Collecting Controversial Subject Matter: Lewes & Dr. Earl Bradley

I am Rachel Coats, the 2011 Public History intern at the Lewes Historical Society.  I will be writing several blog posts this summer, and my first topic discusses why museums collect and display artifacts that may cause controversy.  Many people do not like to be reminded about sensitive topics from the past because it makes them uncomfortable.  However, history should reveal the past to the public, whether it is good or bad.  An example of a controversial topic is the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Some museums have displayed limited historical information on certain topics due to controversy and to society’s reactions.  From 1995-1998, the Enola Gay Exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum had a very cautious approach because of the criticism of the cancellation of the Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II.  This exhibit was going to present the decision to drop the bomb and Japan surrendering, but there were too many complaints on the topic.  Therefore, the Enola Gay exhibit did not have a lot of historical information.  Exhibit writer-editor David Romanowski said that it would evoke a lot of emotions and memories, but an artifact with that importance cannot be ignored.  I agree that something with so much significance should not have hindered information.  The Last Act exhibit should not have been cancelled in my opinion because its content would have contained so much history.  It is wrong to not discuss or to not exhibit something because of its content, especially if it involves life-changing history.

Dr. Earl Bradley. Courtesy of

In Lewes’s case, Delaware pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley was charged with serial molestation of 103 children.  This case shocked those in Lewes and Milford, where he closed an office in 2005 after police investigated him.  The earliest video recordings date back to 1998, which is unbelievable for residents in Sussex County because the horrific acts were occurring for at least twelve years without anyone knowing.  There has not been a case in the Lewes area that has been horribly un-thinkable as this one.  Dr. Bradley will not be forgotten anytime soon in the Lewes community.

For historians or anyone who has a museum-related career, collecting items is a large part of keeping history alive.  The Lewes Historical Society has the original drawing by Abraxas Hudson of Dr. Bradley in court, which was shown in the Cape Gazette.  The drawing was collected so that hundreds of years from now, people will come across the item and can understand the story behind it.  Many people want to forget about what happened, but museums collect items so that the history behind it will always be remembered.  Regardless of how terrible a person, story, or situation may be, historical facts cannot be avoided.

. Graphite on paper. Abraxas Hudson, 2010. Gift of the Artist, 2010.35 © Abraxas Hudson”]Whether a controversial item is in storage or is on display, it is under special care so that people will learn from the past.  In 2011, no one in Sussex County has forgotten about Dr. Bradley, but 100 years from now he could easily be forgotten if museums like The Lewes Historical Society did not keep items related to him.  If the history is passed on, people are aware of the un-thinkable crimes that can occur right under their noses; which can cause parents to be more cautious about who is around their children rather than automatically trusting them because of their status or job.  Something that is difficult to discuss should not be avoided, or else the importance of the story will be lost.  Families in the Lewes area should not forget about the Bradley case so that something like this will not happen again.  The case was so horrific that it garnered national attention.

For many families, the case of Dr. Bradley was life changing.  Even those who were not personally affected by Dr. Bradley could not fathom that something so awful occurred in their community.  Historical societies or museums hold onto collections that have a controversial history so that others can learn from it.  As long as an exhibit is not opinionated, society has the right to all details of history as long as it is not confidential.  Joshua Dudley, Senior Designer for Ralph Appelbaum Associates,  believes that the text in an exhibit should not have subtle points and should not avoid uncomfortable facts or ideas.  If museums did not exhibit controversial topics, so much of vital history would be erased from people’s minds.  One reason that historical facts have so much importance is so that others can be educated on its historical background.

It will make them understand other people’s mistakes and will keep them from happening again, such as the case of Dr. Earl Bradley.


Stan Musial & Lewes

St. Louis Cardinal great and Baseball Hall-0f-Famer Stan Musial was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama yesterday.  You may wonder what this has to do with Lewes history or our collections.

Stan Musial autograph to Bill Clifton, undated. Gift of Trenny M. Elliott in Memory of Dr. James E. Marvil, 2003.4.1

In addition to items about Lewes, we also keep mementoes kept or collected by Lewestowners and a special one in our collection is a napkin autographed by Stan Musial that reads “To Bill Clifton Best Wishes, Stan Musial.”

While we unfortunately don’t know when the autograph was made out to Mr. Clifton, we can make some educated guesses.  First, we do know that Bill Clifton was a big baseball fan and played on Lewes’s amateur team for several years.  He is seated front and center in a c. 1932 Lewes community baseball team picture in our collections and which has been run in the Cape Gazette‘s “Cape Region History in Photographs” section.  Clifton possibly collected the signature at the ball park (perhaps when St. Louis was in town playing the Phillies) or at another chance encounter.

A second theory posits that Musial may have been in Lewes during a roadtrip that included Philadelphia.  While Lewes was a 120+ mile one way journey for ball players, it would make a pleasant day trip (especially on an off day) for fishing, beach going or, as was popular with several major-leaguers, a trip to the old town for some fresh fish at the Anglers’ Club or the great spaghetti and meatballs at Lou Ianire’s Restaurant and Lounge, where Phillies’ greats Richie Ashburn and Chris Short (a Lewes High School graduate) were known to frequent.  That the autograph was given on the back of a napkin, to some, lends credence to this theory.  While it is exciting to think Stan “The Man” pulled up to the bar at Lou Ianire’s, we alas have no definitive accounts of his being in Lewes.

Stan Musial, according to, “After 22 years as a Cardinal…ranked at or near the top of baseball’s all-time lists in almost every batting category. The dead-armed Class C pitcher was transformed into a slugging outfielder who topped the .300 mark 17 times and won seven National League batting titles with his famed corkscrew stance and ringing line drives. A three-time MVP, he played in 24 All-Star games. He was nicknamed The Man by Dodgers fans for the havoc he wrought at Ebbets Field and was but one home run shy of capturing the National League Triple Crown in 1948.”

Bill Clifton, meanwhile, operated a successful newsstand in Lewes on Second Street between Savannah Road and Neils Alley in what is now the Society’s Old Doctor’s Office museum until the a devastating fire struck the downtown business district December 31, 1970.

More information about Lou Ianire’s Restaurant can be found in The Journal of The Lewes Historical Society Vol. VI, “Fine Dining in Lewes, pp. 12-13, by Ruth Mankin.

A clip of Musial receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Obama is included below.

Mr. ZIP – Welcome to 19958

Mr. ZIP, who stood in the lobby of the Lewes Post Office in the 1960s reminding residents to use their ZIP code. Gift of the Lewes Post Office, 2011.5.1.

90210 may have a catchier ring to it thanks to the hit 1990s TV series, but Lewes’s 19958 ZIP Code has its own story to share.  It is characterized (literally and figuratively) by Mr. ZIP, a creation of the Lewes Post Office to encourage the use of ZIP Codes to help with the efficient sorting and transit of mail.  We’d like to thank Linda DeAngelis, Postmaster of the Lewes Post Office for donating to the piece to the Society.  Additional information about postal history in Delaware can be found in the 1938 publication “A Postal History of Delaware,” by Harvey Corchran Bounds and, for a more detailed history of Lewes’s Post Office, in “Venerable Lewistown Post Office,” by H. Edward Maull, Jr., in Volume XI (2008) of The Journal of The Lewes Historical Society.

We posted a picture at our Facebook page a few days ago and received some nice feedback about Mr. ZIP.  Andy Shaw, who grew up in Lewes, remembered Mr. ZIP standing guard in the post office lobby, reminding Lewestowners to add 19958 to all their mailings. At this point in time, we do not know who created Mr. ZIP; if any one has information about this or memories of Mr. ZIP, please let us know by emailing info [at] historiclewes . org.

The institutionalization of ZIP Codes has an interesting history.  The information below is from and is a nice summary of how our ZIP codes came to be.

The social correspondence of the earlier century gave way, gradually at first, and then explosively, to business mail. By 1963, business mail constituted 80 percent of the total volume. The single greatest impetus in this great outpouring of business mail was the computer, which brought centralization of accounts and a growing mass of utility bills and payments, bank deposits and receipts, advertisements, magazines, insurance premiums, credit card transactions, department store and mortgage billings, and payments, dividends, and Social Security checks traveling through the mail.

In June 1962, the Presidentially appointed Advisory Board of the Post Office Department, after a study of its overall mechanization problems, made several primary recommendations. One was that the Department give priority to the development of a coding system, an idea that had been under consideration in the Department for a decade or more.

Over the years, a number of potential coding programs had been examined and discarded. Finally, in 1963, the Department selected a system advanced by department officials, and, on April 30, 1963, Postmaster General John A. Gronouski announced that the ZIP Code would begin on July 1, 1963.

Preparing for the new system was a major task involving realignment of the mail system. The Post Office had recognized some years back that new avenues of transportation would open to the Department and began to establish focal points for air, highway, and rail transportation. Called the Metro System, these transportation centers were set up around 85 of the country’s larger cities to deflect mail from congested, heavily traveled city streets. The Metro concept was expanded and eventually became the core of 552 sectional centers, each serving between 40 and 150 surrounding post offices.

Once these sectional centers were delineated, the next step in establishing the ZIP Code was to assign codes to the centers and the postal addresses they served. The existence of postal zones in the larger cities, set in motion in 1943, helped to some extent, but, in cases where the old zones failed to fit within the delivery areas, new numbers had to be assigned.

By July 1963, a five-digit code had been assigned to every address throughout the country. The first digit designated a broad geographical area of the United States, ranging from zero for the Northeast to nine for the far West. This was followed by two digits that more closely pinpointed population concentrations and those sectional centers accessible to common transportation networks. The final two digits designated small post offices or postal zones in larger zoned cities.

ZIP Code began on July 1, 1963, as scheduled. Use of the new code was not mandatory at first for anyone, but, in 1967, the Post Office required mailers of second- and third-class bulk mail to presort by ZIP Code.

New Year’s Eve, Lewes Style

Ticket for a c. 1975 New Year's Eve party at the Happy Day Club in Lewes.

One of the most important spots in town for Lewes’s black community was the Happy Day Club, a hopping night spot that attracted big name entertainment to Lewes – including Duke Ellington – during its heyday of the 1940s & 50s.

Previously known as Robinson’s Coliseum or Robinson’s Hall, the Happy Day Club was located at the corner of Fourth and Dupont Streets.  Acts would play throughout the night with whites attending in the second floor balcony.  Music would play throughout the night with the club honoring the letter of the law by stopping the music at midnight – but resuming at 12:01 am.

The Happy Day Club surely sponsored several New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the years.  This undated ticket , pictured at left, was part of materials recently acquired from the estate of Franklin J. Brittingham (2010.2.13).  Based on the disco music being advertised, our guess is that it dates from the mid-1970s when the club was owned and managed by Archie and Marshall Lockwood.

Best wishes for happy and prosperous 2011 from your friends at The Lewes Historical Society!

Two Early Lewes Portraits Travel to the Smithsonian

Smithsonian National Portait Gallery curators and conservators examine portaits of James and Susan Moore from the Collections of The Lewes Historical Society in Washington, DC on December 16, 2010.

Perhaps my favorite part of serving as Executive Director of the Society is working with and acquiring our collections.  Lewes has such a diverse history and our collections are so varied and have arrived here in so many different ways that it is always exciting when someone calls or stops in with material we may be interested in.  This past summer was no different when the phone rang on a hot August afternoon.

Lewes resident Michael Hershey contacted the Society and informed us he was leaving Lewes and asked if we would be interested in two portraits his father purchased at auction in New York in the 1960s.  We asked if he could bring them to our office and were we in for a special surprise!

Dr. Ellen Miles, right, examines the portraits with conservators from the National Portrait Gallery.

The portraits are dated 1789 and are of Susan Moore and her son, James Moore.  Each are pastel on paper and measure approximately 10″ x 18.5″ and are oval in shape, typical for the period.  On the reverse they are attributed to a “Mr. (or M.R.) Town, an artist who does not appear in inventories nor in the Catalog of American Portraits.

Fortunately, the paintings did contain some information on the reverse.  From James:

“James Moore of Lewes, Del.
June 1789 aged 22
Painted by [Mr.?] Town”
born 1764 died 1820

Mary S. Moore bequeths this portrait of her
father to her cousin Mary Ellis

And from the reverse of Susan’s:

Susan Moore, Lewes
born [blank] died 1821
aged 82 or 84
Mary S. [T.?] Moore bequeths this
portrait of her grandmother
to her cousin [illegible] Ellis

Some initial research has yielded little about the pair but we do know that Moore was not a common surname in Lewes during the period.  A James Moore – who was listed as aged 22 at the time the portrait was painted – is listed as a member of a volunteer militia company at Lewes during the War of 1812 and is listed in probate records as the son of David Moore.  Hopefully, David Moore’s will will shed light further light on the family and possibly could possibly confirm that this is the same James Moore by listing Susan as David’s wife.

Seemingly having reached an impasse, we contacted Dr. Ellen Miles of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, DC, where former Society Trustee and benefactor Robert Gordon Stewart had worked as Senior Curator for the greater part of his career.  Dr. Miles invited the Society to bring the portraits to DC for closer inspection.  I visited with Dr. Miles and other staff at the NPG on December 16 and was treated to some great insights about our paintings.

The portraits themselves are remarkably different.  Susan’s portrait is very finished and is clearly done by a very skilled hand.  Her dress, hair and posture are very English, leading the Smithsonian staff to wonder whether or not they may had been painted in England.  Other period pastel portraits in the Mid-Atlantic do not exhibit the same refined features as the portrait of Susan Moore.  James Moore’s portrait is not as fine; the propotion of his head to body is awkward and the placement on the paper is too low.  Details in the dress and face are incomplete.  The discrepancy in quality is a true mystery.

Close examination of the portraits revealed need for conservation of both the portraits themselves and their frames. Given their age and history, they are in remarkably good condition.

Conservation work is needed; the frames need to be filled in and the painting touched up.  It appears that there are some small holes on Susan’s portrait and some tears that were previously mended on James’s.  In both cases, it appears the paper may have bonded in spots to the glass; the glass covering Susan’s portrait appears to be original or, in any case, late 18th or early 19th century glass.  The portrait of Susan Moore is in remarkable shape and the pastels are in excellent condition considering their age.  The curators and conservators at the NPG agreed with our assessment that the Society has acquired two treasurers that not only allow us to look at the faces of 18th century Lewestowners but are wonderful examples of 18th century portraiture.  In fact, the portraits became the oldest in our collection of known Lewes residents.

The portraits are the Gift of Michael Hershey in Memory Abigail Rickert Hershey and are part of Society accession 2010.26.  As we continue to delve into who James and Susan Moore were and the identity of a possible artist, we will keep you informed!

Happy Holidays!

Michael DiPaolo, 21 December 2010

Conservation Efforts on the c. 1793 Dressing Screen

This year is going by in a flash!  Things at the Society are slowing down a bit, giving more time for fun projects that will preserve the objects and history of Lewes’s past.

If you have been on a tour of our historic complex in recent years you may recall a lacquer dressing screen located in the corner of the dining room of the Burton-Ingram House.

This piece is believed to be from the Mustard family who were engaged in the China trade and is dated c. 1793.  Dressing screens were traditionally used to provide privacy when changing garments and they soon became fashionable home décor.  The screen is made up of two lacquered wooden panels.  The front panels feature intricately carved mother of pearl/bone inlay in a bird and cherry blossom tree motif framed by a red lacquer border with hand painted chrysanthemums; the backs are gorgeously hand painted in a design featuring birds and various types of flowers.  The two floating panels are framed in hand carved wood also featuring the bird and flower motif that runs throughout the screen as a whole.

As beautiful as the piece is; it is in dire need of restoration which is where I come in.  I’m Cassandra Carr and many of you may know me as our  Executive Director’s , Michael DiPaolo, assistant in the office of The Lewes Historical Society.  You may not know that I would love to go to graduate school for art conservation.  Mike and the Society Board were kind enough to see my desire to prepare for a future as an Art Conservator and granted me the task of restoring the screen to its original beauty.

Since this is my first project, I will be working under the supervision of Gene Boemer.  You may remember this name from previous blog posts as he was the genius behind the restoration of Delaware Breakwater Quarantine Station Oyster Shell Painting.  Gene has also restored several paintings in the Society’s collection.

Over the summer months Gene and I have met periodically to discuss the project and the phases that will be needed to reach our goal.  A short version the restoration process is below:

•    Document the object in its current condition (photographs and thorough descriptions)
•    Meet with Gene to discuss and test proper cleaning materials that will not further harm the condition of the screen.
•    Clean both sides of the screen including the wooden frame.
•    Discuss the missing pieces and come to a conclusion as to what those missing pieces were, come up with a plan to replicate these pieces to as close to their originals as possible
•    Carve replacement pieces
•    Apply replacement pieces
•    Repair cracks in lacquer
•    Repair areas damaged by glue drippings from, presumably, a failed repair attempt.
•    Final phases to be determined

Here are a few pictures showing close ups of the screen taken during the restoration process.

Lacquer Screen on display at the Burton-Ingram House, prior to the undertaking of conservation work.

Floral detail of c. 1793 lacquer dressing screen during conservation observation.

Detail of bird's wing from c. 1793 lacquer dressing screen during conservation observation.

As you can see there are many pieces of mother of pearl/bone missing.  One of the trickiest parts of this process will be to recreate these pieces and to replace them, to bring back the screen as close to its original condition as possible.
At the moment the initial documentation phase is complete.  Gene and I have met, discussed and tested cleaning materials.  I will begin cleaning the screen this week.  The cleaning process will be quite tedious as it will be done using q-tips!  But luckily I have a ton of patience, so this is right up my alley.
I will be working on the second floor of the Ryves Holt House, feel free to stop by.  If I am in, I would be more than happy to give you an up close look at what I am doing.

Stay tuned for some before and after pictures during the cleaning process!

Trepanation Trepidation at the Old Doctor’s Office

By Deryn Cro, 2010 LHS Summer Intern

While this blog entry was originally supposed to examine the history of the cranial drill, and it will, I have come across something far more remarkable and-well let’s face it-interesting. I am of course talking about voluntary trepanation! Trepanation is the procedure in which a hole is drilled into a person’s skull for medical reasons. Voluntary trepanation is when someone drills a hole themselves for the purpose of gaining a higher state of being. Now before we delve any deeper let me just say that a.) I do not condone the following b.) please do not try this at home!

Trepanation is nothing new; it was commonly performed during the Middle Ages to help demons escape from one’s head. It was also done to get rid of headaches (ironic, I know), reduce swelling in the brain and seizures. Civilizations (through out) history found that trepanation could be used in a myriad of ways; it is thought to be one of the oldest surgical procedures in the world. There seems to be a high rate of survival and a low risk of infection; of eight skulls found in Germany from the 6th century seven showed signs of healing.

The Lewes Historical Society's cranial drill.

The cranial drill at The Lewes Historical Society is from the 19th century and was made at the dawn of modern surgery. The company Kny-Scheerer produced the cranial drill housed at the historical society as well as many other surgical instruments. Kny-Scheerer was a German company based in New York City, where they also produced the majority of their products The drill dates between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, this is determined by the crowned snake coil around the scepter that is branded onto the drill. This symbol was used by Kny-Scheerer until World War I. The company also produced many of the medical supplies used by the United States during World War I. The 19th and 20th century were marked by many medical advancements, such as the cranial drill, that proved beneficial to surgeons of the time. Just as anesthesia allowed for more precise amputations, the development of anesthesia and antiseptic also let surgeons perform longer more intricate brain surgeries. During this time Hughling Jackson discovered specific functions in the cerebral cortex from examining seizure patients. In 1884 Dr. Rickman Godlee performed the first modern brain surgery when he removed a brain tumor. The era of believing that demons were the cause of mental disorders had past and medicine was making major steps forward.

In 1964 Dutch librarian Burt Hughes published “The Mechanism of Brainbloodvolume” He argued that drilling into the skull would bring a higher state of consciousness similar to that of a child. The idea is that since a child’s brain is not fully developed there is room for the brain to breathe, but as one grows older the brain enlarges and the skull hardens and due to gravity blood drops from the brain cavity. So clearly the only way to reverse this is to drill a hole into the skull and give the brain enough room to absorb more oxygen. And you thought I was exaggerating when I said this was crazy. Considering Hughes came up with this theory during the 1960s there were of course people who were all too happy to go along with him. This even included John Lennon, he prescribed to Hughes’s theory but Hughes believed that trepanning Lennon would be redundant. He thought that 10 percent of the population’s intracranial seams do not harden and these people have natural openings which would make trepanation unnecessary. However for the rest of the population trepanation could prove to be greatly beneficial.

Trepanation even became a political issue when Amanda Feilding ran for the British Parliament in 1978. She was a fan of Hughes and even had her husband film her as she performed a trepanation on herself. The home movie has since been lost but parts can be seen in the documentary Hole in the Head; yeah, they actually made a documentary on voluntary trepanation and, yes, it is disgusting.

For those of you who wish to learn more about voluntary trepanation the two videos below will demonstrate far more clearly than I can the psychotic lengths people will go to for the all ultimate health remedy. Also as you watch be thankful that you do not feel the need to look like something out of a Star Trek episode.