Object of the Day

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Bag. Made by Sally Exnights. Waterbourough, England, 1837. Silk, glass beads. Gift of Harvey Smith, 1968-135-46
A Beaded Bag
This silk bag is embroidered with colorful glass beads and embellished with a blue beaded fringe trim. The body is decorated with rows of flowers, dogs, birds, and stars. A notable feature is the inscription “Sally Exnights” and “Watersbourough 1837.” Inscriptions noting the name and home of the maker and the date of completion were...
Button, April Showers, 1943
April Showers
April showers bring May flowers, but these buttons tell a more interesting story. In the 1940s plastics were quickly being incorporated into all aspects of everyday life. Lightweight, inexpensive, and available in a wide range of colors, plastic was popular with designers and manufacturers of countless goods—including women’s accessories. Nylon was invented in 1938 allowing...
Photograph, “Mrs. Peter Cooper Hewitt in Masqurade Costume”, ca. 1885
She Wore Spurs of Steel
It’s hard to say which looks more lethal, her sword or her high-heeled shoes? Miss Lucy Work (1861-1934), the soon to be Mrs. Peter Cooper Hewitt, is seen here as Joan of Arc. The elaborate costume was said to have cost $1,500.[1] During the Gilded Age, women frequently wore costumes for fancy dress balls and...
Poster, 1986
A Dramatic Gesture
Massimo Vignelli’s poster was commissioned by the Napoli 99 Foundation along with twenty-three other artists from around the world as a contribution towards the cultural image of Naples. Each artist’s interpretation of the city touched on a wide range of topics from architecture, poetry and music, to Mount Vesuvius, the earthquake, and pollution.  The posters...
Cup, ca. 1100 BC
A Toast to Life, Death, and Rebirth
Dated to circa 1100 BC, this ancient Egyptian lotus-shaped cup remains a stunning example of a drinking vessel three thousand years later. It only stands 3 1/8 inches tall, but its brilliant blue glaze catches the eye and draws one in to take a closer look. Only then does the decorative black outline of a...
Scarf, 1983
Memphis is Back
If Natalie du Pasquier’s recent collaboration with mass market retailers and fashion designers, are any indication, the Memphis look is back in style.  For the American Apparel collaboration, Du Pasquier used a similar approach to develop her current designs, sketching with colored pencils and then using a cut and paste method to create her distinctive...
Box, Jenny Lind Paper Doll Set, ca. 1850
Paper to Plastic: How Technology is Transforming Doll Design
In 1925 Cooper-Hewitt added to its collection “Jenny Lind Paper Doll, and Ten Costumes Designed for her Operatic Roles” from an unknown designer and was featured in the 2005 "Faster, Cheaper, Newer, More: Revolutions of 1848"  exhibition. Upon discovering it in the collection,  I was immediately drawn to it because some of my favorite childhood toys were...
Book, "A day at the New York World's Fair with Peter and Wendy"
1964: I was there…in my Orange and Blue
The Cooper-Hewitt Library has a large collection of over 2,000 World’s fair catalogues and books. Some are children’s souvenirs and stories. A day at the New York World's Fair with Peter and Wendy brings back memories of certain things I remember. As a teenager, my mother had loved the 1939 World’s fair, so that when...
Sidewall, 1918-23
A Sophisticated Floral
While Ruhlmann is better known for his beautifully designed and executed furniture and interior decoration, he also designed a number of wallpapers. This is an early design produced before he got into his brightly colored Art Deco phase. While still drawing upon an Art Nouveau aesthetic with its meandering vines and organic nature, the restrained...
Scarf, 1920s
Scarf for a Socialite
With its bold black lines contrasting with the tonal pinks, this scarf would have been a colorful finishing touch to a day ensemble when tied and draped across ones shoulders. The pattern is made not by a printing technique, but by silk satin pieced and hand sewn in the same manner as other pieces of...