Saturday, August 5, 2023

An 1827 Ladies' Fair

American women's fundraising fairs for charity seem to have begun in
the 1820s and followed a certain format until the present time.

Washington author Margaret Bayard Smith described an early event in a letter to a friend December 21st, 1827: "Next week there is to be a Fair, for the benefit of the Orphan Asylum. Every female in the City, I believe, from the highest to the lowest has been at work for it."

Victoria & Albert Museum
18th-century doll 

Mrs. Lovel has been "begging for scraps and pieces of all kinds to dress dolls and make pincushions.

Victoria & Albert Museum
18th-century beaded pincushion 

"There are to be 30 tables arranged in a semi-circle at each of which is to preside one married and 2  young ladies, wearing some badge to distinguish them."

Margaret Bayard Smith (1778-1844)

Margaret who lived in the country had no idea about the planning going on in the capitol but when she arrived in town for the Christmas season she, "found the zeal that prevailed there quite contageous and my enthusiasm was immediately excited."

Washington City in the 1830s

She had no needlework or painting to donate but decided to print a novel she'd recently written and sell What is Gentility? at the benefit.

Published anonymously for the public in 1828

Redwood Library & Athenaeum
Margaret Eliza Mansfield Lovell (1795-1836)
Portrait by Charles Bird King

"Mrs. Lovel," who begged for scraps was probably Margaret Lovell, the Surgeon General's wife.

Missouri Historical Society
Booth at a fair raising money for Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Another early charity fair in Baltimore, March, 1827 raised money for Greek war victims.

Read more about ladies' fairs at this post:

Read Margaret Bayard Smith's letters: The First Forty Years of Washington Society:

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