Pair of turned wooden candlesticks attributed to Frank Fell, Mayville, 1905-1935.
I’ve just added 29 artifacts from the collections of the Mayville Historical Society to the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. It’s quite a wide range of objects, including embroidery by a local man named Rudolph Sauerhering; a splint basket made by Elmer Kelm, who learned basketry from his German immigrant father; and a lace collar crocheted in 1912 by 18-year-old Alvina Lindemann, framed with a photograph of Lindemann wearing her handiwork.
The candlesticks shown above were made by Frank Fell, a woodworker born in Mayville in 1865 who worked for the Mayville Furniture Company. When the manufactory closed in 1904, Fell purchased its lathe and opened his own woodturning shop. He was best known for his German-style spinning wheels, which are discussed by Victor Hilts and Patricia Hilts in their article “Not For Pioneers Only: The Story of Wisconsin’s Spinning Wheels,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 66:1 (1982), available online. Fell also made what a 1907 receipt (on file at the Mayville Historical Society) describes as “artistic turned work”: tilt-top tables, side tables, footstools, lamp bases, and candlesticks like the examples shown here.
When I write the catalog entries for the database, I try to find out as much information as I can about each object’s maker. In this round of research and writing, I was excited to uncover genealogical information about a local family that helped me to date a quilt (detail below) in the Mayville Historical Society’s collection. This white quilt is covered with the signatures of members of the Hinkes family of Dodge County embroidered in red, a popular trend in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. MHS documented the names and locations on the quilt, but was uncertain of the date when it was made. I was able to apply the concepts of terminus post quem and terminus ante quem to pin down a possible date range. These are terms archaeologists (and some historians) use to mean “no earlier than” and “no later than.” In the case of the Hinkes family quilt, the terminus post quem is 1892–according to Dodge County, Wisconsin: Past and Present (1913), Joseph Hinkes married Clara Heimerl in 1892; Joseph and Clara Hinkes’ names appear together on the quilt, so it must have been made after they were married. The terminus ante quem is probably 1897–according to the Wisconsin Genealogy Index, Celia Hinkes married Joseph Weix in 1897; Celia Hinkes’ maiden name appears on the quilt, so it was most likely made before her marriage and subsequent name change.
A side note–a striking Gothic Revival parlor stove cast from iron ore mined in Mayville in 1846 is the Wisconsin Historical Society’s current Museum Object of the Week.
Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.