Friday, August 18, 2017

Masterpiece: What Maine private's wife created in his honor

Ambrotype of 21st Maine Private Adoniram Judson Trask of Noblesboro, Maine.
A shell-encrusted parlor memorial on display at Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
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Eliza Trask
Of the 101 soldiers from tiny Nobleboro, Maine who served in the Union army, 17 died during the war. Thankful her husband was not among them, Eliza Trask created a remarkable work of art to commemorate his military service and celebrate his return. Fashioned from an old candle stand, the 50-inch-high parlor memorial is topped with a wooden pyramid encrusted with hundreds of seashells – some from Maine, others found by 21st Maine Private Adoniram Judson Trask while he served in the Deep South, probably in Louisiana. The unique artwork, known as "memory ware," also includes an ambrotype of Adoniram himself, perhaps taken in Bangor, Maine before the 29-year-old soldier's regiment departed for Washington in August 1862.

Trask's service in Company I of the 21st Maine, a nine-month regiment, was brief -- he was discharged for disability on Feb. 18, 1863. Adoniram, whose post-war claim to fame was for receiving a patent for a boot/shoe ventilator, returned to his life as a farmer in Nobleboro (pop. 1,438 in 1860). He died in 1897.

Eliza, who is believed to have made the parlor memorial between 1865 and 1870, also made room on it for images of their children and other family members. On one side of the memorial there’s a cracked ambrotype of Frank and Adoniram Trask, no older than six, with their cheeks tinted red by a long-ago photographer.  On another side of Eliza’s creation is a photograph of a couple holding two young children. And inches above the ambrotype of Adoniram is the most curious image of all: a tintype of a young woman, the plate scratched to make her almost unrecognizable. Perhaps she fell victim to mischievous children or somehow fell out of favor with the Trask family.

You can mull that yourself by checking out this beautiful folk art at Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Purchased in a Maine antiques store, it was donated in 1986 to the museum, where it’s on display in an exhibition of American art.


-- American Civil War Research Database.
-- Find A Grave.
-- Scientific American, Feb. 7, 1885.

A cracked image of the Trask children, Frank and Adoniram, their cheeks tinted red.
The parlor memorial includes images of the Trask family of Maine.
A close-up of seashells on the memorial, also known as "memory ware."
A scratched tintype of a young woman. Who did this dastardly deed?

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Private Adoniram Trask might be a distant cousin in my wife's family tree if his ancestors were from Massachussetts in the 1600's. A descent of that Trask family was a mountain man in the early 1800's who trapped beaver together with Osborne Russell, and eventually settled in Oregon. Another member of the Trask family was somehow involved in the Salem Witch Trials, I think as a member of a jury that exonerated a woman accused of being a witch. There is a great deal of history in that family.