Original reports of his acquisition in Egypt and arrival in Caz, excerpts from Hubbard diary
BY Jason Emerson
The Cazenovia Public Library and Museum’s Egyptian mummy, known as Hen, has become somewhat of a celebrity in Central New York. At 2,000 years old, having crossed an ocean in 1894 and been on public display in the library for 122 years (much of that time without museum-grade temperature or humidity controls), Hen is in remarkably good condition — as was mentioned numerous times on Dec. 10 when the mummy made a trip to Crouse Hospital for medical scans and tests.
During the Dec. 10 visit, which we reported on last week, scores of hospital doctors, nurses and staff turned out to see the mummy and watch the testing. Many of them, at the time, made remarks such as, “That’s a real mummy? I thought they were joking!”
Indeed, it was a real mummy, and the onlookers took lots of pictures — and many selfies — with their famous visitor.
At one point, as Hen was being wheeled out of the radiology lab where the CAT scan was performed, so many nurses and doctors were waiting in the hallway with cell phones poised and ready for photos, that it looked like a gathering of paparazzi.
People kept asking for historic details about the mummy and, although most Cazenovians know about a lot about Hen, it has been about a decade — since the last hospital visit and CAT scan — since the newspaper has published Hen’s history.
We take this opportunity to reprint a number of historic articles from the archives of the Cazenovia Republican concerning our famous resident and how he got here.
Hen came to Cazenovia in 1894, the gift of resident Robert J. Hubbard, as an addition to the library museum. Hubbard purchased the mummy in Cairo, Egypt while he was on a “Grand Tour” of that country. Hubbard kept a detailed account of his travels in a journal, including the facts of how he purchased the mummy for his hometown museum.
Excerpts from Hubbard’s diary were printed in the Republican on May 16 and 23, 2007. Below are reprinted a few of the most pertinent entries regarding his visit to Egypt and his purchase of Hen:
Thursday, Feb. 8, The Pyramids
We drove today first to the Museum of Boulac, went through that seeing its treasures in a hurried manner and then to the pyramids!… The wind was high and very troublesome. We went first to the Sphynx and the Exzcavated Temple with its huge granite boulders and gazed in wonder while the “40 (centaurs) looked down on us” and then battling the filthy Beduin we were pulled up to the entrance to the Pyramids and down the steep slippery incline to the interior chamber. I wouldn’t do it again for a fawn. It was dirty and fatiguing – once done will not be repeated.
Sunday, Feb. 11
Visited museum again. Went into sales rom where duplicates are disposed of at apparently very moderate prices. A mummy can be obtained for $20 to $30.
(Hubbard’s journal continued as the party traveled down the Nile River and toured Memphis, Luxor, Karnak, Thebes and other ancient cities.)
Friday, March 9 [Cairo]
Went this morning all of us to Heilouan, some 20 miles away in the desert. We went with Mr. C. Bochoridis to look at some mummies there. Finding something that will answer for our Caz library.
Wednesday, March 14
Went to the museum of Gizeh this morning. Saw the beautiful find of March 7 consisting of the finest collection of jewels, beads and enamel work ever discovered. It is indeed beautiful and rare.
Mr. Caste B Bochoridis from whom I bought my mummy has it all packed. … Unrolled (another) mummy for us but nothing was found upon it. The skull is to go home among my treasures.
Friday, March 16
I devoted today to get my mummy off.
(Hubbard’s journal continued as the party toured the Mid-East and Europe for another six months.)
To have a mummy
An interesting addition to the Foundation of Cazenovia en route from Egypt
(Cazenovia Republican, April 5, 1894)
Our fellow townsman, Mr. R.J. Hubbard, has purchased in Cairo, a mummy which will be sent home and presented to the Public Library as a contribution to its museum. The mummy is a fine one and in a good state of preservation. It is in the later period when Greek art asserted itself in Egypt. Its age is somewhere about 2,000 years.
The art of preserving or mummifying dead bodies was practiced in Egypt for a period of about five thousand years; that is, from 4,000 BC to 500 AD. The Greeks and Romans when occupying that country adopted the custom of embalming. The processes of treating the body were generally expensive. The brains and intestines were removed and the cavities filled with aromatic gums and astringent substances, salt and bitumen and the body was bandaged with a great many yards of linen cloth smeared with gum.
The casket was more or less covered with elaborate painting and gilding. Often long sentences from the book of the dead in hieroglyphics. The cost is said to have been a talent of silver or $1,250 for a first-class funeral. A less expensive method was to soak the body in salt for seventy days after injecting some strong astringent. This process was used for the poor.
It is a natural question to ask, why were the bodies preserved at all and what purpose had the ancient people in so carefully caring for their dead? That they firmly believed in a future state and in the doctrine of immortality and the resurrection of the body there is, not only no doubt, but positive certainty. In the world to which the spirits took flight, terrible combats, it was thought, had to be fought and the soul triumphant, once more returned to re-inhabit the clay. In the Island of Philae and in temples elsewhere, engraved in the stone, may be see a series of tablets representing the resurrection. In one, the body lies upon the bier, stark and stiff: in another, the spirit of the God, with wings, is descending upon it, to restore the soul to the body. In others various limbs are awakening to life until the resurrected body appears upright and restored.
In the sarcophagus of a mummy, and often in the wrappings are placed armlets, beads, jewels, lamps, scarabees, papyrus, statuettes, etc., sometimes of great value. The name of the deceased may appear in hieroglyphics, his virtues told or a prayer asked that in the unknown world the deceased may have of the abundance which he craved but was not able to procure in his life.
Until a mummy is unwrapped it is impossible to know what secret may be hiding in the windings. The Egyptian government allows no mummies to leave the country until they have been inspected and the seal of the Director of the Museum of Gazeh placed upon the case. Should there be evidence of peculiar riches, the mummy would be retained.
It is hoped the one Mr. Hubbard sends home will arrive in good order. It will not be unpacked until after his return.
The Mummy at the Public Library
(Cazenovia Republican, Jan. 24, 1895)
The Egyptian mummy given the Public Library of this village by Mr. R.J. Hubbard has been placed in the Egyptian room of that building and will be first exhibited to the public on Thursday, Jan. 31. The sights at the museum are of course free, but on this interesting occasion the members of the art class, inspired by a desire to help the library and interest the public in the same, will serve a tea at the library building at the low price of ten cents, the proceeds to go entirely to the library fund. It is hoped that an unusually large number of our citizens will be present and that the tea, so generously provided by the art class, will be largely patronized.
The Mummy Tea
(Cazenovia Republican, Feb. 7, 1895)
The mummy tea, held at the Library House Thursday afternoon, was a great success socially and financially. Everyone seemed to want to make the acquaintance of the embalmed lady in whose honor the tea was given, and of course one could hardly feel like declining the refreshments after having satisfied their curiosity; so the dimes came dropping in until they accounted over $35. Of this sum, $26.40 was cleared for the library.
The mummy rests in the bottom of a new glass case in one of the upper rooms of the house, and to the disappointment of many people it is not entirely unwrapped. It seems that after the embalming process was finished, a hollow mask of a substance resembling paper-mache, and large enough to cover the head and shoulders, of the deceased, was slipped into position, and below this, narrow strips of cloth were wound around the body and back over the mask itself. Those windings were then covered with other windings of wider cloth, until the body became quite bulky, when it was placed in its coffin and laid away. In this case, all the wrappings except the first layer had been removed, exposing the mask, but not the face. The face of the mask is gilded, and the gilding and painting is as fresh, apparently, after the lapse of 2,000 years, as when it was first put on. The strips of cloth with which it is wound are yellow with age, and are wound on in exactly the same pattern as the familiar log-cabin bed quilt — another illustration of the fact that there is nothing new under the sun.
The reason for retaining some of the coverings to the mummy was explained by the appearance of a skull on another shelf, — all that remained of another mummy unrolled in Mr. Hubbard’s presence last year, the other parts of the body having crumbled on exposure to the air.
On the topmost shelf of the cabinets reposes the wooden coffin in which the body has been entombed, showing no decay, the marks of saw and plane plainly visible, and showing the curious way of fastening it together with small wooden pins instead of nails. On other shelves are arranged many other funereal curious of the ancient Egyptians such as small images of Osiris, the great god and king of the underworld, covered with hieroglyphics, mummy necklaces of rude beds, tear bottle, mummied ibis and cat, images of Ra, the eagle-headed god, scarabs, etc.
The tea was served in the rooms below under the auspices of the art class, of which Mrs. A. Dows is president. The refreshments were excellent, and everything possible was done to make the occasion a pleasant one to all who came.
Much credit is due to the members of the art class, and especially to Miss Dows, for the unusual success which attended the affair.
Many curios at Cazenovia’s public library
Cazenovia Republican, May 30, 1912
One of the show places in Cazenovia is the public library. Here guests in town may spend a quiet hour reveling in the study of books and antiques. Chief among these curios is the Egyptian mummy, the gift of the late Mr. Hubbard. This is the one thing in Cazenovia that does not change — progress. New firms and faces are noticed by former Cazenovians coming back for a visit, but the mummy greets one with as much cordiality as upon the first meeting…
Anyone who would like to visit Hen and see the Egypt collection, can visit the Cazenovia Public Library and Museum, located at 100 Albany St. in Cazenovia, during regular library hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The library is closed Sundays.
For more information, visit the website at cazenovapubliclibrary.org or call 315-655-9322.