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Joseph Allen Skinner's name is everywhere in Western Massachusetts. Besides the museum operated now by Mount Holyoke College, there is a J.A. Skinner State Park, and the Wisteriahurst museum (the home of the Skinner family in Holyoke, Ma).
Skinner was born in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. His family was in the silk business, Joseph had been born into it. His father William had been raised in London and was trained in silk dying. He started a company, called Unquomonk Silk Company, located on the Mill river. Flooding actually destroyed the original home of the silk company, however Holyoke gave Skinner a new opportunity for his Silk company.
Joseph went into the family business, and traveled the world like most wealthy men of his age. While traveling, he found unusual items, and collected them. The Joseph A. Skinner museum has at least 10.
1. Dissected wedding cake from Skinner's own wedding in 1887. Most newlyweds keep the cake for one year. They kept their cake for more than 100 years. It's mummified.
2. Jenette is an 18th century doll passed down through the ages. She was loved very well, and now is missing arms, eyes, and legs. A little creepy, but proof of love.
3. 18th century mousetrap or la guillotine for the mice. It literally slices their heads off. Wouldn't want to put a finger in here.
4.A 19th century peep show. Actually, it's not what you are thinking. This is a zograscope. It's made of wood and glass, and was very popular in the late 1700s as a parlor game, or form of whiling away an afternoon.
5. A apothecary jar containing something made from borage from the 18th century.
"Borage was used to expel pensiveness and melancholy. It would have been used only in fresh form and the juice, which apparently smells like cucumber, was made into a syrup in order to open and cleanse wounds. The roots and leaves were also used for fever and it is said they were good at defending the heart from poisons."
LOcated on 116 just above mount holyoke college.
Call 413-538-2245 for tour information, or hours.
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