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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  January 11, 2015 10:00pm-10:31pm EST

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during the interior restoration, we were able to return 10 spaces to the original appearance. one is the supreme court room. we were able to house all of state government in these wells. as you can imagine, state government has grown exponentially. at this point, the screen court offices in an adjacent -- the supreme court offices in an adjacent building. this gives us an opportunity to talk about the judicial branch. our capital tour guides are able to tell the public about that branch of government and provide a great deal of information in terms of how texas government works today. we are very hopeful you will have a chance to visit the capital personally. we love to see texans walk through our doors. we see hundreds of thousands of people walked through our doors from all 50 states and foreign countries as well.
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come visit us and we can tell you the story of texas. we can tell you about texas history and be able to share our wonderful texas capital with you. >> find out where c-span's local content vehicles are going next, online at c-span.org/local content. you are watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> each week american artifacts visits museums and historic places. founded in 1923, the museum of the city of new york's collection contains nearly 750,000 objects. we visited to learn about the exhibit, "gilded new york." >> i am one of the co-curators of "gilded new york," being
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shown at the museum of the city of new york. the show opened in november of 2013 and closes in october of 2014. in this beautiful jewel box of a gallery, we have assembled a variety of objects that help the public to appreciate what life was like for the 1% in the original gilded age that followed the civil war from the 1880's through about 1910. that period was characterized by great wealth. kind of like the dot com people of our era. in those days, the money came from various industries, mining, railroads, smelting iron, and also the rise of the modern corporation. all of those businesses yielded enormous wealth at the same time there was mass immigration, a time when new york was unified by all of its boroughs and the total population was over 3.5
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million people. with that mixture of people, the lower classes, the rising upper class, there was this desire to set oneself apart from the teeming masses. and so, this .1% of people decided to move up fifth avenue, establish their own homes, import great works from europe and hire great american architects to design their homes and fashion their clothes and live their own beautiful life. we can start here. this painting of cornelia ward hall and her children is an in capsule is a of the whole story we like to present here. we have this lovely family minus their husband, and we like to say the husband was off making his millions.
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at the same time, what they had here is everything that poppa could produce. a very lush interior. we have the children wearing garments that are not only sunday best, but party best. the boy is in velvet. the girls are in satin. the mother is wearing a dress which we believe is probably from a paris salon. a great french couturier. to have that down meant you could travel to paris and you could afford the transatlantic trip. moreover, she is wearing these beautiful pearls around her neck. also around her wrist. at the time this was painted in the 1880's, this means they would have been natural pearls not cultured pearls.
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there were extraordinarily valuable. the japanese developed a method of culturing pearls. that meant anybody could afford them. not everyone could afford these here. the little girl is holding an ostrich feather fan, which is probably her mother's. again, another symbol of wealth. these were very expensive. this kind of search for fancy feathers from these most exotic birds was the reason why -- the audubon society was founded in 1905. behind, you have the lacquered screen from china which indicates the ability to buy things from abroad. i also point out in the corner a beautiful fern. that means you have to have a large windows. many houses on the island of manhattan were not like that.
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if you were in one of the tenement houses you did not have much sunlight coming in. this means you had a house with great windows, uniform air sunshine that allowed these to bloom and flourish. lastly, what are the children looking at? they are studying fashion plates. they are young consumers in training. let's continue and think about the kinds of things that these people purchased. for the women of the era, the most popular thing to buy where -- would have been diamonds and pearls. we will have a look at that now. just like marilyn monroe used to say, diamonds are a girls best friend. this was also true for ladies in the 19th century. in fact, diamonds and pearls were considered the most popular kinds of jewelry to purchase because of their illusions to the aristocracy. everyone wanted to be a little
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bit aristocratic. these were, without question the most popular things to buy. that trend follows for the present day. when a young girl becomes 16, it is still a nice thing to give a young girl a strand of girls. it is also a symbol of purity and freshness. here we have more extraordinary examples of that. i will point out two of my favorite pieces. the first is this long object which is called a long bonnier. it is a little difficult to appreciate. it has an object that holds something. it has a long change. the whole thing is fitted with diamond and platinum, gold sapphire, and pearls. it has a tiny circle at the very end which is too small to hold a wrist but perfect for a finger. you would slip your finger
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inside and walk at a party with this and sway with it, hoping to catch the attention of a bellau. then when you found someone you might want to chat with, you could then pull it up and offer them a mint. this was a very effective social tool that is not exactly a necessity of life, but a very beautiful one. the other object which i love because it had a terrific story is this tiara. this is the only one that i know that survived by tiffany and company. they made a number of them. i have seen drawings. but this is the only one that seems to have survived. in previous generations, as fashions changed, people would
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take the stones from previous jewelry and rework them. this is a special survival. the story behind it is just as wonderful. it is a rags to riches story that illustrates many of the fortunes made in the era. it was made by george cap. george was the son of an average farmer. he made his fortune in the pharmaceutical industry. he ended up with a house on 5th avenue, one decorated by tiffany and company associated artists and by 1894 when his daughter was married, he could send her off like a princess on her wedding day. that to me is the perfect epitome of the great story of the gilded age. you have just seen some wonderful pearls and diamonds. in this case over here, we have a selection of colored gems to show you. colored gems were a specialty, promoted by two companies.
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tiffany and company and marcus and company. both very important. one is very things today. the other one was better and well-known at one time and is coming better known today. the story is about how colored gems entered american society and became popular. it was in part because of tiffany's gemologist. he worked for the american geological survey as well as tiffany. he had the chance to see and hear about new minds when they were discovered. he would be first on the scene to find things for tiffany. he would cable tiffany and they would get first dibs on the materials. they were at first on the scene with great materials. through this, they were able to introduce colored gems.
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in a way i like to think they kind of seduced the american public because these were really fabulous pieces. who could resist a beautiful colored object like this. like this wonderful amethyst in this bracelet and the one behind it, both by tiffany and company. the marcus company was very good with colored stones. i want to share a beautiful example. this one at the center has a -- garnets, a very delicate color mixed with pearls. it also has a kind of enamel that is actually translucent. when you wore it, it would show through your skin. another great marketing example is this extraordinary piece. this is a morning glory pendant and necklace. i don't know if you could see it well enough, but consider it as a miniature stained glass window. the wires are supporting bits of
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enameled glass. it was brilliant on one's skin. you would see the light coming through it. it would seem almost natural as if you were wearing flowers. another wonderful example, is this brooch. the circular pendant was designed for tiffany himself with a beautiful sort of watery green peridot at the center. around the border is beautiful cool green enamel. the gilded age, men like jewelry -- in the gilded age, men liked jewelry and finer things as much as women. we have this traffic case of objects that give you a sense of the things a well attired gentlemen might have on his person. flasks by tiffany and company,
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or a cut glass example, he would also certainly have cufflinks and other accessories. many of those would reflect their sporting interests. for instance, we have cufflinks that have horses on them. polo as well as horse racing were a big part of life. for many gentlemen, it was about the hunt. we have a set of hunting buttons that have been in the collection for many years. we have pulled them out, they are made of mother-of-pearl. they are engraved with scenes of horses and dogs and foxes. they are almost domestic scenes of hunting as well. a gentleman and his horse and his dog. they are really charming. there is fishing, yachting.
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other things including things like this charming little pocket knife which has rubies. and diamonds on one side and sapphires on the other. those little accessories were often given out as a gift at parties, sometimes at weddings. they were a common sort of gift given back and forth. the most interesting piece is this large cane. it is curious because it shows a lady's leg as the handle. in this era, for a lady to show an inch of ankle would be scandalous. so we are looking at something that is somewhat salacious. this object had a secret compartment behind the engraving. lo and behold, there is a little naked lady inside. she looks like she could belong to a famous painting, but i don't think that was the intent.
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when i did learn is that the cane was owned by an osteopathic surgeon. we surmised this was a gift among surgeons perhaps, with a somewhat prurient side story. gentlemen always had handsome dresser sets. this is a portion of a dresser set that was retailed by theater star, another great retail firm in new york. this one belonged to john rockefeller. we are delighted to have that here in the collection. we also have a wonderful case of ladies accessories. ladies had lots more accessories than gentlemen. we have a handsome selection. things like, dresser sets, this marvelous little swans had flask, made by a probably the cameo company in england.
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it was given a silver cap and so ld in new york by theater star. then we have things like card cases. i will draw your attention to this tiny frog leather case. if you look closely, you will see that it has matching decorations. the frog leather -- if you look closely there are tadpoles swimming around in gold. there are diamonds as well. of course, gloves. to get into gloves like these, which are exceedingly tiny, you would have to have a lady's maid. most of the people who owned these objects had lots of servants. a lady's maid was an essential part of a society women's record -- be society woman's
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repertoire. you would have a made to help you get into this and you would need some implements. the first is a gloves stretcher. you would squeeze one and into the finger and then squeeze the end, thereby stretching big -- stretching the glove. one short maid had pulled it on then she had to help you get it buttoned because there are little tiny buttons across the wrist. for that, you need a tiny glove butner. it would have fit through the buttonhole that enables you to grasp the button and then pull it through. all of this takes so much work. they had to dress and change many times a day as well. a lot of work. i am curator of textiles at the city of new york. i really focus on very significant holdings of clothing. it was won by new yorkers during
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the course of its history. perhaps our most important micro collection within our large collection is that of materials designed by charles frederick worth and john philippe worth who were the house of worth. this was the most significant couturier concern in paris during the peak of the gilded age. not only that, it was the most prestigious label to wear. now looking from our pperspective, where names in garments are very significant it is wonderful to look at the clothing that began the trend. and worth was the inventor of the haute coutoure. owning this kind of gown meant many things. it meant you had a position in
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society as well as wealth. it also meant that you made annual or more frequent trips to paris to purchase gowns. this was because, monsieur worth did not make house calls. everything was made on the premises was designed specifically for a client. it was composed of modular parts. but the cost of the garments was astronomical. before you left maison worth, he or his son would sign off on the way you looked. they accessorized you with the way they felt you should be seen by your public. the gown behind me is an amazing example of fancy dress costume. worth was somebody who never cut
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any corners in construction. the dress here was worn to the william k vanderbilt ball in march of 1883. fancy dress was the last hurrah for the public to dress up and celebrate before lent. it was held on the tuesday before. the amount of money spent by those who attended was unfathomable. this particular gown was entitled "electric lights here come it was worn by mrs. cornelius vanderbilt the second. it is extraordinarily intense in its embroidery. it is totally coated with silver threads, silver and gold bouillon, beads, tinsel, two different colors of silk, satin,
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and a wonderful midnight blue velvet which is part of the train. the motifs of the embroidery are what define the dress and are reflecting the title of the dress. this was a time when electricity was the miracle of the age. the 1883 vanderbilt ball coincided with the opening of the first power station by consolidated edison in new york city. to celebrate, there are lightning bolts all over this dress. it is really incredible because if you look at it without knowing when it was made, the surface application -- you would not be surprised if you were told that it was made in the 1920's at the peak of art deco. it is very predictive and presages that by 40 years. there is also a legend about
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what mrs. vanderbilt did while wearing this dress at the ball. she reportedly carried a handheld torch that was powered by a battery that was illuminated. she would strike a pose like the statue of liberty. this would have been because, at the time that the ball was held, the arm and the torch had been brought from france, and were being circulated to raise funds to build the pedestal for the statue of liberty. everybody was very familiar with the image of the handheld torch. when her photograph was taken to document the event, she is actually depicted holding a torch. they have done a little bit of maneuvering on the image to really make it look as if it is glowing.
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we have the shoes that she wore with the dress. the stockings that are actually embroidered with silver sequins and tiny beads. the photograph of her and her husband really speaks to how theatrical the costuming of this event was. it was predominantly costumed by the house of worth. at tremendous expense. other objects that are fun, we have a pair of opera glasses. opera was a very great opportunity to be seen. very publicly in a massive expense of public space. you would go to the opera and you would have a wonderful evening gown. you would have something fascinating in your hair to draw attention, perhaps pearls or diamonds which had been frowned
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at earlier in the nation's history. but after the mid-part of the 19th century, diamonds were acceptable again because everybody was dressing in a realist manner. it did not matter. democracy was secondary to the priority list. the fans that we had here are feather fans. they are a little horrifying from our contemporary perspective because many of the birds that gave their feathers were endangered by the feather gathering that took place at the time. it ultimately culminated with the formation of the national audubon society in the early 20th century which hopefully put a stop to this kind of carnage. the top fan is indeed comprised of american bald eagle feathers. it was sold by and made by the
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parisian house. it was very close to the atelier of charles frederick worth. when you went to paris, you would order your gaown and proceed to the various shops and specialists who would provide you with the appropriate accessories to accompany a gown. perhaps the most remarkable is the eye of the argus, which had natural eyes to them the same way that peacocks had eyes to their feathers. this one is so extraordinary in the way that the feathers are crafted, it almost looks as if they are hand-painted. but they are not. that is the way they came from the bird. tortoiseshell sticks and finally
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a fan that is far more delicate than the other two. it is white fowl feathers. the sticks and guards are of the highest grade of ivory from canton, china. >> there are a lot of great paintings of women in this exhibition. some by americans but others by french and italians. the french artists were coming to the united states to do fashion portraits. in many cases, these were women going to paris and visiting worth to have their gowns fitted and stopping to buy their jewelry. on the way they would have their portraits done. this is mrs. stern. she is shown with her gloves. we like to have that next to our
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glove case. she has a fantastic fan. we have fabulous fans in the show. she is probably wearing a worth down -- gown. the story behind her is that she and her husband and his brothers were the founders of stearns department store. it was very famous until the 1950's. they had modest beginnings. they were a family from buffalo. they were in the mercantile business. not terrifically successful. but after the civil war, they came here and established their store, beginning with dried goods. they became a very well-to-do department store. by the time this painting was done in the 1870's, she was a woman of means. i love it. she has this wonderful wrap with ferc, pearls, and this prominent roach the left broach.
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this is a piece she loved very much. sometimes we like to speculate. did she buy it in paris will she was having her portrait done yet? or did she buy it later and have the artist add it later? regardless of how came about there is no question this was a unique piece of jewelry that she owned and she wanted it painted as much as she wanted her face in it. i love this piece. it is one of my favorite examples of the gilded age portraiture. >> our contemporary public is absolutely mesmerized by those who are glamorous and rich and famous and beautiful. most of the materials in this gallery were owned by individuals who everybody emulated in their day.
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from our perspective, in our egocentric manner, we think that we invented the cult of celebrity and glamour. i think it is very important to know that on the contrary, we did not do it. there was an echelon of social figures and theatrical figures who were constantly in the press, constantly interviewed, and whose clothes and jewels were described in great detail in the latter part of the 19th century. the public followed them just as feverishly as our public follows our contemporary celebrities. >> it was given as a gift by a wealthy entrepreneur to a the less wealthy industrialist to an orthopedic surgeon. -- it was given as a gift by a wealthy industrialist 20
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orthopedic surgeon. >> you are watching american history tv 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule, upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest history news. next, a discussion about the civil rights movement after martin luther king junior's assassination in 1968, including the impact of his death on the civil rights act passed that same year. the wilson center hosted this event. it is about an hour and a half. >> welcome to the wilson center and welcome to this installment of the washington history

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