Rare 1846 men’s shirt donated to the Illinois State Museum

(Photo provided by the Illinois State Museum)
information provided by the Illinois State Museum

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (April 9, 2018) – The Illinois State Museum received a recent donation of a man’s dress shirt dating back to 1846, with a documented history of who made it, who wore it, and the specific day on which it was worn.

Springfield native Zimri Enos wore the short on his wedding day on June 10, 1846. The high-collared, ruffled shirt is made of linen, fastens to the throat, and is embroidered with Zimri’s initials. Its triangular-shaped gussets under the sleeves would have allowed him to have a wider range of motion.

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The shirt is embroidered with Zimri’s initials. (Photo: Illinois State Museum)
(Photo provided by the Illinois State Museum)
Ruffled shirts were considered fancy at the time, and were typically worn by urban gentlemen. They even had some political implications. Politicians of the day who wished to paint their rivals as elitist and out-of-touch often accused each other of wearing “ruffled shirts.”

Zimri’s mother, Salome Enos, made the shirt. She’s considered one of the “founding mothers” of Springfield because she and her husband were one of the first families to own land in the city. The shirt was passed down through several generations before being donated to the Illinois State Museum by the O.M. Hatch family, descendants of the Enos family. The shirt came with a handwritten note reading, “Wedding shirt of Father’s made by Grandma Enos.”

While a shirt like this would have been common in the 19th century, they are quite a rare find today. Most of them were cut down for children’s clothing, cut up for bandages, or turned into rags somewhere along the way.

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The Illinois State Museum is grateful to the Enos-Hatch family descendants for donating the shirt to the Museum. It will be on display at the “Illinois Bicentennial and Beyond: The Illinois Legacy Collection” exhibition, which will open on June 30.

The Illinois State Museum is located at 502 S. Spring Street in Springfield.

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