Archives for posts with tag: fashion trends

Osage Rub Stoneware Jug, 1843-1910, stoneware, steel wire, wood, H: 9 ¾ x D: 7 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of the Estate of Wilson McGown, F0015.1960.

M. E. Waite’s Osage Rub – “Better than a Cocktail next Morning.” So says an advertisement in the 1903 edition of the Barber’s Journal. [1] Merton E. Waite originally operated The Barber Supply House out of Utica, New York, producing his hair tonic for men across the entire country. Waite advertised his Osage Rub for its remedial qualities as well as its practical qualities. He claimed that his hair tonic provided relief from sun headaches, acting as a cooling agent for the scalp and face after a shave, while also fulfilling the purpose of a styling product, which left the hair “as soft and glossy as a kitten’s fur,” and “Makes the old head feel like new.” [2]

A stoneware jug (F0015.1960), once use to carry this tonic found its way into the collections of The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York. But while smaller bottles and advertisements incorporate catchy slogans, the label on this jug is very simple, in fact, the jug as a whole is quite plain. In terms of advertising, the only words on the jug are, “Osage Rub for the Hair and Head, M. E. Waite, Trade Mark Registered, Utica, N. Y.” Looking at the material, stoneware was also traditionally a material reserved for utilitarian purposes. During the 1800s, porcelain was the highest quality clay, and stoneware was the lowest. The cheap material, with an absence of the colorful slogans suggests that this particular jug was not meant for the general audience. The qualities of this container did not necessarily demonstrate wealth to the average consumer. They do, however, speak to Merton Waite’s practicality as a businessman – knowing what his audiences demanded, and cutting costs at every opportunity.

With success came the need to market his products appropriately – Waite could not simply sell his Osage Rub in one size only. He needed to understand how to sell his product to different audiences, mainly the general public and professionals. Barbers would recognize Osage Rub from the advertisements. The container did not matter to this audience – only the product. Therefore, he did not need to make the container pretty to sell it, as he might with smaller bottles meant for the individual consumer. For large orders shipped to barber shops, he packaged Osage Rub in cheaper, stoneware jugs. To do this, he took advantage of local resources, partnering with another business in Utica, White’s Pottery, which specialized in stoneware. [3] The localized partnership with White’s Pottery made for fast and cheap shipping of the Osage Rub jugs, and took the responsibility of packaging materials out of the hands of Merton Waite, allowing him to focus solely on making his product.

The Osage Rub Jug portrays Waite as the quintessential businessman – competitive, yet economical. M. E. Waite’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through his jug, and shows the continued importance of partnerships and practicality in business.


Post written by Nathan Samoriski


[1] “Osage Rub,” The Barbers Journal 14, no. 1 (January 1903): 2.

[2] “Sun Headache,” Harper’s Bazaar (July, 1903): 34.

[3] Osage Rub Stoneware Jug, Farmers’ Museum Collections, S Museum, F0015.1960, Documentation.


When thinking about the fashion of the women’s suffrage movement, people’s minds often naturally conjure images of women trading their long skirts for bloomers and vehemently casting aside their restrictive corsets. By this logic, one might easily dismiss the owner of this 1896 wedding dress as ambivalent, or even opposed, to suffrage and the sweeping changes to fashion associated with it. After all, the dress shows no evidence of the women’s clothing reform that began in the 19th century. Conforming to mainstream high fashion of the time, it has a high, stiff collar and would have been worn with a corset. Furthermore, the bride who wore it, Sarah Peters Hickok, was a homemaker and socialite from Oneonta, NY.[1] Yet, despite these facts, this dress is not sufficient grounds upon which to determine Sarah’s political position because suffragist dress and thoughts on the subject varied widely during the 19th and 20th centuries.



Bodice and skirt, ca. 1896, patterned silk, satin, lace, H: 18 (bodice), 45 (skirt) x W: 22 in. (bodice waist). Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Hannah Hampe, N0041.1955a-b. Photograph by the author.

It is true that women’s rights activists had already donned bloomers by the mid-19th century. However, they soon largely returned to more traditional dress after realizing that the radical and shocking bloomers were actually more of a distraction than an asset in their fight for equality.[2] While bloomers reemerged by the time this wedding dress was made in the late 19th century, they were primarily used as bicycling outfits.[3]

Appropriate dress was a strategic and hotly debated topic among suffragists, dividing even those at the forefront of the movement. Some activists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, equated the corsets and long skirts of contemporary female fashion with oppression, designed to keep women subservient. However, others followed the lead of Susan B. Anthony, who was stylish, aware of current fashion trends, and determined to maintain her femininity in dress.[4] Attempting to simultaneously challenge traditional ideas about both fashion and the right to vote was dangerous, with the former potentially jeopardizing the latter.

As in the U.S., suffragists in the U.K. also “married radical ideas with willfully conventional dress.”[5] Having observed the American bloomer debacle, British suffragist leader Lydia Becker took a conservative position on dress, advising women to “stick to your stays, ladies, and triumph over the other sex.”[6] Even Emmeline Pankhurst and the militant suffragists of the Women’s Political and Social Union, who were known for arson, window smashing, and picture slashing, exhibited elegance and refinement in their dress. Suffragists were advocating radical ideas and they had to choose their battles wisely: fashion or the ballot. Dressing in a conservative manner gave suffragists credibility and helped make the notion of women voting more palatable. It also prevented them from being seen as demanding too much change too quickly.[7]

So, was the owner of this wedding dress a suffragist? We may never know. However, what is certain is that the conservative and restrictive style of her dress does not preclude the possibility that she was. Indeed, suffragist Charlotte Hawkins Brown dressed very similar to Sarah Peters Hickok for her 1911 wedding. In short, one cannot judge a suffragist by her dress.

[1] “Delaware County News,” The Oneonta Star (Oneonta, NY), March 19, 1926, 7.

[2] Gayle V. Fischer, Pantaloons and Power: A Nineteenth-Century Dress Reform in the United States (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2001), 104-107

[3] Ibid., 171-172.

[4] Jenny Cobb, “The Fashion of Suffrage: Women “Vote” with Their Clothes,” Bullock Museum,

[5] Cally Blackman, “How the Suffragettes Used Fashion to Further the Cause,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2015,

[6] Christine Bayles Kortsch, Dress Culture in Late Victorian Women’s Fiction: Literacy, Textiles, and Activism (New York: Routledge, 2016), 91-92.

[7] Ibid.

By Sarah Phillips

All their lives, women and girls are bombarded with objectified images of other women.  From birth, they are pressured to fit within the margins of what society and the media dictate their appearance should be.  When women are objectified, they are seen as objects of desire – having no autonomy or personality – and are reduced to the sum of their body parts.  Essentially, what this suggests is that women are not fully human because they cannot express their sexuality in the way they want to.  Women are viewed as objects rather than subjects who have a personality, individuality, voice, control, and empowerment.

If you take for example Playboy models, they are depicted to look a certain way physically and are judged by the sum of their parts – bust, waist, thighs, rear end, and facial features.

Image Credit: The Citizens of Fashion

Image credit: The Citizens of Fashion

We do not know who they are, they have no personality or individuality, and we – as a society – control how we want to use them thus taking the power away from them.

How many of these images are accurate depictions of women’s bodies in real life?  You can see why the average woman will want to physically alter herself in some shape or form to fit within these margins.  From magazines to commercials to billboards, all members of society are confronted with photo-shopped images of what women should look like.  More so, what seems to be an attractive trend for a woman to have are these three main features:

  • A large bust
  • Small waist and
  • Large rear end

There are permanent and temporary ways for women to physically change themselves to fit the idealized, objectified image.  The extreme would be to undergo plastic surgery – which is a huge commitment and would result in a permanent change.  The more subtle option for women would be to use fashion to physically alter their appearance.  It seems that this universal look that woman aim to achieve has some historical significance.  I decided to look at historical patterns in fashion that incorporates the three main features in an effort to show how long this trend has going on for.

Green dress, 1870, silk brocade, 58", Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY, N0239.1954

Green dress, 1870, silk brocade, 58″ (length, neck to hem), Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY, N0239.1954

This early twentieth century dress accurately supports the trend to conform to these features because it incorporates a corset – intended to dramatically slim the waist and accentuate the bust – as well as a bustle – which gave the impression of a large rear end.  It was normative during this time for women to wear corsets because they symbolized femininity and fertility, two important attributes of women in the early 1900s.

Fast forward to the early twentieth-first century. We have lost the corset, but the same ideal figure is pursued.  Women seek out bras such as the Victoria’s Secret miracle bra to enhance the bust, and they resort to butt pads to emphasize the rear.

Image credit: The Hollywood Heels

Image credit: The Hollywood Heels

Image credit: Bubblews

Image credit: Bubblews

Television shows, magazines, and advertisements that create bodily insecurity among women today publicly point out flaws in women. I think it is important to mention that not all women conform to these trends. More and more, women are starting to aspire to look less like celebrities and embrace the body they were born with. Women need to reclaim their identity and sexuality in order for sexual objectification to end.

– Araya Henry, Cooperstown Graduate Program 2015

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