Thanksgiving at Winterthur

Chinese Parlor

Henry Francis du Pont enjoyed fresh floral arrangements in the house, Chinese Parlor

Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont was known as a great entertainer. He meticulously planned his dinner parties, overseeing every detail, from the china, silverware, and table linens to the floral arrangements and menu courses. It would be reasonable to think that Thanksgiving would be similarly grand, but at Winterthur, Thanksgiving was dinner for two, a low-key affair.

Every year, Henry Francis and his wife, Ruth Wales du Pont, went out to a Thanksgiving lunch, about which little is known today. We do know that it was tradition for du Pont’s cousin Irénée du Pont to host a Thanksgiving lunch for the du Pont cousins at his home, Granogue, which is actually located right behind Winterthur. So it is most likely that Henry Francis and Ruth would have attended this lunch.

Irénée’s large family of ten children and dozens of grandchildren would sit at one long table, covered with a giant and heavily starched cloth. Almost every year, one child would pour a cup of water on the tablecloth and then, giggling, would pass it along carefully down the table until it fell onto an unsuspecting adult lap. The children also liked to pass all the salts, cruets, and silver whatnots to the head of the table in front of their grandmother. She usually did not notice until she was completely taken over by them.

It is quite possible that this sort of roiling boil of a family lunch explains why H. F. and Ruth preferred a more civilized dinner on Thanksgiving night. Although the two rarely dined alone, they always did so on Thanksgiving. The cook’s orders every year were: no lunch and a 4-course dinner for two at 8:00 pm. The two would have a martini in the drawing room and then move into the dining room, where dinner was served by the butler. It is possible that since this was such a small dinner, the butler’s staff of three footmen were given the evening off.

Baltimore Drawing Room

Baltimore Drawing Room

In 1955, the cook’s orders were for soup, then lamb chops, green beans, and corn, then Roquefort in aspic and finally chocolate roll. In 1956, sorrel soup, then guinea, carrots and eggplant, then salad, cheese, and fruit. In 1957, orders for the 4-course meal included cream soup, vegetable course, then wild duck and salad, and pumpkin pie. In 1958, clear soup, crabmeat, vegetable salad, snow pudding, and cookies.

Where was the roasted turkey you might ask? In fact, the du Ponts ate lots of turkey, usually small ones, often with hominy, a continuation of the 19th-century Winterthur menus served by du Pont’s parents. The du Ponts were proud of growing most of their food. In addition to the well-known dairy cattle, the 2,000-acre Winterthur estate supported beef cattle, sheep, and hogs for meat; a poultry operation, including turkeys; a five-acre vegetable garden; extensive orchards; fields of hay, wheat, barley, corn, and alfalfa to help feed the livestock and everyone living on the estate, including the help. Enough turkeys were hatched on the farm every year so that all the employees were given them to enjoy for their Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Winterthur staff's Thanksgiving, 1956

Winterthur staff’s Thanksgiving, 1956

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‘Costumes of Downton Abbey’ Sparkles Even More

Double-drop necklace of Swarovski crystals and pearls worn in Season Four of the Downton Abbey series

Double-drop necklace of Swarovski crystals and pearls worn in Season Four of the Downton Abbey series

In addition to the forty historically inspired costumes on display from the award-winning television show Downton Abbey, Winterthur has added even more sparkle to its blockbuster exhibition Costumes of Downton Abbey. Visitors will be wowed by three spectacular pieces of jewelry created for the show by British jewelry designer Andrew Prince.

Prince creates some of the finest crystal jewelry in the world—from spectacular tiaras, combs, and bands to elegant earrings, bracelets, and neck pieces. His clientele include stars of the stage and screen, royalty, couture houses, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Harrods. Lending his expertise to the acclaimed ITV hit television series Downton Abbey, Prince works extensively with the design team. With his exceptional knowledge of the history of jewelry, he works passionately to ensure each piece is a perfect representation of its time. As a contributing jeweler to the show, Prince has supplied the drama with more than 150 items during seasons three and four.

Three of Prince’s Downton creations are now on display at Winterthur. Studded with sparkling Swarovski crystals, a feather hair slide and a wave scroll tiara worn by Lady Mary in the third season and a double drop necklace of Swarovski crystals and pearls worn in the final Royal presentation scene of the fourth season were subsequently purchased by a private collector who has kindly lent them to Winterthur for the duration of the museum exhibition, which runs through January 4, 2015.

Lady Mary Crawley looked quite elegant in this feather hair slide of Swarovski crystals in Season Three of the Downton Abbey series

Lady Mary Crawley looked quite elegant in this feather hair slide of Swarovski crystals in Season Three of the Downton Abbey series.


Designer Andrew Prince began his career at the young age of 16, with a particular  interest in historically accurate jewelry. After working for Antiques Roadshow expert Ian Harris and renowned contemporary jeweler Elizabeth Gage, he struck out on his own. By 1992 his jewelry was being collected by the likes of Vogue style icon Isabella Blow, and he was asked to create pieces for celebrities, couture houses, television, and film. All the pieces in the Andrew Prince Collection are handmade in his London studio.

Prince will visit Winterthur November 22 and 23, with presentations at 1:00 pm both days in Copeland Lecture Hall. “From Downton to Gatsby: Jewelry and Fashion from 1890 to 1920” offers a lively discussion of the intimate connections between the great jewelers and couture houses as well as the many splendid characters and social and political events that helped shape the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This stunning wave scroll tiara of Swarovski crystals was worn by Lady Mary Crawley in Season Three of the show.

This stunning wave scroll tiara of Swarovski crystals was worn by Lady Mary Crawley in Season Three of the show.

Both lectures will be followed by a trunk show of Prince’s jewelry from 2:30 to 5:30 pm in the Visitor Center. Additionally, a stunning display of eight to twelve of his creations that also appeared on the Downton Abbey series will be on view—a real treat for enthusiasts.

The cost to attend each lecture and trunk show is $15 for Members and $25 for nonmembers. Admission to Costumes of Downton Abbey is an additional fee for nonmembers. As always, Members are free.

Costumes of Downton Abbey is an original exhibition inspired by the drama series that has taken America by storm. Visitors are invited to step into the world of Downton Abbey and the contrasting world of Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont and his contemporaries in the first half of the 20th century. The exhibition has attracted more than 175,000 visitors in the past eight months and has spawned a whole slew of fascinating programming at the museum.

The exhibition at Winterthur is presented by M&T Bank and DuPont, with support from the Glenmede Trust Company.

For reservations and more information, please call the Winterthur Information and Tours Office, 302.888.4600 or 800.448.3883.

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Historic Odessa, Delaware

G. W. Janvier, A View at Appoquinimink, State of Delaware, watercolor on paper, 1805–20. Historic Odessa Foundation

G. W. Janvier, A View at Appoquinimink, State of Delaware, watercolor on paper, 1805–20.
Historic Odessa Foundation

Odessa, Delaware, located where the Appoquinimink empties into the Delaware River, is a cul-de-sac of history. This small river community flourished from the mid-18th through early 19th centuries as a marketing hub for the shipping of grain and goods across the Delmarva Peninsula between the Appoquinimink (with access to Wilmington, Philadelphia, and the Atlantic) and the Chesapeake Bay (en route to Baltimore and Annapolis). Local businesses included William Corbit’s thriving tannery, David Wilson’s dry goods store, and John Janvier’s and Duncan Beard’s cabinet- and clockmaking shops. But prosperity was not to last. In 1829 the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal opened for business and began diverting river traffic, undercutting Odessa’s economic foundation. Further competition occurred in 1832, when the railroad connected wharves in New Castle with those in Frenchtown at the head of the Chesapeake and then extended south to Middletown, only three miles west of Odessa, in 1855. That year, town fathers retired the original name, Cantwell’s Bridge, in favor of Odessa, the Black Sea grain-shipping port in Ukraine, but the community’s heyday had passed. Although circumstances continued to decline, several fortunate events as well as the actions of history-minded family members and citizens have ultimately resulted in the preservation of the best of Odessa and its material culture.

John Janvier Sr. and Duncan Beard, tall clock, mahogany and brass, 1775–90. Historic Odessa Foundation

John Janvier Sr. and Duncan Beard, tall clock, mahogany and brass, 1775–90. Historic Odessa Foundation


William Corbit (1746–1818), the tanner and a successful real estate investor, completed a magnificent Georgian house in 1774. He also built a dynasty—fathering thirteen children from four marriages. Of those children, Daniel, as last male heir, assumed responsibility for orphaned family members and businesses as all his married brothers died before 1833. He actively embraced the family history, gathering documents and furnishings and preserving the family homestead. In 1847, three years after his wife’s death, Daniel married Mary Wilson, who had grown up next door in the imposing house built about 1769 by her father, David (1743–1820). This alliance of two of the town’s most prosperous families spread stewardship interests broadly in the ensuing years.

In 1901 Daniel and Mary’s daughter, Mary (later Mrs. E. Tatnall Warner), purchased and restored the Wilson family house, which functioned as a museum—another example of historic preservation in this small town. And Daniel’s own efforts to preserve the architecture, furnishings, and history of the Corbits ultimately found the perfect patron in H. Rodney Sharp (1882–1968), who acquired the intact family house in 1938, restored it to its original appearance, and gave it to Winterthur as a house museum in 1958. Sharp, a Delaware native, restored other historic buildings in Odessa as well, fundamentally preserving the late 18th-century character of the town.


When William Corbit and other leading residents of the region were in need of the very best in furniture, they turned to cabinetmaker John Janvier (1749–1801), also of Cantwell’s Bridge. Among Janvier’s work is a tall clock case that houses a movement by Odessa clockmaker Duncan Beard (working 1765–97). Like Janvier, Beard was a highly competent artisan who attracted broad patronage. The clock bears the engraved initials “JA” with Masonic symbols on the dial and may have been made for a fellow member of the Appoquinimink Masonic Lodge. The case embodies all of the imaginative earmarks of Janvier’s work.

John Janvier Sr., chest of drawers, mahogany, 1775–1800. Historic Odessa Foundation

John Janvier Sr., chest of drawers, mahogany, 1775–1800. Historic Odessa Foundation

Another Janvier product, a regionally distinctive four drawer chest signed in chalk on the bottom “John Janvier at Cantwell’s Bridge,” displays particular accomplishment in its materials and construction, including a detail heretofore only associated with eastern Massachusetts chests: the top slides onto half-dovetail-shape tongues cut along the tops of the side boards rather than being attached with glue blocks and/or screws. Furniture historians might opine that Janvier had seen and copied Massachusetts examples, perhaps loaded as venture cargo on vessels that stopped in Odessa, but Janvier was exceptionally talented and creative. Sufficient innovation exists in his case furniture to support his authorship of this feature.

Other family-owned objects at Odessa include samplers worked by Daniel Corbit’s two nieces in 1823 and a mourning brooch containing locks of hair from their mother and/or father that is featured in mid-19th-century oil portraits of each woman. Also surviving are David Wilson’s Bible box, letter box, and snuff box shaped and painted to represent a Dalmatian, along with a large needlework mourning picture made by Ann Jefferis, who married David’s son and namesake.

Corbit-Sharp House, ca. 1774, National Historic Landmark. Historic Odessa Foundation

Corbit-Sharp House, ca. 1774, National Historic Landmark. Historic Odessa Foundation


The Historic Odessa Foundation, formed in 2005, now owns and administers all of the Odessa properties: the Corbit-Sharp and Wilson-Warner houses; Corbit’s 1780 Pump House, built for tannery employees; Cantwell’s Tavern (ca. 1822); the Odessa Bank (ca. 1855); and the gambrel-roof Collins-Sharp House (ca. 1700), which Rodney Sharp had moved to its present site behind the tavern to preserve it. In addition to Sharp’s preservation leadership, Sharp, Corbit, and Wilson family members and descendants of other local families have donated items of all kinds.

Wilson-Warner House, ca. 1769, National Historic Register. Historic Odessa Foundation

Wilson-Warner House, ca. 1769, National Historic Register. Historic Odessa Foundation

Accordingly, room installations in the Corbit and Wilson houses represent area made and owned furnishings in addition to those that never left the premises. These objects, passed down through generations, convey an intimate and accurate sense of life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, giving visitors to Odessa an extraordinary historical experience.

Post by Philip D. Zimmerman, Ph.D., a museum and decorative arts consultant based in Lancaster, Pa.

For more information, please visit

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Historic Odessa: A Past Preserved

John Janvier Sr. and Duncan Beard, tall clock, mahogany and brass, 1775–90. Historic Odessa Foundation

John Janvier Sr. and Duncan Beard, tall clock, mahogany and brass, 1775–90. Historic Odessa Foundation

This year’s 51st Annual Delaware Antiques Show loan exhibit, Historic Odessa: A Past Preserved, highlights but a sliver of the rich history awaiting visitors to the charming Delaware community of Odessa, Delaware.

From an imposing chest of drawers and tall clock by cabinetmaker John Janvier and clockmaker Duncan Beard to a distinctive Bible box, intricate samplers, fabulous silver service, ceramics, and needlework, the furnishings of the Historic Houses of Odessa bear witness to the fascinating history of Cantwell’s Bridge—the original name for the small Delaware river community that flourished as a marketing hub from the mid-18th through early 19th centuries. William Corbit and David Wilson, patriarchs of two of the town’s most prosperous families, built magnificent houses and filled them with the outward trappings of their success. Successive generations added to the material wealth, taking a particular interest in the preservation of not only family history but that of the town itself. The legacy of their endeavors, along with the considerable efforts and generosity of 20th century preservationist H. Rodney Sharp, can be seen in the six remarkable properties now owned and administered by the Historic Odessa Foundation.

Set of race horse portraits (2 of 6). John Bowles, printer (1701-1779) Remigius Parr, engraver (c. 1723-1747) London, dated 1739.

Set of race horse portraits (2 of 6). John Bowles, printer (1701-1779) Remigius Parr, engraver (c. 1723-1747) London, dated 1739.









The 51st Annual Delaware Antiques Show takes place November 7–9, 2014, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware. For show tickets or more information, please call 800.448.3883 or visit Tickets are also available at the door.

View the 51st Annual Delaware Antiques official Show Catalogue.

Next week’s blog, “Historic Odessa: A Past Preserved” by Philip D. Zimmerman, Museum and Decorative Arts Consultant, takes a closer look at the historic town of Odessa, Delaware, and its history as well as the Historic Odessa Foundation.


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How I Became A Collector

Pam and Bruce Perkins

Pam and Bruce Perkins

Born into a family of collectors, I grew up in a home filled with art and antiques inherited from my mother’s family: Philadelphia Chippendale; Baltimore Federal furniture; and paintings by Winslow Homer, Maurice Prendergast, and Childe Hassam. Our house reflected the Williamsburg/Winterthur style, and our world was painted Hammond-Harwood green. I was the only one of four sons to get the collecting bug, and like most collectors, I started out early, displaying Steiff stuffed animals on a spare bed and coveted objects such as knives, antique pistols, beer cans, and lead soldiers on a wall of bookshelves (I am still teased today for not using bookshelves to hold my books).

It was during visits to my grandmother’s house in Wilmington, “Goodstay,” an 18th-century house acquired by my family in the 1860s, that I truly became an antiques enthusiast. Although the house was a treasure trove of exquisite objects, it was not much fun for a small boy until I discovered a huge third-floor attic space. Trunks, suitcases, and boxes sealed for generations were filled with objects that had belonged to my ancestors. Rooting around and unearthing precious items in that attic fifty years ago, I decided I wanted to be involved with the antiques world one way or another.

I pored over my parents’ stacks of the Magazine Antiques, reading articles as well as ads and learning the terminology of the art and antiques world. As a junior at Washington & Lee, I was asked to help catalogue the important Reeves porcelain collection, gifted to the university in the 1960s. I sorted through hundreds of pieces of 18th- and 19th-century porcelain (mostly Chinese export) under the tutelage of Director James Whitehead—whose enthusiasm was infectious—and fell in love with armorial porcelain. With a $500 check from my parents on my 21st birthday, I purchased a beautiful pair of armorial plates at Georgetown’s Peter Mack Brown Antiques.

After college I worked in insurance and banking but longed for the antiques world, even opening a shop in Middleburg, Virginia, in 1978. I was barely able to eke out a living, and it became obvious I loved to buy beautiful objects but hated to sell them! In 1982 I was invited to attend a Decorative Arts Trust meeting at Washington & Lee to celebrate the opening of the Reeves Center (the new home for the ceramic collection), and the lecturers were a “Who’s Who” of the Chinese export world: Crosby Forbes and Bill Sargent from the China Trade Museum, Carl Crossman, Pamela Copeland, dealer/scholar David Sanctuary Howard, and collectors Jim and Nancy Flather. I learned more that weekend than I had in ten years prior and discovered that my little collection needed to evolve. David Howard inspired me to always buy the best I could afford, noting that dealers loved to work with serious collectors and would be happy to spread out payments if necessary.

This charger, which was made in Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1725, is decorated with the arms of John Haldane of Gleneagles, Scotland. It is the earliest documented example of an armorial porcelain design based on a bookplate.

This charger, which was made in Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1725, is decorated with the arms of John Haldane of Gleneagles, Scotland. It is the earliest documented example of an armorial porcelain design based on a bookplate.

In 1983 Jim Flather, a dedicated Chinese export porcelain collector and lecturer at the symposium, offered me a position with his insurance agency, where I would develop the firm’s book of fine arts insurance for collectors, museums, and dealers. Paid to associate with people who loved the same things I did, I could now afford to buy the wonderful objects for which I had a passion. Win-win!

Since then I have acquired 100+ pieces of 18th-century armorial porcelain and established friendships with curators, dealers, auctioneers, and collectors who all have one thing in common: It’s all about the hunt. Every junk shop, thrift shop, antiques store, or auction house could possibly have the one thing you didn’t know you couldn’t live without! This quote from noted Swiss collector Jean-Paul Barbier sums up the sentiment perfectly:

“What is a collector? Someone who buys 10 objects, puts them in his apartment, and stops there is not a true collector. He’s an enlightened connoisseur, a man of great taste, but not a collector. A collector is someone who has one million but spends two million, someone who is perpetually short of cash, and someone for whom the most desirable work of art is the one he will discover tomorrow.”

Post by Bruce Perkins, President of Flather & Perkins, Inc., and an inveterate collector and longtime member of the Winterthur Board of Trustees.

The 51st Annual Delaware Antiques Show takes place November 7–9, 2014, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware. For show tickets or more information, please call 800.448.3883 or visit Tickets are also available at the door.

View the 51st Annual Delaware Antiques official Show Catalogue.

Collecting antiques is an art form. Please enjoy ‘Tips for New Collectors‘ by Forbes Maner, Delaware Antiques Show Committee Member, highlighting the rules of thumb from an experienced collector.

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The Fowler Family’s Field of Phrenology

Sold for $2 by Lorenzo Fowler from his London office in the late 1800s, the head displays phrenological organs on the left side and collective groupings of traits on the right.

Sold for $2 by Lorenzo Fowler from his London office in the late 1800s, the head displays phrenological organs on the left side and collective groupings of traits on the right. Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

On a March day in 1848, James Terry, grandson of famous clockmaker Eli Terry, stepped into Orson and Lorenzo Fowler’s New York City office to have his head examined. He walked away, $3 poorer, armed with a detailed analysis describing his character traits, both strengths and weaknesses. As tempting as it is to cherry-pick parts of Fowler’s analysis, such as “good perception of physical arrangement, are quite annoyed to see things in disorder,” and apply it to Terry’s profession of lock manufacturer and owner of Eagle Lock Company, we can’t assess either its accuracy or Terry’s opinion of the reading. However, his son James Jr., anthropologist, antiques dealer, and collector, saved it as a tangible link to his father.

Much more is known about Orson Fowler (1809–87), his younger brother Lorenzo Niles Orson (1811–96), and their phrenological empire. While not the originators of this pseudoscience, these two brothers and their family were largely responsible for phrenology’s popularity in America during the 19th century. Originating in Vienna at the end of the previous century, phrenology arrived in the States in the 1820s, taking several years to catch hold. Converted in the mid 1830s, the Fowlers traveled the lecture circuit entertaining and educating curious audiences with talks and readings. A reading consisted of first measuring the circumference and areas of a participant’s head, and then feeling for enlarged areas and indentations—not reading bumps as was and is commonly believed. Rather, the concept taught a classification schema for the brain, the organ of the mind, with each organ or area representing a different character trait with size of the organ indicating a trait’s power. Since the skull conformed itself to the brain, a hands-on reading was essential in noting areas that were large and well-developed or small and undercultivated. After a reading, a person, enlightened with self-awareness, could capitalize on strengths and work on weaknesses to attain perfection.

First page of Lorenzo Fowler’s 1848 reading of James Terry.

First page of Lorenzo Fowler’s 1848 reading of James Terry. Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

The Fowlers themselves reached perfection in their timing of riding the wave of this self-help movement and expanded beyond the lecture circuit by opening offices in Philadelphia (1838), New York City (1842), Boston (1851), and London (1863) to store their research collection of casts of heads and offer readings. While impossible to estimate how many heads they read during the span of their careers, their clients included such 19th-century notables as Walt Whitman, Allan Pinkerton, Lydia Maria Child, Clara Barton, John Brown, Margaret Fuller, Hiram Powers, and a skeptical Mark Twain, who submitted at least twice. By the time James Terry visited their New York office, it was a thriving business where, in addition to readings and gazing at casts, guests could take classes for 25 cents or private lessons for $1 and buy mementoes such as a bust for $1.25 for home study.

With business booming, more personnel were needed to satisfy demand for readings and manage more aspects of the growing empire. Fired up with phrenological zeal, younger sister Charlotte also gave readings, taught classes, and managed the New York office with husband Samuel R. Wells, who operated the publishing arm that cemented the Fowlers’ influence. The American Phrenological Journal and Miscellany, in circulation for more than 70 years, introduced phrenology into the homes of millions who could not visit the offices in person. As a premium, journal subscribers were offered plaster of paris busts, also marketed as “ornamental, deserving a place on the center-table or mantel, in parlor, office, or study,” to read their own skulls at home using an accompanying illustrated key. Besides issuing numerous phrenology tracts that the Fowlers wrote, Fowler & Wells also published titles on architecture, home economics, etiquette, and books on other major 19th-century reform and self-help movements, such as temperance, hydropathy, homeopathy, vegetarianism, anti-tobacco, and dress reform.

Phrenology introduced Lorenzo to his wife Lydia when reading her father Gideon Folger’s head during a business trip to Nantucket in 1844; a satisfactory reading of Lydia on a return visit resulted in an offer of marriage, which brought her into the fold. Their phrenologically blessed union prompted them to preach the importance of finding one’s mate in such books as Marriage: Its History and Ceremonies: with a phrenological and physiological exposition of the functions and qualifications for happy marriages. Lydia quickly became involved in the business with lectures and readings, and studied medicine, becoming the second woman to graduate from an American medical college and the country’s first female professor of medicine with a specialty in anatomy and midwifery. After successful lecture tours in England, Lorenzo and Lydia opened a London office in Fleet Street near Ludgate Circus in 1863. Despite their busy schedules, the couple raised three daughters, with the youngest, Jessie, carrying on the business into the 20th century.

Miss Blanchard’s results recorded in her copy of “New Illustrated Self-Instructor of Phrenology and Physiology” from 1859. Her lowest score for “continuity” meant that she needed to “cultivate consistency of character and fixedness of mind, by finishing all begun.”

Miss Blanchard’s results recorded in her copy of New Illustrated Self-Instructor of Phrenology and Physiology from 1859. Her lowest score for “continuity” meant that she needed to “cultivate consistency of character and fixedness of mind, by finishing all begun.” Printed Book and Periodical Collection, Winterthur Library

Phrenology had many detractors in its day—some critiques leveled against the number of organs or traits increasing several times (from the original 27 to over 40) and its use by some in promulgating racism. Yet it did champion many positives: encouraging people to use readings to choose the right occupations and spouses, helping parents understand and direct their children on worthy paths, and rehabilitating instead of punishing criminals and the mentally ill. Falling out of favor towards the end of the century with the rise of new disciplines psychiatry and psychoanalysis, phrenology nevertheless influenced them with its belief that areas of the brain had certain meanings. While easy now to dismiss phrenology as quackery, it helps to take the measure of the reasons for its popularity and its historical context.

Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera


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As Night Falls on Downton Abbey

downton estate









The dazzling dinner parties on the period drama Downton Abbey are known to yield some of the character’s best one-liners, especially those uttered by the Dowager Countess of Grantham played by Dame Maggie Smith. Responding to Matthew’s statement about working five days a week, “What is a week-end?” In addition to these delicious quips from the characters the evening costumes showcased on the period drama series are as equally delightful.

harem exhWinterthur is fortunate to display a selection of the exquisite costumes and accessories worn by the upstairs and downstairs characters on Downton Abbey in the original exhibition Costumes of Downton Abbey.  The exhibition divides the costumes into sections based on the stages of the day on the country estate: Early Morning, Leisurely Afternoon, and Dazzling Dinnertimes. While summer dresses and leisure activity clothing reign during the Leisurely Afternoon section for the upstairs characters, the evening attire takes center stage for its beauty, elegance, and tailoring.

_JIM2897The costume designers for the series try to reflect each character’s personalities in the costumes, especially the evening gowns worn by the upstairs women. Lady Mary’s character is outfitted in elegant, tasteful dresses that reflect her traditional values. The beaded evening dress displayed in the exhibition is in the style of 1919. In the same respect, for Lady Sybil’s costumes, designers seek to show her free spirit and her more individualist style. On display are the harem pants worn by Sybil in Season One. This costume was one of the most popular ever worn on Downton Abbey. The pants, first introduced by couturier Paul Poiret in 1911, were shocking at the time because, as author Jessica Fellowes notes in her book The World of Downton Abbey, “no woman of her class, before Poiret’s harem look, had ever been seen in trousers.”

While about a third of the costumes are made entirely new, costume designers try to use vintage pieces wherever possible. The evening dress worn by character Cora, Countess of Grantham, that is displayed in the exhibition is modeled on a similar dress by high fashion house Lanvin. The costume features a strip of vintage embroidery down the front.

Downton Promo shot_5The upstairs men were equally as dapper in evening attire. One of the most beautiful scenes from Downton Abbey, Matthew’s proposal, is captured in the exhibition. On display, character Matthews’s evening white tie and tails is in the style of 1919. Also on display is character Mary’s beaded, silk engagement dress, inspired by 1920 tiered dresses designed by Lanvin. The exhibition adds a charming interactive element accompanying the costumes—the screening of the proposal scene as “snow” falls all around.

Henry Francis du Pont would have dressed in a fashion similar to the high-style Crawleys during his dazzling evenings on the Winterthur estate. On his first trip abroad, in 1901, du Pont became a client of Henry Poole & Co., considered among the best of the gentleman’s bespoke tailors on London’s Saville Row. The company is known to have introduced the dinner jacket in England and what would become known as the tuxedo in America.

Layout 1A dinner party planned by Henry Francis du Pont at Winterthur was as elaborate as the scenes that play out on screen at the fictional Downton Abbey estate. Throughout its history, Winterthur has been a destination for entertaining. During the weekends, Winterthur was filled with elegantly dressed guests lounging by the pool, enjoying the grounds, and, of course, cutting a rug to tunes from the jazz age. Like the downstairs characters on Downton Abbey, who make it look like entertaining comes together effortlessly, du Pont and his butler would plan meticulously for the event down to every last detail of the menu and table setting. The head butler, like the character Carson on Downton Abbey, had the dining room under his care. Wearing a black dinner jacket, waistcoat, trousers with white tie, the butler would serve at dinner but would not wait on the table, except to pour wine.

“A good butler knows everything, from the antecedents of the guests to the time-tables of most suburban railways. He is very apt to have a fine taste in the arrangement of the flowers, and the weather probabilities are seldom hidden from him.” —Vogue’s Book of Etiquette (New York, 1924)

Downton Abbey_36









Character Charles Carson’s evening costume on display is in the style of 1912–30. The butler and his employer’s white tie evening clothes are very similar except for the quality of fabric and tailoring.

P62 OV Dancing in MMV    003The du Pont’s entertaining traditions were not unlike those enjoyed by the Crawley family. To honor this tradition, Winterthur invites guests to join us for “A Night at Downton: Costumes of Downton Abbey Cocktail Party,” July 25. Guests are invited to arrive early and enjoy a summer night, strolling through the garden. Inside, visitors will be treated to delicious food, fizzy drinks, and the exquisite Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibition on display in the Winterthur Galleries.

Downton-inspired costumes—though not required—are heartily encouraged to transport you back in time. Be sure to bring your dancing shoes and dance the night away to the live Downton-era jazz and swing music, courtesy of “Songbird and the Tweeters.”

Reservations required. Members $75; nonmembers $90, includes entrance to Costumes of Downton Abbey. For more information, please visit

Costumes of Downton Abbey is on display in the Winterthur Galleries through January 4, 2015.

For more information, please visit

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Fellowes, Jessica. The World of Downton Abbey. Harper Collins, September 2011.

Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing Communications, contributed by Regina Lynch, Public Programs

Posted in Events, Exhibitions, Life at Winterthur | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sun Is Shining Bright on ‘Costumes of Downton Abbey’


Photograph © Nick Briggs, Carnival Film & Television Limited, 2010. All Rights Reserved.

The momentum is going strong! The original exhibition Costumes of Downton Abbey is receiving national acclaim and breaking visitation records on the former du Pont estate. There are no signs of things slowing down, but for those who have not had a chance to visit Winterthur yet, there is still time; Costumes of Downton Abbey is on view in the Winterthur Galleries through January 4, 2015. In the meantime, here is the next post focusing on the “Leisurely Afternoon” section of the exhibition.

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While the morning costumes featured in the exhibition are primarily centered around the downstairs characters on Downton Abbey, the afternoon activities put more emphasis on the outfits worn by the upstairs characters. It was English custom for the local gentry, like the Granthams, to host village fetes to benefit local charities. The exhibition displays two summer dresses and hats worn in Season One by characters Mary and Sybil to the town’s annual flower show and to the family’s garden party. The contemporary-looking print on Sybil’s Edwardian-style dress shows how designers look to the past for inspiration. Housemaid Anna’s formal dress in the style of 1912 is also displayed. During the afternoon, the downstairs characters would have changed from a morning dress into a formal black dress with apron. Aprons were traditionally worn with dresses by housemaids in the early twentieth century.

The exhibition also features costumes worn to the christening of Sybil’s baby. The lavender dresses worn by Cora, Countess of Grantham, and by Mary are both in the style of 1920. Also featured is Matthew Crawley’s gray suit in the style of 1921. Traditional colors of mourning of the time were lavender, gray, lilac, and mauve. An interesting fact from the exhibition for fans of the show: the costumes are treated as part of the character’s wardrobe, the dress worn by the character Cora to the christening was also worn by Cora to Lady Mary’s wedding.

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Photograph © Giles Keyte, Carnival Film & Television Limited, 2012. All Rights Reserved.







Summer whites and ivory were traditionally worn during leisure hours. Displayed in the exhibition is character Matthew Crawley’s cricket ensemble in the style of the 1920s, including a sweater, sports shirt, and flannel trousers. Cricket, widely considered the national sport of Great Britain, became popular in many East Coast cities in the United States in the 1800s. In fact, many country clubs can trace their origins to cricket clubs. The Wilmington Country Club, which borders the Winterthur property, can be traced back to the 1882 Delaware Cricket Club.

While men and women typically spent their leisure hours in the summer playing cricket and walking, respectively, the fall activities centered on foxhunting and shooting. Each activity required its own outfit. Foxhunting on horseback had distinctive attire, including scarlet coats, while cool-weather tweeds were worn for shooting game birds.

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Photograph © Giles Keyte, Carnival Film & Television Limited, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

A trip to the country was common practice not only in England but also for Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont. A three-day house party might require 12 complete ensembles. A large trunk like H. F.’s, which is displayed in the exhibition, would be one essential piece of luggage packed by the man’s valet or the lady’s maid or for the trip.

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Ruth Wales du Pont and her lady’s maid, Juliette Dordonette, had an affectionate relationship; Juliette’s duties included helping to dress her employer and fixing her hair—quite like the relationship on Downton Abbey between the characters Cora and Sarah O’Brien. Another aspect of the lady’s maid duties was to pack for her employer, including the carrying case. Ruth’s traveling case, on display, was custom-made for her by Albert Barker Ltd. of London, manufacturer to His Majesty King George V.

Du Pont and his valet shared a similar relationship. The valet in the United States and Great Britain was tasked with dressing his employer, packing and unpacking, securing hotels, and acting as a courier. Valets, like the character John Bates, did not wear uniforms; Bates’s costume includes work clothes, an apron, and sleeve guards in the style of 1912.

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Afternoon tea was a leisurely activity practiced in England and the United States. The fashion of English tea began with Queen Alexandra asking her friends to come for a cup of tea and an afternoon chat. The practice quickly imported to America. At Winterthur afternoon tea was served between the hours of 4:30 and 6:00 pm. The Tiffany tea service displayed in the exhibition was monogrammed for du Pont’s mother, Mary Pauline Foster du Pont. The tea service stayed in the family and was used until H. F.’s death in 1969, when it was donated to the museum.

Costumes of Downton Abbey shows the parallels between fictional life at Downton Abbey and real life at Winterthur. Many of the leisurely activities the characters at Downton experience are similar to the experiences of H. F. du Pont living at Winterthur.

The next installment will focus on “Dazzling Dinnertimes” and the evening costumes featured in the exhibition. Costumes of Downton Abbey is on view in the Winterthur Galleries through January 4, 2015. For more information, please visit

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Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communications Department

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Music to My Ears

MAB chipSince Henry Francis du Pont’s time, efforts have been made at Winterthur to fill the home and grounds with music. In an exercise in technical innovation and first-rate hospitality, Mr. du Pont wired audio systems throughout Winterthur. During the warmer months, guests could enjoy recorded music and live broadcasts as they played rounds of golf or lounged by the swimming pool.

In keeping with this tradition, during the summer and fall, Winterthur presents our Music Along the Bank series, which features local bluegrass and folk bands. This year marks the second year Winterthur has invited visitors to join us for evenings of live music on the lawn along the Clenny Run bank. Visitors are encouraged to bring picnic dinners and drinks and enjoy the music as it wafts through the summer air. All ages are welcome, and there is plenty of space for little ones to dance the night away.

The Sin City Band

Sin City Band

The first concert is Friday, June 27, when we will host Buffalo Chip & The Plainsmen, known for mixing a wide variety of acoustic styles including bluegrass, folk, country, americana, rock and blues. The “genre-blending” Sin City Band comes back to Winterthur on July 11. The band has been making a name for themselves since 1974, as they filled up venues everywhere from the Grand Bahamas to Winterthur’s backyard. On July 18, The Unruhlies will bring down the house with their mix of bluegrass, folk, and blues.

So grab your friends and family, fill up your picnic basket, and come out for a night of music and summer fun.

Music Along the Bank

$5 per Member. $15 per nonmember. Children under 13 free. Museum Store and Cottage Café will be open for light fare, wine, beer, and other beverages.

Buffalo Chip & The Plainsmen
June 27, 5:30–8:00 pm

 The Sin City Band
July 11, 5:30–8:00 pm

The Unruhlies
July 18, 5:30–8:00 pm

Post by Regina Lynch, Public Programs Assistant

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Winterthur in a New Light

Most art and history enthusiasts are well aware that historical objects need to be regularly monitored and conserved. But what about historic structures? How can conservators, architects, and historians work cooperatively to preserve the houses of the past for historians of the future? This year, Winterthur is learning the answers to those questions as we renovate our exterior.

Reno-Image-1The main goal of the yearlong project is to replace the 410 Plexiglas windows and approximately 800 wooden shutters on the exterior of the building. Careful attention has been paid to the changes that were made over the course of the house’s construction and, as put by Winterthur conservator Lauren Fair, the renovation will “tell again the story of manufacture and design change from one building campaign to the next.” These repairs and replacements will allow visitors to be able to see into the windows to the window frames, or muntins, and will restore the building’s exterior appearance, in keeping with the original aesthetic.

Left: Former view of windows; Right: New view of windows with visible muntins

Left: Former view of windows; Right: New view of windows with visible muntins

Original shutters

Original shutters

Along with the windows, the wooden shutters will be replaced with ones made from more durable material. Although the original shutters were regularly cleaned and repaired throughout the year during the 1960s and 1970s, this project marks one of the most significant efforts to maintain these shutters. The team at Winterthur has discovered at least 17 different variations of them, ranging from what are thought to be the original, functioning shutters from the part of the house built in 1902 to decorative ones installed several decades later. As with many parts of this renovation process, the progression of shutter variation around the house has shed light on some more debated parts of the house’s construction over time.

Although window and shutter repairs were the focus of this renovation, the access the scaffolding has provided to the upper stories of the house has also allowed for an assessment of the overall structure and preservation of the building. Some of the most noteworthy aspects of Winterthur’s exterior and interior are those elements that were taken from or inspired by the Port Royal House, which was originally built in Philadelphia in 1762. Actual architectural elements from this house can be found reinstalled in various rooms at Winterthur, but several components on the exterior of Winterthur are also taken from this house or were modeled after its architectural elements. For instance, the dormer brackets that frame many of the windows at Winterthur were created in the latter manner and they have become part of the most recent renovation project. Conservators and staff will be removing the original brackets in order to properly treat and conserve them. At this time, no decision has been made as to the fate of these objects, but it is likely that the originals will be stored and replicas will be put in their place.

Left: Dormer Brackets modeled from Port Royal House; Right: Ironwork fence from Port Royal House

Left: Dormer Brackets modeled from Port Royal House; Right: Ironwork fence from Port Royal House

The renovation project has also given our staff unprecedented access to some iron fencing from the Port Royal house, which now lines many of the ridges of Winterthur’s roof. Our conservation staff was particularly excited by this discovery and will be treating the ironwork over the next several months. The treatment will include the removal and replacement of the former coatings with new, more corrosion-proof ones.

While the scaffolding remains up for the renovation, several chimneys will be repaired or reconstructed and the gutters will be replaced. In order to install new gutters, several roof tiles will need to be removed and replaced. These pieces are the original tiles that Henry Francis du Pont acquired from the Ludowici Roof Tile Company, which were created in the Italian clay tile-making tradition.

Left: Ludovici Roof Tiles; Right: New Gutters

Left: Ludowici Roof Tiles; Right: New Gutters

One of the final stages of the renovation will be the installation of new, exterior lights that will light up Winterthur during the nights and darker months of the year. In its heyday, Winterthur was a beacon of culture, entertainment, and historic preservation. It is our hope that with new lighting, shutters, and repairs, Winterthur can continue to illuminate the days and nights for generations to come.

For ongoing updates on the house renovation, please visit

Post by Regina Lynch, programs assistant, Public Programs Department

Rendering of the final light installation

Rendering of the final light installation



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