This little red cotton dress was worn by Ann Maria Jones, who was born in 1840 and died in 1846.

The handmade dress is simple, but not plain. The six buttons up the front are decorative (the dress fastens in the back with five plainer buttons), and piping was added at the neck, waist and arms. The skirt is full, and would have fitted over a petticoat and, most likely, a pair of bloomers. (Click here to see the overall effect, albeit with a fancier gown.)

In the mid 19th century, both boys and girls under the age of 6 wore dresses like this one. Children’s clothing followed fashions just as adult wear did, but relatively simple dresses like this one were made for several decades. How, then, do we know that it was worn by a little girl in the 1840s? A previous owner took the time to write us a note – and not just any old note on paper, but a message written on the lining of the bodice: “Little Ann Maria’s dress. She was Grandma Jones’s oldest child. Died with typhoid and effects too much calomel. Age 6 years.”

The clues given here point us to Ann Maria Jones (1840-1846), daughter of David Trundle and Mary Ann Dawson Jones. Mary Ann (daughter of James Mackall and Ann Nancy Allnutt Dawson) grew up in “Mother’s Delight,” in the Boyds/Dawsonville area, and married David in January1840. Ann Maria was the oldest of their seven children; she, her mother, and three of her siblings are buried in Monocacy Cemetery, along with earlier family members who were moved from the graveyard at “Mother’s Delight.” Since the donor, Lawrence Elgin, is also descended from the Allnutt/Dawson family, Ann Maria Jones is almost certainly the original owner of this little dress.

Why was this dress saved? We don’t know. I know that typhoid (and other) patients were quarantined, but did you get rid of all their clothes and belongings while you were at it? (Or do I only think that because of The Velveteen Rabbit?) This dress seems a little small for a six year old; maybe it was an earlier gown, untainted by association with the disease. . . but in that case, why didn’t Ann Maria’s younger siblings wear it? Or maybe they did, but the lasting association was with Ann Maria. The message in the dress provides some good clues, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

As for the mortal “effects of too much calomel” – calomel was a common remedy in the mid 19th century, a heroic medicine used for many diseases (especially bowel illnesses like typhoid fever). Unfortunately, calomel contained mercury, and too much of it caused mercury poisoning; you might survive the illness but die of the treatment. Poor Ann Maria, not quite six years old, probably didn’t have much of a chance.