TechnoTourist’s Engineering Expeditions Blog

TechnoTourist’s Engineering Expeditions

Want to travel the world, but don't have time to leave the office? TechnoTourist is here to save the day! Tag along while TechnoTourist visits famous engineering feats around the world. TechnoTourist will also investigate fascinating technologies that help to preserve and discover incredible travel locations. Maybe you could use TechnoTourist's insights to help you plan your next travel itinerary, or escape from the stresses of everyday life!

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TechnoTourist Visits Hildene (Part 3)

Posted September 18, 2008 7:01 AM by Steve Melito

Let's explore the rest of the first floor at Hildene, the 24-room Georgian revival mansion built by Robert Todd Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln's eldest son and former chairman of the Pullman Palace Car Company. Built in 1905 at a cost of $60,000 (USD), the Lincoln family homestead is nestled in the Green Mountains of beautiful Manchester, Vermont.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this multi-part series, TechnoTourist explored woodworking and clock making techniques, early twentieth-century kitchen appliances, and a household communication system called an annunciator box. Now, let's visit Mr. Towers' office, Mr. Lincoln's library, and a downstairs bedroom that the patriarch of Hildene once used to hide documents about his mother's "madness", as her mental illness was called.

Mr. Towers' Office

Frederic N. Towers, Robert Todd Lincoln's attorney and personal secretary, maintained a corner office on Hildene's first floor. Armed with a letterpress (image below), Towers made copies of all Lincoln's communications, including letters from Lincoln's tenure as Secretary of War. To slow drying times and permit the creation of multiple copies, sugar water was added to the ink. Between 1865 and 1912, approximately 20,000 copies of correspondence were made.

Some of these copies were probably stored in the large "filing cabinet" that spanned most of a wall, and which featured a series of numbered or lettered drawers. The picture below is cropped, but it's clear that Mr. Towers' filing system wasn't purchased at Wal-Mart or Office Depot.

The office also included a typewriter, made by Densmore, which looks far less ergonomic than a modern computer keyboard.

The Library

While Frederic N. Towers copied correspondence, Robert Todd Lincoln wrote letters, browsed books, or enjoyed a drink and a cigar in the library. The upholstered furniture there is styled after the seats found in Pullman passenger cars. Above the fireplace is an engraving by Albert Bierstadt, a German-American artist known for his landscapes of the American West. At Hildene, the Bierstadt engraving is signed by the artist, and depicts the Rocky Mountains with a Native American encampment.

Engraving, a printmaking technique in which lines are cut into a metal plate and then filled with ink to transfer the image onto paper, was once a common method for reproducing images. Intaglio, the process of incising the design, is the opposite of relief printing.

The Lincoln Bedroom

After spending an evening in his library, Robert Todd Lincoln retired to his bedroom, a spare-looking place except for a bed fit for a king. The walnut one in Mr. Lincoln's bedroom once belonged to his father-in-law, Senator James Harlan of Iowa. The carvings on the headboard indicate the Senator's membership in the Masons, a fraternity which probably originated with guilds of stonemasons in the Middle Ages. The symbols in this carving consist of a square, a compass, and the letter "G", which stands for geometry.

Let's finish our tour by taking a look upstairs and then going outside to visit Mr. Lincoln's observatory, shall we?

Editor's Note: Click here for Part 4, the last installment in this series. Part 1 and Part 2 are already on CR4.

Additional Resources

http://www.amazon.com/Madness-Mary-Lincoln-Jason-Emerson/dp/0809327716

http://www.progressiveart.com/art_terms.shtml

http://www.trowel.com/flamason/what.htm

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Guru
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#1

Re: TechnoTourist Visits Hildene (Part 3)

09/18/2008 3:55 PM

That picture of the headboard was much too small to make out all of those symbols for me, either that or I am blind (quite possible). It was a delight to see all of the old-fashioned equipment. It reminded me of a time when real wood was a very key ingredient to homes, the beautiful markings glistening with a finish. Wood makes that home so much more elegant and timeless.

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Guru
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: TechnoTourist Visits Hildene (Part 3)

09/19/2008 8:41 AM

Here's a larger image, Jaxy. It's a bit blurry, but may give you a better idea of what the symbols look like. Glad you enjoyed the story!

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Guru
United States - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1160
Good Answers: 36
#3
In reply to #2

Re: TechnoTourist Visits Hildene (Part 3)

09/19/2008 10:00 AM

I can see it now! Thanks, I was totally ignorant of where the G was, but I can see it now thanks to the larger image!

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