Peggy Shippen, or Margaret Shippen, was the second wife of General Benedict Arnold— one of his alleged partners in his military conspiracy. Born into a prestigious Philadelphia family with Loyalist tendencies, she became acquainted with Arnold while he was military commander of the city following the British withdrawal in 1778. In this portrait, her embellished gown and heightened hair reflect the fashion trends of the colonial era. National Archives Identifier: 530957
Benjamin Lincoln was an American army officer who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He is notable for his involvement in three major surrenders during the war: Battle of Saratoga, 1780 Siege of Charleston, and the British surrender at Yorktown. The sword Lincoln is sporting is depicted in typical army officers’ fashion. Army officers typically carried two different swords. One is used for full dress—mostly ceremonial in character, as in this picture—and the other used primarily in hand-to-hand combat. National Archives Identifier: 530962
Baroness Riedesel was the wife of General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel of Brunswick, a region which was then part of the German Confederation. The Baroness accompanied her husband during the Saratoga Campaign in the American Revolutionary War and kept a journal of the campaign. In this picture, she is seen wearing a Brunswick gown, also simply known as the Brunswick. This style dress was a two-piece costume of German origin consisting of a hip-length jacket with “split sleeves” (flounced elbow-length sleeves and long, tight lower sleeves) and a hood, worn with a matching petticoat. It was also popular in England and the U.S. for traveling. National Archives Identifier: 530956
Before serving as the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson represented Virginia in the Continental Congress, and then served the state as a wartime Governor (1779–1781). Although his natural hair color was usually described as sandy or red, Jefferson often wore it dressed and powered white, a common fashion practice for men at the time. In fact, in a letter he wrote to his grandson in Philadelphia from his Virginia estate, Jefferson implored, “I must pray you to put half a dozen pounds of scented hair powder into the same box. None is to be had here, and it is almost a necessary life with me.” Looks like even our Founding Fathers could not escape the prominent fashion trends of the colonial era! National Archives Identifier: 518078
August 18, 1771. Phillis Wheatley, a famous poet, becomes a full member of Old South Meeting House, the church and public meeting space where she attended since being brought to Boston as an enslaved child more than ten years earlier. Old South Meeting House is where she first heard the Reverend George Whitefield preach, and her poem about him was the first poem to earn her widespread recognition. In 1773, she became the first African to publish a poetry book in the English language, and the third woman in America to do so.
Today, Old South Meeting House is a history museum, and we celebrate Phillis Wheatley day on August 18.