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History Bytes

History Bytes: Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Newporters have exchanged Valentine’s cards for years as evidenced by the many 19th and 20th century cards in the Newport Historical Society’s collection. One notable feature of select cards in the collection is the pansy flower. Illustrations of pansies, also known as heart’s-ease, are a feature of many Valentine’s greetings of this era. According to the 1841 book The Poetry of Flowers by Frances Osgood, pansies were considered a symbol of thought (as in “think-of-me”) derived from the French noun pensée.

In 1929 the Trinity Church branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society, under the direction of Miss Varnum, hosted a Valentine party at the parish house on High Street. Activities included a Valentine post office, musical chairs, treasure hunts and pinning on of hearts.

To learn about Newport’s connection to the origins of Valentine’s cards, a tradition that largely began in the 19th century, click here to read this 2012 History Byte.

Above: a 20th century Valentine’s card from the NHS collection. Below: a late 19th card from the Society’s collection that features pansies along with a clip from the 1929 “Newport Mercury” story discussing the girls’ Valentine’s party.

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History Bytes: The Other Old Stone Mill

In 1848, Seth Bateman purchased the old Governor John Collins Farm (1786-1790) at Castle Hill Avenue and Ocean Avenue, and developed the property into a deluxe resort hotel. As the property expanded, additional water sources were required from wells and a water tower. In 1867 Bateman installed his new water system in a building which was a perfect replica of the Old Stone Mill in Touro Park.

Bateman House flourished through The Gilded Age under several owners. A 1947 plan to restore the hotel back to its 18th century appearance failed and the property was sold in 1957 to Louis Chartier. The hotel was destroyed by a fire in 1959 and all of the buildings were demolished, including Bateman’s Old Stone Mill, which was bulldozed into Narragansett Bay. Today, the site of Bateman House is now occupied by the Chartier Circle neighborhood.

Above: a view of the Bateman House, c. 1895. This photo was taken by Newporter Clarence Stanhope (NHS Collection P25). 

The Old Stone Mill water tower is visible in the top left. This image was taken by H.H. Harris in the summer of 1938; his series of rare aerial photos taken before the Hurricane of 1938 are part of the NHS collection. The street at the center is Winans Avenue; house at bottom center is Bleak House which is no longer standing.

The Old Stone Mill water tower is visible in the top left. This image was taken by H.H. Harris in the summer of 1938; his series of rare aerial photos taken before the Hurricane of 1938 are part of the NHS collection. The street at the center is Winans Avenue; house at the bottom center was “Bleak House” which is no longer standing.

History Bytes: Peanut Joe

A regular figure on Washington Square in the early 20th century was “Peanut Joe” who was often seen with his fruit cart and dog. Born Giuseppe A. Brangazio in Italy, Joe operated his peanut business in the square while his son Pasquale ran a fruit shop at 579 Thames Street. The Brangazios returned to Italy where Joe died in 1917, having “massed a good size fortune, selling roasted peanuts,” according to his obituary.

Above: An early 20th century photograph of “Peanut Joe” and a dog on Washington Square. A cart with a sign reading “GOOD PEANUTS” is visible at the left and the Colony House is in the background.