Famous and fancy wedding dresses on display in Benninghofen House



The Butler County Historical Society exhibits more than 150 years of fashion tied to the weddings of local families.  “Reality and Fantasy: 150 Years of Butler County Weddings” will showcase 18 wedding dresses, along with veils, tuxedos and other accoutrements.

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Many of the dresses were worn by members of well known and prominent families including the Woods, Becketts, Fittons, Flenners, Neilan and Griesmers.  Also featured are wedding photographs and written records showing how brides, grooms and their families celebrated their nuptial days.

The highlight of the exhibit is the dress and veil first worn by Mary Woods when she married Cyrus Falconer on October 8, 1839.  The dress was worn by at least three brides and the veil used by eight brides between 1839 and 1990.

The exhibit was developed by Sara Butler, Miami University Art Department Professor Emeritus, and her intern Marcus Gray, now a Miami graduate.

“This exhibit was a real treat for us,” she said.  “My research interests have been on dress and human behavior, especially historical dress during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  So I greatly enjoyed learning about all of the families and telling the stories of the brides who wore the dresses.”

Kathy Creighton, executive director of the historical society, said they also made some exciting discoveries in the process.

“Sara and I were thrilled to be able to locate and reunite the original veil with the wedding dress worn by Mary Woods in 1839 after they had been separated for more than 50 years,” Creighton said. “We have to thank Marjorie Beckett Belew who wore the dress and veil at her wedding in 1953 for making that possible.”

Dr. Sara Butler and Marcus Gray will give a special presentation of “Reality and Fantasy: 150 Years of Butler County Weddings,” 7 p.m. September 10, in the Emma Ritchie Auditorium.  A reception will follow the talk.

The wedding dress exhibit is located throughout the Benninghofen House and lower Emma Ritchie exhibit area and will run through December 31.

Interested visitors can also view the ongoing Beckett Paper Company exhibit located in the Emma Ritchie Auditorium and the enclosed porch of the Benninghofen House.  The Beckett Paper exhibit which runs through November 28 was developed by Dave Belew, former company president and husband of Marjorie Beckett who wore the 1839 dress during their wedding in 1953.

Both exhibits are free.

The exhibits are in the Butler County Historical Society, 327 North 2nd Street, Hamilton, and are open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Group tours of either exhibit or the Benninghofen House Museum can be arranged by calling 513-896-9930.

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