John R had quite a collection of interesting objects in his cases. He certainly was interested in the wild west.
The green shirt has a classic western look and the tie with the scantily clad woman is pretty cool. One wonders if he ever wore it, and if so, where. The object in the middle of the photo is a jock strap. I remember them from gym class when I was a kid, but you don’t see them around much anymore.
Back in the day, men sometimes wore garters with their socks. This color gray is beautiful.
I am thinking that these leather straps went with some sort of jodhpur trousers, but I suppose they could have also been worn around the wrists. Anyone out there have an idea about this?
Click here to see all of John’s cases. Don’t forget to click on the “view all” tab, as there are more than 25 images in the gallery. I am really proud of this one.
Delmar had several leather cases which were distinguished by some lovely travel labels.
The Hotel Stella d’Italia & Aquila Nera in Bologna doesn’t seem to exist anymore. One of the few online links I could find was here.
This was another one of his beautiful cases.
Sadly, this hotel doesn’t appear to be around anymore either. Here is a link to a postcard that is for sale.
And I can’t begin to guess the relevance of Voltaire to the Republica Argentina.
Check out the latest uploads at the suitcases site, and thanks for following.
I have learned so much from people who stumble across the project and take the time to comment. Simon wrote in to say this about the photographs. “The psychology of keeping belongings is as complicated and as deep as the human spirit itself, the depth of which we will never see. Lets hope recording this project takes us closer.”
Thanks, Simon. Such a perceptive look at my work with the collection, and I really appreciate your insight.
I had photographed John R’s case over two different days, and yesterday when I edited and uploaded the photographs from the second shoot I was reminded how much fun it was to see what he brought with him to Willard.
He clearly had a thing for the Lone Ranger and Tonto, as well as for these discreetly covered women.
John was clearly learning to speak English, as there were lots of worksheets where he was practicing his vocabulary.
It is possible that John worked for a time at GE as he had these brochures about insurance and a pension plan.
The Mickey Rooney photo is pretty nice.
This is a good time to remind you all about the comments on this site. It is not obvious where to click to see them, but it usually worth the effort. At the very bottom of the post is a small “comments” button. Click it to see what folks are saying. The dress that I posted last week has been getting quite a few interesting responses, including an amazing one that just came in from my pal Dhyan. Check it out.
When I talk about the project I am often asked if I have a favorite suitcase. My answer is always the same; from the start, I have seen the collection as a whole and no case stands out to me. But I do have some favorite photographs from the project, and this is one of them.
The dark glasses are pretty cool.
This was the first time I had ever seen an actual Shinola tin.
We saw several of these Yardley Talc containers.
I have uploaded the rest of the photos from John’s case at the suitcases site. Check it out!
There are two upcoming events near to me where I will be talking about the suitcases. I’ll have copies of the second Kickstarter reward book for sale at the Hadley, MA Barnes & Noble this Saturday the 18th. I’ll be there from 2.00 – 5.00 PM. Come by and say hi. And on Monday I will be giving a talk at the Amherst Woman’s Club. I expect to start at 1.00 PM.
Thanks for following!
This is the back of the dress that I posted the other day.
There is more of the beautiful orange thread on this side, as well as some very fanciful figures.
In the image below, I love how the two horizontal lines at the bottom of the dress seem to me to indicate water. And is that a spigot just above the lines?
Here is the reverse side of the above figure. I was thinking at the time we were shooting that people who do embroidery might like to see this view.
This figure is similar to one on the front of the dress.
The faces she does are so expressive.
Here is another detail of a hand, and I am not sure what is represented coming out of what appears to be a pocket.
The figure below in the box looks like either a kind of face or something from the depths of the ocean.
Is this another face?
Her use of lines is very cool.
I have been trying to figure out how the grid below fits in to the overall design. At first I thought it represented a building, but I am not so sure.
And here are just a few more shots of the reverse side of the dress.
Thanks for checking this out. I will continue my efforts to find the name of the Willard patient who created this. In the meantime you can continue to see the latest uploads of the cases at the Willard Suitcases site.
There are quite a few items in the Willard collection at the New York State Museum that are not part of my suitcases documentation. These “institutional” pieces were too numerous to photograph, but this embroidered dress just had to be documented. The work was done by a patient who is not identified, but I am in touch with some folks who worked at Willard who might know who created this.
This will be a photo heavy post with less text than in my usual posts, but the details in the dress are amazing and I wanted to share as many as I could.
It wasn’t just the amazing designs; the precision of the embroidery knocked us out.
There were a good number of cats on the dress.
This one seems to be hovering over a plant.
Not sure what is going oh above, but the orange is such a beautiful color.
This looks to me like a cat but what is it doing? Any thoughts?
I love how this person’s hair is rendered.
The orange flower in her hair is lovely.
These little flowers are so delicate.
The watch and ring on this figure are such a nice touch.
Thanks so much to Peg Ross for helping me set the dress up in order to photograph it. I am terrible at stuff like this, and as usual, she really made it happen. And if I remember correctly, Connie Houde from the museum was also there to assist.
I hope to post the back of the dress (I want to keep calling it a shift; is that correct?) sometime soon. I leave Atlanta later today but will head out to the Botanical Garden before my flight. Thanks for following.
I had a great meeting at the Edith B. Ford Library in Ovid, NY to talk about the possibility of working on an oral history project with former Willard employees. Peter Carroll and I drove up from Ithaca this morning and met with Shannon O’Connor and Monica Kelly who both are doing amazing things at the library. Monica is building an archive of Willard materials, and if anyone who reads this has any records or photographs related to the asylum, you should really contact her.
Afterwards Pete and I drove to the Holy Cross Cemetery on Gilbert Road.
Recently, a local group raised funds and erected a monument to Willard folks who died at the institution and are buried at Holy Cross. I am not exactly sure what the problem is, but some people have objected to it, and so the monument has been covered up since just after it was unveiled. The issue of naming former patients and staff continues to come up, and is still a problem on many levels. I’ll be eager to find out what really happened here.
After leaving Holy Cross, we drove over to the Willard Cemetery which is down the road and across the street from the asylum. This is such an indescribably moving place for me. It was a really beautiful late Winter day and the idea that 5,776 former patients are buried here in unmarked graves always touches me deeply.
The site is very well looked after, and the area around some of the few remaining numbered cast iron markers has recently been cleared of brush.
And it is always nice to see the monument to Lawrence Mocha, who as a patient, dug by hand over 1500 of the graves.
I found out today that I have been invited to Waco, Texas to be the keynote speaker at the annual NAMI Waco dinner and gala. The event is the evening of Thursday, 18th May and if you live anywhere nearby, I would love to meet you.
I continue to make good progress uploading to the suitcases site. Issac’s case had just a few items, but the buttons are nice, as well as the safety pins. I especially like the folding coat hangar.
Peggy and I were thrilled to open Alice’s case and see the beautiful lining.
Check out the latest at willardsuitcases.com.
Thanks for following.
I am just about finished up editing the December 2013 shoots.
The cases were mostly empty, but this newspaper is interesting. It describes a particularly tragic boating accident in Alexandria Bay, NY that occurred in August of 1929. I did a bit or research. Here’s a link to an online newspaper archive that goes into some detail. It wasn’t completely unusual for a suitcase to contain a complete section of a newspaper and little else. I wonder if H. L. had any connection to the Lipe family. (Lipe is not his surname.)
Walter arrived in February of 1945. Nelson Rockford Socks are still available.
Mary Agnes’ case just had this little metal clasp, a shoelace, a hairpin, and a label.
And a pair of “leather-like” boots.
Baker’s case was the only one where we found a bit of “racy” material. Look closely to see the title of the painting. Cheeky!
The storage facility wasn’t always the warmest place to work (except in the summer). Peggy Ross was always such a sport though, and only rarely complained. We ate a lot of hot/sour soup from the local Chinese restaurant for lunch, which helped us get through the day.
Check out the Willard Suitcases site to see the latest. Thanks for following.
I have been editing and uploading the suitcases in the order in which they were shot. This process is quite drawn out as I shot well over 30,000 images during the project and it is an enormous task. I have been feeling really good about it though, as I am spending most days until 1 PM working on the files. The photos in this post are all from a shoot on the 11th of December 2013. At this point, Peg and I had worked through many of the suitcases that were full, and in this stretch the cases were largely empty except for labels.
Mary’s labels are quite evocative. The small one on the left is unfortunately torn, so we can’t see her date of admittance, but the larger one on the right tells us that she came from Syracuse. Dr Elliott’s name shows up often in our work, and I must assume that Elliott Hall at Willard is named after him. (I can’t remember if I have ever linked to this before, but Dr. Robert E. Doran wrote a history of Willard in 1978 that is really interesting. Here is the link.)
There are so many small details that grabbed my attention when I was shooting. This is all that was left of Mabel Y’s label.
Norah’s label tells us quite a lot. Her Willard number, her date of admission, from where she came and into which building she went. Peggy and I often had a laugh over the description of the suitcases; “leather-like” was used constantly. And occasionally “cardboard-like” appeared. When you think of it, cardboard-like is probably…..cardboard!
Ida came to Willard on 16 November 1929. The string on the label is pretty and the Syracuse Post-Standard is from June of 1929.
Charles and his small leather grip arrived from the Binghamton State Hospital.
Richard’s case was clearly a traveling salesman’s and was completely empty.
Here is a detail. The Zanol Company was based in Cincinnati.
Finally for today, Alice R’s case had this nice thermometer, a clasp for holding up a stocking, and a card from a Christmas present.
Please go to the Willard Suitcases site to see more photographs of these particular cases. Click on “The Cases” and scroll down to the bottom to see the latest additions. Thanks for following.