collections. Accessed March 19, 2019.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.




The Nutcracker Ballet, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, details E.T.A Hoffmann’s story of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” a wonderous tale of a soldier nutcracker who comes to life to protect the young Marie (also known as Clara) from the evil Mouse King. While the stylized wood-carved nutcracker soldier seen in the ballet has been around since the 15thcentury[1]wooden nutcrackers are now more for decoration than for actually cracking nuts. This ballet, originally performed in Russia in 1892, has grown into one of the most well known and loved ballets, with seemingly infinite performances occurring around the world during the Christmas season. The love of nutcracker soldiers, and other artistically styled nutcrackers, at least in America, has likely only increased with the love of the Nutcracker Ballet. Unsurprisingly, many homes have a wooden Christmas Nutcracker Soldier, but these nutcrackers often only serve as part of the season’s decorations. In contrast, metal nutcrackers in various forms have remained in use across the world, despite the increased prevalence of pre-shelled nuts.


Dog NutcrackerImage Description: A metal nutcracker in the shape of a dog standing on a rectangular metal base, with the tail serving as the mechanism by which the dog’s mouth is opened to crack nuts.[2]Nutcracker, Metal, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0286.1948.


Nutcrackers have developed from simple tools into pieces of usable art. This dog nutcracker from around the late 1800’s embodies the relationship between dogs and humans. While it is widely said that dog is man’s best friend, dog can also be considered one of our first work partners and tools. From the first time that dogs provided companionship, help, or affection to humans, dogs have embedded themselves in the hearts of those who care for and work alongside them. Nutcrackers such as this one would have been among the many methods that people have used to display their love of dogs in their homes, while also fulfilling practical uses such as cracking open the shells of nuts after dinner, as was popular for dessert in the period which this nutcracker is likely from. Nuts as desserts would have been popular due to their availability and versatility, while other ingredients or sweets could potentially go bad or be unavailable in lean years, nuts are both nourishing as well as convenient. [3]Today, nutcrackers have grown in stylistic prominence, with soldiers, Santa’s, and others gaining places of honor on many homes’ Christmas mantels. Nutcrackers such as this dog serve both as tools and as artistic representations of our relationship with dogs. It is not outside the realm of imagination to picture a nutcracker dog alongside the Nutcracker soldier battling the army of the Mouse King in one of the many adaptations of Hoffmann’s original story. This metal nutcracker dog tells the story of the love that has only grown with time and contact with the animal from which the piece is inspired.

by: Sarah Grantham


[1] Malone, Noreen, “In a Nutshell: A Brief History of Nutcrackers.” Slate. Dec. 16, 2010.

[2]Nutcracker, Metal, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0286.1948.

[3]“History of Nuts”,, November 15, 2007

William McCoy's Frockcoat

Uniform Coat, c. 1861, wool, cotton, brass, L: 39.5 x W: 12 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Museum Purchase, N0029.1985. Photograph by Christopher Carey.

By the end of the summer in 1863, the American Civil War had been raging for two years. In both the North and South, death tolls were increasing, resulting from the great carnage of battles like Antietam, Fredericksburg, Shiloh, and Gettysburg. As the war continued long past public expectations, army life no longer appealed to many men in both armies. One such man was the owner of this Union uniform frockcoat, William B. McCoy, who deserted the Union Army in August 1863.

William McCoy was a native of Malone, New York in Franklin County and originally joined the 16th New York Volunteers regiment, company “I,” comprised mostly of men from St. Lawrence and Clinton counties in the upper most region of New York State [1]. Having suffered heavy casualties over the course of two years, on May 22, 1863, what remained of the regiment combined with the 121st NYV of Otsego County. About a month after the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), McCoy was reported missing from his regiment on August 8. The regiment was presumably somewhere close to Union held territory in Maryland or northern Virginia, from where he could safely travel home [2].

McCoy was not by far the only soldier to abandon the army. Over the course of the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) it is estimated that 303,000 men in both the Union and Confederate States of America deserted the military [3]. While the main reason for desertion may at first appear to be cowardice, there were many reasons as to why a soldier like McCoy would have left the military without permission. The rigors of military life, low morale, hunger, draft protests, and family concerns all could result in a soldier’s choice to desert [4]. It is important to note, however, that to the average soldier, desertion and cowardice were not the same thing. Only those single individuals who ran away during battle were deemed to be cowards [5]. In the case of McCoy, it is does not appear that he left the military during battle. Instead, it is likely that he is the end of a spike in desertions from the Union Army in the spring of 1863, caused by a severe drop in morale as a response to Union defeats the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville [6]. Two years of fighting, recurring losses, and thoughts of home weighed heavily on the minds of Union soldiers. Shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, the Union Army began to push south, lessening the number of opportunities for soldiers to safely desert [7]. McCoy either deserted just before his regiment began its march south or found an opportune moment during the march.

Although records document William McCoy’s desertion from the Union Army in 1863, it is unclear what happened to him afterwards. Other than his uniform frockcoat and a muster roll documenting his desertion, there appears to be no known documentation of McCoy from before or after the Civil War; not even a census record can be found. It appears that William B. McCoy has managed to desert not only the military, but the history books as well.

[1] “121st Infantry CW Roster,” New York State Military Museum, accessed February 28, 2019,; “16th Infantry Regiment Civil War,” New York State Military Museum, last updated January 25, 2019,

[2] “121st Infantry CW Roster.”

[3] Mark A. Weitz, “Desertion, Cowardice, and Punishment,” Essential Civil War Cirriculum, accessed March 15, 2019,,-cowardice-and-punishment.html.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

A fascinating way to stimulate a stagnant economy? A beloved childhood toy? A clockwork marvel? All of these statements can be attributed to a small, wind-up tin toy frog. The frog is a classic green with a red stripe down either side and a yellow underbelly with a wind-up key which allows  the frog to spring into action on two skate-like legs. Beneath the mouth are the marks “Trademark CK Made in Japan”[1] enclosed in a diamond shape. Aside from the paint peeling as well as the faint discoloration on the legs, the toy appears to be in fairly good condition and is presumed in working condition.

The material the toy is made from is tinned sheet steel because when a magnet it applied to the surface, the magnet sticks. Tinned metal is essential to the durability and longevity of this little frog because if the toy was solely made of tin, it would rust very easily when exposed to oxygen as well as not withstand the test of time as well as it has. It is important for the frog to be made of durable material that will not rust or fall apart easily as it was created to be played with and interacted with on a daily basis. The toy was made after World War II as the production of tin toys was discontinued because of the “need for raw material needed for the war effort”[2]. Until the end of the 1950’s, Japan was one of the main producers of tin toys due to the Marshall Plan which allowed Japanese manufacturers to keep producing these objects due to their cheap labor costs and durability. The frog could not have been made during the war years but rather after 1952 since the marks indicate “Made in Japan” rather than “Made in Occupied Japan” which would suggest that the US was still stationed in the country. During the end of WWII, General Douglas MacArthur attempted to revitalize Japan’s economy after the devastation the war wrecked upon the island nation[3]. The intense labor manufacturing of tin toys in Japan, then exporting them to the U.S. is one way in which MacArthur helped stabilize Japan’s formerly crippled economy. The exporting and manufacturing also allowed the sale of wind-up toys to sky-rocket in the States. It was mandatory that all products made in Japan bear the mark “Made in Occupied Japan” (from 1945 to 1952)[4] and “Made in Japan” after 1952.  The material the frog is made up of is important as it adds to the story of the toy being manufactured after 1952 as the production of many tin-toys had ceased after this date due to the emergence of synthetic material for toy production.

After the long journey to U.S soil, this little frog would have been sold in five-and-dime stores as a novelty for children. The toys were inexpensive to make and small enough to be accessible to a wide audience[5]. With the arrival of new production technologies, synthetic material took over the market, thus, forcing the production of tin toys to rapidly decline. As a result of cheaper plastic being introduced to the market, new safety regulations decreased the popularity of tin toys during the 1960s[6]. From the 1950s and into the 1960s, the import of tin toys to the U.S from Japan allowed for trade relations between the two countries to strengthen[7]. As a result of plastics being introduced, tin wind-up toys that bear the “Made in Japan” became highly sought after. Even in today’s collectors’ markets, tin trinkets such as this little frog are frequently bought and sold. Tin wind-up toys are popular because they are objects which can still be found on the market for an affordable sum. Next time you have chance to visit an antique store or flea market, see if you can spot one of these whimsical hopping friends!


“Trademark CK Made in Japan” mark

[1] Wind-up tin toy frog, F0255.1945(02), “Documentation (overview),” accessed February 9 2019, S-Museum database, Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York.

[2] “Tin Toy History,” Tin Toy Bargains, accessed April 7, 2019,

[3] Hugo Hart, “Items Made in Occupied Japan Have a Number of Fans Because They are Identifiable and Affordable,” Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1997,

[4] “Occupied in Japan,” Kovels, accessed April 7, 2019,

[5] “Vintage and Antique Wind-up Toys,” Collector’s Weekly,, accessed February 20, 2019,

[6] Tin Toy Bargains.

[7] “Country of Origin as a Dating Tool,” Coxsackie Antique Center, accessed April 7, 2019,


Huyler’s Breakfast Cocoa, 1870, Liberty Can Company, tinned sheet metal and enamel, height 5.75 in.; width 2.625 in., depth 2.625 in. The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Jeffrey Pressman, F0024.2012a-b.

Today, it is easy for many of us to recognize major chocolate/candy companies such as Mars, Heresy, and Nestle and the brands they have created. One company that might not be as familiar to you is Huyler’s. At its height from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, Huyler’s was a major confectionary that made tremendous leaps in the candy business, especially when it came to advertising.

In 1874, at age twenty-two, John S. Huyler opened a store on 18th Street in New York, New York. It was here where he also started his advertisement slogan, “Huyler’s Taffy, Fresh Every Hour.” It would later be shortened to “Fresh Every Hour.” [1] Two years later, he opened the first Huyler store where he conceived of the idea to advertise his taffy by putting a candy puller in the store window. This proved to be a revolutionary idea that attracted crowds of people, allowing the fame of his candy to spread. [2] As the company became more successful, it started to expand what it offered to candies such as bonbons and cocoa drinks. The candy company continued to separate itself from the pack by attaching specific keywords and phrases to its brand.

The cocoa tin seen here (circa 1870s) was used to package Huyler’s breakfast cocoa for purchasing. The tin was also a great tool to advertise the reasons why Huyler’s chocolate was better than the rest. “Purity,” “unexcelled,” and “no chemicals are used in its preparations” were printed on thousands of breakfast cocoa tins. This helped to link the word purity to Huyler’s. An 1897 advertisement from Huyler’s highlights its cocoa and chocolates for eating and drinking; the same keywords, “purity” and “unexcelled,” can be found. [3] 


1897 Ad Huyler’s Cocoa Chocolate Drink Victorian Woman

Huyler’s push to connect the brand to purity worked exceptionally well for the company. A 1914 edition of National Magazine, included an article titled “The Accomplishments of Forty Years”. It states “few people realize the care exercised in a candy factory like Huyler’s. Cleanliness is everywhere apparent; purity in every item that constitute the confections is absolute, and the perfection in manufacture is certain.” [4]  Huyler’s success would continue until 1950 when the company filed for bankruptcy. In 1953, the trademarks were sold to John Swersey of Swersey’s Chocolate Company. By the 1960s, the Huyler name practically vanished from the candy industry. [5]

Although Huyler’s no longer exists, a similar type of advertising can be found on candy packaging today. Candy companies such as Hersey advertise “made with farm fresh milk” on their packaging. Fresh has now replaced pure when communicating to the public that a product is worth buying. Next time you are in a grocery store, pick out different words candy companies use to advertise the quality of their products.  

– Tashae Smith

  1. Joy Santlofer, Food City: Four Centuries of Food-Making in New York (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016). candy company&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
  2. J. N. Kins, “The Accomplishments of Forty Years,” National Magazine, 1914, 537. candycompany&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjt29bGyPjgAhXQTN8KHbTCApkQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=huyler candy company&f=true.
  3. “1897 Ad Huyler’s Cocoa Chocolate Drink Victorian Woman – ORIGINAL LHJ4.” Period Paper.
  4. Kins, “The Accomplishments of Forty Years,” 538.
  5. Santlofer, Food City. candy company&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
Sony Walkman from CGP Collection 4.9.19.jpg

Walkman, 1990, Sony, Plastic, H: 1 3/4” x L: 5 1/8” x W: 3 3/8”. CGP Teaching Collection, Cooperstown, New York, T13.92. Photograph by Andris Balins

For most of human history listening to music was a shared experience by anyone who was within earshot. Music has brought people together for numerous reasons including to dance, celebrate, and mourn. With the advent of recorded music, the prospect of listening silently, without others hearing, became a possibility. The first portable audio player was the Regency TR-1, which was battery powered and allowed people to listen to the radio wherever they went. [1] The TR-1 included an earphone but was mostly used with its built-in speaker. It made music portable but not necessarily a private experience. In contrast the portable cassette player (and specifically the Walkman, which was introduced in 1979) did not include a speaker and was meant for solitary use. [2]

Sony co-chairman Masaru Ibuka used the bulky Sony Pressman (released in 1977 for reporter use) for listening to music on the go. In 1978, he requested that the development team put together a stereo cassette player that was portable and designed for personal use. Initially marketed under the name Soundabout in the U.S., Ibuka’s suggested name Walkman eventually won out. [3] The popular device ushered in an age when users became detached from their auditory environment—a fact Sony was aware of. The initial Walkman model TPS-L2 included 2 headphone ports for a shared experience and a hotline button that was used to lower the music and speak through an internal mic to the other listener. [4] Those features disappeared in subsequent releases and the 1990 WM-F2031 model pictured included only one headphone connection. [5]

The personalized experience of listening to music on the go also led to the flourishing of the mixtape. Mixtapes offered listeners a format where they could record their favorite songs onto a blank cassette. It allowed users to create soundtracks to their lives, which often made mundane activities such as commuting more enjoyable experiences. Users noted that the Walkman gave them a sense of privacy in public spaces, creating a bubble of sound. [6] Though the cassette Walkman is no longer manufactured, a plethora of portable music players still exist. Sony continues to use the Walkman brand name to market its current line of digital music players. [7] Though the mixtape may no longer appear in cassette format, the tradition continues to this day through playlists and other personalized music mixes.

[1] Matt Peckham, “As Sony’s Walkman Turns 35, a Look Back at Its Inception,”, July 2, 2014.

[2] Caroline Crampton, “How Technology Makes us Listen Alone.”New Statesman146, no. 5354 (February 17, 2017): 31.

[3] Matt Peckham, “As Sony’s Walkman Turns 35, a Look Back at Its Inception.”

[4]Jake Coyle,“A Walkman Obituary: Remembering the device that made music portable and personal,” Canadian Press, Oct 26, 2010.

[5] Sony, “WM-F2301 Owner’s Manual,” 1990.      accessed on 3.13.2019.

[6] Kelly C. Rhodes, “Walkman,” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2018. accessed on 4.8.2019.

[7]Sony, “mp3 players,” accessed on 3.15.2019.

By Andris Balins

Historic medicines infamously used dangerous chemicals or ineffective ingredients, resulting in people accidentally poisoning themselves or never getting better. The popularity of questionable medicines, lack of pharmacists with proper training, and pharmacies selling grocery items led to pharmacies getting a bad reputation in the late nineteenth century [1]. Despite these negative ideas, pharmacists Jarvis and Bliss ran a pharmacy from 1870-1895 in Cooperstown, New York where they worked with local partners to provide helpful medicine to the community [2]. While the medicine itself may have been problematic, Jarvis and Bliss strived to make quality products.

We know about the Jarvis & Bliss pharmacy thanks to some artifacts, namely a three-and-a-half-inch tall clear glass medicine bottle with “Jarvis & Bliss / Druggists / Cooperstown, NY” embossed on its side.  The glass material and a lack of an accompanying prescription label suggests the bottle was constructed to last, and customers likely often reused the bottle for refills, a popular trend for pharmacists and customers [3]. In fact, this bottle appears used due to some whitish film inside and a chip near the bottle opening, but it is unknown what this bottle actually contained.


Medicine Bottle, 1872-1895, glass, L: 3.5  x W: 1.25 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0044.1970. Photography by Jen Vos.

While Jarvis and Bliss owned the pharmacy, they worked with others to provide quality products. A maker’s mark on the bottle, “S.B.W,” demonstrates the pharmacists cared about their bottles and their advertisement to the community as the bottle would need an expensive custom mold to include their label. The clear name “Jarvis & Bliss” on the bottle also guarantees that customers would not forget their local pharmacy every time they reached for their medicine. Even now, their name and the memory of the pharmacy remain because of the bottle’s construction and clear label.

Jarvis and Bliss not only cared about the reliability of their bottles, but also the medicine that went into the bottles. Much like they worked with S.B.W for a quality bottle, they worked with local doctors and physicians for more reliable medicine. As a result, they advertised having “Pure Drugs & Medicine,” although they still sold the popular nonprescription medicines [4]. By focusing on quality products and durable advertisements with the help of their partners, the pharmacists aimed to establish a good reputation with their community.

While the medicine in the bottles may be questionable, Jarvis and Bliss undoubtedly worked hard as entrepreneurs to serve their local town of Cooperstown by creating products with the help of partnerships from doctors and manufacturers. While pharmacies continue this work today, big name corporations replaced locally owned pharmacies and regulations better control medicine. Nevertheless, today’s medicine bottles feature brand names their customers develop opinions about. Today’s pharmacies continue aim to establish reliability and serve their customers, similar to Jarvis and Bliss’s work over a hundred years ago.

Thank you to Jen Vos for her research.

-Post by Brittany Boettcher

[1] John S. Haller Jr., American Medicine in Transition: 1840 – 1910 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 267.

[2] “Business Change,” The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, NY), October 24, 1895, New York State Historic Newspapers, accessed February 28, 2018,

[3] Jane Busch, “Second Time Around: A Look at Bottle Reuse,” Historical Archaeology, 21, no. 1 (1987): 69, accessed February 28, 2018,

[4] Jarvis and Bliss, advertisement, The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, NY), August 14, 1873, New York State Historic Newspapers,