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Dorothy Shaver Papers

Collector:
Costume, Division of (NMAH, SI).  Search this
Costume, Division of (NMAH, SI).  Search this
Creator:
Shaver, Dorothy, 1893-1959  Search this
Donor:
Shaver, Elsie  Search this
Names:
Lord & Taylor  Search this
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962  Search this
Extent:
14 Sound recordings
32 Cassette tapes
1 Electronic discs (CD)
6 Cubic feet (22 boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sound recordings
Cassette tapes
Electronic discs (cd)
Clippings
Photographs
Scrapbooks
78 rpm records
Phonograph records
Professional papers
Date:
circa 1920-1959; undated
bulk 1945-1959
Summary:
This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Dorothy Shaver, one of the best-known female executives in the 1950s; Shaver became the first female president of Lord & Taylor in 1945.
Scope and Contents:
This collection documents the personal and professional life of Dorothy Shaver. Types of materials include correspondence, clippings, biographical narratives, interviews, statements to the press, event programs, speeches, certificates, obituaries, awards and honorary degrees, souvenir publications, advertisements, scrapbooks, planning documents, travel itineraries, notes, invitations, seating lists, photographs, and audio recordings. These materials range in date from 1920 to 1959, but the bulk date is from 1945 to 1959. Those interested in the history of women in business, fashion merchandising, the department store Lord & Taylor, the "American Look" as a fashion trend, and the creation of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will find this collection useful. An oral history interview was conducted with Elsie Shaver, sister of Dorothy Shaver, in 1973.
Arrangement:
Series 1: Personal Papers, 1920s-1959; undated

Series 2: Professional Papers, 1927-1959; undated

Series 3: Social and Professional Activities, 1928-1959; undated

Series 4: Photographs, about 1920-1959; undated

Series 5: Audio Recordings, 1946-1948; 1956, 1973
Biographical History:
Dorothy Shaver was born on July 29, 1893, in Center Point, Arkansas to, Sallie Borden and James D. Shaver, a lawyer and judge. After graduating from Mena High School in 1910, Dorothy went on to study at the University of Arkansas and the University of Chicago. She moved to New York City with her sister Elsie, an artist, in the 1920s. Acting as an agent for her sister, Dorothy sold some of Elsie's fashion drawings to the department store Lord & Taylor. Dorothy also promoted Elsie's "Five Little Shaver" dolls, which became a major fad after Lord &Taylor introduced them.

Impressed, Lord & Taylor hired Dorothy Shaver to head its Comparative Shopping Bureau, the main purpose of which was to spy on other department stores. Shaver eventually reorganized this department to create a Bureau of Stylists in an effort to improve Lord & Taylor's merchandising strategy and set the pace for style in New York. Her career with Lord & Taylor skyrocketed from there. In 1927, Shaver became a member of Lord & Taylor's board of directors and in 1931, she was named a vice president. In 1937, she was elevated to first vice president and on December 19, 1945, she was named president of Lord & Taylor, becoming one of the first female executives of a large department store. One year later, she was elected to the board of directors of the Associated Dry Goods Corporation, of which Lord & Taylor was a division.

Under Shaver's direction, Lord & Taylor became one of the first department stores to sell clothing specifically designed for different subsets of their customer base; teenaged girls, young adult women, petite women, and career women. She also introduced a bridal shop and a maternity department. She was known for her unique merchandising techniques, such as spraying perfume from the store's marquee in an effort to sell perfume and attract customers. Six suburban branches were opened under her leadership in Manhasset, New York, 1941; Scarsdale, New York, 1948; Millburn, New Jersey, 1949; West Hartford, Connecticut, 1953; Bala-Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, 1954; and Garden City, New York, 1956.

Shaver was also known for her early recognition of American fashion designers. She promoted the "American Look" as a fashion trend, putting American designers on par with French designers. Her efforts fueled the careers of many American designers including Clare Potter, Claire McCardle, and Nettie Rosenstein. In 1937, Shaver established the American Design Awards, an annual event hosted by Lord & Taylor highlighting the achievements of innovators in the fields of design, the arts, housing, education, the sciences, and international relations.

Shaver also helped establish the Museum of Costume Art, which became the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1944. She was chairman of the institute's executive committee and was a member of the Museum's board of trustees. In 1942, as a merchandising consultant to the office of Quartermaster General, Shaver supervised the design of new uniforms and accessories for nurses in the military.

Shaver received numerous citations and awards over the course of her life, including honorary degrees from Syracuse University (1947), Bates College (1949), New York University (1950), Russell Sage College (1951), Lafayette College (1957), and Wheaton College (1957).

Shaver suffered a stroke and died soon after on June 28, 1959; she is buried in Texarkana, Arkansas. Her gravestone has the year of her birth as 1897, four years later than her actual birth date. This error apparently was done on the instruction of her sister, Elsie, because the two women enjoyed misrepresenting their ages.
Bibliographic references:
Lord and Taylor advertisement in: Museum of the City of New York, Paris, and New York. Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940 Monacelli Press, 1928, p. 166;
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

Freda Diamond Collection, circa 1945-1984 (AC0616)

Estelle Ellis Collection, 1944-1994, #423, Brownie Wise Papers, circa 1928-1968 (AC0509) California Shop Records, 1938-1942 (AC0572)

Setting the Precedent: Four Women Who Excelled in Business, featuring Freda Diamond, Estelle Ellis, Dorothy Shaver, and Brownie Wise.
Related Artifacts:
The Division of Home and Community Life holds artifacts related to this collection. Items include: an inkstand, two pencils, a cigarette case, and a charm bracelet owned by Dorothy Shaver.
Provenance:
This collection was donated to the Museum's Division of Home and Community Life by Dorothy Shaver's sister, Elsie Shaver, in 1973.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research but the original audio acssettes are stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow. Contact the Archives Center for information at archivescenter@si.edu or 202-633-3270.
Rights:
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.
Topic:
Costume design  Search this
Women in business -- 20th century  Search this
Genre/Form:
Clippings -- 20th century
Photographs -- 20th century
Scrapbooks -- 20th century
78 rpm records
Phonograph records
Professional papers
Citation:
Dorothy Shaver Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0631
See more items in:
Dorothy Shaver Papers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0631
Online Media:

Memo to the textile and fashion industries / from the editors of American fabrics ; subject: creative starvation

Title:
Creative starvation
Distributor:
Katzenbach & Warren  Search this
Subject:
Karasz, Ilonka 1896-1981  Search this
Physical description:
12 unnumbered pages : illustrations, 1 sample 29 cm
Type:
Books
Place:
United States
Date:
1950
Topic:
Textile industry  Search this
Fashion merchandising  Search this
Wallpaper  Search this
Call number:
HD9855 .M46 1950
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1082953

Winning fashion : the American Fashion Critics' Awards, 1943-1963 / Carmela Spinelli Schaufler

Title:
American Fashion Critics' Awards, 1943-1963
Author:
Schaufler, Carmela Spinelli  Search this
Physical description:
xii, 217 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm
Type:
Manuscripts
Place:
United States
Date:
2004
20th century
Topic:
Coty American Fashion Critics' Awards  Search this
Fashion design--History  Search this
Fashion designers--History  Search this
Fashion merchandising--History  Search this
Call number:
TT507 .S334 2004
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_802798

Keeping up appearances : fashion and class between the wars / Catherine Horwood

Author:
Horwood, Catherine  Search this
Physical description:
viii, 208 p. : ill. ; 26 cm
Type:
Books
Place:
Great Britain
Date:
2005
20th century
Topic:
Middle class--History  Search this
Fashion--Social aspects--History  Search this
Group identity--History  Search this
Fashion merchandising--History  Search this
Call number:
GT525 .H67 2005
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_799109

Couture culture : a study in modern art and fashion / Nancy J. Troy

Author:
Troy, Nancy J  Search this
Subject:
Poiret, Paul  Search this
Physical description:
xi, 438 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Type:
Books
Place:
France
Date:
2003
C2003
20th century
Topic:
Costume design  Search this
Fashion and art  Search this
Fashion--History  Search this
Clothing trade--History  Search this
Fashion designers--History  Search this
Fashion merchandising--History  Search this
Theater and society--History  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_686421

Fashion & merchandising fads / Frank W. Hoffmann, William G. Bailey

Author:
Hoffmann, Frank W. 1949-  Search this
Bailey, William G. 1947-  Search this
Physical description:
317 p. : ill. ; 22 cm
Type:
Books
Place:
United States
Date:
1994
20th century
1970-
Topic:
Fads--History  Search this
Fashion--History  Search this
Novelties--History  Search this
Civilization  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_466104

Young Originals : Emily Wilkens and the teen sophisticate / Rebecca Jumper Matheson

Author:
Matheson, Rebecca Jumper 1975-  Search this
Subject:
Wilkens, Emily  Search this
Physical description:
xx, 179 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 23 cm
Type:
Biography
Place:
United States
Date:
2015
20th century
Topic:
Women fashion designers  Search this
Fashion designers  Search this
Fashion illustrators  Search this
Teenage girls--Clothing--History  Search this
Fashion merchandising--History  Search this
Fashion--History  Search this
Beauty, Personal--Social aspects--History  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1059826

Producing fashion : commerce, culture, and consumers / edited by Regina Lee Blaszczyk

Author:
Blaszczyk, Regina Lee  Search this
Physical description:
vii, 363 p. : ill ; 24 cm
Type:
Books
Date:
2008
C2008
20th century
Topic:
Fashion design--History  Search this
Fashion merchandising--History  Search this
Consumers' preferences--History  Search this
Marketing--Management--History  Search this
Product management--History  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_902708

Lucile Ltd : London, Paris, New York and Chicago, 1890s-1930s / by Valerie D. Mendes and Amy De La Haye

Author:
Mendes, Valerie D  Search this
De La Haye, Amy  Search this
Victoria and Albert Museum  Search this
Subject:
Lucile 1862-1935  Search this
Physical description:
222 p. : ill. (chiefly col.), port., facsim. ; 32 cm
Type:
Books
Place:
Great Britain
Date:
2009
C2009
20th century
Topic:
Fashion--History  Search this
Fashion drawing--History  Search this
Fashion merchandising--History  Search this
Women fashion designers  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_967605

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