Visiting and Receiving (Late Summer, 1911-12)

Part 2 of our virtual tour of the Styling an American Family Exhibition takes a look at the fashions and customs associated with visiting and receiving visitors in 1911 and 1912.

Visiting Ladies. Vignette in the exhibition: Styling an American Family: The 1910s at Gustav Stickley's Craftsman Farms. Fashions from the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection, Syracuse University.Photo by Stephen Sartori.

Receiving visitors. Vignette in the exhibition: Styling an American Family: The 1910s at Gustav Stickley's Craftsman Farms. Fashions from the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection, Syracuse university. Photo by Stephen Sartori.

Entering the Log House from the front porch brings us into the living room where, grouped around Mr. Stickley’s hexagonal library table, we see a hostess and her daughter and three visitors who have come for a ‘formal call’.

Etiquette for visiting and receiving, if one were to follow all the rules, was extremely elaborate.  Here, we can only scratch the surface of early 20th century customs, but you’ll quickly see that social interaction was very different.

Moreover, the way men and women socialized differed significantly a century ago.  On a day-to-day basis, men generally made friends with business associates and members of the many clubs of which they were members.  Membership in various men’s clubs was viewed as a necessary extension of business.  A wife was, above all else, a representative of her husband; she was expected to be socially inclusive of the wives and families of their husband’s friends and associates.

Day Dress. Plum ribbed silk faille with chemical lace detailing; c. 1911. Oversized Straw Hat: Tan straw; c. 1911. Parasol: Plum and cream cotton sateen with oak handle; c. 1911.

The primary social interaction for ladies, other than letter or note writing, was calling or visiting.  The purpose was to trade news of the family and life in general.  Though it surely happened, it was considered improper to gossip when visiting.

In the days when the phone was still a relative novelty, a woman visited with friends and acquaintances at home, either hers or theirs, for specified amounts of time.  The length of a call was strictly dictated and it was bad form to stray beyond the time allotted.  Fifteen minutes was considered the standard amount of time to say hello, exchange pleasantries and news and make a graceful exit.  Less time was considered rude and more was a drain on the hostess’s good graces unless you were a close friend.  Even then, 45 minutes was the accepted maximum.

A woman would receive visitors during her weekly or bi-weekly day-at-home.  At the beginning of a social season, of which there were two, winter and summer, the lady of the house sent her visiting card to friends and acquaintances, specifying her day-at-home either weekly or bi-weekly.  Such an announcement would bind the issuer to be at home to receive visitors on those days at that time to receive guests.

When observing a standard day-at-home, a hostess was not expected to offer refreshment, but many often did.  Refreshment could include tea or hot chocolate or punch and cakes or light sandwiches.  However, if the hostess had sent out her visiting cards specifically noting: Tea, Thursday, 2-4pm., for example, the “tea” would be more formal, along the lines of British afternoon tea.  It was always the hostess’s duty to give each visitor some special attention and bring the latest arrivals into the conversation with those already in the room.

Day Dress: Pale yellow ribbed silk with china silk front, c. 1911. Mushroom Hat: Cream cotton netting poufs over hat wire frame, c. 1911. Parasol: White embroidered cotton with oak handle, c. 1911.

Much of the customs around visiting and receiving depended upon which person made the first call during a social season.  It was expected that anyone receiving a visiting card at the beginning of a season would make the first call to visit within two weeks.  If a woman could not meet the obligation within this time, it was necessary for her to send a note with an acceptable excuse and say when she would be able to visit.  Once a visit was made, and a visitor’s card was received, the hostess was then responsible for making a return call as soon as possible within two weeks time.  Once a return call was made, the social obligation was fulfilled and no further visits were necessary.  First calls and return calls were considered formal calls since they were part of social season etiquette.

Friendly calls were made by established friends and acquaintances and could happen during day-at-home hours or on other days during daylight.  It was not considered rude to drop in on a friend or acquaintance, provided that it was not during mealtime, but a visitor took the chance of finding the lady of the house away or too busy to come to the door.  If the lady was indeed at home but busy, she was required to offer apologies in person.  In each case the visitor would leave a visiting card so her friend would know she had stopped by, much the way we leave voicemails for people today.  The lady of the house was then expected to make a return visit within two weeks.

Except in certain situations, not returning a visit was considered a social snub.  However, if a friend brought other friends to visit whom the hostess had not met before, the hostess was not required to pay them a return call.  It also would have been the responsibility of the friend to ask permission to bring her friends prior to the visit.  If, however, the hostess had found the friends worthy of becoming acquaintances, she could make a return visit to them at her leisure.

It was always customary to leave a visiting card for the hostess after a visit.  A visiting card was a small, rectangular piece of fine heavyweight paper that contained the printed name of its barer in plain, readable script.  It had no other information on it.  A married woman always carried her own cards as well as her husband’s.  A mother with daughters who had been presented at their coming-out balls would also carry large ‘double cards’ (so named because they were nearly twice the size of a standard visiting card).  A married woman’s visiting card presented her as Mrs. John J. Payne, never using her first name.  A young lady’s visiting card would give her full name with, or without “Miss”.

Day Dress: Dark lilac printed silk decorated with chain stitch embroidery, c. 1911. Picture Hat: Gray straw trimmed with ivory lace and gray ostrich plumes, c. 1911.

When visiting the home of a friend or acquaintance, visiting cards were never handed to the lady of the house upon arrival, but instead were left on a tray or in a bowl near the front door on the way out.  It was customary to leave a card for each person one had visited, plus one for the man of the house.  If Mildred, Marion and Hazel Stickley had been home to entertain visitors with their mother during her day-at-home,

a visitor would have left five cards: one each for the four women, plus one for Mr. Stickley, even though he was not at home.  If a visitor were married, she would leave the same number of her husband’s cards in his absence, since a wife was, of course, a representative of her husband.

Visiting cards left as a courtesy for a husband didn’t require him to return a visit to a lady, however it implied he ought to communicate with the visitor’s husband within a reasonable time.  Since many of a wife’s visitors were wives of his friends and business associates, a casual but pointed comment was enough for both men to know their wives had been in contact, i.e.: “Mrs. Tilly mentioned to Mrs. Finch that you were under the weather earlier this week.  I pray you are feeling better.” Men would return the calls of male friends at their own discretion.

Visiting cards could act as a means of introduction in a person’s absence.  Let’s say June Tilly and Gertrude Finch were good friends in Syracuse.  Gertrude knew the Stickleys but June did not. Gertrude recommends that June meet the Stickleys while visiting relatives in Morristown.  By writing “Introducing Miss June Tilly” on her own visiting card, Gertrude would guarantee June a warm reception during Mrs. Stickley’s day-at-home.

Visiting cards indicated the status of a widow or widower by use of a black border. The more recent the death, the wider the border, starting at 1/8” thick and decreasing slightly every six months until only a fine line remained. The black border would remain on visiting cards until a woman or man remarried or passed away.

As with black mourning dress, visiting cards indicated the status of a widow or widower by use of a black border.  The more recent the death, the wider the border, starting at 1/8” thick and decreasing slightly every six months until only a fine line remained.  For dress, the minimum period of mourning for a widow was one year, but the black border would remain on visiting cards until a woman or man remarried or passed away.  Visiting cards with colors or images were available but were frowned upon by the upper middle class and the wealthy.

Leaving a card was most important if a visitor dropped by for a ‘chance call’.  If the person she was hoping to visit was not home, the visiting card she left served as a message that she had been there.

The hostess and her daughter dressed to receive visitors. Photo by Stephen Sartori. Click to zoom.

Dress for receiving and visiting, like everything else, was tightly prescribed.  Our hostess wears a brown silk day dress trimmed with brown silk velvet.  Although this dress is from 1911, the silhouette reflects an adherence to earlier styles.  The older woman, in any situation, dressed of her own taste and was not concerned with being fashionably ‘of the moment.’  The young women receiving guests with her mother wears a more fashionable ensemble with a short train; a pale lilac silk reception dress with chiffon overlay from 1912.  The hostess was not required to wear gloves or a hat, since she was in her own home.

When visiting, a woman would wear a visiting outfit proper for the time of day and season, generally a reception gown with no train, or a suit of matched jacket and skirt with a shirtwaist or blouse, and coordinating hat and gloves and a parasol, if needed for sun protection.  Here, the three ladies visiting are wearing day dresses suitable for an afternoon visit in the late summertime.  On the left, she wears a day dress of plum ribbed silk faille with chemical lace detailing (c. 1911) and an oversize tan straw hat, and carries a plum and cream cotton sateen parasol with oak handle.  In the middle, she wears a day dress in pale yellow ribbed silk with a china silk front (c. 1911) and a cream cotton mushroom hat, and carries a white embroidered cotton parasol with oak handle.  On the right, a day dress in dark lilac printed silk decorated with chain stitch embroidery (c. 1911), and a picture hat of grey straw trimmed with ivory lace and gray ostrich plumes (c.1910).

Coats, dusters, parasols and umbrellas were left in the front hall of her destination, but during the visit, hat, gloves and suit jacket were rarely removed.  If the room was warm and the hostess offered it, a visitor was allowed to remove her jacket.  If soft finger food, like cake, was offered, one glove could be removed while eating, then quietly replaced.  A gentleman caller removed his gloves and hat, but would never remove his jacket.

By the 1950’s the elaborate process of calling or visiting had all but disappeared as social strictures loosened, home telephones became the norm and women entered the workforce in ever increasing numbers.

Styling an American Family is on view at The Stickley Museum through January 6, 2013.

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Hurricane Sandy Update

Museum preparations for the storm included carefully covering the exhibition vignette on the front porch.

Twelve trees came down on the property during the storm, but only one building was damaged...A larger pine tree fell on the Administration Building.

During this difficult time for so many on the east coast, we have a bit of good news.  The Log House is safe and weathered the recent storms remarkably well.  Prior to Sandy, we prepared the Log House for the worst, paying particular attention to the front porch, the most vulnerable area with its large windows.   Everything except the wedding vignette was moved into the house, and the vignette was framed out with supports and covered with lightweight plastic tarp.  Fortunately, after the storm, the porch, and the rest of the house were dry and damage free.

Twelve trees came down on the property during the storm, but only one building was damaged by a falling tree.  A larger pine tree fell on the Administration Building and tore several holes in the roof right through to the office ceiling.  Fortunately, the offices are the only non-historic structure on the

A little more than a week after Sandy hit the east coast, a blistery Nor'easter blew through the area with driving snow and more heavy winds.

property.  Repairs have already begun, the tree has been cleared and the roof has been patched to keep out the rain.

The Museum was closed to the public for a week while the power was out. Numerous volunteers and employees from the Township of Parsippany have been here clearing up debris.  At this point, only five trees and some additional debris still need to be removed.  Luckily, no additional damage occurred as the result of last week’s Nor’easter.  Tomorrow a crew of special needs students from Morris County School of Technology will be on site to help clear some of the remaining debris.

The Museum’s staff and volunteers come from many affected towns throughout the area, from Parsippany to eastern Pennsylvania and most were without power for quite some time.  As of today, now more than two weeks after the storm, one of our volunteers is still without power.  But, as more and more towns get power back we are finally returning to normal here at the museum.

Our hearts go out to all the families and businesses affected by the devastation of these storms.  We admire the generosity of spirit and the tremendous outpouring of support and aid from near and far.  During these difficult times, it is inspiring to see such unity and solidarity in the community.   It is that spirit of strength and character that will guide our recovery.

The next installment of our exhibition blogs is on its way and the Stickley Museum has officially reopened for tours.  And with the holidays just around the corner, we hope you can come see us soon!

Damage from a fallen pine tree in the administrative office.

A large tree that was uprooted as a result of superstorm Sandy. The White Cottage is in the background.

A snowy Log House after last Wednesday's Nor'easter.

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A Formal Wedding at a Country Estate, Spring 1911.

A Formal Wedding at a Country Estate, Spring 1911. Styling an American Family, The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms. Photo Credit: Stephen Sartori. Click to enlarge.

We invite you to take a virtual tour of the Styling an American Family exhibition in this series of blogs that will each address one of the nine vignettes that make up the exhibition.  The 1910s were a period of transition and innovation, in both American design and culture, and the fashions of the era were inextricably tied to the social customs that dictated people’s everyday lives so strictly.  By looking at the fashions in this exhibition within the context of the Log House we are able to see a more complete history.

Like all of our guided tours, we begin on the front porch, the entryway into the Log House.   Here we have a Formal Wedding at a Country Estate in spring of 1911.  This scene was inspired by Stickley’s eldest daughter, Barbara, whose wedding to Ben Wiles (who at the time was business manager of The Craftsman magazine) took place on the front porch of the Log House in October of 1911.   The home wedding of an upper-middle class businessman’s daughter at his country estate would have been as formal as a church wedding.  A country wedding gave the slightest nod toward informality in the choice of decorations, but the choice of dress and flowers was clearly dictated by season and location.

Barbara Stickley dressed for her wedding and seated in a Stickley willow chair, 1911. Photo: Craftsman Farms Foundation.

On the porch we see the bride and groom, a bridesmaid, and the bride’s mother all dressed for a formal evening wedding in the spring and preparing to take a formal photograph to commemorate the day.  Roses and ferns, like we see here, were the appropriate flower choice for an early summer wedding.  Barbara Stickley’s flowers were yellow chrysanthemums, which were appropriate for a fall wedding.

The bride wears a wedding gown of cream silk satin and handmade duchesse lace; c. 1911. Generally the planning of the wedding was the province of the bride’s mother, a “mature” woman, but the bride might be allowed to choose the flowers for her bouquet and possibly her dress.  With her mother’s approval, the bride wore a dress of the latest fashion with or without a train, but always with a veil, often with a few orange blossoms gently tucked into it for good measure.   Wedding dresses could be white or ivory.  The bride wore gloves during the reception and could choose whether or not to wear gloves during the ceremony, as it made ring placement difficult.

Wedding Gown, c. 1911. Detail. Click to enlarge.

Formal Gown, c. 1911 Detail. Click to enlarge.

The honor of being a bridesmaid or groomsman was offered to family members first, then to friends.  Bridesmaids wore formal gowns, but their dresses were not required to match, as is customary today.  Gloves and hats or some sort of hair band or hair ornament would have been expected.  Here, the bridesmaid wears a formal dress (c. 1911) of seafoam green silk charmeuse and silk chiffon decorated with rayon floss and rayon ribbon embroidery and beaded with glass seed beads and glass pearls.  Her hat is tan straw with ivory silk taffeta decoration.

Linen Day Suit, c. 1910. Detail. Click to enlarge.

Man's Dark Wool Morning Suit, 1909. Detail. Click to enlarge.

The bride’s mother wore a suit or a formal reception dress at her discretion. Since she was in her own home, it was also her decision whether or not to wear a hat or a hair ornament and gloves.   Here, the mother of the bride wears a day suit (c. 1910) of natural linen trimmed with cream chemical lace, and a hat of cream cotton chemical lace, black velvet trim and cream ostrich plumes.

The groom wears a pinstriped, dark wool morning suit from 1909.  As with women’s clothing, men’s fashion was dictated by the season and time of day.  For example, today’s tuxedo (a black tail-less dinner jacket with contrasting satin or grosgrain lapel, worn with a cummerbund or a waistcoat (vest) and white tie) was standard evening or dinner wear for men and would not have been appropriate for a morning or afternoon wedding.

Wedding gifts were to be delivered to the home of the bride within two weeks before the wedding, allowing for the display of gifts during the reception.   When a gift was sent, the sender included their personal visiting card so the bride would know to whom to address a thank you note.  Hand-written thank you notes were required to be sent within a month after the wedding date.  In a similar fashion to today’s bridal shower traditions, the bride’s mother or maid of honor was tasked with writing a description of each gift on the back of the corresponding visiting card when the gift was received in order to help the bride manage the task.

It was rare to move a wedding reception to another location as we do today and sit-down meals were almost unheard of.  Instead, it was customary to provide a buffet of light food and drink appropriate to the time of day.  Champagne was a must for toasts as well as general refreshment.  Wedding cakes were not elaborate fantasies as they are now. Simply made in white cake with white frosting, the cake was large enough for each guest to have a slice and partake in the new couple’s good fortune.

The honeymoon of a middle class couple generally lasted less than two weeks, as the new husband needed to return to work and his bride was required to set up housekeeping.  Upon returning from the honeymoon, it was required for all of the bride’s wedding guests and friends of both sexes to visit her immediately to express joy for the new couple and hear about the honeymoon trip.  By contrast, a newly married couple of great wealth typically went on a grand tour of Europe for three months or more.

Styling an American Family: The 1910s at Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Farms is an exhibition of historic fashions from Syracuse University’s Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection.  The exhibition consists of 35 mannequins in period dress arranged in 9 environmental vignettes that illustrate some of the emblematic everyday activities and pursuits of an upper middle class American family in the 1910s, giving visitors the unique opportunity to view the human form within Gustav Stickley’s architectural masterpiece.

Etiquette is another name for kind thought. The man who says, “I know nothing about etiquette” does not realize he is saying “I know nothing about courtesy to my fellow beings.” From Correct Social Usage, Volume 1; The True Etiquette, Chapter by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1906

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We’re Celebrating an American Style all Weekend!

To say this is a big weekend for the Stickley Museum, would be an understatement.  It’s our biggest weekend of the year and there are still plenty of opportunities to be a part of it!

Saturday, we will be hosting a full-day conference, Tastemaking in the 1910s and Beyond, in conjunction with the exhibition, Styling an American Family.  The conference begins at 10 a.m. at the Wilson School in Mountain Lakes, NJ and will focus on tastemaking in American in the 1910s.  Speakers will consider the contributions and legacy of a broad spectrum of tastemakers, including designers, artisans, artists, editors and museum curators, during this profoundly significant era in American design history popularly known as the Progressive Era.

With Jeffrey Mayer, curator of the Styling an American Family exhibition, putting the spotlight on fashion and Ann Tartsinis taking a broader cultural viewpoint, the first two speakers will address the strategic efforts of early 20th century tastemakers to fuel and establish a uniquely American design identity. Turning our focus to one distinct facet of this effort, Rosalie Berberian’s presentation will look at the development of American Arts and Crafts jewelry and the efforts of artisans to bring art and beauty into the lives of the citizenry. Melissa Leventon’s lecture on artwear will consider the legacy of these 1910s tastemakers through the emergence of a revival in American handcraft in the latter half of the 20th century.

Walk – ins are welcome. Check out the conference page on our website to read more about our speakers.

Ladies dressed for an afternoon visit, 1911- 12

Saturday night we will be “Celebrating an American Style,” at the Museum’s black-tie gala, our biggest fundraiser – and by far the most fashionable – event of the year.  This event is sold out. Be sure to watch our blog for pictures!

Sunday, the festivities continue with the Styling an American Family Open House.  We are suspending regular tours for the day and offering a special Open House, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., focused on the fashion exhibition.  During this event, visitors will be invited to enjoy a take-your-time exploration of the 8 vignettes—addressing early 20th century travel, weddings, motoring, visiting and more—that make up the Styling an American Family exhibition.

Brief, informative “Spotlight Talks” featuring a different vignette every half-hour will be offered throughout the day by members of the museum’s knowledgeable docent staff.

North Cottage Interior

And don’t miss this rare opportunity to visit the North Cottage, which will also be open from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 7th.

Join us for this leisurely program and spend your day strolling through the Log House at your own pace, enjoying the pairing of graceful fashions with the elegantly rustic interiors of Stickley’s masterpiece.

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Join us for Old-Fashioned Fun at Fall Family Day!

Mark your calenders! Tomorrow, Saturday September 22 is Fall Family Day! Celebrate fall harvest and the farming heritage of Craftsman Farms with good old-fashioned fun for the whole family!

This annual festival, our biggest family program of the year, includes hayrides, pumpkin painting, and “Square Dancing with Sue,” featuring live music and Family Day favorite Sue Dupre, as our square dance caller.  Children of all ages are invited to try old-fashioned cider pressing and handcrafts such as woodworking, pottery, knitting, and embroidery.  Activities like a scavenger hunt around the grounds, the popular Cow Balloon craft, and old-fashioned carnival-style games and races will round out our celebration.

Bring the whole family and arrive early for a picnic on the grounds.  Enjoy cider, cider doughnuts, and delicious boxed lunches for sale at the Apple Spice Junction booth.

Fall Family Day Admission:
$5 Member Children
$7 Non-Member Children
$7 Adults

Note: to reduce the costs for whole families; Adults accompanying children are admitted Free.

At The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms
2352 Route 10 West
Morris Plains, NJ 07950

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By the Light of the Silvery Moon: An Exhibition Opening

Photo by Stephen Sartori

Education Director Vonda Givens, Assistant Curator Lauren Tagliafaro, Curator Jeffrey Mayer, Executive Director Heather Stivison, and Board President Barbara Weiskittel at the Opening Reception for "Styling an American Family."

Styling an American Family” opened on Saturday September 8 to thunderous approval.  Despite bad weather, the exhibition opening reception – which sold-out a week prior to the event – was attended by members and non-members from near and far.  A little rain wasn’t going to stop this much anticipated celebration! The exhibition was on view and many of our dedicated docents were on hand to answer questions and provide our guests with information about the fashions and vignettes.  On the front porch, a beautiful catered reception offered some delicious light fare and cocktails.  And curator of the “Styling an American Family exhibition, Jeffrey Mayer, lectured about the exhibition, from the initial idea and inspiration, to research and preparation, to installation.  Check out our Facebook album for some great shots of this fashionable evening.

Photo by Stephen Sartori. "After the Dance," the vignette at the north end of the dining room features dresses from 1914. Syracuse University's Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection.

“Styling an American Family” is now on view and has already had an effect on the way we experience the Log House.  Reintroducing the human form into this space has made it clear – this was a house that was lived in and loved by very real people.   Family photos and newspaper clippings show that the house was often filled with the music and laughter of lively teens and young women, the trappings of whose daily life weren’t as austere as their father’s furniture.  The soft and feminine fashions of the times are now fully integrated with Stickley’s clean, rectilinear furniture.  The contrast is sharp, but they also complement each other in unexpected and interesting ways.  For example, we quickly noticed how the colors and patterns in each of the dance dresses mimic the colors in the Donegal carpets in the dining room, in a delightful way that brightens up the space.

One of our goals in mounting this exhibition was to help our visitors fully imagine life in the Log House in the 1910s, to envision the girlish shenanigans that must have taken place, and to consider what life was really like.  Surprisingly, even those of us who are here every day feel as though we are seeing the Log House and its time period with fresh eyes.  For more images of the exhibition check out our Facebook album of installation shots, thanks to Stephen Sartori.

Photo by Stephen Sartori.

There was a telling moment during the installation of the exhibition; the curator was making some final adjustments to the vignette of four girls around the living room piano.  As he moved the last mannequin into place, and it became apparent that everything was where it should be, he said it looked perfect; “it’s as if I can hear them singing.”  The vignettes have sparked some fascinating conversations already about time and place.  They have caused us to question some preconceived notions of this particular time in American social history.  But most of all they have enabled us to remember that this place was, first and foremost, a family’s home.

Through January 6, 2013 all of our basic tours will include an overview of this insightful and fashionable exhibition of authentic period garments and accessories.   In addition to taking our basic tour, be sure to sign up for one of our special tours focusing on the “Styling an American Family” exhibition.  In these tours, offered at 1p.m. on weekends, our knowledgeable docents explore upper-middle-class fashion and culture in 1910s America, affording every visitor the opportunity to ask questions and discuss areas of interest.   Sign up online to investigate style, etiquette, customs and culture during this fascinating and transitional time in American fashion and history.  These tours will be offered through January 6, 2013 only and space is limited.

Check our website for more information on upcoming exhibition-related programs.

Blogger’s note: “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” was a popular song first released in 1909.  The music was written by Gus Edwards, and the lyrics by Edward Madden.

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Installing “Styling an American Family” and Bringing Fashion to Craftsman Farms

Fashions for the “Styling an American Family” exhibition have arrived at Craftsman Farms!  Wednesday afternoon all the mannequins, fashions, props, and accessories for “Styling an American Family” arrived via one 27-ft truck direct from Syracuse.  This special delivery marked the beginning of the week-long installation process of the exhibition.   After months of careful preparation here at the farms and in the offices of the Department of Design at Syracuse University, this is it folks! It’s time to start the show!

Here’s a behind-the-scenes sneak-peak at the installation process thus far.

First, the over 50 boxes were unloaded into the Education Room.

35 mannequins, carefully packed one per box, and several boxes of clothing, hats, wigs, and accessories left little extra space in the Ed Room.

The next step, of course, was to unpack.

We carefully unpacked clothing, hats, parasols, under garments, and accessories of all sorts from The Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection so that everything could be organized before being installed.

Then, bright and early Thursday morning, a team of enthusiastic volunteers and staff began assembling mannequins and positioning them throughout the Log House.  In these early stages, the exhibition of historic fashions appears like more of a modern art installation or a trendy boutique window.

The first mannequin to be fully assembled and dressed – aside from a few finishing touches like her wig and props – is the cook.  This vignette will address domestic help in upper middle class homes in the 1910s.  The cook has just returned from gathering vegetables and flowers from gardens down the hill, and will be carrying her employer’s hand-written menu of what she is to prepare for the day’s meals.

The exhibition will include 35 mannequins, representing an upper middle class American family in the 1910s, dressed in historic fashions from the Sue Anne Genet Costume Collection.   Nine vignettes recreate particular moments of everyday life in the 1910s, including “Motoring,” “Visiting,” and even a family “Wedding.”  Installation of the exhibition will be completed over the holiday weekend.  “Styling an American Family” officially opens on September 8th.

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New Exhibition of 1910s Fashions Opens September 8th!

Photo by Stephen Sartori

The Museum has been buzzing with activity lately, getting ready for the opening of our fall exhibition, “Styling an American Family: The 1910s at Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Farms.” With the exhibition opening in a little over two weeks, the staff is putting in long hours preparing for the installation, our docents are hard at work training to give special interest, fashion-focused tours, and soon the Museum Shop will be filled with an assortment of new merchandise with a fashion twist.  The exhibition, which will focus on the fashions of upper middle class Americans in the 1910s, opens Saturday, September 8th in the Log House and is on view through January 6th.  The night of the opening promises to be a fashionable occasion as well.  The Museum will host an outdoor tented reception and lecture by exhibition curator, Jeffrey Mayer.

Photo courtesy of Syracuse University Photo & Imaging Center

With Styling an American Family we are giving the Log House a temporary make-over; restoring the human form into a historic home.  And while we will always be “all Stickley all the time,” we are taking this opportunity to broaden our scope a bit and to spend a little more time with the rest of the Stickley family, particularly the Stickley women.  First, by placing the popular fashions of the Progressive Era amid Gustav Stickley’s furnishings, we may better understand this key period in American design history.  Styling an American Family will also address how fashion was so often dictated by stringent social conventions and verbose rules of etiquette and comportment, and concurrently, how women of this era were beginning to seek lives of less-restriction and more meaning, beginning, perhaps, with their clothes.

Photo by Stephen Sartori

The exhibition features fashions from Syracuse University’s Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection, which was selected because it boasts an unusually large collection of garments and accessories from 1910 – 1915, and the majority of the pieces were purchased, made, or worn in and around the Syracuse, N.Y. area, the location from which the Stickley family moved to Morris Plains in 1911.  The exhibition will feature outfits arranged in eight environmental vignettes styled as moments frozen in time, with such themes as “Motoring,” “Music,” “Entertainment at Home” and “After the Party.”

Exhibition curator Jeffrey Mayer, an associate professor and program coordinator of fashion design at SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, selected the garments in Styling an American Family from the fashion design program’s Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection, which he also curates.  The collection is comprised of more than 1,500 women’s garments and accessories from 1820 to the present.  The focus of the collection is women’s high fashion, and it includes examples of garments that are indicative of each era, are by well-known designers or were worn by notable women.

“No clothing belonging to the Stickley family from this era seems to exist, nor do many reference photos of the family as a whole or in domestic settings within the farm, so therefore all details of the fashionable life at Craftsman Farms must be drawn from the few glimpses given in the extant photos and descriptions of everyday life as found in journal entries and newspaper clippings,” says Mayer, who especially relied on Marion Stickley’s scrapbook. “The styles and types of clothing selected for this exhibition reflect an American family of comfortable means whose father was well known as an architect and internationally recognized as an arts movement leader.”

Whether your interests are in social history, women’s history, fashion history, design history, architectural history, Victoriana or “Downton Abbey,” this exhibition has something for you!  And we hope to see you at the opening!

Styling an American Family is on view Saturday, September 8th through Sunday, January 6, 2013 at the Stickley Museum.

We are now accepting reservations for the opening reception on Saturday, September 8 at 6:00 p.m. that will include a viewing of the exhibition in the Log House, a curator’s lecture by Jeffrey Mayer in the Museum’s education building, and an outdoor tented reception.

Tickets are $12 for non-members and free for Stickley Museum members.

PLEASE NOTE: Advance reservations are required for both members and non-members and can be made online, or by phone at 973-540-0311.  No tickets will be sold at the door.

Become a member today, and your admission to the Exhibition Opening will be free!

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The Art of Nature: Catching up with Sharon Pitts

Artist-in-Residence, Sharon Pitts

Our 2012 Artist-in-Residence, Sharon Pitts has been busy all week doing “a lot of painting and a lot of looking.”  While she admits she was never a morning person, Sharon confided in me that she finds herself up early each day to see the morning sun through the windows of the North Cottage.  “I see something different every morning,” she told me.  This is the second year we’ve invited an artist, whose work is inspired by Stickley’s Arts and Crafts tradition, to create new work during a week-long stay on site, and Sharon’s stay so far has been wonderfully positive and fruitful.

"Art of Nature: Inspiration from Craftsman Farms" Watercolor Workshop with Sharon Pitts

To kick-off her residency, Sharon hosted a watercolor workshop titled “Art of Nature: Inspiration from Craftsman Farms.” This workshop encouraged participants to find inspiration in the Craftsman Farms’ buildings, furnishings, décor and the natural surroundings.  The morning began with a tour of the grounds of Craftsman Farms and the Log House, during which Sharon encouraged participants to look for interesting images and themes to inspire their work.  Everyone enjoyed a light lunch outside under the trees and had some time to sketch on the grounds or in the Log House to better connect with the environment and find a creative frame of mind.  Most of the workshop was spent in the diligent creation of paintings – impressions – of the ideas and images harvested from Craftsman Farms and the Arts and Crafts ideas used by Stickley in developing his home.  Sharon, an experienced watercolor artist and instructor, demonstrated a variety of techniques and worked individually with each student toward expressing his or her own vision.  Stickley Museum volunteer and workshop participant, Marti Weinstein, while admiring the work of others, said she was surprised by the many different and interesting directions each student went in and said of her own work, that the end result wasn’t necessarily what she had in mind at the start, that the “images took their own journey.”

"Serene White Birches" Watercolor by Sharon Pitts

I then caught up with Sharon mid-week while she was sketching on the porch of the Log House.   In talking about her week so far – the life and vitality she feels from working on site and the good fortune of having a week uninterrupted in such a charming and stimulating setting – Sharon paused to notice the amazing reflections you see throughout the house, particularly in the windows between the living room and front porch.  “The inside and outside are mingled by way of reflections… it’s another way the house is integrated with nature, these reflections, the windows, the light,” Sharon said.  “I can’t think of where else you can go to be so enveloped by a house like that… Really all I have to do is look.”

Sharon’s residency will culminate this Saturday with a program unveiling work produced during her time at Craftsman Farms.  This program, titled “An Evening with Sharon Pitts,” is part of the Celebration of Artisans, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 28.  The evening will feature a watercolor demonstration by Sharon and a discussion of the work produced during her stay, with a light reception to follow.   You can pre-register for this event online.

Sharon Pitts is the Director of Watercolor for Allied Artists of America.  She resides in Montclair, NJ in an Arts and Crafts-style house and is a founding member of Studio Montclair.  An experienced instructor, Pitts has taught workshops all over the country, hosted several painting trips to the south of France and will be hosting a trip to Tuscany in 2012.

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Driving Mr. Stickley

Five period dusters donated to the Museum by Gustav Stickey's great-grandson.

It’s always an exciting day when the museum receives something new for the collection.  Most recently, Charles Nitchie (great-grandson of Gus) and his wife, Mary Ann, donated five Stickley-period dusters, or motoring jackets.  Although these dusters did not personally belong to Gustav Stickley and his family, they are of the same period and reflect the style of dress acceptable for ladies and gentlemen during a motor tour or afternoon drive in the 1910s.  It’s likely that the members of the Stickley family owned similar dusters, stylish yet practical garments that protected drivers and passengers from the elements.

The Nitchie's restored Brush car. Photo courtesy of Barbara Fuldner

Charles’s father acquired these five dusters when he took on the project of restoring a Brush car during Charles’s childhood.  His sister recalls riding in parades in the family’s restored Brush while wearing these dusters.   What fun that must have been!

Photo: Craftsman Farms Foundation archives. Looking westward through one of the pairs of stone piers in the vegetable gardens. The Log House is on the Left and the South Cottage on the Right. There are two automobiles in this picture. Click the image to zoom.

The Brush Motorcar Company was founded by Alanson P. Brush in Detroit in 1906.  The first Brush automobile was introduced to dealers in 1907.  The earliest version had a one-cylinder engine, open carriage, a hardwood chassis frame, and tough, resilient hardwood axles and wheels; it was exceptionally lightweight and resilient. The small, one-cylinder Brush, that topped out at about 35 mph,  appealed to many motorists because of its simplicity, relatively low price, and features that were well suited to unpredictable rural roads, perhaps like the roads in Stickley’s Morris Plains.  Brush cars were fairly popular, however financial difficulties and competition from better automobiles forced Brush out of business by 1913.

Detail 1. Two unidentified men and an open-carriage automobile of unknown make or model at Craftsman Farms probably around 1912. CFF archives.

While not much is known about the Stickley’s cars, we do know they had at least one family automobile.  And when any of the Stickley’s went for a drive, they almost certainly would’ve worn dusters of this fashion.  In the October 1910 issue of The Craftsman, in an article titled “A Country Home for the Business Man: A Second Visit to Craftsman Farms,” the writer talks about going for a ride in the countryside near Craftsman Farms in a car large enough to hold the whole Stickley family, but no mention is made of the make or model.

“Next day an automobile large enough to hold the Host, his guest and all the children whizzed over the country for a glimpse of other farms” (pg. 60).

Detail 2. Found near the upper right corner of the image. A second automobile parked in front of the South Cottage. c. 1912. CFF archives.

And later…

“As the automobile turned up the shady road at Craftsman Farms the Traveler was struck again by the charm of the houses – the air of content with which they nestled beneath their own protecting eaves” (pg. 61).

Want more period fashions?  Be sure to make plans to visit the museum this fall during the “Styling an American Family” exhibition.  Follow us on facebook for the most up-to-date exhibition news and behind the scenes photos of exhibition preparations!

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