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Mrs. P.E. Fullerton – Bedspread Points to Early 20th Century Salem Family

///Mrs. P.E. Fullerton – Bedspread Points to Early 20th Century Salem Family

Mrs. P.E. Fullerton – Bedspread Points to Early 20th Century Salem Family

Coverlet donated by the Petram family.
Willamette Heritage Center 2016.064.0001

At 162 years old, the blue and white coverlet was in remarkably good condition when it was brought to the Willamette Heritage Center by the Petram family.  Woven from blue wool and undyed cotton thread, the coverlet or bedspread was created from two panels of cloth joined together with a center seam.  A woven inscription on the corner bears the following information: Levi Miller, Hancock County, Jackson township, Ohio, 1855.  With the help of the Salem Fiberarts Guild the information on the corner block was easily verified.  Levi Miller was an itinerant weaver in the Hancock County area of Ohio from 1838-1860.  As an itinerant weaver, he would have been hired by local families much like a seamstress or tailor, to come and live with the family, set up his loom, and weave for them.

According to the Petram family, the coverlet was originally owned by the Burtnett family who came to Salem from Ohio in 1910.  Charles Burtnett owned and operated the Farmer’s Cider and Vinegar Works on North Commercial St. until his death in 1918.  The coverlet was given to his daughter Lillian Fullerton who in turn passed it down to her nephew Donald Petram.  As with any new item added to the Willamette Heritage Center collection, we began researching the history of the item and its owners.  We were immediately intrigued with Lillian Fullerton thanks to a series of historic newspaper articles.

“They Visited Yellowstone Park in Auto” was the first headline to grab our attention.  In 1912, the adventurous couple drove to Yellowstone Park long before I-84 and other established motorways.  This six week trip involved having a car shipped to The Dalles followed by a long, slow drive to Prineville, Burns and on through Boise, Idaho.  It was also reported to be an entirely outdoor trip with the Fullertons setting up camp along their way.

Then we came across the 1911 headline “Millinery Store and Factory to Locate Here” which described extensive alterations being made to the rear of the Eldridge block at 279 Commercial St.  for Mrs. P.E. Fullerton.  The factory boasted up-to-date millinery manufacturing equipment for turning out ladies’ and children’s hats complete from start to finish.  It would employ 15-20 girls and women.  Mrs. Fullerton was described as “straight forward, [with] honest business methods, artistic handiwork and unsurpassed stylecraft.”

1899 wedding portrait of Lillian and Prentiss Fullerton. Courtesy of the Petram family.

Lillian and Prentiss Eben (P.E.) Fullerton were married November 12, 1899 in Iowa.  After a few years operating a millinery store in Pullman, Washington the couple moved to Salem in 1906.  They purchased the millinery stock of Mrs. C. M. Hilke and set up shop in the First National Bank building at 291 Commercial St. under the name Mrs. P.E. Fullerton.

Their business strategy was to carry only quality goods and sell them quickly before fashion trends changed.  It was more profitable to turn a small stock several times a year than to buy a large amount of stock and have old goods on hand.  They began with millinery goods exclusively but expanded over the years to include ladies’ suits, shoes, hair goods, gloves, corsets, petticoats, shirtwaists and ready-to-wear garments for ladies.

In 1911 they renovated and expanded their space to build the millinery factory, opening a new show room across the street at 270 N. Commercial St.  The new show room boasted a rest room with lavatory and wash room which Mrs. Fullerton invited ladies to visit anytime, while out shopping.  With the addition of the factory, the store added a new department dedicated to remaking ladies’ hats.  Old, out of style hats could be re-blocked using zinc block molds and a hydraulic press method, then trimmed and decorated in the latest style all for a fraction of the cost.

The Fullertons would continue their successful business up through the 1930s changing locations numerous times according to city directories.  Including one impressive move into the newly built McGilchrist building in 1916 where they shared the ground floor with Woolworths and Capital Drug.  Their new store was decorated in blue with white enamel woodwork and furniture.  It also boasted a number of unique features for handling and displaying merchandise such as a series of lockers with glass doors for pattern hats, plate glass cases for trimmings, and a white grill backed by mirrors for displaying untrimmed models.  By 1935 the Fullertons had retired to Newport, Oregon where they owned vacation cottages.

This article was written by Kaylyn F. Mabey for the Statesman Journal Newspaper where it appeared on Sunday, May 21, 2017.  It is reproduced here with sources for reference purposes.

Sources:

  1. 1880-1940 U.S. Federal Census Records
  2. Iowa Marriage Records, 1880-1937
  3. Iowa State Census, 1895
  4. Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925
  5. City Directories, 1822-1995
  6. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
  7. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942
  8. Find-a-Grave Memorial website
  9. Washington Death Index
  10. Obituary for Lillian Fullerton – Statesman Journal (Salem, OR), October 8, 1968, p. 10
  11. “Foot Comfort Week at Mrs. P.E. Fullerton” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR), January 16, 1916, p. 10
  12. “Four Tenants Occupy All of Fine Building” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR), May 28, 1916, p. 11
  13. “Window Attracts Attention” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR), May 9, 1915, p. 5
  14. “They Visited Yellowstone Park in Auto” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR), September 4, 1912, p. 4
  15. “Mrs. P.E. Fullerton’s Fine Millinery Parlors” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR), January 1, 1913, p. 28
  16. “To Yellowstone by Automobile” Statesman Journal(Salem, OR), July 6, 1912, p. 2
  17. “The Leading Milliner” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR), January 1, 1910, p. 24
  18. “Salem Ladies Like Eastern Millinery” Statesman Journal(Salem, OR), September 6, 1908, p. 2
  19. “Salem’s Newest and Largest Exclusive Millinery House” Daily Capital Journal (Salem, OR), December 25, 1907 p. 25

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