(CLICK on pictures for enlargements)
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,
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
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.
Britton-Warren in her
magnificent Civil War Era costume.
This is just one of several outfits
she wears, including an 1880’s
an 1890’s ensemble.
“One era is never enough and
I don’t intend to stop with these!”
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.”
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
Permit to Display Pre-Act Rare Bird
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
Here is the section from the regulations which
clarify possession of
pre-Act birds or specimens/parts:
§ 21.2 Scope of
(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.
Migratory Bird Permit Office