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barn decorations, witches, horseshoes, hex signs, castration, superstitions, boars


A handwritten letter from Russell S. Baver addressed to Alfred L. Shoemaker, dated January 15, 1951. Within, Baver details his feelings on barn decorations and describes superstitions surrounding horseshoes and cattle castration.


Russell S. Baver


Alfred L. Shoemaker

Corresponds to:

Packet 573


Easton, Pennsylvania


234 W. Lincoln St.

Easton, Pa.

Jan. 15, 1951

Dr. Alfred L. Shoemaker

Penna. Dutch Folklore Center

Franklin and Marshall College

Lancaster, Pa.

Dear Sir:

Congratulations on a job well done! I am referring to your booklet on “Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Decorations” and your emphasis on the point that they are not painted on barns to “ward off evil spirits” but “chust for nice”.

May I suggest that Ann Hark be given a copy of this book as she takes the extreme opposite view in her book entitled “Hex Marks The Spot”. It might set her on the right track.

I agree whole-heartedly when you state that “a farmer would not parade his mysterious doings before all the world to see”. Where the people believed in such omens, (and this practice goes beyond the Pa. Dutch) they had numerous other ways to ward off the witch’s curse. On numerous barn doors you could and can still see a horseshoe nailed to it. Or inside “der fooder gong” (feeding entrance) you can see a horseshoe hanging on a harness strap nailed to the timber above. Also, when cattle were castrated, especially boars, the testicles were carefully laid on top of the timber framework of the pig-sty so as to insure speedy recovery.

Sincerely yours,

Russell S. Baver



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Letter From Russell S. Baver to Alfred L. Shoemaker, January 15, 1951



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