The Bee & Thistle Inn

Part of the fun of visiting museums and historic places is trying out various inns, hotels, and B & B's. The Bee & Thistle Inn is conveniently located next door to the Francis Griswold Museum. This had to be the easiest transition from venue to inn ever! The added bonus was, we could continue enjoying the grounds and sculpture of the museum aftre checking in. I highly recommend a stay at the Bee & Thistle. The house was built in 1756. It is a large building with many beautifully decorated rooms. Our room was #10 on the third floor. Even though the trek up 2 flights of stairs was long there was so much to look at that I hardly minded at all.

There is a restaurant at the Bee & Thistle. Charlie & I both enjoyed the Milestone Cabernet Sauvignon. Seating was very comfortable and we were not crowded, yet, there were plenty of guests to insure popularity. The next morning, there was an egg breakfast + other healthy choices included with our stay. The staff was friendly and helpful.I would definitely return.

Front entrance-The Bee & Thistle Inn, 100 Lyme Street Old Lyme, CT

Front Hall Way-The Bee & Thistle Inn

The breakfast room

Beautiful Room # 10

Pre- dinner fun on the grounds by the Lieutenant River


Art of the Everyman: American Folk Art from the Fenimore Art Museum at the Florence Griswold Museum

I was flummoxed. I began too late to look for lodging in, near, or around Cooperstown, New York. My wish was to visit the Fenimore Art Museum, which I had heard has a fantastic folk art collection. I must see this museum for myself. But, this was not to be – not this year. However, an alternative plan which  seemed as a last resort turned out to be a triumph. On recommendation from a friend, I visited the Florence Griswold Museum. What a treat!  44 works on loan from the Fenimore Art Museum are on display at the Florence Griswold Museum now through September 21, 2014. Fresh interpretations and solid documentation make this exhibit a treasure. I spent two hours reading, absorbing, and marveling over the collection- from artists such as Ammi Phillips, Edward Hicks, Thomas Chambers, Joseph Davis, Sheldon Peck, William Matthew Prior, Sturtevant Hamblin, Grandma Moses to an anonymous carver who crafted an extraordinary knife box depicting a ship carrying slaves to America. This is a folk art fan’s dream come true.

So what is folk art? The definition, according to one of the curators, is that folk art was made by craftspeople and amateurs with no formal training. In a way, the style of folk art almost resembles Modern Art. Self taught artistry finds a wide appeal and acceptance in contemporary culture.

Everyman is the broad term used to define the collection of artists in this exhibit. There is a paring down and simplifying of line, movement, and expression that unites the work of these creators. Fortunately, early 20th century collectors, with an eye to the future, came to revere these humble works. The collectors appreciated Everyman’s values and attempts to document as accurately as possible their world.

Photography is not permitted in this exhibit. There is a companion book, “ Folk Art’s Many Faces” available in the gift shop. This is an excellent volume  which contains portraits in the New York State Historical Association. Many of the works  in the exhibit are included in this volume, most in color with excellent descriptions.

Classes for children led by a guide frequented the rooms while I was there. The children apparently enjoyed their tour, emitting squeals of delight at the various discoveries they made.


 Although not in this exhibit, the paintings by Edward Hicks (above) and Thomas Chambers (below) are a few examples of the style of artwork found in the gallery. ( These paintings are on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Wing)





Thistles & Crowns, The Painted Chests of the Connecticut Shore Exhibition at the Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut

Since Pennsylvania German blood flows through my veins, I tend to have a fascination with painted blanket chests. Paint decoration resonates with me and I never tire examining yet another fancy chest.

A friend of mine recommended the current exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum so I made a point of stopping by this past weekend. She was right. This concise display show cases six wooden chests of various dimensions created by craftsmen of Guilford and Saybrook Connecticut. Less flamboyant, in my opinion, than Pennsylvania artwork, these English influenced chests deserve a closer look.

Tradition and historical evidence claims Charles Guillam (1671-1727) of Saybrook. Connecticut as the creator of these intriguing pieces. Further research and discovery attributes these diverse chests to a variety of different craftsmen along with Guillam. The display at the Florence Griswold Museum includes a modern unpainted replica of one of the chests. This model provides a fascinating look at the construction techniques employed by the carpenters as well as an examination of the primary woods used in construction.

Polychrome paint decoration applied to these chests over a base coat of warm brown paint include vermilion, orpiment ( a rich yellow), verdigris, blue verditer, carbon black, lead white, and mars red. The decorations tend toward specific images as opposed to geometric figures. Thistles, Tudor roses, fleur de lis, and crowns are among the various symbols used to imply a wide range of meanings from the obvious natural sense to the political.

I highly recommend a visit to the exhibit. The documentation is educational and thorough. No photography is permitted, but, the companion book sold at the gift shop provides highlights and useful information.

The Florence Griswold Museum welcomes children. While I was there, at least three groups of children led by a guide spent about 10 minutes in the room discussing and examining the chests. There was the promise that, “they, too, would paint their own chest, and they should look for ideas from the exhibition.”

Thistles & Crowns will be on display until September 21, 2014.

This chest is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the American Wing. It is attributed to the same hand as the chests on display at the Florence Griswold Museum. It shows the warm brown 'ocher' color that unify these chests, although it lacks the thistle and crown motifs.



Norton Stoneware Pottery, Bennington – A Handy List


Recently, we sold an excellent Bennington Factory ovoid jug to a collector. This got me to thinking about the Norton family and their body of work. These potters, located in Bennington, Vermont, were a family owned operation which lasted well over 100 years. This is a mind boggling span of time compared to the rise and fall of businesses today.

John Norton initiated the pottery in 1785. His early pieces consisted of redware and then stoneware. Stoneware made during this period were seldom decorated. If so, the decoration consisted of a single flourish or a number to designate size.

The earliest stoneware was stamped “ Bennington Factory.” The Bennington Factory years spanned 1785-1812.


In 1812, John Norton brought his sons into the world of pottery. And, so it began, father to son, sometimes a brother or a cousin, but, a family owned and operated business which created stoneware pottery that is eagerly sought today.

Here is a handy list of the dates and stamps you may find on a piece of Norton family stoneware:

Bennington Factory – 1785-1823

L. Norton & Co. – 1823-1828

L. Norton – 1828-1833

L. Norton & Son – 1833-1841

Julius Norton – 1841-1845

Norton & Fenton - 1845-1847

Julius Norton – 1847- 1850

J & E Norton – 1850-1859 (this period produced the elaborately decorated pieces)

J. Norton & Co.-  1859-1861

E & LP Norton - 1861-1881

E. Norton & Co. - 1881-1885

Edw’d Norton Co. - 1885-1894

E & LP Norton fragment - 1861-1881


Samuel Laning, John Laning, and Maskell Ware

 I always enjoy a happy coincidence. This situation almost seemed too good to be true. On New Year’s Day, a good friend of mine saw me at our local Wegmans and greeted me. We chatted about the Historical Society of Moorestown. I asked if she would be interested in having me do a deed search of her house, a service provided by the Historical Society of Moorestown. I had a feeling her house was quite old. My friend agreed to have the search.

The research was complicated. The lot where my friend’s house is located had been part of a plantation, then a farm, and subsequently a nursery. Now, it is a private residence with a yard on a quiet street. The names I uncovered as I searched were typical Moorestown names of the day- Lippincott, Andrews, French, Haines – with several entries showing the property changing hands among family members.

Imagine my surprise when I encountered this deed listing: George French to Samuel Laning, house carpenter, May 24, 1803. Laning!

Here is a reference I made to John Laning in a previous post on The Ware Chair Makers on this Blog: "Elnathan Ware ( 1729? - ?) Maskell’s  father, apprenticed Maskell at the age of 14 to chair maker John Laning.  Laning’s chair making shop was located on Ye Great Road in Greenwich, New Jersey. It is quite possible John Laning learned his trade from master craftsman William Savery of Philadelphia. Thus, a high quality skill crossed the river and established itself in a then thriving community. Greenwich and Salem were busy port towns  which resulted in a practical need for seating. Maskell and his sons, grandsons, and eventually great grandsons all provided for this need."

Could Samuel Laning of Moorestown be related to John Laning of Greenwich?

I quickly referred back to Sara Carlisle Watson’s book. There is a chapter on South Jersey Turned Chairs by Dr. Martin W. Sharp in which he discusses early chair maker John Laning. I remembered Dr. Sharp mentioned that John’s father David emigrated from Wales and settled in Burlington County, New Jersey. Could this be the same Laning family?

Here is a Laning Family genealogy:

John Laning ( b. before 1675- d. 1733) of England married Elizabeth:

Children of John & Elizabeth:

  1. John Laning ( born about 1700 at Crosswicks or Bordentown,NJ died 1759 at Chester Township, NJ AKA Moorestown) married Anne
  2. David Samuel Laning ( born about 1701 at Northampton Township, NJ died 1749 at Burlington, NJ) married Ann Kemble
  3. Mary Laning ( born about 1713 at Willingborough, NJ) married William Price 
  4. Joseph Laning ( born about 1715 at Willingborough, NJ) married Mary Jaquatt

The children of John Laning ( 1700-1759) & Anne:

  1. Martha Laning ( born about 1720 at Burlington, NJ died after 1768) married Joshua Bishop
  2. Hannah Laning ( born about 1726 at Northampton,NJ) married Samuel Cripps
  3. Samuel Laning house carpenter ( born about 1737 at Chester Township, NJ aka Moorestown died 1824 at Moorestown, NJ) married Esther Gaskill.

The children of David Samuel Laning ( 1701-1749) and Ann Kemble:

  1. Samuel Laning (born 1735 at Moorestown, NJ died 1822 at Moorestown, NJ)
  2. John Laning chair maker (born 1737 Burlington, NJ died 1826 at Greenwich, NJ) married Wife #1 Rhoda Izzard and wife #2 Anne Ewing

According to Dr. Sharp, John Laning married Rhoda Izzard in 1774 and moved to Greenwich, NJ.

According to the deed book at Mount Holly, Samuel Laning and widow Esther Laning sold the property to Edward French in 1821.

Yes, John Laning chair maker of Greenwich and Samuel Laning house carpenter and husband of Esther Gaskill were cousins. So the connection is complete.

Incidentally, Samuel Laning, also a builder and the son of Esther Gaskell Laning was the first mayor of Camden, New Jersey from 1828-1830.