Dec 23, 2008

A First Lady a Day: Caroline, or 1889

You are wondering - who’s Caroline?
Carrie Harrison. Lovely woman, well dressed. Elegant, yet fun loving. I have seen some of her clothes at the President Benjamin Harrison Home in Indianapolis. Very, very nice. And the house is great too - right downtown, easy to get to. Go if you have a chance. They had a spiffy display on the third floor when we were there - Death in the White House.

She was petite, a pianist and artist. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister and teacher of chemistry and physics, she married Benjamin Harrison, who became an attorney and later a General in the Civil War. She died of tuberculosis in the White House in 1892. Her daughter served as hostess after the period of mourning was over. For more:

from, (the American Museum of History): “In keeping with the "America First" economic policy of her husband, Benjamin Harrison, Caroline’s gown was an "All-American" creation, made in New York City by William Ghormley's firm, Ghormley, Robes et Manteaux. The Logan Silk Company in Auburn, New York, produced the fabric for the dress, while Indiana artist Mary Williamson designed the brocaded silk fabric in a pattern of Burr Oaks in tribute to Benjamin Harrison's grandfather, President William Henry Harrison. Burr oaks trees grew along Tippecanoe Creek, the battle site that earned the older Harrison his famous nickname.”

Well, This is Very Grand. Very much a Formal Reception Gown. It’s almost a coronation dress in its symbolism. It’s certainly with the fashionable trend heading into the 1890s. So she was in style, and it‘s appropriate for a mature matron of 55. Clearly a dress that was meant to pose in, stand in and be seen in. Not a dancing dress. Very Regal in a way we would simply not accept of a 20th C Citizen First Lady. But this was the Victorian Era, and the Gilded Age, so we will go with it.
It is really beautiful. I can't grade it. I love this era.

A link to a webpage on the restoration of the gown :

from Caroline Harrison's official portrait

And for Christmas, a bonus gown: Caroline and Benjamin Harrison's daughter Mary Harrison McKee's 1889 Inaugural gown:

for more information :

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