Thursday, January 7, 2010

All in the Family and soon to be All in the Exhibit

By: Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

One of the best parts of doing an exhibit based on our own collections is the possibility of discovering or rediscovering something wonderful. I knew we had a fabulous clothing collection but was not aware how many family stories were woven throughout it.

We are fortunate in having Sue Friedlander working with us on the Empire Waists, Bustles and Lace exhibit for Fenimore Art Museum in 2010. Sue, a historian/museum consultant, knows the collections well so I should not have been surprised when she started linking objects and revealing a wonderful family story that goes back to a needlepoint, a wedding dress, a quilt, and a travel dress.

Our story begins with Sally Washburn, a resident of Oxford, NY, who, in 1808, stitches a lovely needlepoint of a country scene. A year later Sally marries Henry Mygatt and soon after gives birth to Sarah Eliza Mygatt.

Sarah grows-up and marries William G. Sands in 1837. For her wedding she wears a dress that becomes one of the stars of our collection. The Sands wedding dress is exquisite – white floral satin with numerous hand-stitched tucks and pleats. In addition to being in great shape and drop-dead gorgeous it is the earliest known example of a dress with a label in it (and we have it here in the NYSHA collection!).
The saga continues. In 1884 Catherine Odessa Sands Packard, daughter of William and Sarah makes a crazy quilt. In the quilt is a patch of fabric contributed by Catherine’s mother Sarah, and stitched with the dates 1837 and 1882. The fabric is from our very own Sands wedding dress (Sarah’s) and the dates commemorate Sarah and William’s 45th wedding anniversary (1837) and the 1882 wedding of their daughter Catherine.

One more piece from the family puzzle – a beautiful travel dress and jacket that was likely part of Catherine’s wardrobe. The burgundy velvet dress and matching jacket have molded glass buttons and are in stellar condition. The color and fabric resemble other patches on the quilt. Did Catherine work it in, as she had done with a patch from her mother’s wedding dress? It is hard for us to be certain. You will have an opportunity to decide for yourself when all 4 items go on display for the first time in 2010 as part of Empire Waists, Bustles & Lace.
Top: Needlework picture by Sally Washburn, 1808. Fenimore Art Museum Collection, Museum Purchase, N0161.1955
Center: Dress made by Warncock Fashionable Milliner, ca 1837. Silk, Fenimore Art Museum Collection, Gift of Mrs. Ruben Crispell, N0023.1962(01).

Bottom: Quilt by Catherine Odessa Sands Packard, ca 1882. Fenimore Art Museum Collection, Gift of Mrs. Ruben Crispell, N0022.1962.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin