|Past Exhibition Press Releases|
Fashioning the New Woman: 1890-1925
By, For, and Of the People: Folk Art and Americana at the DAR Museum
Try To See It My Way: Behind the Scenes at the DAR Museum
A True North Britain: The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820
Honoring Lafayette: Contemporary Quilts from France and America
Wedgwood: 250 Years of Innovation and Artistry
Return to Toyland
Telling Their Stories: 19th Century Samplers and Silk Needlework
New Threads: Quilts and Costumes
And So To Bed: The American Bedroom, 1750 - 1920
Myth or Truth? Stories We've Heard About Early America
Obsolete, Odd and Absolutely Ooky Stuff from the DAR Museum Vaults
Memorial Continental Hall: 100 Years of History
Home and Country: American Quilts and Samplers
Something Old, Something New: Inventing the American Wedding
Explore the World by Charting a Course Through History: Maps from Colonial Williamsburg
Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Service in the Revolutionary War
The Stuff of Childhood: Artifacts and Attitudes 1700-1900
Feminine Images: American Portraits 1750-1860
Fashioning the New Woman: 1890-1925
October 5, 2012 - August 31, 2013
From the last years of the bustle to the flapper era, unprecedented changes in women’s fashion took place, which reflected the underlying seismic shifts in women’s roles in American society. The DAR Museum exhibition, “Fashioning the New Woman: 1890-1925,” on display October 5, 2012 through August 31, 2013, traces the evolution of women’s fashion and how it reflected the changing societal roles and activities of women during the Progressive Era.
The exhibition examines the emergence of the “New Woman” as she was dubbed in popular culture. This archetypal woman represented the growing numbers of women venturing out of the domestic arena where society had told them they belonged and pursuing higher education, working in office jobs, playing active sports and working for social reform.
Click here to view the "Fashioning the New Woman: 1890-1925" online exhibition.
Active lives required more practical clothes than the many-layered, heavily draped outfits of the late Victorian lady. Simpler, more streamlined clothing evolved during the turn of the 20th century. An array of clothing and objects from the DAR Museum collection are featured showing the changing fashions of the period.
A fashion timeline of costumed manikins shows the progression of women’s dresses, most noticeably characterized in the size and shape of the skirts and sleeves; the fabrics and layers used; and the varying necklines, waistlines and skirt lengths. A sampling of undergarments and accessories of the period show how women achieved the right shape and complemented the look with shoes, hats and jewelry.
The exhibition highlights clothing that represents the activities of the New Woman. Participating in active outdoor sports was one of the hallmarks of the New Woman. While fashions allowed for more women to energetically swing a tennis racket, whack a golf ball and wheel her bicycle down country lanes, ideas of “proper” feminine attire still slowed progress of more practical sportswear. Tailored suits came into style for women beginning to work in white collar jobs. The no-frills suits were appropriate in an office because they were masculine, like the male dominated domain in which they were worn. With the increasing number of women attending college, the shirtwaist ensemble came into style. The outfit of the turn-of-the-century college girl was a skirt, sensibly shorter than current fashion dictated, and a shirtwaist, which was essentially the equivalent of jeans and a t-shirt today.
Even without the right to vote, American women of the Progressive Era effected change in public policy to address social reform, most notably, suffrage. Featured in the exhibit along with the clothing are suffrage banners and other artifacts of the National Woman’s Party’s fight for suffrage which are on loan from the Sewall-Belmont House.
A highlight of the exhibition is the inherent connection of the subject matter to the Daughters of the American Revolution National Society. “Fashioning the New Woman” examines women in the era of the founding of the DAR. The first members of the DAR were part of a larger trend in the United States: women were creating clubs of many kinds, from literary and other cultural clubs, to historical and genealogical societies, to organizations with goals or social activism.
Scattered throughout the exhibition is information about early DAR members who were pioneers in law and medicine, prominent in higher education, and who worked for social reforms and suffrage. Two beautiful dresses on display were even worn by two DAR Presidents General, Caroline Scott Harrison in about 1890 and Lora Haines Cook in about 1925. The Harrison and Cook dresses provide perfect bookends for the exhibit. Mrs. Harrison’s afternoon dress exemplifies the highly structured and decorative bustle style of the late 1800s. Mrs. Cook’s dress, from 35 years later, represents a major shift towards modern dress in its simple boxy construction typical of the 1920s. While elaborately detailed and elegant, it is worlds away from the bustle era.
“Fashioning the New Woman: 1890-1925” is a beautiful visual experience bound to appeal to costume lovers and historians alike. By tracing the evolution of fashion that took place in reaction to the many changes in women’s roles, visitors are reminded of how intertwined decorative arts are with the culture of the times. The DAR Museum exhibition tells the story of this critical period in history through the fashions that reflected and encouraged women’s progression.
By, For, and Of the People:
Folk Art and Americana at the DAR Museum
October 7, 2011 - September 1, 2012
The DAR Museum’s first-ever exhibition devoted entirely to folk art showcases a facet of the collection that evolved largely by accident. The DAR Museum was never intended to be a repository for folk art, but over time, as DAR members donated family heirlooms to the collection and the popularity of American folk art increased, a varied selection of folk art objects came to be represented among the museum’s holdings. “By, For, and Of the People: Folk Art and Americana at the DAR Museum,” on display October 7 through September 1, 2012, illustrates the talent and imagination of those who turned everyday objects into works of art.
View a slideshow of objects from "By, For, and Of the People: Folk Art and Americana from the DAR Museum."
While there are many different definitions for “folk art,” generally folk artists tend to be untrained in the “fine arts” or have made utilitarian objects decorative. Many of the objects on display are made by unknown craftsmen or artisans, but the exhibition also features work by celebrated folk artists. Beloved Grandma Moses, who only took to painting in her seventies, personally donated the landscape she painted when she was 93 years old, “The Battle of Bennington,” to the DAR a year after becoming a member. Decorated stoneware by master potter John Bell showcases how taking the time to make a utilitarian piece beautiful set him apart.
The unique exhibition’s varied yet cohesive presentation offers something for every visitor. Collectively, the items on display portray a sampling of American tastes and cultures of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Typical household items salute the American craftsmen who united utility and innovative design, from the chair makers, tinsmiths and potters who enlivened their wares with painted flourishes to the blacksmiths who transformed simple iron trivets into decorative kitchenware.
The growing demand for portraits in the 19th century propelled many people, regardless of their background or training, to take up the trade. In addition to traditional portraits, the exhibition contains a selection of profile portraits and silhouettes, less expensive pieces often rendered by aspiring artists just beginning their careers. On display are works by artists from the Prior-Hamblin School, Ruth Henshaw Bascom, and John Brewster.
All of the pieces featured celebrate home and family. Samplers illustrate typical schoolgirl art, family records demonstrate beautiful calligraphy and decorative motifs, and children’s toys recall the simple joys of early American youngsters.
After examining the DAR Museum exhibition’s array of delicate detailing, memorable housewares, industrious ingenuity and captivating designs, visitors will walk away with a greater appreciation for the artistic merit of functional as well as decorative objects made by, for, and of the American people.
Try to See It My Way:
Behind the Scenes at the DAR Museum
April 8 - September 3, 2011
On a visit to a museum, you may admire a piece of ornate furniture for its beauty, while others are intrigued by its statement of social status, while still others may see clues that make them question its purported date of origin. Then there are others whose main concern is how to store and care for the delicate piece so that many years down the line, even more people will have the chance to view the piece and interpret it with their own personal perspective. “Try to See It My Way: Behind the Scenes at the DAR Museum,” examines the notion that there is more than one way to look at a museum object. The exhibition, on display at the DAR Museum April 8 through September 3, 2011, gives visitors a peek into the minds of educators, curators and registrars as they create an exhibition of fascinating objects from the DAR Museum collection.
Visitors can explore unique and significant historic artifacts while also learning about the different roles performed by the DAR Museum staff in the analysis, contextualization and upkeep of the collection. Objects in the DAR Museum collection often have particularly interesting back-stories because many donors are DAR members, women who have traced their lineage back to a patriot of the American Revolution, who keep detailed accounts of their family history which they then are able to provide along with the piece. Visitors are encouraged to become part of the dialog of the exhibition and share their comments and questions. The DAR Museum will share that ongoing feedback and answer questions online at www.dar.org/share.
Dividing into teams of their respective roles, the DAR Museum educators, curators and registrars chose objects from the collection and used their unique perspective based on their job to write the object labels. Symbolized on the exhibition walls by colorful cartoon characters, the experts then also provided some comments about objects in each other’s sections to show how one object can be viewed in a variety of ways.
From the educator’s perspective, their role is to enhance the learning experience for the museum visitor. They present information about objects to visitors of all ages and place the objects in the context of history. The educator section of the exhibition features items with interesting stories and gives historical commentary on objects related to women and children. A quilt on display illustrates how sometimes museum objects have questionable histories associated with them. The educator explains that the donor of the wool quilt told the museum it was made from Civil War uniforms from members of the same family who fought on different sides in the war, but genealogical research has been unable to confirm this. The curator provides extra commentary that the fabrics do not conform with those used in Civil War uniforms, while the registrar describes how the quilt is stored. The educator’s goal is to present the facts and let the visitors draw their own conclusion, but can still make the point that items like these, regardless of their story’s validity, were made to commemorate or memorialize a person or event.
Educators also encourage visitors to make connections in order to help them understand how different life was compared to today…or maybe how similar. A woman’s elegant chatelaine with accessories such as a watch, knife, pincushion, thimble, pencil and note pad may prompt some visitors to envision a contemporary tool belt or a “fanny pack.” While the chatelaine was used inside the house, more adventurous women were wearing a silver clip and cord skirt holder to hold their dresses up when they rode a bicycle, much as cyclists roll their pant legs up today to avoid it getting caught in their chains.
The curator section of the exhibition displays a range of portraits, furnishings, quilts and costumes. Curators become experts in studying objects like these through examining, researching and writing about museum objects. Many curatorial discoveries and surprises are showcased in this section. A mahogany arm chair, originally part of a set ordered by President James Monroe for the White House, shows characteristics of French fashion of the time, but actually it was commissioned from a Georgetown cabinet maker to appease Congress after Monroe upset them a few years earlier for ordering a similar gilded set from France. The owner of a dress in the collection was finally identified after a curator found a newspaper clipping with a photo of a DAR member wearing the dress – saying it had belonged to Caroline Scott Harrison, First Lady of President Benjamin Harrison and first President General of the DAR. After a portrait conservation, curators were surprised and excited to learn that what they thought was just an image of a woman, actually was originally a portrait of a mother and child – raising the question, “why was the infant painted over?”
Two unique displays show a dress, with arrows and labels pointing to its different seams and fabric, and a table top, with views of its underside, to illustrate how a curator investigates the clues of a piece to learn more about it than just the family history that may accompany it. By analyzing materials used, methods of construction and stylistic details, curators can sometimes determine the “who-what-when-where” directly from the object itself.
While many visitors may have some knowledge of the role educators and curators play in a museum, the role of the registrar truly is behind the scenes, but just as crucial. Registrars maintain records of accession, condition and location of objects in a museum collection and oversee movement, packing and shipping of objects to conform to insurance regulations. This section of the exhibition shows visitors how museum objects are stored, how they are located and how they are cared for.
Objects like a late 19th century toy boat and toy elephant are displayed in the mounts used for their long-term storage to ensure their safety from damage. Other displays illustrate the challenges of efficiently labeling objects: how do you put an accession number on a bullet, or how do you number a chair so visitors can’t see it but registrars don’t have to contort themselves to find it. And lest you think the role of a registrar seems mundane, in addition to taking precautions to protect the historic pieces, they also must think of safety concerns for the entire museum. DAR Museum registrars must work with firearms professionals to ensure historic powder flasks, pistols and cannon balls no longer contain gun powder and are inoperable because, “Nothing ruins the Registrar’s day more than blowing up a storage area!”
This innovative exhibition is fun and educational for all ages as it takes the visitor behind the scenes of professional museum roles and duties. “Try to See It My Way” is a rewarding experience in that it not only answers many frequently asked questions about putting together an exhibition but it also makes the visitor part of the exhibition. Visitors are presented with questions and encouraged to share their own thoughts and questions right on the exhibit wall with a sticky note or by emailing the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org. That visitor feedback will be shared and answered online throughout the exhibition at www.dar.org/share. So stop by the DAR Museum to tell us the way YOU see it.
To see images from the exhibition and behind the scenes photos of the DAR Museum, visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TodaysDAR.
'A True North Britain':
The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820
October 8, 2010 - Febuary 26, 2011
The exquisitely detailed furniture of craftsman John Shearer is showcased in the DAR Museum exhibition “‘A True North Britain’: The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820,” which runs from October 8, 2010, through February 26, 2011. Noted not only for its form but also for the politically charged symbols inlaid in many pieces, the furniture helps to explore early America’s cultural ties to Great Britain during the most contentious period in the two nations’ shared history.
John Shearer worked in northern Virginia and western Maryland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He left behind no paper trail, choosing instead to inscribe his biography and his politics directly on his furniture. While other early craftsmen were inlaying their work with eagles to symbolize a new American government, Shearer glorified Great Britain and its Royal Navy.
Shearer was from Edinburgh, Scotland. Like many from this region, he identified with the Kingdom of Great Britain, formed by the 1707 Treaty of Union which unified Scotland and England. Shearer touts his loyalty by signing two desks on view in this exhibition with the slogan, “A True North Britain.”
On another desk, he cheers Napoleon’s downfall and Britain’s victory in the Peninsular War by depicting a crowned lion rampant (rearing on hind legs, paws raised) from the Scottish and English royal coats of arms along with the inscription “Victory Be Thine.”
Shearer documented the Royal Navy’s exploits almost like a political cartoonist. Although fine furniture was an unusual medium for these messages, 52 of his pieces survive, showing that his pro-British sentiments did not deter demand for the simple but unconventionally embellished furniture. As America formed a national identity, its cultural and political diversity included many who retained a strong sense of loyalty to Great Britain.
Not all Shearer’s messages were meant to be seen, however. Shearer, following the age-old tradition of artist retaliating against problematic patron, hid a note inside one desk accusing his customer, a slave holder and trader, of being “the Greatest Scoundrel in Loudoun County.”
This unique piece is among 20 on display in “A True North Britain.” Independent scholar Elizabeth Davison is the guest curator for this exhibition. Her book, a catalog raisonne of Shearer’s work, will be published this winter. Her expertise informs this exhibition, exploring the work of one eccentric artist to show how a diversity of cultures and loyalty was built into the foundations of our country.
Contemporary Quilts from France and America
April 16 - September 4, 2010
To commemorate the Marquis de Lafayette, the Frenchman who was instrumental in supporting the American Revolution, the DAR Museum presents the exhibition, “Honoring Lafayette: Contemporary Quilts from France and America,” on display April 16 - September 4, 2010. To complement the quilts is a display of items from the DAR Museum collection that were made or saved to remember Lafayette’s triumphal visit to the United States in the 1820s in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Revolution.
In 2007, on the occasion of the 250th birthday of the Marquis de Lafayette, the city of Lafayette, Louisiana spearheaded activities to celebrate and inform the public about his contribution to American independence. As part of the initiative, quilters chosen from the United States, Canada, Belgium and France made pieces that honored Lafayette which were then featured in an exhibition in that city. When these Lafayette quilts later traveled to France, the French hosts were interested in adding another element to the exhibition. Additional quilts by two noted African American quilters from Louisiana were included to examine the intersection of French and African cultures and the quilting inspirations that come from the formerly-French Louisiana region.
“Warrior Shield” is made by New Orleans quilter Cecelia Tapplette-Pedescleaux whose design is inspired by an African American Mardi Gras social club and African symbolism. On a more somber note, when Beatriz “Soco” Ocampo and members of her quilt group were able to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina they found their homes destroyed from the flooding. When cleaning out a friend’s home, Beatriz noticed that the sun-baked mold on some of the bed sheets and blankets had formed interesting abstract designs. After thoroughly cleaning the sheets, she assembled parts of these fabrics with newspaper photographs of the storm’s devastation to create “Bad News Quilt.”
While these and the other quilts on display by Cecelia and Beatriz are not directly related to Lafayette, they, and the interest they generated at the exhibition in France, represent the ongoing dialog between America and France and their longstanding cultural bonds.
Many of the quilts made to honor Lafayette incorporate traditional elements with contemporary, original designs. “Friendship of Washington and La Fayette” uses the French fleur de lys motif, originally a symbol of the French monarchy, and alternates it with the American eagle to suggest the friendship of the two men from their respective countries. “When Compasses Collide” uses beautiful sea-blues and greens and a quilt pattern called the mariner’s compass that goes back to at least the early 19th century. Symbolically, the quilt suggests Lafayette’s voyages between France and America.
Introducing a third element to this traveling exhibition, objects featured from the DAR Museum collection show how Lafayette’s celebrity was such that many who came in contact with him preserved tangible reminders of their encounter and commercial memorabilia of his visit to America was on sale everywhere. On display are shoes that were saved just because someone danced at a ball in his honor wearing them; towels and glasses turned into relics because he supposedly used them; and china, broadsides and buttons created with his portrait which Americans cherished as souvenirs.
The DAR Museum’s “Honoring Lafayette” exhibition helps to give a glimpse into the popularity of the Frenchman who inspired the names (i.e. Lafayette, Fayette, Fayetteville) of hundreds of counties, towns, schools, parks, and streets across America. Beyond exploring the Marquis de Lafayette’s celebrity status, the exhibition offers guests a greater understanding of the lasting legacy between France and America that he helped to launch into motion at the founding of our Nation.
Wedgwood: 250 Years of Innovation and Artistry
October 3, 2009 - February 27, 2010
A new exhibition at the DAR Museum showcases the beautiful artistry and marketing genius of Josiah Wedgwood which still thrives today, 250 years after he founded his famous ceramics company. "Wedgwood: 250 Years of Innovation and Artistry," which runs from October 3, 2009 – February 27, 2010, celebrates the 250th anniversary of Wedgwood and the remarkable story of discovery, vision, experimentation, industry and exquisite design.
Nearly 200 select items on display will illustrate the company’s unique history and manufacturing. All eras from 1759 to 2009 and the wide variety of clay bodies, designs and categories of items produced will be represented with objects from North American private, museum, and celebrity collectors such as Martha Stewart.
As part of the Wedgwood-250 Exhibition Committee, the DAR Museum collaborated with Wedgwood USA, Inc. and the Wedgwood Society of Washington, D.C. to curate one of the largest loan exhibitions in the Museum’s history. In addition to private lenders, the exhibition includes pieces from the DAR Museum collection as well as loaned items from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Birmingham Museum of Art among others.
"The DAR is honored to be hosting this historic exhibition celebrating the 250 years of Wedgwood," says Linda Gist Calvin, DAR President General. "Our organization has a long history with Wedgwood, having commissioned a variety of pieces over the past century. The DAR Museum has also collected a number of notable Wedgwood objects and it is with great pride that we have been able to collaborate on this important exhibition."
The exhibition weaves together the amazing 250 year story of Wedgwood with an examination of innovative pieces through the years. Josiah Wedgwood was the son of a poor potter in a time when most potters sold their wares locally. By the late 18th century, however, Wedgwood had transformed localized trade into an international market finding his success as an outstanding entrepreneur, marketing genius and major contributor to Great Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Wedgwood’s success was rooted in his deep interest in science and constant experimentation which led him to develop significant manufacturing innovations. He also developed a creative marketing strategy using elegant showrooms and royal connections which was revolutionary in creating consumer demand.
Pieces showing the evolution and diversity of the signature designs of Wedgwood are accompanied by descriptions of how they were made or how they are historically significant. While Wedgwood pieces today are often thought of as fine china or decorative ornaments, the exhibition shows examples of the vast range of wares produced by the company such as figures, personal items, utilitarian wares, and commemorative pieces, as well as those that showcase specific artists’ unique styles.
Historically, Josiah Wedgwood played a great role because of the highly influential people with whom he associated and his contributions to industry and society in Great Britain and internationally. One of the most culturally significant pieces on display is a plate from 1770 designed in the “husk” pattern. This pattern was purchased by Catherine the Great of Russia, soon after Josiah Wedgwood had been designated “Potter to the Queen” of England. Wedgwood’s patterns, however, were not restricted to the royal household. In one of the earliest examples of “celebrity marketing,” middle-class colonial America was able to have the same china as the Empress, the King and the Queen.
Another interesting piece that speaks to the greater story of Josiah Wedgwood is an elegant sword from 1790. This beautiful weapon was crafted by Matthew Boulton and ornamented with jasper medallions made by Wedgwood. Boulton was an important metal crafter and manufacturer who partnered with James Watt in the production of the steam engine which made the Industrial Revolution possible. Boulton, Watt and Wedgwood were friends and members of the Lunar Society, an elite intellectual club that met monthly to discuss matters of common interest related to science and technology.
Yet another member of the Lunar Society was Benjamin Franklin. In addition to Wedgwood being an admirer and supporter of the American Revolution, he and Franklin shared another passion: abolition. Wedgwood was an active abolitionist and he created a cameo based on the emblem of the English “Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.” These medallions, one of which is on display, were produced mostly in black and white jasper and became fashionable and effective means of promoting the abolitionist cause. The medallions were distributed to abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic, including a large number sent to Benjamin Franklin.
In addition to pieces of historical importance, the exhibition also includes amazingly beautiful and interesting pieces. The Fairyland Lustre vase circa 1920, on loan from Whoopi Goldberg, has an elaborate decorative element of nymphs and magical scenery. The mortar and pestle on display lacks any decoration, but the beauty and efficacy of the shape and finish has proven so popular since the 18th century that generically this type of pestle is known as the “Wedgwood mortar and pestle” and can still be purchased today by makers all over the world.
“This exhibition brings alive the unique story of Wedgwood, from the formidable years of the 18th century to its current status as an iconic and premium international brand,” says Lord Wedgwood, direct descendent of Josiah Wedgwood and Wedgwood corporate ambassador.
The “Wedgwood: 250 Years of Innovation and Artistry” exhibition is the highlight of celebrations taking place for the 250th anniversary. The exhibition will open with a private ceremony hosted by Lord Wedgwood and will feature an afternoon tea and exhibition viewing for invited guests at DAR Headquarters. The planned highlight at the event will feature the British Ambassador presenting a specially commissioned Wedgwood Prestige “Gift Between Nations” statue to the United States. A lecture series presented by noted Wedgwood experts is also being planned to be held at the DAR and a full exhibition catalog will be available for purchase from the DAR Museum Shop.
For additional information on this exhibition and other Wedgwood products, visit www.wedgwoodusa.com. For more information on the Daughters of the American Revolution, visit www.dar.org. And for updates on the Wedgwood-250 Exhibition project, visit www.wedgwood250USA.org.
The DAR Museum celebrates childhood of the past with a playful exhibition of late 19th- and early 20th - century toys. “Return to Toyland,” which runs from October 3, 2008 through February 28, 2009, features antique toys from the DAR Museum collection, remarkable precursors to the abundance of toy varieties we see today. On display are dolls and doll houses, military and vehicular toys, games and stuffed animals. The exhibition also gives a glimpse into the beginning of the commercialization of Christmas and how it played a role in the evolution and popularity of toys.
Today, dolls come in so many varieties that many encourage little girls to grow up to be whatever they want, whether it’s a rock star or an astronaut. Dolls during the turn of the century, however, were mostly geared toward giving little girls good practice for the childcare skills most of them would need as mothers. The exhibition features various cloth, porcelain, and papier-mâché dolls as well as paper dolls and their different wardrobe changes.
Boys also had toys assigned to them by social convention. Soldiers and weapons were favorites in the early part of the 20th century, and even before Thomas the Tank Engine, little boys loved toy trains and cars. On display are even toy carriages and horse-drawn carts, which were popular play items before other forms of transportation were invented.
For the most part, early toys were very gender-based, but little kids naturally liked many of the same things. A majority of the toys from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were miniatures of objects from the adult world. The exhibition features beautiful examples of doll houses as well as a miniature theater, fire station, barn and even an outhouse.
Early childhood games could also cross gender lines. Turn of the century optical toys like the zoetrope were precursors to movies and entertained boys and girls alike. A wide variety of board games, some based on current events and characters like Nellie Bly, started to become popular around this time.
Stuffed animals, that seem so ever-present today, were actually latecomers to the toy world. The Teddy Bear came on the scene in about 1903, soon after President Teddy Roosevelt famously spared a bear cub during one of his hunting trips. In addition to stuffed bears and monkeys, on display is a riding toy elephant circa 1904 affectionately named “Jumbo.”
Now, it is customary to see TV reports of lines outside Toys “R” Us and parents on their worst behavior at the start of Christmas season shopping. However, commercialization of Christmas began in the late 1800s, with store owners and toy manufacturers helping to convert a formerly modest celebration into a child-centered extravaganza of gift-giving. The exhibition takes a look at this phenomenon and displays antique ornaments and other Christmas paraphernalia.
While toys have certainly changed and multiplied dramatically in the past 100 years, their roots are evident in the toys of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visitors to “Return to Toyland,” old and young alike, can reminisce about the toys they once played with as well as marvel at the striking similarities and differences of these antique toys to the toys of today.
Telling Their Stories: 19th Century Samplers and Silk Needlework
With nearly 80 examples of 19th century needlework on display in the new DAR Museum exhibition, visitors will have the pleasure of not only viewing beautiful textiles, but also get a glimpse into the lives of the makers of these historic pieces. The exhibition, “Telling Their Stories: 19th Century Samplers and Silk Embroideries,” which runs from April 11 – August 30, 2008, examines the artistry of early American stitching as well as delves into the family history of the creators of these needle arts.
Learning to sew was a part of every young girl’s schooling in the early–to-mid 19th century. One basic technique was taught through a marking sampler to learn stitches, letters, and numerals. It is called a “marking sampler” because the knowledge gained enabled a needleworker to “mark” such things as clothing and household linens. It became useful not only for that purpose but also as a tool for learning to form words essential for reading. The more complex samplers followed and are sometimes classified as pictorial, architectural, genealogical (family records), and even straightforward verse. Additionally
floral designs enhanced the needlework and could be duplicated on clothing and fine linen. You will find all of these examples represented in the exhibition.
Silk embroideries on the other hand were much more than practice pieces and took considerable expertise. These very difficult and very beautiful embroideries stitched in silk or metallic thread on silk with a watercolor wash were more like paintings than samplers. Most often these pieces were made as “graduation pieces” by older girls who had mastered their sewing classes or by skilled women needleworkers.
The DAR Museum exhibition highlights a vast range of samplers and silk embroideries and also provides information about the girls who created them and the women they became. Many of these samplers have clues about the maker right on the piece (such as name or initials, dates, locations, etc), so the exciting part of a curator’s work comes from researching the life of the maker. Discoveries about the maker from census reports, family records, and local histories help to create a more complete portrait of the woman as well as the times she lived in.
“The accomplishments of the needleworker are evident in the pieces we have on display, but it is even more fascinating to learn what these women endured and accomplished in their everyday lives,” says exhibition curator Olive Graffam. “The focus of this exhibition gives us the opportunity to highlight women’s craftsmanship while also admiring their personal role in the many changes taking place during the 19th century.”
The exhibition covers many different aspects of needlework in the 19th century including samplers – and the stories of their makers – by American immigrants, Easterners, and those who migrated West; motifs that arose from the influence of certain well-known needlework schools; how needlework gradually became less of a practicality and more of a hobby; and the various tools that have been used by needle workers over the years.
Those visitors inspired by either the artistry or the family history of the samplers and embroideries on display don’t have to end their exploration in the DAR Museum Gallery. Available from the DAR Museum Shop are sampler charts and kits that visitors can purchase and make their own needlework reproductions of samplers from the DAR Museum collection. Also, located across the hall from the museum is the DAR Library, one of the premiere genealogical research centers in the country, where the public is welcome to delve into their own family history search.
New Threads: Quilts and Costumes
WASHINGTON, DC Being a museum curator isn't just about picking old or pretty objects for a collection - so what does make an object "museum-worthy"? The DAR Museum exhibition "New Threads: Quilts and Costumes," which runs from November 9, 2007 - March 1, 2008, invites patrons into the mind of a curator by showcasing recently acquired quilts and costumes and explaining why and how each piece was accepted into the museum's collection.
Since the founding of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in 1890, the DAR Museum collection has grown to more than 30,000 objects. Of these about 23 percent are clothing and textiles, including about 300 quilts. Most of the museum's acquisitions are donated, primarily by DAR members or their families, but sometimes by others who know the collection by reputation. The DAR Museum accepts donations, or occasionally purchases objects at auction, when a piece helps to fill in a gap or expand the collection, when it tells a compelling story of early-America, or when it provides comparison and contemplation of styles or society over time.
One of the strengths of the DAR Museum collection is that, because the DAR is a genealogical based organization, many of the objects are accompanied by their family histories and provenance which adds even more depth and significance to the collection.
Among the quilts on display are two rare early-Virginia quilts made by the same expert quilter (the third identical quilt belongs to Colonial Williamsburg). Amelia Lauck, a master quilter from Winchester, Virginia, created identical quilts for three of her six children which are today considered masterpieces of American folk art. Adding excitement to the already significant new acquisitions of the Lauck quilts is that over the years, 33 women have joined the DAR as descendents of Amelia's husband, Peter, who was a Revolutionary War hero. Through the outreach of DAR Museum Curator of Costumes and Textiles Alden O'Brien, several of the Lauck family descendents (some of whom have never met each other) are expected to attend the exhibition opening featuring their ancestor's masterpieces.
In addition to displaying quilts that retain family history, the exhibit also showcases quilts that were recently added to the collection based on their commemoration of early America, such as the 1876 Centennial Quilt. Other quilts on display also explain why the DAR Museum sometimes makes exceptions to its quilt collecting policy. A cotton "Blackbirds" quilt from 1940 is from later than most of the museum's collection (most date prior to 1900); however, acquiring it provided the DAR Museum the opportunity to expand its scope to include an African American made quilt. Throughout the collection, DAR Museum curators are eager to acquire objects from a diverse cross-section of regions, ethnicities, and distinct styles in American history.
The exhibit also displays other recently acquired "threads" - an assortment of early-American clothing. A pair of girl's dress from 1790 and 1860 shows how children's clothing had both progressed and regressed. Vintage paper dolls from 1830 and 1910 show the clothing styles at the peak of fashion at those times.
Additionally, a hands-on section makes the exhibit extra enjoyable for both children and adults. Magnetic boards allow patrons to choose different outfits for replica paper dolls and create their own quilt patterns with different shapes and colors. Visitors can feel different types of quilt fibers and even try weaving with a hand held loom.
With beautiful examples of early-American quilts and costumes and a glimpse inside the mind of a curator, the "New Threads" exhibition challenges visitors to think differently about antique items their family may own. And while many museums such as the DAR Museum unfortunately have to turn down more objects than they can accept, who is to say that your object isn't a piece that a museum is anxiously waiting to acquire?
And So To Bed: The American Bedroom, 1750 - 1920 – May 4, 2007 - October 6, 2007
It has been a part of all of our daily routines since the beginning of time, but how was going to bed different in times past? The DAR Museum exhibition “And So To Bed: The American Bedroom 1750-1920,” which runs from May 4 – October 6, 2007, explores the evolution of the bed and the bedroom. Changing ideas of style, privacy, health, and hygiene altered the design of bedrooms, beds, bedding, and bedclothes. All of these will be traced in the DAR Museum exhibit highlighting furniture, textiles, and costume, sure to appeal to not only enthusiasts of these items, but anyone who has ever thought about going to bed.
The many decades between 1760 and 1920 witnessed revolutionary changes in the concept of the bedroom and the rituals surrounding how one prepared to go to bed or wake in the morning. This exhibition, a result of more than two years of planning and research by DAR Museum curators Alden O’Brien and Patrick Sheary, will examine the ways in which changing fashion, interior décor, and technology combined to create the modern master bedroom suite.
“When we envisioned an exhibit examining the early-American bedroom, one of our curators immediately came up with the title ‘And so to bed…’ from the words that 17th century English diarist Samuel Pepys used to end each day’s journal entry,” explains Diane Dunkley, DAR Museum Director and Chief Curator. “The exhibit theme is a great opportunity for us to showcase many of our beautiful and interesting collection items in the gallery as well as highlight the DAR Museum’s period rooms which feature five bedchambers.”
On exhibit is a reproduction Colonial American bedstead with decorative hangings and a beautiful circa 1750 indigo resist-printed cotton quilt (the earliest quilt in the DAR Museum collection). However, not everyone in early America slept in such elaborate and expensive beds. Examples of bed linens of the time show the variety of qualities from coarse to fine and an interactive display lets visitors pick if they would prefer to sleep on a mattress filled with materials used in the 1700s such as moss, straw, dried corn husks, wheat chaff, or feathers.
Until the 20th century, nightgowns were made to be sturdy, not seductive. Those women who had the luxury of spending the morning at home wore informal, but fashionable, loose gowns while they breakfasted and attended to undemanding tasks like letter-writing. Both simple and decorative sleepwear and morning wear, for women and men, are on display in the exhibit, as well as other clothing accessories like nightcaps and slippers, including Thomas Jefferson’s slipper socks.
During the 18th century, almost no
one had a room devoted specifically to washing. One bathed, when necessary, either outside or in the bedroom from a washbasin and pitcher. So the exhibition would not be complete without a look at the evolution of the bathroom. Early items such as a bathing tub, wash stand and images of early “shower baths” are on display, as well as unusual “bed steps” – a piece of furniture to assist owners climbing into a high bed that could also be made to conceal the identity of a chamber pot.
A replica 1920s bedroom concludes the exhibit by showing how the bedroom evolved to incorporate new styles of furniture and sleepwear. It also examines how mattress technology of the mid-19th century popularized steel springs and cotton felt stuffed mattresses which led to the individually wrapped coil springs that are the standard of today.
While many of us may take for granted the significance of the bedroom, it is the place where most of us start and end each day. With the DAR Museum’s examination of close to two centuries of bedroom accessories and custom, visitors can glimpse into the more personal practices of early-American society to compare and contrast to how we carry out our own bedroom routines today.
Myth or Truth? Stories We've Heard About Early America – October 6, 2006 - March 31, 2007
WASHINGTON, DC "People were shorter then." "This is a 'Chippendale,' chair, named after the furniture maker who designed it." "George Washington personally gave this set of china to this family." Chances are, if you have visited a museum or historic house, you have heard one of these statements or something very similar. The DAR Museum exhibition "Myth or Truth? Stories We've Heard About Early America," which runs from October 6, 2006 - March 31, 2007, examines these types of statements and the reliability of history through word-of-mouth.
Stories about historic events, people and things are told every day, and many of these tales either have little documentary basis or are outright fabrications. This exhibit investigates how true facts of history become "tweaked" in order to better entertain museum visitors, become exaggerated while being passed down through family history, or even become fictitious due to a small museum oversight.
A common myth perpetuated at many historic homes and museums is that firescreens were intended to prevent women's wax makeup from melting. Is that true? Some sayings have become so ingrained in our culture that we don't even realize that they have changed the way we talk about everyday objects like "grandfather clocks." What did our ancestors call them? And what about other early American songs or sayings? We have all used the phrase "Good night, sleep tight," or sung the songs "Yankee Doodle" or "Pop Goes the Weasel." Where did they come from and what do they really mean?
Stories told over the years can take on mythic proportions and in many cases the embellishments are what keep the story alive from generation to generation. Many people grew up learning that Betsy Ross was the designer of the first American Flag or hearing tales of Sybil Ludington's heroic ride through the night to warn of the British coming. While no evidence has been found that proves the authenticity of these stories, it is just as intriguing to think about how such stories originate and to understand that tales like these are embraced as part of American history along with the facts of the founding of our country.
Some early American myths prove to be so lasting that they even repeat themselves in the context of contemporary society. Marvel at the tiny waist of a 19th century corset and your guide may tell you "some women had their lowest ribs removed surgically to achieve the fashionably thin waist." It may almost sound believable to you because you "heard Cher did it!"
Using period texts, graphics and antique objects, the DAR Museum looks at popular stories about the early years of our country and tries to pin down the origins of some of our favorite "history lore." "Myth or Truth? Stories We've Heard About Early America" explores what has been said, what we know, and the theories behind the origins of the story. It displays evidence that supports or refutes common tales that have persisted for centuries. Visitors are given the opportunity to examine the facts and come to their own conclusions about frequently repeated stories that have developed into unquestioned pieces of American history. After leaving this exhibition, think about stories or phrases you hear today that might one day become a myth.
Obsolete, Odd and Absolutely Ooky Stuff from the DAR Museum Vaults - March 10 - September 2, 2006
WASHINGTON, DC The DAR Museum will showcase some of its strangest and most intriguing collection items in the exhibition, "Obsolete, Odd and Absolutely Ooky Stuff from the DAR Museum Vaults," on display from March 10 - September 2, 2006. Included in the exhibit are objects from the 18th and 19th century that were useful, in-fashion and even innovative at the time, but now seem so unusual it is hard to believe the objects were ever real.
Like most museums that have been collecting objects for a long time, the DAR Museum has some pretty bizarre stuff among all its treasures, running the gamut from obsolete to merely odd to altogether ooky. On display are such wonders as a glass dachshund to drink from, jewelry made from human hair, a Revolutionary-era mousetrap, and a snuffbox made from a ram's head. For those fascinated by early American medical care, the exhibit offers an earwax spoon, tooth extractors and a variety of bloodletting instruments.
"When we give tours of our museum to kids, they are always intrigued with our most unusual, and what they might call 'icky,' objects," explains DAR Museum Director Diane Dunkley. "We decided to design an entire exhibition of all the DAR Museum's obsolete, odd and ooky objects primarily for entertainment value, but I think visitors of all ages may find that they actually learn something about America's past from this exhibit."
While the "gross out" factor played a big role in identifying objects for the exhibit, the squeamish should not fear a visit to this exhibition. Also included in the exhibition are items that fall into the obsolete and odd categories. Many of the objects on display were common items in the 18th and 19th century, but are no longer used today. Early kitchen utensils such as a wooden meat grinder, a salamander for browning food and sugar nippers remind visitors of the convenience of our contemporary kitchen necessities. Many of today's musical instruments can be dated far back in our annals of history, but for the instruments in this exhibit such as the Barrel Organ, the Melodeon, and the Grand Harmonicon, their popularity of has not stood the test of time.
Intriguing, peculiar, impractical, unsanitary and even painful - not to mention just plain weird - all of the objects in the exhibition provoke questions like, "What is it? How come? What for?!?" The DAR Museum exhibition of these unusual objects from America's past will answer questions visitors never thought to ask. Visitors to the "Obsolete, Odd and Absolutely Ooky Stuff from the DAR Museum Vaults" exhibition will enjoy getting a glimpse of the weirder side of American history and will wow their friends with their new knowledge of the Zoetrope, Scarificator, Niddy Noddy and Posset Pot.
Memorial Continental Hall: 100 Years of History - June 10, 2005 - February 4, 2006
WASHINGTON, DC “Memorial Continental Hall: 100 Years of History,” an exhibition examining the rich history of this National Historic Landmark Building, located just two blocks from the White House, is on display at the DAR Museum through February 4, 2006. The exhibit traces the extensive fundraising and planning history of the building’s creation, the beaux-arts architecture and exquisite interior décor, and the historical events that have taken place there.
Thousands of tourists and D.C. residents alike pass by Memorial Continental Hall daily on 17th Street as they walk by the White House or while going to the World War II Memorial, but few know of its multifunctional purpose or historical significance. It is often mistaken as part of the building it adjoins, the concert venue Constitution Hall, but Memorial Continental Hall was in fact built more than 20 years prior to the popular concert hall and serves its own distinct purpose.
“Like many official buildings in downtown Washington, the exterior of Memorial Continental Hall is a familiar part of the landscape, but its interior is a mystery to most who pass by,” says DAR Museum Director Diane Dunkley. “This exhibition invites visitors to learn the history of a beautiful building and the forward-thinking women who created it.”
Memorial Continental Hall was built in 1905 by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to serve as the organization’s national headquarters and to hold their annual convention. Today, it is the epicenter of an active DAR, but it is also a unique D.C. destination open to the public. Memorial Continental Hall houses one of the world’s most important genealogical libraries, an extensive collection of antique home furnishings displayed in more than 30 period rooms and glamorous spaces available to the
public for an array of different occasions.
The Memorial Continental Hall exhibition is a retrospective on the history of the 100-year-old building presented in the DAR Museum gallery, and includes a walking tour of the building itself, which has retained many of its original design features. Historical photos, original furnishings, early documents and blueprints of the Hall are on display in the gallery. The walking tour includes “then-and-now” explanations of different significant areas around the building and points out portraits and architectural features of the Hall too large to include in the gallery.
Among the topics included in the exhibition is how Memorial Continental Hall played an important role in the history of the city of Washington. When the DAR leadership first began searching for a headquarters site at the turn of the 20th century, Washington, D.C. was still a developing city and many now-prime pieces of land were available and undeveloped.
Originally, the DAR leadership had many questions regarding building in a location that at the time was the unfashionable, semi-rural and marshy part of the city south of the White House, called “Foggy Bottom.” Their decision to build on 17th Street, one block from Constitution Avenue, proved to be a very wise choice. The exhibit includes correspondence between the DAR president and Senator James McMillan, whose committee’s plan for the National Mall guided the development of 20th century Washington, including Memorial Continental Hall.
The “White City” concept that the architects on the McMillan Commission referred to for the National Mall was the standard for the façade of Memorial Continental Hall. With that idea and the Colonial Revival movement in mind, Edward Pearce Casey, who had designed the interior of the Library of Congress, won a competition to be the architect of Memorial Continental Hall. His winning design was in the classical revival style of the beaux-arts.
The exhibition goes into detail examining the classical features of the façade, the intricate detail of the interior design and the elegant original furnishings and decorations of the building. Comparisons of the original functions of the rooms of the building to that of their current functions show how the Hall has changed over time. What was once the grand auditorium of Memorial Continental Hall now houses the DAR Genealogical Library. Offices that originally surrounded the auditorium now serve as museum period rooms decorated to accurately reflect a specific time, place and authentic interior décor.
Over the years, many important local and national events have taken place in Memorial Continental Hall, but none more important than the 1921 Conference on the Limitation of Armament. President Warren Harding opened the conference, which brought together major Allied naval powers from around the world to discuss a reduction in the size and armament of their navies and to ensure security in the Pacific.
When the conference ended on February 6, 1922, the delegates had signed three major treaties and several separate agreements. This historic event earned Memorial Continental Hall its National Historic Landmark status in 1972. Other significant historical uses of the building came during World War II when Memorial Continental Hall became the site of many Red Cross offices, including space for its Prisoners of War offices. The DAR also sponsored a War Service Center located in the Hall, which was open for WWII servicemen six days a week.
Today, members and the public alike come to Memorial Continental Hall to immerse themselves in genealogical research at the DAR Library or to take guided tours of the museum period rooms. The beautiful O’Byrne Gallery is one of the most elegant venues in Washington, D.C. regularly hosting special events such as receptions, meetings and weddings. Memorial Continental Hall’s resemblance to the White House also makes it a desirable location for shooting feature films and television. Movies such as Suspect, The Distinguished Gentleman, and National Treasure, as well as television programs, including The West Wing, have filmed at Memorial Continental Hall.
A short documentary film on the history of Memorial Continental Hall was made in conjunction with the exhibition and is available in the DAR Museum Shop. The 12-minute film mirrors the scope of the exhibition and tells the story of the 100-year old building using narration, video footage, historical photos and documents. Historical footage of the 1921 Armaments Conference held in Memorial Continental Hall appears in the film as well as contemporary footage of the building.
Home and Country: American Quilts and Samplers in the DAR Museum - October 8, 2004 - April 30, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A major exhibition of American needlework and quilts will be presented at the DAR Museum in the Main Gallery from October 8, 2004 through April 30, 2005. Home and Country: American Quilts and Samplers in the DAR Museum features 38 samplers and silk embroideries and 14 quilts that reflect the meaning of home and country in the nineteenth century through a shared design vocabulary. All displayed works are from the museum's renowned collection of textiles. The tree of life, the overflowing fruit basket, floral swags and meandering vines, sheaves of wheat and laurel branches were popular designs that reflected the promise of America's bounty and its significance to a rapidly expanding republic. The fierce eagle, the liberty cap, the flag, and the Great Seal are found in abundance on early nineteenth century textiles and symbolize the pride of a new nation. All speak to American dreams and aspirations in the early- to middle-nineteenth century.
A highlight of the show includes a rarely-exhibited needlework picture "Liberty." Liberty was made by an unknown schoolgirl between 1800 and 1815, and was based on an engraving made by Edward Savage called, Liberty, In the Form of the Goddess of Youth; Giving Support to the Bald Eagle. Liberty's creator distinctively stitched the Trenton Arches in the background of her work, honoring for posterity the celebratory arches erected in Trenton, New Jersey for President-elect George Washington as he journeyed through the city on his way to New York for the country's first inaugural. This masterpiece illustrates the pride ordinary Americans felt for the new country and its first president.
Artridge Priscilla Jackson of Georgetown, District of Columbia worked her sampler in 1829 with images of home and simple domesticity. She carefully stitched into her sampler her two-story home and her pets, as well as four bountiful baskets. This work attests to the importance of home to young girls in the nineteenth century.
One of the most remarkable bedcovers made in the nineteenth century is a virtual textbook of symbols of patriotism, liberty and prosperity. The Baltimore Album Quilt Top represents the pinnacle of the Baltimore album quilt style, a distinctive type of quilt which emerged in mid-nineteenth-century Baltimore and its environs. This quilt, maker unknown, contains representations of the U.S. Capitol, the Baltimore Battle Monument, another unidentified civic building and nine open-work fruit and flower baskets. It is breathtaking in its display of patriotism and the seemingly infinite bounty of America.
Home, family and friends were revered in an era of ever-increasing mobility and in a society that some have called "the cult of domesticity." In the last decade of the nineteenth century the Daughters of the American Revolution harkened back to the cult of domesticity by using "Home and Country" as the motto for their newly-founded organization.
|Something Old, Something New: Inventing the American Wedding - April 16, 2004 to September 4, 2004|
Washington, D.C. - Fifteen vintage wedding dresses, as well as groom's attire, will be on view at the DAR Museum from April 16 through September 4, 2004. Something Old, Something New: Inventing the American Wedding will trace the evolution of the American wedding from its simplest beginnings in the 18th century to the lavish etiquette-laden affair it is today. The exhibition will showcase the DAR Museum's collection of wedding dresses, as well as dresses from The Valentine Richmond History Center.
Something Old, Something New: Inventing the American Wedding provides a thorough examination of the customs and traditions associated with the wedding ceremony as it evolved during the past 200 years. "If you ever wondered why brides wore white, then the DAR Museum's exhibition of wedding dresses and wedding finery is not to be missed," says DAR President General Linda Tinker Watkins. Since most people consider their wedding day one of the most important days in their lives, the objects associated with this day are often cherished and saved for generations. The DAR Museum collection of early American decorative arts included many items commemorating weddings. For the first time in the DAR's 114-year history, these objects have been brought together to show the changing traditions surrounding the American wedding.
A rare collection of wedding dresses worn by three generations of one family will be on display. The oldest, made in 1885 for Mary Radcliffe of Philadelphia, as well as the dress made in 1914 for her daughter, and another made in1942 for her granddaughter, are ideal examples of what was fashionable for brides in those years. Recycling of dresses and veils was common then and is still common today. The lace on the bodice of the 1914 dress was used as part of the headpiece for the 1942 attire.
Romanticism infused weddings with new cultural traditions. Wearing white for your wedding was not a common practice in America until the second half of the nineteenth century when it became established as a common cultural ideal and was within reach of a wide spectrum of Americans. Queen Victoria of England was credited with setting the style for white, but white had already become the custom for bridal attire among the English aristocracy in the 18th century.
Another tradition re-introduced into society was the wearing of the bridal veil. Although Jewish brides were often veiled, veils were re-introduced to European Christian weddings in the early nineteenth century. They symbolized modesty and purity. Brides did not carry the traditional wedding bouquet until the 1860s. Prior to that time, they sometimes wore flowers in their hair, such as roses, to symbolize love. Small nosegays, like those carried by women at dances, became popular in the 1860s.
According to Alden O'Brien, curator of the exhibition, "In the years following the Civil War, America's so-called Gilded Age, members of the aristocracy created elaborate rules of behavior and manners to set them apart from the middle classes. Weddings became the focus of increasing amounts of ritual and etiquette. New wedding inventions introduced in this period included the wedding procession, the reception, cutting the cake, and holding the ceremony in a church, a public location that was subject to a more obvious display of expense." Victorian traditions, such as those cited above are still common to today's American bride, but during the 20th century brides began to take wedding traditions in new directions. Couples today sometimes put their own stamp on the wedding ceremony. Some pick unusual locations, write their own vows, and incorporate ethnic heritage traditions into dress or activities.
Explore the World by Charting a Course Through History: Maps from Colonial Williamsburg at the DAR Museum - November 14, 2003 to February 28, 2004
Have you ever traveled to an unfamiliar place and found yourself lost, looking for directions? If so, you undoubtedly have discovered the benefits of a good map, something as important today as it was centuries ago. Travelers, historians and cartographers alike will delight in "Degrees of Latitude: Maps of America from the Colonial Williamsburg Collection," an extraordinary exhibition of more than 30 historic maps and an atlas of early America, which will be on view at the DAR Museum from November 14, 2003 to February 28, 2004.
"Degrees of Latitude" will use maps as a point of departure for understanding the history of American settlement and colonization. These maps, representing each of the original 13 colonies, were selected for their rarity, historical importance and aesthetic beauty. A few, such as Bernard Ratzer's Plan of the City of New York, are rare or unique examples never before published. The Custis Atlas, once owned by Virginian John Custis IV, features an additional 100 maps. As this remarkable volume passed through generations of the Custis family, it was familiar to two other prominent Virginians who were related by marriage: George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
"Maps tell us what was known or believed about the land, suggest how people traveled and traded, and record routes taken across oceans and continents," said Margaret Beck Pritchard, Colonial Williamsburg curator of prints, maps and wallpaper since 1982. "By the 17th century, the profits generated from the American colonies created a need for maps to facilitate trade and promote new settlements. Maps substantiated land claims, settled boundary disputes and recorded the battles and adventures of the early colonists."
Pritchard is co-author of Degrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America, 1590-1787, published jointly by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in New York. She also co-authored William Byrd II and His Lost History: Engravings of the Americas (1993), published by Colonial Williamsburg, and co-edited Empire's Nature: Mark Catesby's New World Vision (1998), published by the University of North Carolina Press. Henry G. Taliaferro, co-author of Degrees of Latitude, is a well-known dealer of rare maps and prints in New York. He compiled Cartographic Sources in the Rosenberg Library (1987) and has authored several articles on Virginia genealogy and 17th- through 19th-century mapmaking. The exhibition catalogue is available by contacting the Museum Shop at (202) 879-3208.
Colonial Williamsburg, the nation's largest living history museum, is celebrating its 75th year as the restored 18th-century capital of colonial Virginia. It operates five world-class museums -- the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Carter's Grove, the Winthrop Rockefeller Archaeology Museum and Bassett Hall -- which allow the display of some of the more than 60,000 objects in its extensive collections. For more information, call toll-free (800) HISTORY or visit online at www.colonialwilliamsburg.org
African American and American Indian Exhibition Extended at DAR Museum - through August 31, 2003
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 1-The DAR Museum exhibition Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Service in the Revolutionary War is extending its run until August 30, 2003. Forgotten Patriots represents a long-overdue effort to recognize the contributions that African American and American Indian patriots made during the Revolution. Organized by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum and in collaboration with the DAR Library, it illuminates, in many cases for the first time, the varied roles that members of these groups played in our nation's fight for independence. The decision to fight for America against the English was a difficult one for many Americans of all ranks and ethnic backgrounds. For the American Indian tribes, and for enslaved and free African Americans, it was especially problematic. The simple fact that these men and women served at all is a powerful testament to their devotion to our new nation in difficult and uncertain times.
Forgotten Patriots describes the methods used by the DAR to identify these men and women. In doing so it recognizes the work already done by the DAR Genealogy Department and the DAR Library, which is published in African-American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War. This volume lists, state by state, the names of identified patriots as well as the type of service given to aid the patriotic cause. The exhibition includes the name of all the Forgotten Patriots identified by DAR thus far.
Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Service in the Revolutionary War - through August 31, 2003
A long-overdue effort to recognize the contributions that African American and American Indian patriots made during the Revolution is celebrated in the exhibition Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Service in the Revolutionary War 1775-1783. Organized by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum and in collaboration with the DAR Library, the exhibition will be on view from October 18, 2002 through August 30, 2003 in the DAR Museum's Main Gallery. Forgotten Patriots illuminates, in many cases for the first time, the varied roles that members of these groups played in our nation's fight for independence. The decision to fight for America against the English was a difficult one for many Americans of all ranks and ethnic backgrounds. For the American Indian tribes, and for enslaved and free African Americans, it was especially problematic. The simple fact that these men and women served at all is a powerful testament to their devotion to our new nation in difficult and uncertain times.
According to the "chiefs, sachems, and young men of the River St. John's" when explaining to a British Commanding officer their reason for fighting alongside the Americans in August of 1778, "You know we are Americans; that is our native country." Featured in the exhibition is a portrait of John Neptune, one of the many Penobscot men who fought for the Americans during the American Revolution. Neptune's portrait was painted when he was Lieutenant Governor of the Penobscots. General Washington was especially interested in seeing that the Penobscot Indians joined the patriotic cause. He wrote to Congress on July 4, 1776, that he thought it "advisable to take measures to engage those [Indians] of the Eastward, the St. Johns, Nova Scotia, Penobscot & ca. In our favor& It will prevent our Enemies from securing their friendship, and further, they will be of infinite service, in annoying and harassing them should they ever attempt to penetrate the Country."
Of the Six Nations of the Iroquois confederacy, only two, the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras, chose to fight for the Americans. Washington wrote in 1778, "The Oneidas and Tuscaroras have a particular claim to attention and kindness, for their perseverance and fidelity." Oral history from the Oneidas and Tuscaroras record that the Oneidas brought bushels of corn to General Washington's troops at Valley Forge during the winter of 1778-79. The Oneidas 400-mile walk from their central New York home to Valley Forge with food supplies helped save many of Washington's men from starvation, thus making a difference in the outcome of the war. Between 1807 and 1810 New York State Governor Daniel Tompkins presented Oneida Chief Oskanondonha (also known as Skenandoa) with a silver pipe.
James Armistead Lafayette, a slave from New Kent County, Virginia, served the Marquis de Lafayette near Portsmouth and Yorktown, and as a double agent in British Generals Arnold's and Cornwallis's camps. His portrait, painted in 1824 during the Marquis' triumphant return visit to America, is on view as well as a portrait of Agrippa Hull, a free black who served as an orderly for Polish nobleman General Thaddeus Kosciusko, Washington's chief engineer.
Forgotten Patriots describes the methods used by the DAR to identify these men and women. In doing so it recognizes the work already done by the DAR Genealogy Department and the DAR Library, which is published in African-American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War. This volume lists, state by state, the names of identified patriots as well as the type of service given to aid the patriotic cause. The exhibition includes the name of all the Forgotten Patriots identified thus far. One such patriot was Garshom Prince, a servant or slave of Robert Durkee. Prince and Durkee were both killed at the Battle of Wyoming. The powder horn Garshom Prince carved and used during the French and Indian War as well as during the Revolution is on display.
What happened to the Forgotten Patriots after the Revolutionary War? Some slipped back into the anonymity of the ages. Others were remembered for their work as ministers, educators, writers or artisans. The Reverend Lemuel Haynes, a minuteman during the war, is depicted in an engraving from the frontispiece of a book. He preached in Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut. During the war, he wrote a poem describing the battle of Lexington, as well as an anti-slavery essay, neither of which was published until the twentieth century. His essay, "Liberty Further Extended," took the position that the natural outcome of the Revolution was the abolition of slavery. Many others took the lessons from the Revolution and began working actively for abolition and for the rights of their people.
The legacy of the Forgotten Patriots is carried through to current generations, with photographs and documents from descendants of such men as Nero Hawley, who received his freedom for his service and later became a brick maker, and Charles Lewis, who served both as a soldier and seaman in Virginia and whose descendant is today a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The Stuff of Childhood: Artifacts and Attitudes 1700-1900- through August 31, 2002
Washington, DC, December 1, 2001--The Daughters of the American Revolution Museum (DAR) announces the opening of a new exhibition, The Stuff of Childhood: Artifacts and Attitudes 1700 to 1900. The exhibition, which explores the changing roles of children in American society, includes more than 200 historic objects relating to childhood. It runs from December 9, 2001 to August 31, 2002.
What is childhood? How long does it last? How should we raise our children? These questions have long challenged parents, educators, and philosophers. The answers have varied with time, culture, region, and other factors. The clothes, toys, and other "stuff" of American childhood were chosen and used in response to ideas and practices of childcare. Those artifacts that survive can act as clues to the attitudes of their time. No exhibit can document the actual experience of American childhood in its vast variety across two thousand miles, three hundred years, and multiple cultural traditions, but we can examine some of the surviving artifacts, with help from childcare manuals and images of the past, to understand the changing cultural ideals.
Attitudes and beliefs about babies have changed throughout history. Until the middle 1700s, infants were assumed to have less feeling and little ability to respond to their environment. Infancy was a period not only to be survived, but passed over into an age of reason as quickly as possible. Babies were loved, but babyhood was not appreciated.
The role gender played throughout childhood is explored in the exhibition by looking at how the sexes were dressed. It is a falsehood that during the 1800s parents dressed boys as girls. Boys under the age of seven were dressed in clothes that, to us, look like girl's clothing, but in most cases there were slight differences that made it clear, to people living at the time, that the child was a boy.
Parents and educators had a firm idea of which kind of toys were appropriate for boys and for girls. It was important to prepare children early for their roles and behavior later in life. Toys were chosen accordingly. On the whole, fewer toys belonging to boys survive than those belonging to girls. This is partly because boys play often involved active games that required no toys or involved everyday things such as a log and plank for a see-saw. Military toys, toys that move, toys to build with, toys that required hand-eye coordination: these are the types of toys thought appropriate only for boys.
As children were increasingly valued by parents and society, the commercialization of childhood was inevitable. By the turn of the twentieth century, children were regarded as precious and fragile beings who must be sheltered from the adult world's dangers and corruption, so that toys and books which prolonged their innocence were encouraged. With the average family size declining, parents were able to focus more energy and spend more money on each child. Factories produced a variety of consumer goods designed to appeal to the doting middle class parents. Manufacturers linked parental love with the need for spending money on material goods for children, and Christmas especially became increasingly commercialized.
Feminine Images: American Portraits 1750-1860 - through October 31, 2001
Feminine Images: American Portraits 1750-1860, brings together more than eighty images of women and young girls who lived during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. On view at the DAR Museum from July 1 through October 31, 2001, it includes portraits, miniatures, silhouettes, and daguerreotypes.
Like today's young woman who has her image captured through the illusory lens of the popular glamour shot photography, fashionable eighteenth and nineteenth century women also wanted to capture their images using the latest portraiture. Results varied greatly, from rigid copies to masterpieces of illusion. According to exhibition curator Olive Graffam, "American portraiture is rooted in the European and English tradition. In the eighteenth century, American artists copied freely from English prints and paintings. Although the realism of early American portraiture is questionable and the sitters drawn are only from the very wealthy, these visual images are important in providing a sense of our distant past."
Most artists settled in urban areas or traveled around America in search of commissions. Here they found the wealthy clientele who supported their endeavors. The artist James Earl (1761-1796) painted Elizabeth Courtney (1752-1813) of Charleston in 1795 in shimmering silks and golden chains, but also with a fashionable memorial pendant prominently displayed. Courtney's husband Humphrey commissioned Earl to paint his entire family. His daughter Elizabeth burned her unflattering image.
The arrival of the nineteenth century saw the expanding popularity of neo-classical themes in painting as well as the decorative arts. Gowns and hairstyles "in the Grecian manner" were as popular as the classical decorative motifs (bowknots, urns, grapevines, wreaths) found in furniture, ceramics, and silver. Jacob Eichholtz (1776-1842) portrays Sarah Humes Porter (1796-1867) in 1819 with the classical garb, curls, translucent skin, and rounded curves of a Grecian goddess.
As the nineteenth century progressed, an expanding middle-class and better trained artists brought inevitable change to the artistic scene. The most prolific and long-lived painter of the era was Thomas Sully (1783-1872), whose painting of the English actress Fanny Kemble (1809-1893) in 1832 shows his artistic skills and mastery of color. Sully painted Kemble at least 13 times. Sully's mannequin, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, has classical facial features and pierced ears, ready for any changing trends in jewelry.
This was also the era of the itinerant painter. Many of these artists were trained as ornamental painters. Their work is more realistic than the academic studies of the more skilled artists. John Brewster, Jr. (1766-1846) gave us the commanding presence of an unknown New England sitter with his strong and resolute "Maine Woman." Miniature portraits were small mementos given to commemorate special occasions or perhaps to mark a parting from loved ones. Changes in size and use over time were dramatic. During the 18th century almost all were painted in watercolor on ivory, and made to be worn and viewed by only the wearer's closest friends. After 1810 they were generally larger and often found displayed in less intimate settings such as on a wall or a tabletop. The tiny miniature of Alice DeLancey Izard executed between 1775-1777 in watercolor on ivory recalls the elegance and style of a wealthy and cosmopolitan eighteenth-century woman. Rebecca Sutton Barrett's (1790-1863) image painted over fifty years later clearly illustrates a shift to a different technique and fashion. Her image is much larger and is painted in oil and gold leaf on ivory.
Photography in its many forms overwhelmed the portraiture scene by mid-to-late nineteenth century. At long last the majority of Americans could own an image of family and friends. Sarah Hall Gwyer's daguerreotype is typical of the thousands made in America at mid-century. The advent of photography could be called the democratization of portraiture and was certainly one of the most important cultural events on the nineteenth century.
Olive Blair Graffam is Curator of Collections/Research Associate at the DAR Museum. Her expertise is in American decorative arts and in nineteenth-century cultural and social history. During the past fifteen years at the DAR Museum, she has served as curator in the various disciplines of furniture, silver and metals, portraiture, and schoolgirl art. She lectures and writes about American decorative arts, women's history, and nineteenth-century cultural history.
Her most recent publications include the DAR Museum catalogue, "Youth is the Time for Progress" which accompanied her 1998 exhibition on schoolgirl art, and the essay about turn-of-the-century kitchens which appears in the Winterthur book, The American Home.