Fashions Inspired by Downton Abbey

Posted April 30, 2013 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Uncategorized

Downton Abbey is a phenomenon.  Is it because of the acting?  Perhaps.  What about the storylines?  Possibly.  Those are important factors into my decision to watch this PBS Masterpiece Classic penned by writer and creator Julian Fellowes.  However, the main reason I tune in is for the costumes.  Who can resist those fabulous hats, dashing tails and tophats and elegant evening gowns?  Admit it.  You’ve pictured yourself in at least one of those outfits. 

Fashions Inspired by Downton Abbey

Fashions Inspired by Downton Abbey. Costumes courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

In my position as director of the Fairport Historical Museum in Fairport, New York, it is my job to draw attention to the wonderful resources the museum has to offer.  We have an excellent research facility for those genealogists itching to learn more about their Fairport ancestors.  Multiple files extol the beauty of the local architecture, and the displays will tell you everything you need to know about businesses and inventions that came from this area.  What people haven’t seen is a selection of the hundreds of costumes and accessories from the museum’s collection…until now.

On April 16, 2013, the Fairport Historical Museum welcomed costume consultant Mary-Ellen Perry to present a program about the new costume exhibit opening that night, Fashions Inspired by Downton Abbey.  Ms. Perry’s credentials are impressive.  She holds a B.A. in Art from West Maryland College, and received her Masters in American Folk Culture from SUNY Oneonta.  After interning and working as curator at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey, Ms. Perry became director at the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, New York.  She served as guest curator at the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut and followed that up as curator of clothing and art at Rochester’s own Strong Museum.  Impressive is an understatement.  You can imagine how thrilled I was when I approached Ms. Perry to speak at the Fairport Historical Museum and she graciously accepted.  She also took the time to come into the museum several times to discuss the eras and details of the costumes that were to be in the exhibit.  I have learned so much from her.

Fashions Inspired by Downton Abbey.  Costumes courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Fashions Inspired by Downton Abbey. Costumes courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

After Ms. Perry’s wonderful presentation discussing fashions from the 1880s through the 1940s, the program attendees were offered the first glimpse of the exhibit which features costumes chosen to represent eight of the characters from Downton Abbey.  The gown representing the elegant Lady Grantham is an exquisite ivory tea gown dating to about 1913.  Lady Sybil’s white and blue day dress dates to the same period.  Lady Edith’s black silk crepe afternoon dress with a modesty panel springs us forward in time to the mid-1920s, while Lady Mary’s long black dinner dress with removable jacket seemed to be the hit of the show.  Matthew Crawley, Lady Rose MacClare and Mrs. Hughes are also embodied by appropriate attire.  Everyone’s favorite Dowager Countess is represented by an amazing black silk taffeta day dress.  The dress, circa early 1900s, sports a double row of buttons down the front and back and split sleeves of netting over silk.  Two additional gowns, two capes and a cloak round out the costumes.  The exhibit also features a selection of vintage hats, gloves, hair combs and hat pins, purses and shoes. 

Costumes and mannequins courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Costumes and mannequins courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Fashions Inspired by Downton Abbey runs through September 15, 2013 at the Fairport Historical Museum.  The museum, located at 18 Perrin Street, Fairport, New York 14450, is open Sundays and Tuesdays from 2:00-4:00 p.m., Thursday evenings from 7:00-9:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00-11:00 a.m.  Admission is free, and there is free parking on the street and in the Village Landing parking lot directly across the street from the museum.  I invite you to come view these exquisite fashions from days gone by and to support the Perinton Historical Society, a not-for-profit volunteer organization which maintains the Fairport Historical Museum.  Please consider membership in the Perinton Historical Society in order to support our educational programs, special exhibits and operation of the Fairport Historical Museum.  For additional information about the PHS, please visit the website, www.PerintonHistoricalSociety.org.

Don’t Allow Your Local Historical Society to Become History

Posted January 31, 2013 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Museum, Perinton NY, Rochester NY

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"Baby It's Cold Outside!" exhibit at the Rochester Historical Society

“Baby It’s Cold Outside!” exhibit at the Rochester Historical Society

As I walked through a Rochester Historical Society exhibit of exquisite cold weather clothing recently, I was awed by the craftmanship of the pieces.  Here was a collection consisting of velvet jackets with beaded mantles, wool capes,  plush muffs and  incredible hats trimmed with feathers, and yet the gallery was empty.  Where were the visitors who should have been relishing the experience of seeing this historical attire in such a captivating display?  

This is a common situation among small museums and historical societies.  People are busier than ever.  They are involved in charitable organizations, church groups and their children’s sports teams.  Grandparents are also playing a bigger part in the lives of their grandchildren than ever before.  Many individuals are just so busy, they don’t think to make time for something as “old-fashioned” as a visit to the local museum or to attending a program at a historical society. However, these museums and historical societies, most of which are non-profit organizations, subsist on memberships, small admittance fees and the occasional grants and donations.  They need you to survive.  They need your time and your money and they need you to know they still serve a valuable purpose. 

There are many ways to donate to these worthwhile historical organizations.  Historical societies have very reasonable annual membership fees, which can range from $5-$20 and up.  Your membership allows these organizations to purchase artifacts for their collections and to pay honorariums to speakers who provide excellent programs on historical topics.  Consider making a donation to a local historical society in memory of a loved one.  Many societies have also benefited from bequests, and have attorneys on hand who can assist with this process.  Grants can be a wonderful resource for small societies, but the process is complex, the competition is fierce and therefore it can be difficult to be awarded a grant.

Navy blue velvet hat with blue ostrich feathers.  Rochester Historical Society exhibit.  Courtesy of Cheri Branca.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside!” Rochester Historical Society exhibit. Navy blue velvet hat with blue ostrich feathers. Courtesy of Cheri Branca.

Although the gift of money is always welcome, consider donating your time.  At the Fairport Historical Museum in Fairport, New York, we have been fortunate to have many long-time volunteers who greet visitors, oversee gift shop sales and help out wherever needed.  Many of these stalwart volunteers work just two hours a month at the museum.  As time goes on and these veteran volunteers retire, fewer people are taking their places.  It becomes more and more difficult to staff the museum.  A few hours of your time a month makes all the difference between having a museum everyone can enjoy, and a building filled with historical treasures but devoid of people.

"Baby It's Cold Outside" exhibit at the Rochester Historical Society.  Photo courtesy of Cheri Branca.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” exhibit at the Rochester Historical Society. Photo courtesy of Cheri Branca.

Think of your childhood memories, which included visits to local museums.  Remember the childlike wonder as you beheld the treasures contained within its walls.  Now ponder a future with no museums, no treasures, no magic.  We must find a way to support these institutions for the sake of our children and grandchildren, and theirs after them.   Without your support, these societies will cease to exist.  Please consider a visit to your local museum, a membership to your local historical society or volunteer your time so you can be a steward of history.

Hero Highlight – George H. Washburn, Co. D, 108th New York Infantry by guest author Brian Burkhart

Posted October 12, 2012 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Civil War, Civil War Soldiers, Monroe County NY, Rochester NY

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George H. Washburn courtesy of Brian Burkhart

Introduction by Vicki Masters Profitt, Illuminated History

I first met Brian Burkhart nearly three years ago, when he approached me at a presentation I gave about Perinton’s Civil War soldiers.  After speaking with Brian for just a few minutes, his enthusiasm for researching the soldiers of Rochester’s 108th New York Infantry was evident.  Since then, Brian has been a wonderful source of information about the boys of the 108th.  I’m pleased to publish this Hero Highlight of George H. Washburn by Brian Burkhart.

George H. Washburn was born October 29, 1843, the only son of Charles and Ruth A. Washburn.  He was raised in what was then called Corn Hill, Third Ward, in the City of Rochester, New York.  Young Washburn entered old Public School Number Three, situated on what was then called Clay Street, now Tremont Street, where his first teacher was Miss Sarah Frost.  In 1852, during the great cholera epidemic, his father died after a short illness, leaving a widow and two children; his younger sister, Dora (later to be Mrs. Franklin E. Purdy), and George.  Shortly afterwards, he attempted to reduce the burdens of his widowed mother and support of the family.  His grandmother, Mrs. Hannah Tozer, was living with the family.  He applied for a situation as check boy in the old dry goods establishment of Timothy Chapman, at 12 State Street.  George went to work at seventy-five cents per week, and remained there until August 1862.

He was 19 years old when he enlisted in the 108th Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry at Rochester, Monroe County, New York, to serve three years.  Actually, Washburn’s first experience in military service was not with the 108th, but with the “Zouave Cadets”, composed of young lads from Public School No. 3.  On August 11, 1862 he mustered in as a Private in Company ‘D’.  He was with the regiment when it left Rochester for the seat of war on August 19, 1862.  He was wounded in action on May 3, 1863 during the Battle of Chancellorsville and was transferred to Company ‘B’, 20th Regiment of the Veteran Reserve Corps (no date).  He was discharged June 19, 1865 at Washington, D.C.

From Washburn’s Regimental History: “At the battle of Antietam on September 17th, the first battle the regiment was engaged in and suffered so terribly, one of his tent mates and Sunday school teacher previous to enlistment, Joseph S. Delevau, was badly wounded in the groin, and with the assistance of Sergeant John H. Jennings, another tent mate, they carried their wounded companion off the field and laid him in a place of safety, returned to the regiment and remained during the battle.  He was with the regiment on the march to Bolivar Heights, near Harper’s Ferry, and while there was assigned to duty as one of the guard on the Balloon Corps.  When the regiment moved on to Fredericksburg, the guard followed in the rear and joined the regiment at or near Snicker’s Gap, and when the regiment went into winter quarters at Falmouth, Virginia, did picket and guard duty; was in the battle of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  He was wounded during the Battle of Chancellorsville and was sent to Findley Hospital in Washington, D.C. where he remained for a long time, sick with the typhoid fever (at the time of enlistment was five feet three inches, and weighed 112 pounds).  After his recovery he was detailed at headquarters by Dr. TV. A. Bradley, surgeon in charge, and shortly afterwards ordered to report to Brigadier-General J.H. Martindale’s headquarters, corner 19th and I Streets, who at that time was Military Governor of the District of Columbia.  When General Martindale rejoined his brigade, Washburn was assigned to Major Breck’s Bureau in the War Department, Adjutant-General’s Office, and later on transferred to headquarters 22d Army Corps Department at Washington, commanded by Major-General C.C. Augur, at the corner of 15£ Street and Pennsylvania Ave., and remained there till mustered out June 19th, 18G5.  After receiving his discharge, he made application for a situation in the Treasury Department, and being backed up by strong testimonials from General Augur, Colonel J.H. Taylor, chief of staff, and many of the staff officers at headquarters, received an appointment as first class clerk by Hon. Hugh McCullough, Secretary, and assigned to duty in the Internal Revenue Bureau, remaining there till 1868, when he returned to Rochester, New York, and entered the dry goods business again, remained a short time and then entered the clothing business; continued till the fall of 1889, when he received an appointment as clerk in the Blue Line and Canada Southern Line office, Powers Block, where he is at the present time in charge of the mileage desk.

He was married November 24th, 1869, in the City of Rochester to Miss Lillian De Ette Inman, only daughter of Isaac L. Inman (formerly of his company), and has one son, Percy L. Washburn, twenty-two years of age, and 2d Lieutenant of C.A. Glidden Camp No. 6, Sons of Veterans.”

“Comrade Washburn is a member of Genesee Falls Lodge, No. 507, F. A. M.; Flower City Lodge, No, 555, I.O.O.F.; Lallah Rook Grotta, No. 3, Order of Veiled Prophets; Golden Rale Chapter, No. 59, Order Eastern Star; Grace Rebecca Lodge, No. 54, I.O.O.F.  Assistant Adjutant-General, National Staff, Union Veterans’ Union; Assistant Adjutant-General, Department New York, Union Veterans’ Union (for the past four years); Past Inspector-General, National Staff, Union Veterans’ Union.  Past Aide on Department Staff, G.A.R.; Past Adjutant, E. G. Marshall Post 397, G.A.R.; Past Adjutant, G. B. Force Command, No, 13, Union Veterans’ Union; Adjutant, W.T. Sherman Command, No. 2, Union Veterans’ Union; Secretary, 108th Regiment, New York Veteran Association, for the past twelve years.”

“Comrade Washburn, through his endeavors, was the means of gathering together the survivors of the old regiment for a social reunion, and in 1879 they held their first reunion at Newport House, Irondequoit Bay, and at that time he commenced to gather together items relative to the regiment, and through the assistance of many of the members of the organization he has been able to place before the survivors and their many friends this souvenir, trusting that what errors have been made, that they will be cheerfully overlooked by the many admirers and friends of the Old 108th Regiment, New York Volunteers.”

George Washburn died January 27, 1905 at age 61 and was buried in the Buffalo Cemetery Lot at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester.  There is more on George Washburn in the green Scrapbook by William Farley Peck located in Rundel Library in the Oversize Book section of the Local History Department]; George is the author of A Complete Military History & Record of the 108th Regiment N.Y. Vols. from l862 to l894.

A note from Vicki Masters Profitt:

George H. Washburn is one of my heroes.  He was a man who took the initiative to gather information from his former comrades of the 108th New York Infantry because he saw the historical value in their war-time memories.  Thanks to George’s efforts, we have an entire volume of memoirs pertaining to the 108th.  This was no small feat.  The scope of the project is mindboggling, and even more so when one keeps in mind that George Washburn did not live in the time of the internet and social media.  The entire book was painstakingly created  through his meticulous efforts to contact the men with whom he had served through the use of letters and advertisements.  George asked the former soldiers to send autobiographies and photos of themselves.  Over 200 sketches, 48 obituaries and the addresses of over 360 men grace this book.  Yes, George H. Washburn is definitely my hero.

Mustache Man…Mystery Solved?

Posted September 22, 2012 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Civil War, Civil War Soldiers, Monroe County NY

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Mustache Man first made his appearance on November 11, 2011 in an Illuminated History post entitled, “Piercing Eyes, Silent Voices”.  It was then that I posted a photo of a handsome gentleman with a handlebar mustache I had recently acquired from eBay.  Sadly, Mustache Man’s photo lacked identification.  No clues identified him, other than the fact that the photographer had been A.E. Dumble of Rochester, New York, and the back of the photo was pre-stamped 1891.  After asking the Illuminated History Facebook members to name Mustache Man, they decided upon the moniker of Samuel Everheart, due to the kindness of his eyes. 

Recently, as I prepared for a presentation, I reviewed the photos of the men of the 108th New York Infantry shown in George H. Washburn’s book, A Complete Military History and Record of the 108th New York Volunteers.  Imagine my surprise when I looked at the photo of a soldier named William C. Kneale and saw Mustache Man’s face staring back at me.  Could it be?  Did we solve the mystery of Mustache Man?  Take a look, and see what you think.  Comments welcome.

William C. Kneale and Mustache Man – One and the Same?

Whether or not William C. Kneale and Mustache Man are the same man, I’ve begun the process of researching William C. Kneale’s life and will soon share that information with you.  Let’s solve this mystery!

Mary Agnes McKenzie, Lost on the Llandovery Castle

Posted July 6, 2012 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Medical History, Monroe County NY, Rochester NY

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She steamed toward England, the red crosses on her sides and above her bridge illuminating the murky waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  The Canadian Hospital Ship, Llandovery Castle, carried 258 passengers, many of whom were members of the Canadian Medical Corps, including fourteen Canadian Nursing Sisters.  The history of Canada’s Nursing Sisters began as early as 1885, when they were deployed, along with other medical personnel, to offer aid during the Saskatchewan Rebellion.  According to Veterans Affairs Canada, “The first nurses to serve in war were women who belonged to religious orders – hence, the designation of ‘Nursing Sister’ and the traditional white veil.”  Over 3,100 Canadian nurses served during World War I, and forty six died in service.

Llandovery Castle

Near the end of the Great War, on June 27, 1918, the Llandovery Castle was torpedoed without warning by a German U-86 submarine.  The hospital ship sank within ten minutes, though not before several lifeboats were launched.  The U-boat then proceeded to surface beside the lifeboats, dashing to and fro amongst the survivors before pulling away, only to shell the lifeboats.  Just twenty four survivors in one lifeboat survived.  After the war, the Captain and two lieutenants of the U-boat were brought up on charges.  Unfortunately, the Captain had disappeared and was never brought to trial.  The lieutenants were found guilty of war crimes, but escaped from custody before they could serve their time.

Mary Agnes McKenzie, courtesy Rochester Medical Museum & Archives

All fourteen Canadian Nursing Sisters aboard the Llandovery Castle lost their lives that night.  Among them was Mary Agnes McKenzie, a 1903 graduate of the Rochester City Hospital Training School for Nurses.  Mary was born in Toronto, Ontario, April 28, 1880 (1877, according to RCH records) to Thomas and Mary McKenzie.  After attending public school and the Collegiate Institute, Mary entered the three-year course at the RCH Training School on May 22, 1900.  Her school records show that Mary excelled when put in charge of the surgical pavilion, she worked with unquestioned diligence and was graced with better than average perception.  Although Mary obeyed “the letter of the law”, her lack of neatness was called into question.  Another note in the record states that she stood just 5′ 2″ tall, and was a “pretty blond – jolly – expresses herself well.”  Mary Agnes McKenzie graduated from the RCH Training School on May 23, 1903.  She was one of just ten graduates that year.

After Mary’s graduation from RCH, she practiced as a nurse in Toronto before entering the Military Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  When war broke out, she enlisted for overseas service, working at both Ontario Hospital in Orpington, England, and the War Hospital in Kent.  Ultimately, she was transferred to duty on the Llandovery Castle, which was commissioned a wartime hospital ship in 1916 to transport wounded Canadian soldiers from Europe to Nova Scotia.

Soon after the Llandovery Castle was torpedoed, the June-July 1918 issue of The Hospital Review expressed concern for Mary’s safety, as “no cable of her having been rescued has been received, her relatives have given up all hope, and now believe her to be a victim of this latest exhibition of Hun deviltry.”  On March 29, 1920, a brass tablet was unveiled, adhered to the wall of the Parliament Building in Toronto, Ontario.  Inscribed upon it were the names of the nurses of the Ontario Hospital who lost their lives during the Great War.  When the Halifax Memorial was erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1967, it commemorated the 3,000 service members who lost their lives between 1914-1945.  Mary Agnes McKenzie’s name is immortalized on both monuments.

The photo of Mary in her uniform from the RCH files shows a vibrant and confident young woman ready to face life’s challenges.  How sad that a life of service in the medical field was cut short so soon.  A final entry was made in the RCH Training School record of Mary Agnes McKenzie:  “1918 – Lost on hospital ship Llandovery Castle torpedoed on trip between England and Canada.”

Notes from the author:  I first became aware of Mary Agnes McKenzie when I came across her photo in “To Serve the Community:  A Celebration of Rochester General Hospital 1847-1997″, a wonderful book by Teresa K. Lehr and Philip G. Maples.  Mary’s photo called to me, and I felt a need to learn more about her.  This article was originally published in the Rochester Medical Museum & Archive’s newsletter, the “Baker-Cederberg Notebook”, Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring-Summer 2011.

To learn more about the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives, please visit their website, http://www.rochestergeneral.org/rochester-general-hospital/about-us/rochester-medical-museum-and-archives/.

Illuminated History Tour of South Perinton Cemetery and Mary Jewett Telford Dedication Ceremony

Posted June 19, 2012 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Civil War, Civil War Soldiers, Monroe County NY, Perinton NY

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Our Illuminated History South Perinton Cemetery Tour and Mary Jewett Telford Dedication Ceremony is this evening, June 19, 2012.  Please join us at 7:00 p.m. at South Perinton Cemetery, 291 Wilkinson Road, Fairport, New York, as actors bring the lives of eleven cemetery residents to life.  The tour ends at the grave of Civil War nurse Mary Jewett Telford, where a ceremony will be held to dedicate her Woman’s Relief Corps flag holder.  We hope to see you there!
 
This tour is sponsored by Illuminated History and the Perinton Historical Society.

New Book about Pittsford, New York

Posted June 5, 2012 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Monroe County NY, Pittsford NY

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I’m pleased to announce that Pittsford Town and Village Historian Audrey Johnson and I are working on an exciting new collaboration.  Pittsford, will be published by Arcadia Publishing Company in 2013 as part of their “Images of America” series. 

However, we need your assistance!  Do you have vintage photographs pertaining to Pittsford’s people, places, businesses and buildings?  Would you like to help preserve Pittsford’s fascinating history?  We are looking for pre-1950s photographs showing what life was like in the early days of Pittsford, New York.  The importance of family collections cannot be overemphasized. Vintage photographs become increasingly fragile and by scanning and reproducing them in a book, they become available for all to see.

If you have photos to share, please contact Vicki Profitt at vprofitt@rochester.rr.com by June 30, 2012.  We can make arrangements to scan in your photos at your convenience.   

Arcadia Publishing has printed over 7,500 books about small towns and cities throughout the United States.  Additional information about Arcadia Publishing can be found on their website, www.arcadiapublishing.com.


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