The silhouette of the 1890s was pretty distinctive – whether for evening dress or day wear.  The bodice invariably had huge balloon sleeves, a rather tiny waist, and a smooth but full long skirt. The look was popularized by the iconic drawings of Charles Dana Gibson, whose drawings illustrated books as well as being published in magazines such as Life, Harper’s Weekly, Scribners and Colliers. His creation was a beautiful and independent American woman, a member of upper class society and always dressed in the latest fashion.

This sturdy but attractive outfit certainly fits that bill. The beige cotton faille two-piece dress is trimmed with blue corded silk and cut steel beadwork and a Mandarin collar. The buttons are square silver metal with a raised design.

On exhibit in Fashion in Fiction from 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

Cavalry Saber
Unmarked
European (attributed)
1840-1855

The most recent accession to the Charleston Museum’s weapons collection, this standard Model 1840 Cavalry saber belonged to Augustin Louis Taveau.
Born on January 19, 1828, to affluent Huguenot parents, Taveau was raised in Winnsboro before moving to Charleston where he studied law under James L. Petigru, even publishing a book of poems in the 1850s. A successful rice planter and confidant of Louis Manigault, Taveau joined the Confederate Army in 1861 as a military staff aide but achieved to the rank of Colonel by war’s end. Returning to Charleston in March 1865 after signing a loyalty oath to the United States, Taveau’s once flourishing rice plantation was bankrupt. In 1866, his wife’s wealthy Bostonian parents encouraged both he and his family to resettle to St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Here, Taveau attempted to rehash his former agricultural career but failed, eventually relocating to Baltimore where he died in 1886.

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 fabulous cape from the 1920s is a large rectangle, 50” x 80” which drapes sensuously over the body. One edge is trimmed with flowing white marabou feathers, which extend down the front as lapels. The cape is black net covered with cream chain-stitch crochet, forming a swirling, floral, overall pattern. It is lined with gold silk crepe.

It was worn by the donor, Gertrude Sanford (1902-2000) who married Sidney Legendre in 1929. Born at her family’s summer home in Aiken, SC, she was the daughter of John & Ethel Sanford, part of the wealthy Sanford family (Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company). Athletic, well-traveled and well-educated, she was not only a socialite, but a preservationist, philanthropist, a big-game hunter and a volunteer with the OSS during World War II. Legendre’s flamboyant style could easily handle this stunning, but somewhat exotic, cape, possibly from one of the Parisian design houses. Fashions in the 1920s were flowing, often unstructured, and often ornamented with fur or feathers. This cape would provide the movement and panache that made the 1920s unique.

This cape is on exhibit in Fashion in Fiction October 19, 2013 – April 6, 2014.

View other garments from the Legendre collection:

  1. 1920s evening dress
  2. 1880s dress by Worth
  3. Mme. Virot hat
  4. 1920s  parasol
  5. Worth evening coat
  6. 1890s Worth dress
  7. Fortuny dress and evening coat

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

Signal Cannon
Unmarked
Continental Europe
1790-1830

Not to be confused with lantakas, or small swivel-guns mounted to ship railings, small, decorative cannons such as this were merely communication devices. Crews discharged signal cannons for any number of non-combat scenarios needing only a small amount of powder and wadding to produce a suitably loud report. Before docking, for example, a vessel’s signal cannon could announce the ship’s arrival to port inspectors. Also called “salute cannons” depending on their intended use, these small guns could offer non-verbal warnings as well as greetings to passing vessels. The barrel of this cannon is a mere 14” long.

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

Perfect for a crisp fall day are these two-toned heeled pumps from the 1930s. These tan suede shoes with brown alligator leather toes with perforated edging, heels and decorative bows were made by Naturalizer. Biltrite is stamped into the heel. There is decorative zig-zag stitching around the vamp opening. The covered knock-on heel is 3 inches high with the straight styling popular in the 1930s. In addition to Naturalizers, the label inside reads Plus Fit Lasts.

While similar to Spectator (or “Co-respondent” in Britain) shoes, these do not have the typical perforated wingtip or heel cap. They simply have a stitched and perforated toe cap and covered heel. Nevertheless, the two-toned construction gives the appearance of a Spectator without some of the flash, especially given the tan and brown coloring rather than the more typical white and brown (or black or blue).

Naturalizer was created in 1927 and by 1938 had a distinctive brand image. Biltrite was a rubber sole and heel company founded in 1908 in Trenton, NJ.

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

Blunderbuss with spring bayonet
Ketland & Company
London
1800-1810

Developed in 16th century Europe, blunderbusses emerged as quintessential maritime firearms by the early 18th century. A devastating weapon designed for close-quarters combat, its large-bore barrel could be loaded with several musket balls, large amounts of buckshot or, in a pinch, bits of iron hardware like nails or potsherds. Its short barrel and compact stock made it an ideal weapon when boarding ships. Furthermore, this piece is equipped with a spring bayonet, which at the flick of a thumb switch, releases a spring flipping the bayonet’s blade up and over the barrel much like a modern switchblade.  Although the characteristic flared muzzles are often credited with helping spray projectiles at a wider trajectory, the main purpose was to ease reloading while aboard pitching boat decks (the funnel-shaped end provided a larger area for which to pour powder). Additionally, as the flared muzzle produced an abnormally loud bang when discharged, the actual term “blunderbuss” is an English corruption of the Dutch donderbus which translates into “thunder-pipe.”

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 beautiful raw silk coat was custom made in Japan, 1960 for Charlestonian Margarette deSaussure Black (1913-1997). The all-over printed design is a lovely paisley in red, black, gray, mustard and metallic gold. It is long, with long sleeves and opens in front with fabric rosette and frog closures. It is fully lined and meticulously tailored; the label, inside the clever interior pocket reads: “William D. Wong Ltd. / Tailored Expressly For / Mrs. M. deS. Black / No. Wo-438 / Date 15th July 1960 / Place Iwakuni, Japan.” The pocket is edged with tiny finished prairie points, a nice detail. I have been unable to find any information on William D. Wong, but one would surmise that his shop was a highlight while on duty in Iwakuni.

Iwakuni, Japan is approximately 600 southwest of Tokyo in the Nishiki River delta. It has been home to a United State Marine Corps air facility since 1958. Margarette’s husband, Robert Atticks Black, Sr. was a Silver Star recipient for his World War II service in the Pacific and served as Wing Inspector 1st MAW at Iwakuni.

The coat was given to the Museum in 2004 by Margarette’s sons, Robert A. Black, Jr., Henry William deSaussure Black & William Peronneau Black in 2004, in memory of Dr. Henry William deSaussure & Margarette Whitaker deSaussure Black.

This coat is on exhibit in Positively Paisley from September 11, 2013 to January 5, 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

Powder Horn
Unmarked
American (attributed)
1851-1861

Made from cow horn, this piece bears the carved insignia of Charleston’s own Palmetto Guard. Before the advent of self-contained metallic cartridges, powder, shot, wadding and primers were individually loaded through a long arm’s muzzle. Hence, soldiers carried separate containers of loose gunpowder they could use either in battle or, in their spare time, make smaller paper cartridges.

Although most manufacturers by this time had switched to cheaper and stronger metal flasks with adjustable chargers (which could pour a set measure of gunpowder into a cylinder before being loaded into a gun), many militia units like the Palmetto Guard preferred the elegance of traditional horn for formal occasions. Horn owners could personalize them with custom engravings, and to accommodate this, manufacturers occasionally boiled then compressed their powder horns to produce flatter, more workable and readable surfaces. Like scrimshaw, an artist (or sometimes the soldier himself) engraved an insignia or some other image or pattern onto the horn before covering it with dye. While still wet, the dye was wiped off the flat surface of the horn, leaving only the engraved lines filled in.

A volunteer infantry company, the Palmetto Guard was founded in Charleston on June 28, 1851 - the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sullivan (or “Carolina Day”).  After secession, the Guard took positions on James Island, Morris Island, and Mount Pleasant. Members of the Palmetto Guard positioned at Steven’s Battery attributed with firing the initial shots at Fort Sumter on the morning of April 12, 1861. After the Fort’s surrender by Federal troops on April 14, the Palmetto Guard raised their flag over Fort Sumter making it the first Confederate Flag to fly over captured U.S. territory.

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

These stylish dark brown suede platform sandals, 1940s were made by and marked DeLiso Debs / Designed by Palter DeLiso. These high fashion shoes were worn in Charleston by, Mrs. T. W. Bennett.

Palter DeLiso was an American shoe design company, founded in 1927 by American businessman Daniel Palter and Italian-immigrant footwear designer, Vincent DeLiso.  In 1938, they invented the peep-toe slingback pump, shocking the public by offering such scandalous open-toed shoes. Their shoes were especially popular during and after the war. The brand was influenced by haute couture, but marketed to the upper middle-class, selling in high end shoe boutiques and department stores. They won the inaugural Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion.
A 1944 advertisement for Palter DeLiso in the Ottawa Citizen was entitled “Artistry in Shoes.” It read: “To wear Palter DeLiso’s Shoe is to experience the result of a master shoe designer’s art. This season they’re probably smarter than ever – simpler – in good taste.”

Another pair of platform sandals, these silver leather studded shoes, also from the 1940s, are labeled Ferralli of Hollywood.  They show their glamour with the “silver” studded platform soles. This nail head embellishment was popular throughout the 1940s, on shoes, trousers and dresses. Evening shoes and summer sandals with nail head embellishment across the vamp and along the ankle straps were widely advertised in the early 1940s. This pair was worn by Francys M. Kasdorf of Charleston in 1944. We have been unable to obtain information on Ferralli of Hollywood and the Museum would welcome any help.

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 images are part of a photograph album kept by Chrisenberry Alexander Ritchie (1879-1962). He was born in Salisbury, North Carolina and he came to the Lowcountry to attend the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, which was then located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. This was circa 1901, and his images corroborate this as he captured the construction of the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition, as well as the event itself, held in Charleston from December 1901 through May 1902. Ritchie also photographed a number of other “everyday” Charleston scenes - fortunately for us as many of these scenes no longer exist. Ritchie went on to become the Pastor of the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Binghamton, New York, from 1905 through 1949, marrying and raising his family there.

  1. The Sappho - ferry that ran between Mount Pleasant and Charleston, circa 1901
  2. Custom House, 200 East Bay Street, circa 1901
  3. Cotton Palace and Sunken Gardens at the Exposition, taken at night showing the electric lights, circa 1901
  4. Aerial view of Colonial Lake from the vicinity of the intersection of Rutledge and Beaufain, circa 1901
  5. The Liberty Bell while on loan from Philadelphia for the Exposition, 1902.
  6. Steeplechase at the Isle of Palms, circa 1901


EPHEMERA FRIDAY: Each Friday we post a selection or small collection from the Charleston Museum Archives. Some items may be on exhibit, some may be too fragile to display and some may be too unusual to fit into our typical Lowcountry exhibit themes. We will occasionally ask for help identifying people or places in photographs that have come to us with little or no information. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on EPHEMERA FRIDAY.