Tuesday, August 14, 2018

An 18thc Man's Waistcoat Becomes a 1950s Woman's Vest

Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Susan reporting,

In our time of fast-fashion and clothing that's made to be disposable, the exquisite clothing of the upper classes in 18thc Europe and America seems stunningly beautiful. Embroidery, embellishment with sequins and faux pearls, silk damasks so artfully woven that they defy modern reproductions: the Georgian era is one big delicious candy-box of precious textiles.

I'm not the only one to think this way, either. These textiles and clothes were so valued that they often had many lives, first being updated and remodeled repeatedly to fit the original owner, and then again by future generations as well. The amount of fabric and the construction (which could easily be unpicked) of most 18thc gowns made them ripe for refashioning. I've written about several of these recycled gowns before, including here, here, and here.

The clothing of 18thc gentlemen, while just as lavish as that worn by the ladies, seldom received the same treatment. This is not only because the men's coats, waistcoats, and breeches were fitted and tailored, providing little fabric for a new project, but also because after 1800 or so, men's clothing took a decidedly more somber turn. There was little interest among men in the 19thc or 20thc to refurbish a spangled pink velvet court suit (except, perhaps, by Liberace.)

But there's an exception to every rule, and the vest shown, left,  is the glorious proof.  It's currently on display in Fashion Unraveled, a wonderful exhibition at the Museum at FIT through November 17, 2018.

The vest began its clothing-life looking much like the men's waistcoat, right. Made in second half of the 18thc, both waistcoats feature professionally worked embroidery, placed to accentuate the wearer's taste and form. Sometime around 1950, however, a clever seamstress took one of these 18thc men's waistcoats, adapted it to a woman's figure, and created the vest.  Preserving the impact of the original embroidery, but shortening the length and adding the darts to create the close-fitting silhouette characteristic of the late 1940s-1950s, the vest would likely have been worn with a full skirt.

Don't know about you, but I'd wear either one (or both!) of these waistcoats now....

Left: Woman's Vest, remodeled c1950 in America, from an 18thc man's waistcoat. Museum at FIT. Photograph ©2018 Susan Holloway Scott.
Right: Man's Waistcoat, c1760-70. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Waltz in Its Early Years

Monday, August 13, 2018


Waltzing 1821
Loretta reports:

Some comments on the kinds of physical activities ladies of the 18th and 19th century engaged in led to me to thinking about dancing, and waltzing in particular.

Early in my writing career, I became aware that the waltz had changed over the years, and the early form of the dance wasn’t quite like what we’re familiar with. Images like the ones I’ve posted here don’t look like the style of waltz we’re used to.

According to Elizabeth Aldrich’s From the Ballroom to Hell, “During the first forty years of the nineteenth century, waltzing couples turned clockwise as partners while traveling counterclockwise around the room. This constant spinning, never reversing, could and did produce a feeling of euphoria—or worse, vertigo—that could result in a loss of control.”
9 Positions of the Waltz 1816

The dance was controversial. Lord Byron disapproved. Yes, really. Others said it was unsuitable for unmarried, highly sensitive, and/or delicate women. I can tell you from my own experience, learning to waltz in a ballroom dancing class, that it is very sexy, and I understood why people disapproved. Also, though I was much younger then, I wasn’t used to ballroom dancing, and one waltz left me a little winded. Even with lots of practice, an entire evening of dancing, in the Regency and Victorian eras, must have provided vigorous exercise.

If you're curious about the precise steps for this era (though they do vary), Carlo Blassis's (trans by R. Barton), The Code of Terpischore, offers a detailed description of the waltz. I have a hard time reading these sorts of instructions, but others of you may be able to picture or re-enact it better.

I wanted to focus on this excerpt, however, which gives a sense of one difference between earlier and later forms of the waltz: “The gentleman should hold the lady by the right hand, and above the waist, or by both hands, if waltzing be difficult for her; or otherwise, it would be better for the gentleman to support the right hand of the lady by his left. The arms should be kept in a rounded position, which is the most graceful, preserving them without motion; and in this position one person should keep as far from the other as the arms will permit, so that neither may be incommoded.” This does correspond with the early 19th century images.

Here is a note from Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society; with a glance at Bad Habits (1836): “If a lady waltz with you, beware not to press her waist; you must only lightly touch it with the open palm of your hand, lest you leave a disagreeable impression not only on her ceinture, but on her mind.”
Cruikshank, Specimens of Waltzing 1817

For a more detailed account of the waltz—with lots of lovely images—you might want to read Paul Cooper’s post at Regency Dances.org.

Images: Waltzing 1821, courtesy Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection; Detail from frontispiece to Thomas Wilson's Correct Method of German and French Waltzing (1816), showing nine positions of the Waltz, via Wikipedia; Specimens of Waltzing, George Cruikshank, 1817-06-04, courtesy New York Public Library.

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. FYI: If you order a book through one of my posts, I might get a small share of the sale.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of August 6, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Recreating the lace in a 17thc portrait of Lady Anne Clifford.
• The legendary French drummer boy Joseph Bara of the French Revolution.
• Lifting the lid on plants, poisons, and the power of color (plus how hard it is to kill the beetles needed to make cochineal.)
Image: Wealthy visitors c1900 to seaside resort at Scarborough, Yorkshire, peer down at women gutting fish for their very hard livelihood.
• The persistence of sixteen-year-old Felicite Kina and her ability to negotiate Napoleonic law to maintain kinship ties.
• A 6thc Lombard warrior buried in northern Italy appears to have worn a knife as a prosthetic weapon in place of his amputated forearm.
Ann Catley, the feisty diva.
Image: Gorham Silver ice cream hatchet, c1880.
• The early 20thc pigeons that photographed the earth from above.
• The gravestone of poet John Keats: romancing the stone.
• Itching and scratching: 18thc flea traps.
• The creation of the new London docks in the early 19thc.
Image: Tiny handmade book created in 1807 by 11-year-old Hannah Coffin.
• How an 18thc clergyman cured a sty on his eye by rubbing it with his tom cat's tail.
• What became of the wild ravens of London?
• William Corder and the Red Barn Murder, 1827.
• How incest became part of the Bronte family story.
Video: A Roman signet ring is an amazing metal detector find.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Roller Skating in a Corset and Bustle

Friday, August 10, 2018
Loretta reports:

Many readers express dismay at the clothing of the post-Regency 19th century, and how restrictive it seems. There's an assumption that women couldn't do much while wearing corsets and layer upon layer of undergarments. Dress historians and re-enactors, however, have shown us otherwise. For example, some years ago I attended a talk by Astrida Schaeffer, during which she showed photos of Victorian women (whose clothing made it clear they were wearing corsets—not to mention all the other layers) performing various outdoor activities.

My post the other day about bustles drew more of the dismayed comments on social media, e.g., women couldn't do any work in these clothes. And so, naturally, I hunted for evidence that women did not spend all their time lying on sofas in a swoon. I think this video, of a lady skating while wearing a corset and a bustle and the elaborate dress of what seems to be the 1880s, offers a good demonstration. Gina White's even wearing Victorian-era roller skates, which apparently aren't easy to maneuver.

Video:

Image above left is a still from the video.
 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, August 8, 2018

The Lasting Legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Susan reporting,

Legacies are notoriously fickle things.

They're difficult to create, and even harder to maintain.

Yet one New York woman's legacy still flourishes after more than two centuries. Built on kindness and a genuine concern for the welfare of others, the legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854) continues today because the same challenges that faced many children in 1806 unfortunately remain a part of our society in 2017.

During her lifetime, Eliza Hamilton thought of the present, not posterity.  Born to privilege and married to Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, she still believed in helping others directly. She brought food, clothes, and comfort to refugees of the French Revolution, and to new widows after yellow fever epidemics. She took in a young motherless girl who'd no place to go, and the child became part of her own family for years. In 1797, she was one of the founders (with her friend Isabelle Graham and her daughter Joanna Graham Bethune) of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children.

When Alexander Hamilton died after his infamous duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, Eliza was grief-stricken, but refused to fade into genteel widowhood. Financial difficulties - Hamilton had left her saddled with many debts - forced her to seek assistance from family and friends to support herself and her children, yet still she continued to help others. Her late husband had begun life as a poor and fatherless child, and orphans were always to hold a special place in her heart - and her energies.

In 1806, Eliza, Isabella Graham, and Joanna Bethune founded the Orphan Asylum Society in the City of New York (OAS). Eliza was named second directress. The OAS began with sixteen orphans, children rescued from a harrowing future in the city's streets or almshouses.

But Eliza and her friends realized that these first orphans must be only the beginning of their mission. In the first years of the nineteenth century, New York had grown into the largest city in America with a population of over 60,000, crowded largely into the winding streets of lower Manhattan. the harbor had made the city a major port, and goods and passengers arrived from around the world.

While some New Yorkers prospered, many more fell deeper into poverty and disease, and it was often the children who suffered most. In greatest peril were children who arrived in the city as new orphans, their immigrant parents having died during the long voyage. Completely alone, these children were often swept into dangerous or abusive situations with little hope of escape.

Eliza and her friends would not abandon them. With each year, the OAS grew larger, and was able to help more children, yet the goals of the OAS never changed. Children were provided not only with food, clothing and shelter, but also education and the skills of a trade so that they cold become independent and successful adults.

In 1821, Eliza was named first directress (president), with duties that ranged from the everyday business of arranging donation for the children in her charge to overseeing the finances, leasing properties, visiting almshouses, and fundraising to keep the OAS growing. With her own sons and daughters now grown, these children became an extended family. She took pride in each of of them, and delighted in their successes, including one young man who graduated from West Point.

She continued as directress until 1848 when she finally, reluctantly, stepped down at the age of 91, yet she never lost interest in the children she had grown to love. When she died in 1854 at the remarkable age of 97 - over fifty years after her beloved Alexander - The New York Times wrote of her: "To a mind most richly cultivated, she added tenderest religious devotion and a warm sympathy for the distressed."

The OAS that Eliza Hamilton helped found continues today. Now known as Graham Windham, it has evolved into an organization that supports hundreds of at-risk children and their families in the New York area. Times have changed - the 19th century's orphans are today's youth in foster care - but the mission remains true to Eliza Hamilton's original goals: to provide each child in their care with a strong foundation for life in a safe, loving, permanent family, and the opportunity and preparation to thrive in school, in their communities, and in the world.

"We serve the children who need us most," says Jess Dannhauser, president and CEO of Graham Windham. "It's a deep personal commitment for us. We don't turn anyone away. These are hard-working, courageous kids who want to make something of themselves and are looking for ways to contribute, and we're constantly adapting to discover the best ways to serve them."

Today - August 9 - marks the 261th anniversary of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton's birthday. Although I completed writing I, Eliza Hamilton over a year ago, I've been thinking a lot about Eliza again lately, especially in a world that seems to have become increasingly selfish and uncaring, with little regard for those - especially children - in need.

In May, 2017, I visited the churchyard of Trinity Church in Wall Street, where Eliza and Alexander Hamilton are buried side by side. It's become something of a pilgrimage site for fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda's phenomenal musical, and Alexander's ornate tomb in particular is often decked with flowers and other tributes.

On this morning, Eliza's much more humble stone - where she is described only as her father's daughter and her husband's wife, as was common for 1854 - was notably bare, and I resolved to find a nearby florist. Before I did, however, I stopped inside the church itself. Near the door is a box for contributions to Trinity's neighborhood missions, and I realized then that Eliza didn't need another memorial bouquet. Her legacy instead continues in the example of her own selflessness, compassion, and generosity to others. With a whisper to the woman who'd lived long before me, I tucked the money I'd intended for flowers into the contribution box.

Thank you, Eliza, and may your legacy always endure.

Upper left: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, by Ralph Earl, 1787, Museum of the City of New York.
Right: Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, by Daniel P. Huntingdon, c1845, American History Museum, Smithsonian. Gift of Graham Windham.
Lower left: Grave of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. Photograph ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott. 

Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my latest historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, available everywhere.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Bustle in the Mid-1880s

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Bustle dress ca 1885
Loretta reports:

A reader’s comment on my 1885 fashion post, regarding the weight of this type of fashion, sent me in search of more than my vague guess at weight and (in)convenience. While 19th C ladies wore numerous undergarments, I’m focusing on the bustle, since emphasis on the booty is one of the most striking features of the year’s fashions.


From C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington’s The History of Underclothes, I learned that “the name “bustle” was, in the 1880s, considered a little coarse. ‘Tournure’ or ‘dress improver’ was a more ladylike appendage to the lower back.”

The bustle, according to the Cunningtons, “as a separate article from the petticoat with back flouncing, began to return in 1883, in a short form for the walking dress and longer for the evening. By the next year it was either attached to the bodice or the petticoat, or it might be in the form of crescentic steels introduced into the back of the dress itself. By 1885 a horsehair pad, some six inches square and often called a ‘mattress’ was added; the American kind, of wire—‘which answers the purpose much better; was but one of many other varieties. Unlike that used in the 1870s, the bustle of the 1880’s produced a prominence almost at right angles so that it was popularly declared a tea-tray could be comfortably rested on it.”

This image shows the bustles sans accompanying undergarments.

The image at right, also from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gives a better idea of the underpinnings. The bustle is described as “Cotton twill, cotton-braid-covered-steel, and cotton-braid cord.”
1885 undergarments

Here is an 1885 cotton twill and wire bustle from about 1885. This bustle shows a slightly different approach, from about the same time. At the V&A is this bustle pad from France. The item appears in Eleri Lynn's Underwear: Fashion in Detail (2014) with this commentary: “By 1880 the bustle had all but disappeared, making a re-emergence around 1883. However, instead of the low drapery of the mid to late 1870s, the new style was sharp and angular, jutting out at right angles to the body. This square bustle pad is made from glazed calico trimmed with silk cord, and fastened with a waist tape. It is stuffed to a very solid shape with straw and would have been worn with several petticoats.” The book, which I recommend, also shows the steel bustle in closeup.

Given the images and the vast amounts of trimmings on the clothing itself, I’m now inclined to agree with the reader that this fashion would be rather heavy and awkward—for us. The ladies, I assume, would have been accustomed, and mightn't have thought of their clothing in that way.

Images: Woman’s 2-piece silk bustle dress, France, c. 1885, and Bustle and undergarments c 1885, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Costume and Textiles Department.

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. And, just so you know, if you order a book through one of my posts, I might get a small share of the sale.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Winged Lions' Feet, Dolphins, & Horns-of-Plenty: Sofas for a New America, 1800-1830

Sunday, August 5, 2018
Susan reporting,

Last month I visited the Ten Broeck Mansion, an elegant Federal-style house built in Albany, NY. Built in 1797-98 by General Abraham Ten Broeck and his wife, Elizabeth Van Rensselaer, the house sits high on a hill, overlooking the Hudson River. The mansion is currently the home of the Albany County Historical Association, and most of the rooms are shown decorated to reflect the tastes of the early 19thc owners. I will be writing more about the Ten Broeck Mansion in a future blog post, but today I wanted to feature some of the most interesting - at least to me! - pieces of furniture on display: the sofas. (As always, please click on the images to enlarge them.)

Today we think of a sofa (or couch, or sectional) as the most comfortable piece of furniture in most American homes, a large, soft, and often over-stuffed place for serious lounging. The term "couch-potato" is not to be taken lightly when thinking of modern American sofas.

In the 18thc, however, a sofa was still a rarity in most American homes. Instead most homes featured a variety of chairs that were moved around to suit a room's various purposes (dining, receiving visitors, playing cards), and then placed along the walls of the room when not in use. Lounging wasn't the primary goal. In fact, it probably wasn't even possible in most 18thc chairs.

By the early 19thc, however, American homes were grander and larger, and tastes were changing. The classically inspired French Directoire crossed the Atlantic and became American Directory or American Empire, as exemplified by the work of master American cabinet maker and furniture designer Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854.) The style was considered  to possess a particularly patriotic American flavor, incorporating classical design elements much as the American government was modeled on those of Rome and Greece. Acanthus leaves, rosettes, winged lions' paws, and dolphins are ancient motifs, while baskets of fruit, sheaves of wheat, and horns of plenty promised prosperity and abundance for the still-new country.

A sofa in the Directory style became the perfect centerpiece for American parlors, often as part of a matching suite of furnishings. Not only did the sofa display the owners' exquisite taste, but their pocketbook as well. Elaborately carved of imported woods like mahogany and luxuriously upholstered, often in silk, the large and lavish sofa was an expensive status piece.

Alas, tastes in decor are always changing, and what made an imposing statement two hundred years ago is simply too large and unwieldy for modern houses and apartments.  With their minimal cushions, these sofas also don't look up to the task of serious Netflix binge-watching, either.  But for pure craftsmanship and elegant design, I'll take one of these sofas over a sectional any day.

There are numerous sofas from this period on display in the Ten Broeck Mansion. I think I counted at least a half-dozen, each more imaginative than the last, and in beautiful condition. I'm featuring details of the carving from four of them here.

Many thanks to Karen Giordano, Albany County Historical Association, for her assistance with this post.

Top left: Sofa, c. 1800, carved mahogany. On loan from Gladys V. Clark.
Middle left & right: Sofas, c1810-1830, carved mahogany with upholstery. Both on loan from the Museum of the City of New York.
Bottom right: Sofa, c1810-1830, carved mahogany with upholstery. From bedroom furnished by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Photographs ©2018 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of July 30, 2018

Saturday, August 4, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Jane Austen and the Prince Regent: the very first purchase of an Austen novel.
• Charles Knowlton's Fruits of Philosophy; or, the Private Companion of Young Married People, 1832, the first popular manual on birth control and the first book on the subject by a physician.
• Gentle Annie Etheridge: no dainty lady on the Civil War battlefields.
• From billets-doux to swiping right: how the language of dating and courtship has evolved.
• Stunningly beautiful example of Shingle Style Architecture: the 1878 Eustis Estate.
Image: Scorched by the current heatwave, the landscape surrounding Blenheim Palace reveals the ghostly outlines of the 1705 formal gardens.
Child stealing in Regency England.
• How romanticized photographs and accounts of St Kilda produced a distorted idea of an idyllic Scottish lifestyle on the islands.
• Making the historical personal: reflections on pregnancy and birth.
Image: An Italian parasol with beaded mermaids, c1800.
• An afternoon in Great Bardfield.
• Can reading make you happier?
• For workers at the Du Pont power mills, the fear of accidental explosions was constant; 228 people were killed at the mills between 1802-1921.
Image: The wife of an officer killed at Waterloo had his remains boiled, and one of his vertebrae made into this memento mori box.
• When Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur was a Bernice Frankel, US Marine, and served in World War II.
• The 18thc paintings that inspired the costumes in the 2006 movie Marie Antoinette.
Louise de Lorraine-Vaudemont, 16thc Queen of France.
• Why some 1880s-1920s gravestones are shaped like tree trunks.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday Video: Dressing an 18thc English Gentleman

Friday, August 3, 2018

Susan reporting,

Here's another wonderful fashion history video from the Lady Lever Art Gallery and National Museums of Liverpool, and a companion to this video demonstrating how an 18thc elite woman dressed for her day.

This jaded gentleman is not so much dressing, as being dressed, languidly presenting himself to his valet. Personally, I want to share this video with every copy editor who has queried the word "fall" in relation to 18thc breeches. One picture (or video!) is worth a thousand words.

Thanks to costume historian Pauline Loven and director Nick Loven of Crow's Eye Productions for sharing their latest video with us.

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

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Fashions for August 1885

Thursday, August 2, 2018
August 1885 fashions
Loretta reports:

C. Willett Cunnington, in English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteen Century, expresses no affection for the fashions of this period. “To appreciate the Bustle Era of the ‘80’s, now at its height, it is necessary to recognize that it was accepted as an alternative to the greater horror of the crinoline. The latter would have made the tailor-made walking dress and impossibility whereas with this excrescence behind progress forward was still possible.”

In introducing us to the 1880s, he writes, “The fashions of the ‘80’s were more remote than those of any other decade from modern standards of taste.” According to him, “The principle was strict, that beauty should make no passionate appeal. The epoch was, above all others, anti-anatomical.”

Not quite the way I see it, but every era has its own interpretation of fashion, and we need to put this fashion historian’s observations in the context of his time. The book was published in 1937.

Fashion plates are from the August 1885 issue of The London and Paris Ladies' Magazine of Fashion, which included back views of the dresses, as you see.
Fashion plate description

Fashion plate description cont'd
Reverse of fashions
Broché: woven with a raised figure; brocade
Crepon: a heavy crepe fabric with lengthwise crinkles
Surah: a soft, twilled silk or rayon fabric

I apologize for the small, blurry description images, and recommend you click on the links for better pictures.
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. And, just so you know, if you order a book through one of my posts, I might get a small share of the sale.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Cursed Silk Shoes of an Unhappy Ghost, c. 1715

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Susan reporting:

While examples of 18th c. ladies' silk shoes like the pair, left, aren't rare (like thesethese, and these), shoes with a lurid ghost story attached certainly are. Know as the Papillon Shoes, this pair has a fascinating provenance that's more ghost story and legend than historical fact.

David Papillon (1681-1762) was a wealthy courtier and the master of Papillon Hall, Leicestershire, lower right. "Old Pamp"'s reputation for drunken debauchery was enhanced with whispers that he was friends with the Devil, and that he possessed demonic powers sufficient to paralyze his enemies with a single glance. Other rumors claimed he kept a beautiful Spanish mistress at the Hall. There she was a virtual prisoner, locked away in the attic, and only permitted to walk along the roof for exercise. She disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1717; one story had her die in the attic, cursing the house and promising death and disaster to any owner who dared remove the shoes in which she'd walked the lonely roof.

Soon afterwards, Papillon left the Hall permanently to marry and live with his new wife in Kent. Some judged his haste suspicious, especially considering that he left strict instructions that certain items should never be taken from Papillon Hall. Among them were these shoes.

Over the years, the Hall changed hands many times. In the mid-19th c., however, the contents (including the shoes) were left to the old owner's daughter, and removed from the house. The new owners were at once plagued with unexplained loud thumps, crashes, and voices coming from the attic rooms, violent enough to terrify the family and servants. A local clergyman recalled Old Pamp's stipulation. The shoes were found and restored to the house, and peace restored with them. On several other occasions in the next century the shoes were removed from the house. Each time poltergeist activity began and continued until the shoes were returned.

The Hall was renovated in 1903, and a long-dead body was found hidden in the walls near the attic.  While there was no way to know for sure if this was Old Pamp's mistress, the discovery fueled the legend, and more reports of paranormal activity with it. Even after the Hall fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1950, the mistress's curse seemed to shift to the remaining outbuildings, terrifying their inhabitants. The site was studied by paranormal investigators, who definitely came to believe in the curse.

After the Hall was knocked down, the shoes were left first to a Papillon descendant, and then to the local museum. Yet even that mundane transfer had its mysteries. The driver of the truck carrying the shoes became inexplicably lost. The short trip took him hours instead of minutes to complete, and when he finally did arrive, he was confused and disoriented, without any knowledge of where he'd been or what had happened. Ahh, the power of the shoes....

Above: Papillon Shoes (with single patten), silk with red leather heels, c. 1715-30. Collections Resources Centre, Heritage Services, Glenfield, Leicestershire
Below: View of Papillon Hall, built c. 1622, now demolished. Photograph courtesy of Lost Heritage.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Happy 155th Birthday, Henry Ford

Monday, July 30, 2018

Loretta reports:

Today, 30 July, is automaker Henry Ford’s birthday. I’ve shown you some parts of the Fort Myers, Florida estate he shared with inventor Thomas Edison, here, here, and here.

I’ve also pointed out the way that the motorcar was quickly adopted for long-distance travel, even though the cars broke down frequently, roads could be little more than wagon tracks, and gas stations and auto mechanics were unheard of. But none of these obstacles stopped Americans from getting on the road and going—either on cross-country races or south, for warmer weather. With the advent of affordable autos came the Snowbirds—the Tin Can Tourists I posted about here and here.

All the same, I didn’t really know much about Ford beyond what little we learned (and mostly forgot) in school, back in the last century, about U.S inventors and innovators.

But I happened on this feature (please scroll down to the second article) at the Library of Congress site, which puts Ford and his world into perspective. Along with songs and recollections, it also provides an early film of an automobile parade—which was probably not the horse’s favorite experience that day.
First & ten millionth Ford 1924

Sharp-eyed readers will note the “Ford Song” by one “A. Flivver, composer.” Flivver is early 20th century slang for an automobile.

Images: Photo above left 1919 Model T at Edison-Ford estate, Photo copyright © 2018 Walter M. Henritze III.  At right,  First and ten millionth Ford (1924), courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. 
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, July 28, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of July 23, 2018

Saturday, July 28, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• "I am half agony, half hope": Did you know that Jane Austen considered a different ending for Persuasion?
Singerie: 18thc art depicting monkeys "aping" human behavior.
Elizabeth Gould, 19thc natural history artist who traveled to Australia to execute thousands of exquisite paintings of Australian birds for her husband's publication.
• The history of that striped Breton knit shirt you've been wearing all summer.
Faustina, Marquesa de Amboage: the ideal woman of 1899.
• Before the bookmobile: when librarians rode on horseback to deliver books to rural Americans during the Great Depression.
Mother Goose as a Suffragette: a 1912 book of suffragette poems, digitized to read online.
• "Talking corpses": even in death, women's testimony was considered less creditable than men's.
• Puritan history-myths from the 17thc: did Oliver Cromwell ban mince pies?
Image: Lovely Winterhalter painting of the linked hands of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
• The mysterious death of Captain Archibald Anderson.
• The colorful, historical vocabulary of beer.
• These are the world's oldest known surviving pants, dating from the thirteenth to eleventh century BC.
• It was a dark and stormy night: the strange story of "Shelley's Ghost."
• Make your own cockatrice - a terrifying animal hybrid!
• The radioactive wardrobe of Marie Curie.
• A 19thc children's picture book - in a can.
• The roots of the Hawaiian aloha shirt.
• Just for fun: Charlotte Brontë goes to yoga.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday Video: The Odyssey by Thug Notes

Friday, July 27, 2018
Loretta reports:

Back in January, I alerted you to Emily Wilson's new translation of Homer's Odyssey, the first in English by a woman. Since then I’ve been reading it in installments, puzzling over the hero especially, and what drives him, as well as the culture in which the story lives.

This video offers some interesting insights as well as laughs. However, since it’s part of the Thug Notes series, be warned that the language is not delicate.


Video:  Homer's Odyssey - Thug Notes Summary and Analysis

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).
Image at top left is a still from the video.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Long-Lost Slippers of Pauline Bonaparte Borghese, Princess of Sulmona, 1820

Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Susan reports,

It's a known fact that Loretta and I have a Thing for shoes (it says so right up there, under the blog's title.) When we come across shoes that also have a history - like these or these - we're in heaven. And when there may be a mysterious romance tossed in with the history – well, we can't ask for more, can we?

Dating from the 1820s, the leather slippers, trimmed with now-faded silk, left, were recently "rediscovered" in the King's Museum, University of Aberdeen. As occasionally happens in even the best of collections, these shoes had been long ago tucked away and forgotten, until an enterprising curatorial assistant, Louise Wilkie, came across them, and researched their background to be able to identify them as they prize they are.

The slippers have been identified as having belonged to Pauline Bonaparte Borghese (1780-1825), below right, Princess of Sulmona and sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. One clue was an old engraving on the shoes' soles: "Pauline, Rome Jan 20 1824." Another was the diminutive size of the shoes themselves, equivalent to a UK child's size 2; Pauline was famously known to have very small feet.

But Ms. Wilkie discovered a much stronger connection. The shoes were included in a collection of belongings of Robert Wilson (1787-1871.) Born in Banffshire, Scotland, Wilson served for several years as a ship's surgeon with the Honorable East India Company. The experience quelled his interest in medicine, but made him into an intrepid traveller. His journeys took him throughout Europe as well as to Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and India - all the more extraordinary given the unsettled times in which he was travelled.

While visiting Italy in 1820, he met and formed a close friendship with Pauline. Exactly how close they became remains a tantalizing mystery, even given Pauline's reputation for sexual adventures with many lovers. Still, entries like this one in Wilson's diary hint at their intimacy: "I passed a fortnight in the vicinity of Pisa with the Princess Borghese in a state of almost perfect seclusion, and afterwards accompanied her to the Baths of Lucca."

Perhaps the Princess found the straight-forward Scotsman a refreshing change from her more exotic lovers. Perhaps they simply were friends, and no more. But she did give him many gifts, including these slippers, as mementos – mementos that he carefully packed away and saved for the remainder of his long life, and bequeathed with his papers to the university at his death.

Above left: Slippers belonging to Pauline Borghese, King's Museum, University of Aberdeen.
Bottom right: Princess Pauline Borghese, by Robert Lefevre, c. 1808. Palace of Versailles.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Wife Mourned

Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Loretta reports:

During last summer’s trip to London, we visited many of the sites used or intended to be used in my new Difficult Dukes series. On one amazing day, which began at Wimbledon, we explored the environs of Putney Bridge aka Fulham Bridge, whose predecessor is a sort of secondary character in this series.  It's believed to be the only bridge in England with a church at each end. We visited both. All Saints Church in Fulham is where we landed towards the end of the day.
“Putney Bridge cost upwards of £23,000; it is not only a disgrace to the neighbourhood, considered as an object of use and necessity, but is most dangerous to boats upon the river: the Ferry (which is still used) is mentioned in Doomsday-Book, as yielding an annual toll of 20s.—in 1729 its produce was four-hundred pounds. Immediately opposite to Putney stands Fulham, a mean town, noticeable only from its possessing a Palace of the Bishops of London, and a Church, in which are some monuments of eminent men.”
—Arthur Freeling, Picturesque Excursions; containing views at and near places of popular resort; with descriptions of each locality, 1842 (black & white image is from this book)

The church, which receives only this passing reference—after the slap at the town—is quite lovely, inside and out, and as the day was fading, we had the special treat of hearing choir practice.

There were, as there always are, poignant messages on the stones of the churchyard. But this one struck us as both touching and  ... odd.

Depending on your screen, you might find it a little hard to read. Transcription below:
“Sacred to the Memory of ISABELLA MURR
of this Parish
who departed this Lifethe 29th of November 1829
in the 52nd Year of her Age.

Ye who possess the highest charms of life:
A tender friend - a kind indulgent wife:
Oh, learn their worth! In her beneath this stone
These pleasing attributes together shone.
Was not true happiness with them combin’d?
Ask the spoil’d being she has left behind.                                               
                                    HE’S GONE TOO.
You can learn more about the bridge and see a number of images at the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham Library Service’s blog here and here.

Photographs copyright © 2018 Walter M. Henritze III
Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

From the Archives: What Every Woman Should Know About Wearing Hoop Skirts - in 1938

Sunday, July 22, 2018
Susan reporting,

Fashion repeats itself, and supporting skirts from beneath - whether by a farthingale, hoops, or a crinoline, depending on the century - is a style that keeps coming back. We've featured it here on the blog many times, including here and here.

But until I came across this feature from a 1938 Fall Fashion issue of Life Magazine, I'd no idea that hoops had also had a brief resurgence for evening wear in the late 1930s, an era that I'd always thought was defined by slinky, body-conscious bias-cut gowns.


The editorial copy in Life describing this "new" fashion in dance frocks, above left, is amazingly snarky, even for fashion reporting, including this gem: "American women, notoriously hippy, are expected to pounce upon the bell-shaped silhouette. The nipped-in waist, the wide-spreading skirt, are perfect camouflage for excess pounds below the waist...." And this was from a mainstream American magazine!

I also loved how these small, sarcastic cartoons that illustrate the perils of wearing a hoopskirt in the 1930s were so similar to the challenges facing the Victorian ladies in their crinolines, as well as this poor 18th c. lady betrayed by her hoops. It made me think of what a 2018 fashionista would face if the cycle of fashion brings back hoops again: imagine wrestling the things through a modern airport security check, or onto a stool at Starbucks. But you never know....

Click here to read the entire feature on Fall Fashion, available online courtesy of GoogleBooks - including what must have been a pretty racy photoshoot of a model in a revealing black hoop petticoat and corset.
Top: "A hoop hangs under this black taffeta dress with blue ruchings", photo from Life Magazine, Sept. 5, 1938.
Below: "What Every Girl Should Know About Wearing Hoopskirts", illustrations from Life Magazine, Sept. 5, 1938.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of July 16, 2018

Saturday, July 21, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Literary dreams: the 1903 Carnegie Library in Elwood, IN is for sale.
• An account of Peggy Jones, a Regency-era London mud-lark.
• In search of abandoned African-American cemeteries and the stories behind them.
• How two hundred stitches in time saved the lining of an 18thc banyan.
• The last summer of White Court, President Calvin Coolidge's summer White House.
Video: Cozy accommodations for the most miniature of miniature books in the Newberry Library.
• Has supper always meant dinner?
• Beautiful sky blue 1870s silk faille dress, made in Paris.
• How Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson became friends - and what finally destroyed the friendship.
• The funeral of Elizabeth Valois, Queen of Spain, 1568.
• Dangerous beauty: new exhibition looks at Medusa in Classical Art.
• The heatwave of 1808.
• The changing place-names of Washington, DC.
Earl Grey tea: a splendid cup of tea with a tasty tale of creation.
• Why NYC needs a tribute to Nellie Bly, 19thc travel writer and journalist, and the original "fearless girl."
• What beds were like in 1776.
• Who will save this old 1840s stone schoolhouse, originally built and given for the education of the children in Hackney?
• Favorite story-tweet of the week features a 95-year-old former firefighter.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Video: 18thC Working Women in Summer

Friday, July 20, 2018

Susan reporting,

Here's another short video from our friends at Crow's Eye Productions, featuring two young rural women from 18thc Britain and how they dress for their day as harvest workers. I have to admit that they don't seem to be working particularly hard, but then they'll be working from dawn to dusk, so maybe they're pacing themselves.

Thanks to producer/costume designer Pauline Loven for sharing with us!

If you received 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, July 19, 2018

From the Archives: Dining in July 1815

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Loretta reports:

Since we had a short video about 18th and early 19th C dining last week, now seemed like  good time to bring back this post on what foods were available in July during the Regency era.
The Greengrocer

From The Epicure’s Almanack July Alimentary Calendar:
~~~
The heats of the season now impose the necessity of occasionally substituting a light vegetable diet for the more solid gratification of animal food ... Cauliflowers, artichokes, green-peas, French-beans, Windsor* and other garden beans, frequently form a conspicuous part of the family dinner, to which butcher’s meat, in moderate quantities, may be said to serve merely as an auxiliary stimulant. Ham, bacon, and tongues, as well as ducks and geese, are the most seasonable viands for this purpose ... On festive occasions venison and turtle retain their pre-eminent station at the tables of the opulent, where also the fawn ... forms an elegant dish, when roasted whole and served up with rich gravy. Veal, having now been fed on milk, in its richest state, is peculiarly fine and well flavoured; but care should be taken that it be delivered fresh to the cook, as it is more liable to suffer from the heat of the weather and from flies than any other kind of meat. Ragouts of sweetbreads, oxpalates, lambs’ bits, fat livers, and cocks’-combs, are among the light dishes introduced at superior tables; where also various preparations of curry afford a delectable repast to those who have acquired a taste for this Indian diet.
 ...
 ... a plenteous and varied dessert presents itself at this season; consisting of pines, melons, peaches, cherries, grapes, currants, gooseberries and raspberries, as well as early apples and pears. Fruit is certainly most salubrious in hot weather; but, if the opinion be well founded that it does most good when taken before dinner, the dessert ought to take place of that spurious meal called lunch, which, being usually made of animal food, too often banishes the appetite irrecoverably for the day.

~~~
*broad beans

Excerpted from The Epicure's Almanack: Eating and Drinking in Regency London (The Original 1815 Guidebook).

Image: James Pollard, The Greengrocer (ca 1819) courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

From the Archives: A Pretty, Witty Pineapple Reticule, c1800

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Susan reporting:

This past weekend, Jane Austen fans from around the country (and a few from overseas as well) gathered in Louisville, KY for the Jane Austen Society of North America's annual Jane Austen Festival. Nearly all of the participants dress in splendid replicas of the era that they've created themselves, and from the images all over the internet, it's quite a Regency-era fashion show. (On Instagram, the hashtag #janeaustenfestival will lead you down a wonderful rabbit-hole.) 

In the spirit of all those beautifully clad ladies - and maybe a hussy or two - I'm sharing this post again featuring the perfect accessory - including a link to directions for knitting one yourself.

As we've noted here before, the dramatic change in women's fashion in the late 18th and early 19th c not only meant the temporary end of wide skirts with hoops, but also the invention of a necessary new accessory: the purse. Gone were the days when a woman could tuck all her little necessities in an over sized pocket that tied around her waist and was hidden beneath voluminous petticoats. Much as purses are today, the new bags were often as stylish as they were utilitarian, and added a touch of bright color and whimsy to the ubiquitous white muslin gowns.

Many of you mavens of historic dress will recognize the picture of the gown, left. It has appeared in several of the excellent fashion books featuring the holdings of the Kyoto Costume Institute, and is all over fashion history blogs and pages on Pinterest.

The gown is French, c 1800, of silk taffeta with a drawstring waist. The shawl is silk net with an embroidered floral motif and silk fringe, and the hat is also silk net and pongee with a tassel.

But it's the pineapple dangling from the lady's wrist that has always intrigued me. Little bags like this were called reticules, from the French and earlier Latin for a small net or mesh bag. (There's another charming, if unsubstantiated, explanation that the word is a mocking derivative from ridicule, the French word for ridiculous.) Pineapples and other exotic fruit had become a fashion-forward motif thanks to the trendsetting Josephine de Beauharnais Bonaparte, born on the Caribbean island of Martinique. This pineapple-shaped reticule was knitted in yellow and green silk with silver beads for accents, and the top with the leaves pulls open with the tasseled drawstrings. It's a wonderful, witty example of three-dimensional knitting, whether the skilled workmanship of a professional knitter or a dedicated lady.

For a zoomable view of the bag on the Kyoto web site, click here.

The fashion for knitted and crocheted pineapples outlived Napoleon, with directions or "recipes" for them appearing in lady's magazines well into the mid-19th century. One version of the "Pine Apple Bag" appeared in The Lady's Assistant, for executing useful and fancy designs in knitting, netting, and crochetwork, published by Mrs. Jane Gaugain in 1840. Contemporary needleworker/blogger Isabel Gancedo has adapted this pattern for modern knitters, and posted both her version and Mrs. Gaugain's on her website here. Be forewarned: this is a challenging pattern for experienced knitters – but if you're game, the results are delightful!

Above: Photo from Revolution in Fashion 1715-1815, copyright 1990 The Kyoto Costume Institute
Many thanks to Janea Whitacre for pointing me towards Ms. Gancedo's on-line instructions.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Baron de Berenger—Horse Whisperer?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Thomas Alken, A Gentleman Riding With a Groom, and Coversing
Loretta report:

Last year, during my visit to the Kensington Central Library, Dave Walker introduced me to the Baron de Berenger’s gun. Thanks to Dave's introducing me to this colorful character, I’ve spent some time with de Berenger’s Helps and Hints: How to Protect Life and Property. It surprised me in a number of ways.

At the time of my stories, animals tended to be treated brutally. I won’t go into the ugly details, but, generally speaking (of course there were many exceptions) if human life was cheap, non-human life was close to worthless, the RSPCA notwithstanding. And while life was kinder to humans of the privileged classes, they were not necessarily kinder to their animals, especially their horses. And so I was struck with de Berenger’s views on the subject:
“[A] rider should, to appearance at least, be a part of his horse; in the efforts of both these component parts there should seem as if there was but one and the same impulse,— a generous and reciprocal attention to please,—to serve, and to spare; and when that is accomplished, most horses will display as much delight in being rode, as the rider will be delighted in riding such a horse; but to accomplish this to perfection, an intimacy, nay, an affection, must be established between yourself and the generous animal; but which ... cannot be attained by the intercourse which, by far too generally, prevails between fashionable characters and their horses; these poor, willing, and faithful animals, rarely experiencing any other notice, save that of being urged on by whip and spur, to exertions but too frequently woefully distressing to a willing frame ... What has secured to the dog the reputation of being more affectionate, more intelligent, and more faithful, than the horse? Because, even the exquisite will deign to hold a familiar and encouraging intercourse, nay, conversation, with him: not so with the poor horse; except when being cleaned or fed, it stands unnoticed for many hours in dull solitude, at least as far as man is concerned. With him the cheering influence and the enjoyments of the sun are embittered by a portion of severe, because generally inconsiderate, labour; even then, and although enduring willingly, hardly ever to experience the pattings of a condescending hand as a cheap encouragement!  ... nevertheless, and aware as the horse must be that it is led forth to endure straining labour, we see him cheerfully leave the stable, ever as willing slavishly to serve his master, as to please him, in any way, which he is taught to know as agreeable to him. Only familiarize with and pet him, as much as you do the dog, and his best endeavours at least to rival canine affection, intelligence, and fidelity, will soon be placed beyond all doubt.
The entire entry, from which I’ve also included a clipping (at right), is well worth reading. I’d be especially interested in the reactions of our horse-loving/riding/driving Nerdy History persons.

Image: Henry Thomas Alken, A Gentleman Riding With a Groom, and Conversing (undated), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

 
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