|Title||Faith Bradford, 1880-1970|
|Date||March 17, 1980|
Faith Bradford was a longtime resident in Chevy Chase, Librarian, and creator of the Doll's House now in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The profile was written by her nephew Goerge Winchester Stone, Jr. in 1980.
"Faith Bradford was a remarkably dedicated, sensitive, responsible and high-minded person. Born in Rochester, New York, September 1880, she was the fourth child of the Reverend James Henry Bradford and Ellen Jane (Knight) BradfoRoad Her father's father and grandfather were Congregational ministers whose line went directly back to Governor William Bradford, who was a leader of the colony of pilgrims from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, and who became governor of the colony in 1621 and was re-elected yearly for thirty years. Her mother, as wife of a young minister who preferred the social rather than theological side of Christianity (hence went into teaching and administering for state schools for wayward youth) sought to supplement family income by writing playlets on moral and religious subjects for use in churches. James Henry entered Tale in 1859, was Secretary of the first Glee Club there which sang as a group on trips outside of New Haven. He joined the Connecticut Volunteers in the Civil War- in the middle of his sophomore year (l86l), and became a chaplain. In 1881 he brought his family to Washington, D.C. and worked as a clerk in the Office of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior. He preached as a fill-in pastor in a number of Washington churches, and served for many years as chaplain to the D.C. (James A. Garfield) Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. Faith with the natural curiosity of the spinster member of the family did a good deal of genealogical research, never forgot but seldom mentioned the pilgrim inheritance, the protestant work-ethic, and the distinguished roots of her family in the U.S.A.
Her brother Harry Bonnel Bradford became an artist in the Etymological Division of the Department of Agriculture, and taught classes at Howard University, and Gallaudet College. Her brother Horatio Knight Bradford (close to her in-age and affection) was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, who served in the Philippines, Cuba, and other posts. He died young of endocarditic in 191l to her life-long sorrow. As children they would play of a rainy afternoon cutting demons out of paper and reciting lines from Paradise Lost, cast them down from the bed's height to the imaginary floor of hell below. Her elder sister Mary Knight Bradford married a young Washington architect George Winchester Stone. She started Faith's interest in dolls by giving her her own small collection in the late l880's. From this childhood sharing grew, over the years, the House of Peter Doll exhibited now in the Smithsonian Collection. Housed first in two large tins from her sister's wedding cake, it was brought out for display and for additions once a year in the Stone household in which Faith lived for many years as part of the family.
Except for a few months in the D.C. public schools, Faith received her formal education in a private school founded and operated by Mrs. Elizabeth J. Somers at 11th and M Streets, N.W., which later became Mt. Vernon Seminary, now Mt. Vernon Junior College. Washington was small in the late 1880's and Faith with a group of children used, of a Saturday afternoon, to gather together to listen to Frances Hodgson Burnet give readings from Little Lord Fauntleroy. Faith graduated from Mrs. Somers1 School just at the turn of the century, writing, as class poet, - "It rained, it snowed / It hailed , it thundered! / Then came the class of 1900."
In 1903 she started her training in the Washington Public Library, at 7th and Massachusetts Ave., N.W., from which she resigned in 1900 because of ill health. In 1903 she received her first appointment in the Card Division of the Library of Congress, where she spent the next forty years. In 1912 she became Head of the Division, which in 1944 became the Serial Records Division, being the first woman ever to become Chief of a division at the Library. She was a gracious and fair-minded administrator, had a fine sense of humor, but was always firm in -her opinions and generally outspoken. A great admirer of the quiet dignity and administrative qualities of Librarian Herbert Putnam, she detested the somewhat coarse Texas lingo often used by Librarian Luther Evans in staff meetings, and abominated his smoking a black cigar there. She made no secret of her feelings on these points. She lifted some of Librarian Archibald MacLeish's poems, but was luke-warm about him as an exemplary librarian. She applauded the purchase of the Vohlber collection of incunabula at a million dollars but thought the developing the National Union Catalogue was really competing with the LC card catalogue, and too expensive an addendum to it. However, she came round to seeing the vast usefulness of it. She loved the ornate renaissance architecture in the Library, knew whence every shade and piece of marble in its corridors came from, and felt proud to be a functioning part of that remarkable institution. The idiosyncrasies of many of the personnel who worked with her over so long a stretch amused her (as doubtless hers amused them) especially the Roberts brothers. One was Head of the General Reading Room, the other of the Pine Arts Division. Both lived in Baltimore, but neither would take the same train as the other coming to or going from work, for fear that a train wreck would knock out at a single blow the operations of two central divisions of America's great cultural center.
From 1908 to 1957 Faith lived with the Stone family on Cummings Lane in Chevy Chase. She rose early combing her hair by candle light, and walked a mile each morning (and back each evening) to catch the Chevy Chase Lake trolley to then "loop" at Calvert street, then changed to a New Jersey Avenue/Navy Yard car to the Library . In the long summer evenings she reconstructed what had once been a chicken house on the rear of her brother-in-law lot, surrounded it with an attractive garden, moved in book cases, had a brick chimney and fireplace built in one end, and there lived (save for the winter months) in what she called "Chickalow" (part chicken house, part bungalow), and there she entertained her friends at tea on simmer week ends. She specialized in all sorts of border plants and flowers. She grew a beautiful boxwood border at the entrance to her house from tiny souvenir cuttings purchased at Mt Vernon. They were never more than 25 apiece then. She took special pride in her Van Fleet pink roses, from which she picked over 400 choice blossoms annually, taking in a fresh bunch, in season, for her desk at the L.C., and baskets full on Memorial Day to the graves of her father and brother Ray in Arlington Cemetery. "When she left the Chevy Chase house after her brother-in-law's death, she donated two of the (by then) huge boxwoods to the grounds of the Octagon House which was the office for the American Institute of Architects.
Faith was a staunch member of the First Congregational Church at 10th and G streets from girlhood, loyal, but always intellectually critical of the sermons. She wrote long and interesting letters to some 200 correspondents, and she was chosen to write the biography of Mrs. Elizabeth Somers, the Principal of Mt Vernon Seminary, which she completed at the time of its golden jubilee in 1925. The school had in 1917 moved from 1100 M Street to 3801 Nebraska Avenue at Ward Circle. Her opening paragraph closed with, "The flintlock has given way to the machine gun, the fear of the Indian to the terror of the gangster, the iron skillet to the electric grill, the log cabin to the penthouse, but there still flows the strain of blood that discounts the struggle in the vision of accomplishment."
When the second World War ended in the middle 40's the beautiful buildings of the Seminary were sold to the Navy. They had served during the war as the Naval Intelligence Center. The sale caused a severe wrench to Faith, as she felt that an era had closed, swallowed up in the bigness of Federal government which began to baffle her. In 19l8 she retired from the Library to maintain the household on Cummings Lane for her brother-in-law, her sister Mary having died in 1946. There she brought to the full her creative energy in preparing the Doll's House, with 19 rooms and a large attic, with its family of Peter Doll and his ten children, with its furnishings all perfectly to scale of an inch to a foot. She had been collecting items for forty years (and refusing out-sized gifts of furniture), and used great ingenuity in constructing furnishings to make the house complete, as an example of the style of living of a well-to-do family in the first decade of the twentieth century. One nephew financed the building of the open-faced structure, another financed the booklet which describes it, another made the chess board in the study, and another made a small cabinet in the guest room. Family pictures hang in the various rooms, and Faith papered the rooms, made the curtains and spreads, and all the doll clothing.
She was a good looking woman, and when a girl had hair so long down her back that she could sit on it. This she constantly wore in braids circling atop her head. She preferred a plain washed face, and held no truck with cosmetics of any sort. She eschewed publicity, and would never have her picture taken, save at the last when she was showing off the house in the Smithsonian. She once appeared on the Arlene Francis Television show, demonstrating the Doll's House, noting at the time that Miss Francis would doubtless be shocked to learn that she (Faith) had never heard of her. Miss Francis was, but donated the proceeds of the show to "pay off the mortgage" Faith had taken for the construction of the house. She did listen to the radio (mostly for weather news) but would have nothing to do with television in her room.
When the house on Cummings Lane was sold, in 1957 after her brother-in-law's death she moved into an apartment at 2212 I Street, NW, from which she moved voluntarily into the Washington Home for Incurables on Upton Street. There a sign on her door read "Journey's End", yet in her voluminous correspondence at Christmas time she would place a heading on her cards "Still here!" She maintained her sense of humor and sense of irony about life to the last, damning the departure of the steady and comfortable electric street-cars, enraged that she could no longer find lisle stockings at Woody's, Landsburgh's, or Kann's, and sad about Washington architecture as it boomed in the Northwest section- "nothing but walls and windows and parking lots,", functional but deadly dull, she would say, marking the triumph of utilitarian mediocrity over art and grace. She was generally tolerant of the doings and sayings of 6thers, though if thoughts veered far from her own she just considered them idiosyncratic, and the speakers rather odd. But she protested (often in letters to the Star) about such subjects as being forced to listen to music in public places and on public transport, as an invasion of privacy.
From age 85 to 90 she experienced frequent periods of depression and loneliness, for her nephews had moved out of Washington, and friends who could call her by her first name had all died. But her spirits revived when visitors came, and she comforted herself and amused them with limericks of which she had amassed (and remembered) a goodly store.
While ambulatory at the Washington Rome for Incurables (she thought it should always carry its full name , because she maintained that death was a rather "incurable state") she rode to the Smithsonian in taxis tipping each cabbie a dime. She enjoyed talking with the drivers and generally slipped each a short typewritten prayer, of which she had composed many. She wrote, in her time, a good deal of verse for private consumption not for publication. She read Addison's Spectator Papers ( which she had in six volumes) through twice, and the Bible through three times. She enjoyed, and often quoted Kipling's poetry and prose, and Tennyson's "Idylls of the King". She possessed a good small library of 19th and 20th-century literature, books which were choice to her, and which she re-read instead of looking at television.
She cared not for the flippancy of the New Yorker, but liked Helen Hokinson's cartoons. She reed Harper's, the Atlantic Monthly and parts of the Saturday Evening Post eagerly, and at home in the evenings she would read the Washington Star, and comment vocally and with sod gusto on every headline and on some of the articles. During the Hoover administration a wave of "efficiency experts" swept through government offices. Although many such teams were headed by Herbert Do Brown, a good friend of the family, they were anathema to her, and she failed not to speak her mind to "Herbie D." about them.
She had an active imagination , and in her early days in Chevy Chase created a Thanksgiving Pageant for the Community Club, in which all took part.. Sebastian J. Mauchly (father of the inventor of the computer), then a chief scientist at the Bureau of Terrestrial Magnetism made a fine Indian (Samoset) and Dr. Robert Harper, of the National Bureau of Standards made an impressive Robinson Crusoe. How that character got into the scene with Samoset and the Pilgrims on Felicia Heman's "stern and rockbound coast" escapes one now after sixty years, but all was done in pantomime, while Miss Bradford narrated in rich theatrical tones the drift of her story. A packed community event it was- the making of costumes, the setting a stage, the walking through the parts, all ages, and all sexes, and a dance afterwards J The near suburbs had not sprawled much then (about 200 houses north and south of Chevy Chase Circle) and community affairs brought all in to participate.
Faith Bradford was in no way a woman of means, yet she helped support a cousin, who was a minor Vermont author, Beth B. Gilchrist,, and the only travelling Faith did (save for a journey to New Mexico to the death bed of her brother Ray) was to Rutland to visit cousin Beth. Once she ventured across the Chesapeake for a week at a hotel in Royal Oak (with members of the family next door), but returned the third day with some sharp remarks about the presence of a horse in the pond where swimmers were supposed to bathe, and about the swarms of mosquitoes that buzzed the whole Eastern Shore, to say nothing of through trip across the Bay, and cinder clouds sweeping in the train windows enroute from Claibourne inland. She preferred the garden at Chickalow.
Cats were her joy as pets. To the dismay of her brother-in-law she named a big one after an Elder in the Chevy Chase Presbyterian church, where he was a Deacon. Her colors were gray and lavender, and she customarily wrote only with purple ink.. She could (and did) recite well most of Lewis Carroll's jingles from Alice in Wonderland, and was seriously concerned with Rachael Carson's revelations and prophesies in her Silent Spring. For serious modern poetry she preferred Edna St0 Vincent Millay. Walt Whitman (save for "When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloomed") was at the bottom of her scale0 He had occupied the desk next her father's in the Indian Office, and (according to grandpa) kept his dirty socks in his desk drawer.
She was very emotionally and sincerely patriotic, and generally distrusted democrats. Her idols in the White House were Theodore Roosevelt,. Calvin Coolidge, and Eisenhower- two soldiers and a tight-lipped Vermonter. She sent her nephews trudging off to grade school lugging a huge picture of the "First Thanksgiving", on the day before that event, and with one of Abraham Lincoln on 12 February, and one of George Washington on 22 February each year. She thus established a "show and tell" sequence long before it became routine in elementary schools.
Her care for Peter Doll's House so absorbed her that at Christmas time she would show up at the Smithsonian with minute wreaths too hang, and at the time with a camel's hair small paintbrush would dust the 2,000 items indoors.
While in her apartment on I Street she planned to create another doll house, this one to be ultra modern, but only the shell and some of the furniture got assembled. At ninety she had outlived all of her contemporaries and wondered why she continued to endure "the ageing process". Now she lies buried on a high knoll in a graveyard in Middletown Connecticut with her ancestors."