Category Archives: Campbell House

Reflections of the Past


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.)


Scot­tron’s dou­ble mir­ror patent, ca. 1868


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.


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.


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.


Scot­tron’s” detail on back of mirror


Detail — left side of mirror


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

A Copy of a Copy

A trip to the Camp­bell House Muse­um guar­an­tees a cou­ple of things:

1.) You’re going to walk up and down a lot of stairs.

2.) You’re going to get a great, engag­ing tour from one of our awe­some docents or interns.

3.) You’re going to see some incred­i­ble exam­ples of Vic­to­ri­an inte­ri­or design and beau­ti­ful works of art.

This post focus­es on the last point—the out­stand­ing col­lec­tion of art accu­mu­lat­ed over the years by Robert and Vir­ginia Camp­bell and their sons—and we have our recent­ly depart­ed Spring intern Amy to thank for the great research that went into what you’re about to read.

Painting of James Campbell by Jules Lefebvre, 1899 © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Paint­ing of James Camp­bell by Jules Lefeb­vre, paint­ed in Paris in 1895.

While Camp­bell House does boast some beau­ti­ful orig­i­nal works of art, like the por­trait of the dash­ing James Camp­bell hang­ing in the library paint­ed by renowned artist Jules Lefeb­vre, many of the art­works that you see on a trip to the muse­um are copies of orig­i­nal works, some going back to antiquity.

What’s pret­ty inter­est­ing though is that, upon fur­ther exam­i­na­tion, resource­ful intern Amy unrav­eled the sto­ry of one of our sculp­tures and revealed that it’s actu­al­ly a copy of a copy… of a copy.

A huge­ly pop­u­lar trend for wealthy fam­i­lies like the Camp­bells in the 19th cen­tu­ry was to dis­play works by well known artists in their homes.  How­ev­er, dis­play­ing orig­i­nal sculp­tures by leg­endary artists would have been imprac­ti­cal and often finan­cial­ly impossible—even for wealthy fam­i­lies like the Camp­bells.  On top of that, most of the orig­i­nals were incred­i­bly heavy—made out of mar­ble, so buy­ing plas­ter copies of the orig­i­nals made them eas­i­er to ship and were much more prac­ti­cal to dis­play in a res­i­den­tial setting.

Bust of "Venus Italica" by Antonio Canova © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Bust of “Venus Ital­i­ca” by Anto­nio Cano­va in the Camp­bell House Morn­ing Room.

One artist for which the Camp­bells seem to have had a par­tic­u­lar affin­i­ty was Ital­ian sculp­tor Anto­nio Cano­va, whose work dates from the late 18th and ear­ly 19th cen­turies.  The most detailed of his works on dis­play here at Camp­bell House can be found in the Morn­ing Room—a bust of his Venus Ital­i­ca.

Canova's original "Venus Italica"

Canova’s orig­i­nal “Venus Italica”

Ok, so you’re prob­a­bly assum­ing that this isn’t the orig­i­nal sculp­ture by Cano­va.  And you’re right.  In fact, the orig­i­nal is sig­nif­i­cant­ly larg­er, and a bit…exposed.  Not nec­es­sar­i­ly some­thing Vir­ginia Camp­bell would have want­ed greet­ing guests as they walked through her home.

What’s inter­est­ing is that, in real­i­ty, Canova’s orig­i­nal Venus Ital­i­ca isn’t actu­al­ly all that orig­i­nal.  In fact, it’s a copy of a much old­er piece called the Medici Venus that Cano­va was com­mis­sioned to recre­ate and onto which he put his own unique spin by adding clothes and repo­si­tion­ing Venus’ hand.  The Medici Venus dates all the way back to the first cen­tu­ry BCE, near­ly 2,000 years before the Camp­bells decid­ed that Venus’ head would look nice on dis­play in their sit­ting room.

Medici Venus

The “Medici Venus”, dat­ing from the first cen­tu­ry BCE

But wait!  There’s more!  Not only is the Camp­bells’ bust of Venus a copy of Anto­nio Canova’s Venus Ital­i­ca, which is a copy of the Medici Venus, but the Medici Venus actu­al­ly has its begin­nings as a copy of an even OLDER sculp­ture- the Venus of Knidos craft­ed in ancient Greece.  Though the orig­i­nal is no longer in exis­tence, we do still have (you guessed it!) copies of what the orig­i­nal is thought to have looked like.… and it’s miss­ing a cou­ple of key features.

Venus Knidos

A copy of the “Venus Knidos”, which dates back to Greek antiquity

So there you have it.  The Camp­bells’ bust of Venus is actu­al­ly a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.  Is your head spin­ning yet?

This prac­tice of repro­duc­ing clas­si­cal sculp­tures for dis­play in the home became increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry and artists began more and more to use clas­sic works as inspi­ra­tions for new pieces.  This move­ment, known as neo­clas­si­cism, posed a pret­ty big prob­lem for schol­ars and crit­ics at the time—was this art new? Or was it just a copy?  The answer that’s gen­er­al­ly been agreed upon is, quite sim­ply, both.  We can see how much change that the orig­i­nal Venus under­went before its lat­er incar­na­tion end­ed up in the Camp­bell House, with dif­fer­ences added slow­ly over time and mak­ing the fig­ure more nat­u­ral­is­tic.  Though these changes and the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of famous works made art more acces­si­ble to the com­mon man, it has been argued this neo­clas­si­cal move­ment actu­al­ly marks begin­ning of art’s decline, throw­ing artis­tic inno­va­tion and iden­ti­ties out the win­dow in favor of cheap reproductions.

Venus (center left) in the Morning Room of the Campbell House, ca. 1885 © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Venus (cen­ter left) in the Morn­ing Room of the Camp­bell House, cir­ca 1885
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2013

Regard­less of the posi­tion you take, it can’t be denied that even these neo­clas­si­cal pieces spared no lack of atten­tion to detail and, when push comes to shove, we’re pret­ty pleased that our copy of Canova’s Venus has kept watch from the cor­ner here at Camp­bell House for the last 150 years.  Even if it is a copy of a copy…of a copy.

Save our [Gl]Ass™ update: A week later

New clear glass being installed on our front door.

You are amazing.

Thanks to your gen­eros­i­ty, we’ve raised over $2,000 to help fix our acid-etched front door win­dow after it was bro­ken by bur­glars. We put out a fundrais­ing plea here, on Face­book and Twit­ter, and you came through in spades. You saved the day, and we can’t con­vey how much you helped us relieve the finan­cial stress the unex­pect­ed expense would have caused.  We are for­ev­er indebt­ed to you for your sup­port. (Real­ly.)

In the mean­time, this is what has hap­pened since last Mon­day night’s break-in:

  • We have glass. Not a replace­ment of the fan­cy etched kind (yet), but Art Glass Unlim­it­ed stopped by and removed the ugly piece of wood that cov­ered the hole, and we have a very nice crys­tal-clear pane of glass in its place. We look like we’re open for busi­ness, and not like a board­ed-up demo­li­tion zone anymore.
  • A secu­ri­ty con­sul­tant came by, and with his sug­ges­tions we’ve beefed up our already-robust secu­ri­ty sys­tem (*ahem* video cam­eras *ahem*) and we’ve changed some of our admin­is­tra­tive process­es and mon­ey-han­dling pro­ce­dures. Camp­bell House is now a small — but impec­ca­bly dec­o­rat­ed! — ver­sion of Fort Knox.
  • A series of glass pro­fes­sion­als came out to take a look at the bro­ken win­dow and its (thank­ful­ly) undam­aged twin. This has been a learn­ing process for us. We’ve been schooled on the dif­fer­ences between acid- and sand-etch­ing, and we now know the intri­cate pat­tern on the glass was acid-etched, and that process is rarely used any­more.  (Rare = expen­sive) We’re putting our col­lec­tive heads togeth­er to find a high-qual­i­ty yet cost-effec­tive solu­tion to recre­ate the pat­tern on new glass. We will select a work­shop by the end of the month.

That’s all to report now, but we’ll be sure to keep you post­ed on new glass devel­op­ments as they arise, and thanks again for sup­port­ing us!


Virginia, Let’s Eat

The menu from a very, very large meal with the Campbells.

The Camp­bells were food­ies long before the term was ever coined. We have Vir­gini­a’s own hand-writ­ten cook­book, gourmet-gro­cery store receipts, records of liquor and wine pur­chas­es,  let­ters from guests who wrote about the deca­dent meals served in our din­ing room, and not to men­tion loads of kitchen equip­ment the cook would have used in our kitchen.

What have we learned from all of this stuff the Camp­bells left behind? They real­ly, real­ly liked their food. Sure, they could drop the cash to have fresh oys­ters shipped on ice from New Orleans, but they also liked sim­ple sta­ples, like mac­a­roni and cheese and pot roast.

In the spir­it of tomor­row’s culi­nary bac­cha­na­lia, here’s an exam­ple of how the Camp­bells threw down (or their ser­vants, any­way) in the kitchen for a big fete. The image on this page is a menu for a going-away shindig for Robert before he left for an extend­ed trip to Europe with the fam­i­ly. The par­ty was host­ed at the South­ern Hotel (the super-swank hotel he owned, natch), and though the soiree was­n’t in the Camp­bells’ house, this menu is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a big deca­dent meal the Camp­bells would have had at home on spe­cial occasions.

Here’s a tran­scrip­tion of the menu with ital­i­cized notes to explain some of the foods that aren’t in reg­u­lar cir­cu­la­tion anymore:


Sad­dle Rock Oys­ters, pickled
Large oys­ters from the East Riv­er and Long Island Sound.

Wine: Chateau d’Yquem
A Sauternes, an amber-col­ored wine with caramel, hon­ey­suck­le, peach and apri­cot. This wine is (still) super-expen­sive, and Found­ing Father Thomas Jef­fer­son even bought a case of it on a trip to France in 1784.



Veg­etable soup made with car­rots, string beans, turnips, peas and lima beans.

Wine: Madeira Cama de Lobas
A for­ti­fied Por­tuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands which lie in the Atlantic, south­west of Portugal.


Filets of Lake Trout, a la Joinville
Fish coat­ed with meal, baked and served with a velouté sauce.

Ten­der­loin of Beef, with Truffles

Wine: Hock­heimer (A Ger­man dry white wine) and Amon­ti­la­do (Sher­ry)


Pat­tees of Grouse, a la Parisienne
Grouse is a bird sim­i­lar to a chick­en, and it was served flattened.

Spring Chick­ens, a l’Astrajon
Chick­en pre­pared with white wine, tar­ragon and crème fraiche.

Sweet­bread, a la Regeance
Culi­nary term for calf thy­mus gland and/or pan­creas. It tastes much bet­ter than it sounds. (Real­ly.)

Lam­b­chops, a la Vefour
Vefour is the name for the first great restau­rant in Paris, which opened in 1784.

Cham­pagne Frappe
Frozen cham­pagne.

Roederus Dry Sillery
A type of cham­pagne from Sillery, an area in north­east­ern France famous for its cham­pagne-pro­duc­ing vineyards.



Green Peas


Punch: A la Romaine, glacee
Roman Punch was used as a palate cleanser between cours­es, and it was made of cham­pagne, white wine, white rum and lemon juice.


Squab Pigeons, larded

Wood­cock, on toast
A type of wood­land bird.


Cab­i­net Pud­ding, Maraschi­no sauce
Sponge cake with dried fruit and sweet sauce.

Assort­ed cake

Bas­kets of Maringues [sic], a la Creme

Cham­pagne Jelly

Blanc Mange, a la Reine
Sweet dessert with cream, sug­ar, gela­tine, corn­starch and almonds.






Fil­berts (Hazel­nuts)




Chartrusse [sic] (French liqueur made of 130 herbs.)


Vanil­la Ice Cream

Thurs­day, June 6th, 1867.


Some menu, eh? We hope that gives you a lit­tle culi­nary food for thought tomor­row while you feast on turkey with your loved ones. From the Camp­bell Fam­i­ly to yours, have a hap­py (and deli­cious) Thanksgiving.

This Week in History: February 14

Vir­gini­a’s moth­er, Lucy, had giv­en Robert and Vir­ginia per­mis­sion to mar­ry after Vir­ginia turned 18. From the looks of this let­ter, Vir­ginia called off the upcom­ing nup­tials, even after a wed­ding date had been select­ed. Now, poor heart­bro­ken Robert’s try­ing to get her back. Grab the tis­sue; this gets pret­ty sap­py. Hap­py Valen­tine’s Day from Camp­bell House.

Miss Vir­ginia J. Kyle

[Resent] Mrs. Robert Campbell
St. Louis

Saint Louis Decem­ber 20th 1840

My Beloved Virginia,

Although I have not writ­ten you for near­ly a year, you have been the subject

Vir­ginia Camp­bell, cir­ca 1852

of my con­stant thoughts — I can safe­ly say that you have nev­er been an hour from my mind when I was free from the excite­ment of busi­ness — your image my dear­est Vir­ginia is ever present to my mind as when we sat locked in each oth­ers embrace plan­ning our hap­py future when you would become entire­ly my own. I can­not for­get you if I would and I would not if I could.

My dear­est Vir­ginia let us both for­get all the unpleas­ant occur­rences that have tak­en place since we part­ed — let us look for­ward to the future with the hope of enjoy­ing in each oth­ers soci­ety all the plea­sures that a hap­py wed­ded cou­ple are sure to expe­ri­ence.  Give me dear­est Vir­ginia the priv­i­lege of vis­it­ing you either in Raleigh or any oth­er place you may des­ig­nate and I promise you that what ever may be your deci­sion after we have been in each oth­ers soci­ety a few hours, that deci­sion shall be bind­ing — all I ask is to have the priv­i­lege of renew­ing my claims in your pres­ence and that you meet me free of prej­u­dice and I have every con­fi­dence and hope in the result.  I believe my Vir­ginia you are too kind and just to deny me this request — the time was when you denied me nothing.

I have nev­er sought the influ­ence of anoth­er to bias your judg­ment since first we met.  I would still depend on your deci­sion soon­er than gain your love by indi­rect means, and with you my Vir­ginia have enlivened and made hap­py the bright­est por­tion of my life and it is now in your pow­er to make me for­ev­er hap­py — or wretched.

Robert Camp­bell, cir­ca 1850

I have often endeav­ored to con­jec­ture what were your real feel­ings and whether you do not, even in the pres­ence of those who endeav­or to make them­selves most agree­able to you, some­times think of the hap­py hours when you sat in my embrace and vowed that no pow­er on earth should sep­a­rate us, nor pre­vent our union.

Do you rec­ol­lect when you told me that you had prayed to the Throne of Grace for a bless­ing on our union, and that you hoped your prayers were heard, and asked me to join you in mak­ing a sim­i­lar prayer?  I can­not believe my Vir­ginia that you do not regret the course you have pur­sued to me, and I have some­times thought that you would for­give me, if, con­trary to your express com­mand in ban­ish­ing me from your pres­ence, I would go to see you again — the fear how­ev­er of meet­ing you with a could on that  love­ly face that beamed with such angel­ic smile on me before we part­ed has deterred me.  With you my Vir­ginia the paths of life would be strewed with flow­ers — with­out you the world is to me a desert.  You will know dear Vir­ginia that none can ever love you with the con­stan­cy and devo­tion that I love you.

When we part­ed my Vir­ginia you were my affi­anced bride — the day on which you had agreed to become mine was named, and yet with­out assign­ing any just rea­son for a change you  refused to ful­fill your engage­ment and for­bid me to meet you.  Was this fair or was it just?

The ring and the lock­et con­tain­ing your hair, which you gave me as tokens of unal­ter­able love and con­stan­cy, I have worn since the day we part­ed — your let­ters I perused so often that there is not a word you have writ­ten that is not impressed on my heart in indeli­ble char­ac­ters — your words — your very looks and your most minute actions are trea­sured in my bosom — In short dear­est Vir­ginia I live for you.

Present my respect and kind remem­brances to your good moth­er, I hope she will act as your advi­sor and as my friend.  I can promise her that every­thing the fond­est hus­band can do, will be done to pro­mote the hap­pi­ness of her love­ly daugh­ter.  Give my love to my kind friend Ellen — thank her for me for her repeat­ed kind acts and expressions.

In the course of a few days I expect to start for Philadel­phia and will expect my beloved Vir­ginia to receive from you on my arrival a let­ter in reply to this.  You had bet­ter direct to care H&A Camp­bell & Co. which will ensure its imme­di­ate deliv­ery.  A year has near­ly flown since you were to have been my bride — do not my beloved one make any fur­ther delay, but the hap­py day when you will come to my heart as my own and I promise you to be ever your lov­ing and devot­ed husband.

Robert Camp­bell

[Side of first page] My dear­est Vir­ginia write me a long let­ter and tell me all you think of respect­ing your­self that will ever  be to me the most wel­come sub­ject.  I can say lit­tle that would be cal­cu­lat­ed to inter­est you — my busi­ness has been pros­per­ous — if it had not been so I would nev­er solic­it your hand.  I believe I can on your arrival here intro­duce you into as good soci­ety as you will meet any­where — and oh my Vir­ginia with what pride and plea­sure I will do so you alone can imag­ine who knows the ardor of my love.

[Side of sec­ond page] Do you write to Mary Mar­garet or Bessie?  I hope you do, although cir­cum­stances have caused a restraint.   You are beloved by all of them.

God bless you my Beloved Vir­ginia, R.C.

[Writ­ten for 2nd address in Lucy’s hand­writ­ing, top of front cover]

My dear Vir­ginia, like moth­er Eve I have been tempt­ed to open this let­ter.  If Robert should not be present I know you will be very angry but as he will hand it to you, I know you will not risk his good opin­ion by show­ing it, I saw it adver­tised, also one for Mrs. Robert Camp­bell, I sent for both imme­di­ate­ly and was almost angry enough with Mr. Scot to have him put out of office if in my pow­er I send you the paper you will see then adver­tised the oth­er was from Ann Wil­son in reply to yours and writ­ten on the 25 Feb. It is not worth send­ing at this late date, you will per­ceive how the Raleigh peo­ple mourned for the Pres­i­dent if you were here.  I know you would have a piece of crepe tied round your arm too such a good Whig, I have not had a line from you since you left Pitts­burgh to say whether you were alive or dead.   I have felt very anx­ious for the last week, with a great deal of love to Mr. Robert Campbell.