Jon Crispin's Notebook

Anna Lucille Earley, Willard Nurse

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

I got a call a few weeks ago from Craig Williams telling me that a trunk had been discovered in the attic of the Covert Funeral Home in Ovid, NY that belonged to a woman who was a nurse at Willard in the early part of the 20th Century.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

At that time Craig wasn’t too sure of many of the details but thought I might be interested if anything came of it.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig has been working at the Romulus Historical Society with Peggy Ellsworth who worked at Willard and has been a great friend to the suitcases project.  Peg has been the go-to person for all things Willard since the institution closed in 1995.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Last Friday Paul McPherson who is the current director of the funeral home brought the trunk to the historical society for Craig and Peg to have a look.  They were really enthused and Craig called to see if I could take a few photos as he unpacked the items and started to conserve and catalogue the collection.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

The contents of the trunk are in great shape, and it is amazing to see how well preserved the items are.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

I love seeing these old commercial products in their early packaging.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

There were several mounted photographs in the trunk, as well as this envelope which contain a large number of photographic negatives.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig scanned a few and the quality is amazing.

photo baseball rs

The Willard baseball team was almost certainly made up of staff, and not patients.  But one has to wonder if any of the patients ever made it onto the diamond.

photo nurses rs

I think this scan was from a print.  In addition to having worked at Willard as a nurse, she was a graduate of the institution’s school of nursing.  Craig and Peg are looking at the images to try to figure out which one in the photos is Anna.  None are identified on the back, so it might be quite a job.

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The above photo is especially exciting, as the building in the background is the sheltered workshop where the suitcases were stored in the attic and were rediscovered in 1995.  The collection of cases dates from 1910 to 1965 and Anna was at Willard starting in the late teens, so it is very likely that she worked with some of the owners.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

As we found in many of the suitcases there is a broad range of items in Anna’s trunk; she had saved things that can tell a fairly complete story of her life, and more broadly, what life at Willard was like in the 1920s.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This box contains a lot of personal correspondence, including some very interesting postcards.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

It took a minute to figure out this one.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

It became clear once we saw the “soldier’s mail” postmark.  Let’s hope H. C. Norris made it through the war safely.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

As a nurse at Willard, she would have lived on the grounds and received her mail there.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This inscription is especially touching and a bit mysterious.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig and I didn’t have much time to go through the notebooks, but this is a huge trove of original source material that will be interesting to study once everything is catalogued.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Perhaps the most intriguing is this small diary from 1918 which contains day to day accounts of Anna’s life at Willard.  To the left is a playbill for “Farmer’s Daughter” which played at Hadley Hall on the Willard grounds.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Anna’s Student’s Note Book is pretty interesting.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Her hand writing is very readable.   I didn’t see any crossed out sections as I flipped through the pages.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This small brooch is pretty.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

The trunk itself is is great shape.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Anna is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Ovid.  Craig took this photo of her gravestone.

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The Romulus Historical Society will be putting an exhibit together of the trunk and contents sometime soon.  The museum is located in the town of Willard and is only open until the end of September.  It is not clear if anything will happen before then, but Peggy is eager for the collection to see the light of day.  I’ll update here when I know details.  There is obviously a ton of work to be done researching Anna’s life, but this is really an amazing find.

Special thanks go to Paul McPherson for contacting the historical society with this incredible look into the life of Anna.  A find like this really brings history alive.  It will be interesting to see what develops once everything is conserved and catalogued.  And as always thanks to Peggy Ellsworth for her tireless work in remembering the patients and staff at Willard, and to Craig Williams for keeping me in the loop.

 

 

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 14 April 2015

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

I am working my way through Margaret’s cases and her collection never ceases to amaze me.  You can see the latest here. (Don’t forget to click “view all” as there are now close to 500 images in her collection.)

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

Margaret brought quite a number of sewing items with her when she came to Willard, including the above stencil with Masonic designs.

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

I am currently editing a shoot that was mostly delicate items like the above undergarment, as well as some of her nursing uniforms.  I’ll have a post up sometime in the next few days with those photos.

I would also mention that Margaret was one of the 10 folks originally featured in the State Museum’s 2004 exhibit.  The made-up surname they used for her was Dunleavy and if you do a search for her name and Willard you should come across very detailed information about her life.  The “Lives They Left Behind” book has a surprisingly complete history of her life before Willard.

I am often asked about how much I know about the patient’s lives before and during their time at the institution.  It is way too complex for me to elaborate here, but needless to say, I have very strong feelings about my need to separate the patient’s clinical lives from what we can learn about them through their possessions.  I tend to talk about it when I present the project to various groups, so maybe one day we will get the chance to meet up and chat.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 12 March 2015

Willard Suitcases
©2015 Jon Crispin

I have just uploaded another one hundred or so photographs to Margaret’s page.  Check it out here.

Willard Suitcases
©2015 Jon Crispin

There are some really interesting items here.

Willard Suitcases
©2015 Jon Crispin

My breath was a bit taken away when I opened the LaLure box and saw the beautiful cutlery inside.

Willard Suitcases
©2015 Jon Crispin

I love this tiny Statue of Liberty, which was one of several that we came across during our work on the suitcases.

Lots more of Margaret to come.  Thanks for following.  Tell your friends!

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 2 March 2015

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I just uploaded another batch of photos to Margaret’s page.  Check it out if you get the chance.  (Make sure you click on the “view all” button; the default view is 25 per page.)

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I think this little Devon Violets vase is beautiful.

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This lone pill was wrapped in the paper on which it is placed.  It is difficult to read the pencil writing but it looks like amid(something) barbital.

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Having seen other photographs of her, I am quite certain that it is Margaret in these shots.

Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Joseph A’s Wife

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that Joseph had two trunks in the collection and that one of them contained his wife’s clothes.

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An aspect of this project that I find most interesting is to do with questions that arise from looking at the possessions of the patients.  We know from yesterday’s post that Joseph’s trunks arrived more than a year after he was admitted.  The fact that so much of his wife’s clothing was sent to him makes me wonder if she was alive for part of that year, or if she had died before August of 1945 when he was admitted.  Did her death have something to do with his troubles?  Who sent the trunks to Willard over a year after he became a patient?

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There are, of course, answers to most of these questions.  They are in the patient records that are housed in the New York State Archives.  Due to state law and the policies of the State Office of Mental Health, almost no one (including the descendants of Willard patients) has access to these documents.

Early on in the project, I came to realize that my photographs could encourage viewers to think about the residents of Willard in a manner that went beyond their diagnoses.  In most ways, the official records are not relevant to my feelings about the 400+ people whose cases are in the collection.  As I continue to edit the images, my connection to the patients and staff at Willard continues to grow.

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Peg Ross and I came across numerous small doggies as we were shooting the suitcases.  This one is particularly cute.

I’ll have more to post tomorrow.  Cheers all.

Willard Suitcases / Chapin House / NAMI Waco

Willard Hallway

I took this photo in the early 1980s at the very beginning of my connection with Willard.  It is still one of my favorites from the “Silent Voices” project.

Here are a few shots from my recent uploads to the suitcases site.

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I’m not exactly sure what the white fabric object is in Kenneth Q’s case, but it is interesting.  The orange toothbursh is kind of nice.

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Elizabeth C’s dress is so beautiful.

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The cotton fabric is soft and wonderful.

Willard Suitcases

There are 3 different places on the above photograph where I had to obscure Amelia’s surname, and it still makes me sad every time I have to do so.  The Office of Mental Health pr guy told me a few years ago that it was necessary due to the stigma of mental illness.  It is precisely that attitude that prolongs that stigma; the Willard patients deserve to be recognized as being more than just patients at a New York State asylum.

On Wednesday, I fly to Texas to present the suitcases project at a dinner sponsored by NAMI Waco.  Here is a link to the event.  If you are in the area, it would be great to see you and make a connection.

Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / John R

Willard Suitcases Project

John R had quite a collection of interesting objects in his cases.  He certainly was interested in the wild west.

Willard Suitcases Project

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.

Willard Suitcases Project

Back in the day, men sometimes wore garters with their socks.  This color gray is beautiful.

Willard Suitcases Project

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.

Willard Suitcases / John R (again) / Quote

willard suitcases

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.”

Willard Suitcases Project

Thanks, Simon.  Such a perceptive look at my work with the collection, and I really appreciate your insight.

willard suitcases

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.

Willard Suitcases Project

He clearly had a thing for the Lone Ranger and Tonto, as well as for these discreetly covered women.

willard suitcases

John was clearly learning to speak English, as there were lots of worksheets where he was practicing his vocabulary.

Willard Suitcases Project

It is possible that John worked for a time at GE as he had these brochures about insurance and a pension plan.

willard suitcases

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.

Willard Suitcases / John R / Talks

willard suitcases

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.

willard suitcases

 The dark glasses are pretty cool.

willard suitcases

This was the first time I had ever seen an actual Shinola tin.

willard suitcases

We saw several of these Yardley Talc containers.

willard suitcases

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!

Willard Patient Dress / Part 2

The Willard Suitcase Project

This is the back of the dress that I posted the other day.

The Willard Suitcase Project

There is more of the beautiful orange thread on this side, as well as some very fanciful figures.

The Willard Suitcase Project

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?

The Willard Suitcase Project

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.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This figure is similar to one on the front of the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The faces she does are so expressive.

The Willard Suitcase Project

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 Willard Suitcase Project

The figure below in the box looks like either a kind of face or something from the depths of the ocean.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Is this another face?

The Willard Suitcase Project

Her use of lines is very cool.

The Willard Suitcase Project

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.

The Willard Suitcase Project

And here are just a few more shots of the reverse side of the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

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.

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