Category Archives: FieldReport1

Student field reports from our visit to the American Civil War Museum

Mourning Attire

As we looked at the full mourning gown in the Museum of the Confederacy’s collection with all its accessories we speculated that the lady who owned this outfit was probably younger in age and decently well off. Parasol, hat, veil, accompanying jewelry, and the heaviness of the material make one believe that this was probably an expensive ensemble for the time frame of the civil war era. What did other mourning attire look like was there a vast difference between the dark solemn gowns of the rich and of the poor?

I decided to search through images and found the majority to be almost identical to if not comparable to the one we saw on display. I realized this probably has more to do with the fact that pieces of higher quality last longer and those worn by higher society would probably sustain less wear and tear then the garments of the working class. I also noted that a hat had been tipped to mourning wear as a primary advancer in the popularity and rise of ready made clothing in the article A Lively Look at the History of Death, especially that of the full mourning attire. Which made sense to me as death usually comes on its own accord and rarely gives the survivors a lot of time to order fabric and sew or have a seamstress sew a gown and at a time when the civil war had claimed so many lives most of the remaining population was wearing mourning attire. One statistic I saw showed that at one point Alabama had over 80000 widows. So full mourning attire like what we saw would be needed immediately. Ready made gowns and accessories would explain why the majority of the “high class” mourning dresses I saw resembled each other so closely. I even found flyers from different stores advertising sales in their mourning attire stock.

Not everyone could immediately afford ready made gowns and often dark dye was used to transform ones regular attire to mourning attire quickly and cheaply.  A diary of one Virginia woman in 1846 recalls the whole town smelling of the dye pots, which was a very pungent smell. This was probably most often the case yet is not what is encompassed by most surviving and displayed collections that I have found.

The look of mourning attire was also largely influenced by the fashions of the times and many women looked to Queen Victoria and the British for popular styles, which may also be a reason why the dresses were so similar and not according to one’s own personal style and depth of connection to the deceased. Mourning costumes were also largely regulated and written about in many pamphlets and books in circulation at the time. How long each mourning period lasted, what garments should be worn, what fabrics were appropriate and at what point in the mourning were they worn, even which accessories one could wear publically were laid out in this culture of mourning.

The hair accessories we viewed at the museum were amongst the limited jewelry choices one could wear in public during mourning. These in their own right helped advance the profession of skilled artesian as the demand for mourning jewelry in this time period was great. Articles in periodicals of the time also detailed plans of weaving different types of hair jewelry to accompany one’s mourning attire.

By starting to examine the reasons behind the similarities in trends of full mourning attire I was able to get a glimpse into the beginnings of the ready made fashion era and the direct impact death, via fashion, had on the society of the civil war time period.

 

Levins, Hoag. A Lively Look at the History of Death, Exploring the Architecture and Rituals of Civil War-Era Mourning. Civil War Connections. HistoricCamdenCounty.com. http://historiccamdencounty.com/ccnews43.shtml

 

 

Field Report 1, American Civil War Museum

The American Civil War Museum was an incredibly useful trip in terms of putting our readings into perspective. After reading Aries’ arguments on the shift in Western attitudes, and about civil war mourning practices and attire, it was useful to see items up close and use them to interpret the attitudes and beliefs of the people who used them. It was illuminating to see details that weren’t covered in our readings, and to see major variations in their practices. I’ve chosen to focus on those variations in this field report.

It’s often found that one major issue with studying history is that it is incredibly easy to look at your subject in a vacuum. When we read about the southern mourning customs in antebellum and civil war eras, it’s easy to assume that the practices are universal among the people, and that the scholars whose readings we’re using have told us all the information we need to know. There were several items that I felt did a good job at bringing that point home, and they have been separated into categories below.

Japanese Influence in Mourning Accessories

One interesting item was the hand-painted fan, and it’s less colorful neighbor.  IMG_20160203_145508375

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After asking about their different appearances, wondering if the thicker material on the plain one was more durable, more expensive, just a different style, or simply from a different time period, our guide pointed me towards the recent popularization of Japanese imports. She suggested that the differences might have to do with the rising Japanese influence.  The carvings and flowers do seem reminiscent of Japanese folding fans, and it’s interesting that such an influence made its way into a largely “traditional” cultural experience.

The same influence can be seen on the two parasols, note the switch between a straight handle and the hooked handle. It’s only their handle that changed however, the wood is still a similar length, the color is still black, and they are both similarly thick.

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It would be interesting to look into this more and see if there are any other influences, or if they were just overplayed by the selection at the museum.

Varity in Mourning Clothing and Accessories

It was also interesting to see that the “half-mourning” clothing considered “gloomy” by one of our readings, was actually relatively average by today’s standards. The lilac print didn’t seem too morose, and the existence of a print was surprising. This was widely different than the images that had been conjured up of women in dark, solid hues of grey and purple, restricted in jewelry and color. I have to wonder if it was inappropriate to wear those colors outside of mourning, or if half-mourning clothing wasn’t very notable in a crowd of people.

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Hair jewelry also saw more variation than I had realized. I was disappointed that the mourning dress did not have the hair buttons I’d been expecting, but it reminded me that just because there is a practice within a culture, it doesn’t mean that you will see it applied to all examples. Hair necklaces, earrings, and décor might be seen all at the same point in time, but not simultaneously on every individual that had lost someone. I had to put that back into perspective.

Both of these instances did make me wonder if there were any differences in mourning jewelry or prints between classes. Obviously a fabric that cost $300 a yard was not available to everyone, but would a similar print have been considered appropriate for someone with less money? Did the restrictions become less suffocating when you were higher in society? Or was there a much greater degree of freedom than I was lead to believe.

Horse Hair and the Hair of the Living

The final major variation that I discovered through the artifacts at the museum was the expansion on hair in jewelry and decorations. It was well established by the time we reached this trip that hair jewelry was an interesting cultural norm that we no longer follow, but the use of horse hair in the note sent to a mother, or the necklace sent to a fiancé by her still-breathing beau, was not something we’d covered in the reading.

It was interesting to see the death of the individual transferred to the animal, considering it a part of them in a way and equal to a part of their own body. The same thing was witnessed with the tail of Jackson’s horse, which suffered a huge loss of hair after his rider’s death. It suggests that death might have been seen as a community affair not only because people were more accepting of it, or romanticizing the idea, but because the life of the individual has an almost contagious quality. It reminds me of the practice in slave culture which involves breaking the objects used by the deceased on their last day in order to “break the chain” of death. Unlike that, however, the chain that these people were taking parts of was life.

This could be further supported by the exchange of hair jewelry before death. Death wasn’t the part that was absolutely necessary for the jewelry, only the idea that it would one day be necessary to have a keepsake of a loved one.

 

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Mourning Jewelry: Hair Necklace

Upon first glance, this hair necklace is a modest piece of jewelry—what it lacks in iridescence, it makes up for it in novelty. The necklace is part of a jewelry set specially made by I.M. Bunting for his fiancée, Fannie. Closer inspection reveals that this necklace is simultaneously extraordinary and ordinary—very much like its greater purpose, lamenting loss and expressing love. I say “extraordinary” because the death of a loved one is an almost unbearable experience. Philippe Ariès, a renowned French historian, writes that the “transposition of life into eternity—death became the unaccepted separation.” As one can imagine, mourning is thus an exuberant ordeal. Yet, I suggest death as “ordinary” because it is unavoidable, and the elaborate mourning is pervasive during the Civil War period. This necklace embodies this all-consuming mourning. The worn edges of near the clasp suggest frequent wear and handling. This indicates a great level of attention devoted to the necklace. Either it was worn all the time, or the widower worn it at particular occasions then taken off to preserve this physical link to her fiancé. The crisscrossing woven pattern proclaims a certain order amidst chaotic emotions. Furthermore, it exhibits a living elegance due to the way it continuously wraps around and persists into the next oval. The structure of the ovals is airy, which relieves the severity and morbidity of the item. The weaving pattern combined with the hollow centers gives it a likeness to lanterns—commonly associated with light and hope. The human hair is presumably fragile, such that when fashioned into a memento such as this necklace, illustrates an endurance even after death. My personal speculation is that this “earthliness” and pragmatic appropriation of an actual part of the human body expresses a desire to disguise and improve upon, perhaps for the hair to become a “heavenly” item of adornment.

This hair work is in contrast of locks of hair kept in lockets. Hair made into jewelry are exposed and put on display, whereas locks of hair are preserved in small quantity, and put in the protection of a locket. In this way, the deceased in the former case is somewhat anonymous and public, but kept close to the living body (maybe even in contact with the skin when worn.) The latter, however, has an identity associated with it: the small picture portrait accompanying the hair. The locket insulates the hair from physical contact. This difference leads me to think that hair work in the form of jewelry is a silent declaration of a semblance of “living,” as opposed to the locket that demands distance and respect of a memory.

Field Report 1

There’s something to be said for healing.  At the very least, there’s something to be said for coping.

Losing a friend or a loved one can be an overwhelming experience.  The healing process, while different for every person, is rarely ever a short one.  It does not happen overnight, nor do we adjust to loss in the same way that we might embrace getting a job or moving to a new city.  Dealing with grief is a process, not a task.

No one knew long grieving practices better than mourners in Antebellum America, who mourned for years at a minimum following the death of a family member.  Women especially, dressed in black from head to toe, were expected to show outward signs of mourning through their entire wardrobe, from dresses to bonnets to hairclips.  An outward symbol of her sorrow, mourning clothes created a physical barrier between the woman and the rest of society.  The “closing-off” of the mourner gave them space to readjust to a life that was a little more independent, a little lonelier.

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This item, displayed at the White House and Museum of the Confederacy, is a ladies mourning hand fan from the late 1800’s.  It is plain, simply constructed from sheer black fabric and wood, decorated with an intricate floral design in bright colors.  Most likely plucked from a basket of nearly-identical black fans in a market, the flowers were probably painted on afterward by the purchaser and almost assuredly by a woman.  And while we may never know for sure who did the delicate painting, I like to think a grieving widow used the craft as part of her healing process.

For many, crafting can be a great method to keep your hands busy while simultaneously letting your mind wander.  In the Antebellum Period, the ability to create works of art, especially through sewing or painting, was seen as a softer, more feminine talent.  I can picture the sorrowful widow making careful brushstroke after brushstroke on the fan.  While she focuses on her art, she lets the methodical motion soothe her heartache as she struggles to move on.  As a constructive way to wade through her grief, the widow uses painting as a cathartic cleanse.

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Perhaps the cheery colors brought a bit of relief to her all black attire, or maybe she was transitioning from her initial mourning phase garments to more comfortable “half mourning” accessories.  I don’t, however, believe the fan itself is necessarily the most important piece to this puzzle, but the practice that personalized it.  The action in crafting, illustrated through the painted flowers on this fan, helped the mourner cope with loss in a healthy way and reconnect with society after a time of grieving.

Field Report #1: Mourning Coin Purse

Our class was given an inside look at the American Civil War Museum’s collection of mourning garb during the Victorian era. Among the elaborate pieces of various forms of hair jewelry, pieces of Varina Davis’s half-mourning outfit, and multiple black parasols, a single mourning coin purse, the length of my arm, stood out from all other artifacts. The black crocheted bag is comprised of a rounded side that is adorned with a simple silver beaded pattern and a square side encircled with multiple silver crosses. Each side has a beaded silver fringe on the edge while the slit at the center has two metal rings on either side.

In Western Attitudes toward Death, Ariès describes mourning traditions at the turn of the nineteenth century as “hysterical mourning”. There are no longer social restrictions on the grief displayed by the living after the death of a loved one. As a result, manufactured mourning goods increase in availability for women who whished to morn the death of their loved ones for the remainder of their lives. The mass production of black silk, cotton, crepe, and Henrietta cloth for mourning dresses, parasols, and veils occurred alongside the fabrication of black utilitarian coin purses.

The quotidian use of a coin purses juxtaposes the distinctive use of veils or hair jewelry after the death of a loved one. A widow would have continued to engage in mundane businesses, such as buying items, while submitting to her mourning process. The design of the mourning purse conveniently allows the woman to easily attach the purse to her body allowing it to lifelessly dangle alongside her. The metal fringes on either side of the purse would continually chime as the user went along with her day. These sounds mirror the act of ululation; while women were permitted to mourn excessively the purse personifies her strong, emotional grief. The black coin purse is an extension of the mourning woman, as it too appears to be in hysterical mourning. Everything a woman wore and used on a daily basis, such as a simple coin purse, is deliberately changed to allow her to entirely submit into her mourning process.

As the nineteenth century marks the emergence of hysterical mourning, women needed to make everyday items reflect their grief. While veils, hair jewelry, and dresses are decorative forms of mourning attire, this black coin purse shows that mourning items are an extension of a woman’s personal mourning process.

Mourning Coin Purse

 

Field Report 1

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I think that the most important part of our trip to the American Civil War Museum was viewing and discussing the samples of hair as well as the objects into which they were placed or into which they were made. As we discussed in the museum, a comparison was made to Christian saint worship in the European church and cathedral system. Just as worshippers wished to, at times, be close to the pieces of and artifacts from the Christian saints, it appears that Americans during the civil war period likewise wished to be close to and to hold pieces of their loved ones and those whom they admired or thought famous enough to be worthy of such “worship”. This was seen in the cases of the preserved hair from Robert E. Lee, who falls into the latter category, as well as the various ways in which hair was placed into or woven into jewelry, falling into the prior category.

There appears, to me, an important distinction between these two forms of “hair worship”- as a basic way to describe this infatuation with saving hair from the absent or deceased. In the cases of the famous figures’ hair, like the hair from Robert E. Lee or the John Wilkes Booth hair, which we also were able to view, they were generally unadorned and left in their natural state, simply placed within parchment paper or within small, simple boxes. This implies that, while the preservation of the hair is important, there is not necessarily any sense of love or nostalgia placed on these objects- in this case it is more like getting a celebrities signature (to make a simple comparison). On the other hand, when it came to the hair taken from loved ones who were either off to war or deceased, we saw that they were made into all kinds of jewelry and objects ranging from simple to intricate. Many of these objects were jewelry, clearly meant to be worn in order to have that loved one “near” on a regular basis. This brings us closer to the previous comparison of saint worship. Unlike with the “celebrity hair”, there is clearly intense care and thought put into the creation and use of these objects. I am reminded of the part from the Aries reading in which he discussed the development of cemeteries and the burial traditions in medieval Christian Europe. While the famous were placed in tombs close to the altar (this has nothing really to do with saints in this case), commoners were buried in the surrounding area, in which there was activity almost to the level of a marketplace, where people traded, reveled, and in some cases lived. Likewise, the hair of these rich and famous folk are, quite literally, boxed up and put away in a desk drawer or some such place, while the hair of lost loved ones are brought out into a more public domain. This can be compared to the burial of the commoners; the hair of the loved ones is meant to be remembered and in some ways celebrated and present in everyday life.

This all seems somewhat vague- simply a series of comparisons- but as was discussed at the end of our visit at the museum, this seems vastly more poignant when put in the context of spirituality during this period in the American south. Seances were quite common in the American south, adding a more mystical sense to this hair saving trend. In a time and place where vast numbers of people felt that they might actually be able to communicate with the dead, the preservation of their loved one’s hair seems more religious than nostalgic. Rather than saving these pieces of hair simply to say that they had known or loved such a person, as might be the case with the hair of famous figures, it appears to me that perhaps these talismans (if you will) held more spiritual power than anything else. Given time to research seances and similar rituals or ceremonies, this idea may be wrong. However, I would be very surprised, given the significant amount of artifacts in this vein, as well as the care given to making them, that these objects did not hold some kind of greater spiritual significance to those who held them.

Field Report One

On February 3rd our class went on a field trip to the Museum of the Confederacy, recently renamed the American Civil War Museum. One of the curators took us into the collections of the museum and showed us really fascinating pieces that were no longer on display at the museum. Out of all the displays I felt that the jewelry made out of hair and the mourning dresses were the most interesting items we looked at. Before seeing this pieces at the museum I had no knowledge of the hair jewelry practice at all. Honestly, the only thing I thought about at first was how gross and disturbing the thought of wearing a necklace made out someone’s hair was. However, I noticed just how intricate the items were and I became more intrigued.

         Philippe Aires, author of Western Attitudes Towards Death, states that around the 18th century death was dramatized. Before this time death was normal, expected, and people did not make a big fuss about mourning or graves. Mourning practices became hysterical, death became “less natural” and one was supposed to really feel its affects. The hair jewelry and dresses really helped display this transformation in mourning.

After the death of a loved one people would often make jewelry from their hair. There were two ways to acquire hair jewelry. The hair could either be sent somewhere to be made or one could make it themselves.   Necklaces, earrings, and watch chains were among the few hair jewelry items we looked at. The hair necklaces were very intricate; the hair was woven into different designed beads and there were many styles. One of the necklaces even had a locket with portraits of the husband and wife displayed on the inside. This shows the desire for wanting a direct personal connection with the deceased, which was not displayed in earlier times considering the trend of anonymous graves.

In the Victorian era a very popular way to display mourning was through clothing. Queen Victoria inspired women to mourn like her. The American Civil War museum has a really good display of a Victorian full mourning dress. In the period a full mourning dress would be all black with other black accouterments as well. The display showed a full-length gown, veil, necklace, gloves, shoes, and fan all paired with the outfit. Women came out of mourning much slower than men. Some women went into mourning for months, others years, and some even the rest of their lives.

For those women who did not want to continue mourning they would go from the full mourning phase to the half mourning phase. In this phase women had more freedom in the outfits that they would wear. Women could wear colors other than black, such as non-bright colors like mauve or purple. Jefferson Davis’ wife donated one of her half mourning dresses and we examined it while in collections. Her dress had two differently styled tops with it and was purple and cream in color. She wore this during the civil war after either her son or fathers passing.

As attitudes toward death changed over time people had to adjust their mourning practices.  Mourning dresses and hair jewelry display this extreme change that occurred.  Seeing these items up close and personal  was a great opportunity that I am glad we got to have.

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Pictured left a watch chain, hair jewelry necklace with locket shown in center, and anchor trinket shown right.
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Victorian full mourning dress on display at the American Civil War Museum.
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Shown here are two fans that would be accouterments to a mourning outfit.

Field Report 1: Hair, Hair Everywhere

I am not a fan of museums. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what they do in preserving artifacts or educating the public, it’s just that they don’t meld well with my brain. Walking around for three hours and pressing your face up against a glass panel to read a paragraph about the importance of an object isn’t too appealing to me.

My love of history comes from a love of great stories and an unrelenting interest in how people live their lives.  Not generic plaques meant to convey basic facts about the past.

But viewing the special collections gave us a unique insight to the world of grief. My first thought was just how unAmerican the whole ordeal of taking the deceased’s hair and making finery of it was. It was totally alien to me. I don’t mean to look down upon it, in fact I quite like the tradition and think it’s a shame that it’s gone.

Most funerals I have been to were open casket. The bodies inside were “peaceful.” More importantly, they were meant to look undisturbed. To even touch them (besides a gentle kiss or a caress of the hand) would be seen as a heinous offense. They must seem like they are sleeping; though I believe this to have less to do with denial that Philippe Aries chalks it up to and more about the acceptance for the grievers. But I digress.

Aries goes into this fear of the corpse and of death in general and he makes it clear that this is a modern phenomenon. That’s why it seemed so unAmerican to me. 19th century America had more influence from the Europeans than post WWII America, which became its own beast at that point.

It was also brought up in discussion that it seemed strange for Protestants to do something so very Catholic, such as making jewelry from the dead’s hair. This statement is in dire need of a rebuttal.

This is not a Catholic tradition.

Being buried near a saint’s cathedral is Catholic, or so one would think. There is plenty of evidence that shows that Greeks in their Dark Ages (probably around the time the Illiad and the Odyssey were being passed around) were buried in much the same way near venerated people – close but never touching the building they rested in. Not only this, but being buried with material objects has been going on since prehistory. What their purpose is may be unclear but the pattern is nonetheless there.

Catholic traditions in general stem from their ancient roots due to the fact that they were all converted with the velvet glove – the indigenous peoples were allowed to keep many of their traditions but would have to change a few things around. Yuletide would become Christmas, for instance.

So too is this true with the use of hair as finery. My knowledge is too scarce to go into the details of hair and ancient Europeans, but I do know they found it had some sort of power – Clovis I and many other kings in preChristian Europe refused to cut their hair for just that reason.

What I mean to say is that this seems to be a European tradition. I have not done the research and I would like to look more into this lost art, but to conclude that this was Catholic simply because Europe was also doing it at the time seems inaccurate at best to me.

But what I find more fascinating is that it has become taboo. I can only assume that this was due to the rise of materialism, industrialization, and America’s growing sense of self.

Materialism because of the growth of photographs as true memories of who that person once was. The fall of the importance of one’s own body with heightened attention to the distractions from it. Industrialization because of the ease of transportation and growth of the nuclear family. Finally, America’s identity because rather than adopting ideals from its trade partners and immigrants, it created its own: namely capitalism. These last two examples may not seem to lend too much to my case, but it shows the drastic shift of values within a short span of time. Perhaps it shows the willingness to drop certain traditions in order to adapt to new ones.

But what do I know? I’m just theorizing in a small vacuum chamber over here.

Field Report 1: Mourning Oddities

Death and mourning in America during the 19th century was not a new occurrence, yet memorializing the deceased publicized a new tenacity due to the Civil War. The recent trip to Richmond, Virginia’s American Civil War Museum (aka: The Museum of the Confederacy) gave this group of budding scholars an opportunity to delve in the archives of the rare postmortem artifacts and memorial oddities by today’s standards and gather a new understanding of how death was processed and the unspoken rules associated with it. This was not an average field study with an articulating docent giving us a rehearsed spiel, but a scholarly interpretation from the archival curator of the museum that garnered our attention. These were historical artifacts that allowed us to use our deductive abilities by using our senses of sight and touch to garner a deeper understand that is not available by just reading a standardized description published in a catalog or monograph.

An aspect of history and artifact preservation or display that has long been one of my passions is the random oddities that rarely get placed in the display cases for general public consumption because of the extravagant worth placed on per square inch real estate value. Much of what we saw maintained little documentary value in the macro-scheme of the museum, yet in the micro these items revealed a story of what life was like for the living in a time when society was dwindling daily by the thousands because of the advancement of technology on the battlefield and not because of plagues or disease.

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One story that I wish to share through three artifacts was that of a general and his horse that died early in the war. If not for a few civilians and a soldier that saw a need to memorialize his story through tangible artifacts we would not have a deeper understanding of General Turner Ashby who led the 33rd Virginia Infantry or “Stonewall Brigade” and was mortally wounded on June 6, 1862 while leading his men on foot after his horse was shot out from under him during the Battle of Harrisonburg. As past precedence has shown, usually the men who die in a blaze of glory on the battlefield usually have a story told of their lives on a scale of grandeur, yet his story is told through a postmortem ambrotype while his eyes are closed and propped up in a chair to capture the essence of the man before he is placed to rest with the other deceased of the battle. What was the initiative behind such a photograph and how was it that a photographer was available at that time and place that allowed his image to be memorialized for future generations to study and in some cases memorialize his contribution to the war effort? Did the infantrymen who served under him have a fondness they wished to memorialize or was it to be sent back to his family in appreciation for his valiant service to the “cause”?

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In any case, the portrait is just the tip of the iceberg of his memorials. The general’s stead, Gallant Gray  donated aspects of his physical being that became showpieces of memorializing the General through a brooch and a horse hair spray of flowers. Through the horse’s death and battlefield acquisitions, people saw an opportunity to create both a piece of jewelry in the form of a brooch from one of the “decayed bones” and likewise used the hair from the same corpse found on the battlefield where he fell to weave a detailed spray of flowers and a detailed note of condolence. While the brooch is very non-descriptive, it was something that a civilian kept in their possession to memorialize the general indirectly, and the hair art was created as an ad hock memorandum of condolence and given to his mother with an attached letter of sympathy.

All three of the aforementioned Ashby mourning articles by today’s standards would be cryptic if recreated. Yet, in the latter part of the 19th century these were considered part of the normal mourning and memorial process that allowed the grieving solace when trying to move forward when such graphic death and destruction had become part of the day to day life in the war torn south. Is it possible that by investing time into something as simple as horse hair or bone jewelry from a horse cadaver the survivors found a deeper appreciation for the living, or was it just a physical memento of a time that they wish would be part of their past?

Field Report 1

At the American Civil War Museum after reviewing both different ways of interpreting material culture based on the steps proposed by Prown and viewing objects relating to mourning, I found the differences between sexes and mourning to be particularly interesting. It seems as if I discover a new way in which the gap between how women and men were treated differently widens each day, this time with post-death rituals.

During our trip we viewed several items of clothing intended for female mourning, and even discussed one to an extent. However, we did not see or discuss any type of mourning wear intended for men when mourning their mothers, wives, or daughters. Even after a quick online search I found no mentions of any outfits. None of this seems distinctly meaningful other than confirming knowledge we already have about the inequality of the sexes, but I did find it interesting and would not have considered this difference otherwise. Our guide also briefly mentioned that the clothing for women coincided with the length of their mourning period, first with all black attire and then with a deeper purple. Meaning that women generally mourned for two years or more, and in some cases for their entire lives. However when she mentioned men, she mentioned that socially they were only expected to mourn for their wives for a short period of time. This raised questions from myself and left me wondering the reasoning behind such expectations. Was it because of the gender roles already in place, or was it because of other reasons we might not be aware of just from material evidence? Maybe the men were expected to mourn for less time because they needed to seek a new woman to care for them. Maybe it is for a reason entirely out of my 21st century realm of thought.

Another difference between the two sexes and mourning practice that most people in our group seemed to be interested in even for just the strangeness of it was the practice of building jewelry from hair. The hair seemed to always belong to men and in most cases were woven into jewelry by women after the death of their husband. We did not discuss at all whether a man would create anything out of his deceased wife’s hair, only briefly mentioning the instance where a man gave his wife a necklace of his own hair as perhaps an engagement gift, holding an entirely different meaning and different situation overall. I compared it to the dress of women in the sense that this creates a longer, more detailed mourning for women, but also with previous readings from Aries about the changing length of the mourning period. For instance, in today’s world where Aries claims that mourning is kept hidden and death makes people uncomfortable, a women would not sit and design and create necklaces of hair for their deceased loved ones. They may not even have time for it. The same could be said for mourning outfits.

A thought I really took away from the entire experience of the museum was the reinforcement of both the idea that women are inherently more emotional, and that the lives and accomplishments of men were seen as more important to people than the accomplishments of their wives. That the men’s life should be mourned in several different ways for longer lengths of time, and even by strangers if they were soldiers. I found it especially interesting to look at the various objects that made me consider these things from a new perspective based on the material culture itself, and attempt to understand those objects more based on how the objects made me feel personally.