Category Archives: Travel

South Union Shaker Village, Kentucky

As part of the recent Costume Society of America Southeast Region Symposium, we were treated to a visit to the South Union Shaker Village. The Shakers are not to be confused with the Quakers, nor with the Amish, which we were told was a common misconception. I’m not going to go into a long explanation of who the Shakers were, but simply put, they were a Christian group that believed in celibacy and communal living. Like the Quakers, their religious practice involved physical movements. Unlike the Quakers, they lived in communal housing and were not married. They are confused with the Amish due to an emphasis on handcrafted items and “old-fashioned” clothing. In the case of the Amish, they are associated with a way of life that does not include modern technology.

The Shakers embraced technology. Their craftsmanship came about through need of furnishings. Once they could buy things more cheaply, they made fewer of their belongings. As for the clothing, the Shakers adhered to a dress code of sorts, but they were aware of changing fashions and made modifications to their dress. They look old-fashioned to us because by the turn of the twentieth century, the Shakers were dying out. Most of our images of them show them in their nineteenth century clothing.

This large building is the Center House where the Shakers all lived, women on one side and men on the other. There was a kitchen, dining room, infirmary, and laundry in this building as well. Construction began in 1822, and this was always the main building in the village. Unfortunately when the village closed in the early 1920s, the land and buildings were sold and many were torn down.

There were several huge auctions of the contents of the buildings, and so the Shakers’ things were dispersed throughout the region. When interest in restoring the remaining buildings happened in the 1960s, the non-profit in charge began collecting back things that were made or used in the Shaker Village. This task was helped by the organizational habits of the Shakers. They believed that everything had a proper place, and things were labeled to show where things belonged.

A great example was in their textiles. Over the early years of the village the Shaker women produced wool, cotton, linen, and even silk textiles. Each was identified as to where it was used and stored.

We were quite privileged to see these textiles as they are not normally on display. The director got them out of storage just for our group.

Of particular interest were the silk kerchiefs. The Shakers began working with silk worms starting in the 1820s, and the project was mildly successful at South Union. In 1832 they had produced enough silk fabric to make each female member a silk kerchief, and each male member a silk tie.

As you can see, the Shakers were not opposed to using color in their clothing. They used both natural, and when they became available, aniline dyes.

After manufactured textiles became available, the Shakers started buying them instead of continuing with the labor-intensive process of making their own. Some of the equipment they used has been located and is on display in the Center House.

In the early years of South Union, the rooms and furnishings must have looked similar to this room. Most of the furnishings seem to be made by the Shakers.

As time went on and the Shakers were able to purchase goods, their rooms looked more like fashionable Victorian bedrooms. In the process of buying back the items that were used at South Union, items that were not made by the Shakers were also acquired. The re-acquisition started about only forty years after the village broke up, so they were able to buy back many items from the people who had bought them from the auctions in the early 1920s.

When not in use, chairs were hung on pegs to get them out of the way.

Before visiting South Union, I reread the wonderful Shaker Textile Arts by Beverly Gordon. It really helped me understand what I was seeing during the visit. There are Shaker villages scattered throughout the Northeast and eastern Midwest. Another one in Kentucky is Pleasant Hill. It even allows for overnight stays. I highly recommend it.

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Filed under Museums, Textiles, Travel, Uncategorized

1930s Roadhome Pullman Coach Catalog

I have always loved vintage travel trailers, and even considered searching out one in which to store my collection. Had I had more time, I might have actually pursued that option. As it turns out, I did add a trailer related object to my collection, this mid to late 1930s catalog for Roadhome Pullman Coaches.

There’ no date in the catalog, so I had to go by the dates to figure out when it was published. The models of the cars are probably the best clues, but I know little about vintage cars. So I went with the clothing the people are wearing. The lengths of the dresses and the hair styles sure look 1935 – 1936 to me. If you are a vintage car know-it-all, feel free to enlighten me.

Travel trailers had been around for a while in the 1930s. People had been using their autos for camping since the early days of the automobile. There were specially made tents that attached to the car, with the auto itself being used for sleeping. But as more people were hitting the ever-improving American highways, camping setups became more luxurious.

Why rough it and spend hours setting up camp when one could have a fully stocked cabin on wheels? There’d be more time for relaxing.

Campfires were optional when one had a fully-functioning kitchen.

That refrigerator is actually an icebox, though you could upgrade to gas or electrical. Power was limited, and so was conserved when possible.

At night the sofa became a bed. The walls were made of mahogany, a feature I’ve noticed in other trailers of that era.

These floor plans make the Roadhome look nice and spacious. If you have noticed the lack of a bathroom, the bathtub is hidden beneath a seat, and the toilet is contained in a closet.

What’s interesting is how the basic fundaments of a travel trailer have not changed much since the 1930s. They still have tiny kitchens and toilets concealed in closets. Furniture still serves double-duty when possible. But somehow the vintage ones are just more charming. Maybe I should find one for myself anyway.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Catalogs, Travel, Vintage Travel

The Call of the Wild from the Hettrick Mfg, Company

Working non-stop to clean out two houses left me with only enough energy in the evenings to search eBay for treasures. Good sporting sources are getting harder to find, but I am good at spotting them. Take this 1920s catalog, for instance. At first its little eBay thumbnail photo didn’t look too promising, and then I noticed the auto tent.

I’m not at all interested in truck covers and tarps, but auto tents always attract my attention.

The catalog is just full of mid 1920s camping supplies. The Hettrick Company started out as a maker of canvas goods, making items for the late 19th century farmers such as horse and wagon covers. They were evidently willing to change with the times, as the 1920s brought cars and more leisure hours. Hettrick turned to canvas car covers and tents.

Today we might look on Instagram to see the ideal camping setup. In the pre-internet days, catalogs sold the perfect camping experience.

In the 1940s and 50s Hettrick turned from canvas items to metal outdoor furniture. Those metal gliders and chairs we all enjoyed as kids could have been made by Hettrick.

The caption for this great drawing could have been written in 2021 as millions of Americans flooded our national parks looking for some soothing nature.

Hettrick also made striped canvas awnings, tents, yard swings, umbrellas, and other accessories for the modern backyard. In the 20s they also began making clothing for outdoorsmen.

I have two of these wonderful old reclining chairs. It’s time to replace the canvas.

This catalog still has a small selection of wagon covers and horse coats, but as America moved from farms to the cities and suburbs, Hettrick was able to transition to a leisure hours supplier. Funny how the cover focused on their past as a maker of farm supplies instead of what the catalog actually was focused on.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Catalogs, Summer Sports, Travel, Vintage Travel

Legendary Philadelphia Department Store – Wanamaker’s

A trip to any big city is not complete without a visit to some wonderful shopping emporium of the past. In Philadelphia, that means Wanamaker’s.

As much as I hate the blandness and standardization that Macy’s represents in today’s shopping culture, I will admit that they have done a reasonably good job of preserving parts of the old department stores they have taken over. I saw this in Chicago in the old Marshall Field store, and was delighted to see so much shopping history in the old Wanamaker store in Philadelphia.

John Wanamaker really was a ground-breaking merchant, though the interior of his store looks quaintly old-fashioned to visitors today. No matter, as it is the past that took us to  Macy’s/Wanamaker’s.

The store that stands today was opened in 1911. It has an open court, and on one end a giant pipe organ, acquired by Mr. Wanamaker from the 1904 World’s Fair in Saint Louis, is installed. In the courtyard is a Philadelphia landmark, the Wanamaker Eagle.

The eagle was also a relic of the Saint Louis Fair. Wanamaker bought it, and even reinforced the floor beneath it so it could be safely displayed. People shopping would use the centrally placed eagle as a meeting place, and “Meet me at the eagle” became part of Philly vernacular.

Macy’s has a sign beside the eagle that tells about the tradition and a bit of the eagle’s history. They even have someone on staff who is very familiar with the store’s history in case one has unanswered questions.

When linens designer Tammis Keefe designed a hankie for Philadelphia, she used the interior of Wanamaker’s and included the famous phrase.  This hankie was a gift from Mod Betty, who lives in the Philadelphia area.

You know I adore a good mosaic, and so I loved this one found in one of the entrances to the store.  John Wanamaker made sure a customer knew it was his store.

I’d like to report than that Macy’s in Philadelphia still retains some of the great customer service Wanamaker’s was famous for. But our experience was quite the opposite. Tim found himself in need of more reliable walking shoes so we thought while we were already there, it would be a chance to quickly pick up a pair. He found shoes that suited him, but unfortunately we left without buying them. There were people working in the shoe department, but we just couldn’t interest any of them in assisting us. Old JW must have turned over in his grave.

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Filed under Shopping, Travel

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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Filed under Road Trip, Travel, Viewpoint

The Brown Building, Location of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

New York is so full of large, overwhelming buildings that it is easy to pass right by one without realizing its historic significance.  Such is the case with the Brown Building, which is part of the New York University campus and is located near the eastern edge of Greenwich Village.  Had I been there 104 years ago today, I would have been at the site of a tragedy, that of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

It’s hard to imagine the scene where 146 died needlessly because there were few laws to ensure the safety of workers, and those that were in place were often ignored.  But all that changed as the fire raised awareness of the poor working conditions in the city’s many factories and sweatshops.  A public that had formerly been apathetic toward poor workers, and in many cases even antagonistic toward them, now clearly saw that changes had to be made.

It probably helped that the factory was located only a block from the affluent Washington Square neighborhood.  Many people were out and about on that Saturday afternoon and witnessed the tragedy firsthand.

I’m not going to retell the story of what happened that day, but I strongly recommend watching the American Experience  episode that not only tells the story, but also explains the significance of the aftermath.

I think it is interesting that the Brown Building is still in existence.  The fire gutted much of the factory which was located on the top three floors, but much of the structure was left unharmed.  At any rate, I can imagine that if this happened today the building would be razed.

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Filed under Fashion Issues, Textiles, Travel

Ad Campaign: Matson to Hawaii, 1951

Forgive me for a moment so I can indulge in a little wintertime fantasy.  It’s a cold, rainy, gloomy day, but on the seas to Hawaii all is sunny and bright.

It took the cruise lines a few years to get back up to speed after WWII, as most of the ships had been used in the war effort.  Matson was operating four luxury liners in the Pacific before December 7, 1941, and all were converted into troop carriers.  Together, the four Matson liners carried a total of 736,000 troops and covered one and a half million miles before the war ended in 1945.

The transition back to cruise service was difficult and costly for Matson.  They ended up selling two of their liners so that the S.S. Lurline could be remodeled and relaunched in 1948.  By the late 1950s Matson had four liners making the route between California and Hawaii.  Today Matson is still in business as a container ship operator on the Pacific.  I’m sure it is more profitable than running cruise ships, but it could not be as romantic.

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Filed under Advertisements, Travel, Vintage Travel, World War II