Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


North side of the public square, c. 1860

East side of the public square, c. 1860

South side of the public square , c. 1860

West side of the public square, c. 1860

This is the story of antebellum Springfield, told by the physical remnants of a world now long since disappeared. The art, archaeology, architecture, and decorative arts objects found in this exhibition were all made, bought, or used in Springfield before the Civil War. They are time travelers from that long-ago world; silent witnesses to a bygone era.
These objects have stories to tell of the world they left behind.
Dinner plates made in England tell the story of the growing market economy, in which ever-expanding canals, roads, and railroads took produce to market and in return brought goods from down the river or across the ocean.
The formal self-portrait of a wagonmaker’s son tells the story of a fluid society in which people used goods to fashion and re-fashion their identities in pursuit of their aspirations.
The evolution of a two-room log cabin to a 22-room mansion tells the story of a young nation’s optimistic belief that anyone could rise to better circumstances with hard work and perseverance.
A society leader’s French porcelain tells the story of the growing middle class of merchants and lawyers and doctors and bankers, who looked to the East Coast and to Europe for their fashions and in turn set the standard for fashion in Springfield.
There are remnants of the past all around us. They sit hidden in plain sight, often unnoticed, yet ready to reveal their secrets. Come listen to what they have to say.




Decorative Arts