Family Benefit Party: Passport Through American History


On a sunny winter day last weekend hundreds of families traveled with their “Passports Through American History,” stopping at 1699, 1776, 1845, 1899 and 1942. At each stop along their travels, kids participated in historic games, art-making, and hands-on activities, earning special stamps in their passports. Other highlights included a photo booth using images from the New-York Historical Society collection, historic ice cream making (and tasting!), and games about Civil War-era medicine. We even had real live leeches! Young actors brought historic words to life with the push of a button, George Washington helped kids sign an enormous Declaration of Independence, families solved secret codes under the watchful eye of a World War II soldier, a fancy Gilded Age lady and young newsie guided young artistic creations, and Dutch colonial New Yorker Cornelia Van Varick charmed visitors with her tales by the hearth.

Even Abraham Lincoln was in a festive spirit
Leeches! (and other 19th century medical devices)
Making historic ice cream
Photo booth fun

If you didn’t get a chance to join the fun, read on to learn how to make some of the great activities from the party at home.

Decorate A Delft Tile

At the 1699 station, kids and their families learned about Dutch New York with Cornelia Van Varick and decorated a Delft tile to add to our “fireplace.” When Dutch colonists left their homes in Holland, they often brought with them blue and white Delft tiles — named for the city in the Netherlands — to adorn their new homes. Many of these tiles depicted scenes of Dutch life or other symbols important to Dutch heritage. Partygoers sketched designs and pictures on their Delft tiles that reminded them of their homes. The Dutch often illustrated their tiles with scenes of windmills. What symbols remind you of New York?

To make your own tile, download the template here and use blue colored pencils or crayons to draw something that you might bring on a move far away to help prevent homesickness.

Cornelia helping young partygoers with their tiles
Enjoying the fireplace

Funny Founders Portraits

At the 1776 station, families created one silly portrait by combining snippets of six historical portraits from the New-York Historical Society’s collection. Even wonder what Dolley Madison’s forehead looks like combined with George Washington’s eyes and nose, Juliette Toussaint’s chin, and Chief Cornplanter’s shoulders? Now you can find out for yourself. Other historical figures to choose from include Martha Washington and Peter Williams. Download the Funny Founder Portraits here (Juliette Toussaint, Martha Washington, George Washington, Peter Williams, Chief Cornplanter, Dolley Madison) and cut along the lines to form strips to mix and match the portraits. Glue your strips down on a blank piece of paper and enjoy!

Kids making their portraits at the party
Hard at work
signing the Declaration of Independence next to the Funny Founder wal

Paper Airplanes

At the World War II station, families got a chance to fold paper airplanes and fly them through targets. The planes came decorated to mimic both British and German airplanes.  Download a British glider here, fold inward along the lines, and see how far your plane can fly! (find more templates on http://www.rafhornchurch.thehumanjourney.net/)


Here’s what your plane should look like when folded correctly
Folding planes at the party
Our World War II soldier and a new friend launch their plane


We hope to see you at next year’s party!

Painting Credits

Gilbert Stuart, George Washington, ca. 1800-1820. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, 1867.303

Asher Brown Durand, Mrs. George Washington, ca. 1835. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical Society, Gift of The New-York Gallery of Fine Arts, 1858.38

Anthony Meucci, Mrs. Pierre Toussaint, ca. 1786-1851. Watercolor on ivory. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Miss Georgina Schuyler, 1920.5

Unidentified Artist, Peter Williams, ca.1810-1815. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical Society, Source unknown. X.173

Bass Otis, Mrs. James Madison, ca. 1817. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, 1867.308

F. Bartoli, Ki On Twog Ky (also known as Cornplanter), ca. 1796. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, 1867.314


All photographs by Don Pollard Photography


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