The subject of this blog is a 19th-century French gendarme hat, which is a current project here at Museum Textile Services. As the project has unfolded we've discovered much to tell you about.
The hat bears a label inside that reads, "M. Ubadie Gendarm." Without knowing who he was, we have discovered a few things about Mr. Ubadie. For instance, the minor abrasion to the proper-right tip of the hat suggests M. Ubadie was right handed. We also found wool batting stuffed inside the hat band, presumably to make it fit better. This opens up the possibility that the hat was second hand.
Bicorn hats, or chapeaux bras, were de rigueur in the United States and Europe by the end of the 18th century and remained in use throughout the 20th century. This one is made of beaver pelt formed around a paper mold with the glazed black cotton sateen liner. There is a black leather sweat band (seen in the above image). The brim is trimmed with folded silver gimp. There is evidence of repairs to the crown as well as damage to the pelt, most likely from protein-eating insects.
We believe that the hat dates to the second half of the 19th century because it resembles other dated examples. The back flap is higher than the front on M. Ubadie's hat but not exaggeratedly so. It is quite symmetrical when seen from beneath, which distinguishes it from an 1872 model more with a triangular shape. It is not a 20th century model because it shares many characteristics with early and mid-19th-century hats with the exact same metal gimp and button. The slides below show other hats we found pictured on the internet.
M. Ubadie's hat has been deinfested and surface cleaned, and is ready to be returned to its owner. We learned many things about both the hat and the wearer, thanks to the the unique relationship between a conservator and an artifact.
by Jennifer Nason
This month Museum Textile Services is lucky enough to work with a prized piece of American history. We are conserving a large group of WWII women's uniforms and accessories for the permanent collection at Wheaton College.
The American Women’s Voluntary Services, or AWVS, was founded in January 1940. Its founders were intelligent and wealthy international socialites that based the AWVS on an English counterpart of the Women’s Voluntary Services. The founders believed that the United States would surely enter the ever growing war, and thus they formed the American Women’s Voluntary Services as a way to prepare the country for the war. The formation of the group was believed to be premature, as the AWVS was originally thought of as suspicious and an alarmist group.
Nonetheless, when Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 the AWVS already had about 18,000 members. During the war years the number of AWVS members increased dramatically to 325,000. The members provided a variety of services and support; they sold war bonds, and delivered messages, they drove ambulances, trucks, cycle corps and dog-sleds, they also worked in navigation, aerial photography, aircraft spotting, and fire safety.
When the War ended in 1945, the American Women’s Voluntary Services was disbanded. It had accomplished its goal as a service and support provider throughout the war. Most of the members were normal women that spent large amounts of their time away from their homes and loved ones. However, some of these women had famous names, such as Hattie McDaniel, Joan Crawford, and Betty White. Regardless of who these women were, their part in the American Women’s Voluntary Services changed the face of the American home front.
Stay tuned for another blog about our conservation treatment of Wheaton College's AWVS collection.
by Courtney Jason
When this WWI Army jacket came to Museum Textile Services, we did not know too much about it. According to the client, it had belonged to their grandfather, who was an Irish immigrant who enlisted to escape the orphanage he was living in. Beyond that, the rest was unclear. In the intervening weeks, much has come to light about Alexander G. McLean, his uniform, and his service in the Great War for Civilization.
McLean's WWI jacket before conservation.
McLean's army jacket is a 1917 pattern jacket, which is distin- guishable from the earlier 1912 pattern by a single line of stitching around the sleeve cuffs. Details like this can be found on the US Army's website in an extensive PDF by David Cole.
Recently the client returned with more items belonging to their grandfather. The buttons, pins, business cards, and books have inspired us to begin our research anew, and while we still do not know a lot about the life of Alexander McLean, we are developing a more complete picture. We know he joined the Army with the Yankee Division, and that he likely spent the majority of his time abroad fighting in France.
The first step of the project is to mount the jacket for display. It has been carefully vacuumed and an archival support pillow has been constructed. Next it will be mount it to a fabric-covered solid-support panel and covered with a UV filtering acrylic shadow box. When the jacket is complete, additional shadow boxes will be constructed for the other items.
While there are still a lot of unanswered questions, we are looking forward to learning more about the life of Alexander McLean. Be sure to check our Facebook page for updates as we continue to work on this project.
By Erin Halvey
This year, you may have noticed a small group of athletes in the Olympic Opening Ceremony walking behind the Olympic flag. They were three of four athletes given special permission to compete as independent Olympic athletes or IOAs. Three come from the Netherlands Antilles which were partially absorbed by the Netherlands, and one is from South Sudan. Neither country has a National Olympic Committee so they cannot represent their home countries. The IOC is allowing them to complete as independents.
It has only been a relatively recent phenomenon of IOAs competing. Either, it's a way to get around sanctions (in Yugoslavia's case in 1992) or a way to allow athletes who have been training to work around the political turmoil of changing governments or newly found independence.
Part of the requirements placed on these athletes is that they must compete under the Olympic flag and wear neutral, white uniforms. In 2000, the IOAs from East Timor and in 1992, the IOAs from Yugoslavia and Macedonia were both required to procure white uniforms themselves.
By choosing a white uniform, the IOAs are stripped of any hint of national flags or political statements. White is the color of neutrality; it is both the absence of color (in pigment or dye) and the combination of all colors (in light). The white uniforms allow the IOAs to represent no country and yet all countries at the same time.
Nike has created the uniforms for this Olympics' IOAs. They took pieces of their current collections and customized them with the Olympic logo, the designation of IOA, and made shoes that incorporate the five colors of the Olympic logo. You can read about the specifics of the uniforms (such as the exact model in Nike's collection) at Freshness. They even talk about a special scarf made for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and how it relates back to a Nike program.
Photo credits: Nike via Freshness.
If you liked this article, you might like our other Olympics-related posts.
Erin Halvey is a collections management intern at MTS, is an art nerd, and she also has a website devoted to the art and food she encounters at home or on her travels called A Sense of Place.
By Cara Jordan
In a time before “A League of Their Own” there were the Boston Olympets. The Olympets, or “Pets” as they were known, were a professional women’s softball team who played ball inside the Boston Garden.
The Olympets were created by Boston Garden owner, Walter Brown, to draw crowds to the Garden during the summer “off season.” Starting in the late 1930’s until 1943 the Olympets did just that. As team member Mary Pratt recalls about playing ball inside Boston Garden, “They took the diamond and put it on a diagonal and they put a post down by first base and as a lefty you could quite readily hit into the stands, but that would only go for a single, but to hit it to left field was a long, long distance at the Garden.”
Olympets uniform top. MTS study collection.
The Olympets uniform consisted of red satin shorts, a white and blue uniform top with red, white, and blue lettering. The team name "Olympets" was spelled out across the front of the uniform top and the player’s number was positioned on the back. The letter “B” was also positioned on one of the sleeves. Players footwear consisted of leather laced sneakers. The team also had yellow satin jackets that they wore for away games. The jackets had blue ribbing at the waist and cuffs and the team nickname “PETS” was spelled out in blue lettering across the back.
Olympets away jacket. MTS study collection.
Many of the women from the Olympets went on to play in the AAGPBL, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, formed in 1943. Some of the teams that became part of the AAGPBL, such as the Racine Belles and Rockford Peaches, were portrayed in the film “A League of Their Own.” Several of the women featured in this film got their start as Boston Olympets.
Camille Breeze was fortunate enough to obtain four pieces of an Olympets uniform to add to the MTS study collection. We are now in possession of an away jacket with the number 6, a pair of red shorts with the number 6, a pair of red shorts with no number, and a jersey with the number 14. According to the seller, Martha Stickney, the uniform belonged to Virginia MacCarthy of Wakefield, Massachusetts. A photograph of Virginia is known to exist. Martha, who graduated from Wakefield High School in 1981, had made some baseball history of her own by being the first girl to play on the boy's baseball team.
Hopefully, further research will shed light on who Virginia McCarthy was and when she played for the Boston Olympets.
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