This collection includes letters, sketches, style books, publicity photographs, tearsheets, articles and clippings, scrapbooks, and business documents relating to Priscilla Kidder, the Priscilla of Boston Company, and the American wedding industry. This collection is extraordinarily useful in documenting the development of wedding fashion during the last half of the 20th century. It also illustrates how a small, family-owned, woman-run business grew into a large, nationally known operation.
Scope and Contents:
The primary material in this collection consists of a few letters, mostly relating to fashion shows; photographic portraits of Priscilla Kidder, possibly from her days as a bridal gown model; sketches; and three different types of style books, one for store buyers containing information on ordering and on the various product lines, one for sales associates containing information helpful in selling the gowns and measuring and fitting the client, and one for factory Afloor girls" containing information about the construction of the gowns. Some of the style books were used by the company as "chicken books", i.e., annotated with scratch marks to indicate quantities of orders in each style, which designs were taken off line, etc. They also contain information on type of fabric and ornamentation used, yardage, measurements, available sizes, color, where advertised, and a brief description of each gown. These are arranged by line (i.e., Priscilla, Teeny, Contemporary Romantic) and thereunder by design number. Additionally, the collection contains some assorted internal business documents, but these are merely samplings of different kinds of company records and do not form a cohesive record of the business. The majority of the collection consists of secondary material from the 1950s to the 1990s, including publicity photographs, tear sheets from magazine advertising, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks containing additional tear sheets and clippings and articles.
This collection is extraordinarily useful in documenting the development of wedding fashion during the last half of the 20th century. It also illustrates how a small, family-owned, woman-run business grew into a large, nationally known operation.
The collection is divided into ten series.
Series 1: Letters
Series 2: Items related to Priscilla Kidder
Series 3: Design sketches
Series 4: Style books
Series 5: Publicity photographs
Series 6: Advertising tear sheets
Series 7: Articles and clippings
Series 8: Scrapbooks
Series 9: Assorted business documents
Series 10: Miscellany
Biographical / Historical:
Priscilla Kidder actively participated in every aspect of the wedding industry for almost fifty years. She was a nationally known figure whom journalists often referred to as the "Dior" of bridal design. Priscilla Comins Kidder was born in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1918. After finishing high school she opened a small yarn shop in the community. After completing her education in retail design at the New England School of Design, she took a job at R.H. White's department store in Boston, Massachusetts. At R.H. White's she worked her way up from model to sales associate to assistant buyer in the bridal department.
The limited selection of bridal gowns available to women in the early 1940s moved Priscilla Kidder to leave R. H. White in 1945 to start her own bridal salon, which would offer a broader selection of bridal lines to a variety of brides. With the help of her husband, who became the financial consultant, she opened "The Bride's Shop" at 129 Newbury Street. It grossed $10,000 in its first week of business.
Priscilla of Boston Company grew at a rapid pace, and quickly established a national reputation. The company prided itself on innovation, and its designers blended ongoing fashion trends with classic looks to create various dress styles. One difference which distinguished Priscilla of Boston gowns from those of other bridal manufacturers in the 1940s was the decoration on the gowns. Wedding gowns at that time tended to be simple without a substantial amount of ornamentation. Priscilla was the first designer to use large amounts of lace to decorate her gowns.
Over the years Priscilla of Boston has had numerous bridal lines, in addition to the custom work that the company continued to do. In addition to the "Priscilla" line, the company started the "Betsy" line, named for Priscilla Kidder's daughter, which was created in 1960 for the woman who wanted an inexpensive dress. The "Teeny" line, later renamed the "Petite" line, was a more sophisticated title, created for the small woman. The most recent line created, in 1980, was the "Contemporary Romantic" line, a less formal gown for the refined woman. Priscilla of Boston also designed dresses for bridesmaids, mothers of brides, and debutantes.
Priscilla of Boston grew quite large, with stores and factories in Massachusetts and New York. Despite the growth of the business, which at one point manufactured more than two thousand dresses a month, the company always maintained a small, personal atmosphere. The company did not unionize, but instead functioned on a profit-sharing basis. Mrs. Kidder continuously attempted to influence the bridal industry in the United States. She stressed running a business that focused on New England morality and maintaining its family atmosphere. Priscilla Kidder also believed that a bridal showroom should hire a consultant who was near the age of the brides-to-be and was a person whom the customers could relate to.
Priscilla Kidder, along with her sister Natalie, designed the bridal gowns for the company when it first opened in 19434. She soon turned the duty over to a small team of designers. Priscilla Kidder's favorite designer was John Burbidge. His preference for elaborate gowns matched Priscilla Kidder's taste. Although she stopped designing, she stayed involved in the creative process, overseeing each sketch. Priscilla also was directly involved with the stores that marketed her gowns. She traveled throughout the United States to hold fashion shows or visit showrooms. On these trips she advised brides on how to make their weddings the most special day of their lives. She kept a high profile in the media and she created a distinctive image for herself that helped sell her products.
Among Priscilla Kidder's many accomplishments are: being chosen to design Grace Kelly's bridesmaids' gowns for her wedding to Prince Rainier in 1956; having one of her gowns selected by Luci Baines Johnson for her 1966 wedding; and designing Julie Nixon's bridal gown in 1968 and Tricia Nixon's in 1971. Priscilla Kidder credits herself with three innovations within the bridal industry. She was the first to create a petite line for the smaller woman. She also introduced gowns with pale pink coloring beneath the white fabric for a trompe l'oeil effect, and introduced a style with silk shantung. In 1993 Priscilla Kidder sold her family business to Priscilla Kaneb.
Collection donated by Priscilla Kidder, founder of Priscilla of Boston, December 17, 1996.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The Marlboro Oral History and Documentation Project is the result of a two-year effort supported in part by a gift from Philip Morris, Inc. Sixty oral history interviews and a variety of television commercials, print advertising, promotional materials, packaging, and industry publications were gathered to document Marlboro cigarette advertising. The bulk of the collection focuses on the period between 1954 and 1986, and examines the "Marlboro man", "Settle Back" and "Marlboro Country" campaigns. The collection is a rich source of information for researchers interested in advertising and marketing history, issues of smoking and health, and the export of both tobacco and American cultural symbols abroad.
The core of the collection is a series of interviews conducted during 1985-1987 by Dr. Scott Ellsworth, an independent scholar and oral historian. The broad range of interviewees included executives of Philip Morris, advertising agency personnel from Leo Burnett, photographers, production staff, sales and marketing personnel, and Marlboro cowboys.
Twenty-seven interviews were conducted overseas, in Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and West Germany. Conducted primarily with Marlboro licensee and affiliate staff, the interviews focus on the marketing and advertising history of Marlboro in the six nations. These interviews and others conducted with executives of Philip Morris International in New York City also address the history of Marlboro advertising in Africa, the Middle East, China, Eastern Europe and elsewhere in Europe and Latin America.
The interviews cover events from the 1930s through the 1980s. They focus on the theory and development of Marlboro advertising, its content and creation, and its modifications over the years. The foreign interviews also discuss the structure of the local cigarette marketplace, marketing and advertising techniques, and the use and modification of Marlboro advertising for different cultures.
Finding aids to the oral histories include abstracts of each interview indicating the major topic discussed, a cumulative index to personal names and topics in the interviews, and brief biographical and scope notes.
Dthe collection is divided into seven series.
Series 1: Research Files, 1943-1987
Series 2, Interviewee Files, 1986
Series 3; Oral History Interviews, 1986
Series 4: Advertising Materials, 1926-1986
Series 5: Promotional items and packaging, 1926-1986
Series 6: Publications and Research Material, 1960-1988
Series 7: Travel Slides Generated by Project Team, 1926-1986
Biographical / Historical:
The history of Marlboro cigarettes offers insight into one of the great advertising and marketing success stories of the 20th century. Marlboro cigarettes were marketed from the Victorian era through the first half of this century as a women's cigarette, with tag-lines that aimed to appeal to female smokers, such as "Marlboro - Mild As May." In 1955, two transformations occurred which would affect both profitability and brand recognition: the addition of an integrated filter and the re-invention of the market through the debut of the "Marlboro Man" advertising campaign. The original Marlboro Man campaign featured close-up images of all kinds of men using the product -- the cowboy was one, along with lifeguards, sailors, drill sergeants, construction workers, gamblers and other types suggestive of a masculine spirit and rugged independence. By 1963, the "Marlboro Country" campaign began. This campaign focused on the cowboy and his symbolic canon: boots, hats, horses, and western landscapes. By the mid-1980s, Marlboro was the best-selling brand in the United States and the world, and the Marlboro cowboy was among the most widely recognized of American cultural symbols. Sold in over 180 nations, both the cigarettes and the ad campaign had become a global phenomena.
The collection was donated to the Archives Center by Philip Morris, Inc. in 1986.
The materials in the Marlboro Collection are made available for research according to the established practices and principles of the Archives Center and the National Museum of American History.
In making these materials available for research, the Smithsonian Institution makes no claims of ownership of the copyrights or related rights. All responsibility for infringement of legal authorship rights and or copyright is assumed by the user of the materials. In addition, the user indemnifies and holds harmless the Smithsonian Institution for all claims, actions, damages, judgments and expenses that may result from use of these materials.
In addition, the donor has imposed restrictions on reproduction or broadcast of collection materials by third parties. The reproduction or broadcast of print ads and television commercials in the collection is subject to prior written consent from: Nancy Lund, Vice President, Marketing,Philip Morris International, 120 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017;(917) 663-5000