Author: Kaela Kennedy

Gustave Vichy, “Clown Drummer and Performing Poodles”

Gustave Vichy

Clown Drummer and Performing Poodles”


Mixed Media

Nicholas and Shelley Schorsch Collection



Essay by Kaitlyn Roberts


Automatons are traditionally viewed as mechanical wonders derived from the minds of engineers. The animation of the human form is considered their most intriguing aspect. During the time of their production, automatons were viewed less for their mechanical ingenuity but rather for the spectacle that was created by the mimetic atmosphere they created. Today, modern toys use electric motors and batteries to function, but the mechanical principles behind the production of such toys has changed little . Two examples of automatons made by Gustave Vichy and Zinner and Sohne are the works in our exhibition.

An atmosphere of wealth often surrounded automatons as they were frequently displayed to charm guests. Culture and location also played a large role in the significance of the automaton. In the late 18th-century and early 19th-century Europe was emerging from both the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, creating a cross-pollination of modern mechanical and classical philosophical ideas.  Europeans were moved by a desire to understand the meaning of life and representation of the human form. 

Late 19th-century France was home to diverse artistic views. The Frenchmen Gustave Vichy, born in 1839, grew up in his father’s store which sold mechanical toys. After his father’s bankruptcy Vichy, at the age of twenty-three, decided to create his own factory creating automatons with an intended focus on the production of musical automatons. His wife Maria, whom he married in 1864, sewed fashionable clothing for his dolls. Vichy was the first automaton manufacturer who, in his small factory, oversaw every step of the production process. Vichy’s automatons were always heavy sources for mixed media. In his 1870 Waltzing Couple he combines glass, silk, metal, bisque porcelain, and mohair. Vichy’s Waltzing Couple was inspired by the 1850 dancing dolls originally made by Theroude. The work features a couple embraced in each other’s arms in preparation for a dance. Once the key under the woman’s skirt is turned they traverse the floor in a large square-rotation while twirling around one another.

In comparison, Germany in the late 19th-century was marked by war and treaties that led to a culmination of diverse influences and the birth of German Realism.  Founded in 1845, Zinner and Sohne, a company based in Schalkau Germany, produced cheap commodified toys but specialized in quality machines. The company created many automatons but little is known about the logistics of the company itself. Zinner and Sohne’s 1890 Clown Drummer and Performing Poodles is a playful piece featuring a young boy in a silk suit and a matching velvet jacket with a drum and drumsticks in hand, accompanied by two poodles off to his right. Upon winding the crank the boy’s hands beat the drum while the larger dog to the far right activates a string that triggers the jumping apparatus attached to the smaller dog in between them. Zinner and Sohne made automatons in many mediums, creating an elaborate scene for the human forms to be placed upon. These German automatons are widely collected because of their playful music and their amusing motions.

The lively nature of automatons could capture the imagination of anyone at any age. The appealingly animated human form led to the current day culture surrounding dolls. With the influx in production of toys came a rise in mechanical ingenuity. Both Gustave Vichy’s and Zinner and Sohne’s automatons are prime examples of wonder.





Carriker, Kitti. Created in Our Image: The Miniature Body of the Doll as Subject and Object. Bethlehem, PA.: Lehigh University Press, 1998.

Kang, Minsoo. Sublime Dreams of Living Machines : The Automaton in the European Imagination. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Liu, Catherine. Copying Machines: Taking Notes for the Automaton. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Metzner, Paul. Crescendo of the Virtuoso: Spectacle, Skill, and Self-Promotion in Paris during the Age of Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Terrall, Mary, and Helen Deutsch. Vital Matters: Eighteenth-Century Views of Conception, Life, and Death. Toronto: University of Toronto Press in association with the UCLA Center for Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Studies and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 2012.

Unknown artist, Corinthian Capital (Pilaster) from Newport, Rhode Island

Unknown artist

Corinthian Capital (Pilaster) from Newport, R.I.

Uncertain Date 


Teaching collection of Salve Regina’s Department of Art and Art History 




Essay by Zachary Mafera


John Russell Pope was a leading figure in 20th-century American architecture whose influence is still relevant today.  His most noted works include the Jefferson Memorial and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  Yet Whiteholme, a Newport, Rhode Island mansion that no longer exists, remains Pope’s first independent commission.  Its elegant French style clearly shows his early interest in restrained classical design, a concept that earned him high praise.

This Ionic pilaster capital is an architectural remnant that once decorated Whiteholme.  Designed ca. 1901 by John Russell Pope, Whiteholme was built as a summer villa for Mary Frick Garrett (later Mrs. H. Barton Jacobs), widow of Robert Garrett, president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  At the turn of the century, Newport, Rhode Island was a summer social capital for the rich and famous, where mansions like Whiteholme were built to impress high society members.  While many of these great Gilded Age mansions survive, Whiteholme marked a significant loss in Newport’s otherwise outstanding portfolio of American architecture.  It stood impressively at the corner of Narragansett Avenue and Ochre Point Avenue, in one of Newport’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, after many years of neglect, Whiteholme was razed in 1963. Today the site is home to Miley Hall and Walgreen Hall, part of Salve Regina University’s campus. This pilaster capital is a surviving remain from the decoration of the mansion.  It once adorned a pilaster next to the main entrance of Whiteholme. It is a small piece of decoration which embellished an otherwise plain square pilaster at the entrance of the mansion. The grand wrought-iron doors to Whiteholme were flanked by a pair of two-story Ionic columns with square pilasters and matching Ionic capitals. The design of the capital clearly demonstrates Pope’s sophisticated use of classical decoration, where overall form is more important than decoration.

Pope’s earliest commissions were heavily influenced by French classicism and an interest in European architecture and culture that he developed during his training at France’s École des Beaux-Arts, considered the best school of architecture in the western world at the time. The exterior design of Whiteholme drew from the Parisian Neo-Baroque architecture of the 1860s, with bulging rounded forms and subdued decoration. This pilaster capital is an important visual representation of John Russell Pope’s unique creativity and experimentation with classical forms in architecture at the very beginning of his long and celebrated career.

This capital shows important cultural connections between America and Europe in the early twentieth century when wealthy Americans looked to Europe for inspiration in art, design, and culture. Americans, at the time, sought to emulate European models because such traditions were associated with knowledge, power, and taste. Whiteholme conveyed a message of wealth and taste to the rest of the world.  This surviving architectural remnant from Whiteholme gives us a better visual understanding of the mansion in its original context, and it allows us to study the beginning of John Russell Pope’s important career.





Bedford, Steven. John Russell Pope: Architect of Empire. New York: Rizzoli, 1998.

Downing, Antoinette Forrester, and Vincent Scully. The Architectural Heritage of Newport,

Rhode Island, 1640-1915.  New York: American Legacy Press, 1982.

Kathrens, Michael C. Newport Villas: The Revival Styles, 1885-1935. New York: W.W. Norton,


Middleton, Robin. The Beaux-Arts and Nineteenth-Century French Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982.

Miller, Paul F. Lost Newport: Vanished Cottages of the Resort Era. Bedford, MA: Applewood

Books, 2008.

Yarnall, James L. Newport through its Architecture: A History of Styles from Postmedieval to Postmodern. Hannover, NH: University Press of New England in association with Salve

Regina University, 2005.


Unknown artist, Dental Extractor Set

Dental Extractor Set 

c. 1950 

Wood and Metal 

Collection of Newport Historical Society 




Essay by Ming Fen Congdon


Everyone dreads having a tooth pulled, and tool sets dedicated to tooth extraction are not new.  There was a tool set dedicated to solely tooth extraction. In the field of mid-twentieth century dentistry, the extraction set was critical to oral hygiene. The advancements in dental extraction sets can be seen in one such set from 1950 in the collection of the Newport Historical Society. Developments and advancements in design of such dental tools helped the field of dentistry to become more advanced than other medical fields, but it was not until the 19-century that such tools were created. Many of these tools came in a small box that had each tool lined up with their various attachments. 

Tooth extraction was one of the few surgical operations that was known to not affect the rest of the body.  There were still many dangers, however, that came with the procedure. To see how dental tools changed over time, one can examine two of the most popular tools in the Newport Historical Society’s dental extractor set—the lever and the tooth key. Both of these tools were made out of steel with a wooden handle. The lever has a long narrow handle and a metal part that is about three inches long with a 90-degree angle at the flattened end (Figure 1). This tool was used to easily pry stubborn teeth from its socket. The tapered blade was inserted between the root and the adjacent tooth, and a turning movement would elevate the tooth from the gum. As some teeth were more challenging to pull out, the lever needed some improvements, thus creating the more widely used implement in the set:  the tooth key.

The “tooth key,” designed in 1742, made extracting teeth easier and quicker for the patient. Appropriately named, the tool looked like an old fashion key. This instrument is a powerful lever used for extractions by putting the bolster (flat part of the tool) against the root of the tooth and the claws engaged over the crown. The key was then turned in a quick rapid motion until the crown came out.  This tool has a distinct handle that is longer in width than all other tools in the set; the handle is about three and a half inches wide and a half of an inch tall at its thickest part of the handle. It has a long metal curving attachment to the wooden handle and has many bends in the metal part. Three moving parts on top of the tool move back and forth, pivoting around the main frame of the tool. One is curved with a single point at the end; the second is similar to the first but it has an indent at the top of the curve that creates a small “V” shape on it. Lastly, the third moving part is an oval flattened piece of metal that moves up and down slightly above the two curved parts, and has small holes in the flattened part. The tooth key changed in design over time.  Earlier examples show that the handle was changed to increase the amount of pressure possible on the tool. It is clear to see that the tool first was given its name due to its key shape.

Limited access to proper anesthesia in the 1950s made many people afraid to go to the dentist. They preferred to endure the pain of a toothache rather than having a tooth extracted. The lever and the tooth key were only used when a tooth was beyond repair. Both easy and quick to use, these instruments were included together in sets. The tooth key offered a more aggressive tool, but if used improperly could cause gum and jaw damage. Also, it was not used for all extractions. Constant changes in technology required that the tools in such dental sets evolved over time. There will always be a need for dental care, and the individuals performing such procedures will only be as good as the tools to which they have access.





Great Britain, National Health Service (General Dental Services) Regulations 1992. Statutory Instruments, no. 661. London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1992.

Guerini, Vincenzo. A History of Dentistry: From the Most Ancient Times Until the End of

the Eighteenth Century. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2009.

Hamarneh, Sami. “Dental Exhibition & Reference Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.”

Health Services Reports 87, no. 4 (1972): 291-303.

Leonard, William F. “Handbook of Dental Practice.” American Journal of Public Health

and the Nations Health 39: 677.

Miner, Virginia Scott. “Fun at the Dentist’s.” The English Journal 47, no. 6 (1958): 348.