James Lewis Casaday
Jun. 23, 1907 - Feb. 19, 1990
Son of James Oliver Casaday and Emma Pauline Myer.
"Early in his life, James Lewis Casaday developed an appreciation for the theater, thanks to the nurturing influence of his mother, Emma Myer Casaday, and his aunt, Ada Myer, both of whom were deeply interested in costuming and stage productions. After graduating from college in the 1920s, he returned to South Bend where he began a long career as a drama teacher in South Bend public schools. Among his students at Central High School were director, Sydney Pollack, celebrated movie costumer Bernie Pollack (Sydney's brother) and Conrad Prebys, a California billionaire real estate magnate who credited James with his love for theater.
Over the course of his career, James amassed an incredible collection of historic clothing, some pieces dating back to the mid-19th century. He repurposed many pieces from his collection to create costumes for his celebrated drama productions."
The most important and exquisite pieces, however, were saved for posterity and donated to the Northern Indiana Historical Society in 1982. Today, the Casaday collection at The History Museum comprises one of the most important historic clothing collections in the region, if not the country.
Items from the Casaday collection are often on display at the museum and sometimes in the Oliver Mansion, which is fitting because James' grandfather worked for James Oliver and James' father was the namesake of James Oliver, whose son, J.D., built the Oliver Mansion.
To learn more about costumes in Hollywood films, visit The History Museum's exhibit "Cut! Costume and the Cinema," on view through Jan. 6.
Published in the South Bend Tribune on February 20, 1990.