Karen Ploch, Curator

Thursday, 24 March 2022 15:14

J. Lizzie Cloud Waters

If you follow our blog closely, you may remember reading about the Snowballing painting created by J. Lizzie Cloud Waters. You can click here to read that article. I could not have imagined the good fortune that would come from writing that article! With help from Lynn Emery (HSMC member and genealogist) and Daniel Sheppard (Irish art dealer and researcher), we now have a clear picture of Lizzie's life!

On July 22, 1833, Josephine Elizabeth "Lizzie" Cloud was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Dr. Joseph Cloud Jr. and Elizabeth Roberts. Lizzie was the youngest child and had three older brothers: Oliver Evans Cloud, Joseph Cloud III, and Edwin Carroll Cloud. Her father Dr. Joseph Cloud Jr. Died on June 2, 1834, shortly before Lizzie's first birthday.


Baptisms at St. John's Episcopal Church, Norristown, December 21, 1838

Lizzie, her brothers, and their mother, were all baptized at St. John's Episcopal Church in Norristown on December 21, 1838. All of them were still living together in Norristown in 1850. Around this time, Lizzie attended the Oakland Female Institute.

On August 10, 1853, Lizzie married Dr. George Henry Waters. They resided together in Philadelphia until at least 1871, when Lizzie's mother died. After her mother's death and into the early 1880s, there are records of Lizzie traveling in Ireland and England. During her travels she published articles and illustrations in Harper's New Monthly Magazine.

The Piper

Drawing by Lizzie for her article "A Lone Woman in Ireland." Harper's Magazine, Vol. 47, 1873

Lizzie's artistic style seems similar to fellow American Artist, Howard Helmick. Furthermore, the Irish and London addresses used by Helmick during his exhibitions seem to coincide with Lizzie's travels. It seems they may have been traveling together during this time. Lizzie's paintings were exhibited in several galleries and are signed in different ways: Elizabeth Waters, Josephine Lizzie Cloud (sometimes signed Miss. or Mrs.), J. Lizzie Cloud, J. Lizzie Cloud Waters, and Mrs. J. L. Cloud.

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Snowballing, created by J. Lizzie Cloud Waters c. 1873 (left)    LeMauvais Oeil (The Evil Eye) by Howard Helmick, c. 1869 (right)

While Lizzie was in Ireland and England, Dr. Waters stayed in Philadelphia. We have not located any divorce records, but it seems they became estranged at this time. Dr. Waters committed suicide on November 12, 1891 and is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County.

By 1920, Lizzie had moved back to the United States and was living in West Grove, Chester County with her nephew Joseph E. Cloud. She died on January 21, 1922 and is buried in New London Presbyterian Church Cemetery, New London township, Chester County.

I want to thank Lynn and Daniel for their help uncovering Lizzie's story. Their kindness in sharing research with me was vital to creating this article. Thank you!







Edited by Vera Kreilkamp. RURAL IRELAND THE INSIDE STORY. McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, 2012.


Harper's New Monthly Magazine Volume 47 June to November 1873, Vol. 47. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.


"Howard Helmick (1840-1907) American, Le Mauvais Oeil (The Evil Eye) (1869)." Morgan O'driscoll.


“J. Lizzie Cloud (British, flourished 1873-1880).” Studio Antiques & Fine Art Incorporated. Lois Boyles & Richard Totoiu.



Thursday, 10 March 2022 21:24

Helen Corson Hovenden

If you live in the Plymouth Meeting area, you likely recognize the family names Corson and Hovenden. These families owned Abolition Hall, one of the many local sites connected to the Underground Railroad. It was also the studio of famous artist Thomas Hovenden. 


Thomas Hovenden, HSMC Photograph Collection

However, you may or may not be familiar with the name Helen Corson Hovenden. She was born in Whitemarsh to George and Martha (Maulsby) Corson on September 15, 1847. Helen wanted to become an artist, so she attended the School of Design in Philadelphia, now known as the Moore College of Art and Design. In 1875, she traveled to Paris to study painting at the Academie Julian. 

Helen Corson Hovenden

Helen Corson

While studying art in Paris, Helen met her future husband and fellow artist, Thomas Hovenden. They both moved back to Montgomery County in 1880 and were married on June 9, 1881. Helen and Thomas used the Corson family barn (Abolition Hall) in Plymouth Meeting as their art studio from 1881 to 1895. 

Abolition Hall

Abolition Hall, HSMC Photograph Collection

Helen was a widely respected artist in Montgomery County and Philadelphia. She was mostly known for her portraits and animal paintings. You can find her work at places like Woodmere Art Museum and the Smithsonian. HSMC even has two portraits created by Helen. 


The first one is of Dr. Louis W. Read. He was a renowned Civil War surgeon from Upper Merion.


Dr. Louis W. Read, HSMC Collection

The second portrait is of Dr. William Corson. He was Helen’s uncle.

Dr Corson

Dr. William Corson, HSMC Collection

Helen died on October 6, 1935. She and her husband are buried at Plymouth Meeting Friends Cemetery.






Helen Corson Hovenden. Woodmere Art Museum.

Montgomery County the Second Hundred Years, Edited by Jean B. Toll and Michael J. Schwager. Montgomery County Federation of Historical Societies Norristown, PA 1983

Thursday, 24 February 2022 20:24

Ward's Oysters

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Robert Knight Ward, HSMC Photo Collection

Robert Knight Ward was born near London, England on November 16, 1825. He and his parents, Lydia and William, immigrated to the United States in 1830. Robert learned about the restaurant business from his father. He married Elizabeth King (1829 – 1903) of Philadelphia on February 27, 1848. They would go on to have ten children together.

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Elizabeth King Ward, HSMC Photo Collection

Robert started his restaurant in 1848 on Swede Street, located near Lafayette Street. Roughly a year and a half later, he moved his business to DeKalb Street near Main Street. According to the directories, he moved the restaurant at least two more times after that, but stayed in Norristown.

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1882 Norristown Directory

From at least 1882 to 1888, Robert operated his business at 36 East Main Street. Located directly across from the newly constructed Montgomery County Courthouse, this was an ideal place for a business. Locals as well as visitors to Norristown were known to frequent his restaurant for his famous oysters and ale. Robert became known for his business integrity and quality food.  We even have a pin in HSMC's collection that advertises his restaurant.

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Robert operated his restaurant until his death on January 1, 1888. The restaurant appears to have continued even after his death. Elizabeth Ward was listed as its owner in the 1890 and 1891 directories. Based on the photograph of a B.T. Ward, which is undated, I would guess the restaurant continued at least into the first part of the 1900s.

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B. T. Ward outside Ward's Oyster House, HSMC Photo Collection

Robert, Elizabeth, and several of their children are buried at Historic Montgomery Cemetery in lot L - 14 -16.


Thursday, 10 February 2022 14:20

Judge Horace A. Davenport

Horace A. Davenport was born in Newberry, South Carolina on February 22, 1919. Like many Black families in the Southern United States at this time, Davenport's family was part of the Great Migration. They moved to Bridgeport when he was four years old. When he was 12, Davenport temporarily moved back to Newberry to live with his paternal grandparents. By age 14, Davenport moved to Norristown and graduated from Norristown High School in 1938.


Davenport attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC on a football scholarship. However, he was drafted to the US Army a few weeks before graduation. As an engineer during World War II, Davenport built and maintained airfields in New Caledonia. He also saw action in Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Soi Pan.

After serving in the army, Davenport completed his BA at Howard University. He went on to earn a Master of Science in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1947 and a Bachelor of Law from Penn Law School in 1950. He passed the Bar in 1951.

After being rejected for jobs because he was Black, Davenport decided to set up a private practice on Swede Street near the Montgomery County Courthouse. He handled cases in criminal and civil law. Davenport eventually served as solicitor for the Norristown Area School District, the Norristown Area School Authority, and the Central Montgomery County Vocational-Technical School. By 1971, Davenport was part of the law firm Gerber, Davenport, and Wilenzik. Davenport's primary focus at this time was school law.

Davenport 11.5.1975 1

Times Herald, November 5, 1975

By 1975, he became the first African-American judge on Montgomery County's Common Pleas Court. Judge Davenport served on the 38th Judicial District. He became a senior judge in 1989. Judge Davenport became renowned for his ability to settle cases outside the courtroom, which reduced the backlog from 4,000 to 400 cases. This cut the wait times for civil trial from two years to less than six months.

In 2001, the Montgomery County Bar Association opened its first dispute resolution center and named it after Judge Davenport. He was eventually forced to retire in 2003 when the PA State Supreme Court revised the mandatory retirement age for judges to 80 years old. Judge Davenport was 84 at this time.

davenport 161976

Times Herald, January 6, 1976

Outside the courtroom, Judge Davenport participated in many community organizations, including the La Mott Historical Society where he served as President. His wife Alice also made history when she became the first Black teacher in the Norristown Area School District in 1950. 

Judge Davenport died on March 21, 2017 at the age of 98.






Otoole, Stephen. Newly retired judge reflects on career, life,” The Reporter, January 5, 2003.

Jones, Ayana. “Horace A. Davenport, 98, Montco judge.” The Philadelphia Tribune, April 7, 2017.

Thursday, 27 January 2022 18:19

Spelling Bee

On May 21, 1954, papers throughout the Philadelphia area were buzzing about William Cashore winning the 27th National Spelling Bee. Cashore was a fourteen-year-old eighth grader from St. Helena's school in Center Square.

front page

May 21, 1954, Times Herald

The word he spelled correctly to win was transept, a noun meaning "the section forming the short arm of a church with a cross-shaped floor plan."

After the contest, Cashore was nicknamed "speller" at school. He later studied pre-med at the University of Notre Dame and attended the University of Pennsylvania for medical school. After graduation, Cashore became a neonatolgy specialist.

 spelling bee

Pictures from Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. and at St. Helena's school, May 21, 1954, Times Herald

In an article written by Time Magazine in 2016, Cashore said the Spelling Bee made him a confident public speaker. This proved useful later in his career when he was a professor emeritus at Brown University. He also developed a lifelong interest in architecture, thanks to his winning word. Today, Cashore lives in Rhode Island.

william and mrs. Joseph Cashore

William Cashore and his mom, Mrs. Joseph T. Cashore, Times Herald

The first National Spelling Bee was held in 1925. It was organized by nine newspapers with the goal of educating and inspiring children. The contest gained popularity quickly. The contest has continued every year since its start in 1925, with the exception of 1943 to1945 (due to World War II) and 2020 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). It is open to children under the age of fifteen and are not in high school. 

Thank you to our HSMC Board President, Charles Kelly, for finding this story and sharing it!

Thursday, 13 January 2022 16:31


Last week was our annual clean-up week, a time when we get our facilities prepared for the new year. During this cleaning, I uncovered a large stone marker tucked away behind some boxes. It's far too heavy to safely move it right now, but I did manage to get a few photos of it. It appears to read "18 M to P  1 M to Sp H". 

230 blog 1

Based on the design, it seems to be a milestone. The "M" most likely stands for "miles". So this sign means 18 miles to "P", which I would imagine stands for "Philadelphia". The "Sp H" probably stands for "Spring House", as that town is roughly 18 to 19 miles from Philadelphia.

230 blog 3

Milestones like this one are not unique to the United States. Other examples of road markings date back to early empires such as Rome and Byzantine, just to name a few. Markers were placed along roads connecting various cities. They were used to help travelers identify where they were and ensure they were still travelling in the right direction. Depending on the civilization, culture, and available resources, designs of these markers varied. While some were made of stone and used numbers and letters, others were made of wood and used roman numerals.

230 blog 4

We still use mile markers today, although generally they are made of metal. They are most commonly seen on major highways and are often used to report traffic incidents.

As for this particular milestone, I'm not entirely sure where it was originally placed. I would imagine the most likely location would be roughly 1 mile south of Spring House on Bethlehem Pike. If you are driving along major local roads such as Germantown and Bethlehem Pikes, you can still see some milestones that have survived to this day.

Thursday, 16 December 2021 18:21


With the official start of winter just around the corner, I wanted to share this unique painting with you today.


It's oil paint on a wooden panel. The title is Snowballing, Scene at Ecouen France. It depicts five children and a woman on a city street. The children appear to have been having a snowball fight, much to the woman's displeasure. what I find most amusing about this image is the fact the woman is unaware she is about to get hit by a snowball. Let's hope for her sake there are no icy bits in it!

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Anyway, you might be wondering why this French scene is at HSMC. According to the donor records, it was painted by a Norristown resident, J. Lizzie Cloud Waters. The records claim Lizzie's mother was the widow of Dr. Joseph Cloud. Her mother lived in the same building as Daniel Longaker's grocery store in Norristown and Lizzie was the ward of Daniel Mulvaney.

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Lizzie eventually married a Dr. Waters, but apparently it was not a happy marriage. Lizzie left to live abroad. Where Lizzie went is not specified, but given the painting is identified as Ecouen France (roughly 12.5 miles north of Paris), it's fair to say she spent at least some time in that region.

What's puzzling about this story is I have yet to come across a paper trail for Lizzie. The donor of this painting provided a good amount of information, but I have not yet found any records for her, her husband, or her mother. I don't even know her husband's first name.

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Being a ward of Daniel Mulvaney, it's certainly possible Lizzie was only in Norristown for a brief period of time. If she moved around a lot, it would be easy for the US census to miss her while she was living in Norristown. If you know anything more about Lizzie or her family, send me an email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thursday, 02 December 2021 14:46

Norristown Glass Company


We have a number of glass artifacts at HSMC, but this one is particularly unusual. It appears to be a decorative, flower-shaped funnel. I'm not sure if it's just decorative or whether it was meant to be used as a funnel. The smaller opening seems to be uneven, so perhaps it was part of a larger piece?

glass 2

There are no maker's marks or any other engraving to identify who made it. I sifted through many pages of old notes and accession records hoping to find something to identify this unique piece. Finally, after about a month or so of searching, I think I finally found a match!

glass 3

I recently uncovered some notes from an inventory done around 1970 that described a flower like glass piece made by "Albertson Glass Works of Norristown c. 1870." When I checked the Norristown directories, I did not find a company by that name, but I did find a Norristown Glass Co. owned by Amos L. Albertson.


Norristown City Directories c. 1898,

According to the Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County Pennsylvania, Amos' father, Jacob Albertson, was a local businessman most commonly known for his private banking business, J. M. Albertson and Sons. However, in 1870, Jacob decided to go beyond banking and purchased Star Glass Works. 

It does not say exactly when this business became Norristown Glass Co., but the book does identify Amos as the head of both this glass company and the Albertson Trust and Deposit Company by the 1890s at the latest.

Trust Co

The Albertson Trust Building, HSMC Photo Collection

Prior to his glass business, Amos received his education from Tremont Seminary and Westtown Boarding School (Chester County). He married Kate Longaker on September 25, 1890. She appears with him in several of the Norristown Directories.


Norristown City Directory c. 1927,

I don't know exactly how long the business prospered, but the last entry in the directories is 1927. Amos died in 1941. He and Kate are buried in the way back of Historic Montgomery Cemetery by the Hartranft monument.


Memorials in Stone

Thursday, 28 October 2021 14:13

Mrs. Smith's Pies

It's fall and that means, at least in my household, it's pie season!

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We recently acquired three pie tins for our collection. The donor, Board member and volunteer Nan Huber, recalls going to Demetris Uptown Market on the corner of 4th and Depot Street in Bridgeport with her mother to buy pies in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Two of these tins are from Pottstown's own Mrs. Smith's Pies. The company was founded by Robert P. Smith. The business started when he sold his mother Amanda's pies at the local YMCA. Robert bought a bakery in 1923 and by 1956 the company was large enough to start selling frozen pies. At the company's peak, it is estimated roughly 1,500 people were employed during "pumpkin pie season." 

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Kellogg Co. purchased Mrs. Smith's in 1976. Smucker's purchased the company in 1994 and then sold it to Flowers Industries in 1996. The company began moving its pie production from Pottstown to Oklahoma in 1998, impacting roughly 300 employees from the area. It appears some foil products are still made in Pottstown, but the majority of the building is not used. In recent years, there were a few times attempts were made to develop the empty parts of the plant, but as of 2021 not much has changed.

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Now, as for the third pie tin donated to HSMC, it may or may not be familiar to you. It is from the Wassell bakery. Located in Philadelphia, this bakery was founded in the 1920s. The bakery closed when it was sold in 1958. Since this particular tin was bought after the bakery closed, you might be thinking "why was this for sale in Bridgeport?"

I have found a few online sources indicating Mrs. Smith's Pies likely purchased Wassell's bakery, or at the very least some of their pie recipes. According to Joseph R. Liss' obituary, the Liss Bakery of Philadelphia bought the "Wassell Pie Company from Mrs. Smith's Pies" sometime while he was running his business.

Another baker, George Washington Bish of Baltimore, is said to have shared some of his recipes with Wassell. Bish's short biography on the website "Germany Marylanders" indicates these recipes were then passed on to Mrs. Smith's. 

So, although Wassell's was likely no longer in business when this tin was purchased, either Mrs. Smith's had extra Wassell tins they didn't want to waste or they wanted to use these tins for the recipes that used to be made by Wassell.






Thursday, 30 September 2021 17:19

Picture Cubes

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Picture Cubes Puzzle Toy c. 1894, HSMC Collection

We have a fair number of toys in HSMC's collection, but this one is my personal favorite. Copyrighted in 1894 by the McLoughlin Bro.'s of New York, this is a picture cube puzzle. It came to HSMC through the Francis Schlater Estate in 1961. It comes in a wooden box and contains 32 wooden blocks. Each side of every block has a piece of colored paper attached to it. When assembled, the blocks form one of six different pictures. Black and white sketches of each scene are included for the child to reference when assembling the different pictures.



Picnic Party on the Shores of a Lake

McLoughlin Brothers Incorporates was a publishing firm based in New York City. They were considered pioneers in printing children's books in color between 1858 and 1920. John McLoughlin, Jr. (1827 - 1905), learned wood engraving and printing when he worked for Elton & Co. as a teenager. This company was created by his father, John Sr., and Robert H. Elton. By 1851, John Sr. and Elton retired, handing the company over to John Jr.

Native Americans

Native American Camp

He soon began publishing picture books under his own name. John Jr.'s younger brother Edmund became a partner in 1855 and the new company was first listed in the New York City directory in 1858. They soon expanded their products to include toys and games like the one we have at HSMC.


An Elephant Ride

In 1871, the company opened a color printing factory in Brooklyn, employing at least 75 artists to experiment color printing techniques. After Edmund retired in 1885, John Jr.'s sons James and Charles joined the company. John Jr. died in 1905 and in 1920 the company was sold to Milton Bradley and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. After this sale, the production of books continued, but toys like the one at HSMC were discontinued. 


A Circus Procession

As for the picture cubes at HSMC, the donor records do not indicate how the family acquired it. Since McLoughlin Bros, Inc. printed catalogues advertising their products, I suspect it was either ordered through the McLoughlin catalog or was bought at a local toy store.


Farmyard Scene



Coach Scene




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