From the Morning Courier and General Advertiser, (Providence, R.I.), January 17, 1840   Leave a comment

18400117 morning courier, ladiesTO BE READ BY THE LADIES.

We invite the attention of our fair readers to the following explanation of the principal causes of the decrease of marriages. We regret that candor requires us to bear testimony to the fidelity of the picture sketched. It however only exhibits another evidence of the oft repeated fact that the present generation, by pride, luxuries, and false delicacy, have heedlessly trampled under foot the excellent precepts and example of that Spartan band of mothers that flourished in the ‘days of auld lang syne.’ An inordinate thirst for wealth, show and distinction, has perhaps entailed more misery upon the human family than all the vices which flesh is heir too [sic]. The softer sex, whose peculiar province is to amend the manners and improve the heart, should be the pioneers in reforming the follies of the day. They should constantly bear in mind, under every temptation, ‘that worth makes the man, the want of it, the fellow.’

Principal causes of the decrease of marriages. I’ll tell you why young ladies do not go off so frequently as formerly — They are nice and too proud, &c.

I know a young lady — not very young now indeed, who, to my certain knowledge, has refused 15 offers.

One, because the gentleman could not keep a carriage.
Another because he could not speak the French language.
A third, because he knew nothing of the Italian operas.
A fourth, because he stooped in his shoulders.
A fifth, because he had not fortune enough.
A sixth, because he was a tradesman.
A seventh, because he was a tobacco chewer.
The eighth, was too bashful in company.
The ninth, because he wore spectacles.
The tenth was a politician, and did not bestow on her sufficient attention.
The eleventh could not dance, and consequently was a fool in our lady’s opinion, &c. &.

The lady’s own fortune is as follows:

In bank stock
In permanent bridges
Turnpike roads
Insurance company
Money at interest
Lottery Tickets


To which, in cash, diamonds, &c. may be added, 00,000

With a fortune like this, you may judge with what propriety a lady rejects a tradesman, or insists on keeping a carriage. — [New York Star.

Rumstick Point Marker   Leave a comment

The Rumstick Point marker as it appeared in 2008.

The Rumstick Point marker as it appeared in 2008.

A sedentary stone gathers some paint.
Corner of Rumstick and Chachapacassett Roads, Barrington

A large stone, part of a wall at the corner of Rumstick and Chachapacassett Roads, is adorned with a crude depiction of a pair of Indians kneeling beside a barrel, out of which jut two sticks. At center top are the words “Rumstick Point.” This curious artifact dates from around 1880 when Abbie Fessenden, who lived at nearby 153 Rumstick Road, painted it.

Chachapacassett Road delineates the northern edge of Rumstick Neck. Chachapacasset was the Wampanoag name for the area that includes Adams and Rumstick Points. It means, according to Thomas W. Bicknell in his History of Barrington (1898), “At or near the great widening.” Called Little Neck by early white settlers, it was first referred to as “Rumstick” in land records in 1698.

So where did the name Rumstick come from, and how does the image on the rock relate? Bicknell offered several different possibilities on the origin of the name.

First, he reported that a Brown University professor, Adrian Scott, had suggested a Norse, or otherwise northern European, origin:

Rumstokkr in old Norse was a bed-post, but in Provincial English there was a word, Ruinstich, adapted from the German language, or possibly the Dutch, and meaning the same as Mawe, i.e., an old-fashioned game of cards. The point might have had a famous game upon it by the first crew of sailors that bethought themselves to name it.

Bicknell noted that Providence bookseller and prolific amateur historian Sidney S. Rider also favored a Norse explanation, as did Norse scholars (no surprise), while he (Bicknell) had an entirely different idea:

But I should think this far more likely than either of the above, that the long slender point suggested the stick with which ancient sea captains stirred their toddy (differing from the common sailor’s grog, inasmuch as it was made of rum sweetened, and so needed stirring): hence English RUM-STICK.

Why Bicknell likes this explanation so much is hard to understand, as the neck of land in no way resembles a stick. But no matter. Having disposed of the “scholarly” theories, Bicknell went on to relate a pair of stories handed down over the generations:

Tradition tries to solve the mystery of so curious and equivocal a title, by saying that a barrel of rum floated high and dry upon the beach, and the treasure was considered of such great value that the event was celebrated by so free a distribution of the contents that the term high and dry could be truthfully applied for several days to all the dwellers thereabouts.

Another story goes, that while the Indians were removing the aforesaid treasure of “strong water,” for which they had a most wonderful liking, the hoops broke, the barrel burst, and the spirits of rum sank into the sand, while the Indians’ spirits sank within them, and in sad disappointment over their loss, they lifted up the mournful lamentation: “Rum stick here! Rum stick here!

This last, however little sense it makes, and notwithstanding how insulting it is to the character and intelligence of the native Wampanoag Indians, would seem to be the one that caught the imagination of Abbie Fessenden.

It should be noted as entirely coincidental that Barrington’s shores and inlets, possibly including Rumstick Point, played a part as landing places for rum runners during Prohibition.

The Rumstick Point marker has been repainted over the years by various public spirited individuals, so that we may continue to enjoy and wonder about it today.

The marker in 2014, in need of a touch-up.

The marker in 2014, in need of a touch-up.

While you’re on the Point, take a walk back along Chachapacassett Road, only a few dozen yards from the Rumstick Point marker, to find a boulder with a plaque marking the site of a spring that was known to be important to the Wampanoag Indians living in the area. The plaque calls it Massasoit Spring, after the Wampanoag sachem, but it’s probably the same “noted spring called Scamscammuck Spring” located “at the upper end of this neck” mentioned in Bicknell’s History of Barrington. A similar plaque marking the location of another “Massasoit Spring” can be found across the Warren River on Warren’s Baker Street.

Massasoit Spring plaque, as photographed in 2002 (left) and 2008 (right).

Massasoit Spring plaque, as photographed in 2002 (left) and 2008 (right).

As you drive back out along Rumstick Road, keep an eye out for number 66. Built in 1888, it’s known as the Fred F. Church House. But it was also the childhood home of the late monologist Spalding Gray. Gray moved from Rhode Island in the mid-1960s, and some of his earliest performance pieces were based on his memories growing up in the Ocean State. Known collectively as “Three Places In Rhode Island,” they include “Sakonnet Point” (1975), “Rumstick Road” (1977), “Nayatt School” (1978), and “Point Judith (an epilog)” (1979).

Fred F. Church House in 2006.

Fred F. Church House in 2006.

Our website architect, Dan Hillman, also lived on Rumstick Road from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, and lost a series of pet cats on that street. Imagine his surprise upon reading Gray’s memoirs of having also lost multiple cats to the crushing tires of speeding vehicles in the ’40s and ’50s. The Grays are long gone, but the house is still a private residence, so please be content to gaze in pleasure as you cruise past. And please be mindful of any perambulating cats.

If that isn’t enough to fulfill your local celebrity and morbidity quotients, double back to Nyatt Road and slink by the house at 1 Jones Circle. It’s the former home of Christopher Hightower, who, in 1991, brutally murdered the Brendel family—Ernest, Alice, and eight-year-old Emily. The story was featured in an episode of A'E’s City Confidential in 2005. Again, private residence; don’t be a douche.

There are a couple of notable architectural anomalies to be seen on the Point. One is the stone water tower at 3 Stone Tower Lane, looking somewhat out of place in an otherwise suburban (if upscale) neighborhood. The adjacent house is a renovated barn. Both are a reminder of Howard P. Cornell’s “massive summer estate,” Stone Tower Farm, where he resided circa 1875 to the 1920s. The farmhouse burned down in the early 1900s, but another barn and the chicken coop, both renovated into dwellings in the 1950s, still stand at 6 and 14 Stone Tower Lane, respectively.

Stone Tower (left), windmill-ish tower (right), both photographed in 2010.

Stone Tower (left), windmill-ish tower (right), both photographed in 2010.

Another is the tower at the corner of Chachapacasset Road and Lorraine Street. This one looks like a windmill without sails, and given the area’s former rural nature, perhaps a windmill is what it once was.


Cost: Free

Time required: Assuming an average lifespan of 78.7 years, it will only take approximately 1/41,392,186th of your life.

Hours: You may gaze upon the Rumstick Point marker twenty-four hours a day, but we wouldn’t advise lingering suspiciously.

Finding it: Coming from Providence, take exit 7 from Route 195. Merge onto Route 114 South (Wampanoag Trail) toward Barrington. After about 6.9 miles turn right onto Rumstick Road. Go another 8/10ths of a mile and turn right on Chachapacassett Road. The next left is Rumstick Road again. The marker is in the stone wall on the inside corner of the turn.

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Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island: Auton House   Leave a comment

Auton House, from Recollections of Auton House (1881).

Auton House, from Recollections of Auton House (1881).

Alias Hoppin.
by John Williams Haley

This article comes from an Old Stone Bank educational pamphlet published by the Providence Institution for Savings on March 2, 1931. Transcribed by Christopher Martin.

* * * * *

AUTON HOUSE… who would recognize it now? In fact, how many have ever even heard the name? It is not in the property files of Providence. Officially it does not exist. But the initiated, familiar with its origin, revel in their intimate knowledge of its full significance. For them the name “Auton” conveys up the picture of a charming mid-nineteenth century Providence family, one which was in some respects similar to the Alcott family of Concord, Massachusetts.

Auton House stands on Westminster Street at the corner of Walnut Street, nearly opposite the Modern Theatre. At this writing it serves as the home of several business concerns, its first floor given over to stores, its second and third floors to offices and workshops. Someday it will probably be torn down, destroyed to make room for a modern office building; but now, in spite of its constant usage for more than 120 years, its brick walls seem as sturdy as the day they were raised.

And this was the house in which twelve little Autons were born, in which eleven grew up, and of which one paused, in his later years, to reminisce. He called his reminiscences Recollections of Auton House, issuing them in the form of a small book and illustrating it himself. In it he tells of countless little details in the child life of the Auton family, describing many a piece of mischief—the romps and games in the nursery, the thoughtless persecution of poor Deborah, the tyranny of T. Auton in the matter of jonnycake—and portraying character after character, from Rosannah to Mother Auton, with tender humor and intimate understanding.

But so far we have been talking ambiguously; so far you know nothing about Auton house except its location. Let us then unfold the rest of the mystery without more ado.

The Auton family was none other than the Hoppin family of Rhode Island. And the author of the reminiscences was Augustus Hoppin, the ninth in line of the twelve children. Perhaps desiring the opportunity to expand more liberally upon the theme that engrossed him in his writing, he hid his family behind the pseudonym “Auton.” “Auton”, it seems, is a Greek word meaning “self” and therefore was a very apt choice. For distinction among the eleven living children, Augustus Hoppin then prefixed the correct first initial of each individual before his fictitious surname. Thus, in order of arrival in the world, they were

J. Auton………. William Jones Hoppin
A. Auton (girl)…… Anna Jones Hoppin
T. Auton……. Thomas Frederick Hoppin
S. Auton (girl)…….. Sarah D. Hoppin
F. Auton………. Francis Edwin Hoppin
H. Auton…………… Hamilton Hoppin
E. Auton (girl)….. Eliza Jones Hoppin
W. Auton……… Dr. Washington Hoppin
A. Auton…………… Augustus Hoppin
H. Auton (girl)… Harriet Jones Hoppin
C. Auton………. Dr. Courtland Hoppin

The family moved into Auton House in 1815, although it had been built some eight years earlier, and continued to occupy it until 1874, the year of Mother Auton’s death. The father of the family was Thomas Coles Hoppin who, with his brother Benjamin, engaged in business as a merchant, dealing in such commodities as dye-stuffs, drugs, and Chinaware and importing many goods from the West Indies and China. Both men became influential and highly respected citizens of the community. From the various bits of description Augustus Hoppin gives us, we can picture his father as an individual of unusual charm. The former writes that if ever a father was loved by his children Father Auton was, their greatest delight arising in being compared with him whether in matter of virtue, feature, or eccentricity. He would often thrill them when they were quite small by swinging them in a circle until they were literally flying through the air, like the partner of a spinning, dance performer. Every morning, early, it was he who would take a basket on his arm and set out for the heart of the town to do the daily marketing. On each trip one of the elder boys would be taken along to help in bringing home the purchases, and it was not unusual for Father Anton, after buying a live gobbler in the stalls, to give it to his son to carry. This the young man would have to do, regardless of his attire and of the affront to his vanity if he chanced to meet any friends (particularly those of the opposite sex) on the way. Nevertheless, despite the possibility of being ordered to carry an obstreperous turkey home, the chance to accompany Father Auton on his morning expeditions was considered a privileged one and was valued accordingly.

Not all of Father Auton’s shopping was done in the market-place, however, for many farmers would come into the town and cry their products through the streets from house to house. When a huckster with a wagon load of berries came up Westminster Street, Father Auton would stop him, sample his goods, and then, if they proved satisfactory, buy five or six quarts.

Mother Auton was the daughter of Governor William Jones of Rhode Island, and one of the best mothers imaginable, catering to her large brood with wisdom and love. Her ministrations extended outside of her family as well, for her sympathy and intelligent advice was sought by many a distressed female, whether black or white. She survived Father Auton by about twenty-four years, and it is of her in this latter period of her life that Augustus Hoppin gives us an especially fine picture.

“Mother Auton never would sit at a desk,” he writes. “Neither ‘secretary’ nor ‘davenport’ suited her purpose. The little gifts presented to her from time to time, and admirably adapted to write at were always gratefully accepted, but never used. She took her writing materials on her broad motherly lap, pushed her cap-strings from her face, adjusted her gold spectacles over her ample nose, dipped her pen daintily in the ink (just enough to fill it without blotting), and away it ran so merrily and easily over the paper that she would be on her fourth page before we children, who were seated around her, had half gotten through sucking our oranges…

“There she sat in her chair every Sunday morning for over forty years, writing the weekly epistle, with bended head and benign expression, while the wood fire hissed and sputtered, and the old canary sang in the sunlight.”

We have already mentioned Deborah, the long-suffering maid. She was the break-water against which the tireless waves of the young Autons’ energy buffeted endlessly. She slept in the nursery with the children, being allotted a thin strip along the edge of the larger bed, but she was only allowed to sleep after she had brushed the bed clean of the crumbs which fell from the children’s final rations of jonnycake and had supplied all round with a last drink of water. Even then, with the first light of day, she was unmercifully pushed out of bed by several pairs of small feet braced against her back. Yet, though slowly worn to a shadow, she never complained of her lot, and faithfully ministered to all the childish wants, from the youngest to the oldest, doctoring colds, combing hair, answering questions, drying tears, and adjusting sashes and ties.

Far different was she from Rosannah, the colored mistress of the kitchen. The latter was almost regal in her bearing, seldom smiling yet warm-hearted for all of that. She would dole out slices of bread to the small army of young ones that daily invaded her sanctuary, and she alone knew just what pinch of salt or dash of pepper was needed to make each dish exactly suited to the fastidious taste of Father Auton. But like many of the old-time cooks she could not endure the modern types of cooking equipment, and when coal stoves and ovens came into vogue, she resigned her culinary throne.

What became of the many young Autons who filled the old house with so much noise and merriment? What of those urchins who deliberately caught colds in order to stay home from school, who climbed all over poor Deborah, who played house in the nursery, who set out their shoes (instead of stockings) to be filled with candy and trinkets on Christmas Eve?

Well, the eldest, William Hoppin Jones [sic], turned to law and established a considerable practice in New York, later entering the diplomatic service and going to London. The next among the boys, Thomas Frederick, became a distinguished artist, his notable works being the chancel windows depicting the evangelists in Trinity Church, New York, and his bronze statue of a dog, now in Roger Williams Park. Others, among the boys, became well-known physicians and architects, while the girls attained social prominence, one marrying Elisha Dyer, Governor of Rhode Island in 1857.

But last, and especially, we must speak of Augustus Hoppin, the author of the “re-collections.” He, too, was a noted artist, famous as an illustrator. It was he who did the illustrations for the original edition of Holmes’ Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. He wrote a good many books, but of them all none is more delightful, more thoroughly charming than Recollections of Auton House, a pen portrait of a 19th century Rhode Island family.

Return to Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island index.

* * * * *

John Williams Haley (1897-1963), former vice president of the Narragansett Brewing Company, was best known for his weekly radio program, “The Rhode Island Historian,” which ran from 1927 to about 1953 on WJAR. Several hundred of his radio scripts were published in pamphlet form by the Providence Institute for Savings (“The Old Stone Bank”), and many were later reprinted in the four-volume Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island.

* * * * *

Editor’s Notes

Most of the major players in this story are buried in Swan Point Cemetery.

Left, Augustus Hoppin, from a 1925 Rhode Island Independence Day program. Right, his grave at Swan Point Cemetery.

Left, Augustus Hoppin, from a 1925 Rhode Island Independence Day program. Right, his grave at Swan Point Cemetery.

Hamilton Hoppin, (1821-1885), left Rhode Island to pursue business interests in New York. There, he married Louisa Howland, daughter of Samuel Shaw Howland, a prosperous merchant. In the 1850s, portions of the extended Howland family began summering in Newport, and in 1855 Hamilton Hoppin purchased property in Middletown. By summer 1857 a house was ready for occupancy. The house was featured, under the name Inn at Shadow Lawn, in the 2002 PBS documentary Ghosts and Vampire Legends of Rhode Island. Today it’s known as the Inn at Villalon.

Auton House as it appeared circa 1918, quarters of the Providence Wall Paper House. From Old Providence, printed for The Merchants National Bank of Providence in 1918.

Auton House as it appeared circa 1918, quarters of the Providence Wall Paper House. From Old Providence, printed for The Merchants National Bank of Providence in 1918.

An earlier account of Auton House, from Old Providence, printed for The Merchants National Bank of Providence in 1918, offered these details:

It requires a considerable stretch of the imagination, when the stranger to-day views the Auton House at the upper corner of Westminster and Walnut Streets, to place it in the midst of spacious grounds. It is now in the heart of the commercial district, and is the home of the Providence Wall Paper Company. “It was built,” according to information given by Mr. William W. Chapin, “in 1807 by Isaac Greenwood, who removed to Boston in 1810, first advertising his house for sale, and saying in the advertisement that it had been built three years before. The house was bought by Benjamin Hoppin, brother of Thomas C.; and in 1815 Benjamin conveyed it to Thomas C. The family occupied it until the death of Mrs. Hoppin in 1874. The interior of the house has been changed beyond recognition, except that in the shop of the Providence Wall Paper Company there remains the original fan-light over what were old-fashioned folding doors—not sliding doors—separating the two parlors when desired.”

The dog statue by Thomas F. Hoppin is known as “The Sentinel.” He designed it and had it cast by Gorham Manufacturing in 1851. It is variously credited with being either “the first bronze statue cast in America,” “the first bronze statue cast in Rhode Island,” or “the first bronze dog statue cast in America.” It was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in London during the Great Exhibition of 1851, and won a gold medal from the New York Academy of Design.

"The Sentinel" in 1958, with a young rider astride.

“The Sentinel” in 1958, with a young rider astride.

“The Sentinel” depicts Black Prince, a mastiff owned by the Jenkins family who lived in the 1798 John Innis Clark House at 383 Benefit Street. On November 20, 1849, a fire broke out in the house and Black Prince barked frantically to alert the family. Some accounts say he broke his chain, and that is why a short length of chain dangles from the statue’s studded collar. Despite his efforts only two family members survived—Moses, 15, and Anna, 17. Anna later married Thomas Hoppin, and he built an Italianate villa (which still stands) on the ruins of the Clark mansion. “The Sentinel” stood watch over their front lawn for several decades.

In 1896 the Hoppin family gave “The Sentinel” to the City of Providence. It was installed in the Japanese garden at Roger Williams Park, and later moved to the zoo grounds. Generations of children have climbed on his back to pose for a photograph.

Westminster and Walnut, the former site of Auton House, as seen in January 2014.

Westminster and Walnut, the former site of Auton House, as seen in January 2014.

Auton House was replaced, as Haley predicted, by a multi-story office building—the non-descript 1971 addition to the 1917 New England Telephone and Telegraph Building. As of 2014 it’s occupied by Verizon.

* * * * *

Return to Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island index.

Map of Camp Yawgoog, 1967   Leave a comment

Map of Camp Yawgoog from 1967.

Map of Camp Yawgoog from 1967.

Portions of the movie Moonrise Kingdom, the events of which took place in September 1965, were filmed here. The style of this map is very similar to the style of the map used in the movie.

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Posted December 23, 2013 by stuffiex in Facts & Folklore, History

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Pep Song for Rhode Island   Leave a comment

by Mildred Harris

[With an obvious debt to Flanders and Swann, “Song of Patriotic Prejudice,” from At The Drop of Another Hat.]

Rhode Island? Rhode Island? Rhode Island is where?
Look in New England; it should be right there.
It’s neighbors are huge and prosperous as well.
But Rhode Island has chickens and it’s easier to spell.

Rhode Island is tiny; Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the littlest State of them all!

It’s proud to be known as State Number Thirteen
From 1790 and all in between.
It flies a State Flag of blue, gold and white.
With “Hope” as its motto, it’s future looks bright.

Rhode Island is tiny; Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the littlest State of them all!

You can pedal across from the East to the West.
Or walk North to South, whichever is best.
The Ocean State’s beaches draw tourists in droves,
Water sports, sunning and fishing in coves.

Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the littlest State of them all!

Rhode Island is pretty; it’s summers are nice.
Sometimes in winter it’s covered in ice.
The chickens are red and delicious to eat.
And if you like quahogs, you’re in for a treat.

Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the littlest State of them all!

You’ve heard about Newport and nothing much more?
There’s Providence—thrice!—and a whole lot of shore.
Central Falls, Cranston, Woonsocket are three,
Warwick, Pawtucket—and a red maple tree.

Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the State that I like best of all!

Mildred Harris describes herself as a “foreign* admirer of The Littlest State of Them All,” (*as in ‘from one of the other (larger) States’).”

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Posted December 16, 2013 by stuffiex in Cultural Brouhaha, Facts & Folklore

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Big Rooster   Leave a comment

New digs at Antonelli's, November 2013.

New digs at Antonelli’s, November 2013.

Big wings, big thighs, big breasts, oh my!
Antonelli’s Poultry Company, 62 De Pasquale Avenue, Providence
(401) 421-8739

Nothing calls attention to your business better than a freakishly large fiberglass animal.

This fantastic fowl originally graced the sidewalk in front of Sollitto’s Liquor Mart at 905 Narragansett Boulevard beginning around 1969, when, at the suggestion of his brother, Domenic Sollitto bought it at an auction for $200.

It was stolen at least twice, once in the early 1970s by a Brown University fraternity that employed a pickup truck to make off with the bird, and once in the late 1990s by less-resourceful Johnson & Wales students who tried to drag it away on foot. The Brown students reportedly got caught because a postman saw them muscling the ungainly 150-pound cock into their dorm, and reported the sighting to Sollitto. The safe return of the rooster was brokered by the dean of students a few weeks later. Supposedly a case of bourbon was suggested as ransom, but whether that was the dean’s idea or the students’, we don’t know. The J&W kids didn’t do nearly as well. They were spotted by patrons of a nearby bar who gave chase as the students humped the statue down Indiana Avenue. Thinking only of their own interests, the kids dropped the chicken, leaving a minor crack in its skin. As a result of these shenanigans, the bird was subsequently brought inside the store each night to remove the temptation to larceny.

Sollitto's flag-waving message, photographed August 2, 2003.

Sollitto’s flag-waving message, August 2003.

The rooster became a booster for belligerent American patriotism sometime after 911, with the painted admonition, “USA, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.” Prior to that, it bore the harmlessly capitalistic and far less jingoistic “SPIRITS LOW, SEE SOLLITTO.”

The rooster was featured in a Zippy the Pinhead cartoon on May 30, 2006, which poked fun at the idea of a barnyard fowl spouting outdated messages of narrow-minded patriotism. Zippy pointed out that chickens are more closely identified with cutting and running than with stolid, staightbacked, clear-eyed dedication to cause, and the rooster agreed that “Cutting and running [is] the new patriotism!” Maybe the punchline hit home for Sollitto, because a year or two later the bird had been rendered messageless.

Sollitto’s closed in 2013 and the rooster was sold to Antonelli’s Poultry on Federal Hill, marking a sharp shift in the bird’s promotional career. The connection between fresh poultry products and an eight-foot clucker are obvious in retrospect, and forty-four years of shilling for booze are easily swept under the henhouse, especially with the aid of a fiberglass restoration and spiffy new paint job by Bob Connell of Nick’s Auto Body

Wright's big rooster, photographed November 6, 2004.

Wright’s big rooster, November 2004.

A second giant rooster once stood in a prominent spot at Wright’s Farm Restaurant in Burrillville. A comparison of photos shows that Sollitto’s and Wright’s roosters appear to have hatched from the very same clutch of fiberglass eggs. If not brothers, they are at least close cousins. Wright’s rooster can still be seen, but it’s somewhat hidden on the roof of a shed at the back of the restaurant complex.

Are two big roosters enough for the Biggest Little? No, there was a third that used to hang out at Kiddie Land at Rocky Point Park in Warwick. It was purchased at auction by Chris Gasbarro of Gasbarro Liquors who, in 2007, donated it the Tomorrow Fund, which refurbished it and auctioned it off at their annual fundraiser on November 3, 2007. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.

All three roosters were likely manufactured by International Fiberglass of Venice, California, in the 1960s. According to Wikipedia, “boatbuilder Steve Dashew established International Fiberglass in 1963 by purchasing and renaming Bob Prewitt’s workshop, Prewitt Fiberglass. The oversized fiberglass men, women and dinosaurs began as a sideline. Increases in costs to deliver the lightweight but oversized figures proved problematic and business declined with the 1973 oil crisis. International Fiberglass was sold and closed permanently in 1976. The moulds for the figures, originally worth thousands of dollars each, were not retained and are now lost.”

Sollitto's questionable color scheme, photographed January 26, 2008.

Sollitto’s questionable color scheme, January 2008.

You may well wonder, given their residence in Rhode Island, if these statues are of the famed Rhode Island Red breed of chicken. They are not. In fact, try as we might to find a picture online of a living rooster with a white body and a red tail, we came up empty handed. Perhaps, and this is just a guess, the paint scheme for both roosters was informed by depictions of the Warner Brothers cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. The 2008 version of the rooster at Sollitto’s bore a green wattle and legs. You can’t tell us that ever occurs in nature. In any case, these fiberglass roosters are found all over the country, and given that they’ve probably been painted many times since their manufacture, they share remarkably similar color schemes. See Debra Jane Seltzer’s page of Giant Roosters, Chickens and Turkeys for more compare and contrast fun.


Cost: Free

Time required: Allow one minute to gawk, more if you’re shopping for dinner

Hours: During business hours

Finding it: From Route 95 take exit 21 to Atwells Avenue. Go under the pinecone arch and turn right onto Dean Street. Turn left onto Spruce Street. Park. Antonelli’s is located in De Pasquale Plaza, a small pedestrian plaza on the left.

Other Big Things in Rhode Island

  • Big Blue Bug
  • Big Coffee Mug
  • Big Handtruck
  • Big Ice Cream Cone, Lakewood Ice Cream, 140-152 Chambly Avenue, Warwick
  • Big Milk Can
  • Big Paint Can, True Value Hardware, Route 44, Greenville, Smithfield
  • Big Rosary Beads, Jesus Savior Church, 509 Broadway, Newport

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Grave of Pookie   2 comments

She was a grand old girl, aged 77 in dog years.

She was a grand old girl, aged 77 in dog years.

Lucky dog.
837 Wapping Road, Portsmouth

“If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die I want to go where they went.”
—Will Rogers

Ambrose Burnside. Stephen Hopkins. Richard Morris Hunt. Sissieretta Jones. Ida Lewis. H.P. Lovecraft. Metacomet. Elizabeth Alden Pabodie. Raymond Patriarca. Claiborne Pell. Matthew Perry. Oliver Hazard Perry. Anthony Quinn. Sunny von Bulow. Roger Williams.

You should know these names. They’re all famous, or were in their day. And to varying degrees, their fame shines on beyond their deaths. Apart from their notoriety they all have something else in common: whether they were politicians, actors, writers, singers, mob bosses, generals, Pilgrim offspring, architects, lighthouse keepers, Indian chiefs, or religious leaders—one and all, their mortal remains enrich the soil of Rhode Island.

And let it not be said that “royalty” shuns Rhode Island as a fitting place for eternal rest, for Pookie Windsor also sleeps her everlasting sleep beneath the comforting dirt blankets of the Ocean State.

You say you’ve never heard of her majesty, Pookie Windsor? Well, let me fill you in.

This photo, from Edward the Uncrowned King by Christopher Hibbert (1972), is captioned "The summer of 1934... Wallis Simpson and Pookie," but that can't be correct. Either the dog is Slipper, or the date is wrong.

This photo, from Edward the Uncrowned King by Christopher Hibbert (1972), is captioned “The summer of 1934… Wallis Simpson and Pookie,” but that can’t be correct. Either the dog is Slipper, or the date is wrong. Photo by Edward Windsor.

Pookie was the pet of the former King Edward VIII of England and his paramour, American divorcee Wallis Simpson—the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The couple began collecting dogs in 1934, and they brought them everywhere they went. Armchair psychologists speculate the dogs served as surrogate children, as the Windsors never had any human children of their own.

For the first several years of their marriage cairn terriers were the Windsor’s breed of choice. The first was a male brindled gray named Slipper, a present from Edward to Wallis at Christmas, 1934. Never properly house broken, Slipper was given the nickname Mr. Loo. Sadly, he was fatally bitten by a viper in Cande, France, in April 1937. Pookie, a cream colored female cairn terrier from Austria was added to the family next, followed by Detto, another male brindled gray, and Prisie (short for Surprise), a female brindled cream, both born in England. In the early 1950s the Windsors phased out terriers and switched to pugs.

Cairn terriers are so-named because they were used in the Scottish highlands to keep down vermin. The small, agile dogs were adept at searching cairns (man-made stone piles) and other tight spaces for rats and other rodents.

"Detto, Prisie and Pookie play with the Duke in the Hall. One of Detto's legs was broken recently when a taxi ran over him." From "Life Goes Calling on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor," Life Magazine, July 10, 1939.

“Detto, Prisie and Pookie play with the Duke in the Hall. One of Detto’s legs was broken recently when a taxi ran over him.” From “Life Goes Calling on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor,” Life Magazine, July 10, 1939. Photo by William Vandivert.

None of the couple’s pets were ever completely house trained, and servants were kept busy cleaning up after them. Anne Sebba, in her book That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, reported an example of how the dogs were spoiled and indulged: They “were often literally spoon-fed from silver bowls by the Duke or Duchess meals that had been especially prepared for them.”

And from The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson by Greg King:

Wallis could not stand wrinkles in her bed… Once the bed was made, a plastic sheet was spread atop the satin eiderdown so that the pugs could climb onto the bed with Wallis; there she would feed them the hand-baked dog biscuits prepared fresh each day by her chef. Usually the pugs slept on the bed with her, although the Duke’s favorite might disappear through the boudoir to his own spot at the foot of his master’s bed.

It was an embarrassment to the Royal Family for a former monarch to be married to a twice-divorced woman, so the Duke and Duchess were essentially exiled from England. They lived for the most part in France, but traveled extensively, Newport being one of their frequent stops.

The Newport Daily News reported on one of their Newport visits in its society pages on September 17, 1943:

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, here for a weekend visit with friends, made their only public appearance today when the former King Edward VIII took a special review of Naval Training Station personnel at the Station at 11 o’clock this morning.

The Training Station display, which was marked by a large turnout, was highlight of a series of private entertainments that have been under way since the arrival of the Duke and Duchess late Saturday afternoon from Boston, to be house guests of Mrs. Duncan Douglas at ‘Cairngorm Lodge’ on Bellevue Avenue.

The Duke and Duchess, according to present plans, will leave Tuesday for Providence, where they take a train for stops in New York and Washington before he returns to his post as governor general in Nassau. Tonight they will be dinner guests of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt at ‘Beaulieu.’

Another Newport visit was noted in the Milwaukee Journal‘s society pages on August 5, 1945:

The event of the season was the arrival of the former king of England and the woman he loves, the duke and the duchess of Windsor. Aside from the formal dinners and dances in the evenings, the duke and his attractive duchess are having an informal holiday. He plays golf every day at the country club and she strolls on the avenue, shopping or walking along the cliffs and stopping in at Bailey’s Beach.

They probably will sail for England Aug. 6. Already many of their belongings have been shipped ahead. Conservative Newport citizens say they will be glad to see them go. For them the Windsors seem not to belong and royalty be darned.

Admittedly, anyone not born in Newport is a carpetbagger and remains an outsider until at least a quarter century of rather rugged residence.

A third visit was detailed in the pages of Newport Daily News the weekend of November 26, 1947. The Windors once more indulged in round after round of luncheons, teas, and dinners, including Thanksgiving dinner at Fairholme, the Newport mansion of their friends, the Robert R. Youngs.

It must have been on one of these visits in 1952 (unfortunately, not reported) that Pookie, by then almost sixteen years old, died. The Windsors decided to inter the pup at one of New England’s first pet cemeteries, located at Potts Canine Country Boarding Kennel in Portsmouth. The first burial took place there in 1938, and as of 1991 it was estimated that more that one thousand beloved companions had been laid to rest on the property. Only a relative handful of these are marked, Pookie’s grave being one.

It’s not known if the Windsors were visiting Newport at the time of Pookie’s death, or were merely in the area, or were passing through. We heard rumors that the pooch passed away while on a “cruise.” Also, that the Windsors visited the grave at least once in later years.

Pookie’s simple white marble stone is about midway along the front wall of the property.

AUGUST 16TH, 1936
APRIL 12TH, 1952

Pookie died just around the time that the Windsors switched their canine loyalties from cairn terriers to pugs. But that’s just a coincidence, right?

Be that as it may, Edward passed away in 1972 and Wallis followed in 1986. They are buried together in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore, Berkshire, England, a somewhat grander resting place than Pookie’s quiet country plot in the colonies.

The property at 837 Wapping Road in 2005, and again in 2013.

The property at 837 Wapping Road in 2005, and again in 2013.

Potts Canine Country Boarding Kennel became Bow Wow Villa when it merged with a pet grooming salon called Bow Wow House in the 1970s. The grooming business then spun back off in the late 1980s, becoming Perry’s Plush Pooch at another location. The Bow Wow Villa property was purchased by the Newport National Golf Club, and leased to K9 Instincts Dog Training and Kennel. Then in the early 2010s K9 Instincts moved to another location, leaving the property abandoned and overgrown. As of late 2013, the golf course’s plans for the property are unknown.

Slipper's grave. Date, source, unknown.

Slipper’s grave. Date, source, unknown.

Pookie’s is not the only Windsor dog grave left in the world. Slipper was buried, probably, near the Cande, France, chateau where he died, as evidenced by an undated photo. The remains of Prisie (1938-1949) reside at Chateau de la Croë, a villa on the French Riviera that the Windsors once leased. And several of the couple’s pugs are buried on the grounds of Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, in Gif-sur-Yvette, Essonne, France, although the grave markers (somewhat worse for neglect) have been moved to a corner by a garden fence. Le Moulin (The Mill) was purchased by the Windsors in 1952, and is now a sort of upscale vacation rental.


Cost: free

Time required: allow 10 minutes for silent contemplation of the fleeting nature of canine existence.

Remember, this is a cemetery. Please be respectful.

Finding it: from Route 195 take exit 8 in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Route 24 toward Tiverton. Travel about nine miles and take the exit toward Middletown/Newport Beaches, merging onto Turnpike Avenue. After 7/10ths of a mile bear right onto Route 138 south (East Main Road). Go 3.5 miles and turn left onto Sandy Point Avenue, then turn right on Wapping Road. Go 1.6 miles to #837. Pookie’s grave is next to the stone wall beside the road.

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