Mrs. J.C. Ferren’s Millinery, Dry and Fancy Goods Shop


We are less than one month away until the opening day of the FHS museum’s summer exhibit: Mrs. J. C. Ferren’s Millinery, Dry and Fancy Goods Shop. This exhibition is an interpretation of the original shop, which operated between 1884 and 1908 in Freedom. 

The dates of the exhibit are June 19 thru September 18, on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 10AM to 12PM. During Freedom Old Home Week (July 30th to August 8th), the exhibit will be open every day from 10AM to 12PM. 

The exhibitions committee has been carefully researching and learning about the items that would have been sold in Mrs. J.C. Ferren’s store, including women’s clothing, accessories, undergarments, quilts, stationery and more. 

In the late 19th century, women were experiencing new levels of independence; during the decade of 1890 to 1899, the number of women employed outside the home almost doubled (Franklin, 2019). Mrs. J.C. Ferren, as a store owner, would have been among a brand-new class of women that both worked outside the home and owned their own businesses. 

But what would Mrs. J.C. Ferren have sold in her store? As the only millinery and “fancy goods shop” in Freedom, she would have sold a variety of women’s hats, clothing, shoes, accessories, stationery, personal items and children’s goods. Women of the late 19th century wore many layers of clothing, including petticoats and/or a chemise. A chemise was a long slip and undershirt combined. A chemise might have handmade lace and embroidery on the front, but it was worn underneath all the clothes, so no one would see it. 

Petticoat from the FHS collection

Mrs. J.C. Ferren would have also sold stockings: an integral part of every late 19th century woman’s wardrobe. Stockings were worn over the knee and were held up by a small ribbon or belt, known as a garter. Stockings were knitted of cotton, silk or wool.

The accessories Mrs. J.C. Ferren might have sold would have included parasols, handkerchiefs, hand folding and paddle fans, neckties, gloves and mittens, hairpins, scarves and capes, and hats. Fashionable hats of the time were trimmed with flowers, ribbons and flowers and the trimmings could be excessive. Toques, which were hats without brims, were also stylish, and worn perched at the top of the head, with the hair gathered at the nape of the neck, sometimes in a chignon (Franklin, 2019).

Lace parasol from the FHS collection

Mrs. J.C. Ferren may have also sold shoes in her store. Shoes were made of leather, and in the mid-1800s there were four tanneries in Freedom that supplied leather for shoemaking. Shoes could be fancy, and sometimes included kid slippers for dressy occasions, but the primary shoe of the late 19th century was the boot. Boots were both durable, sturdy and practical. Many 19th century women had more than one pair of shoes as New England factories began mass producing shoes at a rapid rate (Monet, 2021). 

Ladies boots from the FHS collection

These items are just a sample of what the exhibitions committee has gathered for our 2021 exhibit. There will be many clothes, shoes, hats, accessories, quilts and more—plus information all about the fashion of the day and what it was like in Freedom during the time period of 1884 to 1908.

Mark your calendars for the exhibit’s opening day, June 19th, 2021, and continue to check our website and social media for updates on our progress.



The 2021 Exhibitions committee is busy planning the FHS museum’s summer exhibit: the recreation of Mrs. J. C. Ferren’s Millinery, Dry and Fancy Goods Shop, which operated between 1884 and 1904 in Freedom. 

Take a look at some of the photos our committee members have uncovered of the Ferren family of Freedom:

The Ferren family riding in horse carriage to an event (carriage says F. Ferren).
Mary Ferren’s son Frank with a wagon attached to car (1937).

Mary Ferren’s daughter, Ida Ferren Danforth, born 1863.

Minnie Danforth Towle, granddaughter of Mary Ferren, born in 1883.

The committee will continue to post updates on our progress as we get closer to the exhibit’s opening day, June 19th, 2021.