Episode 238: Frances Glessner Lee

Frances Glessner Lee circa 1935 via Glessner House Museum

Frances Glessner Less was a woman of unyielding determination and creative energy who used everything at her disposal (invcluding a vast inheritance) for both the common good and to further science in the field we now know as forensic Medicine.

Frances Lee was born into a very wealthy family on March 25, 1878, in Chicago, Illinois. Her father’s position as a founding executive (at the company that would eventually become International Harvester) funded the family’s lavish life in both Chicago and at their summer home called The Rocks, in New Hampshire. Her mother was an intellectually curious member of Chicago society who put her efforts not only into the arts (helping found the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for instance) but also in assisting her two children to pursue their own interests.

Frances’ brief marriage resulted in three children, but her interest in medicine, science, law enforcement, and various crafts converged to forge her legacy when she put her everything into helping found the Department of Legal Medicine (the forerunner to forensic science) at Harvard University. She would go on to not only personally build a library for the college in this field, but to spread the science of it into communities all across the United States with lectures and twice-annual seminars for law enforcement personnel beginning in the 1940s

At these seminars, which she organized and ran, she crafted exquisitely detailed, miniature crime dioramas for the attendees to sharpen their skills in detective work and expand their knowledge of the science of death. Called the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, they aren’t macabre dollhouses, they are highly detailed learning tools…and they’re still in use today.

One of Frances’ Nutshell Studies, The Red Bedroom (photo credit: Lorie Shaull via wikicommons.)

One of Frances’ Nutshell Studies ( photo credit Lorie Shaull via wikicommons)
Just one of the teeny tiny details in Frances’ dioramas, this one from the garage shown above. Photo credit: Lorie Shaull via Flickr

Frances Glessner Lee, at the age of 83, died on January 27, 1962 at her home. She’s buried in the Maple Street Cemetary in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

Books!

The biography by Brice Goldfarb

The coffee table book that requires the right coffee table (By Corrine May Betz)

The lecture made into a book, with pictures! by William Tyre

The book Susan borrowed so often she went ahead and bought, graphic non-fiction compilation by Penelope Bagieu
The niche book the barista wanted to listen to more of, by Deborah Blum

Web!

Glessner House virtual tour! Don’t miss Frances’ symphony gift for her mom! And here’s some information on the Glessner house itself.

The Rocks in Bethlehem NH...the perfect place to buy your Christmas tree (and hike the trails, take classes, and maybe have a wedding. To learn more about the fire and restoration projects since, visit THE ROCKS.
Harvard Associates in Police Science is still an active organization that holds an annual Frances Glessner Lee Homicide Investigation seminar.
Frances is mentioned on the Harvard Medical School History website in regard to the Nutshell Studies and the Legal Medicine department…but not as boldly as we would like. Maybe this was an artifact from her “behind the scenes days” because it couldn’t possibly be an intentional slight…could it?

The story about the discovery of Nutshell #20 on NPR.

Want to learn about the history of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra?

Intrigued by the work of the Body Farm? It’s for science and we think Frances would approve!

We’re pretty excited to see miniatures around the world! The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has Beckett’s favorite, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, then there’s Queen Mary’s at Windsor , the Thorne Miniatures at the Chicago Art Institute, and an entire museum dedicated to miniatures and toys in Kansas City, The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

Traveling through Kansas? Maybe you should stop at the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things?

And a history that only makes sense after you listen to the episode but we love a good Rabbit Hole: History of Coca-Cola.

Moving Pictures!

Season 17, episode 14 of NCIS has it all: Nutshell-style dioramas, mentions of Frances, an involved podcast audience…okay, that’s all it has but, you know, entertaining. Catch it wherever you watch that long-running show.

The documentary, Of Dolls and Murder, is on YouTube, but it requires permissions to watch it, so you can search for it yourself over there.

CBS Sunday Morning’s coverage of the showing of the Nutshell studies:

Break music: The Banks of Green Willow, by George Butterworth; end music, Victim of Crime, by Heifervescent used with permission, ilicense Music.

This episode was sponsored by Honeylove and Betterhelp

Episode 233: Lillian Moller Gilbreth

We’ve gone fishin’…okay, not real fishing, but we have taken a little summer break to focus on some life transitions that we have going on in our personal lives. Because one of them has to do with sending our sons off to the next chapters in their lives and facing empty nests ourselves, we thought of Lillian Gilbreth. Not only because she had many children herself, or because we both admire her so much for all she did as a working mom when working moms were very rare (in her social class, anyway.) We didn’t think of her because of her long-lasting and still-in-use work to make women’s lives easier (and men’s, of course.) Nope. We thought of this episode because both of our about-to-be-launched sons are in it! Not only is Beckett’s son in the 30-Second Summary, but the boys, who were 10 at the time, were causing a ruckus while we were recording!

The shownotes for this episode can be found here SHOWNOTES! GET YOUR SHOWNOTES!

Episode 232: Barbie and Ruth Handler

This summer we’re all Barbie Girls, but the origin of this iconic doll stems from a very real woman, Ruth Handler. After seeing the movie, we thought that listening to Barbie and Ruth’s history really would enhance the experience–there are A LOT of Barbie history Easter Eggs in there, thanks Greta Gerwig!

This episode was recorded several years ago, and the entire shownotes can be found HERE! SHOWNOTES ARE HERE!

Episode 231: Dido Elizabeth Belle and Sarah Forbes Bonetta

Dido Elizabeth Belle and Sarah Forbes Bonetta

*The beginning section of part two of this episode, the story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, has the strongest Little Ears warning we’ve ever had. Adults, please preview this before kids (or really, anyone who is sensitive to violent content) listen. You can pick her story back up at the 48:00 minute mark.*

After our discussion about the heritage of Queen Charlotte, we decided to divide and conquer with two mini-episodes on aristocratic women of color in the Georgian and Victorian eras.

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Episode 230: Queen Charlotte of Great Britain, Part Two





How Charlotte looked at the beginning of this episode in 1782. Thomas Gainsborough, public domain.
A more mature Queen Charlotte seven years later by Sir Thomas Lawrence circa 1789

We left Charlotte in a very sweet place: her family was growing, she was able to indulge her love of botany and other sciences through her many homes, her husband, King George III, was on a high note on the favorable scale…life was pleasant and lacked (much) drama.

But all that is going to change. She does keep having children in this final episode of our series, 13 of them reach adulthood. Okay, so her boys–especially the heir, the Prince of Wales- were growing into rogues but in an almost cute way and when things went sideways they went sideways hard.

In this episode, we tracked the mental illness of King George III (which didn’t really strike until he was in his 50s) and the impact it had on Charlotte, the family and the country. Charlotte goes from a sweet shepherdess of a mother who has her stuff together to a frazzled, confused, suspicious, and ever-stressed-out queen.

Within the two episodes, we cover her entire life and try to make it easy for you to separate the fact from the fiction on Netflix’s limited series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

Books!

The new one by Catherine Curzon

Old one by Percy H. Fitzgerald
By Andrew Roberts
By Janice Hadlow
Lots of very short essays about a lot of royals by Alison Rattler and Allison Vale
By Adrian Tinniswood
Children’s book by Nancy Churnin and Luisa Uribe
by Constance Hill

Web!

Was Queen Charlotte black? How far back in her family tree did this ancestor live and what is the story behind why people think so? This Smithsonian article will give you a place to start you tumble down a rabbit hole. SMITHSONIAN

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

For the whole heartbreaking story of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the heir that never was, we covered her back when we were newbie podcasters, in 2011! Episode 13.

Historic Royal Palaces has a treasure trove of information on all things British Royal, here’s Kew Palace (well, the rebuilt one) you can see why it was a favorite of the family (and why we need to go there when we visit London this fall!)

Ways that the zebra became shorthand for greed and stupidity through political cartoons: PRINCETON

A perfectly titled essay, King George III, bipolar disorder, porphyria, and lessons for historians from the Royal College of Physicians

Moving Pictures!

Did you know there is a Netflix limited series by Julia Quinn and Shonda Rhimes? (That’s sarcasm, of course you do!) There is and we both enjoyed it a great deal ( just remember: it’s not a documentary!)

1994’s movie with Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte (also not a documentary.)

There are many Horrible Histories (no Drunk History though) on Charlotte’s era that we’ll just put this one episode here as a lovely example.

Break song: Handel’s End Song: Lost by Mary Ellen Lynch

Come with us to visit the world of Queen Charlotte (and centuries of others) this September as we take a Field Trip to London! Almost full! If you would like to sign up or learn more, visit our friends at Like Minds Travel!