It’s New Years Eve, 1960 and a new decade is dawning. How about this snappy lime green lamé ensemble of crop pants and tunic for that special party? It’s even trimmed with fur for an added touch of elegance. The long tunic has short kimono sleeves with a revealing slit, a rounded neckline, and darts at the waist. Lined with gold taffeta, it is split up the left side, revealing the matching tapered knee-length pants.

The label reads: Designed by Mancini California and the outfit was worn by Marian McFadden Harper of Darlington, South Carolina. We’re still looking for more information on this designer, probably pretty hip for the day.

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

There is nothing like a fabulous red outfit for Christmas Eve. This stylish red matelasse suit was designed by Gustave Tassell and worn by June Mohler around 1962. June was the director of the Rodgers & Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State University. Their fashion library is now named after her.

The suit consists of a sheath dress, sleeveless with a waistline seam, bustline darts and a barely flared skirt constructed in seven gores. It has a metal zipper in back and is lined with black silk. The matching coat has ¾ raglan sleeves and wonderful black coiled composite buttons in front. It is similar to a Gustave Tassell ribbed red matelasse dress and coat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy during her arrival in Rajasthan, India on March 18, 1962. She also wore the dress for a camel ride with her sister at the residence of President Mohammad Avub Khan in Karachi.

Gustave Tassell was born in 1926 in Philadelphia. After moving to New York, he worked in the advertising and display department for Hattie Carnegie. In the early 1950s, he moved to Europe and worked with Geneviéve Fath and James Galanos. He began his own business in 1956 in California, receiving the prestigious Coty Award in 1961.

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

Trench knife
Landers, Frary & Clark
New Britain, CT
1917

The United States entered into the First Word War just as trenches erupted throughout the European battlefront. With no other tactic available than charging enemy lines on foot, US doughboys were now more than ever reliant on close-quarter, hand-to-hand weaponry. Taking advice from battle-weary French troops, American armorers put forth the US M1917 trench knife nicknamed the “knuckle duster.”  A scary implement indeed, pyramidal teeth protrude from the knuckle bow and the blade is actually a triangular spike purposely designed to puncture the thick overcoats often worn by the enemy inside their own trenches.

Landers, Frary & Clark, whose mark (“L.F.&C.”) is stamped at the hilt, opened just after the Civil War as a housewares company producing myriad kitchen appliances and utensils. In the spring of 1917, the company went to work making edged weapons for the US army.

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

Get cozy - the first day of winter is just a few days away! These hand-crocheted slippers might be just the ticket for a young man in 1888. That is the year they were made for and given to John Sanford, by Ida Saxton McKinley. Sanford was a newly elected Republican congressman from New York while Mrs. McKinley was the wife of then Republican congressman William McKinley from Ohio and future First Lady. Sanford (1851-1939) was a son of Stephen Sanford, of the New York carpet manufacturer, Bigelow-Sanford, a very wealthy family. In 1888 he had not yet married Ethel Sanford, daughter of Henry Shelton Sanford who founded Sanford, Florida. The Sanfords also owned a summer home in Aiken, South Carolina, where their daughter, Gertrude was born. She later married Sidney Legendre, purchased Medway Plantation in the Lowcountry, and donated many family items to the Museum, including these slippers.

The slippers are one pair of many made by Ida McKinley. As noted in the November/December 2013 issue of Piecework magazine, she crocheted thousands of pairs (estimated at 4000!) and gave them away to friends, veterans, orphans and for fundraisers. It has been exciting sharing our slippers with Kimberly Kenney, curator of the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Canton, Ohio. It seems that most, if not all, of her slippers were blue – and blue was definitely her favorite color.  Even her sewing bag was this same color. Surviving slippers, including ours, have crocheted wool tops and bound cord soles onto which the tops were sewn by hand.

Not only does the Presidential Library have more of her slippers, they have a wonderful dress collection worn by her and are currently working on a huge fundraising effort to preserve these gowns.

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

Volley Gun
Henry Nock
London
1790-1800

Looking to get the holiday season off with a bang? London gunsmith Henry Nock’s volley gun is likely the biggest one the Charleston Museum has to offer - at least in its small arms collection. Nock fashioned only 600 of these formidable weapons beginning at the turn of the 19th century fulfilling a contract with the Royal Navy, who were constantly in need of close range and effective weaponry for use in the Napoleonic Wars. Sporting seven barrels, each approximately one-half-inch in diameter (or .50-caliber), one squeeze of the trigger discharged all of them simultaneously; the resulting spray of lead intended to damage an opposing ship’s rigging or “…disrupt formations of men.”

Nock succeeded in producing an intimidating gun. However, despite its moderate success when fired from atop a ship’s main mast down on to the enemy’s deck, the volley gun was certainly not without some notable shortcomings. As one can guess just from looking, the volley gun is quite the heavy firearm weighing in at a hefty 12 pounds (add an extra pound when fully loaded). Additionally , with seven large-bore barrels all going off at once, it produced a vicious recoil that could - and in some instances did - disable the poor sailor firing it (i.e. separated shoulders and the like). Worse still, its massive discharge and muzzle flash was known to spit flames from the muzzle for several yards, creating a significant danger of setting one’s own sails on fire. The Royal Navy ultimately judged its volley guns too dangerous for use by 1802-03, leaving Nock little choice but to abandon his design.

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

Rose silk faille dress, 1870s. Labeled Mme Gabrielle / Robes & Confections / 205 Rue St. Honoré, this elegant creation was designed by one of the premier couturiers of the 1860s and 1870s. The floral embroidery ornaments the bodice and the skirt, with its bustle and train. It was most likely worn by Gertrude Ellen Dupuy (1841-1902) who married Henry Shelton Sanford in 1864, both of wealthy American families. Gertrude was born in Philadelphia; they married in Paris and then lived in Brussels for a time. The dress was given to the museum in 1979 by her granddaughter, Gertrude Sanford Legendre.

A few weeks ago, we shared another Mme Gabrielle dress, also from the 1870s. The one today is perhaps even more luscious, adorned with magnificent floral embroidery. Parisian designers used embroidery ateliers or workshops to complete this kind of work, designed specifically to fit the cut of the gown. The bodice has 3/4 sleeves and a squared neckline, trimmed with white net lace. The buttons are covered to match the dress. It is lined with white silk and has encased stays, silk covered “bust improvers” and an inside waistband that bears the maker’s name and address. The long flowing skirt has a pleated front panel of cream satin; the back fits over a bustle and extends into a fairly long train, reinforced with pleated, stiffened gauze.

This dress came to the museum with a few extra pieces. Two are very obviously belts – one appears to have been cut from another piece that we just can’t figure out. It’s an odd rectangle, but is finished nicely (except for the cut-out) and even has two weights sewn into the hem. Any suggestions? The other piece is large and embroidered – could it be an alternate front skirt panel? Perhaps Mrs. Sanford thought it was too much and switched it out for the pleated satin. Email us at info@charlestonmuseum.org if you have a good idea!

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

Pepperboxes
left:
Allan & Thurber
Worcester, MA
right:
William W. Marston
New York, NY
c. 1850

Even though Samuel Colt is credited with revolutionizing firearms (and deservedly so), inventors and gunsmiths had long tinkered with the notion of repeating firearms. Pepperbox pistols (so-called because of their resemblance to ordinary pepper mills), were perhaps the most successful repeater guns of the pre-revolver era clearing the way for mechanized repeater handguns.

Still a multi-barreled and heavy pistol, pepperboxes did well in bringing forth the automatic phase of weaponry employing a rotating barrel mechanism allowing for multiple shots before reloading. Although earlier models required a manual rotation of barrels, later versions like the ones seen here housed a mechanism, which rotated its barrel cluster automatically upon pulling back the percussion hammer similar to a single-action revolver. Becoming popular circa 1830, pepperboxes served mainly civilian, self-defensive purposes. The barrel cluster made the pistol a bit too nose-heavy for aiming as did the centrally located hammer atop the breech disrupting a user’s line of sight.  

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

Holiday party time! In the late 1950s you might have chosen this sassy red taffeta cocktail dress designed by Madeleine Fauth. Nancy Dinwiddie Hawk of Charleston did just that. She purchased the dress at Margaret Riley’s dress shop at 103 Church Street and wore it to parties. The dress bodice is fitted with long vertical darts and has fitted kimono sleeves. This style of sleeve became popular in the 1950s with its sloping shoulder line, in contrast to the padded “power” look of the 1930s and 1940s. The kimono sleeve is cut as part of the bodice, emphasizing a continuous line between the neck and the arm, subduing the shoulder. The bodice meets the full gathered skirt at a low V waistline, trimmed with a band of tucking.

Nancy Hawk (born Nancy Shepherd Dinwiddie in 1922) met her husband, John, as a pre-med student at the University of Virginia. They moved to Charleston in 1951 when he took a position with MUSC. Even while raising nine children, Nancy was an active community leader, a preservationist and nationally honored mother of the year. She died in 2008, leaving a long and influential legacy.

Madeleine Fauth began designing in the 1930s, with one of the 7th Avenue junior houses. She started her own line, Valroy, with a friend but it lasted only a year. At the International Dress Company she again designed for junior and in 1942 did the same at Arkay. Her 1950s dresses often had full skirts and matching accessories.

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

Fowling Gun
Antonio Paguaga
Eibar, Spain
1844-1854  

As the name suggests, fowling guns (sometimes referred to as “fowling pieces”) were designed specifically for the sport of “wildfowling” or the hunting and harvesting of birds. Despite its overall length of almost 6 feet, this particular piece is remarkably lightweight at only 7.5 pounds. Makers designed most fowling guns to fire small loads of birdshot effective only at close range. Characteristic of late 18th and early 19th century fowling guns are their lengthy barrels, earlier designs sometimes reaching upwards of 7 feet. Many hunters and gunsmiths alike falsely believed at the time that longer barrels helped increase a gun’s accuracy and thus compensate for the light load.

True to the period, this sporting firearm exhibits detailed work not just from the gunsmith, but also a number of different carvers and engravers. The detailed walnut rear stock, for example, bears a carved bird’s head at the grip section and a 6–petal flower behind the cheek rest. Intricate engraving furthermore appears at the breech including the maker’s mark: “Por Antonio Paguaga en Eibar, 1854.” By the late 1500s, the town of Eibar (in the Basque region in northernmost Spain) was home a variety of gun makers producing weaponry suited for both military and sporting purposes. The gunsmith district there is still central to the region’s economy.

Pictured top: our curator of history, Grahame Long, agreed to let us photograph him with the fowling gun. We wanted to give you an appreciation of just how long the barrel is!

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

Fashions for a relaxing Thanksgiving morning – These two dressing gowns, both from the late 19th century, are currently on exhibit at the Museum. Our man’s dressing gown is black silk with braid ornamentation at the neckline and flared cuffs. The front buttons are crochet-covered with thread loops for closure. It is shown in our Fashion in Fiction exhibit, along with a black velvet smoking cap, evoking an image of Sherlock Holmes pondering over a difficult case in his rooms at 221B Baker Street. The cap is embroidered with gold thread and lined with gold silk.

The woman’s dressing gown is in Positively Paisley, an exhibit featuring the ever-popular boteh motif in shawls and garments. This striking gown has printed bands of paisley designs. The back of the gown has a gathered waistline and a small train, presumably to accommodate a bustle. It was worn by the donor’s mother, Jane Arabella Perry Jackson (1834-1922) probably in the 1870s.

Both of these dressing gowns would have been worn in the privacy of one’s home, amidst family and intimate friends only. Women could enjoy some hours of freedom before donning the restrictive corsets and bustles required of day or evening wear. And men could wear their dressing gowns over street clothes (without their jackets), in comfort and knowing they were protecting their clothing and hair from tobacco smoke aromas.

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