Reflections of Another Artist: Mary Ann Burkhart

Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart is now open in our 3rd Floor Library Lobby and First Floor Spotlight Gallery. Emerson Burkhart (1905-1969) ruled the Columbus art scene during the 1950s and 1960s with his honest portraits and depictions of life in the city. While Burkhart was praised for his artistic skill, conflicts in his personal and professional life prevented him from receiving national attention. Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart displays never seen artwork by Burkhart, including the original sketches for the controversial mural Music.
Emerson Burkhart met Mary Ann Martin when she was just 15 years old; he was 28. Born in 1918, Martin was the daughter of a pharmacist and grew up in German Village. Martin became enamored with artists at a young age. She became an artist’s model at the age of 14, posing for students at the Ohio State University and quickly became a staple in the Columbus Arts Community.

Even though Martin and Burkhart had started to see each other, Martin decided to move to Woodstock, New York after graduating high school. Woodstock was considered to be a gathering place for some of those most prominent artists in America. Martin ended up posing for artists such as Edward Hopper, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Eugene Speicher.
Martin moved backed to Columbus and married Burkhart in 1937. They established a home in the Old Town East section of the city, becoming fixtures in a rapidly changing neighborhood. Mary Ann settled down, playing the constant hostess to prospective donors, artists’ models, and other acquaintances Emerson would bring home nightly.
Martin was active in promoting Burkhart’s work, but she had artistic desires of her own. She wrote at least one novel during her lifetime and could often be found sketching around their house. Like Emerson, Mary Ann had a very extensive library of books; she had so many Emerson made Mary Ann her own book plate.
However, their marriage was not always a happy one. Mary Ann was an alcoholic and Burkhart was a known womanizer. Their loud fights could often be heard from several doors away. Unable to have children biologically, Mary Ann contacted a socially worker about the possibility of adoption. The social worker accessed the house and talked with Emerson; she determined it would not be a fit place to raise a child and their application for adoption was rejected. Mary Ann never forgave Emerson for this.

Emerson_Burkhart-(Mary Ann)
Emerson struggled with his feelings about Mary Ann. In a portrait from 1944, Emerson portrays the 26 year old Mary Ann as much older, with wrinkles and dark eyes, placing her in child-like clothing. On October 12, 1955, Mary Ann Burkhart passed away from complications from liver disease, likely related to her alcoholism.
The Ohio History Connection has several drawings of Mary Ann’s in the collection. These sketches were done over the years as Emerson would bring in models for his own work. The sketches are of female body forms as Mary Ann honed her own artistic skills. See the sketches in person in Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart on the 3rd Floor Library Lobby Gallery at the Ohio History Connection!

Emily Lang, History Curator

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Ohio History Connection Curator Featured in Documentary

Have you seen the Worthington episode of the award winning Columbus Neighborhoods documentary series produced by WOSU?

The Worthington episode premiered on October 5, 2014. If you did not see it you can check the WOSU broadcast schedule to find out when it airs next. You can also view clips of the Worthington episode online. The clip titled Worthington – Flint Lock Rifle Explanation features senior history curator Cliff Eckle demonstrating how a flint lock rifle is loaded. The rifles pictured are examples of rifles from the 1800s that are part of the Ohio History Connection’s firearms collection.

Not only does our curator and pieces from our firearms collection appear in the film, some of the re-enacted historical scenes were filmed in Ohio Village. The Village is a recreated 1860s town on the Ohio History Connection campus in Columbus.

L. Wood, Curator for Visual Resources

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Polly Crockett: Queen of the Wild Frontier

One of our objects featured in 1950s: Living the American Dream is to be featured in an upcoming session at the annual Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association conference! Chosen as one of the 25 Artifacts of the American Childhood, the Polly Crockett hat has a complicated history.

hat-017In 1955, Disney released Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, perpetuating the myth of this historical figure and setting off a national trend in “Wild West” themed toys. Children’s rifles, western landscape toy sets, and faux raccoon skin hats appeared in stores across the nation. However, these toys were initially marketed for boys. An alternative for females appeared in the form of the Polly Crockett hat.

The original Davy Crockett hat featured a faux fur lined skull cap and a faux raccoon tail attached, very similar to what Davy Crockett would have worn when he was alive. It was reported that at one point in 1955, over 5,000 of these caps were being sold a day. The Polly Crockett hat, produced by Sanitized in the late 1950s, was made of faux fur and came in pink, white, and green and featured a drawing of Davy Crockett’s first wife, Polly, on the top.

During the 1950s, manufacturers aimed to define childhood through gender by creating two separate versions of toys for each sex; this can be seen in advertisements from companies like the Ohio Art Company and Mattel. This is a trend that continues today with the recent controversy of gendered Lego sets. The Polly Crockett hat is one of the starkest examples; the unnatural colors of the fake fur reinforced gender differences. While the boy’s version imitated an actual raccoon cap to blend into a natural environment, the girl’s version is obviously made of unnatural materials implying it was not to be worn outside.

The maker of the toy tried to contextualize the history by naming the hat after Crockett’s wife; Polly Crockett actually died at the mere age of 27 due to lingering complications from the birth of her third child. She never saw combat, staying at home to raise their family while Davy travelled around the United States. Even in play, girls were thrown into the role of a mother and homemaker.

This was not lost on children. Girls reported the discrepancies in the color and material of the hats, but no Davy Crockett hats were ever specifically produced for females during the 1950s. There was never a toy gun marketed for young girls to compliment the hat. By the 1960s, the “Wild West” had started to lose popularity and Sanitized stopped the production of the Polly Crockett hat.

Did you ever own a Polly or Davy Crockett hat? What other examples of toys marketed for a specific gender did you have growing up?

Emily Lang, History Curator

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Victorian Mourning Culture: Memorializing the Dead

An essential portion of the mourning culture during the Victorian Era was the memorialization of the deceased. Once again, the memorializing of loved ones fell to the women, as they were considered memory vessels for the family.  In this practice, women were given power in a world where their range of influence was limited.

This memorial sampler (H 84247) made between 1840 and 1880 reads: “In Memory of a Broken Household. C. & L. Hempstead. L.S. Moore.”

This memorial sampler (H 84247) made between 1840 and 1880 reads: “In Memory of a Broken Household. C. & L. Hempstead. L.S. Moore.”

One way some women memorialized the dead was through the creation of a physical reminder of the deceased’s life and accomplishments.  Often written, this physical record was usually a document placed in the family Bible or a special printed memorial card. More time-consuming records were created, mainly in the form of samplers.  Samplers were used by middle- and upper-class girls’ to instruct in docility and to teach how to sit still with downcast eyes for long periods of time.  Samplers created a memorial for a family member. These pieces of embroidered art were also a point of pride for the young women, who would add their name to the work, ensuring viewers would know who created it.

Human hair bracelet (H 52876) from 1850-1865.  On the gold clasp is engraved “Jane F. Whiteman to Nancy B. Torren”.

Human hair bracelet (H 52876) from 1850-1865. On the gold clasp is engraved “Jane F. Whiteman to Nancy B. Torren”.

Another popular practice was the art of hair working.  Extremely delicate and intricate work, women created and wore jewelry made from hair of the deceased in addition to creating large hair wreaths.  Often the deceased’s hair was intertwined with their own hair, symbolically cementing the bond between them.  Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular woman’s magazine, offered lessons in hair work; “Do-It-Yourself” hair working kits were also widely available.  Businesses formed where consumers could send loved one’s hair and the memorial piece would be made for them.

Hair wreath (H 36715) made by Mary Jane Preston around 1857 using hair collected from family members.

Hair wreath (H 36715) made by Mary Jane Preston around 1857 using hair collected from family members.

By the time Queen Victoria died at the turn of the century, the elaborate mourning culture had largely disappeared.  Certain customs from this time have reappeared throughout the next century, particularly during wartime, but most of the traditions followed by Victorians are no longer practiced.

How do you memorialize today?

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern


Garton, Stephen. “The Scales of Suffering: Love, Death and Victorian Masculinity.”         Social History 27, no. 1 (2002): 40-58.

Lutz, Deborah. “The Dead Still Among Us: Victorian Secular Relics, Hair Jewelry, and     Death Culture.” Victorian Literature and Culture 39 (2011): 127-142.

National Park Service.  “The Custom of Mourning During the Victorian Era.”  National     Park Service (2011): 1-5.    

Old Sturbridge Inc. “Historical Background on Mourning Rituals in Early 19th Century     New England.” Old Sturbridge Village (2003).            nID=37&DocID=2043&UnitID=.

Zielke, Melissa. “Forget-Me-Nots: Victorian Women, Mourning, and the Construction of a Feminine Historical Memory.” Material History Review 58 (2003): 52-66.

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#AskAnArchivist Day Is October 30!

Ever had a question for an archivist that you have not had the chance to ask?

Today archivists around the country, including archivists at the Ohio History Connection, are taking to Twitter to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist.

How does it work?
By using the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. The public can ask questions to particular archives by using the archive’s Twitter handle in the tweet (So, if you are asking us a question you will use our handle @OhioHistory and the hashtag #AskAnArchivist.

Why not? Archivists are committed not only to preserving information, but also to sharing it. Ask us anything related to archives, collections, professional standards and training, or anything else that archivists might be able to answer. Examples are:

General: How do you become an archivist?

Practice: How do you recommend scanning photographs?

Collection: Do you have any documents signed by famous people in your collections?

Personal: What is one of the strangest reference questions that you have ever been asked?

Specialized: How can rolled documents be flattened?

Thank you to archivists working in our State Archives, Digital Projects, Manuscripts/Audiovisual and Reference departments who volunteered to answer questions today. Answering questions in 140 characters or less can be fun (and a bit of a challenge) and some questions may require a quick bit of research.

Who will be answering your questions?

Liz Plummer – Genealogy

Lily Birkhimer –  Digitization

Connie Conner – State and Local Government Records

Lisa Wood – Historic film and photography

Looking for more information about Twitter and how it works? Click here for an introduction to get you started.

We look forward to answering your questions!

#AskAnArchivist Day is a project of the Society of American Archivists.

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Three Centuries of Flags on Exhibit

Thanks to a recent loan from the Ohio National Guard there are three centuries of flags represented in the Follow the Flag exhibit at the Ohio History Center. The new addition to the exhibit is the flag of the 134th Field Artillery of the Ohio National Guard who served in Afghanistan in 2011.

Security Forces Transfer of Authority Ceremony at Camp Eggers

Brigadier General Tom Cosentino, deputy commander, Regional Support, seated, looks on as Lieutenant Colonel Craig Baker, U.S. Army, commander of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 134th Field Artillery Regiment, standing to the left of flag, and Command Sergeant Major Thomas Watson, assume Security Forces duty during a transfer of authority ceremony held at Camp Eggers, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan. NTM-A is a coalition of 37 contributing nations charged with assisting the government of Afghanistan in generating a capable and sustainable Afghan National Security Force ready to take lead of their country’s security by 2014.

Ohio National Guard Flag on Loan

Ohio History Connection volunteer, Anna McCullough, and curator Cliff Eckle place the flag flat in a drawer of the 134th Field Artillery in the open storage cabinet in the Follow the Flag exhibit.

Embroidered on the red field of the flag is the arms of the unit. The crest above the eagle’s head represents the Ohio Army National Guard. There are 17 arrows representing that Ohio was the 17th state to join the Union. Below the arrows are Buckeye leaves with a bursting burr of Buckeyes. On the ribbon is the unit’s motto “Fides Et Audax” which is Latin for “Faithful and Bold.” The shield on the eagle has red indicating the original allocation of the unit as artillery. The blue represents Civil War service. The three alerions are from the arms of Lorraine, a province of France, and denotes World War I service.

Cliff Eckle, Curator of History

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Before Compact Disks and MP3 Players there were these things called…

… audio cylinders. In honor or World Day for Audiovisual Heritage we have a post about early sound recordings.

Today we listen to music and voice recordings through digital formats. However, the first recorded sounds were captured on cylinders. These cylinder records were the first popular recording and listening format, playing for 2-4 minutes.  The Ohio History Connection’s collection of 315 cylinder records were recently rehoused in boxes better suited to their preservation.  While rehousing these records, an inventory of the songs recorded on each cylinder was created.  The collection is truly varied. It contains few duplicates and includes many areas of early recording – from singers and musicians to orchestras and comedians.

Thomas A. Edison

Thomas A. Edison

Thomas A. Edison, a native of Milan, Ohio, is given credit for making the first sound recording in 1877 with his recitation of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on tinfoil.  Tinfoil was far from a permanent recording medium because these recordings could only be played a few times before they began to deteriorate. After the initial invention Edison chose to focus on the incandescent light bulb rather than improve the recording system.  Into this void jumped Alexander Graham Bell, his cousin, Chichester Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter, who captured sound by using a stylus to etch the recording into wax instead of Edison’s original tinfoil. The three men debuted their Graphophone in 1887 through the Colombia Phonograph Company. 

After the release of the Graphophone Edison returned to sound recording. Using Bell, Bell, and Tainter’s innovations as a starting point for his own, he produced records through the Edison Phonograph Company.  Wax cylinder records were improved by both companies until they could be played many more times before the grooves deteriorated, after which the wax could be shaved and smoothed so that a new recording could be made.  This allowed families to record their own history as well as listen to popular singers, musicians, and comedians.  These records, though more durable than the first tinfoil records, were still not the permanent records that would eventually come about.  Tinfoil and wax cylinders are relatively rare today, largely due to their inherent impermanent nature.  While we do have some wax cylinders from the turn of the 20th century in the Ohio History Connection collection, a large portion our audio cylinder collection is composed of the next type of cylinder record to enter the market.

Edison Amberol Record

Edison Amberol Record

Frenchman Henri Lioret began using celluloid, an early form of plastic, to make audio cylinders commercially in 1897. Edison began to use this celluloid for his cylinder recordings in 1912.  Celluloid cylinders were vastly more durable than tinfoil and wax cylinder records, in part because they would not automatically break if dropped. Celluloid records are among the most commonly found cylinder records today.  By the time Edison began making celluloid cylinders, his chief competitor, Columbia, had ceased making cylinders and moved on to disc records.  As the disc records gained in popularity, Edison continued to make cylinder records for a loyal, but ever-dwindling market.  In 1929, Edison bowed to the inevitable and ceased production of the cylinder record.

While the majority of our cylinder records are from the Edison Phonograph Company, our collection also holds examples from his competitors – Columbia Phonograph Company and Oxford Indestructible Records.  The companies standardized their records sizes so that consumers could play recordings from all companies on the same player.  However, as the technology advanced, so too did the equipment needed to play it; meaning that consumers did something we are all still familiar with today – purchase new equipment to play new types of recording formats.

The University of California, Santa Barbara began a cylinder digitization project in 2002, with the goal of preserving their cylinder record collections and enabling a wider audience to hear the past.  Their collections happen to contain some of the same records as ours.  You can search for specific recordings to download and listen to here:  Or, you can listen to a podcast or live stream on their Cylinder Radio here:

Interested in learning more about the earliest forms of sound recording?  Click on the links below:

Smithsonian Institute. “Early Sound Recording Collection and Sound Recovery Project.”             Smithsonian Institute. 2011.         recording-collection-and-sound-recovery-project.

The Library of Congress. “The History of the Edison Cylinder Phonograph.” The Library of Congress: American Memory. 1999.  

UC Santa Barbara Library. “Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.” University    of California, Santa Barbara. 2014.

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern

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