This hand-embroidered cotton lawn baptismal gown comes from the Diamond family of Gaithersburg. It was worn by John Bernard Diamond Sr., born at the family farm Bellevue on March 25, 1857 and baptized on July 19, 1857 at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Clopper (Gaithersburg). According to the family it was “handmade for him by nuns in Baltimore.” (The gown may well have been worn again by his son John Bernard Diamond Jr., born June 23, 1882 and baptized at St. Rose on July 9th of that year.) John Bernard Diamond, Sr. (1857-1925) was the son of William and Josephine Diamond. William was a prominent businessman and land owner, as was his son John. Bellevue, a large estate, was located on what is now part of the NIST campus. Diamond Avenue, which runs through Olde Towne Gaithersburg, is named for this family.

Since I would not necessarily recognize hand embroidery from machine embroidery, you’ll be pleased to know that an outside expert confirmed the family’s “handmade” designation. The style of the gown – short sleeves, wide square neck, and decorated yoke – is typical of mid 19th century christening gowns.

It occurs to me, after rereading this, that it is not my most inspired blog post. This is no reflection on the little gown itself, which is quite lovely – the anonymous Baltimore nuns did a really good job – or on JBD Sr, who had an interesting career, and whose family is relatively well represented in our collections. In fact, why don’t we view this is as only a first installment in a Diamond family retrospective? In the meantime, below please find a photo of Bellevue (“the first house,” as apparently it was rebuilt at some point) circa 1880, and here is some information on the Diamond family from a history of Gaithersburg.

Image donated by Alice Diamond French.

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