This sailor-style dress was purchased in 1911 from Marshall Field’s department store, Chicago, by Fannie K. Dawson.   Hal and Fannie Dawson were moving their family from South Dakota back to Hal’s hometown of Rockville; when the train stopped in Chicago, Fannie went clothes shopping for her younger three children.  Rose, age 15, wore this dress when her family arrived in Rockville, where they went directly to the Beall-Dawson House, home of Hal’s brother John. 

This story was told to us when Rose K. Dawson’s heirs donated the dress.  It is also recounted in a memoir/family history written by Rose’s niece, Mary Dawson Gray. Mrs. Gray notes that Rose’s brothers Joe and Walter got new suits to wear (sadly, we don’t have those in our collections), and that while the boys stayed that first night at the Beall-Dawson House, Rose was “immediately taken to stay with Uncle Tom’s three girls” at the Thomas Dawson family home about a block away.

Detail of embroidery on sleeve, showing the thoroughness of the 'sailor' theme. Although the eagle looks a little like a cockatoo, I think.

The dress is in moderately good shape except for the inexplicable (to me) panel missing from the front of the skirt.  The style is fashionable, or at least it can be found in the “young miss” sections of department store catalogs from the mid 1910s.  What I find most interesting about the dress (well, it’s really a blouse and a skirt) is the fact that it was clearly saved, perhaps first by Rose’s mother Fannie but later by Rose herself, as an important piece of family history.  The fact that it ties into our museum is a bonus. 

The dress is on display through the end of December at the Beall-Dawson House, in the upstairs gallery.  Mrs. Gray’s book is called Living Through History (2005), available in our library if you’re interested.  And for those of you keeping score – or time – I apologize for completely forgetting (for the first time in over a year, to give myself a little credit) that it is Wednesday, and I need to post an artifact!

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