Working at Home

I’ve been busy with Jonathan Clark House research for the last few days. Many questions answered, but others still need work, and none of the blog post drafts are ready for publishing. So how about another Jonathan Clark House Museum photo?

Photo by Anna Perkins. Click to image to enlarge in new window.

It’s Jonathan Clark’s office at the Clark House Museum. The office and its books and papers are representative of the furnishings Jonathan may have owned, and some of the projects and activities that occupied his years in Mequon. The walnut drop-front desk dates from about 1850.

Jonathan Clark, his father-in-law Peter Turck and neighbor William Bonniwell helped organize Mequon’s first public school. The papers on the desk include facsimiles of original school board minutes from November, 1843, for School No. 1, the “Bonniwell School.” (The Bonniwell School was Mequon’s first official school. But four years earlier, in the summer of 1839, Mary Turck organized a school and taught four of her siblings in the attic of her father’s log house.)

Also on the desk, facsimiles of pages from the 1840 and 1850 federal population census schedules for old Washington county. In 1840, Peter Turck was the enumerator for the county and Jonathan M. Clark was one of the witnesses attesting to the authenticity and accuracy Turck’s work as enumerator.

The facsimile of the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper is from an 1851 issue. It includes a notice announcing that bids would be accepted at the house of Jonathan Clark, on Saturday, September 6th, between the hours of 6 A.M. and 1 P.M. for “grubbing, grading and turnpiking that part of the Milwaukee–Fond du Lac Plank Road, lying between the tavern of Wm. F. Opitz, in the town of Mequon, and the village of Cedarburg.”

On top of the desk are a brass chamber stick with candle1, and an Ogee style clock made in Connecticut. Clocks such as these were developed in the late 1830s as a more affordable replacement for the earlier wooden-geared clocks. They were inexpensive and very popular, selling hundreds of thousands each year by the 1840s. The straw hat on the wall is typical for the era. Stylish, functional, and inexpensive, it keeps the sun off a farmer’s head, face, and neck and lets a bit of a cooling breeze through, too.


  1. Speaking of candles, I seem to remember an old bit of advice regarding new candles, namely that they should not be put on display without burning the wick for a bit. The idea was that an unburned wick was somehow impolite, or depressingly reminiscent of death, or funerals, or something like that. Has anyone else heard this? Is it some kind of actual mid-ninteenth-century etiquette, or a more modern bit of superstition from the “Downton Abbey” or Emily Post eras? Since our Clark House curators may need to attend to this candle wick before the house opens again, “the favor of a reply is requested.”

Thanks to Anna Perkins for the photo, and to Margaret Bussone, Fred Derr and Nina Look for the fine work they have done with the museum, its furnishings, and the excellent historical information about the house and contents that they have gathered in the “Jonathan Clark House Tour Docent Guide, 2019.”

3 thoughts on “Working at Home

  1. Thanks Reed and Anna for the nice photo.
    A little note about the straw hat in Jonathan’s office.
    Fred and I bought ($35) a hat like this at the Fennimore Farm Museum in Cooperstown, NY. The museum is interpreted at about the same time period as JCH.
    A year later we saw the same style of hat at one of our central Wisc. Amish grocery stores.
    We inquired about the hat and were pleased to buy several from the local Amish woman who makes them in her home. Because her prices were much lower we purchased several in different sizes and have them for our young (and adult) volunteers.
    Reed – the next time you are at the museum you can try one on. They are currently stored in the hired man’s bedroom in his dresser.



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