Standing proudly on Main Street in Penn Yan is the anchor building of the Yates County History Center, the Oliver House Museum, one of three buildings comprising the YCHC. The Center, formerly Yates County Genealogical & Historical Society, is one of the oldest in NYS, has been actively collecting, preserving and interpreting history since 1860. Continue reading about us...

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Welcome to our online exhibit!

Here Come the Brides: Yates County Wedding Fashions, 1761-1992

Adam Hunt 1761
Adam Hunt 1761


The oldest costume in our textile collection is a three piece suit worn by Adam Hunt of Rhode Island upon his 1761 marriage to Mary Austin. Pictured here is the great coat, which was worn over a white shirt, and matching vest and breeches. The suit is a thin wool, and would have been colored using natural dyes. The bright orange lining was likely made from madder root. The buttons, made of bone or horn, are covered in thread in an intricate pattern.

Joanna Norris of Philadelphia wore a green-gold silk gown upon her December 1811 marriage to Abraham Wagener, founder of Penn Yan. Her empire waist style gown came with a matching, hooded cape of the same material, and matching shoes.

Elizabeth Gardner wore a champagne colored silk gown, embossed with tiny geometric shapes at her 1839 marriage to John Underwood. An off-shoulder gown with large bishop sleeves, pleated skirt, and higher waistline with a slightly pointed bodice was typical of late 1830s styles.

A stunning gown was worn at the 1851 wedding of Frances Camman of New York City and Robert Selden Rose of Yates County. An ivory colored damask silk with a wide skirt, it features an off-shoulder neckline and deeply pointed bodice, both highly fashionable in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Silk rosettes decorate the front of the bodice.

The 1870s and 1880s saw an increase in non-white wedding gowns, during to the availability of new, synthetic dyes. Jennie Lown of Benton wore a maroon velvet suit upon her marriage to John Pease in 1883. Jennie received a chocolate set painted with matching maroon flowers as a wedding gift from her father. Jennie’s father was even said to have stained the wood in his parlor to match the gown. The dress on the right is an olive green silk with dark green velvet panels, handmade lace, and a heavily bustled skirt, circa 1878.

Scandinavian couples traditionally wore black wedding clothes. Yates County, with its large number of Danish immigrants, had many brides in black. Peter Christensen and Marie Sorensen were married March 11, 1910. Peter's coat still bears the label of the tailor in Denmark where he purchased the suit (Jorgen Thomsen of Hjorring). Marie's gown is two-piece with a gored skirt of fine broadcloth and satin bodice with full sleeves. The waistline features a wide sash of black taffeta.

Also from 1910, a gown of raw silk was worn by Frankie Griffin upon her marriage to William Merson. Her parents, who were missionaries, brought the dress from India. Frankie was a well-known suffragist and social reformer, and worked as a professor at Keuka College.

Ruth Bailey wore a rayon silk dress, purchased from Lown's, at her August 14, 1937 wedding to Philip Barbieri of New York City. Both bride and groom were artists.

In classic New Look style, this 1950s gown features a long, full skirt, fitted bodice, and wide, boatneck neckline. Simple beading and long sleeves complete the look.

The veil was worn by Shirley Clark upon her marriage to Ken Gifford on May 5, 1962 in Penn Yan. It features a pearl bead crown atop layers of tulle.

Linda (Lyn) Bauman wore the pictured gown and veil on February 15, 1969 when she married Lt. Herbert Taylor Fitch of Penn Yan. The white satin dress features an empire waist and jewel neckline trimmed in Venice lace. The detachable chapel length train is also edges in Venice lace (see detail). The veil is bouffant style, affixed to a headpiece.

A more recent gown, worn in 1992 at the wedding of Colleen Fretz and Jeffrey Swayze featured a full-length dress, puffed, mutton sleeves, heavy beading and use of applique lace. The detachable train is matching white satin with embroidered lave and seed pearls. The veil is affixed to a comb, with gathered tulle under multi-string beads.


Elizabeth Gardner 1839
Elizabeth Gardner 1839

Marie Sorensen 1910
Marie Sorensen 1910


Frankie Griffin 1910
Frankie Griffin 1910

Ruth Bailey 1937
Ruth Bailey 1937


Lyn Bauman 1969
Lyn Bauman 1969

1950s wedding dress


Colleen Fretz 1992
Colleen Fretz 1992




Open Tuesday - Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
107 Chapel Street, Penn Yan, NY 14527
Phone 315.536.7318 | Fax 315.536.0976
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Sunday, November 26, 2023 | Copyright © 2023

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