Tag Archives: history

All Wrapped Up in Finery: Virginia Campbell’s Shawl

Every object has its own chapter that makes the greater story of the Campbell family and the Museum remarkable. Although some of these chapters have been lost during the transition from a house to a museum, original objects continue to return “home” to the Campbell House more than 70 years after the last Campbell died. One extraordinary artifact associated with Virginia Campbell was donated this past summer: a shawl.

Portrait of Virginia Campbell circa 1882 showing the shawl draped over the chair.

Portrait of Virginia Campbell circa 1882 showing the shawl draped over the chair.A large nine-foot long shawl was donated by the family that purchased it from the Campbell estate auction in 1941. The unique textile is made from silk and wool and is believed to date from around 1840. It appears to be the shawl draped over a chair in the life-size portrait of Virginia Campbell hanging above the piano in the downstairs parlor.

Between the years 1770 and 1870, the most valuable thing in a women’s armoire was a Kashmir shawl. These textiles originated from Kashmir, a lush area in India. Documentation shows that woolen shawls were fashionable for Indian and Persian men and women centuries prior, but it was not until King Zayn-ul-Abidin, a 15th century leader of Kashmir, introduced Turkish weaving to the area, that Kashmir became noted for their textiles.

Made from the finest goat fleece, these shawls were hand-woven by a team of specialists. Looms were later introduced and the weaving process that could take years then only took a few months. Traditionally, flowering plants were the primary design on the shawls. In the early 18th century, these flowering plants morphed into encased flowers, and by the time Western European consumption of shawls began, morphed into the “buta” design. Meaning “flower,” the “buta” design is the characteristic tear drop with a bent tip design. This became known as the “pine” and the “cone,” in Western Europe, and the “paisley” in North America.

In the late 18th century, Kashmir shawls were acquired by travelers, explorers, military personnel and members of the East India Company who brought them back as “exotic” presents. Shortly after, European countries, namely England and France, began producing imitation Kashmir shawls. Although never fully obtaining the same quality as the original Kashmirs, European design had its own value in the market. France took the lead by obtaining its materials from the Middle East, creating distinctly French designs, and revolutionized production with img_5709the introduction of the Jacquard loom. Eventually, Europeans produced comparable shawls with cheaper materials. This caused the prices of European produced shawls to drop, allowing more than just the wealthy to own a shawl. The United States, emulating European fashions, also started producing a limited amount of shawls, in addition to wearing the ones purchased abroad.

shawlparlor

Shawl in display in the Campbell House parlor, December 2016.

A number of factors led to the decline of the Kashmir shawl industry in the West: war, famine, and fashion. By the 1870s, France had become the biggest importer of both shawls and shawl materials from Kashmir. But when the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, trade halted and robbed Kashmir of its largest shawl consumer. Around the same time, a famine crossing India robbed the industry of its artists, leaving fewer workers to create the shawls. Additionally, the “in” dress fashions played a role in the decline of shawl popularity. The bustles, or protrusion on the back of the dress, did not allow the shawl to fall properly as it did with previous dress styles. While some women altered their shawls to fit the new style, many sought to repurpose their textile treasure into furniture pieces, such as piano covers or curtains. Furthermore, as the prices became cheaper and more women owned shawls, it fell out of style. What was once a symbol of wealth and luxury became a garment of days gone by.

The donated shawl made its debut during this year’s Christmas display and will be out for public viewing until mid-January.

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Picture Yourself in St. Louis History—#PictureYourselfSTL

LouisThe Campbells didn’t have smart phones, and of course never took selfies. But we bet Robert and Virginia would pull out a selfie stick now, especially since they could win some great prizes by doing so in their own house! This Labor Day Weekend kicks off a special collaboration between the Campbell House Museum and eighteen other cultural institutions, and all you have to do to take part is visit us and photograph yourself.

The new Missouri History Museum exhibit, “A Walk in 1875 St. Louis,” links area historic sites that share a mission of preserving and telling the story of St. Louis.

Each participating location has two picture frames for hand-held use by visitors. Five locations will receive a larger “hub” picture frame and two hand-held versions – the Missouri History Museum, the Forest Park Visitor Center, The Old Courthouse, the Susan Blow Kindergarten and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Hanley

Hanley House

Visitors will be invited to take their pictures in and around the frames showing a distinctive background inside the attractions, and distribute their images via social media. An Instagram hashtag, and a web page on the Missouri History Museum site will be available where visitors can post their “historic” pictures with #PictureYourselfSTL or @missourihistorymuseum. Visitors can also email their shots to
PictureYourself@mohistory.org.

That’s it! There are monthly prize drawings, with rewards including hotel stays, attraction tickets, and more. One grand prize winner at the close of the contest wins a tintype portrait session!

The contest is open until February 14, 2016. You can visit each of the nineteen sites and take selfies at each to increase your chances, or to just enjoy a journey through 1875 St. Louis with “Louis” as your guide.

Here are the participating locations:

WhiteHaven

Ulysses Grant’s White Haven

So open up your phone’s selfie mode, and take part in all the fun and experience St. Louis in 1875!

Read more about the program in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.

The “Picture Yourself in St. Louis History” project has been developed and is financially supported by the Museum Innovators Group organized by the Missouri History Museum (MHM).

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#DrinkupTweetup returns to the Campbell House!

#DrinkupTweetupSTL (1)

What do you get when you combine General Ulysses S. Grant, an awesome local rock band and FREE beer and food from some of St. Louis’ best brewers and restaurants? Why, #DrinkupTweetup of course! We’re putting out the call once again to the St. Louis twitterverse to converge on the garden of the Campbell House Museum on Friday, September 25 starting at 5:00 p.m. for an evening of fun focused on St. Louis history through the lens of beer, wine and spirits. We’re partnering with Distilled History – an award winning and all around excellent blog written by Campbell House docent Cameron Collins to bring you up to speed on the ins and outs of booze’s role in the growth and evolution of St. Louis as a major Midwestern city.

typhoon

Typhoon Jackson. They’re awesome.

In addition to FREE beer (provided by our pals at Urban Chestnut and Schlafly) and food, we’ll be raffling off a series of great packages including St. Louis brewery tours, six-packs of special edition Campbell House-themed home brew and history-themed outings. The grand prize? A shot of the winner’s choice from a sterling silver cup once owned by General Ulysses S. Grant – PRESENTED to the winner by Grant himself (AKA an excellent historical interpreter who will be attending in full character and costume).

Typhoon Jackson, our resident Americana/folk/blues/rock band will play the entire night, making our little corner in downtown St. Louis the place to be. This is not to be missed – help us spread the word and share your attendance using #DrinkupTweetupSTL on Twitter and “attending” our event on Facebook. Let’s make this the best one yet.

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