Thursday, June 21, 2018

Friday Video: Was This Jacket Worn at the Battle of Waterloo?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Susan reporting,

"Provenance" is an important word among museum curators, and refers to the history of an artifact or artwork. Sometimes the provenance is detailed and indisputable, a sure trail from one owner to another. More often, however, facts become a bit hazy, particularly with historical garments. Family traditions and wishful thinking often contribute to create breathless stories about how "this dress was worn by my great-great-great-grandmother when she danced with the Marquis de Lafayette", and are often taken with a big grain of salt by curators.

The uniform jacket featured in this video had a tradition of having been worn by Sir Thomas Noel Harris, Brigade-Major, at the Battle of Waterloo. He danced at the Duchess of Richmond's ball before being called to join his regiment, and then fought unscathed until the last day of the battle. A musket ball - or perhaps two? - pierced both his arm and his side, severely wounding him.  He lay among the dead and dying on the battlefield overnight, until he was discovered by a searching family member and taken to a dressing station. There his arm was amputated, but he did survive and recover, and continue to serve in the army.

But was this really Sir Thomas's jacket, and was it in fact worn by him at Waterloo? This video shows the different scientific tests used by the Cranfield Forensic Institute to answer that question. It's a fascinating mix of CSI-style forensic examination combined with the known history of the jacket, the wearer, and the battle.

If you received this post via email, you may be seeing only a black box or empty space where the video should be. Please click here to view the video.

Monday, June 18, 2018

From the Archives: Intrepid Women: Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler: Painter of Battles & Soldiers

Monday, June 18, 2018

Since this week is marks the commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo (the battle was fought on June 18, 1815), this painting and its celebrated artist seem like the perfect subject to share again.

Susan reporting,

Being a professional painter in Victorian England was a difficult path for a woman, but for Elizabeth Southerden Thompson (1846-1933), left, success came swiftly, and with unexpected subjects.

Born in Switzerland to wealthy English parents who believed in travel as a form of education, Elizabeth began her art training in Italy and London as a teenager, concentrating on religious subjects. While studying in Paris, she first saw the work of French painters chronicling heroic battle scenes. Inspired, her first military history painting, Missing, earned her admission to the Royal Academy in 1873.

But it was Calling the Roll after an Engagement, Crimea, or The Roll Call, right, (click on the images to enlarge) painted in 1874 when she was only 28, that made her a celebrity. Showing the haggard survivors of a battalion of Grenadiers answering the roll call after a battle, the painting was an enormous success, drawing such great crowds that a special policeman was hired to keep order. In an unprecedented move, the painting was even removed from the Academy wall and carried to Buckingham Palace so Queen Victoria could view it privately. Her Majesty was as impressed as everyone else, and bought the picture for the royal collection.

Miss Thompson next turned to Waterloo for inspiration, completing The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras, below left, in 1875, another popular success. Her large, detailed canvases were the equivalent of big-screen extravaganzas that fed the imagination and patriotism of the British Empire, then at its pinnacle. But she also focused on the suffering of the ordinary soldier, emphasising the cost of war as well as its glory. Her battle pictures are also unusual because they most often depict the scene from the (doubtless intimidated) enemy's point of view, who are seldom shown. She was fastidious in her research, having replica uniforms made for her models. More military-themed paintings followed, and she became one of the most acclaimed artists of her time.

The public was not only fascinated by the art, but Miss Thompson herself. How was it that a young and attractive English lady could paint such vivid scenes of heroism and suffering that Crimea veterans praised their accuracy? Even the influential art critic John Ruskin was impressed by Quatre Bras - in spite of his determined preconceptions:

"I never approached a picture with more iniquitous prejudice against it than I did Miss Thompson's; partly because I have always said that no woman could paint; and, secondly, because I thought that what the public made such a fuss about must be good for nothing. But it is...the first fine Pre-Raphaelite picture of battle we have had; profoundly interesting, and showing all manner of illustrative and realistic faculty. Of course, all that need be said of it...must have been said twenty times over in the journals; and it remains only for me to make my tardy genuflexion, on the trampled corn, before this Pallas of Pall Mall."

In 1877 she married Sir William Francis Butler, and her career fell behind not only that of her husband, an officer in the British Army, but her new role as a mother. She joined her husband on his posts around the world – Egypt, Zanzibar, South Africa, as well as his home in Ireland – and bore and raised their six children. While her artistic production diminished, she still continued to paint military scenes, including the heroic Scotland Forever!above, in 1881. Regarded as her finest painting, it's also undeniably her most dramatic, depicting the start of the charge of the Royal Scots Greys at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. (To show how cinematic this painting is - and the influence it had upon later movie-makers - see this clip of the same charge from the 1970 movie Waterloo.) She also painted and drew scenes from her travels.

But the most lasting blow to Lady Butler's career is one that many artists face. By the beginning of the twentieth century, tastes in painting had changed, and her meticulously detailed history paintings were seen as hopelessly old-fashioned in the face of new, more abstract movements like Cubism. Even more damning was the shifting perception of armies and battles after the modern horrors of World War One. The grand heroic warfare with patriotic gestures and splendid uniforms of the past no longer had a place in the public imagination, and in 1924, the last painting she submitted to the Royal Academy was rejected. She died in 1933.

In addition to her paintings, Lady Butler also wrote three books, including her autobiography. It's available to read or download for free here; her illustrations, like the one lower right, are included and are wonderful, full of excitement that matches the life she lived.

Top: Scotland Forever!, 1881, Leeds Art Gallery.
Upper right: Calling the Roll after an Engagement, Crimea, (or The Roll Call), 1874, The Royal Collection Trust.
Upper left: The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras, 1875, National Gallery of Victoria.
Middle right: Self-Portrait by Elizabeth Southerden Thompson, Lady Butler, 1869, National Portrait Gallery.
Lower right: "Got it, Bravo!" illustration from An Autobiography, 1922.

Being Elsewhere

Loretta reports:

I have no report. With apologies, there will be no Nerdy History Girl blog post from me today, because it's too late at night to pretend to be intelligent about history. This is because I didn't come back soon enough from where I was away to. Instead I offer all the preceding prepositions in places some people will say are wrong.

And the pictures are from where I was late coming back from, on the Maine coast in paradise. So maybe you won't blame me for not hurrying back.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of June 11, 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• A cup of tea, made the 18thc way.
• The rebozo: fashion, feminism, and death.
• Lily of Liberty: Amelia Bloomer at 200.
• Thomas Bewick's cat.
Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, 17thc poet - and perhaps a pre-Romantic?
• Face of a suffragette: previously unknown footage of Emily Wilding Davison discovered.
Faith Trumbull: the artist was a young girl.
Image: The Silver Streak Iron, c1946 may be the most beautiful iron ever made.
• Did 18thc heiress Mary Blandy poison her father's oatmeal?
• Rainbow-colored beasts from a 15thc Book of Hours.
• Murder on the Titanic: the nightmare one survivor from Rhode Island never forgot.
• Blue moons, honeymoons, and moons made of green cheese: lunar language.
• Early Modern memes: recycling and reusing 17thc woodcuts in popular print.
• Catching up on Beatnik fashion.
Image: "The latest style of ladies' muff is provided with a pocket for the owner's pet dog" 1895.
• When Connecticut led the nation in the production of pins.
• An x-ray of a Civil War wound? A hapless re-enactor accidentally shot himself with an 1860s gun.
• Might we interest you in a dog-powered velocipede?
• Quick quiz: can you match these archaic names for animals with their modern names?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Video: Wilma Rudolph, the Unstoppable

Friday, June 15, 2018
Wilma Rudolph wins in Rome 1960
Loretta reports:

My husband, who also is a Nerdy History Person (although suffering from a less virulent form of the disease), sent me this article: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman. Not being a Sports Person, I had only recognized her name—something to do with Olympics? That’s as far as it went. Then I read her story, and kept on looking for more and more. She survived and conquered ordeals that would have crushed many of us—well, me, definitely. How about polio and poverty, to start with?

Biography Channel Video: Mini Bio: Wilma Rudolph

You can find many bios online, including this one and this one.

Image: Image: Rudolph convincingly wins the women's 100 meter dash at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

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 (which will take you to our blog) or the video title (which will take you to YouTube).

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Formal Ball Gown from the French Court, c1780

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Susan reporting,

For fashion historians, there are some garments from the past that become celebrities in their own right, featured over and over in books, exhibitions, and on Pinterest. These garments have earned this status for a number of reasons: because of the fame of the original owner or maker, exceptional craftsmanship, rare textiles or embellishments, or simply because of their beauty.

(As always, please click on the images to enlarge them. I know these photos are a bit dark, but the galleries were low-lit to preserve the textiles - a fair trade-off.)

The dress shown here qualifies on every count. It's currently on display through July 29, 2018 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the Visitors to Versailles: 1682-1789 exhibition (see here, here, and here for my posts featuring other objects from the exhibition.) This exquisite ball gown, or robe parée, would have been worn at only the most formal occasions at the French court at Versailles in the late 18thc.. Once linked to Queen Marie-Antoinette herself, the gown is still attributed to the queen's dressmaker, Marie Jeanne "Rose" Bertin (1747-1813).

The gown definitely belonged to a woman of very high status at the court, and it's exactly the kind of luxurious and costly garment that would bring the ire of French revolutionaries a decade later. Not only is the surface design - featuring draped ribbons, flowers, and peacock feathers - sophisticated and elegant, but the execution of the embroidery on the cream-colored silk satin is extraordinary. The list of the elements on the exhibition placard shows the complexity of the the needlework: silk embroidery, appliques of satin, metallic threads, chenille, sequins, and applied glass paste. Everything was designed to sparkle by candlelight, and make the wearer the center of attention as she danced.

What to me is even more extraordinary is that the gown remains a showpiece even though it has been significantly altered. Originally worn over the wide hoops (pannier) required for 18thc court dress, a later owner had the petticoat (skirt) narrowed to a bell-shape and the bodice remade to conform to mid-19thc tastes, and likely to make it more wearable and lighter as well. The ruffles shown are also later additions. No matter: it's still breathtakingly beautiful.

Formal Ball Gown, attributed to Marie Jeanne "Rose" Bertin, c1780s, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Photographs ©2018 Susan Holloway Scott.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

From the Archives: They Do It Differently in France, Part One

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Frances Trollope ca 1832
Loretta reports:

[Note: This post is from 2010, when I was researching my Dressmakers series. In light of recent discussions about the differences in the way married and unmarried women dressed, it seemed worth a return engagement.]

I had occasion to reopen my yellowed copy of Fanny Trollope’s  Paris and the Parisians recently, and was reminded what a delightful account she offers of Paris in 1835.  I suggest you read the entire Letter XXXV —which I have had to hack up mercilessly below.  It points out a very interesting cultural difference.

By this time, in England, arranged marriages were a thing of the past, but not in France.  This led to some interesting differences in social behavior.  In France, Fanny tells us, the unmarried girls are the last to get dancing partners.  It’s the married women—and many of them no spring chickens—to whom all the young gallants flock.  She discusses this oddity with an unnamed French woman of her acquaintance, who asks, "Will you then have the kindness to explain to me the difference in this respect between France and England ?"

Fanny: " The only difference between us which I mean to advocate is, that with us the amusement which throws young people together under circumstances the most likely, perhaps, to elicit expressions of gallantry and admiration from the men, and a gracious reception of them from the women, is considered as befitting the single rather than the married part of the community."

 " With us, indeed, it is exactly the reverse," replied she,—" at least as respects the young ladies. By addressing the idle, unmeaning gallantry inspired by the dance to a young girl, we should deem the cautious delicacy of restraint in which she is enshrined transgressed and broken in upon. A young girl should be given to her husband before her passions have been awakened or her imagination excited by the voice of gallantry.…When a girl is first married, her feelings, her thoughts, her imagination, are wholly occupied by her husband. Her mode of education has ensured this; and afterward it is at the choice of her husband whether he will secure and retain her young heart for himself. In no country have husbands so little reason to complain of their wives as in France ; for in no country does the manner in which they live with them depend so wholly on themselves.”

Marie J. Lafont-Porcher ca 1835
After politely debating which country has got it all wrong, the Unnamed Lady concludes:  “…as we go on exchanging fashions so amicably, who knows but we may live to see your young ladies shut up a little more, while their mothers and fathers look out for a suitable marriage for them, instead of inflicting the awkward task upon themselves?* And in return, perhaps, our young wives may lay aside their little coquetries, and become mères respectables somewhat earlier than they do now. But, in truth, they all come to it at last."

*Italics mine.

Images: Frances Trollope, by Auguste Hervieu circa 1832, courtesy National Portrait Gallery NPG 3906 via Wikipedia. François Kinson, Portrait of Marie J. Lafont-Porcher circa 1835, courtesy Groeningemuseum, via Wikipedia.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The More Things Change....Every Mother's (Small) Nightmare, c1835

Sunday, June 10, 2018
Susan reporting,

One of the best things about the internet is how many smaller historical societies, libraries, archives, and historic sites are now able to share their collections with the world - a world that might not otherwise know they exist. Today I'm encouraging you to check out the Tumblr account of the Litchfield (CT) Historical Society. Named Fresh and Fashionable Goods, the account features all kinds of fascinating excerpts from the Elijah Boardman Papers. The Tumblr is funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, National Archives, and for us Nerdy History Folk, this is taxpayer money absolutely well spent. The finding aid to the papers is here, and the digitized material is online here.

Some of the papers in the Society's collection represent familiar names like merchant, real estate investor, and politician Benjamin Tallmadge (1754-1835), better remembered as one of General George Washington's spymasters during the American Revolution.

Most, however, are the work of lesser-known men and women. To me, these papers are the most fascinating, because they offer such a clear glimpse into everyday life: what ordinary people ate, bought, grew, and used, what amused them and what didn't.

The hastily written note shown left (and here) is a wonderful example of how some aspects of that everyday life haven't changed one bit in the last 180 or so years. Caroline Maria Boardman Schroeder (1802-1853) was born into a prominent and prosperous Litchfield County family. In 1825, she married John Frederick Schroeder (1800-1857), a celebrated cleric, scholar, reformer, author, inventor, and educator. They had eight children, and their third daughter, Cornelia, is the one mentioned in this note. While the note is undated, it's a good guess that Cornelia (1831-1914) was quite young at the time, so Caroline's note probably dates from the mid-1830s. Here's the transcription:

My dear husband
We were all ready & waited some time & when the carriage came we all fixed ourselves & set out. We had not proceeded but a few steps, when little Cornelia was suddenly seized with violent vomiting, and I found my dress completely drenched. We of course returned, but she looks so pale that I dare not take her or leave her, so have concluded to send the carriage back empty. I think she has never had a similar attack before. Mary [Cornelia's older sister] is often taken sick in this way, but Cornelia never. I think her stomach was overloaded. I will stay with her, & wish you if possible to make apologies for me whenever it is necessary. Please get some of the best calcium magnesia as I have none. 
                                     Affectionately yours, 

While today this note would be sent as a harried text between parents, the scenario it describes is all too familiar to anyone with small children. Dad has gone ahead to some special event, Mom is running a little late, but has the kids dressed in their best clothes and finally loaded into the car, and then the youngest...explodes, leaving Dad to make excuses and stop by the drug store to pick up a fresh bottle of much-needed Pepto Bismal.

Still, Caroline's concerns for little Cornelia were sadly well-founded. Caroline and John had eight children. Their first two, Caroline and George, died as newborns, while scarlet fever later claimed their middle daughter Mary, 10, and son William, only three months. Caroline's mother, Mary Ann Whiting Boardman, wrote a concerned letter to her heartbroken daughter about the sorrowful loss of little Mary and the risk of grieving too much that you can read here.

I don't have a portrait of Caroline Boardman Schroeder, but I can't resist sharing the portraits of her parents, Mary Ann Whitman Boardman, right, (with her eldest son William Whiting Boardman) and Elijah Boardman, lower left, both by Ralph Earl. They're two of my favorite portraits from the era; I'm sure that many of the readers of this blog will fondly recognize merchant Elijah's portrait, because he's posed with bolts and bolts of fabric - a dream stash of 18thc textiles.

Many thanks to Linda Hocking, Archivist, Litchfield Historical Society for her assistance with this post.

Upper left: Note from Caroline Maria Boardman Schroeder to John Frederick Schroeder, n.d., Litchfield Historical Society.
Right: Mrs. Elijah Boardman and Her Son by Ralph Earl, c1796, The Huntington.
Lower left: Elijah Boardman by Ralph Earl, 1789, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of June 4, 2018

Saturday, June 9, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Radical philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft's adventures in 1795 Scandinavia.
Susan Fennimore Cooper, forgotten naturalist, artist, and author of both fiction and non-fiction.
• How the City Gates of London appeared before they were torn down.
• Not fated to be: the love letters of 18thc soldier Alexander Scammell.
• The creation of color in 18thc Europe.
• The secrets of a 19th diary written on the floorboards of a castle.
Image: Rumor has it that the bills for this 18thc state bed were ripped up so no one could know how much it cost.
• A "home for penitents", a "home for unwed mothers": was this Liverpool's Magdalene Laundry?
• Chasing the vanishing playgrounds of our youth.
• The recipes of Cleopatra.
• The death and life of the St. Denis, a great American building now doomed by development.
Image: George Washington's pounce box, used during the American Revolution.
Royal acorns in the wallpaper at Hampton Court palace.
• Forgotten voices of the British Empire: the charge of the 21st Lancers, 1898.
Mrs. Headman's preparations: safeguarding secrets in a Victorian beauty business.
• The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was founded 75 years ago, and made baseball history.
• A brief look at medieval shoes.
• The record-breaking pandemic of 1918: the forgotten year of death.
• Tripping down memory lane: the '60s menswear company H.I.S.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday Video: Getting Dressed in the 14th Century

Friday, June 8, 2018

Susan reporting,

I've shared the wonderful costume videos by Crow's Eye Productions before ( Dressing an 18thc Lady, Dressing an 18thc Lady: The Busk, and Dressing an 18thc Lady: Pockets.)  Here's their latest, featuring two 14thc woman - a lady, and a servant - dressing for the day. I was struck by how fluid and unstructured these clothes were, and surprisingly modern, too, in their limited color palette.

These videos are the work of Pauline Loven, costume historian, costumer, and heritage film producer, and director Nick Loven. They've recently set up a Patreon page if you'd like to support future videos in the series.

If you receive this post via email, you may be seeing an empty space or a black box where the video should be. Click here to view the video.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Newgate Prison and the Old Old Bailey

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Loretta reports:

In June 2017, I sat in two different visitors’ galleries, in two different courtrooms of the Old Bailey,  the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, and watched the proceedings. This is not the same Old Bailey I wrote about in Dukes Prefer Blondes, though I noticed similarities in the way the courtroom was laid out, which will be useful the next time I bring criminals into my fiction.

Part of the present building stands where Newgate Prison once did, on the street named Old Bailey. Not many traces of the old building remain. There's a door in the Museum of London, and other bits in the U.S. Since the previous building wasn’t demolished until 1902, though, quite a few photographs are available, along with the Regency-era images by George Shepherd, Thomas Rowlandson, and the like. It took a bit of puzzling to determine from pictures, descriptions, and maps, which was the prison and which was the courtroom, but that might just be my brain malfunction. If you’re looking at an old map, the latter appears as “Session House,” and it ought to be perfectly clear to normal people.

I knew a gloomy walkway connected them. I’d read descriptions, which helped me visualize scenes in the book. But at the time I was writing the story, I couldn’t find images of this passageway. Recently, though, my trusty tome, The Queen’s London, provided the image you see below.

In case one doesn't already feel sufficiently low-spirited at the prospect of being hanged, the passageway will do the trick. It’s the English version of the Bridge of Sighs—that last walk from freedom, possibly from life. Please do read the cheery description under the photo.

You can read the description that accompanies the Ackermann plate (above left) here. Note that this image was done from the other end of Old Bailey, with the Sessions House in front.

Black & white photographs are from my copy of The Queen's London.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

From the Archives: As Used by Jane Austen: Pins, the Regency Post-It

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Susan reporting,

Another oldie but goodie from the archives....

I've written before about the importance of pins in everyday 18th c. life. Straight pins were widely used to fasten all kinds of clothing, from women's bodices to infant's diapers, and also used in hand sewing. Pins were considered so indispensable that when Abigail Adams wrote from colonial Massachusetts to her husband John Adams in Philadelphia in 1775, the one thing she requested was for him to "purchase me a bundle of pins and put in your trunk for me." (Read the rest of the letter here.)

Pins for clothing and sewing, yes. But I hadn't realized that pins were also an essential tool for 18th c. writers. Thanks to (or cursed by, depending on your point of view) computers, most modern writers submit manuscripts electronically. Rewrites and copy edits are all conducted now through the magic of track changes and transmissions. Gone are the days of hauling manuscript boxes to the post office, not to mention pages that bristled with pink "flags", the comments and queries pasted to the edges of pages by editors. I've gotten to the point where the only words on paper I see in the entire process are in the finished book – and the way things are going, that may soon vanish, too.

But what did writers do in the days before paper clips and Post-Its? How did an early novelist who was already struggling to make sense of a handwritten manuscript mark revisions and additions? According to the librarians of Oxford's Bodleian Library, the answer is pins – and lots of them. All those notes and insertions and extra copy were handwritten on scraps of paper and pinned in the margin with a straight pin. The pins, above, were all plucked from the library's holdings, and date from 1692 to 1853.

In 2011, the Bodleian acquired a true Jane Austen rarity: the manuscript draft of her abandoned novel, The Watsons. (See here for more about the auction and the staggering realized price, as well as a page of the manuscript itself.) In addition to the clues to cross-outs and rewrites on the draft provide, there were also a wealth of pinned-on additions. For purposes of preserving the manuscript, these pins were carefully removed with their notes, studied, catalogued, and saved – a librarian's scholarly labor of love.

But as a fellow-writer, I like to imagine Jane at work at her small writing table. I wonder: did she use the same pins she used for her clothing, or did she have another stash of pins reserved for writing? Did she keep a pin cushion on the table with a stack of scrap-paper sheets beside her inkwell, prepared and ready to make changes? Or did she tuck them into her sleeve like a hurried seamstress might, keeping them literally at hand when she needed them?

Here is the link to the original article about literary pinning by Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library. Thanks to Deb Barnum for first sharing this story with us. 

Above: Manuscript pins, c. 1690-1850. Bodleian Library.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Fashions for June 1856

Monday, June 4, 2018
Dresses for June 1856
Loretta reports:

By 1856, crinolines were increasing in size, and the complaints rose accordingly.

“A drawing room now looks like a camp. You see a number of bell tents of different colors ... It now fills a brougham, overlapping at the windows, and still in the course of aggrandizement ... Certainly there is a law in fashions if one could but find it out. They have their cycles like storms, and science might calculate the periods of their recurrence. Invention or fancy there is none in fashion, nothing is new. An old thing comes in again. Thus the hoop comes round again in rather an aggravated shape of enormity. But if there is expansion in one quarter, be sure there will be contraction in another ...  Thus, while the bonnet has been dwindling away the petticoat has been expanding, engrossing, and pervading all spaces.”Littell’s Living Age.—No. 639.—23 August, 1856
The full entry is worth reading. Just bear in mind the tendency, then and now, for writers and editors (primarily men) to exaggerate and ridicule women's fashion. Photographs—something not available in the earlier part of the century—tell a slightly different story.

Foulard: “A soft, light, washing silk, twilled. Originally, in the [18]20s, of Indian manufacture; later of French. —C. Willett Cunnington, English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. “Very light and thin silk fabric, woven plain or twilled, printed in conventional style; used for summer dresses.—Louis Harmuth Dictionary of Textiles. “Light silk fabric having a distinctive soft finish and a plain or simple twill weave. It is said to come originally from the Far East. In French the word foulard signifies a silk handkerchief." —

Bretelles: “Strap-shaped trimming”—Cunnington.

Basquine festonné: Basquine: “The extension below the waist-line of the material forming the corsage, either cut in one with it, or applied as separate pieces.” —Cunnington. In this case, the extension is scalloped (festonné).

Taffetas d’éte: Taffeta is “a thin glossy silk of a wavy lustre.” —Cunnington. This apparently is simply a summer taffeta.
June 1856 Fashions Description

Popeline: This seems to be dressmaker Frenchification of poplin. “1. The real Irish poplin originally had fine organzine warp and a heavier woolen filling, forming cross ribs; 2. Fabrics having fine, cross ribs irrespective of the material they are made of. The better grades are dyed in the yarn; used for coats, dresses, etc. Single poplin has very fine cross ribs, the double poplin is much stouter and has prominent ribs.” Harmuth.

Bouillon: “A puffed-out applied trimming.” Cunnington.

Paille de riz: rice straw

Fashion plates from London and Paris Ladies Magazine of Fashion, June 1856.
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, June 2, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of May 28, 2018

Saturday, June 2, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The "Flying Mountains", an 18thc roller coaster in Catherine the Great's gardens at Tsarskoe Selo.
Cleopatra Selene, the only daughter of Cleopatra and Antony, was an important ruler in her own right.
• The modernity of the Victorian men's white dress shirt.
• It's not always the daughter who elopes: rebellious son Philip Jeremiah Schuyler did (and dropped out of college, too) in 1788.
Image: A 1953 advertisement featuring travel-friendly synthetic fibers.
• Frederick Marryat and the ghostly Brown Lady of Raynham Hall.
• Spalted wood and the lost Renaissance art of intarsia.
• Sweet death: honey and bees in death rituals.
Image: The 1958 Smart Witch: a "smart bike for smart girls."
• A 15thc English recipe for gingerbread.
• Inked Irishmen: Irish tattoos in 1860s New York.
• How to sublime mercury: reading like a medieval philosopher.
• How Howard Johnson went from one restaurant to a thousand, and back again.
• Knights, Jacobites, and a rebellious duchess: the effigies of All Hallows, Great Mitton.
Image: Steamboat tourists along the Mississippi in the 1860s carried 11' long scroll-like maps of the river wrapped around spools.
• What made Aaron Burr into AARON BURR?
Pierre Yantorny, 19th shoemaker who specialized in creating luxurious and fanciful women's shoes. (in Spanish; even if your translator function doesn't quite get it, the photos are worth a look.)
• Earlier royal weddings at Windsor Castle.
• Journeying to the afterlife: the mummy of Djed-djehuty-iuef-ankh.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday Video: Being a Regency Lady Ain't Easy

Friday, June 1, 2018
Loretta reports:

There’s quite a bit of variation in the extent to which re-enactors strive for historical accuracy, from hand-sewing, using the tools and methods that would have been used in the given time period—as is done at Colonial Williamsburg, for instance—to the people who create facsimiles or costumes rather than actual historical dress.

This lady makes no bones about the modern methods she uses to achieve a Regency look. But the thing is, she’s just a treat to watch. I think you’ll laugh at least once, maybe several times, as she prepares for the ball. You will also understand how important a lady’s maid was.

YouTube Video by Karolina Żebrowskaska: A Historical Get Ready With Me - 1808 Regency Edition

Image at upper left is a still from the video.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Scandalous Sketch of Benjamin Franklin with a Lady, c1768

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Susan reporting,

It's easy to think of America's Founders only through the images that are left of them, the stoic and often-idealized portraits painted by John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, and Charles Willson Peale. But regardless of how posterity venerates them, the Founders were a decidedly mixed group in their behavior, beliefs, and morals, as just about any group of white, English-speaking gentlemen from a sprawling colonial society in the 1770s were bound to be.

These sketches of Benjamin Franklin (1705-1790) - a writer, inventor, diplomat, printer, Freemason, scientist, and true polymath as well as a Founder - will probably bump those textbook images of him with his kite and printing press right out of your head. I saw the sketchbook on display last fall at the museum of the American Philosophical Society (Franklin was one of the founders of the Society, too, in 1743) as part of their wonderful Curious Revolutionaries: The Peales of Philadelphia exhibition. I've been meaning to feature the drawings in a blog post, and perhaps the last day of the merry month of May is appropriate.

Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) was another 18thc man with many interests, and in the course of his long life became a soldier, artist, naturalist, scientist, collector, inventor, politician, museum-owner, and the pater familias of the artistic Peale clan. But in 1767, however, he was still an unknown young portrait painter learning his craft, newly arrived in London to study with fellow-American artist Benjamin West. Like most 18thc travelers, Peale hoped to build his network of connections and possible commissions by calling on other, more established Americans also in London. Among those was Benjamin Franklin, already a celebrated diplomat, philosopher, and bon vivant. Like all artists, Peale also carried his sketchbook with him wherever he went - including social calls.

Here's the APS caption for the above sketch:

While studying art in London, Charles Willson Peale called upon Benjamin Franklin uninvited. Peale accidentally witnessed the well-known Franklin engaging in promiscuous behavior with a lady. Instead of leaving, Peale secretly sketched the scandalous scene for future generations.

There's no record of the amorous lady's name; most likely Peale never learned it himself. He made two sketches on facing pages in in his sketchbook of the couple, right. In the APS records, one is titled as Sketch of Franklin and Lady, lower left, while the one above left is called Scandalous Sketch of Franklin with a Lady.

It's interesting to consider which one he drew first....

Above: Diary Sketch by Charles Willson Peale, c1768, American Philosophical Society.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Regency's Duke of Cambridge

Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Duke of Cambridge 1806

Loretta reports:

Having recently reported on the present Duke of Sussex and the previous holder of that title, I thought it made sense to look at the man who last held Prince William’s title, Duke of Cambridge.

As in Prince Harry’s case, Prince Adolphus Frederick, the previous Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850), lived during the Regency and Victorian eras, and his life shows some parallels to Prince William’s. Prince Adolphus served in the military, was generally well-liked—including by his father, George III, who wasn’t crazy about his older sons. This royal duke, too, married a beautiful young woman, and had three children

With the death of the Princess Charlotte in 1817, he, like his other brothers, was obliged to find a wife. Of the royal dukes, Peter Pindar wrote:
Agog are all, both old and young
    Warmed with desire to be prolific
And prompt with resolution strong
    To fight in Hyman’s war terrific.
Within two weeks of his niece’s death, he sent a marriage proposal to the Princess Augusta, the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel’s youngest daughter. She was twenty years old and  beautiful.

“This was the first of the three Royal marriages since Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold that roused the romantic enthusiasm of the British public* ... “The Duke and Duchess had only to show themselves to be loudly cheered. The first Sunday after their arrival in England they were recognized strolling together in Hyde Park, and were at once surrounded and jostled by a large crowd, cheering and yelling ... On another occasion they were recognized in their carriage outside the famous City jewelers, Rundle and Bridge, and a great crowd came yelling round them, so that it was twenty minutes before their coachman dared move.”
Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge, 1818
Their first son, born in March 1819, was christened George, and was in line for the throne until Victoria was born, a few months later.
“And if the English public had good reason to be satisfied with the marriage, so had the Duke of Cambridge. He wrote of himself when he was first married: ‘I really believe that on the surface of the globe there does not exist so happy a Being as myself ... and Heaven grant that I may be deserving of it and not forfeit my happiness by any misconduct.’”
He became rather eccentric in later life—among other things, having gone deaf, he sat in front of the church and kept up a running, plainly audible, commentary—and was on very bad terms with Queen Victoria during her early years on the throne. But in a time of rampant anti-Semitism, he remained sympathetic to Jews. He was the only one of George III’s sons who lived within his income. “He was certainly most generous with his time, and equally generous with his money to an almost incredible number of charitable causes.”

Quotations and other information from Roger Fulford’s Royal Dukes.

*Let’s just say that the other couples were rather less attractive.
Images: E. Harding, Duke of Cambridge 1806; Sir William Beechey, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge, 1818.

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, May 27, 2018

From the archives: Remembering the Soldiers Who Didn't Die in Combat

Sunday, May 27, 2018
Susan reporting,

I'm re-running this post, written last year, because the Museum of the American Revolution is repeating their excellent Memorial Day programs, and offering free admission to veterans, active, and retired military for the weekend. They are also once again providing carnations to place at the memorials in nearby Washington Square in Independence National Historical Park. More information here

Unlike many who live in the Philadelphia area, I haven't spent this weekend - the official kick-off to summer - "down the shore." Instead I returned to the still-new Museum of the American Revolution, one of my favorite places in the city. To my surprise, I had plenty of company. The museum was very crowded with families, a fine and heartening sight to a Nerdy History Person. There's never been a more urgent time in American history to learn about our country's founding, and how the responsibilities that were granted to citizens in 1776 are equally important for us today.

Part of the Museum's observation of the Memorial Day weekend was a quiet reminder that not all those who gave their lives for the Revolution did so in battle. Only a few blocks away from the Museum is the site of a mass grave where Continental soldiers were buried by the British then occupying the city. In 1777, John Adams described his visit to the site in a letter to his wife Abigail:

"I have spent an Hour, this Morning, in the Congregation of the dead. I took a Walk into the Potters Field, a burying Ground between the new stone Prison, and the Hospital, and I never in my whole Life was affected with so much Melancholly. The Graves of the soldiers, who have been buryed, in this Ground, from the Hospital and bettering House, during the Course of the last Summer, Fall, and Winter, dead of the small Pox, and Camp Diseases, are enough to make the Heart of stone to melt away. The Sexton told me, that upwards of two Thousand soldiers had been buried there, and by the Appearance of the Graves, and Trenches, it is most probably to me, he speaks within Bounds....Disease has Destroyed Ten Men for Us, where the Sword of the Enemy has killed one."

Adams was right. While the actual figures for the war are difficult to pin down today, it's estimated that approximately 8,000 Continental soldiers were killed in battle between 1775-1783, while another 17,000 died from diseases such as small pox, typhus, dysentery, and typhoid, often as British prisoners of war in the notoriously unhealthy prison ships.

Today the site of the potter's field lies beneath Washington Square, a tidy, tree-shaded park filled with babies in strollers and well-behaved dogs. In return for a small donation, the Museum offered visitors red and white carnations to take to the Square and place either at the small monument honoring the thousands of unknown soldiers and sailors buried there, or at the larger Tomb of he Unknown Soldier of the Revolution. I did; that's my carnation in the photo, above. I was surprised that there weren't any others, but it was early in the day, and I also suspect that other flowers might have been carried off by children unaware of the significance of their prizes.

No matter. As I stood before the marker, I thought of those long-ago men and boys and likely a few women, too, and of the families and sweethearts who never knew what became of them, beyond that they never returned home. Perhaps there was no "glory" to their deaths, whatever that may mean. Yet still they made the greatest sacrifice possible so that, 240 years later, this place could be a peaceful park filled with children. A single carnation doesn't begin to be enough thanks, does it?

John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, 13 April 1777, from the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Click here to see the entire original letter plus a transcript.
Above: Monument to the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, Washington Square, Philadelphia. Photograph ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of May 21, 2018

Saturday, May 26, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Framing miniature portraits in gold, diamonds, and enamelwork in the 17thc.
John Wilkes Booth's promptbook (filled with hand-written notes) for Richard III.
• The Georgian landau.
• The feud of the Queen of Spain's physicians, 1566.
• Rainbow-colored beasts from a 15thc Book of Hours.
Image: Beginning at age 72, 18thc artist Mary Delany created thousands of beautifully detailed flowers from tiny pieces of paper.
• New York's floating chapels helped save 19thc sailors' souls.
• The last derelict 18thc house in Spitalfields, London, is for sale.
• Debunking word myths: the Oxford Dictionary has the real origins of "posh" and "tip."
• For graduation season: 19thc "Rewards of Merit."
• The world's your oyster - unless you're an Edwardian girl receiving a gift or prize book.
Image: A pair of faded purple 1880s satin boots that belonged to tragic Tsarina Maria Feodorovna.
• Marvels in marzipan: 19thc royal wedding cakes.
• How work and the factory defined the youth of Mary Laura Triggle, a 19thc working class girl.
• The first and last visits of Frederick Douglass to West Chester, PA, in 1844.
• Forget me not: revealing Victorian mourning customs.
• The Elizabethan country house and the cult of sovereignty.
• Thomas Jefferson shipped a Vermont moose to Paris in 1787.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Video: The Uniforms of the Household Cavalry

Friday, May 25, 2018

Susan reporting,

Since the post earlier this week featuring the frock coat worn by the newly married and newly minted Duke of Sussex was so popular, I thought I'd share a video with more royal uniforms and history. In addition to a discussion of the various kits of the Household Cavalry (the Life Guards and The Blues and Royals), there's information about the Cavalry's musicians and their splendidly gaudy gold uniforms that date back to Charles II, as well as the Cavalry horses - including the very large horses who support the double kettle drums during parade.

Another thanks to historian, author, and historic paint consultant Patrick Baty for suggesting this video.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Duke of Sussex, Then and Now

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex
Loretta reports:

As everybody who follows royal doings now knows, the Queen has made Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex. This may puzzle some people who watched the video I posted not long ago, The Last of the Dukes. There we were told that we could not look forward to any new dukes.

However, a royal duke is a different article. He’s a member of the royal family who happens to be a prince, upon whom the sovereign has bestowed the title—as the Queen did in the cases of her sons as well as her grandsons. For further details, such as how long the title remains royal and where these royal dukes stand in precedence, I recommend this Wikipedia article. It offers a fairly easy-to-understand and, I think, fascinatingly nerdy account.

As a nerdy history girl, what I found interesting, was this particular choice of title. The last Duke of Sussex was a gentleman I wrote about last October, where I quoted a description of him as “the most consistently Liberal-minded person of the first half of the nineteenth century.” You can read more about him here at the Georgian Era blog.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

Of course I have no idea why the Queen chose the Sussex title for Prince Charles’s second son. However, in light of the choice of bride; the wedding celebration, including the clergy and guests; and the causes the gentleman has espoused, I like to think of it as a nod to her progressive ancestor as well as to the new duke and the future we hope for him (excluding the problematic relationships with women, of course).

Images: Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, by Guy Head, National Portrait Gallery NPG 648.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, speaks during the opening ceremonies of the 2017 Invictus Games (edited), Creative Commons License, Author DoD News.

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, May 22, 2018

What the Groom Wore: Prince Harry's Frock Coat

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Susan reporting,

Like millions of other people willing to get up extra early on a Saturday morning, Loretta and I have been enthralled by this week's royal wedding of Ms. Meghan Markle and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales. One thing that fascinated us the most was the dashing dark uniform that Prince Harry chose to wear to his wedding.

The long coat is described as a frock coat, and is particular to the Household Cavalry, which is formed of two regiments - The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals - while another version with slightly different cuffs is also worn by the Foot Guards. (The style of the knee-length frock coat evolved from men's 19thc fashion, with additional inspiration from the Ottomans.) It was worn in "Undress" instead of Full Dress, most likely because the choice of Windsor Castle made the wedding a less formal affair. This was not a state occasion, nor will Harry be king. Harry's brother William, Duke of Cambridge, wore the same uniform for the ceremony, and miniature adaptations were created for the bride's page boys.

Both brothers' uniforms were created by traditional military tailors Dege & Skinner on Savile Row, and were said to have taken over 100 hours to stitch and tailor by hand. Details are everything, even in a seemingly monochrome coat: the intricate interwoven braid on the sleeves (which was barely visible on television) took a single skilled craftsman over a week to create. The frock coat's primary fabric is doeskin, a fine satin-weave woolen cloth, and the lining is silk.

The frock coat is closed with hidden hooks instead of buttons. Many Americans were perplexed by what they saw as "ribbon bows" on the front of the jacket. This is instead a braiding made of black mohair, and is unique to the Household Cavalry and the Life Guards. While the braid loops appear to fasten to the olivets (the toggle-style buttons on the far sides of the chest), they are purely decorative.

The illustrations, right, are from Dress Regulations for Officers of the Army 1900, and show the approved pattern of the Frock Coat of the Household Cavalry. The illustrations show the details of the frock coat that weren't visible in the wedding broadcast (click on the image to enlarge.)

While the very dark navy color made for a striking contrast to Meghan's bright white gown, it's not simply a style choice, but a uniform that Harry has earned the right to wear. He served as a Captain in The Blues and Royals, and after retiring from active duty in 2015, he received the honorary military title of Major from the Queen, as signified by the crown on his shoulder. According to Kensington Palace, he also requested and received express permission from the Queen to wear the uniform on his wedding day.

Rumor has it that the Queen also bestowed a certain leniency to Harry in another way. Officers in the Army are required to be clean-shaven, and there was speculation that Harry would shave away his now-familiar beard for the wedding. The fact that he didn't suggests that the Queen gave him special permission to keep the whiskers.

One more detail: did you notice that both brothers wore silver spurs as members of the cavalry?

Many thanks to historian, author, and historic paint consultant Patrick Baty for his always-excellent assistance with this blog post. 

Upper left: Neil Hall/Pool/Reuters
Lower left: PA/UK Images
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