Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Omnibus Comes to London

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
 Loretta reports:

Last year, during my visit to the London Transport Museum, I encountered a form of public transportation I hadn’t paid much attention to previously.

The omnibus was first introduced in Paris, and it was a Parisian coach-builder, George Shillibeer, who brought the concept to London.
“The route which Shillibeer chose for his first omnibus was from the Yorkshire Stingo at Paddington, along the New Road to the Bank. The New Road was the name by which Marylebone, Euston and Pentonville Roads were then known.

 ... On the morning of July 4, 1829, Shillibeer's two new omnibuses began to run. A large crowd assembled to witness the start, and general admiration was expressed at the smart appearance of the vehicles, which were built to carry twenty-two passengers, all inside, and were drawn by three beautiful bays, harnessed abreast. The word "Omnibus" was painted in large letters on both sides of the vehicles. The fare from the Yorkshire Stingo to the Bank was one shilling; half way, sixpence. Newspapers and magazines were provided free of charge. The conductors, too, came in for considerable notice, for it had become known that they were both the sons of British naval officers—friends of Shillibeer. These amateur conductors had resided for some years in Paris, and were, therefore, well acquainted with the duties of the position which they assumed. The idea of being the first omnibus conductors in England pleased them greatly, and prompted them to work their hardest to make Shillibeer's venture a success. They were attired in smart blue-cloth uniforms, cut like a midshipman's; they spoke French fluently, and their politeness to passengers was a pleasing contrast to the rudeness of the short-stage-coach* guards—a most ill-mannered class of men. Each omnibus made twelve journeys a day, and was generally full.”
— Henry Charles Moore, Omnibuses and Cabs 1902
Though his omnibus was a success, Shillibeer contended with fierce and often unscrupulous competition and the NIMBY inhabitants of Paddington Green—although “the threatened doom of Paddington Green did not deter the sentimental poke-bonneted young ladies, who resided in the charming suburb, from spending a considerable amount of their time in watching the omnibuses start. In the middle of the day many of them were in the habit of taking a ride to King's Cross and back, for the sole purpose of improving their French by conversing with the conductors.”

Anecdotes like this abound, including tales of theft by the paid conductors who soon replaced the gentlemen. Since space doesn’t permit me to quote at length, I recommend you read at least Chapter II of the first part for yourself.

*Short-stage coaches, which had been in existence from the mid-18th century, ran—slowly, expensively, and unpunctually—from the suburbs to the City and the West End.

Images: Photos of Loretta in omnibus at London Transport Museum, View of Exterior London Transport Museum Omnibus, and Announcement Marking the End of the Omnibus Era taken at London Transport Museum, copyright © 2018 Walter M. Henritze III.

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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Recreating (and Wearing) a Pair of 18thc Pattens

Sunday, October 14, 2018
Susan reporting,

Writing about the past is an ever-changing (and ever-exciting) challenge, and research is one of my absolute favorite parts of the process. I'm always eager to read or hear of new discoveries or fresh perspectives on old ideas, and I never know what may inspire a new character or plot twist.

All of which has brought me back to pattens, a kind of 18thc under-shoe raised up on a metal ring. I've already written a post about them here on the blog.

But while on a recent visit with some of my friends in the Historic Trades program in Colonial Williamsburg, I've come to realize that the subject of pattens is much more complicated.

Fragments of c1770s pattens with a wave-like base, or ring, were discovered in several archaeological digs in Williamsburg, Virginia, and inspired a project at Colonial Williamsburg to recreate them. While pattens would have been the specialized work of a professional patten-maker in 18thc England, in 21stc Colonial Williamsburg they required the skills of several different tradespeople.

Aislinn Lewis, journeywoman blacksmith, made the wavy rings and hardware that held the ring and straps to the sole, and completed the final assembly. Jay Howlett, journeyman artificer and leatherworker, made the leather straps and leather laces. Paul Zelesnikar, journeyman wheelwright, carved the wooden soles from ash. Jenny Lynn, apprentice tinsmith, has worn the finished pattens as part of CW programming. All of them contributed historical research and construction suggestions.

While the fragments were clearly worn in colonial Virginia, no documentation has yet been found to prove that pattens were being made or even sold in the colony at that time. It's probable that the pattens were imported from England, and possibly considered such mundane objects that they weren't listed for sale in newspaper advertisements.

The replica pattens are based not only on the fragments, but also on other, more complete examples that survive in other museum collections. Pattens were inexpensive, workaday footwear that likely didn't have a long life. The flat wooden soles were carved to fit beneath the wearer's shoes, and were held in place by a leather strap that tied across the instep. The metal ring raised the wearer about an inch above the muck of 18thc life, protecting her shoes.

But as Jenny Lynn actually wore the pattens, she discovered a number of things that scholars hadn't realized. First of all, walking in pattens is an acquired skill. Jenny likens it to walking in high-heeled mules. Because there's no back-strap, the wearer's weight must push forward onto the ball of the foot, or she'll walk right out of the soles. An 18thc woman who wore pattens regularly would have been familiar with how best to walk in them, but a certain amount of shuffling must have been unavoidable.

While the assumption has always been that pattens were worn on the notoriously unclean 18thc city streets, Jenny found that this kind of patten would be almost impossible to wear on cobblestone streets, where the rings would slip and tip and lead to sprained ankles and falls. They seem much better suited to the softer surfaces of a more rural life, like an unpaved path or street. Jenny found they work particularly well in mud or wet grass, though if worn by a wealthier woman than a lowly apprentice (sorry, Jenny), the pattens also probably served for making a short journey from a house to a waiting carriage.

The photos here show Jenny (in the blue petticoat) and Aislinn (in the red petticoat) holding the various components to the pattens, as well as close-ups of the soles and rings, and the pattens both on and off the foot. Perhaps my favorite photo is lower right, with the distinctive marks left by the patten-rings mingling with the modern sneaker-treads of CW visitors. The video, below, shows Jenny walking in them.

Many thanks to Jenny Lynn and Aislinn Lewis for their assistance with this post!

All photographs ©2018 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of October 8, 2018

Saturday, October 13, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Enormous farm animals: the history behind an "absolute unit."
• Williams & Sowerby, silk mercers of Oxford Street who produced tissue de verre, or "glass cloth. More about tissue de verre here.
• Ectoplasm and Helen Duncan, the last British woman tried for witchcraft - in 1944.
• "I have heard some of the Democratic rejoicing": Abigail Adams' last letter to husband John, 1801.
Image: Know Your Pugs, from Strand Magazine, 1892.
• An 1820s shooting coat, worn for hare-coursing.
• Dozens of costume history books to read on line via The Getty.
• The challenges of war to a woman: Baroness Frederika von Riedesel describes the second Battle of Saratoga,
Image: Gorgeous diamond and emerald parure designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria.
• A 12thc relic meets 21stc technology.
• Frances Gabe and her amazing self-cleaning house.
• In the 1870s, a radical journalist and a photographer documented London street life with these images.
• Late 19thc silk Chinese woman's surcoat features flying cranes against mountains and clouds.
Image: Unusual Georgian mourning brooch c1780 with hairwork tomb, weeping willow, and urn.
• Every Marine carries the flag: a brief history of the US Marine Corps flag.
• Little ladies: Victorian fashion dolls and the feminine ideal.
• The twenty-five most famous residents of New York City's cemeteries.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Video: Getting Dressed during World War One: A VAD Nurse

Friday, October 12, 2018

Susan reporting,

Our friends at Crow's Eye Productions have ventured into the 20thc for this video. Featured in this video are the nurses who served in the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) run by the British Red Cross Society during World War One. The VAD was a voluntary unit of civilians who provided nursing care to British military personnel; the majority of the volunteers were women and girls from the middle and upper classes who wished to contribute to the war effort. While most of these volunteers (over 60,000 by 1918) lacked the medical training of professional nurses, by the war's end many had proven that they were not mere "society ladies."  They served bravely and competently not only in auxiliary hospitals at home and in the field, but as ambulance drivers and cooks as well.

The accomplishments of the VAD are especially impressive in light of their uniforms - no easy-care scrubs here! This video shows the staggering amount of clothing that these women were expected to wear as they performed their duties. In time the war would mark a dramatic shift in the role of modern women and how they dressed, but these uniforms clearly belong more to the Edwardian era than to the 1920s flappers.

An additional note: the video was filmed on location at Stanhope Hall, Horncastle, the site of a former VAD Hospital.

Many thanks to producer and costumer Pauline Loven for sharing this video with us!

If you receive this post 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, October 11, 2018

The Dickey, or, Abominable False Front

Thursday, October 11, 2018

August 1873 Men's Fashions
Loretta reports:

The author of this 1876 guide to men’s dress did not mince words when it came to false shirt fronts. One can only imagine what he'd have to say about, oh, man buns or low-hanging trousers.
BEAU BRUMMEL said, “A gentleman should show clean linen, and plenty of it.” The first part of this sentence is strictly true, the second less so. There is no need, having a clean shirt on, to publish the fact, or to lead the public to infer you wear it as a disguise by undue exhibition of it. “Virtue is its own reward :” so the assumption of clean underclothing generally, even if its light be kept beneath a bushel, should afford the wearer the same pleasure as if ostentatiously paraded. When I see a man placarding his chest with a wide expanse of lawn, and exhibiting an unnecessary amount of cuffs, I infer he has got on neither a clean nor white shirt. The surmise generally proves correct.

Interlined Shirt Bosoms 1912
I often see in haberdashers' shops an exaggerated collar and lapel in one, designed to cover manly bosom. The commercial name of this impious fraud is called a Dickey. This felonious impostor must be made away with. No one with any self-respect can wear a dickey. A man clad in such an unmitigated imposition is a whited sepulchre of the very blackest type. If the reader knows any so depraved even to possess one, let him persuade the wretched man to pause, ere too late, in his headlong career—to burn the spurious rag, and he can then exclaim, with regenerated heart, “Richard” (not Dickey, mind) “is himself again!”
Many say, however, when this charge is brought against them, that they suffer from neuralgia, lumbago, and tic-douloureux and ... various other ailments ... Well, what excuse is this? I do not prohibit flannel —wear an under flannel shirt—two if you like; but you must cover it with an entire white shirt, not an aliquot part of it. If hypocrisy be the homage which vice pays to virtue, then the assumption of dickey is a sneaking admission of the necessity for showing clean linen, and a discreditable way of making a sham composition with the subject.
The Gentleman's Art of Dressing with Economy. By a Lounger at the Clubs (1876)

The Lounger's disapproval did not lead to the rapid extinction of the dickey. On the contrary, it lived on into the 20th century, and it isn't dead yet.

Images: August 1873 Men’s Fashions, from the Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion, via Google Books.
Interlined Shirt Bosoms (1912), and Arrow Donchester shirt 1915, 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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

An 1880s Bustle Gown, Intriguingly Unfinished

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Susan reporting,

Here's another fascinating garment from the Fashion Unraveled exhibition currently at the Museum at FIT in New York through November 17, 2018 (The first I shared was this 18thc gentleman's waistcoat that was remade for a woman in the 1950s). As the Museum's notes explain, this exhibition isn't about perfectly preserved, pristine garments. Instead, it "highlights the aberrant beauty in flawed objects, giving precedence to garments that have been altered, left unfinished, or deconstructed."

As a fiction writer, I'd add one more to that list: garments that survive in such an interesting state that they beg to tell their story.

This white bustle gown from the 1880s is instantly intriguing. Even an untrained eye would see that there's something not quite right about it. Instead of the usual crisp, almost architectural lines characteristic of fashion of the period, this gown seems almost droopy. There's a reason for this, of course: it was never finished. The brown silk taffeta trim is only basted into place (the long white running stitches are quite visible), the raw-edged trim is still tentatively arranged in some places, and the gathers that arrange the bustle and overskirt are decidedly lopsided. The cream-colored wool was never steamed and pressed, leaving the seams soft and bulky, almost rumpled.

And yet this was clearly going to be a stylish gown, and likely a costly one, too. Even if a customer changed her mind in the middle of the process, why wasn't it remodeled to fit another wearer? Why wasn't all that brown taffeta and raw-edge, fringed trim removed to use in another way? Why was it simply abandoned in this tantalizing state?

No one today has the answers. But it could certainly inspire a wealth of fictional explanations, couldn't it?

Dress, c1880, USA. Museum at FIT.
Photographs ©2018 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Fires of October 1871

Monday, October 8, 2018
Chicago Fire 1871
Loretta reports:

Nearly every major city in the world has endured a catastrophic fire. Some happen during wartime, sometimes it's arson, but in the majority of cases, an act of nature or an accident sets things off.

Two of the most well-known U.S. fires are those in Chicago (1871) and San Francisco (1906), the latter resulting from earthquake damage. The former supposedly started when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over an oil lamp in the barn, but that’s only one of several versions of what happened.

An article in the Library of Congress’s Today in History (please scroll down) taught me something I didn’t know: On the same day as the Chicago blaze, large parts of Michigan and Wisconsin, including several cities, burnt to the ground. The fires left at least 1,200 people—possibly twice that number—dead. The summer and early autumn had been unusually dry and October was unusually warm. Fierce winds spread the fires far and quickly. In other words, the Midwest was a tinderbox in October 1871.
Chicago after the Fire

Chicago, like London at the time of the Great Fire a couple of centuries earlier, was built mostly of wood. So were other cities. Regulating Mother Nature is a challenge, but given London's experience, you’d suppose cities would take precautions, establishing building codes to reduce risk, as London did back in the 1600s. But usually what happens is that only a catastrophe brings about change, and cities had to work it out for themselves. From what I can ascertain, they usually did so, establishing building codes and other regulations as well as strengthening their firefighting organizations.

For some perspective on how much of the world has burned down over the centuries, you might want to take a look at Wikipedia’s List of Town and City Fires. It provides some fascinating information and food for thought.

Images: The Great Fire at Chicago Oct. 9th 1871. View from the West Side; Chicago after the Fire, courtesyLibrary of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

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, October 6, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of October 1, 2018

Saturday, October 6, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• A specialized working horse in the 19th century: the funeral horse.
• What did 18thc ladies wear under a chemise a la reine?
  A forgotten letter by early UK suffragette Annie Kenney is discovered.
• A mourning ring for Louis XVI, created to coincide with the reinstatement of Louis XVIII, represents not only grief, but a new nationalism.
• "Toss up, pitch and hustle, and any other games of chance": all were banned in 1775 by General Washington.
• When the wardrobe is (intentionally)  the star of the film: "Dressing a Renaissance Queen."
Image: This renowned 18th thoroughbred was named "Potoooooooos" pronounced "Pot-eight-Os".
• Rediscovering Julia Rush, another unsung Founding Mother.
• Queen Victoria's Hindustani diary.
• A magnificent embroidered evening dress, c1798-1800.
• When fashion set sail: the truth about those miniature ships in 18thc French ladies' hair.
• "To Order Mushromes": a transcribed recipe to try from Jane Dawson's 17thc manuscript cookbook.
Art nouveau meets baroque in Bristol.
Image: "Outbursts of Autumn: Monstrous Muffs and Startling Stoles", 1910.
Victorian advice for men on civility towards women.
• Hunt is on for a lost 18thc masterpiece (last seen in the 1940s) by Angelica Kauffman, one of the greatest women artists.
• How 19thc women in Edinburgh, Scotland helped enslaved Americans on the road to freedom.
• A grab-bag of historical styles, yet somehow it works: the eclectic, elegant 1887 Honeywell-Roberts house in Manhattan.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Video: Self-Defense for Women

Friday, October 5, 2018
Loretta reports:

In the course of researching some 19th century self-defense materials, I learned that, even before Victorian times, women could learn self-defense techniques. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t exactly respectable, but it could be done. However, by the Edwardian era, women are beginning to get formal instruction in martial arts, like ju jitsu (you can learn a great deal more about this at the Bartitsu Society website).

 Some women, trained in these arts, provided protection for suffragists.

This film is a bit later—1933—but the moves employ the same principles.

Self-Defence Tutorial from 1933 | British Pathé

Image 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).

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fashions for October 1902

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
October 1902 Day Costume
Loretta reports:

The Delineator is quite a bit different from the ladies’ magazines I’ve used for earlier time periods. The World of Fashion, La Belle Assemblée, and other 19th century periodicals were aimed at upper class women. Those magazines described the fashions, but didn’t explain how to make them, because their audience’s clothes were made by dressmakers.

The Delineator’s market is altogether different. They're selling patterns to women who make at least some of their own and their family’s clothes. My guess is that some dressmakers (those outside the high fashion realms) might have found it useful, too, especially regarding latest trends. As a result, we get a wealth of detail about the clothes and their construction—valuable especially for writers setting stories in this time period or those simply interested in post-Victorian fashion.

Like other ladies’ magazine of the 1800s, 1900s, and today, though, the Delineator offers a summary of the latest trends in the introduction to their long fashion section. You can read about what’s hot for October 1902 here.  A few years later, the silhouette changed quite a bit, as I pointed out in this post.
October 1902 Tea or Reception Dress

Because the descriptions are so long, I’m not going to attempt to clip them, but will instead provide links. Day Costume Description here. Tea gowns description here (scroll down to Figures 151G and 152G.

Images via Hathi Trust.

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, September 30, 2018

Cha-ching! A Splendid 1894 Cash Register

Sunday, September 30, 2018
Susan reporting,

In these days of credit card scanner, swipers, and readers, I bet there are more than a few of our readers who won't know what this is. It's a cash register, and an extravagantly beautiful one at that.

Made in 1894 by the National Cash Register Company, this impressive nickel-plated register (Model 79) was an example of the latest in retail. By the end of the 19thc, Americans had more cash (and more credit) to spend, and stores had grown in size and splendor. Consumers were tempted with a wealth of increasingly mass-produced products, all presented in an elegant setting that encouraged the experience of shopping - itself a 19thc verb. This over-sized register, gleaming and ornamented like a piece of fine silver, would definitely have been part of the experience.

But cash registers were initially designed not for the sake of the customers, but to combat the petty thievery of clerks by keeping track of transactions. According to the museum's web site, the register "has three columns of keys for entering numbers, and a fourth column of function keys. The operating crank is on the right side, the cash drawer is below, and a receipt dispenser is on the left side. Pop-up indicators above the keys indicate the total purchase." High-tech, indeed.

The register is currently on display as part the "Art in Industry" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Photograph ©2018 Susan Holloway Scott

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of September 24, 2018

Saturday, September 29, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
 Following the fashions: a basic American pastime.
• Paintings of unruly 19thc children by Andre Henri Dargelas (1828-1906)
• The history of surgical gloves includes a love story.
• Every night, the U.S. Constitution is lowered into an atomic-bomb-proof vault to protect it from thieves and terrorists.
• ImageSkulls of medieval soldiers, fused with the chain mail they'd been wearing when they died.
• A 17thc sailor's shameful confession discovered in his journal - though there's a kind-of happy ending.
• Stylish woman's hat c1880 cleverly uses pleated silk trim to replicate the feathers (or wings) of endangered birds.
• Teeth whitening in the Victorian era, from charcoal paste to sulfuric acid.
• ImageRoad-trip beauties posing with a car (and some canoe paddles) c1920.
• Samuel Pepys was a 17thc visitor: the Cheesecake House in Hyde Park.
• Newly digitized online: 1,600 pre-1900 books on astrology, magic, alchemy, and the occult.
• Exercise for women in the early 19thc.
• A serial killer on the island of Jamaica, 1773.
• Image: The 18thc Shell Cottage, Carton House, County Kildare.
• Founded in London in 1875: the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants.
• How the Rolling Stones in 1968 ended up at 17thc Swarkestone Pavilion.
• While Europe's oldest intact book was found in the coffin of a saint.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Friday Video: Inside an 1885 Dinner Dress

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Susan reporting,

This short but fascinating video features the work of the Costume Institute Conservation Laboratory of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The star of this video, however, is this c1885 silk dinner dress, right. Made by New York dressmaker Mme. Grapanche (her label is still stitched inside the dress), the dress represents the most extreme version of a bustle - that huge draped and constructed extension to the backside of the dress, that would have been worn over a cage-like or padded support tied around the wearer's waist. Of course, this was a high-fashion version, worn by an elite woman with a taste for drama (Madame Olenska!), but the bustle style in less exaggerated forms was popular among 1880s women of every class.

Here Jessica Regan, assistant curator in the Costume Institute, shows us what was sewn inside the dress to help support so much fabric and style. Of course, modern fashionistas might look at this in bewilderment: how does one sit in all that bustled splendor? We have the answer right here, in another Friday Video.

For another analysis of this dress, see this blog post from the Museum at FIT.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Landau Carriage

Monday, September 24, 2018
1809 Landau
Loretta reports:

My characters get from here to there in various horse-drawn vehicles, but mainly I've posted about public transportation, like hackney cabs and coaches. Privately owned vehicles have been rather neglected, although I do offer images on my Pinterest page.

In A Duke in Shining Armor, the heroine arrives in a landau to collect her wayward duke. The landau was a coachman-driven vehicle, pulled by two to four horses. It carried four passengers, and was more luxurious than the curricles and cabriolets that dashing heroes tend to drive in our stories. The latter are more like sports cars. The former are more like luxury sedans.

Something to bear in mind: Unlike today, vehicles did not come off an assembly line. They were individually made, and the owner might have been closely involved in the design.* Consequently, not all landaus look alike. Earlier ones were often built on square lines, but not always, as the 1809 Ackermann illustration, above, shows. Some interesting aspects of the landau, as pointed out here, are the seating design, allowing the two pairs of passengers to face each other, and the two folding hoods. According to Discovering Horse-Drawn Carriages, “In the early days, the hoods were made of harness leather and fell back a mere forty-five degrees.” When these early hoods were up, the interior could be hot, stuffy, and smelly, thanks to the oil and blacking used to keep the leather nice and shiny. In later vehicles, the hoods folded back flat.
Square Landau

A much later and fancier vehicle, one of the royal family’s Ascot landaus, was the carriage the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Harry & Meghan) used for their wedding.

Here’s a late Victorian landau from the Horse and Carriage Museum Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, France. And this is one you can buy.

You can read more about landaus here at All Things Georgian.

*This is why some vehicles, like the Stanhope gig, are named after people.

Images: Patent Landau, Ackermann’s Repository, February 1809; Square Landau, NEN Gallery, Luton Culture Museum Service.

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 an item through one of my posts, I might get a small share of the sale.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of September 17, 2018

Saturday, September 22, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• "Telling the bees": In 19thc New England, it was held to be essential to whisper to beehives of a loved one's death.
Wynflaed and the price of fashion: a rare 11thc manuscript will describes one woman's wardrobe.
• Alexander Hamilton and the lacemaking industry of Ipswich, MA.
Felix Nadar in the gondola of a balloon - and how this carte-de-viste was intended to help promote his costly ballooning ventures.
• Not for the shy: spectacular tartan Lord of the Isles suit worn by the Duke of Windsor.
Image: Rose gathered between the trenches on the Western Front, 1918, and more on the 19-year-old soldier who sent it home to his sweetheart.
Jane Austen's curious banking story makes her an apt face for the £10 note.
• Creole comforts and French connections: a case study in 18thc Caribbean dress.
• The 10thc teenaged English princess who defied a bishop over fashion.
• Ten vintage canes with amazing hidden features.
• Every picture tells a story - or does it? Examining two photos of romanticized train stations.
• A day in the life of a 19thc East India Company Director.
• The longest - and the shortest - reigns of the Middle Ages.
• Abraham Lincoln and the "sublime heroism" of British cotton workers.
• Old London landmarks: Fendall's Coffee House and Family Hotel.
• The story continues - much more about the Dido Elizabeth Belle portrait.
• The continuing power of literary relics: Shelley's ashes and Byron's hair.
• Rediscovering a missing evening dress worn by Queen Alexandra.
• Just for fun: the peekaboo cockatiel.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Video: Recreating Madame Récamier's Coiffure

Friday, September 21, 2018

Chinard, Mme Récamier
Loretta reports:

I have mentioned Madame Récamier before, mainly in connection with furniture (here and here). She is quite well known among Regency/Napoleonic era aficionados, both for her portraits and her salon.

The Gérard and David portraits of her will be familiar to many. However, being mainly interested in the chaise longue, I hadn’t really noticed the marble bust by Joseph Chirard, until I came upon Janet Stephens’s video. Ms Stephens has posted several YouTube videos explaining Greek and Roman hair styles, which in turn help us get a better sense of the powerful influence of Greek and Roman statuary on this period of fashion in Europe and America.

Image: Bust of Juliette Récamier by Joseph Chinard, in "Musée des Beaux-arts" of Lyon (France), photo by Philippe Alès, Creative Commons license.
Please click on images to enlarge.
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, September 19, 2018

"Moral Poison": The Evils of Reading Novels, 1864

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Susan reporting,

Loretta and I have written so many posts for this blog over the years - nearly a decade's worth! - that we've forgotten a good many of them. Fortunately, our readers haven't. This one surfaced yesterday on Twitter (thank you, Lucy Paquette), and I thought it deserved another appearance here as I wallow through deadline-itis.

In an earlier post, I shared an 18thc warning against women reading romances. By 1860, those who worried about everyone else's reading habits had expanded their concerns, including all novels read not only by women, but by men as well. Apparently novels were dangerous.

The warnings below come from a religious tract published in New York in 1864. A Pastor's Jottings; or, Striking Scenes during a Ministry of Thirty-Five Years was printed anonymously because, as the prefatory note explains, the author "could thus write with more freedom." That same note assures us that "the statements of this volume are all literally true."

Among the many things (this book is nearly 350 pages long) that distress this unknown pastor, novels - that "moral poison" - are right there at the top of the list: "The minds of novel readers are intoxicated, their rest is broken, their health shattered, and their prospect of usefulness blighted."

But he doesn't want us simply to take his word for it. Apparently even novels by Charles Dickens are suspect, and he quotes the famous educator Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby School fame to prove it:

Childishness in boys even of good ability seems to be a growing fault; and I do not know what to ascribe it, except to the great number of exciting books of amusement, like Pickwick, Nickleby, Bentley's Magazine, etc...that leave [a boy] totally palled, not only for his regular work, but for literature of all sorts.

Nor are women exempt from the terrible influences of novel-reading. In fact (remember, this is all LITERALLY TRUE), according to the pastor, women suffer even more:

Listen to the evidence given by a physician in Massachusetts: 'I have seen a young lady with her table loaded with volumes of fictitious trash, poring day after day and night after night over highly wrought scenes and skillfully portrayed pictures of romance, until her cheeks grew pale, her eyes became wild and restless, and her mind wandered and was lost – the light of intelligence passed behind a cloud, and her soul was forever benighted. She was insane, incurably insane from reading novels.'

But insanity is only the beginning:

Not very long since, a double suicide was committed...by a young married couple from Ohio, who were clearly proved to be led to ruin and death by these most pernicious books....Police officers too in London and some of our own large cities, have given mournful evidence of the results of some of these novels when dramatized and performed on the stage, as leading to burglaries and murder.

Suicide, madness, burglaries, and murder! As an unrepentant novelist, I clearly have much to answer for. While for obvious reasons, I don't want you to see the error of your ways, but if you'd like to read more of the Unnamed Pastor's edifying work, here's the link to his book, available to read for free via Google Books.

Thanks to Clive Thompson, who shared quotes from A Pastor's Jottings on Twitter.

Above: The Pink Domino; print made by William Henry Mote after Frank Stone, c1833-1835. The British Museum.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ladies' Facilities in the 1700s to 1900s

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Loretta reports:

In the course of trying to get a bit more information about this Victorian era public urinal, at the Museum of London, I wound up in a dead end. All I know about it is more or less what I’d learned about the public facilities in Paris.

However, I did discover more about how and where ladies answered Nature’s call during the 18th and 19th centuries. The short answer: It wasn't easy.

These days, we are frustrated by the long lines outside ladies’ lavatories: Why don’t they install more stalls? But at least we can find rather nice facilities. In London, for instance, I found such interesting and elegant ones that I started photographing them.

In the time of my stories, ladies’ public facilities were not so elegant, to the extent that they existed at all.

According to the Museum of London’s feature on Vauxhall Gardens:
“Respectable’ women, in particular, were suddenly in a situation where access to a discreet and reasonably hygienic toilet facility could not be taken for granted. In Vauxhall, a communal women’s privy appears to have existed, and was illustrated in a satirical print by the artist Thomas Rowlandson, although this may be an exaggerated representation – Rowlandson was known for his scatological and titillating images of women. Still, many women – and men – must have taken advantage of the garden’s dark corners and convenient plants.”
The Inside of Lady's Garden at Vauxhall (1788)
Susan has discussed this Rowlandson illustration in detail here. You can read the full Museum of London article here.

It's rather shocking to discover that it wasn’t until the 1920s that busineses began providing accommodations for women . This was also, I notice, about the time that women got the vote.

Rowlandson, Sympathy, or A Family On A Journey Laying The Dust (1784),
Images: Victorian urinal at Museum of London photograph by me; Rowlandson, The Inside of Lady's Garden at Vauxhall (1788), courtesy Yale University Library; Thomas Rowlandson, Sympathy, or A Family On A Journey Laying The Dust (1784), courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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, September 16, 2018

From the Archives: A Beautiful (and Romantic) 18th c. Man's Shirt

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Susan reporting,

Today I'm reposting one of the breathtaking examples of needlework from The Diligent Needle: Instrument of Profit, Pleasure, & Ornament, a 2014 exhibition at Winterthur Museum. 

Hung against a dark wall, this 18th c. man's linen shirt was almost sculptural in its pristine perfection. I've written other posts about similar shirts here and here, so I won't repeat how they're made, how often they're laundered, or who wore them.

So why write about another one here (except, of course, because it's so stunningly beautiful)? While most men of every class purchased shirts made by tailors (remember that at this time, the primary cost of any garment lay in the fabric, not the labor), shirts were one of the few garments that wives and mothers could, and did, make at home. The economical geometry of 18th c. shirts made them comparatively easy to cut out and sew, and the voluminous shape did away with any challenging issues of fitting. The simple construction focused the attention on the stitching, and an accomplished seamstress could display her gifts for perfect tiny stitches and neat hems, left. Fancy needlework was admired, but skillful plain sewing like this was almost considered a wifely virtue.

Shirts were also intimate garments, worn next to the skin, and for most men at this time who still had not adopted the new-ish fashion for underdrawers, the tails of shirts also served as underwear. All of these reasons made a well-stitched shirt a popular gift from a bride or newlywed wife to her husband, and they are often mentioned in letters and diaries of the time. A new wife could happily clothe her husband with her own labors and romantically think of him with every stitch, while he in turn would also be proud to wear a shirt that showed his new wife was accomplished and frugal.

Although the curators at Winterthur don't know either who made or wore this shirt, their guess is that it was one of these "newlywed" shirts. Not only does its sparkling condition hint at a shirt that was perhaps put aside as a keepsake, but the stitcher also added a small, sentimental touch: at the bottom of the neck-opening, serving as a reinforcement, is a small appliqued heart, right. Awww....

Above: Shirt, maker unknown, linen, probably made in America, c1790-1820. Winterthur Museum.
Photographs © 2014 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of September 10, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Why don't more boys read Little Women?
 Aretha Franklin, and the only hat that matters.
Paths of glory: the road to lasting fame and fortune rarely runs straight.
• The Georgian Post Office played a major role in espionage,  doing what the Secret Services do today.
Dreams and telepathy at the end of the American Civil War.
• An Indian chintz gown: fashion, status, and slavery in 18thc America.
Image: An exquisite hairnet of gold, a superb example of a Hellenistic goldsmith's talent and skill, c200-150 BC.
• Coffee houses, taverns, tea, and chocolate in Restoration London.
• An extended family of stay-makers (corset-makers) living and working in 18thc London.
• Real estate history: when Trinity Church ruled lower Manhattan.
Image: Silk damask gauze shoes from Chinese royalty that look surprisingly modern - yet are 800 years old.
Imposters in history: sixteen famous con-artists and pretenders.
• Culture in the early American classroom: a failed attempt at assimilation.
• Fashion + competitive masculinity = the codpiece.
Elizabeth Keckley: businesswoman, philanthropist, and dressmaker to a president's wife.
Image: From these drawings, it's clear that 19thc artist Gericault had a very bite-y cat.
• The dipping and drinking wells of Hyde Park.
• Film star: a classic Baltimore movie palace shines again.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday Video: A Young Dutch Woman Dresses for Day in 17thc Delft

Friday, September 14, 2018

Susan reporting,

Here's the latest lovely fashion history video from our friends at Crow's Eye Productions. The layers and layers of clothing worn by an elite Dutch woman in the 17thc served not only to display her family's wealth, but also kept her warm in a damp, unheated house. I found myself thinking of the Dutch immigrants in New Amsterdam (later to become New York City) at the same time, and how welcome those layers must have been in the New World, too.

There's also a wonderful surprise ending to this video that delighted the nerdy-history-girl-art-historian in me. Wait for it!

Many thanks to costume historian Pauline Loven and director Nick Loven of Crow's Eye Productions for sharing their work 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, September 13, 2018

Goodwin's Court, London: A Little Time Travel

Thursday, September 13, 2018
Loretta reports:

I’ve just been reading a history of Kensington and Chelsea and shaking my head over the numbers of old buildings that have disappeared. So have streets. While my imagination is strong, trying to get a strong visual sense of an area is sometimes very difficult. The world in which my characters lived is long gone. In London one can certainly find pre-Victorian houses as well as venerable public buildings (St. Paul’s doesn’t seem likely to go anywhere) but they’re surrounded and often overwhelmed by, primarily, late Victorian to 20th & 21st-century architecture. Streets have to accommodate automobiles—zillions of them—and they are not traveling at horse-and-carriage speed.

Standing inside Apsley House, with tour guide Kristine Hughes Patrone, I had to really work to get a sense of what the Duke of Wellington saw from his window. For instance, Hyde Park isn’t the same; neither is Hyde Park Corner; and the Marble Arch is not where it used to be. However, the once-controversial statue of Achilles (which I’ve used more than once in my books) is right where it’s supposed to be. So one starts with the existent and mentally paints in the rest. It works, but oh, wouldn't I like to travel invisibly in a bubble, and actually be there.

Sometimes one can come close, though. One day, following a reader’s suggestion, I made my way to Goodwin’s Court in Covent Garden.

Here was a little slice of my characters’ London: the kinds of shop fronts they might have gazed into, and the gas lights that would have illuminated (not very well) the place at night.

Though it’s one small court in London, it’s easily the kind of space I can imagine, say, a lot of troublemakers bursting out from, or a pair of friends stepping in to, in order have a conversation at a time when the streets would have been extremely noisy. There are other quiet little corners that don’t seem to have changed very much from the early 1800s. A step off the beaten track sometimes does seem like a step through a portal into the past. Goodwin’s Court is one of the better examples

You can see more images and read more about Goodwin’s Court here and here.

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Silk Vest Honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, c1824

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Susan reporting,

Yesterday marked the 241st anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine, a pivotal confrontation in the American Revolution between General George Washington and his Continental Army and General Sir William Howe, commander of the British troops. I've written posts about the battle several times before (here and here. Aside from Brandywine's significance as the largest land battle of the Revolution, it also marked the debut in the war of a young volunteer from France.

An aristocratic idealist with a military background, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) was only nineteen when he met General Washington in August 1777. Already commissioned by the American Congress as a major general, Lafayette was not at first given troops to command, but instead became a member of Washington's staff. At Brandywine, he saw his first experience in the field; he was shot in the leg, yet still was cited by Washington for his "bravery and military ardor." Lafayette went on to play a key role in the war, not only as an officer and close friend to Washington, but also as a diplomat who helped secure the French ships and soldiers that ultimately tipped the scales for an American victory. He was celebrated as one of the most popular heroes of the Revolution, and remains so to this day. (How many of you began singing Guns and Ships in your head at the mere mention of his name?)

Lafayette is included in a wonderful small exhibition currently on display (through July 9, 2019) at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Through a well-chosen selection of paintings, maps, and artifacts, The American Revolution: A World War explains how the Revolution was only part of a global shift in the balance of power, war, and conquest that marked the 18thc world. As a Frenchman fighting the British with the American forces and Spanish allies, Lafayette is prominently featured.

But it's not only his wartime exploits that are highlighted. Lafayette's triumphant return to America in 1824 is also included. To quote from the exhibition:

"In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States at the invitation of President James Monroe. Over fourteen months, he visited all twenty-four states....[President Monroe's invitation came as America] approached the 50th anniversary of its independence. He hoped the general's iconic presence would help rekindle the nation's "revolutionary spirit" and commitment to unity, which seemed to be slipping away. The trip was a smashing success, but it did not moderate the divisive 1824 presidential contest between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson."

Americans celebrated Lafayette's visit with all kinds of souvenirs. Much like modern Americans wear t-shirts printed with the names and faces of their heroes, Lafayette's portrait was emblazoned on ribbons, dresses, and gloves, as well as the vest shown here:

"Hosting the Marquis de Lafayette at a New York banquet, Revolutionary War veteran Matthew Clarkson wore this vest covered with the general's image. During his sojourn, Lafayette attended hundreds of banquets, balls, and celebrations."

Though the Marquis was far too well-bred to record his thoughts about his host, I wonder what it must have been like to sit through a banquet across from a man wearing your face and name all over his chest....

Above left and detail right: Vest worn at banquet for Marquis de Lafayette, 1824-1836, National Museum of American History. Photos ©2018 Susan Holloway Scott.
Lower right: Le marquis de La Fayette en capitaine du régiment de Noailles by Louis Léopold Boilly, 1788, Musée national du château de Versailles. Image ©RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource NY.
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