March 2, 2015

A Generous New Clue and Traveling Bears: Epilogue (at least for now ...)

Our last two posts about the possible identity of Jane Biddle and the Craig and Biddle families were greatly enhanced by the information and images posted on The Craig Family Public Tree on  The owner of the family tree is the Reverend Jonathan M. Craig who found our postings while searching the Internet and wrote to tell us that he enjoyed them and was glad his work was useful to us.  Not only that, he generously forwarded something he thought might help to determine whether or not Jane Josephine Sarmiento Biddle was the Jane Biddle represented by the inscription on the c. 1844 quilt block used to cover one of the bears.  That something was two examples of the signature of Jane Josephine Biddle, one written in 1853 and the other in 1856.

Signature written in 1853.  Courtesy of the Reverend Jonathan M. Craig.
Signature written in 1856.  Courtesy of the Reverend Jonathan M. Craig.
When we compared these two signatures with the inscription on the Biddle bear, we detected similarities as well as many differences.  Interestingly, upon looking more closely, we noticed the rendering of the capital "B" on the Biddle block is unlike either of the two examples above but does seem to match the capital "B" found in the inscription of Harriet H. Bispham's name on one of the other bears.  This may indicate that all three bear inscriptions were written by a single hand rather than by the people named.  Since handwriting analysis is not our area of expertise, we welcome comments from our readers.
Signature photographs by Mary Holton Robare.
While we were pondering the new evidence of the signatures via email correspondence, the bears themselves were spending time in Winchester, Virginia, getting "up close and personal" with Mary.
A package from California had arrived at Mary's house several weeks before.
Although Mary knew what it contained, she could not contain her curiosity about the wrapped objects inside.
She removed the tissue enclosing the bears and one by one she met, for the first time, the three little bears whose tummy inscriptions had been providing us with the research opportunity to develop our recent posts.  These bears introduced themselves as:
Abigail R. Clement;
Harriet H. Bispham; and,
Jane Biddle.
The bears all enjoyed stretching their legs after their long journey to Virginia via UPS.  But then they spotted Stranger Danger!! and certainly didn't need to experience more wear and fabric tears than already caused by age.

Immediate precautions had to be taken and the little bears were whisked back into their box and sent high aloft a bookshelf in Mary's office.
After the danger passed, the little bears settled in as guests in a cradle bedded with a quilt, both made by Mary's great-great (non-Quaker) grandparents. There, they awaited the research being conducted by Lynda across the country in California.
We both know many people who would wring their hands about any quilt being cut up, but the delight brought by these three little bears - and all the stories we have been able to tell on their behalf - is appreciated, as is the person who did not toss out an old, c. 1844, used-up quilt.  At least a portion of it was used to good purpose to raise funds for the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society on Long Island that assuredly deserves support.  Our thanks to Joan DeMeo Lager and Peggy Podstupka of the Society for their support and for finding the third bear to add to our "data base".
Tomorrow the little bears will travel back to California where the research they've inspired will undoubtedly continue.  How can we resist?!  As they make their way from snow-packed northern Virginia to the warm and sunny wine country of California, please remember to support your local historical societies.  They need you and we need them.
(c)  Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.




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