Wedding Dresses Throughout History

By Natalie Van Dam

The styles of wedding dresses have changed widely throughout history. Just in the history of La Crosse, there have been various colors, shapes, and sizes of wedding dresses that have been donated to and preserved by the County Historical Society. One of these wedding dresses that doesn't fit the modern style, is the silk taffeta wedding dress that was worn by Mary (Dalton) Jenks. The entirety of this dress, other than the cream lace edging, is colored in a woven plaid pattern of black, green, red, blue and white. It was in this dress that she married Captain John Jenks of the United States Army in 1857.


Another wedding dress that doesn't fit the modern trend of white dresses, is the wedding dress that was worn by Charlotte Eleda Olson when she married Wilbur Charles Welda on September 16th, 1936. The story of how they met is recorded on the back of one of their wedding photos and goes as such: 

"Charlotte taught grades 1 through 8 at the Phillips Ridge School. She stayed at the McClintocks' during the school week. In these days, schools held basket socials at the beginning of the school year to raise money to be used for supplies. Each woman who came had prepared a basket or box of food to share with some lucky man. The baskets were decorated beautifully, but no names were put on them. An auctioneer then auctioned the baskets off to the men. Mildred and Kendall came to Charlotte's basket social. Kendall bid on a few baskets to get the profits up. Of course Wilbur was there, and he knew which basket was the teacher's. Calvin McClinstock bid against Wilbur, first to raise the price, but got nervous when he hit $6.50. Wilbur finally got Charlotte's basket for $7.00. That was a lot of money in those days." The donor of this dress, who was their daughter, said that her parents were married for 65 years.

Wedding Dress of Charlotte Eleda Olson

Wedding Dress of Charlotte Eleda Olson

Wedding photo of Charlotte Eleda Olson and Wilbur Charles Welda

Wedding photo of Charlotte Eleda Olson and Wilbur Charles Welda


One wedding dress that is closer to the modern style, is the dress that Ida Heileman wore on her wedding day of November 7, 1900 to Carl Langenbach . This was a two piece ivory colored silk dress, that was decorated with silk, lace, embroidery, and ribbon. Ida was the daughter of Gottlieb and Johanna Heileman who founded the famous La Crosse Heileman Brewery and were the creators of Old Style beer.

Wedding Dress of Mary (Dalton) Jenks

Wedding Dress of Mary (Dalton) Jenks

Wedding Dress of Ida (Heileman) Langenbach

Wedding Dress of Ida (Heileman) Langenbach

New Intern: Ben

Ben.jpg

My name is Benjamin Hudrlik, and I am majoring in History and minoring in Professional and Technical Writing at University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. I am from Edgerton, Wisconsin and this is my third year in La Crosse. This past summer I studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic studying the history of Central Europe and Czech language.  My main focus in history is United States.
 

Being a Collections Intern for the La Crosse Historical Society is a very exciting opportunity for an internship this spring semester. I hope to learn more about how to understand artifacts and La Crosse history.