Title: Eras of Elegance: 1750 – 1920s

Date: November 2014 – September 2015

Eras of Elegance invited visitors to step back in time and experience life through the clothing and accessories of residents of Northampton County; from the early frontier days of Easton through the fast-paced Roaring Twenties. With more than 35 gowns and accompanying accessories and accoutrements, the opulent display was designed to amaze and delight visitors.

Unlike modern mass-produced garments, fashions from pre-industrial times were treasured and often worn through several different styles. An example of these multiple uses is found in the pink Centennial gown. Worn during the Easton Centennial Celebration in the 1870s, the gown’s stylish silhouette belies its origins. With piping on the bodice seams, the bodice construction can be dated to the 1850s. However, the fabric of the gown – exquisitely embroidered pink silk – was actually manufactured during the 1770s! Dressmakers frequently used silk from the 1770s  during the 1830s and again in the 1850s. So what began as a gown of the 1770s was redesigned in the 1850s and updated in the 1870s, allowing this family heirloom to be worn as a contemporary fashionable gown. Also Included in the exhibit were a wide array of ladies’ garments: wrappers (or house dresses), day dresses, evening gowns, and special occasion dresses including opera and wedding gowns.

Women of Northampton County were fashionable and willingly constricted their body to accommodate the styles of the time. From the flat front design of the mid-1700s achieved through the wearing of stays, to the curvaceous forms of the 1800s designed through the use of corsets and bustles, the construction of gowns indicate that they accommodated overflow of flesh redirected by corseting. As the new century approached, a change in styling liberated women from form-fitting bodices. The sheath dress became popular, hemlines rose, waistlines dropped, and gowns were trimmed with beads, sequins, and rhinestones. Several beautiful examples of 1920s era gowns were included in the Eras of Elegance exhibit.

This exhibit was more than a decade in the making. Because of the age of the clothing, many pieces needed extensive conservation and repair. Under the direction of guest curator Dr. Karin Bohleke (Shippensburg University Fashion Archives and Museum), Andria Zaia, NCHGS Curator, Nancy O’Hanlon, Sigal Museum Curator, and a team of skilled volunteers learned the art of textile conservation, mannequin sculpting and dressing, and exhibit installation.

Thank You to Our Sponsors: Brown-Daub Foundation, Dan’s Camera City, Lehigh Valley Woman, The R.K. Laros Foundation, Susan Kolar Couture, and those who generously sponsored individual dresses and accessories.

Embroidered Petticoat, 1770s, NCHGS collection

Brocaded Silk Gown, 1785-1790, made of imported Chinese silk, from the NCHGS collection

Pair of Silk Calashes, 1750-1800, donated by Mary and Emilie Pomp

Black Wool Wrapper, 1865-1866, NCHGS collection

Four Piece Bustle Gown (“Centennial Gown”), 1874-1876, NCHGS Collection


Four-Piece Wool Skating Ensemble, 1880s, NCHGS collection


Lavender Silk Dress, worn by Emma Eilenberger Bixler, at the 1907 wedding of her daughter, donated by Mrs. Thomas Reynolds


Blue Cut Velvet Dress, 1920, donated by Mrs. Earl A. Smith

Title: Here Come the Brides

Date: October 2015 – March 2016

Celebrating more than a century of wedding attire. Love, marriage, something old and something new…. On October 10, 2015 the Sigal Museum proudly opened Here Come the Brides. Following on the success and rave reviews of the Eras of Elegance exhibit, an array of wedding gowns, suits, and tuxedos from the collections of Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society told the stories of Northampton County brides and grooms.

Spanning from 1840 until 1964, the gowns portray the fashion dictates of each era, from Victorian through Camelot. Highlights included the dress connected to the Roosevelt family, a dress similar to the style set by Queen Victoria, an unusual black wedding dress, and both traditional and non-traditional wedding attire.

Thank You to Our Sponsors: Lehigh Valley Woman, The Express-Times, Adams Outdoor Advertising, Dan’s Camera City, Bloomies Flowers, Cliff Ross Enterprises, Inc., Merchants Bank, Working Dog Press, and all those individuals who donated funds, dresses, and accessories.

Wedding Ensemble, 1865-1867, inspired by Queen Victoria’s white bridal gown, donated by Katherine Ayers

Four-Piece Silk Faille Dress worn by Emily Evans at her wedding to Floyd Smith Bixler, 1871, donated by Carlton and Sandra Woodring

Magenta and Flocked Satin Bustle Dress, 1880, worn by Georgia Gross at her wedding to Howard Rinek, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rinek

Detail, Cotton Lace Dress, 1905

Title: Courthouse Quilters and Patchwork Tradition

Date: April – August 2016

New and Old Quilt Creations | Family Friendly | Hands On!

Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society (NCHGS) gave members of the Courthouse Quilters their 2016 challenge: Create authentic artisan quilts inspired by the Society’s own rich collection of quilts! This textile challenge and exhibition happily celebrated the patchwork tradition of Northampton County.

Courthouse Quilters and Patchwork Tradition covered the history of quilting by hand and machine with a hands-on interactive opportunity for visitors, unique programming, and one-of-a-kind quilts. The Courthouse Quilters’ creations utilized a variety of styles like applique and spider web designs from popular Victorian crazy quilts.

From April 16 to August 1, 2016, these colorful one-of-a-kind Courthouse Quilts, in conjunction with NCHGS’ unique collection of quilts, were on display exclusively at the Sigal Museum in Historic Downtown Easton. In celebration of the exhibition, the quilters and volunteers quilted the facade of the Sigal Museum with thousands of colorful scraps.

Thank You to Our Sponsors: Mercantile Home, American Quilter’s Society

Title: Spirits of Easton
Date: June 2016 – February 2017

*This exhibit will travel to the 1810 Goundie House in February 2017, part of Historic Bethlehem Museum and Sites

The recent rise in popularity of craft and home-brewed beers has been a boon for local breweries and craft beer friendly bars. But, did you know the history of brewing beer in the Easton area goes much further back in time than the last double IPA?

The Sigal Museum in Northampton County, in conjunction with Porters’ Pub, unveiled the exhibit Spirits of Easton on June 15, 2016. The exhibit showcased the city’s long and storied history with beer.

The first known brewery in Easton was erected in 1821 by Frederick Seitz. The Seitz Brewing Company once surpassed 70,000 barrels before closing and reopening as the Osterstock Brewing Company in 1935. The brewery closed in 1938.

Another historic brewer was Xavier Veile, who worked for Seitz before opening up his own brewery along Northampton Street. Veile’s family ran the brewery, producing up to 12,000 barrels, for decades before it closed in 1942.

Visitors to Spirits of Easton also learned about Willibald Kuebler, who came to America in 1848 and started brewing at Church and Bank Streets. Kuebler’s brewing grew to 50,000 barrels before his death.

Thank You to Our Sponsors: Porters’ Pub


Black history month

February is Black History Month – and the Sigal Museum celebrated with an exhibit about African-American history in Northampton County and beyond, from Greater Shiloh Church. Free for members. Included with regular admission to the museum.

Title: Cabinet of Curiosities
Date: September 2016 – August 1, 2017

Within the depths of the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society collections are never-before-seen artifacts that will ignite your curiosity and send shivers down your spine! Opening September 3, 2016, the Sigal Museum will showcase its eerie, weird, and most curious objects from the collection vault. Discover the stories behind the Apache Skull Cracker, the Alfred Thomas Explosion, the Edison bulb, Korean Death Pot, Little Master Bobby, and many more.

What is a Cabinet of Curiosity? For hundreds of years, people have been collecting items relating to the natural world, archaeological wonders, religious relics, and art, almost anything you can imagine. People shared their collections with each other to learn about these wonders and to entertain each other. Collections of oddities and the bizarre turned up in most cities and towns in the United States in the 1800s, perhaps the most famous being P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York City that ran from 1841 until 1868. Eventually these collections of curiosities became our modern museums. Step back in time with us and be the first to lay your eyes on these treasures. Dare to explore the museum’s best-kept secrets!

Thank You to Our Sponsors: Ashton Funeral Home, Neil and Kathleen Coddington, David and LuAnn Swonger, David and Helenbeth Vilcek, John and Colleen Lavdar, Becky Goldenberg and Hans Lauten, Rich and Marianne Phifer, Rebecca Price Janney, Marlou Belyea, Jeff McGuire, Ryan Merriam, Linda Heindel, and Gary Weaver

Little Master Bobby, c. 1860, Civil War Era Ventriloquist Dummy crafted by Jacob Haas, NCHGS collection (photo courtesy of The Morning Call)

Easton’s First Baby Carriage, NCHGS collection (photo courtesy of The Morning Call)

Punch and Judy Theatre and Puppets, c. 1890, NCHGS collection (photo courtesy of The Morning Call)


Title: Fashion Plates of Northampton County

Date: February 18 – September 1, 2017

From the 1880s to the 1930s, the Lehigh Valley was one of the leading silk and textile-producing regions in the nation. Workers from Europe brought skills in spinning, weaving, and sewing and supplied labor for over 200 mills in the area. At one point, professional Northampton County seamstresses produced everything from shirts to handbags to flags and ribbon. The mills started to close during the Great Depression; a few continue today, but most sewing now happens at home.

For over 50 years, home seamstresses in Northampton County have been gathering together to improve sewing skills, share ideas, and foster their creative flair. In the spirit of our rich textile history, two local groups – Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of the American Sewing Guild and the Third Street Sewing Circle – have come together to exhibit their handcrafted fashions.

The exhibition contains garments inspired by 20th-century fashion, including children’s items and unique fantasy-inspired gowns, as well as patterns and drawings that reveal the makers’ process, and archival images and antique fashion plates from NCHGS’s collection.