Friday, August 21, 2015

Gone Fishin'

Friday, August 21, 2015

Isabella and Loretta reporting,

Yes, it's that time of the year again, when we're taking a little time away from blogging, tweeting, pinning, IG-ing, and FB-ing to recharge and relax, and blissfully concentrate on doing nothing. We hope you, too, will find pleasurable ways to enjoy these last weeks of summer.

As the old song says, we'll see you in September!

Above: Detail, Karrie Boyd Foster and Suzie, Anna, and Lena Schlechten Fishing, near Bozeman, Montana, by Schlechten Brothers, 1915. Museum of the Rockies.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Friday video: The Clock That Changed the World

Thursday, August 20, 2015
Loretta reports:

Years ago, after reading Dava Sobel’s Longitude, my husband and I were very excited to see the actual Harrison chronometers at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

This BBC program does a good job of explaining, in half an hour, Harrison’s achievement. It also might make some elements of Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey series a bit more comprehensible.

You can see one of the clocks we saw at Greenwich here.

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

From the Archives: The Truth about the Big Hair of the 1770s: Part II: How They Did It


Isabella reporting,

Here's the second part of our popular "big hair" posts, continuing where Part One left off. Thanks again to Abby Cox for sharing her research with us!

Considering the towering hairstyles worn by women in the 1770s, the question that inevitably comes to mind is "how did they do it?" For the answer, I turned to two of our friends from Colonial Williamsburg, the manuta-maker's apprentices of the Margaret Hunter shop: Abby Cox and Sarah Woodyard.

These two young women not only dress in the clothing of the 1770s on a daily basis, but they are constantly researching the period to make their "look" as authentic as possible. Because they participated in the fashion trades, 18th c. milliners, mantua-makers, and their shop assistants dressed in the latest styles as a form of advertising as well as personal preference. This can be seen in prints like the one, right, where the milliners are wearing elaborate hair and caps. (For a photograph of the Margaret Hunter shop's interpretation of this print for a recent conference, see here - plenty more big hair!)

As part of her apprenticeship, Abby has been searching primary sources and prints for the secrets of these hairstyles, and of Georgian hair-care in general. Here are a few of her findings (and many thank to her for sharing them!)

First, forget 21st notions of bouncy, squeaky-clean hair. Eighteenth-century women did not scrub their hair clean, so much as cleanse it. Instead of daily lathering of soap and water (which can damage hair), they worked pomatum into the hair with their fingers, added powder, and then brushed and combed vigorously. The pomatum could have been made at home or purchased, and consisted of animal fat plus fragrance. The powder would have included some sort of finely-ground starch, with ground sheep or beef bones and ground orris-root for a light floral scent.

Following an 18th c. recipe, Abby made pomatum of mutton fat and pig's lard with essence of lemon and clove oil, to be kept in a jar. I can report that this mixture smelled absolutely, delightfully spicy – plus, as Abby noted, clove oil is a natural flea and tick repellent. The recipe for her hair powder came from The Toilet of Flora, first published in 1772 (and here online.) Think of the pomatum as a rich, deep conditioner applied as a kind of scalp massage, followed by the powder as dry shampoo. This treatment is hardly limited to the Georgians, either. Indian women, known for their beautiful, long hair, have long followed a similar cleansing regimen of oiling and combing.

This process was done frequently, too. No matter how elaborate the style, Georgian women always took their hair down at night and combed it out. For many women, this was likely a relaxing, aromatherapeutic ritual for the end of the day - although there were no doubt some lazy, slovenly hussies who didn't, giving rise to the myths about maggots.

Hair that had been treated like this made styling much easier, just as modern hairdressers rely on powdered dry shampoo to add texture and body before attempting up-dos. More powder was dusted on before styling to achieve the fashionable matte, "dusty" look of powder and to make dark hair paler. Unlike the beehives of the 1950's-60's, Georgian women did not tease their hair, but added extra volume with padded forms called rollers and cushions, middle right. Think of them as the 18th c. answer to Bumpits.

Sewn of wool cloth to match the wearer's hair, these were shaped pillows stuffed lightly with down or sheep's wool. The hair was wrapped around, (that's Abby demonstrating, middle left), or pulled through the forms, and smoothed and pinned (with u-shaped hairpins) into the desired shape. Side curls could be rolled and pinned into place, and extra touches could include braids or false curls. (Wearing a more elaborate style, above left, is the third of the shop's summer interns, Rebecca Starkins, a PhD candidate at N.Y.U. in English literature.) There was no mousse, gel, or hairspray; the pomatum and the powder offered the necessary staying-power.

How long would all this take a busy 18th c. apprentice before she appeared for work? If Abby and Sarah are any indication, not long at all. They accomplished these elaborate styles in about ten to fifteen minutes, or less time than many modern young women spend with blow-dryers and flat-irons. A skilled 18th c. professional hairdresser would have been able to perform the basics in less time, plus construct a more towering edifice of hair complete with flowers, ribbons, and strands of pearls.

More impressive still is the fact that both Abby and Sarah have both given up modern hair care products altogether, and "practice what they preach" with pomatum and powder. When they go visit their (modern) hairdressers for a cut, they're greeted with amazement, for their hair is healthy, strong, and thick - and, they swear, in better condition than ever. Hmm...perhaps the old ways ARE the best.

For the record: The length of Abby's hair is just below her shoulders, Sarah's is to the middle of her back, and Rebecca's is to her waist. Many thanks to them all!

Upper right: detail, A Morning Ramble, or - The Milliners' Shop, published by Carington Bowles, 1782. The British Museum.
Photographs by the Margaret Hunter Shop and Susan Holloway Scott.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Those American Goliaths [from the archives]

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Gilbert Stuart, Dolley Madison 1804
Loretta reports:

Lieut. Francis Hall, an Englishman traveling in North America in 1816-1817, offers some fascinating observations of the young United States and its people. Dolley Madison, at left, was the president's lady at the time.
The President, or rather his lady, holds drawing-room weekly, during the sitting of Congress. He takes by the hand those who are presented to him; shaking hands being discovered in America to be more rational and manly than kissing them. For the rest, it is much as such things are every where, chatting, and tea, compliments and ices, a little music, (some scandal, I suppose, among the ladies,) and to bed. Nothing in these assemblies more attracted my notice, than the extraordinary stature of most of the western members; the room seemed filled with giants, among whom, moderately sized men crept like pigmies. I know not well, to what the difference may be attributed, but the surprising growth of the inhabitants of the Western states is matter of astonishment to those of the Eastern, and of the coast line generally. This phenomenon, which is certainly a considerable stumbling-block to the Abbé Raynal's theory, may probably be resolved into the operation of three positive causes, and one negative, namely, plentiful but simple food, a healthy climate, constant exercise in the open air, and the absence of mental irritation. In a more advanced stage of society, luxurious and sedentary habits produce in the rich that enfeeblement of vitality, which scanty food, and laborious or unwholesome occupations bring upon the poor. The only persons to be compared with these Goliahs of the West, were six Indian chiefs from Georgia, Chactaws or Chickasaws, who having come to Washington on public business, were presented at Mrs. Madison's drawing-room.

They had a still greater appearance of muscular power than the Americans; and while looking on them, I comprehended the prowess of those ancient knights, whose single might held an army in check, "and made all Troy retire."
—Lieut. Francis Hall, "Washington," from Travels in Canada, and the United States, in 1816 and 1817, courtesy Library of Congress.

Images: Gilbert Stuart, Dolley Madison 1804, courtesy Wikipedia; George Caitlin, “Three Celebrated Ball Players—Choctaw, Sioux, and Ojibbeway,” 1861, National Gallery of Art, Paul Mellon Collection [my photograph of the painting].

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.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

From the Archives: The Truth about the Big Hair of the 1770s: Part One

Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Isabella reporting,

This post, and the second part that will appear here on Thursday, are among our all-time most popular blog posts. Unfortunately, they're also among our most plagiarized and "borrowed" as well, and hacked versions have appeared all over the internet, without credit to us or to Abby Cox and her ground-breaking, hands-on research. Here's the original - accept no substitutes!

Even people who don't know anything about 18th c. women's fashion know about the hair. Towering hair styles, wigs filled with maggots, clouds of powder making everyone sneeze - EVERYONE knows that!

They may know it, but that version isn't quite right. Negative myths about past-fashion like maggot-filled wigs and rib-breaking corsets are so easy to accept because they're self-congratulatory. We're so much wiser now in 2014, aren't we?

The truth about the elaborate hair styles of the 1770s is actually more interesting than the myths, and makes more sense, too. Yes, it's an extreme style, first worn at the French Court before traveling to England. It's a status-fashion, too. The complexity of the styles showed that the wearer had both the leisure-time to devote to her hair, and most often the wealth to employ a professional hairdresser or accomplished lady's maid to achieve it. The height framed the face, and balanced out the full skirts of the period, creating a proportion that was much admired at the time. (Anyone who believes modern fashion is beyond extremes like this need only recall the huge power-shoulders popular in women's clothing of the 1980s.)

The Duchess of Beaufort, above left, is going for the height of formal hair, with a very large hair style given a dusting of pale powder; her natural brunette color is just showing through the powder.

Big hair was considered stylish for less formal wear, too. Mrs. Vere, upper right, is simply dressed. Her hair is not powdered, and while it's free of ribbons and hats, it is still piled and pinned to a towering height.

Nor were the tall hairstyles limited to the upper classes. From contemporary prints and paintings, it's clear that women who aspired to fashion - maidservants, actresses, milliners, and mantua-makers, as well as the mistresses of wealthy gentlemen - also copied the taller styles. The bar maid, middle left, crowns her hair with an elaborate cap, the better to beguile her customers.

What astonishes me is that these styles were, for the most part, not wigs, but the wearer's own hair. Nearly all Georgian gentlemen cropped their hair short and wore wigs, but few women did. Women did not cut their hair, but let it grow as long as possible. This hair was augmented with pads and rollers (more about these in Part Two), and if necessary enhanced with false curls and switches. Further embellishment came in the form of plumes, caps, hats, swags of ribbon and strands of faux pearls.

Of course, the caricaturists had a field day. The extreme hair styles were exaggerated even more, like the lady, bottom right, who is wearing an entire flower garden (including a folly) in her hair. You'll find another print here, and here. Not only could such prints make fun of the tall styles, but they also mocked the vanity of women and the foolishness of French fashions: a triple-win for the caricaturists.

But how did those women in the 1770s make their hair do this? Thanks to some of my good friends (including mantua-maker's apprentice Sarah Woodyard, bottom left) from Colonial Williamsburg, you can find out in Part II here.

Top left: Detail, Duchess of Beaufort, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1778, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
Top right: Detail, Mrs. Vere, by Nathaniel Dance, 1770s, private collection.
Middle left: Detail, The Pretty Bar Maid, 1778, printed by Carington Bowles. Walpole Library, Yale University.
Middle right: Detail, The Flower Garden, printed by Matthias Darly, 1777. Walpole Library, Yale University.
Bottom left: Photograph courtesy of the Margaret Hunter Shop, Colonial Williamsburg.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Miseries of Human Life [from the archives]

Monday, August 17, 2015
Cruikshank, The Headache, 1819
Loretta reports:

James Beresford’s The Miseries of Human Life, which first appeared in 1806, is still funny.  I own the Past Times 1995 adaptation, whose cover bears the Cruikshank illustration, "The Head ache," shown at left, and from whose spine a ball & chain dangles.  This version drops the numerous Latin phrases of the original, as well as the dialogue form—a style popular in the late 18th and early 19th C, which modern readers may find a bit arch and artificial.  Yet I’d suggest you try the original anyway, because it’s full of funny little bits, and many of its miseries apply today as well as then.
MISERIES PERSONAL, EXISTENTIAL AND OF THE BODY
The horror of contriving how to adjust one’s legs and arms at the age of nineteen in a drawing room.

MISERIES OF TRAVELLING
In speeding through towns and turnpikes, the nervous habits and desperate manoeuvres to which you are perpetually driven, to avoid gratifying successive shoals of children, in their eager wishes and strenuous endeavours to be run over.

MISERIES OF SOCIAL LIFE
Sitting down alone in a large party upon a sofa that makes an equivocal noise.

MISERIES OF FASHIONABLE LIFE
Being a lady of a certain age, throwing yourself into your carriage at daybreak, after some long and fatiguing orgy, finding yourself face to face with your gentleman escort, with the killing consciousness that the beams of the rising sun, by pointing at certain derangements in the composition of your countenance, are gradually rectifying a few chronological errors in your own history, into which you had been leading him an hour before.
Cruikshank, Cat-sitting 1808


MISERIES DOMESTIC
Squatting plump on an unsuspected cat in your chair.

Being serenaded at your window, all night long, by the tender war-whoop of two cats, performed with demoniacal variations and professional enthusiasm.

MISERIES OF THE TABLE
Slipping your knife suddenly and violently from off a bone, its edge first shrieking across the plate (so as to make you hated by yourself and the whole company), and then driving the plate before it, and lodging all its contents—meat, gravy, melted butter, vegetables, &c., &c., partly on your own breeches, partly on the cloth, partly on the floor, but principally on the lap of a charming girl who sits by you, and to whom you had been diligently endeavoring to recommend yourself as a suitor.

While swallowing a raspberry, discovering by its taste that you have been so unhappy as to occasion the death of a harmless insect!
Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank, among others, illustrated various editions of the book.

Images: Cruikshan, The Headache (1819) courtesy Wikipedia; Cruikshank, Cat-sitting  (1808) courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

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.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of August 9, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015
For your weekend browsing pleasure - our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images via Twitter.
The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved 271 years later - including a cover-up by the Admiralty.
• Bathing machines from 18thc. England to early America.
Carriage accidents and remedies in 18th-early19thc.
Video: New England tribal members paddle the largest mishoon - Wampanoag for boat - built in hundreds of years.
• American frontiersman Jim Bowie - before the gaudy legend that made him a history favorite.
• What to wear to a riot in Boston in 1765.
• The hidden 18th-19thc hospital at Bamburgh Castle.
Cannabis discovered in 400-year-old tobacco pipes in William Shakespeare's garden.
Image: The Ball at the Guildhall, held to celebrate the Great Exhibition, 1851, by William Wyld.
• The ruins of Christ Church, Greyfriars, London, and a 14thc. "she wolf."
• How not to have gotten lost touring Georgian Britain - Paterson's Roads would have been the perfect guide.
• As election season heats up and candidates begin misquoting famous historical figures, here's a list of some of the famous things Abraham Lincoln never said.
Bathing in 17th-18thc. Britain and Europe in paintings.
Image: Volcano tourism: taking a sedan chair to the top of Vesuvius in 1906.
• The Roanoke colonists: lost, and now found?
• A very charming, very early sampler (1729) worked by Martha Butler in Boston.
• What do angling and Newgate Prison have in common?
• The pirates of Paternoster Row: ruses and reprints in the 18thc Lady's Magazine, long before copyrights.
Image: Lovely art nouveau shop front by J.S.Corder, 1902, in Ipswich.
• Just grim: Burger King tries to block trademark application for 1,200 year old Book of Kells.
• Pass the port, Dr. Jenner (and plenty of it, too.)
• The lost language of Italian umbrellas & parasols, and the men who made them.
• Why and when did Americans begin to dress so casually?
Image: How did these survive? Fragments of ancient Fraser tartan wore by Fraser of Struy at the Battle of Culloden, 1745.
• Recipe: recreate a loaf of bread from Pompeii, without the unexpectedly high oven temperature.
• Interesting idea for an exhibition: art and artifacts that have been fractured and mended.
• Dead men telling tales: 19thc. gibbet lore.
• The hidden Victorian graffiti of the Tate Modern museum.
Image: Just for fun: the Force was strong with Founders.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Video: A Quick Tour of Castle Howard

Friday, August 14, 2015
Isabella reporting,

When most of us decide to part with extra stuff around the house for a little extra cash, we turn to the local second-hand shop, flea market, or garage sale. But if you're the family of the Earl of Carlisle and your house is Castle Howard, you turn to Sotheby's auction house.

As we've noted before here on the blog, maintaining an enormous English country house in the 21st century is an equally enormous challenge. No matter how beautiful the house may be or how rich in history: age, deferred maintenance,  and the taxman will take their toll, requiring the noble families to turn to creative ways to make certain the houses survive. (See here for more about Ugbrooke Park, home of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh; St. Giles House, home of the Earl of Shaftsbury, and Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), home of the Earl of Carnovan.)

Earlier this year, the Howard family sold nine of their family treasures at auction. No flyers on telephone poles for them - instead Sotheby's created this elegant video that offers a quick yet breathtaking tour of Castle Howard along with highlighting the pieces in the sale. Fans of the 80s version of Brideshead Revision (which was filmed at Castle Howard) will recognize the unmistakable voice of actor Jeremy Irons as the narrator.

If you'd like to read more about the Castle Howard and the famous family who has lived there, here's the post on the Sotheby's website. And if you're curious to learn the results of the sale, here's the overview, including the prices realized.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Coaching Accidents Will Happen

Thursday, August 13, 2015
Coach Accident
Loretta reports:

We historical romance writers frequently make use of coaching accidents and drunken coachmen in our stories. Unlike the number of dukes we’ve created—which at this point must far exceed the total of all noblemen in 19th-century Great Britain—coaching accidents are, unfortunately, not an exaggeration. They occur frequently in Dickens’s novels because they occurred frequently. He experienced several.

Isabella/Susan sent me a link to Geri Walton’s recent post on the subject, at the History of the 18th and 19th Centuries blog. Ms. Walton explains the many ways carriage and coach travel could go wrong. One method she doesn’t mention is the following, apparently based on an actual incident:
“Heads, heads—take care of your heads!" cried the loquacious stranger, as they came out under the low archway, which in those days formed the entrance to the coach-yard. "Terrible place—dangerous work—other day—five children —mother—tall lady, eating sandwiches—forgot the arch— crash—knock—children look round—mother's head off—sandwich in her hand—no mouth to put it in—head of a family off—shocking, shocking!”

Coach Accident
—Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (more commonly known as The Pickwick Papers)

Look into any book about coaching, and you’ll read about accidents.

The clipping at right comes from the 1819 Annual Register* for 13 August.

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.

Image: C.B. Newhouse, "A Passing Remark," from Thomas Cross, The Autobiography of a Stage Coachman (1904), courtesy Internet Archive.

 
*Account of the year 1819, published in 1820.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An Intricate Love Token from 18thc. New England

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Earlier this year I shared a charmingly hand-drawn and intricately folded love token, or puzzle purse, created in late 18thc. Pennsylvania by a now unknown German-American. Called a liebesbrief, or love-letter, the watercolor token was folded in a complicated manner that made it as much a puzzle as a letter.

This week a very similar love token, left, appeared on the Houghton Library blog as a new acquisition for their collection. As with the Pennsylvania German liebesbrief, the identity of the creator of this piece has been lost beyond his initials: E.W. He was apparently a rejected suitor who created the token for his beloved, hoping she'd reconsider his marriage proposal. There's no word as to whether his ink and watercolor plea changed her mind, but I like to think that the token's survival over two hundred shows that she preserved the token - and said yes.

I won't paraphrase Houghton's blog post, written by our friend curator John Overholt. You can read it here, plus see more images and a gif of the token unfolding. But I thought it was fascinating that the two pieces - one created in Pennsylvania, and the other in New England -  were so similar both in their design, and their emotion. No matter the medium, love will always find a voice.

Above: Love Token, maker unknown, late 18thc. New England. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Is It a Pelerine, a Mantilla, or Something Else?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

 Loretta reports:

Continuing my report on my recent trip to the Historic Paine Estate, the Oaks,* I call on our fashion historians to play Sherlock Holmes.

The majority of items in the Oaks’ collection have very little historical information attached. In all too many cases, we know only the name of the donor—and sometimes not even that. In the way of clues, Jennifer Willson, who is working on organizing the vast treasure trove, has this to say: “ ... the bulk of these items were donated in the early days of the chapter after the purchase of the Oaks in 1914,  so from a 1910 or 1920 standpoint, the items were considered "old."  I can only assume that they were the former possessions of the mothers and grandmothers of those women and date them that way, since belongings tend to scatter to the wind after more than a generation or two.”

So that seems to put us in the Victorian era for the majority of the collection, but which part of that lengthy era (1837-1901) is the question.

This beautiful cape or mantelet or mantilla or pelerine or _______________? is today’s mystery item. The black has faded somewhat, but otherwise it seems to be in very good condition. It might have been worn as mourning, or simply as fashionable black. The bugles and fringe make me think “mourning.” What do you think?

And where would you place it on a timeline? If I had days to spend on the research, I could probably narrow things down quite a bit, but blogging is my side job. Here’s what my researches have produced in the short time allotted.

Do we think it belongs to the 1850s, like “le Bijou” of 1855? (elsewhere in this volume of Godey’s we see “the Rosaline” and “the Raglan”) or this article for 1856.

Or is it much later?

Demonstrating the trickiness of dating such items, this one is placed between 1860-1900.

I know the ladies of the Oaks will be grateful for enlightenment—as will I and many other readers.

If you’d like to see the cape/mantelet/mantilla/pelerine in person, this year’s remaining visiting days are 12 September and 3 October 1-4PM.  The DAR also holds a Christmas Open House in early December, with the Oaks dressed up for the holidays. The Historic Paine Estate, 140 Lincoln Street, Worcester, MA. For more info or special group tour scheduling, please contact the DAR Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter: col.timothybigelowchapter@gmail.com

Previous posts on the Historic Paine Estate, the Oaks, here and here.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Trade (and Art) of Making 18thc. Trim

Sunday, August 9, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Silk trim was the final decorative icing on an 18thc. lady's elaborate dress, whether the last delicate accent to a costly silk or an important element of design on a solid-colored gown. I've written about trimming before, and most recently featured this spectacular sack-back dress covered with multi-colored trimming that brings the white gown to life.

While I was recently visiting Colonial Williamsburg, our good friends in the Margaret Hunter shop were busily recreating knotted silk trim for use on future projects. They were making a variety called floss fringe, sometimes called fly fringe (though the historical jury is still out as to whether "fly fringe" was a term used in the 18thc., or is a later expression.) Silk thread is knotted in regular intervals, which are then cut apart into short pieces, or fringes, marked by the knots. The ends of each fringe are brushed and spread apart for a tassel-like effect. Then these fringes are in turn knotted at regular intervals into a chain-stitched base.

It is a great deal of practice and precise handwork. In the shop, these modern young women estimated that it was taking them about three hours to produce a foot of trim. Their 18thc. counterparts would have been much faster, with trim-making being its own skilled trade. Working in teams of three (two to make the fringes, and one to complete the knotting), experienced trim-makers could produce twelve yards of trim in an average workday. Twelve yards was also the standard length, wrapped on a card for sale, with most trims costing about two shillings a card in the 1770s.

As a branch of the millinery trades, and, in a larger scope, the fashion trade, trim-makers were almost exclusively women. Smaller hands were more adept at knotting the delicate silk threads, and children, too, were often employed in making the fringes.

In our mass-produced modern world, trim-making might seem like a hopelessly antiquated skill. But Christina, above left, who is spending the summer as an intern at the shop, thinks otherwise. Later this month she'll return to her full-time job as a librarian and teacher, and she's planning to incorporate the 18thc. trim-making skills she's acquired with young children into her classes. Not only will trim-making help develop small-motor skills and manual dexterity, but it also teaches patience, precision, and making design choices of color and size. There's a bit of history in the mix, too, showing the kind of trades open to young women in the 18thc., and the skills that would have been prized at that time. Plus, in the end, each young worker will learn the satisfaction of making something, plus get a piece of trim to take with her (or him, for trades are less gender-specific now) to take home with pride. Not bad for an archaic trade.

But you can give trim-making a try yourself. Christina and mantua-maker's apprentice Sarah Woodyard have put several short videos showing the steps of floss fringe making on the shop's Facebook page. They're fascinating, and I also found the rhythm of the women's hands across the silk beautiful to watch as well.

Here is the link to the first step, tying the knots.

Here is the link to the second step, clipping the thread into between the knots.

And here is the link to the third step, inserting the silk fringes into the silk gimp chain to complete the fringe.

Many thanks to Sarah and Christina for their help with this post.

Photographs ©2015 by Susan Holloway Scott. Videos courtesy of the Margaret Hunter Shop, Colonial Williamsburg.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of August 3, 2015

Saturday, August 8, 2015
For your weekend reading and browsing - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images via Twitter.
• When flirtation cards were all the rage.
Archives of desire: a lavender reading of J.Edgar Hoover.
• Now available to explore online: Richard Horwood's wonderfully detailed map of London, 1792-1799.
• Yes, mainstream Americans were eating and enjoying sushi in 1905.
• The success of sweet smells: fascinating look at the golden age of perfumery.
Image: Memorial scroll for a WWI nurse who died in 1915, returned "undelivered" because she had "no next of kin and no friends."
• Were the illegitimate children of Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson secretly baptised in 1803?
• London's Ward of Bridge and Bridge Without: Magnus, the monument, and mice eating cheese.
• A short history of confetti.
• Silk roads: mapping Federal Boston at Mrs. Rowson's Young Ladies Academy.
• An unexpected architectural feature: spider-web windows.
Image: Fantastic 19thc patchwork quilt made by three Welsh sisters.
Shawls and wraps in 19thc. art, literature, and fashion history.
• Debunking a favorite food history myth: ice cream was invented by Dolley Madison...or was it Martha Washington?
• John F. Kennedy's PT-109 gold tie clip, and the story behind it.
• Before emails, letters from artists could be the best: one from Andrew Wyeth in 1969 with a pailful of blueberries.
• The fantastic swimming pools designed by architect Julia Morgan (1872-1957).
Image: Who knew that astronaut Buzz Aldrin had to fill out a travel voucher for his trip to the moon?
• Ten of England's most beautiful and historical synagogues.
• New discoveries at Jamestown provide fresh insights into the lives of the early settlers of the first permanent English colony in America.
• "One and twenty daft days" in 1822: King George IV visits Scotland.
Image: Correct flapper posture in 1928.
Toast water! Could the next foodie trend be coming straight from Mrs. Beeton's Victorian cookery?
• Scribbling the same as mere mortals: Sir Isaac Newton's college notebook.
• A newly discovered manuscript reveals what Thoreau learned about Margaret Fuller's tragic drowning.
• The philanthropic cat, 1823
Blue Anchor Corner, home to one of Britain's most secretive organizations for smuggling in the 18th-19thc.
Image: Loving this news story: "Thrashed by a Lady Cyclist."
• Study of an 1860 summer day dress.
• "It preserveth in vigour the principal faculties, enabling men to prosecute their Studies and tedious exercises": the uses of chocolate, 1672.
• The craze for Turkish baths in Victorian Ireland.
Image: This daguerreotype from 1839 could be the oldest photograph of London.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Video: A Musical Interlude With Four Women

Friday, August 7, 2015
Loretta reports:

Today's video offers no nerdy history, unless we take into account the music selections, which range from Vivaldi to Kurt Weill.

The group is the classically seductive Salut Salon quartet: Angelika Bachmann (violin), Iris Siegfried (violin and vocals), Anne-Monika von Twardowski (piano) and Sonja Lena Schmid (cello).



Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

From an English Magazine: A French Hat with Italian Flowers, 1775

Thursday, August 6, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Fashion history often focuses on what the elite classes were wearing in cities and at court, and overlooks what more ordinary people wore. The 1770s are usually represented by the extremes of high fashion as shown in fashion plates and caricatures, with exaggerated false rumps and hoops and towering hair crowned by elaborate hats and plumes (like this and this).

Yes, there were women - usually young, fashion-conscious, and willing to spend lavishly - who embraced the absolute latest styles. But just as few women today dress in clothes straight from the runways of New York and Paris, the majority of 18thc. women preferred clothes and hats that were not so much duplicating the latest fashion, as inspired by it.

The Lady's Magazine in May, 1775, listed a number of hat styles that were popular that spring. Unlike the detailed fashion reporting from the early 19thc. magazines that Loretta shares, readers of the Lady's Magazine had to use more imagination. There aren't any colored illustrations, or detailed descriptions, but the brief listings were enough for a woman to take to her milliner, and let their combined taste create an attractive hat.

One of the new hats for undress (day wear) for May is described as a "FRENCH HAT: chip, with nothing but Italian flowers." The reproduction hat worn here by Katelyn, a summer intern in the Margaret Hunter Shop in Colonial Williamsburg, fits that description nicely A chip hat was one made of plaited straw, stitched into shape; in the mid-1770s, hats were generally flat or with a very shallow crown, with a wide, flexible brim. Ribbons tied at the nape would not only hold the hat in place over a cap, but also bend the brim into a becoming arc worn low over the eyes. (The hat, along with Katelyn's clothing, was created in the shop using 18thc. methods.)

Italian flowers were not necessarily imported from Italy, but the generic term for artificial flowers of silk or paper. Flowers might have gone in and out of fashion, but I'm sure there were some women who always wanted them on their hats simply because they're pretty.

I like to imagine a young 18thc. woman like Katelyn visiting her favorite milliner's shop and making careful, pleasurable selections of the chip hat, silk ribbons, and flowers to create her own interpretation of 1775's French Hat.

Many thanks to Sarah Woodyard for background information for this post.

Photographs ©2015 Susan Holloway Scott.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Victorian Mourning Wreath at the Oaks

Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Loretta reports:

As promised, I made a second trip to the Historic Paine Estate, the Oaks,
this time for a private tour with Jennifer Willson. This splendid old house is filled with treasures, some appearing in unexpected places. I hope to get to several of them in the coming weeks.

Today I start with mourning, which became a major industry during the Victorian era. Though Queen Victoria represents the extreme of grief, mourning did become more strictly codified and ostentatious in the U.S. as well as England, and fashion magazines like Godey's commented disapprovingly on current practices. Still, what looks to us like a morbid obsession may simply reflect the Victorian tendency to over-decorate and overdo. It may be a coping mechanism, too, for a time when even London's privileged lived over filth, and cholera, typhoid fever, and other epidemics raged through communities to decimate families.

In the days before photography, the bereaved used their loved ones’ hair to create mementos, and the practice continued long after photography became possible. Our predecessors did create some beautiful if rather macabre objects.

The wreath made of hair is one of the more spectacular expressions of mourning from this era, and the Paine Estate owns this fine example, as well as mourning jewelry, which I'll be showing in the very near future.

This blog post explains hair wreaths in some detail. And here is an example from the Everhart Museum.

And now for the plug, because this house deserves to be seen and experienced (and it needs our support):
If you’re in the area, I think you'll find a visit to the Oaks (140 Lincoln Street, Worcester, MA) as fascinating as I did. This year the remaining visiting days are 12 September and 3 October 1-4PM.  There will also be a Christmas Open House in early December, when the Oaks gets all dressed up in her holiday finest.

Doesn't fit your schedule? You can arrange a special group tour by contacting the DAR Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter: col.timothybigelowchapter@gmail.com.

 I also recommend Jennifer’s blog Revolutionary Oaks. She's a true Nerdy History Girl.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Duke of Wellington's Waterloo Cloak, 1815

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Isabella reporting,

To historians and collectors, "provenance" is a magic word. It's the history of an item or artwork - where and by whom it was made, who owned it over time, and if it managed to be in the right historical place at the right time to make it extraordinary.

This ordinary-looking men's cloak scores big-time in provenance. The tailor who made may be forgotten (though the buttons have been identified as the work of R. Bushby, St. Martin's Lane, London), but not the man who bespoke it: Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington.

Unlike many of his officers, Wellington wasn't a clothes horse, and preferred simple, functional dress for battle instead of the flashy uniform that by rights he could have worn. Over his military career, he probably owned a number of other cloaks that looked just like this one: a single curved piece of of heavy blue wool, fulled to keep out rain and wind, with a velvet collar and facings and plain gilt buttons.

But this particular cloak is special, because it's believed to be the one that Wellington was wearing when he won the decisive Battle of Waterloo. There are mud spatters along the hem that could have come from the rain-soaked battlefield, spatters that have carefully been preserved for their significance.

That's a powerful provenance - but there's more. After the battle, Lady Caroline Lamb was one of the British ladies to rush to Brussels. Ostensibly she was there to tend to her brother, Colonel Frederic Ponsonby, who had been gravely wounded in the battle (see Loretta's post here), but it was widely believed her real reason was to pursue the celebrated duke. Lady Caroline was already notorious for her famous affair with the poet Lord Byron, while Wellington was equally famous for never saying no to a flattering lady. Although both were married, that inconvenient fact mattered little to these two, and they did in fact have a (likely meaningless) hook-up in the days after the battle. Lady Caroline claimed that Wellington gave this cloak to her as a souvenir, and it's tempting to imagine the Iron Duke protectively draping the cloak over her slender shoulders.

Intriguing, but probably not likely. Lady Caroline wasn't particularly sentimental about the cloak, and at some point she gave it to surgeon Sir Anthony Carlisle.  In 1823, Carlisle in turn gave the cloak to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, a civil servant and collector, and the cloak remained in his family until this year, when it was put up for auction. Sotheby's had estimated it to sell for between £20,000-30,000. It sold for significantly more: £47,500. Fortunately, it was bought not by a private collector, but by the National Army Museum in London, where it will soon be on display.

For more about the cloak's history, see the Sotheby's listing here.

Above: Cloak, believed to have been worn by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, 1815; photograph courtesy of Sotheby's.
Below: Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c. 1820. The Huntingdon Library and Art Collections.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Fashions for August 1921

Monday, August 3, 2015

August 1921 dresses
Loretta reports:

For a little change of pace, I thought we’d look at fashion of the early 20th century. Color images have not been easy to find. This set comes from the Delineator, which basically sold Butterick patterns.

If you’re reading or writing books set in the Downton Abbey era, you will probably enjoy taking a more extensive look at the magazine online. It includes illustrations for undergarments, which can be extremely important in historical romance.



Meanwhile, I believe the descriptions of the dresses will make more sense to those who sew than they do to me. I do not understand the bit about the waist closing on the shoulder.
dress description
 


August 1821 dresses rear view

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.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of July 27, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015
Fresh for your browsing pleasure! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, images, and articles via Twitter.
• The story of Spitalfields silk.
• An early Victorian dress, inside and out.
• In elegant penmanship: a merchant's 1763 accounting book of the sales of African men, women, and children in Philadelphia.
• Photographer Eugene Atget captured the now-lost streets of old Paris about to be swept away.
Flat roofs: 19thc. Italianate houses in upstate New York.
Bodysnatching in 1816: a bad year to be alive, or dead.
Image: One of Horace Walpole's "Gothic Lanthorns" from his house at Strawberry Hill.
• Seventeenth century women on horseback in art.
• The groaning Georgian dining table with the elaborate epergne at its center.
• Cracking open the history of fortune cookies.
• The Great New England Earthquake of 1663 came with a "roar like a great fire."
• Image: Mother of pearl fan, French, c.1895.
• Art and design meet in this "behind the seams" look at a 1918 dress by Lucile.
• The freaks and fascinations of 18thc. entertainment.
• Recreating 19thc. whitework embroidery.
• Who knew that Thomas Hughes, author of Tom Brown's School Days, also founded the idyllic town of Rugby, Tennessee, as a social experiment?
• The over-the-top coronation of George IV.
• Bigamy and bankruptcy: the unfortunate tale of 1750s Boston shopkeeper Henrietta Maria East Caine.
• Waiting for a summer promenade: eight of Britain's most historic surviving seaside piers.
Image: Startling remedy for hiccups from an 18thc. herbal.
• "Have I been poisoned?" Real questions asked of an oracle by ancient Greeks.
• Women hunting, shooting, & fowling across the centuries in art.
• How to shop like a fashionable Regency gentleman.
• Image: A 19thc cartoon of "indoor cycling" complete with cinemetograph and fan.
• "A recipe for a Pomander": excerpts from a 17thc perfume book.
• All that flitters: spectacular sparkling wallpaper from 1910.
• Thought-provoking piece about how American slavery is presented on plantation tours.
Image: Unabashedly unsubtle recruitment poster from WWI.
• Unfair sport: a brief history of Dickens-bashing.
• How Singer won the sewing machine war.
• Mass graves of Napoleon's soldiers recently found in Lithuania show that many died of disease and starvation, not battle.
• Manchester University launches largest-ever online collection of the work of Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell.
Image: Just for fun: In 1951, Harlequin Books wasn't just publishing romances.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.
 
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