4 min read

SAMPLE: An 1880s Mystery Dress and a Coded Message in a Hidden Pocket

SAMPLE: An 1880s Mystery Dress and a Coded Message in a Hidden Pocket
Sara Rivers Cofield / Commitment to Costumes
FYI this is an example of an email newsletter that free subscribers receive each Wednesday. It's the top story from the prior week email for paid subscribers.

Welcome to my free weekly email with the top story from last week. This story really interested me because it mixes together a 10-year mystery involving secret codes with fashion (an elaborate dress with a hidden pocket?) and, as it turned out, the early history of weather reporting in the United States. It's also a good example of how links lying all over the internet can be gathered together to tell a comprehensive story. I found the story in a single Atlas Obscura article published a year or so after the mystery was solved. It was only in researching the story online that I found the complete history in links, not the belated summary article. Sadly, what I couldn't find online were the weather code books.

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An 1800s Dress with a Secret Message

"Sometimes a dress is just a dress. In this story, a dress becomes a kind of time travel portal, where we get to return very briefly to the Industrial Revolution and learn about the history of weather forecasting on the frontiers of North America in the 1800s.

The story starts in 2013 in an antique mall in Maine, where Sara Rivers Cofield sees a beautiful brown dress for sale. Rivers Cofield is an archeologist who also collects old dresses and handbags for fun. She loved this particular dress’s beautiful metal buttons and elaborate bustle.

Once she got the dress home she found a secret pocket hidden under that bustle, inside the seams of the skirt. Upon further inspection, she also found crumpled bits of paper inside the secret pocket.

She recognized that both the dress and the paper were likely from the 1880s. What she couldn’t decipher was the meaning of messages written on the paper – lines of text, many beginning with a place name, followed by seemingly random verbs and nouns."

Bennett's Bronze Bustle

https://commitmentocostumes.blogspot.com/2014/02/bennetts-bronze-bustle.html

'Cryptogram' in a silk dress tells a weather story

https://www.noaa.gov/heritage/stories/cryptogram-in-silk-dress-tells-weather-story

135-Year Old Code Mystery Highlights Forgotten Era of Meteorology

https://canwin-datahub.ad.umanitoba.ca/data/publication/breaking-silk-dress-cryptogram

https://canwin-datahub.ad.umanitoba.ca/data/publication/breaking-silk-dress-cryptogram/resource/ed7d67d0-5563-4747-8a32-380fc413fda3 (article)

https://canwin-datahub.ad.umanitoba.ca/data/dataset/dd31c5b2-d0de-41d9-a8a8-ce960953a2a2/resource/25a402c0-e444-48dc-b41f-fa764906f512/download/silk\_dress\_code\_decoded.mp4 (video)

Someone finally cracked the “Silk Dress cryptogram” after 10 years

https://arstechnica.com/science/2024/01/someone-finally-cracked-the-silk-dress-cryptogram-after-10-years/

Breaking the Silk Dress cryptogram

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01611194.2023.2223562

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Every Sunday morning, I send out 7 fun often odd links to STEM stories. Here are a few from this past week that you might find interesting.

The secret tricks hidden inside restaurant menus - BBC Future
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20171120-the-secret-tricks-hidden-inside-restaurant-menus

The surprising effectiveness of having kids study why they failed
https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/63278/the-surprising-effectiveness-of-having-kids-study-why-they-failed

Heart Regeneration Induced by FDA-Approved Antibiotics
https://www.genengnews.com/topics/translational-medicine/heart-regeneration-induced-by-fda-approved-antibiotics/

A brief guide to birdwatching in the age of dinosaurs
https://theconversation.com/a-brief-guide-to-birdwatching-in-the-age-of-dinosaurs-225286

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Our paid subscribers received 17 additional links last week for these STEM/STEAM stories:

  • Tidal Kites
  • A Math Puzzle from 1736
  • What Animals See
  • Chemistry Projects for Kids
  • Ice Free Summers in the Arctic
  • Teens without Smart Phones
  • 13000 Free 3D Images
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If you've read this far, and find the information interesting and useful, please consider becoming a paid subscriber. Our weekly emails provide useful mostly kid-friendly links to STEM/STEAM articles, news, resources, and more for kids, parents, teachers, and librarians. We also give free subscriptions to Title 1 schools and groups working with under-resourced kids. Our goal is to educate, inspire, and amuse. To make this happen, however, we need help from people like you.

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Ok, this is actually the end! Thanks for reading! Bye!