What do you do when you have hung the wrong man?
Last week, a meeting of an obscure committee, the Joint Legislative Historical Committee, drew one newspaper reporter. He wrote a story that appeared on the front page of the next day’s New Hampshire Union Leader. It was about the removal of a portrait from a State House wall.
Being a bit of a history buff, I have been appointed every two years to serve on the Historical Committee. There is a $10 thousand per annum appropriation for the committee to have portraits, antique furniture and other relics around the State House repaired and maintained.
The State House walls hold 207 portraits and hundreds of other pieces of state property of historical importance in the building. The work of the committee is only a minor part of what should be done to fully catalog, maintain and secure the works of art that tie the political and legislative history of New Hampshire together.
The committee meeting focused on the mystery: was the picture in the frame with a sign on it that said "Presented to the State by Henry W. Keyes" actually a picture of Henry W. Keyes? And if not, then who is the person in the picture?
Former State Representative Dean Dexter, who served a couple of decades ago, was walking through the State House in July and noticed that one portrait looked different from the others. Dexter jumped on the question of whether this was really a portrait of Keyes. He compared the picture on the wall with photographs of Keyes, a former New Hampshire Governor and United States Senator, in the "Red Book" published by our Secretary of State every two years and with photographs on file at the Library of Congress and in the Congressional Biography Directory database.
In his research over the last few weeks, Dean Dexter tracked down Keyes’ granddaughter and one of his nieces, a retired history professor and antique book dealer. Both agree that the picture is not of Henry W. Keyes. Dexter also went to the family home, Pine Grove Farm, in North Haverhill, to look over family photographs and other memorabilia.
Historical Committee members reviewed the photographs and while true amateurs at historical research they decided that the portrait on the State House wall was not Henry W. Keyes. The only person who thought it could be was Russell Bastedo, retired State Curator, who had supervised placing the picture on the State House wall after it was found in the building’s basement in 2005. The picture and frame were cleaned and because of the plaque saying it came from Keyes, Bastedo took the plaque as original source material and the portrait was hung as a picture of Keyes.
There was discussion and then Senate President made the motion that the picture be taken down with the hope that an appropriate picture of Henry Keyes could be located or painted to be hung in its place. The vote to take down the picture was unanimous. A short time later, the picture was gone from the wall.
Of course, the story cannot end there. Who is the person who has wrongly had his picture on the State House wall? And how will we get an appropriate picture of Governor Keyes to fill his spot on the second floor wall?
The committee chair, Representative Bob Rowe (Amherst) asked Senator D’Allesandro and me to look into these questions. While this somewhat humorous experience brought smiles to committee members and the audience alike, committee members know that historical treasures in the State House are handled somewhat casually. We need appropriate procedures and policies to insure that this valuable property of the people of New Hampshire is cared for carefully.
Now, on to solving the mysteries surrounding Henry Keyes and the picture no longer on the State House wall. We need do to it before the busy days of the next legislative session are upon us.
Viloette’s Supermarket is back in Newport.
As Ella Casey, the Newport Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, told the audience at the official ribbon cutting at the new store on Sunday morning, she has been a customer at three prior stores and is now shopping at the fourth Violette family related grocery store.
Last week I wrote about George Bald’s retirement as Commissioner of Resources and Economic Development. The new Violette’s Supermarket is exactly his kind of economic development that provides job opportunities and economic strength to local communities.
It was created and is owned by a local family, financed by a local bank with another local bank as landlord and is serving the daily needs of the local residents and hiring local people. Employee count on Sunday morning was 49. The new store shouts out "local" and "community" which cannot be matched by competitors who offer a different, and for them, successful approach to the marketplace.
Congratulations to Vern and Bobbi and Dana and Dodi for carrying on their well respected and long time family tradition of being grocers to the community.
Saturday was the 39th Apple Pie Craft Fair. My mission was to get there in time for an apple pie that Judy and I could share with family. Paul Baird helped us select a pie which was very enjoyable. Thanks to the organizers for this annual successful fund-raiser for the Library Arts Center. It is a great tradition.