Anonymous Artisans: Textile Designers & Their Sources

1968_0360_001Until the promotion of textiles designed by well-known artists came to the fore in the early twentieth century, designers for printed textiles had, in general, remained anonymous. We can document little about the majority of those designers who worked in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century calico printing industry, but we can contextualize their experiences from the fragmentary information available for some who were more famous.

By the middle of the 1700s, the role of artists and designers was fluid, competitive, and rapidly growing as a boom in the middle-class consumer market resulted in high demand for quality design for a wide variety of goods. This elevated status of design resulted in a huge increase in the number of instruction manuals and pattern books that were available to artisans. Painters, engravers, publishers, print sellers, calico printers, and potters all jumped on the bandwagon, demanding high-quality designs depicting fashionable botanical specimens, patriotic events, theatrical successes, and country scenes that resonated with the public.

fig. 1.NK 9900


To fulfill that need, London publishers like Robert Sayer promoted and popularized designs that were relevant to a variety of artisans. One of his most widely known treatises, The Ladies Amusement; or, Whole Art of Japanning Made Easy, was published in 1760, 1762, and 1769. The volume highlights the work of Frenchman Jean Pillement, whose designs can be found on ceramics, furniture, silver, tapestries, and wallpaper in addition to printed cottons. Similarly, Peter Casteels, who was well known in London as a painter of flowers and exotic birds, was the source of designs for a wide range of products through his involvement with the publication of the iconic Twelve Months of Flowers. Those prints were copied extensively and were even sent to India to serve as patterns for palampores imported back into London.

Layout 1

The earliest printed cottons and linens, called “indiennes” in France, were consciously designed in imitation of popular imports from India. Those fantasy floral designs have been revived on a regular basis ever since, but real flowers were also depicted on printed textiles, often copied or adapted from botanical illustrations and publications on native plants of the period. For example, Flora Londinensis by William Curtis, published in 1777, was the source for numerous copperplate designs printed at Bromley Hall. Calico printer Joseph Talwin, a partner in the firm, was a subscriber to the first edition of that publication.

fig. 4. 1958.7.2Many designs with flowers, birds, and other animals were also taken from books published specifically for pattern drawers (an early name for designers), such as Robert Sayer’s New Book of Birds (1765). This, in turn, was indebted to Francis Barlow’s engravings published from the early 1650s to 1694, generally known as “Barlow’s Birds.” These are regarded as the first British ornithological prints—lively and accurately rendered. The Winterthur collection contains numerous Barlow-style birds among the printed textiles. Sayer also sold Various Birds and Beasts Drawn from the Life by Francis Barlow and included Barlow prints in his own mid eighteenth century publications, all of which found their way onto textiles printed in the second half of the century. “It was really only with the publication of images by John Audubon [Birds of America] and others in the second quarter of the nineteenth century that Barlow’s birds were supplanted.”1

fig. 5. 1959.84.59No matter the design source, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, quality and cost were at the forefront of discussions by those advocating copyright protection. William Kilburn, one of the leading supporters of acts passed in 1787 and 1794 alleged that he lost £1,000 per year because his popular patterns were being reproduced by others. Lancashire printers were usually blamed for such transgressions. It was claimed that they saved costs by using cheaper materials and copying only those designs that were known to be successful.

Dating Designs

Dating printed textiles can be problematic, as few have survived with an accurate provenance. With the help of pattern books, however, scholars have been able to identify many examples. Such has been the case particularly for the nineteenth century, for which patterns and design trends are documented in unusually complete extant records. Bannister Hall records exist for the 1790s through 1840, and the Stead McAlpin archives begin in 1835 and continue into the 1900s. Joseph Lockett’s records of engraved designs for the years 1806 to 1840 survive in the form of cylinder strike-offs on paper; the extensive, although incomplete, holdings of the Calico Printers’ Association in Manchester throw light on the period 1818 to 1837; and an enormous corpus of material is deposited at the National Archives in London, where thousands of cloth samples were registered for design copyright from 1842 to 1910.

Another factor that complicates the accurate dating of textiles is the fact that designs have frequently been repeated, revived, and altered, sometimes over a period of decades. Designers have been known to incorporate different motifs from one publication or cut and paste from several, making the accurate identification of an original source a difficult prospect.

Thankfully this is not always the case. The firm of Brunschwig & Fils has been licensing designs from Winterthur’s collection since 1971, a time when accurate reproductions of historic fabrics were highly fashionable. Their Bird & Thistle toile is based on a pattern dated stylistically to between 1785 and 1815. The pattern was produced originally with copper plates as well as engraved cylinders, and the plateprinted version has been in continuous production as a screen print since 1974.

fig. 6. Bird&ThistleAs in the past, today’s artisans continue to be inspired by what has come before. Designer and historian Susan Meller has described the phenomenon most eloquently: “The patterns of printed cloth suggest a larger pattern that contains them—what we may call the recycling wheel, which sets the motifs of textile designs on a circular road of eternal return. Nothing disappears, and nothing appears out of nowhere. Just as the individual pattern repeats incessantly over the course of a print run, its motifs are in repeat over the course of the decades.”2


Excerpted from Linda Eaton, Printed Textiles: British and American Cottons and Linens, 1700–1850 (Published for Winterthur by The Monacelli Press, 2014).

1 Mary Schoeser, “A Secret Trade: Plate-Printed Textiles and Dress Accessories, c. 16201820,” Dress 34 (2007). I am grateful to Mary Schoeser for identifying so many of Barlow’s birds in the Winterthur collection.

2 Susan Meller and Joost Elffers, Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period (New York: Abrams, 1991), 14.

Printed Textiles cover finalPrinted Textiles: British and American Cottons and Linens, 1700–1850 is now available at the Winterthur Bookstore. Author Linda Eaton, the John L. & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles at Winterthur, has produced the worthy sequel to Florence Montgomery’s 1970 publication, Printed Textiles. Focused primarily on fabrics used as furnishings referred to as “furnitures” rather than dress fabrics, the new volume addresses the textiles industry in both Britain and America, international trade, designers and design as well as the chemistry and technology of printing on cottons and linens.


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Yuletide Meets Downton Abbey

“We lived in four places every year, according to a clockwork schedule. New York; Southampton, on Long Island; [and] Florida’s west coast. But the anchor, the basis of everything, was Winterthur.”

– Ruth du Pont Lord, daughter of Henry Francis du Pont

For Henry Francis, his wife Ruth Wales, and their two daughters Pauline Louise and Ruth Ellen, Winterthur was “home,” where every year the family and friends gathered for the holidays.

This year’s Yuletide Tour at Winterthur draws influences from the blockbuster exhibition Costumes of Downton Abbey, on view in the Winterthur Galleries until January 4, 2015. Similar to the exhibition, the Yuletide theme showcases the parallels of an American country estate and the British country home.

Downton Abbey Tree,  designed by Mack Truax, Yuletide 2014

Downton Abbey Tree, designed by Mack Truax, Yuletide 2014

The Court, the first stop along the tour transports visitors back in time, screening movie clips from the 1930s and 40s. Clips from classics such as The Philadelphia Story, The Bishop’s Wife, and Sabrina depict sporting scenes on a country estate. It was common for the family to screen first-run movies in this space. Woven in among the scenes from the classics are photographs of the du Ponts enjoying their own pastimes on the estate, especially sledding in the snow.

One of many decorated trees on the tour, this year’s newest tree, located in the Empire Vestibule, pays homage to Costumes of Downton Abbey. It is decorated with ropes of pearls, beaded ornaments, tiaras, bells, and, in honor of the workers, an old-fashioned feather duster as the tree topper.

Both the American country estate and British country home were dependent on dedicated staff for their seamless operation, especially during the holidays. Down the hall from the elegant Downton Abbey tree is a display of the staff lounge. With a table set for tea, a small Christmas tree, dumbwaiter, telephone, and radio, the lounge was the staff’s retreat, where they could relax or entertain their own guests.

The staff lounge at Winterthur was equipped with an enunciator panel, making it easy for the family to request service at the touch of a button. This illustrates how the American estates were more technologically advanced than their British counterparts. On the period drama series, Downton Abbey, the family summoned staff by ringing a bell, just like those seen in the exhibition.

Montmorenci Staircase, Yuletide 2014

Montmorenci Staircase, Yuletide 2014

While this year’s theme draws inspiration from Costumes of Downton Abbey, visitors can expect to see their favorite Yuletide traditions along the tour.

The Baltimore Drawing Room paints a Christmas Eve cocktail party. At small tables with place cards, Henry Francis and his guests enjoyed caviar and martinis. While today’s caviar comes from Russia, at the time, the caviar would have come from the world’s main source—the Delaware River at Penns Grove, New Jersey!

The Montmorenci staircase is beautifully adorned in evergreen garland and pink poinsettias, which Henry Francis preferred over red. All ready for a party, a swing band is situated under the staircase and figures on display are dressed in mid-1920s outfits from the Delaware Historical Society.

The Du Pont Dining Room is decked out in red! A centerpiece of red oncidium, small orchids, sits grandly on the dining room table along with red glassware and a Santa carving at each place setting. According to Emily Post, dinner etiquette was to talk only to those on your left and right. In that respect, such a large centerpiece would not have obstructed the dining conversation.

Du Pont Dining Room, Yuletide 2014

Du Pont Dining Room, Yuletide 2014

The dried-flower tree in the Port Royal entrance hall is always a favorite among guests. Each year the tree is made fresh from flowers all dried by Winterthur staff. While the tree was not part of the du Pont family’s holiday traditions, is has become a Winterthur tradition as a tribute to Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont and his love of horticulture.

This year’s Yuletide Tour is sure to get you in the holiday spirit! Hopefully you can draw inspiration for your own holiday decorating and entertaining.

Presented by the Glenmede Trust Company, Yuletide is on display now through January 4, 2015. For more information and a full schedule of related programming, please visit

Costumes of Downton Abbey is presented by M & T Bank and DuPont. With support from the Glenmede Trust Company.

Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing Communications Department


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A Clockmaker Named Claggett

Newport, Rhode Island, founded in 1639, was among the most successful port cities in the British North American colonies prior to the American Revolution. It boasted active intercoastal and trans-Atlantic trade connections and a vital core of creative craftsmen. Those overseeing its civic affairs were forward looking and adept politicians who fostered an environment that was receptive to and encouraging of freedom of thought and action. These circumstances provided the perfect setting for William Claggett, one of America’s most gifted clockmakers and practitioners of science.

060_FPCWilliam Claggett (ca. 1694–1749) and his two most notable apprentices, his son Thomas (died 1795) and his son-in-law, James Wady (died 1759) are remembered as having made some of the most remarkable clocks in pre-Revolutionary America—remarkable for their beauty and complicated mechanisms. Their clocks are even more notable for the distinctive cases local cabinetmakers fashioned to house them. Yet, in spite of the respect collectors and historians hold for these men, there remain many unanswered questions about them and their work.

Research is being conducted under the auspices of Winterthur Museum and the Newport Historical Society for a scholarly book on these men and their extraordinary clocks. The authors seek and will gratefully receive any information about these talented craftsmen pertaining to their lives. They would also be pleased to learn the existence of their handiwork including clocks, scientific instruments, musical instruments, and other related artifacts. Readers are asked to contact with any pertinent information.

Post by Donald Fennimore, Curator Emeritus, Winterthur Museum. Mr. Fennimore and Frank L. Hohmann III are the co-authors of Stretch: America’s First Family of Clockmakers.

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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

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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)

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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

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