See decades of fashion preserved at Glidden Homestead

Willard and Mary Glidden were married Sept. 14, 1857.
Willard and Mary Glidden were married Sept. 14, 1857.

Willard and Mary Glidden married 160 years ago this month. The dress that Mary made and wore in that 1857 wedding will be on display at the Glidden Homestead in DeKalb to celebrate the completion of an extensive preservation project funded by Mary’s descendants. The dress joins other gowns handmade by Mary.

On Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m., visitors can talk with fashion curator Julie Claar who processed, preserved and cataloged the collection of garments in the Glidden Homestead collection. The central pieces of the collection include 19th-century dresses created by Mary McConnell Glidden, Joseph Glidden’s sister-in-law.

Mary Glidden, besides being Annie Glidden’s mother, was a talented seamstress who moved here from Philadelphia to marry Joseph Glidden’s younger brother Willard. They married Sept. 14, 1857.

Willard owned a farm on Lincoln Highway just west of Annie Glidden Road. Mary made dresses in DeKalb and, after Willard’s death in 1876, expanded her business to places she could reach by train.

“Julie’s skillful project is one of the most important and surely the most glamorous projects at Glidden Homestead,” Rob Glover, Glidden Homestead executive director, said in a news release. “Mary’s work stands at the intersection of art, history and craftsmanship and her wedding dress is the key piece in the collection. It inspired a move in her great-grandchildren from descendants to benefactors to the benefit of us all.”

Also on Sunday, visitors can tour the museum and the home where Joseph Glidden and his family lived when he created his most famous invention, see a working onsite blacksmith shop, and walk where Glidden walked. Glidden’s brick barn, where archaeological excavation has just been completed, can be considered the monument for the invention of barbed wire, a symbol of innovation in the Midwest.

Programs at Glidden Homestead are made possible in part by the Mary E. Stevens Concert and Lecture Fund.

A full season of programs highlighting “Digging In” continues at the Glidden Homestead in 2017. A program listing can be found at

The Glidden Homestead, at 921 W. Lincoln Highway, is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays or by special arrangement. Admission is $4 per adult and free for children younger than 14.

For information, visit, email or call 815-756-7904.

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