Saturday, April 30, 2011

Breakfast Links: Week of April 25, 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

As can be imagined, this week’s Breakfast Links have the distinct flavor of royal weddings recent and long past. But there’s also more assorted fare to be found in our weekly collection of links, blogs, and news snippets gathered from the Twitterverse. Enjoy!

The remarkable generosity of Victorian Philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts:
• Flutter away: 19th c Spanish fans on a grand scale:
• Wish books were still illustrated like this: N. C. Wyeth's art for James Boyd's Revolutionary War novel DRUMS:
• Beautiful view of 19th c seaport: Town of Gloucester, 1835-1836, by Fitz Henry Lane
• Abraham Adcock, Handel's trumpeter:
• Love this idyllic slideshow: Gravetye Manor -
• A pair of 18th c wedding shoes: red, not white:
• Do you pine to knit Jane Eyre's shawl for running about the moors?
• And they’re not Caspar, Melchior & Balthasar: Famous Three Kings pub sign, Clerkenwell.
• Yes! 18th c Americans ate their vegetables & plenty of them, too:
• Pretty quick, & pretty terrifying: Plastic Surgery in 1910
• White fur coats on the shoulders of glamorous young starlets: Caught on Film: A 1930s Hollywood Premiere
• The Rise and Fall of 'Ladies Only' Railway Accommodation in 19th Century England'
• Wedding garters: Hare-skin garters for runaway brides, & a diamond one for Prince Albert:
• Unusual 1871 star-patterned quilt fragment from 1854 Godey's Lady Book pattern:
• Sad to lose such beautiful buildings: melancholy before & afters (use the Fade bar to see the difference).
• Whoa: fine art Barbies:
• All the floral symbolism in the decorations on the royal wedding cake. And photos of the finished cake itself:
• A "dainty dish" from 18th c tables: Small loaves with oyster ragout (both 18th c recipe & modern version: 
• In another symbolic touch, the Countess of Cambridge's bridal bouquet has been placed on the grave of the unknown warrior:

Shameless Self-Promotion: Loretta on the Huffington Post

Susan reporting (on behalf of the ever-modest Loretta):

There's been a joyful amount of noisy celebration on the internet this week, so a little distraction is to be expected.  But in case you missed Loretta's debut on the Huffington Post, here's the link to her entertaining, thoughtful post: "Royal Wedding 2011: Can This Marriage Be Saved?"

Congratulations, Loretta. :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Video: The 1947 Royal Wedding that Made Fred Astaire Dance on the Ceiling

Friday, April 29, 2011

Susan reporting:

Royal Wedding Frenzy is at its peak today, with an estimated two billion people around the world watching the ceremonies. But while media outlets are proclaiming this to be the "wedding of the century," there was another royal wedding within the last hundred years – 64 years ago, to be precise – that was just as breathlessly reported. In 1947, heir to the British throne Princess Elizabeth (the present Queen Elizabeth II) married Prince Philip, and the celebrations were equally joyful.

In those distant pre-internet and cable days the coverage wasn't as encompassing, but the wedding did inspire Hollywood. In 1951, Fred Astaire and Jane Powell starred in the musical comedy film Royal Wedding, set in London during the week of the wedding festivities. Fred and Jane didn't play royalty, but a singing & dancing brother and sister stage act.  Still, moviegoers of the time would have been quick to see the real-life parallels in the (slender) plot: just as Jane's character falls for an English lord, Fred's older sister and partner Adele had fallen in love with and married Lord Charles Cavendish, the son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire.

What is best remembered about Royal Wedding today is that it contains one of Fred Astaire's most famous dance performances. Inspired by love, he's quite literally head over heels, and dances on the ceiling – a technical feat of film making magic. Here's the clip for you to enjoy.

While we doubt that Prince William has been dancing on the palace ceiling, we do wish him to feel that kind of love for his bride Catherine, and for her to share the same for him. Best wishes to them both for a long and happy life together!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ornamental Gardening for April 1819

Thursday, April 28, 2011
Loretta reports:

What every garden needs:  a lake, a bridge, a boat-house.

This design is intended as a means of approaching an island or a lake at the extremity of an estate, answering the double purpose of a bridge and a boat-house, and also a shelter from rain. The platform is inclosed by a parapet railing on one side for safety, but it is open on the other, for the convenience of taking boat, and for landing on its return.

It will be seen that this building is not intended for the complete protection of the boat even during the summer months, much less against the inclemencies of the winter season; but it is sufficient as its shelter from the sun and rain at its moorings during the daytime, when it is in readiness; and from this bridge it is easily and safely entered, as its side comes in immediate contact with the footpath. The construction of this building being very simple, the materials of which it is composed are intended to be of unwrought timbers; the supports being the trunks of unbarked trees, the arch of their tapered branches, and the walling of cleft logs, built in the manner of the rough walling of the Romans. The roof is of thatch, and the flooring of wood, covered by gravel, in continuation of the walk. As the garden at this spot would properly change its character to the wilder accompaniments of the lake, this building would assimilate with the, scenery, and please by its picturesque effect, well contrasting with the more elegant and polished objects of other parts of the plantations.

—Rudolph Ackermann, Repository of arts, literature, fashions &c, 1819 (April)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Very Big Hats, 1787

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Susan reporting:

Fashion illustrations often exaggerate for effect. Women are shown with impossibly tight-laced waists, sleeves as big as balloons and skirts too wide to fit through most doorways. But just as few ordinary women today will dress like an editorial photograph from Vogue, ladies in the past who were neither court beauties nor trend-setting actresses would have worn a modified, less extreme version of the  styles shown in French fashion plates like the enormous hat, below right.

Or did they?

The painting, below left, is one of my favorites from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Portrait of Thomas Payne with His Family and Friends, painted in 1787 by Louis Francois Gerard van der Puyl (1750-1824). Thomas Payne was a famous bookseller and publisher in 18th c. London. This group portrait shows Payne with his family and friends in an informal gathering, enjoying a few hands of whist along with their conversation. It's a prosperous, respectable, happy group, but not an aristocratic or fast one. Yet all the women in the group are wearing the same enormous hats found in fashion plates.

Yes, the artist might have exaggerated the hats, too, preserving them for posterity along with the game of whist. But I like to think that the bookseller's wife is enjoying the same fashion as Marie-Antoinette's ladies, and quite handsomely, too. Vive la mode! 

Above: Portrait of Thomas Payne with His Family and Friends, by Louis Francois Gerard van der Puyl, 1787, Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of John Howard McFadden.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Queen Victoria's wedding drew a crowd, too

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Loretta reports:

The backdrop of my latest short story is Queen Victoria's wedding on 10 February 1840.  Researching it, I learned, among other things, that royal wedding frenzy is nothing new.
All ranks of the people in the metropolis, and for many miles around, began to rise before the appearance of the dawn, some to prepare to take their stations in the progress of the approaching great ceremony; but the great multitude, of course, thinking that their exertions would be well repaid, if they could get only a moment's glimpse of the Queen and her husband, or even a glance at the procession going and returning. Notwithstanding the discouraging weather, the streets were crowded at an early hour with thousands, coming from every point of the compass, and making the best of their way, with emulous and unceremonious haste, to St. James's Park, as one common centre. The concourse of females was prodigious. It seemed as if every one of her Majesty's sex, from the infant in arms to the decrepit matron, now far advanced in second childhood, had made a vow not to stay at home. Women, who could not see their way without spectacles, nor walk it without crutches, were to be seen anxiously struggling for precedence at every point of the park, whence a glance at the Queen and Prince might be obtained; and, having once obtained an eligible spot, they held fast by it, heedless of the too frequent probabilities of being crushed or trodden to death. The trees, the lamp-posts, and the spikes of the railings, were contended for with as much eagerness as if the summit of every one's ambition was at the top of one or other of these elevations; and the wonder was, how many, who had climbed up to certain dangerous eminences, could ever get down in safety again. However, these adventurous folks justly thought, that that question was their own " look out," and no one's else's. About ten o'clock St. James's Park was completely filled with a vast, miscellaneous, curious multitude, not a tithe of whom, unfortunately, could see even the carriage of the Queen when it did at length pass.
The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction, Volume 35, 1840

Illustrations:  Queen Victoria, steel engraved portrait published about 1840, courtesy Ancestry Images. Marriage of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert, 10 February, 1840, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Young Henry Fielding's Thwarted Abduction of an Heiress, 1725

Monday, April 25, 2011
Susan reporting:
Writers find inspiration in their own lives as well as in their imaginations, and most often a mixture of both. A tantalizing story from the early life of novelist and playwright Henry Fielding (1707-1754) does seem to hint at fictional scenes to come from the author of Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews.

In 1725, young Henry had recently completed his studies at Eton. By all reports, he was tall ("rising above six feet") and powerfully built, possessed of a quick wit and quicker temper, and a face most kindly described as "not handsome." What he definitely did not possess, however, was a respectable fortune. Henry's father was a fast-living and impecunious army officer who had already married twice and sired nearly a dozen children to feed, clothe, and house with some degree of respectability. Though related to the aristocracy and raised as a gentleman, young Henry found himself heir to nothing, and so decided on the most popular 18th c. course for improving one's fortunes: marrying an heiress.

Residing in Lyme Regis, Dorset in the summer of 1725, eighteen-year-old Henry's affections soon latched onto fifteen-year-old Sarah Andrew, left, and her sizable inheritance. But Sarah (and her fortune) were closely guarded by her uncle, Andrew Tucker, who hoped to see Sarah married to his own son and viewed Henry as an unsavory rival.

Undaunted, Henry persevered throughout the fall, and one wonders if the adolescent Sarah was as encouraging as her guardian was not. The wooing came to a head in November, when Henry and his servant attempted to abduct the lady one Sunday as she was on her way to church. While the abduction was thwarted by Mr. Tucker, Henry's attempt must have been a forceful one. Records in Lyme Regis show Mr. Tucker had Henry and his servant "bound over to keep the peace, as [Tucker] was in fear of his life or some bodily hurt to be done or to be procured to be done to him by H. Fielding & his man. A. Tucker feared that [Fielding] would beat, maim, or kill him."

Miss Andrew was swiftly hustled from Lyme Regis to Modbury, where she was soon married to a more suitable gentleman. Disappointed and disgruntled, Henry also left Lyme Regis - but not before he posted the petulant public notice, right, now on display in Lyme Regis Museum:

This is to give notice to the World that Andrew Tucker and his Son John Tucker are Clowns, and Cowards. Witness my hand Henry F[ie]lding.

After this unsuccessful attempt at marrying money, Fielding decided he'd do better by earning it. As he wrote later, his choice was to be "a Hackney Writer, or a Hackney Coachman." Fortunately for us, he chose the former. 

Many thanks to Lyme Regis Museum and their excellent blog for inspiring this post.

Above: Sarah Andrew Rhodes by an unknown artist, c. 1730
Below: Public notice by Henry Fielding, 1726, Lyme Regis Museum

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Breakfast Links: Week of April 18, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Just like the Easter Bunny, we’ve gathered up a basketful of fresh Breakfast Links for your amusement. Here are this week's favorites from other blogs, web sites, news stories, and sundry curiosities from around the Twitterverse:
• Lovely tradtion for the holiday: Easter buns, sailors, & a Victorian mother's faith in her son's return:
• Winterthur Museum acquires one of the earliest known American Depictions of the Easter Bunny:
• Charlotte Brontë was born 195 years ago on 21 April.
•To-die-for jewels from VanCleef & Arpels, from 1906 onward:
• Just in time for Easter Week: Hot cross buns in 18th c England:
• Behind the scenes look at making 'Napoleon & Empire of Fashion' catalog/book from recent costume exhibition:
• Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier marry today in 1956
• Jane Austen and American painter Benjamin West:
• Death of Lord Byron, on this day, 1824; news reached The Times, May 15
• 'Banner ladies': An intriguing series of advertising cabinet cards by photographer Mrs. G.M. Bowen
• Jack Ketch: Bodgy Axeman: the notorious Restoration executioner.
• Like writing? Like cats? Then you'll love this:
• The Rolling Stones Rice Krispies commercial (1964). This precise level of selling out seems good for humanity.
• A story of a Royal hideaway, Lily Langtry & Wallis (and glimpse of Dartmoor Prison):
• Teeny tiny Shakespeare: In honor of his upcoming birthday, some miniature Shakespeare:
• Protecting against amatory advances: an interesting explanation for the symbolism of a medieval brooch in the V&A:
• Gaudy garden promises: Spring is here...Seed catalogues from the Smithsonian libraries -
• “She Threads Her Way...With an Unconscious Air” London’s Most Famous Prostitute, ‘Skittles’
• See all the secrets of an 18th c French lady's table/desk unlocked & revealed in this video:
• Video of the royal wedding dresses of Queen Victoria & others kept at Kensington Palace:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Regency style dining on our 500th post

Friday, April 22, 2011
Loretta reports:

Susan has informed me that this is the Two Nerdy History Girls’ five hundredth post.

We sure are a couple of blabbermouths.

But wait.  There's more.  It seems we've also passed the quarter of a million page view mark.  We’re very impressed with ourselves.  Also astounded.  As our blog description notes, we would have been excited if three people showed up.

As you would expect, I sought nerdy history material befitting so solemn an occasion.
But all you get is a funny video.

Five hundred thanks to Kolbaskina Katya, who brought it to my attention.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mary Toft, "Deliver'd of Rabbits": An Epic Hoax of 1726

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Susan reporting:

Whether alien abductions or miracle cures, hoaxes that aim at making the hoaxers rich and famous aren't a modern phenomenon. In 1726, all England was a-buzz over the news of a farm worker named Mary Toft (c.1701-1763), who claimed to have given birth to...rabbits.

While this seems like a preposterous claim in the so-called Age of Enlightenment, 18th c. Englishmen still believed in a good many superstitions regarding childbirth, and the idea of a pregnant woman who had chased a wild hare then giving birth to rabbits didn't seem entirely far-fetched. But what does seem astonishing was that several highly regarded physicians and anatomists examined Mrs. Toft, and willingly staked their reputations that she had in fact been delivered of both of nearly twenty entire rabbits as well as various rabbit parts over a period of days.

It was too sensational a story not to share, and the papers were quick to report the lurid details:
"From Guildford comes a strange but well-attested Piece of News. That a poor Woman...was about a Month past delivered by Mr John Howard, an Eminent Surgeon and Man-Midwife, of a creature resembling a Rabbit...and about 14 Days since she was delivered by the same Person, of a perfect Rabbit: and in a few Days after of 4 all nine, they died all in bringing into the World....People after all, differ much in their Opinion of this Matter, some looking upon them as great Curiosities, fit to be presented to the Royal Society, etc., others are angry at the Account, and say, that if it be a Fact, a Veil should be drawn over it, as an Imperfection in human Nature."
                                             –from Mist's Weekly Journal, 19 November 1726

Representatives of the Royal Court visited Mrs. Toft and were convinced, and before long she became a celebrity. Newspapers, pamphlets, and illustrations were printed, bawdy ballads written and papers presented, and Mrs. Toft and her rabbits were the talk of the country. The King ordered her brought to London for further study. People high and low came to view her, and touch her belly to feel what was believed to be the leaping of more rabbits.

But by early December, the hoax began to unravel. Her husband was discovered to have been buying rabbits, and others around Mrs. Toft admitted to be party to the hoax. Finally Mrs. Toft herself admitted that a mysterious "travelling woman" had taught her how to create the hoax, assuring Mrs. Toft that the scheme would make her rich: "that I would never want as long as I liv'd." She was charged with being "a vile cheat and impostor", and sent to Bridewell.

Having made the swift transition from famous to infamous, Mrs. Toft's story still fascinated. Her portrait (with likely a stand-in rabbit) was painted in prison by John Laguerre, above, and William Hogarth made the famously mocking print, below, that showed all involved with the hoax, and another, called Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, that featured a laboring Mrs. Toft with rabbits scampering from under her skirts. The careers of the physicians who'd believed the hoax were ruined, and the modern-but-ignorant man-midwives became a source of ridicule and derision among the public.

Ultimately Mrs. Toft was never punished. She was released from prison to return to her native Surrey, where she uneventfully gave birth to a normal daughter. If she'd hoped to become rich from the hoax, then she failed, for there are no records of the Tofts receiving any profits. But if she wished lasting celebrity and fame was her goal – ah, thanks to Mr. Hogarth, she certainly achieved that.

Above: Mary Toft, engraving based on a painting by John Laguerre, 1726
Below:Cunicularii, or The Wise Men of Godliman in Consultation, engraving by William Hogarth, 1726

Update for our UK readers: via Twitter (thank you, @HalcyonVA), I've just learned that BBCRadio will be broadcasting a radio-play based on Mary Toft on 22 April. Wonderful coincidence! :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

High fashion on parade in Paris 1855

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Loretta reports;

In the 19th century, Longchamps (also called Longchamp) was the place to see and be seen during Easter Week.  It was a combination Easter Parade/Paris Fashion Week.  The very latest modes were on parade—and the designs quickly copied by ambitious dressmakers all over the world.
PARIS is a strange place, its inconsistencies are enough to bewilder all sober-minded people. Here, during the week preceding Easter a grand procession of carriages and well-dressed “folk" parade, up and down the Champs Elysées, displaying all the new inventions of the conclave of milliners, dress-makers, perfumers, shoemakers, embroiderers, etc., etc., and which all the rest of the world are to copy. The Parisians wander up and down this promenade, gayly, and with smiling faces, the vanities of this world being uppermost in their thoughts, never thinking that originally this procession was a pilgrimage, and instead of a worldly fête, a religious penance.

Yes, at the end of Champs Elysées, stood formerly the Convent of Longchamps— here holy nuns, with voices of unearthly beauty, cultivated by the greatest masters, sang the penitential psalms, and chaunted the solemn music of passion-week. The court of Louis XIV. took it into its head to go and join these harmonious nuns in their devotions, and say its prayers in the artistically arranged chapel, made to look like a beautiful representation of the Entombment. At first, every one went in sad colored dresses and, on Good Friday, actually submitted to a slight sprinkling of ashes, though they dispensed with the sack-cloth, but soon, very soon, this decorous behavior degenerated into a rivalry of pomp and show. Vanity came into play, as it always will where there is a large assembly of "fair women and 'brave men," and though they still went to hear the chaunting and to do penance, they proceeded to the convent in magnificent attire and splendid equipage. In Louts XV.'s time, Longchamps had thoroughly changed its aspect, and the gay procession was made more brilliant by notorious but sumptuous young ladies, who certainly never dreamed of entering a chapel. So at last, in after years, the time and place of the Longchamps procession remained the same, but the convent ceased to be frequented and the nuns to sing. Now, there is no longer any convent, and from what was a religious observance, has sprung the present promenade at which takes place the great change in the cut and color of mantle, dress and bonnet, and which are called Modes de Longchamps.

Graham's American monthly magazine of literature, art, and fashion, 1855

The illustration, of 1830s fashion (because I couldn't put my hands on any 1850s Longchamp styles), is from French Fashion Plates of the Romantic Era, edited by Judy M. Johnson.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Fine Footman, c. 1813-29

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Susan reporting:

Recently I visited a dandy (literally!) costume exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art called The Peacock Male: Exuberance and Extremes in Masculine Dress. Despite that academic title, the clothes on display were anything but stuffy. There were male peacocks of every variety, from silk-embroidered court suits to gaudy mummer's costumes to day-glo psychedelia.

Much of the exhibition's clothing had been designed and worn with the intention of displaying wealth, rank, or personal expression. This coat, left, does all three - but not for the wearer. It's a livery coat worn by a footman or groom in the service of Austrian statesman Prince Klemens Lothar von Metternich (1773-1859). Metternich was a titled, cosmopolitan diplomat best known for his part in the negotiations of the Congress of Vienna. He would have wished his servants to be dressed in livery that not only reflected his family's rank and status, but also his own power, and all with an awareness of international fashion, too. Most likely the footman who wore this coat would have been chosen for his height and appearance as well as his footman-skills, making him the perfect human accessory to the prince's personal magnificence.

The coat's yellow wool has been fulled to give it a plush, velvet-like surface, and then almost completely covered by satin and velvet braid woven especially for the prince's livery. The design features a repeat of three scallop shells (they read more like skulls in the picture, but they ARE scallop shells), symbolizing pilgrimage, that was drawn from the Metternich coat of arms. The Metternich arms also appear on the cast brass buttons. The coat would have been worn with a matching yellow waistcoat and breeches; though this style of male dress was old-fashioned by 1815, livery often clung to older styles as a way of reinforcing its ceremonial purpose.

Now imagine being helped from your carriage by a footman dressed like this....

Above: Livery Coat for a Servant of Prince Klemens Lothar von Metternich, 1813-29. Fulled wool plain weave, satin and cut and looped velvet (lampas weave) ribbon, cast brass buttons. Made in Austria. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Monday, April 18, 2011

Familiarity between the sexes in 1811

Monday, April 18, 2011
Loretta reports:

The present familiarity between the sexes is both shocking to delicacy and to the interest of women. Woman is now treated by the generality of men with a freedom that levels her with the commonest and most vulgar objects of their amusements. She is addressed as unceremoniously, treated as cavalierly, and left as abruptly as the veriest puppet they could pick up at Bartholomew Fair.

We no longer see the respectful bow, the look of polite attention, when a gentleman approaches a lady : he runs up to her, he seizes her by the hand, shakes it roughly, asks a few questions, and, to show that he has no interest in her answers, flies off again before she can make a reply.

To cure our coxcombs of this conceited impertinence, I would strongly exhort my young and lovely readers to treat them with the neglect they deserve. When any man, who is not privileged by the right of friendship or of kindred, to address her with an action of affection, attempts to take her hand, let her withdraw it immediately with an air so declarative of displeasure, that he shall not presume to repeat the offence. At no time ought she to volunteer shaking hands with a male acquaintance, who holds not any particular bond of esteem with regard to herself or family. A touch, a pressure of the hands, are the only external signs a woman can give of entertaining a particular regard for certain individuals. And to lavish this valuable power of expression upon all comers, upon the impudent and contemptible, is an indelicate extravagance which, I hope, needs only to be exposed, to be put for ever out of countenance.

As to the salute, the pressure of the lips : that is an interchange of affectionate greeting or tender farewell, sacred to the dearest connections alone. Our parent; our brothers; our near kindred; our husband; our lover, ready to become our husband; our bosom's inmate, the friend of our heart's care; to them are exclusively consecrated the lips of delicacy, and woe be to her who yields them to the stain of profanation !

By the last word, I do not mean the embrace of vice ; but merely that indiscriminate facility which some young women have in permitting what they call a good-natured kiss.— These good-natured kisses have often very bad effects, and can never be permitted without injuring the fine gloss of that exquisite modesty which is the fairest garb of virgin beauty.

The Mirror of the Graces; or, The English lady's costume: Combining and harmonizing taste and judgment, elegance and grace, modesty, simplicity and economy, with fashion in dress, by a Lady of Distinction, 1811

Illustration:  "Tom & Bob, at a real Swell Party", 1822, courtesy Ancestry Images.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Breakfast Links: Week of April 11, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Another Sunday, and another week's serving of the freshest Breakfast Links – a selection of noteworthy tidbits gathered from other blogs, web sites, and news stories that we've discovered via the Twitterverse:

Interesting blog on Queen Mother's 1923 wedding dress, trendy at the time, less so now:
• Ornamental Garden Homes for the Delicious Dove – Dovecotes & Pigeon-houses-
• Wave the Union Jack! On this day in 1606, James I proclaimed the 1st union flag
• We couldn't resist: Kermit the Frog reporting from the Boston Tea Party:
• Slideshow of stunning early 20th c. photos of old China: RT
• The throne: a symbol of power and authority: a new exhibition of thrones at Versailles:
• Sumptuous pair of embroidered gloves for Court c 1600 & all they represent:
• Fascinating peek inside Maison Lemarié, the 132 year old Parisian atelier specializing in featherwork.
• Poet John Keats still sits in an alcove rescued from Old London Bridge:
• “They Come Down Here and Drop Into The Water” Helping desperate Victorian prostitutes:
• "Famous In My Time.....Medora Leigh"
• Enjoy highlights from the exhibition "Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals" in this short film
• The Great Darkness of 1837:How this mysterious phenomenon caused London to grind to a halt.
• A Civil War surgeon, & suffragist, Dr. Mary Walker refused to wear women’s clothing.
• Famous London arches (most definitely not Micky D's!): Underneath the Arches:
• Which way up? Forks, spoons and fashions in table setting at Fairfax House:
Henry VIII, Mme Curie, many others get the Lego treatment:
• Prepare to browse! One of the most extensive private collections of vintage photos on Flickr -
• Archaeologists resume a dig on the site of William Shakespeare's last home
• Need some milk for your breakfast? Pop down and see this vendor in St James Park (c1910)

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Shocking Beauty Revealed: Sarah Goodridge & Daniel Webster

Friday, April 15, 2011
Susan reporting:

There were few professional painters in New England in the early 19th century, and fewer still were women. But for Sarah Goodridge (1788-1853), becoming an artist was never in doubt. One of nine children of a Massachusetts farmer, Sarah taught herself to draw by copying pictures from a book on her mother's sanded kitchen floor. Determined to support herself as an artist, she and her sister moved to Boston in 1820, where Sarah was exposed to other artists' work. Her own work improved, and soon her miniature portraits – exquisitely painted on ivory – were much in demand. Through her commissions, she was soon supporting not only herself, but her aging mother and other family members as well.

But one subject stood out from the others. Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was a lawyer and politician who came to sit for his portrait, as was proper for a man on the rise. But what wasn't proper was the romantic friendship that soon blossomed between Daniel and Sarah. Daniel was a married man with three children, and a liaison with an artist was hardly the best thing for his career. Yet still the two apparently continued to see each other, and she painted a dozen more portraits of him over the next twenty-five years. As is often the case, she preserved his letters to her, while he, more mindful of his reputation, destroyed hers.

When his first wife died in 1828, Sarah's hopes rose. Following a popular trend in England for lovers to exchange miniatures of a beloved's eye or lips, Sarah painted a special miniature to remind Daniel of her charms. Instead of her eyes, however, she offered this much more intimate glimpse of her bared breasts, and likely her heart as well.

But the man known to his enemies as "Black Dan" chose ambition instead of love. Serving his first term as a U.S. Senator and perpetually in money difficulties, he needed to make a more advantageous match. In 1829 he married Caroline LeRoy, a wealthy, well-connected young woman from New York. Yet even this marriage wasn't enough to destroy his friendship with Sarah, and she continued to execute his commissions, traveling twice to see Daniel in Washington, DC.

Sarah never married. When her failing eyesight forced her to give up her painting, she retired to a Massachusetts farm, where she died in 1853 after a stroke.

No one now knows the true depth of Daniel's feelings towards Sarah. But when he died after a fall in 1852, the miniature of her breasts - known now as Beauty Revealed - was discovered among his personal belongings.

Many thanks to Barbara Wells Sarudy, who introduced me to Sarah Goodridge and her miniatures on her excellent blog, 19th Century Women. Please check it out, and discover quite a few wonderful 19th c. artists unjustly overlooked by posterity. 

Above: Self-Portrait by Sarah Goodridge, 1825
Below: Daniel Webster by Sarah Goodridge, 1825

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More from Helen Rowland

Thursday, April 14, 2011
Loretta reports:

From the era of Downton Abbey, more from Helen Rowland.

A man weddeth a woman in order to escape loneliness, and immediately thereafter joineth a club in order to escape the woman.

He marryeth a damsel because she appealeth to his "higher nature", and spendeth all the rest of his days seeking after those who appeal to his lower nature.

A woman is cast down with doubts lest a man doth not love her; but a man never troubleth his soul, as to whether or not a woman loveth him, but as to whether or not he wanteth her to love him.

Behold, an honest woman may cheat at cards, but never at love; but he considereth himself an "honorable man" that never cheateth at a game of poker though he never playeth fair at the game of hearts.

Go to! Think no man in love while he flattereth thee and extolleth all thy ways; but, when he beginneth to moralize and to criticise thy hats, then mayest thou plan thy trousseau.

When he saveth thy life it may be for chivalry's sake; but when he carryeth an umbrella to please thee it is for love's sake.

Be not set up when a man giveth thee the key to his heart, for, peradventure, upon the following day, he may change the lock!

Then, how shall a woman understand a man, since they are all cut upon the bias!

Verily, verily, by turning him around , my Daughter, and reading him backward, even as a Chinese laundry ticket!

The sayings of Mrs. Solomon: being the confessions of the seven hundredth wife as revealed to Helen Rowland, 1913

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More About Those 18th c. Men's Shirts: Neck Cloths & Kerchiefs, Stock Buckles & Shirt Brooches

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Susan reporting:

Earlier this week, I wrote here about 18th c. men's linen shirts. But while a good shirt was the mainstay of a man's wardrobe, few men would wear it without an accessory or two to show his own personal style. Much like a modern man choosing his necktie, his 18th c. counterpart took care choosing what went around his neck.

If he were a laborer, working tradesman, sailor, or a sporting gentleman, he'd fold a neck handkerchief in half and loosely tie it under his collar, knotted in front. The neck handkerchief was a square cloth of cotton, linen, or silk, depending on the wearer's means, and it could be brightly colored, woven with checks, or printed with a political cartoon.

If he had more gentlemanly inclinations, a man wore a neck cloth or cravat, a length of (usually) white linen that wrapped around the throat and tied loosely in front. A neck cloth could be worn under or over the shirt collar and band, and trimmings of lace or fringe could make it more distinctive. In most portraits, there's a certain ease to 18th c. neck cloths, a kind of gallant nonchalance in how the ends fall; the perfectly pressed and tied cravats of Beau Brummel are a 19th c. fashion.

The most formal neckwear of all was the stock.  This was a band of white linen of an even finer quality than the shirt's, carefully pleated horizontally and stitched to fit closely over a shirt's collar and tightly around the neck. (Military officers wore black stocks, like the one on General Cornwallis, above left.) The stock had tabs in the back that buckled together with a pronged metal buckled through worked eyelets. Although it sat on the back of a gentleman's neck, the stock buckle could be an important piece of male jewelry. Stock buckles were often made of cut steel, silver, or even gold, and embellished with gemstones or paste jewels, imitation diamonds that glittered in the candlelight, above right. 

Another kind of buckle also appeared on the front of the shirt. While some men covered the opening in the front of their shirts with the ends of their neck cloths or pinned the sides together with a straight pin, others chose to make more of a statement with a shirt buckle, or brooch, such as the one worn by Judge Devotion, left. These were often luckenbooth brooches, originally lovers' tokens from Edinburg, Scotland, with heart motifs forming the frame of the buckle, right. Shirt buckles could be simple, flat designs, or elaborately styled from silver or gold and embellished with paste or gemstones.

Of course, no matter the time or place or wearer, every fashion has the potential to become extreme - such as the stunningly tall stock worn by George IV, left.

Top left: Lord Cornwallis, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783
Above left: Judge Ebeneezer Devotion by Winthrop Chandler, detail, 1772
Top right: Stock buckle, silver, c. 1750-75, collection of Neal Hurst 
Lower right: Shirt buckle, silver, c. 1650-1750
Bottom left: George IV of the United Kingdom, by Sir Thomas Laurence, detail, 1816

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

French Riding Dress for April 1807

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Loretta reports:

As I discovered while researching previous blogs on bridal costume, wedding dresses do not appear frequently in the fashion prints of the first third of the 19th century.  Riding dresses are even rarer.  This one, from 1807, is French.  The purple boots with yellow laces are an interesting choice for the blue dress.

Since the fashion description is so short, I’m also including the delightful overview of the life of a fashionable lady during the London Season.

No. 3,
Represents a Parisian lady, mounted in the most fashionable style, for the Long Champs and Elysées, at Paris.—An equestrian habit of fine seal-wool cloth, with elastic strap; the colour blue (but olive, or puce, are equally esteemed), with convex buttons of dead gold. The habit to sit high in the neck behind, lapelled in front, and buttoned twice at the small of the waist; a high plaited frill of cambric, uniting at the bosom where the habit closes. A jockey bonnet of the same materials as composes the habit, finished with a band and tuft in front. Hair in dishevelled crop. York tan gloves ; and demi-boots of purple kid, laced with jonquille chord.

At this season of fashionable festivity, when pleasure dances on the wings of time—when the magic influence of taste and ton, aid the enchanting witcheries of the Loves and the Graces; and nature and beauty disdain not to pay homage at the shrine of genius and art, the triumph of the goddess is complete—-she mounts her airy car, wields her sceptre of rainbow hue, exulting in the splendour of her train. Routs, balls, and operas, pic-nics, plays, and sumptuous dinners, are but tests of her popularity, and existing specimens of her all powerful dominion.

La Belle Assemblée, Volume 2, 1807.

Perhaps our equestrian readers could explain why the horse's posterior is so prominent in the illustration?

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Finer Points of an 18th c. Man's Shirt

Monday, April 11, 2011
Susan reporting:

There are few historical garments more misrepresented than an 18th c. man's shirt. For European men from the middle ages into the mid-19th c., the shirt was not only an indispensible piece of clothing; it was a democratic one, too. The shirts worn by George III would have been cut exactly the same as the ones worn by his grooms, as well as by Thomas Jefferson, Beau Brummel, Tom Jones, and Mr. Darcy. You know what they looked like: silky, lace-trimmed shirts cut to open like a modern tux shirt, on everyone from those Founding Fathers in the bank commercials to Fabio.

Uh, no. Eighteenth century men's shirts didn't button down the front, and they never were made of silk. They pulled over the head with an opening slit to about mid-chest, and were fastened with two or three buttons at the throat. Shirts were geometric jigsaw puzzles, an elaborate series of rectangles cut without curved seams and designed not to waste even a scrap of a length of fabric. The sleeves were luxuriously full, 20" wide or more, pleated into dropped shoulders and wrist cuffs. Additional gussets for ease were placed under the arms, on the shoulders, and at the hem-slits. The collar, upper right, was another rectangle, soft and without interlining, whose final shape was determined by the neckcloth, cravat, or stock tied around it. Ruffles could be sewn into the neck slit and on the cuffs.

These shirts were wide, full, and long, reaching to the middle of the thighs. An average 18th c. shirt could be 60'" around the chest and 40" long. While some gentlemen wore under drawers, for most men a shirt was an all-purpose garment, with the long tales drawn between the legs to form underwear. Shirts were also worn for sleeping. As a result, shirts were frequently changed, and a man was judged by the cleanliness of his linen.

Linen was in fact the standard fabric for men's shirts, ranging from a laborer's shirt of rough Osnaburg to a gentleman's fine bleached Holland (and never, ever silk.) Linen is a fiber both practical and surprisingly sensual. It's springy and long-wearing, easy to launder, and grows softer with wear. It holds the warmth of the skin gently, without becoming sticky or clammy, yet remains cool in the summer. Not only was linen cloth used for the shirt, but linen thread was used to sew it, and the shirt's buttons, lower right, were needle-woven of linen thread, the only kind of button able to withstand 18th c. laundry practices.

Social distinctions showed in a shirt's details. The fine twist of the linen, the purity of the whiteness, the evenness of the stitching and seaming, with a discreet monogram, lower left. embroidered at the hem were all marks of an expensive shirt. How that shirt was washed and pressed denoted a gentleman's rank as well; the dozens of tiny vertical pleats pressed into the wide sleeves required the most accomplished laundresses using specialized irons and a chemist's knowledge of starch for the perfect degree of crispness. Careful pressing was also required to be able to fit all that fabric neatly inside the much narrower sleeves of a coat.

Perhaps there's so much confusion about 18th century shirts because so few of them still exist. While a richly embroidered waistcoat might be worn only for special occasions before being set aside for posterity, utilitarian shirts were worn and mended and refashioned until they were finally worn out, and then sold for scrap to paper makers or used for bandages. This site has links to several 18th-19th c.  shirts that have survived in various collections.

The one shown here is a replica made by tailor Mark Hutter of Colonial Williamsburg. It's truly a beautiful garment, deceptively simple in its style but elegant in its flawless hand-sewing. Fabio, eat your heart out.
Many thanks to Mark Hutter, Neal Hurst, & Karin Larsdatter for assistance with this post.
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