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Tag: First Ladies

The Remarkable Story of Ann Lowe: From Alabama to Madison Avenue

Today’s guest post comes from Margaret Powell, MA, a decorative arts historian from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her areas of concentration are textile and costume history. She is a graduate of the Smithsonian Associates–Corcoran College of Art and Design History of Decorative Arts Masters Program.

On September 13, 1953, the New York Times featured the wedding of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier on the front page. The article contained a photograph of the bride’s intricate gown and a detailed description of its “ivory silk taffeta, embellished with interwoven bands of tucking, finished with a portrait neckline and a bouffant skirt.” The only thing missing from the coverage was the name of Ann Lowe, the dress designer.

Even today, as the Kennedy wedding gown resides in the permanent collection of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, very few people realize that this dress is the work of an African American designer. It is no novelty or a fluke—it is just one example of the countless designs created by Lowe for the Auchincloss family between 1947 and 1957. In fact, when Jacqueline’s stepsister Nina appeared in a 1955 fashion editorial in Vogue, she was wearing an Ann Lowe debut dress.

Ann Lowe’s story is remarkable. With little more than a few years of education in the segregated schools of turn-of-the-century Alabama, sewing lessons … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Hang ten, Pat Nixon!

Some time ago, a Facebook fan expressed thanks that we would never combine our First Ladies Friday with our Facial Hair Friday. To which we replied, never say never! Of course, the facial hair in this photograph is not on First Lady Pat Nixon, but that scraggly surfer goatee is in very close proximity to Pat, so we are going to count it as a two-for-one.

The First Lady had just finished a land-grant ceremony at Border Field, CA, to create a new park area at the U.S.-Mexico border for the Legacy of the Parks Program. Border Field State Park is 15 miles south of San Diego, CA. When the U.S.-Mexico War ended in 1848, delegations from both countries began surveying the boundary at this location in 1850. Border Monument number 258 can be seen from inside the park, but it no longer can be reached because there are border fences on both sides. When the First Lady was there, there was only barbed wire, and she was able to reach out and greet the Mexican citizens who had gathered on the other side.

The park is in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Threatened and endangered birds like the Western Snowy Plover and the Light-footed Clapper Rail now live in the salt marshes and sand dunes. (Surfers and picnickers can also enjoy the park’s facilities!)

The Legacy … [ Read all ]

Hats off to Bess Truman!

Today’s guest post comes from Tammy Kelly, archivist and hat aficionado at the Truman Presidential Library.

I admit it—I love hats. I have several vintage hats in my closet, but I find them challenging to wear because sometimes, I just don’t know how to wear them. People no longer wear hats on a regular basis, and you have to be careful how you wear them so that you avoid looking like you’re wearing a costume to work.

Bess Wallace Truman lived during a time when women regularly wore hats when going out in public, and as the granddaughter of a prominent family in Independence, MO, she always wore nice clothes. Mary Paxton Keely, her childhood friend, recalls that “Bess wore what the rest of us did; the difference was that she always looked more stylish than anyone else we knew.” She goes on to say that “Bess always had more stylish hats than the rest of us did, or she wore them with more style.”

One of the earliest photographs (above) of Bess wearing a hat demonstrates this interesting sense of style—it looks like she’s wearing a flag or a model ship on her hat! Sadly, this hat is not the museum collection of the Truman Library. The library has about 55 hats that belonged to Bess Truman, most of which she wore during … [ Read all ]

Romance in the Records

I was worried I would never find love at the National Archives.

When Scribd.com approached my office about promoting Prologue magazine by creating a collection of romantic records for their Valentine’s Day “Eat Say Love” event, I was very doubtful. Would I be able to find enough romance in the records to put together a collection?

The answer, of course, is yes! (The answer is also to ask your colleagues for help!)  The National Archives holds the records of a nation, and that includes our love stories. From lovestruck teenagers to future First Ladies on honeymoon to Depression-era valentines, Americans have left the evidence of their feelings in the records.

You can see all our romantic documents in our collection “Romance through History,” but I’ve highlighted three images below that tugged or tickled my heartstrings.

Happy Valentine’s Day!… [ Read all ]