In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Mississippi. We invite you to explore museum collections from Natchez National Historical Park, Natchez Trace Parkway, and Vicksburg National Military Park.
Punkahs, or ceiling fans, originated in India and often hung over dining room tables in large mansions of the antebellum south. While relatively few survive today, this elaborately carved punkah remains in the Melrose mansion in Natchez, Mississippi and features a boldly carved anthemion or honeysuckle motif, a classical design that mirrors the cast iron work on the mansion's Greek revival portico.
The punkah is made of Santo Domingan mahogany. An enslaved servant pulled an attached cord causing the punkah to sway, thereby creating a slight breeze that also helped keep flies away.
Melrose is a component of Natchez National Historical Park, whose mission is to preserve and interpret the diverse history and material culture of the peoples of Natchez. The punkah tells many stories as it symbolizes not only the grandeur and taste of the antebellum planter class that owned Melrose but reflects the workmanship and technology of the craftsmen who built it and the labor and servitude of the slaves who operated it.
Natchez National Historical Park, NATC 12418
This snuff box once belonged to Captain Meriwether Lewis (August 18, 1774 - October 11, 1809). Lewis was the leader of Thomas Jefferson's 1804-1806 Corps of Discovery, also known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The purpose of the expedition was to find a water route between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean. Although no route was found, Lewis and his men recorded a vast amount of natural, cultural, and geographic information. After the expedition, Jefferson appointed Lewis governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. On his way to Washington, DC in 1809, Lewis traveled along the Old Natchez Trace. On October 10, he stopped for the night at Grinder's Stand in what is now Lewis County, Tennessee. He died the next morning of gunshot wounds and was buried near the stand along the Old Natchez Trace. In 1848, the State of Tennessee erected a monument in his honor. The site is administered by the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Natchez Trace Parkway, NATR 1100
These fifes belonged to 14-year-old Orion Howe who served at Vicksburg, Mississippi during the siege as a musician with the 55th Illinois Infantry Company C. Howe exhibited courage and tenacity on May 19, 1863, when his unit was involved in fighting at Graveyard Road. When Colonel Oscar Malmborg asked for volunteers to run to the rear of the line to secure needed cartridges, Howe volunteered for the hazardous duty. Dodging shot and shell, Howe was struck in the thigh by a minie ball, but he refused to give up until he reported the circumstances to General William T. Sherman. For his bravery, he was awarded our nation's highest honor, the Medal of Honor. Howe's story of sacrifice and bravery exemplifies the struggles and sacrifices suffered by soldiers on both sides during the Vicksburg Campaign and Siege.
Vicksburg National Military Park, VICK 3518
Park museum staff from: Natchez National Historical Park, Natchez Trace Parkway, and Vicksburg National Military Park.
National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach