The Wisconsin Room is a period room at the DAR Museum in Constitution Hall, NSDAR's headquarters in Washington, DC. The Wisconsin Room is a gift of WSDAR; the items in the room are owned by WSDAR while NSDAR Museum staff manage the room. Museum staff often make decisions regarding how a room is arranged and whether items are to be added or deaccessioned. The immediate past honorary Wisconsin state regent serves as the state chair for the Wisconsin Room.
The Wisconsin Room represents a “hall” or multi-purpose living space in a New England house between 1680 and 1720. Throughout the day, the hall was used as a kitchen, dining room, sitting room or bedroom. Activities were often centered around the fireplace, needed for heat during the winter as well as for light, cooking, and domestic chores year-round. The number of specialized furnishings, like the carved chest, suggests a well-to-do family of this period.
On a visit to the Wisconsin Room, one steps back to the earliest period of American history represented in the DAR Museum. Early homes had casement windows with diamond-shaped glass panes set in lead frames, as is featured in this room. The bedstead is a handmade copy of the only American 17th century bedstead known to exist. The original bedstead is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). The MFA allowed us to make a copy for the Wisconsin Room. A craftsmen from New England who specializes in making 17th century American furniture by hand was commissioned to make this piece.
The English lantern clock is the oldest clock in the DAR Museum's collection; it dates from 1690 to 1715, coinciding with the reign of William and Mary of Orange, who were Dutch. The Dutch tulip motif appears in the middle of the dial and on the central fret above the face, flanked by the coat of arms of England. Lantern clocks were the first readily available domestic clocks in England. The clock was a gift to the room from Dr. Marilyn Baxter.
The oak and pine "sunflower" chest from Hartford, Connecticut dates from 1680. Only a small number are known to exist. The split spindles and applied ornaments, or bosses, are stained black to simulate ebony. Sunflowers and tulip panels are a feature of the Connecticut Valley chest.
The lobbed, tin-glazed earthenware dish displayed on the table was probably made in Holland and commemorates King William III of England. His picture and initials, KW, decorate the center surrounded by tulip and vine decorations in bright green and yellow. This style is known as Gaudy Dutch. The dish was a gift of the Roddis Foundation.
The curtains on the bedstead are made of wool. The fabric was handwoven and dyed in Vermont by Kate Smith of the Eaton Hill Textile Works; it was just recently completed. The curtains are much like a set seen in historic Deerfield, Massachusetts. Textiles were one of the most expensive commodities owned by early colonists. A wealthy family had more opportunity to purchase ready-made goods.
The baby is dressed in swaddling clothes. Seventeenth century parents believed wrapping limbs would prevent crooked arms and legs. And by snuggly wrapping newborns in layers of blankets the first few months of life, they believed babies would be easier to care for. Linen fabric embellished with embroidery was most often used for baby clothing.
To view a virtual tour of the Wisconsin Room, visit the NSDAR site here.
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