Following our tour of the paintings and other artworks on display in the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building and the Webb Gallery, it was on to see what else Shelburne Museum had to offer. After all, it is said to be a collection of collections!
As you will see, that is an understatement!
Our next stop was in the Dorset House (ca. 1832), which was relocated to its current site from East Dorset Vermont. Dorset House is home to Shelburne Museum’s huge and outstanding collection of over 1,400 wildfowl decoys. If you are a collector of this unique American art form and you own 30 or 40 decoys, a visit to this exhibit is almost depressing…and overwhelming!
Staff throughout the museum were more than helpful and friendly. Kevin, who was working as a docent in the Dorset House was very helpful and quite knowledgeable. Note the outstanding and beautiful wading water birds just over his shoulder.
This beautiful decoy, a Wood Duck Drake bird carving, was completed by Charles H. Hart from Gloucester Massachusetts sometime between 1920 and 1940. Mr. Hart lived a long life, from 1862 until 1960.
Nathaniel “Rowley” Horner from West Creek New Jersey created this handsome Red-breasted Merganser Drake Decoy ca. 1930.
Decoys/bird carvings were everywhere. They were lined up on glass enclosed shelving, mounted on the wall and filling every nook and cranny in the Dorset House. Note the punt used for bird hunting. Some bird hunting firearms are also on display. Our heads were spinning by the time we finished checking out the entire building…Thank you Kevin for an excellent tour!
On the way to our next stop, we passed this unusual 2 lane 168 foot long covered bridge. It was built in 1845 and bridged the Lamoille River in Cambridge Vermont for over 100 years. It was moved to its current site in 1950 – 1951. Note the footpath/pedestrian walkway at the left side of the photo…
The Stagecoach Inn was built in 1783 and it served as an inn in Charlotte Vermont. It was positioned along the main stage coach route to Montreal. The structure features 10 fireplaces and a second floor ballroom. The building was moved to Shelburne Museum in 1949.
Today the Inn is the home of Shelburne’s folk art collection. While I’ve included a sampling of what this exhibit offers, keep in mind that the building is full of cigar-store figures, ship’s carvings, folk paintings, old trade signs and spectacular weathervanes.
This is one of Grandma Moses’s primitive style paintings. This one is titled “The Mail Man Has Gone” and it was completed in 1949. I’m sort of biased toward the whimsical style used by Grandma Moses as my mother painted in a similar style and her paintings are on our walls and our son’s walls as well as a number of my mother’s friends.
To learn more about Grandma Moses and to view some of her other works, just go to It’s interesting to note that Grandma Moses didn’t begin painting until she was 76 years old!.
This carved “Robin” is a ship’s figurehead from the early 1800s. Other than eagles, by the mid-1800s, human forms took over the bow of ships. Given this sleek design, “Robin” probably graced a clipper or whaling vessel.
Even though this “Hobby Goat” ca. 1880, has been determined to probably be of European origin, I just liked it…and it’s a lot different from the old hobby horses of my youth!
This large eye-catching carved and painted wooden cigar store figure is titled “Captain Jinks”. It was completed by Thomas J. White ca. 1879.
Enterprising merchants in the 1800s who could afford shop figures like this, would invest in one of these wooden sculptures to promote whatever he was selling. A wooden sailor might stand in front of a ship’s chandlery or a Chinaman might be posted at a tea room’s entrance. The most common figures however were the American Indian. They’d introduced tobacco to European explorers. When Indian figures became ‘commonplace’, carvers turned to other subjects…
This stern board, a decorative piece used on the flat part of the back of a vessel, is from the late 1700s or early 1800s. The ship it was mounted on is unknown The Native American figure represents the new nation of the USA while the lion and wounded deer are symbols of American Independence and a defeated England.
This hooked rug stair carpet apparently came with the Dorset House when it was moved to Shelburne. It was created by Mildred O’Neal for the house back in 1934. Each of the images depicted represent an event in her family’s history. Her grandparents had moved into the home in 1865.
This terrific carving was a trade sign that once advertised a boarding house in Pittsburg Pennsylvania. It’s from the late 1800s and it’s titled “Eagle on Uncle Sam’s Hat”. Both the eagle and Uncle Sam were popular in this type of advertising…
…moving on from the Dorset House.
Our next stop was in a long and complex series of interconnected buildings that included the “Variety Unit”, Toy Shop, plus the Hat and Fragrance Textile Gallery.
Glassware, china, pottery and porcelain were everywhere. The items pictured on the 3 shelves shown above are very collectible Staffordshire ceramics from the 1800s. To view a fine selection of antique Staffordshire items just go to .
The items on the lower shelf are chalkware figures…actually made from plaster of Paris. Although it was less expensive than ceramics, pieces in good condition today can be quite pricey…
OK… I had no clue what this collection was when I entered the room. Hatboxes? This room is full of what was called 'bandboxes'. They were indeed designed to carry hats as well as other light clothing items.
This collection was all constructed by Hannah Davis (1784 – 1863) who lived in Jaffrey New Hampshire. When her mother died in 1818 Hannah was alone and without financial means. So she started her cottage industry, creating bandboxes constructed with thin sheets of wood, covered on the outside with reclaimed remnants of wallpaper and lined on the interior with religious newspapers. Working girls in local textile mills were her initial customers. Competitors were many but they used the more popular and less expensive pasteboard.
Wedgwood is still a big name in china and ceramics. This is part of Josiah Wedgwood’s “Nautilus” dessert service produced between 1810 and 1820. This is pearlware with a luster glaze and it’s stunning. Each item is modeled after a specific seashell…
How about a collection of glass canes?! They fall into the category of decorative canes…a fashion accessory in its purest form. Their function was aesthetic and glass was just one of the mediums used by highly skilled artisans and craftsmen. As you can see, these impractical walking sticks could be rather beautiful…
These 2 photos are just a sampling of the toys on display in the “Toy Shop”. The top photo is an outstanding collection of antique tin toys and the bottom photo shows a terrific variety of cast iron toys. Originals in good condition with reasonable paint remaining bring sizable prices… Dolls, trains, toy cars, toy soldiers, it was all here…
This ‘Clown Magician’ (ca. 1880) is one of 30 large ‘automata’ (automatons) in the collection at Shelburne Museum. This one was probably built by Frenchman Gustave Vichy. (1839 – 1904)
To learn more about some of these early ‘robots’, check out some of the most famous ones at In any case, Laurie didn’t like this one as she hates clowns! They’re scary! .
This is an “Applique and Pieced Cornucopia and Floral Medallion Counterpane”. (A bedspread or coverlet) It was completed by Ann Robinson in Norwich Connecticut starting on October 1, 1813 and it was completed on January 27, 1814. Unusual for the time, she used the new cotton fabrics that had become available instead of the usual chintz.
My mother made a fancy hooked rug for me in 1949 or 1950 when I was between 7 and 8 years old. Because of that I’m partial to hooked rugs and this pair caught my eye. The one on the right is titled “Missouri Rug” and it was completed in 1946. The smaller rug on the left is titled “Mississippi Rug” and it was completed sometime between 1947 and 1957.
Molly Nye Tobey (1893 – 1984) created these rugs and many more… The Missouri rug was made for a popular NBC radio host who was a native Missourian. It was well received and Tobey went on to create a rug or mat for each of the 50 states comprising the USA.
To view a variety of Tobey’s hooked rugs, (she was very prolific), that are readily available for purchase you can just go to: .
No, this isn’t a Molly Tobey hooked rug and it’s not in the Shelburne Museum. This is the rug that my mother, Elizabeth (Weed) Myers-Thomson made for me. It has character!
As I said at the outset, Shelburne museum has a wide variety of items. This is a display of some of their hand- loomed coverlets. Truly amazing!
You can buy antique coverlets like these on line. The site below is selling them for $200.00 and up to $1,050.00 for a truly fancy one. Check it out at .
My final photo from the grouping of buildings that included fabrics, toys and ‘variety’ items, is this miniature store. In this case, it’s a miniature milliner's store that was created by Helen Bruce (b. 1880), a miniature collector, dealer and maker who crafted many glass encased dioramas for her friend and patron Electra Havemeyer Webb. This store is populated by antique dolls from the 1700s and 1800s.
The A. Tuckaway General Store was our next stop. This building was constructed in 1840 and for many years it served as the Shelburne Village’s Post Office. In 1953 it was moved intact to the Museum via a special set of railroad tracks down VT Hwy. 7.However, as it is set up today, it is much more than ‘just’ a country general store. The ground floor is set up as a general store from the late 1800s, but also as a post office, barber shop and barroom/taproom. The second level has period dentist, physician and optometrist offices.
The following 3 photos were taken at the general store…
This photo in the general store focuses on the central item for a general store on a cold winter day, a pot-bellied stove. Also shown are mail slots, a liquor or beer keg, the thread display, clothing, buckets, earthen ware and rolls of wall paper.
This is one view of the pharmacy. In the 1800s, pharmacists basically compounded most prescriptions from their multitudinous stock of ingredients. It was much different than our multi-faceted merchandise packed drug store chains of today.
Talking about collections of collections…this is a collection of old time straight razors. They are a popular collectible in current times and some folks actually shave with them.
Next we stopped at this impressive looking stone cottage. It dates back to the 1790s and it was moved to Shelburne Museum in 1950. On exhibit was “Something Old, Something New: Continuity of Change, American Fine Furnishings” from the 1700s and the early 1800s. It features high-style American furniture and decorative arts.
Closets didn’t exist in early homes so chests were needed and valued. This is a rare oak and pine “Hadley Chest” made ca. 1700. It was made for the wedding of Martha Williamson (b. 1690) from Hatfield Massachusetts. The wife’s initials in the chest were a way of preserving a woman’s birth name lost in marriage.
This is called a “Harvard Chest”. This pine chest was made between 1700 and 1725. It features early dovetailed drawers which allowed the use of lighter woods in the construction of furniture. This chest is called a “Harvard Chest” because it’s unusual decorative image are a fanciful interpretation of the actual brick buildings at Harvard College. Due to its decoration, it is the most important piece in the collection.
Continuing with my theme of ‘variety’ and ‘collections of collections’ the next stop was the Beach Gallery. (1960) its exhibit is entitled “Lock, Stock and Barrel: The Terry Tyler Collection of Vermont Firearms”. This collection includes more than 100 firearms created by 70 gun makers working between 1790 and 1900.
The first photo includes several buggy rifles, a “Great Coat Pistol”, a “muff pistol” for ladies and a 2-part “Cane Gun”. The second photo is a display of pistols, including a pistol-carbine, a patent revolver and a target pistol. Many of the guns on display are quite fancy, with intricate silver and brass inlays and engraving. Several of the guns’ stocks are also made with figured wood such as tiger maple and burled walnut.
This was our last stop for what I’ve termed the ‘variety portion’ of our tour of Shelburne Museum. This is the Beach Lodge (1960) and it displays Adirondack Life and Hunting. For the hunter, this is a great stop. If you cringe when you enter a Bass Pro or Cabela’s Store with all of its trophies, this exhibit isn’t for you…
This is just one set of impressive trophies on one wall of the Beach Lodge. In addition to the multitude of trophies, the displays inside the Lodge include canoes, Adirondack furniture and woodcarvings.
Laurie took this photo of me with the bear trophies on display. I’m not little and they are on platforms…but in comparison I’d be a short-lived ‘plaything’ if I encountered one of these critters in the wild.
Both Beach Gallery, with the gun collection, and Beach Lodge were named for long-time hunting companions of Electra and J. Watson Webb. This building was actually constructed on-site using timber from the Webb’s 50,000 forest preserve in Northern New York State.
My next and final post about the Shelburne Museum will feature a transportation related theme…
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by to continue your tour of the Shelburne Museum!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave