Bold Style for a Bold Woman

July 7th, 2014by Joy Bivins Filed under: Collections, Exhibitions, Stories

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Etta Moten Barnett’s leopard-print hat and matching handbag, c. 1960
Gift of Sue Barnett Ish, ICHi-68439

Etta Moten Barnett (1901–2004) was a groundbreaking performer and activist who spent her long life making statements. She undoubtedly accomplished one with this leopard-print topper and matching handbag. Her daughter Sue Ish, who donated many of Barnett’s garments to the Museum, thinks the set matched a cape made from fabric purchased during one of her mother’s many trips to Africa. In the late 1950s, Barnett and her husband, Claude Barnett, founder of the Chicago-based Associated Negro Press, traveled to that continent often to support newly independent nations.

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Gary Sheahan’s D-Day

June 5th, 2014by Olivia Mahoney Filed under: Collections, Exhibitions, Stories

Friday, June 6, 2014, marks the seventieth anniversary of D-Day when Allied forces invaded Europe to defeat Nazi Germany. D-Day is one of the most thoroughly documented events in modern history, but few people know that a Chicago artist captured it on paper.

Joseph “Gary” Sheahan (1893–1978) was born in Winnetka, Illinois. He studied at the University of Notre Dame and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before joining the Chicago Tribune as an illustrator in 1922.

Shortly after World War II broke out, the fifty-year-old Sheahan volunteered to serve as an artist-correspondent. He initially spent time in the Pacific before joining the European effort. On June 6, 1944, Sheahan and about 160,000 Allied forces boarded more than 5,000 ships and crossed the English Channel under the protection of 13,000 aircraft. Landing at five beaches in Normandy, France, the Allies suffered an estimated 10,000 casualties before breaking through German lines to gain a toehold in Europe.

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Crossing the English Channel, June 6, 1944
Watercolor on paper by Gary Sheahan, 1944
Gift of Gary Sheahan, ICHi-68246

Sheahan’s Crossing the English Channel shows the invasion in process. Notice that many vessels towed large barrage balloons to protect against possible German bombing attacks that never came. His Normandy after D-Day is of Normandy Beach after the invasion.

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Normandy after D-Day, June 8, 1944
Watercolor on paper by Gary Sheahan, 1944
Gift of Gary Sheahan, ICHi-68461

Sheahan worked until the war ended, painting more than a hundred battle scenes and sketching nearly one thousand Chicago-area servicemen and servicewomen for the Tribune, which featured his work on a regular basis to give a local dimension to the global story. In 1957, Sheahan donated his WWII sketches to the Museum for the edification of future generations.

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Part of the great armada along the coast of Normandy, June 8, 1944
Watercolor on paper by Gary Sheahan, 1944
Gift of Gary Sheahan, ICHi-68451

Gary Sheahan’s Crossing the English Channel is on display in the Unexpected Chicago case in the Museum’s Kolver Family Lobby through the end of June.

> Watch film footage from D-Day, narrated by soldiers’ firsthand accounts

> Visit the National D-Day Memorial

> Explore the National WWII Museum in New Orleans

> Explore the Unexpected Chicago archive

> Support the Museum’s collection

People and Places: Augie Sallas

May 29th, 2014by Peter Alter Filed under: Collections, Stories

DePaul University students Bryant Arvesen, Sekordri Lewis, Ryan McGovern, and Kasia Szymanska talked to August “Augie” Sallas about the Little Village Community Council (LVCC) for this entry in the Museum’s People and Places blog series. They were students of the Museum’s archivist Peter Alter, as a part of DePaul’s public history program.

Eager to learn about Little Village and politics in Chicago, we met with Augie Sallas, president of the LVCC, to ask him about his neighborhood. First, we learned a little bit about Augie. He was born in South Chicago on the city’s Southeast Side. As a child, he spent eight years in a North Side orphanage with his brother after their parents died. He later moved to Texas and eventually settled in suburban Blue Island. Augie also served as a longtime member and organizer for the Chicago Typographical Union.

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Augie Sallas Chicago Typographical Union election flyer, c. 1970
Chicago History Museum collection

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A Visit from Hamish Bowles

May 19th, 2014by Katy Werlin Filed under: Collections, Stories

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, a group committed to supporting our costume department and collection. The Museum will mark this anniversary with a number of events throughout the year, concluding with the opening of a new exhibition in November 2014. To kick off the celebration, the Costume Council, in conjunction with Alliance Française de Chicago, invited International Editor at Large of Vogue magazine and renowned style expert Hamish Bowles to visit Chicago and participate in a conversation with Costume Council president Nena Ivon. The following day, we welcomed Mr. Bowles to the Museum for a behind-the-scenes visit to the costume collection.

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Mr. Bowles in conversation with Nena Ivon on March 19, 2014. Projected onto the screen behind them is an image from Mr. Bowles’s visit to the Museum in March 2013.
Photographs by Museum staff

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The Chemistry of Conservation

May 8th, 2014by Alex Aubry Filed under: Exhibitions, Stories

Editor’s note: In 2001, Eunice Johnson commissioned an ostrich feather coat and skintight 1930s-style beaded gown with a separate face-framing hood from Bob Mackie. Costume curator Virginia Heaven describes the ensemble as “part fairy princess, part Vegas showgirl, part Barbie doll.” In this post, Alex Aubry takes us to meet Julie Benner and describes her efforts to preserve Mackie’s creation.

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Mackie’s wedding ensemble on the Fashion Fair runway, 2001
Courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company, LLC

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