Monday, March 25, 2013

Photo Shoot with Michael Craft

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Earlier this month we were the lucky beneficiaries of a professional photo shoot with Michael Craft Photography of Seattle. Michael is the official photographer for the LeMay Museum and donated a photo session to a fundraising auction held at the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance last fall. Fountainhead Museum owner Tim Cerny was the winning bidder and flew Michael (far right, next to museum manager Willy Vinton) to Fairbanks.

Although the session was for an 8-hour shoot, Michael generously gave us three days of his time (we did let him off to enjoy the World Ice Art Championships and the University of Alaska Museum, though). He photographed several individual cars and their features, spending two hours alone on our McFarlan's lovely motometer. We also took several cars outside for shots, and put Michael up on the lift to take some overhead panoramas of the museum.

Even Willy got into the action, as you can see at right.

We couldn't have pulled off the shoot without the wonderful volunteer help provided by Rod Benson and Michael Lecorchick. Thanks, guys!

The ladies from our Historic Fashion department were also kept busy, moving and arranging dresses for the photographs. Barb Cerny and Abigail Cucolo have done a fantastic job of putting several of our newest acquisitions on display. Do stop by to see them!

We can't wait to see Michael's photos of this spectacular 1910s gown.

Willy thought it looked like Barb and Abbie were worshiping the dress in the above photo. Never one to be outdone, he and the guys demonstrated equal reverence for the museum's 1933 Auburn speedster.

We'll be sure to share some of Michael's photos once we receive them.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Women's Exercise Clothes and the Bicycle

by Abigail Cucolo
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Don’t you love pants? Jeans, slacks, trousers- so easy, so comfortable, so convenient.

Don’t you love being able to raise your arms? Or sit down?

Did you know women owe a good deal of these “luxuries” to the bicycle?

Well, not the bicycle alone, of course, but it made excellent headway in the evolution of more practical clothing for women. With the increasing number of ladies participating in sports during the end of the Victorian Period and, most especially, the Edwardian, society was familiarizing itself with the idea that women could…well…move--and society wouldn’t fall into moral decay if women wore pants (for our UK readers, trousers. Obviously 'no pants' would be a different issue...).

The typical fashions of the Victorian period were rather restricting: sleeves were so tight women couldn’t raise their arms, large crinolines and bustles made sitting a strategic experience, corsets constricted breathing (among other things). The basic idea was that a lady would not need to be active, should not be active, so her clothing could be as frivolous and tedious as possible. Victorian society valued a domestic, submissive, dainty woman. It also, ironically, valued progress. The period was filled with reform movements on civil rights, temperance, dress, health. Schools began instituting exercise classes where women’s clothing could diverge from the dress code of society with uniforms consisting of knee length divided skirts and cotton stockings, however they would never dare to wear their uniforms outside of the proper venue. Upper middle class women and above began participating in vogue sports like tennis, croquet, ice skating, or golf, but for these social activities they wore their everyday clothes (that’s right, women would play tennis in full bustle). Of course, it didn’t take long to realize you can’t exactly participate if you keep tripping over petticoats or fall out of breath every play, so skirts raised a very few inches, corsets were loosened. While these situations began to blur the boundaries of acceptable costume, they were never worn on the street or out of the confines of private society. In the 1890s, the first women who wore ankle skirts in the cities faced aggressive crowds (Crane 259).

In comes the bicycle. Liberating in oh-so many ways! As a new ‘sport’ not already designated as exclusively male, women could claim it as an appropriate activity for themselves. Because of this, for the first time women were no longer restricted to a radius of three miles around their homes. Of course, it was almost impossible to ride in the fashionable clothing of the period, so it required more practical attire. Shorter skirts, more flexible corsets, less elaborate undergarments and less embellishment- thus began the foot in the door for women’s chance to wear pants.

For cycling, most women wore suits with calf length divided skirts (rationals in England), though bloomers (or knickerbockers) were worn by some. Full pants gathered at the knee, bloomers were originally devised by the dress reformer Amelia Bloomer as an alternative to the cumbersome and physically affecting styles of the mid-Victorian period. Initially both costumes were met with some controversy, but bloomers in particular faced great hostility--many women who wore them were chastised and assaulted on the streets:

Letter from Mrs. C.S. Peel (a Hundred Wonderful Years, 1926):

“Two ladies--or, as Grandpapa says, two shameless females--in bloomers bicycled through the village yesterday, and some of the women were so scandalized that they threw stones at them. I didn’t dare say so, but I thought they looked very neat, though I don’t think I should quite like to show my own legs to the world like that.” ( Gernsheim 81)

More popular in America than in England (where skirts that could be buttoned around each leg were most accepted), they were still often worn with an outer skirt to defer ridicule. Surprisingly, in France, where women were chastised in magazines for dressing in a masculine manner during their athletic activities, the divided skirts and bloomers were rapidly accepted, and a trouser ban on women was lifted for cyclists (Crane 258-260).

By 1896, there was an estimated number of 10 million Americans cycling (Tortura and Eubank 329). The sport only increased in popularity, and during the Edwardian period bloomers caused less controversy as society became accustomed to seeing women’s ankles. While the more traditional woman wore a divided skirt, bloomers were the choice garment of the emancipated lady and marked the first occasion of modestly successful trousers for women. They began to be seen as acceptable for activities other than cycling, like hiking, and though trousers as we recognize them would not be seen in women’s everyday costume until the late 1920s, the bloomers were a leap towards independence (if only for our legs).

So hurray for bicycles! Because the bicycle weaned society onto the sight of more practical clothing for women, we are free to wear our jeans today! …alright, Mr. Levi Strauss may have had a hand in that, too :-)

To view a video of our 'Bicycles to Bloomers' display, visit our Fountainhead Museum YouTube Channel!

Works cited:
Crane, D. (1999). Clothing as non-verbal resistance: marginal women and alternative dress in the 19th century. Fashion theory. May. Vol. 3 No. 2. pp. 241-268.
Gernsheim, A. (1981). Victorian and edwardian fashion: a photographic survey. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Tortora, P. and Eubank, K. (2005). Survey of historic costume: a history of western dress. 4th ed. New York: Fairchild Publications, Inc.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Automotive Library Arrives

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

We recently acquired a library from the estate of J. Parker Wickham, the Long Island car enthusiast from whom we purchased 19 cars and one motorcycle to start our museum. Mr. Wickham built a substantial collection of old books and literature over the years, and we are grateful to be the new conservators of his library. Many of the books and pamphlets are more than one hundred years old.

As the historian for the museum, I was delighted to see many of the titles as they were uncrated, including a complete set of Automobile Quarterly books. Not surprisingly, Willy was fascinated by the old service and operation manuals. The docents who helped unpack the books were also intrigued, as shown by Ron at right. Imagine needing a book to learn how to drive a car!

As you can see, some of the books have curious titles, and others are in very poor shape. In addition to entering every book into a database, we need to determine how to best preserve some of the most fragile ones. Unfortunately, we do not have space to display the books or allow for public access to them. However, if you are interested in doing research on a specific topic, contact us and we will see if we can accommodate you.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cruisin' in the Snow Flyer

by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

For several years we have taken our 1917 Model T Snow Flyer to the annual Tired Iron vintage snowmobile rally in Fairbanks. Alas, the event has grown so popular that there is no longer sufficient room to run the Flyer at the rally, even though it is surely the oldest snowmobile in town. We enjoy letting kids go for a ride in the Flyer, but need more space and fewer pedestrians to do so in a safe manner.

So, this year we decided to instead provide rides at Wedgewood Resort, home to the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. Approximately 45 kids ages 12 and under enjoyed rides on February 24, along with a few "over 12" kids (also known as "parents"). The old Snow Flyer performed without a hitch and brought a lot of smiles to all that were around it. I think we will do this again next year, as it was a lot of fun and a great success.

Our Snow Flyer is mounted on a 1917 Ford, so there is no electric starter, only a hand crank (Ford first offered an electric starter in 1918). Seeing how we had to start the engine also brought a lot of grins from the kids.

A big thanks to Mike Lecorchick and Rod Benson for all their help loading and unloading kids, and making sure that everything ran smoothly and safely.  In between the children's ride, Mike and Rod got to spend some time driving the Snow Flyer. We even got Tim Cerny, the museum's owner, to take a spin around the grounds with it.

You can see a 2010 video of our Snow Flyer here.