GUILFORD — Leave it to Beth Payne, director of the Dudley Farm Museum, to ruffle feathers in North Guilford.
During the Victorian era of the mid-19th century to the early 20th, the Dudley Farm women were “frou frou,” Payne said, intimating their inclination toward the showy and heavily ornamental.
For evidence, she’s produced an 1866 Geneva hand fluter, among the pieces in “But What Is It? Unusual Artifacts at the Dudley Farm,” an exhibit opening July 1 that invites museum-goers to guess the function of some lesser known 19th century inventions.
Spoiler alert: The hand fluter was developed from cast iron and heated up on the coals of the stove to press rows of narrow flutes, or pleats, into linen.
“This was the Victorian era when women wore fancy clothes when they went out and that included these perfectly pleated items,” Payne said.
The era renowned for its corsets, bonnets, bustles and petticoats did not bypass the Dudley Farm, it seems. According to Payne, the Dudleys were well off during this period, and carried influence in both educational and church matters in North Guilford.
“They were well-educated and well-respected, and they would go out to teas, church functions, Grange meetings,” she said. “Any place you were seen, you wanted to make sure you made a good presentation.”
Back on the farm, the Dudley women reverted to their usual industry and initiative, it seems, which included the use of a butter mold, another piece in the exhibit.
“In the 19th century, farmers who prided themselves on making high quality products wanted to mark their wares as their own,” Payne said. “The butter mold allowed them to give their butter a unique trademark that would let consumers know they were getting the good stuff.”
Frank Percy Ayer of Lebanon got the patent for the butter mold in 1888, among the Connecticut inventors featured in the exhibit.
There’s also Charles Goodyear, a New Haven native, who was awarded a patent for vulcanized rubber developed in the lower Naugatuck Valley that led to footwear and tires. South Windsor’s Eli Terry won a patent for a shelf clock mechanism that introduced mass production to the art of clock making and made clocks affordable for the average American citizen, according to Payne.
“It’s a way to learn about all the invention that was going on in this state in the 19th century,” said Payne.
Payne noted that a 44-star flag will be flying when the Dudley Farm Museum reopens on July 1.
“While we fly our 50-star flag on our 1840 flagpole each Saturday during the farmers’ market, announcing to all we are open, we raise a different flag on the Dudley Farmhouse to celebrate Independence Day and other special events,” she said.
“This flag was raised at the Great Hill Road School, the predecessor to the County Road School, on July 4, 1891, having just had a star added for the admission of Wyoming.”
The 44-star flag is not officially part of the exhibit. Neither are the chickens clucking in their coops or the cows grazing in the pastures or the bluebirds flitting about the pastoral stretch of land on the northeast corner of Routes 77 and 80.
Or the farmers’ market, which opens for its sixth week on Saturday.
In a way, the grounds are like the museum. “Time stands still,” Payne said. “Everything is just a little softer, a little slower.”
Certainly not frou frou.
The Dudley Farm Museum is located on 2351 Durham Road, Guilford. For more information, visit dudleyfarm.com or call 203-457-0770.
The museum will be open on Wednesday, July 1 – Friday July 3 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. (farmers’ market, 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m..); and Sunday 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Starting July 6, museum hours: Thursday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
The museum will be enforcing Covid-19 safety measures, including the use of hand sanitizer on the porch, a requirement for face masks, and social distancing.