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RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Eva Elisabeth - 10-19-2015 08:45 AM

I wonder why Mary would have carried a fan in April??? Even in our well-heated theaters and times, in mid-April I would rather wear all-I-can, so rather take and wear a scarf and jacket, and evidently Mr. Lincoln froze, too.

I have another related question to the fashion experts out there.

Kathy writes that Helen Truman noticed that "the First Lady was not wearing an evening gown to match her husband's formal attire. Instead she wore a grey and black spring dress in silk with a bonnet to match."

Now what is the difference between an evening gown and a spring dress, and why can't a spring dress serve as an evening gown? And - silky or not - how/why can a grey and black dress be considered a spring dress? (Grey and black to me represent all the opposite of spring - death, decay, depression, mourning, tristesse, ...)

Thanks for any further fashionable education!


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - RJNorton - 10-19-2015 09:22 AM

Eva, I cannot answer your questions, but I thought I would post this link. The Chicago History Museum says it has the bonnet and a dress scrap from Mary's visit to Ford's on April 14, 1865.

http://chicagohistory.org/wetwithblood/bloody/cloak/cloak4.htm


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Eva Elisabeth - 10-19-2015 01:58 PM

Thanks, Roger! Fascinating! (The fabric does look most evening/theater suitable to me, and not spring-y, so I don't understand Helen Truman's objections - at least it sounds as if there was a fashion faux pas objected.)


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - L Verge - 10-19-2015 03:22 PM

(10-19-2015 08:45 AM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:  I wonder why Mary would have carried a fan in April??? Even in our well-heated theaters and times, in mid-April I would rather wear all-I-can, so rather take and wear a scarf and jacket, and evidently Mr. Lincoln froze, too.

I have another related question to the fashion experts out there.

Kathy writes that Helen Truman noticed that "the First Lady was not wearing an evening gown to match her husband's formal attire. Instead she wore a grey and black spring dress in silk with a bonnet to match."

Now what is the difference between an evening gown and a spring dress, and why can't a spring dress serve as an evening gown? And - silky or not - how/why can a grey and black dress be considered a spring dress? (Grey and black to me represent all the opposite of spring - death, decay, depression, mourning, tristesse, ...)

Thanks for any further fashionable education!

I am not an expert on the Language of Fans, but they were not strictly utilitarian. It is possible that the crowd of people in the theater and the heat from gaslights that it could get rather stuffy in Ford's during April. However, the fan could be used to hide large grins at the play's funny lines, to point out something when pointing with an index finger would be uncouth, even to play a little coy with (but surely not Mary!).

An evening gown would display upper chest, shoulders, and a portion of the bosom and would be complimented with a garland headband or fresh flowers in the hair. I'm not sure that an evening gown would be proper attire in a theater such as Ford's. Her gown seems much more appropriate.

As for the fabric and color, they were very appropriate for a matron -- especially for one who had undergone a great deal of criticism for her outfits over the past four years. If the small piece of fabric at the Chicago Historical Society is truly from Mrs. Lincoln's dress, I wonder if Helen Western actually wrote "sprigged" instead of "spring?" That is/was a sewing term to indicate fabric that incorporated little bouquets of flowers -- I think, where's Donna McCreary when I need her?


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Houmes - 10-19-2015 03:52 PM

(10-19-2015 09:22 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  Eva, I cannot answer your questions, but I thought I would post this link. The Chicago History Museum says it has the bonnet and a dress scrap from Mary's visit to Ford's on April 14, 1865.

http://chicagohistory.org/wetwithblood/bloody/cloak/cloak4.htm

Despite what the Chicago History may claim, Mrs. Lincoln did not wear a bonnet to Ford's Theatre. It was a black lace veil, which she later gave to Mrs. Keckly.


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Eva Elisabeth - 10-19-2015 05:08 PM

Thank you so much, Laurie, for your elaborate comment and expertise!!!

Is it possible Mary wore both, a bonnet and a veil?

This is from "Behind the Scenes":

"The dress that was worn by Mrs. Lincoln on the night of the assassination was presented to Mrs. Wm. Slade. It is a BLACK SILK WITH A LITTLE WHITE STRIPE. Most of the other articles that adorned Mrs. Lincoln on that fatal night became the property of Mrs. Keckley. She has the most of them carefully stowed away, and intends keeping them during her life as mementos of a mournful event. The principal articles among these are the earrings, the BONNET, and the velvet cloak. "

From the Knigge (see here: http://rogerjnorton.com/LincolnDiscussionSymposium/thread-1235-post-25532.html?highlight=knigge#pid25532 ) point of view it would not be appropriate for ladies to wear a hat inside the theater, not even in a box where no one's view would be affected. Did/does this rule also apply to Victorian (English/American) ladies? I have never seen anyone who did not take off his/her headwear inside the theater/opera, so I would think if Mary wore a bonnet on the way she certainly would have taken it off inside the box.

Keckley's description of the dress ("black silk with a little white stripe") also doesn't match the fabric on the Chicago History Museum's site, which looks dark blue with grey flowers.


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - RJNorton - 10-19-2015 05:18 PM

I don't have any information on the veil/bonnet discussion, but many years ago Bill Nash wrote Ford's Theatre about Mary's outfit that night. He forwarded what was said to me. (I bet Bill has forgotten about this.)

At the time Gloria Swift was the museum curator. She wrote:

"Mary Lincoln was wearing a black silk dress that was highlighted with small white flowers throughout. She also wore a black cape to the theatre. The cape now belongs to the Chicago Historical Museum and you will be able to see it on-line. Mary's dress was originally given back to her dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckly, who, after giving it to a mid-western college for exhibit, later cut it into pieces to give away as mementos."


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - L Verge - 10-19-2015 07:29 PM

I think Mrs. Lincoln's cloak (and since it appears to be full-length, that word is more proper than "cape") was on display at Ford's during the recent 150 commemorations. Gloria's description of the dress' fabric appears to match what is shown on the Chicago HS page.

As for Mary's head gear, I would totally agree with Eva. The head covering shown again on the Chicago Historical Society page is very similar to what ladies of the period would wear while riding in a carriage or walking on the street - especially when the weather was nippy. Notice that it was designed to cover everything but the face. I own several quilted hoods that were designed for winter wear and one is definitely for evening use. They also have a little apron effect at the nape of the neck to fend off cold breezes.

In bad weather, and for more informal occasions, ladies often wore a very ugly head covering known as a calash or a scuttle bonnet. This is very likely what Mrs. Surratt or Mrs. Holohan was wearing when Richard Smoot supposedly came up to the Surratt boardinghouse that night. He referred to it as a sunbonnet, but it most certainly must have been a calash.

Once the lady was inside, the bonnet would be taken off, but there was usually a small veil or even a decorative snood that covered the hair -- especially for married women. It was improper for both men and women to keep the heavier head gear on once inside. I remember my aunt being furious after entertaining a relative ("a home economics teacher who should have known better!") that kept her hat on all during dinner. This was in the 1950s. (It didn't help one bit that the woman pointed out that my aunt should have served mint jelly with the pork roast instead of apple sauce...). But, I digress.

Wasn't there a mention of Mrs. Lincoln losing her veiling as she went across Tenth Street to the Petersen House?


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Eva Elisabeth - 10-20-2015 05:00 AM

Kathy writes that when Mary left the Petersons' house, she wore "one of Huldah Francis' bonnets. She couldn't find her own. Boarders found it later. They cup it up for souvenir." (p.123)


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Donna McCreary - 10-22-2015 12:42 PM

(10-19-2015 03:22 PM)L Verge Wrote:  
(10-19-2015 08:45 AM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:  I wonder why Mary would have carried a fan in April??? Even in our well-heated theaters and times, in mid-April I would rather wear all-I-can, so rather take and wear a scarf and jacket, and evidently Mr. Lincoln froze, too.

I have another related question to the fashion experts out there.

Kathy writes that Helen Truman noticed that "the First Lady was not wearing an evening gown to match her husband's formal attire. Instead she wore a grey and black spring dress in silk with a bonnet to match."

Now what is the difference between an evening gown and a spring dress, and why can't a spring dress serve as an evening gown? And - silky or not - how/why can a grey and black dress be considered a spring dress? (Grey and black to me represent all the opposite of spring - death, decay, depression, mourning, tristesse, ...)

Thanks for any further fashionable education!

I am not an expert on the Language of Fans, but they were not strictly utilitarian. It is possible that the crowd of people in the theater and the heat from gaslights that it could get rather stuffy in Ford's during April. However, the fan could be used to hide large grins at the play's funny lines, to point out something when pointing with an index finger would be uncouth, even to play a little coy with (but surely not Mary!).

An evening gown would display upper chest, shoulders, and a portion of the bosom and would be complimented with a garland headband or fresh flowers in the hair. I'm not sure that an evening gown would be proper attire in a theater such as Ford's. Her gown seems much more appropriate.

As for the fabric and color, they were very appropriate for a matron -- especially for one who had undergone a great deal of criticism for her outfits over the past four years. If the small piece of fabric at the Chicago Historical Society is truly from Mrs. Lincoln's dress, I wonder if Helen Western actually wrote "sprigged" instead of "spring?" That is/was a sewing term to indicate fabric that incorporated little bouquets of flowers -- I think, where's Donna McCreary when I need her?

I'm back after an extended absence. I am hopeful things settle down a bit, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen.
So . . Laurie I agree. I believe the original probably said "sprigged" instead of "spring." It just makes more sense. An evening gown would have been inappropriate for theatre attire. Her dress would have been more modest for such an occasion. I have read a couple of different accounts of the color of Mary's dress: one said it was dark blue, most others claim her attire was black and white. If the pieces at the Chicago Historical Society are indeed Mary's pieces, then her ensemble was black and white. One of the reasons I believe that these pieces are what Mary wore to Ford's Theatre is because Mary was still in mourning on April 14th. Her elder brother, Levi, had passed away in late October 1864, and her paternal uncle, Dr. John Todd, passed away in early January 1865. Mary would have worn mourning attire to honor both of these men. She was very close to her Uncle John as he became a father figure to her when she moved to Springfield. Custom required a woman wear mourning for an uncle for six months. (think I have that one right)

Regarding Mary's choice to carry a fan, I also agree that Mary would have needed it for reasons other than creating a breeze. I also believe that Mary would have used it to play coy. She could have used a fan to hid her mouth if she wished to whisper sweet nothings into her husband's ear.

While different accounts exists as to whether or not Mary wore a bonnet that evening, she must have. It would have been the only head wear appropriate for a carriage ride. She would have removed it upon entering the theatre. She then would have worn a simple head dress of some sort. I have a period memorial print depicting the assassination and burial of Lincoln. I am not sure how accurate it is suppose to be, but it does show Mary wearing a bonnet inside the theatre. I have always wondered why the artist chose a bonnet if there had not been one worn that evening.


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - RJNorton - 10-22-2015 02:16 PM

Maunsell Field, Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury, wrote about his experience at the Petersen House:

"In the hall I met Miss Harris, the daughter of Senator Harris, of New York, who had been one of the Presidential party at the theatre. As soon as she saw me, she exclaimed, "Oh, Mr. Field, the President is dying! but for heaven's sake do not tell Mrs. Lincoln!" I inquired where Mrs. Lincoln was, and was informed that she was in the front parlor. I entered the parlor, and found her there entirely alone. She was standing by a marble-topped table in the centre of the room, with her bonnet on and gloved, just as she had come from the theatre. As I came in she exclaimed, "Why didn't he shoot me ? Why didn't he shoot me? Why didn't he shoot me?"

If Mary did take her bonnet off at Ford's does it make sense that she would have taken the time to put it back on to go outside to wherever the doctors decided to take the President?


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Eva Elisabeth - 10-22-2015 02:51 PM

Why not? I think at that point she did not (want to) fully realize her husband was going to die. The party didn't rush out of the theater, like e.g. in case of a fire, they didn't even know where to go at the time they left the box. So in my humble opinion it was possible she took time to take her bonnet. It would probably also have depended on where it was stored in case she took it off?! On her lap? (That's what I'd probably do if there was no wardrobe.) And obviously she even didn't want to leave Peterson House with appropriate headwear it the moment of greatest despair, if it's true she resorted to Huldah Francis' one as hers had disappeared.


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Anita - 11-09-2015 03:17 PM

Who is this gentleman and what is his connection to "Mary Todd and Lincoln?"

[attachment=1931]


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - RJNorton - 11-09-2015 04:38 PM

Is it Dr. Patterson from Bellevue Place? (I realize this guess can only be right if you are referring to Robert, not Abraham, when you said "Lincoln.")


RE: Mary Lincoln Extra Credit Questions - Eva Elisabeth - 11-09-2015 07:23 PM

The way you worded your question I would think someone from the time of their courtship but all that come to my mind (like Simeon Francis, or James Shield) don't resemble this gentleman.