The Little Bower Fashion Plate Collection, donated by Cynthia Bower Smith of Fresno, is highlighted in a new online exhibit of the Henry Madden Library at California State University, Fresno. The exhibit entitled “In Style: Fashion Plates from 1790 to World War I” is available at http://zimmer.csufresno.edu/—monicaf/.
The exhibit marks the beginning of a new digital initiative in the Special Collections Library as online access to specialized materials, especially for photographs and other illustrative items, becomes increasingly important, said Tammy Lau, head of Special Collections.
“Digitization will increase the visibility and accessibility of our photographs and other collections exponentially, on a global scale,” said Lau.
The original fashion plates, hand-colored engravings of popular fashions over the decades as shown in ladies’ magazines such as Journal des Modes and Gazette of Fashion, were collected by Cynthia Smith’s grandmother, Charlotte Northrup Little, a seamstress who made
collecting these fashion plates a lifetime hobby. Her daughter, Charlotte Little Bower, protected her mother’s collection and kept it intact for future generations.
In 2003, Charlotte Little’s granddaughter, Cynthia Smith, decided to donate a portion of this treasured collection lovingly cared for by her family to the Special Collections Library.
In fall 2004, Monica Fusich, a reference librarian at the Madden Library who has a background in art history and has taught Humanities 11, a course focused on the history of fashion, took on the challenge of organizing and describing each fashion plate in the Little Bower Collection as the first step in making them available to the public on the Web.
During her sabbatical, Fusich painstakingly created a detailed description of each plate in the library’s fledgling digital database (still in progress) and designed an online exhibit showcasing the highlights of the collection. Her exhibit is linked on the Special Collections Library’s exhibits Web page at