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Wire frame, A.O.U.W. emblem on folding stand

Object Details

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Horticultural Artifacts Collection
ca. 1860-1940
Victorian (1837-1901)
Accession number
It was common for social or business organizations to send flowers to the funerals of deceased members in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Flowers were sent by friendly and fraternal societies, temperance leagues, social clubs, veteran’s organization, and worker’s unions, among others. The floral tributes were often set pieces patterned after the emblem of the organization or club with flowers and ribbons in their colors. Designs had to be recognizable, thus accuracy was important for the florist, each flower frame must be made to an exact shape and carefully arranged with flowers in the appropriate colors. Depending on the size of the floral recreation, elements might be added or subtracted while maintaining an accurate overall impression of the emblem. In addition to the organization’s emblem recreated on flower frames, many of their other symbols, or assemblages of multiple symbols were recreated out of wire frames for floral arrangements. Emblem set pieces were also used for organizational functions other than just funerals, such as private ceremonies or special events sponsored by the group. Organizational emblem frames often comprised a significant portion of floral frame trade catalogs. The Order of United American Mechanics (OUAM) is an American fraternal order that was founded in Philadelphia in 1844-45. The emblem of the OUAM is a square and compasses with and arm holding a hammer in the middle.
The Order of United American Mechanics (OUAM) is an American fraternal order that was founded in Philadelphia in 1844-45. The emblem of the OUAM is a square and compasses with and arm holding a hammer in the middle.
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.
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
emblems (symbols)
Floral frames
frame components
Floral Accessories
Floral decorations
floral designers
Flower arrangement
funerary objects
secret societies
24 × 21 × 21 in. (61 × 53.3 × 53.3 cm)
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Restrictions & Rights
Floral frames
Record ID
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