Spotlight Artifact: Eliza Graves Quilt

eliza-graves-pickett-summer-2014In 1987, Julia Boyer Reinstein, historian and architectural preservationist, donated over 80 quilts and bed coverings to The Buffalo History Museum. Early on in her life, Julia became fascinated with quilts and believed in the importance of documenting their histories. She received a Bachelor’s degree in History from Elmira College for Women in 1928, writing her senior thesis on early American quilts. Beginning her collection with family quilts, she focused her collecting goals on quilts made west of the Genesee River. Remarkably, only twelve of the quilts in her collection were purchased, the rest were given to her as gifts or through inheritance. 

quiltPictured is a red and white Chimney Sweep quilt from Julia Boyer Reinstein’s quilt collection, also known as an Album or Autograph quilt. It was pieced together by Eliza Graves (later Pickett) between 1852 and 1853, and was assembled and completed in 1854, in Perry, NY. Eliza Graves, pictured above, was Julia Boyer Reinstein’s great grandmother. The Chimney Sweep pattern was very popular for Album quilts in the mid-19th century because a name or inscription could be written on the central cross of each block. According to oral histories from the family, the blocks of this quilt were originally autographed, in pencil, by the young men of Castile, NY.  Before Eliza could embroider the names, she became engaged to Daniel Pickett.  Once she assembled the quilt, she chose to wash out all of the names, eliminating the memory of her previous suitors. The quilt is backed with her own handspun and hand-loomed cotton.

Rebecca Justinger

*This article was featured in the Summer 2014 issue of “The Album”

Street of Shops Makeover

streetofshopssignsAbove the staircase and leading to the museum’s lower level are engraved words, “1870s Street of Shops.” This signage and the exhibit it teases were intended to endure time. For over a half century, it has done just that.

The exhibit lies within earshot of my office, from which I have listened as thousands of visitors have passed through the artificial streetscape. Many reminisce about their childhoods, each storefront sparking a different story. Others recall seeing the display with their parents when they were young. It became evident that the exhibit had, over time, become as much a part of people’s memories as the items held within it.

streetofshops2In recognition of this, we worked to update the Street of Shops while maintaining its history and charm. The exhibit now boasts a new paint job, with colors inspired by late 19th century paint swatches preserved in our library. A newly installed ceiling painted as the sky adds to the display’s immersive ambience. The most notable change, however, is the space formerly occupied by our Buffalo Savings Bank display which has been transformed into a family-friendly interactive photo studio. 

BfloBlissCutieThe newly added space, Bliss Bros. Studio, was inspired by a longstanding and well-respected photography business which first opened on Main Street in 1861. For over 50 years, the Bliss family produced some of the city’s finest portraits and landscapes. Now, the story of their business will be shared with our visitors.

bflobliss2Inside the studio, guests are encouraged to dress up in vintage clothing and pose in front of our custom made backdrop to create their own vintage portrait. Images may be shared via social media by using the hashtag #buffalobliss. When at the Museum, visit our new studio, take your picture (or a “selfie” as it were) and join in on the fun while being a part of continuing story of photography.

Anthony Greco
Director of  Exhibits & Interpretive Planning

(This article was featured in our Summer 2015 issue of “The Album“. TBHM’s quarterly newsletter)

Spotlight Artifact: Bathing Suits

Now that summer is finally upon us, we decided to share a past article from our Summer 2013 issue of “The Album,” featuring two bathing suits from our collection.


Wool Swinsuit, 20-30s

Bathing Suit • “Neptune’s Daughter” • Niagara Knitting Mills Corporation Wool • 1920s-1930s

The swimsuit has a long and varied history. In the early 1900s, women wore long gowns with bloomers underneath. These bathing gowns were weighted down by several heavy layers of material, occasionally with weights sewn into the hem so the material would not float. Fabrics were chosen for bathing suits that would not become transparent when wet. By the 1920s, swimsuits were mostly made out of wool for that very reason. Being so absorbent, swimsuits tended to become heavy and uncomfortable, not to mention itchy in the summer sun. This black wool swimsuit from our collection dates from the 1920s to the 1930s. Labeled “Neptune’s Daughter,” this one-piece swimming suit with attached knickers was made by the Niagara Knitting Mills Corporation of New York, NY.

Bathing Suit Rose Marie Reid of California Acetate 1960s-1970s

Bathing Suit • Rose Marie Reid of California • Acetate • 1960s-1970s

By the 1930s and 40s, bathing suits were rapidly changing. Hemlines were shorter and more bare skin was showing. It was not until the late 40s and early 50s that one-piece bathing suits, or maillots, started to be produced in a variety of fabrics, moving away from wool. For comparison, we have a patterned swimsuit, from the 1960s to the 1970s. This brown, yellow, and black stripped acetate bathing suit, donated by Angela Georgi, was created by Rose Marie Reid of California. Made from a light-weight, stretchy fabric, one would imagine that this would have been much more comfortable to wear to the beach.

Rebecca Justinger