While growing up, my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Swarthout Newhouse, and I lived in the same town. During the 1950s, we used to gather at her house every Sunday for the traditional noontime Sunday dinner. During those Sundays, and on other days when I would visit, she would allow me to try on her jewelry.
To me, my grandmother’s jewelry box was a treasure trove. The jewelry box was kept on her dressing table, and I was allowed to sit there and try on anything and everything. However, there were two rules: I had to stay at the dressing table and not traipse around the house adorned with the jewels I had found, and everything had to go back into the jewelry box.
Fast forward about 50 years.
My grandmother’s only daughter, Elizabeth Newhouse Harman, lived with her husband in Tampa, Florida. They did not have any children. I would travel to visit with them at least twice a year. The first year I went for a visit, I discovered my grandmother’s jewelry box sitting on my aunt’s dresser. I was thrilled to see it, and it brought back a rush of memories I forgot I had about sitting at fabric-skirted dressing table trying on jewelry from a unique jewelry box as only a little girl could do.
As my aunt aged, she would continually remark that I would get an inheritance from her; and, I would continually respond back by saying the only thing I wanted was the jewelry box—which I now knew to be a glove box. A glove box is what ladies used to use to store their finest gloves when they were not being worn.
On one visit, when I stated that I wanted the glove box as my inheritance, my aunt decided to give it me. As we were emptying out the box in which she, too, kept her jewelry, we discovered writing on the bottom of the box: “Libby Swarthout, Pine Island, Minnesota, From, Fritz Newhouse.” My aunt had not known the writing was on the bottom. What a wonderful discovery!
This lovely, dark-green box was a gift from my grandfather to my grandmother before they were married in 1905. The box is lined in silk, which no longer is in one piece as it has deteriorated; the bronze clasp is no longer on the box (though the plates for the clasp are present); the sides are embossed with flowers which look like clover; and the top is exquisite: a young lady sitting on the side of a boat.
When I discovered the inscription on the bottom of the glove box, I understood the significance my grandmother placed on this treasure: a gift from her husband, who died too young at 42 years of age. When I look at this glove box, now on display in my home, it brings back wonderful memories of my grandmother and her jewelry and when I had such a marvelous time “dressing up” in beads, bangles, and baubles.