Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day V:Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012
Isabella reporting:

Before I wind up these posts from Colonial Williamsburg, I did want to mention the weather. While much of the country was suffering the effects of Winter Storm Freyr, Williamsburg's milder climate meant that the precipitation on the day after Christmas was heavy rain, not snow. But the temperatures did drop after that, and the addition of a blustery wind made for true winter weather, Virginia-style.

So how to dress for an 18th c. winter day? Georgian Virginians could have summed up their winter style in the same single word that their modern contemporaries do: layers. Quilted wool petticoats and waistcoats, thick stockings, scarves, mittens, caps, and mitts under heavy woolen cloaks were mandatory for those of every class who ventured out-of-doors, as interpreters Courtney Colligan and Amanda Davis demonstrate, right.

Yet even in a colonial city far from London, there were ladies who were as concerned about being fashionable as keeping warm. Although I didn't see our friends from the Margaret Hunter millinery shop outside during this visit, I found the photograph from an earlier Christmas season, left, of mantua-maker's apprentice Sarah Woodyard, ready to run an errand for her mistress. An 18th c. apprentice was a walking advertisement for her shop's wares, and Sarah's cloak is wool-lined silk, with a matching muff to keep her hands warm. (For more about her clothes, see the earlier post.)

A tailor's apprentice would also be expected to make a stylish figure when he left his shop. Michael McCarty, right, has been send out on his master's business, leather case in hand. He's chosen an uncocked, flat-brimmed hat and a neat, dark red woolen suit (waistcoat, breeches, and jacket.) His great coat of grey wool beaver may look familiar; we've seen it here before, worn by tailor Mark Hutter. (See here for more about the great coat.)

All photographs by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Day IV: Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Isabella reporting:

Today's post will be something of a "wreath round-up", with a few of my favorites of this year's crop. The restrictions for the decorations in Colonial Williamsburg are succinct: no plastic or glitter, nothing electric, nothing modern (sorry, Santa and Snoopy.) Materials must be natural, with an emphasis on things native to Virginia and plenty of imagination. As always, please click on the images to enlarge them to see the details.

The large wreath hung on the railing, above, features one of the favorite wreath-making fruits - apples - but in three ways. Among the pine cones and greenery are not only small lady apples, but also pineapples and large green hedge-apples (which, at least in my part of Pennsylvania, are also inelegantly called monkey-brains by middle school kids.)

The house, above left, earns the title of the Apple House during the holiday season, because apples are always placed in the convenient little niches scattered through the brickwork. This year the house's decor also includes antique children's toys, with a wooden sled over the door and old-fashioned wooden tops hanging from the twin wreathes and over the door.

I wondered if the house with the colorful vertical garland, right, is owned by a cook or gourmet. Certainly all the foodstuffs hung in a row would please the palate as well as the eye, including sliced, dried oranges, pomegranates, artichokes, and cinnamon sticks.

Everyone does have their favorites, however, and it looks as if one of Colonial Williamsburg's favorite residents does, too, lower left. Sitting beneath the wreath of the Post Office is Shilling the head coachman-interpreter's cat, who is perhaps longing for a wreath decorated with catnip mice - all natural and indigenous, of course.

Photographs copyright 2012 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day III: Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Isabella reporting:

No matter the season, my favorite time in Colonial Williamsburg is always early in the morning, when Duke of Gloucester Street, above, belongs more firmly to the past. Here, too, you can see how gracefully the holiday decorations blend in with the architecture. I know they're not historically accurate (as I explained yesterday) to 1775, but the effect is still charming.

I especially like the decorations on the historic trade shops that imaginatively incorporate aspects of each trade into the design. The wreath, above left, hangs beside the doorway of the Wig & Peruke-Maker's Shop. Woven into the boxwood greenery are not only pine cones and dried flowers, but also white 18th c.  clay hair curlers, switches of false hair, and dainty strands of pearl beads that might have ornamented a stylish lady's hair.

The tools and bench visible through the window of the Joiner's Shop, right, indicate the fine woodworking done within. The trade also inspired the holiday decor over the window, a festive swag fashioned of branches and curls of hardwood created by the joiner's box plane.

One of our favorite trade shops in Williamsburg is the Margaret Hunter millinery shop, and each year I look forward to seeing how their wreath highlights the fashionable hats, fans, and gowns offered within the shop. (Here's the wreath from last year as an example.) Alas, this year I missed out. While the 2012 wreath was indeed lovely – here it is on the shop's Facebook page – apparently some Scrooge of a thief stole it one night earlier in December. Bah, humbug!

But instead of ending on that sour note, here's the tableau, lower left, that's on display inside the shop every holiday season. It's an 18th c. milliner's shop in miniature, complete with hoops to caps to a gentleman's cocked hat. One doll "baby" tends the counter, while another is a mantua-maker, draping a new gown on a customer.

Photographs copyright Susan Holloway Scott, 2012.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day II: Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Isabella reporting:

The beautiful holiday wreathes and other decorations are much of what makes Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg so popular. There are walking tours to view the decorated houses, books and videos showing how to replicate the "look" at home, and even a contest to select the best of each year, with categories to separate the professional decorators from ordinary homeowners.

The catch is, however, that none of the lavish wreaths and pineapples are historically accurate to 1775. No sane 18th c. homeowner would dream of sticking out-of-season fresh fruit up on his or her front door to be eaten by squirrels and birds; a bit of greenery would have been the extent of holiday decorating.

The Della Robbia-inspired wreaths are products of the 1930s, when Colonial Williamsburg was still trying to balance its evolving mission as a museum devoted to 18th c. Virginia with the 20th c. Virginians who happened to be living in the town. The decorations based on natural greenery and colorful fruits were a compromise to ward off plastic Santas and multi-colored lights, and over time the 1930s-style decor has become accepted as traditional. Which, I suppose, it is –– just not traditional to the 18th c.

Still, the wreaths are beautiful, and the use of ingredients native to Virginia is imaginative and inspiring. I'll be posting more over the next few days.

Photographs copyright Susan Holloway Scott, 2012.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day I: Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Isabella reporting:

It's Christmas Week, and once again I'm fortunate to be spending it in Colonial Williamsburg, VA. I'll be sharing quick posts with plenty of pictures of the gorgeous seasonal wreaths and other decorations. No white Christmas here - just rain - but all is decked out for a warm welcome, from the grand gates to the Governor's Palace, above, to the more modest windows of shops and houses, left.

Photographs copyright 2012 Susan Holloway Scott.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Break

Monday, December 17, 2012
Will Houghton, Best on Tree
Isabella & Loretta report:

For the next several days, the Two Nerdy History Girls will be taking a break from blogging to attend to holiday shopping, baking, wrapping, family time and—since we have manuscripts to finish—writing furiously amongst and between.

We won't be completely blank, though.  You can look for holiday scenes from Colonial Williamsburg, coming soon.

We expect to return to our regularly scheduled blogging right after Christmas.

Meanwhile, we wish you a wonderful holiday season!

Illustration:  Will Houghton, Best on Tree, 1914, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of December 10, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012
Breakfast Links are served! As the holidays approach, many of this week's links have a decidedly festive flavor, and who'll argue with that?  Please enjoy our weekly collection of favorite links to other web sites and blogs, photographs, and articles gathered for you from around the Twitterverse.
• And the lady wore fur: 18th c. ladies keeping fashionably warm.
• How to survive the plague, 1603: avoid sex, drink wine, & put a clove in your mouth when going out.
• "Sensitive to the finest gradations in kittenly meditation & motion": animal painter Horatio Henry Couldery (1832-1918).
• The cover of the first edition of the classic cookbook Joy of Cooking was exotic & beautiful.
• Covert force: hundreds of women fought in the Civil War disguised as men.
• Meet the Duke of Devonshire, aka the duke of puppies.
• For your holiday baking: Georgian Sugar Cakes - 18th c. recipe, plus a modern version.
• Truth or myth? Early American women spun & wove their own fabric.
• Arms and the maiden: the symbols of Joan of Arc.
Christmas Cake & the Little Mouse: excerpt from "Aunt Affable's New Book for Children", London, 1844.
Pomanders, elegant & sweet-smelling personal jewels used from the 13th-17th c. to protect against disease.
• Ghosts from the past meld with the present: a walk through time in Spitalfields.
• A soldier's story of World War I in words and pictures.
• Scottish for Christmas: America's use of tartan for the holidays.
• Green 1890s purse & dress embellished with copper, green & silver beads & sequins.
• "Dickens, Scrooge, and the Victorian Poor", an outstanding exhibition site to explore.
Skeletons from the Mutter Museum show the deformed ribcage of a 19th c. woman who wore corsets vs. a normal ribcage.
• A NYC retailer in 1906 solves the problem of low-paid working girls: marriage.
• Did the ancient Romans invent Christmas?
• Historical hair: the auction market for hair from long-dead famous heads.
• Eighty-five years of amazing Rockettes costumes.
• Not for the squeamish: long before the FDA, there were fecal medicines.
• Fancy a different dessert? Recipes for quaking pudding, 17th c. to present.
• A preacher & a policeman debate whether the use of bicycles cause ladies to develop loose morals, 1899.
• An antiquarian goes wine tasting in 1698.
• The height of 15th c. fashion: the wardrobe of Margaret of Denmark, Queen of Scotland.
• Georgian inventor Sarah Guppy: better at inventing things than choosing a husband.
• The horrifying balloon ride of death, 1875.
• How the American Civil War helped sentimentalize Christmas.
• Fantastic food photos recreate a 16th c. supper with Shakespeare.
• Debunking another history myth: why Americans call porcelain dinnerware "china."
• Christmas stocking tradition comes from recently laundered ladies' stockings that were hung to dry.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistorygirls for daily updates!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sleigh bells ring...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Loretta reports:

To follow up on my recent post about Old Sturbridge Village, here's a short video about one of their winter events, the antique sleigh rally.

Readers who receive our blog via email might see only a rectangle or square where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mistletoe Madness, 1796

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Isabella reporting:

In modern holiday celebrations, mistletoe has become something of a kitsch-y joke, the inevitable prop for I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus humor.

But in the 1790s, when the print, left, was published, mistletoe still had an aura of wickedness, even danger. The ancient Druidic traditions linking mistletoe and fertility had not been forgotten, and kissing beneath the mistletoe was thought to lead to more promiscuity, or even - shudder! - marriage.

Certainly the four merry young  couples in this print appear to be enjoying themselves. Some scholarly descriptions refer to this as a dance scene, and perhaps it does show nothing more than a particularly rollicking country dance.

Still, I can't help but think that at any moment some stern-faced, indignant elder is going to appear in the doorway and demand to know what exactly is going on down here. I'm guessing the artist thought that, too, from the caption he added to the bottom: "Whilst Romp loving Miss is haul'd about/With gallantry robust." (The attribution to Milton is incorrect; the line is from a poem by the 18th c. Scottish poet James Thomson.) In any event, there's no doubt that these are romp-loving misses being haul'd about by their robust gallants. No wonder Christmas mistletoe was so popular!

Above: The mistletoe, or, Christmas gambols, by Edward Penny, 1796, London. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Child's World at Old Sturbridge Village

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Children Dancing
Loretta reports:

We’ve posted here before about toys as well as children’s clothes  (examples here, here, here, here, here, and here).

If you’re planning to be in the New England area between now and 27 May, you can see a great deal more, at Old Sturbridge Village.  I've posted about this living history museum before.

This time I'm excited about a new exhibition, A Child’s World: Childhood in 19th Century New England 1800-1850,” which features children’s items from the museum’s collection:  clothing, toys, games, as well as children’s furnishings from potties to high chairs.

Historian Jill Lepore’s lecture on board games at the American Antiquarian Society last June gave me food for thought about the way popular board games reflect society’s values at a given time.  But while we got to see slides, you can see the games for yourself, and speculate about the differences between board games then and now.

Skeleton suit
It’s also a chance for a look at a rare item, an 1820s “skeleton suit” (in which I garbed a young character in Lord of Scoundrels).

There’s a good deal more—about 150 items.

You can read more about it here.  Or check out their Pinterest Page.

And below is a video preview of the show.

A Child's World Exhibit - Behind the Scenes

Note:  Before going, please check on opening times.  The museum isn't always open in the daytime during December because they have major holiday activities going on in the evenings.

Skeleton suit above is from Colonial Williamsburg.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Biggest Christmas Tree in New York

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Isabella reporting:

I was in New York yesterday, and like every other out-of-towner, I had to stop by the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, left. Even on a murky grey day, seeing a magnificent tree like this in the middle of midtown Manhattan really is a holiday wonder. Of course, this being New York (and Fifth Avenue), the tree is meant to impress: seven stories high, decorated with hundreds of lights and ornaments, and crowned with a 550-pound Swarovski crystal star valued at $1.5 million.

But it wasn't always so flamboyant. The first holiday tree on the spot was considerably more modest. In 1931, construction workers put up a 20-ft. tree on their work site and decorated it with improvised garlands and decorations. From these humble beginnings rose not only the grand Christmas tree of today, but also the landmark buildings of Rockefeller Center. Click here for a slide show featuring historic images and facts about the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Above: Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, December 10, 2012, by Susan Holloway Scott.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Market Woman

Monday, December 10, 2012
Loretta reports:

Another in my series on historical occupations.  I’ve blogged about ticket porters.  They were licensed to carry items.  These women, apparently, simply showed up at a regular post, to carry goods hither and yon.  It's hard to imagine the level of strength and stamina this job demanded.

—George & Robert Cruikshank, The Gentleman's Pocket Magazine, 1829

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of December 3, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012
It's time for Breakfast Links - this week's collection of our favorite links to other web sites and blogs, photographs, and articles, all gathered for you from the Twitterverse.
• The grand wardrobe of Queen Elizabeth I - a collection of ostentatious hand-me-downs?
• England's Great Storm of 1703 devastates her ships and her oak trees alike.
• The Wheatsheaf Inn, Popham Lane, and Jane Austen; part two here.
Sir Winston Churchill: politician, man of action; also grower of roses & collector of butterflies.
• Accessory of the Day: Andre Perugia shoes, 1925.
• In 1858, NYC's famed Crystal Palace burned to the ground.
• Stealing Charlie Chaplin: a macabre grave-robbery.
• St Katharine's by the Tower: London's forgotten medieval hospital.
• Bleak House no more: Charles Dicken's home reopens after restoration.
• In honor of the holiday season: shopping & advertising in Georgian Britain.
• It lasted four days and led to the deaths of 4,000: the 1952 Great Smog of London.
Christmas carols, Regency style.
• Unhappy but politically important: Margaret of Denmark (1456-1486), Queen of Scotland.
• A magic-carpet ride for young lovers in 18th c. India.
• Even royalty finds comfort in needlework: Queen Mary's pillow.
• A magnificent blue corset, c. 1868-1874.
• The secret contents of second-hand books.
Love advice to a young woman from the Sausalito (CA) News, December 1912.
• Interested in Tudor dentistry? "Here foloweth medycynes for ache in the tethe."
Bad Santas: a roundup of truly objectionable Christmas advertising.
• Why American parents don't name their daughters Mary anymore.
Drinking tea was once considered an irresponsible, reckless pursuit for women.
• Meanwhile, George (and Martha) Washington were drinking hot chocolate.
• The wonders of unicorn horns: preventions and cures for poisoning.
• Worn, torn, ripped, and shattered 18th c. shoes.
• This silk flag belonged to the 84th Regiment of Infantry, United States Colored Troops.
• New York's 1916 Children's Courthouse processed 10,000 "imps of Satan" a year.
• How Christmas traditions help to preserve archaic and obsolete language.
• The distinguished pedigree of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle: the truth about medieval hedgehogs.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Casual Friday: On the Train to Somewhere, 1895

Friday, December 7, 2012
Isabella reporting:

Anyone who has endured a long journey can sympathize with the young Frenchwoman in this beautiful photogravure. With her eyes closed, she dozes against her luggage, unaware of how her hat's been knocked askew. Where is she going, traveling alone? What – and who – has she left behind? Or is she dreaming of the destination and future before her?

Above: En Wagon, by Gui de la Bretoniére, 1895, Exposition d'Art Photographique.
This image is from a wonderful web site, The Art of the Photogravure – well worth exploring!

And now for a bit of Shameless Self-Promotion....
My two-sided writing personality is at again! This Saturday I'll once again be signing my historical romances as Isabella Bradford (including my super-new WHEN THE DUKE FOUND LOVE) and my historical novels as Susan Holloway Scott. If you're in the Philadelphia-Delaware  area this weekend, I hope you'll stop by and say hello.

Booksigning Event with Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott                                    
Saturday, December 8 • 1:00-3:00 p.m.                                                                                           
Books-A-Million • Exton Square Mall 
Exton, PA 19341 • 610-363-1156

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Kennedy to Kent State: Images of a Generation

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Loretta reports:

The Worcester Art Museum, a jewel of a small museum in Central Massachusetts, has mounted countless intriguing, beautiful, and thought-provoking exhibitions, (I’ve blogged about one here), some garnered from its own collection.

That’s the case with Kennedy to Kent State: Images of a Generation, a show of photographs covering the period we all think of as The Sixties.  Many of the images are burned into the national psyche.  But even those who’ve lived through the era might be surprised at the show’s emotional impact, which I attribute to a combination of the images, the exhibition design, and the understated narrative.  In the middle of the exhibition area you can retreat into little rooms, each of which contains a a bit of television from the time.  It’s . . . intense.

Those of you who can’t make the trip to Worcester by 3 February 2013 can get a good sampling of the show from the Boston Globe review embedded below.


You can watch a sharper and larger version here at the Boston Globe’s site, and you can read a review here.

The Worcester Art Museum also partnered with the Worcester Historical Museum and the Worcester Women’s History Project to create an oral history to augment the exhibition.  You can see the videos here, on their site or here on Pinterest.

Because the show’s photos belong to the WAM, the images posted here are courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

Note that both major events, the JFK assassination and the Civil Rights March, occurred in the same year, 1963.

Above left: Warren K. Leffler, Civil rights march on Wash[ington], D.C., 1963 Aug. 28.
Below right: Victor Hugo King, John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Spurs for Cockfighting, c. 1765-1800

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Isabella reporting:

While my historical romances (like my latest, When the Duke Found Love) are firmly set in 18th c. London, I'll freely admit that there are aspects of that place and time that don't turn up in my books. Romances are meant to be fine escapist fare where love conquers all with a happy ending, not grim reminders of the darker sides of the past. It's not that I'm squeamish or prudish – remember, I subjected the heroine in my historical novel The French Mistress to mercury-bath treatments for the venereal disease she'd contracted from her royal lover – but there are certain places I'm just not going to take my romance characters.

All of which is why none of my romance heroes will be attending that favorite 18th c. pastime, the cockfight. Today cockfighting is illegal in America, but most Georgian-era males (and more than a few females) would have regarded the fights and the accompanying drinking and betting as a good night's entertainment, equal to watching Monday Night Football with friends.

But the cockfighting spurs like the 18th c. examples, left, show the brutality of the "sport." The natural spurs on the roosters' legs were cut away, and replaced with the exaggerated and more lethal metal spurs. Whether the spurs were made of leather bands and iron like these, or sterling silver like the ones favored by gentlemen, they were still designed to maim, blind, and kill. A pair of game cocks was released into the ring, bets were made on favorites amidst loud cheers of encouragement and oath-filled threats, and the two birds fought until one was unable to continue.

A night of cockfighting inevitably left a pile of dead and dying roosters, including many of the so-called winners. As William Hogarth observed in his engraving, right, the blood-lust fury wasn't confined to the birds, either – though those wagering on the fights (usually) survived.

Just don't look for my heroes in the crowd.

Left: Box, made by Samuel Toulmin, London, England, 1765-83. Wood, shagreen. Inscribed under the lid: "Samuel Toulmin/Silver Cockspur Maker/Successor to Smith & Gatesfield/at the Deal & Crown in Burleigh Street/near Exeter Change in the Strand/LONDON." 
Cockfighting Spurs, Made in England, 1765-1800, iron and leather. Winterthur Museum.
Right: Royal sport pit ticket design'd and engrav'd by Willm. Hogarth, by William Hogarth, 1759, London. Lewis Walpole Digital Museum, Yale University.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fashions for December 1827

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Loretta reports:

After the mid 1820s, as waistlines descended, the skirts widened.  So did the shoulders and sleeves.  Also, hair & hats started going wildly upward and outward.  This kind of reminds me of the 1980s:  big shoulders & big hair.

Please note the delightful reticule worn with the green dress.

These prints (please click to enlarge) are from La Belle Assemblée*, Volume 6, 1827.


 * Full title: La Belle Assemblée; Or, Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine: Containing Interesting and Original Literature, and Records of the Beau-monde.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Return Engagement: Plenty of Warmth & Style in a Thrummed Cap, c.1770

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Isabella reporting:

Since I'll be traveling today (and I know better than to attempt to write a blog tapping away on my phone), I'm reposting this one about thrummed hats. What better way to prepare for winter than with a thick, warm knitted cap?

Most surviving examples of clothing from the past belonged to the wealthy upper classes.  The clothes worn by ordinary folk were usually worn out, not preserved for posterity. There aren't many written descriptions of how milkmaids or blacksmiths dressed, either, especially not compared to the detailed reports of this duke's waistcoat or that princess's gown.

So since we've already discussed a cocked hat of an 18th c. gentleman, today we're featuring a hat popular with men who worked hard for their livings. This woolly hat (worn left by Andrew De Lisle, a journeyman wheelwright with Colonial Williamsburg) is called a thrum, or thrummed, cap, and in a cold winter wind, it couldn't be beat. The base was knitted of wool, and extra pieces of yarn or fleece were thrummed into the surface – either knitted in or woven in afterwards – to make the shaggy surface. Then the whole thing was fulled (much like felting) in hot water to shrink the knitted stitches, secure the thrums, and lock the wool's fibers together. The result was a dense, sturdy, windproof hat that resembles fur (or the 18th c. version of dreads.)

The same technique was also used inside mittens and carriage blankets when extra warmth was needed. The more a thrummed piece is used, the more dense and warmer it becomes; thrummed goods are sturdy, and can stand up to hard use. There are surviving examples of gauntlet-style thrummed mittens that were worn by 19th c. stage drivers who likely also welcomed the wind-proof warmth.

Thrummed caps were especially popular with English sailors from Elizabethan times onward (see the fellow to the right), and working men in general. They also made a wild-man fashion statement that must have had a certain appeal to men like sailors who proudly lived on the edges of respectable society. Personally, we think it's a style worth reviving, and not only because it's the warmest had imaginable. To this end, here's a link to download directions for knitting one for yourself, or any other wild-man of your acquaintance.

Photos courtesy of Sarah Woodyard.
Below: Detail of an English sailor, illustration from Habiti Antichi e Moderni by Cesare Vecelli, 1600.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of November 26, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012
Time for a heaping serving of Breakfast Links! This week's favorite links to other web sites and blogs, photographs, and articles, all collected for you from the Twitterverse.
Beard caught in bicycle chaing - a cautionary tale, especially for Movember.
• Streets of Old London captured in early photographs, c. 1900.
• Could Aaron Burr and his daughter haunt this one-time blacksmith shop in NYC?
• The beautiful Maria Gunning and the trials of being a celebrity in the 18th century.
• Twenty-seven reasons why "Scientific Gossip" of the 1870s is the best newspaper column of all time.
• Unpublished Rowlandson drawings discovered in Princeton University Library.
• Stunningly matter-of-fact letter home after the battle from a Waterloo soldier.
• Ultra-stylish designer coat for a pampered pooch, 1920s.
Fortune-telling, Iron-Age style: the Crosby-Ravensworth spoons.
• Lard baths for Junior! The worst baby advice in history.
Marriage contract of Mozart and Constanza Weber.
• Can you crack the code? WWII pigeon message stumps modern decoders.
• One of England's worst-ever storms hit the country on November 24, 1703.
• The alcoholic delights of syllabub to brighten a dreary day - especially when it's straight from the cow.
Romeo and Juliet....and they lived happily ever after in this finale from the Norwich Theatre, 1758.
• "Housewives! Save waste fat for explosives!" 1939-1945
• Do you know what an aquamanilia is? Functional vessels & decorative tableware in the Middle Ages.
• An 18th c. 'Marriage most Horrid.'
• November, 1812: John Adams writes from St. Petersburg of Napoleon's disaster.
• Holiday baking: "Black Cake, much esteemed", 1837 recipes, more.
"Mightly lewd books": 18th c. appetites for pornography (with ladies buying, too.)
• Remains of elite archers identified on the Tudor Mary Rose shipwreck.
Hipparchia, the female philosopher who flouted the conventions of Ancient Greece.
• Odds for a lottery win, 18th century style.
• The WWI trench talk that's now entrenched in the English language.
Counterfeit foods, from asses' milk to Westphalian ham.
• When a First Lady cuddled a raccoon.
• Highwaymen: some famous, some not, but both here and here.
• The wonders of Victorian beards.
• When kids (literally) played with fire: adorable & dangerous early 20th c. toy stoves.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Casual Friday: Picture of Lillie

Friday, November 30, 2012
Lillie Langtry
Loretta reports:

This is simply an image of a famous beauty of the Edwardian era, Lillie Langtry, and the story is not in the picture but in her life. She definitely belongs in the Intrepid Women category.

The photo, dated c1882, is described, rather than titled: Lily Langtry, 1852-1929, half length portrait, standing, right profile; in matching turban and dress.  The LOC entry is the Americanized spelling of her name; Wikipedia gives her birth year as 1853, but my Chambers's Biographical Dictionary (1926) gives it as 1852.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Return Engagement: Harriette Wilson just wants to have fun

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Loretta reports:

The following encore presentation of a 2010 post may serve as a preface to tomorrow's feature about another fun-loving girl.

The Regency era courtesan Harriette Wilson belonged to the sorority called Girls Just Want To Have Fun.  Here’s her take on virtue:
There certainly was much aggravation of sin, in my projected criminal intercourse with the Marquis of Worcester.  Many women, very hard pressed par la belle nature, intrigue because they see no prospect nor hopes of getting husbands; but I, who might, as everybody told me, and were incessantly reminding me, have, at this period, smuggled myself into the Beaufort family, by merely declaring to Lord Worcester, with my finger pointed towards the North—that way leads to Harriette Wilson’s bedchamber; yet so perverse was my conscience, so hardened by what Fred Bentinck calls, my perseverance in loose morality, that I scorned the idea of taking such an advantage of the passion I had inspired, in what I believed to be a generous breast, as might, hereafter, cause unhappiness to himself, while it would embitter the peace of his parents.

Seriously I have but a very confused idea of what virtue really is, or what it would be at.  For my part, all the virtue I ever practised, or desire to learn, was such as my heart and conscience dictated.

Now the English Protestant ladies’ virtue is chastity!  There are but two classes of women among them.  She is a bad woman the moment she has committed fornication; be she generous, charitable, just , clever, domestic, affectionate, and ever ready to sacrifice her own good to serve and benefit those she loves, still her rank in society is with the lowest hired prostitute.  Each is indiscriminately avoided, and each is denominated the same—bad woman, while all are virtuous who are chaste.

…The soldier’s virtue lies in murdering as many fellow creatures as possible, at the command of any man, virtuous or vicious, who may happen to be his chief, no matter why or wherefore.

The French ladies’ virtue is, generally speaking, all comprised and summed up in one single word and article—bienséance!*

Excerpt from The Memoirs Of Harriette Wilson, which were first published in 1825.
You can read the first two volumes from the 1909 edition online here.    And for further insight into this fascinating woman, you might want to look into The Courtesan’s Revenge: The Life of Harriette Wilson, the Woman Who Blackmailed the King.

Postscript: Isabella/Susan sent me this link to one of the illustrations—which definitely captures the insouciant spirit of the book. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Lion's Daughter & the Albanians

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Loretta reports:

This month we’ve released eBook editions of my out-of-print works.  The collection includes my very first full-length historical romance (as opposed to traditional Regency), The Lion’s Daughter.

It might be the only historical romance set (partly) in Albania, and the heroine may be the only half-Albanian historical romance heroine.  When the book came out, some people asked me if Albania was an imaginary country.

Barnes & Noble is promoting The Lion’s Daughter 11/16-12/14, in a fine example of good timing.  Today, 28 November, is the 100th anniversary of Albania’s Declaration of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.

It’s the Albanian version of the U.S. 4th of July.  The former's road of independence, though, has been as rocky as its landscape.  The century has included monarchies, invasions by various powers, a lengthy isolation under a Communist government, and, most recently, the growing pains of building a democracy.

The declaration itself is quite short:

In Vlora, on the 28th of November 1912.
Following the speech made by the President, Ismail Kemal Bey, in which he spoke of the great perils facing Albania today, the delegates have all decided unanimously that Albania, as of today, should be on her own, free and independent.

This is the English version.  If you’re curious about what it sounds like in Albanian, here’s a clip from a movie version of the event.

And a bit more here, as well as Wikipedia and elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"When the Duke Found Love" On Sale Today

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Isabella reports:

At last, at last: today is publication for When the Duke Found Love, the third and final book in my Wylder Sisters series of historical romances. Published by Ballantine/Random House (and by Eternal Romance in the UK), the books are available in both print and ebook formats.

Set in Georgian London, When the Duke Found Love follows Lady Diana Wylder, the youngest of the sisters and the last to wed. Unlike her sisters, Diana wasn't betrothed as an infant, and without a husband chosen for her, she has made some unfortunate decisions of her own that have left her reputation a bit tattered. When her mother presents a respectable but dull suitor, Diana dutifully agrees to the match – until she kisses the anything-but-dull Duke of Sheffield. Handsome, charming, and scandalous in his own right, Sheffield is exactly the sort of man she needs to avoid, just as Diana is exactly the sort of lady that Sheffield has no business pursuing. Yet soon it's clear for them both that seduction is no longer the game. Something deep and lasting has come to bind their hearts, and the stakes are nothing less than true love.

One of Amazon's Ten Best Romances of 2012.

As a preview, you can read (and download) the first chapter here.

Click here for Amazon.
Click here for Amazon UK.
Click here for Barnes & Noble.
Click here for Books-a-Million.
Click here for The Book Depository

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Inspiration in a Stylish Couple, 1765

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Isabella reporting:

Tuesday is the publication day for my new historical romance, When the Duke Found Love. It's the last of my three-book series featuring the Wylder sisters, all published by Ballantine/Random House. I'll share more about the book tomorrow, but in case you're busily participating in Cyber Monday, you can still add a copy of When the Duke Found Love to your shopping cart today for delivery at midnight, just like Cinderella herself.

Since I've always written novels set in the past, I'm often asked how I choose the time period. Sometimes I'm inspired by an especially interesting historical event that will determine the setting, and other times it's a certain historical figure that I'd like to feature in my story. But the one constant for me is the clothes. I know it may sound hopelessly shallow, but I have to like the clothes my characters will be wearing, or all bets are off.

When the Duke Found Love is set in London in the 1760s, and yes, the clothes for both the gentlemen and the ladies of that time are quite glorious. There are ruffles and laces galore, silks and jewels and extravagant hats: what's not to love? As an example of the Georgian splendor that I found so inspiring, I'm offering the double portrait, above, of Peter Perez Burdett and His First Wife Hannah, by Joseph Wright of Derby. Clearly Mr. Wright enjoyed 18th c. fashion every bit as much as I do, for this painting is filled with stylish detail (click on the image to enlarge.)

While ostensibly out for a country stroll, Mrs. Burdett is dressed to the nines, or maybe the tens: a rich silk gown and petticoat, bow-trimmed bodice, lace-edge pelisse, and fine linen kerchief. Her wide-brimmed straw hat is edged with more lace, and tied with a wide silk ribbon over a lace-trimmed cap. Her sleeve ruffles are truly amazing - see a beautiful close-up detail here - as are her jeweled bracelet and sunburst earrings.

Her husband is not to be outdone, however. He's wearing a double-breasted striped waistcoat, a velvet coat, and a gold-laced cocked hat, with more stripes knitted into his stockings. Another close-up shows the wrapped death-head buttons on his coat as well as his heart-shaped shirt-buckle. (In fact his shirt and shirt-buckle look very much like those worn by tailor Mark Hutter of Colonial Williamsburg.)

But while this painting may have inspired my characters' wardrobes, I'm afraid the real-life marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Burdett has no place in a romance. Peter Burdett was a celebrated map-maker and surveyor who made a favorable match by marrying the older Hannah, a wealthy merchant's widow. Joseph Wright was Peter Burdett's friend and likely privy to his true feelings regarding Hannah, so that the emotional distance apparent between the couple in their portrait is probably not accidental. By 1774, Burdett was deeply in debt, and fled England to work in Germany, where he remained for the rest of his life. He took this painting with him – but left the flesh-and-blood Hannah behind to face his creditors.

Above: Peter Perez Burdett and His First Wife Hannah, by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1765. National Gallery of the Czech Republic, Prague.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of November 19, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012
With the feasting behind us, we're back with your weekly offering of Breakfast Links. This week's links have a decidedly Thanksgiving flavor, but there's also plenty more gathered from Twitter, including blogs, web sites, photos, and articles you won't want to miss.
• This week in 1603, Sir Walter Ralegh stood trial for treason, & his eloquent defense made him a national hero.
• Evening glamour, 1922.
• What was on the Pilgrims' menu at the first Thanksgiving?
• Fantastic images from the Duke of Wellington's funeral, 1852.
• Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam was upset. His wife was upset. Cambridge officials were conciliatory. But why?
• The woman who became a witch-pricker in Scotland, 1662.
• Every day except Christmas: Covent Garden, London.
• The colorful story of an American locomotive that ended up on Exmoor.
Six myths about Thanksgiving revealed.
• More about that first Thanksgiving in Texas.
• This 1869 dressing gown is the perfect garment for Thanksgiving (or any) morning.
• The strangeness and splendor of Elizabethan "It" girls.
• NYC's grand Windsor Hotel burns on St. Patrick's Day 1899 in one of the city's most horrific disasters.
• Rich and satisfying Sippet Pudding - 18th c. recipe plus modern version.
• The game board King Charles I carried with him to the scaffold.
• Special bat refuges built into bridge after old roosting places filled in during repairs.
• A serial killer in the regiment? A curious Civil War hanging.
• How to cook a bird like Norma Jeane: Marilyn Monroe's handwritten turkey recipe.
• Early color photographs of Paris, 1914.
Lady Sarah Archer, definitely not winning "Mother of the Year."
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) on her wedding day, 65 years ago this week.
• The UK's last typewriter produced - and promptly sent to a museum.
Dog in joyful air - "Lady Londonderry's Dog."
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Excess: Thanksgiving Dinner, 1900

Friday, November 23, 2012
Isabella reporting,

If you are feeling diner's remorse today, rest assured that whatever you ate at your Thanksgiving dinner can't hold a candle to the quantity that prosperous New Yorkers consumed for Thanksgiving in November, 1900.

This is a menu for the holiday dinner from the Park Avenue Hotel, New York. I hope you'll click on the image and enlarge to read the staggering variety of offerings. The traditional turkey is almost lost amidst the two kinds of oysters, suckling pig, larded tenderloin of beef, boiled Kennebec salmon, sweetbreads with trifles, saddle of lamb, potted quail....

Left: Thanksgiving Day Dinner [held by] Park Avenue Hotel, New York, NY, November, 1900. From the Rare Books Division, New York Public Library.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Break

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Loretta & Isabella reporting,

Americans will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday, November 22. For many of you the entire week will be devoted to preparations for visiting friends and relatives, shopping and cooking for the dinner, or perhaps making the trek yourself over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house much like these turkeys, motoring off in an 1907 postcard to, we hope, a vegetarian feast.

Since Thanksgiving also always seems to coincide with our deadlines, we'll be keeping one hand on the keyboard and the other on the pumpkin pie. We'll be taking the week off from blogging, too, since we imagine you're all just as busy as we are. But please know that whatever the season, we're endlessly thankful for you, our readers all around the world. You're the best.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Above: Thanksgiving day, postcard published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1907. From the Picture Collection of The New York Public Library.
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