The Clara Barton Museum Blog

Artifact Series – Socks!

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When Clara Barton left 488 7th Street NW (now 437 7th Street NW) for Europe in 1869, she left many of her possessions behind in the care of her friend and landlord, Mr. Edward Shaw. Some items are intriguing, others commonplace, and still more just plain odd.
Socks found in the attic of 437 7th Street NW
Property of U.S. General Services Administration
One such “just plain odd” artifact – or in this case, group of artifacts – is a pile of almost 200 socks that was found among Clara’s things. Dirty, filthy, torn, ripped, and bloody socks. It is safe to assume that not all of these were Clara’s; it is much more likely that the majority of them belonged to the soldiers.
Sock ankles, showing signs of being repaired
Property of U.S. General Services Administration
The current theory is that Clara collected damaged socks, repaired them, washed them, and sent them back out into the field, in that order. The socks are unwashed because they had to be repaired before being washed, or they might unravel. These socks never made it to the washing stage, and so are still covered in the 150-year-old blood and filth of the Civil War. The war probably ended before Clara could get around to the repairs of these socks. At that point, they ended up in a box in her attic.
Some of these socks are currently on display at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, but we plan on using many of them in the exhibits at the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum. If you’d like to see these in our space, please consider donating to the CBMSO’s security system at

Next week, toxic chemicals!
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