November 2022

History Matters

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Letter from the Director

Dear Friends,
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Looking forward to East Hampton’s 375thAnniversary next year, I was rereading Averill Dayton Geus’ book, From Sea to Sea, which was written to help celebrate our Town’s 350thbirthday. I love how the book captures the lives of everyday people in our Town. I was especially intrigued to learn more about Elmer Smith, a housepainter who was East Hampton’s “Overseer of the Poor” during the early 20th century.
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Born in Southold in 1866, Elmer Smith – whose father was a carpenter – lost part of his left hand as a young boy in a buzzsaw accident. Arriving in East Hampton by 1886, he married Mary Collins in 1887 and lived on Cedar Street while working as a painter and wall paperer. Based on notices in the East Hampton Star, it seems Smith decorated every building in East Hampton. In 1893, he painted the new “East Hampton Union School” on Newtown Lane, and the following year, he painted the new Catholic Church on Buell Lane, now known as Most Holy Trinity. Over the years, he worked on the Gardiner “White House,” the home of John Drew, the Presbyterian Church, and hundreds of other buildings.
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A member of the New York Grange and a life-long Democrat (which was uncommon in East Hampton), Elmer Smith got involved in politics during the 1890s and in 1903, was elected East Hampton’s “Overseer of the Poor,” a position later known as “Welfare Officer.” Responsible for providing town-sponsored food, clothing, or fuel to families in need, the Overseer was often very parsimonious with the distribution of aid.
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Elmer Smith was an active advocate for East Hampton’s needy even in extreme circumstances such as January 1904 when the temperature in East Hampton was 12 degrees below zero. According to the East Hampton Star, “the extreme cold made much suffering among the poor” that kept Smith “busy…responding to calls for aid from the Town.” To get the most out of his budget, Smith took advantage of a “fire sale” in June 1917 at Sag Harbor’s Morris Meyer Store, buying garments “at a low figure” that he could distribute to needy families the following winter.
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I’m inspired by Elmer Smith’s efforts to help East Hampton residents in the past, and as we start the holiday season, I wanted to share ways that we can contribute today. The food pantries in East Hampton, Springs, Montauk, and Sag Harbor, as well as the one at the Children’s Museum of the East End, where I used to work, all could use our help. Kirby Marcantonio wanted to help all the Town’s food pantries at once, so he created an online auction to provide them with financial support.
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Has someone from East Hampton’s past inspired you? Please share their story with us on the Historical Society’s Instagram or Facebook page.
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Sincerely,
Steve Long
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VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

Janice Badkin
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Tell us about yourself and your connection to East Hampton.
My grandparents started coming to East Hampton in the 1930’s. My paternal grandparents from New Jersey camped during the summer at the Walking Dunes and then built a summer shack at Lazy Point. My maternal grandparents came from Queens and camped at Hither Hills bayside, then the ocean side before building a house on Napeague Harbor. I’ve lived in Lazy Point year round for over 30 years now, as does most of my family.
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How did you first get involved with the Historical Society?
I’ve always loved antiques and the stories they can tell. I started in high school by collecting and digging bottles, then refinishing furniture. I learned to cane and rush and weave chair seats as well as weave baskets and sew. My collections include furniture, bottles, vintage kitchen utensils, hurricane lamps and baby bottles. I have only recently stopped collecting as I have no more room! Working with the Historical Society allows me to enjoy and care for their marvelous collections without having to bring anything home.
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What motivates you to volunteer in the community?
I love sharing East Hampton’s past and the Historical Society’s treasures with people. It amazes me how many people don’t realize the treasures they pass by every day. I always tell them to tell all their friends and neighbors!
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Do you donate your time to any other organizations? If so, which ones and what spurred your interest in them?
I also volunteer with the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI) in the summer by assisting on their whale watch cruises from the Viking Dock in Montauk.
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Which of the Historical Society’s sites do you find most interesting? Why?
The Mulford Farm is my favorite Historical Society property. I can imagine Phebe and Rachel Mulford cooking in the kitchen, cutting herbs in the garden or sewing by the south windows. And the loom! How I wish I knew how to use that. I plan to start small and try a tape loom first.
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CURATOR’S CORNER

Painting by Thomas Moran returning to his Studio

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The East Hampton Historical Society is thrilled to receive a generous gift of Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus by Thomas Moran, which will be on display in the Thomas & Mary Nimmo Moran Home and Studio just in time for our House & Garden Tour benefit! Generously donated by Ian & Annette Cumming, the painting will be hung above the fireplace in exactly the same spot that Thomas Moran placed it for his daily inspiration.
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In 1862, Thomas Moran returned to his native England where he visited London to see the works of England’s greatest painter, J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Moran was ambitious to advance his skills and at that time it was a central part of artistic training to copy the works of the old masters. Of the more than 1,000 works in the Turner Bequest, Moran chose to copy Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus – Homer’s Odyssey, which Turner had completed in 1829.
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Turner’s masterpiece is based on the episode from Homer’s Odyssey in which Ulysses taunts the one-eyed Cyclops Polyphemus. The Cyclops was traditionally associated with thunder and lightning and the smoking mountain suggests volcanic activity which Turner used to explore his fascination with elemental forces. The Nereids who depart themselves around the ship may be allusions to the phenomenon of phosphorescence. However, the most powerful elemental presence in the painting is the brilliant sun, represented allegorically by Apollo’s chariot.
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Moran was most attracted to this particular example of Turner’s genius and copied it at one-to-one scale with such detail that Turner signed the work on the lower left while Moran added his own surname to the left of the master’s.
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From 1885, when he moved into the East Hampton studio until his death in 1926, Moran chose to display his copy of Turner’s masterpiece over the fireplace mantel. Join us for the House & Garden Tour and be among the first to see the painting just as Moran intended!
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Be part of our 37th Annual House & Garden Tour!

Friday, November 25 and Saturday, November 26

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It’s our 37th Annual “House & Garden Tour” fundraiser! Kicking off with a Cocktail Party on Friday, November 25, the Tour on Saturday, November 26, features five spectacular East Hampton homes including the “White House.”
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Sign up at the $500+ level by November 6 and be listed in the Tour Program.
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Cocktail Party: Friday, November 25 from 6 – 8pm
House & Garden Tour: Saturday, November 26 from 1- 4:30pm
Photo by Durell Godfrey
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Branding Survey

As the East Hampton Historical Society celebrates its Centennial, we’re reflecting on our past and plans for the future. To better understand what people think about the Historical Society and how we serve our community, we want to hear from stakeholders like you. Please help us improve by taking this very brief survey. It should take only three minutes.
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We’re grateful for your time and input!
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Post-Halloween Cemetery Tour

Friday, November 11 at 6pm

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Please meet at Home Sweet Home Museum 14 James Lane, East Hampton, by 5:45pm. The tour will begin at 6pm. Be aware that only street parking is available. Guests will be expected to climb steps and navigate uneven, grassy ground. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a flashlight! If there are accessibility concerns, please contact our office.
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$6 per person
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Registration is required.
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Scott Bluedorn: Ars Simia Naturae

November 17 – December 13, 2022

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Art Imitates Nature is a solo exhibition of Scott Bluedorn’s work focused on the natural world and the human niche within it relating to landscape, artifice, culture, psychological projection and changes within ecosystems brought about by climate disruption. Through a range of media including drawings, paintings, assemblages, sculptures and design objects, the artist conveys a diverse range of perspectives that seeks to answer the question, “What is our relationship to ourselves and the larger cosmos we inhabit?”
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Opening reception: Friday, Nov 17th 4pm – 8pm
Hours: 12pm – 5pm Friday-Sunday and by appointment
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A Shop Full of Unique Gifts Online!

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Check out the great items online!
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You can shop online and have your order shipped directly to you or picked up at Clinton Academy.
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Use code FLASH for 50% off your order.

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AAQ / Resource: Ben Krupinski Builder

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