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The Victorian Era

The Victorian Era was named after Queen Victoria of Great Britain, and was marked by prosperity, rising birth rates, prolonged periods of peace, higher environmental standards, and a general affinity for refinement, romance, and all things British. It lasted from June 20, 1837 to January 22, 1901 (the time of Queen Victoria’s reign).

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, February 10, 1840.

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, February 10, 1840.

Queen Victoria’s reign had a major impact on fashion. More elaborate ornamentation and lavish fabrics became the dress norm for the upper classes. Silver plating had been perfected in the 1840s, which led to all manner of items being transformed into bright, fanciful objects. Everything from toast racks to casserole dishes was offered in a silver plated form, making elegance accessible to those that could afford it. Scroll work and decoration was added to all manner of things from cigarette covers to book jackets.

1860s dress crafted of Faille moire silk, tulle, chantilly lace, and carnival glass buttons. From the Museum of Fine Arts Boston collection.

1860s dress crafted of Faille moire silk, tulle and chantilly lace. From the Museum of Fine Arts Boston collection.

During the Victorian Era, the United States was going through rapid change. People were moving from the country to the cities for work. Westward expansion was strong and led to railroad track being laid throughout the West. Fights with Native Americans were frequent and led to the displacement of nearly all the Native American tribes.

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19th century image of a Native American of the Crow Tribe.

The biggest impact of the era was the Civil War, which was started when President Abraham Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery in the early 1860’s. This war ravaged both the Union (non-slave) and Confederate (slave-owning) states, eventually left over 600,000 soldiers dead, and was ended in 1865 when General Lee of the Confederacy surrendered. It was a tragic time in United States history, with families torn apart, brothers fighting brothers, and lives shattered.

Lieutenant Robert Clarke, Captain John C. Tidball, Lieutenant William N. Dennison, and Captain Alexander C.M. Pennington. Circa 1862.

Lieutenant Robert Clarke, Captain John C. Tidball, Lieutenant William N. Dennison, and Captain Alexander C.M. Pennington. Circa 1862.

Another one of the most important time periods of the Victorian Era was the Industrial Revolution, which transformed the world of manufacturing, economics, and even family life. After an unprecedented explosion of invention and mechanization, the workforce began using machines to replace (much slower and less efficient) hand work. There were advances in manufacturing and power processes as well, and all this combined caused a massive migration of people into cities to work in crowded factories.

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