In Memoriam: Carol Kregloh and Wilton Dillon

Carol L. Kregloh

Carol Kregloh, curator in the Division of Home and Community Life at the National Museum of American History, died peacefully in her sleep Aug. 18 after a courageous battle against cancer. She was 63.

This year she celebrated more than 40 years of service at NMAH, where she was instrumental in developing the museum’s clothing and accessories collections. Ms. Kregloh began her career at the Smithsonian in 1973 as a doctoral candidate from George Washington University. She focused on the menswear aspects of the collection and her encyclopedic knowledge of men’s style helped her become an authority in the field. Her ability to date almost any item of men’s clothing with precision helped the museum’s collection become one of the best documented in the country.

Ms. Kregloh also was an authority on “Dolly Varden” style (based on the Dolly Varden character in Charles Dickens 1841 book, Barnaby Rudge.) The style – brightly beribboned hats and flowered polonaise dresses – took off as a fad in the 1870s and became an absolute mania in England and the United States. She had great tracking down aspects of the fad, such as an American baseball team attired in Dolly Varden fabrics. Several years ago, she gave a talk as part of American History’s “Looking American” series illustrated with objects from the collection that was so well received she presented it at the Costume Society on America symposium in Las Vegas, where it was acclaimed as one of the best talks ever given at the symposium.

Carol Lorraine Kregloh was born Oct. 3, 1951 in Baltimore. She is survived by husband Peter Kregloh and children Kate Pratt and Eric Kregloh.

Democratization of Clothing in America at the American History Museum in 1974.

Carol Kregloh with husband Peter Kregloh  at the opening of the exhibit “Suiting Everyone: The Democratization of Clothing in America” at the American History Museum in 1974.

(Submitted by colleague Nancy Davis)


Wilton S. Dillon

Wilton S. Dillon, a cultural anthropologist who spent decades leading the Smithsonian Institution’s interdisciplinary conference series, which convened bold-name figures in the humanities and sciences to discuss the grand sweep of civilization, died Aug. 22  of congestive heart failure in Alexandria, Va. He was 92.

Dr. Dillon grew up in the Oklahoma oil fields and said that a teenage stint in journalism fueled his curiosity about social customs and the interplay of cultures. “Writing down what people say and watching what they do were excellent preparation for the human sciences,” he once remarked.

After post-World War II service in the U.S. occupation forces in Japan, he forged a career in anthropological research, studying under and then maintaining warm ties with formidable scholars and lecturers such as Margaret Mead and Claude Lévi-Strauss.

Dr. Dillon settled in Washington in 1963 to take over the African affairs section at the National Academy of Sciences. Six years later, he joined the Smithsonian as director of seminars. He worked closely with Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, who started various initiatives, including Smithsonian magazine and the popular Folklife Festival, to attract younger audiences to the Institution.

Dr. Dillon’s role was to expand the Smithsonian’s seminar offerings and book production, emulating world-class universities. The symposia included commemorations of theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, founding father Thomas Jefferson, the Renaissance-era mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. In addition, Dr. Dillon raised money and served as a liaison to institutions of higher learning.

He retired officially in 1994. At his death, he held the title of senior scholar emeritus.

The son of an oil well driller, Wilton Sterling Dillon was born in Yale, Okla., on July 13, 1923.

He studied creative writing at the University of Alabama and also worked part time for the university’s media office until his ROTC unit was activated in World War II. He served in the Army and later the Army Air Forces and was stationed in the Philippines at the end of the war.

After his discharge, he went to Japan as a civilian information specialist on the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander for the Allied powers. The country, he later told an Alabama alumni publication, was awash with visiting anthropologists who encouraged his study in that field.

He graduated in 1951 from the University of California at Berkeley and a decade later received a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University, where one of his teachers was Mead.

Dr. Dillon’s books included “Gifts and Nations: The Obligation to Give, Receive and Repay” (1968) and a memoir, “Smithsonian Stories” (2015). He was a fellow of professional associations and a past president of the Anthropological Society of Washington and the Literary Society of Washington.

In 1956, he married Virginia Leigh Harris, who died in March. Survivors include a son, Harris Dillon of Staunton, Va.; and a brother.

Wilton S. Dillon (Photo by Carl Anderson)

Wilton S. Dillon (Photo by Carl Anderson)

(This is an edited version of an obituary by Adam Bernstein originally published by The Washington Post.)

Posted: 31 August 2015
About the Author:

The Torch relies on contributions from the entire Smithsonian community.