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.
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.
Inventor Emily Evans Tassey and The Hunt for Red October
Skip Tyler: “This, this could be a caterpillar.”
Jack Ryan: “A what?”
Tyler: “A caterpillar drive. Magnetohydrodynamic propulsion. You follow?”
Tyler: “It’s like a, uh, jet engine for the water. Goes in the front, gets squirted out the back.”
That little exchange is from one of my favorite movies called *The Hunt for Red October*. Based upon a book by Tom Clancy, it features Alec Baldwin as a CIA analyst trying to locate a Russian nuclear submarine captained by Sean Connery. The sub’s engines, described above, sucks in water at the front and squirts it out the back making the sub so quiet that it is virtually undetectable by the US Navy. Little did I know that I would run across an invention by Emily Evans Tassey way back in 1876 that does the same thing! And Hagley holds not one, but two models, from this groundbreaking female inventor.
Born in 1823, Tassey’s father was a merchant who owned a textile mill as well as a general store and post office in the town of McKeesport near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Educated at Steubenville Seminary in Ohio, she taught school in her hometown and later at Pittsburgh High School. At age 21, she married lawyer William D. Tassey and had three children. William died unexpectedly while on a trip to Memphis, Tennessee. A widower by age 34, she moved back to Pittsburgh and started teaching again to support her family.
By age 52 she returned to her hometown and began inventing. She did not have to wander far for inspiration. By then, McKeesport was one of the fastest growing municipalities in the country. The local steel mill, as well as the steel industry as a whole, was booming. Barges full of coal, ore, and finished steel products as well as steamboats carrying cargo and passengers plied the rivers around Pittsburgh. As the first dry-docks in the area were built in McKeesport in 1836, shipbuilding and repair also became important industries. In only four years, from 1876 to 1880, Tassey would earn five patents—all related to marine technology.
Like many women inventors, Tassey did not become rich or famous through her inventions. Sadly, she ran afoul of the law in her later years. By age 62, she was found guilty of erasing and changing figures in her brother’s account ledgers to keep from paying the store clerk his full salary. Later, she was charged with larceny and receiving stolen goods and paid a hefty settlement for violating a contract.
Still, Emily Tassey’s unique contributions to American innovation deserve respect and recognition. Who knows what other inventors looked at her ideas and found inspiration for their own? Visitors to Hagley’s exhibit, *Nation of Inventors*, will see Tassey’s model, learn her story, and perhaps find their own inspiration. Maybe the next Tom Clancy will be one of them!
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.
Farming-Related Patent Models
As the United States grew westward during the nineteenth-century, growing crops for food and other uses became extremely important. The fall harvest season is an excellent time to look at Hagley’s growing collection of farming-related patent models.
So far there are more than fifty patent models which are primarily related to improving machines and tools for growing corn, potatoes, grain, hay, cotton, and tobacco. The most prevalent include a variety of plows, cultivators, and stump pullers for preparing land for planting. Most of the stump pullers are machines. Later, DuPont advertised explosives for a much quicker way to remove stumps from fields.
These patents represent quite a diversity of patentees located in twenty states from New York to Georgia to California with a very large concentration from the Midwest. Three countries are even represented including France, Austria and Canada. The only woman patentee was from Canada - Pauline Herse’s 1879 Improvement in Cockle-Separator which was used in grain processing.
Hagley is fortunate to have one of Lewis Miller’s patent models. Miller (1829-1899), a prominent inventor with more than ninety patents is represented with his 1878 Improvement in Grain-Binders patent model. This is a harvesting machine with an automatic binder attached. From Akron, Ohio, Miller was well-known for his improvements to farm machinery. Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006, he also held a connection with another famous inventor as his daughter Mina married Thomas Edison. Passionate about continuing education, he was one of the co-founders of the Chautauqua Institution which still exists today.
Air Gas Machines
Of the hundred or so patent models I have cataloged, the most common type I encounter are carbureting or “air-gas machines”. What’s an air-gas machine and why were so many inventors submitting them for patents? Like many inventions, its genesis lies at that intersection of a public need, potential for profit, and making something out of some useless stuff just lying around.
For centuries, folks depended upon lamps and candles for illumination. These methods were dim, unreliable, and dangerous. As the industrial economy spurred the growth of factories and concentrated the population into cities, the need for artificial light skyrocketed. With such a demand, and big contracts to supply lighting to entire cities, inventors competed to find a better solution.
The original solution was gas (the kind you cook with). Factories called “gas works” burned coal in enclosed ovens to create “coal gas” or “town gas”. This illuminating gas was piped into street lamps and lighting devices in homes and businesses.
But building gas works and laying all the piping was slow and expensive. Highly-populated areas, business and shopping districts, and affluent neighborhoods were the first to receive gas service. What about working class neighborhoods, side streets, and rural areas outside the big cities? Inventors explored how to make gas cheaply in one stand-alone machine—sort of like a gas generator.
The first obstacle was finding a fuel source. Inventors could not scale down the process of burning coal to produce gas. They began experimenting with new and inexpensive alternatives.
By the 1860s, kerosene derived from oil recently discovered in Pennsylvania became widely used as a fuel for lamps and lanterns. But there were other distillates from the process of making kerosene for which no one could find a use. Two of these were naphtha and gasoline. If kerosene produced light, what about gasoline or naphtha?
This is where air-gas machines enter our story. Inventors discovered that if volatile liquids like naphtha or gasoline were mixed with air, the result was an illuminating gas. By the 1870s, over a hundred companies in America were working on bringing this process to the marketplace. The resulting technology provided artificial lighting for streets, buildings, and even some homes until electricity became widely available.
Of the handful of machines I cataloged, two stand out. They were submitted a year apart by Boston inventor Warren A. Simonds. And they are beautiful machines! One used rotating pierced metal globes to spray naphtha in the air. The other used tiny buckets attached to a rotating conveyor belt. Simonds must have believed his process would be highly profitable as he spared no expense in producing two attractive and elaborate models.
Cast Your Ballot in Willis L. Barnes’s Patent Model
An incredibly controversial, but immeasurably important Election Day is looming for us here in the U.S. Appropriately, within the last couple weeks, I happened to unpack a Ballot-Box patent model (below). This patent was granted to Willis L. Barnes, of Charlestown, Indiana, on October 15, 1878. Barnes’s Improvement in Ballot-Boxes claims that “the mechanism can be operated only when a ballot has been placed upon the receiving-fingers, and, when operated, will deposit the ballot in the box, close the box, register the ballot, and sound an alarm” (Patent No. 208,951), [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US208951A/en?oq=us208951).
One of the most interesting features of this patent model are the three revolving digits behind a glass window. Why would it be necessary to register the number of ballots that have been put into the box? Ballot-box stuffing, the act of adding ballots in order to skew results, was not an overly common occurrence, but it was still something many wanted to avoid. Barnes’s patent seems to safeguard against such illicit activities. It would have caused extreme suspicion if the number of votes within the box exceeded the number on the register.
Voter abuse was common around the time that Barnes was granted his patent. However, the Australian ballot was starting to be introduced in the United States (beginning in Louisville, Kentucky in 1888). Before the Australian, or secret ballot, voters would get their ballots from the respective political parties. It was common for each party to have different ballots, and therefore an individual’s vote was not secret. With the Australian ballot, voters received a standard, blank ballot with the candidate’s names and parties listed. The voter, often in private, placed a mark next to their choice. On one hand, the secret ballot decreased intimidation at the polls. However, the secret ballot also created an obstacle for illiterate citizens and may have led to more robust literacy tests.
The United States has certainly come a long way in how we vote. Today we use paper ballots with optical scans or electronic voting machines that store our votes directly into a computer’s memory. Our advancements in voting technology have overcome issues such as ballot-box stuffing, but in turn have left us vulnerable to other issues like hacking. It will be interesting to see how these issues will be combatted as time goes on.
Keyssar, A. (2009). The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books.
Getting Clean: Soap Packaging
Collections of packaging materials have been growing in popularity over the past decades. Their popularity is likely linked to their increasing rarity due to their ephemeral nature which after using the product inside the packaging was then discarded. The museum has extensive packaging collections starting with its DuPont gunpowder containers through to more modern products.
One significant example is the Gerald A. and Arlene L. Fingerman Fabric Care Memorabilia Collection. This vast collection, which consists of a multitude of objects related to the business of getting clean. Portions of this collection have been transferred to library including trade cards that represent many of the products in the museum collection. Included are product packaging relating to laundry soap/detergent, bluing, naphtha soap, bath soap, cleaning fluid, spot removers, starch, borax, dish washing soap and a whole lot more! These products which primarily date to the 19th and 20th centuries were made in at least twenty-eight states including New York, California, Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Montana, Michigan and more. Seventeen countries are represented include Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, England, Australia, Guatemala, Ireland and Malaysia giving it global representation.
The diversity in the collection is really wonderful ranging from familiar brands that still exist today such as ALL, Downy and Tide to those that are long gone but now not forgotten including one of my favorites – *Hippo Washing Powder* from Burlington, Iowa. Great name for laundry soap! Another personal favorite of mine is New York *Washing Gas* which was made in Cincinnati, Ohio. How did they ever come up with that name?
In addition to the soap boxes, the Fingerman collection contains many other items related to laundry including home dry cleaning machines, patent models, clothes pounders and more.
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.