In the Dolman: Fashion as the Admission Ticket to Philadelphia Music Society, 1884

I. Introduction

It is Monday morning, and I am in the car on the way to work. I am listening to NPR, and as the news rolls over the speakers in my car, I hear a broadcast journalist telling a story about the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Family Holiday Concert on Saturday, December 1, 2012. The journalist excitedly mentions he is going to interview the youngest art patrons of Philadelphia. His first question is, “What are you wearing?”1
It seems an odd question, at first, considering this radio interview could easily highlight firstly, in a very cute way, the favorite holiday songs of Philadelphia’s youth, identify what it feels like for a tiny person to sit in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, or to even share the theme of family musical traditions during the holiday season. However, because I have spent this semester examining the history of Philadelphia’s classical music culture, the question “What are you wearing?” makes sense as the very first question from any person to any music patron in Philadelphia. What someone wears to Philadelphia music events matter.
In this paper, I argue that what one wears to Philadelphia music events determines admission to society itself. Essentially, in order to join the Philadelphia music society, there have always been specific expectations for clothing which continue to permeate the music culture of Broad Street. In other words, a woman might attend an opera with admittance to the event based on her ticket, but her ticket to society is actually the clothes on her body.
I will make this argument through the methodology devised in my original object methodology consisting of sections to release bias, examine the object itself through sensory, description and historical facts, explore intellectual connotations of the object through contextual sources, and argue a thesis through intellectual analysis ending with an empathetic interaction. At the end of this paper, I will reflect on the effectiveness of this object method as a tool for studying material culture, specifically historic costume.
II. Releasing Bias
The first critical step in this process toward a hypothesis is to release current object bias. Jules David Prown explained bias by writing, “We are pervaded by the beliefs of our own social groups—nation, locality, class, religion, politics, occupation, gender, age, race, ethnicity—beliefs in the form of assumptions that we make unconsciously.”2 Still, bias to Prown is not only cultural, but also intellectual. “…it is desirable to test one’s external knowledge to see if it can be deduced from the object itself and, if it cannot, to set that knowledge aside until the next stage.”3 Rather we need to begin by looking at the object on a basic level. We must examine the object from its core to its outer layers, as if we are beginning in the center of an onion heading to its outside. The historian must do this as best as possible so we deduct and speculate with insight and acuity. In this way, the dolman will be examined from the basics of sensory experience to the contextual conclusions explained by the facts discovered about this garment and its history.
III. The Dolman Itself
Sensory Reaction
A soft and silky ivory jacket with a fuzzy-looking fringe hangs on the clothing rack. As the Drexel Historic Costume Collection graduate assistant cautiously grasps the hanger to move it, there is little sound. The jacket is too plush to swish or crunch as the garment is moved to the table for review. No smell is noticed. The fringe looks slightly-yellowed, but the jacket still has a pristine, almost regal look, the brocade on the silk still finely defined. It nearly shimmers. As the jacket is opened, the interior too looks hardly-worn, slippery. Special, like holiday clothes worn just once.
Description
This dolman is a jacket styled for a female to wear to a formal occasion, quilted with batting to keep warm in the winter and early spring season. No exact weight was taken. It seemed about the weight of a current female winter pea coat. The measurements were 35 inches in length, 18 inches across the shoulders, 62 inches bottom wingspan. Because this coat is like a mantle with plenty of room to drape for stylistic purposes, these measurements do not offer insight on the exact size of the object’s wearer.
The dolman features ivory brocade on the silk material of the jacket. It has chenille fringe along the collar and exterior seams, including the back. The interior features quilted silk with batting within to add warmth. The craftsman of this dolman is unknown, but both American and European designers made such dolmans. The seams of the interior quilting were done with machine. This is a finely-made dolman. Other than some yellowing, specifically of the fringe, this dolman seems to be in excellent shape. There were no noted places of wear or missing ornamentations.
History
Miss Rosalie Hassler wore the dolman of ivory brocade silk and chenille fringe on the evening of April 14, 1884 to the Metropolitan Opera Company’s premier of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots at the Academy of Music on Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA. While the Drexel Historic Costume Collection note cites Miss Hassler to have worn the dolman on March 14, 1884, to a performance by the Metropolitan Opera Company at the Academy of Music, the Academy of Music did not feature such a performance on that date.4 However, according the Metropolitan Opera Company’s Archives and advertisements discovered in “The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection of Academy of Music programs, playbills, and scrapbooks,” the premier of the Metropolitan Opera Company at the Academy of Music in 1884 was on April 14th with a performance of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots.5 It seems safe to gather that Rosalie attended the opera exactly one month later than the Drexel Collection has recorded.
The dolman, commonly worn by women to operas as cloaks or mantles, features a “fitted curve” over a woman’s back, protruding over the bustle. The sleeves are bell-shaped, reminiscent of modern swing coats. Made in a variety of fabrics including silk, plush, or fur, dolmans were also trimmed with fringe, fur or even lace. “In 1884 and 1885 long close-fitting coats of brocade, usually of light-coloured satin or silk ground with a pattern in deep tones of velvet, became the rage. The fashion was inspired by the girl graduates in the opera Princess Ida produced in 1884.”6 While Miss Hassler’s coat is not long at 35 inches in length, it is an ivory-colored silk dolman with brocade pattern, making this dolman in line with 1884-1885 fashion trends, inspired by an opera to attend the opera.
When considering other dolman jackets of the period found through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collection, the trend in dolmans features printed silk fabric with slits in back to rest over the dress bustle. The fringe on the silk dolmans of the 1880s have a more feathery look than prior dolmans, ranging in fabrics from chenille to silk to fur. The 1880s dolmans also feature elaborate fringe on the collar area.7 The ivory brocade sets Miss Hassler’s dolman apart from the darker rose-printed ones of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, and in terms of fashion history, the light coloring in 1884 is fashion forward. Renowned designer Emile Pingat’s work of the 1882-1887 time period featured ivory, fringe, and in the later of those years, fur. An 1885 dolman by Pingat features ivory brocade with fur trim.8 Miss Hassler’s choice to wear ivory matches Pingat’s European trend setting while also following trends of unmarried women to wear light colors.9
Miss Rosalie Hassler came from a Jewish family heavily involved in music within Philadelphia.10 Their father, Henry, brought the family over from Europe in 1842 to Philadelphia, and the family is credited to have lived at a number of city residences by Boyd’s Blue Book including South 8th Street and 726 North 6th Street, the latter listing including Miss Rosalie Hassler herself.11 The fact that the Hassler residence was included in Boyd’s Blue Book supports the idea that this family was, in some way, known to fellow Philadelphia residents. After all, Howe’s rationale for including the addresses and names of households in the book was to list “householders from the most prominent streets.”12
Rosalie’s brother Mark was a music director and orchestra director, including the head of his own “Hassler’s Grand Orchestra” to which people hired and paid for performances at various Philadelphia venues.13 Simon Hassler, also Rosalie’s brother, was a composer and violinist who wrote orchestral pieces for Philadelphia performances including the “Centennial March” in 1873 as well as assorted works for Cape May, NJ.14 Both brothers were well known Jewish musicians within Philadelphia because they grew up in the city and were offered opportunities through their father Henry Hassler’s connections within music society including the Chestnut Street Opera House and the Musical Fund Society. 15
Much of the Hassler family, including Henry, Mark, Simon, and Henry’s sister Rosalie H. Kaufman, are interred at Mt. Sinai Cemetery in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. The Rosalie Hassler buried in Mark Hassler’s grave plot is his daughter, who died in 1969. Mt. Sinai Cemetery is an historic Jewish cemetery established by the Jewish community of Philadelphia in 1852 with its first burial in 1853. Henry Hassler, who passed in 1855, was the first of the family laid to rest at Mt. Sinai.16 Even in death the Hasslers joined premier families of the city, as Mt. Sinai cemetery explains, “Premier Philadelphia retailing families, such as the Snellenburgs and the Gimbels, have plots here. The Paleys, the Binswangers, the Solis-Cohens, the Publickers, the Rosenbachs—the list of influential families affiliated with Mr. Sinai reads like a roll call of Philadelphia’s most important Jewish families.”17
Miss Rosalie Hassler, in terms of the dolman, is not interred at this gravesite, and any record of her past 1895 is undiscovered as 1900 census information for Philadelphia does not include the dolman’s Rosalie. The last discovered written record of Miss Rosalie is included in a New York Times article from December 1895 titled “Close of the Hebrew Fair” which informs that Rosalie was single 11 years after her outing in the dolman. “Visitors from other cities were numerous. Among them were… Mrs. Rosalie Hassler-Kaufman, and her niece, Miss Rosalie Hassler, of Philadelphia.”18 To be important guests to the opera in Philadelphia is significant, but to have been prominent enough to be listed in the New York Times as a visitor speaks to the Hassler family’s regional prominence.

The American Academy of Music
As for the American Academy of Music itself, there is much to note. First of all, it is important to establish the prominence of the Academy of Music was in Philadelphia society. In the Academy’s early days, it was used for opera, but it was also used for other high profile events such as the civic forum for nominating Ulysses S. Grant to his second term run for President of the United States.19 In 1877, the Academy hosted a concert by playing a concert from New York City over a telephone. While some patrons cited the concert to be low of low quality, the crowd was in awe of the new technology.20
Not only were events forward-thinking at the Academy, but they were also definitively fashionable. A Philadelphia Bulletin article from 1961 reported on a fashion show and concert ball at the Academy, stating that the event would feature “…a number of attractive Philadelphians showing chic afternoon clothes,” and that “Both events will bring scores of distinguished Philadelphia families to the Locust Street site.”21 According to an article in the Pepper Potpourri in 1982, “The stage door on Locust Street is probably the most interesting entrance in Philadelphia. Through its antique portals have passed everything and everybody in music, the opera, the ballet, jazz, politics, travel and a thousand other fields which require stage presence.”22 In fact, as the Philadelphia Bulletin article from 1961 explained about a fashion show at the Academy, these fashionable people became fashionable families. “Tradition played an important part in the afternoon, too… A listing of the models for the fashion show carried out the family interest and included names of those associated with the Academy down through the decades. In three cases the models represented three generations of interest.”23 Considering the musical involvement and fashion sense of the Hassler family, it makes sense to deem them one of Philadelphia’s fashionable families of the 19th Century.
The appearance of the Academy of Music fits its purpose as a grandiose place to connect the arts with social power and fashion. Architects Napoleon Le Bron and Gustav Runge designed an opera house in the style of the great Baroque music houses of Europe such as La Scala in Italy. The Academy’s European features include Italian marble flooring, Grecian columns, crystal chandeliers, golden muses, a grand ballroom dedicated to Mozart, and acoustics fit to support the human voice in operatic glory.24 As the Academy of Music tour guide impressed about the current beauty of the building, the space would have glimmered a bit more magically with the gas light fixtures of 1884. It becomes only natural to think of the dolman in this space lit with gas light.
IV. Intellectual Connotations of the Object
Music is Fancy.
When children and parents were asked by the PBS radio journalist to describe their clothes at the Philadelphia Orchestra Family Concert, people mentioned sequins, lace, and suits. Mothers repeatedly described both attire and the event itself as “fancy.”25 What drives the word fancy here? Do the clothes make the music fancy or does the music make the clothes fancy? Because the current Kimmel Center and the historic Academy of Music were both built to house musical events specifically for Philadelphians, it is hard to differentiate whether the places are fancy because of the culture or because of the music itself. Still, historic opera houses and classical music venues around the globe are, in general, very similarly “fancy.” Because of this, I would determine that music, as a society, is fancy.
What also becomes prominent here is that Philadelphia has continuously desired a space for music society. Prior to the Academy, operas were performed at venues such as the Chestnut Street Opera House. As the Academy aged, many rounds of restoration and preservation efforts have kept its opulence available to the public. In the 1950s, some Philadelphians suggested tearing down the Academy because it had become rundown, but upper class Philadelphians moved together to prevent a closing. Gene Castellano explained this process in the Today article, “A coalition of businessmen proposed a new nonprofit corporation to operate the Academy that would be wholly owned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, thereby cementing the two institutions further.”26 The Academy is currently run by the Philadelphia Orchestra and restorations are funded through the Friends of the Academy. The place for perpetuating class-oriented music experiences continues at the Academy, but also in other Philadelphia classical music venues. Newer sites, such as the Kimmel Center, have been added to the mix. A fancy place for fancy music to be enjoyed by fancy people remains in demand.
However much Philadelphia society strives to preserve an aura of music society today, ticket price comparisons support that it was more exclusive to attend the opera in 1884. Miss Hassler’s ticket was $6.00 for an admission, more than an average urban weekly rental cost of approximately $4.00.27 Current ticket prices to Opera Company of Philadelphia performances in the parquet boxes and balcony range from $90.00 to $225.00.28 With 2012 city rental prices averaging at $1,225, even the higher pricing of such tickets is less than one week’s cost in rent, making ticket prices less exclusive today than in 1884.29 With ticket programs such as student and community rush offering $10 tickets on the day of a show, some Philadelphians are able to attend operas for arguably obscenely low prices closer to that of 1884 than any pricing available today. In this way, even if Philadelphia music society events remain exclusive on some level, they are not quite as distinguished as 1884. Rosalie’s dolman, priced at least at $33.00 (over five times the price of admission), is a strong socio-economic statement in the relative culture of 1884.30
Considering the advertisements noted in a few Academy of Music programs from 1884, the merchants of Philadelphia were also aware of the Academy’s connection to being fancy. These 1884 advertisements also confirm that the dolman featuring brocade silk and chenille fringe was absolutely in fashion and desirable at the moment Rosalie attended the opera. For example, at the bottom of one Concert Programme, one short advertisement is featured, “Use Belding Bros. Spool Silk.”31 On a program for “Little Red Riding Hood, Old Bachelor, Butterflies’ Ball” of April 1884, an advertisement for Partridge & Richardson of 17, 19, and 21 North 8th Street covers the entire back side including, “We Started Ahead, Are Still Ahead, and expect to keep Ahead on Ladies’ Dress Trimmings… Silk and Chenille, Moss, Marabout Fringes are made in the best styles to match all the Newest Shades of Dress Goods. Silk and Bead Gimps our own importation.”32 Because Rosalie was wearing a garment made of silk with chenille fringe in a year with advertisements for just such items, it is fair to assume that Rosalie was wearing an object of distinction specifically in terms of an Academy of Music audience.
Whether Rosalie purchased this piece readymade or had this piece made for her is uncertain. Similar dark-colored dolman advertisements were discovered in 1884 catalogs including a black, imported silk dolman priced at $33.00 in John E. Kaughran & Co.’s Illustrated Catalogue, Fall and Winter, 1884-85.33 It seems likely that Rosalie’s dolman was imported, but it cannot be confirmed.
V. Intellectual Analysis
The Dolman as the Admission Ticket
When considering Phillipe Perrot’s argument that women in the nineteenth century wore clothes to partly express their husband’s social status in conjunction with Grant McCracken’s point that clothing can convey social messages left unspoken, the argument that Rosalie’s dolman was used as her admission ticket to music society, rather than the $6.00 price paid to attend the opera, emerges.34 Rosalie wore the dolman because she needed to be fancy to join the community of the Academy of Music for her own sake, but also for her family’s namesake. “Being fancy” was her admission. Her ‘fanciness’ was an expression of her family, specifically the men of her household and her music society-involved brothers. Understanding that Peter Stallybrass recognized a similar agency in Karl Marx’s overcoat, the argument about Miss Hassler’s dolman looks to be on the mark. For Marx, his coat offered him admission, or conversely, without his coat, he could not enter the library—Marx’s Coat or the absence of it—determined the content of his written works based on accessibility to research.35 For Miss Hassler, the coat served as her signifier into a community. Without it, her attendance would not have been received and the happenings of her life would have been different.
The Dolman Speaks
In Mark Smith’s Sensing the Past: Seeing Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History, Smith discusses quietude as a means of power. Smith delves into this conversation in regard to slaveholders keeping slaves quiet as an ideal.36 When considering the use of quietude in music culture, there are many moments when those in attendance must remain silent, specifically during the performance of an opera. While audience members cannot make sound and are receiving the sounds of music, they can speak with what they wear. Visual cues at performances are a way of communicating without sound. In this way, the dolman is not only a ticket to admission to musical society. It directly speaks to Rosalie’s place in the community without her having to utter one word aloud.
The fact that the dolman is actively speaking in the quietude also supports the argument of agency for the dolman. Just as Daniel Rose presents an argument of shampoo as a prosthetic in Active Ingredients, that shampoo helps to “join cyborg and citizen,” the dolman serves as a vehicle of connection for Rosalie.37
The dolman speaks to a larger trend noticed at the Academy of Music in that the place is often used for fashion events and shows. While the Academy was constructed to serve the sense of sound, its place and purpose so strongly supports the visual sense. Considering the senses, I found myself stuck on that irony– that a place devoted to sound is used for visual illustrations of elite culture. Thinking about the impressive aesthetics and architecture of the Academy itself, this is not surprising. However, as Smith wrote, “Silence occupied an important– and telling– place.”38 Perhaps it was not only the Academy as a place, but quietude as a place which allowed the dolman to speak.
Empathetic Interaction
To end, a historical vignette in the style of James Deetz to portray one possible way Miss Rosalie Hassler experienced the Academy of Music in the dolman in April 1884.39
Miss Rosalie Hassler walked carefully up the stairs to the American Academy of Music in the light of the gas lamps on the brisk April evening, holding tightly to the arm of her brother, Mark. She peered down at the chenille fringe of her ivory silk dolman and fixed it as she walked through the glass doors to the opera house lobby. Looking at the program, she noted the role of Urbano would be played by Sofia Scalchi, one of American opera’s best-known female voices. She gazed around at the fellow guests, noting the gentlemen her father had mentioned to her as potential husbands, all of them Jewish like her. As she reached her seat, she gazed at the astounding crystal chandelier on the ceiling, gently adjusted her bustle, and sat down in the plush red seat.
VI. Reflection
The structure and composition of this object methodology worked well for me in constructing a material culture argument about Rosalie’s dolman. Particular strengths in this methodology were its honesty with the reader in addressing bias and sensory impressions of the object. It also worked well to start with basic impressions and expectations of the object and then head into details of the object itself, including its history. This methodology allowed for me, as a researcher, to gradually expand my perspective instead of basing my research on what I expected to discover.
What was challenging, though, was to organize all of my analysis after the historical section of the object. It sometimes felt like I could have expanded greatly in the immediate sections on history, but I had to reserve myself from doing so in order to fulfill analysis I nthe actual analysis section. This works better in the long run because it avoids redundancy in arguments, but it was hard to keep myself disciplined as a writer.
When considering the entire group of objects examined by the class this semester, I am struck by the level of storytelling detail added to Philadelphia’s 19th Century story. It is very exciting to contribute a piece to the bigger picture for class, the exhibit, and beyond. I remain eager to see how the exhibit comes to fruition, and I hope my work assists in that process.

Notes
1“Philadelphia Family Orchestra Concert Review,” on PBS WHYY Morning Edition, December 3, 2012.
2 Jules David Prown, “Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method,”
Winterthur Portfolio 17, no. 1 (Spring 1982): 4 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1180761

3Ibid., 9.
4“The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection of Academy of Music programs, playbills, and scrapbooks.” Collection 3150 1857-1972. Boxes 129-131: Scrapbook [disbound] (1881 – 1887)
AND Judy Patterson. “Unknown 180: 68.5.1,” in the Historic Costume Collection of Drexel University. (accessed September 10, 2012).
AND “Nilsson and Scalchi in “The Huguenots,” in the Philadelphia Press. [Met Performance]CID:2410. Les Huguenots {3} Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: April 14, 1884. http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm (accessed September 13, 2012).
5”The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection of Academy of Music programs, playbills, and scrapbooks.” Collection 3150.
6 “fitted curve” from Herbert Norris and Curtis Oswald. “Nineteenth-Century Costume and Fashion.” 238-239. (Toronto, Canada: Dover Publications, Inc. 1998).
7Coat (Dolman) 1885-1890. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the- collections/80035661?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=dolman&pos=6 (accessed September 16, 2012).
8 Jacket: Emile Pingat. The Victorian Albert. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O128007/jacket-emile-pingat/ (accessed September 16, 2012).
9Clare Sauro. “Lecture and Discussion,” in Studies in American Material Culture, Temple University. October 15, 2012.
10 Henry Simon Morais. The Jews of Philadelphia: Their History from the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time. 386-387. Philadelphia, PA: The Levytype Company, 1894.
11Boyd’s Philadelphia Blue Book. (Philadelphia, PA: C.E. Howe & Company, 1881-1882). 118.
AND Boyd’s Philadelphia Blue Book: A Directory from Selected Streets of Philadelphia and Surroundings.(Philadelphia, PA: C.E. Howe & Company. 1898-1899). 473.
12 Boyd’s Philadelphia Blue Book. 1898-1899. Prefactory.
13 Mark Hassler. “Hassler’s Orchestra & Serenade Bill to J.H. Martin.” The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Society Collection. Janurary 9, 1861.
14 Jacob Schaad, Jr. “Music has long been part of Cape May’s Appeal,” in The Shore News.
November 2, 2011.

15 Henry Simon Morais. The Jews of Philadelphia. 386-387.
16 Mark Hassler Lot Interment Records: 675, 1471. Mt. Sinai Cemetery. Philadelphia, PA. (accessed October 2012)
17 “Mt. Sinai Cemetery History.” http://mtsinaicemetery.org/history.html (accessed December 9, 2012)
18 “Close of the Hebrew Fair,” in the New York Times, December 22, 1895. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archivefree/pdf?res=F10A17FA355911738DDDAB0A94DA415B 8585F0D3 (accessed December 7, 2012).

19 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection of Academy of Music programs, playbills, and scrapbooks.” Collection 3150, Content Summary.
20 Ibid. Content Summary.
21Barbara Brown. “Fashion Scores at the Academy,” in The Evening Bulletin. November 16, 1961.
22 Alfred Bendiner. “Academy of Music.” Pepper Potpourri, January 1 , 1982.
22 “The Academy of Music Tour.” The Academy of Music. October 22, 2012.

23 Barbara Brown. “Fashion Scores at the Academy,” in The Evening Bulletin. November 16, 1961.
24 “The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection of Academy of Music programs, playbills, and scrapbooks.” Collection 3150, Content Summary.
AND “The Academy of Music Tour.” The Academy of Music. October 22, 2012.
25 “Philadelphia Family Orchestra Concert Review,” on PBS WHYY Morning Edition, December 3, 2012.

26 Gene Castellano. “Secrets of the Academy: a peek beneath the skirts of the grand old lady of Locust Street,” in Today: the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, September 11, 1977, pp. 28-30, 32-37.

27 “Nilsson and Scalchi in “The Huguenots,” in the Philadelphia Press. April 14, 1884. http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm (accessed September 13, 2012).
AND Albert Rees. “Real Wages in Manufacturing 1890-1914.” Chapter 4, pp. 99. (UMI: 1961). http://www.nber.org/chapters/c2286.pdf (accessed December 9, 2012)
28 Opera Company of Philadelphia ticketing. http://www.operaphilly.com (Accessed December 9, 2012)
29 http://www.rentjungle.com/average-rent-in-philadelphia-rent-trends/ (Accessed December 9, 2012)
30John E. Kaughran & Co. John E. Kaughran & Co.’s Illustrated Catalogue, Fall and Winter, 1884-85, 1884 from the Smithsonian Libraries Image Collection. http://www.sil.si.edu/imagegalaxy/imagegalaxy_imageDetail.cfm?id_image=12535 (accessed September 14, 2012).
31 ”Concert Programme,” in The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection of Academy of Music programs, playbills, and scrapbooks.” Collection 3150.

32“Little Red Riding Hood Old Bachelor, Butterflies’ Ball,” in The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection of Academy of Music programs, playbills, and scrapbooks.” Collection 3150.

33John E. Kaughran & Co. John E. Kaughran & Co.’s Illustrated Catalogue, Fall and Winter, 1884-85, 1884 from the Smithsonian Libraries Image Collection. http://www.sil.si.edu/imagegalaxy/imagegalaxy_imageDetail.cfm?id_image=12535 (accessed September 14, 2012).
34Phillipe Perrot, translated by Richard Bienvenu. “Fashioning the Bourgeoisie: A History of Clothing in the Nineteenth Century.” (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).
AND Grant McCracken. “Clothing as Language: An Object Lesson in the Study of the Expressive Properties of Material,” in Culture and Consumption (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988).
AND Nilsson and Scalchi in “The Huguenots,” in the Philadelphia Press. April 14, 1884. http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm (accessed September 13, 2012).
35 Peter Stallybrass. “Marx’s Coat,” in Patricia Spyer, ed., Border Fetishisms: Material Objects in Unstable Spaces (New York: Routledge, 1998).
36 Mark M. Smith. Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History.
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007).
37 “join cyborg and citizen,” Dan Rose. “Active Ingredients,” in John F. Sherry, ed., Contemporary Marketing and Consumer Behavior: An Anthropological Sourcebook (London: Sage, 1995).

38 Mark M. Smith. Sensing the Past.

39 Deetz, James. In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1996.

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Idealized and Realized Exhibit Plans

The social life of fashion in 19th century Pennsylvania

The Ideal Exhibit

As I designed my ideal exhibit, I developed a thesis that the objects within the exhibit were all social agents, actively influencing the social access and experiences of those who wore them within Philadelphia.  In order to illustrate this agency, I decided to portray each object as a user on a social networking site, much like facebook.  In this way, it makes the exhibit as a whole look like a piece of the social network of Philadelphia, especially in the late 19th century.  Essentially, this exhibit uses an artistic expression of facebook and social networking to create an interactive experience for the audience while also making an argument about the objects within the exhibit.  Because each object is exemplified as the social network user, I argue that these objects all have agency.

At the very beginning of the exhibit, a large commentary on the wall would argue not only about social networking, but that the purpose of social networking and the use of objects with agency is to firstly perform and then to remember.  In this way, I am carrying the themes from my “real” exhibit discussed later into this idealized exhibit.  I interpret my use of facebook as an inspiration and as a means of explaining social networking, but I do not see specific copyright issues. Instead of actively using the term facebook, I would use philadelphia as the title of the social network in the exhibit.

Because my usage of facebook is arguably an artistic expression of history, I do not think this would pose copyright issues, especially because no mention of the word facebook would be within the exhibit.  Firstly, the title of the exhibit’s social network would be philadelphia, done as closely as possible to the facebook font.  In other words, I am looking to use imitation to do something new.

Ideally, there would be a philadelphia social network site, and each of the objects would be on it and “friends” with each other.  In lieu of captions on the wall, each item would have an interactive philadelphia page to read which would include all of the information from the captions each class member has written (see sample illustration).  Each object would also have an interactive wall with the ability for curators to change status updates or leave messages on the wall of other items.

The ideal exhibit floorplan.

The ideal exhibit floorplan.

I have provided my ideal floor plan and a sample of optional setups for the exhibit.  To create an illusion of a social network, I would suspend white frames off-center from each object with the option of posting large “cover” photos on the wall behind some or many objects.  While the white frames pose the potential to cause clutter, I would aim to place them in a non-obstructive place to create the expression of a photo frame without harming views to each object.  Sizes would vary by object.  In this way, the presentation could add to the thesis of the exhibit without detracting.  The cover photo idea is more problematic in regard to specific objects such as the crazy quilt for “busy” reasons, but also a problem with objects such as the top hat or mourning card case for dramatic reasons.  Some objects may be best against white walls without photos added to their environment.

Sample of framing in exhibit and philadelphia page as caption, pencil sketch.

Sample of framing in exhibit and philadelphia page as caption, pencil sketch.

The most interactive piece of the exhibit has to do firstly with the top hat and inspiration from Kenneth Ames.  When reviewing my ideal exhibit floor plan, the top hat is located in the exact center of the C-shaped exhibit hall, suspended from the ceiling.  I would like this top hat to be suspended as if it is on a hall furnishing (maybe a bit tilted), with a Victorian hall furnishing potentially sketched on the wall.  Directly across from the hat stand, there would be a small uncomfortable chair.  The interactive piece comes in that when guests sit in the uncomfortable chair, their photo is taken (with warning in a sensory-friendly manner) through a porthole in the wall where the hall furnishing is.  Guests will be uncomfortable sitting across from the hall stand just as many a person was found to be in the Victorian period.  The caption card beside the chair would read:

Feeling comfortable?  Probably not.  The design of hall chairs used in calling during late 19th Century Philadelphia were meant to keep you on the edge of your seat.  The hall furnishing across from you, including the top hat, was meant to remind you of a person’s stature and your place in relation to them.  Now it’s time to fit in.  Say cheese!

This highlights the level of discomfort many of the people who wore the objects faced at some point or another trying to join the Philadelphia community.  This proposed idea is also assuming that a form of digital photography would be gallery-friendly and possible in an ideal setting.

As you look at the exhibit floor plan, notice how guests will walk from the hall furnishing, around the corner of the C and into a center room.  This center room is the location of a post-roller-coaster-esque photo station where guests can locate their photo in the uncomfortable chair with help of a docen.  Guests can then log into the philadelphia network site from a computer station to create their own page and become friends with the objects in the exhibit, making a digital memory of all those who participate in the exhibit.  In this way, the philadelphia caption pages at each object will always be updating with more friends, more comments, and more content.

Other interactive highlights of the exhibit include earphones at the dolman to listen to the opera Les Huguenots, the opportunity to review a fabric tape measure the length of the corset’s waist, and the opportunity to hold coal while reviewing the mourning card case.  In both the ideal and real exhibit, I also would like to include a silhouette of straight shoes on the floor for visitors to stand on when reading about them, as well as a copy of the article about the blue and brown wedding dress with a caption.

To offer reflexivity to the exhibit, each class member would make a philadelphia page, and we would be friends not only with each other, but also our objects.  I would like for our objects and us to be linked in a relationship status— perhaps it would be phrased, “In a Research Relationship with [name].  On each of the class member pages, I would hope we could post a short podcast or youtube video for visitors to hear about our experience.

I feel like a good question to pose about this exhibit is, “Why make this an ‘imitation’ of facebook?”  I did this for a number of reasons beyond the argument about social objects.  I chose this approach because it is audience-friendly.  It is relatable and engaging for younger audiences despite content that might be hard for younger students to approach.  It is also easy to market—the word philadelphia could easily be styled by designers to look like facebook’s font, and the wall entering the exhibit could even have a small white p in a blue box.  I love the idea that this exhibit not only argues for object agency, but it also puts forth the idea that social networking isn’t new.  It has always been a heavy part of culture, and by combining the social network items of the past with the social networking visuals of the present, it becomes juxtaposition easy for people to digest.

Back to Reality (Mostly)

When designing my “real” version of this exhibit, I broke it into the two themes heavily discussed in class.  I still like the idea of using a facebook-esque logo for the word Philadelphia in the exhibit titles because both themes directly relate to the social fabric of Philadelphia.  The first part of the exhibit is philadelphia: performance of social life in 19th Century Pennsylvania, and the second is philadelphia: the memory of social life in 19th Century Pennsylvania, playing themes we discussed heavily in class (performance and memory) in the context of social rituals.

Performance Exhibit Floorplan

Performance Exhibit Floorplan

The items within the performance exhibit are the top hat, corset, dolman, assembly gown, both waistcoats, the crazy quilt, and one of the two wedding dresses of the pairing.  One of the wedding dresses was cut due to space.  The items within the memory exhibit are the shoes, card case, trousseau dress, day dress, the blue and brown wedding dress, and the crazy quilt.  The crazy quilt is in both exhibits for the sake of showmanship, exhibit continuity, and because the quilt performs memory in a very specific, non-obtrusive way.  I find it to be the linking item between the two exhibits.

Memory Exhibit Floorplan

Memory Exhibit Floorplan

The dolman, assembly gown, waistcoats, top hat, and wedding apparel all specifically speak to performing social rituals in an active way.  The mourning card case specifically is used to remember a person.  The blue and brown wedding dress works well in the memory exhibit because of the magazine article being showcased.  The shoes are a retro celebration of Colonial fashion.  The Trousseau dress posed me the largest issue because it could fit in either exhibit, but due to space issues with dresses, I chose to place it in memory, feeding into the idea that a couple is making new memories when a woman is wearing this dress.

I think the corset and the mourning card case both serve well as central items in the vitrine.  The dramatic presentation of the corset offers a great opportunity for the public to see explicitly the somewhat unrealistic and difficult challenges of social performance through clothing in 19th century Philadelphia.  I like the mourning card case positioned in a central way even if it is small because of its emotional energy.

In order to engage audiences in performing memory, guests will be invited to, at the performance exhibit, stop in a photo booth on the way out to pose in a “performance” stance.  Between exhibits, these photos will each have a sticker or photo-shopped image of the top hat added to them.  When the second exhibit opens, guests will be directed by signs to pick up one of these photos from a stack at the door of the gallery and mount it on the wall on the back of the exhibit.  In essence, all guests will be welcomed into the community of our exhibit by practicing the ritual of the photo booth and then being donned in a top hat.  The larger picture here is that memory is being performed at both exhibits.  Ideally, guests would create a crazy quilt of performance and memory on the board.

Performance Exhibit Captions

Waistcoat, 18th Century

This 18th century satin waistcoat, English in design but American in manufacture, belonged to Captain William Brown. During the Revolutionary War, the Philadelphia resident led marine reinforcements to join General George Washington and fought alongside Washington’s battalion during the battles of Trenton and Princeton in 1776.

Waistcoat, 19th Century

Waistcoats played a large role in American society.  They sent a message of dignity and civility.  This velvet and silk waistcoat was worn by Mr. Joseph Schipper.  Judging by the waistcoat’s materials, Mr. Schipper most likely belonged to an upper social and economic class.

Top Hat

This Man’s top hat was worn by L. Llewellyn W. Jones at his wedding to Violet W. Andrews at St. Mary’s P.E. Church in Philadelphia, PA. This beautifully-made silk hat has a curvy edge decorated with another layer of silk grosgrain.

Dolman

This dolman was worn by Miss Rosalie Hassler to the premier of the Metropolitan Opera Company’s performance of Les Huguenots at the Academy of Music on April 14, 1884.  As the sister of two prominent Jewish musicians, Rosalie wore this jacket as her family’s admission ticket to Philadelphia society.

Corset

This white satin corset was worn by Emma Hendel on October 22, 1885, during her lavish wedding to Isaac Spang in Reading, Pennsylvania.  When laced, the waist of the corset measured to just nineteen inches around.  Judging by the ribbon and lace ornamentation and extremely high quality of craftsmanship, the corset was likely designed especially for Emma to wear on her wedding day.

Wedding Dress, 1837

This wedding dresses of 1837 is in the style of sentimental dress.  The rise of the middle class culture created a cult of womanhood from the mid-1830s to 1840s.  Sentimental women were less active and simple in style, embracing domestic virtue of women.  The styling and material of these dresses, however, demonstrate societal status.

Assembly Gown, 1875

Fine silk, intricate goldwork threading, and a Renaissance collar highlight this 1875 Assembly Gown, details that hint at the high society clientele for which the garment was fashioned by Homer, Colladay & Co. of Philadelphia. The prominent Crozer family of Upland, Pennsylvania owned the gown at the time of the Philadelphia Centennial.

Memory Exhibit Captions

Day Dress, 1880s

This two-piece Day Dress from the 1880s was designed by Augustine Martin in France and sold at Darlington, Runk & Co., located at 1126-28 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia.  The slimmer bustle is indicative of the second bustle period, and the long sleeves of the bodice represent the modesty found in women’s day garments.  The level of detail in the interior of the dress suggests the wearer was of high status. (silk, velvet, lace)

Shoes

These mid-1870s quilted-satin ‘Colonial Revival’ shoes were part of a widespread wave of nostalgia for all things Eighteenth-Century, embodied by the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. This first Non-European “World’s Fair” included Revolutionary-Era military uniforms and a 1770s kitchen display, while encouraging nearly ten-million visitors to celebrate American independence.

Crazy Quilt

Philadelphia’s 1876 World’s Fair introduced Americans to Japanese aesthetics, including asymmetrical designs and the cracked glaze of “crazed” pottery. The creators of crazy quilts embraced irregularity and incorporated other Japanese-inspired designs. The fan motif was very popular. Look closely and you can see an embroidered figure wearing a kimono and clogs.

Mourning Card Case

Jane Bright carried this jet beaded pocketbook when widowed. Jet, the remnant of ancient trees pressurized on the ocean floor, was mined in Europe. It can be polished, but dull jet was more appropriate for mourning. Jane’s husband Joseph was a Pennsylvania hardware merchant whose business served coal mining operations.

Trousseau Dress, 1888

A Trousseau Dress was purchased for the bride to be worn during her honeymoon and newlywed phase. The newlywed was expected to where the Trousseau dress as a status symbol and it was tradition for her to wear the dress the first time she and her husband entertained guests in their new home. This Trousseau dress is lavished with lace and the owner traveled to Paris to have the dress made custom for her.

Wedding Dress, 1856

The girl next door, Fianna Grube wore this handmade wedding gown at the age of nineteen. She married her neighbor Martin Peiffer, 18 years her elder, in Salunga, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1856. As Mennonite farmers, they were fairly wealthy and raised six children on their Lancaster County Farm.