Every second Tuesday of the month, the Washington Historical Society hosts an “Evening at the Museum.” Each event features a presentation highlighting local history given by experts for historical enthusiasts.
The upcoming presentation to be held Tuesday, July 9, at 7 p.m. at the Washington Historical Museum, will feature fashion trends in the Franklin County area from the 1850s to the 1950s and will be presented by Suzanne Pautler.
Marc Houseman, the Washington History Museum director, said the program is a play off the popular movie series “Night at the Museum,” and the society started hosting the events about 10 years ago.
Other topics over the years have included presentations such as old home movies from the 1940s-1950s, musical bands from the 1930s-1960s and Price’s Raid of Franklin County.
Houseman said Historical Society members and others regularly attend the monthly programs which take place at the museum, although some have been at different locations such as the Washington Public Library.
Pautler is a resident of Columbia who grew up in St. Louis and Franklin County. Her family has owned a farm in the Jeffriesburg area since she was a young child.
After learning of her ancestors’ immigration from Germany and Switzerland to Franklin County, she became deeply fascinated with genealogy.
“I call myself a genealogy detective,” she said.
Her interest in her family’s history grew to an interest in local history. Pautler has presented multiple research projects throughout the years in the local history class taught at East Central College by Sue Blesi.
Pautler has conducted much research over the years about the genealogy of her own, her husband’s and other families in addition to the numerous projects regarding other local histories.
Some past research projects of Pautler’s include the history of Franklin County orphans, early family photography and German immigration. Additionally, Pautler taught at the Columbia public schools for a number of years.
Houseman said Pautler has given well-researched presentations for the past six years.
“A Century of Clothing” will feature an in-depth analysis of fashion trends and movements over the 100-year span.
Pautler says she was inspired to embark on this project because she had so many photos featuring different time periods of clothing.
“I was fascinated by the differences,” she said.
Pautler remarked her favorite part of any of her research is learning and thinking about the individual people and how they lived in those exact moments in time.
The Evening at the Museum presentation will cover some tidbits of history of past local residents in addition to showing dated photographs.
“I’m interested in the individual people,” Pautler said. “How did they get their clothes, how did they make them, where did they buy them?”
The presentation itself will chronologically cover fashion history from approximately the mid 19th- to mid- 20th centuries. Pautler analyzes the clothing trends of infants/toddlers, girls, boys, women and men throughout the presentation.
For example, Pautler will analyze how and when children’s clothing became more focused on mobility, such as when schoolgirls’ skirts were shortened and worn with long stockings so they could run around.
Pautler also speaks about the movement in women’s fashion of tight bodices to less restrictive ones at the turn of the 19th century and when white dresses became very prominent in the 1910s. Additionally, Pautler will discuss how larger historical events affected local fashion such as World War I and World War II.
She also will compare Franklin County clothing trends to national trends by looking at dated catalog pages and mail orders.
“There’s little bits of history thrown in with the pictures,” she said.
But, the presentation is more than a series of photographs. Pautler said.
“I put a lot of work into these presentations,” she said. “They are packed with research.”
She also plans to discuss factors such as where local residents bought their clothes and/or the material to make them, how they traveled to these locations, and more. “I have information about spinning wheels, sewing machines, wooden shoes, mail order catalogs, and post offices.”
The Washington Historical Society, founded 60 years ago in 1959, has provided Pautler and others with resources for research. The museum houses the Ralph Gregory Library which contains genealogical records for the Four Rivers Genealogical Society, records of local buildings, a collection of 40,000 photographs, and more.
The society commonly works with local residents researching their family history or history over their houses in addition to working closely with the city, especially the Historic Preservation Commission.
In addition to resources provided by the Washington Historical Society, Pautler uses resources such as college libraries, familial photographs, museum sites, dated books and catalogs, biographical records, censuses, and Ancestry.com to research her projects.
Pautler hopes to inspire the audience into holding a greater appreciation of local history.
“A Century of Clothing” is free and open to the public.