BY MARJ JACKSON LEVIN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANGIE BAAN
hirty years ago Betty
Rosenhaus looked out
of her hotel room win-
dow and saw several
elderly women sweeping their
brooms over the streets of Moscow.
"That's the souvenir I want,"
she told her husband, Mel. And so
began her unique collection of the
Today, more than 50 brooms
from 20 countries and numerous
states stand beside her
Birmingham fireplace and
Charlevoix hearth. "There's never
been a problem taking them
through customs," says Betty.
"What you see is what there is."
Brooms from as far away as
Poland and China, and as near as
Petoskey, are gathered together.
Brooms from Finland, Israel,
Scotland, Japan, even New Guinea,
remind visitors that a tidy abode is
valued in every culture.
Betty, an enthusiastic traveler, is
fascinated by ethnic crafts. "When
you think about it," she says, "a
broom was probably one of the first
handcrafted household tools."
She envisions our ancient ances-
tors tying some twigs together to
sweep out their caves. Today, farm-
ers grow special broomcorn to
make these products.
The corn plants are cut, bundled
and hung to dry in barns. One
unique specimen from Ohio was
woven and tied to a sanded cherry
tree root that serves as the handle.
The result is sculptural art as well
as a utilitarian item.
Betty says she appreciates folk
art, both old and new. She is
intrigued by the designs, the use of
materials and the fact that artists
cannot help themselves in wanting
to express their vision ... no matter
how mundane the object.
She herself is a crafts person.
She knits, does needlepoint and
weaves baskets. "Fibers are my
thing," says Betty.
Her interest in weaving has also
lead to another of her collections,
quill boxes. The Ottawa,
Chippewa and other Great Lakes
and Plains Indian tribes used por-
cupine quills to decorate their
clothing. In the 17th century,
French traders encouraged the
Indians to make quill boxes by
applying them to birch bark. Betty
purchased several from an antique
shop in Harbor Springs. These fas-
cinating floral-design boxes are still
made by Great Lakes tribe mem-
Included among her other col-
lectibles are old Indian moccasins,
European pincushions and World
War I trench art. (Artillery shells,
decorated with designs sculpted by
soldiers while they hid out in
trenches, are called trench art.)
Pocket-watch holders, flat irons
and American flags have also found
a home with Betty. Two of her
flags are quite rare. One is an 1861
"field of stars" flag representing 34
states of the union. Another is an
1876 flag featuring 38 stars.
Betty never deliberately seeks
objects to add to her collectibles,
but enjoys happening upon them.
"Then it's a serendipitous experi-
ence," she says. She admits she's
not quite sure what triggers her
desire to start a certain collection.
"It's something that just creeps up
on you. You can't help yourself."
Betty Rosenhaus stands in front of
a rare "field of stars" flag from
1861. She is surrounded by
collectible brooms, quill boxes,
moccasins and pincushions.
STYLE AT THE JN! • AUGUST 2003 • 1 1