Can you imagine being little Robert Congdon? How would it feel to be the only kid in an enormous mansion? Well, he was certainly able to make the best of his situation. Here was the room he grew up in:
And here is what it looks like today:
It’s funny finding things like this tennis racquet and its case. On the one hand, you know that, at the time, it would have been the finest available. On the other hand, it would be laughable on a tennis court today. Times change.
There are dancing birds painted along the ceiling of Robert’s room. For decades, they had been painted over, but Glensheen staff has contracted with the Midwest Art Conservation Center to remove the paint to let the birds come back to see the light of day:
Robert had several lead toys, including this jockey:
This sailboat almost looks like it could be homemade:
The ball on the bottom is heavy, and would hang below the keel to provide additional stability when it was in the water.
There’s a table in Robert’s room whose reeded leg is a bird’s claw grasping a ball:
This photo is in his room – Robert won several ribbons for his skills in showing dogs, but apparently no dogs ever lived inside Glensheen.
And that’s where we leave the parts of Robert’s room that can be seen during a normal tour, and move into the closet. The closet is a trove of documents and historical items. Robert’s room was used by Elisabeth as a painting studio, so a lot of what we will uncover will be painting related.
I love the caption of this photo taken on a boat ride – “Don’t you really think I am the snappiest one?”
This Grecian-themed lamp shade was located in the closet:
This guy just looks so darn happy!
This was just amusing to me, mostly because it’s outside of my reality. This is a magazine dedicated to people who collect pieces of China. Because this was from 1887, we can assume that Clara was the subscriber:
And indeed, we found some designs she had done for China tucked inside:
I don’t remember seeing any china around the house that looked like this, but I certainly could have missed it. It’d be interesting to know if she ever had this made!
This calendar was published very shortly after the end of World War II:
You can imagine that their patriotic flame was burning strongly, at this point.
James Swinnerton was a popular artist and cartoonist of the Southwest. When we found these, our first thought ws ‘how cute!’ And then as we read the captions, we were reminded of how things have changed over time:
This one is even more interesting – it combines these cartoonish American Indians, the Ten Commandments and an oblique reference to race. Weird.
On the plus side, Swinnerton went on to ink the desert backgrounds for Chuck Jones cartoons.
As mentioned earlier, Elisabeth used this room as her painting room, and we did indeed find a significant number of paint supplies!
We found several different painter’s palette’s, including several that were made from cardboard, or a scrap of wood!
The Transogram Company created a wide range of crayons, some of which were licensed to Disney or other companies, and some of which were sold under various names, like this “Flying Colors” box of crayons:
And here’s what they look like several decades later:
This definitely was an odd find – it’s a little tag that likely came on a package of lard (??). The Armour company was located in Chicago, and was one of the largest meatpacking plants in the country in the late 1800s. “The Jungle” was probably written about a company similar to Armour (if not Armour itself).
Here’s another oddity – it’s a box full of lead shot, with a little music box inside. We didn’t wind it up to see what the tune was – seeing that parts of it had already come off, we didn’t want to contribute to any more damage.
If you look closely around the Boy’s Lounge, you will see some stenciling along the ceiling that looks very crisp, compared to all the rest. At some point, and it’s not clear when, there was an attempt to ‘spruce the paint up a bit,’ and we still have the stencils that were used:
This is one of quite a few ‘National Panasonic’ fans and other memorabilia.
Here was a ‘National Panasonic’ calendar from 1965:
The ‘National’ brand was one of the house brands (along with Panasonic) of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. ‘National’ branded products existed in Asia and Europe, but never in the United States, so these were probably picked up by Elisabeth on her travels.
We also found this folding parasol:
Here it is, hinged:
Here’s another beautiful fan, this one with a distinctly Spanish feel:
We found a number of famous paintings in the closet. Chester, Clara, and Elisabeth were all, to varying degrees, artists. Clara and Elisabeth especially spent a lot of time drawing and painting. Painters often use work by the masters as inspiration, or for study, and we found quite a few versions of famous paintings in the closet.
Here is a monochrome version of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch.”
This is the Cologne Cathedral, in Cologne, Germany:
In the bottom right, is the signature of the artist who made the original etching, Lucien Gautier:
This piece is by perhaps my favorite artist, J.C. Leyendecker:
Leyendecker was one of the most famous commercial artists of the early 20th century. Normal Rockwell was inspired by Leyendecker (as were many others). Unfortunately, this is not an original, but even so, I’m glad to see that the Congdons took inspiration from such a towering figure in the U.S. art world.
I’ve mentioned several times that Elisabeth also pointed, and so I would be remiss not to include some of her work. Here are two of the better paintings we found. This could easily be Tischer Creek:
And this is undoubtedly Tischer Creek, probably painted directly under the mansion alongside the creek, looking toward Lake Superior. You can see the arched bridge, spanning the creek:
We found a number of photos, most likely from Yale. One of the Congdon boys is undoubtedly in this photo:
And here is the cross country team, with their trophy:
From a timing standpoint, Robert is the only one who might have been a member of the class of 1915 (he would have been about 17 years old). Edward would have been 30 years old in 1915, and Walter would have been 33. There is an inscription on the bottom of this photo that says “3rd row from left, #3”. Good luck.
Of course, it was fun to look at everyone in the photo. The guy holding the trophy would fit right in today:
And finally, we’re return to the young Robert’s room:
We didn’t try to put the puzzle together, but if you look closely at it, you can see that the interlocking pieces of this puzzle do NOT look like puzzles today. I imagine that it was, like so many other things back then, cut by hand, which means every one would be different.