Two New Special Exhibits at the Atwood House & Museum – From Clothing to the Military

27 Jun Two New Special Exhibits at the Atwood House & Museum – From Clothing to the Military


When you visit the Atwood House & Museum this season, you’ll encounter two very different exhibitions:


Chatham in the Military

As our Nation emerged into a United States, wars shaped not only the boundaries of territories but the spirit and culture of who we are today. Chatham, like many small early colonial towns in our country, lost many men who fought for “freedom and justice” through time. This exhibit focuses on some of our local heroes, their uniforms and military gear and how our community was impacted by the major wars.

Chatham in the Military pays tribute to the many local men who fought for our country’s freedom. The Revolutionary War (1775-1783), the Civil War (1861-1865) and the early years of World War I are all represented. We have an array of artifacts from each war as well as Army, Navy, and Coast Guard honor rolls on display. Exhibits include a musket, a pistol from the Revolutionary War, a gun cleaning kit, a Tommy gun replica and a hydrogen pump for inflating the blimps of World War I. A brief history of the Coast Guard in Chatham highlights its importance to our town. View a model of the Naval Air Station in North Chatham and its story as well as a description of the role of the Marconi Station as it related to Chatham.

Included in this area of the exhibit is an array of historic American flags from our collection. Not only does it show the growth of our country but the patriotism of our people who hand-sewed flags and added stars as new states entered the union. The Flag of the Revolution or Grand Union Flag (1776), the Bennington Flag, handmade 13-star flags and an early printed flag are all fine examples of well-preserved patriotic textiles. All of the flags have audio interpretations to expand on their stories.

This exhibit is proudly sponsored by The Kemper Family Foundations.



Windows into Time: Clothing and Artifacts

Wander through the centuries exploring the development of clothing and other handmade goods in rural Northeast America. When Chatham grew from a sparsely populated farming and fishing community into a more affluent town hosting tourists from around the nation, fashions reflected the impact of increased wealth, education, transportation, and cross-cultural influences. Early settlers who had struggled to feed themselves and stay warm, were later replaced by industrious merchants selling local and imported goods, as our local community began to thrive over three centuries.

Windows into Time is a grand tour through Chatham from our early beginnings through the Roaring Twenties. Using a series of vignettes, one can experience how Chatham grew from a native Monomoyick settlement into a farming and fishing village and then into a community of increased wealth, education and transportation, eventually supported by tourism which abounds today.

In 1656 William Nickerson purchased land from the Monomoyick tribe. His settlement of Chatham is the basis for our first vignettes, The “Monomoyick Trail” and the “Beach Scene.” We can observe what life looked like by seeing a Monomoyick Wetu, a domed hut made of saplings and bark used by Northeastern American tribes, as well as an early settler woman handwashing her family’s clothing by the beach and drying it atop bushes.

By 1799, we arrive at the “Age of Homespun.” Through the warmth of a keeping room scene, we experience what clothing was worn, a handmade quilt, and christening dress. During the “Age of Independence,” schools and churches were added to the community. We see the schoolmaster and student, teaching and learning.

The “Age of Transportation” brings the arrival of the railroad to Chatham. This and the popularity of the automobile brought an influx of people to the town and thus arrived the “Age of Tourism.” Hotels began to flourish; visitors arrived wearing their finery and then headed to the beaches in their bathing costumes.

Chatham accommodated the interests of its visitors and tourism grew. As the “Roaring Twenties” arrived so did Prohibition. Chatham’s coastline was a perfect setting for rum-running. (Listen to our audio story). Women’s clothing in this era changed from longer dresses to flapper styles and fancy lingerie.

At the center of our exhibit is a wonderful horse-drawn sleigh complete with a gentleman in top hat and long coat and his lady in her cloak, set in a winter’s scene.

Rounding out the show is a children’s hands-on play area with toys of the past. There are paper dolls to dress from different eras, block puzzles to solve, as well as a riddle board, nursery rhymes and tongue twisters to learn.

To learn more about the Atwood House & Museum, including directions, click here 

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