Making Couture DuPont Qiana Dresses at Home
What happens when you develop a new type of fabric which consumers then purchase and must figure out how to use it? That’s what happened when DuPont introduced Qiana nylon to the public in 1968 as a replacement for high cost silk.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, sewing clothes in the home was very popular so Qiana was sold in bolts of fabric ready for women to make dresses out of it. For example, materials for a wedding dress could be purchased and made at home for around $60 in 1972 – a considerable savings from purchasing one already made.
But the problem with Qiana was that it was difficult to sew. So, in 1971 DuPont hired Charles Kleibacker, one of America’s top dress designers to travel around the country and hold sewing clinics to teach women experienced in sewing how to make couture dresses with Qiana fabric. In 1971 and 1972, he traveled to thirty cities throughout the country to give his free “traveling couture sewing clinic” at department stores.
Charles Kleibacker (1921-2010) designed his first line of clothing in New York City in 1960. Known as the “master of the bias cut”, his couture gowns started at $450 and went up. Some of his well-known clients included First Lady Pat Nixon, Actress Diahann Carroll and Mary Travers of the singing group Peter, Paul and Mary. For these clients, his gowns cost more than $1,500 and took hours to make. We are fortunate to have an exquisite example of his work in the collection. This design is timeless and could be worn today.
With Qiana fabric having a colorful Oscar de la Renta design, Mrs. Robert Fay made the above dress in the 1970s. This is an excellent example of how Qiana held colorful dyes which lasted over time.
Finally, I’d like to include a category of synthetic clothing that Hagley has which is unique. This is clothing made from prototype DuPont fabric that was acquired by close relatives related to DuPont administrative personnel which was used primarily for promotional purposes.
In 1968, Marilyn Fourney acquired this material from Roger Milliken of Milliken & Co. Her husband Robert Forney (1947-2017) was a DuPont chemical engineer and he also served as a Senior Vice-President for the company. Mrs. Forney used this material to make this dress which she wore to the inaugural ball for President Richard Nixon in 1969.
From the Object Files: The all too true tales and back stories behind some of Hagley’s most remarkable collections. (Part 3)
In collections, the most frequently asked question is what? as in what is that? Then the second most commonly asked question has to be why? As in why is that in a museum? The question usually comes up around something so familiar it is hard to imagine that they have much importance at all. But it is often the case that the most ordinary things can have the most extraordinary stories.
Take this little beauty, the KitchenAid mixer, more at home on a wedding or holiday wish list than in a museum. The story of how this must-have device for the affluent cook came to Hagley is a simple one. It is part of a collection of household objects belonging to Louise du Pont Crowninshield, the last member of the DuPont family to reside at Eleutherian Mills, and is representative of a chapter in the life of that stately house. But the story of how this little mixer came to be is a more complicated tale.
As long as people have been cooking they have been mixing ingredients and as long as people have been mixing things they have been searching for a less taxing way to do it. The first mechanical mixer was patented in 1856. Then in 1885 a patent was granted for a mixer that could be attached to an electric motor. And meringue lovers everywhere rejoiced.
Around this time the Hobart Electric Manufacturing Company, in order to sell more motors, began attaching its small motors to coffee mills and meat grinders. In 1908 one of its engineers, saw a baker manually mixing bread dough and thought that there must be a better way. His ‘better way’ became the electric Hobart model H Mixer, an 80 pound commercial behemoth Work soon began on a home version of the Model H. Ten years after that run-in with that baker Hobart debuted the model C, it was marketed as a ‘food preparer’ that not only mixed and whipped but could grind meats and juice citrus.
The model C wasn’t an instant success. The machine was bulky, heavy and expensive. In fact it is a testament to the skills of Hobart’s almost entirely female door to door sales force that any of these things were purchased at all.
As the 1920’s rolled on Hobart introduced several new models of its KitchenAid mixers, each one lighter and smaller than the last. The mixer really reached icon status in the late 1930’s, when Hobart hired Egmont Arens to redesign the mixer. The new and patented design was so loved by customers that it has survived with very little change for more than half a century.
This is where Hagley’s mixer enters the picture, a model of modern domestic efficiency and another example of how inspiration can come from anywhere and innovation can be found everywhere, even in the kitchen.
When is a Patent Model not a Patent Model?
Until 1880, the United States Patent Office required models to be sent with a patent application to the United States Patent Office. These models were usually smaller versions of the invention. The models were concrete evidence of the plans and drawings provided by the inventors in their applications. The Patent Office displayed the models in large cabinets, which became a popular tourist attraction in Washington, D.C. Many patent model makers (yes, that was a small industry in its day) and inventors worked hard to ensure that the models would be both useful in attaining a patent and eye-catching to any potential visitor.
However, patent models were not the only miniature models being made in the nineteenth century-. Salesman in this period also often had small models they carried with to show potential customers. This was especially true when the salesman were selling things like furnaces, which would be pretty inconvenient to carry around! These models helped to make the concept of the product clear, and the tactility of the model was alluring. In this way, salesman models weren’t so different from the patent models- both of them were trying to make theoretical objects appealing and material to potential “customers,” whether they were actual consumers, or officials at the patent office.
The actual difference between the patent models and salesman models lies in the fine print- literally. Generally, nothing is considered a patent model unless it has a tag from the patent office. These tags give the name, date, and patent number for the patent the model was a representation of. Without these tags, or clear provenance that these tags did exist, the status of a model is unclear.
A recent accession to the collection highlights this conundrum. We were recently given a model of a coke oven (for turning coal into coke) made for a patent application from William G. Merriman by Dr. Stephen & Mary Ann Smith of Exton, Pennsylvania. The object was accompanied by the official patent and the drawings of the patent application. The object itself, however, lacks the official patent office tag that would mark it as a patent model.
So, is this model a patent model or salesman’s model? The key piece of information in this case is the date- The patent was obtained in 1882. This is two years after the patent office stopped requiring models for most patents. In all likelihood, the model was prepared as a patent model, and William Merriman decided to keep his model, or it was returned to him, after he was informed there was no need for it.
While William Merriman’s model isn’t technically a patent model, and it isn’t salesman’s model, it does share the defining characteristic of both: An innovative idea brought to life through a physical object.
The Short Life of DuPont’s Corfam
Not everything can be successful even when you have had an enormously successful product like nylon. Corfam is an excellent example of a then new synthetic product that simply did not live up to its expectations over time for DuPont.
Early in the twentieth century, DuPont began seeking a synthetic replacement for leather. To get them into the business, they purchased the Fabrikoid Company in 1910. Fabrikoid was nitrocellulose-coated cotton fabric which could be made into many objects. But its two biggest uses were in binding books and in the automotive industry.
By the late 1950s, DuPont scientists had created a material that looked like leather with a high shiny gloss surface which looked like “patent leather”. Later called Corfam, it consisted of a poromeric material which was made by bonding a plastic like coating to a fiber substrate. Early on due to its extraordinarily high costs to create and produce, DuPont decided to market this new material primarily in footwear – more specially for dress shoes due to its shiny appearance.
By 1962, DuPont had wear tested around 15,000 shoes with Corfam made at its pilot plant in Newburgh, New York. Wear testing was a typically done by DuPont employees who agreed to wear the item for a certain amount of time and then answer questions and write up a review. Even though Corfam was pointed towards its use in shoes, other items were made of the material and wear tested as seen below.
Corfam was introduced to the shoe industry during the 1963 Chicago Shoe Show. The public first learned about Corfam on January 27, 1964 and it was also featured at the 1964 New York World’s Fair in the DuPont Pavilion. That year also saw the manufacturing of Corfam moved to Old Hickory, Tennessee. From 1964 to 1969, around 7.5 million pairs of Corfam shoes were sold but after then, the market severely declined for several reasons including the popularity of vinyl shoes. Corfam also had the issue that it did not breath like real leather, so wearers complained about hot feet. Another problem was fit because if the wearer did not get an exact fit, Corfam did not stretch like leather does.
DuPont ended making Corfam in 1971 leaving it with only seven years of production. That year, the process for making Corfam was sold to a company in Warsaw, Poland. Also, that year on April 11, 1971, an article in the New York Times referred to Corfam as “DuPont’s $100 Million Edsel”. But Edsel’s are no longer sold and poromeric shoes still are! Today the most common use of them in the United States is military usage as dress uniform shoes because they don’t require polishing.
Colonial Revival Furnishings & Hooked Rugs
When someone takes a tour of a historic house that has many hooked rugs on display, chances are good that they represent the Colonial Revival style which was at its peak in the 1920s and 1930s. Louise du Pont Crowninshield, who was the last du Pont to occupy Eleutherian Mills Residence, was one of the leaders in the historic preservation movement at that time and specialized in decorating the historic houses she supported as well as her home – Eleutherian Mills Residence in this style.
Louise used a lot of hooked rugs in her public spaces. These rugs added color, striking designs, and warmth to each room. They were prominently featured in the first-floor rooms (Morning Room, Parlor, Dining Room and Smoking Room) [Link](https://digital.hagley.org/HF_E27_062?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=f53c0b62a5541cf79714&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=1) and the second-floor bedrooms. Even with the Colonial Revival style in the public spaces and bedrooms of the house, Louise went modern with the fixtures of the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry at that time.
Originally, hooked rugs were made for hearth use to catch sparks that might leap out from the fire in the fireplace. By the 1840s, women were hooking rugs throughout the New England States for use in their homes. Earliest designs were made from hand-drawings or free form. Printed designs became available in the 1850s. But it was the use of burlap becoming available after the Civil War that made these rugs much easier to make. The most popular designs were florals as seen below.
Louise’s collection totals more than ninety hooked rugs which date from 1840 to 1925. They were purchased at antiques shops. She was well known throughout the eastern seaboard states for her passion for antiquing. Note that the dates of hooked rugs were made after the Colonial period. The Colonial Revival style was a romanticized view of the past, so this is one of the exceptions to using earlier colonial pieces.
Most of Louise’s hooked rug designs are entirely floral but she did have other favorites including dogs as seen above. Other designs include geometrics, horses, cats, eagles and other types of birds, houses and one sailing ship. There are always around twenty of her hooked rug collection on display at Eleutherian Mills Residence.
du Pont Women and their Hand Fans
A lady’s hand fan was one of the most important clothing accessories during the nineteenth-century. Not only decorative, they also had a practical purpose of moving air for cooling. Color, design and style indicated not only moods and events but also the highest in modern styles. There were all types of fans. One example is a mourning fan which became popular following the death of Queen Victoria’s husband Albert in 1861. After his death she wore only black for the rest of her life. This mourning style was translated into the fashion of using solid black fans for mourning the death of public figures but also for friends and family.
An interesting aspect of hand fans is the special language which developed whereby moving the fan in certain ways conveyed information or wishes according to Parisian fan maker Pierre Duvelleroy in early in nineteenth century. These include:
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: *Yes*
Letting the fan fest on the left cheek: *No*
Fanning slowly: *I am married*
Fanning rapidly: *I am engaged*
The museum collection has more than fifty hand fans with most of them formerly owned by du Pont women throughout the nineteenth-century and into the twentieth. One of the earliest fans is French fan in an elaborate presentation case which dates between 1808-1811. This light and delicate design was typical of French Empire Style. Presentation cases were made not only to preserve the fan but also to acknowledge who had owned it. In this case it was owned by Anna Van Dyke, Mary V. du Pont and Greta du Pont Barksdale. Treasures like these were frequently handed down throughout the generations. Louise du Pont Crowninshield owned eighteen fans. She lived through the transitional period of hand fans where the more decorative ones gradually began to fall out of favor. Her collection consists of mostly of Oriental made fans with decorative paper scenes, ostrich feathers fans, and souvenir fans acquired when she travelled overseas. One colorful paper fan from Paris, France and made by Goossens Frere et Soeur (brother and sister), and dates to around 1900 and represents the “Restaurant Ambassadeurs, Champs-Elysees”.
A Mystery Box
When we acquire objects for the collection here at Hagley, we do so because they fit with our collecting priorities and support our mission, or if we’ll use them in upcoming exhibits. Occasionally, though, they are a little mysterious.
That’s the case with the latest addition to our collection. The object tells an interesting story and is perhaps connected to the du Pont family…perhaps.
This box may look like an ordinary box, but it’s actually a very rare object. This is a document box used by the Stockton Artillerists when they served in the [Mexican-American War](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican%E2%80%93American_War). In the box, was a tag with a note stating that it belong to the wife of Francis N. Buck, the mother of Gov. C. Douglass Buck of Delaware, and to Alice du Pont Buck, his wife.
But, who were the Stockton Artillerists?
The Stockton Artillerists were a Volunteer Militia Company from in Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania and named after Capt. [Robert F. Stockton](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_F._Stockton) of the U.S. Navy.
Volunteer Militia Companies were formed in response to the perceived ineffectiveness and vices of the regular militia in the early 19th century. Many of the semi-annual militia meetings, or musters, seemed to have turned into excuses to indulge in plenty of drinking and very little military training- parodies of them abounded.
The Volunteers were different, these groups incorporated themselves into companies, and provided themselves with uniforms, equipment and weapons. Hence, they often took their duties more seriously. Volunteer Militia Companies came to be very popular in Pennsylvania, New York and other states, and were a way for people to show-off their patriotism and civic or ethnic pride.
The Stockton Artillerists answered the call for volunteers to fight in the Mexican-American War on December 24th, 1846, and marched from Mauch Chunk to Philadelphia, then Baltimore, finally arriving in Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day, 1847.
There, they were mustered into Federal service as Company K, 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteers and would go on to serve with Gen. Winfield Scott’s army that besieged Veracruz, fighting in the Battles of Cerro Gordo and aiding in the assault on Chapultepec and marching into Mexico City.
So, how does it relate to Constance Margaret Douglass Buck?
Well, we don’t know. Looking at the rolls of the members of the Stockton Artillerists, we can’t seem to find anyone related to Constance, or her future husband, Francis N. Buck. So how did they come into possession of this box? We don’t know, but hopefully further research will illuminate the connection between the Stockton Artillerists and the du Pont Family.
Louise du Pont Crowninshield and What She Collected
From the 1930s to her death in 1958, Louise du Pont Crowninshield was one of the leaders of the Historic Preservation movement. In 1949, she was one of the founders of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Additionally, she was a member of the five-person Advisory Committee to redecorate the White House during the Truman Administration.
Louise served on the boards of directors and financially supported many historic sites such as Marblehead Historical Society (MA), and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site (MA). Her specialty was acquiring correctly dated antique furnishings and then install them herself into period rooms which is what she did in Virginia at Kenmore – the home of George Washington’s sister and Wakefield – George Washington’s Birthplace. For her to do this curatorial role was innovative at the time since generally this was done by men at historic sites.
Born in 1877, Louise was a descendent of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of the DuPont Company. She married Francis Boardman Crowninshield in 1900. After the original Eleutherian Mills gunpowder manufactory closed, she acquired the property which included E. I. du Pont’s home which had been built in 1803. She and her husband occupied the residence for approximately six weeks each year split between the spring and fall. At her death, this property, residence, and all its contents which consist of more than 3,000 artifacts, were left to the Eleutherian Mills- Hagley Foundation.
Louise carefully curated the furnishings in the Residence just like she did the other sites. Her philosophy for Eleutherian Mills Residence was:
**“In selecting furniture, I bought only objects which had been in use in this country at the time the family arrived from France. Everything is authentic and made in America. Some of the family pieces have been given back to me and have been carefully listed. All, or nearly all, I hope will remain in the house. It is my intention to leave them there.”**
When word got out that she wanted to return original furnishings to the Residence, she was given decorative arts including furniture and personal belongings such as clothing from the first two generations of du Ponts who lived there. Among this items are the four-poster bed made by Philadelphian Joseph Barry that E. I du Pont purchased around 1807 and his daughter Victorine’s Duncan Phyfe sewing/worktable which was given to her on her marriage to Ferdinand Bauduy in 1813.
For herself, Louise purchased early American furniture; Chinese Export, French, English and American ceramics; pewter; chalk ware; quilts, hooked rugs; weathervanes, and lots of items representing eagles.
Play Ball! Bobby Shantz, Willie Mays and Leo Durocher’s MLB Uniforms
Since it is summer, it seems like every time I drive by a park, I see people playing baseball. That recently reminded me of some Major League Baseball uniforms we have in the collection. The DuPont Company connection is that they were all made from wool blended with one of their synthetic textile fibers. Each is labeled with the player’s name and year used.
The first jersey was worn by New York Yankees’ pitcher Bobby Shantz in 1957. It is his home jersey made by Spaulding. Early uniforms were made from wool, but Shantz’s is the first made with nylon. This “new” synthetic blend was 40% nylon and 60% worsted wool.
Next is the home jersey and undershirt worn by Hall of Famer Willie Mays when he played for the San Francisco Giants in 1961. His uniform was made by Tim McAuliffe, Inc. in Boston, MA. The fabric is a blend of 55% Dacron and 45% worsted wool.
Last is the 1962 home uniform worn by Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Dodgers’ coach Leo Durocher. It also was made by Tim McAuliffe, Inc. in Boston, MA, with the 55% Dacron and 45% worsted wool blend fabric.
At the time these were made, DuPont was promoting the use of their new synthetic materials in sporting equipment and uniforms. These are designated part of our DuPont “firsts” artifact collection, which means that they could have been made for promotional reasons but also for wear testing. How that worked is that DuPont would have supplied the fabric to the company making the uniforms and after wearing it, the person would have been asked questions about its wear and comfort.
These uniforms were donated to Hagley by Charles H. Rutledge who worked for the DuPont Company in the Textile Fibers Department. He gave a public program which showed what kind of objects were used in the past and compared them with the new modern objects including DuPont products whenever he could. Other items from his collection related to baseball include a baseball cap worn by the Philadelphia Athletics until the mid-1920s and a costume replica of a 1909 New York Giants travel uniform.
Dog Days of Summer
As I looked around for a blog topic during the dog days of summer, I thought why not focus on dog artifacts in the museum collection? What immediately drew my attention was a group of thirteen watercolor framed paintings of sporting or bird dogs which are beautifully portrayed in their hunting stances.
You might ask why Hagley has paintings of dogs? The answer is that they are part of the 1954 DuPont Museum Collection that established Hagley’s collections. Split into both the museum and library’s collections, it represents the early history of DuPont. The dog paintings specifically were used as advertising artwork which in this case was used to promote the use of smokeless gunpowder for hunting.
These dogs represent the National Field Trial Champions (or the National Bird Dog Championship) from 1896 to 1910. All were Llewellin English setters except for “Manitoba Rap” who was an English pointer.
Well-known sporting artist Edmund Henry Osthaus (1858-1928) was the artist of these paintings. Born in Germany, Osthaus immigrated to the United States in 1883. He became the Chief Instructor for the Toledo Academy of Fine Arts in Ohio and later was promoted to Director from 1886-1893. One of his hobbies was hunting with bird dogs so he was very familiar with them which led to his specialty of painting portraits of setters and pointers in lifelike hunting poses. He was the founder of the National Field Trial Association in 1895 and served as a trial judge. Osthaus began to work for DuPont in the late 1890s and produced hunting dog paintings for their advertising purposes.
DuPont used these paintings in several ways. The best-known example is “The Champions” a highly collectable set of thirteen advertising postcards produced in 1917. All are marked “Shoot DuPont Powders.” The Hagley library has copies of the postcards. [Link](https://findingaids.hagley.org/repositories/2/resources/111) Another use they had was appearing on annual DuPont calendars. The 1898 winner “Tony’s Gale” was on the 1936 calendar; 1899 winner “Joe Cumming” on the 1908 and 1936 calendars; 1909 winner “Geneva” on the 1909 calendar and 1910 winner “Monora” on the 1913 calendar. And they were also used on DuPont envelope covers and lithographs suitable for framing. Much of this was used as customer giveaways to promote their products.