Bustle, 1880s, wire, metal and tape, (12 ¼”x 5”:, x 4 ½”). Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Josephine L. Thompson, History Collection, N0301.1944. Photograph by Ashley Gallagher.


According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons there were a total of 17,721,671 cosmetic minimally-invasive and surgical procedures performed in 2018.[1] Among the most pervasive surgical procedures exists a trend regarding body-shaping.[2] Historically speaking, the concept of altering the body to achieve a desired silhouette is nothing new. Yet, prior to the accessibility of surgery and injections, an individual primarily relied upon clothing to achieve an altered physical form. Influenced by culture and fashion, women in particular, have manipulated their silhouette through undergarments for centuries.

Arguably the most infamous historical female undergarment is the corset, but have you ever heard of a bustle? The bustle functioned as a near and dear accessory of every fashionable woman of the late 1800s. During the 1870’s female fashion dictated the collapse of the wide crinoline hoop skirt that dominated the first half of the century. The new mode of fashion featured a skirt that was tight to the front of the body and full with volume of excess fabric in the back.[3] The bustle, or dress improver, aided in the enhancement of size and fullness of the derriere and took a variety of forms.[4]

The bustle pictured is constructed of hollow wire coils layered to create dimension. This commonly used design is lightweight but sturdy. Other bustles were made of steel, cane or padded cushion stuffed with horsehair, down or straw to provide fullness.[5] Although the wire of the bustle pictured is bare and uncovered, some bustles were decorated in a variety of fabrics ranging from expensive silk and cashmere to cheaper flannels and cottons.[6] Regardless of appearance, a bustle remained hidden beneath the skirt or dress of its wearer. Placed under the outermost garment and over petticoats, bustles were secured by tapes fastened at the hips and under the bottom.[7] Tapes were adjustable and could be tightly pulled to alter the overall shape or size of the bustle and ultimately, the rear as a whole. The accessibility of the tapes provided the wearer the additional flexibility of securing the bustle on and off herself, a small and subtle gesture of control in regard to the shaping of her own body. Yet, the impermanence of the bustle as a body-shaper truly proved most effective when high fashion shifted once again and modified the ideal female form into a different silhouette.

The new focus of interest was an accentuated bust rather than derriere. With the use of an elongated corset women achieved the new “s curve” silhouette, which thrust the chest up and forward and the hips and rear down and back. Yet, within 10 years the ideal silhouette shifted once again further proving the benefit of removable shape-wear.

-Ashley Gallagher


[1] 2018 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report. Report. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2019. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.plasticsurgery.org/documents/News/Statistics/2018/plastic-surgery-statistics-report-2018.pdf.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Bustle.” Metmuseum.org. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/82423

[4] “The New Phantom (Bustle).” V&A Search the Collections. Accessed March 19, 2019. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O73542/the-new-phantom-bustle-unknown/

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.




The Nutcracker Ballet, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, details E.T.A Hoffmann’s story of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” a wonderous tale of a soldier nutcracker who comes to life to protect the young Marie (also known as Clara) from the evil Mouse King. While the stylized wood-carved nutcracker soldier seen in the ballet has been around since the 15thcentury[1]wooden nutcrackers are now more for decoration than for actually cracking nuts. This ballet, originally performed in Russia in 1892, has grown into one of the most well known and loved ballets, with seemingly infinite performances occurring around the world during the Christmas season. The love of nutcracker soldiers, and other artistically styled nutcrackers, at least in America, has likely only increased with the love of the Nutcracker Ballet. Unsurprisingly, many homes have a wooden Christmas Nutcracker Soldier, but these nutcrackers often only serve as part of the season’s decorations. In contrast, metal nutcrackers in various forms have remained in use across the world, despite the increased prevalence of pre-shelled nuts.


Dog NutcrackerImage Description: A metal nutcracker in the shape of a dog standing on a rectangular metal base, with the tail serving as the mechanism by which the dog’s mouth is opened to crack nuts.[2]Nutcracker, Metal, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0286.1948.


Nutcrackers have developed from simple tools into pieces of usable art. This dog nutcracker from around the late 1800’s embodies the relationship between dogs and humans. While it is widely said that dog is man’s best friend, dog can also be considered one of our first work partners and tools. From the first time that dogs provided companionship, help, or affection to humans, dogs have embedded themselves in the hearts of those who care for and work alongside them. Nutcrackers such as this one would have been among the many methods that people have used to display their love of dogs in their homes, while also fulfilling practical uses such as cracking open the shells of nuts after dinner, as was popular for dessert in the period which this nutcracker is likely from. Nuts as desserts would have been popular due to their availability and versatility, while other ingredients or sweets could potentially go bad or be unavailable in lean years, nuts are both nourishing as well as convenient. [3]Today, nutcrackers have grown in stylistic prominence, with soldiers, Santa’s, and others gaining places of honor on many homes’ Christmas mantels. Nutcrackers such as this dog serve both as tools and as artistic representations of our relationship with dogs. It is not outside the realm of imagination to picture a nutcracker dog alongside the Nutcracker soldier battling the army of the Mouse King in one of the many adaptations of Hoffmann’s original story. This metal nutcracker dog tells the story of the love that has only grown with time and contact with the animal from which the piece is inspired.

by: Sarah Grantham


[1] Malone, Noreen, “In a Nutshell: A Brief History of Nutcrackers.” Slate.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/holidays/2010/12/in_a_nutshell.html. Dec. 16, 2010.

[2]Nutcracker, Metal, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0286.1948.

[3]“History of Nuts”, https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/history-of-nuts.htm, November 15, 2007

world series ring

Commissioner’s Replica of the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series Ring, Cubic Zirconia and Gold

Jostens has been in the business of preserving memories for 122 years. Started as a keepsake repair business,[1] most people today know the company as the manufacturer of their class ring, yearbook, or even graduation cap.[2] Beyond school souvenirs, Jotsens has contracts with other organizations like Harley Davidson, the Boy Scouts, and major sports franchises— all organizations that millions of people love dearly and have fond memories with and about.[3] It makes sense, then, that Jostens would make the ring commemorating one of the most incredible events in sports history: the 2004 World Series.

Until 2004, the Boston Red Sox were cursed. No matter how well it did, the team could not win a World Series and hadn’t since 1918. For generations, people all over the country watched each new season with hope and determination, and each season they were disappointed. Regardless, they continued to love their team and fill Fenway Park with families, first dates, cold beer, and high hopes. Some attribute the curse to the sale of Babe Ruth, one of the most famous and successful baseball players of all time, to their arch-nemeses, the New York Yankees. The reality of the curse isn’t what matters, though. What matters is that in October of 2004, it was broken. The Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a 4-0 sweep and were awarded the ring made by Jostens, encapsulating the historic win in the hearts of Red Sox fans the world over.[4]

The ring itself has the iconic Boston Red Sox “B” in the center,[5] a reminder that the win was for the city, or, as the great Joe Pesky said, “Boston, this is for you”.[6] One side of the ring brags “Greatest Comeback in History,” and, though some may argue that point, achieving a World Championship after an 86-year losing streak merits some bragging. The other side boldly states “Commissioner” since it is technically a commissioner’s replica presented by the commissioner and “4-0 sweep” to remind anyone that not only did the team win, it swept the entire series.[7]

People keep souvenirs to help them remember something wonderful, exciting, or love-filled, and for many Red Sox fans the 2004 World Series win was just that. Sure not every Red Sox fan has a copy of the ring, but the fact that it exists, the first ring of four since, provides something for fans to hold on to, and something to remind them how sweet it was when the curse was reversed.

-MK Lang

[1] “Jostens. A Story Told by the Stories of Others,” About Us, Jostens.com, 2019.

[2] “Homepage,” Jostens.com, 2019.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Renae Reints, “TBT: The Curse of the Bambino is Broken,” Boston Magazine, October 26, 2017.

[5] Commissioner’s Replica of Boston Red Sox World Series ring, 2004, , cubic zirconia and synthetic sapphire in gold, 1in. x 1.25 in. x 1.25 in. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Commemorative Jewlery, B-100-2005.

[6] Renae Reints, “TBT: The Curse of the Bambino is Broken.”

[7]  Boston Red Sox World Series ring, 2004.

William McCoy's Frockcoat

Uniform Coat, c. 1861, wool, cotton, brass, L: 39.5 x W: 12 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Museum Purchase, N0029.1985. Photograph by Christopher Carey.

By the end of the summer in 1863, the American Civil War had been raging for two years. In both the North and South, death tolls were increasing, resulting from the great carnage of battles like Antietam, Fredericksburg, Shiloh, and Gettysburg. As the war continued long past public expectations, army life no longer appealed to many men in both armies. One such man was the owner of this Union uniform frockcoat, William B. McCoy, who deserted the Union Army in August 1863.

William McCoy was a native of Malone, New York in Franklin County and originally joined the 16th New York Volunteers regiment, company “I,” comprised mostly of men from St. Lawrence and Clinton counties in the upper most region of New York State [1]. Having suffered heavy casualties over the course of two years, on May 22, 1863, what remained of the regiment combined with the 121st NYV of Otsego County. About a month after the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), McCoy was reported missing from his regiment on August 8. The regiment was presumably somewhere close to Union held territory in Maryland or northern Virginia, from where he could safely travel home [2].

McCoy was not by far the only soldier to abandon the army. Over the course of the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) it is estimated that 303,000 men in both the Union and Confederate States of America deserted the military [3]. While the main reason for desertion may at first appear to be cowardice, there were many reasons as to why a soldier like McCoy would have left the military without permission. The rigors of military life, low morale, hunger, draft protests, and family concerns all could result in a soldier’s choice to desert [4]. It is important to note, however, that to the average soldier, desertion and cowardice were not the same thing. Only those single individuals who ran away during battle were deemed to be cowards [5]. In the case of McCoy, it is does not appear that he left the military during battle. Instead, it is likely that he is the end of a spike in desertions from the Union Army in the spring of 1863, caused by a severe drop in morale as a response to Union defeats the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville [6]. Two years of fighting, recurring losses, and thoughts of home weighed heavily on the minds of Union soldiers. Shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, the Union Army began to push south, lessening the number of opportunities for soldiers to safely desert [7]. McCoy either deserted just before his regiment began its march south or found an opportune moment during the march.

Although records document William McCoy’s desertion from the Union Army in 1863, it is unclear what happened to him afterwards. Other than his uniform frockcoat and a muster roll documenting his desertion, there appears to be no known documentation of McCoy from before or after the Civil War; not even a census record can be found. It appears that William B. McCoy has managed to desert not only the military, but the history books as well.

[1] “121st Infantry CW Roster,” New York State Military Museum, accessed February 28, 2019, https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/Infantry/121st_Infantry_CW_Roster.pdf; “16th Infantry Regiment Civil War,” New York State Military Museum, last updated January 25, 2019, https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/16thInf/16thInfMain.htm.

[2] “121st Infantry CW Roster.”

[3] Mark A. Weitz, “Desertion, Cowardice, and Punishment,” Essential Civil War Cirriculum, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/desertion,-cowardice-and-punishment.html.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.


Corset, 1810s-1820s, sateen, linen, and bone, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Brockway Almond, N0083.1946, photograph by Emma Bresnan.


For hundreds of years in western fashion, the standard of beauty in women’s silhouettes was a conical torso. In the 18th century, stays smoothed out a woman’s figure, provided back support, supported a proper posture, and lifted the chest up and inward. The standard shape of a woman’s body, generally regardless of class, was smooth and flat.

Around 1800, women’s fashion experienced an explosive change, not only in dress types, but in the way that clothing shaped women’s bodies. With new empire waist styles, the emphasis was placed on a woman’s breasts, not her waist. Heavily boned stays were no longer the norm. Even the word stays was sometimes replaced by the French word corset. During the first decade of the 19th century, women wore a variety of styles of stays and corsets to create this new figure, often with little or no structure supporting the stomach and back. By the 1810s, however, they increasingly wore a more standardized style of corset, which was structured, but in an entirely new way.[1]

For the first time in hundreds of years, early 19th century corsets created a bust with curves that somewhat followed the natural shape of a women’s body. It was an idealized shape, but one that allowed women’s breasts to actually protrude, rather than be pressed into and out of cone shape. This shape looks far more familiar to the modern eye than the one createdby 18th-century stays, thanks to the gussets that effectively created cups. Even though to the modern eye, cups to hold the bust seem like an obvious choice, they were almost never seen in western fashion until the 1790s.

This example of a corset from the 1810s or 1820s shows the new techniques that were used to shape a woman’s body into an idealized form. Instead of any boning, it has cording, or thick threads stitched into place, to create structure. A few decades before, stays would fully encase a woman’s body in vertical strips of flexible whalebone, offering ample back support and pressing the breasts into position. The diagonal cording does much less to provide heavy structure or support. More or less, it follows the natural shape of the body, but does not support the back.
This corset has a pocket at the center front meant to hold a busk, a flat piece of scrimshaw or wood, which would hold the body upright and do the bulk of the shaping. Stays created a flexible armor of sorts, while the new corsets stiffly held up the body from the front and pressed women’s stomachs fashionably flat.
Corsets of the early 19th century were a huge departure from earlier styles, which drastically changed the way that clothing interacted with the body. While the shape they created was, to a modern eye, more similar to a natural silhouette, the garment itself is far less supportive than earlier styles and constrictive in a very different way.

[1] Norah Waugh, Corsets and Crinolines (New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1954), 75.

-Emma Bresnan


T-Shirt, Springhill Wholesale, Inc., Cotton, Adult Large, 27” x 20”, Cooperstown Graduate Program Teaching Collection, Cooperstown, New York, Acquired through eBay auction, T13.62. Photograph by Shiv Desai.

This adult large shirt displays a confrontational message, leaving no room for neutrality. Printed in white letters in all caps, “You Wear Your X and I’ll Wear Mine!” populates the shirt above a large image of what is colloquially known as the Confederate battle flag. Below the flag, “Great Smoky Mountains” and “Springhill Wholesale Inc.” are printed in small letters, almost like an afterthought. The wholesale manufacturer, based in Terre Haute, Indiana, creates merchandise that promotes conservative ideals, such as states’ rights and pro-gun culture, as well as innocent designs about family and zombie apocalypses.

We look to the 1990s to provide more information about the cultural significance of this shirt. In 1992, Director Spike Lee paid tribute to Malcolm X through a film, accompanied by a merchandising campaign, which sought to grow consciousness of black pride, resistance, and the need for education for youth [1]. With this commercial reproduction of Malcolm’s ‘X’ on hats, shirts, jackets, and other clothing items, Spike Lee intended to encourage a deeper understanding of the black human rights activist. Many white Americans interpreted this ‘X’ as a militant, racialized symbol and responded by rejuvenating the rebel flag, also known as the Southern Cross. The phrase on the shirt gained traction and accompanied the flag on various pieces of clothing, hats, and bumper stickers. But was this response appropriate?

A closer look at the origin of the rebel flag design and how Malcolm X got his name might help you answer this question.

  • After spending time in prison, Malcolm Little changed his name to ‘Malcolm X’ to reject the “white slavemaster [sur]name” given to his African ancestors. Malcolm X, assassinated in 1965, believed that the ‘X’ served as a placeholder until God provided him with an appropriate Holy Name from His own mouth [2]. For a large part of his activist life, he stood for anti-white, Black Nationalism but drastically moderated these views in his last years to encourage a more practical strategy for black integration into white America.
  • The designer of the flag now known as the Confederate battle flag settled on the republican colors of red, white, and blue to symbolize valor, purity, and truth. These values inspired the fight to maintain the “heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race” [3]. With the battle flag on the top left corner of a plain white flag, it became the Second Confederate National Flag, with the hope that it would be recognized in the civilized world as the “White Man’s Flag.”

Both symbols inflame passions on all sides. Leading with charged emotions often invites a simplistic view of cultural symbols, both in how they change over time and what they mean for different people.

If bystanders would be less likely to understand your lived experiences because of the shirt’s message, would you still purchase it? How might you engage others in a civil dialogue?

-Shivkumar Desai


[1] Dachtler, Matthias (2004). “Malcolmania: The Cultural Rebirth Of Malcolm X As Pop Icon.” Bachelor’s Thesis, Bayreuth University, Literature and Linguistics Department. pp. 18-26.

[2] Malcolm X (1965). The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove Press. pp. 229.

[3] Preble, George Henry (1872). Our Flag: Origin and Progress of the Flag of the United States of America. Albany, New York: Joel Munsell. pp. 416–418.

A fascinating way to stimulate a stagnant economy? A beloved childhood toy? A clockwork marvel? All of these statements can be attributed to a small, wind-up tin toy frog. The frog is a classic green with a red stripe down either side and a yellow underbelly with a wind-up key which allows  the frog to spring into action on two skate-like legs. Beneath the mouth are the marks “Trademark CK Made in Japan”[1] enclosed in a diamond shape. Aside from the paint peeling as well as the faint discoloration on the legs, the toy appears to be in fairly good condition and is presumed in working condition.

The material the toy is made from is tinned sheet steel because when a magnet it applied to the surface, the magnet sticks. Tinned metal is essential to the durability and longevity of this little frog because if the toy was solely made of tin, it would rust very easily when exposed to oxygen as well as not withstand the test of time as well as it has. It is important for the frog to be made of durable material that will not rust or fall apart easily as it was created to be played with and interacted with on a daily basis. The toy was made after World War II as the production of tin toys was discontinued because of the “need for raw material needed for the war effort”[2]. Until the end of the 1950’s, Japan was one of the main producers of tin toys due to the Marshall Plan which allowed Japanese manufacturers to keep producing these objects due to their cheap labor costs and durability. The frog could not have been made during the war years but rather after 1952 since the marks indicate “Made in Japan” rather than “Made in Occupied Japan” which would suggest that the US was still stationed in the country. During the end of WWII, General Douglas MacArthur attempted to revitalize Japan’s economy after the devastation the war wrecked upon the island nation[3]. The intense labor manufacturing of tin toys in Japan, then exporting them to the U.S. is one way in which MacArthur helped stabilize Japan’s formerly crippled economy. The exporting and manufacturing also allowed the sale of wind-up toys to sky-rocket in the States. It was mandatory that all products made in Japan bear the mark “Made in Occupied Japan” (from 1945 to 1952)[4] and “Made in Japan” after 1952.  The material the frog is made up of is important as it adds to the story of the toy being manufactured after 1952 as the production of many tin-toys had ceased after this date due to the emergence of synthetic material for toy production.

After the long journey to U.S soil, this little frog would have been sold in five-and-dime stores as a novelty for children. The toys were inexpensive to make and small enough to be accessible to a wide audience[5]. With the arrival of new production technologies, synthetic material took over the market, thus, forcing the production of tin toys to rapidly decline. As a result of cheaper plastic being introduced to the market, new safety regulations decreased the popularity of tin toys during the 1960s[6]. From the 1950s and into the 1960s, the import of tin toys to the U.S from Japan allowed for trade relations between the two countries to strengthen[7]. As a result of plastics being introduced, tin wind-up toys that bear the “Made in Japan” became highly sought after. Even in today’s collectors’ markets, tin trinkets such as this little frog are frequently bought and sold. Tin wind-up toys are popular because they are objects which can still be found on the market for an affordable sum. Next time you have chance to visit an antique store or flea market, see if you can spot one of these whimsical hopping friends!


“Trademark CK Made in Japan” mark

[1] Wind-up tin toy frog, F0255.1945(02), “Documentation (overview),” accessed February 9 2019, S-Museum database, Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York.

[2] “Tin Toy History,” Tin Toy Bargains, accessed April 7, 2019, http://www.tintoybargains.com/reference/q/article?c=Tin%20Toy%20History.

[3] Hugo Hart, “Items Made in Occupied Japan Have a Number of Fans Because They are Identifiable and Affordable,” Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1997, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1997-06-22-9706220247-story.html.

[4] “Occupied in Japan,” Kovels, accessed April 7, 2019, https://www.kovels.com/price-guide/occupied-japan.html.

[5] “Vintage and Antique Wind-up Toys,” Collector’s Weekly, collectorsweekly.com, accessed February 20, 2019, https://collectorsweekly.com/toys/wind-up.

[6] Tin Toy Bargains.

[7] “Country of Origin as a Dating Tool,” Coxsackie Antique Center, accessed April 7, 2019, http://www.coxsackie.com/reference/cooaadt.htm.