Massillon Museum Exhibit Gilding Northeast Ohio: Fashion and Fortune 1870–1900

Massillon Museum Exhibit Gilding Northeast Ohio: Fashion and Fortune 1870–1900
When visiting the Massillon Museum’s summer exhibition, Gilding Northeast Ohio: Fashion and Fortune 1870–1900, guests will be transported back to the last decades of the 19th century. The exhibition will highlight what made Ohio sparkle so brightly during that era of prosperity and progress.
Gilding Northeast Ohio can first be viewed on Saturday, June 8, but visitors are invited to don their Sunday finery for the opening “Par-Tea” on Sunday, June 9, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. A selection of refreshments and teas will be served. The reception is free and open to everyone with no reservations required.
In addition to garments and accessories from the Massillon Museum’s permanent collection, loans from Kent State University Museum, Western Reserve Historical Society, and William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum will be displayed. Three costumes worn in HBO’s The Gilded Age series will be included.
“This is an ambitious and exciting exhibiiton highlighting the rich history of our region through the story of fashion. The Massillon Museum is grateful to longtime MassMu partner and fashion historian, Brian Centrone, for working with us to realize his vision, and to ArtsinStark and Visit Canton for their funding to allow this special project to materialize,” said Alexandra Nicholis Coon, executive director for Massillon Museum. She goes on to say, “There are more amazing garments in Ohio collections than one could imagine; what people wore and, perhaps more interestingly, what people chose to save that eventually found their way into museums, accentuate the value we place on clothes as status symbols, and symbols of our identity.”
Visitors will stroll past a series of vignettes throughout MassMu’s main gallery. In the “Fashion and Fortune” introductory section, they will encounter garments displayed on a staircase inspired by Cleveland architect Charles Schweinfurth’s Five Oaks mansion on Massillon’s historic Fourth Street.
The next section, “Business and Travel,” is displayed in a specially constructed train car designed to reflect, on a small scale, the opulence of J.P. Morgan’s personal train car. It depicts the importance the leisure class placed on exotic travel to take advantage of their wealth and to purchase fine clothing and luxury items for their homes.
In the “Opera and Opulence” segment, which replicates an opera box, it is apparent that status and wealth were flaunted in the balconies where elegant gowns and accoutrements could be seen by all. In the opera box, the first of the HBO gowns is displayed. It was worn by Copley, Ohio, native Carrie Coon in the finale of The Gilded Age Season Two, based on the opening of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. Lavish trappings belonging to people who attended presentations at opera houses like those in Cleveland, Akron, and Massillon will be displayed and include dresses, capes, bags, top hats, and lorgnettes.
A small reproduction of a hot-air balloon gondola, a bicycle, and the Hess family’s sleigh on loan from Spring Hill Historic Home and Underground Railroad Site—are the focal points of the “Sport and Leisure” scene, which illustrates the desire to go faster, farther, and higher for entertainment. Alluding to the rising interest in photography among the wealthy, a reproduced Massillon photography studio backdrop will provide a photo opportunity to visitors.
The “Legacy and HBO” vignette will include two costumes on loan from HBO flanking the extravagant Alice Wade Everett wedding gown loaned by Western Reserve Historical Society. Guest curator Brian Centrone says these gowns are “a feast for the eyes.”  He hopes that visitors will recognize that Northeast Ohio, with its titans of industry and concentration of millionaires, was “very gilded,” approaching the opulence of New York and Newport.
“Wedding and Families” will look at families that anchored Northeast Ohio—the Wades and Mathers of Cleveland and the McClymonds and McLain families of Massillon, for instance. The backdrop of this vignette will replicate a “forest of faux flowers” evident in the mural-sized  reproduction photograph of the wedding meal of Edna McClymonds and Horatio Wales attended at Five Oaks by President and Mrs. McKinley. It will exhibit wedding ephemera—including Ida McKinley’s wedding corset, heirloom jewelry, and calling cards from Massillon and Cleveland socialites.
In the “Style and Design” segment, visitors can reflect on the fashions, hairstyles, and craftsmanship that delineate the Gilded Age. It will highlight braiding, metalwork, needlework and embroidery, fringe, and lacework popular for women, as well as waistcoats, cravats, collars, and cuffs that allowed men to express their individuality and draws attention to men’s hairstyles, mustaches, and beards. Because the garments of the era were decorated on all sides, gilded mirrors will be mounted salon-style behind the display for more complete viewing. A tribute to the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland will illustrate how home sewing machines affected fashions.
The final component, “Presidents and Politics,” will offer a nod to Northeast Ohio men who were US Presidents during the Gilded Age. President Garfield’s dressing gown and his wife Lucretia’s at-home dress will be included. This section will represent the influence of Northeast Ohio suffragettes and Jacob Coxey’s 1894 protest march from Massillon to Washington. Guests will see a name badge worn by Susan B. Anthony during a Massillon women’s rights meeting and a plethora of McKinley paraphernalia—buttons, badges, ribbons, inaugural programs, and dance cards. Guests will conclude their walk through Gilded Age with a look at how Northeast Ohio mourned the death of President McKinley, which many scholars, including exhibition curator Brian Centrone, believe marked the end of the era.
“I want visitors to immerse themselves in the Gilded Age to get a sense of the excess. Like the homes of the wealthy, the gallery will be filled with ephemera—more than 100 objects and half again as many vintage images,” Centrone said.
At the same time, he says, “It is important not to ignore the people who whose long working hours and low wages made possible the lavish lives of the elite.” Each component of Gilding Northeast Ohio, will be underlined with artifacts and images exemplifying the lives of the working class, elucidating society’s disparity and challenges. He also notes the post-Civil War upward mobility of the middle class and African American families.
Centrone, who has long collaborated with the Massillon Museum, majored in costume studies at New York University. He is a fashion historian specializing in 19th- and 20th-century British and American menswear, queer fashion, pop culture fashion, and Barbie and Ken fashion and history.
“I wanted to give back to Massillon and the Massillon Museum, where I’ve always been so warmly welcomed,” Centrone said. “As a New York-based curator and storyteller, and as a frequent visitor to Northeast Ohio, I knew we had to go big to show that the Gilded Age wasn’t confined to the East Coast. Northeast Ohio was instrumental in the expansive growth of the nation.”
Exhibition designer Giulietta Tripoli has designed the Museum of Broadway in New York City, worked on sets for HBO’s The Sopranos, and contributed to a large-scale Las Vegas project. Local craftsmen Kevin Anderson and George Laurence have built sets for Gilding Northeast Ohio.  For the exhibition, Micky Muckelrath hand-painted gold elements, pillars replicating the backdrop for President McKinley’s inauguration, period wallpaper, and an illustration of the White Sewing Machine.
The exhibition is funded in large part by a Major Arts Enhancement and Exhibitions Grant facilitated by ArtsinStark and Visit Canton. The Museum receives operating support from the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsinStark, marketing support from Visit Canton, and support from the citizens of Massillon. This exhibition is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Community partners who will offer programming—themed dinners, performances, walking tours, and complementary exhibitions—to accent Gilding Northeast Ohio include Canton BalletCanton Palace Theatre, Canton Symphony Orchestra, Explore City Tours, Lions Lincoln Theatre, Margy Vogt Visions LLC, Massillon Heritage Foundation, National First Ladies Library and Museum, Roving Rogue Productions, Spring Hill Historic Home and Underground Railroad Site, Western Reserve Historical Society, and William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. MassMu will host related classes, workshops, and two special events featuring actress Carrie Coon, who stars in HBO’s The Gilded Age. For details about the events, visit MassMu.org/GildingNEOhio.
The exhibition can be seen during regular MassMu hours, Tuesday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. It will be closed on July 4 to commemorate Independence Day.
The Massillon Museum, where art and history come together, is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon. A visit is always free and everyone is welcome. Free parking is available on adjacent streets and in nearby city lots. For more information, call 330-833-4061 or visit massillonmuseum.org.
Media Contacts:
Alexandra Nicholis Coon, Massillon Museum Executive Director • 330-833-4061 x111
Brian Centrone, Guest Curator • briancentrone@gmail.com
Margy Vogt, Massillon Museum Public Relations Coordinator • 330-844-1525
Alice Wade Everett wedding gown, designed by Charles Frederick Worth, 1879, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio

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