Why did the Chicken Cross Huguenot Street?

By Zachary Rousseas

We have a pretty interesting object this week: a rooster costume, from the estate of Laura Woodward LeFevre. This costume was worn in 1924 by Ralph LeFevre, a New Paltz resident and descendant. In 1924, the town celebrated the 246th year celebration of the settling of the village originally settled as Die Pfalz by the Huguenots. The same year was the 300th anniversary of the settling in New Netherland by the Huguenots. This celebration was kicked off with a pageant, which you can read about in the previous Object of the Week post, a parade, and many other festivities.

Rooster costume

Rooster Costume Part 2

Unfortunately, the rooster costume and Ralph LeFevre are missing from the Pageant playbook featured in last week’s post. We can only speculate how this costume could have been used back in 1924. LeFevre could have been an extra in one of the plays, or he may have worn it to celebrate the farmlands that would have been so important to the New Paltz community during its original settling, and still to this day. The Rooster costume was created from a variety of different materials: the head was created from rust wool and its red stiffened top cock was of cotton, the eyes were made of black buttons, and the hood was brown cotton with tan cotton on the underside, the beak was wooden, and the tongue was a red flannel. The materials used to create the rooster costume are especially important because of the availability of the items and how many of them would have been available in an average household.

Yet, finding this rooster costume may not be as obscure as had been originally anticipated. Costumes were more common in the early 20th century than they are in contemporary times. National Geographic Magazine explains, “masquerade parties in the United States were much more common a hundred years ago, when people dressed up not just for Halloween but also for several other holidays, including Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve […].”1 Similarly pageants depicting “[…] episodes from a town’s early years rather than the recent past, evident in historical pageants of the 1910s, grew more prominent in the 1920s.”2 There are numerous other examples of this in the Historic Huguenot Street collections, fashion and costumes were an integral piece of society in previous centuries.

The existence of this rooster costume in our collections is telling about costumes, fashion, and party culture around 100 years ago, alongside being one of the more peculiar objects we have seen so far on this blog. Additionally, this rooster costume allows us a glimpse into how the descendants in the early 20th century viewed tradition, their history, and their Huguenot ancestors.

 

1 Photograph Copyright DaZo Vintage Stock Photos, Images.com, Corbis. “Halloween Costume Pictures: Spooky Styles a Century Ago.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 29 Oct. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
2 Glassberg, David. American Historical Pageantry: The Uses of Tradition in the Early Twentieth Century. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 1990. Print.

Die Pfalz Pageantry

By Zachary Rousseas

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This week’s object in itself is a teaser for next week’s post. In June of 1924, a pageant was put on in tribute to the 246th anniversary of the settling of New Paltz. The event was organized by the Village of New Paltz in collaboration with the Normal School (which was founded by Huguenot descendants and is the foundation of SUNY New Paltz). The pageant begins with a prologue describing the First and Second Esopus Wars and then segues into the story of hostages Catherine and Louis Dubois with their three children – how they were rescued and brought to an Indian village that would later become Die Pfalz. It is here when an overture played accompanied with a description of butterflies flitting in a meadow with children skipping and robins flying about.

The climax of the story occurrs when the Indian tribe council burns their hostages at a stake. Instead of exhibiting fear, Catherine begins to sing a Psalm, which enchants and distracts the Indians. This leads to a grand, heroic feat by the Huguenots who come to rescue her and reunite her with Louis.

The pageant ends 14 years after the hostage situation with the purchase of New Paltz from the Esopus tribe in 1677, which they would then begin to settle in 1678. The final conclusion after this scene  includes a fanfare of trumpets, folk dances, and an Indian peace song.

Below is a photo of the initial page of the program which includes a list of the 17 members of the executive pageant council.

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Can you guess what next week’s object will be?

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Doll Couture

Hello! My name is Zachary Rousseas and I am returning for my third semester of interning here at Historic Huguenot Street. I am a double major in History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies at SUNY New Paltz. This is my first object of the week, enjoy!

This week’s object is a Milliner’s model doll dating to around the 1840’s. This specific doll belonged to Elizabeth Traphagen, whose sister married into the Hasbrouck Family. The doll was modeled after a white woman with styled long black hair. It was constructed out of painted wood, paper-mache, a leather body, and has facial features painted on. Additionally, it is dressed with a blue velvet bodice, light pink puff sleeves, a skirt with netting, and painted yellow shoes.

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Milliner is a name given to the dolls because of the words connection to hat and fashion. Milliner’s model dolls were given their name by avid doll collectors in the twentieth century, but their roots are not contemporary. They originate from early nineteenth century Germany, and reached their height of popularity in the mid nineteenth century.1 Many historians propose the theory that these dolls were adorned with the latest fashions of the time because their intended purpose was not for playing, but to show the newest women’s fashion. However, this is not the historical consensus. There is disagreement because the size of the doll made it hard to accurately represent style and fashion of real women. While these dolls original purposes did not allow any rough-housing, these dolls did get to face the wrath of children. Often, after the trendiness of their clothing expired, the dolls were recycled into nurseries as play dolls.

 

“Origin of the Term “Milliner’s Model Doll”…What’s in a Name?” Dolls From the Attic. Blogspot, 17 Apr. 2010. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.

On Display: Not for Self, But for Country

Not for Self, But for Country
Selections from the Permanent Collection
Exhibition by the Curatorial Department

The Historic Huguenot Street Curatorial Department has developed an exhibit of Civil War-related objects, now on display in the DuBois Fort Visitors Center. Featuring a number of archival photos and objects, this is a chance to see some of the HHS historic collections pieces that are not typically on view, including weaponry, clothing, food, and photographs. A number of the objects featured in the exhibit were previously featured on this blog as well, such as the Brooks Brothers frock coat, the 1850 Tiffany & Co. sword, and the hardtack biscuit.

SUNY New Paltz History student and Collections intern Kathryn Graham will be giving a presentation on these objects on Sunday, September 14, in the DuBois Fort at 3pm.

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