Written by JoAnna Luth Stull, Museum Registrar
The 138 year old historic jacket and skirt made and worn by Josephine Meeker was examined closely by members of Greeley’s Centennial State Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR). Their quest is to re-stitch, in miniature, the skirt and bodice made and worn by Josephine Meeker in 1879.
The one-of-a-kind replica garment will be included in a wardrobe of clothing for an American Girl doll named “Miss Ann” in honor of the President General of National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, Ann Turner Dillon. The completed wardrobe will be presented at the 2019 National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution National Congress in Washington, D.C.
Donning protective gloves, members of the NSDAR Centennial State Chapter who had weeks before completed a Museums’ Collections Viewing Request, met Greeley Museums Collections Curator Sarah Saxe in the secure and climate-controlled textile storage area at the Greeley History Museum. Seen here are Chapter Librarian JoAnna Luth Stull, Chapter Treasurer Teresa Hamilton, and Chapter Regent Willma Heckman (l-r) who examined the fabric, pattern, stitching, trim, and workmanship of the historic garment and in so doing, found a number of surprising revelations.
There were details like darts in the jacket bodice for a nice fit and a patch of blanket sewn in to complete the jacket length. Muslin backing supports the hand-stitched buttonholes. There are larger round metal buttons with a center design of an 8 petal flower surrounded by a ring of 16 dots and a repeating angled wheat sheaf alternated by a dot closer to the button edge.
The use of woven stripe inherent in the blanket design (lower green stripe) was supplemented by green ribbon trim (upper green stripe) on the right sleeve. The same process was used with red flannel strips to copy the red stripes in the blanket weave in both the jacket and skirt. The left sleeve utilizes green ribbon trim for both stripes near the wrist with the addition of a red flannel fabric stripe to simulate the red woven stripes found in the trade blanket fabric.
Several decisions must be made in considering how to re-stitch the replica bodice and skirt originally made by Josephine Meeker. Of primary concern is the fabric as authentic Indian trade blankets made of wool are in very short supply! Locating wool of the proper weave and color is another almost impossible task, and in the process of considering locating a weaver who would spin, dye, and weave the amount of cloth needed, the members asked themselves, “How authentic do we want this garment to be versus the very practical question of future care and preservation?”
Two items of note that will also need to be reproduced to accessorize Josephine Meeker’s garment are not in the Museums’ collection for viewing; her footwear and her hat and there are stories about both items. Josephine may have worn moccasins she crafted herself, or that were given to her by her Ute friends. The hat worn by Josephine in the photograph taken by William H. Jackson of Denver may or may not have been the actual hat she wore during her captivity. An 1896 article in the Greeley Tribune taken from a story in the Denver Post relates that the State Historical Society received “an interesting addition to their collection of relics of historical importance” from Judge Charles Denison Hayt of the “supreme court [sic]” who gave the “hat worn by Josie Meeker during her captivity among the Indians.”
Whatever hat Josephine wore and whatever became of her moccasins, one thing is known for sure, Josephine made it out of Ute captivity due to the help of “Ute Susan” or Shawsheen, whose own story comes full-circle back to Greeley—twice!
Project Background: The Colorado State Chapter NSDAR Juniors’ special project will be to complete a wardrobe for an American Girl doll named “Miss Ann” inspired by Ann Turner Dillon, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution President General and a Colorado native. Each of the 44 NSDAR Chapters in Colorado had the opportunity to submit an interesting and important woman in Colorado history to the Colorado State Chapter NSDAR Junior members for approval.
Greeley’s Centennial State Chapter was honored to be chosen to create two dresses, each with accessories that represent Josephine Meeker and Shawsheen which will be included in the Miss Ann wardrobe as modeled by an American Girl doll. Each dress and its accessories will be accompanied by a photograph of the historic person, a short biography for publication in a NSDAR catalog, and a photograph of the Miss Ann American Girl doll wearing the ensemble created for her persona.
To learn more about the Centennial State Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, visit facebook.com/centennialstatechapter.