With the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibition coming up next week (accompanied, of course, by the opening celebration Gala on Monday), May means fashion. To add to this month’s conversation on fashion and its place in society, we are excited to showcase the delightful government publication The Dresses of the First Ladies of the White House by Margaret Brown Klapthor.
Published in 1952 by the Smithsonian Institution, this book contains images of dresses worn by First Ladies, from Martha Dandridge Curtis Washington to Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, lovingly displayed on a plaster figure with the appropriate accessories, coiffure and posture of the woman who wore them.
Detailed descriptions of each dress, as well as a portrait and brief biographical sketch of each woman, are also included. The gowns, which belong to a collection of the United States National Museum, “represent the changes in fashions in this country from the administration of President George Washington through the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt” as Klapthor says in her introduction.
This winter has certainly been one for the history books when it comes to weather—it is a rare event indeed for Chicago to be colder than the North Pole! Weather data is fascinating, but knowing where to go to find historical data can be tricky.
The Weather Bureau’s Climatological Data series, for example, is a monthly publication with an annual edition as well. The monthly issues contain tables of daily maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation amounts at over 8000 weather stations all across the nation, while the annual gives an overview of the year, including temperature extremes and freeze data. They are issued by state, and date all the way back to 1884!
These could be used to find out what the weather was like a hundred years ago today, on days of historical significance, on the day you were born, or more. Most fascinating, don’t you think?
“This daylight-saving plan will afford an opportunity to many thousands of working people, those who work in offices and in factories and in mills and probably in mines, and on railroads, so that if they feel disposed they will have an opportunity to use an hour in the evening, or more, to till their gardens. If we are going to start an individual conservation scheme, and it looks as though that idea is going to take root, it will be one of the blessings that will grow out of this world difficulty. It will get the people back to the land, if it is only a square rod or two. It will give them an opportunity to know how to raise produce.”
Thus spoke Mr. Arthur E. Holder, representing the American Federation of Labor, at a hearing before the Committee on Interstate Commerce on Thursday, May 3, 1917, where he was adding his voice to the support of a bill to establish a daylight saving time in the United States.
With the end of this year’s Daylight Saving Time approaching on November 4th, MU Libraries’ historical government document collection can shed a little light on the early days of national daylight saving laws (there have been many) in the United States – a little something to think about as you turn your clocks back.
The 1958 Interstate Commerce Commission monograph Standard Time by Thomas E. Pyne examines the Standard Time Act, the result of ‘the agitation for ‘daylight saving’ during World War I to conserve fuel and increase national efficiency”, which caused the first national daylight saving to be inaugurated at 2 o’clock on March 31, 1918.
“The act, approved March 19, 1918, is entitled ‘An act to save daylight and to provide standard time for the United States.’ It served a twofold purpose. It divided the territory of the continental United States into five zones, eastern, central, mountain, Pacific, and Alaska…. It also provided that the time of each zone should be advanced 1 hour on the last Sunday in March of each year and returned to normal time on the last Sunday of October…”
The document gives a glimpse of the situation prior to this act, when each State adopted one of four standards of time “for its own use by statute, ordinance, or more usually, public sentiment or habits”:
“The areas embracing the States, cities, towns, and railroads observing the same standard of time were so irregular as to preclude an attempt to define them even approximately. In some instances localities employed a different time form that of the railroad serving them, and in other instances two railroads serving the same point used different standards of time.”
Imagine how difficult that must have made coordinating travel and the transport of goods!
While the daylight saving provision of this Standard Time Act was short lived (it ended after only two summers), other national daylight saving laws have a curious history in the U.S.—one was reinstated year round during World War II, another was passed in 1966, more—that you can learn more about by visiting the Government Information department at Ellis Library after you enjoy an extra hour of sleep on Sunday.
And now you know a bit more about daylight saving time in the United States, how it was initially coupled with the standardization of the time zones and how it was influenced by railroads and the World Wars.