Tuck Museum Houses Town's Treasures

Hampton 350

1638 -- 1988

Rockingham County Newspaper -- July 8, 1988

Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents
[The following articles are courtesy of
Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

By Kathy Bailey, Contributing Writer

Tuck Museum
The Tuck Memorial Museum is operated by the
Hampton Historical Society at 40 Park Avenue, Hampton
[Staff photo/Bill Murphy]
The late afternoon sun passes over fragile wicker baby buggy, containing a doll in period clothing. Across the room, a piano made in 1917 by Hampton resident Moses Brown sits near a case of class rings and a Hampton Academy Junior High band uniform.

The Tuck Memorial Museum, operated by the Hampton Historical Society, preserves these and other treasures in its complex at 40 Park Avenue, Hampton. There's something to please every taste, according to acting curator Roland W. Paige.

Paige says the museum was started in 1925, the inspiration of Rev. Ira S. Jones, a local minister who saw a need for a place to display historic Hampton artifacts. Jones contacted philanthropist and financier Edward Tuck, then of Paris, France, formerly of Hampton, and Tuck provided money to buy the Fogg property on Park Avenue.

The house was renovated, and an addition built in 1961 in order to exhibit more of the burgeoning Hampton collection. Tuck later spent funds to establish Tuck Field, a community sports facility.

Not A Catch-all

The Tuck Museum is no musty catch-all. Items are clean and arranged, as well as possible, according to theme or period. For example, antique clothing is grouped together on mannequins or hangers. One may view uniforms from several wars, lacy christening outfits, or gowns made from ladies with miniscule waistlines. One stunning dark-print dress is accessorized with a black lace shawl.

The woman who wore it may have placed her child in an item called a "standing stool." Ancestor of the playpen, the wooden standing stool kept toddlers restrained while their mothers labored at the fireplace or wood stove. The Tuck Museum offers an 1858 version, made by Joseph Philbrick.

Exhibits Vary

One corner salutes the trolley era [Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway Company], with old photos and a trolley official's desk, circa 1900. The desk is occupied by a mannequin clad in a vintage Boston & Maine conductor's uniform, and using an antique telephone. The wall clock was salvaged from a trolley station [starter's shanty] once located across from the Hampton Beach Casino.

The museum boasts several irreplaceable items, including the Locke Family Quilt. Paige notes that the red quilt squares were soldiers' red coats. Julia Locke Dewey, the quilt's seamstress, ran out of cloth and had to send to England for more. Paige believes the quilt was made soon after the Revolutionary War.

Those interested in tools and implements will find plenty to keep them busy, including a selection of equipment for salt marsh haying. The museum has a "loafer rake," used to clean up scatterings after the initial raking and mowing. A sample hay staddle, made of cedar or oak and used for drying the hay, may also be seen. The museum also owns several bog shoes — special shoes made for horses so they wouldn't sink into the marsh during haying.

Military Memorabilia

Military memorabilia includes a saber from the war of 1812, once carried by Joseph Mason, a Hampton man. A book, Infantry Tactics, and an 1860 saber represent the Civil War. Several nails were salvaged from the burning of Atlanta by another Seacoast man, Otis Horace Marston.

The area's nautical past is represented by souvenirs of the Squalus, a submarine which sank off North Beach in 1939. A framed photo shows how the Squalus was retrieved. She was reconditioned at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and renamed Sailfish. She served in the Pacific "brilliantly, during World War II," Paige recalls.

Unusual Acquisition

Some items arrive at the museum by unusual routes, he adds. A recent package in the mail revealed a souvenir demitasse cup with pictures of three Hampton Beach hotels — Leavitt's, Puritan and Hillcrest — flourishing between 1872 and 1905. The unusual aspect is that the cup came from a Durham woman, now a California resident, who picked it up at an antique show and mailed it back to Hampton. "It's funny how things travel," Paige muses.

Paige has been acting curator for two years. During his tenure, he's noted that most acquisitions come either from family members or strangers who buy an old house, clean out the attic, and don't know what to do with antiques and memorabilia.

"We don't often get cups mailed from California," he says.

The items most often donated, Paige adds, seem to be diaries and old town reports. For example, when the Garland Homestead on Winnacunnet Road was sold, someone dug Jonathan Garland's diaries, circa 1840, out of the attic and gave them to the museum. The journals, more like account books, tell, in spidery script, of the sale of a pair of shoes and a horse collar for $1 each.

1683 Deed

Perhaps the museum's oldest document is a 1683 paper deeding five acres of salt marsh from William Fuller to Daniel Lamprey. A typed copy explains the nearly indecipherable script.

Paige says the diaries, account books and deeds are especially popular with college students doing research. "They're, interesting reading," he notes, because they give a picture of everyday-life in early America.

Paige says people occasionally donate something unsuitable, but adds, "We take anything. We'll judge it later on."

Future plans include an oil painting series of salt marsh haying, which will help visitors visualize hay staddles, bog shoes and loafer rakes in use.

Paige also wants to augment a recently-begun collection of coats- of-arms. He has the Leavitt family's, the Garland family's and his own. He wants coats-of-arms for all the old-time Hampton families.

Museum Complex

The Tuck Museum is now a museum complex, with the main museum, the 1843 schoolhouse, a Fire Museum dedicated June 11, and an uncompleted Farm Museum. Paige is excited about the expansion, but wishes he could find more volunteers. He sees a special need for people to help put finishing touches on the Farm Museum and to research undated items so they can be put on display. 'We need to get this stuff out where people can look at it," Paige says.

The Tuck Memorial Museum is open every day during July and August, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. [1988] Admission is free.

Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents