Saturday, January 4, 2014

"My wedding bonnet, October 23, 1878" - Paris, New York, Boston, Portsmouth

While chief curator at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH, I worked with some very special collections, including the historic garment and textile collection. Certain objects linger with you over time as has this especially noteworthy hat and hatbox. In the bride’s own hand, a label found inside the original hatbox notes "My wedding bonnet, October 23, 1878."
Photographed by Ellen McDermott (
this beauty offers abundant and complex views and textures. The bonnet was worn by Celia Amanda Elsie Fall Hussey (1855-1944) of Great Falls, NH and was donated by her granddaughter to Strawbery Banke (

The bonnet is of white or cream felt, attached to a buckram base. The pointed crown features a large bow of cream brocade, highlighted by a maroon, pink and green brocaded floral motif. Eye catching white ostrich feathers crest the bonnet. A brim of maroon velvet encircles the composition. Matching ribbon streamers are affixed to each side. Overall, the condition is good although the feathers are somewhat fragile.

Imported from France ca. 1875-1878, this wedding accessory indicates the savvy fashion sense of New Hampshire brides. Imported from the French millinery and retail shop of Joaquin & Cie. 277 Rue Saint Denis, to New York (58 West 14th Street) and then to Boston (32 Temple Place) and then purchased either through a Boston or Portsmouth shop. Clearly, the acquisition of the bonnet played an important role in the day of this bride. Not everyone can carry off such a piece, which no doubt it caused a few heads to turn and nod with appreciation.

Photographs, courtesy Ellen McDermott, 2010.

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