Tom Gordon III has collected local Carroll County items with his father, Tom Gordon Jr. and grandfather, Tom Gordon Sr. since childhood.
Gordon is the fifth generation in the family to be a collector.
“Collecting has always been a way to interact with history because it brought history to life. It has additional meaning beyond just reading it in a book,” Gordon said.
Philip Straus, Gordon’s great-great-great uncle traded with the Crow Indians out west and collected Native American art and artifacts. He was the early collector in their family.
An interesting family story is their connection to President Theodore Roosevelt. Gordon’s great-great uncle Philip G. Straus, met Roosevelt as a young man. When swimming in Atlantic City, a wave caught Straus off guard and Roosevelt saved him. They knew each other for many years and interacted frequently. One special letter has amusing content as the former President send a letter back to Straus stating, “That is very amusing. I did not know my autograph had such value.”
One of the most interesting parts of the collection is original photographs, daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. One of the many notable images is the ambrotype of two Civil War soldiers standing in the middle of Main Street in Westminster. It features a member of the First Delaware Calvary on horseback and a member of the 50th New York Engineers and was taken before engaging in combat with the Confederate Calvary on June 29th, 1863.
Daguerreotypes, invented by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre were the first commercial photographs produced from 1839-1860 on copper plates. Ambrotypes were a later, less expensive version. Both were delicate and stored in folding cases.
Another image in the collection is of the daughter of Ceric Wilson, a local Westminster photographer in the early 20th century. The photograph was taken in the early 1930s of a proud child with her many dolls and toys.
Dr. J.T. Ward, the first president of Western Maryland College who later became president of the Westminster Theological Seminary, is pictured on an autographed carte de viste. A carte de viste is a calling card with a portrait on it. When people went to visit someone and they were not at home, the person left their cart de viste “calling card” on the entry table.
Elmer B. Stubbins was an itinerant painter in Carroll County from Louisville, near Gamber. He painted landscapes, mill and farm scenes and religious figures. He was born in 1868 and died in 1942 when a car killed him. The Gordon collection includes several paintings including one of Klees Mill painted on a large mill feed bag. Stubbins rarely signed his work but the mill owner would not allow him to paint the painting unless Stubbins signed it. Stubbins acquiesced, and it is the only known signed painting, “E.B. Stubbins.”
Other collectibles include a pocket watch owned by Capt. Willian Burns, featuring an American flag on the watch fob as well as a four-leaf clover hidden inside the watch.
“Burns carried the watch while he served in the Civil War. He was fatally wounded while holding a United States flag that had been dropped by a wounded color bearer. He served as a member of the 6th Maryland Volunteer Infantry. The Westminster GAR Post was named Burns Post Number 13 after him,” Gordon said.
The Gordons also own a photograph of the Burns Post Number 13, The Grand Army of the Republic in Westminster. The photograph was taken in 1897 and features numerous prominent residents who were members.
They also own a printed presentation copy of a document that was presented at the time of the formation of Carroll County. Currently, this is the only known copy of the document. The document features an illustrated the map of the proposed Carroll County when it was being formed. The document also lists signatures from the fathers of our county including local names still here including: Shriver, Gorsuch, Krebs, Stocksdale, Cockey, Warfield, and many others.
Carroll County-related advertising is another segment of their collection. Gordon has a large advertising collection of local ephemera, things that are usually thrown away such as tickets, cans, newspapers or anything that was mean to be used for a short period of time. For example, they have an early 1900s Millers Brothers Company advertisement from Westminster, featuring a rare image of Santa Claus piloting a hot air balloon. Miller Brothers was a general store advertising it as “Santa Claus headquarters.”
The Gordon collection includes an early Native American bowl that was discovered in the Manchester area by a member of the Shower family and later gifted to Tom Gordon Jr. The Susquehannock people lived in the area in the area until around 1750. When the tribe suddenly departed. The Chief Macanappy and his wife were incapacitated and left behind.
They have a large postcard collection of Carroll County images including countless street scenes, businesses, towns and notable areas.
The Gordon collection also contains personal effects of Private John Richter of the 6th Maryland Infantry. Items include his hat and a carved bone ring. Richter is the only Civil War soldier from Carroll County that has a figural statue. He commissioned the statue to be made in Italy. The statue is located in the Westminster Cemetery.
“Being the fifth generation collector; it must be genetic. Collecting has always been about history, but also the thrill of the hunt. One never knows what may be discovered and where, and the stories that go with an item, As a family we have always believed that items need to shared with the public or it is a loss for all,” Gordon said. “While it has been a fun accomplishment locating and discovering various items, our family believes in giving back and sharing it with others.”
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Last year, a number of political memorabilia items were donated to the rededication of the county’s Ronald Reagan Room. The Gordon family has also donated items to the Historical Society of Carroll County.