Victorian Traveling Dress

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Archivist/Curator

My favorite objects to work with are the textiles – quilts, clothing and needlework. Recently, a beautiful Victorian era dress was donated to the museum by a  member of the Dilts family.

Worn by Catherine C. Becker Dilts as her traveling dress after her marriage to Paul J. Dilts September 5, 1905.

Catherine was born in Lee County, Illinois August 3, 1879.

Catherine C. Becker & Paul J. Dilts wedding photo, 5 September 1905.

She married Paul Dilts September 5, 1905 and moved directly to Emma Township, Harvey County, Ks. The couple had four children.  In 1921, Catherine and Paul moved off of the Harvey County farm to Garden City, Ks.

Evening Kansan Republican, 19 September 1905.

Catherine was known for her musical abilities. A family member related that she could play about any instrument. In the 1921 Evening Kansan Republican, it was reported that “comedic readings” were provided by costumed Mrs. Catherine Dilts at the Hesston Grange meeting. An earlier mention in the Evening Kansan Republican on January 9, 1906 reported that the Dilts entertained at their home and “complying with the wishes of the guests Mrs. Dilts seated herself at the piano and played several beautiful selections. . . at the conclusion Mrs. Dilts played some lively pieces on the violin.”

In 1931, Catherine was confined to her bed for several months. Even though she was very weak, “she was patient and resigned” and concerned for the welfare of her family. She died May 3, 1931 at the age of 52.

(Obit. for Mrs. Catherine Dilts, n.d. newspaper clipping, Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks)

The Traveling Dress

Sewn by hand and machine, the two-piece dress is light brown, with velvet, lace and bead trim. The bodice has a high neck, puffed sleeves and a nipped waist. The full skirt is slightly gathered in the back with a velvet bow and a short train.

Bodice detail.

Sleeve detail.

Beadwork detail

Bodice detail. Hook and eye closure.

Bodice, inside, handstitched with light boning.

The dress will be on display through the month of September 2023.