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.

Revolving carbine
Deane, Adams & Deane
London
1850-55
Attempting to expand on the success of Colt’s handheld revolvers, gunsmiths everywhere made earnest attempts to transfer those same mechanics into long arms. Despite their best efforts, however, these models ended up as near complete failures. When fired, a radial blast of lead shavings and burning specs of powder burst out of the narrow seam between the cylinder chambers and the barrel. Of course, this same reaction occurred when firing a revolving handgun, but since this was a long arm, the shooter’s face, wrists, forearms and elbows were now in close proximity to the gun’s main charge (whereas holding and firing a handgun with an outstretched arm prevented injury). Thus, users often endured painful cuts and burns upon firing the weapon. One of Sam Colt’s own salesmen noted in 1862: “I could sell a great number of them, that is if I had the proper confidence in them. My last trial was before a General Gist in Union, South Carolina…Took me all the evening to pick the powder and pieces of lead out of my face.”

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 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.