The Suffolk County Historical Society Staff & Board of Trustees cordially invite you to an opening reception…

The Story of How Whalebone Shaped 19th-Century Fashion 


Exhibit Opening Reception
Saturday, April 13, 2019 ~ 1:00 pm
Free Opening Day Admission. Refreshments will be served.

Exhibit curated by Richard P. Doctorow

The beguiling ensemble of an elegant 19th-century lady—her billowing hooped skirts, shapely corset, and coquettish parasol—were  all made possible thanks to whalebone, or what we know of today as baleen. Used by whales to filter their food from the water, in the 18th and 19th centuries baleen was the “plastic” of its day. Light, strong, and flexible, it could be worked into any number of shapes and sizes, including hoops for skirts, ribs and shafts for parasols, and the “boning” that gave corsets their shape. Baleen was so vital and valuable that whalemen continued to hunt whales for it long after kerosene and petroleum had made whale oil virtually worthless.

Through this display of 19th-century photographs, fashion magazine plates, whaling tools, corsets, parasols, and exquisite dresses showing the changes in fashion from 1820 to 1920, When Woman Wore Whales explores the fascinating, surprising, and vital role the American whaling industry played in the world of 19th-century fashion.

Gallery Hours: Weds. – Sat., 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

300 West Main St.  Riverhead, NY 11901





AAQ Resource / Accommodations: 1708 House, Southampton / Bed & Breakfast