Current Exhibitions

All exhibitions are included with general admission.

Thursday, April 27, through Monday, July 10
The Changing Silhouette of 19th Century Fashion: The Decade of the 1820s
Eliza Tredwell’s Wedding Dress, ca. 1820
The Tredwell Costume Collection comprises more than 400 articles of clothing. The core of the collection consists of 39 dresses documented to have been owned and worn by the women of the family. This month marks the beginning of a changing exhibition featuring Tredwell dresses from the decades of the 19th century. These dresses show the changing silhouette of fashion over 100 years, and tell us about the women who wore them and the society in which they lived. 

The first in the series is a white cotton, empire-style dress, ca. 1820, belonging to Eliza Tredwell. It was her wedding dress when she married Seabury Tredwell on June 13, 1820. It is the earliest dress in the Museum’s collection.

At the turn of the 19th century, amid vast political and philosophical changes taking place throughout Europe and America, women’s fashion also underwent a revolution. In place of the stiff stays, whalebone panniers, and silk brocade that characterized the last quarter of the 18th century, fashionable ladies adopted flowing columnar styles – often in fine, nearly transparent, white cotton to imitate marble – inspired by classical statues. For the first time in centuries, the new styles revealed nearly every line of the female form. While many undergarments (petticoats and other structured skirt supports, for example) were necessarily discarded during this period, most women continued to wear some form of stays, or corset, designed to smooth and elongate the body while lifting and separating the bosom.

Thursday, April 27, thorough Monday, September 25
When Women’s Work Was Needlework

Like other women of their class, Eliza Tredwell and her daughters were adept at plain, and fancy, sewing, much of which was accomplished together with female friends and relatives.

The Merchant’s House Museum costume and textile collections include hand-crafted, as well as mass-produced items. This exhibition focuses on examples likely have been made by the inhabitants of this household, including embroidery, knit and crochet doilies, and other textiles made by hand. Tredwell needlework tools will also be on display.

Free with museum admission.

Thursday, April 6, through Monday, September 25
“With All the Frills Upon It:” Hats from the Tredwell Collection
In the 19th century, millinery was an art and the hat the focal point of every fashionable ensemble. A collection of hats worn by the Tredwell women will be on display, perhaps some adorned for Fifth Avenue’s Easter Parade, which began in the 1880s. Hats of silk, felt, straw, and horsehair, adorned with feathers, lace, ribbons and beads, evoke an era when women never left home without it – their hat that is. And they frequently wore head covering indoors, as well.



What’s in the Blue Box?
The Museum’s collection of the Tredwell family’s original possessions comprises almost 3,000 objects: furnishings, decorations, lighting devices, household, personal and sewing accessories, family photographs, books, ephemera, works of art, costumes, and textiles. Taken together, they provide an intimate, authentic look at the domestic life of this 19th century New York merchant-class family.

Smaller objects not on display are stored in archival “blue boxes” in a storage room on the fourth floor. A single box often contains objects spanning the Tredwells’ entire 98-year residency on Fourth Street. On display, the contents of one blue storage box, including items never before displayed.

At the Tredwells’ Table: Highlights from the Collection
On display are china and glassware spanning the Tredwell family’s almost 100 year residence in the house. Included is a partial luncheon service by American silvermaker Wm. Rogers in the “Oval Thread” pattern, dating from 1847-1872. The set, engraved “E.T.,” is believed to have been given to Elizabeth Tredwell, the eldest Tredwell daughter, shortly after her marriage in 1845.
Included with regular admission.

Exhibitions are part of a series of 2017-2018 education programs,
The Women of Fourth Street and A Century of Change: 1835-1933.