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Wedding Dresses: A Photo Gallery

These striking, full-color photographs of a multi-generation wedding dress collection are material representations of the women of an extended family spanning more than one hundred years. In 1986, Carol Carlisle Summer donated wedding gowns from five generations of the extended Gordon-Cahoon family to the Utah State Historical Society. These dresses were worn by Mary Ballantyne Gordon, Elizabeth Gordon Cahoon, Mary Cahoon Knudsen, Ethel Cahoon Stewart, Amy Knudsen Carlisle, Margaret Pritchard Young, Patricia Kilker Lettner, and Carol Carlisle Summer, all descendants of Mary Ballantyne Gordon. See the summer 2015 issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly for more information about the dresses and the women who owned and wore them.

Annie Sager, Katie Saunders, and Sabrina Sanders prepared the Summer Collection dresses, and Anna Oldroyd photographed them. Nathan Gardner advised with lighting and photography.

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Mary Ballantyne Gordon

Mary Ballantyne Gordon was born to John and Janette Ballantyne in Selkirk, Scotland, in 1817. She converted to the LDS church in 1838 and soon immigrated to United States. Ballantyne married James Gordon—who was also a Scottish convert to Mormonism—in Nauvoo, Illinois, on April 4, 1843; he was twenty-four years old and she was twenty-six.[1] According to family tradition, James was a “great friend” of Joseph Smith Jr., and Mary was a servant in the home of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith.[2] In Utah, James wed two additional wives: Marion Ellen Park in 1854 and Mary Elizabeth Helm in 1857.[3] Mary herself bore nine children.[4] She died in 1878 of congestive chills at the age sixty-one.[5]

Mary Gordon’s dress is a grey-brown color, made of linsey-woolsey. A sturdy suit appropriate for many occasions, it has pleated edging on the bodice and sleeves and a wide teal border on the hem of the skirt. According to one account, this dress came across the plains from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1848.[6]

[1] Membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1848, and Marriages in the Nauvoo Region, 1839–1845, s.v. “Mary Ballantyne,” accessed April 13, 2015, ancestry.com.

[2] Marion Vera Carlson Cahoon, “History of Marion Ellen Park Gordon,” November 3, 1939, 2, Summer Collection.

[3] Ancestral File, s.v. “James Gordon,” accessed March 3, 2015, familysearch.org; see also 1870 U.S. Census, Salt Lake County, Mary Gordon.

[4] Cahoon, “History of Marion Ellen Park Gordon,” 2; Ancestral File, s.v. “Mary Ballantyne,” accessed March 3, 2015, familysearch.org.

[5] Utah Death Registers, 1847–1966, s.v. “Mary Gordon,” accessed April 13, 2015, ancestry.com.

[6] “Cahoons Celebrate Golden Wedding,” Summer Collection.

 

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Elizabeth Gordon Cahoon

Elizabeth Gordon Cahoon was born in April 1856 to James Gordon and Mary Ballantyne Gordon at the family’s home in the Salt Lake Valley. Elizabeth married John Cahoon on May 23, 1877, when they were both twenty-one years old. She bore ten children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. As for her other accomplishments, Elizabeth’s obituary simply remarks that “she lived in Salt Lake all her life and was prominent in social circles”; she died in 1931 at the age of seventy-five.[1]

Elizabeth Cahoon’s wedding dress is two pieces, made of royal purple faille, with silk fringe and velvet figured buttons. In accordance with the style of the late 1870s, the dress featured a large bustle and elaborate trimming. When this striking dress was displayed in 1927, a journalist remarked that it “bore the unmistakable evidence of having clothed a tall and slender bride fifty years ago.”[2]

[1] “Deaths,” Salt Lake Telegram, August 8, 1931.

[2] Olian, Wedding Fashions, 17–19; “Cahoons Celebrate Golden Wedding,” Summer Collection (qtn.).

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Mary “Mayme” Cahoon Knudsen

Mary Cahoon Knudsen was the first child of John Cahoon and Elizabeth Gordon Cahoon, born in 1878. She married Frederick C. Knudsen on June 16, 1904, at her parent’s home in Murray. Mary was twenty-six and her groom was twenty-five. Of the event, the Deseret News noted that a “brilliant reception was given to friends and relatives of the couple.”[1] This remark, as well as the beauty and quality of Mary’s dress, are indicative of the family’s social and financial success.

Mary Knudsen’s wedding dress is made of cream-colored crepe de chine; its full, surplice bodice has shirring at the shoulders, a high-boned lace collar and inset, and a cummerbund in contrasting fabric. The sleeves have wide lace cuffs, and four lines of shirring embellish the skirt.

[1] Utah, Select County Marriages, 1887–1937, s.v. “Mary Cahoon,” accessed April 13, 2015, ancestry.com; “Murray Notes,” Deseret Evening News, June 18, 1904, 12 (qtn.).

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Ethel Cahoon Stewart

Ethel Cahoon Stewart was born in February 1888 to John Cahoon and Elizabeth Gordon Cahoon. Like her sister, Ethel’s name appeared in the society pages of local newspapers. In March 1909 at the age of twenty-one, Ethel married Blaine S. Stewart, who was then a cashier at the Murray State Bank. After a ceremony in her parent’s home, they traveled “over the Salt Lake Route” to Los Angeles for their honeymoon.[1]

Ethel Stewart’s ivory satin dress has a high collar of Swiss dot netting, the fabric also used for its under sleeves. The upper sleeves, a contrasting bodice panel, and a treatment at the waist are all made of an elaborate lace. A fringe trims the bodice. As with her sister Mary’s dress, Ethel’s fashionable gown indicates the family’s financial well-being.

[1] “Murray,” Salt Lake Herald, March 15, 1909 (qtn.); Utah, Select County Marriages, 1887–1937, s.v. “Ethel Cahoon”; see “Current Events in Salt Lake Society,” Salt Lake Herald, February 21, 1909, 5, for an announcement of the Cahoon-Stewart wedding.

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Amy Knudsen Carlisle

Amy Knudsen Carlisle was born in 1917 in Murray to Mary Cahoon Knudsen and Frederick Knudsen. She attended Granite High School and married Marvin T. Carlisle in September 1933. The outline of Amy’s life shows the evolution of women’s lives in the twentieth century and contrasts with that of her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother: she bore one child, spent much of her life as a bookkeeper for Western Paper, and actively participated in the Great Salt Lake Retriever Club with her husband. Amy died in Freeland, Washington, in 1991.[1]

Amy Knudsen’s gown consisted of a cream georgette overdress, a cream crepe slip, and a short georgette shoulder cape. The dress is adorned, simply and effectively, with pin tucks sewn on the bias.

[1] “Death: Amy Knudsen Carlisle,” Deseret News, October 16, 1991.

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Margaret Pritchard Young

Margaret Pritchard Young, who was born in Murray in 1912, was the daughter of Alfred E. Pritchard and Margaret Cahoon and the granddaughter of John Cahooon and Elizabeth Gordon Cahoon. She married Gardener Young in 1937. In 1940, three years after their marriage, the Youngs lived near downtown Salt Lake City, where Gardener worked as a commercial airplane mechanic and Margaret cashiered in a department store. Margaret died in Albany, California, in 2011.[1]

Margaret Young’s dress is made of a pale blue-green chiffon cut on the bias. It has short, puffed sleeves; dark blue velvet under the bust and at the hem provides contrast. It was worn with a pink crepe hat.

[1] 1920 U.S. Census, Murray, Salt Lake County, Utah, p. 7B, dwelling 149, line 78, Margaret Pritchard, digital image; 1940 U.S. Census, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, p. 8A, household 1341, line 14, Margaret P. Young, digital image, accessed April 13, 2015, both at ancestry.com.

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Patricia Kilker Lettner

Patricia Kilker Lettner was the child of Damon Kilker and Vadis Cahoon, the youngest daughter of John Cahoon and Elizabeth Gordon Cahoon. She was born in about 1923 and spent at least some of her childhood in Albany, California, where her father worked for the Post Office and her mother was a beautician.[1] Patricia married Frederick Lettner in the mid-1940s.

Patricia Lettner’s dress is cream-colored satin with a sweetheart neckline, a dropped waist, long sleeves, and a train. The sleeves and neckline are embroidered with a floral design made of seed pearls. Both the bodice back and the wrists have self-covered buttons.

[1] 1940 U.S. Census, Albany, Alameda County, California, p. 10B, household 940, line 47, Patricia Kilker, digital image, accessed April 13, 2015, ancestry.com.

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Carol Carlisle Summer

Carol Carlisle Summer was born to Amy Knudsen Carlisle and Marvin T. Carlisle in Salt Lake City in 1934. In February 1968, at thirty-three years of age, she married Charles E. Summer in Lausanne, Switzerland. Charles later became a professor at the University of Washington, and Carol collaborated with him on at least one publication. She died in 1988 in Seattle, not long after donating her family’s collection to the Utah State Historical Society.[1]

On her wedding day, Carol Summer wore a mini-length, a-line dress of beige cotton lace over taffeta. It has a high collar, wide sleeves, and an ivory satin cummerbund.

[1] “Births,” Salt Lake Telegram, September 20, 1934; Public Member Tree, s.v., “Carol Carlisle Summer,” accessed April 22, 2015, trees.ancestry.com; Charles E. Summer and Jeremiah J. O’Connell, with Boris Yavitz, Newman S. Peery Jr., and Carol Carlisle Summer, The Managerial Mind: Science and Theory in Policy Decisions (Homewood, IL: R. D. Irwin, 1973).

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