Decorative Arts

Piano Cover

Image of piano cover.

1892
Illinois State Museum, Illinois Legacy Collection
Gift of Zella Lewis & Earl S. Ramseyer, 1989.073.0001

Around 1890, two enterprising teenaged girls from Owaneco, Ida Ramseyer and Laura Fry, came up with an ambitious plan: they would write to the wife of each state’s governor to request swatches of fabric from their ball gowns, then use those swatches to create a crazy quilt.

Tramp Art Radio Cabinet

Image of tramp art radio cabinet.

1911
Illinois State Museum, Illinois Legacy Collection
Gift of Gaylon Sprimont, 2011.134

In the winter of 1910-1911, a drifter named Charles Bosquet stopped at Julian Sprimont’s farmhouse in Will County and requested room and board for the winter. A deal was struck whereby Bosquet promised to create this large cabinet for Sprimont’s battery-operated radio in exchange for his stay. The two men went from tavern to tavern that winter collecting the wooden cigar boxes that Bosquet needed for his work.

Cotton Dress

Image of woman's cotton dress.

c. 1830
Illinois State Museum, Illinois Legacy Collection
Transfer from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2001.191.0001.0011

Figured cotton gowns such as this were very popular in the 1820s as the cotton economy boomed and advances in dyeing and printing technology made a wide variety of colors and patterns available to middle-class consumers. This dress was made from cotton that was likely grown by enslaved people in the American south, woven into cloth, dyed, and printed in the textile mills of New England or England, and then shipped to Illinois on an expanding network of railroads and steamships.

Parlor Chair

Image of parlor chair owned by former Governor Joel Matteson.

c. 1850-1855
Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum
Gift of Dorothy Deneen Blow, 1951.21

This rosewood chair was rescued from a fire in former Governor Joel Matteson’s private residence in 1873. Built in 1855, Matteson’s Springfield mansion boasted nineteen rooms filled with elaborate furnishings and was considered “a marvel of architectural beauty” in its day. This chair, which was originally upholstered in brocatelle, likely sat in the oil-frescoed first parlor.

Noiseless Carpet Sweeper

Image of noiseless carpet sweeper.

c. 1885-1889
Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum
Gift of Bissell, Inc., 1993.018.006

This noiseless carpet sweeper was manufactured by the Prindle Manufactuing Company of Aurora, Illinois, in the 1880s. When pushed along the floor, the brushes would rotate, sweeping dirt and dust from the floor into the dust pan. Devices like these saved homeowners from the laborious process of taking carpets and rugs outside to beat them.

Photo of the Snow Bird Club

Image of "Snow Bird Club" members photo.

c. 1884
Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum
Gift of the Sangamon State University Foundation, 1995.242.68

Those who survived the "winter of the deep snow” called themselves snow birds and considered themselves the true original settlers of Illinois. In 1882, a group of male snow birds formed a Snow Bird Club for the purpose of calling on old settler ladies every New Year’s Day. A copy of this photo, depicting the 23 members of the Club, was given to each lady they visited in 1884.

Russian Candlesticks

Image of Russian candlesticks.

c. 1890-1910
Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum
Gift of Cornelia Young, 1962.21.750049

Cornelia Young of Hillsboro purchased these candlesticks from peasants in Sorochinskoye, Russia, after World War I. They were cherished possessions, yet the peasants were desperate to raise money in order to buy warm clothing and food.

Spanish Reales

Image of Spanish Reales, obverse.
This 1807 Spanish Reales (both obverse and reverse sides are shown) was worn as jewelry and found around the neck of a person buried in a Catholic cemetery near Kaskaskia. At the time he was buried, Kaskaskia was on the east side of the Mississippi River, but the river’s course was altered during major flooding in 1881, which destroyed most of the town and exposed the graves.

Piece of Eight

Image of piece of eight.
Early coins were made of precious metals, with the value of the metal being equal to the face value of the coin. Since the value of the metal was key to its worth, no one thought twice about cutting a silver coin into pieces; a rather novel way of making change, one might say. This sliver of a silver dollar coin, eight Spanish reales (royals), was found during an excavation of the Fort Williams site on the Wabash River near its confluence with the Ohio River. A Spanish piece of eight was one-eighth of the eight reales coin.

Graduation Dress

Image of graduation dress.

1881
Illinois State Museum, Illinois Legacy Collection
Gift of Joan D. Keller, 2010.200

Miss Fanny Matheny wore this dress when she graduated from the Bettie Stuart Institute in Springfield at age 19. The Bettie was a girls’ school that educated the daughters of some of Springfield’s most prominent families in courses ranging from English and math to art and music. After graduation, Fanny married Dr. John Dixon and played an active role in the city’s cultural and charitable organizations. She was involved in the Humane Society, the Red Cross, and the Home for the Friendless.

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