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Annie (Anna) Reigart wore this dress on the occasion of her marriage to John Haldeman on March 23, 1847 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The wedding was held at the Lancaster Moravian Church. She was born on June 28, 1826, the daughter of Philip Wager Reigart and Elizabeth Jenkins Reigart. Annie’s father was a prominent businessman in Lancaster -- a wine merchant as well as a partner in his father’s law firm. He died in 1833 when Annie was only seven. Her mother did not remarry. Before her father’s death, a local artist, Jacob Eichholtz, painted the parents’ portraits. He also did a portrait, now privately owned, of Annie when she was about four. It depicts a young girl with dark hair and eyes.
Once married, the Haldemanns appear to have moved several times. Various records indicate that they lived in Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and, eventually, England. John Haldeman is buried in Surrey, England, and Annie may be buried there as well. Of their eleven children, two died in infancy. Their children also moved around, eventually living on three continents: the United States, England, and Australia.
The dress itself is a style that would have been suitable for evening wear, with its sheer, decorative fabric, short sleeves, and lower neckline. Since many weddings were held in the evening during this period, this dress was appropriate for a wedding. Additionally, the small sprigs embroidered in silver on the dress may be myrtle, which was one of the “wedding herbs,” an emblem of Venus and signifying love. The use of such elaborate fabrics in this dress indicates that the family was still well off financially in spite of the death of Annie’s father. The probate inventory conducted when her father died indicates that he left a sizeable estate. The museum also owns Annie’s wedding shoes, as well as the white silk vest worn by John Haldeman for the ceremony.
This two-piece wedding dress is constructed of white silk overlayed with silk chiffon embroidered with silver metallic thread. The bodice front is cut in four pieces, creating an elongated “V” at center front waist with a center front seam. The seams between the side front pieces act as bust darts. The waist of the bodice has self-piping and the wide neckline is edged with piping with lace trimming applied at the neck edge. An applied pleated band of embroidered chiffon extends from each shoulder seam over the bust to the center front seam. Short narrow sleeves overlaid with chiffon have sleeve openings edged with a narrow band of lace. The center back opening of the bodice is boned with worked eyelets on either side for a laced closure, and the bodice sides and front seams are boned as well. The bodice is lined with white cotton with bust pads sewn to the inside of the bodice fronts. The skirt is composed of free hanging taffeta and chiffon layers pleated as one at the waist and folded to the inside with no waistband. The hems of the skirt are folded over. The waist measures 22 inches.