I found this scarf at a flea market and I have to admit – I was not crazy about the colors or the design. But something about the subject peaked my interest. It is unusual for a scarf or fashion accessory; a grid of well known explorers with their dates of birth and death. Certainly not politically correct or culturally sensitive, yet it is a unique piece.
Upon doing some research I learned about its creator whose signature appears in the lower right corner: Brooke Cadwallader. I had never heard of Cadwallader but he was a prolific designer of scarves in the late 1940’s through 1950’s. It could be said that he was the first major American designer of label scarves in the vein of Hermes. He produced a range of numbered limited edition scarves, of which the first of each design was sent to whomever was the first lady of the United States at the time.
The scarves primarily depicted historical subjects such as the Declaration of Independence, maps, noteworthy monuments, state flowers, etc. This particular scarf includes Marco Polo, Ponce de Leon, Daniel Boone and Christopher Columbus.
Cadwallader lived in Paris in the years before WWII and began by designing prints for fabric. One of his first designs was bought by Schiaparelli who printed it on scarves. The success of the design and the association with such a major name in fashion established Cadwallader as a primary source of fashion designers in Paris.
I found examples of other Cadwallader scarves on my research, several of which are in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. These depict classic American cars, Native American figures and women’s fashion.
Cadwallader and his wife fled Paris at the start of the war and moved to New York. They set up a new screen printing studio and opened a showroom to sell their designs. Cadwallader and his team of artists printed scarves and fabric for fashion, all of which had a loyal following of fashionable women and buyers.
Cadwallader later moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico which has a rich and storied history of creative expatriates from all over the globe. (See my post on the Robert Brady Museum: http://wp.me/p7fVUy-kw)