By Olivia Terry, Regional History Museum Librarian
Pictured here in this turn of the century studio portrait from the Mary Lemon Brown Collection, is Gertrude Edna Lewis Gates (1867-1945). Gertrude was the daughter of Isaac Ives Lewis, one of Ketchum’s most influential men during the silver mining boom.
When Gertrude was thirteen, she and her family moved to Ketchum and built a house near where Sun Valley is currently located. Shortly after, Issac Lewis monopolized business, purchasing the weekly Ketchum Keystone newspaper and the lucrative Elkhorn Mine. He also opened the First National Bank of Ketchum.
Gertrude married a few years later and spent her time in and out of Ketchum. She was said to be a deeply religious woman. Gertrude was no doubt a woman of privilege in the Wood River Valley and her status is underscored by her hat in this portrait. While it appears that Gertrude has everything and the kitchen sink on her head, her hat was extremely fashionable for the second half of the 1890s. Gertrude’s hat appears to feature an entire bird, silk hydrangeas, crushed ribbon, and a mystery element that adds drama through height.
Nineteenth century milliners not only added feathers to their creations, but it became one of the biggest fashion crazes of the century to place an entire bird onto women’s hats. Leading Parisian designs were disseminated across the world and were copied by local American and European dressmakers for their clients. The practice of decorating hats with birds and giant feather plumes continued into the 20th century, coming to a climax during the Edwardian era with the introduction of the enormous and theatrical “Merry Widow” hat. Shortly after, it fell out of fashion when birds, especially the Great Egret, were becoming increasingly extinct from over-hunting. It is unknown when or where Gertrude acquired this hat, but it’s clear that Gertrude was aware of and had access to the latest fashion of the day.