This coral silk and chiffon cocktail dress would have been just the right thing to wear to an end-of-summer soiree in 1945. Made by Lee Claire of New York and sold by the fashionable dress shop Margaret Riley’s of Charleston, this dress was worn by Margaret Middleton Rivers (1913-2004), wife of U.S. Congressman L. Mendel Rivers of Charleston.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

This coral silk and chiffon cocktail dress would have been just the right thing to wear to an end-of-summer soiree in 1945. Made by Lee Claire of New York and sold by the fashionable dress shop Margaret Riley’s of Charleston, this dress was worn by Margaret Middleton Rivers (1913-2004), wife of U.S. Congressman L. Mendel Rivers of Charleston.

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

lowcountrydigitallibrary:

On August 5, 2002 divers freed the U.S.S. Monitor from its’ watery grave of 140 years. The Monitor sank on December 30, 1862 in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina while on her way to join the attack on Charleston, South Carolina. During her short life of nine months, the Monitor made naval history on March 9, 1862 when she dueled with the C.S.S. Virginia- the first time two ironclads had faced off.
Frank Leslie’s.
"Caption: ‘Panoramic view of Charleston harbor—advance of iron-clads to the attack, April 7. Union— A. Keokuk. B. Nahunt. C. Nantucket. D. Catskill. E. Ironsides. F. Patapsco. G. Montauk. H. Passaie. K. Weehawken. Rebel—1. Morris Island sand battery. 2. For Wagner. 3. Battery Bee, on Cummings Point. 4. [Fort] Johnson. 5. Fort Ripley. 6. Sumter. 7. Charleston City. 8. Castle Pinckney. 9. Fort Redan. 10. Fort Moultrie. 11. Moultrie House. 12. Fort Beauregard. 13. Harbor obstructions. 14. Cooper River. 15. Ashley River.’ [full date May 2, 1863]"
Photograph from the Charleston Museum Illustrated Newspapers Collection held by The Charleston Museum Archives.

lowcountrydigitallibrary:

On August 5, 2002 divers freed the U.S.S. Monitor from its’ watery grave of 140 years. The Monitor sank on December 30, 1862 in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina while on her way to join the attack on Charleston, South Carolina. During her short life of nine months, the Monitor made naval history on March 9, 1862 when she dueled with the C.S.S. Virginia- the first time two ironclads had faced off.

Frank Leslie’s.

"Caption: ‘Panoramic view of Charleston harbor—advance of iron-clads to the attack, April 7. Union— A. Keokuk. B. Nahunt. C. Nantucket. D. Catskill. E. Ironsides. F. Patapsco. G. Montauk. H. Passaie. K. Weehawken. Rebel—1. Morris Island sand battery. 2. For Wagner. 3. Battery Bee, on Cummings Point. 4. [Fort] Johnson. 5. Fort Ripley. 6. Sumter. 7. Charleston City. 8. Castle Pinckney. 9. Fort Redan. 10. Fort Moultrie. 11. Moultrie House. 12. Fort Beauregard. 13. Harbor obstructions. 14. Cooper River. 15. Ashley River.’ [full date May 2, 1863]"

Photograph from the Charleston Museum Illustrated Newspapers Collection held by The Charleston Museum Archives.

lowcountrydigitallibrary:

Harper’s Weekly.
"[Color image.] Caption: ‘The house-tops in Charleston during the bombardment of Sumter.’ [full date May 4, 1861.]"
Photograph from the Charleston Museum Illustrated Newspapers Collection held by The Charleston Museum Archives.

lowcountrydigitallibrary:

Harper’s Weekly.

"[Color image.] Caption: ‘The house-tops in Charleston during the bombardment of Sumter.’ [full date May 4, 1861.]"

Photograph from the Charleston Museum Illustrated Newspapers Collection held by The Charleston Museum Archives.

In 1910, the heirs of Dr. Edmund Ravenel gave the Museum these scientific illustrations as part of a larger bequest.  Edmund  Ravenel (1797-1871) was a physician, professor and a naturalist, particularly in conchology (the study of shells).  He received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and began his private practice, in Charleston, in 1824.  He was elected to the chair of Chemistry and Pharmacy and taught at the Medical College of Charleston.  But in 1834, he resigned his position and became associated with the newly formed Medical College of the State of South Carolina.  Also in 1834, he published a 21-page catalog detailing 750 shells in his own cabinet.  These illustrations shown here were likely meant to serve as illustrations for that publication.  Ravenel had hired the Italian illustrator, J. Sera, about whom very little is known.  Sera died in 1836, and it is unknown why only a small fraction of the shells were illustrated.  Sera was working on another project at the time (Holbrook’s Herpetology) and it may be that there was not enough time for him to do both.  These illustrations are startling in their depth and one can absolutely understand why Ravenel would want Sera’s images or none at all.

  1. Titled, Dolium galea - So Carolina and Cassis - So Carolina.  Dolium  galea is now called Tonna galea with the common name of tun snail.
  2. Titled, Cardium Maculatum - So Carolina.  But it is no longer called  Cardium maculatum.  It now has the sceintific name of Dinocardium  robustum with the common name of Atlantic giant cockle.
  3. Titled, Fasciolaria trapezium - So. Carolina with a note above it J.  Gigantea Ke[?].  It is now called the Pleuroploca trapezium, common  name, the trapezium horse conch
  4. Titled, Fasciolaria distans Fasciolaria tulipa - So Carolina.  Top two  views, now known as Cinctura lilium, with the common name of Banded  tulip. Lower view, has the common name of True tulip.
  5. Titled, Pyrula Carica - So. Carolina.
  6. Titled, Cytherea mercenaria - So. Carolina
  7. No title.  Illustration of  nineteen dorsal & ventral views of ten different genuses of marine gastropod mollusc shells.
  8. No title.  Illustration showing three views each of three different  bivalve, gastropod shells.  Handwritten on the right side is,  “Americana”, “Compechensis”, and “Ponderosa.”
  9. No title. Illustration of eight ventral, dorsal, or side views of four different genuses of marine gastropod shells.

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.

Officer’s small sword with leather scabbard  
Unmarked
Continental Europe
1750-80

Small swords – so called because of their diminutive and dainty appearance when compared to other war sabers of the time - were the primary type employed by Patriot officers during the American Revolution.  Although overall this piece fits within the standard style most mid-18th century small swords, this particular piece is outfitted with a few upgrades likely ordered by its owner, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Unlike the many other inexpensively made small swords of the era, Pinckney’s is adorned with an ivory handle wrapped in a gold wire. Furthermore, there is evidence of silver plating on the brass hilt. Despite its lighter weight and elegant appearance, small swords were durable and sturdy; the concave triangular blade was far stronger than the average flat blade.

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a prominent Charleston attorney, was a member of several revolutionary committees but favored resolving differences with Britain until separation appeared inevitable.  A Continental militia officer during the Revolutionary War, he saw action in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida; served as an aide to George Washington; and commanded Fort Moultrie during the Siege of Charleston. He later resumed his legal and political career, served as a minister to France in 1796 and was the Federalist candidate for President in 1808. Click to view Pinckney’s silk diplomatic uniform jacket and his silver gorget.

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 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.