Category Archives: History

Hannah Robinson

Hannah Robinson, Wilmington, working 1845-1878.

Hannah Robinson is the only known woman silversmith of Delaware from 1700 to 1850. Pieces marked H. Robinson in a rectangle with the name standing out were probably made by Hannah Robinson, while the H. Robinson incised into the metal was probably her dealer’s stamp. Fiddleback spoons with the less desirable stamped mark are occasionally offered for sale.

The third child in the Robinson silversmithing family, Hannah Robinson was born February 2, 1803. After teaching school, she succeeded her brother, John F. Robinson in the silver and jewelry business in his Market Street shop. Her business was successful and well managed, and she left many business records.

She apparently had a keen appreciation of the power of advertising, for she was the only Delaware silversmith to distribute broadsides announcing her wares. An inventory of her stock, made on December 31, 1850, shows that by that date she was selling manufactured goods but still made and repaired other items. Other business records show her business dealings with Emmor Jefferis, her brother-in-law, and Thomas J. Megear, and her purchase of a house in 1856.

Hannah Robinson never married but aided in raising her younger brothers and sisters. She was also active in the Delaware Avenue Bethany Baptist Church. In 1876 she made aprons and a silk quilt for the church. She was a woman of good character and a favorite with her relatives, and when she died on July 1, 1878, she left jewelry and furniture to all her relations by name along with enough means to support her dependent maiden sister, Sally.

Emily Bissell

Born May 31, 1861, Miss Bissell was a daughter of A. C. and Mary Josephine Wales Bissell.  She was educated in Wilmington schools and the Charlier School, New York City.

In her early life she carried an interest in writing into the professional field, and at various times was a member of the Outlook, Harper’s Bazaar, and Youth’s Companion. It was much  later during her self-imposed task of reading everything printed in the Outlook that she ran upon the idea of a special Christmas stamp to fight tuberculosis – just at the time she has been asked to raise funds for that work in Delaware. Miss Bissell first entered the social work which was to bring her national and international prominence in 1889 when she organized the West End Reading Room in Wilmington. Her record of “firsts” is extensive; she was the first person to think of starting immigrants on the road to becoming Americans, and launched the Americanization program in Wilmington in 1913.

The West End Reading Room was the first of its kind in Delaware.  In conjunction with this she established the first free kindergarten and playground like thermoplastic playground markings  in the state, like the ones at The first better babies contest, the first boy’s brigade – forerunner of Boy Scouts – and the first free gymnasium for boys.

She was instrumental in the passage of the first child labor law here, and was one of the first child labor commissioners.  She was one of the organizers of the Children’s Bureau, on whose Board she served for many years. She was the first president of the Consumer’s League, and aided in establishing the first Delaware chapter of the American Red Cross in 1904, of which group she was the secretary for many years.

She is a former director of the Associated Charities, and the former chairman of social services for the Federation of Women’s Clubs. It was in 1907 that she was asked to raise $300, to carry on the fight against tuberculosis in Delaware.  The story of her first seal design, the belief of many that the idea would fail, and its immediate success and consequent growth, is by now familiar to all. She was made president of the Delaware Anti-Tuberculosis Society, a post she held for the rest of her life.  Other organizations with which she was affiliated are the Colonial Dames, the Colonial Governors, the Family Society, and the commission appointed to decorate the State House in Dover. Many of her poems have been published, one group of which was compiled into book form under the title “Happiness”.  The proceeds from the sale of the book were given to the Anti-Tuberculosis Society. In the course of her life, and especially in the last two decades, may honors have come to Miss Bissell.  Among these are: Her selection in 1939 as “Woman of the Week” on the nation-wide General Electric broadcast; recognition by the National Tuberculosis Society, the American Women’s Association, the award of the Trudeau Medal in 1942 for her contribution to the fight against tuberculosis, and others. In 1936, on the 30th anniversary of the Christmas Seal Sale, Miss Bissell was honored buy America and foreign nations at an impressive ceremony in Wilmington. Tribute was paid to her by dozens of nations, and she was awarded the medal of honor by the International Committee for the Defense Against Tuberculosis of France. In another ceremony on stage, click here to see. In 1945, Miss Bissell was honored by the naming of the main building at the Brandywine Sanatorium as the Emily P. Bissell Building.