Rhys Glennon ’22 (Winter 2021)
This object is a memorial, commemorating five members of the Hinman family who lived in New Haven, Vermont through the middle of the 19th century.
Labeled as “Our Grandmother” in the memorial, Catharine Haight was born Keturah Baker in 1738. She married William Robblee of Lanesborough, MA. around 1755 and had at least 12 children, before many of them eventually moved north to New Haven, Vermont; after Robblee’s death, Catharine remarried, wedding Stephen Haight around the turn of the 19th century.
Catharine’s youngest daughter, Sarah Rublee, married John Hinman in 1799, and had seven children, including John Hinman Jr. and Erastus Hinman. Erastus married Caroline Newkirk in 1851.
All five individuals represented in this memorial—Catharine Haight, John Hinman, Sarah Hinman, John Hinman Jr, and Caroline Hinman—died within 20 years of one another, from 1835 to 1855. The memorial consists of five squares of paper, on which are written the name of the deceased, their date and age of death, and a small illustrated card onto which has been tied a lock of the person’s hair. This could imply that this memorial was created gradually, with the hair and cards being compiled when each individual died, to be collected in this memorial at a later time. It seems likely that this might have once been part of a larger album or scrapbook, from which it has been separated and framed.
Unlike the complex techniques of hairwork apparent in other works, here the loved one’s hair is merely looped several times and tied to the backing card with string or ribbon. This choice prominently displays the hair in its natural state without requiring the skill or time of gimpwork or tablework. Of note also is the length of the hair attributed to John Hinman and John Hinman Jr—nearly a foot long, unusual for men of the time.
The five white cards are what is known as calling cards or visiting cards. Mass-produced in the 19th century, these cards would be used as a reminder of social visits paid to another’s house and would usually be signed or personalized in some way. Unlike many extant calling cards, the cards in this piece show no signs of being written on, indicating that they may have been purchased for this memorial, or else purchased but never used for their original intent. The slogans adorning the cards do not refer specifically to grief or mourning but more generally to remembrance and friendship, perhaps indicating an optimistic turn in the outlook of this particular memorial.
No information could be found regarding the engraved image in the top left of the piece—it seems to depict three individuals grieving before two graves, while two angels, perhaps their parents, ascend above them.
Along with the images and strands of hair, the memorial also contains five small clippings of verses, from poems or hymns. One is the final stanza from Psalm 15 as adapted by the English hymnist Isaac Watts. Two are verses from the same hymn, an obscure text titled “A Brother is Dead” in most appearances. One is the final stanza from an 1845 poem by Anna Cora Mowatt, “Oh Wear For Me No Sable Hue.” The only extant record of the last piece is from “The Sailor’s Magazine and Naval Journal” of 1847, which states “The following lines, written for the occasion, were sung at the funeral” of four sailors who died in a storm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
Though it is possible that these verses were clipped from the periodicals or hymnals described above, it is also likely that some or all of these stanzas would have been commonly used and reprinted as epitaphs without attribution. Of particular interest is the final line of “Oh, Wear For Me No Sable Hue,” which originally appeared in Columbian Magazine with “she” pronouns in the final line. This poem seems to have been often plagiarized or misattributed, with the pronouns frequently changed to “he” to suit the deceased. It appears that in the Hinman family memorial, the pronouns were originally “he,” but “she” has been carefully pasted over in all three instances. This clipping currently appears between the names of John Hinman and John Hinman Jr, but the deliberate and careful change in pronouns may imply that the poem was originally located closer to Sarah or Caroline Hinman, and was later dislodged or relocated on the work.
Given the inscription of “Our Grandmother” above Catharine Haight, as well as the use of the hymn text “A Brother is Dead” to refer to John Hinman Jr, it is likely that this memorial was created by three of the four surviving Hinman siblings: Ardelia Hinman Cook, Erasmus “Eli” Hinman, and Laura Catharine Hinman. According to the 1850 census, these three siblings (and their brother John) lived under the same roof in New Haven, Vermont, suggesting a close-knit family whose proximity in life echoed the lasting closeness evoked by this memorial collage.
– Rhys Glennon, Class of 2022
Cite this essay: Rhys Glennon, “Haight-Hinman Family Memorial” in Perspectives on Hairwork, ed. Ellery Foutch (Winter 2021): https://elleryfoutch.middcreate.net/hairwork/haight-hinman-family-memorial/ [date accessed]
“Caroline Newkirk Hinman (1812-1854).” Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/130699973/caroline-hinman.
H, Christine. “Time Is on the Wing – Birds in Advertising – Part 2.” The Daily Postcard, 5 Nov. 2012, http://postcardparadise.blogspot.com/2012/11/time-is-on-wing-birds-in-advertising.html.
“Hark, What Is That Note So Mournful and Slow.” Hymnary.Org, https://hymnary.org/text/hark_what_is_that_note_so_mournful_and_s.
“John Hinman (1773-1850).” Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/116841292/john-hinman.
“John Hinman (1800-1855).” Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/130697897/john-hinman.
“Keturah ‘Catharine’ Baker Rublee Haight.” Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/94800006/keturah-haight.
Mowatt, Anna Cora. “Oh, Wear For Me No Sable Hue.” The Columbian Magazine, vol. III, July 1845, p. 10.
Raison, L. W. Light of the Soul, Broadway Publishing Company, 1913, p. 87.
“The Sailor’s Last Prayer.” The Sailor’s Magazine and Naval Journal, vol. XIX, Aug. 1847, pp. 167–68.
“Sarah Rublee Hinman (1777-1845).” Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/116841518/sarah-hinman.
“Short Poetry Collection 201.” LibriVox, https://librivox.org/short-poetry-collection-201-by-various/.
“Tune: DUNDEE (Ravenscroft).” Hymnary.Org, https://hymnary.org/tune/dundee_ravenscroft.
“Tune: ROCKINGHAM (Mason).” Hymnary.Org, https://hymnary.org/tune/rockingham_mason.
“Tune: WAREHAM (Knapp).” Hymnary.Org, https://hymnary.org/tune/wareham_knapp.
United States Census, 1850; New Haven, VT. 1850, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DZ8Q-XQP?i=31&cc=1401638&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMC2W-XDX.
“Who Shall Ascend Thy Heavenly Place.” Hymnary.Org, https://hymnary.org/text/who_shall_ascend_thy_heavenly_place.