College donation expands Hatfield Historical Museum’s Sophia Smith collection

HATFIELD – Growing up in the early 19th century, Smith College founder Sophia Smith, like other young girls of her time, learned needlework, cross-stitching the names of her parents and children. siblings, and their dates of birth, on a piece of cloth.

The heirloom of the family sampler, made around 1806 when Smith would have been 9 or 10, is part of a recent donation of about 30 items to the Hatfield Historical Society at Smith College, according to Kathie Gow, curator of the Hatfield Historical Museum. will allow the museum to offer a fuller understanding of Smith’s life.

“This sampler, with its Smith family record, is very exciting for us because it’s one of the few artifacts we have from Sophia’s youth,” Gow said. “Along with the other textiles in this collection, it presents a side of Sophia that we haven’t yet explored.”

The donation, including textiles, such as silk fabric from a Sophia Smith dress and pillowcase, silver and pewter tableware, glassware and ceramics, metal tools, furniture, daguerreotypes and framed illustrations from Godey’s Ladies Book magazine, more than doubles the Smith- related objects in the museum.

“Adding these artifacts to others in our collection will help us present a richer account of Sophia Smith and her family,” Gow said.

Smith College, established in 1871 through a bequest of $ 393,105 from Smith’s estate, announced this week that items belonging to Smith and his family were donated to the museum, owned by the city and managed by the society for purpose. Hatfield Historical Society nonprofit.

Denise Wingate Materre, vice president of alumni relations at Smith College, said Hatfield and her historical society are in the best position to preserve and interpret historical artifacts of Sophia Smith as they organize her life story. The items had previously been kept at the College Alumni House on Elm Street in Northampton.

“We are delighted to bring together items entrusted to us with a larger collection of items related to Sophia and her family,” said Materre.

Donated objects, which are not part of the college archives, require appropriate environments for their preservation and maintenance.

Gow said a lot of work would be needed to find out more about donations.

“We can start doing our own coin research now,” Gow said.

Regarding the family sampler, for example, Gow said it was probably created around the same time as a similar sampler the museum already owns from Hannah Wells, who was born a year and a half ago. day earlier than Smith and later married his brother Joseph Smith. .

One doll that was part of the donation may have been Sophia Smith’s, and Gow said fabrics and other aspects would be looked at.

Some of the donated items, such as a brass tray and a wick trimmer, expand the Smith family’s collection of items. These belonged to Oliver Smith, Sophia Smith’s uncle whose legacy includes Smith Charities and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School.

A pair of glasses believed to be Smith’s are placed on a table next to her headset, a type of hearing aid she started using when she went deaf.

“Having personal items, like glasses, makes her a real person,” Gow said.

Perhaps a permanent section of the museum could focus on Sophia Smith with the donation.

“Now that we have these additional items, it will be a lot easier for us to do that,” Gow said.

Amy Hahn, chairman of the Hatfield Historical Commission, said in a statement that the town is grateful to the college for enlarging the artifacts of one of the town’s famous residents.

“The importance of Sophia Smith’s legacy to the town of Hatfield and the importance of her contribution to the education of women cannot be overstated,” said Hahn.

The museum, on the upper level of Hatfield Public Library, is also a short distance from the house where Smith lived from his birth until a few years before his death. This house was built between 1755 and 1763 by Nathaniel Dickinson, who sold it in 1789 to his father.

From now on, other Smiths assets will be in Hatfield.

“It’s wonderful that the college has given back to where they came from,” Gow said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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Patrick F. Williams

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