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High Fashion in the Valley

Signals, September 2011

The Sewickley Valley Historical Society endeavors on occasion to present the Valley’s rich history to its membership and the public through exhibitions. In 1990 we sponsored a major show on the architects Longfellow, Alden & Harlow and financially supported a book on the firm by the late Margaret Henderson Floyd of Tufts University. In 2000 we celebrated the new millennium by co-sponsoring, with Sweetwater Center for the Arts, a comprehensive exhibition of works by local artists entitled “A Brush with History.”

In May and June of this year we continued this tradition by displaying a collection of garments that have been donated to the Historical Society over the years and which usually never see the light of day: they are stored in archival boxes stacked up in the headquarters office. The beautiful, amazingly well-preserved clothing from the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods shown in the exhibition belonged to the Jones, Walker, Rose and Brown families.

In order to help us raise the money to properly display the clothing, Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Snyder III hosted a gala garden reception at their historic house on Sewickley Heights, Wilpen Hall. The party was held on a beautiful, warm late spring afternoon—a welcome change from the cool, wet weather we’d been having. Some vintage garments from the Snyder family’s own collection were on display that day, and curator Jeffrey A. Poole delivered short comments on the clothing of the era.

Because of the monies raised at the Wilpen Hall reception as well as donations from an anonymous donor, Elm Ridge LLC, L. John and Sadie Kroeck, Dr. and Mrs. Clarence Miller Jr., Orr’s Jewelers and Harton S. Semple Jr., the Historical Society was able to mount the exhibition “High Fashion in the Valley: Vintage Clothing from Sewickley Collections” in the Community Room of the Old Sewickley Post Office and keep it open for ten days, free of charge, for our members and the public.

The photographs above give just a glimpse of the show. If you missed it and would like to see the garments displayed, we have a catalog of the exhibition with full color pictures as well as historical background and photos of the women who wore the clothes. It is available for $5.00, tax included, from SVHS, 200 Broad Street, Sewickley, PA 15143. Please include $1.25 for postage and handling.


Wednesday, September 21

Held at 7:30 p.m. Old Sewickley Post Office

A Presentation by J. K. Folmar President, Monongahela River Buffs Association

Dr. John Kent Folmar is Professor Emeritus of History, California University of Pennsylvania. He has a Ph.D. in U. S. History from the University of Alabama. A long-time student of local history, he has written several books on Pittsburgh and Monongahela River history and has delivered dozens of papers on flatboat/keelboat/steamboat history as it relates to the Mon. As president of the Monongahela River Buffs Association in Monongahela, he edits its publication, The Voice of the Mon. Dr. Folmar has been recognized in recent years for his achievements in poetic verse. He says that his “expressions of joys and exasperations” have been a diversion over the years from his lifetime devotion to the study of history.

Dr. Folmar will talk about the background to the coming of steamboats (flatboats & keelboats), the “New Orleans” trip, the technologies that led to the western style steamboat, and the steamboat’s impact on western river transport prior to the coming of the railroads.

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