The MET with its exhibit, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire is 323 miles from my home. That’s about 6 hours by car or a little over an hour by plane… and then there would be the cost of a hotel and so on. It’s more the time issue than anything else. I have been go-go-go for a while now and the thought of another adventure away from home just doesn’t excite me.
I’ve been mourning the mourning attire exhibit. On Wednesday night I went to The Valentine for a tour guide meeting. After the meeting, we were able to look around at the newly renovated building along with the new exhibit, This is Richmond, Virginia. When I walked in… there it was! Across the room in all of its stunning glory stood an 1863 Mourning Dress worn by Mrs. Benjamin Rose. The fabric is gorgeous. The Victorians dressed so much better than we do today.
I wanted to nerd-out and take a ton of pictures but I vaguely remember signing paperwork about photographs and social media being a No-No; and since I can’t quite remember, I’m going to link to The Valentine. Of course their pictures are much better than any I could take anyway.
Beginning in the spring of 1861, Richmond, like many other communities learned first hand the price of war. The outbreak of fighting in early American Civil War conflicts like the artillery bombardment of Fort Sumter, the Battle of Philippi and the First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas) saw the first casualties. Richmonders buried their dead, and the survivors went into mourning dress. Some never returned to wearing anything but black.
Mrs. Benjamin Rose and her family moved from Richmond to the safety of Orange, Virginia, for the duration of the Civil War. Among the surviving Civil War era clothing in the Rose donation, this black silk gown indicates that Mrs. Rose assumed mourning in memory of a death in 1863. Following the surrender of the Confederacy, the Roses, like many other families, returned to Richmond and began the process of rebuilding their lives.
Gift of Mrs. Yetta Schwerin and Mrs. Mia Bigger, 1962
While the exhibit only included one mourning dress (because well, that wasn’t the focus), I feel as though the universe was smiling on me. The exhibit also included an 1888 tombstone that was once in Oakwood Hebrew Cemetery. The cemetery opened in 1866 and when the family replaced the maker a newer one in 2003, they donated the weathered one to the museum. I’m looking forward what else is in store from the museum.