A “Just Married!” Extra – The Bridesmaid Gown; Or, You’ll Wear It and Like It

Posted on September 15th, 2017 by

Curators have to make choices: not everything can make it into an exhibit, and there’s seldom enough space to share every interesting fact about the things that are on display. That’s where social media comes in! Here’s a closer look at another “Just Married” story from JMM collections manager and Just Married! curator Joanna Church. To read more “Just Married!” extras, click here. To read more posts from Joannaclick here.

The bride and groom with their families and wedding party: the wedding of Rabbi Meyer Zywica and Frances Friedlander, June 11, 1950. Seated, left to right: Elaine Friedlander, Rebbitzen Rose Friedlander, Rebbitzen Esther Friedlander Rosenblatt, Hinda Feldman Esterson. Standing, left to right: Rabbi Yonah Weisbord, Rabbi Meyer Zwyica, Frances Friedlander, Jason Rosenblatt, Rabbi E.B. Friedlander, Rabbi Morris D. Rosenblatt, Professor Morton Esterson. Gift of Morton M. Esterson. JMM 1993.109.1

The bride and groom with their families and wedding party: the wedding of Rabbi Meyer Zywica and Frances Friedlander, June 11, 1950. Seated, left to right: Elaine Friedlander, Rebbitzen Rose Friedlander, Rebbitzen Esther Friedlander Rosenblatt, Hinda Feldman Esterson. Standing, left to right: Rabbi Yonah Weisbord, Rabbi Meyer Zwyica, Frances Friedlander, Jason Rosenblatt, Rabbi E.B. Friedlander, Rabbi Morris D. Rosenblatt, Professor Morton Esterson. Gift of Morton M. Esterson. JMM 1993.109.1

Though we have many wonderful wedding gowns in our collections, we do not, alas, have any dresses worn by bridesmaids or attendants. The closest we get is an adorable little flower girl dress from 1928. Thankfully, through photos and documents we can still get at what some of our wedding couples’ friends and family wore to the festivities … and what society (or Society) thought was appropriate.

Black and white photography, though stylish and elegant – and, of course, the cheapest (if not the only) option for many decades – does not convey the full glory of a bridesmaid dress; nor does mere description. But the descriptions are a lot of fun. For example, we can only imagine the rainbow array of gowns and trims worn by the attendants of Bessie Grossman Paymer (whose fashionable beaded silk wedding gown is included in “Just Married!”) at Hazazer’s Hall in 1911:

“The maid of honor was Miss Minnie Grossman of Philadelphia, a cousin of the bride, who was dressed in pink satin, draped in pink chiffon and embroidered with roses…. [As for the four bridesmaids,] Miss Evelyn Paymer wore a gown of white satin, draped in steel-studded chiffon, trimmed in crystal and white marabou. Miss Cecelia Paymer wore pink charmous [sic] satin, draped in blue chiffon and trimmed in crystal fringe. Miss Bessye Paymer wore turquoise-blue satin, draped with white chiffon and trimmed in pearls and white marabou. Miss Mary S. Levy wore yellow satin, draped in blue marquisette and trimmed in pearls and blue marabou.” -The Baltimore Sun, January 22, 1911

Not only are these dresses elaborately trimmed (indeed, they sound like the 1910s version of today’s stereotypical “my friend made me wear dreadful giant bows” bridesmaid gown), they are each totally different. In more recent decades, many brides choose to garb their attendants in identical shades, but I rather like the idea of a multicolored entourage. And perhaps the bride was following the advice of an etiquette author such as Mrs. Humphrey, who wrote in Etiquette for Every Day (1904), “…a considerate girl [will not] be arbitrary about the colours chosen [for her bridesmaids]. She will take into account the various complexions and tints of hair of the girls who are to wear the dresses, and will good-naturedly endeavour to choose something that will suit them all; as well as a form of gown that will be likely to be useful on other occasions after her wedding.”

By the 1920s many etiquette guides were singing a different tune. Bridesmaids should emphatically not expect any such consideration from their friends, as stated in both Emily Holt’s Encyclopedia of Etiquette [(1921) and Emily Post’s Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and in the Home (1922). The former notes, “The bridesmaid and maid of honor must yield unquestioningly to the taste of the bride concerning the color, mode of making, and all the appointments of their wedding dresses.” Post gives similarly inflexible instruction, though she does add that while the dresses must all be of the same fabric and design, a bride may choose some complementary colors for different attendants to wear, particularly to differentiate the maid or matron of honor from the mere bridesmaids; nonetheless, she concludes, “bridesmaids’ dresses are looked upon as uniforms, not individual costumes.”

Thus at the wedding of Helen Brylawski and Baltimore’s Sidney Lansburgh, Jr. at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., 1940, the bridesmaids were dressed all alike, with the matron of honor’s outfit having the colors reversed (as recommended by Emily Post). Two of the young women can be seen in the photo below. According to the Washington Post, at the Brylawski-Lansburgh wedding “Mrs. Arthur Lyon was matron of honor, wearing flesh-colored marquisette and a halo horsehair hat with ribbon streamers. The bridesmaids were Miss Therese Weil, of New Orleans; Miss Rosalie Lurvey, of Indianapolis; Miss Sylvia Glickman, of New York, and the Misses Elizabeth Hahn and Selma Friedman, of Washington. They were dressed in aquamarine marquisette and wore flesh-colored tulle hats with aqua streamers. All the attendants carried fans fashioned of pink roses.” The Washington Post, June 13, 1940

Left to right: Betty Hahn, Richard Lansburgh, and Selma Freedman at the wedding of Sidney Lansburgh, Jr. and Helen Brylawski at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., 1940. In your imagination, please color their dresses aquamarine, their fans pink, and their hats beige with aqua ribbons. Gift of Margaret Nomentana. JMM 2004.108.9

Left to right: Betty Hahn, Richard Lansburgh, and Selma Freedman at the wedding of Sidney Lansburgh, Jr. and Helen Brylawski at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., 1940. In your imagination, please color their dresses aquamarine, their fans pink, and their hats beige with aqua ribbons. Gift of Margaret Nomentana. JMM 2004.108.9

As noted above, a black and white photo can’t really do these sartorial choices justice. Happily there are a few colorful examples, such as the movie taken at the wedding of Phyllis Kolker and A. Harvey Schreter on February 1, 1942 at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. Snippets of the film are included in “Just Married!” and the full movie, courtesy of MARMIA (Mid-Atlantic Regional Moving Image Archive), can be viewed here. Look for the Emily Post-approved reversal of colors, with the first young woman in a yellow satin gown with a wide blue ribbon on her bouquet, and the two attendants behind her in blue with yellow bouquet ribbons. (And yes, no doubt the designer, salesperson, and bride herself would have used fancier color names, but until I find the newspaper description, “blue” and “yellow” it is.)

There are of course many other variations on the ‘proper’ way to do things, both before and after these decades… too many to cover in this short post, which merely touches on a few of the trends of the early-mid 20th century. However, one thing seems to remain constant, no matter the era, and no matter whether the bride is following the dictates of fashion or her own inclination: As the author of The Social Mirror: A Complete Treatise on the Laws, Rules and Usages that govern our most Refined Homes and Social Circles noted in 1888, “The principal duty of the brides-maid is to look pretty, and not out-shine the bride.”

When Rose Friedman married Sam Buckman at Lehmann’s Hall in 1920, the wedding party included 15 ushers, 14 bridesmaids (in a variety of fabrics and dress styles), 2 junior ushers, and 2 flower girls. Gift of Fran Gimbel. JMM 2007.18.1

When Rose Friedman married Sam Buckman at Lehmann’s Hall in 1920, the wedding party included 15 ushers, 14 bridesmaids (in a variety of fabrics and dress styles), 2 junior ushers, and 2 flower girls. Gift of Fran Gimbel. JMM 2007.18.1

 

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A “Just Married!” Extra – An Artistic (and Popular) Ketubah

Posted on September 7th, 2017 by

Curators have to make choices: not everything can make it into an exhibit, and there’s seldom enough space to share every interesting fact about the things that are on display. That’s where social media comes in! Here’s a closer look at another “Just Married” story from JMM collections manager and Just Married! curator Joanna Church. To read more “Just Married!” extras, click here. To read more posts from Joanna, click here.


 

One of the joys of exhibit research is discovering unexpectedly-related artifacts, documents, and photos across the full spectrum of the collection; it’s like finding new pieces to a puzzle you didn’t even realize was incomplete.  Such was the case with Samson Margolis’s “Artistic Ketubah,” designed in the mid 20th century.

Margolis (1897-1972), a Baltimore artist and calligrapher, shows up frequently in our archives: we have a nice collection of his business files, printing plates, and tools, donated by his son and daughter-in-law, and in addition his work can be found on many certificates, awards, and posters from a variety of sources. These include original, hand-inked pieces as well as printed documents available for purchase and customization. Popular items were his memorial book, a family history book, and – relevant to my exhibit research – an illuminated marriage certificate.  His ketubah is bright and colorful, with text in English and Aramaic, as became common for most movements in the mid 20th century. It is suitable for framing, but can also be folded into a booklet; some versions included a keepsake envelope for storage.

Margolis ketubah, front and back when folded into a booklet. From wedding of Rose and Morton Miller, 1952. Gift of Rosedale Cemetery Association. JMM 1996.25.2

Margolis ketubah, front and back when folded into a booklet. From wedding of Rose and Morton Miller, 1952. Gift of Rosedale Cemetery Association. JMM 1996.25.2

A blank copy of this ketubah was included in the Margolis files along with other examples of his work, but digging deeper I found another unused copy, from the collection of Dr. Louis L. Kaplan (who performed many marriages in 20th century Baltimore), and this one, from the wedding of Rose Siegel and Morton Miller, married by Rabbi Samuel Vitsick on February 21, 1952.

Margolis ketubah used by Rose and Morton Miller, 1952. Gift of Rosedale Cemetery Association. JMM 1996.25.2

Margolis ketubah used by Rose and Morton Miller, 1952. Gift of Rosedale Cemetery Association. JMM 1996.25.2

After taking a close look at these various copies, I started spotting it in photos.  A 1979 snapshot (showing Jesse Hellman signing his Margolis ketubah, watched by his bride Debby Salganik and their officiant Dr. Kaplan) is included in the “Just Married!” exhibit, along with the fresh copy donated by the Margolis family; but eagle-eyed visitors might have noticed that in the 1994 wedding video in the exhibit entrance, Shurron Ann Shapiro and Andrew Carpel sign a Margolis ketubah under the guidance of Rabbi Morris Kosman of Beth Sholom, Frederick.  So far, the earliest photographic evidence of this ketubah can be found in the wedding album of Barbara Sue Levy and Bernard Dackman, who were married April 4, 1951 at Beth Tfiloh.

Bernard Dackman signs his ketubah, 1951. Photo by Bradford Bachrach. Courtesy of Ilene Dackman-Alon.

Bernard Dackman signs his ketubah, 1951. Photo by Bradford Bachrach. Courtesy of Ilene Dackman-Alon.

The last piece of the puzzle (so far) is this marketing letter written by Margolis himself, hoping to get Maryland’s rabbis to invest in a supply of his work for use in any and all weddings they might perform.

Undated letter from Samson Margolis, touting his new “Artistic Ketubah” and offering local rabbis special introductory rates for bulk purchases. Gift of Aaron and Dorothy Margolis. JMM 1994.193.60

Undated letter from Samson Margolis, touting his new “Artistic Ketubah” and offering local rabbis special introductory rates for bulk purchases. Gift of Aaron and Dorothy Margolis. JMM 1994.193.60

Dear Rabbi:

I am taking this privilege of sending you two copies of the new Artistic Ketubah which I have designed and published in five colors, A Marriage Certificate to be kept and cherished for generations.

As you will note, particular attention has been paid to the space allowed for inscribing the names in Hebrew and English. The original texts which are hand-written, are both clear and legible.

Only through the new process in Lithography and the use of fine quality durable papers, could this artistic feat have been accomplished.

Considering the labor, ingenuity, and the skillful production of this Art Ketubah, it should sell for more than a dollar at wholesale, but in order to introduce it to the public and make it popular, I have decided to market it at the following prices:

100 copies for $35.00, 50 copies for $20.00

12 copies for $5.75, single copies at 1.00

As an introductory offer you may have the enclosed two copies for only one dollar.

In the event that you are not able to use these Art Ketubahs, please return them in the same envelope, using the enclosed label for the return address.

Remittance should accompany the order or, we may, upon your request, send C.O.D.

Thanking you for your kind cooperation, and hoping to be favored with your order, I am,

Respectfully yours,

Samson Margolis

I particularly like this letter because it helps explain how Margolis’s ketubah enjoyed such a long career – still in use in some congregations into the 1990s, as evidenced by the video from Beth Sholom.  If a rabbi or congregation took Margolis up on his special introductory rates and laid in a goodly stock of documents, one might well expect to still be using them some 45 years later. I’m sure Margolis would be glad to know his “artistic feat” had a lasting impact.

Detail of unused ketubah, showing Samson Margolis’s printed signature. Dr. Louis L. Kaplan Collection, gift of Efrem M. Potts. JMM 1995.192.124

Detail of unused ketubah, showing Samson Margolis’s printed signature. Dr. Louis L. Kaplan Collection, gift of Efrem M. Potts. JMM 1995.192.124

Help us track the Margolis ketubah! If you, or someone in your family, chose one, let us know the date and place!

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A “Just Married!” Extra – A Key Part of the Trousseau, 1903

Posted on September 1st, 2017 by

Curators have to make choices: not everything can make it into an exhibit, and there’s seldom enough space to share every interesting fact about the things that are on display. That’s where social media comes in! Here’s a closer look at another “Just Married” story from JMM collections manager and Just Married! curator Joanna Church. To read more “Just Married!” extras, click here. To read more posts from Joanna, click here.

 

On October 7, 1903, Rosa Weiller of Baltimore and Sidney P. Thanhouser of Parkersburg, WV were married at Lehmann’s Hall by Rabbi Guttmacher of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.  The Sun described the event in the following day’s paper:

“The bride was attended by Miss Rose Cohn and the groom by Mr. Milton Myers. The bride’s gown was of white chiffon and Duchesse lace, and her bouquet was of lillies of the valley. Miss Cohn, the maid of honor, was gowned in chiffon cloth and carried American Beauty roses. The groom and his best man and the ushers wore conventional evening dress, with boutonnieres of lillies of the valley…. A dinner and reception followed the ceremony and later in the evening the bride and groom left on an extended wedding journey.”

The newlyweds settled in Baltimore – living for some time with Rosa’s widowed father, Isaac C. Weiller, at the Marlborough Apartments on Eutaw Place, before moving to their own home in the nearby  Esplanade Apartments – and in 1909, Sidney went into business with Rosa’s brother Charles, founding Thanhouser & Weiller, manufacturers of boys’ clothing.  They had two children, including daughter Louise who in 1989 donated her parents’ album of congratulatory wedding telegrams (on display in our “Just Married!” exhibit) and, from her mother’s trousseau, a set of fine lace-trimmed muslin nightclothes.

Nightgown from the trousseau of Rosa Stein Weiller Thanhouser.  Made of fine muslin – perhaps nainsook [link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nainsook] – with flounced lace yoke; the elbow-length sleeves are adorned with exuberant lace ruffles and silk bows. Gift of Louise Thanhouser Goldman. JMM 1989.135.1

Nightgown from the trousseau of Rosa Stein Weiller Thanhouser. Made of fine muslin – perhaps nainsook – with flounced lace yoke; the elbow-length sleeves are adorned with exuberant lace ruffles and silk bows. Gift of Louise Thanhouser Goldman. JMM 1989.135.1

Detail of the lace flounce at the cuff of the knee-length matching drawers. Gift of Louise Thanhouser Goldman. JMM 1989.135.2

Detail of the lace flounce at the cuff of the knee-length matching drawers. Gift of Louise Thanhouser Goldman. JMM 1989.135.2

At the time of Rosa’s marriage, a typical bridal trousseau included not only the wedding ensemble itself, but also a going-away outfit (for leaving the ceremony and/or starting off on the wedding trip); the linens necessary for starting her own household; and some pretty underthings. According to Emily Post (1922), the bride’s mother is responsible for buying as many of the latter as possible, for “the various undress garments which are to be worn in her room or at the breakfast table, and for the sole admiration of her husband, are of far greater importance than the dresses and hats to be worn in public.” Though Rosa’s nightclothes are a far cry from the negligees a modern bride might choose, remember that fashions change in many ways – not only for the wedding gowns themselves – and what looks matronly or old-fashioned to us today was quite stylish and sophisticated in 1903.

Rosa came from what looks like a comfortably middle-class family – her father was in the clothing business, and they lived (with at least one servant) in a prosperous neighborhood – and no doubt her mother wanted to outfit her with the very best. Unfortunately there’s no indication of whether these were bespoke pieces or, if they came from a local store, which store that might have been… but thanks to other items in our collection, we can take a look at similar offerings from Baltimore’s Joel Gutman & Co. only a few years earlier (notice how the fashionable sleeve size has changed by the time of Rosa’s gown):

From the Joel Gutman & Co. fall/winter catalogue, 1897-1898: options in “bridal sets,” consisting of nightgown, chemise or corset cover, and matching drawers. Available in cambric or nainsook, you’re your choice of a variety of lace types and qualities, some costing as much as $50 - which sounds reasonable until you realize that $50 in 1903 would be over $1,000 in today's money. Just like today, though, sizes for large or small ladies were a little harder to acquire than ‘standard’ sizes. Gift of Arthur Gutman. JMM 1989.10.4

From the Joel Gutman & Co. fall/winter catalogue, 1897-1898: options in “bridal sets,” consisting of nightgown, chemise or corset cover, and matching drawers. Available in cambric or nainsook, you’re your choice of a variety of lace types and qualities, some costing as much as $50 – which sounds reasonable until you realize that $50 in 1903 would be over $1,000 in today’s money. Just like today, though, sizes for large or small ladies were a little harder to acquire than ‘standard’ sizes. Gift of Arthur Gutman. JMM 1989.10.4

 

Curious to see what other brides were wearing in 1903? Here’s a full ensemble – including wedding gown, underclothes, shoes, fan, and nightgown (click on “additional images”) – worn by a Brooklyn bride that year, courtesy of the Met.

The Chicago Tribune detailed the “Trousseau of the June Bride” for 1903 (though without describing the nighclothes, sadly).

And here’s a 1903 description of an appropriate British trousseau (and, in the section above, of a stylish 1903 nightgown very similar to Rosa’s), quoted in C. Willet Cunnington’s fashion history classic, The History of Underclothes (1951).

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