Boxty, Fraughans and Metamorphosis Cards Were on the Menu for the Kelton House’s St. Patrick’s Day Tea

Today, the Kelton House welcomed another full house of guests for its St. Patrick’s Day tea.

Irish Sauerkraut Balls, ‘Pub’ Tea Sandwiches, Irish Frittata Bites, Soda Bread Scones, Irish Cream Chocolates, Bakewell Cheesecake, Shamrock Cupcakes, Irish Coffee Meringues, Boxty with Salmon and Sour Cream, and Fraughan Fool and Sweet Biscuit Trifle were on today’s menu. “Fraughan” is the Irish name for wild blueberries; “Boxty,” meaning “poor house bread” in Irish, is a traditional Irish potato pancake. It’s such a part of Irish culture that it has even inspired folk rhymes like this one that was printed on our menu:

“Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan,
If you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man.”

My friend Beverly, a native of Kentucky who moved to Columbus not too long ago, joined me for the tea. Her first visit to the Kelton House became even more special when she won one of the raffle prizes from the gift shop.

After tea, we moved downstairs to hear Lucy Caswell, professor emerita and founding curator of the Ohio State University Libraries’ Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, talk about cartoon images of the 19th century. 

Lucy gave us a preview of “Alternate Views: Perspectives on the American Civil War,” an exhibition that will be on display at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum from May 13 to July 12, 2012. All of the images that Lucy shared were from the collections of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, so this was a perfect advertisement for the exhibit.

Lucy began by explaining how illustrations did not appear in 18th century newspapers often because they were too expensive. An exception was the “dangling man in the printer’s case,” a generic image used to illustrate newspaper accounts of hangings. She continued by sharing an image of Benjamin Franklin’s well-known “Join, or Die” political cartoon from 1754, regarded as the first editorial cartoon.

After explaining the difference between wood engravings, lithographs, chromolithographs, and etchings, Lucy turned to the imagery of war that can be found in cartoons. Whether glorifying a culture’s leaders or portraying the enemy as an object of ridicule, these images communicate war events in memorable ways.

Lucy introduced us to Adalbert Volck, a Baltimore dentist who cartooned in support of the Confederacy during the Civil War. “Prayer in Jackson’s Camp” and other images Volck created offer a Southern perspective on Union troops. Next came a few works by David Claypool Johnston. “The House that Jeff Built” not only presents a series of sequential vignettes about slavery, but also reminds us that these cartoons were not intended to be read quickly; viewers spent time with cartoons, looking at them several times. Johnston’s most clever work that Lucy shared — in fact, it was the illustration for our ticket for today’s tea — was a metamorphosis card that presents a caricature of Jefferson Davis after the fall of Fort Sumter. Pulling the tab at the bottom makes Davis’s expression change.

To illustrate her point that the more you read a cartoon, the more you see, Lucy showed us “Moving Day in Richmond,” a Harper’s Weekly cartoon that depicts the Confederate Army’s evacuation of Richmond, and “Compromise of the South,” Thomas Nast’s opinion about what would happen if Abraham Lincoln was not re-elected. These examples also provided Lucy with the perfect opportunity to introduce us to a “double truck,” a pair of facing pages in a newspaper or magazine, where the content stretches across both pages.

Lucy ended her presentation by sharing “The Question Settled,” a color lithograph that is a caricature of three cats. A white cat labeled “Old Abe” protects a bowl of milk, while a gray one (Jefferson Davis) slinks away and a black cat, labeled “Contraband” to depict slaves, stands behind.

We took home some great souvenirs: our choice of six different bookmarks featuring images from “The Passing Show,” a weekly feature that cartoonist Billy Ireland created for The Columbus Dispatch in the early years of the 20th century.

Before I left, I did a little research to prepare for the next Kelton House tea I’ll be attending. Join me on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. for the Summer Social Tea. That day, I’ll be the featured speaker, talking about 19th century publishers’ bookbindings and sharing some terrific examples of Grace Kelton’s books.

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