Sunday, June 30, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of June 24, 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013
No matter what the temperature may be outside, our Breakfast Links are hot, hot, hot! Our weekly roundup of favorite links to other site, blogs, articles, and images, collected for you from around the Twitterverse.
• They weren't always white: slide show of unexpectedly untraditional 19th-20th c. wedding gowns.
• Real life zombies: a history of Cotard's Delusion.
• The resilient little buildings that survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 and can still be seen today.
• Stunning embroidered gentleman's 1785 waistcoat, inspired by an opera.
• Can drinking stinky water improve your health? The spa waters at Bath.
• An embroidery school in Bologna Italy, founded c. 1902 by a N.J. woman to teach poor girls a needlework trade.
• Keeping time in the Victorian kitchen.
• To make a nice Indian pudding: 18th c recipe plus modern adaptation, video.
• Merchant princesses.
• Medieval eyeglasses, dropped in the toilet long ago.
• A handwritten newspaper, produced by Confederate POWs.
• Particularly tasteless Victoriana: murder ornaments.
• Definitely NSFW (but still worth a peek): is this a 17th c. sex manual, or erotic fiction?
• Where did OK come from?
• Two-piece bathing suit just perfect for a 1940s beach beauty.
• A formidable woman in turbulent times: Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy and Regent of the Netherlands, 1480-1530.
• A philosopher's head in a box and a story of execution and utilitarians.
• Collecting images long before Pinterest: an 18th c. print room at Uppark.
• Bitten by a demon? What savage and invisible creature did the "harmless" table-tipping conjure up in 1857 France?
• Fourth of July history myth: Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
• Making lemon sponge cake: a Georgian workout with a whisk.
• The Maryland Historical Society is recreating the Star-Spangled Banner, and you can help stitch it, too.
• Romantic fantasy: Caerhays Castle, by 19th c. architect John Nash.
• Famous historical death masks.
• Shower time: early 20th c. drive-thru horse washes in Herald Square, NYC.
• Short history of active wear: bicycle chic & athletic aesthetics.
• Captain John Smith's 1616 letter about Pocahontas from Virginia to Queen Anne of Great Britain.
• "Every night I had lain down expecting death": a rebel woman's diary during the siege of Vicksburg, 1863.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Loretta Chase Presents: A New Website

Saturday, June 29, 2013
Loretta reports:

Breaking into Breakfast Links time to make a Joyful Announcement—

Though I spend a good part of my day in the past, my web presence needs to live in the 21st century.  That's what I've been working on—in the slivers of time I find between the third book of the Dressmakers series, the 2NHG and other social media, and Life—for the last eighteen months.

Now it's ready for its closeup, with a fresh new look that's smartphone and tablet-friendly.  Ladies & Gentlemen, may I present
My New & Improved Website
Clicking on the caption will take you to the site.

We'll continue to tweak, adding bits here and there, but the main stuff is ready for your viewing pleasure.  This includes my Loretta Chase...In Other Words blog, where I offer breaking news and miscellaneous observations.

Breakfast Links will appear on Sunday evening.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Casual Friday: The Dashing Officer and the Woman in White

Friday, June 28, 2013
Loretta reports:

After reading yet another book about Charles Dickens, I was compelled to revisit this painting—because I had had no idea that his daughter Kate posed for it.  His children, from all I've read, didn't have an easy time of it.  But Kate, who was apparently his favorite, must have been resilient.  She became an artist as well as an artist's model, and lived to nearly 90.

So here's a quiz, for those of you who closely follow our presentations about historic dress.  What's odd in this picture—the description at the museum (please click on link below) offers a clue—and how would you explain it? 

John Everett Millais, The Black Brunswickers, 1860, Lady Lever Art Gallery, part of the National Museums Liverpool (the image here is courtesy Wikipedia).

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Prince Regent Rewards Loyalty with Peridots, 1816

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Isabella reporting,

Gemstones are among the most lasting of treasures – what's more "forever" than a diamond? – but they also disappear through history with maddening regularity, stolen, smuggled, and sold, recut and reset beyond recognition.

All of which makes this set of peridot gems set in gold, recently acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum, even more noteworthy. Not only is it a complete set of necklace, pendant, earrings, brooch, and bracelets in the original case from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, the most important jewellers of the era, but it's also accompanied by a royal letter that links it irrefutably to history.

In 1814, Princess Charlotte of Wales was a strong-willed 18-year-old determined to resist marrying her father's choice. Her father was George, Prince of Wales and Prince Regent, and he was equally determined that his only child wed William, Prince of Orange. Princess Charlotte dramatically made her point by running off one night, although she returned the following morning. Her father was not amused, and placed her under what amounted to house arrest. Watching over the princess were the Dowager Countess of Rosslyn, and her two nieces, Miss Charlotte Cotes and Miss Lucy Cotes.

In the battle of wills, the princess finally won, and married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld instead in 1816. In gratitude and likely some relief, the Prince Regent rewarded the two Cotes sisters with sets of jewels – this set of peridots, and another of amethysts – to be worn at the wedding. Tragically, the joy of the wedding and the happy marriage between the two young newlyweds would not last; Princess Charlotte died in 1817, giving birth to a stillborn son.

The letter that still accompanies the set is from Princess Elizabeth, the Prince Regent's sister, asking Miss Cotes to accept the jewels as a gift. The original bill from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell for £240 9s (a sizable amount in 1816) also still exists in the Royal Archives.

The peridot set will go on display at the V&A later this summer. See here for more information.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Story of a Victorian Dollhouse

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Loretta reports:

Some weeks ago I posted about the dollhouses at the 1809 Hedge House.  Shortly thereafter the Executive Director of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society kindly sent me additional information,* from which I’ll quote at length, since the story is a window into the past.

The Brewster Dollhouse “was actually made in part from pieces of an old tea crate – there are remnants of painted Chinese characters on the back, and the original lining paper is still visible, though covered with fragments of several layers of later dollhouse decoration” (as seen in the Cutrona Studios photo).

Flora Louisa Brewster received the ‘Baby House’ on her 6th birthday on January 15, 1855. “Although it was not professionally made, the dollhouse was carefully crafted like a large piece of case furniture. It provided 3 floors of doll’s living space, an attic, and two drawers for storage, and featured glass windows on the sides." The maker was 80-year-old George Humphrey.

Flora Louisa Brewster, the fifth surviving child in her family, shared this dollhouse with seven of her siblings:
Mary Thomas, the eldest
Elizabeth Emeline, the second in age
Ada Augusta, the third daughter living
Emma Eudora, fourth daughter living
Eva Octavia, sixth daughter living, eighth in reality
Ernest Elisha Wrestling, ninth child
& James

Each of the Brewster children added some furnishings to the house. Some of their individual items are still on display:
Mary Thomas added the mahogany bedstead and dressing case, and an iron waiting man.
Elizabeth Emeline added a brass pudding pan, a brass candlestick, a mahogany dining table, and a small red tin trunk.
Ada Augusta added two mahogany chairs, a center table, a bureau, a chair made by a German, and a churn.
Emma Eudora added a dining room table, a psyche glass, and a kitchen chair made by a German.
Flora added a doll’s photograph album, a kitchen chair made by a German, two marble statuettes, and a chamber set.
Eva Octavia added two parlor chairs, a leather valise, and an iron kettle.
Ernest Elisha Wrestling added a china dog, a donkey with panniers, and a mouse.
& James kept a dissecting map, 2 sets of ten pins, a parlor football, and a pair of parlor skates.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Here Comes the Bride: An 1825 Carriage for a Duke's Daughter

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Isabella reporting,

As intrepid Nerdy History Girls, Loretta and I are always on the hunt for historical inspiration, whether we're watching a battlefield reenactment, on vacation, making college visits, or even reading society wedding announcements.

Over the weekend, Lady Melissa Percy, the younger daughter of the 12th Duke of Northumberland, married Thomas van Straubenzee in a lavish wedding in Alnwick, Northumberland. This was the kind of wedding that had everything, from royal wedding guests to fireworks over the family's Alnwick Castle (which most of us would recognize as Hogwarts Castle in the Harry Potter movies.) Here's a link with lots of photographs if you want to read all the details and see the bride's beautiful gown and jewels.

But what made my NHG heart beat faster was the carriage, above left, in which Lady Melissa and her father the Duke rode to the church; there are photos of the carriage about midway down the page of the same link. Considered one of the most important surviving carriages in Great Britain, the state coach was built in 1825 for the coronation of King Charles X of France at Reims Cathedral, France. The coach was presented to Hugh, the 3rd Duke of Northumberland, by King George IV in recognition of his service as Ambassador Extraordinary. At the coronation, contemporary news reports noted that the Duke "astonished the continental nobility of the magnitude of his retinue, the gorgeousness of his equipage, and the profuseness of his liberality." The carriage continued to be used for important processions and events throughout the 19th c., and also appeared as part of the coronation of King Edward VII.

In 2011, the carriage was restored and refurbished, and used for the wedding, right, of the Duke's older daughter, Lady Katie Percy. This weekend the carriage was again in bridal service, complete with white horses and a white streamer from the driver's whip. There's an element of romantic fantasy in every wedding, but for us NHG, a carriage like this trumps the white limo every time.

Top: State Carriage of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle.
Below: State Carriage of the Duke of Northumberland, wedding of Lady Katie Percy, 2011. Photo ©The Journal, Newcastle.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Infant Care in 1831

Monday, June 24, 2013
La Belle Assemblée 1830
Loretta reports: 


Early Care of Infants.  Among the first precautions are the following:-
Every symptom of approaching disease should be watched and reported to the parents or medical attendant of the family; and, in this respect nothing should be concealed or deferred till remedies are too late.

In the daily washings, the state of the skin should be examined and noticed, as well as the tongue, and the appetite, and spirits; and, above all things, all chances of accident, or juvenile mischief, should be guarded against and removed.

Windows should be fenced with bars, or the lower sashes nailed down; knives and sharp instruments should be kept out of reach; scalding water and dangerous ingredients secured from access; ponds and rivers fenced in; ladders removed; and fireplaces guarded by well-fastened wire fenders.

The water for washing the infant, the first month after its birth, should be tepid; its being quite cold is improper, except in very warm weather. It should be free from brandy, or any ardent spirit, which nurses are generally accustomed to use: pure water only should be allowed, as spirits have quite the opposite effect of producing warmth. An infant should never be allowed to get chilled before it is washed.

No part of the management of the infant can produce the same good effect, as its having a due portion of sleep: this is in compliance with Nature's laws. Infants should never be laid down on their backs after going to sleep; the superfluous quantity of saliva in the mouth, while cutting the teeth, is so considerably increased, that it cannot be discharged when they are in that situation, but must necessarily fall into the stomach so as to cause disease. The best plan is to lay them down on their side alternately.

The frequent use of soothing medicines, as American Soothing Syrup, Godfrey's Cordial,* or Dalby's Carminative,* should be guarded against. Opium, in every form, weakens the infant, and brings on the most distressing diseases.
Dalby's Carminative

Godfrey's Cordial
The Servant's Guide and Family Manual, 1831

*See here (1835) and here (1970)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of June 17, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013
Served up fresh for you! Weekly round-up of our fav links to other blogs, web sites, images, and articles, all gathered for you from the Twitterverse.
• The Ackermann ledgers at Coutts, 1811-1820.
• A woman at Waterloo.
• Where's were in Jane Austen: mapping the novels.
• What do sunglasses have to do with syphilis? A brief history of tinted spectacles.
Elizabethan child actors forcibly snatched from street, and threatened into performing.
• Incredible mobster images from the private files of a 1930s NYPD detective.
• Traditional 18th c. teatime treats: Sally Lunn and tea cakes.
Tipping after a country house part: advice from society hostess Lady Troubridge, 1939.
• The world's oldest banknote, a piece of art.
• Inspired by Venetian lace: the exquisite 17th c carving of Grinling Gibbons.
• Edith Garrud, the Jujitsu Suffragette.
• A "lithe-limbed Diana, chaste goddess of the hunt" is golden once again in Philadelphia.
• For the summer solstice: solving Stonehenge.
• A "cursed" opal ring given to the King of Spain by a jilted beauty - how many did it kill?
• The ever-popular pomegranate motif.
• Obaysch, probably the first hippopotamus to be seen in England since prehistoric times.
• Birmingham's oldest structure: the 300-year-old Zigzag Bridge.
• Never put the bottle on the table: the origins of catsup, ketchup, or kitchup.
• Flavoring butter through a cow's diet: 19th c. garlic butter.
• What did Revolutionary War soldiers carry in their pockets?
• Lily-white hands and scarlet gowns: formulas in British traditional ballads.
• Another history myth (or truth) involving Mary, Queen of Scots, and gold caddies.
Caricatures of Victorian London by Thomas Onwhyn.
Waterloo mare for sale, and a court-martial for "scandalous & infamous conduct, unbecoming the character of an officer & a gentleman."
• When Henry Flagler's stylish Park Avenue mansion was razed in 1953, the carved teak paneling went to a cinder block ranch house.
• How the other half lives: documenting the underbelly of New York City in the 1890s.
• Vintage photos of dads and their kids, from 1840s to 1960s.
• Love the motif on this mid-nineteenth century gentleman's vest.
Scottish shops and shopkeeping in the 18th c.
• How mauve was her garment: a history of the mania for mauve and the synthetic dye industry.
• Worth exploring: wonderful tumblr devoted to Victorian and Edwardian entertainers.
• A soldier's story of the Siege of Vicksburg from Osborn H. Oldroyd.
• The disappearance of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, an American phenomenon.
• Bad science convicted the cook: Eliza Fenning and the case of the poisoned dumplings.
• Capturing the majesty of Niagara Falls on 19th c. wallpaper.
• Newly digitized 1893 volume online: women who disguised themselves as men to join the army.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Video: Jane Austen's Netherfield Ball Recreated

Friday, June 21, 2013
Isabella reporting,

As every good Nerdy History Person and reader knows, 2013 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In honor of this anniversary, the BBC recreated one of the book's most famous and pivotal scenes: the Netherfield Ball. The resulting documentary, "Pride & Prejudice: Having a Ball," aims to show every aspect of a Regency-era ball, from the invitations to the clothes, music, food, and dances. With social historian Amanda Vickery and a team of other historians and experts to lead the way, this behind-the-scenes show is a delight.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Victoria Becomes Queen

Thursday, June 20, 2013
Loretta reports:

On 20 June 1837, Princess Alexandrina Victoria became Queen, and promptly dropped the “Alexandrina”—neither the first nor the last example of her independent spirit.  She had a mind of her own, and nobody, even Prince Albert, succeeded completely in crushing that powerful sense of self.

I had always felt sorry that she hadn’t a longer time to enjoy her independence before marrying Prince Albert, who was actually the “Victorian” in the sense we understand Victorian morality.  In spite of a childhood that reads like a Gothic novel or a Victorian melodrama, in spite of being ruled and jealously guarded by bullies, she had promised to be a possibly saner version of her pleasure-loving uncles (although her fashion tone-deafness would have horrified King George IV).  She was smart, well-educated, fun-loving, spirited, open-minded, and frank.

We've all heard that  Prince Albert turned her into a prude.  But that isn’t the whole story.

He never completely crushed the spirited girl, and he didn’t get his way in everything, as Gillian Gill  points out in her brilliant biography, We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals.  It deals with their marriage, yes.  But it also provides one of the most moving and insightful accounts I’ve ever read of the events preceding her birth, most notably the life and death of Princess Charlotte, King George IV’s only legitimate child.

I’ve read lots of biographies, and they’re not always scintillating.  And frankly, I had given up reading about her because, well, it's too depressing. But this book reads like a novel.   I bought it some years ago, and find myself returning to it again and again.

For one thing, it gave me the impetus to celebrate today the bright beginning of her story as monarch.  On 20 June 1837, Albert was still in the future, and she was a survivor, enjoying a hard-won triumph over her ghastly childhood.  She was experiencing the first precious moments of freedom, and embarking on the role for which she’d been preparing for eighteen years.

We Two is a 2NHG Library recommendation.  No disclaimer is required because I bought it with my very own money.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Every Reader's a Critic, 1787

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Disgruntled modern readers have many avenues to vent their frustration with books they feel fall short: Goodreads, customer reviews on Amazon and other sites, and countless book blogs. But just because 18th c. readers didn't have the internet doesn't mean they didn't make their displeasure known.

This is the title page, left, of a rare novel, printed in Dublin in 1787. It's so rare, in fact, that only a single lone copy is known to exist in a catalogued library, qualifying as a one-of-a-kind unique holding in the University of Pennsylvania library's research collection. Rarity, however, does not necessarily mean a good book, and it's possible that this one is in short supply for a reason.

At least that's the judgement of an early owner. If you look closely at the title page (click on the image to enlarge), that long-ago reader made his or her reaction to this novel abundantly clear with a handwritten annotation. In case you're rusty reading 18th c. penmanship, I've transcribed it below in brackets.

                                   OR, THE [greatest nonsense I ever met under so modest a title]
                               HISTORY OF
                              MISS SEDLEY.
                       BY A YOUNG LADY. [who I hope will never write again]

Oof! Land of the One-Star Wallbangers! Still, as a fellow writer, I hope the anonymous Young Lady never saw this "review," and continued to write as long as she desired. Who knows what she might have gone on to publish under her own name?

Many thanks to Mitch Fraas, Bollinger Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries for bringing this title page to our attention. He blogs at Mapping Books,  and you can follow him on twitter @MitchFraas.

Above: Title page of Caroline, by a Young Lady, printed in Dublin, 1787. Collection of the University of Pennsylvania Library.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

King George IV, Mimic

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The King Mimics Kemble
Loretta reports:

We tend to be a little more familiar with the Prince Regent/King George IV’s many character flaws than any of his positive qualities.  When he was in a good mood, he could be gracious, charming, and entertaining.  Among other talents he had one I’ve always envied:  He was a good mimic.  Reading this bit from The English Spy, 1825, made me wish I could get my WABAC machine working.
Previous to Mathews leaving this country for America, he exhibited a selection from his popular entertainments, by command of his Majesty, at Carlton Palace.—A party of not more than six or eight persons were present, including the Princess Augusta and the Marchioness of Conyngham. During the entertainment (with which the King appeared much delighted), Mathews introduced his imitations of various performers on the British stage, and was proceeding with John Kemble in the Stranger, when he was interrupted by the King, who, in the most affable manner, observed that his general imitations were excellent, and such as no one who had ever seen the characters could fail to recognise; but he thought the comedian's portrait of John Kemble somewhat too boisterous.—"He is an old friend, and I might add, tutor of mine," observed his Majesty: "when I was Prince of Wales he often favoured me with his company. I will give you an imitation of John Kemble," said the good-humoured monarch. Mathews was electrified. The lords of the bed-chamber eyed each other with surprise. The King rose and prefaced his imitations by observing, "I once requested John Kemble to take a pinch of snuff with me, and for this purpose placed my box on the table before him, saying 'Kemble, oblige (obleege) me by taking a pinch of snuff' He took a pinch, and then addressed me thus:—(Here his Majesty assumed the peculiar carriage of Mr. Kemble.) 'I thank your Royal Highness for your snuff, but, in future, do extend your royal jaws a little wider, and say Oblige.'" The anecdote was given with the most powerful similitude to the actor's voice and manners, and had an astonishing effect on the party present.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Cure for the Vapours, 1736

Sunday, June 16, 2013
Isabella reporting,

It's not only clothing that goes out of style. Illnesses can fade from fashion, too, as medical science progresses and old terms become obsolete. The vapours is one of these.  A familiar ailment to 18th & 19th c. physicians, the vapours seems to us now to be something of a catch-all term with numerous symptoms - depression, nervousness, hysteria, lethargy, and indigestion, among them – depending on which medical book of the past is consulted.

But wherever there were symptoms, there was sure to be cures, of varying efficacy and foolishness. Gender politics often complicated these remedies, for the sufferers were nearly always female, while those prescribing were largely male. Certainly the (male) author of the following piece is laying down the law to his (female) patients - especially in regard to those infamous "Pretty Fellows."

"There's no Disease puzzled Physicians more than the Vapours, and Hysterick Fits. These complaints are produced by so many Causes, and appear in so many various Shares, that 'tis no easy Matter to describe them. However, some of the Symptoms are, a Thumping at the Heart, a Croaking of the Guts, and a Fulness of the Stomach...[The sufferer] has moreover, a great Heaviness, and Dejection of Spirit, and a Cloud seems to hang upon al her Senses. In one Word, she has no Relish for any thing, but is continually out of Humour, she knows not why, and out of Order, she know not where....

"Because the Stomach is suspected to be much in Fault, I would have That cleans'd in the first Place, with a Vomit of Indian Physick; the next Day, purify the Bowels, but a Purge of the same; which must be repeated 2 Days after. The rest of the Cure must be perform'd by the exact Observation of the following Rules. Endeavour to preserve a cheerful Spirit, putting the best Construction upon every Body's Words and Behaviour: Plunge, 3 Mornings every Week, into cold Water, over Head and Ears; which will brace the Nerves, and rouze the sluggish Spirits surprisingly. Observed a strict Regularity and Temperance in your Diet; and ride every fair Day, small Journeys on Horseback. Stir nimbly about your Affairs, quick Motion being as necessary for Health of Body, as for Dispatch of Business....nor do I allow her one Pinch of Snuff, nor one Drop of Bohea-Tea, which makes People very lumpish and miserable.

"To escape this Disorder, she must suffer none of the idle Disturbances, or Disappointments of an empty World, to prey upon her Mind, or ruffle her sweet Temper. Let her use just Exercise enough to give a gentle Spring to her Spirits, without wasting them; and let her be always cheerful, in Spite of a churlish Husband, or cloudy Weather....

"To prevent this Complaint, young Women must shake off Sloth, and make Use of their Legs, as well as their Hands. They should be cautious of taking Opiates too often, or Jesuits-Bark, except in cases of great Necessity; nor must they long for Pretty Fellows, or any other Trash, whatsoever."

    – from Every Man his own Doctor: or, The Poor Planter's Physician, by Anonymous [John Tennet], printed in Williamsburg, VA, 1736.
Above: Young Girl Writing a Love Letter, by Pietro Antonio Rotari, c. 1755. Norton Simon Museum.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of June 10, 2013

Saturday, June 15, 2013
Served up fresh for you: our weekly round-up of favorite links to all the best articles, web sites, blogs, videos, and images from around the Twitterverse.
• Ripe with early 19th c. warnings: The Stranger's Guide; or, the London Sharper Detected: being a Complete Exposure of all the Frauds of London.
• Sham Paris, built during World War One to confuse the German aerial attacks.
• Why ladies fancy a man with mustachios, 1707.
• "Mummy's a Suffragette": contested womanhood.
• The desperate 19th c. would-be housewife of New York.
• How to pick a soldier for the Continental Army (no short guys need apply.)
• For Flag Day, explore the original Star-Spangled Banner in all its glory.
• An 18th c. natural trumpet, a thing of beauty wonderfully crafted.
• The 16th c. accountant who documented his wardrobe and created the first book of fashion.
• For all fans of Blackadder (including us!): how accurately did the show reflect history?
• Cheerful birthday postcards of the early 20th c.
• The curious case of a huge 16th c. castle that was lost, and then found again in Dublin 35 years ago.
• In 1961, Harvard told married women that they probably shouldn't bother studying urban planning.
• "Merculialia are worrisome": dangerous recipes.
• Prostitution in and around 18th c. London's public pleasure gardens.
• A sign of the times: Astor House, NYC's finest 19th c. hotel, torn down a century ago this month as nearby St. Paul's weeps.
• Cataloging the royal taste: zoom in on the cellar book of Charles II, 1660.
• Christmas crackers and women's suffrage, 1913.
• Slide-show of glorious photos of Canterbury Cathedral.
French-watching in 1853: feeding time at a popular restaurant.
• An 18th c. favorite: syllabubs, three ways, in 1753 recipe and modern version.
• Charming illustrated envelopes produced by wife sending letters to her husband serving in WWII.
• Sometimes what's old really is better: ancient roman concrete is about to revolutionize modern architecture.
• From a medieval manuscript: hey diddle diddle, the cat and a fiddle....
• The oldest working theatre in Britain, gorgeously restored: the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, Yorkshire.
• My father's train ride: when educating a deaf five-year-old meant sending him 868 miles from home.
• Homework time: fragment of 14-year-old Abraham Lincoln's exercise book, 1825.
• "To dress duck with juice of oranges": 1827 recipe, plus modern version.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Casual Friday: Esther Williams—a Tribute

Friday, June 14, 2013
Loretta reports:

Those who follow the blog know I’m fond of old movies, and probably know more music from the golden film era than is good for me.  (Fred Astaire anyone?  Or how about Carmen Miranda?)

Esther Williams, who died last week, wasn’t known for her dancing or singing (as she notes in video clip below).  She was an athlete, and her artistry in the water was truly amazing.

Here she is on dry land, on What's My Line.

And clicking on the link below will take you to what I felt was the best of the tributes at YouTube, but which refused to imbed in this post. 
Esther Williams Tribute. R.I.P.

Illustration: Pin-up photo of Esther Williams for the Oct. 12, 1945 issue of Yank, the Army Weekly, a weekly U.S. Army magazine fully staffed by enlisted men.
Date 12 October 1945.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Imperial Opera Glasses, c. 1896

Thursday, June 13, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Writers are often asked where we get our ideas. Where the big stuff comes from - characters and plot - continues to remain a great mystery to me. One day it's just there in my imagination (or not, but that's another issue.) But the little bits and pieces that help bring stories to life are often based on things I've seen in museums, old houses, and other historical collections. As soon as I saw these beautiful little opera glasses, left, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was determined to incorporate them into a book.

The description beneath them was brief:
   Imperial Opera Glasses
   Rose and green gold, trois-couleur gold, white guilloché enamel, silver, rose-cut diamonds,      optical glass.
   House of Fabregé
   Workmaster: Michael Evlampievich Perchin (Russian, 1860-1903)
   Russian (Saint Petersburg), 1896-1903

The workmanship is breathtaking (click on the image to enlarge), elevating a practical object to an exquisite work of art. There wasn't any additional information about who commissioned the glasses, or if they were a special gift like the better-known Imperial Easter eggs also created by the House of Fabregé. Considering that they magically survived the Revolution, it's likely their history been long forgotten. But someday, somehow, one of my characters is definitely going to have these with her at the theatre or opera. . . .

For a bit more inspiration: the painting, below, features a lady with another pair of opera glasses. A Box at the Théâtre des Italiens was painted in 1874 by lesser-known Impressionist Eva Gonzalès. A gifted painter and protege of the much more famous Éduoard Manet (she was his only student), Eva's promising career was sadly cut short when she died in childbirth at thirty-four. The painting is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Head-dress for Regency Ladies

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Loretta reports:

In connection with my post on June 1817 fashions and caps, a reader said:

“I can't find a good pattern for a cap, or a turban. What would a Dowagwer wear on her head at a ball?”

Nancy Bradfield’s Costume in Detail 1730-1930 (described here) explains in minute detail the construction of some caps.  Based on the cap I photographed at the 1809 Hedge House, I’d say the construction was fairly simple.  It’s the trimming that makes caps individual.  One of my favorite resources, The Lady’s Stratagem, a splendid compendium of excerpts from various manuals of the 1820s, has a section devoted to making caps, from three sources:  the Manuel des dames, Manuel des demoiselles, and The Alphabetical Receipt Book and Domestic Advisor.  The excerpt from the latter includes patterns.

The French manuals provide as well some guidance about appropriate attire for married and unmarried ladies.  Though the French, as Fanny Trollope has pointed out, have stricter ideas about what “modest” and “simple” mean in reference to unmarried ladies’ dress, a general rule seems to apply on either side of the Channel:  Married women may dress more boldly and elaborately than maidens.

As to dowagers, what they wear would depend on their age and taste, I should think.  We need to remember that fashion was not as standardized then as it is today.  I would not expect her to wear simple hair ornaments to a ball.  That seems more appropriate for a debutante.  But she might wear a turban.  Plumes are certainly possible.  In portraits, older women are often wearing elaborate caps.  However, in satirical prints, we see them in elaborate headdresses for evening dress.  I suspect these are close to reality, though we can allow for some exaggeration for comic effect.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Men Behaving Badly: How to Reject a Buck, 1769

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Isabella reporting,

A buck by any other name – rake, playboy, rip, cad, knave, hound, playa – is still a Man Behaving Badly, and they've been around since the beginning of time. This letter from a 1769 edition of the Town & Country Magazine, or Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction, and Entertainment is probably a fictional invention, and not really the whining work of a real buck (who probably had other ways to occupy his time than writing to magazine editors.) Still, it does demonstrate the classic bad behavior of a Georgian buck, and a lady who has the good sense to reject his advances.

"I am a buck of the first head. I often kick up a dust in the Garden, break half a dozen lamps, and knock down as many watchmen; bilk a bagnio and my temporary Dulcinea; make a figure on a Sunday at Bagnigge and the Pantheon, and am, in my own opinion, quite an accomplished fellow; and yet, Sir, would you believe it, I cannot perswade Miss W–––ms, to whom I have said all the tender civil things in the world, to listen to my addresses: the smiles at my professions of love and particular regard for her, and actually asked me a few days ago, after I had spouted an excellent speech out of the Orphan, which might have captivated a cherub, whether I was not out of my senses?

"What can be the reason of this? She is reckoned a very sensible girl, and I am of the opinion she has a great deal of judgment in everything, except her behaviour towards me. What provokes me the most is, she seems to give the preference to a parson, who has not one qualification that I can discover, without it is his preaching; but what woman of taste and spirit would be plagued with a preaching husband? Women do not marry to learn to pray; and though I hinted to her I never should desire her to go to church but once, and was dressed in my new brown coat and white collar (quite the thing) she was simple enough to turn upon her heel last Sunday, to go and hear this black-gown lover sermonize.

"I have wrote her two letters since, as full of flames and darts as I possibly could cram them, and yet she has made me no answer. I know she reads your Magazine, and when she sees what is a just title I have to her, she will certainly alter her behaviour towards me; therefore I beg you will insert this as soon as possible, and you will greatly oblige your constant reader,

                                                                                           DICK ATALL."

(A few notes: the Garden is Vauxhall Gardens, and Bagnigge is Bagnigge Wells; both were popular pleasure gardens near London. The Pantheon was another fashionable place of public entertainment, located on the south side of Oxford Street, and loosely modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. The Orphan, or The Unhappy Marriage was a very popular tragedy, written by Thomas Otway in 1680. was See here for more about tormenting hapless watchmen for sport.)

Above: The RUSTICS alarm'd  at THE APPEARANCE of a LONDON BUCK, by Isaac Cruikshank, 1790. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Elegant Fountain for 1821

Monday, June 10, 2013
Loretta reports:

A year ago, I posted a description of a fountain in a London shop.  This one's a little different, but equally charming.  I particularly liked the suggestion of a way to make the serpent seem to move.

Read online here


—from Ackermann's Repository, June 1821, courtesy Internet Archive.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of June 3, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013
Served up fresh for your reading and web-surfing pleasure - our weekly roundup of fav links, featuring blog posts, articles, web sites, and photographs via Twitter.
Emily Dickinson and the science of poetry.
• "Slave sugar" and the boycott of 1791.
• The curious case of the virgin birth, 1921.
• Previously unknown letter from Robert the Bruce to King Edward II, 1310, found at British Library.
• Ten things to learn from loving Anne of Green Gables.
• Kitty Marion: Edwardian England's most dangerous woman.
• The kind of begging-letter from a teenager that every parent will recognize - although this one's 200 years old.
• Fascinating site: every aspect of London life in sound.
• Mary Kingsley, 19th c. pioneer explorer of West Africa.
• "Let a Lady of a meek Disposition beware of a very great Nose": advice to the ladies on choosing an agreeable husband, 1738
• NYC's Casino Theater introduced the Floradora girls to America in 1899, beginning a century-long chorus line craze.
• Medieval man with a cat AND a cat-hat, reading in a manuscript.
• So what if it's June? Studio portraits of Victorians pretending to tobaggan.
• Peep shows and raree boxes at the Dennis Severs House in London.
• "O Love, Remember Me": poignant embroidered picture from wife to husband beginning journey, 1875.
• "We shall love each other forever": Harriet Beecher Stowe's surprising friendship with Lord Byron's wife.
Fired puddings from Enlightenment Edinburgh.
Lord Byron sells Newstead Abbey - with a few loose ends.
• Where's the cat? Hiding in these 17th c. paintings.
• The lovely lady athletes of Belle Epoque France.
Tort de moy: a 17th c. dish fit for a king.
Dueling with death: how Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr teamed up to defend a New Yorker accused of murder, 1800.
• The shantytown: nineteenth century Manhattan's "straggling suburbs."
• For $52 million, you can by Coco Chanel's house.
• "I heard a rattle in the kitchen and saw she was washing it in the blooming sink."
• Fanny Eaton: the forgotten Pre-Raphaelite stunner.
• Entertaining idea for a blog: fashion a hundred years ago.
William Penn's truly loving letter to his wife before he leaves for the American colonies, 1682.
• Vintage photos of early versions of Alice in Wonderland.
• The first French winemakers learned everything they knew from the Etruscans.
• The water witch of Wyoming, and how dowsing works (or doesn't.)
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Video: The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second, 1953

Friday, June 7, 2013

Isabella reporting,

This week marked the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The elaborate ceremony was filmed in its entirety in color, a significant achievement at the time. This is the first part of that film (there are six more to cover the entire day), and the splendor of the historical pageantry of the day is both beautiful and moving.

If part one gets you hooked, here are the links to the rest of the series:
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
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