I have some exciting news for all the Clara Barton fans out there! The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is working with the American Red Cross in Washington DC to put Clara Barton’s trunk bed on display! Since we are still working on some environmental and security issues at the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office, the trunk bed will be displayed at our main museum. A trunk bed, as the name implies, is a small bed, or cot, which folds into a trunk to become more easily portable. This is the trunk bed Clara Barton used when she traveled to the battlefields and hospitals during the Civil War, so it is particularly appropriate for display here at the NMCWM.
There is even a mention of it in the book, Clara Barton: Professional Angel by Elizabeth Brown Pryor: "The first movements of the expedition to Charleston failed, though Barton dryly remarked that she had "seen worse retreats if this be one," She was disappointed in being excluded from what little action did take place and was surprised to find that she had time to settle in and become accustomed to the pace of life at Hilton Head. She and David [her brother] were given two rooms next to the chief quartermaster, furnished with a collection of makeshift furniture and castoffs from the local plantations: a large mahogany table "evidently once very costly," a rocking chair, and Egyptian marble-topped bureau, mosquito netting for curtains, and Clara's army trunk that unfolded into a bed."
We were all excited at the prospect of displaying Clara's bed, but first we had to get it here. Packing and moving a 150-year-old trunk bed is a bit more involved than moving a regular bed!
|Though it was just a short distance to the museum from the street, we made sure the crate stayed securely on the cart!|
|The trunk folds out to make this small cot. I’m sure it’s quite functional, but it sure doesn’t look comfortable! It’s also in remarkably good shape.|
I am currently doing some research on this bed, and preparing to put it on display. Be sure to check back later for more photos and more news on this unique Clara Barton artifact! In the meantime, take a look at this short video clip on the bed’s journey to my museum, here.
Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.