Looking for a deeper dive into history on your virtual field trip? Körner’s Folly is home to hundreds of Jule Körner’s original furnishings, paintings, and objects. We are fortunate that Jule designed the Folly’s furnishings on such a grand scale — without the benefit of their sheer size, many pieces might have been lost to time during the house’s many repurposes and various occupants — that most of the large pieces of furniture are too big to remove from the house! Today, an estimated 90% of the furnishings in the house are original, and add to our understanding of Jule’s design process, aesthetic, and the needs and wants of the typical upper-middle-class Victorian estate.
The Körner’s Folly Foundation collects, preserves, and interprets artifacts and materials pertaining to Körner’s Folly, the Körner family, and Kernersville’s history for visitors to understand and appreciate today’s town through a knowledge of its past through exhibits, interpretive rooms, and educational programs.
Here we will spotlight a wide variety of items in our historical collection, from the mundane to the extravagant. We believe each object shapes our understanding of what it was like to live in the Piedmont of North Carolina during the Victorian Era.
Although on loan from a Körner family descendant and not in the Körner’s Folly permanent collection, these Christmas cards were received during the early 20th century!
During the American Victorian period, Christmas cards became the ideal gifts for friends and relatives. In his 1914 diary, Gilmer’s Christmas Day entry lamented that although the weather was “cold and disagreeable” he cheerfully remarked that he received a “great many cards from friends.”
The first Christmas card was created by Sir Henry Cole in the United Kingdom with the formation of the “penny post.” This development reduced postage to a penny, pushing Brits to take advantage of the postal system. To further encourage the citizens to partake, in 1843, Cole commissioned the design of illustrated Christmas cards. Soon, the Christmas card industry arose, creating opportunities for artists and printers to show off unique and festive designs. Technological advances in mass printing moved the emerging industry away from traditional woodblock prints, allowing greater access to affordable cards and other printed material.
Louis Prang, a printmaker, also known as the father of the American Christmas card saw a market opportunity in the United States. In 1874, he began creating lithograph Christmas cards at his factory in Boston. By 1880, Prang’s annual sales exceeded 5 million.
These advances in printing technology allowed people to purchase cards easily. Early Christmas cards usually contained images of flowers and animals. As Christmas cards were popularized, many demanded more novelty, leading the way for cards featuring silk fringe, glittered attachments, and mechanical moving parts. Collecting and displaying greeting cards in the parlor became a very popular Victorian pastime, with many creating special Christmas scrapbooks with the cards they received.
In 1915, the Hall Brothers Company, who later changed their name to Hallmark, printed the first 4 X 6 folded cards that were then inserted into an envelope. Americans found they wanted to write more than what the postcard style Christmas cards allowed. As a result, the Hall Brothers created the “Christmas letters,” or as we consider them, greeting cards, as well as modern gift-wrapping paper.
The European tradition of the “witches’ corner” dates back several centuries. It is said that guests were asked to put a coin in the witches’ pot as they entered the house. This was to attract the attention of bad witches, spirits and ghosts, luring their attention to the coin in the pot. The guest would then be able to enter the house without bringing along any additional unwanted visitors into the home.
At Körner’s Folly, the Witches’ Corner, located on the Front Porch, features a black cast-iron pot that stays mysteriously full of coins. Jule Körner, who designed the house, most likely drew from his heritage and Germanic traditions. His grandfather, Joseph Kerner, immigrated from Furtwangen, in the Black Forest region of Germany in 1785, no doubt bringing many Old World beliefs with him.
Dore’s Seersucker Dress
This beautiful seersucker and lace dress belonged to Dore Körner (1889-1980). The Southern fabric originated in 1907 when a New Orleans merchant set out to design a lighter-weight suit that could withstand the summer heat, humidity, and sweat. The blue and white fabric was born, named “Seersucker” from the Persian for “milk and sugar” in homage to its textured weave.
This 1860’s cast-iron cherry pitter was used in the Kitchen at Körner’s Folly. Aunt Dealy probably relied on this useful tool to help her create one of her signature dishes, a good old-fashioned cherry pie.
During the period between 1840 and 1870, the Industrial Revolution brought about many changes to kitchens. Foundries began making standardized stoves and hearths that made heating and cooking inside easier and safer. Smaller cast-iron implements were also patented and mass-produced, including cherry pitters, apple peelers, lemon juicers, sausage makers, pea shellers, nut crackers, and more. These tools greatly reduced the need for human workers in the kitchen, and because of this, were sometimes themselves referred to as “servants.”
Calling Card Receiver
This butterfly-shaped calling card receiver was made around 1900 out of cast brass. It originally featured colorful enamel as decoration and was made in the Art Nouveau style.
Art Nouveau is French for “new art”, and was a result of a philosophy that merged nature with design. This decorative style became popular in America between 1890 and 1910, and featured curving lines, organic shapes, animals, plants.
The Körner family would have used this butterfly receiver to store cards, letters, or other correspondence. Calling cards in this time period were way of communicating, to express appreciation, offer condolences, or simply to say hello. If the recipient was not home or not receiving visitors, a servant would accept a calling card, placing it in a tray in the foyer. A tray full of calling cards was the Victorian era’s social media, a way to display who was in one’s social circle. Frequently, the cards of the wealthiest or most influential people were left at the top of the stack to impress other visitors. Calling cards and business cards worked in a very similar fashion.
Jule (J. Gilmer) Körner had his own business card, listing him as Manager of the Reuben Rink Decorating and House Furnishing Company, offering “Fine Wall Papers, Frescoing, Wall Decorations of Every Description. Carpets, Curtains, Fine Grades of Furniture, Grills, Mantels, Tiles, Etc.” His company’s motto is also listed” “Everything to Match the Decorations”.