Saturday, March 28, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of March 22, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Fresh for your weekend browsing - our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, web sites, images, and articles via Twitter.
• 18th c. Masquerade balls.
• Shocking! "Leading actresses in men's togs": it's a 1903 issue of Vanity Fair's Bifurcated Girls!
• About those infamous 18th c. mouse-skin eyebrows: maybe not.
• DIY: how to knit your own ancient Egyptian Coptic socks.
• John Ruskin's romantic mid-19th c. daguerreotypes of Venice.
Image: The early 14th c. architecture at Wells Cathedral was a high-point of civilization. You search for words.
• In 1777, Abigail Adams wrote to John about "Rout and Noise in the Town": the female food riots of the American Revolutions
• Imagine "accidentally" inheriting a 500-year-old manor with a 50-room mansion.
• Goethe's Theory of Colors: The 1810 treatise that inspired Kandinsky and early abstract painting.
Image: Painted stockings, c. 1920.
• New museums to discover in Washington, DC: the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum opened this weekend.
• Self-control and the manly body, 1760-1860.
• The suffocation death of an orphaned chimney sweep in Somers Town, 1788.
• Early 19th c. cheating valets and the tricks of the trade.
• The tragic story of the last UK men hung for gay sex. Dickens wrote about them.
• The turbulent reign of Henry IV.
Image: After the Great Reform Act, Wellington was lampooned for being out of touch with the mood of the era.
• Beware of goblins bearing gifts: the Morristown Ghost.
• Not so prim Pilgrims: Sexual propositions in the Plymouth Colony Court Records, 1633-86.
Bedlam burial ground dig in London could unearth more than 3,000 bodies.
• The growing legend of Lydia Taft: did she really vote in an Uxbridge town meeting in 1756?
• Startling portraits of early English Royals.
• Meet Doris Raymond, the fairy godmother of vintage clothing.
Image: Exquisite wedding bonnet of silk net and blonde lace, c1825-29.
Women, plumbers, and doctors: Advice for American housewives regarding sanitation in the home, 1885.
• For lovers of historical maps: beautiful 17th c. Speed maps of Great Britian.
• Revolutionary women artists, 15th-19th c.
• Hunting for - and finding - medieval people of color in paintings at the Gemaldgalerie, Berlin.
Image: A delicate sight over Greenwich: the young Moon and Venus meet in the west.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Video: A Day at Versailles

Friday, March 27, 2015

Isabella reporting,

This week on Twitter, museums and historic buildings around the world shared behind-the-scenes glimpses of their treasures with the hashtag #SecretsMW (Secrets of Museum Week.) This video was posted by the Chateau de Versailles as their contribution, and surely there must be no grander place in Europe for secrets. I love how this "tour" travels from the Baroque state rooms of Louis XIV to the much lighter, more feminine apartments of Marie-Antoinette, built nearly a century later. Of course there's also the Hall of Mirrors, spouting fountains, astonishing formal gardens, and fireworks to end the day. Just beautiful!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do English Gentlemen Make Good Husbands?

Thursday, March 26, 2015
General George S. Patton
Loretta reports:

General George S. Patton was a complicated, controversial man.  His military career, however, is not our topic.  The Two Nerdy History Girls focus on social history—people and their everyday lives, mainly—rather than politics and wars.  If you want more information about his triumphs and his not-so-stellar moments, you’ll find an abundance of material online, along with the many thousands of pages written about him.

Instead, I present him here between the wars (during the 1920s) as a father, explaining his reasons for declining a position in London in the office of the military attaché:

“We have two marriageable daughters who ... will be rich someday.  If we go to London it stands to reason that one or both of them will marry an Englishman.  Englishmen, well-bred Englishmen, are the most attractive bastards in the world, and they always need all the money they can lay their hands on to keep up the castle, or the grouse moor, or the stud farm, or whatever it is they have inherited.  I served with the British in the war*, and I heard their talk.  They are men’s men, and they are totally inconsiderate of their wives and daughters; everything goes to their sons, nothing to the girls.  I just can’t see Little Bee, or Ruth Ellie in that role.  Someday, just tell them what I did for them and maybe they won’t think I’m such an old bastard after all.”—Carlo D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War
*The Great War/WWI

Image:  George S. Patton signed photo by U.S. Army. Scanned from a file in Patton's personnel record available at the Military Personnel Records Center

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

From the Archives: For Royal Relaxing: The Prince of Wales Banyan, c. 1785

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Because today is a travel day for me, I'm sharing one of my favorite posts from our archives, featuring a banyan, or dressing gown, worn by a stylish English prince.

In 2013, I had the great good fortune to see the exhibition Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion at the RISD Museum in Providence, RI.

Men's wear is often sadly under-represented in fashion collections, making this exhibition of historical and contemporary male clothing that made a bold personal statement for the wearer even more exciting (at least for Nerdy History People, anyway.) There was one room after another of fantastic clothes, from the beautiful linen shirts favored by Beau Brummell to Fred Astaire's tuxedo to Andy Warhol's paint-splattered Ferragamo oxfords.

While the exhibition has long since closed, highlights are still on line here, and the splendid hardcover companion book is available here.

One of the special pieces for me was this 18th c. banyan once worn by George IV (1762-1830) while he was Prince of Wales. (The banyan was making a rare appearance state-side, on loan from the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.) Banyans were a kind of dressing-gown or robe worn by Georgian gentlemen as informal attire (for more information and other examples, see our blogs herehere, and here.) The elaborately patterned cotton chintz would not only have been comfortable - a welcome break from the formal silks of court life - but as a costly textile imported from India, the cotton would also have made a luxurious statement fit for a royal prince.

This banyan was quilted for extra warmth, and the braided closures and high collar, left, add to its exotic appeal. We tend to think of George IV in his later portly days as the Prince Regent, but this banyan, made between 1780-1790, proves that he cut a much less substantial figure as a young man in his twenties – although apparently there are interior panels that prove that the banyan was let out over time to accommodate his growing girth.

I particularly liked the quote that accompanied the banyan. Attributed to George "Beau" Brummell, it perfectly sums up the life around the Prince of Wales and his circle in late 18th c. Brighton, with young gentlemen elegantly lounging in banyans like this one: "Come to Brighton, my dear fellow. Let us be off tomorrow; we'll eat currant-tart, and live in chintz and salt-water."

Banyan, maker unrecorded, c. 1780-90. From the collection of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. Top photo: RISD Museum. Lower photo: Brighton & Hove Museum.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What are Quarter Days?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
The Severe Steward
Loretta reports:

In my book Lord of Scoundrels, Lord Dain refers to an event occurring on Lady-Day.  He does not mean the singer Billie Holiday.

He’s referring to a Quarter Day, as do characters in many books.  These are important dates in the British calendar, as the following page illustrates.  It’s from a little instruction manual, The Guide to General Information on Common Things (1868).

Quarter Days
According to Hone’s Every-day Book, Vol 1,  “Lady Day is a holiday at the Public Offices, except the Excise, Stamp, and Custom.”  He describes various religious festivals associated with the day, then goes on to note:  “In England, Lady Day is only remembered as the first quarter-day of the year, and is therefore only kept by tenants who truly pay rent to their landlords.”

However, servants were customarily paid on quarter days as well.  Though we tend not to use religious holidays as the marking points nowadays, we do continue to to divide the year into quarters for various financial transactions, e.g. quarterly reports.

Image: William Redmore Bigg,The Severe Steward, or Unfortunate Tenant (1800-01), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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

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