Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall...

Yes, this is me standing in front of piles of
stuff in my living room.  It's a work in
progress...Forgive the mess.
For the past month or so, I've been cleaning the house -- and, because I can't help it, rearranging furniture and artwork as well.

We had a small pile of artwork that didn't have a place on the walls and in my cleaning process found homes for a couple of these pieces, including an old mirror.  There was a bare patch of wall above the stairwell and I thought it would be as good a place as any for this nice mirror -- however it felt a little rattly in the frame so I made my dad help me with it as I cleaned it before hanging it up.

This is a family mirror that my mom got through her mother's family.  Mom was out of town when we hung it up and when she walked in she said, "oh, you hung up the Babbitt mirror!"  That's more or less my knowledge of this piece -- I don't know how old the mirror is, or the frame.  They both appear to be somewhat handmade.  The metal pieces that hold the mirror glass in place are not this nice, squared or rounded pieces you find on modern, store-bought frames, and the glass itself is hand cut.

When we took the backing paper off we found a piece of poster behind the mirror glass.  It had apparently been there so long that there's a sort of watermark from the poster on the back side of the mirror.  As you can see, it's some sort of advertisement.  As one who possesses an academic mind and was raised to be curious, I was intrigued -- hence the picture, so I could look it up later.  Well, later happened today.

First of all, I deduced that the lecture advertised was to happen in 1944 -- based on the fact that lecture was an apparent benefit for the American Legion Christmas Basket Fund -- since that's the only year during war time that December 5th fell on a Tuesday.  Then I went to my good friend Google.  May I just say how much I love Google?  It's awesome (and sometimes a little bit scary) how much you can find there!  However, this time it didn't turn up what I'd hoped for:  a complete poster or reference to this specific event.  I'd first thought it was a concert benefit -- she just looks like a singer, doesn't she? -- and once I figured out that the partial line below said "lecture here" I was curious what she was lecturing about.  Oh well...what I did find was possibly more fascinating.

Apparently Edith Rogers Dahl was a singer and violin player who, during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, made a personal appeal for the release of her mercenary airman husband's release when he was captured by the Nationalists and sentenced to death by firing squad.  Whitey Dahl's release was credited to his wife's efforts.  Later, scandal erupted around the pair.  Their apparent marriage was either a hoax or a legal flub, which was later revealed when he married another woman in a Catholic church without having to bother with a divorce or annulment.  This came to light in 1941, however, so either I have the year wrong or she made her rounds on the lecture circuit still using his name.  [Actually, going to back to check on other possible dates, it appears that a more likely date would have been 1939, when December 5th was also a Tuesday, but would have been less than a year before Whitey's release.]  Whitey Dahl was followed by controversial accusations that resulted in courts-marshal years later.

I won't go into the entire story here, but it's an interesting link to something you randomly find behind a mirror.  Just goes to show you what interesting stories your home and possessions can tell you if you're willing to pay attention (and do a little research), so stay curious!


  1. There's lots to be said for pursuing historic finds--even newspaper behind old mirrors! But when you were describing the mirror, my first thought was "Antiques Roadshow." <3

  2. That is so cool. I love finding old things that belonged to family members. I don't really have anything this cool, though.