Quakers may have revered simplicity as evident in two dresses now featured in the Delaware County Historical Society’s “Chester Arts, Culture and Education Black History” exhibit on display.
Yet, a close look of the deep brown and light olive ankle-length dresses reveals an elegance in design and a demonstration of sewing skills.
The brown Quaker day dress dates to approximately 1800 and belonged to Ann Delany Pennell, who was born in 1767 and died in 1829. Ann Pennell was mother of Edmund Pennell, the noted banker.
Edmund Pennell was president of the Bank of Delaware County when it was incorporated into the Delaware County National Bank. Once the turnover was complete, Pennell became president of the Delaware County National Bank and served from 1864 to 1874.
The other dress, a light olive dress with a pelerine, or a little shoulder cape, was a Quaker wedding dress worn by Elizabeth Jaquette Price, when she married Edmund Pennell on Dec. 26, 1830. Devoid of lace or beading, this wedding dress has elaborate folds on its sleeves and comes with a matching bonnet. Despite the earthy color, it was considered celebratory based on Quaker values at the time.
The Pennell family was renowned in Delaware County. Certainly, there was the banking legacy.
And, the family members were known for being quite well involved in their church communities as well.
Both Clara Elizabeth Pennell and Mary C. Pennell made valuable contributions to religious organizations in the city of Chester.
Mary Pennell, who was born in 1848 and died in her 204 W. Seventh St. home in 1926, was a daughter of Edmund Pennell. She was a very active member of St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church and of its Altar Guild.
Clara Elizabeth Pennell was born in Porter Township, Delaware County, Ohio in 1853 to Philadelphia natives Nathan Pennell and Elizabeth Pawling.
Clara and her family were only in Ohio for a few short years before they returned east. In 1850, the family moved to an old farmhouse in Lower Chichester.
Pennell attended the Cedar Grove School in Marcus Hook and then in 1874, moved to Chester with her parents to a home on Edgemont Avenue between 11th and 12th streets.
Here, she became one of the original members of the Children’s Aid Society and taught sewing classes for St. Paul’s Guild.
Clara Pennell also, by the way, had a penchant for dwelling on things of the past.
The Pennell dresses are part of the “Chester Arts, Culture and Education Black History” exhibit now on display at the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center. The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The museum’s telephone number is 610-872-0502. Parking is free on the society lot behind the building or across the street in the municipal lot.
Membership in the Delaware County Historical Society ranges from $10 for students, $27 for individuals to $250 at the patron level. It includes free admission to the society’s Chester museum and library at 408 Avenue of the States, the society newsletter and preferred reservations and discounts for lectures and events. To join, please visit www.padelcohistory.org or call 610-359-0832.
The wedding dress worn by Elizabeth Jaquette Price during her Quaker ceremony in 1830 is on display at the DCHS museum.
This brown day dress was worn by Ana Delany Pennell and is estimated to be from 1800.