The Childrens Room
Written by Wanda Nelson
Over the years, many area families have donated children's toys, clothing and furniture to the Dean House to help preserve our knowledge of what life was like for children living at the turn of the century. Marie Rider and Alice Schuller, long time Board members, have gathered many of these items in an upstairs bedroom where visitors can begine to imagine that they hear the playful laughter and running footsteps that made the Dean House into a real home.
The large rope bed dominates the room. Rope is woven between the sides of the bed and supports a mattress made of two sheets stuffed with straw. The covering on the bed is a quilt pieced together in a blue and white "bow tie" pattern. One can imagine that the older children in the family slept together in this bed, while a younger child slept in the trundle bed that pulled out from under the large bed. In the morning, the trundle bed would be pushed back under the bed for storage. The toddler in the family probably slept in the sturdy white crib under the windows. A new baby would have slept in the spool cradle in the large bedroom.
The desk is one of an old school desk that were placed in rows in a one-room school house, forming lines of benches and desk tops. Children did not have the elaborate school supplies that are available today. Notice the small slate board that they used to practice their arithmetic problems and writing skills. The pencil box serves as a ruler and a slate marker box.
The wicker perambulator in the comer is one of the oldest models of what we call today "strollers." Look closely and you can see that it serves as a cradle, a chair, and a way to take the baby for a stroll.
Both a youth chair and a high chair remind us that children joined the family at the dinner table at a very young age. Note the needlework on the little bib-a very clever design that allowed the bunny ears to wrap around the neck of the child to protect clothing from drips.
While the room is not filled with overflowing toy boxes, it does contain many precious possessions. Cloth dolls handmade from pre-printed fabric and colored with wax crayons adorn the shelf in the comer. A beautiful china-headed doll rests in the perambulator in the comer. A wicker doll buggy holds a crazy quilt patterned doll blanket and some doll clothes. A patchwork cow rests in the rocker.
On the table there is a collection of small toys--a miniature sewing machine that really works, a jar of glazed clay marbles (sometimes called migs),some hand-carved wooden acrobatic jumping jacks, a toy truck, a small shovel and some small animals. Think of the imagination that the children used to make up the games they played with these toys.
Under the table is a large wooden box that contains many smaller wooden blocks. One can presume that a child could use these blocks with the numbers on them to practice arithmetic skills as well as to build large towers and other structures.
The black horse pull toy on the shelf above the bed looks like it took many a gallop around the upstairs halls.
You'll notice there is no closet in the room and the clothes are hung on wooden pegs on the wall. All of the clothes were probably made by the mother or grandmother in the family and many of them are especially nice. The beautiful baptismal gown made of batiste and lace and covered with tiny machine sewn tucks was probably kept and used generation after generation. The white woolen coat has been hand embroidered with tiny roses and a little dress hand embroidered with yellow ducks. In the small crib there are examples of the long stockings and the hand-knit woolen socks children wore during the cold winter. There is an undershirt with garters and a tiny sweater that served as an arm-warmer for a little one.
On the walls there are a couple of pictures of guardian angels--probably put there by mother to reassure her children as they slept through the night. The children in the oval portrait frame are not identified, but one can imagine a mother tucking the two older children into the rope bed, pulling out the trundle bed for the younger child and finally placing the toddler in the crib by the window. Maybe she had an infant already asleep in the cradle in the other room.