Mary Emmons (1760-1835)

Materials: Leather and quills.

Materials: Leather and quills.

The Loves of Aaron Burr:
Portraits in Corsetry & Binding

Mary Emmons (1760-1835)

Believed to have born in Calcutta, Mary Emmons, aka Eugénie Bearhani (phonetic spelling), is known to have traveled through St. Domingue (Hayti) before moving to Philadelphia, where she worked in the Burr household. Separated for long periods of
time from his fatally ill wife, Theodosia, long suffering uterine cancer, and daughter also Theodosia. Burr and Mary seem to have been a consolation to one another during his
time working in the Congress.  

Family members shared a marriage certificate with historians, since destroyed, substantiating their relationship. In a letter from Philadelphia to his daughter Theodosia, Burr affectionately refers to a woman feels affection and an obligation to that is possibly Mary. Both the Burr and Emmons families think of her as Burr’s second wife.

In 1788 Burr and Mary Emmons had a daughter, Louisa Charlotte, and in 1792, Jean (John) Pierre Burr was born.  While of mixed race, both children considered themselves “colored”. Burr provided them with the education reserved exclusively for white males, practicing the equalitarian principles he believed in. While Louisa followed her mother in a career as a domestic, she married one of the principals in Pennsylvania Augustine Society for the Education of People of Colour, a school by and for blacks. Her son’s autobiographical The Garies and Their Friends was the second novel by an African American.

Thought to be “the image of his father,” Jean Pierre Burr practiced what his father preached as a member of The Vigilant Committee. Seminal to founding Philadelphia’s abolitionist movement, his barbershop was an early station on the Underground Railroad, noted on tourist maps of Philadelphia today. 

The corset created as a portrait of Mary Emmons has no letters because there are none known. The outside is the backside of velvet bound in leather lacings interwoven over the surface, noting her lot in life as a servant. The inside is the soft velvet pile with an overlay of the soft tips of turkey feathers creating a soft visual and tactile sensation.

Kurt Thometz & Camilla Huey


References: Ballard, Alan. One More Day’s Journey: The Story of a Family and a People. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984.

The Loves Of Aaron Burr:
Portraits in Corsetry & Binding
The Film 

Drawing connections between her own interpretive work
and the historic corsets exhibited in

Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of the Silhouette
Camilla Huey will speak on the changing architectural, structural, and functional forms
of corsets, corset-making, materials, and methodologies. The artist employs these
forms in her unique approach to analyzing portraits of nine 18th- and 19th-century women. Through ephemera, fetishism, material culture, and texts, the artist
invites the audience to follow both design and historic research as she explores biographical narrative. She will bring selected works from her exhibition,

The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding

Preview May 7, 6pm Bard Graduate Center
38 West 86th Street, New York City 10024
$25 RSVP

The Premiere of
The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding Film
with select works from the exhibition at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Manhattan's oldest house the very place where the lives of these women, filming and exhibition took place.
A reception and screening with discussion to follow.
View the works of 
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Colonial Arrangements before.

Premiere May 14, 6pm Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace, New York City 10032
$25 RSVP

Camilla Huey (artist/couturière) has exhibited artwork at the Bard Graduate Center
and the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City. Her exhibit, 
The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding, paid homage to the women who surrounded and influenced this controversial founding father.