Rare Discoveries!
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Over the past 20 years I have on rare occasions found treasurers in the most unexpected places.  I will share these items here for your enjoyment.

 

 

  

 Finding Feathers

(CLICK on pictures for enlargements)

Claire Britton-Warren displays her  “Ever So Dreadful Ladies Millinery”
Claire Britton-Warren displays her
“Ever So Dreadful Ladies Millinery”
at Time Traveler Weekends in
Old Sacramento, California.

History buff Claire Britton-Warren is a part time pirate, sometime train robber and occasional Civil War era re-enactor.

It was my great good fortune to learn that Claire would be displaying a rare collection of millinery feathers at Time Traveler Weekends, summer 2011 in the vibrant Wild West town of Old Sacramento, California.

Around the turn of the 19th century, women loved to wear hats adorned with feathers - and sometimes whole, stuffed birds.  This practice led to the destruction and extinction of some of the most beautiful birds in the world.

Claire helped to tell the story of this practice with her large collection of well-preserved vintage hat trims.  These hat trims were passed on to her by Alex F., who inherited them from his great-grandmother Marguerite.

Alex recognized the historic significance of these rare bird hat trims, and not knowing what to do with them himself, he reached out via Craig’s List to find an appropriate historian/caretaker who would use them for educational purposes and share them with the community.  That is how he found Claire.

Claire Britton-Warren in her magnificent Civil War Era costume.
Claire Britton-Warren in her
magnificent Civil War Era costume.
This is just one of several outfits
she wears, including an 1880’s
bustle dress and
an 1890’s ensemble.
“One era is never enough and
I don’t intend to stop with these!”
says Claire.

Claire has since been taking her show on the road.  When I met her, she was dressed head to toe in a perfect reproduction 1860s costume, complete with hoop skirt and corset.  What an eye-full!  I was thrilled to meet her and see her wondrous but macabre display of millinery feathers and stuffed birds.

Claire and I hit it off immediately.  I told her about Vintage Nouveau – Fashions from the Past, and my Outrageous Hats talk.  Outrageous Hats is the story of the Victorian millinery industry and the subsequent founding of the Audubon Society as an effort to help stop the slaughter of birds for fashion.

To my delight, Claire offered to share some of her extremely rare bird hat trims with me so that I could in turn share the history on line here, and in the community, through my program Outrageous Hats.  (Please Contact Me for booking information.)

The Lady Behind the Hat Trims

Alex’s great grandmother, Marguerite Disqué, was born in Quentin, a French town in Alsace.  She was a child in the 1870s when the Prussians occupied and used their house as officer’s quarters.  At some point a shell crashed through their house but didn’t explode.

In the 1890s, she married Edmond Schulthess, a Swiss attorney, becoming a part of an old Swiss family, and moved to Aarau.  Edmond was president of that country in the 1910s and ‘20s.  During the First World War, Marguerite was active in promoting prisoner exchanges.  After her husband died in 1944, she moved to Lisbon, where her only daughter had married a Portuguese man.  She died in 1964.

Alex says, “Whether she had a taste for extravagant feathery hats, I’m not sure.  Being Huguenot and married to a Swiss Protestant … frugality ran deep, and I doubt she was a woman of fashion extravagances.  She did travel much, I’m sure, and we saw the evidence of her shopping at Galleries Lafayette, a fabulous early department store with its flagship location in Paris.”

A Circle of Death
A Circle of Death.
These small yellow and black birds met an untimely end
in order to adorn a ladies hat.
Notice the little beaks and heads in the center of the circle.

Feather trims like these were a staple on ladies hats circa 1900.
Feather trims like these
were a staple on
ladies hats circa 1900.
Sometimes
whole wings were displayed.

Name of species of bird often written upon tissue wrapping of feathers gifts.
Claire Britton-Warren's gift
of feathers to Vintage Nouveau - Fashions From the Past
came wrapped in their
original tissue paper,
which often had the name of the
species of bird written upon it.

He went on to say, “My mother was always reverential about her grandmother, and probably asked to keep these relics at her death in Lisbon.  She brought them to San Francisco in the 1970s when she married, and never figured out what to do with them.  You and Craig’s List have now saved them from total oblivion.  My Portuguese relatives and I are very happy to know these are now in good hands, and will be used for historical and educational purposes.”

Permit to Display Pre-Act Rare Bird Items

You can legally possess and display the hats and/or hat-making supplies … as the birds were taken out of the wild prior to protection under Migratory Bird Treaty Act or MBTA.

The Act was first signed in 1918.  There have been several amendments (the last adding all raptors in 1972) which included different groups of birds.  If these items date back to the 1800’s they are clearly pre-Act, regardless of when the birds came under protection.  You can possess or donate them, but not sell, trade or barter them; or offer to sell trade or barter them.

Below is the citation in our Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which states that we can possess birds or parts which were acquired prior to protection under the MBTA.  If you would like further information regarding the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and permits required to possess them, you can visit website

http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits.html

Here is the section from the regulations which clarify possession of
pre-Act birds or specimens/parts:

§ 21.2 Scope of regulations.
(a) Migratory birds, their parts,
nests, or eggs, lawfully acquired prior
to the effective date of Federal protection
under the Migratory Bird Treaty
Act (16 U.S.C. 703–712) may be possessed
or transported without a permit, but
may not be imported, exported, purchased,
sold, bartered, or offered for
purchase, sale or barter, and all shipments
of such birds must be marked as
provided by part 14 of this subchapter:
Provide, no exemption from any statute
or regulation shall accrue to any offspring
of such migratory birds.

Tami Tate-Hall
Migratory Bird Permit Office
Portland, Oregon

 

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