Ivory Museum


Defunct Ivory Museum Preserved Comstock, Cheney & and Pratt Read Heritage

The Ivory Museum at Pratt Read in Ivoryton before it closed.

ESSEX, CT - 1988

The Ivory Museum is history.

The museum collection which showed ivory objects, from tusks to piano keys, has been split up and sent to other museums and historical societies

The museum was first closed sometime at the end of October, when curator Edith DeForest took the signs down. "I feel very sad because it was a very interesting thing for people," said DeForest, who worked at the museum for six years..

The decision to close the museum was made by Harwood B. Comstock, President of Pratt Read & Co. It had become too expensive to continue to rent the space from the Sohmer & Co. Pratt Read will keep its offices in the building.

There was never a fee to visit the museum to supplement its operating costs. DeForest worked on a voluntary basis.

A spokesman for Sohmer, Philip Barton, says the space will be made into offices. "The area will be upgraded, renovated, and made into office space," Barton said.

All the objects are now being divided up and sent to different places including the Connecticut River Museum, historical societies in Essex, Meriden, and Deep River.

The bulk of the ivory collection will be loaned to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington. The Smithsonian was interested in the objects because they traced the history of ivory importing in the country, DeForest said.

The representative from the Smithsonian was in the area and stopped at the museum. DeForest said he was impressed with the ivory collections and began negotiations for the loan. The objects are being loaned so if anyone in the Comstock family should at any time want the objects back it is possible, according to DeForest.

Peter H. Comstock, president of Pratt Read from 1954 to 1977, began collecting objects related to the company. In 1977 when space was available Comstock set up a museum. He has already removed his own collection from the museum.

DeForest is trying to find a place for all the objects because she hates the idea of anything being thrown away. Some parts are being given to the industrial arts department at Valley Regional High School; also John Winthrop Junior High will receive some items.

At one time Pratt Read had a drum corps. All the fife and drum memorabilia from the museum is on loan to the Fife and Drum Museum in Ivoryton.

DeForest is doing her best so that all the objects are given a new home. There are pictures of  foremen from 30 to 40 years ago that DeForest is planning on sending to the families if she can trace them.

"I'm trying to give pictures and what-not to anyone who is interested. I'm trying to find a home for everything," DeForest said.

When asked what she would do now that the museum closed, DeForest said she had a lot to keep her busy. "I have lots of irons in the fire," DeForest assured.

Before the museum's collections were split up both Peter Comstock and DeForest took pictures of them intact. DeForest has placed all the pictures in an album. She plans on putting pictures of the empty display cases on the last page. These pictures of the empty cases are the last chapter in the story of the Ivoryton Museum.

DeForest summed up what the closing means:  "It's the end of an era--it's quite sad."

-The Pictorial Gazette 11/29/88

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