Pilgrims to Park Avenue: 150 Years of Family Fashion
The Marguerite Almy Allyn Collection
Marguerite Almy Allyn (1885-1985), assembled and preserved, from various family branches, an important collection of clothing. The collection, dating from 1850s to the present, belonged to the Almy, Ballou, and Granbery families of Southern New England (Rhode Island and Connecticut) and New York. In 2006, a number of these garments were displayed at Rosecliff.
Marguerite Almy Allyn was a descendant of Mathurin Ballou, a French Huguenot who fled to America in search of religious liberty after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685 and was among the earliest settlers of the Narragansett Bay region of Rhode Island. The Almy family arrived in Portsmouth, RI in 1638 with other Baptists fleeing persecution by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They were signers of the original Portsmouth Compact of 1638, the first charter guaranteeing religious liberty anywhere in the world; it called for ‘A state where no constraint should ever be put upon the human conscience, no shackles upon the human spirit, and no limit to the freedom of thought.’ Marguerite Almy Allyn’s husband William Ellery Allyn (1885-1956) was a descendant of 19 of the original families of Newport and of Rev. William Brewster of the Mayflower.
Marguerite’s daughter, Diana Allyn, married E. Carleton Granbery, Jr. She carried on the preservation of family memorabilia expanding the clothing collection into the Granbery family line. The Granberys were prominent in New York’s political, social and financial scenes. The amplified collection was inherited by Marguerite’s granddaughters, Joya Granbery Hoyt and Pamela Granbery, who, following the family tradition of conservation donated the majority of the collection to The Preservation Society of Newport County in 1997.
Marguerite Almy Allyn, like her forebears, was a proponent of free thinking and fought for the rights and equality of people of all classes and races. At the time of her death, a few months short of her 100th birthday, Mrs. Allyn had served as the first woman elected to the Connecticut legislature, was head of the American Red Cross in Connecticut, and had seen her father drive the first car in Connecticut. She traveled the world extensively, always fashion conscious and always in a full suit (London made) with stockings, a hat and ‘correct’ shoes. Her grandchildren were known as her ‘stevedores’ during travel excursions and were amazed by her cosmopolitan knowledge, insight, and sense of humor. When abroad she would take them to historic house sites and major museums and, as was her style, she would often take them on journeys off the beaten path. For these excursions she would always hire a car and driver. Inevitably she would ask the driver to stop the car ‘there is something we would like to see’, the driver’s usual reply would be ‘but Madam, there is nothing here but fields’. After trudging through mud, sand and varied terrain their grandmother would point out the seat of a romantic Irish king or go deep into a cave to see a little known prehistoric painting. She shared with her grandchildren a passionate interest in astronomy, alchemy, art, magic, philosophy, religion and history and an appreciation of antiques and relics of bygone days such as the clothing you will see displayed from the exhibit.
It is thanks to the foresight of Marguerite Almy Allyn and her keen interest and sharp eye that the Almy collection (named in her honor) exists today and gives a glimpse of the evolving world of a local family as they leave their agrarian roots, are transformed by the Industrial Revolution (textile manufacturing and luxury retail) emerging in the pre-1929 world of Wall Street finance, through the Depression, and into the present.