Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia: Part 2

Tenacityt-shirt

Exhibit souvenir t-shirt

I will now discuss some of the specific women profiled in the exhibit.

Temperance Flowerdew Barrow, a gentrywoman, is considered the first First Lady of Virginia. Her story was quite exciting and dramatic. She left England for Virginia on board the Falcoun, one of a convoy of nine ships, in 1609 with her husband Richard BarrowA terrible hurricane in the Atlantic had devastating consequences and inspired Shakespeare to write The Tempest. The passengers must have thought death was imminent. Somehow, Temperance survived to arrive on the shores of Jamestown in August of 1609, just in time for the starving period. The extraordinarily harsh winter devastated the colony. Food supplies were scarce, men raiding Pohowtan supplies were killed, spawning Indian raids. Again, Temperance survived against the odds.  Her husband died and in 1618 she married George Yeardley, who became the colony’s governor in 1619. In 1625 her household included three children and 20 servants. When George died in 1627, he left land to Temperance in his will. Temperance made the decision to marry governor Francis West, but died soon after. She is represented in the exhibit by a beautifully embroidered jacket.

 

On loan from The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, this bodice features an ornate embroidered design with trailing stems and leaves done in colored silk and metal threads. It is also decorated with metal spangles or sequins. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken someone to make this bodice by hand! While it is similar in style to the waistcoats worn by interpreters at Plimoth Plantation, it is far more ornate and luxurious, something Puritans would have frowned upon. The Tenacity exhibit also showcases a fancy coif (head covering) as well. As wife of the most important man in Virginia, Temperance would have been expected to dress in the finest style money could buy.

Another upper class woman’s story that needed telling is that of Mistress Sarah Rolfe, first wife of John Rolfe, the planter who later married Pocahontas. Pregnant when she and her husband boarded the Sea Venture bound for Virginia, the journey across the Atlantic must have been far more uncomfortable than normal. In July a massive hurricane ran the ship aground just off Bermuda. 150 people were able to make it to shore and salvage as many of the ship’s supplies as they could to survive. During their  10-month stay, Sarah gave birth to a daughter, Bermuda. Sadly baby Bermuda did not live to see Virginia and Sarah died in 1610 shortly after their arrival.

Colonial women were able to have some degree of control over their lives, particularly their marital decisions. A bride named Sarah Harrison is recorded as refusing to promise to obey her new husband, not once but three times. After she refused the third time, the clergyman went forward with the ceremony omitting the word obey. Go Sarah! Her insistence at not agreeing to obey may have contributed to her refusing her original fiancé. In spite of signing a marriage contract with her original fiancé, Sarah was never punished for breaking the contract, a serious crime under English law.

Fourteen-year-old Anne Buras arrived in Jamestown in 1608 as maidservant to Mistress Forrest. Mistress Forrest presumably died shortly after arrival, leaving Anne the ONLY English woman in Virginia! Anne didn’t have a whole lot of choices available so she chose a husband who would hopefully look after her. Two months after arrival, Anne Buras married John Laydon, a man twice her age. Anne is believed to be the first English woman to marry in Jamestown. The winter of 1609-10 was a period of great hardship in Virginia. Nearly 75% of the colonists died. Anne Buras and Jane Wright were ordered to sew shirts for the Virginia Company in 1610. They ran out of thread and with none available, they had to get creative. The women unraveled threads from the shirts they had already sewn in order to make more. Under the Virginia Company’s new Martial Law, this was considered a crime. A pregnant Anne and Jane Wright were whipped. Anne miscarried her child but showed remarkable resiliency. Anne, her husband and four daughters established a new home in Elizabeth City. She died some time in the 1630s.

Souvenir postcard depicting two women sitting and sewing

Souvenir postcard depicting two women sitting and sewing just as Anne and Jane did in 1610.

Anne’s whipping was no exception. It was common to publicly humiliate women who did wrong. In 1627 the General Court declared Jane Hill guilty of fornication. She was made to wear a white sheet and stand in front of the congregation. 1634 woman named Betsey Tucker found herself strapped to a chair connected to a long, wooden beam and dunked into water. Her crime? “Brabbling” or gossiping. An example of a dunking chair was on display in the exhibit.

 

Another Ann was not so fortunate in her experience at Jamestown. Ann Jackson arrived on the Marmaduke in 1621, joining her brother, who was already living in Virginia. The following year Powhatan Indians captured Ann and 18 other women during an attack on the settlement. While she survived capture and living with the Indians, she likely suffered from what we would recognize as post-traumatic stress syndrome. By 1628 she returned to the English under the protection of her brother until she could resume her life in England. It is unknown what happened to Ann after that. I’m sure life was never normal after that. The passage back to England, if she even made it that far, was stressful and then going back among people who had no idea of what she had been through and didn’t understand must have been painful. It’s easy to say now “I would have stayed with the Indians and had a better life,” but it had to have been pretty traumatic to be captured and worry about being killed.

The exhibit also tells the story of Sarah Woodson who defended her family against an Indian attack in 1644. After surviving the Second Anglo-Powhatan War, the Woodsons moved farther inland near present-day Richmond. Chief Opechancanough feared the influx of settlers would overwhelm his people and so went to war. When the Indians attacked her home, Sarah sent one son with a hunting rifle to the sleeping loft and hid her other son in the hole in the floor where they stored potatoes. Upon arriving home to try to save his family, Dr. John Woodson was killed in the attack. While a houseguest shot at the Indians, Sarah tipped her stewpot onto one of the Indian attackers and swing her heavy iron roasting spit at the other Indian attacker’s head, killing him. A gruesome story in which I feel sorry for the Indians yet also admire Sarah for thinking clearly and saving her family.

An ornately carved cupboard is associated with Mary Peirsey Hill Bushrod, who arrived in Jamestown in 1623 at the age of 10.

 

 

This exhibit also did an excellent job showing the tenacity of women of color as well. The “founding mother” of African-Americans in Virginia was Angela or Angelo, an enslaved woman who arrived in Virginia 400 years ago in 1619. In 1613 tobacco was introduced by John Rolfe who later married Pocahontas. The men needed more people to work the tobacco fields leading to slavery. The first Africans came from the kingdom of Ndongo in Angola, West Central Africa. They were captured during war with the Portuguese and sold into slavery, bound for Mexico. English privateers then waylaid the ship as it crossed the Caribbean, confiscating all captives on board and sailed for Virginia. In Virginia, English officials traded supplies for Angelo. Period documents show that by 1625 Angelo worked for planter William Peirce and his wife Joane on their property at Jamestown. The 1625 “Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia” shows “Angelo, A Negro woman in the Treasuror,” living in the household of William Peirce at Jamestown. This document is significant because it identifies the ship on which Angelo arrived in Virginia, Treasurer.

 

You can learn more about Angelo and the enslaved experience in the museum’s new gallery. The amount of information is staggering and I didn’t have time to stay and read everything but I enjoyed the video.

 

The first enslaved people were treated like indentured servants. They could become free and members of a community. Mary Johnson arrived in 1623 and worked on a Southside Virginia plantation owned by Richard Bennett. She married Antonio (Anthony) Johnson. They won their freedom and by 1650, they owned 250 acres of land, eventually owning a family plantation of 900 acres. Interestingly, they had two African servants working for them. The couple later moved to Somerset County, Maryland as slave laws became more strict.

Elizabeth Key, the daughter of an Englishman and an African woman, was put into service by her father until the age of 15. After her father’s death, Elizabeth was passed from one planter to another. Finally, at the age of 25, Elizabeth had had enough. She and her English common-law husband went to court to gain her freedom. Eventually, the courts found in her favor because she had served the time of her contract, was the daughter of an Englishman, and was a baptized Christian. Her son was also freed. Unfortunately for African-Americans, the laws of servitude were codified over the next decade and slavery soon became a permanent, lifelong thing. As we know, the children of enslaved women were inherently enslaved and baptized Christians were no longer exempt from slavery.

 

Indian women were represented as well. Cockacoske, “Queen of the Pamunkey” understood the importance of preserving good relations with the English colonists. After Englishmen attacked several Virginia tribes in 1677, including the Pamunky, Cockacoske met with other Indian leaders and colonial officials to sign the Treaty of Middle Plantation. The treaty reinforced the relationship between the two English and native governments. Cockacoeske tried to unite the remaining Powhatan tribes but was unsuccessful. However, she was able to negotiate peace for her people for many years. The treaty reinforced the boundaries of their remaining Indian lands. The exhibit profiles Cockacoeske as a reminder of women’s power and influence in traditional Powhatan culture. She is represented by a the silver ornament presented to Cockacoeske (circa 1640- circa 1686), weroansqua or “queene of Pamunkey,” on behalf of Charles II marking the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation, on loan from the Pamunkey Indian Tribe of King William, Virginia. Read more about it on Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation blog

 

Cockacoeske’s efforts succeeded in legally protecting her people. They were allowed to retain title to their lands, continue fishing in Virginia’s waterways, and were protected from enslavement. Today, the protected land is the Pamunkey Indian Reservation in King William County. In 2016 the Pamunkey became the first Virginia Indian tribe to be formally recognized by the United States government.

 

 

The exhibit continues on to showcase the legacy of the tenacious women to present day. The Legacy Wall touch-screen display showcases stories of women from 1607 to the present day in five different categories: occupation, citizenship, marriage, education and healthcare. Visitors could also share stories of influential women across history, including their own or family members to add to the Legacy Wall.

I thought the “tenacious” theme was stretching a bit for the 17th-century women. They did what they had to do to survive. I don’t think all of the stories told exhibit tenacity but some of them do. The exhibit was also a lot smaller than I expected. It was difficult to see and learn everything with hoards of school children running around undisciplined.

See more photos from Tenacity in the exhibit’s media image galleryin the online gallery of the Daily Press.

Continue reading

Colonial Williamsburg: Fashion Fanatics Part 2

The following explanation is grossly oversimplified for those who know nothing of the clothing styles of the period. I was a bit surprised how no one else seemed to know all about the Georgian era! Isn’t anyone else obsessed with Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and the Poldark Saga?

Getting dressed was quite an ordeal for women. Each day they put on a long linen undershirt known as a shift. Everyone owned several and these were embroidered with the owner’s initials. No one wanted to share their underwear with other family members.

williamsburgartmuseum18thcshift

18th-century shift with embroidered initials

Next a lady put on her stockings, tied them with garters and put on shoes. Then over her shift she wore a pair of stays (later known as a corset). This was not for nipping in the waist, at least not for women, it was for posture and to hold in the wobbly bits. This is not the Victorian era and it is acceptable to show off one’s womanly assets (at least in the evening/formal occasions) and one’s arms.

williamsburgartmuseumstays

18th century stays. They are lined with whalebone (baleen) and lace up the back. Some laced up the front and others laced up both sides. To put it on requires help and if one doesn’t have a maid, one can simply put the string through loosely,  tie a knot, put the stays on, shimmy into them and pull the string from the top or shimmy into them backwards and turn them around.

Stays extended from mid-bust to just below the waist and created the desirable 18th-century figure of a smooth, inverted cone without separate cups for the breasts.

Working women sometimes wore leather stays, called jumps.

Dresses didn’t have sewn in pockets. Ladies often embroidered or pieced together pockets to wear under their petticoats. Gowns would have slits to reach inside the pocket. Because gowns had separate pockets, this explains the origins of the nursery rhyme “Lucy Locket” (“Lucy Locket lost her pocket; Kitty Fisher found it. Not a penny was there in it,. Only ribbon round it.”)

williamsburgartmuseumpocketstays

18th-century stays and pocket in storage at the art museums of Colonial Williamsburg. The pocket is missing the ribbon tie.

williamsburgartmuseumpocket

18th-century embroidered pocket

williamsburgartmuseumspatchworkpockets

Pair of patchwork pockets

Next came a petticoat, possibly one for warmth and one meant to be seen like a skirt. This could be quilted, embroidered, silk, wool, etc.

dark green silk petticoat quilted in floral design

Green silk quilted petticoat

Over the petticoats came an open gown and in between the empty space in the front a lady would pin or hook an embroidered triangular piece of cloth known as a stomacher. There were several types of gowns worn at this time but the exhibit only shows the open robe style.

 

Instead of a gown and stomacher, some women wore printed cotton jackets like this one.

williamsburgartmuseumwomanslacedjacket

Cotton printed ladies’ lace-up jacket

Other visitors wanted to discuss at length what women did when they had their “monthlies.” I’m uninterested in this topic but here is a summary of what was discussed:

  • At least one woman wore an extra apron backwards.
  • Some women may have worn extra petticoats if they had them.
  • It’s possible some women wrapped rags around them like a diaper.
  • Alternately, many women married in their late teens or early 20s and were pregnant and nursing for much of the next 20 years so they may not have had their monthlies.

The records just don’t tell us these things, not because they were too genteel and refined (that came later at the end of the Regency era) but because it was just an ordinary thing women dealt with and didn’t think to write down. Do you keep a diary? How often do you write about visits from Aunt Flo and what you do? If you don’t, start now so future generations can know what we did back in the 20th/21st centuries!

A slideshow of quick video clips of different types of fashions popular in Virginia played on a screen next to the exhibit. I tried to get as many different images as I could.

 

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Men often wore an informal robe at home known as a banyan.

Children wore simple, T-shaped dresses known as frocks. Boys and girls both wore these until the boy was old enough to be breeched (dressed in breeches like his father). 

By this period some of the Virginia Indians also liked British printed textiles.

I recommend reading the book What Clothes Reveal : The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America by Linda Baumgarten, Yale University Press, 2012.

A summary from the above book can be found on Colonial Williamsburg’s website.

Museum of Newport History

While in Newport, I visited the Museum of Newport History in the Brick Marketplace. It was my first time visiting this little museum and I was quite impressed. Like most tourists, I usually visit the mansions and know quite a lot about Gilded Age history. Colonial Newport is new to me.

Newport was founded by seekers of religious toleration. From 1639 when the Newport charter was signed, Newport was home to Anabaptists, Antinomians, Quakers, Jews, and others could worship without fear of persecution.

Great Friends Meetinghouse (Quaker)

Great Friends Meetinghouse (Quaker) is the oldest surviving house of worship in Rhode Island, dating to 1699. This building was the largest and most recognizable building in town during the colonial period. It was expanded in 1705 and 1729.

Touro Synagogue, the oldest Jewish congregation in Rhode Island and one of the oldest in the U.S.A. It was dedicated in 1763.

Touro Synagogue, the oldest Jewish congregation in Rhode Island and one of the oldest in the U.S.A. It was dedicated in 1763.

By the beginning of the 18th century, Newport was a thriving seaport : one of five leading ports in America. Newport flourished as a center of business and cultural activity. Enslaved Africans contributed to this success and the museum does not shy away from discussing this difficult topic.

Newport was not only a thriving seaport, it was home to many types of businesses, including the newspaper business.

18th century Newport businesses

18th century Newport businesses

The Newport Mercury newspaper was founded by Benjamin Franklin’s brother James and continued by James’ wife Ann, after his death. The museum features an exhibit set up to look like an early printing office. This 17th century printing press was instrumental in passing along news to colonial Newporters and was also a source of income. This press was owned by James Franklin and was targeted by the British during the Revolutionary War and they used to print official documents and newspapers. It has survived for 4 centuries standing as a testament to the power of the written word.

A Colonial era printing press

Late 1600s printing press owned by James Franklin

Colonial newspaper (reproduction)

Colonial newspaper (reproduction)

Printed by Ann Franklin, the Copy of Some Queries was printed in 1739.

Printed by Ann Franklin, the Copy of Some Queries was printed in 1739.

By the middle of the 18th century, a new middle class had emerged in Newport. In the 1750s, the parlor symbolized a new concern with refinement and gentility. It was often remade in the latest style. This room is where guests were received and the family’s finest objects were displayed. This middle class parlor shows off a family’s locally made furniture. The c. 1750 table features drop-leaves to expand for use and put down for storage. The museum believes this piece was made in either the Townsend or the Goddard furniture shops. The provenance is traced back to Henry Marchant  (April 9, 1741 – August 30, 1796), a lawyer, judge, delegate to the  Continental Congress from 1777 to 1779, and signer of the Articles of Confederation for Rhode Island. Henry Marchant may have placed this table in his law office.

A middle-class room

A middle-class room

The chest-on-chest may have been made by John Townsend (1732–1809) for Peleg Clarke, a merchant in the tea trade working in Newport and Boston. The Townsends were the most well-known cabinet makers in Newport. They made cabinets, chairs, and other furniture. Job Townsend (1699–1765) and his brother Christopher (1701–1787) started the family furniture business.  John Townsend (1732–1809), the son of Christopher Townsend and Patience (Easton) Townsend is belived to have made this chest-on-chest. Chest-on-chests were often showcased in a family’s parlor serving as repositories for linens, papers, and other important items.

The lovely portraits on the walls are Captain Isaac Stelle (1714-1763) and Penelope Godson Stelle, his wife. Captain Stelle was a merchant, chandler, Warden of Trinity Church, and Captain of the Newport County Regiment. Captain Stelle was an active participant in the Triangle Trade. The portraits were done by Robert Feke (c.1705 or 1707 – c.1752), one of the best known portrait makers in colonial America. He lived in Newport for a short time before his death in 1742 and painted only nine paintings.

There was also a section on the French in Newport. This French map shows the defenses in Narragansett Bay where the allied forces were in January 1781. The red line shows where the French took advantage of the natural geography of Newport harbor to fire on the British.

In 1778, the French sent an expeditionary fleet under the command of Comte D’Estaing to aid the Americans, arriving in Newport on July 29, 1778.The plan of action included simultaneous naval and land engagements. The plan failed, due to the arrival of British reinforcements and a freak storm that damaged D’Estaing’s ships. Aquidneck remained in the hands of the British until 1779.

French map showing the defenses in Narragansett Bay.

French map showing the defenses in Narragansett Bay.

Charles-Henri Hector d’Estaing (1729-1794)

Charles-Henri Hector d’Estaing (1729-1794)

Charles-Henri Hector D’Estaing was from a noble French family who had ties to the Crown. Following the recognizance of American independence, the Crown appointed d’Estaing as first commander of the fleet sent to aid American forces in New York and New England. Arriving in Narragansett Bay on July 29, 1778, d’Estaing decided to engage the British fleet offshore. This was a costly error. He should have added to the land forces prior to the Battle of Rhode Island. D’Estaing’s made one strategic blunder after another and was recalled back to France in 1780.

Diorama depicting the arrival of the French in Newport.

The arrival of Rochambeau and his troops. Diorama by Mme. Fernande Metayer, Paris, 1976.

The French returned victorious on July 11,1780 under the command of Comte Rochambeau.  They found a city destroyed after three years of British occupation.  Newport in 1780 was no longer a prosperous port. Newporters were weary of the long British occupation and welcomed the French with parades, proclamations and parties. Until June 1781, French officers were quartered in the homes of Newporters, living beside the people of Newport and becoming integral to the social tapestry in the city.

Newport's Liberty Square

Newport’s Liberty Square

Near the Brick Marketplace is Liberty Square. Dating back to the colonial period, this park was donated to the Newport Magistrates in the mid-18th century. Members of the Newport Artillery donated the square for the purpose of establishing a “Mustering Place,” where free men would assemble and speak freely .The square belonged to the people of the city; free from ownership by any corporation or individual. It remains a small reminder of how Rhode Island and Newport were at the forefront of establishing the freedoms we take for granted today.

Concord Museum

Concord Museum signOn Saturday last, I had the pleasure of visiting the Concord Museum. The museum collections date to the mid-nineteenth century when America was celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Concord had a long history of celebrating the past and also of rebelling against the status quo beginning with the Puritans of the seventeenth century. This museum tells the story of this rebellious town.

Puritans arrive in Concord

Puritans arrive in Concord

The Puritans arrived in this swampy wilderness seeing freedom from religious tyranny but found a community of Algonkian Indians who called the place “Musketaquid” (“grassy plain).

Algonkian Concord

Algonkian Concord

The Puritans saw the Indians as Satan’s instruments and sought to Christianize them and make them “civilized.”

Algonkian rituals

Algonkian rituals

Concord Indians

Map of “praying Indian” town and pamphlet exclaiming the success of the missionaries

A special gallery specifically on the Battle of Lexington and Concord brings together artifacts from many different locations in one spot. The exhibition concludes on 21 September. It’s a must-see if you can. It’s very awe-inspiring to see objects that old as so important to the history of the United States. Artifacts include numerous artifacts from the Battle of Lexington and Concord, including Paul Revere’s lantern made famous by Longfellow; flints; muskets; powder horns, engravings and more

Battle of Lexington and Concord Photoengraving

Battle of Lexington and Concord Photoengraving 1903, after Dootlittle

These engravings are particularly interesting, having a copyright date in the early 20th century.

copyright on the photoengraving

copyright on the photoengraving

publisher's mark

publisher’s mark

These photoengravings were sold by Charles E. Goodspeed, a Boston bookseller. This is one of a series of four done after Amos Doolittle (Connecticut, 1754-1832). Read more about them at the Concord Library‘s website.

Another special exhibition features photos of the Revolutionary generation, people who survived into their 80s and beyond and sat for a photograph, a brand new invention at the time. It’s amazing to see the faces of the men and women who lived through that period in history. I felt very connected to the past seeing those photos.

Photos of the Revolutionary generation

Photos of the Revolutionary generation

Not only is the museum decorated with interior decorations salvaged or reproduced from area homes, they also have a series of period room scenes.

leaded glass window

Seventeenth-century leaded glass window saved from an area home

Reproduction early nineteenth-century wallpaper

Reproduction early nineteenth-century wallpaper

I especially enjoyed the  period rooms.  I love seeing how people lived in different times in history. Currently the museums has set up an early eighteenth century room; a mid-eighteenth century room; a late eighteenth/early nineteenth century lying-in chamber and an early nineteenth-century dining parlor. I learned quite a bit about how wealthy merchants in Concord lived at those times.

early 18th century room

An early eighteenth-century parlor/bedroom with original period furniture.

 mid-18th century room

Mid-eighteenth century bedroom/parlor with original period furnishings

 lying-in chamber

A late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth century lying-in chamber for mother, baby and visitors

I really loved the attention to detail in each and every room. They copied the wallpaper and textiles from actual period furnishings.

Concord was also home to a number of furniture designers and manufacturers in the eighteenth century. The museum retains original period pieces made by local craftsmen.

Concord-made furniture

Concord-made furniture

 inlay clock

An inlay clock made by a local firm in the eighteenth century

There’s so much more to experience in this museum. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. I’ve been to Concord more times than I can count but had never been inside the museum until Saturday.

Marble House

Marble House exterior

I recently visited Marble House, one of the famous Newport mansions, built between 1888-1892 for Alva Vanderbilt as a 39th birthday present from her husband, William K. Vanderbilt. William originally gave Alva full control over the design of the house but she only agreed as long as he gave her the house outright. Alva was interested in issues of women’s rights and she saw her home as a reflection of herself and her role as a woman in a patriarchal society. Her home was essentially her branding; her way to make a mark on society the way businessmen and others great men became known.

Alva declared Marble House her “temple to the arts.” The house, designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt in the Beaux Arts style, is a showcase of the Vanderbilt wealth. According to the Newport Preservation Society, Hunt drew his inspiration from “two famous historic buildings dedicated to women: the Parthenon (5th century B.C.E., Athens, Greece), temple to Athena the goddess of wisdom and war, and the Petit Trianon (1760-1764, Versailles, France) built by Louis XV for his mistress Madame de Pompadour, a powerful figure in shaping 18th century European art and culture.” It was the first of the grand summer “cottages” that transformed Newport into the social center of the summer season.
Marble House classical frieze

The front of the house features a temple-front portico with Corinthian-style columns inspired by the east façade of the Louvre and faced in white Westchester marble.
Marble House frontMarble House column

A semi-circular fountain with grotesque masks spouting water spans the entire western facade. Around the exterior walls are various friezes inspired by classical mythology.
Marble House fountainMarble House frieze
Guests enter the house through French Baroque-style bronze doors featuring monogram “WV” set into an oval medallion. The doors were made at the John Williams Bronze Foundry in New York and on display before the house opened. The public was eager to get a glimpse of the elegant mansion but plans were kept secret and only the most sneaky of reporters could gleam details through underhanded methods.
Marble House gateMarble House monogram

The inside of the house is the very definition of opulence. Designed after le Petit Trianon by Jules Allard and Sons of Paris, the ground floor walls are made of the finest creamy Siena marble (with matching painted faux marble upstairs). The matching staircase features a wrought iron and gilt bronze staircase railing based on models at Versailles.

Alva Vanderbilt collected classical interiors from Europe. The stair hall features an 18th-century Venetian ceiling painting featuring gods and goddesses on the ceiling. The classical theme continues throughout the house, even into Alva’s lilac silk wallpapered bedroom, where the ceiling features a circular painting of Athena.

See some sample photos of the interior (not my personal photos) at My Pinterest Site

The back of the house features a marble portico with classic arched windows. More classical friezes adorn the exterior walls. The theme of women and children is prominent throughout.
Marble House backMarble House classical frieze
The grounds slope down to the Cliff Walk and the ocean below.
Marble House ocean viewWhen Alva Vanderbilt divorced William in 1895 and married his best friend, Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont in 1896, she closed Marble House (except for the laundry) and relocated to Belcourt Castle. After Belmont’s death in 1908, Alva reopened Marble House and added the Chinese Tea House and hosted rallies for women’s suffrage. These women’s suffrage rallies were a place where working women could sit shoulder to shoulder with socialites and well-known figures such as Julia Ward Howe. For $5 they could tour the house.
Chinese Tea HouseIn 1914 Alva Belmont erected a Chinese tea house designed after ancient Chinese temples and guarded by stone lions. The tea house was used to host special events and features Chinese antiques.
Chinese Tea House interiorAlva Belmont closed Marble House permanently in 1919, and later sold the house to Frederick H. Prince. In 1963, her son Harold provided funding for the Preservation Society of Newport County to buy the house from the Prince Trust. The Trust donated the furniture for the house directly to the Preservation Society.

The architectural details are stunning. Every little thing is exquisitely designed.
Marble House lamp
To see more of my photos please visit my Flickr album Marble House

Artist, Rebel, Dandy: Men of Fashion

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Rhode Island School of Design’s exhibit Artist, Rebel, Dandy: Men of Fashion (http://risdmuseum.org/notes/artist_rebel_dandy_men_of_fashion). This exhibit celebrates men (and some women) who love clothes, love to dress well and have forged their own path to create new, avant garde styles; from the notorious Bea Brummell of Georgian England to late Twentieth Century men and women, this exhibit has it all.

Being a lover of the Regency era, I especially enjoyed seeing the Prince Regent’s banyan from his younger days and Beau Brummell’s great coat made by Weston, tailor to the aristocrats. There were also cutaway coats and silk knee breeches belonging to prominent Rhode Islanders of the period. I’ve seen photographs, movies, reenactor costumes and women’s clothes but for some reason, the museums I’ve been to lacked men’s clothes. It was amazing to put an actual 3D image in my mind of the clothes I’ve only read about. 

I’m vastly impressed with how much Georgette Heyer got right in her novels. She was the best at setting the scene and creating memorable characters. Many of her admirers have used her settings and introduced real people into the plot. A scroll featuring the noted dandies of the day helped put faces to the names I’ve read about. I only wish Mr. Darcy and Henry Tilney had been featured.

Also from the Regency era, the exhibit features many Cruikshank cartoons. For those who may not know, Robert and George Cruikshank were printmakers in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century London. Their colorful, witty cartoons lampooned the excesses of society. These cartoons were similar to today’s political cartoons and celebrity gossip blogs. I’ve seen a few cartoons online and some at the Morgan Library’s Jane Austen exhibit. The RISD exhibit had many on loan from the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University.

There was:

Young Gentlemen: Dress of the Year 1798

http://images.library.yale.edu/walpoleweb/fullzoom.asp?imageid=lwlpr09143

Lacing in Style

http://images.library.yale.edu/walpoleweb/fullzoom.asp?imageid=lwlpr14675

A Dandy Fainting

A Dandy Fainting

George Cruikshank
A Dandy Fainting or An Exquisite in Fits
Showing the effects of dandyism

The Commercial Dandy and his Sleeping Partners

http://images.library.yale.edu/walpoleweb/fullzoom.asp?imageid=lwlpr12349

A New Irish Jaunting Car (lampooning the dandy fad for riding early bicycles)

http://images.library.yale.edu/walpoleweb/fullzoom.asp?imageid=lwlpr12011

And my personal favorites

A Hen Pecked Dandy

A Hen Pecked Dandy

Dandies were known for their tightly laced corsets, just as women had been. Here, the woman in the cartoon declares that she will be be adopting a more masculine style since the gentleman has co-opted a feminine style of dressing.

Many of the cartoons displayed a fear of reversal of sex roles with effeminate young men wearing corsets and fainting just as women were expected to do.

D___d Angelic

A dandy (the Beau himself perhaps?) looking through his quizzing glass at a beautiful woman.

See more and read about dandies at BookTryst

http://www.booktryst.com/2010/06/robert-cruikshank-devastates-dandies.html

At first dandies were a figure of fun until Oscar Wilde and his set made dandyism a a way of life and a culture of it’s own.

For Downton Abbey fans, there were several early 1900s shirts laid out with collars just as Lord Grantham’s valet would have done. There was also a Brooks Brothers coat c. 1917 that I can see Matthew Crawley buying on a trip to New York to visit Mary’s family.

These great men have influenced styles of dress into present day. The exhibit featured movie costumes as well: Fred Astaire’s suit from the movie Top Hat

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Photo copyright: SNAP / Rex Features

Diane Keaton’s suit from Annie Hall

Diane Keaton Annie Hall

Diane Keaton in Annie Hall

There was so much to see in this exhibit that I didn’t have time to look at everything in detail.

You can read about it in the Boston Globe (http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/style/2013/05/15/men-fashion-finally-gets-some-respect-risd-dandy-show/iUDQ2znJWXeNJn5pDLX5rI/story.html)

Read more about Dandyism at Dandyism.net