Reflections of the Past

Mirror2013

Camp­bell House­’s Scot­tron mir­ror, August 2013

Part of what makes a vis­it to the Camp­bell House Muse­um such an expe­ri­ence is the enor­mous num­ber of orig­i­nal pieces of fur­ni­ture and knick-knack­ery that fill the halls of the 160-year-old home.  From tables and chairs to armoires and a piano, the house has quite the col­lec­tion of Vic­to­ri­ana.  But occa­sion­al­ly, much like the house itself, these items need a lit­tle elbow grease and T.L.C. to keep them in tip-top shape.  A per­fect exam­ple of this is the adjustable dou­ble mir­ror that can be found in a cor­ner of the Camp­bell House library (see the bot­tom of the page for some up close and per­son­al snap­shots of some of the mir­ror’s detail).

The mir­ror’s design was patent­ed in 1868 by Samuel Scot­tron. Scot­tron was a promi­nent African Amer­i­can inven­tor from Brook­lyn, New York who began his career as a bar­ber and would even­tu­al­ly be grant­ed four U.S. patents.  This par­tic­u­lar piece is unique because Scot­tron designed it so that users could “see them­selves as oth­ers see them.”  In oth­er words, the mir­ror could be adjust­ed so your reflec­tion was reflect­ed, revers­ing the mir­rored image. (Try and say that three times fast.)

mirrorpatent

Scot­tron’s dou­ble mir­ror patent, ca. 1868

Scottron

Samuel Scot­tron

In the mod­el the Camp­bel­l’s owned, a pair of fan­cy cast iron arms and a high stand sup­port a pair of wal­nut oval-shaped mir­ror frames that swiv­el in all direc­tions.  (As a side note, if you can believe it, the mir­ror was pur­chased for the muse­um at the 1941 Camp­bell estate auc­tion for $5.50!)

How­ev­er, a few years ago, as the muse­um’s restora­tion drew to a close, the mir­ror was in pret­ty rough shape.  In the 1960s, one of the wood frames and mir­rors had gone miss­ing, mak­ing the impres­sive dou­ble mir­ror pret­ty well use­less in terms of its orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed method of use.

mirror1885

The Camp­bells’ Scot­tron dou­ble mir­ror in the library, ca. 1885

Luck­i­ly, muse­um mem­ber and mas­ter car­pen­ter Don Dill worked long and hard to com­plete restora­tion work on the mir­ror, replac­ing the miss­ing piece and restor­ing it to its orig­i­nal con­di­tion. The mir­ror is still in the same room in which it has sat since the last half of the 19th cen­tu­ry.  (see some detail pho­tos of the mir­ror at the bot­tom of this post)

Don’s work goes hand in hand with the Muse­um’s efforts to con­serve and restore its col­lec­tion of orig­i­nal objects and arti­facts, seen most recent­ly in the hang­ing of lav­ish new draperies in the par­lor sev­er­al weeks ago.

Parlor

CHM par­lor & new­ly installed draperies, May 2013.

Click here to read more about the par­lor draperies project,recently fea­tured in Ladue News’ Ele­gant Liv­ing pub­li­ca­tion.

ScottronDetail

Scot­tron’s” detail on back of mir­ror

MirrorDetail

Detail — left side of mir­ror

PatentDetail

Pat’d March 31 1868” detail on back of mir­ror