SOUTHINGTON - Barnes Museum Curator Marie Secondo visited with second-graders at Thalberg Elementary School Monday, teaching them about the Barnes Museum and household items that people used before electricity.
Four classrooms of students sat before a table on which Secondo had laid out numerous items from the Barnes Museum’s collection of antiques. The museum was donated to the town following the death of Bradley Barnes in 1973 and contains numerous items belonging to his family, dating back to the 19th century. Secondo regularly visits local schools to instill a connection to town history in the youth.
“How many of you know of the museum?” Secondo asked.
She then proceeded to show a picture of the museum, with many children saying they recognized the outside.
“Bradley Barnes lived in this house until he was 90 years old and unfortunately he had no children so he gave his house to Southington,” Secondo explained. “For more than 40 years now people have been visiting from every state and even other countries. Going to the museum is like stepping back in time 100 years; even though he passed away everything that belonged to him is still there.”
Secondo then explained how men and women used to wear hats, she showed them a top hat belonging to Bradley Barnes and a woman’s hat belonging to Emma Barnes. She then asked if a boy and girl from the audience wanted to try them on, prompting a sea of hands to shoot up.
Secondo then explained that the women’s hat had netting veils because insect repellent hadn’t been invented and neither had sunscreen.
Secondo also talked about how she read the 52 diaries kept by the Barnes family to help her with cataloging items. She explained how Bradley Barnes had written about receiving a wind-up Ferris Wheel during the Christmas of 1893.
Secondo closed the presentation by taking out a series of items and asked students to try identifying them.
The first item was a carpet beater, which children guessed could have been a large flyswatter or something used in baking or badminton.
“There was no electricity so there weren’t any vacuums,” said Secondo. “They would instead roll up the carpets and put them outside on the clothes lines and hit them until the dust and dirt came out. In most cases the children beat the carpets because they thought it was a fun thing to do.”
Other items included a candle maker mold, which kids guessed could be an ice cube holder or crayon maker, a button hook for button-up shoes like those worn by Bradley’s diminutive mother Alice, which they guessed could be a dentist tool or fishing pole hook and a mustache grooming rake which they thought could be a backscratcher. They were also shown driving gloves with a red reflector which Secondo explained were used for signaling turns with hands.
Secondo explained that Bradley Barnes was the second person in Southington to own a car, as they were very expensive until Henry Ford found out a way to make them cheaply. She said that Bradley’s 1912 Pope Hartford was now on display at the AAA Automobile Club in West Hartford.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.