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From the Desk of Our Interns: Highlights from their Semester at the Wayne Museum

Hannah Rodums, Museum Attendant, Department of Cultural and Historic Affairs; Greg Parnham, Intern; Sarah Onufer, Intern

One of the common themes we see from students who volunteer at the Wayne Museum, is their amazement at how different their interaction with history feels from their experiences in the classroom. Whether it’s investigating historic garments by hand; combing through our records in search of an obscure 19th-century celebrity; or simply assisting us with so-called “menial” tasks like boxing artifacts or writing social media posts; each presents a unique opportunity for them to explore how people in the past lived, in ways they may not have anticipated. Sometimes these interactions yield fascinating anecdotes and trivia, about historic events and figures we never knew about!

This month, we’d like to highlight the research compiled by Greg Parnham and Sarah Onufer, our interns from the past academic semester. Greg and Sarah have been joys to work with, and have each provided bodies of research with great thought and attention to detail. Below, you will find a commentary about their research, in their own words.

Greg Parnham

Greg Parnham began his semester here as a senior at William Paterson University. Below, he shares his thoughts on his research into Robert C. Moore Jr.’s political career.

When I first began my internship at the Wayne Museum, I had no idea who Robert C. Moore Jr. was, let alone his standing within the county of Passaic. The way I found out about him was through the guidance of my internship supervisor Tessa Payer, who suggested I look into his political career. Upon researching the topic, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would uncover. It turns out that for generations, the Moore family were the owners of a successful funeral business which lasted for 120 years.Robert C. Moore Sr. had begun his career as a barber at the beginning of the 20th century, nut he was often being called to cut the hair of the recently deceased. It was here that Robert C. Moore Sr. gained his exposure to the funeral industry, with him eventually becoming certified to become an undertaker. Moore’s Home for Funerals was started by Robert C. Moore Sr. in 1902.

Robert C. Moore Sr. and his wife Lillian would go on to have three sons and a daughter: Robert Jr, Evan, Harold, and Lillian, all of whom would work and live at the funeral home. While the funeral home was a great source of pride for the community of Passaic, Robert C. Moore Jr. had the goal of being able to further serve his community, on a much larger scale. On November 7th, 1945, Robert C. Moore Jr, at the time the funeral home’s director, would be appointed to the position of county freeholder. This wasn’t Mr. Moore’s first time in the political field, as at the time of his election he was also the chairman of the Board of Public Works. Over the course of his sixteen years as freeholder, Mr. Moore accomplished many things that helped to improve the lives of those who lived in Passaic County during the mid-twentieth century.

During my research, I learned a lot of things about Mr. Moore that interested me. One of the things I learned is that he took the time to sit down with the Paterson News to give his critics advice for leading a successful and happy lifestyle. The reason I gravitated towards this was that a lot of what he said sounded very practical to me. Another personal highlight for me is Robert C. Moore Jr.’s efforts to improve mental health services within the county. On May 4th, 1950, in association with the Passaic County Medical Society, Mr. Moore and the board of freeholders deemed that conditions in the present county psychiatric ward were unsuitable for those with mental illnesses as well as those with substance abuse issues. One last thing I’d like to highlight in this article is when, on February 16th, 1955, Mr. Moore decided that he no longer wanted to run for the mayorship of Paterson. This is an interesting moment in his political career solely because, based on what is published of him, he seemed like the kind of man who would make an ideal candidate for mayor—but, this is in my estimation. In retrospect, I can see why he made that decision. In addition to overseeing various aspects and projects around Passaic County, he was still the director of a large funeral home, the latter of which already likely took up a lot of his time.

Overall, I think this project was a great window into what it’s like to do local research. For over a century, the Moore family provided a valuable service to the community in the form of running a funeral home. To have the respect of Passaic County for that much time is something that should be admired. However, I think the family’s standing in the community was greatly helped by the election of Robert C. Moore Jr. to public office. With him rising to public office, we are given a sense of how much he was able to contribute to the County of Passaic during his time as freeholder. By observing this period, we get a sense of how he and his family helped to shape the county of Passaic between the years of 1945 and 1962, both socially and politically.

Sarah Onufer

Sarah Onufer began her time here as a senior at Eastern Christian High School. She will be attending Messiah University in the fall. Below, she shares her thoughts on her time inventorying the Juliette Babbitt letter collection.

Juliette Babbitt has become a well-known name at the Wayne Museum in recent months, but to most people it is just “some name”. Her name though means more to us. She represents a woman who knew presidents, opera singers, ambassadors, actors, authors, and many more during her lifetime.

My supervisors and I first learned about Juliette in March, when the museum purchased a large collection of letters addressed to Mrs. Juliette Babbitt. As we looked at all the signatures of famous people who’d written to her, we began to wonder: Who was Juliette? Despite seeming to be quite a popular figure within 19th-century society, a quick Google search yielded no information on her. Then, digging deeper, we began to find some traces of who she was. Juliette was born in Illinois in 1843. She married her husband Charles H. Babbitt in 1863, and moved to Washington D.C. later on. Washington D.C. is the main address for many of the letters. Many who held correspondence with her were in Washington D.C. at some point, which likely would have been how she met them. She also lived in an area where many foreign embassies reside. Besides this, Juliette was also very involved with the National League of American Pen Women, as she wrote articles about Washington society. She wrote for newspapers, and she also wrote some short stories that were also published.

Although we don’t know too much else about Juliette Babbitt, we do know she did have quite an intriguing list of contacts that we were able to dive into. From Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, to numerous presidents including Wilson, Taft, and Roosevelt, it was always a surprise of how many notable people she knew. In the rest of this post I will highlight some of the most interesting people we found within these letters.

Princess Agnes Salm-Salm (1844-1912) was an American socialite who married Prince Felix zu Salm-Salm of Prussia, whom she never left. During the American Civil War, Felix enlisted to fight for the Union; she refused to be parted from him, so she traveled with him. She helped nurse the wounded and would sometimes steal supplies to better take care of the soldiers. During this time, Agnes was dared by a general to kiss President Abraham Lincoln three times when he came to visit once. She did, much to the annoyance of Mary Todd Lincoln, although Mrs. Lincoln was more upset at the general than at Salm-Salm.

After the Civil War ended Agnes and her husband went to help in the Mexican Civil War. Felix was almost executed for supporting the imperial army, and had it not been for Agnes begging Mexican President Benito Juárez to spare his life, Felix would’ve died. Once he was finally released they went to Prussia. Agnes was immediately accepted into the social circles there and was quite well liked. Much like the American Civil War, during the Franco-Prussian Agnes was part of the Prussian medical staff, while Felix fought in the army., Because of this, she was awarded the Cross of Merit for Women and Girls. Unfortunately Felix died during the war, but Agnes continued to support the war effort and to raise funds for medical hospitals.

Elsie Ferguson (1883-1961), also known as the “aristocrat of the silent screen”, was an American actress. She originally starred in musicals and plays, eventually ending up on Broadway. However, she eventually turned to film after both of her Broadway employers died on the Titanic and the Lusitania respectively. Elsie often starred as a high society woman, which is where her nickname came from. She was also reported to be demanding and not the most cooperative person, which also played into her nickname. Despite this, she did very well and was extremely popular. She once helped to sell Liberty Bonds during World War I and managed to sell many within a short amount of time, raising a great deal of money.

Harriet Lane Johnston (1830-1903) was the First Lady of the United States during her uncle, James Buchanan’s, presidency. Buchanan adopted Lane and her sister after the deaths of their parents; since he never married, Harriet was appointed to serve as First Lady for her “favorite” uncle. Aged twenty-seven at the time, Harriet was one of the youngest First Ladies, but despite this she was extremely popular and an incredible hostess who was loved by the people. Later in her life she was involved in promoting social causes, such as improving the conditions of reservations many Indigenous Americans had been exiled to. Upon her death, she also left money to start a boy’s school and a children’s hospital, as well as donating her painting collection to the Smithsonian.

Lili’uokalani (1838-1917) was the last Queen regent of Hawaii. She was an accomplished songwriter and musician, as well as an author. She only reigned for a short amount of time (1891 – 1893) before her position was overthrown by American colonizers who wanted to take control of Hawaii. Lili’uokalani was forced to abdicate in 1895, and then placed under house arrest at the ‘Iolani Palace, where she remained until 1896. She dedicated the rest of her life to the Hawaiian people as she challenged the United States’ seizure of the Hawaiian Islands in court, and hoped for Hawaii to become its own sovereign nation again.

Finally, Jennie Quigley (1850-1936) was a Scottish-born American performer known for her short stature. P.T. bestowed her with the title of “the Smallest Lady in the World”, as well as “The Queen of Scotland.” Jennie toured in multiple groups as the main act, many skits being focused on her height. Most interesting of all, along with her letter to Juliette, Jennie attached one of her gloves from her wardrobe. The glove is very small, almost fit for a doll. She wrote to Juliette, “I thought I might run across a piece of one of my dresses, but have not, everything of the kind is at home, Chicago, so I will do the next best thing [and] send you one of my old gloves” for her reference.

For students interested in history, the Wayne Museum offers a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience with historical primary sources and artifacts in a museum setting. If you would like to volunteer as an intern at the Wayne Museum, please reach out to Hannah Rodums at