This dress from around the 1880s exhibits women’s fashion of the day. It has high, narrow shoulders, long sleeves, spider lace, a tall collar, and a slender silhouette that would’ve been supported by a corset. Given the garment’s material (breathable linen), high neckline, and length (just above the floor), the dress was likely worn during the day. During this time, women changed clothes several times daily, as different activities called for different attire.
This particular garment was owned by Mary Lee Jones Hamilton, a resident of Jacksonville and visitor to Fernandina.
Fortunately, the museum also has a letter written by one of her suitors in our collection. This excerpt allows us to peer into their world:
Chicago Aug. 29, 1878
Dear Miss Mamie,
Your long and very interesting letter came duly to hand, the contents of which I so much enjoyed, I began to think that you had probably gone to the Island to spend the summer months. I was so glad to hear that you are having such a splendid time how I would like to share some of your enjoyments with you. I often wish that I had spent a longer time in Jacksonville, so that I could have been in your company more. One thing I did and do admire in you above all is that noble Christian character you possess. It will help you through life when everything else does fail. It will keep you Dear Friend on the road which leads to Heaven. Could I but transport myself and stand before you this moment and look at that sweet face of yours. How I should enjoy that sweet smile especially under that straw hat that you wore when I left J.. for home.
Mary Lee Jones Hamilton on her wedding day, May 3, 1887. She married to Liday Elury Hamilton, Sr., not the suitor who wrote the letter.