Category Archives: Road Trip

Early Southern Stitchery at MESDA, Winston-Salem, NC

Last weekend it was my great fortune to attend the MESDA Spring Seminar, Stitching a Southern Identity: Defining Female Culture in the Early South. MESDA is the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and is located at the southern edge of Old Salem, a Moravian town dating to 1766. The museum is located in a converted Kroger supermarket, and dates to 1965.

I signed up for this seminar on a whim. I’d planned to go to Williamsburg, VA for the Costume Society symposium, but a conflict prevented me from getting to make that trip. So this was a bit of a consolation prize, but as it happens, I’m really glad things turned out this way. I was pushed out of my comfort zone of 20th century clothing, and into a field about which I probably knew less than any of the other participants, at least it seemed that way by the learned conversations going on around me. And I can’t remember ever learning so much in two short days.

As the title suggests, this was all about the manufacture and decoration of textiles, mainly for use in the home. Most of the research presented was on samplers and quilts, but we also saw quite a bit of  other types of embroidery and of weaving. Without a doubt, my favorites were the samplers.

The word sampler tends to pull up an image of a school girl practicing her stitchery, and that’s a valid thought. But what was so surprising to me was the skill these girls exhibited in their work. Because girls tended to not only sign samplers, but also recorded their ages, we can see just how young these stitchers were. Even eight-year-olds were doing embroidery that would put me to shame!

Today samplers are valued not just as charming reminders of past childhoods, but also as historical documents. A girls would often include the names of family members, where she lived, important dates. But what is really interesting is how researchers today can look at a sampler and see so much more than the bare facts. This unusual sampler was stitched by Salley Keais, in 1793 in Washington, NC.

Researcher Marquita Reed was able to piece together a very good family history, just from the names and dates on the sampler and through searches in period newspapers. Her research helped explain the mermaid and the ship as it was found that hers was a family in the shipping business.

Another great sampler is this one by Sarah Hatton McPhail of Norfolk, VA. Other samplers of a very similar composition, including one by Sarah’s sister, were known to have been made in the Norfolk area. This tends to suggest that this was the style taught by the girls’ teacher. The fact that similar samplers were produced in the same school is a big help in identifying samplers, and has even led to the discovery of multiple samplers made under the direction of a particular teacher.

This close-up shows just how skilled Sarah was. She was eight years old at the time.

Click to enlarge

This remarkable sampler is part mourning tribute, part family register, and part scrapbook. The stitcher, Mary Ann Colboard, made this sampler in 1821 in Charleston, SC. It is thought that they are mourning the death of Mary Ann’s stepfather. The church is easily recognizable as St. Philips, where Mary Ann was married the year after she completed this work.

We also learned about quilts and other bed coverings. This is part of an album quilt. Each square was made by a different woman, and then put together and quilted by Catherine Palmer, near Charleston in 1848.

The squares were appliqued. Each maker would cut out a design from printed chintz (often combining elements from three of more different prints) and then stitch the new design to a square of cotton. Then it would be assembled and quilted.

Even though this quilt is attributed to Catherine Palmer, it is very possible that she had help in the form of her slaves. Documenting the work of slaves is extremely difficult as their labor was an expected part of the household work and was not often noted. However, careful examination of quilts often reveals that the stitching was done by more than one hand. It stands to reason that these other hands could have been enslaved.

Weaving was another task often carried out by slaves. Again, curators and researchers take what they know about a piece and try to determine whether or not it is possible that the item was made by an enslaved person.

It’s not possible for all the museum’s textile holding to be displayed all the time, but I was really surprised when the curatorial associate opened this cupboard to reveal a trove of handwoven coverlets and blankets.

I was surprised to see a few wallpaper covered bandboxes. For some reason I tend to associate them with the North, maybe because they are so seldom seen for sale here in the South.

Boys of the Powell Family by Samuel Moore Shaver, Knoxville, TN, circa 1850-1869

Just so you won’t get the idea that MESDA is just needlework, here are some details from their great collection of paintings. You will also find furniture, pottery, silverwork, clocks, books, woodwork and architectural elements, and ironwork.

I’ll close with this portrait of Mary Hawksworth Riddell and her daughter, Agnes Riddell. It was painted in the early 1790s by Charles Peale Polk (of the famous Peale family of artists).

I love that this sweet picture includes a basket of needlework.

My thanks to MESDA for such a rewarding experience. You can see more of their collection online.

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Traveling

I’ve never much liked flying, and especially since every ounce of glamour has been squeezed out of the experience. I think the last time I felt special on an airplane was in the early 1990s on a Luthansa flight. I’m glad that flying is not the extravagance that it must have been to these travelers in 1940, but it would be great if people tried a little harder to make the experience tolerable for others. To see the worst of it, check out @passengershaming on Instagram.

I’m always happier when I can drive to an event or destination. Tomorrow I’m headed for Cincinnati where the Midwest Region of the Costume Society of American is holding their annual symposium. Two days of fashion history and museum visits really is my idea of heaven on earth!

 

 

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On the Road

I’m headed off to the coast for a few days with one of my oldest friends, and I only wish we could look as classy as the young woman above, seated with her aunt on a German beach. It may be October, but our Southern beaches are still warm, and there are lots of historical sights to be seen. To see what’s happening, check in on Instagram. I promise not to be too annoying.

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler – Summer 2017

Could you use a diversion? I thought so. I need one too, and to get my mind off the sorry state of the world, let me share one of my true loves – vintage shopping.

I really haven’t been shopping much this summer, but the few trips I have made have been really, really good. Above, and in the next few photos, you see the Greenville, SC shop of Kate DiNatale. Kate has a full range of vintage clothing, plus home furnishings, all presented in a lovely old building.

It used to be that vintage clothing stores were stuffed to the brim, making finding anything a real chore. And while I do enjoy a good dig, I prefer the experience of shopping in a lovely space where everything is presented to its best advantage. That dress on the left came home with me.

I probably should have gotten this bathing suit, as it has a super Claire McCardell vibe. There was no label, though.

I was also tempted by the cutest giraffe pants ever.

I’m afraid I caught Kate’s two shop assistants sleeping on the job.

Here’s another view of this fabulous space, with lingerie and little black dresses in the background.

If you are in the Greenville area and plan to visit Kate’s shop, set aside a bit of time to also visit her mother’s antique mall, Old Faithful’s. Kate had a booth there as well, with even more great vintage clothing and accessories. Too bad I’m not a “cat person.”

A couple of weekends ago I took in the Virginia Highlands Antiques Market in Abingdon, VA. It’s held every July and August, and it is always an interesting show. Little Lizzie above is actually a doll printed on cotton for you to cut out and sew together. Or, you can paste it to a board and hang it on your wall.

I love old pennants. I don’t know why; I just do.

Here’s an example of my restraint in buying things I do not need, and for which I have no space. I love this little Scottie bookshelf, and seriously contemplated buying it, but I was a real adult and told myself I had nowhere to put it. When I went back to say goodbye to it, the piece had been sold. Not a surprise.

Old quilts always get my attention, if for no other reason than to appreciate the old textiles. I do love a good hexagon.

I was completely taken with this old canvas trunk. I wanted it, badly. I didn’t like the price tag.

No buttons were harmed in the making of these plastic bracelets.

Is this not the best salesman’s sample card ever?

Amazing, size 17 Pro Keds! I could get both my feet in one shoe. I’m pretty sure this is the largest vintage sneaker I’ve ever seen.

 

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National Museum of the US Air Force, Dayton, Ohio

One of the big surprises on our recent trip across the Midwest was the National Museum of the US Air Force. It wasn’t one of my choices, but it did end up being a favorite.  I’ve been in enough military museums to know that there are always plenty of textiles, usually in the form of uniforms, but this one proved to be loaded with things of interest.

The museum is huge, and it begins with the earliest of days of aviation. It is appropriate that the museum is located in Dayton, the home of Wilbur and Orville Wright, pioneers of winged flight.

It’s important to note that the Wright Brothers got started in transportation with their bicycle shop in Dayton. Opened in 1892, by 1896 they were making their own brand of bikes. The bicycle was not just a toy; it was an important method of transport, and was especially embraced by women. I was happy to see an example of a Wright bicycle in the museum, and was especially happy to see that it was a woman’s bike.

Starting with World War I, there were plenty of uniforms on display. Most of these items belonged to Stephen Thompson of Dayton, and includes a sock with a bullet hole. Thompson was shot in the leg and because of the unavailability of medical help, he used his own pocket knife to remove the bullet. The bullet is there somewhere.

These items belonged to Lt. Robert Wanamaker, who survived the war, and Lt. Fred Morton, who did not. Wanamaker was shot down by German ace Ernst Udet who took some of the fabric from Wanamaker’s plane as a souvenir. Even though he was badly injured, Wanamaker autographed the scrap for Udet! When they met again in 1931, Udet returned the fabric to Wanamaker.

When the war ended, many french women embroidered banners in appreciation of all that American squandons had done in service to France.  This illustration by George Barbier was in a 1919 issue of fashion magazine Gazette du Bon Ton.

The museum had a display of six of the banners. I’m sorry this photo is so poor as these were so beautiful.

As expected, there were lots of World War II leather jackets. Members of flight crews sometimes decorated their own jackets, but in many cases there was one member of a crew who became the unofficial designer. The jacket above was worn and decorated by Robert Dean of Dayton. All the bombs are dated and labeled.

Artists at the Walt Disney Studios designed many of the official  squadron insignia.

You can’t really tell, but that is Donald Duck and his nephews on this jacket worn by nurse 1st Lt. Evelyn Ordway, on the bottom right of my photo.

All the above items were worn by nurses, most of whom flew on evacuation missions and tended to the wounded. It’s interesting how different the items the women wore for their work from the official uniforms.

The museum has a large display of items from woman flyers and pilots.

WASP stands for Women Airforce Service Pilots, a paramilitary group of women pilots who were trained to fly non-combat aircraft.

There was also an area dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen.  This jacket belonged to Colonel Edward Gleed.

There was an interesting exhibit on the Holocaust, and the role of the Air Force in freeing captives in concentration and prisoner of war camps.

On a much lighter note, there was a nice tribute to comedian Bob Hope, who did fifty-seven tours for the USO, entertaining American troops.

During the Korean War, American airmen took to decorating their headgear. At the top, a Korean painter decorated this helmet with scenes from Korean life. The middle cap was painted with the Thunderbirds emblem.  On the bottom cap, Major Joseph Turner kept a record of his 101 missions.

The museum does a really good job of showing a wide range of uniforms and personal artifacts.  Had this museum just contained aircraft, I’ve have been looking for the nearest bar.

But even some of the “planes” were amusing.  This is not a UFO; it’s an Avro Canada VZ-9AV Avrocar, a 1950s attempt at making a vertical takeoff craft. It was an expensive failure, but an fun ending to our visit.

The National Museum of the US Air Force is located at Wright Patterson air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. It’s free and well worth a visit.

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler – Midwest Edition

We’ve just returned from a trip through the Midwest, and while this was not a shopping trip, I did manage to sneak in a few antique malls and a really great vintage market in Chicago. The first mall was in Southport, Indiana, which is just south of Indianapolis. I loved this huge, rambling mall.  There was quite a bit of clothing, and I found some nice things for my collection. I’ll show them later, as today is all about what I didn’t buy.

Here we have two boxes full of promises. Nothing makes me happier than a crate of reasonably priced vintage patterns.  I bought three.

Here was a little treasure, and I would have bought this if I did not already have a similar one.  This is a Chimayo or Rio Grande woven clutch bag with a silver decoration. Best of all is the label.

Fred Harvey was a restaurateur who established a series of restaurants, hotels, and gift shops along the route of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. You might have seen the 1946 film, The Harvey Girls, starring Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, and Angela Lansbury. In the film the “girls” worked at a Fred Harvey establishment in Arizona.

This little cardboard trunk looks like it was a toy box. I loved it, but could not justify the purchase.

Cases like this one require close examination. I found a pair of 1920s ankle socks with the original paper label.

Our next stop was Chicago. I didn’t plan this, but we were there the weekend of the Randolph Street Market, which I learned about on Instagram. I felt like this was not just a coincidence, but more like a sign that I needed to be there. Unfortunately I didn’t take many photos because I was just too busy looking. There were plenty of vintage clothing sellers, and I was able to see some really topnotch stuff. The rack above had some real gems.

Things like this great 1930s or 40s made in Germany sweater.  I wanted it, but my wallet said no.

I’m really sorry I didn’t take more pictures, as there were some spectacular pieces. I suppose I was just overwhelmed.

After leaving Chicago, we headed to Upland, Indiana to see Taylor University. My husband’s grandfather was a history professor there in the 1930s, and so his father spent part of his childhood in Upland. In the nearby town of Marion I found another good antique mall, Jake’s Antique Mall.  I spent way too much time looking through stacks of photos and other ephemera. The illustration above is from 1915.

I always look through old advertising cards because they often show women participating in sports. The two above have a textile theme, but I found it interesting that two different businesses in the same town used cards from what was obviously the same series.

Lastly, I spent three hours trying to make my way through three large malls in Springfield, Ohio. I knew what I was in for as I had been there before, but by the time the closing hour approached, I was pretty much running through in order to see it all. There was a lot of stuff to be seen.  I sort of mourned for the hatbox above, as it looked like someone prior had also cried and left tear drops on the lid.

Older fashion magazines are getting harder and harder to find, but even a 1915 Harper’s Bazar with severe water damage is not worth $66.

I’m always looking for old images of women participating in sports, but one can’t always believe what was shown in past illustrations. And look at those tiny feet!

This is always a good sign…

Someone loved this print so much that she bought it in two colorways. Aprons, not skirts, unfortunately.

I love old display items, and this glove hand was priced very reasonably, but it has a repaired thumb, and I was sure we’d destroy it before getting it home.

In Chicago I saw Making Mainbocher, an exhibition at the Chicago History Museum.  In 1947 designer Mainbocher redesigned the uniforms of the Girl Scouts of the USA, and this is an example of one of the dresses. It was really fun seeing this after having just seen a similar one at the museum.

That’s all for the shopping. Expect several museum posts in the near future.

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Liberty Antiques Festival – Spring, 2017.

I’ve been attending the big outdoor antiques show at Liberty, NC since 2005, and in those years I’ve only missed the show one time.  That’s because this antiques show is good. In the past few years I’ve reported that the festival was shrinking, with fewer vendors, but I’m happy to say that this spring’s show seemed to be the most robust in years. I’m hoping that is a sign that the economic recovery that began in 2010 is finally making sellers, and buyers, more confident.

Not only were there more vendors, it seemed as though there were more buyers. In years past I’ve noticed how the majority of buyers seems to be in the plus 60 demographic.  This time around I saw lots of younger people out looking to build collections.  It’s a cheering thought.

Still, one woman I talked with, older than me, was lamenting the state of things, saying I’d missed the golden years of Brimfield.  That may be the case, but I still managed to see so much great old stuff here at Liberty, and I even added a few prime pieces to my own collection.  There will be more on that later, of course. For now, here are some other items of interest.

The days of stumbling across big stacks of vintage fashion magazines seems to belong to the past.  I spotted only one, and as luck would have it, I already have this issue of Vogue in my collection.

Continuing with the doggie theme, I spotted a salesman’s book of textile samples, got all excited only to find that the swatches had been removed and the book reused as a scrapbook.  There were some adorable Scotties in it so that made me feel a bit better.

A lot of clothing dealers don’t like to do outdoor markets, but Liberty has a few that are always there, regardless of the weather. It was warm and dry this weekend which made looking even better, as some dealers only bring textiles if it is dry.

It seems like there are always a few great old dressmaker’s dummies. This one with the bustle back was the oldest one I saw at the show. (And check out the Serro Scottie camper!)

This was a new-to-me item – a homemaker’s workbook.  All aspects of keeping a 1935 house were covered, from sewing to laundry to cooking. My guess is it was used in home economics classes.

This Kickaway box held underpants for little girls, but the company also made knickers for gym wear.  I have a pair in my collection.

Great old poster for Indian motorcycles had a great (big)  new price tag.

These double knit poly bells made a stunning display! Seriously, these are some of the best I’ve ever seen for sale, and all dead stock.

These are probably the oldest roller skates I’ve ever encountered, and only the high price tag kept me from buying them.  The wheels are made of wood, as are the soles.

I’ve also noticed that the Liberty show is attracting more sellers of country antiques.  There were lots of old rustic furniture, handmade baskets, and North Carolina pottery. This is not really my thing, but sometimes these dealers have great older textiles, which makes for a good learning experience.

All in all, it was a very good day!

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