Tag Archives: Advertisements

Novelty, Simplicity, Buoyancy, and Pliancy

Novelty, simplicity, buoyancy, and pliancy – aren’t these all features we seek in every aspect of our day-to-day life?  Helen Traphagen certainly felt these attributes were important when she set about designing and patenting the “Victoria Inflated Skirt” in 1857.  The sketch below is an attachment to a patent granted by the United States Secretary of the Interior for a “new and useful improvement in ‘Ladies Skirts’.”

Illustration of “Air Expanded Skirt,” excerpt from [Patent for an Improvement on Ladies Skirts], 1857, in the Documents Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 36.406.1

The sketch is titled “Air Expanded Skirt” and the garment is indeed just that.  When I first saw this sketch, I was half-hoping that the skirt was some sort of flotation device, created with the purpose of aiding the wearer if she were perhaps to trip and fall off a bridge or over the side of a ship into a body of water while wearing the numerous layers of clothing common for the time.  However, the description affixed to the patent states: “The nature of [the] invention consists of attaching to the body of a skirt, or petticoat, a series of air tight tubes, to be inflated with air, for the purpose of expanding the surface of the skirt, to give a ‘set’ to the dress similar to that affected by the use of hoops, cords, and other devices now in use.”

The description goes on to describe the various functions of the undergarment, matching the lettered components in the illustration above to their respective purpose.  “A” is the petticoat, or skirt, itself.  “B” components are a series of horizontal “air tight tubes, formed of rubber cloth, oiled silk, or other suitable material,” which are made in equal circumference to the skirt itself, with the purpose of bringing the skirt to its full measure of expansion.  “C” components consist of series of vertical tubes, made of the same material as “B” components, connecting the “B” components to one another, and allowing for the entire apparatus to be inflated at once.  “D” component is the valve by which the tubes are inflated, by mouth, and then stoppered so that the air is retained in the tubes, keeping the skirt expanded. The patent goes on to explain that air-inflated hoops are much more preferable to cords, hoops, canes, or steel springs, which can be “oppressive to the wearer” due to their rigidity and weight.  After viewing this short film, showing members of the Costumes and Textiles Department dressing a mannequin in a dress from later in the 19th century, I know I would have been looking for anything to help me feel less oppressed by my clothing.

Once Ms. Traphagen had obtained her patent, she began marketing her invention as the “Victoria Inflated Skirt.”   The handbill below explains the name of the product by mentioning that the British Queen, Victoria, was so pleased with the product, she included it in her own wardrobe.  The advertisement mentions the benefits of the inflated skirt to the comfort of the wearer, and goes on to explain it also “imparts that light and easy buoyancy so indispensable to the graceful effect of feminine apparel.”

The Victoria Inflated Skirt, ca. 1857, in the Documents Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 36.406.3.

These objects, however, left me wondering whether this petticoat was ever mass produced in the United States.  At the time of publishing the handbill, a business by the name of Pantecnicon of Fashions was taking pre-orders, but the skirt does not seem to have been readily available.  While a search of the New York Times archives mentions the invention of an “Umbrella Greatcoat” in 1854, which could be inflated by blowing air into it to expand the skirt of the coat out beyond the legs and feet, I did not see any mention of an inflated skirt.  I spoke with Phyllis Magidson, the Museum’s Costumes and Textiles Curator, and she had never laid eyes upon such a skirt, either.  She said that such an invention spoke to the popularity of full skirts during the time period, and also to the known problem of how cumbersome the supports for full skirts were.  While there were many attempts to minimize the amount of weight carried by women in support of their garments, the crinoline was by far the most broadly used.   Magidson also pointed out that this invention, which honors the Queen of England in its name,  predated the Prince of Wales visit in 1860, when the United States formally began to reestablish a connection with England for the first time since the Revolutionary War.

If you’d like to see images of the types of dresses this inflatable skirt would be supporting, be sure to check out some of Charles Frederick Worth’s earlier designs, available through this online exhibition.

It’s Toasted: Mad Men and New York City

The digital team is eagerly awaiting the return of Mad Men to television on Sunday, March 25, after a 17-month hiatus. In anticipation of this, we have  pulled together an assortment of Mad Men-related images to share with you.

While imaging the Anthony F. Dumas theater drawings, our photographer Mia Moffett noticed the Lucky Strike advertisement bearing the famous “It’s Toasted” slogan on the theater’s signboard. In Mad Men’s pilot episode, Don Draper of Sterling Cooper successfully saves the firm’s Lucky Strike account by envisioning a new campaign for the beleaguered tobacco company: “Everyone else’s tobacco is poisonous, but Lucky Strike’s is toasted.”

Anthony F. Dumas. Rialto Theatre. Museum of the City of New York. 75.200.52

Near the end of the first season, Sterling Cooper employees have an all-night, booze-fueled party to watch the presidential election of 1960 live on television. Here is a photo of John F. Kennedy with Jackie on October 19, 1960, less than a month away from his election to the office of President.

Burton Berinsky. John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy in a ticker-tape parade. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.10964

Angelo Lomeo. After Nixon Lost Election, 1960. Museum of the City of New York. 97.99.3

In season 3, representatives of Madison Square Garden hire Sterling Cooper for a public relations campaign, hoping to diminish negative publicity surrounding the proposed demolition of Pennsylvania Station. The station was designed by renowned Beaux-Arts architecture firm McKim, Mead & White. The New York Times glowingly reported on the opening of Penn Station in an article from August 29, 1910: “This Seventh Avenue facade was conceived especially to symbolize in most imposing fashion a monumental gateway. It may be compared, with due allowance for its more massive proportions, to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, through which passes so much of the traffic of that city.”

Construction of Pennsylvania Station. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archive.X2010.11.5087

Irving Underhill. Penn R. R. Depot, 7th Avenue & 33rd St. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.28.720

Berenice Abbott. Federal Art Project. Pennsylvania Station. Museum of the City of New York.

In 1961, owners of Madison Square Garden announced that the entertainment arena would be moving from its  location on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets to the site of Penn Station.  The relocation would require the demolition of the Penn Station structure, billed by Garden officials as necessary for modernization and progress. But the decision to demolish Penn Station was a controversial one. A New York Times article from October 29, 1963 bemoaned the change: “A building that sometimes made a ceremony out of a journey, the station reached the end of the line, architecturally, at 9 A.M. Electric jackhammers tore at the granite slabs of the side of the terminal near the 33rd Street entrance, crushing the hopes of a band of architects who had rallied to save what the Municipal Art Society called ‘one of the great monuments of classical America.'”  Partly in response to Penn Station’s demolition, NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission was established in 1965.

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.43

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.78

Aaron Rose. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-1965. Museum of the City of New York. 01.30.33

The specter of the Vietnam War appears in season 4, with a character preparing to be shipped off to Vietnam.

Line in an Army reception station. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archive. X2010.11.13987

Benedict J. Fernandez. Burning of Draftcards. 1963. Museum of the City of New York. 99.150.17

As these photos illustrate, attitudes about the war were divergent and often politically divisive. Below is Martin Luther King, Jr., marching with pediatrician Dr. Spock and labor activist Monsignor Rice in the Spring Mobilization for Peace in 1967.

Benedict J. Fernandez. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Benjamin Spock and Monsignor Rice. Museum of the City of New York. 99.150.9

Benedict J. Fernandez. Pro-Vietnam War Demonstration, New York, 1970. Museum of the City of New York. 99.150.15

We look forward to seeing more of New York City’s history replayed in season 5 of Mad Men.

New York Streetside

New York has seen its share of interesting, humorous, or just plain odd signs. In addition to being entertaining, the signs tell us a lot about how the city has changed over the years.

Around 1895, a dubious claim made by Painless Parker, a Brooklyn dentist:

Byron Company. Dentist: Painless Parker about 1895 124 Flatbush Ave. Brooklyn. Museum of the City of New York.

In 1910, a fireworks company within city limits:

Wurts Bros. Woolworth Building, lower section of 12 Park Place showing Pain's Fireworks. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.3705

Purchasing a gun was much easier in 1937 than it is today:

Berenice Abbott. Federal Art Project. Gunsmith (Variant). 6 Centre Market Place between Broome and Grand Streets. Museum of the City of New York.

Berenice Abbott. Federal Art Project. Gunsmith and Police Department Headquarters. 6 Centre Market Place and 240 Centre Street. Museum of the City of New York.

Around 1940, the James Slip Gospel Mission did not gloss over its message to the world:

Roy Perry. "Your Sin Will Find You Out," James Slip. Museum of the City of New York. 80.102.123

A 1954 Planters Peanuts advertisement in Long Island City, Queens:

Wurts Bros. 32nd Street and Hunters Point Avenue. Planters Peanut warehouse and garage, front elevation to garage on Hunters Point Avenue. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.9988

Taken in 1979, when tobacco advertisements were much less controversial:

Andreas Feininger. Winston Lights, 6th Ave. in the 30s. Museum of the City of New York. 90.40.53

This photograph of an advertisement for Budweiser was taken in 1981:

Andreas Feininger. Times Square. Museum of the City of New York. 90.40.13

A message from the Lyric Theatre in 1995:

Andrea Sperling. The Lyric Theatre - Marquee with Jenny Holzer Aphorism. Museum of the City of New York. 96.172.5

No need to wonder what lies behind these doors:

Edwin Martin. Butcher and Cow (10th Ave.), 1997, New York. Museum of the City of New York. 01.63.1