It seems unlikely, however, that Mrs. Buckler would have been aware of, or interested in, Barbara Fritchie’s furniture. The Etchison Furniture Store was located in Frederick, but the Bucklers’ social connections were primarily in Baltimore. Additionally, the political leanings of the Ridgely and Buckler families suggest that the Fritchie provenance would not have appealed to them. If Eliza Buckler was the Mrs. Buckler identified in Trail’s letter, her interest in the object challenges assumptions. It is likely that Trail mentioned Mrs. Buckler to her son-in-law simply to encourage him to send money expediently. In 1929 Florence Trail, Ariana’s daughter, explained why her mother was so intent on acquiring Fritchie’s desk-and-bookcase. She wrote that her mother, remembered distinctly hearing all about Mrs. Barbara Fritchie’s keeping out her flag while the Rebels passed her house, and as the immense flag which waved from the cupola of our house was always taken down . . . under similar circumstances, Mother at once gave expression to her admiration for the old lady, and ever afterwards used to say that ‘Aunt Barbara’ was the only person who had ever excited her envy. 10 The object about which Trail wrote served to reinforce the mythology surrounding Barbara Fritchie and helped to sculpt a post−Civil War American history that focused on valor and heroism. Creations of legends and mythologies often exclude more complicated aspects of the past. Fritchie was not, to modern understanding, a model Union supporter, as she and her husband owned two slaves. 11 Furthermore, Fritchie’s father-in-law, Caspar Fritchie, was a Tory who was sentenced to be drawn and quartered in Frederick in 1781. 12 Despite these questionable circumstances, Barbara Fritchie became a symbol of patriotism and American values. After Nan and the Reverend Harding acquired the desk-and-bookcase, they bequeathed it to their daughters, who in turn left it to a neighbor, Julia Hanna. 13 In 1989, Frank Horton, the founder of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), acquired the piece for the museum. In his correspondence with Hanna, Horton noted that he appreciated its fine condition and thought that “it would make a real important statement of the skills of the cabinetmakers of the Frederick area of Maryland,” omitting any mention of Fritchie. 14 His writings highlight howmotivations for collecting Southern objects had shifted over the course of a century, from one premised on an object’s association with historical figures to one that valued connoisseurship and visitor experience. Ariana Trail and John Harding were part of a rich network of early collectors interested in Southern objects, and they were attracted to those objects primarily because of their association with historical figures, even if those associations were apocryphal in origin. Such objects now form the core of numerous museum collections across the country, and it only by studying their histories, including who collected them and why, that one can begin to reveal the complex issues they illuminate.
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