This little embroidered net overdress from the 1920s has a lot to offer for a summer party. The embroidered panels are set off by heavier lace insertion which form five arches at the low waistline, defining the five skirt panels. The short sleeves and the scalloped hem are of the same lace insertion. The embroidery is beautifully executed floral sprays, gracefully covering the net panels. This overdress could have been worn over a matching slip or a contrasting color for a different effect. While this dress might not be the most daring fashion of the period, it certainly let the wearer be pretty and conform to the basic style with dropped waist and short skirt.

It was probably worn by Maud Bryan Henderson Cosens (1868-1947) of Savannah. Maud married George Augustus Cosens in 1892.

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

Bicycling has a long history, dating back to around 1820. There were many different types of designs including 3-and 4-wheel versions. The high wheel version, seen here in a cabinet card, first appeared about 1870. It wasn’t until the invention of the Safety Bicycle, in the 1880s, that public perception about the bicycle changed from a dangerous sporting toy to be seen as an everyday means of transportation. This was especially crucial for women as the unprecedented mobility (and change in fashion pursuant to that) had a huge impact on emancipation. It might be noted that there are an even number of men and women represented in our images here, illustrating that the pastime was enjoyed equally by both genders, as it still is today!

  1. Cabinet card photograph of Thomas Kinloch Jervey (1872-1950), circa 1895, posed with vintage bicycle
  2. Three unidentified children posed with their dog, cat and bicycle; photographer and date unknown.
  3. Unidentified woman standing by a bicycle; photographer unknown, circa 1885.
  4. Two unidentified women, one of whom is sitting on a bicycle; photographer unknown, circa 1890.
  5. Man, identified as Robert Achurch (1866-1943) jumping over a stick placed atop his bicycle; circa 1905.
  6. Man, identified as Robert Achurch (1866-1943) leans against a bicycle with two dogs asleep at his feet.  A barefoot boy (unidentified) stands to the left; circa 1905.
  7. Unidentified girls riding their bicycles down a shady street; photographer M.B. Paine, June 1932.

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.

Foot Artillery sword
Nathan Peabody Ames/Ames Manufacturing Co.
Springfield (later Chicopee), MA
1832-1865
Occasionally referred to by both Confederate and Yankee troops as “cabbage cutters,” foot artillery swords carried by mobile artillerymen were used mainly as tools to cut trails for moving caissons and limbers as well as clearing brush from their cannon emplacements. Mimicking the short swords of the classical Roman legionnaires, model 1832 swords like this one were, despite their weight, portability and double edge, considered impractical for actual combat by the time of the Civil War and used only as weapons of last resort.

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

Just wear a smile and a Jantzen - Decades before their 1960s slogan, the Jantzen company revolutionized the swimsuit industry. Began as the Portland Knitting Company, the genius of John A. Zehntbauer and Carl Jantzen combined to create the first practical wool bathing suit with their rib stitch in 1915. In the 1920s, they advertised swimming suits rather than bathing suits. In the 1930s, they added Lastex (rubberized yarn) for a better fit and used synthetics in addition to wool. As the years went on, even greater variety was available, including strap free, bikini styles and more colors. Their first logo of the Jantzen Diving Girl wore a daring red suit with matching stocking cap and stockings in the 1920s. As time passed, the cap was changed and she lost her stockings, but she is still an iconic figure.

Our two examples of Jantzen swimwear include a one-piece wool suit from the 1930s. It has a woven-in overskirt and an additional knitted cord to tie around the neck. It bears a Jantzen label with the Charleston retailer, Condon’s Inc, Charleston, S.C. It was worn here by Emily Ravenel Farrow (1915-2011).

The other Jantzen example is a two-piece cotton and elastic blend suit from the 1950s. The Jantzen Diving Girl appears to be wearing a strapless suit by this time. The bra-style top of this suit has ties around the neck and in back. The panty-style bottom has an elasticized shirred panel in front, drawstring at the waist. Only the shirred panel is lined with white cotton knit. This suit was worn by Mildred Zachowski (1918-2008) of Beaufort, at Hunting Island State Park beach.

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, an artist of Charleston’s Renaissance, was 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. She also illustrated for several people including Herbert Ravenel Sass and Elizabeth Allston Pringle, in addition to publishing her own book, A Carolina Rice Plantation in the Fifties. She is perhaps best-known for her scenic landscapes. These pastel drawings of the Joseph Manigault House - now owned and operated by the Charleston Museum - were given in 1994 to the Museum by the daughter-in-law of Paul Rea, director of the Charleston Museum from 1903 through 1920. It is believed that the artist, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, gave the drawings to Paul Rea, possibly to commemorate of the birth of his son, John M. Rea, who was born in the Manigault House circa 1910. The house was, at that time, known as the Riggs House and was a boarding house. It is fortunate for us that these drawings have come “home,” since we now have the opportunity to enjoy - and share - these items.

Learn more about the Joseph Manigault House and view photos of its lovely Adam-style architecture so wonderfully captured by Smith. Look for more works from this artist in the next few weeks!

  1. Pastel sketch by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith of the cantilevered staircase and north entrance in the Joseph Manigault House. Date unknown.
  2. Pastel sketch by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith of the closed doorway leading from the Drawing Room to the hall in the Joseph Manigault House with a portion of the fireplace visible. Date unknown.
  3. Pastel sketch by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith of the closed door leading from the Card Room to the Drawing Room in the Joseph Manigault House. Date unknown.
  4. Pastel sketch by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith of the open jib door leading from the Card Room onto the South Piazza in the Joseph Manigault House. Date unknown.

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.

Target Pistol
Joshua Stevens
Chicopee, MA
1875-1880
Joshua Stevens, who in 1864 founded “J. Stevens & Co.”, marked this nickel-plated single shot .22-caliber target pistol with a detachable shoulder stock. Joshua Stevens is perhaps best known for his development of the .22 LR (for long rifle) round. These small caliber bullets became the mainstay ammunition for firearm training and practice. It was an inexpensive round with minimal noise that by1888 became the favored ammunition for recreational target shooting. The Stevens’ company produced upwards of 4 million single-shot, .22-caliber target firearms by 1892 making it among the top post-Civil War weapons manufactures in the country. Today, nearly every firearm manufacture produces at least one model for the .22 LR. It is the most widely sold bullet in the world with annual production falling between 2.3 and 2.5 billion rounds.

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

Isn’t this elegant yellow chiffon evening dress perfect for a summer party? Probably from the 1930s, the bodice is gathered to accentuate the body and the flowing skirt is enhanced with fluttering chiffon flounces attached with shirring on each side. The skirt itself is a bias cut circle – extremely popular in the ‘30s – sewn of four panels, resulting in a stylishly uneven hem. This simple but alluring design is complemented by a striking but not abrasive color, warm and cool at the same time.

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

In celebration of the 4th of July, we are posting a selection of our historic postcards.  We’ve also posted some of our 4th of July photographic images  - it seems that heading to the beach and watching fireworks is quite the American tradition.

  1. Fireworks at the Folly Beach boardwalk; July 1960, photographer Louis Schwartz
  2. Postcard, postmarked 1908, addressed to Mr. F.J. [Jensen] in Portsmouth, Virginia
  3. Postcard, postmarked 1908, addressed to F.J. Jensen in Norfolk, Virginia from P. Wilson in New York.
  4. Postcard, dated 1919, addressed to Miss Eleanor Ganz in Scranton, Pennsylvania from Charlie at Marine P.O., S.S. [Midvale] in Detroit, Michigan.
  5. Postcard, no date or postmark.  Message on reverse: Always remember this day as a True American - your father.  [signed] Thomas Jefferson Jensen, Corinth, Mississippi.
  6. Unidentified trio at Folly Beach, July 4th, 1921; photographer unknown.
  7. Folly Beach Pier, 4th of July, 1937; photographer M.B. Paine

(okay, so we’re one day early this week. We just had to share these with you on the actual holiday!)
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.

Howitzer shells
Ordnance Corps, United States Army
1914-1918
Referred to as “Trench Art,” these small-caliber shells have been decorated by soldiers passing time between engagements. Examples of trench art range from mundane stippling designs like the rudimentary American eagle outline, to elegant and skillful chasing patterns like the floral and urn motif. Trench art is a term that today encompasses almost any form of decorative work carried out by soldiers or prisoners-of-war dating back to the early 1800s. The name itself, however, is born from soldiers stuck in the stalemate of trench warfare during WWI. With ample time and plenty of spent shell casings and other debris available, soldiers took to engraving, carving or molding designs, portraits, scenes and still-life as a means of relaxing. Unfortunately, the artists for these pieces did not sign their work, therefore leaving behind intriguing, albeit anonymous, works of art.

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

Red, white and blue for the 4th of July!

Red, white and blue hats of course. These three hats from the 1950s and 1960s are a colorful reminder of the importance of this fashion accessory. While hat-wearing was on the decline after the mid-60s, before that, the hat was possibly the most carefully selected wardrobe item.

The red cellophane straw hat is an Evelyn Varon Exclusive, with its shallow crown, upturned brim and wide ribbon ornamentation. It was worn in Charleston by Oriole Nohrden Gaffney (1889-1979).

The white synthetic straw hat makes a striking statement with black and white ribbon trim and spiral ornament. It was worn in the Lowcountry by Louise Leland Stroman.

The debonair blue synthetic straw hat was Styled by Mr. Lewis and has that boxy look popular in the 1960s. It was worn by Mary Muckenfuss in Charleston.

Cellophane film was first patented in 1927; it was used in hat manufacturing from the 1940s. It was easy to color, was waterproof, and could be made into elaborate styles. By the 1950s and 60s, there was quite an array of synthetic straws for millinery.

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