Some parts of my job here at Maplewood History are very easy. When the Bill Jones light comes on and another one of his excellent recollections (typed by his wife, Barb, of course) appears on my screen…that’s easy. All I have to do are add a few appropriate photographs and it’s ready to go. But I am involved in other events that the casual reader can’t imagine.
Recently my lust for historic Maplewoodiana has taken me as far west as Wildwood and as far east as Sauget. Both trips were well worth it and wonderfully productive. At other times I seem to spend several hours with not much to show for it. But it’s the thrill of the hunt that keeps me going. When interesting discoveries are made it’s exciting.
I have been spending a pretty good bit of time on the Sutton and Thomas family artifacts that recently surfaced. The trove mentioned in earlier posts consists of a wide variety of items, not only photographs and written material. I photograph everything at least one time but some things I wind up photographing two or three times before I get the images I’m after.
Particularly hard to photograph are images that are framed and behind glass. If I can I like to remove the image or document from the frame so I can get a clear shot. Then I always return them to their frames and try to leave them in better condition than I found them. This usually means just cleaning everything as good and gently as possible with just water for the frame and glass. I might use a very soft brush to dust off the artifact. I never try to clean them directly. Then I usually put acid free paper behind them even though some have just spent a hundred years hard up against a piece of wood. Last, if possible, I try to reattach the backing with the same nails that I removed even returning them to the exact holes I removed them from. If this seems excessive to you, I don’t think it is. If the item is very old and hasn’t been monkeyed with the nails can be very small square brads. I’ve run into some of those in this latest trove. So far I’ve put them back where I’ve found them. The nails themselves are a record of time.
Yesterday I was working on two of the framed photographs when I made a couple of very interesting discoveries. I believe you’ll find them interesting as well.
This image of an old gentleman in a top hat is part of the trove of Maplewoodiana that I keep referring to. The family legend says this man is James C. Sutton. I can’t say for certain that he is not but I have my doubts. I have examined this photo carefully and the only other known image of James C. Sutton. I have had quite a bit of training in figure and portrait drawing and painting and they just don’t look like the same face to me. Also the photographic technique used to produce this image is the same as the one used to produce the known James Sutton image. Seems to me like they would be different if they were taken at different stages of his life.
This frame had no glass which I replaced. Also the wooden back was held on with duct tape. Goop and a very sharp chisel got rid of the tape residue.
The only nails were upholstery tacks which I judged not worth saving. I used a couple of strips of birdseye maple leftover from another project to keep everything together. They are attached with screws so whoever has to take it apart the next time will have an easy time of it. The white showing is a piece of acid free paper I put to separate the photograph from the wood. This is an example of the sort of behind the scenes thing that I take for granted. I don’t own this photograph. It is going back to its owner. I like to do my part to help preserve these very rare items.
You may remember this drawing of the Sutton mansion by Vic Vac that first appeared a couple of posts ago. The owner was kind enough to let me closely examine it.
The paper on the back of the frame was badly deteriorated. The nails holding the drawing in the frame were rusted. Sometime in the past the drawing suffered some minor water damage. Next comes the exciting part.
When I flipped that deteriorated paper over, this page of comics was on the back of it. Some of you may recall that Vic Vac drew sort of comic figures when he worked for the Globe-Democrat. The three strips on this page were drawn by a person named Sidney Smith who worked for the Chicago Tribune.
Best of all was finding the date. August 6, 1933.
That razor sharp chisel came in pretty handy again for removing that deteriorated backing. The little nippers are good for removing the nails. The magnet is good for keeping track of the nails.
This product was used just behind the drawing. It has a fake wood grain as you can see. It appears to be a heavy cardboard. I have a Stanley plane in my collection that was used to cut this sort of stuff. It has very sharp blades like a mat cutter has. From memory I think the number is a 196. I’ve heard of a product like this called Beaver board but I’m not sure if that is what this is.
On the back of the drawing are these notes most likely made by Vic Vac himself. I’d guess that would be the woman’s name and address who bought the drawing. The drawing measures 14 x 20″ and is still in a Br.(own?) frame. Some artists (like my Mother) keep a running total on the articles they produce. I speculate that might explain the number 566. I believe this is an original drawing. It is done on some sort of art board. It is not paper.
Here is the best view of the artwork that we’ve had yet. I took the liberty of repairing some of the water damage with Photoshop but only on this digital copy.
Once again I would like to thank the descendants of the Sutton and Thomas families for sharing with us these family and community treasures.