Fourteen catalog entries for objects from the North Wood County Historical Society in Marshfield are now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database, including several examples of furniture produced by the Upham Manufacturing Company. Many of these pieces, including an extensive painted bedroom suite ornamented with resin moldings, were used by the Upham family and remain on view at the Upham Mansion, now an historic house museum operated by the NWCHS.
The Upham name is central to the history of Marshfield. William Henry Upham came to Wisconsin from Westminster, Massachusetts in 1853. After serving in the Civil War and training at West Point, he settled permanently in the fledgling community of Marshfield in 1879, where he established a sawmill, furniture factory, general store, and the first local bank. In 1894, he was elected the 18th governor of Wisconsin. Upham’s role in the development of Marshfield is lauded in the Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin Counties of Waupaca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Lincoln, Oneida, Vilas, Langlade and Shawano (1898): “The citizens of to-day claim that Marshfield owes everything to Gov. Upham’s indomitable will power, enterprise and public-spiritedness, and that he may truthfully be called the founder of the town.”
The Upham Mansion is also home to many artifacts and archives from the broader community. One of the most intriguing examples of handicraft in the collection is an intricate fretwork clock case attributed to local resident Fred Thuss. The clock was created from a commercially published pattern known as “Chimes of Normandy.” The use of a scroll saw or jigsaw to create elaborate fretwork ornament for shelves, clocks, and picture frames was a popular pastime for both men and women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Chimes of Normandy pattern appears to have been particularly popular among hobbyists. Not long after my visit to Marshfield, I found an identical clock in the collection of the Sheboygan County Historical Society. A Google search reveals that the pattern is still on the market today. The best-known version of the Chimes of Normandy is now in the collection of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York. In 1937, a young woman in Texas named Ernestine Guerrero used wood from federal food aid boxes her family received during the Depression to create a unique thank-you gift for President Roosevelt.
–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer