Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Japanese Influenced Moonlight Fete, July 18, 1894, Clinch and Tennessee Rivers

This memorabilia was saved by Miss Fannie Lemira Moran of Dresden TN, b. Oct 23, 1872 - d. May 3, 1955.  She was the oldest daughter of Capt. John W. Moran and Sophia Riley Gunn.

This is a handkerchief (and probably the only one in existence) from a Moonlight Fete that took place aboard the Wyeth City Steamer, July 18, 1894, on the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers.   Though I am unable to find anything about this event, it's obvious from the beautiful images on the handkerchief that it was inspired by Japanese motifs.  Mathew Perry's expedition to Japan in 1853-54 re-established connections with Asia that had been closed since the 17th century and the influx of Asian culture would have a profound impact on Western Art for many decades.  The images on this delicate piece of material remind me of the works of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).

I was able to find some information regarding the Wyeth City Steamer.  According to River Boat Dave, the Wyeth City was built in 1878 and originally named the Chattanooga.  It was a sternwheeler with a wooden hull packet.  In 1888, a novice pilot sank the Chattanooga but she was raised and rebuilt as the Wyeth City. The first owner of the steamer was a prominent citizen of Bridgeport, Alabama, R.C. Gunter. He served in the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.  After the war, like many, he didn't have much to go home to but he was able to get a crop out that year, go into business for himself and eventually he became the owner of three steamboats; the R.C. Gunter, the J.H. Johnston, and the Chattanooga/Wyeth City.  He owned the steamer until 1888 which is when, according to River Boat Dave, it sank and was reborn as the Wyeth City.

Though the Wyeth City was used to transport many things in its day, it was, for one magic night the home of a Japanese influenced, moonlight fete for well-to-do ladies and gentlemen in 1894. 

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