Middletown Springs, Vermont

The Historical Society

The Middletown Springs Historical Society collects, preserves and exhibits community history at its museum in the historic Adams House on the Green in Middletown Springs and at the Mineral Springs Park nearby on Burdock Avenue

Visit Us

The Adams House is located at 10 Park Avenue. The museum is open on Sundays, 2-4 p.m., from Memorial Day through October, and by appointment. The Historical Society presents several public events each year for educational and fundraising purposes. It also offers seasonal and ongoing exhibits. The Mineral Springs Park, located at 11 Burdock Avenue, is open to the public during daylight hours year-round.

For 49 years, Historical Society volunteers have served up delicious strawberry shortcake made with fresh Vermont berries and homemade biscuits at the annual Strawberry Festival. Photo by Emmett Francois

Strawberry Festival Continues Classic Summer Tradition

Strawberry and history lovers are invited to participate in the 49th Annual Strawberry Festival on Sunday, June 23 from 2 p.m.- 4 p.m. at the Historical Society building on the Green in Middletown Springs 

The festival continues a long summer tradition at the Middletown Springs Historical Society with an event that includes a craft fair, live music and, of course delicious strawberry shortcake made with fresh Vermont berries, homemade biscuits, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, with a choice of iced tea, lemonade, or hot coffee. Berries will also be available for sale by the quart.

Local artists and craftspeople will display and sell their work, including maple products, jewelry, photography, knitted items, honey and beeswax products. There will be live music during the event, and a variety of items will be raffled off.

Free Admission to Museum Exhibit and Children’s Program

This year’s festival also marks the opening of a new exhibit dedicated to the life and works of business entrepreneur and popular citizen of Middletown Springs Dana S. Carpenter (1863-1940).

The new exhibit in the Historical Society’s museum, Dana Carpenter (1863-1940): A Man for All Seasons, features photographs, artifacts, and written accounts of Carpenter’s career as a botanist, pharmacist, photographer, and active citizen. A special program for children attending the festival will be creating botanical prints by pressing flowers and plant materials. Admission to the museum and the children’s program is free.

Dana Carpenter poses with the Clift girls on the porch steps of their home. Carpenter used a delayed shutter release on his glass plate camera to allow himself to get in the picture after focusing his lens. Photo by Dana Carpenter , MSHS Museum Collection
Dana Carpenter was a pharmacist, a well-known avocational botanist, the local photographer and printer, and the Middletown Springs Telephone Company’s first manager and lineman. Circa 1935 , MSHS Museum Collection

New Exhibit Opens at Museum

Dana Carpenter (1863-1940): A Man for All Seasons

This year’s Museum exhibit, opening at the Strawberry Festival on June 23, explores the career and life of Dana Stedman Carpenter, business entrepreneur and popular resident of Middletown Springs from 1888 until his death in 1940. The Middletown Springs Historical Society museum collection includes a wealth of historical artifacts, photographs, books, documents, and paper records related to Carpenter, acquired over the past 50 years, including recent important acquisitions. The exhibit, which runs through March 2025, will be augmented by public programs about botany and glass plate photography.

Dana Carpenter was a pharmacist, a well-known avocational botanist, the local photographer and printer, and the Middletown Springs Telephone Company’s first manager and lineman. An active town citizen, he represented Middletown Springs in the State Legislature in 1902-1903 and 1929-1930. In local affairs, he served as Town Moderator for 20 years, Justice of the Peace, school board member, Town Auditor, Health Officer and trustee of the Public Library. He was a deacon of the Congregational Church and was active at the county and state levels in Christian Endeavor, an interdenominational Christian youth society.

Born in Westminster West and raised in Weston, Carpenter married Clara Curtis of Ira, whom he met when both were students at Castleton Normal School. In 1888, the young couple moved to Middletown Springs where they opened a pharmacy in one of the shops at the Valley Hotel on East Street. To the town’s delight, their drug store offered a soda fountain with homemade ice cream! Later they expanded the shop to include a general store and, around 1903, they added the town’s first  telephone and telegraph exchange, including a dedicated local operator. 

When, c. 1905, the Carpenters were bequeathed the Horace Clark house on West St., they moved there from their previous home on West St. next to St. Anne’s Catholic Church.  Later Dana moved the business to a building next door to the Clark house (the site now known as Sissy’s Kitchen). Upstairs, above the expanded pharmacy and general store, “Carp” had his printing shop and photography studio. Clara died in 1917, and Carpenter later married Aurora Stewart of Rutland. Together they raised two foster daughters, Harriet Kenyon and Thelma Day.

The MSHS collection documents Carpenter’s business, professional, and avocational pursuits, as well as his community and family life. Many of these collection items will be on exhibit for the first time, including Carpenter’s framed pharmaceutical degree certificate, shelving and apothecary bottles from his drugstore, botanical specimens and notebooks, glass plate photography prints and equipment, printing blocks and printed material from his shop, and personal photo albums and scrapbooks.

Carpenter’s Grip Syrup

Dana Carpenter operated his drug store from 1888 through 1938, a 50-year period during which laws regulating the pharmaceutical industry were first introduced and then expanded. Although Congress began investigating drug purity in the 1840s, it was not until 1906 that President Theodore Roosevelt pushed Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act. It required accurate ingredient labeling and prohibited the sale of adulterated and misbranded food and drugs in interstate commerce.

In its early years, Carpenter’s Drug Store was operating during a time of  corruption in patent medicines, including fake testimonials, dangerous and addictive quack cures, and drug impurities. After the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act passed in 1906, drug labels were required to clearly state all ingredients, especially eleven “dangerous” substances, among them alcohol, heroin, morphine, caffeine, opium, cocaine, and cannabis. Importantly, labels could not be misleading or false in claiming cures for serious diseases like cancer or tuberculosis.

As it turned out, some of the old patent medicines were still sold, but were advertised for coughs, colds, pains and aches, and minor complaints. It appears that Carpenter was toeing the line when he advertised his own Grip Syrup, which sold for 25 cents a bottle. The label on the bottle includes the ingredients: white pine bark, wild cherry bark, spiknard, and balm giliead buds. The label makes this claim: “Will soothe your Cough, relieve your hoarseness, stop the annoying tickling in your throat, promote expectoration, and is especially adapted for the cure of the distressing cough following an attack of LaGrippe, which if unheeded leads to serious lung troubles.”