Vintage Clothing Collection Comes to USI Archive

Many of the items came from Martha Beardsley Cooper and her daughter Harriet Ethel Beardsley. Martha was born in Ithaca, New York, but the family later moved to Bourbon, Illinois. Harriet married James Montgomery, a resident of Owensville, Indiana, and Harriet and Martha both relocated to Indiana in 1883. Harriet had two daughters, Ruth and Martha. Martha married? Gordon and had four children. The second born was James Gordon who was husband to Evadean. The children’s clothing was worn by Martha Gordon’s children.

These items reflect their long history and the care that the family had for its belongings. One of the petticoats from the late 1800s shows how the item was taken in and let out several times to accommodate the wearers as well as the mending that occurred over the years. Most of these items were handmade, including the bead work and knitting.

There are plans to have an exhibit of the clothing in the Byron C. Wright Administration building next spring. The University Archive and Special Collections is displaying some of the wonderful hats from this collection on the third floor of Rice Library. Digital images of the items in the collection will be available online by the summer so that anyone can view the clothing. The archive hopes that not only the students and public will enjoy these pieces but also that the theater department may be able to use them as patterns for designing period costumes for their productions.

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