What better fashion for a lovely spring day in Charleston than a straw hat? Men and women, especially in a climate like Charleston’s, have loved straw hats of all kinds. The man’s boater was popular and stylish from the late 19th century well into the 1940s.

Our classic boater is a sharp Knox Fifth Avenue example with a wide blue striped ribbon band. It was worn in Charleston by George Stephen deMerell (1893-1989). Our collection also contains two additional men’s boaters, both in very poor condition, but both with Charleston retailer labels. A. Beauregard Betancourt (1861-1944) began his haberdashery career with C. C. Plenge, the oldest hat store in South Carolina, at the corner of Broad & Church Streets. He bought the business in 1910, modernizing and improving over the years. The label is also stamped with the owner’s name, R. B. Comar – for Robert B. Comar (1901-1976), who started as a shipping clerk and progressed to vice president of a steamship company in the 1930s. He probably wore this hat in the 1920s and 1930s.

Our other Charleston retailer label is from Berlin Bros. / Downtown / Clothiers & Furnishers / Charleston, S.C. Samuel and Benjamin Berlin took over the business (founded by their father Henry Berlinsky in 1883) in 1912, at the corner of King & Broad Streets. The store continues today as a premier shop for fine clothing. The hat was made by the Townsend Grace Company of New York & Baltimore. Founded in 1885, the company was one of three large straw hat makers in Baltimore, making it the Straw Hat Capitol of the U.S. in the 1920s. At that time the industry had over 3000 workers and produced three million straw hats annually.

Our ladies straw hat offering for spring is this wonderful woven corn shuck hat encircled with sprays of dried flowers and grasses. It too probably dates to the 1920s, with its deep, domed, close-fitting crown. It is lined with white silk.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

These fabulous French silk boots were the height of fashion in the 1870s. Bearing a label from “Gartrell / A La Providence / Rue St. Honoré / No. 359 Paris,” they are made of finely ribbed silk with delicate lace trim. Each shoe has seven embossed pewter buttons, extending up over the ankle. The French heel is covered in the same white silk. Paris was the fashion hub of the world, with designers and specialty shoe establishments lining the Rue St. Honoré. Even today, it is probably the most fashionable street in the world, with many major houses and brands there.

These shoes were worn by Gertrude Ellen Dupuy Sanford (1841-1902) and were given to the Museum by her granddaughter, Gertrude Sanford Legendre in 1980.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

It’s April Fools Day – so let’s look at what many thought was a foolish fashion. The hoop crinoline and huge skirt of the mid 19th century was the source of much satire and derision. But the fashion-setters remained undeterred for almost a decade.

Yes, the new, lightweight hoop replaced the heavy layers of petticoats to extend the skirt to a circumference of six to eight feet, but at what cost? As the cartoons of the day show, any number of mishaps could occur – from brushing too close to the fire and going up in flames, to getting tangled in the carriage hardware resulting in an embarrassing tumble. Getting close enough to a fashionable lady could prove difficult for a gentleman dancing partner or a server delivering a party treat. These cartoons suggested the wearer could become airborne in a strong breeze or could hide all sorts of mischief beneath the wide berth. Indeed, more than one Confederate lady was said to have smuggled supplies and information hidden in special pockets under their voluminous skirts. Emeline Pigott of North Carolina reputedly carried up to 30 pounds of goods to aid Confederate soldiers, as did Mary Kate Patterson of Tennessee and others.

Nevertheless, the lilting motion of the almost floating skirt was appealing for many and was again seen in 1950s party-wear and for many wedding gowns. The wide skirt makes the waist appear even smaller, a truly desirable trait in the mid 19th century.

Our museum collection dress today is a beautiful figured cream moiré silk taffeta, trimmed with black lace. The dropped shoulders and v-bodice focuses on that tiny waist. Ours even has a hidden pocket (though this one is quite small) in the right front seam. It is currently on exhibit in Fashion in Fiction, up until April 22, 2014.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Aerial bomb
unmarked
Germany
1915-1918A

With battlefronts across Europe coming to a standstill by 1914, airplane use during World War I quickly morphed from tools of surveillance to bona fide assault machines. In this earlier stage of the war, however, wartime aviation was still in its experimental phases and the available aircraft of the period were simply not strong enough to carry heavy ordnance into the air. Occasionally referred to as an “aerial grenade,” most early attempts at airborne bombing utilized small, handheld explosives that were physically thrown out of an aircraft’s cockpit by the pilot himself. The rear fins kept the bomb in a (relatively) vertical position in flight until and impact-triggered fuse at the bomb’s nose struck the ground and detonated the explosive charge.

Eventually, factories on both sides produced larger, stronger airplanes specifically for strategic bombing delivering multiple shells to a single drop zone, engineers designed specialized bombing sights to take the guesswork out of aerial targeting, and the explosives themselves became larger and more powerful.  

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes.

This lovely dress was the wedding dress of Anne Porcher Mazyck (1820-1881) who married Gabriel Manigault (1809-1888) on November 4, 1846. The sheer organdy dress has a pleated and ruched bodice, extending into a point below the waistline where the full skirt is tightly gathered. Around the lower portion of the full skirt is a band of beautiful floral embroidery. The round neckline and short sleeves are trimmed with gathered tarlatan; the sleeves also have two narrow bands of silk braid. One sleeve even has a tiny white leather orange blossom bud pinned on. The entire garment is lined with cream silk. The hooks and eyes are missing from the back opening.

While extremely yellowed with age (and remnants of original starch), the dress is still charming in its feminine silhouette, so popular during the 1840s.

Anne was the daughter or Philip Porcher Mazyck and Mary Stanyarne of Charleston. Her husband, Gabriel, was the son of Joseph Manigault and Charlotte Drayton, also of Charleston. He was born in his parents’ house in Wraggborough, now the Joseph Manigault House, open to the public and operated by the Charleston Museum. Gabriel was a staunch supporter of the Confederacy, a signer of the Ordinance of Secession and a Colonel during the war. Several years after the war, he moved his entire family and some other relatives to London, Ontario, to escape a life under Yankee domination.

They had six children, including Edward Middleton Manigault who married Harriet Winstar Barnwell. They were the parents of Ann Mazyck Manigault, who donated the dress to the Museum in 1960.

**The dress will be on display at the Joseph Manigault House for the special Women’s History Month tour tomorrow, March 26, 2014.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

In honor of Charleston Fashion Week, we take a look at an interesting, and very fashionable, 1870s dress. This gold silk two-piece dress is embroidered all-over with turquoise stars. Slim-fitting in front, the skirt pulls back to accommodate the popular bustle, dwindling a bit by 1876 after rather extravagant fullness in the earlier ‘70s. Throughout this period, trimmings abounded on dresses, this one having contrasting turquoise collar, puffed oversleeves and wide sashing down the front, culminating with a wide belt and mother-of-pearl buckle. The skirt is ornamented with a wide satin band around the hem and two lines of corded lacing, ending in glorious tassels.

This lovely dress was worn in Charleston by Frances Olmsted Marshall (1845-1929). She was the daughter of Episcopal minister, Aaron F. Olmsted and Caroline C. Cook. Frances married Richard Maynard Marshall of Charleston in 1872 and had five children. The dress came to the Museum from her granddaughter, Alida Dana Canfield Sinkler in 1957.

The dress was given with a second bodice, much plainer but with delightful star covered buttons down the front. Studying this bodice, one sees that the sleeves have been cut off as has the bottom of the bodice, raw edges still showing. The style of this bodice appears to date to the 1860s rather than 1870s – the jewel neckline, the double vertical darts in front and the center front fastening from neck to waist. What if Frances had a much plainer dress in the 1860s, complete with very full skirt (and lots of beautiful starry fabric) and had it remade into a more stylish gown for the 1870s? The sleeves could have been re-used, with any problems or shortness concealed by the blue silk oversleeves, and a new bodice constructed using some of the bountiful skirt fabric. The addition of the dazzling blue silk, lacing and bustle rendered the garment totally new – and in style – years later.

On exhibit in Fashion in Fiction, October 19, 2013 to April 6, 2014

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Basket-hilt sword
Drury, Drury & Son Swordcutters and Goldsmiths
London
1770-1780

Because of its readily recognizable full-cage or “basket” hilt, which completely enveloped and thus protected the user’s hand from all sides, the Scottish-heralded basket hilt pieces became common among the highlanders sometime in the late 16th century. By the 17th and especially 18th centuries, however, their popularity had spread throughout Britain and into continental Europe. These swords (sometimes also referred to as a “backsword” for the blade’s flat back edge) furthermore became a decorative symbol as well as a formidable one, the weight of the hilt, thickness of the blade and balance overall convincing most mounted cavalry units – Napoleon’s for one – to carry them while in action. 

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes.

Pert and pretty and definitely green, this 1950s cocktail dress would be perfect for a St. Patrick’s Day party. Jade green chiffon over green taffeta, the full skirt has a green net petticoat for the stylish bouffant look of the day. The boat neckline softly drapes over the shoulders, echoing the cummerbund-style waistband. The ballerina length was popular in the 1950s as was the V-style back neckline. It has a label: Lorrie Deb / San Francisco, a clothing line first launched in November 1950.

This dress was worn by a daughter of Alvin Arthur & Frances Cains Burbage of Charleston, probably Mary Frances, who was born around 1940.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

For March – Women’s History Month – we have chosen this incredible appliqué panel, probably made by Martha Cannon Webb Logan around 1840. She, of course, may have worked on it for a number of years. The long panel (17 inches by over 17 feet long) depicts Charleston as a seaport city, from detailed sailing ships, carriages, goods and animals, to stately houses. It was undoubtedly planned in a different format (a bed quilt perhaps), but was cut apart and portions reassembled by a later family member. The original maker’s use of fabrics and appliqué combine to create a fascinating folk art montage.  

Martha (1783-1843) was the daughter of William Webb and Margaret D’Oyley.  She married William Logan in 1819. The quilt pieces passed to her granddaughter, Martha Webb “Patty” Logan and then to her niece, Alice Logan Wright who gave it to the Museum in 1977, in memory of the many generations of Logans who have served the town, the province, and the country.

In 1990, Sandi Fox at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art included this piece in her exhibition and book, Wrapped in Glory: Figurative Quilts & Bedcovers 1700-1900, in which she postulates both the maker of the quilt piece and her sources for many of the individual motifs. Just recently, a new study has been taken on by Brenda Rousseau of Colonial Williamsburg and Kathleen Staples, an independent researcher, to try to figure out what might have been the original format for this intriguing piece.

Need to zoom in a little closer? Click here for a bit larger view.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Naval officer’s sword
Unmarked
Continental Europe
1850-1860

Captain John Morris Wampler, chief of engineers at Battery Wagner, carried this non-regulation 1841 pattern piece featuring an eagle’s head pommel, leather-covered grip and folding guard, this formidable saber. Customary to some officers, Wampler had his name engraved on the scabbard’s middle brass band. 

Assigned to General Pierre G.T. Beauregard’s staff, Captain Wampler returned to Charleston just in time for the disastrous summer of 1863 and the Federal siege of Battery Wagner. A surveyor by trade, Wampler directed the construction ancillary batteries, bombproofs and powder magazines within Wagner all the while under near-constants artillery fire. Sadly, it was inside one of his bombproofs (or semi-submerged, reinforced interiors capable of withstanding indirect shelling), where he died instantly upon a direct hit from a Union gunboat on August 17, 1863.

Wampler’s remains were returned to his native Virginia later that month and were buried in Union Cemetery in Leesburg. Preserving his sword for the next 31 years, his widow, Kate, presented it to the City of Charleston on September 11, 1894.

Author’s note: many will recognize this as the cover piece on The Charleston Museum’s brochure around town

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes.