Using beautifully ornate objects from the Springfield Museums’ own collections, this exhibit provides a window into the lives of America’s privileged classes both at home and at play during the Victorian era. Some of the fine clothing and personal items, like elegant men’s pocket watches and ladies jewelry and hair combs, will be very familiar to fans of Downton Abbey. Objects like grandfather clocks and gentleman’s ceremonial items exhibit a level of craftsmanship no longer evident today. The items on view tell many stories about their owners, of the time and place in which they lived, and the level of wealth that allowed them to possess such luxury items.
The exhibit covers the period between 1840 and 1900, a time when Springfield was a powerhouse of innovation and industry. Wealthy industrialists like Everett Barney, the inventor of the clamp-on ice skate, and railroad president and Congressman Chester Chapin displayed their success through their philanthropic pursuits and by making their homes into showpieces for their newfound wealth. The spirit of philanthropy shown by individuals like James Rumrill and George Walter Vincent Smith helped create some of Springfield’s most venerable institutions, including Forest Park and the Springfield Museums themselves.