The Cracker Barrel

Here is a picture of Amos Orcutt taken in 1963 in front of the Museum’s Experiment Station Barn, part of the then-working College Farm.

New exhibit!

The Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch have completed the installation of the Dr. Edith Marion Patch Exhibit.  Edith Marion Patch was the first woman scientist employed by the University of Maine. She arrived in Orono in 1903 to start the entomology department at the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station, but had to work for a year before the board would approve her salary. Some, it seemed, had doubts as to whether a woman could do the job! Edith Patch proved them wrong, and proved herself a dedicated and skilled scientist. She earned her Masters degree at the University of Maine in 1910, and her doctorate from Cornell University in the following year. She earned the respect of her scientific colleagues, who elected her a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1913, and president of the Entomological Society of America in 1930.

The Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch are working to preserve and carry on the scientific, environmental, and educational legacy of this internationally renowned Maine woman.  Their efforts include educational programs and publications for youth and adults, and rehabilitation of Dr. Patch’s historic home, Braeside, just north of the campus of the University of Maine.  FMI on Dr. Patch or joining The Friends, visit:

Saint Distaff’s Day, or the Morrow After Twelfth Day

But whereas women would recommence spinning on Distaff Day, the men did not return to the plough until after Plough Monday when their ploughs had been blessed. Robert Herrick, who in 1648 published a collection of his poems ‘Hesperides,’ describes young people, maids and ploughboys, playing and pranking at this time with the lads setting fire to the flax and in return, the maids soaking the men from the water-pails…

Partly work and partly play
You must on St. Distaffs Day:
From the plough soon free your team;
Then cane home and fother them:
If the maids a-spinning go,
Burn the flax and fire the tow.
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give St. Distaff’ all the right:
Then bid Christmas sport good night,
And next morrow every one
To his own vocation.

On tenterhooks

[from The Grammarist]

To be on tenterhooks (not tenderhooks) is to be nervously waiting to find out what is going to happen in a tense or perilous situation.

Literally, a tenter is a wooden frame used to hang newly woven woolen cloth in order to prevent it from shrinking as it dries. The tenterhooks, obviously, are the hooks on the tenter used to hold the cloth in place. The figurative sense, which developed in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, comes from the fact that cloth hung on tenterhooks is tense and stretched. Those adjectives might also describe the mental state of someone in anxious suspense over something.


[from The Grammarist]

Four-flusher is an American idiom that first appeared around the turn of the twentieth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of the term four-flusher, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The term four-flusher describes someone who is a phony, a fake, someone who blatantly and unsuccessfully attempts a bluff. A related term is four-flushing. The term comes from the game of poker and refers to a person who attempts to pass off an incomplete flush hand as a winning hand. In poker, a flush consists of a hand of five cards that are all of one suit, a four-flusher is someone who attempts to pass off a hand that consists of only four cards of a matching suit as a winning hand. It is interesting that this was a common enough occurrence to justify a term for such an action. It wasn’t long before this American term came to be used figuratively as an idiom. Note that four-flusher is properly rendered with a hyphen.