Seeking the Silver Fish

“I found a bunch of silver fish!” I recently announced to my family.

“Call the exterminator,” my husband replied.

Then, as a good Man in Green, he corrected himself. “Oh, you mean the other one.”

Indeed, this is what I found in the bargain bin at Jo-Ann Fabrics:

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It’s a string of silver-colored, fish-shaped beads. Each is about 1″ in size. I thought they would be perfect additions to a Juliette Gordon Low costume or a Daisy-themed Kim’s Game.

The Silver Fish was the highest award available to Girl Guides. It could be considered the first highest award for Girl Scouts, because it was listed in the 1913 handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country, along with the list of the 20 badges needed to earn it. But no Girl Scouts ever did. In fact, some of the “required” badges were not even available in the United States.  Instead, Daisy created a US equivalent: the Golden Eagle of Merit.

In October 1917 Girl Guides redefined the Silver Fish as an adult-only award recognizing outstanding contributions to the movement.

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Helen Storrow (Wikipedia)

Originally the award depicted a whiting with its tail in its mouth. It changed to a swimming fish on a dark blue/light blue striped ribbon in October 1917.

Today the fish is an Atlantic salmon. According to the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, Lord Baden Powell suggested this species, “a salmon swimming up a river, overcoming every water fall, boulder, and other obstacle in order to reach a quiet place in which to spawn.”

Lady Baden Powell received a specially created golden Silver Fish in 1918.

Three Americans received the prestigious Silver Fish. Lord Baden Powell personally presented the first to JGL at the 1919 national convention in Washington, DC. Anne Hyde Choate and Helen Storrow received theirs at the 1921 national convention in Cincinnati. Choate, JGL’s goddaughter, was national president from 1920 to 1922. Storrow led the effort to build Our Chalet.

 

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Anne Hyde Choate (l) and Juliette Gordon Low wear their Silver Fish (Harris & Ewing photo)

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Anne Hyde Choate’s Silver Fish at GSUSA

Daisy was buried in her Girl Scout uniform, including her Silver Fish, at Laurel Grove cemetery in Savannah.

Anne Hyde Choate’s Silver Fish was donated to GSUSA. Earlier this year, it was on display in the lobby of the 17th floor of national headquarters, 420 Fifth Avenue in New York.

Today Storrow’s fish lives at the Cedar Hill Museum in Massachusetts. 

Thank you to the Cedar Hill staff and volunteers who confirmed the location!

©2016 Ann Robertson

Open House a Success

On Sunday, June 26, the Nation’s Capital Archives & History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland, opened its doors to the public.

The Center’s grand opening was September 19, 2015, and programs are held there for troops on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday each month. Otherwise, the all-volunteer-operated center is open by appointment only.

We are re-evaluating hours and program opportunities for the 2016-2017 Girl Scout year and hope to have more drop-in days. We are also planning a few training classes for adult volunteers.

I was especially happy to finally meet fellow Girl Scout Historian Sandy Dent in person. She’s with the Central Maryland council, and we’ve been Facebook friends for years.  Most of the photos here are hers. (Thanks Sandy!)

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One guest–and now a new committee member–had several questions about former camps. She also shared memories of wading at camps in the 1960s. That reminded me of one of the most treasured items in our collection, the Murray Camp Scroll. Naturally, I had to pull it out.

The scroll is the 1960 Camp Committee report, but rendered in a truly unique fashion. The scroll is about 80 feet long and was donated by the family of Ann Murray, a former Camp Committee chair. Isn’t it amazing?

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Archives and History Committee members LOVE to share our collection. If you haven’t been able to schedule a visit yet, contact me (ann@robertsonwriting.com), we’ll try to work something out.

An Affordable Mannequin Solution: Update

Update: March 17, 2017

Stand covers are now available in white, too!

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IKEA’s Napen Clothes Stand

Girl Scout historians know how challenging it can be to display vintage uniforms.

Commercial mannequins can be expensive and usually are several sizes too large for the dainty uniforms of old.

Dressmaker forms can work for adult uniforms, but are difficult to find in child sizes.

 

I found a fantastic, very affordable solution at…..IKEA.  Yes, the assemble-it-yourself Swedish furniture store! Who knew?

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IKEA mannequins in use at our Archives and History Program Center.

The NÄPEN mannequins are sold in IKEA’s children’s department for the budding fashionista.

They are sold in two parts: the stand and a cover. You could use the stand without a cover, but the covers give the torso more definition. The stands are light enough to take with you for programs, but heavy enough not to tip over.  Total price is $19.99.

Here are the details:

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Napen stand (402.379.15) , $14.99.

The stand is metal and plastic and the height adjusts from 30″ to 50″.

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Napen cover (503.065.26) , $5.00

The cloth and wire cover comes in either lilac or turquoise. There is no size difference.

If you don’t have an IKEA near you, consider ordering from the website. You can get an entire troop for $100.

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©2016, Ann Robertson

Sharing Girl Scout Ways

GSWay_AmbThe Nations Capital Archives & History Program Center has been open for six months now. We offer workshops to help girls earn their Girl Scout Way badges on the third Saturday and Sunday of each month. Registration is through the Council event calendar.

Girls watch “The Golden Eaglet,” learn the history of our council, and examine vintage uniforms and badges. They also do a scavenger hunt through the 1963 handbooks and try some activities from older badges.

One troop just sent me a delightful thank you note, and their leader included a few photos. Enjoy!

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Watching “The Golden Eaglet” in October 2015 (photo by Sarah Barz).

 

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Ambassador Jenn, an archives aide, watches as I model my own vest (photo by Sarah Barz).

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Sandy Alexander teaches Council history.

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Don’t forget classic songs and games! Susan Ducey teaches Strut Miss Lizzie (above).

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Trying out an old badge requirement (photo by Sarah Barz).

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Group shot! Each workshop ends with a group photo. We immediately print it out, paste it into our guest book, and each girl signs before she leaves.

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Changes at National Girl Scout Museum

My research trip to GSUSA last week was cut short by Blizzard Jonas, but I was delighted to discover some interesting changes afoot.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the National Historic Preservation Center (NHPC) is undergoing a major transformation. The museum has been emptied and a completely new exhibition is being staged.

The new exhibit is still a work in progress, but I will share a sneak peek.

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Entrance to 17th Floor Suites. (I bought a new patch with the same design.)

 

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Vintage uniform display along corridor to executive offices.

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Vintage Flash Lights Used as Pendant Lighting in Museum

 

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Novel Way to Display Badges

My only disappointment was finding out that the 11th floor cafeteria had closed. I was really looking forward to the best grilled cheese in Manhattan.

I understand that regular staff probably grew bored with the cafeteria, but it was a wonderful attraction for visiting troops and researchers. It was affordable food, conveniently located near clean restrooms and the Girl Scout Shop – three selling points for any troop leader.  As a researcher, it was nice to have someplace in the building, where I could grab a quick lunch and not lose valuable research time.

At least from a visitor’s perspective, the cafeteria was a valuable resource that I’m sad to see eliminated.

©2016 Ann Robertson

 

 

A Visit to the National Girl Scout Museum

Last Friday my Girl Scout troop took a day trip to New York City. One stop was GSUSA and the National Historic Preservation Center. None of the nine girls and two co-advisors had ever been to headquarters, so I was looking forward to showing them around.  I’m also very happy that co-advisor Sylvie Warren brought her camera and took these wonderful photos!

After a very early morning bus ride from Bethesda, Maryland, we explored Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza, then headed south on Fifth Avenue to 37th Street, the main entrance to GSUSA at 420 Fifth Avenue.

Entrance to 420 Fifth Avenue

Entrance to 420 Fifth Avenue

I had reservations for a 2 pm tour, and lunch at 1 pm in the GSUSA cafeteria on the 11th floor. There I ran into two NHPC staff members, consultant Martha Foley and Senior Archivist Yevgeniya Gribov, who would be giving our tour.

Yevgeniya Gribov and I.

Yevgeniya Gribov and I.

After lunch, we headed up to the 17th floor for the National Historic Preservation Center. Yevgeniya greeted us in the lobby (where the girls quickly spotted the large jars of GS cookies). She told us the history of NHPC and led us into the document storage room. Although we could only look, not rummage through the boxes at will, it was still a treat. I made sure the girls realized that as many times as I’d done research at NHPC, I’d never been into the secure room before!

Next, we went into the museum portion of NHPC, where I introduced the girls to Chief Strategist Pamela Cruz and Archivist Diane Russo.

Then we had time to explore the historical displays. My troop has been to the Nation’s Capital archives on several occasions, but there were plenty of items they had never seen before.

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But their favorite part was watching The Golden Eaglet, a silent promotional film made in 1918. The girls decided they should start saluting their leader, like the girls in the film.  I have no problem with that.

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Troop 2890 was here!

Troop 2890 was here!

Most of my troop is in the 11th or 12th grade and will be heading off to college soon. If nothing else, I know they understand that there is far more to Girl Scouting than just our troop. They’ve worked with other troops, been to day and resident camp, Rocked the Mall, visited Rockwood, and one even worked with pandas in China on a Destination trip. They also know about the women and girls who came before them, and how the Girl Scouting has responded to social change.

They are the newest generation in a long line of courageous, strong women, and our movement is lucky to have them.

Behind the Box: An Exhibit about More than Just Cookie Crumbs

We all know about cookie patches and profits, but what other prizes come with cookie sales?

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To earn their Museum Discovery Interest Project (an old teen badge), my troop of Seniors and Ambassadors created the new exhibit at the Nation’s Council’s main office. They decided to focus on four types of cookie awards: to girls, to adult volunteers, to councils, and to the entire Girl Scout movement.

The girls visited the council storage facility to select items from the council collection, searched their own rooms, borrowed from older and younger sisters, contacted one of the council’s top 100 sellers, and sorted through items loaned by members of the council Archives and History Committee. I loaned a few items, such as mugs from when I was a troop cookie manager in the dark ages, and the girls made thorough use of my cookie patch collection, too.

Weston Lodge at Rockwood National Center (demolished in early 1980s).

Weston Lodge at Rockwood National Center (demolished in early 1980s).

They came up with a wonderful assortment of patches and stuffed animals (naturally), but also puppets, t-shirts, dolls, mugs, and jewelry. They included a plaque of appreciation presented to Nation’s Capital by Little Brownie Bakers, as well as an old Weston Bakery box and photo of Weston Lodge from Rockwood National Center. In the early 1950s, W. Garfield Weston gave $25,000 to kick-start a $200,000 expansion program for the national camp.

Pewter-like incentives from 1999, 2000, and 2002.

Pewter-like incentives from 1999, 2000, and 2002 (eBay photo).

Installing the exhibit down at council on a Saturday, the set up team met the council’s product sales manager, who gave them an insider view on the process. They discovered that Nation’s Capital did not offer the adorable puppy hat from 2006—but decided it was too cute to leave out. They also learned that the pewter animal prizes (and every girl in the troop seemed to still have at least one) were actually not real pewter. What’s more, when they were discontinued, the girls didn’t complain—but parents did!

 

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The display will remain in the lobby of the council main office at 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW through March.

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From Savannah to Frederick, MD

Two weeks ago my family boarded am Amtrak train for a weekend trip to Savannah, Georgia.

Erin and I by the Juliette Gordon Low memorial gate.

Erin and I by the Juliette Gordon Low memorial gate.

Officially, the trip was for my daughter to tour the Savannah College of Art and Design, but I took the opportunity to make my first pilgrimage to the First Headquarters and Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, where Jami Brantley and Katherine Keena were excellent hosts.

Marian Corbin Aslakson, one of Savannah's first Girl Scouts.

Marian Corbin Aslakson, one of Savannah’s first Girl Scouts.

 

 

 

My husband, daughter and I all toured the Birthplace together, and I especially enjoyed pointing out to them Marian Corbin’s name on the early Savannah troop roster.

Part of my haul from Savannah.

Part of my haul from Savannah.

As an adult, Marian Corbin Aslakson was a vibrant and vigorous presence at the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a bonus, our guide, like many at the Birthplace, was a recent SCAD graduate who had lots of insider information for Erin.

 

 

 

I am looking forward to future talks with Jami about the programs that Historic Georgia runs at the First Headquarters, especially as many are run by Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors.  As Nation’s Capital prepares to open a history program center* in its former Field Office in Frederick, Maryland, we are looking at developing our own workshops on our rich Girl Scout history.

Of course we did a ghost tour!  Isn't this a great patch!

Of course we did a ghost tour! Isn’t this a great patch!

*Yes, you read that correctly! I’ll write more on the history program center in future posts.  Stay tuned!

 

Who’s That Girl Scout? Eleanor Putzki

You’ve seen her photo, but how much do you know about Eleanor Putzki?

Eleanor Putzki, the "Best Girl Scout in America."

Eleanor Putzki, the “Best Girl Scout in America,” wears the Golden Eagle of Merit, pinned just below her Sunflower Patrol crest. She is standing at the White House gate, after receiving her award from First Lady Edith Wilson (Harris and Ewing Collection, Library of Congress.)

Eleanor Putzki was an original member of Washington, DC, Troop 1.  Formed in late 1913, the troop met at Wilson Normal school and was led by Mrs. Giles Scott Rafter, a leader in the PTA movement and vigorous advocate of education for girls and statehood for the District of Columbia.

Eleanor was an outstanding Girl Scout, whose accomplishments were regularly mentioned in newspaper reports about the young movement. At the October 9, 1915, all-troop hike, for example, Eleanor was praised for correctly identifying 25 varieties of wildflowers. She received her Red Cross badge from none other than Juliette Gordon Low herself in January 1916. In May 1916 she was asked to “display her assortment of proficiency badges and explain what they meant” for other troops.

She had to impress an unusually well qualified board of examiners to receive those badges.  She was quizzed by Professor Wells Cook of the US Department of Agriculture and experts at the Smithsonian Institution  and Department of the Interior. Her nursing exam was administered by the head of the Visiting Nurse Association, while Fred Reed, the first Eagle Scout in Washington, assessed her mastery of the material for her pathfinder and pioneer badges.

Eleanor was awarded the Golden Eagle of Merit from Mrs. Woodrow Wilson at a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 1917.  She was the first Washingtonian to receive the award and the fifth nationwide.  The award was the highest available from 1916 to 1919 and required earning 14 proficiency badges; Eleanor earned 25.  Fewer than 50 Golden Eagles of Merit were presented before the honor was revised and renamed the Golden Eaglet.

Eleanor was named “Best Girl Scout in America” in 1918 and explained her enthusiasm for Girl Scouting to Literary Digest:

Why, no one will ever know what the Girl Scout work has done for me. Only three months ago, when I started after my badge for pathfinder, I scarcely knew the difference between northwest and southeast Washington. To win that badge I had to know all the public buildings, schools, streets, and avenues, monuments, parks, circles, playgrounds and, in fact, be qualified as a guide. Going after Girl Scout badges just woke me up. It makes you see things, and see why and to want to do things better and to help others.

At the age of 17, Eleanor was given her own troop at Webster School.  The troop grew from seven girls to 34 in just three weeks; and after two weeks’ training 18 of of the girls were rated proficient in first aid and wigwagging (semaphore).

She had ambitious plans for her troop:

Outdoor life is the best thing in the world for girls and I want to encourage every other girl all I can to get out in the open with ears open and eyes open and with lungs open. That’s why I’m going to make my troop of girls the best in the city. I’m going to have every one of them a first-class scout before I’m through.

Born on August 5, 1899, Eleanor was the daughter of Kate Stirling Putzki and the artist Paul Putzki, best known for his china paintings. Eleanor married Freeman Pulsifer Davis and moved to Indianapolis. I’ve located little information about her life in Indiana, aside from a handful of clipping that suggest she was an avid golfer.  I hope she remained an avid Girl Scout, as well.

 

We Have Access to Collective Access!!

Our new archival inventory program, Collective Access, is finally up and running!!

We actually have had a working version in place for nearly a year, but some bug in the setup blocked all images. We could inventory items, but not attach images or related PDF files. Where’s the fun in that?

Eventually, our Council’s IT consultant, after checking with the software developer, went back to square one and created a new server with a fresh version of the program. Whatever the original problem, we are in business now.

As explained in previous posts, Collective Access is an open source collections management program for museums and archives.

Let me give you a peak behind the curtain and show you how it works.

After logging in, I get my dashboard. Each user can customize their own landing page with a selection of widgets.

My Dashboard tells me who logged in recently, the latest items added, and displays a random object from our collection. Because Collective Access is web-based, multiple users can enter data from remote locations.

My dashboard tells me who logged in recently, lists the latest items added, and displays a random object from our collection. Because Collective Access is web-based, multiple users can simultaneously enter data from remote locations.

Next I can add a new item, entity, or event using the NEW menu or work on an existing record using FIND.

I select Browse by Object Titles and get a list of items in the collection.

I select Browse by Object Titles and get a list of items in the collection.

Let’s look at a handmade rug that you’d see if you could scroll down the list:

Data entry screens include fields for inventory numbers, object titles, and descriptions. Multiple dates can be used, such as date created, accepted, copyrighted, etc.

Data entry screens include fields for inventory numbers, object titles, and descriptions. Multiple dates can be used, such as date created, accepted, and copyrighted. Images are entered separately and then associated with the object through the Media and Relationship screens in the lower left.

Non-National Equipment Service items are assigned a sequential object identifier number. Each user has been assigned a specific series of numbers, such as 101-300,  so there is no duplication. (I got that tip from Sandy Garrett at Eastern Pennsylvania!)

For National Equipment Service items, we are using the GSUSA catalog number + hyphen + sequential number. That could one day make it easier to share our system with other councils, as it gives a common reference point.

For uniforms, the object title begins with the National Historic Preservation Center’s classification system. Collective Access uses “type-ahead fields” that automatically offer suggestions after typing a few letters in a field, which is a big help.

The object description came from the 1975 catalog. We've used the date field to indicate when the garment first became available.

The object description came from the 1975 catalog. We’ve used the date field to indicate when the garment first became available.

The blouse photo is a screenshot from an old catalog. Of course we will attach actual photos of garment 2-228-01, but I don’t have them handy at the moment.

This is just a brief introduction to Collective Access at Nation’s Capital.  We are just learning the software ourselves, and I will post more examples in the weeks to come.

Questions? Comments? Red flags? Let me know!