Saturday, March 30, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of March 25, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013
Breakfast Links are served! Here's your weekend helping of our favorite links to other web sites, blogs, articles, photographs, and videos, gathered for you from the Twitterverse.
Stewed cheese, a favorite of Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson, & Charles Dickens.
• The mail-order catalogues of fashion designer Lady Duff-Gordon (aka Lucille) 1916-1917.
• The New Steam Carriage, operating 'twixt London & Bath, 1829.
• George III's birthday ball, 1783: who "sported the most patient grizzle in the room"?
• Victorian workhouses made "unchaste" women wear "ignominious" clothes & given poor food to shame them.
Easter bonnets galore!
Margaret Sanger, the mother of modern contraception.
• What Pompeii's victims tried to save as they fled.
• Fishscales & fluting: investigating the 1805-07 Nash stairs at Attingham Park.
• The New York apartment house where a spoiled young heiress found it impossible to survive on $25,000 a year in  1915.
• 'To the Faire Murderess of my Soul": compliments from 1699.
• This set of 52 cards constitutes the only known complete deck of illuminated playing cards from the 15th c.
• Dramatic story of how a family of dwarves survived Auschwitz.
• Casino Royale: the magnificent 18th c. Casino Marino is located not in Italy, but Ireland.
• A young girl's beautiful Easter bonnet, 1852, with a poignant story behind it.
• Inspiring web site features suffragists & other remarkable women of West Kent.
• "What a wicked Man!!!" - Lady Melbourne to Lord Byron, March 25, 1813.
• 18th c. woodcuts of the world turned upside-down.
• Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Civil War soldier and spy.
• Return of the Edwardian Sartorialist: Sambourne's Kensington street style photographs.
• Policing the crowds in Aberystwyth when the Prince & Princess of Wales visited in 1896.
• Noel Coward's brilliant, stern relationship advice to Marlene Dietrich.
• Page through a digital facsimile of a Gutenberg Bible.
• Here comes the Daisy Buchanan bride: the Gatsby Look of the 1920s is favorite for 21st c. weddings.
• Secrets of the Medici granducal pharmacy.
•  "Are you suffering from heats to the face?": selection of 18th c. news stories & advertisements.
• How a disgraced Civil War general became one of America's all-time best-selling novelists.
• The owls are not what they seem on the Herald Square clock atop Macys, NYC.
• Edwardian servants' quarters, Montacute House: stockman's "hole", governess's room.
• Roman shrine to Minerva, goddess of quarrymen, in source of Chester's sandstone.
• Something was afoot: Victorian deaths from poisoned stockings.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Video: Glorious Paintings & Fashion, 1860-1880

Friday, March 29, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Last week I left my keyboard for the day and went to see the latest art & fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Impressionism, Modernity, & Fashion may have an unwieldy title, but it's a glorious, thoughtful show, filled with beautiful late 19th c. paintings and examples of the equally beautiful clothes that inspired the artists - artists that include Cassatt, Degas, Manet, Renoir, Tissot, and Seurat. There's also a fascinating selection of fashion plates, photographs, and accessories, all dating from 1860-1880. I'm going to be writing several blog posts about this show over the next weeks, but today I'm sharing a brief video tour to give you an overview.

Impressionism, Modernity, & Fashion will be at the Met in New York through May 27, and then will travel to the Art Institute of Chicago from June 28-September 22, 2013.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Remember the Ladies," writes Abigail Adams

Thursday, March 28, 2013
Loretta reports:

It was about this time of year, when New England was showing faint signs of spring, that Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, a long letter that included the following words. I post the excerpt without comment, leaving commentary to you.
Braintree, 31 March, 1776….

I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend. Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity? Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex; regard us then as beings placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams, During the Revolution: With a Memoir of Mrs. Adams, edited by Charles Francis Adams, 1875.

You can see the letter online at the Massachusetts Historical Society site.
Small image here.  Large image here.

You can also read here about her pearl necklace.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Would You Wear Empress Josephine's Engagement Ring?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Isabella reporting,

There's nothing like a ring to capture the romantic imagination. Circling the finger, catching the light with every gesture, symbolizing love and fidelity – little wonder that rings often become a part of the wearer in a way no other piece of jewelry can. And little wonder, too, that the rings worn by famous people of the past have a special magic. Remember the bidding frenzy surrounding the auction of Jane Austen's ring last summer?

This week another very special ring in history came up for sale, and this one, too, sold for far more than the original estimates. The elegant gold band, left, was the ring that Napoleon Bonaparte gave to Rose Tascher de la Pagerie de Beauharnais – later known simply as Josephine – to show his love and seal their engagement. They were married on March 9, 1796.

At the time of the time of the engagement, Napoleon was a young officer of 26, full of promise and ambition, while she was 32, the wealthy, fashionable widow of an aristocrat who had died on the guillotine. The attraction between the two had been instant. Wrote Napoleon in his memoirs many years later:

Everyone knows the extreme grace of the Empress Josephine and her sweet and attractive manners. The acquaintance soon became intimate and tender, and it was not long before we married.

As is often the case with young men desperately in love, Napoleon likely spent more than was prudent on the ring for his bride. Two tear-shaped stones - a diamond and a sapphire - are placed in a gold setting that was sentimentally called toi et moi (you and me) in the 18th century. Each gemstone weighs just under a carat each.

While in time the marriage faltered and Napoleon went on to marry a second time for the sake of a male heir, Josephine always treasured the ring, and gave it to her daughter. The ring remained in the family until the present sale, scheduled on March 24 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Josephine's birth.

So what was the price for the ring that symbolized the union of two of the most famous lovers in history? The Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau had predicted the bidding would reach $20,000. But by the day of the sale, there were more than fifty bidders from around the world interested in the ring, bidding by phone and internet as well as those seated in the auction room. The winning bid by an anonymous bidder was an astounding $949,000; adding the buyer's 25 percent commission to the auction house, the final price was $1.17 million.

Top left: Diamond & sapphire engagement ring belonging to Josephine Bonaparte, late 18th c. Osenat auction house.
Lower right: Study of Josephine Bonaparte, by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, c, 1805. Louvre Museum.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Civil War Submarine Mystery

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Loretta reports:

During a very short visit to Charleston, SC, I happened upon this interesting object.  As the sign makes clear, this isn’t an accurate image of the famous Civil War submarine—famous, that is to lots of people who aren’t me.  I had never heard of the H.L. Hunley—the Civil War is not my favorite historical era—but Nerdy History Girl took over, and I commenced sleuthing.

In February 1864, the Hunley sank a Union ship, the USS HousatonicThis, the first successful submarine attack, turned out not to be a major turning point in the war:  The Hunley sank, too, shortly thereafter, losing all eight of its men, while the Union ship lost only five of its entire crew.  Still this was definitely a major development in naval warfare.

Along with being amazed that eight men could fit into this thing and turn cranks to make it go, I was particularly interested, as a Nerdy History Girl, in the difference between what the Hunley was believed to look like, as of info available in 1967, and what it did look like, once it was recovered and uncovered.

The reconstruction outside the Charleston Museum is a good example of how tricky it can be to recreate the past and how slippery facts can be.  The Hunley was raised in 2000 after an extensive search, and it’s only very recently that scientists seem to have pinned down what happened to it, though they’ve still some details to work out.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rediscovering the Evening Bodice, c. 1817

Sunday, March 24, 2013
Susan reporting,

In deciphering the mysteries of historic dress, a picture is worth a thousand words...except when it isn't. When Loretta and I have seen fashion plates like the one, left, (full image here) from 1812, we've assumed that the colored bodice was part of the dress itself, an early 19th c. version of colored-blocking. We also assumed that the word "bodice" in the plate's description simply referred to a section of the dress: "a peasant's bodice of pink satin or velvet, laced in front."

However, we don't have to elaborate on what happens when you assume, especially about fashion. Fashion changes constantly and always has, and what often seems like a logical description can refer to something entirely different.

Fortunately, one of our readers and fellow nerdy-history-girls is Natalie Garbett. Natalie is a professional historical researcher, costume-maker, and re-enactor whose work has appeared in productions of the BBC, Shakespeare's Globe, and many others. While she specializes in creating reproduction clothing from 1600-1940, she is especially drawn to the clothing of the early 19th c.

Natalie had also seen bodices like the one above, but while we assumed, she researched. Turns out that peasant bodices and evening spencers were in fact separate garments.  Usually made of a luxurious fabric like silk or velvet and often decorated with fringe, lace, and other trimmings, these bodices added a touch of color and richness (and a smidgen of warmth) to the white and light-colored dresses of the day. In an era when the cost of fabric still outweighed labor, they were an economical indulgence, too, as well as being a way to change or update the look of an existing plain gown, or make it more suitable for evening wear.

The photograph, right, shows a reproduction evening bodice that Natalie created based on her research. It's made in silk satin with a military inspired decoration using vintage linen cord and Dorset high top buttons. The lace is antique silk blonde lace.

Here's the link to Natalie's own blog post on the bodices, with more examples of fashion plates, plus several actual examples. Also included are photographs of the bodice that Natalie recreated, both inside and out – very useful to historical seamstresses as well writers like us who worry about correctly getting our characters dressed (and undressed.)

Above left: Fashion plate, "Ball Dress: a round Circassian robe of pink carpe,or gossamer net, over a white satin glip, fringed full at the feet; a peasant's bodice of pink satin or velvet, laced in front." c. 1812
Lower right: Reproduction evening bodice by Natalie Garbett. Photograph by Natalie Garbett.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of March 18, 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013
Make our Breakfast Links your weekend browsing treat! Gathered fresh for you from around the Twitterverse: our weekly round-up of fav our tweets to articles, blogs, photographs, & videos that you won't want to miss.
Trelawny at the Royal Court, 1898: looking back at style from the 1860s.
• How Margarete Steiff's elephant pincushions c. 1877 led to famous stuffed toys.
• She was a book nerd as well as a bombshell - Marilyn Monroe had over 400 titles in her personal library.
• Science as needlework, 1811: rare sampler pattern to each 19th c. girls stitchery – and the planets.
Medieval "sticky" notes tucked for centuries inside a schoolbook.
• How the English saw the Irish 250 years ago.
• Who doesn't love a love charm? from the Middle Ages to the Victorian farm.
• Lost dogs in Georgian London.
• Hilda Beatrice Hewlett, Britain's first female aviator.
• Video featuring portrait of John Pelham, West Point-educated Confederate artillery officer.
• Green with envy: how envy has been personified in art.
• Elaborate & elegant diagrammatic writings of an asylum patient, 1870.
• Beautiful and daring 17th c. embroidered jackets, painted by William Larkin.
• That intoxicating pink champagne.
• In defense of gross-out foods, 1707.
• A thing we once could do and now cannot: hang up the phone in a huff.
• Was the fanciest diner in NY once a 1930s hotel ballroom?
• Late 19th c. Irish Volunteers uniform coat.
• Exploring the historic street car tunnels beneath Dupont Circle, Washington, DC.
• "The rioters are proceeding to jail": an anti-body-snatching riot in NY, 1788.
• The East India Company refused sick pay if ill through drink, VD, pitched battle, or voluntary contest.
• When fashion set sail: ships in 18th c. hairstyles were more than a novelty.
• Gruesome axe murder woodcut, 1633.
• Victorian penny-dreadfuls.
Ellen Gates Starr the largely forgotten co-founder of Chicago's Hull House.
• Marital quarrels, 1896.
• Lovely photographs of churchyards of London's East End.
Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt and 14th c. Queen of Portugal.
• How to make an 18th c. cake rise: plenty of "barm"(fermenting froth from brewing ale.)
• The perils of wearing clothes.
• Here's what posh Irish toilets looked like 700 years ago.
• Pictures of the evolution of the NY Driver's License.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Casual Friday: Tin Can Tourists Illustrated

Friday, March 22, 2013
Loretta reports:

I recently offered a 1920s description of the Tin Can Tourists in Florida.

This page of the Florida Memory site offers lots of photos of the early trailers and trailer parks, as well as a bit more history.

Illustration at left from Florida Trails as Seen from Jacksonville to Key West and from November to April Inclusive, 1910.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

An 18th c. Dress in a Day

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Anyone visiting the Margaret Hunter millinery shop in Colonial Williamsburg this spring will see this gown, left, on display in one of the display cases. Just like all the other garments and gowns found in the shop (and on the staff as well), the gown is a modern copy of an 18th c. original. Also worn with the gown is a decorative apron of white silk organdy, a style that dates to the 1770s-80s.

But this particular gown is a bit special: it's the star of the newest video-vodcast on the CW history resources website.  Called "Dress in a Day," part one of the vodcast can be watched here. Part two, featuring more of the actual construction, will be up on the same page soon.

For the vodcast, Janea Whitacre, Mantua-Maker and Mistress of the Trade in CW's historic trades program, and her staff were determined to follow in the footsteps (or is that stitches?) of their 18th c. predecessors, and create an entire gown from start to finish in a single day. Eighteenth-century customers were no different than those of today: when it came to high-fashion attire, ladies wanted their gowns yesterday. All women's clothing was still made to order, and custom-fit to the wearer. The raw materials of a gown - the fabric, linings, thread, and other notions - were the majority of the gown's final cost. Labor, however skilled, was comparatively cheap. The mantua-maker (the 18th c. term for a dressmaker) whose shop could create a gown in a day or less would be the one who prospered.

This gown is a copy of an original English gown from 1770-85 in the CW collection. Like the original, the copy is made from a ribbed silk called lustring, in an ultra-fashionable color of the time called "laylock", or lilac. (The museum's gown has since faded to a pale pink, but interior seams reveal its original lavender.) Also like the original, the copy was made of silk woven to a width of 221/2". Modern sewers will realize how unusual this width is - today fabric usually runs at widths of 44-45", 60", or 72" - yet the specially woven 22 1/2" silk permitted the selvages to be used for neat, perfect seams in the petticoat in the copy, a feature of the original gown.

The gown was begun at 8:43 in the morning, with four women (Janea, journeywoman Doris Warren, apprentice Sarah Woodyard, and intern Kristin Haggerty) working together, and was completed at 4:20 p.m. All fitting, cutting, stitching, and pressing was done entirely by hand, exactly as it would have been done 240 years ago. Even the pinked edging of the silk trimming the neckline and sleeves was created by using a replica pinking tool, made for the mantua-makers by the CW blacksmiths.

How did they do?  The gown is undeniably lovely, and I'm sure that their phantom customer must have been delighted. Janea admits that by 18th c. standards, her team was very slow. A top-notch shop in London in the 1770s could have produced the same gown in even less time. But then, Georgian seamstresses didn't have to pause for video cameras to be set up or lighting to be checked, either, so I'd say the ladies from the Margaret Hunter shop did very well indeed.

Photographs copyright Susan Holloway Scott.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tin can tourists

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Loretta reports:

Years ago I worked on some material for a museum in Central Florida.  One of our topics was the Tin Can Tourists.  Automobiles were barely on the road before people started driving them hundreds of miles to warmer climes.  Never mind the constant breakdowns.  Never mind having to drive through rivers and swamps because there weren't any bridges.  Never mind the lack of filling stations.  These people  wanted sun and did what they had to in order to get it.  As a recent convert to snowbirdism (and yes, we drove, and the car was packed to the roof), I decided it was time to renew my acquaintance with these intrepid travelers.
The northern states, in the past few years, have developed a new type of migrant… He is a sun-hunter. He is sick of four months of snow and ice. He is heartily tired of cold feet, numb ears, red flannel underwear, rheumatism, stiff necks, coal bills, coughs, colds, influenza, draughts, mittens, ear-tabs, snow shovels, shaking down the furnace, carrying out ashes, and falling down on an icy sidewalk and spraining his back. … The bane of his existence is sitting around the house for four months waiting for April to come along and unstiffen his joints. He wants sun and lots of it. If he must spend four months doing nothing, he prefers to spend it amid the Spanish moss and the palm trees, harkening dreamily to the cheerful twittering of the dicky-birds and to the stirring thuds of coconuts, oranges and grapefruit as they fall heavily to the ground...

Such is the modern American migrant, and Florida is the goal of his migration. As soon as the first snow begins to fall in the North, or when the earth has tightened up under a black frost, the sun-hunters prepare for their flight to the South. Great numbers of them travel by automobile; and their automobiles are completely stocked with folding chairs, collapsible beds, accordion mattresses, knock-down tents, come-apart stoves, telescopic dishwashers and a score of dishpans, tables, dinner-sets, tin cups, water-buckets and toilet articles that fold up into one another and look like a bushel of scrap-tin. In addition to this, each automobile carries a large assortment of canned goods. There are canned goods under the seats, slung against the top, packed along the sides, tucked behind cushions and stacked along the floor. Some of the automobiles are so well stocked with canned things that they could make a dash for the Pole. And as one passes some of them on the road, they sound as though their owners were carrying a reserve supply of canned goods under the hood—loose.

—Kenneth L. Roberts, Sun Hunting: Adventures and Observations Among the Native and Migratory Tribes of Florida, Including the Stoical Time-Killers of Palm Beach, the Gentle and Gregarious Tin-Canners of the Remote Interior, and the Vivacious and Semi-Violent Peoples of Miami and Its Purlieus, 1922

I cut radically to keep the post at reasonable length, but the chapter and the one following are entertaining to read.  Illustrations from the book.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Return Engagement: Intrepid Musician Ann Ford Thicknesse

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This week I'm swamped with more deadline-itis, coupled with the much more delightful diversion of having my DD home for spring break. What better excuses to revisit one of my favorite past posts from 2010?

Isabella reports:

"Intrepid" doesn't begin to describe the character and life of Ann Ford Thicknesse (1737-1834). Genteelly born, her father indulged her with an excellent education (she spoke several languages) and extensive music lessons. She soon displayed a rare talent for music and sang beautifully, as well as playing several instruments.

But while her father encouraged her in concerts for friends, he forbid her to perform on the stage. They quarreled so violently that she moved from home and into the house of a friend, announcing that she would support herself by her music. Her furious father had her arrested and hauled back home. Undeterred, she arranged a series of subscription concerts, and her father hired ruffians to disturb her first theatrical performance. Only the intervention of one of her aristocratic supporters permitted the show to go on.

Her concerts were a sensation, and made her a celebrity. Among other instruments, she played the viola da gamba, scandalously (albeit properly) positioning the viola between her knees. More scandal followed when she had her portrait painted by friend Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788 ), himself an amateur musician. Shown with her instruments, her pose – with her legs crossed at the knee like a man – shocked society almost as much as her independent, intelligent gaze looking to one side that ignored the viewer. Handsome though she was, there was clearly none of the melting, doe-eyed society beauty about Ann.

The Earl of Jersey was smitten, and proposed that Ann become his mistress for a sizable annual sum and the promise to wed her when his ailing wife died. Indignantly she refused, and in defense of the rebuffed earl's attempts to slander her,  Ann published A Letter from Miss F--D, addressed to a Person of Distinction in 1761. In it, she argued that "a young woman may sing in public...or be a public singer, with virtue and innocence." Over 500 copies were sold the first week, and the letter was also published in the Gentleman's Magazine. The earl's rebuttal, A Letter to Miss F--d, was not nearly as popular.

After performing in London and in Bath, she traveled to Suffolk with her good friend Elizabeth Thicknesse, who sadly died soon after in childbirth. Six months later in 1762, Ann married her friend's widower, Captain Philip Thicknesse (last seen here on the 2NHG writing travel guides.) The match raised eyebrows: not only was Philip twenty years Ann's senior, but he drank, whored, gambled, and took laudanum to infamous excess. He was litigious, quarrelsome, and an open supporter of slavery, and his personality was so irascible that he was known as "Dr. Viper." He wrote ferociously and often slanderously, on subjects as wide-ranging as male-midwifery to fraudulent automatons.

Yet it was a most happy marriage for nearly thirty years. The couple traveled extensively through Europe. Their eccentric entourage included not only a parakeet, but a monkey who was dressed in livery and rode postillion before their carriage; Ann's personal luggage included her viola, two guitars, and a violin. She also began writing and publishing books of her own, including works on playing the guitar and glass harmonica, travel, a novel, and, in 1778, the three-volume Sketches of the Lives & Writings of the Ladies of France.

Undeterred by the French Revolution, Ann and Philip were traveling to Paris in 1792 when Philip suffered a seizure and died in Ann's arms in their carriage. Griefstricken, Ann buried him in Boulogne, but before she could return home, she was arrested as a foreigner and imprisoned for eighteen months. She was finally released by proving that she was no idle, unattached gentlewoman, but could support herself –– as a musician.

Returning to England, Ann continued to write and publish. In 1806, when she was 68, she was described as "the most singular, and if it may be added, the most accomplished woman of her day." How can we argue with that?

Click here for more about Ann and one of her favorite instruments, the glass harmonica.

Above: Mrs. Philip Thicknesse, nee Ann Ford, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1760, Cincinnati Art Museum

Monday, March 18, 2013

2NHG Library: A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

Monday, March 18, 2013
Print edition
Loretta reports:

I’ve posted before about Francis Grose, whose slang dictionary (under various titles) is a part of many Regency-era writers’ collections.  A couple of different print editions (including the splendid one edited by Eric Partridge) sit on my bookshelves, and the online editions at Google Books make it available for free to anybody with an internet connection.  Recently, author Candice Hern let us know on Facebook that it was available as a free download for Kindle.

While not for the missish, squeamish, or politically correct, it’s highly enlightening.  As well as the bawdiness and scatological humor one expects —and which gradually goes deeper underground as we move further into the Regency, Romantic, and Victorian eras—we find a number of surprises.

Some terms that sound very modern appear, other familiar terms have changed their meaning slightly over the years.  And of course, there’s the plain fun of language used inventively or learning about old forms of humor, like Bargain.

Could my hero save somebody’s bacon?
Could my villain warn his associates to cheese it?” 
Could one of his accomplices land in the clink?
Would any of the characters refer to clothes as duds
What if my heroine threatened to darken the hero’s daylights

I invite you to peruse one of the editions, pick a term that tickles your fancy, and share it with us.  1811 edition here.     1823 (third edition, edited by Pierce Egan) here

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of March 11, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013
Happy St. Patrick's Day! To start your day, we're offering the freshest of Breakfast Links – our fav twitter links of the week linking you to articles, blog posts, web sites, videos, and photos you won't want to miss.
• A bit o' emerald green for St. Patrick's Day in this 1880s bonnet.
• Educating your daughter: a guide to English boarding schools for girls, 1814.
• From horses to motorcars: the 145-year-old New York City gas station that started out as a blacksmith's shop.
• "I am so provoked at this last piece of malice - that I am not fit to write a line." Lord Bryon, Lady Melbourne, & Caro, 1813.
Long-lost violin played by the bandleader as the Titanic sank miraculously reappears.
• A great, evocative short film of Peterborough Cathedral.
• The history of a London house through nearly three centuries of its wallpapers.
• Wonder Women: Flickr set of ordinary Manchester women turned vigilante suffragists, c 1913.
• The first Wild One: the genesis of the classic motorcycle jacket.
• A notice for presentation of the 3930 lb cheese, c. 1860s.
• "Primarily drinking British gin" and other things that will land you in an 18th c. asylum.
• Early vintage photographs with painted studio backdrops.
• America's professional slave gardeners: raising food and flowers.
• How looser corsets helped women get the right to vote.
• The Master of Ceremonies in a Georgian assembly room.
• Keomata, the Japanese cat-demon with supernatural powers.
• Little saloon on the prairie: new angles on heritage tourism.
• Useful lines from 17th c. courtship: "The stars borrow light from your radiant eyes."
• Cleaning the 2000+ books at Montacute House.
• Eighteen obsolete words that never should have gone out of style.
Capturing hearts, from a manuscript c. 1500.
• Eggs Newberg, plus paper napkins and ketchup on the table: dining with the stars at Hearst Castle.
• Charlotte Bronte's miniature literary handiwork.
• What did Anne Boleyn really look like?
Problem servants, 1859.
• "I must declare candidly that your company is not by any means agreeable to me": love and break-up letters from 1798.
• Truly bizarre photo from c 1904: President Taft astride a buffalo.
• What do you do with a drunken Pilgrim? Mayflower was stocked with beer, wine, cider, & spirits.
• Langston Hughes collected these cards advertising rent parties in Harlem in the 1940s-50s.
• One of the perils of delivering newspapers in 1774 - being washed away with your horse.
• A selection of Victorian jokes. Really.
• Medieval plague victims unearthed in City of London.
• Vintage photographs of early 20th c. St. Patrick's Day parades in New York City.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Video: Leaving Work, 1895

Friday, March 15, 2013

Isabella reporting,

After recently posting the early film clip from 1896 of a snowball fight, the creation of the pioneering French film-maker Louis Lumière (1864-1948), I looked for more of his work to share here.

This short silent clip is known as Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon (La Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon), and it's exactly that. Using natural daylight, Lumière set his camera across the street from the exit of his family's factory at closing time and recorded the workers – mostly women, though there are a few men in top hats – leaving for the day, plus a single large, inquisitive dog. Lumière filmed the same scene three times, on three different days, which accounts for the varying light as well as other differences like the carriages that come through the gate.

While I love seeing the clothes worn by everyday working women (plus the hats!), this film is famous for another reason. It was one of ten short films shown together to an audience on December 28, 1895 at the Salon Indien du Grand Cafe on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris, making this the first public screening of films with an admission fee charged. Each film ran about 50 seconds, shown through a hand-cranked projector. And, as the old saying goes, the rest is history.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

More on Edison & Ford's Winter Getaway

Thursday, March 14, 2013
Loretta reports:

Continuing my coverage of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida (previous posts here, here, and here), today we move on to the dining room.

Here and elsewhere in the American Craftsman-style house, two things struck me:  one, its unpretentiousness (which some visitors, I discovered online, have found disappointing); two, the electrical items, especially the lighting.  The torchieres didn’t photograph well in the bright light, but you can see the overhead “Electrolier” fixtures, with their Edison bulbs, pretty clearly.

The Family Home Living Room visible through the door includes the George Steck grand piano that Mina Edison liked to play after dinner, as well as another interesting “Electrolier” fixture.

We arrived in February, and the table is set for celebrating Thomas Edison’s birthday (11 February), complete with birthday cake.  At the time I was there, I had an idea what those round metal things were on the stand next to his chair, but now I’m drawing a blank.  Do you know?

“I never did a day’s work in my life, it was all fun.” – Thomas Edison

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Many Tradespeople Does It Take to Dress an 18th C. Lady?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Fashion is often dismissed as a frivolous non-necessity, but in 18th c. Paris and London, it was big, big business. Even simple clothing employed literally dozens of skilled tradespeople to create a single garment.

On my recent visit to Colonial Williamsburg, I sat down with Janea Whitacre, mantua-maker in the Historic Trades Program and mistress of the Margaret Hunter millinery shop, and together we came up with this list of all the different trades necessary to dress a fashionable lady c. 1770.

Trades were highly specialized, requiring different skills – the maker of straight pins didn't also make needles - and each one supported a tiered system of workers that ranged from apprentices to journeymen to masters. We're sure there are probably many more trades, too, but this does give you an indication of why fashion was so important to the 18th c. economy.

The tool-making trades:
  • Pin maker
  • Needle maker
  • Thimble maker
  • Scissors maker
  • Pinking-iron maker
  • Pressing iron-smith
  • Spectacle-maker

The haberdashery trades that made the "ingredients" for garments:
  • Thread spinner
  • Tape weaver
  • Cord weaver
  • Baleen processor (for whalebone stays)
  • Ribbon weaver
  • Artificial flower maker
  • Lace maker
  • Linen spinner & linen weaver
  • Silk processor, silk designer, & silk weaver
  • Cloth fuller & dyer
  • Gauze weaver
  • Foil ornament & sequin maker
  • French floss trimming knotter
  • Bead maker
  • Carved button makers
  • Wrapped-thread button makers (which, as Janea noted, could simply be called "children.")

The construction trades that assembled the garments:
  • Stay-maker
  • Milliner (who made shifts and other undergarments)
  • Embroiderer
  • Mantua-maker (the master dressmaker who designed, cut, & fitted gowns)
  • Seamstresses (lesser skilled stitchers)

The trades that created accessories:
  • Jeweler, silversmith, goldsmith, & paste (faux stones) maker
  • Stocking weaver
  • Watchmaker
  • Ivory worker
  • Fan mount-maker, fan printer, & fan painter
  • Glover
  • Furrier
  • Shoemaker, shoe heel carver, & shoe last maker
  • Garter weaver
  • Buckle maker
  • Milliner, straw plaiter, straw stitcher, & plume maker (all for hats)
  • Wig maker

Above: Robe à la française in white & pink plaid silk taffeta; double flounced pagoda sleeves; stomacher with échelle of ribbon; engageantes; quilles and lappets of Argentan lace.  All French, c. 1760s. The Kyoto Costume Institute. Click here for the KCI's zoomable image - the details of the handwork are incredible.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A London Department Store in 1809

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Harding Howell & Co interior
Loretta reports:

I was excited in recent weeks to discover at Internet Archive a fine online collection of the beautiful early 19th C magazine, Ackermann’s Repository, courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Though the magazines online at Google Books have been cleaned up, the fairly complete (so far as I could determine) collection of color plates and the generally good condition of the pages at Internet Archive compensates, I think, for the yellowing. 

I was particularly interested in checking out the very first volume of a high quality magazine that lasted about twenty years.
Store description

From that first volume, I present what seems to have been been London’s first department store, called Harding, Howell & Co. in 1809. The text indicates that the firm was founded by “Messrs. Dyde and Scribe” twenty-five years previously.  Naturally, I had to look them up—and wandered into a shoplifting case, here at The Proceedings of the Old Bailey.

The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics, Vol. 1, 1809

Clicking on a picture will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the online page.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What the Stable-Boy Wore, c. 1765

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Isabella reporting,

Thanks to our friends in the historic trades program in Colonial Williamsburg, we've seen what several ordinary women might have worn in 18th c. England and North America, including a housewife, a mantua-maker's apprentice, and a blacksmith. Today we're outfitting some of the male servants in a wealthy household: the grooms and stable-boys who looked after the horses and carriages.

This stable jacket is a reproduction based on original garments, cut, tailored, and stitched entirely by hand. It's one of the first projects for the shop by apprentice tailor Michael McCarty, who is also shown wearing the jacket. It's made from red and white striped twilled woolen, cut with the stripes running horizontally, and lined in cotton fustian that is napped on one side for additional warmth. The buttons are wrapped thread, red and white to coordinate with the striped fabric.

While servants who worked outside the house did not wear livery, the master usually provided smart stable jackets like this one  as a kind of uniform for his grooms and stable-boys, and to reflect well on the household in general.  The jackets are often seen in the paintings by English artist George Stubbs (1724-1806.). Here's an excellent example: Lord Torrington's Hunt Servants Setting out from Southill, c. 1765-8.

Stable jackets were closely tailored to the body, with the narrow shoulders typical of 18th c. gentleman's coats. Yet as Michael demonstrated to me, there was still plenty of room for the movement necessary for work in the stables. While this is long before the ease of Lycra, the sleeves are cut on the bias (the diagonal), which provides a woven stretch to the fabric. The jacket's cuffs, below right, are cut on the straight of the grain to keep the bias-cut sleeves from stretching out of shape.

Stable jackets could be worn either simply over a shirt, or as a warmer waistcoat with sleeves beneath another coat.  They were also occasionally tucked into to breeches, giving the jacket the cropped look that often appears in paintings of jockeys.

But just as modern young bankers will affect cowboy boots or heavy overalls on the weekend, "buckish" young gentlemen in the 18th c. wore stable jackets, too – albeit bespoke versions from their London tailors. They were particularly popular with sporting gentlemen with a love of racing, expensive horses, and gambling.

The photograph, top, recreates a classic Stubbs pose, with Michael dressed as a stable-boy, wearing the stable jacket, linen shirt, sheepskin breeches, and a round cap. The gentleman on the horse is interpreter/actor Mark Schneider (and another of our CW friends - remember him here with Loretta? ), and the horse is Toby, also a CW employee.

Many thanks to Michael McCarty and Mark Hutter for their help with this post, as well as the photographs here. For more pictures of the stable jacket, see the tailors' Facebook page - and please give them a "like" while you're there.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of March 4, 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013
Our Breakfast Links make the perfect weekend treat - low in calories, but extra-rich in content!  All our favorite links of the week gathered for you from the Twitterverse, including web sites, blogs, videos, articles, and photographs.
• What became of the pets of the upper class French people following the Revolution?
Regency Rollerblades? Here's the print from 1823 to prove it.
• Pure love - no Instagram filter could ever recreated the look of this genuine c 1915 image of a young soldier on leave.
• The curious 1877 railway bridge of Lord Henley, Northamptonshire.
• A beautiful marigold-colored silk damask neoclassical apron, c. 1810.
• Rediscovered portrait of 16th c. feminist Lady Anne Clifford to be auctioned.
• Short video about 18th c. feral resident of Kensington Palace Peter the Wild Boy.
• 'Visibly parted, ever united': rare gold bracelet found inscribed with poignant message from Queen Victoria.
Winter King: the dawn of Tudor England and Henry VII.
The Passions, Humorously Delineated, c. 1773.
• Colonel Shaw's drummer boy: Alex Johnson, one of the youngest soldiers in the 54th Massacusetts.
• A 15th c. physician's "belt book", clipped to the waist for easy access to information.
• On making the best of a bad matrimonial bargain, 1887.
• Cris Skaife, Master Raven Keeper at the Tower of London, & Merlin the Raven.
• Singer Polaire, as famous for her extreme tight-lacing as for her voice.
DIY advice from the 18th c.
• The East-End midnight meetings that aimed to improve the lives of Victorian London prostitutes.
• "Monokeros," or unicorns in imagery and myth.
• Showing some ankle: fashion of the suffrage movement of the 1910s-20s.
• Put your hankies in your pockets: the underground secret language of Polari.
• The charming breakfast scenes of 18th c. artist Liotard and a French breakfast conversation, c 1803.
• Dean Mahomet & his Marylebone curry house, opened in London in 1809.
• Could there be anything more charming than this box of silk handkerchiefs, c 1926?
• Images from the 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade in Washington, DC.
• The New York City mansion where a U.S. president was a member of the wedding of a future president and first lady, 1905.
• Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the fifth most-quoted woman in the OED.
• Photo set of riding habits, suits, hats, boots, saddles, more, from the Charleston Museum's exhibition, Hunt & Habit.
• Advertisement from 1943: candy as "fighting food" for soldiers.
• Sentiment that's gone today: Victorian male friendships in photographs.
• Ten classic urban myths which you may not know are false.
Hot air balloons and the luxuries of travel in the 1800s.
• A little history (and a few paintings) of fans.
• "Spring Fruit": A savoury soup and other 19th c. rhubarb recipes from the Cook's Oracle, 1817.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Casual Friday: Watching Our Historical Language

Friday, March 8, 2013
Loretta reports:

We spend some time here passing on to you news from the past and occasionally debunking myths.  We are, after all, Nerdy History Girls.  And so the question of historically accurate language makes our hearts go pitty-pat.  Certainly this broadcast on NPR’s Fresh Air got my attention.  Please give it a read or a listen (it’s not very long)—and feel free to comment.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Horrors! Not a Flannel Petticoat!!! 1807

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Isabella reporting,

We've often wondered how early 19th c. ladies kept warm wearing thin linen gowns in draft, unheated houses. A wool paisley shawl was a fashionable solution, but in many cases, it probably wasn't sufficient to keep away wintery chills. Flannel drawers were an apparent solution, and also apparently soundly rejected, if this 1807 caricature by George Moutard Woodward is any indication. (Click on the image to enlarge it for details.)

The print is called A Hint to the Ladies - or a Visit from Dr. FLANNEL!! The good, red-faced doctor has heard from Her Ladyship's maid that her stylish clothes leave her shivering, and has brought an old-fashioned remedy. Says Dr. Flannel: "Mrs. Jenny said your Ladyship complain'd of being cold about the loins - so I have just stept in with a warm flannel petticoat."

But Her Ladyship will have none of it.  "I have no loins, fellow!" she shrieks. "Do you want to make a monster of me?!!"

What more can I say?

Above: A Hint to the Ladies - or a Visit from Dr. FLANNEL!!, coloured etching by I. Cruikshank, , after George Moutard Woodward. London, 1807. Wellcome Library.
Thanks to Lindsey Fitzharris, The Chirurgeon's Apprentice, for spotting this print first. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Model T x 2

Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Loretta reports:

Since it was the Edison-Ford winter estates I visited a few weeks ago (and blogged about here and here), it's only fair to give Ford some attention, too. The collection of artifacts included these two early-model autos.

I’ll let the museum’s sign tell the story, and will only add that I was struck by the apparent fragility of the vehicles, and impressed with the courage of early drivers, especially those who dared to cross a continent in these machines—on bumpy and rocky dirt roads where road signs were precious few, where gas stations were practically unknown, along which you would be sure to break some part about every five or ten miles, and the auto repair shop was the village blacksmith. Thus the supplies needed for long trips, as shown on the sign. (For more on this topic, please see my blog about Horatio’s Drive.

Please check out the vehicles, and tell me:  Would you be one of the intrepid ones?  Would you learn to drive in, say 1915?  Would you set out on a long road trip?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Snug as a Bug in a Bed Rug, c. 1760

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Isabella reporting,

I've spent the last week in Colonial Williamsburg, and as usual, I've spent much of my visit in the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop with our friends the mantua-makers and tailors. But not all of their current projects involve fine silks. This week they were stitching together a very large, very shaggy green bed rug.

Bed rugs were a heavy-duty blanket popular in 18th c. houses without central heating. In his famous dictionary, Samuel Johnson defined bed rugs as "a coarse nappy coverlet used for mean beds." Those "mean beds" primarily belonged to servants and children, who were often the individuals sleeping in the chilliest parts of the house under the eaves. Bed rugs were also used by soldiers and sailors, other demographics that slept far from a fire.

Bed rugs were purely utilitarian and decidedly unlovely, and no house-proud mistress would want one on her best bed. To modern eyes, they look like bad shag carpeting from the 1970s. Rug blankets are woven in wool on a loom, with short tufts of dyed wool yarn woven into the undyed fabric at regular intervals. The resulting fabric is dense, warm, and heavy -the completed bed rug I saw weighed about twenty pounds.

The width of the pieces are determined by the size of the loom, as can be seen with the bed rug in progress on the loom in Colonial Williamsburg's Weavers' Shop, above. The bed rugs are woven by senior weaver Max Hamrick and his apprentice Karen Clancy. The woven lengths are then sent to the seamstresses in the Margaret Hunter Shop, who sew them together into a finished bed rug to fit a double-sized bed. Below is a detail of the finished pile.

An 18th c. weaver could weave a bed rug in a day, as long as he had assistants standing by to prepare and hand him the clipped tufts of pile as he worked. Most were woven in England and imported to America, and cost around five to eight shillings. Bed rugs are frequently mentioned in advertisements of the time, and are often described as "thick spotted Rugs." Always used on the bed pile-side down, the smooth side showed the white backing punctuated by the spots where the tufts had been woven in, making the characteristic "spotted" pattern.

Few 18th c. bed rugs survive. Unlike a beautiful quilt, they weren't carefully preserved and handed down. More likely they were used until they fell apart, and all that piled wool must also have been a tasty treat for long-ago moths – as well as a haven for a good many bed-bugs and fleas as well.

Which leads back to the old expression "snug as a bug in rug." Its first noted appearance is 1772, when Benjamin Franklin used it in a satirical epitaph for a lady's pet squirrel named Skugg:
                           Here Skugg
                           Lies snug
                           As a bug
                           In a rug.

Whether Franklin specifically meant a bed rug or not isn't known, but on a cold winter's night both poor departed Skugg and the bug could have done a lot worse than curling up with a sturdy "thick shagg'd" rug.

Photographs copyright 2013 Susan Holloway Scott.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fashions for March 1818

Monday, March 4, 2013
Loretta reports:

Post Waterloo, fashion started to move away from the simple, “classical” elegance that was the dominant look between 1800-1815.  The waistlines stayed above the natural waist, for the most part, but the lines of the dress changed.  While still vertical, the skirt doesn't fall quite so naturally from the waistline, and we see the early stages of that lower triangle shape that becomes more pronounced in later years.  These two carriage dresses caught my eye while I was browsing, and demanded to be posted.  I suspect the green and red number was a knockout in real life.

 These plates come from La Belle Assemblée for March 1818.   Please click on them to enlarge.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of February 25, 2013

Saturday, March 2, 2013
Hot off the Twitterverse griddle for you! Our weekly collection of favorite links to other blogs, web sites, articles, and images.
• Perfect feminist satire from 1915: "Why We Oppose the Vote for Men."
• Delightful image from a medieval bestiary showing how the hedgehog collects & brings home food.
• Eau de Colonge, a fragrance straight from the 18th century.
• "A toast to your health": getting drunk in colonial America.
• Think Bieber-Fever is big? Try a Franz Liszt concert, c.1844.
• The 19th c. fire-vomiting, super-human entity known as Spring-Heeled Jack.
• Head off to a Chelsea jazz club c. 1959 in these great b&w photos.
• The "Lion heart" of Richard I was soaked in holy balm to ease his passage into heaven.
• The Austen Family Music Books Project & the Jane Austen House Museum.
• True tragedy: the other, little-known victims of the Lincoln assassination.
• On-line archive of lurid 1940s Canadian pulp magazines.
• Francis Smith, condemned to death for the murder of a supposed ghost, 1804.
• Charming daguerreotype portraits of 19th c. babies.
• Rare stylized. Jeanne Lanvin fashion figure, 1921.
• Very scary stuff: Victorian anti-masturbation devices.
Morag of Loch Morar: mermaid, monster, or myth.
• Invitation to the launch of the Titanic.
• "I Thought All Was Over": Frederick Ponsonby at Waterloo, 1815.
• Real 17th c. witch-finders Hopkins & Stearne in East Anglia.
• German doctor offers unusual remedy for tuberculosis in NYC, 1913: the turtle cure.
Quiet demoiselles and proud servants in France, 1842.
• " You say you are Suspicious & unreasonable when you are in Love" ~ Lady Melbourne's advice to Byron, 1813.
Mary Ann Cotton (1832-1873), the black widow poisoner.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!
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