As I write, the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, which houses the KSB Miniatures Collection, is exhibiting Chartering Freedom. The traveling exhibition from the National Archives includes reproductions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—collectively known as the Charters of Freedom. I’m proud to say that two founding fathers, whose signatures you will see on those documents, are represented in the KSB Miniatures Collection. I find it fitting to feature these two pieces in February, which honors our nation’s commanders in chief.
George Washington’s Office
In one vignette called George Washington’s Office, an exact 1/12-scale replica of our first president’s desk is seen in a depiction of what his office may have looked like. As you know, I am all about re-creating family history and as a descendant of Mary Ball Washington on my father’s side, I felt this was a unique way to pay homage to my ancestors. Many full-size reproductions of that particular desk were made over the years. One copy resides in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s personal study at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York. Made from mahogany, it has a sliding writing panel, center locking drawer and pencil tray and measures six feet wide. The miniature by Julian Biggers is an amazing six inches wide.
I had a wonderful time designing this scene, which includes the 1/12-scale reproduction of the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Christopher Whitford, based on the original by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. I filled it with items I thought would be appropriate, but I have to admit, Washington would never have had a pillow like the one I placed on his chair, as the American flag was held sacred. I added it strictly for color.
The pillow and the petit point carpet, both created by the late Ruth Nalven, inspired the color scheme of the vignette. The colors and textures are carried through in the chairs and books, as well as in the George and Martha Washington fraktur and in the replica of the Revolutionary War drum, both by Therese Bahl. The replica of an early steam engine was an acquisition from W. Foster Tracy, who created the collection’s famous violin shop (displayed within an actual violin). On the table by Gerald Crawford are exact replicas of brass candlesticks which were passed down from Martha Washington to my family. They were turned by William R. Robertson. The lovely decanter set is by Ferenc Albert.
The Thomas Jefferson Room
The other scene, The Thomas Jefferson Room, is a room box created by Charles Tebelman and Jack Kuresman, both of whom have since passed away. The men, from Cincinnati, Ohio, produced many works based on history, but I do not believe this room box is related to any actual room at Monticello. It does, however, reflect Jefferson’s incredible mind. He is well known for his love of science and documentation and many have attributed him with developing gadgets and making improvements to existing inventions—such as the wine dumbwaiter, the revolving service door, a device to decipher encoded messages and even elbow macaroni. Jefferson was also a prolific writer, penning an estimated 20,000 letters in his lifetime. In fact, his study has been called the “earliest modern office” with a revolving bookstand and letter-copying machine—both upon which he is credited with improving.
I acquired this room box in 2009 when Charles was downsizing and wished to donate some of his and Jack’s work to the collection. This piece appealed to me because it looked like the kind of office that I would derive inspiration from if I were working in it. The scenery out the window is reminiscent of the hills of Virginia and the furniture is beautifully made. While I cannot identify which of the furnishings were made by the individual gentlemen, I was told the majority of the furniture was made by another Cincinnatian, Randy Himes, and that the drafting table and stool were created by Allen Thede.
I have not added or changed any of the items in this exhibit, which, frankly, is quite unusual for me. I just loved how everything they used in the room seemed to suit the person who inspired it so very well. I hope you all will take a few moments this February and envision our founding fathers and the decisions they may have made in their offices, much like the ones you are seeing here. Perhaps, you, like me, will imagine them at their desks contemplating the future of our country and envisioning its greatness.