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Bombazetts for Sale!

Bombazetts were only one of the many dry goods for sale by William Manning Jr. in his shop at No. 1 Old Faneuil Hall in Boston around 1835, as we can see in this broadside issued by Manning and recently purchased by the Osborne Library. Along with ginghams, plaids, calicoes, cambrics, linens, silks, velvets, etc.—all terms we recognize today—he also sold such fabrics as bombazetts (a thin dressgoods cloth), fearnoughts (a heavy English cheviot material), duffils (a poor quality blanket made from low grade woolen yarns), kerseys (a term referring to both a high quality woolen fabric and a coarse ribbed or twilled fabric), and bockings (a coarse woolen fabric used for floor cloths), terms that have pretty much faded from the modern lexicon!

Fabrics, of course, were only one aspect of a dry goods store. Manning also sold all of the accompaniments that would be used when sewing a piece of clothing—buttons, ribbons, laces—as well as the needles, thread, and pins needed, plus gloves, handkerchiefs, shawls, hosiery, umbrellas, and the like. And for those interested in one-stop shopping, note the reference to butter and cheese being for sale in the cellar under Manning’s store. Manning’s shop was located directly opposite what we know today as Quincy Market in downtown Boston, where shopkeepers of all sorts of provisions could be found, both then and now.

Industry and art come together in this broadside with the addition of a charming engraving of Faneuil Hall at the top of the sheet, making Manning’s shop location instantly recognizable, even to those who might not be able to read his long list of “articles too numerous to be mentioned.” Manning was “desirous to extend his business” and was willing to accept goods in exchange or barter. He offered cash or credit terms, and would deal wholesale or retail. Despite the wear and tear seen on the sheet, it’s remarkable that this thin sheet survived 175 years to remind us of how some things have changed but some things haven’t. As any business owner would say today, it’s all about the service!

Jane Ward, Assistant Librarian

Researching at ATHM

Guest blogger Dr. Amy L. Montz, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Southern Indiana, writes about her experience conducting research at ATHM:

Archival research is a tricky thing.

There is a lot of planning, of course: the phone calls to make, the emails to send. It is important to establish communication with people you’ve never met before, all with the same purpose: can I, may I, please invade your space, disrupt your work day, ask dozens of questions, and be supervised handling fragile materials in your collection?

When the approval is given, when you have proven that you are, in fact, a legitimate researcher, you need to tell the curator which items or collections you would like to see. This naturally involves more research beyond your initial forays into their collections online. More emails are flung across the wires, more documents are sent—your book summary, their collections list—and by the time you leave for your trip, you have a general idea of the materials you will have the opportunity to see, but oftentimes no guarantee as to whether all materials will be available.

As a new historicist literary critic, I use history and culture to understand literature, and literature to understand history and culture. As a literary scholar working on women and fashion in nineteenth-century novels, my particular brand of history happens to be textiles, ephemera, and other items of domestic everyday. I have conducted archival research for my then-dissertation and now-current book project Dressing for England: Fashion and Nationalism in Victorian Novels now three times in England and once in New England. By this point in my career, I would like to say that I am quite a pro at these introductions: I know how to send the emails, how to search the databases. I know what materials curators will request, and I have a firm grasp on the type of materials I would most want to work with. So when I contact archives, I often ask for specific items of clothing—shawls, crinolines, corsets—and specific items of ephemera—photographs, diaries, letters. Often, there is not enough time in the day to complete the amount of research I want to conduct, even when limited to the materials requested. This is, of course, complicated when I meet a curator who knows her archive inside and out.

Shawl, c. 1925, Brightwood Manufacturing Company, North Andover, MA

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Observations of a Fashion-Focused ATHM Tour

Education teacher Stephanie Sewhuk shadowed a guided tour for high school fashion students through ATHM’s main exhibit, “Textile Revolution: An Exploration through Space and Time.”  She then reported her experience to the ATHM Blog:

School groups have been coming through our doors in abundance this spring for programs and tours.  A clothing class from Conant High School was one such group recently.  Conant High is a public high school located in Jaffrey New Hampshire.   The groups’ teacher, Beverly Martin, is a Family and Consumer Science teacher at the school who brought her “Clothing 1” class of nine teenaged girls to visit the Museum that she stated she “loves.”

The group of girls arrived at the Museum and immediately gathered around our Calico printer and watched the video explanation as they waited for Kathy Hirbour, our Museum educator who would be giving them a tour. As their teacher checked in, she let us know how excited the girls were to be visiting the Museum and that this was a trip they had been looking forward to.

Clothing exhibits in the "Fitting In Gallery" were of particular interest to the students.

One of the wonderful things about our Museum educators such as Kathy is that they are knowledgeable and flexible enough to create a specialized tour specific to a certain group’s interests. In class, the girls had been studying fashion, designers, fabric aesthetics and sewing. Kathy’s tour was laced with explanations of how fabrics are made and the fibers that they come from.

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