Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ackermann's Wonderful Repository

Thursday, February 28, 2013
Carriage Dress August1828
Loretta reports:

I frequently post prints as well as excerpts from ladies’ magazines of the early 19th century.  A particular favorite, in terms of the print quality and variety of articles, is Ackermann’s Repository, a shortcut name for The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics.  Indeed, it covered all these topics, and offers intriguing glimpses into the minds of the people we authors try to bring to life in our stories. 

Most delicious, however, for fashion-minded Nerdy History Persons, are the fashion plates.  Several Ackermann’s fashion plates have inspired scenes in my books.  This started back in the Dark Ages before Google Books, when my limited sources included a Dover publication, Ackermann's Costume Plates: Women's Fashions in England, 1818-1828.

The plates in the book are copyrighted, and proved the devil to find online.  Recently, however, I happened upon a great collection of Ackermann's Repository at the Internet Archive, courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You can read the very first number here.

Promenade Dress May 1828
The magazine lasted for nearly twenty years—not nearly long enough, as far as I’m concerned.  But rather than attempt an account, I'll refer you to the excellent description of Ackermann and his magazine at Antique Prints Blog.*

The two plates I’ve posted today inspired some of Jessica Trent’s dresses, which Lord Dain found so amusing, in Lord of Scoundrels.
Clicking on the captions under the illustrations will take you to the Internet Archive page.  The descriptions are on nearby pages.

*My thanks to the Jane Austen Centre website for guiding me to the Ackermann story.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Crinoline Madness, c. 1858

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Isabella reporting,

In light of the current red carpet trend for bigger and bigger skirts, with the expected disastrous results (Jennifer Lawrence, you did look lovely, even in the throes of a face-plant), I thought this print might show that nothing is new, especially in fashion. In other words, beware of the perils of excessive fashionable dress!

This French print c. 1858 imaginatively mocks the the 19th c. fashion for the extra-large skirts know as crinolines. (Click to enlarge.) When lady's skirts began to grow in girth in the 1830s-1840s, they were supported by layers of ruffled petticoats and underskirts. The ruffles were either coarse, stiffened cotton or cotton reinforced with horsehair, which gave the style its name. In the 1850s, the unwieldy and heavy under-petticoats were replaced by a new kind of crinoline, a light-weight metal cage that would support the skirts away from the body to achieve the desired rounded bell shape.

While these were really just a reworking of 18th c. hoops - another shaped framework to support skirts – the new crinolines were wildly popular. They were in a way the perfect Victorian garment, a steampunk marriage between the Industrial Revolution and a feminine ideal that made women into impractical, flower-like creatures. Cage-crinolines later morphed into bustles, lingering on the fashion scene for another few decades in stranger and stranger styles.

As soon as women embraced the style, caricaturists were instantly ready with prints like this one, roughly translated as "The Joys and Miseries of the Crinoline,"(More examples: thisand this.) As silly as the cartoons are, I have to think that at least a few were based on actual experiences of women who suddenly found themselves wider than they were tall.

Above: Heur et malheur de la crinoline, Fabrique d'estampes de Gangel, a Metz, c. 1858. Bibliotheque nationale de France

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Men Behaving Badly: Exposure

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Loretta reports:

The Rambler's Magazine is a curious mixture of political satire, political diatribe, theater review, gossip, jokes, and crime reporting.  The last has mainly to do with sex:  seductions leading to suicide, philandering men and adulterous women, crim con proceedings, etc.  To a point, it's an early 19th Century version of the celebrity gossip magazines at the supermarket checkout.  You may have an apter analogy.

I can tell you that the Rambler's editorial crew definitely have it in for some anti-vice society, and spend many pages on exposing and mocking same.  However, my 21st C short-attention span tends to wander to the shorter items, like this one, from the miscellaneous accounts of legal proceedings.  Sadly, the magazine doesn't tell us what his punishment was.

If you're unable to enlarge the text enough to read it, you can read the excerpt online here at bottom of page 68.
Illustration:  Detail from Thomas Rowlandson's Dr. Graham's Bathing Establishment, courtesy Yale Center for British Art.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sympathy for Hogarth's "Enraged Musician", 1741

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Isabella reporting,

I've always had great sympathy with the frustrated musician in this 1741 engraving by William Hogarth – probably more that Hogarth himself have. Many historians see this as the triumph of virtuous English noise over the effete foreigner who can't take the racket. (Click the image to enlarge.)

But honestly, who can blame him? This print captures how incredibly noisy an 18th c. street must have been. There are street vendors like the milk maid and the fish seller, crying their wares. A ballad singer sings while her baby cries, and a piper pipes. Dogs bark, birds caw, cats fight, children play drums and rattles (and piss on the fence.) A knife-grinder sharpens a cleaver, a pavior pounds a new paving stone in place, a dustman rings his bell, and a sow gelder blows his horn. The flag on the church spire signifies a holiday, meaning that even the church bell is likely tolling, too.

When the author Henry Fielding saw this engraving, he reportedly exclaimed it was "enough to make a man deaf to look at." He's right. It is.

Now substitute me pulling my hair for the musician. I live on a very quiet street, a dead end surrounded by woods, so that beyond the birds, dogs, and the occasional leaf-blower, my muse is peacefully undisturbed. But this week as I raced to meet my deadline, the local water company decided to replace all the water-pipes in my neighborhood. They're not on my street yet, but each morning by 7:00 a.m., I can hear them inching closer: jack hammers, front-end loaders, cranes lifting pipes and dump trucks dumping gravel, radios blasting call-in talk shows, and, of course, shouting men. It's only a matter of time, with the pavement outside my house marked with spray-painted crosses like a doomed plague victim, and I'm racing towards "The End" before the trucks appear.

Monsieur Enraged Musician, I feel your pain.

Above: The Enraged Musician, by William Hogarth, 1741, etching and engraving on paper. Tate Britain, London.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of February 18, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013
The Breakfast Links are back! Once again you'll find the best of our favorite links of the week via Twitter, all taking you to the most fascinating web sites, blogs, videos, articles, and photographs.
• 'L'Heure Blue': an 1890s gown of midnight blue velvet.
• A very happy 900th birthday to the Knights of Malta. 
• 18th c. chocolate by Liotard.
• Unusual cause of death for heavy drinkers in the past: spontaneous combustion.
• A 1901 Fifth Avenue mansion deemed "vulgar" becomes the focus of a catty court battle between wealthy socialites.
• A wonderful 1940s true-love story that began (and almost didn't) in a Japanese-American interment camp.
• The 17th c. cries of London that Samuel Pepys heard.
• Proust's famous madeleine was originally a ...biscotte?
• The Jane Austen guide to manliness.
• Why were newspapers in the 1890s obsessed with dog suicide?
Pendant of noble killed in 1306 by Robert Bruce found in field.
• The little-known dark side of Thomas Jefferson.
• Listen to an entire day of radio from 1939.
• How two women challenged fashion and ended the deadly feather trade.
• Georgian assembly rooms: attending a ball at a provincial assembly room.
• Formal attire for fancy strutting,  February 1903: the Welcome Cakewalk.
• Curtius's Grand Cabinet of Curiosities arrives in Birmingham, 1796.
• Debunking that popular 1858 photo of the crinolines and the omnibus.
• A Valentine to Daughter of Liberty Miss Mercy Scollay, fiancee to doomed Revolutionary War hero Dr. Joseph Warren.
• New women required a new shape: the rectangular silhouette of the flappers.
• A love letter by Henry VIII written to Anne Boleyn.
• The photographs John Wilkes Booth was carrying when he was captured.
Fake food that George Washington could have sunk his fake teeth into.
• Always the square jaw: seventy-five years of the changing face of Superman.
• The 15th c. equivalent of your cat walking on your keyboard.
• The Chevalier D'Eon: solider, spy, celebrity transvestite.
• He might have been the worst poet in the world, but his manuscript is set to sell for thousands at auction.
Laudanum or rhubarb? Yikes! Unsafe medicine in the 19th c.
• Floorplan of Sherlock Holmes' living quarters.

Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls and get fresh updates daily!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Casual Friday: A 1920s kitchen

Friday, February 22, 2013
Loretta reports:

I often find the behind-the-scenes rooms of a historic house at least as fascinating as the public rooms.  At the Edison and Ford Estates, I took a close look at the kitchen, as you can see.

You'll find the first post about this visit here.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Wild Women" Suffragists Commit Arson for the Vote, 1913

Thursday, February 21, 2013
Isabella reporting,

It's been a long time since women were finally given the vote in America and Britain, so long that many people (and sadly, many younger women) have forgotten the heroic efforts of the early 20th c. suffragists. These women risked their reputations, their bodies, and their lives for the sake of the cause. Desperation made them daring, and in Britain, the damage the caused and the threats they made were very real and unsettling.

The piled tables and chairs and charred ruins, above, are all that remained of the Tea House at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, (the landmark pagoda can be seen like a ghost to the left), London, after suffragists burned it to the ground, one hundred years ago in February, 1913. The postcard, below, shows the Tea House two years before the attack. Lilian Lenton and Olive Wharry, suffragists linked to the Women's Social & Political Union, were arrested at the night of the fire, and found guilty of arson. Both were sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment in Holloway Prison, though neither woman served their full sentences; both staged hunger-strikes in protest, and became so ill that they were released early.

How much of a real terrorist threat were the militant suffragists? The story below is from The Times, April 5, 1913.

                                   'WILD WOMEN' BURN AND SMASH FOR VOTE
                                                      PANIC IN THE PROVINCES
Great Country Houses Closely Watched – London Season Menaced by Restrictions on Visitors.

    "Wild women," as the suffragettes are being styled, have been busy in the provinces today, following up the campaign of revenge for the imprisonment of Mrs. Pankhurst.
     The grandstand of the Ayr race course in Scotland was burned and an attempt was made to destroy the grandstand of the Kelso race course, two men being caught just after they had started a fire.
    Flower beds in Armstrong Park in Newcastle were devastated.
    As a result of the continued activity of the militants, special precautions are being taken to protect the famous country houses of England. Chatsworth and Haddon Hall are guarded night and day, and a strict watch is being kept over the Shakespeare memorials at Stratford.
   Londoners are beginning to be afraid that fear of the suffragettes will have a bad effect on the social season. 
    American women visiting here who wish to see the sights are complaining of their inability to do so, owing to the strict orders given to exclude women from the Tower and other places where suffragette raids are apprehended. As an instance of the precautions taken the jewel room at the Tower is entirely closed to the public.

Above: Tea House, Kew Gardens, destroyed by suffragettes. Bain News Service, c 1910-1915. George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress.
Below: Refreshment Pavilion and Pagoda, Kew Gardens, postcard, c. 1910. From Whatsthatpicture's flickr photostream.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Edison's Winter Home: a 1920s Getaway

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Loretta reports:

As one whose main experience of the U.S. privileged classes' vacation getaways was the Newport “cottages” of the Vanderbilts and other wealthy families, I found the hominess and simplicity of the Edison & Ford Winter estates a delightful surprise.  Instead of calling to mind French castles, it reminded me of some early 20th C beach & country getaway homes I’ve had the good fortune to stay in once or twice (not to mention my own single piece of vintage rattan furniture).  Instead of a Gilded Age mansion on a (relatively) small plot of land, these were fairly simple houses, meant to accommodate a family and a few guests.  Rather than call attention to themselves, the houses are screened by the trees of the extensive informally arranged gardens.  The décor is 1920s Unpretentious.

It was  hard to choose among the hundreds of photos my husband and I took (more photos of this and other interesting sights appear on my other blog).  I finally decided on Mina & Thomas Edison’s bedroom, to offer a sense of what the whole place was like.  Their daughter’s notice to guests bespeaks an atmosphere and attitude as down-to-earth as the furnishings.

Mina's desk holds her telephone and writing things.  Though they had phones, the Edisons wrote lots of letters.  If I understand correctly, the Edisons' home, unlike Ford's, contains the original furnishings.  Other rooms boast beautiful gramophones.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Seductive Military Man-Trap, 1788

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Susan reporting,

We've seen ladies before in 18th c. riding habits (including here and here), all with a jaunty quasi-military air.  Riding habits were a version of Georgian "sportswear," a practical style of dressing suitable for all kinds of outdoor activities and traveling.

And, apparently, for indoor activities as well, if the alluring creature, left, is any indication. Of course she is not A Lady, so her breast-baring interpretation on the riding habit can't be taken too seriously. Still, she is lounging in an officer's tent with a purpose, a letter (which, sadly, seems to be gibberish) in one hand and a whip in the other, with her ankles on display along with her bosom. It appears that she's been riding near the camp, became over-heated with exertion, and is now waiting to surprise her officer-inamorato. One can only guess what his reaction will be, and what his fellow-officers will say to him later in the day.

In reality, the majority of the women who followed 18th c. armies weren't anywhere close to being this fashionable. They were more often connected to the enlisted men than the officers, and were often, too, wives, sweethearts, and mothers who served as hard-working cooks, nurses, seamstresses, and laundresses. Generals like George Washington ordered the ones who were there only as prostitutes to keep their distance from the soldiers, fearing the disease and discontent that accompanied them. As for this particular "man-trap": I'm not sure any orders are going to keep her from trapping her man in his tent.

Which is my attempt at a clever segue regarding General Washington and tents. This summer, the tailors of Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Trades program will be overseeing a major project to replicate General Washington's Sleeping and Office Marquee. The tent will be constructed and sewn entirely by hand, using 18th c. techniques, and they're currently looking to hire seamsters and seamstresses as paid student interns for this project.  If you're as handy with a needle as you are with your history, this could a dream summer internship! See the job listing is here.

Alas, there don't seem to be any openings for Man-Traps....

Above: Military Man-Trap, mezzotint by Robert Sayer, London, 1788. The Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Watchman in 1827

Monday, February 18, 2013
Loretta reports:

In Pierce Egan’s and others’ work, the watchman is often a target for ridicule and abuse by so-called Gentlemen.

These days, a great many readers might not find the illustrated scene so hilarious.  Neither did the author of the piece below, in the waning days of the watchman (the Metropolitan Police appear in 1829).  The watchman’s situation has obvious parallels today, which is why I’ve posted the whole thing, though it’s a longer read than I usually foist on you. 

The Gentleman's Pocket Magazine 1827
As always, please click on illustrations to enlarge.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Time Out

Sunday, February 10, 2013
Loretta & Isabella reporting,

We like to think of our Nerdy History Girl lives as being a constant delight of silk gowns, old scandals, men behaving badly, and, of course, shoes.

Alas, would that it were so! As much as we enjoy being NHGs, we're first and foremost writers, with DEADLINES. Right now those deadlines are looming terrifyingly large, and so we're taking a week or so off from blogging, Tweeting, Pinning, and Facebook-ing to tend to business. We'll see you again soon on the other side – and Happy Valentine's Day!

Left: Fashions of 1886

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of February 4, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013
Not even blizzards can stop us from delivering our Breakfast Links – our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, tumblrs, articles, photographs, and web sites, all gathered for you from around the Twitterverse.
• Until last month it was illegal for women in Paris to wear trousers - until a 200 year old law was changed.
• "My privie shall be round": the dream Elizabethan loo.
• The 1940 Valentine's Day blizzard in Boston.
• A short, incomplete history of American traditional tattooing.
• Poetry, pain, & opium in Victorian England: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's use of laudanum.
Rumford Roasters, 19th c. cutting-edge culinary technology.
• Happy birthday, Charles Dickens! A timeless letter of advice from Dickens to his youngest son.
Richard III dig: facial reconstruction shows how king may have looked.
• More Richard III: Contemporary and Tudor physical descriptions of Richard III.
• The history behind Mr. Darcy's wardrobe.
• The internal memo that allowed IBM's female employees to marry, 1951.
• The magic ring: to whom you will marry, 1896.
Baseball recovered from Civil War battlefield.
17th c. paint pot still containing green paint & paintbrush discovered at Hampton Court.
• The Flapper, the embodiment of 1920s free spirits - plus Flappers and make-up.
Food from the 1600s in art - at the market, in the kitchen, & not quite out of the reach of the hungry house pets.
A Bacchanalian Garland, including 18th c. drinking song that became American national anthem.
• Imortalized in stone: Victorian carvingsm based on the good people of the Parish of Bury, about 1876, Bury Parish Church.
• Paris, the 1920s, and the voluptuous veloute in Blanquette de Veau.
• The Prince Regent, tomb raider.
• The role of London's "gentlemen's clubs" in Victorian politics.
• Beautiful Bristol Blue glass, which transformed fashionable dinner tables in the 1790s.
• Edwardian stereograph scenes of love, married and otherwise.
• A puppet show about wife-beating and sausage-eating: are Punch and Judy finally outdated?
• "I am the kind of woman I would run from": the inimitable Nancy Astor.
• The ingeneous Portsmouth Chain.
• Last, but surely not least, and guaranteed to finish off the rest of your day: the Museum of Online Museums.
Crave more historical fabulosity? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Casual Friday: A Fortune-Telling Scale

Friday, February 8, 2013
Loretta reports:

Strolling down the boulevard, I caught this out of the corner of my eye and immediately swooped down on it.  It reminded me of the movie Big

I don’t know if this one had magical powers, but it was in exceptionally good condition, and, I thought, placed well.

My trusty research assistant aka my husband, tracked down its identity.  We know it’s a Watling Scale.  You can find a bit more info here, here, and here.

Have you had any close encounters with this sort of thing? Whether you have or have not, you’re welcome to use your ingenuity to devise equally cryptic answers to these or another question of your devising.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

When a Museum is Another Work of Art: The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1876

Thursday, February 7, 2013
Isabella reporting,

One of my favorite museums is the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, in Philadelphia. While the Academy's collection of 19th-21st c. American art is first-rate and its history unrivaled as the oldest art museum and art school in America, what I like best is the building itself.

Designed by architects Frank Furness and George Hewitt, the building opened in 1876, the celebratory American centennial year. (The archival photograph, right, was taken soon after opening.) It looks much the same today as it did then, thanks to a 1976 restoration, just in time for the building's hundred-year anniversary, and it's breathtaking. Now a Historic Landmark Building, its design was daring and modern in the 1870s.

Architect Furness created a new kind of art museum based on then-cutting-edge factory design, incorporating skylights for natural light, ventilation for air, and making the iron support trusses integral to the design. There were also provisions made for electricity - even though the city's first electrical company was still five years in the future.

Yet this revolutionary structure was wrapped with the riot of color and Renaissance-inspired detail that was the latest in 19th c. taste. There are intricately carved columns and stonework, patterned floor tiles, cerulean-blue ceilings dotted with gold stars, and a cathedral-style rose window of American made glass.

From the moment you step inside, you're in a world that 19th c. Philadelphias would have recognized. It's easy to imagine them – the ladies in bustled skirts and flowered hats, the bearded gentlemen in tall hats, dark coats, and stiff collars – strolling through the galleries to admire the home-grown American art. They'd take pride in their elegant Academy, a building to rival what was being built in Europe, but right here in their own Philadelphia. Beauty, art, ingenuity, craftsmanship, mixed with a dose of civic pride: what's a better experience than that?

My humble photographs here don't begin to do it justice. All I can say is that if you're ever in Philadelphia, I hope you'll visit yourself.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Return Engagement: Queen Victoria's Wedding Cake

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Loretta reports:

[Update: I've moved to an island for a while, and am temporarily  unable to access some of my stuff electronically.  Thus today's repeat performance, in honor of Queen Victoria's wedding anniversary, coming up this weekend.]

When Queen Victoria got married on 10 February 1840, she was not, as many believe, the first bride to wear a white wedding dress—though it was a new look for royals, who’d previously inclined toward silver.  Still, she did start a fashion for BIG royal weddings.  Previously, these had been relatively quiet, private affairs.  But then, hers was a big deal—the first wedding of a reigning queen since Queen Mary in 1554.

The wedding cake was a big deal, too. 

“If taste of design only equal what appears to be intended for the actual dimensions, it will beat any bride-cake ever seen.”*

  5. THE ROYAL WEDDING CAKE. —A select few have been gratified with a sight of the royal wedding cake at the apartments of the confectionary in St. James's palace, but it is described as consisting of the most exquisite compounds of all the rich things with which the most expensive cakes can be composed, mingled and mixed together into delightful harmony by the most elaborate science of the confectioner. This royal cake weighs nearly 300 lb. weight. It is three yards in circumference, and about fourteen inches in depth or thickness. It is covered with sugar of the purest white; on the top is seen the figure of Britannia in the act of blessing the illustrious bride and bridegroom, who are dressed somewhat incongruously in the costume of ancient Rome. These figures are not quite a foot in height; at the feet of his serene highness is the effigy of a dog, said to denote fidelity; and at the feet of the queen is a pair of turtle doves, denoting the felicities of the marriage state. A cupid is writing in a volume expanded on his knees the date of the day of the marriage, and various other cupids are sporting and enjoying themselves as such interesting little individuals generally do. These little figures are well modelled. On the top of the cake are numerous bouquets of white flowers tied with true lovers' knots of white satin riband, intended for presents to the guests at the nuptial breakfast. This elegant emblem of the felicities of marriage will be placed on the breakfast table of the queen at Buckingham palace at the breakfast which is to succeed the ceremonies in the chapel royal.
1840 Annual Register.

*The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction, Volume 35, 1840.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Georgian Jungle: More 18th c. Men in Leopard

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Last year I wrote a post about a sharp-dressed 18th c. English gentleman, and how the centerpiece of his sartorial splendor was a leopard-print waistcoat. I hadn't realized that leopard-patterned menswear was trendy long before 1980s heavy metal bands – once again, I have Mark Hutter, Colonial Williamsburg's tailor in the Historic Trades program, to thank for opening my eyes – but after I blogged about Baron Cawdor's portrait, I began spotting more 18th c. Men in Spots everywhere I looked.

The young Italian gentleman, top left, (this is a detail of a larger painting) is not only sporting a leopard-print waistcoat beneath his blue coat, but matching leopard breeches. Since the fashion for leopard print most likely originated in Italy, with Englishmen on their Grand Tour bringing the style home as a rakish souvenir, it's not surprising to find the fashion at its most extreme here. But I particularly admire the expression on the face of the lady in this painting: most likely she's studying the drawing in the gentleman's hands, but I have to think there's also a little bit of Fashion Police in the way she's pulling back, a genteel double-take at those jungle-cat breeches.

The stylish fellow, right, is Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810.) He was an innovative French dancer and balletmaster, and served as the maitre des ballets of the Paris Opera at the request of Marie Antoinette. He was prominent in artistic circles throughout Europe – he was friends with Voltaire, Mozart, and David Garrick – and clearly he dressed with artistic flair, too. There's nothing shy about the spreading leopard-patterned lapels on his coat. I can't quite tell from the reproduction, but it's possible that the leopard is actual fur, not printed, the ultimate statement in exoticism.

But not all leopard-wearing men were gentlemen or accomplished artists. This portly, unshaven character lounges to one side of a 1772 satirical print called The Macarony Dressing Room. Believe it or not, he isn't the foppish macaroni, but you'd never know it from the leopard-print waistcoat and matching breeches, plus the patterned stockings and short boots – even though he's in the print as a figure of ridicule. To the average, print-buying Englishman, the high fashion of leopard print would have been suspect at best. I'm sure there's also significance to his unusual hat and the outsized nosegay of flowers (lupins?) sprouting from his chest. Any art historians out there willing to interpret their meaning?
(Thanks to Mike Rendell of the Georgian Gentleman blog for recently posting this print.)

Top left: Detail, An Interior with Elegant Company, by Venceslao Verlin, c. 1770, private collection.
Right: Portrait of Jean-Georges Noverre, by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, c. 1780, Louvre Museum.
Bottom left: Detail, The Macarony Dressing Room, by Charles White, printmaker, after a painting by Captain Minshull. 1772. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fashions for February 1834

Monday, February 4, 2013
Loretta reports:

Blond lace, which also came in black but was still called blond, plays a considerable role in Silk is for Seduction, as it did in the 1830s.  I've seen more evidence of it in French fashions, but it was popular in England, too.  Though these fashions are from 1834, and my dressmaker stories are set in 1835, the year difference doesn't represent huge fashion changes, unlike the sudden shrinking of the giant sleeves that occurred in 1836, at the commencement of what I think of as the Droopy Fashion Era.

La Belle Assemblee, February 1834
To enlarge the pictures, please click on them.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of January 28, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013
We're rounding out the month with a fresh serving of breakfast links: our favorite links to other blogs, web sites, articles, and pictures gathered from around the Twitterverse.
• "Whiskey was poured into boots to keep the firefighters' toes from icing up": An 1835 fire burns a quarter of New York City.
• Silk taffeta pelerine with cream and lavender checks. What is a pelerine, you ask?
Elizabeth Bennet, shirt stealer? (1796)
• Henry VIII's perfectly preserved wine cellar.
Women's Liberation activists remove their bras before the Wrigley Building, Chicago (and a crowd of leering men), 1969.
• Early 19th c. quilt includes an image of Queen Caroline, the ill-fated wife of the Prince Regent (George IV)
False teeth in the 18th century.
• Ermengarde de Beaumont, 12th c. medieval Queen of Scotland.
• Fascinating collection of vintage matchbooks.
The Art of Swimming, a 17th c. swimming manual.
• WWII War Paint: How bomber-jacket art emboldened our boys at war.
• A stop on a tour of medieval London: Chaucer's Aldgate.
• Views from long ago: non-portrait 19th c. daguerreotypes.
• Mixing your drinks: late 18th c. silver wine coolers in the shape of milk pails.
• 'Fantastic' is too mild a word: the pre-Depression movie theatre in Queens, NYC, that you will not believe.
• "Strive to realize your ideal, but accept defeat philosophically": advice to wives, 1909.
• James Hazen Hyde, a Gilded Age scandal.
• The fungus that caused medieval peasants to trip out and dance themselves to death.
• "To compound an excellent Sallet": healthy eating, 17th c. style.
• Summer memories of Girl Scouting in 1919, now online.
• A fashion plate, Paris, c. 1807: the ladies have met an "embarrassment of choice."
• Incredible story of fugitive slave who escapes in Virginia, sends himself to freedom in Liverpool in the post, 1850.
• Newly digitized collection of mid-19th c. paper dolls.
• The recipe collection of the Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici (1667-1743), the last Medici princess,
Jane McCrae (1752-1777), killed during the American Revolution.
Live music streaming in 1878! (or at least in this Punch cartoon.)
• Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, reunited.
• "A sadder if not a wiser man": transcribing the diary of a Civil War surgeon.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Casual Friday: Laughing for the Camera, c. 1890s

Friday, February 1, 2013
Isabella reporting,

We modern folk are at ease with photographs. Thanks to (or cursed by) smartphone cameras, every aspect of our lives is photographed and shared with alarming ease. But for our 19th c. ancestors, photographs were serious business, involving a trip to a studio and best clothes for the occasion, a definitive record made for posterity. Considering how most ordinary people had their pictures taken only a few times during their lives, it was serious. (See here.) In addition, early photographic equipment required the sitter not to move for several minutes, and it was much easier to hold a solemn expression than a light-hearted one.

All of which makes this series of pictures all the more special. This fond couple clearly began their sitting with the best of intentions. But before long, the lady succumbs to the giggles, and the gentleman happily follows.

I wonder what set her off. Did her partner whisper something sly and teasing behind his moustache? Did his stomach rumble? Did the photographer trip and fall, or did someone else in the room make a funny face or otherwise misbehave? We'll never know for sure, and it doesn't really matter - it's still a charming moment of delicious silliness, preserved for all time.

I wish I could share more about these pictures. They were originally part of a set of vintage photographs on Flickr, but the original poster has since deleted it and disappeared. In the way of the internet, the image still lingers on tumblrs, websites, and Pinterest, but without any attribution. If anyone knows more about these two, I'll happily update.
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket