Spring Fashions of Yesterday: As Featured by Ohio’s Newest Additions to Chronicling America

Spring is in the air—though on some days the temperature outside may have us believing otherwise—which means soon we’ll be packing away our winter clothes and starting to wear the lighter fashions associated with spring and summer. One hundred and fifty years ago, despite our nation’s being in the middle of the Civil War, newspaper advertisements show that for some of our predecessors, it was still important to take the time to spruce up their wardrobes in preparation for the imminent warmer weather.

Chronicling America contains countless examples of newspaper pages in which advertisements about clothing, medical remedies and other household matters are sprinkled amongst news about the national conflict. Since newspapers often reflect the interests of the people who read them, the coexistence of these items shows that the things that mattered before the war were still important to those on the domestic front during the war. Bain & Son, a company on High Street in Columbus, promotes “A Splendid Assortment of New Spring Silks…and Spring Shawls” (Daily Ohio Statesman, March 28, 1863, Image 3, Col. 5).

In Dayton, Miss. M.A. Goodman’s Millinery on Second Street is set to open on March 28th, with “Spring and Summer styles of Bonnets, Hats, Ribbons, etc” (Dayton Daily Empire, March 24, 1863, Image 1, Col. 3).

Miss M.A. Goodman advertisement from the Dayton Daily Empire, March 24, 1863, Image 1, Col. 3).

Miss M.A. Goodman advertisement from the Dayton Daily Empire, March 24, 1863, Image 1, Col. 3).

Unlike today, newspapers of this time period did not generally rely on pictures to draw the eye. Advertisers instead used large and varied font styles that would break up the heavy text of the rest of the page, grabbing the reader’s attention away from news of the day. For example, the advertisement for the “Original Cash Store of D. Will” in the M’Arthur Democrat uses around ten different types of print to advertise “Ladies Dress Goods” and other items (March 5, 1863, Image 4, Col. 5-6).

Original Cash Store of D. Will advertisement from the M’Arthur Democrat, March 5, 1863, Image 4, Col. 5-6.

Original Cash Store of D. Will advertisement from the M’Arthur Democrat, March 5, 1863, Image 4, Col. 5-6.

If you want to learn more about spring fashions of the past, check out Ohio’s most recent contributions to the National Digital Newspaper Program and Chronicling America! Issues from the following Ohio papers are now online and keyword searchable on the Library of Congress website:

* Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus) from 1861 to 1869
* M’Arthur Democrat from 1855 to 1865
* Vinton Record (McArthur) from 1866 to 1874
* Democratic Enquirer (McArthur) from 1867 to 1873
* McArthur Enquirer from 1873 to 1874
* Penny Press (Cincinnati) from 1859-1860

These papers join over six million pages from more than 900 newspapers—including over 40 others from Ohio—representing states all over the nation to chronicle United States’ history from 1836 to 1922.

To find these advertisements, try using the following search terms: spring clothes, spring clothing or spring fashion. If you limit your search to specific years using the Advanced Search feature, you can see how fashion has evolved over time. For additional tips on how to use Chronicling America, check out the Resources available through the Ohio Digital Newspaper Portal. National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio staff at the Ohio Historical Society have developed video tutorials, subject guides and other tools to help connect you with Ohio’s digitized newspapers.

The National Digital Newspaper Program is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress and state projects to provide enhanced access to United States newspapers published between 1836 and 1922. NEH awards support state projects to select and digitize historically significant titles that are aggregated and permanently maintained by the Library of Congress. As part of the project, the Ohio Historical Society contributed 200,000 newspaper pages to the project between July 2008 and August 2012 and will contribute an additional 100,000 pages by the end of August 2014.

By Jenni Salamon, Project Coordinator, NDNP-OH

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2 Responses to Spring Fashions of Yesterday: As Featured by Ohio’s Newest Additions to Chronicling America

  1. Good to know about Chronicling America that contains countless examples of newspaper pages in which advertisements about clothing, medical remedies and other household matters are sprinkled amongst news about the national conflict.

  2. Lisa P. says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m an OHS volunteer who’ll be working in the village this summer. The links to the daily newspapers are such a great resource! Plus I’ll be in the Milliner’s Shop so the ads were of special interest. Thanks again!

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