Upper Front Hall
One activity that would have taken place in this hall is sewing, due to the advantage of good light from the southern window. The Edwards' brought in a woman to sew their clothes once or twice a year, but the rest of the sewing and mending fell to them. All 19th century women would have known how to sew, regardless of their social station. Well-educated women like the Edwards' would be taught embroidery, but everyone knew how to fix a seam or sew on a button.
This window gives a good view of the grounds. When the Edwards family lived her, the property consisted of 14 acres, which sat beyond the northern boundary of the town. The home would have had the feel of a country estate. You would have been able to see the state capitol building (now the Old State Capitol), as there were no other houses around. It was often referred to as "Edwards Grove" because of the grove of maple and oak trees which dotted the property. The family made use of their grounds for parties and picnics. Often the town would gather here for Fourth of July celebrations. The family also hosted their daughters' end-of-the-school-year picnics here.
The grounds were also the site of one very notable political rally in 1858 for Stephen Douglas. Thousands of people turned out to hear the Little Giant speak. Lincoln and Benjamin Edwards saw eye-to-eye politically until the Whig party dissolved in 1856. At that time, Edwards gave a fiery speech that said "rather than become a Democrat I would shake hands with the devil." A year later, he became a Democrat. The papers criticized him for the switch.
Sewing table with quilt
The sewing box belonged to Helen Dodge Edwards. The sewing bird was a item common to Victorian sewing kits. It would clamp to the side of the table and functioned like a third hand - it would grip fabric in its beak, allowing a woman to hold one end of the fabric and sew with her other hand. This one features a little pincushion on its back.