Fancy or fashionable necklaces have been around since before the 16th century. From Queen Elizabeth I – large collar with removable ruff – to more modern times, the late judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020 – the lace frill collar. The Vigo County Historical Museum has a frill collar in its collection of historic clothing from Terre Haute resident Fanny Burgheim Blumberg.
The Blumberg family have donated many artifacts to the museum over the years, including personal artefacts, copies of works of art, photographs, and copies of their books. This week’s historical treasure is believed to date back to the 1930s to 1940s. The frill collar was extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century. A frill, also known as a “neck doily”, is designed in various shapes and sizes and is detachable. During this time, they were usually made of lace and embroidery. Women owned a lot of them and they were often given as gifts.
To make an embroidered design, they would use a transfer sheet and pencil to transfer a creative design, and then sew the desired design onto the fabric. This collar connects to the collar of a shirt or dress with a ribbon, binding, or hook tie. It adapts to an existing collar or neckline to decorate it. During the 1930s, the white collar was placed over a colorful or patterned dress or shirt to add style.
The 1930s were a financially difficult time due to the Great Depression and many made their own clothes. Sometimes they just made necklaces with embroidered handkerchiefs. The frill collar was a simple yet elegant way to add style to an item of clothing and breathe new life into an older item of clothing. Along with Fanny Blumberg’s necklace, there were two lace cuffs in the box of donation items.
Blumberg was an artist, author and philanthropist. She knew the poet James Whitcomb Riley and she submitted her own writings to various children’s magazines. In 1916 she married Terre Haute lawyer Benjamin Blumberg. They had four children and she continued to write, but mainly cared for her children in the 1920s and 1930s.
Her interest in the artist began when she befriended May Levan Joyce. Interior designer Terre Haute along with other skilled artists such as Gilbert Wilson helped nurture Blumberg’s artistry. As her talent developed, she even exhibited her work in galleries across the United States.
When you visit the Vigo County Historical Museum, drop by to see the new exhibition “Inspired Arts and Artists of Vigo”, where Blumberg is featured. One of his first paintings and some of his photos are on display.
The Vigo County History Center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visit www.vchsmuseum.org/ or call 812-235-9717 for information on admission tickets, upcoming events and museum membership.