Fashioning the New England Family

Fashioning the New England Family is a project that will examine larger issues of fashion, textiles, and costume across the span of our history. Later this year, the MHS will mount an exhibition and hopes to publish a companion volume (through a Kickstarter campaign) to share stories that have been uncovered through various examples of clothing, fabric, accoutrement, and associated manuscripts. As a sneak preview, each day in the month of February, we will highlight a piece that will be featured in the project.

Rev. Mather Byles Gloves

Rev. Mather Byles Gloves

Loyalist Rev. Mather Byles purchased this pair of white kid gloves imported from England from fellow Loyalist Ralph Inman. Inman stamped "SUPER FINE LONDON KID/ SOLD / by / R: INMAN / in / BOSTON / [image of glove]” in ink inside the cuff. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Sarah Leverett Silk Bodice and Sleeve

Sarah Leverett Silk Bodice and Sleeve

This black silk bodice and sleeve from a child’s mourning dress was cut and sewn by Coraline H. Leverett or Harriet Leverett Batchelder in 1840 for Sarah Leverett on the death of her mother, Harriet (Nelson) Leverett. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Peter Oliver Cloak

Peter Oliver Cloak

This crimson cloak was worn by Peter Oliver, Massachusetts Chief Justice (1771) and Mandamus Councilor (1774). It features a double collar. The top collar is able to fold upright and button at neck while the lower collar is scalloped ending in a point at center back. The material and workmanship is probably English, from about 1770. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Peter Oliver Cloak detail

Hannah Dawes Muff

Hannah Dawes Muff

This embroidered silk muff belonged to Hannah Dawes. The seams and construction details indicate that it was fashioned from an earlier piece of clothing. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Anthony Stoddard Fan

Anthony Stoddard Fan

According to Samuel Sewall, this folding fan of decorated and pricked paper mounted on ivory sticks belonged to Anthony Stoddard, "the Antientist shopkeeper in Boston." Stoddard was a linen draper and Freeman who held a succession of elected offices in Boston between 1681 and 1684. The fan descended to Miss Elizabeth Welles Perkins, whose estate gave it to the MHS in 1928. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

James Madison Shoe Buckles

James Madison Shoe Buckles

This pair of silver and paste buckles are believed to have been used by James Madison on his dress shoes. The brilliants are cut glass backed with tin foil to add sparkle. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Pale Green Silk Dress

Pale Green Silk Dress Sleeve detail

The sleeves of this light weight pale green silk dress (originally circa 1830; possibly remade circa 1840), long with bouffant caps over pleated tucks in upper arms, were expertly refashioned from the original billowy style. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Take a look at this brief behind-the-scenes clip of the dress being prepared to be photographed.

Henry Bromfield Cloak

Henry Bromfield Cloak

This cloak was worn by Henry Bromfield, the last gentleman in Boston to cling to old fashioned styles of the 18th c. The cloak is made of crimson superfine wool from England, with workmanship probably of Boston, 1790-1810. The cloak has a collar band with red satin ribbon to tie the cape closed. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Henry Bromfield Cloak detail

Rebecca Tailer [Byles} Wedding Shoes

Rebecca Tailer Wedding Shoes

Rebecca Tailer wore these green silk damask shoes for her 1747 Boston wedding to REv. Mather Byles. The London-made shoes feature pattern matched toes and heels, stiffener in the pointed toes, white rand and carved wood heel.

Dawes Blue Checked Square

Dawes Blue Checked Square

This simple vernacular blue checked square is connected to the Dawes family. The first assumption was that it was a piece of linen homespun created around the time of the Revolution. The embroidered initials “LD” indicated the possible work of Lydia Dawes, mother of William Dawes who rode from Boston to Lexington on 18 April 1775. Dawes was recognized for his encouragement of locally-made rather than imported, textiles. Slubs exist in both the white and blue yarns confirming it is likely not commercial but a skilled example of weaving skills. 

However, there are other possibilities for the monogram ‘LD.’ Hannah Dawes Newcomb (daughter of William Dawes and Mehitable May) lived in Keene, NH. A review of her early 19th c. diaries reveals that she engaged a weaver from Ireland, as well as several local women, to spin and weave. They were working with cotton and, thanks to fiber analysis, the blue and white checked square was identified as made of cotton. Hannah makes many references to her sister Lucretia Dawes coming to visit from Boston and she notes paying her for her weaving. Given the use of cotton, might it have been created by Lucretia for her sister’s home shop system of supplying textiles to the local mills to be made up into men’s shirts and so on? While we may never be able to ascertain this with surety, it does reveal the importance of using all available resources, for even such a seemingly pedestrian survival. The family clearly felt it was important to preserve and pass on.

Rev. Mather Byles Watch

Rev. Mather Byles Watch

This is a gold consular pair case watch with outer case that belonged to Reverend Mather Byles, minister of Hollis Street Church, Boston. 

Rebecca Tailer [Byles] Wedding Dress

Rebecca Tailer [Byles] Wedding Dress

This silk wedding dress of Spitalfields [London] was worn by Rebecca Tailer at her 1747 Boston marriage to Rev. Mather Byles. The silk designer was most likely the renowned Anna Marie Garthwaite. The dress was preserved by family members despite the upheavals of this Loyalist family and removal of much of the family to Canada. There is textual evidence, which reveal elements of her relationship with her husband. A document dated 1765 “Inventory of Plate Brought Me by My Second Wife, Rebecca Byles” shows him as a shrewd consumer as when he notes: “This caudle cup was quite worn out and useless, and was therefore exchanged with Mr. George [?] for its weight in silver." Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Sarah Leverett Drawstring Purse

S. D. Leverett Drawstring Purse

Originally embroidered for a muff, this was instead made into a silk drawstring purse for Sarah Leverett by her Aunt Harriet Leverett in 1840. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Harriet B. Nelson Silk Stockings

Harriet B. Nelson Silk Stockings

These machine-knit white silk stockings were lavishly hand-embroidered for the 1834 wedding of Harriet B. Nelson to Thomas H. Leverett of Keene, New Hampshire. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Frances Sargent Locke Osgood Fan

Frances Sargent (Locke) Osgood Fan

This opulently decorated and painted folding pleated fan belonged to poet Frances Sargent (Locke) Osgood, the wife of artist Samuel Stillman Osgood. It dates from early 19th c. France. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Length of Gold Lace

Gold Lace

This is an exquisite length of gold lace from the mid-18th century that is stored in its original laid paper wrapper. Metallic lace was the nishing touch which could add the desired sparkle and shine to 18th century clothing. It was used as trim for just about any type of clothing or accessory for men, women, and children. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

William Tailer Waistcoat

Mass. Lt. Gov. William Tailer's stunning embroidered waistcoat with metallic thread and spangles, c. 1720-1730, was expertly altered to accommodate his expanding girth. Learn more about the waistcoat by reading a blog post by Fashioning the New England Family guest curator Kimberly Alexander. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

William Tailer Waistcoat

William Tailer Waistcoat detail

William Tailer Waistcoat back

Amelia Bernard Necklace

Amelia Bernard necklace

Amelia (Offley) Bernard was the wife of Sir Francis Bernard, governor of the Massachusetts Bay (1760-1769). When Lady Bernard left the colony in 1768, she gave this necklace  of nacre medallions set in silver with paste brilliants to her friend, Mrs. M. Nichols, who gave it to Rosanna (Duncan) Lamb (Mrs. Thomas Lamb), great-grandmother of those who donated the piece to the MHS. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Benjamin Stuart Pocketbook

Benjamin Stuart Pocketbook

This vibrant crewel pocketbook was made for Benjamin Stuart of Boston and is dated 1753. The pocketbook features a brightly hued pastoral view with vining flowers, bird, and goats. Several large blossoms catch the eye. The wool thread is worked on linen, and features a dazzling interior, lined with silk. The wool threads have remained vivid, as has the yellow-gold silk lining. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Dancing and Wedding Shoes

Shoes

The two shoes on the left--one each of a pair--belonged to Sarah D. (Leverett) Tuttle and were manufactured by Viault-Este, a prolific mid-19th century French shoe concern. The wedding shoe features a delicate ribbon and lace rosette; the dancing shoe is accented with a cheerful pink silk bow. On the right are the wedding slippers worn by Elizabeth Dennison in 1859. The shoes still have their original satin ribbon ties that are attached towards the heel which is reinforced with leather cup between wool layers. Pale blue silk rosettes decorate the front of the shoes. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Priscilla Mullins Dress Fragment

Priscilla Mullins Dress Fragment

Textiles and accessories in the MHS collections provide representative examples of the Bay State’s colonial beginnings from the earliest “planting” at Plymouth. An example is a small fragment of woven linen-damask, originating in Northern Europe, from a dress belonging to Mayflower passenger Priscilla Mullins, who later married John Alden.  The line of descent is traced through ten generations. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Petticoats

Dress Mannequin Petticoats

This video clip shows the initial reveal of one of our dress mannequin's petticoats by Astrida Schaeffer of Schaeffer Arts Costume Exhibition & Care. Each female mannequin needs a specific shape and fullness to provide the correct profile for the period displayed. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

William Stoughton Gauntlet

William Stoughton Gauntlet

This gauntlet belonged to William Stoughton, acting Royal Governor of Massachusetts 1694 to 1701. As Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, he presided over the Salem Witchcraft trials in 1692. The leather left-hand gauntlet is hand sewn of red suede with parchment-lined cuff. The cuff is embroidered in gold metallic thread and "Govr. Stoughton" is marked in ink ms on the interior of the cuff. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Gov. John Leverett's Buff Coat

John Leverett Buff Coat

This is Gov. John Leverett’s circa 1640 buff (from the term buffalo or ox) coat, a type of heavy and very thick leather jacket or coat used in battle. He wore it as a soldier in Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary Army and later in New England as protective armor during King Philip’s war. This was a costly, but necessary garment. The coat displays signs of hard use and distress from battle including scrapes, blood, and damage resulting from being pierced with a sharp weapon. Learn more about the buff coat by reading a blog post by Kimberly Alexander, guest curator of Fashioning the New England Family. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

Andrew Oliver, Jr.'s Waistcoat

Andrew Oliver, Jr. Waistcoat

This sleeved waistcoat of Boston merchant Andrew Oliver, Jr. was made in England of blue silk with silver gilt embroidered decoration. He wore this coat in 1755 when posing for his portrait by Joseph Blackburn. Support our Kickstarter campaign by 28 February to help us publish a companion volume to accompany the exhibition.

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