30 results. Displaying results 1 - 30.
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.
From the Object Files: The all too true tales and back stories behind some of Hagley’s most remarkable collections. (Part 1)
It often happens that a trip into museum storage will generate questions, and most likely the question is “What is that”? A recent excursion generated just such a discussion, when a colleague noticed a tall oddly shaped metal object at the back of the room and asked “What kind of lamp is that”? My answer, that it wasn’t a lamp at all but a machine for perming women’s hair, was sufficient enough at the time. However, what it was is only part of the mystery, how and why it worked and why it was here were bigger questions. As it turns out, that odd machine was a key innovation in the pursuit of the perfect coif.
The quest for curls has taken many forms over the years. We are all familiar with curling irons or curling tongs; heated rods around which hair is wrapped with a clamp to hold it in place. And presto! Curled hair! And we are all familiar with permanents; hair is secured around a curler and a chemical solution is applied. And presto! Permanently curled hair. But why combine the two?
In the initial days of permanent waving, the chemical solution needed to be heated in order to sufficiently change the hair structure to make it hold the curl. In these early incarnations, curlers would need to be heated individually. Heating them with electricity allowed the curlers to all be heated at once and to a controlled temperature, producing better curls with fewer injuries.
The first permanent wave machine to use electricity to heat strands of hair was patented in England by Karl Nessler. Nessler’s machine combined electric heat with a chemical process to produce lasting curls. It wasn’t an instant hit in London, but the idea was revolutionary enough to inspire many alternate versions on both sides of the Atlantic. One such machine was invented by Marjorie Stewart Joyner, an African American, in 1939. She created and patented a machine that could add curl to straight hair or straighten curly hair, using electrically heated metal rods. Hagley’s machine, which came to us as part of the Amram/Brick Woman Inventor Collection, is a representation of further improvements on Joyner’s work.
In the middle of the 20th century a new all chemical process of perming hair, that didn’t require heat, was introduced and these types of machines began to disappear from salons. This odd looking contraption is now a permanent (ha!) reminder of man’s (and woman’s) ability to apply a little ingenuity to an everyday problem and possibly change things forever.
[Joyner Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US1693515A/en?oq=us1693515)
Paging Doctor Thornton: New Discoveries about the First Superintendent of the Patent Office in Hagley’s Collections
As a recent hire, I am still becoming familiar with Hagley and its collections. Sure, I spend most of my time laser focused on patent models, but the models are only a part of the museum collection. And I have not had the opportunity to explore the library collection. That all changed after a random database search that served as an example of the richness and depth of Hagley’s holdings.
At the time, I was working on a presentation and researching the first Superintendent of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Dr. William Thornton. Who is Thornton? To even touch upon his biography would take up too much space. His Forrest-Gumpian talent for being present at important moments during the formation of our early republic warrant a book of its own. For this article, it is my research into an object in our museum associated with him that established a surprising connection between Thornton, the DuPont Company, E.I. du Pont, and Thomas Jefferson.
It all started when, on a lark, I simply typed Thornton’s name into our museum collection search engine. To my astonishment, we had an object associated with him in the collection! It is pictured here. It is a tiny, three-inch tall tin container with a label that reads:
English Canister Pdr.
from a Blocktin Can.
Presented by Dr. Thornton/Novb 1824.
This container entered Hagley’s collections through the old DuPont Company Museum. How did it get there? Who did Thornton send this to and why? Did it contain a sample of powder for testing or was the container itself unique enough?
All these questions inspired me to do some more digging. Unfortunately, there was little information in the museum object files. If this was presented to the DuPont Company, was there any other documentation in the company’s archives? If I struck gold in Hagley’s collections once, could it happen twice?
Spoiler alert: Yes! Just like before, I typed Thornton’s name into a search engine. But this time, I focused on the library’s holdings. Not only was there a book in the stacks written by Thornton with a personal dedication to E.I., but the archives contained 16 letters written by Thornton to E.I. and others in his circle! Could these letters provide any information about the powder container?
Well, no. But they did highlight a shared interest between Thornton, E.I., and Thomas Jefferson. While I already knew Thornton advised E.I. on his patent application for a gunpowder graining machine, and I knew that Jefferson was critical to helping E.I. with his gunpowder business, the letters proved there was more of a personal connection between these three men.
The focus of that connection was the breeding of merino sheep. All three were passionate about these animals and the potential for developing a domestic market for their wool. Thornton stated that Jefferson was sending “a thorough bred ram to every County in Virginia”. E.I. allowed his prized rams Don Pedro and Don Ferdinand to pay conjugal visits to Thornton’s flock. Thornton, who in addition to being a physician, knew a great deal about animal husbandry and veterinary care. He offered E.I. advice on how to care for Don Ferdinand after he became ill. Thornton also received a gift of French sheepdogs from Jefferson and promised to set aside one for du Pont.
Thornton shared some rather interesting viewpoints on Jefferson’s mountaintop home, Monticello. I shared the existence of these letters, as well as Thornton’s impressions, with the folks at Monticello. They were thrilled to hear about the letters and requested digital copies. Hopefully together our two institutions can continue to reveal new information about the relationship between these three men who contributed immensely to the growth of American industry.
And it all started when I simply typed “Thornton” into our search engine. Who knows what new connections we can trace? Isn’t technology grand?
From the Object Files: The all too true tales and back stories behind some of Hagley’s most remarkable collections. (Part 4)
If you spend a significant amount of time amongst museum collections there are bound to be some objects for which you develop a fondness and some you just fail to appreciate. One such object came to Hagley in the Amram/Brick Woman Inventor Collection. He is a Billiken and, to me at least, seems rather unpleasant. But does that impish grin truly disguise a fiendish heart? Or is he just misunderstood?
As it turns out this little guy has no sinister intention after all. In fact it is just the opposite. It turns out, Billiken, the self proclaimed “God of things as they ought to be” was created as a symbol of good luck and good fortune. His journey began in Kansas City where a young artist teacher named Florence Pretz had a idea for a small pudgy deity who would bring luck to all who worshiped him. Miss Pretz was awarded a patent on Oct. 6, 1908 for her “design for an image” [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/USD39603S/en?q=florence%20pretz&oq=florence%20pretz). And not long after that small plaster statues of Billiken were available to the public. In accordance with the lighthearted Billiken philosophy, he was not available for purchase but could be obtained on a 99 year loan with a deposit of 75 cents.
Within a few short months the little grinning god was everywhere. By that fall he had his own corporate force in The Billiken Company, who managed the use of his image. His smiling face appeared on cards, as jewelry, in books and toys, spreading happiness, hope and luck where ever he appeared, including as the mascot of St. Louis University.
The little totem had become an honest to goodness national craze. By Early 1909 one of members of the company designed and patented a small throne on which the statue could be placed. A fitting seat for a happy idol.
Like all fads, the Billiken eventually faded from the public imagination. But he lives on here at Hagley as a testament to one woman’s inventiveness. (Even if I think he is a little creepy.)
The du Pont Story on a Hooked Rug
Many times, people have asked me what my favorite artifact in the collection is. But I have too many to just give one. Here is one of my favorites. This artifact is an incredible work of art. Not only is this magnificent, hooked rug visually interesting, it combines both of our collecting areas admirably. It represents important icons from the history of the du Pont family in America and was made from DuPont Company’s nylon.
The artist who designed and made this rug was a du Pont who was a direct descendent of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of the DuPont Company. Born Nancy du Pont Reynolds (later Mrs. Edward W. Cooch, Jr.), she began making this rug in her late 20s. It was intended for use in a house but ended up in storage where it remained until it came to Hagley.
The process began by her drawing the pattern you see below and determining what kind of material to make the rug out of. Typically, hooked rugs were made from wool, but she decided to use nylon instead. Introduced to the public in the late 1930s, by the late 1940s DuPont chemists were exploring new uses for nylon including for carpets and rugs and this had great appeal to her. It was so new that all colors in the rug had to be customed-dyed using experimental dyes to her color specifications. This is probably the only hooked rug made from nylon. Ultimately nylon turned out to be a poor choice even though the colors are as brilliant as they were when new. But in limited active use, the rug began to fray and pill on the surface when it was walked on and there is evidence of that on the rug.
The rug depicts the history of the du Pont family and the DuPont Company in America. Each image shows a time, event, invention or symbol in the du Pont story. The design centers around the “American Eagle which was the ship that brought E. I. du Pont and his family to America. He later founded the DuPont Company. The date 1800 indicates the year they arrived in America and 1950 represents their 150th anniversary. Images include buildings on the Hagley property such as the barn and first office towards the top and a gunpowder roll mill on the Brandywine River on the lower right side.
Mrs. Cooch was an artist and I believe this is her masterpiece! One of the most amazing things she told me was that she started it in the middle and worked her way out to the edges. After she finished almost half the rug, she discovered a mistake and pulled everything out and started over again! Remarkable!
Patent Models - This Inventor Played His Cards Right
While reading through the patent document for Andrew Dougherty’s Improvement in Registering Mechanism for Printing-Presses, I was surprised to find his claim that the invention was “especially serviceable in printing… playing-cards” (Patent No. 178,608). [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US178608A/en?oq=us178608)This was a very specific claim, so I decided to look up Mr. Dougherty to see if I could find out any more information on his life, career, or other patents. I was blown away by his story and success!
Andrew Dougherty and his parents immigrated to the United States from Ireland when he was only 7 years old. When he was a teenager, he held a variety of jobs. He worked for a time as a whaler off the coast of New England, and then at some point moved on to work for a playing card company. If you ask me, these are two of the most opposite gigs I can think of.
In any case, the playing card industry seemed to appeal to Dougherty, and at age 21 he had saved up enough money to open his own playing card business in New York City. This business would eventually merge with the Coughtry brothers and become Coughtry and Dougherty. This company created stencil-colored cards.
Once Coughtry and Dougherty dissolved, Dougherty went into business for himself again. By 1870 his company could produce three and a half million decks a year. Dougherty is also credited with developing and patenting two finishes for cards: the Linoid finish and the Pegulose finish. The Linoid finish was an extra coating that decreased stickiness, while the Pegulose finish allowed for the cards to be washed if soiled. Dougherty also patented Triplicates, which was a design feature that included two small depictions of the card in the top left and lower right corners.
Dougherty’s business was eventually purchased in 1907 by the United States Playing Card Company. One of Dougherty’s decks, named Tally-Ho, is still for sale to this day. The deck’s packaging has ‘A. Dougherty’ printed on it, and the cards are coated with the Linoid finish.
[# Andrew Dougherty 1848-1930](https://www.wopc.co.uk/usa/dougherty/index)
An Insubordinate Patentee
The main goal of the museum’s inventor research project is to learn as much as we can about the people behind the patent models in our collection. With sometimes just one patent number, and one inventor name to go off of, our amazing volunteer is able to unearth mounds of information such as birth and death dates/places, marriages, occupations, other patents they held, and so much more! Yet, for every story that is fleshed out, is another that has seemingly been lost to us. This month, I’d like to share with a patent model that wonderfully represents this issue.
In 1877, two women by the names of Mary Augusta Requa and Eleanor Dunn were granted Patent No. 189,574, [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US189574A/en?oq=us189574) for an Improvement in Copy-Books. And then, in 1881, they were granted a reissue of the same copy-book. I opened the research folder to review it, and noticed that we weren’t able to find any life details for Eleanor Dunn. Mary Augusta Requa, on the other hand, had an abundant online presence! We even found out that Requa’s sisters, Ella and Emma, held patents and designs in their names.
Mary Augusta Requa was a native of New York City. She was a patentee, held a Masters in Pedagogy, an M.D. from the Women’s Medical College of New York, and a law degree from NYU. At the height of her career from 1896-1904, she was supervisor of physical education for Manhattan and the Bronx.
But, her term as supervisor would not last. In 1894 she was dismissed for “insubordination” when she refused to step down to an Assistant position after a restructuring instated a new Director that would oversee the entirety of New York City. After failed attempts by “a group of masculine legal minds” to reinstate her position, Requa took it upon herself to become a lawyer and fight her own case.
The 1910 Census lists Requa’s occupation as a Supervisor at the public schools, and a 1915 New York Directory lists her occupation as Director. It seems as though she was successful in her own defense!
With more and more records being digitized and made available to the public daily, I’m hopeful that one day we will be able to populate Eleanor Dunn’s research file. Til then, we’ll celebrate Dr. Requa’s tenacity, and the assumption that she too would want her co-patentee to have her 15 minutes of fame in Hagley’s Research News.
What The Ban-Lon?!
One of the craziest things about working in a museum is that you never quite know what you will be doing from one day to another. Sometimes this fact can be frustrating – like when you realize that there is water leaking somewhere where water should not be leaking. But, other times, it can be fascinating, and force you to learn about things you never knew you wanted to know about!
A month or so ago I received an email inquiring whether the museum would like to acquire a Ban-Lon men’s shirt. Some of my audience right now may already know about this material – and how I wish I could see your reactions through the screen! But if you are like me (a 30-year-old who had never heard of this product before) let me fill you in on Ban-Lon.
In 1954, Joseph Bancroft & Sons [Link](https://www.hagley.org/research/digital-exhibits/joseph-bancroft-sons) created a synthetic yarn, called Ban-Lon, by crimping yarn to Nylon. This created a fabric with a larger bulk than with just ordinary yarn alone. The synthetic fabric was used to make polos, sweaters, swimsuits, and even wedding gowns. Surface level, it seems like the most versatile product on the planet!
Hagley Library’s Digital Archives is a virtual treasure trove of advertisements for Ban-Lon. It was marketed to be as soft as a kitten and extremely flattering to the figure. [Link](https://digital.hagley.org/1972430_0574?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=72c5e374e866ce67890e&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=0)
Ban-Lon was popularized further when Joseph Bancroft & Sons sponsored the Miss America pageants from 1953 to 1957. During those years, the crowned Miss America promoted a variety of Ban-Lon pieces, like the lace pageant gown here: [Link](https://digital.hagley.org/1972430_0598?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=b3f07e9dd837cdcf704a&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=0)
However, people outside of the advertising and pageant world seem to have other, shall I say, strong opinions on the fabric. I have seen it called a hot, snagging, “evil material” that is wildly unforgiving. And, if you are a Seinfeld fan – you may remember a certain episode where Frank states, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in Banlon.” Kramer proceeds to simply shake his head at the very thought of it.
So, how do you remember Ban-Lon? A miracle or a misfortune?
Frances Gabe and her Amazing Self-Cleaning House!
Many people complain about cleaning their house but Frances Gabe actually did something about it!
She decided to invent, patent and build a prototype house that cleaned itself! According to Gabe the self-cleaning house (SCH) “was never intended to scrub a dirty house or building, but to keep a clean house clean.” In the March 1982 issue of People Magazine, Gabe said: “I want to eliminate all unnecessary motion so that handicapped and elderly people can care for themselves. My system will allow people to do so by pushing a few buttons.”
Born in 1915, Frances Grace Arnholz later married Herbert Bateson. For many years, together they ran a construction and maintenance company with her eventually taking the lead. After her divorce, she decided to change her last name to Gabe which represents **G**race **A**rnholz **B**ateson which she added an “**e**” to. Her building experience led to her commitment to invent and build a self-cleaning house for her to live in which she did.
Gabe’s patent application was filed in 1980 and she finally received patent number 4,428,085, [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US4428085A/en?oq=us4428085) on January 31, 1984 for Self-Cleaning Building Construction. According to the patent: “A self-cleaning building construction comprises apparatus for applying a fine spray or mist of water and/or water and detergent to wall, floor and ceiling surfaces, followed by warm air drying. Floors slope in a direction for removing excess moisture via a drain. Also included are closet apparatus for cleaning clothing, cupboard dishwasher apparatus for cleaning stored dishes, self-cleaning bathtub apparatus, and self-cleaning washbasin apparatus.” Her patent included 68 more inventions inside the house which waterproofed everything including plastic cases for books.
The house itself was comprised of two stories. The first floor contained the living and dining spaces as well as the kitchen. The second floor had a bathroom, bedroom, clothes closet and an outdoor patio space. Before earthquake damage in 2001, Gabe turned on the cleaning apparatus twice a year.
Gabe spent many years publicizing her SCH. She did many radio and television interviews and charged a small fee to people who wanted to see the house. Her hope was that many of these would be built throughout the country. Marketing materials she developed said: “the Self-Cleaning House safely and automatically washes and dries ceilings, wall, windows, floors, curtains, upholstery, dirty dishes, dirty clothes and books.”
Hagley is extremely fortunate to have the model of Gabe’s SCH and other models, including her self-cleaning dishwasher, in the museum innovation collection. She passed away on December 26, 2016. Personally, because she was such a fascinating woman who was just so very creative, I am very happy that she lives on in the internet because words in print just don’t do her any justice.
The Fascinating World of Clarissa Britain
For years I have been interested in women inventors, especially those from Michigan which is my home state. Clarissa Britain’s 1863 United States Patent Model for an Improvement in Boilers caught my attention since she was from St. Joseph, Michigan. New research from our patentee research project has opened the door into her fascinating world.
Born in Brownville, New York, in 1816, she attended Emma Willard’s Troy Female Seminary in 1838 and 1839 with the goal of becoming a teacher. What is unusual about her is that she taught and led schools in a lot of places including: Troy, New York, St. Joseph, Michigan, Beaufort, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wheeling, Virginia, and Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Why did she travel so much? The answer was family. Most of her jobs were places where her siblings lived. Her first move was to St. Joseph, Michigan around 1840 to live with her unmarried brother who was one of the founders of St. Joseph and later the Lieutenant Governor of Michigan. While there she became the principal of the Niles Seminary until she returned to Troy, New York for three years.
In the late 1850s, she got a teaching job in Beaufort, South Carolina where she lived with her married sister. She was there when South Carolina seceded from the United States in 1860 and only lived six miles away from the naval Battle at Port Royal in 1861. When her brother died in 1862, as his executrix she had to return to Michigan. How she travelled that long journey with the country at war is unknown.
What we do know is that after she got back to Michigan, she began a brief spurt of patenting inventions which seem to have been inspired by what she experienced on her trip. From 1863 to 1864 she received seven patents more than any other woman in Michigan at the time. Her patents included a floor heating stove, ambulance, boiler, combined lantern and dinner pail for workmen, vegetable boiler, dish drainer and a lamp burner.
One patent that stands out is her improved ambulance to be used “for the removal of the wounded from the field of battle to safe quarters, where they may receive immediate surgical aid.” Only someone who had seen an ambulance in action could have invented an improved version of it. [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US39460A/en?oq=us39460)
From Michigan she took a job at the Kenosha Seminary in Wisconsin but was there a short time when her sister in South Carolina died leaving her to care for her children. Because of the war, she and the children moved to Chicago. When they were grown, she returned to Michigan until her heath declined. Her last move was Baton Rouge, Louisiana to live with her sister. She lived a remarkable life.
Harriet Ruth Tracy - Woman Inventor
During the nineteenth century, women made up just 1% of all inventors who received United States patents. Hagley is fortunate to have approximately 80 patent models representing women inventors out of the more than 5,000 models in the collection. Unfortunately, little is known about most of these women but there are exceptions.
For example, Mrs. Harriet Ruth Tracy (1834-1918) was both a prolific and successful inventor. While processing our new Rothschild Patent Model Collection, I was extremely pleased to see that we have her first patent! Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Tracy spent much of her life living in New York before moving to London where she later died after a very prominent career as an inventor.
Overall Mrs. Tracy received at least twenty-seven patents during the period of 1868 to 1915. Hagley’s patent model is for an improved crib-attachment for bedsteads with the objective “to furnish an improved bedstead and crib, so constructed and arranged that when the crib is not in use, and is pushed into its place in the bedstead, the said bedstead and crib shall present a neat and uniform appearance, giving no indication of the presence of the crib-attachment…” [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US74865A/en?oq=us74865)
Mrs. Tracy’s prominence as an inventor came not only from her seventeen patents on sewing-machines but also her six safety elevator patents. During the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, she displayed her lock-stitch and chain-stitch sewing machine in the Liberal Arts Building. What impressed everyone was her improved bobbin which held up to 1,000 yards of thread hence reducing the number of times the bobbin thread had to be replaced making it a time saver. Her sewing-machines were used in both domestic and industrial settings.
While her sewing machine was in one building on display, another one of her inventions was installed in the Woman’s Building. The “Tracy Gravity Safety Elevator” was selected for daily use because it had “automatic platforms that keep the shaft constantly closed, and prevent any person falling through it, or flames ascending it.” It was used to transport visitors to the roof-top restaurant.
Harriet Tracy’s inventions received extensive public acclaim in the Chicago Newspapers. The *Chicago Mail* said about her sewing machine “All ladies who see the machine are delighted with it and her other meritorious inventions and proud that a woman has accomplished what man failed to do…” Tracy spent her life inventing and managing her patents to great success.