Carving Out New Friends

Mr. and Mrs. J. Watson Webb

I realize that most of us had to stem our woodcarving budgets to almost nothing under this economy. But back in 1946, when James Watson Webb and his fantastically-named wife, Electra (which is more fun to say than Alexa) sat down in their posh residence on the North Shore of Long Island, only the most desirable location at the time, trees were plenty, and money was no object.

JW was no commoner, no basic blogger like you or I. Nay, he was born into greatness. His mother was a Vanderbilt, his grandfather an ambassador to Brazil under Lincoln. So he did things neither you nor I could do: graduate from Yale, found a brokerage firm, play on the American polo team, serve in the House of Representatives. Do you feel like a loser yet?

Electra herself was the daughter of a sugar tycoon, and she spent her days on buying sprees, snatching up bits of Americana and brilliant craftsmanship (like those above) to add to her collections. Everything from paintings to quilts to New England furniture. At the tender age of 18, she bought a wooden cigar store Indian for $25 and named it Mary O’Connor after one of her favorite family servants. What others at the time would have called tobacco store junk was art in the eyes of Electra.

The year after the above shot was taken, she established the Shelburne Museum, a home for her treasures, and became a pioneer in preserving remnants of early Americana. It houses the SS Ticonderoga, a passenger steamship, an 1890s rail car, a light house, and various sleighs and carriages. Aren’t the grounds lovely? They even have an apothecary shop!

shelburnemuseum. org

Mary O’Connor eventually wound up on the other side of the country, in the California home of her son, J. Watson Webb, Jr. As he had no children of his own, one wonders where Mary is now. The museum?

Mary O’Connor herself

19 thoughts on “Carving Out New Friends”

  1. Have you been to Shelburne Museum? My husband and I visited in 2001 and loved it. It was a full day excursion and we still barely scratched the surface of all of Electra’s bonkers collections. Sleighs, toy circuses, Shaker planes, horseshoe barns … there is nothing she would not collect.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well I have never been to Texas. We had actually been talking about road tripping around Texas and New Mexico before the pandemic thwarted all of our travel plans. I think visiting Texas would be like exploring a whole country because it is so vast and diverse.

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      2. Well, do it before another unvetted million people pour over because it’s getting crazy. 😉 Aside from that, we’re always happy to welcome folks to the Lone Star State! There is plenty of kindness to go around.

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      1. You know I would never do that. Fortunately, I only drive a few miles per week. I sure do miss that dollar 49 gas in January. I don’t think I would ever get a Tesla, although I know they appeal to Young Folks. I will probably Live and Die in a sensible sedan. How about you?

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