Sever Severson’s craftsmanship

Severson CradleI like to think I’ve got pretty darned good internet search skills, but I have nothing on my wife. She’s got the magic touch. As evidence of that, I’d like to share with you a discovery that she made earlier tonight—a child’s cradle made by Sever Severson himself, perhaps for his own children or for a niece or a nephew.

Sever and his wife Martha had five children together—all girls. Their oldest daughter, Anne Mary, was born around 1856, Julia was born around 1858, Ellen Caroline (“Carrie”) was born in 1859, Selina was born in 1862, and their youngest, Cecila M (“Celia”) was born six weeks after her father died of dysentery in Atlanta, Georgia, while serving as a Union soldier in the Civil War. If the 1855 date for the cradle (written on the back of a photo of the cradle from 1920) is correct, then he almost certainly made this for his own children. If the 1846 date on the headboard is correct, perhaps he made this for the children of an older brother or sister, as it would date to 10 years before his first child was born.

My wife found this little gem on the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. The information displayed there was provided by the institution charged with preserving and caring for the cradle, the Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society.  Here are some extracts of what they have to say about the cradle:

Description Child’s rocking cradle with shaped headboard, footboard and sides; turned finials and legs. Cracks in legs at head end are reinforced with large braces (photo evidence shows these repairs were made prior to 1920). Baseboard and mattress are modern replacements for original rope bottom. Dark brown finish with traces of earlier gray-green paint.
History The Mount Horeb Area Historical Society notes two conflicting provenances for this cradle. The Society’s records state that the cradle was found on the Glen Thompson farm, Blue Mounds, Dane County, Wisconsin, and was used by Ed and Ole Bjelde. However, a photograph in the Society’s collection shows a group of people posing with this cradle ca. 1920. A handwritten note on the photograph reads “This cradle was made in the year 1855 by uncle Sever Syverson at Black Earth Wisconsin.”
Materials and
Turned finials and legs; Sawn frame with nailed construction
Marks The year 1846 is roughly incised in the headboard
Dimensions 25″H x 20″W x 36″L
Original location Blue Mounds or Black Earth, Dane County, Wisconsin
Location of use Blue Mounds or Black Earth, Dane County, Wisconsin
Owner Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society

Severson Cradle

Detail of Severson cradle

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