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Dedication, Tribute, Historic Bridal Gown Exhibit at McCarl Coverlet Gallery

Public Relations
Posted: Wednesday Jul 20, 2011
A tribute to the late Foster McCarl and his family will precede the blessing and dedication of the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery at Saint Vincent College and the grand opening of a special exhibit of historic coverlets and bridal gowns, Orange Blossoms and Lace: Victorian Bridal Traditions, at an invitational reception for more than a hundred guests at the Gallery in the Fred M. Rogers Center at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 23.

The Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., archabbot of Saint Vincent Archabbey and chancellor of Saint Vincent College, will formally dedicate the Gallery which opened on the first floor of the Fred M. Rogers Center in 2008. The program will include a welcome by the Rev. Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., who will serve as master of ceremonies, and remarks by Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president of Saint Vincent College, Lauren Lamendola, curator of the Collection, Brian McCarl, and James McCarl, president of the McCarl Foundation.

The Saint Vincent College Singers, directed by Thomas Octave, will perform Jubilate Deo, the National Anthem and America the Beautiful. In addition, entertaining and educational programs will be presented by Brenda Applegate’s School of Needlework, a group of living historians dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and art of quilting, lace making, spinning, weaving and sewing.

The late Mr. McCarl will be memorialized for the role he played in educating the public about the important role of textiles in the development of the social and technological fabric of America. In the book, American Coverlets and Their Weavers: Coverlets from the Collection of Foster and Muriel McCarl, Ronald L. Hurst noted that “no one has done more to advance the appreciation and study of American coverlets than Foster and Muriel McCarl.” The McCarl family chose Saint Vincent College as the permanent home of their special collection because of the College’s demonstrated respect for history, good stewardship and commitment to education.

“Coverlet bedcovers were often given as wedding gifts to a young woman to take with her to her future husband’s house,” Ms. Lamendola explained. “This exhibit focuses on the exploration of Victorian bridal traditions including coverlets from the McCarl Collection that have been identified as wedding gifts augmented by a myriad of exquisite period gowns, bridal gifts, and accessories.”

The original idea for the exhibit grew from the discovery of an unusual all-white coverlet, made in 1860 by Jacob Schnell. The natural white weaving is seamless with fringe on three sides, a floral border on all four sides and nine large floral medallions in the center, and four corner blocks with leaves, flowers and stars around the inscription.

The gowns will include a pale pink bridesmaid dress from 1906, a white cotton voile wedding dress from 1908 and a lace wedding dress with eyelet inserts, straight skirt and elbow length sleeves designed for a slender bride in 1900.

In addition to the 18 coverlets and nine gowns, the exhibit will include dozens of other objects including historic marriage certificates, posters, wedding invitations, wax orange blossoms, bride’s photograph, hair ornaments, petticoats, camisoles and undergarments. An unusual “embroidered square,” containing the signatures of friends of the bride and groom which were embroidered on the cotton fabric in 1901 will also be displayed. It was originally intended to be part of a quilt and the cloth became a gift for the couple with their initials worked into the center of the piece.

“This is the first time the Gallery will be presenting a comprehensive exhibit fusing local artifacts and objects from the Kerr Memorial Museum, Westmoreland County Historical Society and the Somerset Historical Center,” Ms. Lamendola added. “The exhibit will also explore the origin of white wedding traditions, bridal showers, honeymoons, and, of course, the evolution of textiles through bedcovers.”

“An interesting characteristic of the coverlets is that almost all of them have the bride’s maiden name woven into them,” Ms. Lamendola noted. “The reason for that, our research discovered, is that gifts were given to the bride not to the couple, and to give a bride a gift with her married name on it prior to the wedding would be considered presumptuous so it was proper to provide a gift with the maiden name on it.”

The exhibition will be on display from Sunday, July 24 to Sunday, September 4 during regular Gallery hours: 12 noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 12 noon to 3 p.m. and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

From September 5 to Friday, November 4, the exhibition will be shown from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 12 noon to 4 p.m. and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and by appointment only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Admission to the Gallery is free and open to the public.

“It’s the wedding season and people love weddings,” Ms. Lamendola concluded. “I hope many people will visit the Gallery to learn more about weddings and the historic textiles which are an important part of their charm.”

In the fall of 2004, Saint Vincent College hosted an exhibition in its Saint Vincent Gallery, Woven Into History: American Coverlets from the Collection of Foster and Muriel McCarl, featuring ten coverlets from the Collection.

A $1 million gift from Foster and Muriel McCarl on October 21, 2005 enabled the couple’s prized collection of antique American coverlets to have a permanent home at Saint Vincent College. The Beaver Falls coupled conveyed its collection of more than 300 coverlets to the College along with funds for the care and preservation of one of the premier coverlet collections in the country. Selections from the Collection are permanently displayed at the College on a rotating basis and special exhibitions of the Collection are shown periodically. These have included Immigrant Weaving Traditions, Vermillion, Scarlet, Crimson and Burgundy: An Exploration of Red Dyes in Coverlets, Art Reflecting Nature: Wildlife in the Northeastern United States, Consider the Lilies: Floral Imagery in Coverlets of the McCarl Collection, and What’s Eating Me? Mice, Moths and More.

The Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery opened to the public in a spacious first floor exhibition hall at the Fred M. Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College in the fall of 2008.

A love of American history led the McCarls to purchase their first historic coverlet in 1959 in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. That began what has become one of the finest collections of American coverlets in the country Mr. McCarl frequently talked about the joy that he and his wife experienced over the years in assembling the collection, learning from reference books about the prized acquisitions, and developing friendships with dealers and other collectors who shared their interest. Mr. McCarl was intrigued by the history contained within each coverlet that included the name of the weaver who created it by hand, the name of the person it was woven for, the date and the community where the work was completed. Most coverlets were woven with intricate patterns in vibrant colors of red, blue, white and green and were woven almost exclusively by professional male weavers, usually in the Middle Atlantic states and the Midwest and were affordable enough for middle-class, rural Americans.

Foster McCarl founded McCarl’s Plumbing and Heating Company in 1946 and became a leader in the mechanical contracting industry. Thirty years later it was renamed McCarl’s, Inc. and in 1999 it became a wholly owned subsidiary of PPL Corporation.

The exhibit was made possible through the efforts of the Kerr Memorial Museum, Somerset Historical Center, Westmoreland County Historical Society and KeyAdvisors Financial Services. Tribute donations in support of the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Collection are welcomed and may be sent to the McCarl Gallery, Saint Vincent College, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650-2690.

Further information is available at www.mccarlgallery.org or 724 805-2569.


Photo: Lauren Lamendola, curator of the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Collection, prepares an early wedding gown for display.