I’m Heather Stecklein, the University Archivist at the UW-Stout Archives and Area Research Center.
My contributions to this blog will focus on some of the exciting things that Digital Humanities students are researching and discovering in the UW-Stout Archives. Today, we’ll investigate this mug.
The mug is what we in the Archives and Museum professions refer to as “found in collection.” This means that somehow, long ago, this item became part of the university’ permanent collection, but we do not have its accompanying provenance.
Without information on who owned the item, when, and why, we examine the item for information. We see that it’s a white ceramic mug with “J.H. Stout” emblazoned on the side. Since the mug bears the name of our institution’s founder, James Huff Stout, and someone thought to preserve it in the Archives, it likely either belonged to Senator Stout or it was a souvenir item produced in his honor.
Digital Humanities student Katie Krueger investigated the question.
The bottom of the mug bore a distinctive maker’s mark and a second business-related insignia, and Katie examined them using the Archives’ jeweler’s loupe. She made out the name “R.H. Hegener/Barber Supply/Minneapolis”
The Archives staff located R.H. Hegner Barber Supply in a variety of resources from Minneapolis in the 1890s-1910s.
Due to its date of origin, high level of personalization, and subsequent century of preservation, we can connect this mug to Stout’s founder, James Huff Stout with relative confidence.
While it’s possible that James Huff Stout simply wanted a shaving mug with his name on it, it’s also likely that an area barber shop made the mug on his behalf. Barbers commonly created and displayed personalized shaving mugs for their best customers.
Although we do not know where this mug has traveled or how it has been used since James Huff Stout’s 1910 death, this mug would be a very interesting item to feature in the virtual Harvey Hall database.
One potential location for this kind of item in the virtual Harvey Hall interface would be in the relatively secluded bathroom attached to the President’s Office. It isn’t a place James Huff Stout occupied, but with the right interpretation, it would be a good way of connecting the occupants of that space with the original holder of their position title. Regardless, it has been great to learn more about this piece of our collection, and we are grateful to Katie and all of her colleagues for their continued exploration and interpretation of our collections.