Some Americans know Gen. George S. Patton Jr. from headlines that were published during World War ll, when he was defeating German armies in North Africa and Europe.
Others first learned about “Old Blood and Guts,” as he was known, from the 1970 movie “Patton,” in which he was portrayed by George C. Scott in an Oscar-winning performance.
But locals can now get to know one of America’s most successful military leaders by visiting the Patton Family Archives, which recently opened to the public, in the house where Patton and his wife once lived in Hamilton.
“One thing I do find is that, for veterans especially, when they come here, there’s something about being in Patton’s house,” said Carol Mori, who directs the archives.
The Patton Homestead at 650 Asbury St. was donated to the town in 2012 by Joanne Patton, who was married to George S. Patton IV, son of the general from World War ll and a major general in his own right.
But she donated the materials that fill four rooms of the house to Wenham Museum, which is responsible for the tours, and is now in the final stages of accessioning those archives.
As Wenham Museum trustee Rebecca Smith explains, accessioned materials could — if necessary — be sold only if the proceeds were used to buy another item for the collection.
“It can’t be used for bricks and mortar,” she said. “It can’t be used for rent.”
But their only plans at the moment are to continue cataloging and preserving the materials, which Mori has been doing since 2008 with help from Gordon College interns and David Goss, who teaches history at the school.
Mori previously worked for Gordon and Joanne Patton, before the latter donated the archives to Wenham Museum, which Mori now serves as a consultant.
“Wenham was primarily chosen because it would allow public access in its natural setting,” Mori said.
These archives do not include Patton’s official papers, with his wartime communications, which were donated to the Library of Congress in the 1950s and ‘60s, Mori said.
And the bulk of his other items went to the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, in Kentucky, including materials that were moved out of the Patton Homestead after a fire in 1986.
But people who think of the general primarily as a warrior will not be disappointed to see the shako, or cap, that he wore as a student at West Point. It rests on a beam in the Hamilton home.
And anyone who remembers the scene from “Patton” where he tried to shoot down an enemy plane with his pearl-handled revolver should enjoy seeing a weather vane that once sat on top of the homestead’s barn and is now kept inside the house.
“You notice it’s well-patched, and that’s because both generals would stand in the driveway and shoot at it as target practice,” Mori said. “When it got so shot up, it would come down, it would be repaired and be put back up.”
There is also a cavalry saber that Gen. Patton designed, 35,000 of which were manufactured in the Springfield Armory between 1913 and 1918, while another 93,000 were made by a company in New Britain, Connecticut.
It was the last design for a cavalry saber that the military requisitioned, Mori said, although they were eventually transformed into trench knives, after the cavalry was discontinued.
But there are several other Pattons who can be discovered through this collection. In addition to the Olympic equestrian and polo player, there is also the sailor, whose boats included the Arcturus, which made its maiden voyage from Manchester-by-the-Sea to Cape Charles, Virginia, in 1929.
“The whole trip is in here if you’d like to read about it, if you have the time,” Mori said.
The other Pattons also include four men in the family who bore the name George S. Patton, including the World War II general’s son, Joanne’s husband, who was born George S. Patton IV.
“In 1946, after his father dies, he goes and he has the courts wipe the fourth off his name, so he goes back to a straight George S. Patton,” Mori said.
This is the major general, and there are plenty of artifacts in the house from his military career, including a field jacket he was wearing in Vietnam when he was wounded in the stomach.
“He was actually more highly decorated than his father,” Mori said.
His career is discussed on the tour, along with those of family ancestors who served in the Civil War and the American Revolution.
But the collection also includes a photo of a picnic in 1902 on Catalina Island, off the coast of California, where a 17-year-old George S. Patton Jr. is pictured along with 15-year-old Beatrice Banning Ayer, whom he would marry eight years later.
She was one of the Ayers that owned the Ayer Mill in Lawrence. Her family bought the Asbury Street house for the young couple in 1928, and it served as the only personal residence they ever owned, Mori said.
Their attachment to the place — where Beatrice was still living when she died in 1953 — is recorded in family movies that were shot at the house in 1928, 1929 and the 1930s and are now part of the archive.
Indeed, family connections are at the heart of this collection, which also includes audio tapes sent back and forth between the major general and Joanne Patton during the Vietnam War and letters from George S. Patton Jr. to his family during World War II.
“I have a whole folder of this family correspondence that nobody has,” Mori said. “So if you want to get a feel for George, how he wrote, how he was communicating with his family, I have those types of things. That’s why we’re a family archive as opposed to a military archive.”
If you go
What: Patton Family Archives Tours
When: Aug. 1, 8 and 13 at 10:30 a.m.
Where: Patton Homestead, 650 Asbury St., Hamilton
How much: $20, with reservations required
More information: 978-468-2377 or www.wenhammuseum.org/pattontours