The Proposal

Welcome to the John Marshall House Dress blog! This is a diary record of my 10-week research project, during which I aim to recreate the dress Mary Willis Ambler Marshall wore in her portrait painted in 1790. The portrait now hangs in the John Marshall House Museum in Richmond, Virginia, and the dress will be exhibited there at a date to be announced.


Who is Tania: I am a rising senior at the University of Richmond studying historic costume. I am building my skills and knowledge, working toward my dream of one day designing costumes for BBC, Masterpiece Theatre, and all those wonderful creators of historic drama! Maybe one day you’ll see my name listed as costume designer for the newest “Jane Eyre” mini-series. I can hope, right?

Who was Polly: Mary Willis Ambler Marshall was nick-named “Polly” by her husband John Marshall.  John Marshall was the “first citizen” of Richmond during his long lifetime, from 1755-1835. He is an extremely important historical figure for both the United States and Richmond. He was a successful local lawyer, but his most notable achievement was to serve on every level and branch of government: he served in the revolutionary war under George Washington (who respected Marshall greatly); he was a Virginia state congressman; he was magistrate of the Richmond city council; he was Minister to France; he was Secretary of State under John Adams; and he was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His house has been preserved, and is currently a museum near the Richmond capital building. Marshall married Mary Willis Ambler in 1783, and adored her until her death in 1831, when he wrote, “I have lost her! And with her I have lost the solace of my life! Yet she remains still the companion of my retired hours–still occupies my inmost bosom. When I am alone and unemployed, my mind unceasingly turns to her.”

A great thanks to the University of Richmond, which has awarded me this research fellowship. Also to Johann Stegmeir, my wonderful faculty advisor. And finally to the John Marshall House Museum, property of Preservation Virginia, who have already been so useful to me; visit them at


Go to next post: ‘Levels of Bureaucracy, Levels of Research.’

Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 10:44 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am so excited! What a great project: congratulations.

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