Samuel Adams’s Mother Was a Fifield

Back in the early aughts, I was a Collection Care Specialist in Textiles and Fashion Arts (TFA) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I was working on a National Endowment for the Arts grant to photograph and perform condition … Continue reading

Postpartum Depression and Witchcraft

If you have had a baby, you know the months afterward can be tough. There are numerous explanations as to what lunacy gripped Salem Village )┬áin 1692. Ergot poisoning. Adolescent girls seeking power. Class inequality. Disputes over property lines. My … Continue reading

New Year’s Day – A Great Day to Run Away

Many of us choose some aspect of life to rejuvenate on the 1st of January. On a whim, I decided to reference my runaway servant research database to see how popular a day New Year’s Day was for running away. … Continue reading

Don’t Confuse Geisha and Courtesans (Oiran and Tayu)

Images of geisha and courtesans are often mislabeled. For those unfamiliar with subtleties in the styling and wear of kimono, obi, and traditional Japanese hairstyles, it can be difficult to differentiate between a geisha, a bride, a housewife visiting friends, … Continue reading

18th Century Convicts Marched from Newgate to the Port

Convicts made up one of the significant immigrant populations to the American colonies in the eighteenth century. But try locating an image that says “convict” if you are preparing a presentation. This image from The Newgate Calendar, a tabloid-like publication … Continue reading

George Frideric Handel and The London Foundling Hospital

The Messiah, written by George Frideric Handel in 1741 and first performed in Dublin before its launch in London, was originally meant for Easter. Many of us have attended the oratorio’s performance at Yuletide, a practice that gained popularity in … Continue reading

A Philadelphia Servant, 1787

  A pie lays broken in the street, a distraught servant teased by the chimney sweeps who caused her to drop it. She’s likely on her way back from the bakery to which her mistress sent the pie to be … Continue reading

Set Your Shift Sleeves in the Wrong Way? A Runaway Advertisement

Ever get that lovely hand-stitched shift near completion, and then realize: “Crap. I put the shift sleeves in the wrong way.” Out comes the seam ripper and it feels like your best-looking stitches ever are screaming as the blade slices … Continue reading

Oyster Shuckers

I used to hate oysters. Typically, tidewater Marylanders pat oysters in cracker meal, fry them, and if you need a condiment, slather on some tomato ketchup. Churches in the area used to have fried oyster and ham suppers, though the … Continue reading

Catering to Clients in an 18th Century Philadelphia Shop

I spent July at a Research Fellowship at Winterthur Museum, Library, and Garden. This mainly meant identifying manuscripts and object collections that might have something to tell me about my research topic: working women’s dress, as illuminated through the study … Continue reading