© Illustration by Vera Neville from Heaven to Betsy
“It’s in Dodd and Storer’s window. Just what I want for the front parlor window. A big brass bowl!” “It’s perfectly stunning, Bob,” Mrs. Ray said. “I just have to have it.”
Every day that Mrs. Ray went shopping she went to Dodd and Storer’s to see whether the brass bowl was still in the window. It always was. And since she went Christmas shopping almost every day she mentioned the bowl at supper almost every night.
It was joyful, as always, to walk with locked arms along a snowy Front Street, gay with its decorations of evergreen and holly boughs, and the merry jingle of sleigh bells. Betsy drew Tacy to a stop before Dodd and Storer’s window. “Mamma has her heart set on that brass bowl,” she said. …“I don’t believe Papa’s going to buy it for her, though. He hasn’t told us, but I believe he’s bought the mink fur piece she was teasing for before she saw the bowl.” (Excerpts from Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace)
The jewelry store referred to as Dodd and Storer was the Martin and Hoerr Jewelry Store. Stewart Martin founded the business in 1870. He brought in his nephew, Frank Hoerr, who later became co-owner of the store in 1892. The business continued in the Hoerr family and the store remained in the same location at 111 South Front Street for 106 years until it was forced to move due to urban renewal in 1976. The store moved to 128 East Jackson Street and closed in 1990.
An ad in the Mankato Free Press from December 8, 1897 describes the store: “The stock is the largest and finest which this enterprising firm has yet offered, and includes everything that is late and novel. The big sideboard display of cut glass is one of the most attractive features and certainly presents a beautiful sight. The stock of parlor lamps of new designs is complete; the completeness of the stock of hand-painted china, solid silver novelties, sterling silver brushes and combs, umbrellas, etc. leaves nothing to be desired. The stock of mantel clocks cannot be surpassed. Those who are looking for Christmas presents that will always be prized for their value and utility as well as beauty should not fail to visit Martin & Hoerr. The big stock contains a thousand and one novelties, which the proprietors and force of lady clerks will take pleasure in exhibiting.”
Stella (Jule Ray) did get the brass bowl, although not from her husband as she had hoped. She took matters into her own hands to ensure that she got what she wanted. As the Martin and Hoerr store ad stated, Christmas presents that will always be prized, this bowl must have been a prized possession as it remained in the Hart family for many years. Maud’s daughter Merian donated the original brass bowl to the Betsy-Tacy Society. The brass bowl and many other artifacts are on permanent display in the interpretive center at Tacy’s House in Mankato. (from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley by Julie Schrader)
© 1992 “The Brass Bowl” by Cheryl Harness. Photograph of the original illustration.