The many shades of indigo dye are beautifully evident in this embroidered coverlet fragment. Probably dating to the early 19th century, the stitches used include tambour stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch and French knots. The individual flowers have varying shades, from the palest blue to the most intense deep indigo blue, along with intricate designs to given them even more depth and variety.

Indigo, because of its range of blue color and lightfastness, was easily the most popular natural blue dye for centuries, from the earliest known specimen of indigo-dyed cloth c. 3500 BC to 21st century art and craft. It seems likely that the threads for this delightful piece demonstrate the appeal of indigo.

What is a bit of a mystery though, is the piece itself. Made of pieces of white cloth seamed together, some of the pieces are irregular and the outer edge is totally unfinished. The central portion is done all in tambour stitch, while the outer border has no tambour work but a variety of other stitches. The flowers in the outer border echo the ones in the center, but are not exactly the same. Even the thread, while matching fairly well in color, seems to have a different texture and, of course, is executed differently. There are embroidered wedges added in the inner corners that were obviously embroidered before inclusion, as some of the embroidery is cut off. Perhaps these wedges (matching the center embroidery) and the outer border were added later by another hand in an attempt to save the fragment and make it larger. The overall dimension of the piece is 62” x 46”. It came to the Charleston Museum in 1927 with no explanation, so it is unlikely that the mystery will ever be solved.

This cover is on exhibit in Indigo: Natural Blue Dyes in the Lowcountry until September 2, 2013.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our 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

Baseball, historically recognized as the national sport of the United States, has continued to grow in popularity with leagues found worldwide.  It has permeated pop culture through items like cigarette silks, baseball cards and, of course, movies, so that all of us can name at least one baseball player.  You’re thinking of one right now, aren’t you?  These images, stored in the Museum’s Archives, have come to us from various donations.  The Charleston Rebel images were donated in 2001, by Joye Wall and Patricia Bowers in memory of Wightman J. & Lorraine S. Kinsey.  The images of the baseball game at College Park Stadium (1939) were donated by Charles Murfin in 1990.  The team image that may be the Seagulls was donated by the News & Courier in 1980.  And the M.B. Paine photo was a Museum purchase in 1941.  We are happy to have them and be able to share these “snapshots in time” with you.  Play ball!

  1. This may be the Seagulls [SALS = South Atlantic League Seagulls].  The  Seagulls were Charleston’s baseball team from 1883 until 1919 when they  became the Gulls.  Photographer and date unknown.
  2. Handwritten on  reverse: the strike.  Charleston vs. Augusta, April 29  …5pm.; Assumed to be College Park Stadium.  Photographer M.B. Paine,  year unknown.
  3. Charleston Rebels Baseball, College Park Stadium, circa 1950
  4. Charleston Rebels Baseball night game, possibly College Park Stadium, circa 1950
  5. Charleston Rebels Baseball, College Park Stadium, circa 1950
  6. Baseball game at College Park Stadium; 1939
  7. Baseball game at College Park Stadium; 1939
  8. Children playing baseball.  Photographer and date unknown.

Recognize a player in one of these photos? Let us know, please!

EPHEMERA FRIDAY: Each Friday we post a selection or small collection from our 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.

Minie Balls
Unmarked
American
1861-65

In 1849, an officer in the French Army named Claude Etienne Minié developed this simple projectile and subsequently changed warfare forever. In what would become notorious for its battlefield brutality, this conical, hollow-bottomed lead bullet aptly named the Minié (pronounced min-yay) ball was first used sparingly among French soldiers in the Crimea, but the American Civil War saw its first use on a large scale. Before this time, rifles unlike smoothbore muskets were highly accurate and superiorly powerful but took time to load. To achieve its proper spin while in flight, the bullet had to be forcefully rammed over and through the barrel’s rifling – a series of spiral grooves within the barrel. A smoothbore’s barrel, which as the name suggests was smooth on the inside, was usually preferred because of its speed (a soldier could load and fire one approximately three times per minute). Of course, this speed sacrificed accuracy so smoothbores were generally en masse and at close range. Minié’s little bullet changed all of that combining the speed loading of a smoothbore with the accuracy and power of a rifle. Like a smoothbore musket ball, the Minié ball was cast from lead at a diameter slightly smaller than the gun barrel. This of course allowed it to fall freely down the barrel upon loading. It was when the gun fired, however, that the true genius of Minié’s invention materializes: the rapid expansion of powder gas underneath the Minié ball’s hollow base forced its soft lead apron outward thus tightening its fit and engaging the rifling as it traveled. A trained soldier could still fire off his three shots per minute just like he could with a smoothbore, but now he is able to pinpoint targets at a much greater range.

Note: The pronunciation of the Minié Ball (i.e. mini-ball) is actually an American corruption of what should have been pronounced as a “min-yay” ball - named for its creator and not to be confused with a mini (or miniature) ball.

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

The Riviera quilt
1995
Nan Tournier

In 1995, The Gibbes Museum of Art mounted an exhibition of contemporary quilts and wall hangings based on a collaboration of quilters and architects. Nan Tournier, local quilter and quilt teacher at the time, teamed up with architect Anne Maguire for this wall hanging depicting the Riviera Theater at 225 King Street, Charleston. The fabrics relate to the colors, patterns and textures of the mosaic terrazzo floor of the entrance; the appliqué and quilting mimic the ironwork of the doors and vestibule. The quilt is cotton with metallic embellishments, machine pieced, appliquéd and quilted. The backing is black printed cotton. This quilt will be on exhibit in Quintessential Quilts until early October.

The Riviera opened on January 15, 1939, built on the site of the demolished Academy of Music. This amazing Art Deco (or classic modern as it was called then) building closed in 1977, and after a number of attempts and plans for new uses, it now is a conference center and retail space operated by the Charleston Place hotel. This link is to a history of this amazing structure – now immortalized as a quilt too. Some details of the theater are captured here.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our 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

Alice Ravenel Huger Smith was an artist of Charleston’s Renaissance. Born in Charleston in 1876, she was the daughter of historian, Daniel Elliot Huger Smith (better known as D.E.H. Smith)  with whom she collaborated on several publications. Smith also illustrated for several Charleston authors including Herbert Ravenel Sass and Elizabeth Allston Pringle, in addition to publishing her own book, A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties. She is perhaps most well know for her scenic landscapes. These watercolors are all botanicals and were donated to the Charleston Museum in 1916 by the artist.

  1. Coral Vine/Queen’s Necklace/Leptopus/Chain of Fire/Cadena
  2. White Ageratum
  3. Flowering Dogwood/Cornus Florida
  4. Cotton plant
  5. Gentian
  6. Morning Glory
  7. Aster
  8. Pitcher Plant
  9. Cattail Reed
  10. Goldenrod/Solidago

EPHEMERA FRIDAY: Each Friday we post a selection or small collection from our 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.

Smoothbore Musket
Unmarked
Continental Europe
1805-1810
Between South Carolina’s secession on December 20, 1860 and its firing on Fort Sumter the following April, Charleston scrounged for whatever weaponry it could procure to supplement its growing defenses. In so doing, the state appropriated several stores of outdated flintlocks from by-gone eras and subsequently put them to use among Charleston’s first volunteers. This .69 caliber smoothbore musket - first used by New York troops during the War of 1812 and similar to French Charlevilles used during the American Revolution - is just such an example. Also noteworthy is its hastily improvised conversion from flintlock to percussion cap (the latter being a more reliable ignition system invented in the 1830s). Instead of replacing the entire action, the original flint jaws were fitted with a blunt hammerhead, and a percussion socket was drilled into the rear barrel.  Lastly, officials stamped an “SC” the lock plate to denote its state issue.

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

Take a break from those hot summer rays with this Genuine Breez-A Panama / Made in South America / Original Roberta Bernays New York creation. Lightweight and woven to perfection, this perky cap is an unusual take on the traditional Panama hat form. It has openwork around the crown and brim only on the sides and front, but it does have a traditional black ribbon. Comfort and fashion in one hat. It probably dates to the 1940s.

It was worn in the Lowcountry by Ruth Holmes Walker Gadsden (1895-1980), probably in the 1940s. She and her husband, William Boyle Gadsden lived in Summerville at what is now The Woodlands; they married in 1926. Ruth was an active socialite in the years surrounding World War II and the Museum has much of her stylish clothing (see dress)

Panama hats were actually not made in Panama, but in Ecuador. The toquilla straw hat was made from the plaited leaves of the Carludovia palmata plant as early as the 17th century. These Ecuadorian products were sent to Panama for shipment on to further destinations. They were named and popularized by President Teddy Roosevelt, who was photographed wearing a “Panama hat” while viewing the construction of the Panama Canal in 1904.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our 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

Sword bayonet & scabbard
Châtellerault armories
France
1874
Engraved for the Impériale de Châtellerault arsenal in France’s Poitou-Charentes region, the name “sword bayonet” refers to this weapon’s dual purpose. Ideally, it was fixed to the muzzle end of the French Chassepot, a bolt-action rifle issued to French Troops during the Franco-Prussian War thus converting the rifle into a long pike for charging enemy trenches. In close, hand-to-hand combat, however, the piece (complete with a hand guard and curved saber-styled blade) was designed for use as a short sword. Although this bayonet’s shape and style was first developed in the 1860s, these abnormally long sword bayonets proved once again advantageous when trench warfare came into its own during World War I, the near two-foot blade greatly extended a soldier’s reach when attached to the end of his rifle.

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 1920s yellow chiffon dress has all that could be desired in a summer party dress. The basic tunic construction is enhanced with a little extra fullness gathered at the side waist, further supplemented by additional, longer chiffon flounces set off by beaded medallions. The dress is lovely with Egyptian-inspired beadwork in scroll, leaf and sunburst designs worked in clear and gold beads, studded with rhinestones. The dress has an apricot silk slip underneath, giving additional depth to the color. The chiffon would flow and flutter and the beadwork would glitter, providing the perfect shimmering illusion.

While perfect for dancing the night away, beaded chiffon dresses like this one suffered badly from the sweat, fragility of the chiffon and weight of the beading. The majority of the damage is seen at the armholes and shoulder straps. Consequently, the dress is too fragile to go on a mannequin and must be displayed flat.

This gorgeous dress was worn by Julia Schirmer (1889-1985) of Charleston. One of six children, Julia never married; she lived on Smith Street at Bull. Her brother Charles was the city’s first electrician; her nephew, Arthur, was mayor in 1975.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our 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 original posters are wonderful examples that illustrate the beginnings of the modern zest for travel and adventure. With advances in technology, taking a journey no longer meant being dirty, uncomfortable (or worse, in pain) and wasting a huge amount of time.  One could travel in comfort, safety and style - even if you couldn’t afford First Class. Advertising promised ease (especially when partnered with another service!) and the chance to visit exotic locales.  Who wouldn’t buy into the chance to be part of the “glittering throng” and travel in such modern fashion?

  1. Poster advertising Chemins de fer de l’Etat (State Railways) and the French Line. It was designed by Albert Sebille. The date is usually given as the 1920s; occasionally it will be seen as circa 1930. If the ship to the right is the S.S. Normandie, then the date has to be between 1935 and 1937; the date of the Normandie’s maiden voyage and the nationalization of the rail lines in France.
  2. Poster advertising German Railroads, designed by Otto Schneider and produced by Reichsbahnzentrale in Berlin, 1937.
  3. Poster advertising travel aboard the Ile de France, a ship of the French Line, designed by Leo Fontan, 1930. The Ile de France was the first major ocean liner built after World War I and the first liner to be decorated entirely in the Art Deco style. Her maiden voyage was in June 1927. She survived World War II - being pressed into service primarily as a troop transport ship - returning to a luxury travel liner after the war ended. Shortly before being scrapped in 1959, she played a role in the rescue operations when the Andrea Doria and Stockholm collided in 1956, transporting approximately 750 of the Andrea Doria’s passenger and crew to safety.
  4. Poster advertising the German airline, Deutsche Lufthansa, designed by Gayle Ullman, 1933. Image of a stagecoach with a female passenger - wearing bonnet and petticoats - leaning out the window. She and the driver both appear to be watching the modern plane fly overhead. Plane has been identified as a Junker, a JU 52/3M, It was introduced in 1932 and seated 17, becoming the “workhorse” for Lufthansa in the 1930s.  Note the Nazi swastika on the tail of the plane.
  5. Poster advertising air mail service, designed by Honig, circa 1935.  Image shows a plane flying over a globe with lines drawn across the continents to show the path and stopovers of the service. The only markings on the plane are on the tail where a Nazi swastika is just barely visible. English translation of the caption: Europe [to] South America in 2 days, twice weekly airmail service. Deutsche Lufthansa, Air France [and] Syndicato Condor Ltd.
  6. Poster advertising travel on the Chemin de fer du Nord (Railway of the North) and the French Line, showing a cathedral in a (presumably) French town square. Artist and date are unknown.
  7. Poster advertising the French Line’s Plymouth-to-New York direct route.  May date to around 1935 as that seems to be S.S. Normandie in the image. That ship had her maiden voyage with the French Line in May 1935.

EPHEMERA FRIDAY: Each Friday we post a selection or small collection from our 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.