This post is part of our series featuring final student projects from our History of Costume and Textiles course.
Student Bio: My name is Erin Keefe and I’m a fourth-year fashion design student at Thomas Jefferson University. Along with my major, I enjoy many artistic hobbies, such as drawing, scrapbooking, crocheting, and upcycling used clothes. Over the course of my college experience, I have worked a lot on concept development, which includes rigorous research and drawing croquis with clothing designs that are inspired from whatever topic I am working on. To see some examples of my work, check out my behance profile.
Chosen Object: Coat by Busvine Ltd., T&CC 1986.1.193
In the process of choosing this garment from the Thomas Jefferson Textile and Costume Collection, I was looking for an item from the early 1900’s since I have a keen interest in styles of the Edwardian era. In no time, this coat caught my eye with its flattering hourglass silhouette that was flawlessly executed by the tailor. This tailor worked for the merited company noted on the label, Busvine. The coat is made from high quality black wool melton and has a twilled silk lining in the same color. Although very monotone and simple, the construction of this piece is all but that. I took inspiration from the simplicity of the coat as well as the blend of masculine and feminine features to create my redesigns.
Busvine was based in Leicester, England, and was patronized by Queen Alexandra, who ordered quite a lot of riding habit (sportswear for horseback riding) from the company. Given that Busvine was serving royalty and after observing the high quality of this particular piece, it’s obvious that this coat would have been a very expensive purchase. In light of this, my curiosity about the wealthy wearer of the coat grew, but the only information I had about the owner was a name–Mrs. Edgar Scott.
After many Google searches on Edgar Scott, I finally came across a possible match and fell down a rabbit hole of the Scott family ancestry. Edgar Scott Sr., who I am presuming is the husband of the wearer of the Busvine coat, was born on October 17, 1871 in Lansdowne, a town right outside of Philadelphia. Edgar inherited much of his wealth from his father, Thomas A. Scott, who took the lead in railroad operations during the Civil War and was appointed President of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1874. Socially, Edgar upheld his status as a member of the Philadelphia Club and he graduated from Harvard University in 1893. He married Mary Howard Sturgis in the late 1890s, and in 1899 they had their first child, Edgar Scott Jr. During that time, they were living in England, which is possibly when the Busvine coat was acquired. Between 1901 and 1908, Mary, the wearer of the coat, bore the rest of their children–Warwick, Anna, and Susan–back in the United States. In the years leading up to World War I, the Scott family traveled back and forth from their home in Philadelphia to Europe, which opens up other possibilities as to when the coat was made. Edgar Sr. became a Lieutenant in February of 1918 and then was promoted to Major about half a year later. Unfortunately, his life ended shortly after due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Although suffering a tragic death, Edgar left behind a legacy for his children to grow from.
Edgar’s first son, Edgar Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps with his attendance at Harvard University. He became an investment banker and a Main Line socialite like Edgar Sr. Interestingly enough, he married Helen Hope Montgomery, who was the woman that inspired the character Tracy Lord in the well-known film The Philadelphia Story. The writer of the screenplay, Philip Barry, was a classmate of Edgar’s at Harvard and remained good friends with the Scott’s after college.
Edgar’s first son, Edgar Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps with his attendance at Harvard University. He became an investment banker and a Main Line socialite like Edgar Sr. Interestingly enough, he married Helen Hope Montgomery, who was the woman that inspired the character Tracy Lord in the well-known film The Philadelphia Story. The writer of the screenplay, Philip Barry, was a classmate of Edgar’s at Harvard and remained good friends with the Scott’s after college. During his time at Harvard, Edgar dropped out to volunteer as an ambulance driver in France in WWI, likely while his father was still serving. He eventually went back to school and briefly worked as a news reporter, which is one of the many occupations he partook in along with banking. Edgar and Helen had their son Robert, who, like both Edgars, became a very successful socialite and philanthropist. He was president of the Academy of Music in 1974, then was appointed president of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) in the 1980-1990s. My research rabbit hole led me to discover that Robert was behind the infamous relocation of the Rocky statue from the top of the PMA steps to the Philadelphia Spectrum (now the Wells Fargo Center) during the years that the Rocky franchise was filmed.
On top of learning about fashion influences and the history during the time that this wool coat is from, I discovered a whole story about three generations that the garment was a part of. The purpose of this project was to analyze the item being studied, identify a more specific timeline of its origin, and redesign it in a modern way– all to result in a better understanding of garment and how social influences are reflected through its construction. But, in completing these tasks, I was surprised to find so much more than what I was expecting to get out of it. I gained a much more personal perspective on a coat that is over 100 years old, and it was made possible by a simple name on the garment tag. Perhaps I should dedicate this blog to the tailor of this Busvine coat, because without his writing on the label, I wouldn’t have made these riveting discoveries.
Painting of Mary Howard Sturgis Scott by Fernand Paillet (1890):
Maj. Edgar Scott’s death certificate:
Fox, Margalit. “Robert Scott, 76, President of Philadelphia Museum, Dies.” The New York Times, 15 October 2005, https://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/15/arts/robert-scott-76-president-of-philadelphia-muse um-dies.html. Accessed 9 December 2022.
“Home.” YouTube, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/75499495/mary-howard-scott. Accessed 9 December 2022.
“MAJ Edgar Thompson Scott Sr. (1871-1918) – Find a…” Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56342084/edgar-thompson-scott. Accessed 9 December 2022.
“Mary Sturgis Scott – People – New-York Historical Society.” New-York Historical Society
Collections, https://emuseum.nyhistory.org/people/4717/mary-sturgis-scott. Accessed 9
Saxon, Wolfgang. “Edgar Scott, Investment Banker And Main Line Socialite, 96 (Published
1995).” The New York Times, 30 May 1995, https://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/30/obituaries/edgar-scott-investment-banker-and-main-line-socialite-96.html. Accessed 9 December 2022.