Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thanksgiving Day's coming, and we're taking a break

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Loretta & Susan report:

As we do every year, the Two Nerdy History Girls will take some time off to prepare for the Thanksgiving Day holiday, celebrated in the U.S. this year on the 23rd.

There will be food, way too much food, probably. There will be friends and family getting together. And there will certainly be thanks.

We’re thankful for many things, including our jobs, which we do believe are among the best in the world. We’re thankful for our readers, who support our work and continue to follow us on our nerdy history peregrinations.

Our voyages into the past will continue after the holiday.
We wish you an abundantly happy one.

Image: Greetings of Thanksgiving, postcard, New York Public Library Digital Collections image ID 1588398.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Alexandra Palace

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Loretta reports:

This qualifies as one of those things you don’t know that you don’t know. I knew about London’s Crystal Palace. Until I happened upon The Queen’s London, however, the Alexandra Palace meant nothing to me. The funny thing is, unlike the Crystal Palace, the Alexandra Palace is still there.

“What the Crystal Palace has been to the south, it was thought the Alexandra Palace would prove to the north, of London. The former was built of the materials used for the Exhibition of 1851 ; the latter, of those employed for the Exhibition of 1862. A superb site, north of Hornsey and east of Muswell Hill, was chosen for it, and it was opened in May, 1873. Fourteen days later the building was burnt down; and, Phoenix-like, the present structure rose from its ashes, being finished in just under two years. It is very fine in its way, and contains all manner of courts and a fine concert-hall. The grounds, too, with their ornamental water, are delightful. But for some years now, with the exception of an occasional Short season, the Palace has unfortunately been closed.

The Queen's London: A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks, and Scenery of the Great Metropolis in the Fifty-ninth Year of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria 1897*

And so, one thinks, another amazing building lost. But no.
***
This northern rival of the Crystal Palace, finely situated on Muswell Hill, was, after a chequered career, acquired in 1901 for the public use, and is controlled by a board of Trustees representing various local authorities. The grounds, comprising over 160 acres, command fine views of London and the country to the north, and contain a boating lake, cycling track, swimming baths etc. The Great Hall will hold about 14,000 people, and has a fine organ. During summer, attractive concerts and other entertainments are given in the grounds. Adjoining is the Alexandra Park Racecourse.
A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to London and Its Environs 1919

John Bointon, Alexandra Palace from the Air
Unlike other abandoned structures, and in spite of burning down twice, the Alexandra Palace not only survived that “chequered career” but is still in use today. It has quite a fascinating and eventful history, which I won’t attempt to summarize here. You can find out more at the palace website's Did You Know?” section. Wikipedia has a lengthy entry as well.
Details about the first fire here. Image of Belgian refugees housed in Palace here.


*My personal copy (couldn’t help myself, once I discovered the book’s existence), from which I scanned the image above, is dated 1896.
Color photograph below, Alexandra Palace from the Air, by by John Bointon, via Wikimedia.org, Creative Commons License.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

From the 2NHG Library: "The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking"

Sunday, November 12, 2017
Susan reporting,

With the holidays approaching, books are always on the top of the 2NHG lists for both giving and receiving. Here's one that will appeal to many of our readers who love historic clothing, the 18th century, and recreating period clothing for re-enacting and interpreting. It would also be welcomed by anyone who enjoys reading about the Georgian era, and wonders exactly how stays and hoops and pockets all fit together on a woman's body.

The book is The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking: How to Hand Sew Georgian Gowns and Wear Them with Style by Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox (Page Street Publishing) and it's a wonderful introduction to recreating and wearing 18thc fashions, exactly as that over-long title says. For those of you unfamiliar with the American Duchess brand: it's a company founded by co-author Lauren Stowell and devoted to creating replicas of historic footwear for modern feet. Their products have appeared in film, television, and on Broadway (from Outlander to Hamilton), and walked everywhere from red carpets to battlefield re-enactments. This is the first American Duchess book, and perfectly designed to serve the market that wears their shoes.

Hundreds of color photographs cover not only every step of cutting, sewing, and construction representative women's garments, but also demonstrate how to wear and style the clothes accurately. Instructions are included for undergarments and accessories, too. Although the book assumes the reader may possess zero background in 18thc costuming, there is also plenty here to interest those with more experience, with glossaries of fashion terms, explanations of 18thc sewing and fabric, and troubleshooting advice.

I'm guessing that much of the expertise in this book comes from co-author Abby Cox, who earned a M.Litt in Decorative Arts and Design History from the University of Glasgow. Abby's name (and face) will be familiar to long-time readers of this blog from her years as an apprentice mantua-maker at Colonial Williamsburg, where she cheerfully both shared her knowledge and posed for my camera for numerous blog posts. As a member of CW's historic trades program, Abby learned 18thc sewing techniques from Mistress of the Trade Janea Whitacre, and that training and practice shows in every page of this book. While The American Duchess Guide isn't a Colonial Williamsburg publication, it does reflect the high standards set by Janea and the other mantua-makers of the Margaret Hunter Shop. Even the most accuracy-focused readers and sewers will be pleased by the detailed instructions and photographs. If you're like me, you'll soon be eager to try your hand at a gracefully elegant Italian Gown in flowered chintz.

All in all, an informative and entertaining look at a particularly lovely period of women's dress (I know, I'm biased.) You can purchase it here on Amazon.

Full disclosure: I received a pre-publication copy of this book for review. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of November 6, 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• "Huge and black-bearded and ferocious": Byron's manservant Tita Falcieri.
• Why are these 1940s clothes so happy?
• Ten interesting facts about Napoleon's family.
• Dressing the graves for All-Saints Day in New Orleans, 1845.
• Salem's 1692 anti-woman witch hunt.
• John and Abigail Adams, the first President and First Lady to live in the (unfinished) White House.
Image: Royal Garden Party guests, 1935.
• A cricket on Ascension Day keeps bad luck away.
• When the wild beast of Gevaudan terrorized France.
Image: The portable darkroom used by Roger Fenton, a pioneer of war photography, during the Crimea War, 1855.
• The Queen was amused: Queen Victoria's Halloween celebrations at Balmoral Castle.
Home in a can: when trailers offered a compact version of the American Dream.
• Many fortune-telling games of the past were designed for girls and young women to see their romantic futures.
• A forgotten/lost manuscript by poet John Donne is rediscovered.
Jolly Jane Toppan, the killer nurse obsessed with death.
Image: Marie-Antoinette's initials are engraved in this repoussed music stand.
William Dawes tells a good story (and it even seems it's true, too.)
• The enduring allure of Baba Yaga, an ancient swamp witch who loved to eat people.
Image: The message on this c1900 trade card is just...strange.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Video: Flights of Fashion, 1946

Friday, November 10, 2017

Susan reporting,

Here's another wonderful short newsreel fashion-film from British Pathe. In the days before television, these were shown in movie houses along with a feature film, and were intended to entertain a wide audience. Considering the date - 1946 - I imagine this kind of stylish frivolity was far beyond the means of most English women, but the cheerful commentary, outlandish hats, and in-flight fashion show must have been a welcome diversion at the time. And how modern many of the clothes look today!

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