These beautiful last days of summer are the perfect time to admire the garden at the Morris-Jumel Mansion and step inside to view a thought-provoking exhibition of textile art. Titled The Fabric of Emancipation, the juried show was produced by the mansion in partnership with Harlem Needle Arts, an organization that promotes fabric and needle arts made by artists of the African Diaspora. The works on exhibit highlight the historical and contemporary experience of blacks in the United States. In this pointedly topical piece, for example, Laura R. Gadson juxtaposes the divergent treatment of blacks and whites who attract the attention of the police.
Michael Wolf, a member of the stellar Morris-Jumel Mansion docent crew, alerted me recently to a potentially significant episode in the pre-Revolutionary history of the house. I say "potentially significant," because there may be a fly in the ointment: it is not yet clear whether the episode took place in the real world or only in someone's imagination. I hope to be able to answer that question eventually, but for the moment let me give you what information I have found.
The story begins with a calendar page on display this summer at Fraunces Tavern Museum in downtown Manhattan. On the page is a reproduction of a painting by John Ward Dunsmore (1856–1945). Its subject is said to be a reception at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, held on Thursday afternoon, September 1, 1768. The guest of honor was New Jersey governor William Franklin, who was on his way to treaty negotiations with the Six Nations at Fort Stanwix in the Mohawk Valley. (Click "Read More"—just far enough to the right below this paragraph to be difficult to spot—to continue.)