In November 2018, a group of enthusiastic volunteers formed a committee with the objective of bringing an 1820s wedding dress out of the Society’s collection storage, having it conserved and placing on display at the Society.
The russet-colored silk dress with an empire waist was worn at the 1824 wedding of Mary Hare and Jacob Hoffacker.
Working with Dr. Karin Bohleke at the Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University, the volunteers spent a day at the facility where the dress was assessed, a mannequin was form fitted to the dress and conservation needs were pointed out. The university loaned the group a mannequin and an appropriate petticoat, and the volunteers brought the dress back to Westminster, where volunteer Sherry Hartman made the necessary repairs to the sleeve lace.
Mary and Jacob Hoffacker had six children, one of whom was Mary Ann, born in 1838. Mary Ann married Jacob Schaeffer, and they were parents to John David Schaeffer, born in 1861. John David married Gertrude Brown, and their daughter Lela was born in 1893.
Lela Schaeffer married George Tracy, and their daughter Helen Tracy was born in 1922. Helen Tracy married John Totura; Helen is the donor of her great great grandmother’s wedding dress.
After the sleeve lace repair, all that remained was dressing the mannequin. On February 22, 2019, Mrs. Totura, her daughter and her granddaughter were invited to join the volunteers for this final step.
The dress was featured in a very successful open house event in March 2019.