Lydia’s Picks December 2020

Club minutes: Sandy Spring Pigeon Club, 1910-1913


When I came across the minutes for the Sandy Spring Pigeon Club, a local youth organization dedicated to the keeping of these birds, my first reaction was one of amused interest in the quirky social networks of historic Sandy Spring.

A brief dig for details, however, led me to its adult sponsor, Reuben Brigham, and the realization of something much more profound at work than mere amusement.  Brigham, himself only 23 years-old at the club’s founding, was concerned about rural youth having few constructive social outlets so he sold his own pigeons to local teenaged boys and formed a club operated in a format similar to that of the community’s adult farmers’ clubs.

I find it remarkable that, when given the opportunity, a group of boys, ages thirteen through eighteen, voluntarily and enthusiastically dedicated every other Friday evening to such a productive endeavor. For Brigham, the experience seems to have planted a seed; he often credited the club for launching his career in agricultural outreach beginning with Maryland’s branch of the National 4-H Club in 1915.

Receipt:  Dr. W.G. Regester, State Vaccine Agent to Dr. C.E. Iddings, 1880


Being much attuned to the topic of vaccines these days, my eye was immediately caught when Dr. C.E. Iddings wrote in his diary on January 20, 1880, of receiving “vaccine quills from the State Agent.” Tucked in the back of the diary was this receipt for the very same.

While we typically associate vaccines with injections, apparently it wasn’t until the 20th century that this method became the overwhelming norm. Instructions on the back of this receipt indicate that the inoculating virus on the “quill slip” needed to be reconstituted and then applied to a patch of skin where the first layer had been scraped off with a lancet. It also indicated that all “quill slips” should ideally be used upon opening the package.

With today’s talk of ultra-cold storage and distribution strategies, I can’t help wonder if Dr. Iddings faced similar issues. How did he avoid spoilage upon opening a new batch? Did he keep the vaccine quill slips in a special place?

Letter: Henry Stabler to a cousin, 1853


Finding wayward letters and parcels in the 1850s was certainly more difficult than plunking a tracking number into a search bar. In this letter to an unnamed cousin, Henry Stabler speaks of some correspondence and a package that wend their way on a week’s journey around the county before finally finding him at his home, Roslyn, in Brighton.

He speaks of contacting multiple Post Masters in trying to have Roslyn’s mail routed correctly, alluding to an ongoing issue, and thanks his cousin for interceding on his behalf by “calling at the P.O. Department” in Washington. This letter makes me wonder at the source of the delivery hiccup. Could this correspondence be speaking to a new address for Stabler or of Roslyn becoming a mail delivery hub? Might this obscure little letter shed some light on the story of this historic property?

For me, such a discovery represents the everyday excitement and thrill of uncovering Sandy Spring Museum’s hidden treasures through digitization!

Store ledger:  Brookeville Store, December 23, 1851


On December 24, 1851, the Brookeville Store was shuttered and still as the storekeeper presumably enjoyed festivities; the day prior, however, was anything but quiet.

Typically, the store saw only a handful of customers daily but on Tuesday, December 23rd the store’s daybook records a whopping 15 transactions with the number of folks dropping by likely even higher.  The day leading up to the 23rd was a brisk business in hose, shoes, boots, ribbons, and, surprisingly, buttons.

On that day, however, the till rang mostly for molasses, sugar, raisins, figs, and candy speaking to sweet treats to be shared the next day.  It is easy to imagine the energy filling the store on that Tuesday as friends and neighbors greeted each other with well wishes and glad tidings.