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tline3open  Polhemus/Polhamus/Polemus -- you say potato I say spud

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Author Topic:   Polhemus/Polhamus/Polemus -- you say potato I say spud
Chris Kirkman

Posts: 17
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 10-06-2003 12:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Chris Kirkman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can anyone offer definitive information regarding the spelling of this silver maker? Rainwater offers Polhamus, Noel Turner notes either Polhemus or Polhamus in his American Silver Flatware book, and others have noted Polemus. Which is the most commonly used spelling if the actual is not known?


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Scott Martin
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Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 10-06-2003 01:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Polhamus is correct.

From our publication The Book of Silver; Silver Marks & Patterns:

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Posts: 21
Registered: Dec 2000

iconnumber posted 10-12-2003 05:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recently located two design pattents held by John Polhamus, one for the Corithian pattern and the other was for a pattern that I have not be able to identify. In both cases the he signed the application John Polhamus.

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 06-21-2005 05:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is from an 1852 patent document by Henry Hebbard & John Polhamus (D-434).
The entire document is in longhand. It appears that the document is a longhand copy of the original patent. As such, I believe the entire document including signatures was made by the same hand. Even though it not likely his signature, it does support the spelling Polhamus.

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Ulysses Dietz

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Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 06-23-2005 02:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think we have an issue of spelling versus pronunciation. Polhamus, which is the right spelling for the silvermith, would have been pronounced pol-HAY-mus. So would Polhemus, an alternate spelling, which appears in a prominent Newark (NJ) Dutch family in the 1850s. I wonder which spelling is current in the Netherlands, or if both are used? We anglos tend to want to pronounce Polhemus as pol-HEE-mus, but a Dutch spin on the "he" would have been "hay." Until orthography in the US was regularized, both spellings would have been used quite carelessly. There are plenty of examples of different members of the same family spelling their names differently.

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Posts: 326
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 06-23-2005 03:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IJP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mr Dietz makes a good point. I've currently been reading a fantastic book (completely unrelated to silver) called Made in America by Bill Bryson, about the development of the English language, particularly in America. For a long time, orthography simply wasn't standardized at all. Shakespeare, writes Bryson, "never spelled his name the same way twice in any of his surviving six signatures... "Sir Walter Raleigh likewise changed the spelling of his surname as one might change a shirt." And, Bryson points out, many ancestors of American historical figures used widely variant spellings of their own names: Lyncoln, Linccoln, and Linkhorn; Giffersonne and Jeffreson; Jaxon, Jackeson, Jakeson, and Jakson. Even Thomas Jefferson "persistently addressed his letters to 'Doctr. Franklyn' when he must surely have realized that the good doctor [Benjamin Franklin] spelled his name otherwise."

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iconnumber posted 06-24-2005 12:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Excellent points gentlemen and ladies. English is not a phonetic language, even though it pretends to be one. I know several immigrants, graduates of very fine universities in their homelands who can not make head nor tail of English spelling. The number of times I have tried to explain the different pronunciations of 'nature' and 'mature' when the orthography is identical only to meet utter bewilderment, is astonishing.

What also puzzles me is why people who push for teaching phonics do not also push for simplified spelling. As someone who grew up with the old Chicago Tribune (with its simplified, phonetic spelling: a tuff lite shon thru the nite) that seems like the logical step. But then I meet people all the time who spell their own names in endless variations. Heather, Heether, Hyther on and on.

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iconnumber posted 06-24-2005 11:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is another explanation for the variety of spelling in family names. Remember that when immigrants arrived, immigration officials recorded their names. Often the immigrants who were asked their names were illiterate, spoke in varied accents and inflections, and/or carried nearly or completely illegible documents - at least to the recording clerk - who wrote the name as he heard or interpreted it and thought it should have been spelled. Unless the immigrants went to court to have any mistakes corrected at a later date, the names as spelled on the immigration document remained the official ones for them and for their descendants.

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Scott Martin
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Posts: 11377
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 06-24-2005 01:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think the question is whether John P. had orthography issues. He might very well have had them. The discussion of orthography does provide some interesting insights to past and present English language usage.

My is question (and Chris Kirkman: Can anyone offer definitive information regarding the spelling of this silver maker?) is whether John P. used any other spelling of Polhamus such as Polhemus or is that really an orthography issue caused by others. So far I have only been able to trace John P.'s use of the spelling Polhamus. I think the evidence seems to indicate that he didn't use Polhemus.

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