The dozen members of the American Girl Club and their siblings
were stumped, trying to guess the name and the purpose of a brass
spittoon. Was it a flower pot? Could it be a wash basin?
A parent, Susan Hammond, gave them a clue: "It's associated
with a disgusting habit."
Giggling, one child immediately guessed it was used as a potty.
Not quite. Hammond explained that in the early 1900s, spittoons
were kept handy for tobacco chewers to spit in. The explanation
seemed to mystify the kids, who apparently are not fans of major
The spittoon was among 24 antiques used for an educational
guessing game at Hammond's home in Weldon Spring, where she and her
husband, Stan, were hosts of the monthly meeting of the American
Girl Club, on May 9. The theme, based on the 1904 World's Fair in
St. Louis, was: "Samantha's Party."
Samantha is a character in the American Girl book series, which
is published by The Pleasant Company of New York for children aged
7 and up.
Hammond's daughter, Stephanie, 8, belongs to the club, which is
for home-schooled girls aged 7 to 12.
The club, believed to be the only one in the area, was started
last winter by Linda Mueller of St. Peters, another parent who
teaches her three children at home. Mueller was intrigued by a
flier for a curriculum guide based on the American Girl series,
which was popular with her daughter, Hillary. The books can be
found in libraries and bookstores.
"I picked one book up and read it and said, `This has some
pretty good historical information in it,' " said Mueller.
The idea for a club spread by word of mouth, so much so that
Mueller had to limit membership to 12 girls, so that meetings in
one another's homes would be manageable.
The heroines of the novels - Felicity, Addy, Kirsten, Samantha
and Molly - are 9-year-old girls growing up in the United States
during different eras. Three authors have written six short novels
around each character, beginning with Felicity, who "lived" during
the Revolutionary War.
To prepare for the monthly club meetings, the girls and their
parents plan projects, do research, take field trips, interview
people, write reports, make a craft and cook food related to the
period of history covered in the books.
Club members had a play and sewed quilt pieces for the Colonial
American period, connected with the character of Felicity. In
April, club members dished up a smorgasbord inspired by the
character of Kirsten, an immigrant from Sweden.
The May meeting, however, was probably the most elaborate.
Hammond, a professional teacher who now home-schools her
children, moved here from Georgia last September. She was thrilled
by the amount of 1904 St. Louis World's Fair material she found.
"We visited Forest Park last fall," she said. "They really
hadn't destroyed the fairgrounds. You could go there and still
imagine what it was like."
Hammond, her family and her partner in the event, Kathy Cloud
of St. Peters, turned the May meeting into a miniconvention for
Samantha, an orphan living with her grandmother in New York in