Flower frame, ship

Object Details

ca. 1875
Victorian (1837-1901)
Large floral recreations of ships were chosen to highlight the theme of the occasion. They were used at ceremonies, luncheons, and funerals. For the funeral, a boat or ship flower frame could be both symbolic of certain spiritual beliefs, as well as representative of someone of seafaring profession or who was stationed on board a Navy vessel. These designs were often ordered for an individual who went down with the ship. Flower frame designs of national symbols and emblems of the military branch of the fallen celebrated their patriotism at the funerals of active military and veterans. Often flowers the same color as the American flag were employed in arrangements, such as roses, carnations, and cornflowers to create that patriotic red, white, and blue color scheme. Nationally symbolic designs such as Navy ships, American flags, eagles, and many other designs were also displayed in shop windows and at ceremonies for holidays such as Independence Day and Memorial Day. These designs remained popular into the twentieth century.
Label Text
Set pieces or set designs were among the most popular floral arrangements in the second half of the nineteenth century. The term set piece is a usually applied to designs in a wide variety of forms, which are often symbolic in character. Shapes that expressed an overall theme for an occasion were very fashionable, such as designs made to depict the profession, associations, or hobbies of an individual. These flower arrangements were ordered for special celebrations, holidays, weddings, and funerals. Typical of the Victorian style, these designs were elaborate and massive, but unlike other forms of flower arrangement, the set piece was exclusively made by the professional florist.
Set pieces were usually made up on wire frames in the desired shape, which acted as a foundation for the floral arrangement. Commercially produced, heavy-gaged wire frames, fabricated from either plain or copper-plated wire, became available for flower arrangements between 1860 and 1864. The retail florist business was enhanced considerably by the high demand for arrangements on flower frames in the nineteenth century, and wire frames quickly became the basis of the retail florist’s inventory. The frames could be obtained for little cost to the florist, and if he managed to retrieve the skeleton after the occasion, it could be reused. Wire frames came in both straight and curved outlines and either as a box (three-dimensional frame) or flat frame. Most designs came in several sizes and could be hung or placed on a stand or were free-standing. Standard forms in wire works catalogues ranged in size from 10 to 60 inches. Outside of the standard frame designs offered in wireworks and florist’s supplies catalogues, designs could be made for almost any occasion, with some large enough to make life-sized reproductions.
Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth century floral fashions changed. Some set pieces faded in popularity by the early 1900s, but some remained favorites well into the 1940’s. Many of these same designs are still used today, but the wire frames have been replaced by shapes made from more modern materials to save the florists’ time in making up the arrangement, as well as providing water to the flowers allowing for greater longevity.
emblems (symbols)
Floral frames
frame components
armed forces
Floral Accessories
Floral decorations
floral designers
Flower arrangement
funerary objects
See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Accession number
1985.039.a, b
Floral frames
Restrictions & Rights
30 × 27 × 13 in. (76.2 × 68.6 × 33 cm)
Record ID
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