Saturday, August 31, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of August 26, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013
We're back from our break with a fresh serving of links to help wind up your summer - links to our favorite web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered from around the Twitterverse.
• David Garrick died in 1779 - and his funeral cost his estate a whopping £1391.
• A look at the undying chicness of airline uniforms of the past.
• Charles Yerkes' wife Mary had a massive NYC mansion and millions; but 19th c. Society shunned her crude manners and heavy drinking.
• Where have the carousel animals gone? Antique merry-go-rounds fight extinction.
• For fans of Cadbury's chocolate: Bournville - a confection of industrial relations.
• Something borrowed, something (indigo) blue - even blue pineapples printed on this cotton textile, c. 1760-80.
• The eyes have it everywhere in this symbolic portrait of Elizabeth I.
• Right down to the birkenstocks: 16th c. Irish hipsters.
• The sex life of dogs in the 18th c. - including an aphrodisiac!
• Pickled and stuffed olives, 1818.
• The Revolutionary War of a tale of a shoe: a cordwainer, a wedding shoe, & a Gaspee patriot.
• Tourist attraction? The sewers of Paris.
• Heavy going in a high sea: 19th c. bathing suits.
• Taste from the past: a swan supper on the Thames.
• The moon hoax of 1835: great astronomical discoveries.
• Rare 16th c. royal silver vervel, found in Norfolk field, reveals hunting habits of Charles Brandon, first Duke of Suffolk.
• Undelivered last letters from fallen WWI soldiers, along with wills, finally released and made available online.
• How far was an 18th c. musket shot? Farther than you think.
Don the Talking Dog, a German vaudeville sensation, saves a drowning man in Brighton Beach, NY, 1913.
• Newly digitized handwritten 18th c. receipt book, includes "the great and rare art of candying, cooking, distilling, preserving, pickling and physick."
• Rococo bones: Europe's jewel-encrusted relics.
• This week in 1813: Lord Byron appeals for punctuation.
Victorian celebrity photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron.
• Newly digitized: hundreds of both British and American suffrage posters.
• A Reed and Barton pickle fork for every occasion, 1884.
• Ray-Ban's predecessors? A brief history of tinted spectacles.
• Could this be the only existing photograph of renowned 19th c. palaeontologist & geolgist Mary Anning?
• Delightful French fashion plates from Galerie des Modes et Costumes Francais: 1778-1787.
• Early baldness cures: "Froath of the Sea, by washing of a bald Head decently and cornelily, to deck it with Hairs."
• Cover of 1913 Puck magazine visualized the close of summer as the end of romance and departure of mermaids and angels.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Casual Friday Video: Rita Hayworth Is Stayin' Alive

Friday, August 30, 2013

Isabella reporting,

It's no secret that we Nerdy History Girls have a serious weakness for old movies, especially old movies with dancing, but it's not as widely known that we have an equally serious admiration for actress Rita Hayworth. This fun little video features the divine Rita plus that famous ol' BeeGees song from Saturday Night Fever, brought together through some magical editing. What better way to begin the holiday weekend?

Video by YouTube user et7waage1. Thanks to @lucyinglis for sharing this on Twitter.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Norfolk House in St. James's Square

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Loretta reports:

The other day we had a look at St. James’s Square, in 1812 and now.  Because I’d used Norfolk House in Don’t Tempt Me, I took advantage during my 2011 trip to London of an opportunity to photograph a part of it: the Music Room, whose panels and ceiling are on view at the Victorian and Albert Museum.

Though my pictures lack the professional polish of the V&A ones (I tried straightening, but things got fuzzy), they give you a better sense, I think, of the artistry and craftsmanship applied to these great London houses. 

You’ll find another photo of the music room as it looked when the house existed, here at British History Online.  The Survey of London calls this room “the finest and most remarkable interior feature of Norfolk House.”

This gives us an an idea of how dukes live(d), and of the surroundings we historical romance authors envision for our aristocratic heroes and heroines.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Intrepid Women: Scottish Artist Christina Robertson, Painter of Imperial Russia

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Portraitist Christina Sanders Robertson (1796-1854) may not be a household name today - or even a name that pops up in many art history classrooms - but in the early 19th c., she was not only one of the most popular artists in Britain, but also in France and in Russia, with travels that definitely qualify her as an Intrepid Woman.

Born in Fife, Scotland, Christina Sanders was the daughter of a coach painter. More importantly, her uncle was a successful miniaturist who taught her painting and helped launch her career; by 1819, she was already developing an aristocratic clientele for her portraits. She married fellow-artist James Robertson in 1822, and together they relocated to London. Within a year, her work was included in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy, and her society portraits were being engraved and reproduced in ladies's magazines and popular journals, right. Her affluent sitters liked her elegantly flattering portraits with their emphasis on jewels and rich clothing.  She was paid her well for her work, and her reputation soared.

Christina's success has a remarkably modern feel to it. While her career grew, far exceeding her husband's, she also bore eight children, four of whom survived to adulthood. During the 1830s, she left her children behind with her husband in London and travelled to Paris for several lucrative, prolonged stays, completing portrait after portrait of stylish aristocrats. In 1839, she traveled to St. Petersburg - not an easy journey, especially not for a solitary woman - to paint Empress Alexandra, Tsar Nicholas I, and other members of the imperial court. In recognition of her talent, she was named an honorary member of the Imperial Academy of Art.

She remained in Russia for two years before returning to London, where she continued to maintain a studio. She was made an honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy, and exhibited there from 1829-1845. But St. Petersburg beckoned again, and in 1849, she once more left London and her family and returned to the Imperial Court, painting portraits like this one of Marie of Hess-Darmstadt, lower left. While tastes in formal oil portraits were changing, she still found both financial success and artistic freedom with her watercolors, and prospered even as the coming Crimean War made Russia an uneasy place for a British woman. Christina's health was faltering as well, and she died in St. Petersburg in 1854, not long after her husband died in London. She is buried in St. Petersburg in the Volkhov Lutheran cemetery, and the largest collection of her work remains in the Hermitage Museum.

But as impressive as Christina's achievements may be, they also raise some tantalizing questions. Exactly how understanding was her husband, left behind in London? What did her children think of having a mother in faraway St. Petersburg for most of their youth? And how much of Christina's independent career and traveling was based on her need to support her family, and how much was a desire for artistic and personal freedom? In her self-portrait, above left, she looks resolute and determined in her fur-trimmed pelisse, staring off to one side as if a little impatient at being interrupted at her work. At least that's how she seems to me. What do you think?

Click here for more examples of Christina Robertson's work.

Update: Since this post appeared, I've heard from several readers regarding this portrait of Maria Alexandrovna. Seems that while I found the painting on several sites online attributed to Christina Robertson, in other places it's credited to Franz Xaver Winterhalter, and I agree that it does look like his work. Ahh, the challenges of tracking down the works of a now-obscure artist via the internet! In any event, I've now replaced the painting in question with another portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna that is definitely by Christina Robertson, directly from the Hermitage Museum website.

Top left: Christina Sanders Robertson, self-portrait, c. 1822, watercolor on ivory. Victoria & Albert Museum.
Right: Charlotte Florentia Percy (nee Clive), Duchess of Northumberland, engraving by Thomas Anthony Dean after Christina Robertson (1825), published 1829. National Portrait Gallery.
Lower left: Detail, Marie of Hess-Darmstadt (Maria Alexandrovna), by Christina Robertson, 1849, Hermitage Museum.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

St. James's Square in 1812 and Today

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Loretta reports:

When I wrote Don’t Tempt Me, I stole Norfolk House, in St. James’s Square, for my fictional Duke of Marchmont.  Like so many other parts of London, St. James’s Square has changed quite a bit since Ackermann's August 1812 description, as this diagram indicates.
Norfolk House lasted until the late 1930s before being torn down and replaced, but the pool of water disappeared much earlier.  The statue of King William III, among other structures, remains.

Click here to read online

The Wikipedia entry—today’s version of an Ackermann entry, perhaps—includes detailed information about the buildings in the square and a panoramic view.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

For Royal Relaxing: The Prince of Wales Banyan, c. 1785

Sunday, August 25, 2013
Isabella reporting,

While we were away from the blog, I had the great good fortune to see the exhibition Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion at the RISD Museum in Providence, RI.

Men's wear is often sadly under-represented in fashion collections, making this exhibition of historical and contemporary male clothing that made a bold personal statement for the wearer even more exciting (at least for Nerdy History People, anyway.) There was one room after another of fantastic clothes, from the beautiful linen shirts favored by Beau Brummell to Fred Astaire's tuxedo to Andy Warhol's paint-splattered Ferragamo oxfords.

While the exhibition has recently closed, highlights are still on line here, and the splendid hardcover companion book is available here.

One of the special pieces for me was this 18th c. banyan once worn by George IV (1762-1830) while he was Prince of Wales. (The banyan was making a rare appearance state-side, on loan from the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.) Banyans were a kind of dressing-gown or robe worn by Georgian gentlemen as informal attire (for more information and other examples, see our blogs here, here, and here.) The elaborately patterned cotton chintz would not only have been comfortable - a welcome break from the formal silks of court life - but as a costly textile imported from India, the cotton would also have made a luxurious statement fit for a royal prince.

This banyan was quilted for extra warmth, and the braided closures and high collar, left, add to its exotic appeal. We tend to think of George IV in his later portly days as the Prince Regent, but this banyan, made between 1780-1790, proves that he cut a much less substantial figure as a young man in his twenties – although apparently there are interior panels that prove that the banyan was let out over time to accommodate his growing girth.

I particularly liked the quote that accompanied the banyan. Attributed to George "Beau" Brummell, it perfectly sums up the life around the Prince of Wales and his circle in late 18th c. Brighton, with young gentlemen elegantly lounging in banyans like this one: "Come to Brighton, my dear fellow. Let us be off tomorrow; we'll eat currant-tart, and live in chintz and salt-water."

Banyan, maker unrecorded, c. 1780-90. From the collection of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. Top photo: RISD Museum. Lower photo: Brighton & Hove Museum.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another Brief Hiatus, or, Gone Workin'

Thursday, August 15, 2013
Gypsy Rose Lee
Loretta & Isabella report:

For some stupid reason, we Two Nerdy History Girls are still working for a living, rather than living the life of leisure in Pick-Your-Expensive-Luxurious-Leisure-Location.

Gypsy Rose Lee makes writing look glamorous.  Pretend we’re glamorous, too, as we polish our beautiful prose and deliver our manuscripts right on time.

Or take a look at the other photograph, where Ms. Miller's facial expression, if not her attire, approaches nearer the reality.

In other words, we’re writing and researching madly, and thus need, once again, to take some time off from blogging.  Look for fresh posts about old stuff toward the end of the month.

Flora Payne Whitney Miller

Photos courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.  Clicking on captions will take you to their LOC information page.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Return (Again and Again) of Big Sleeves

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Isabella reporting,

One of my favorite small museums in NYC is the Museum at FIT. Their ever-changing fashion exhibitions are always beautiful and intriguing, and guaranteed to make me think even as I ooh and ahh. (Remember my post on their Eco-Fashion exhibition?)

Their current show is RetroSpective, running through November 16, 2013. It's a thoughtful look at how often fashion repeats itself, or perhaps more accurately, how often the same elements are re-imagined and reinvented. (The Life Magazine feature on 1930s hoopskirts that I recently mentioned is part of this exhibition.) See it if you can - FIT is only a few blocks from Penn Station, if you're in town for the day - but if you can't, here's the link to their on-line version of the show, featuring some of the highlight pieces.

According to the exhibition, one fashion element that keeps returning is the big, poufy sleeve. We've shared the big sleeves of the 1830s here and here on the blog before, but the look was hardly new then. From our Pinterest boards, here's an Italian Renaissance example from 1532, and another a hundred years later in 1635, worn by English Queen Henriette Marie.

The image, above, is from the FIT exhibition on-line, and the dresses are both from the FIT collection. Big sleeves like the ones on the green silk gown were first popular in the 1830s, contributing to an exaggerated, sloping shoulder-line. When big sleeves returned again in the 1890s with the name gigot, or leg-of-mutton sleeves, they were much more exuberant, as seen on the brown silk dress. But the style didn't end there. Two other examples in the exhibition are decidedly modern: an Yves Saint Laurent evening dress from 1980, and another by Caroline Herrera from 1981. it time for big sleeves to reappear again?

Above: Left: Two-piece dress, brown brocaded silk satin, jet, sequins, c. 1896, USA. Right: Afternoon dress, green silk satin, c. 1830, England. Both from Museum at FIT; photograph courtesy of Museum of FIT.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sadler's Balloon Ascent in 1811

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Mr. Sadler's Balloon Ascent
Loretta reports:

In Last Night’s Scandal, my hero and heroine visit a stone commemorating an early balloon ascent by the Tuscan Vincent Lunardi.  Balloon ascensions continued to be very popular entertainment in the 19th century, featuring frequently at Vauxhall Gardens, among other places.

During this week in 1811, England’s first balloonist, James Sadler, made one of his many ascents, this time in honor of the Prince Regent's birthday.  As the account at the Pennine Region Balloon Association makes clear, Sadler’s adventures could be extremely exciting.  (Please scroll down the page for the Gentleman’s Magazine description of what happened when he got caught in a gale on 7 October 1811.)

Text on print: "A view of the balloon of Mr. Sadler's ascending with him and Captain Paget of the Royal Navy from the gardens of the Mermaid Tavern at Hackney on Monday, August 12, 1811. The Balloon ascended at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and descended safe near Tilbury Fort in Essex at 20 minutes past."

Illustration courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the Library of Congress page for this print, where you can further enlarge it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The End of the Road for an Old Coach, 1850

Monday, August 12, 2013
Isabella reporting,

I didn't want to include this print in today's James Pollard post because it wasn't by Pollard, and because it's so melancholy, even sentimental. But it really does belong near the Pollard paintings, so here it is as a bonus post.

We tend to think that we're the only disposable age, ready to toss out the old technology in favor of new at a moment's notice. But this 1850 print, Past and Present Through Victorian Eyes, shows how swiftly "progress" was already taking hold in the 19th c. as well. While less than twenty years have passed since James Pollard was painting the glories of travel by coach, the once-grand mail coach is now relegated to a make-shift hen-house, its wheels broken and its horses and passengers long departed. In the distance we can see an early Victorian steam engine puffing along with a tidy row of passenger cars in tow, representing the unstoppable future. Yet how many discarded railroad cars now sit in fields and junkyards, having faced the same fate as the old coach? Progress, indeed.

Above: Past and Present Through Victorian Eyes, printed by Leighton Brothers, 1850. Science Museum, London.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's All in the Details: Early 19th c. Coaching Paintings by James Pollard

Sunday, August 11, 2013
Isabella reporting:

It may sound like a contradiction for writers, but Loretta and I agree that one really, really good picture is indeed worth a thousand words. We recently came across a zoomable collection of paintings by James Pollard (1792-1867) and spent a lengthy long-distance call exclaiming in our best nerdy-history-style over all the amazing details to be found in his work - details that vividly show traveling and transportation in early 19th c. England.

Pollard isn't the kind of painter that's taught today in art history classes, nor is he featured in blockbuster museum shows. Instead of elegant brushwork or psychological insight, his work is based on skillful observation and attention to detail. As a child, Pollard's family lived on the main northern coaching route, and he became fascinated with the great coaches that rumbled past. Coaches were the Regency's equivalent of jet-set travel, setting records for speed and making country-wide travel possible. Pollard was trained not only in his father's print-making trade, but also studied painting, and his first commission in 1820 was for an innkeeper's signboard, showing the Exeter Royal Mail Coach in perfectly observed detail. The signboard was admired by the Austrian ambassador, who commissioned a copy on canvas, and Pollard's career as a coaching and sporting painter was launched. For the next twenty years, he prospered with numerous commissions, and he exhibited at the Royal Academy. However, the death of his wife and daughter in 1840 sent him into a deep depression that virtually ended his painting career, and when he died in 1867, he was sadly forgotten and penniless.

The detail in Pollard's paintings - and the prints made from them - is extraordinary. Not only are the coaches, carriages, and horses depicted down to every harness and spoke, but Pollard devoted equal care to what the people in his paintings are wearing, and their surroundings as well. I love how, in Hatchetts - the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, above, all of the windows of Hatchetts Hotel are different: some are open, some have the shades drawn, or hanging crookedly, and one has a lady watching the crowded scene below. Trafalgar Square, below, shows the London of the 1830s that I picture when I read Loretta's books, with the ladies in their extravagant gowns and hats and gentlemen in well-fitted coats and tall hats, and everyone (including the dogs) dodging the traffic.

While you can click on the images here to enlarge, the Denver Art Museum's site has zoomable images for both these paintings here and here. I also hope you'll follow this link to the Pollard page on Wikipedia, where you can enlarge the high-resolution images much further than Blogger allows. If you wish to see more, this link to the BBC Your Paintings site will take you to a slideshow of thirty paintings by Pollard.

Above: Hatchetts - the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, by James Pollard, c. 1830. Denver Art Museum.
Below: Trafalgar Square, by James Pollard, c. 1837-43, Denver Art Museum.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of August 5, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013
It may be the dog days of summer, but we still have only the freshest Breakfast Links for you - our weekly round of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, videos, and images, gathered from around the Twitterverse.
• The lost world of the 17th-18th c. London coffee houses.
• Five hundred old fairy tales discovered in Germany.
• A revolution for the young: exactly how old were the founding fathers (& mothers) in 1776?
• Medieval fertility and pregnancy tests.
• One-time commercial rivalries now recreated for glorious sport: 41st Annual Swale Sailing Barge Match.
• Doesn't that dress look familiar? How many times a single lavish costume appears in different films.
• "Please to remember the grotto": London's Oyster Day, important to Georgian & Victorian Londoners.
• The ladies' cabin, 1889: "The first thing an American woman requires to commence a journey is a suitable male escort."
• If I die young: a brief history of funeral invitations.
• The mansion in the shadow: an eccentric 19th c. NYC socialite builds a mansion behind her gargantuan Madison Avenue chateau where it sits vacant for 20 years.
• Twenty-two delightfully geeky facts about the Thames.
• How well do you know Jane Austen? Take the Janeiac quiz!
• An unexpected detail of Victorian streets: urine reflectors.
• An 18th c. "recipe" for knitting children's shoes.
• "Calligraffiti", inspired by work of medieval scribes.
• America's forgotten pin-up girl, the zaftig Hilda.
• Short video exploring 1919 Art Deco garment by Paul Poiret.
• This medieval reader is so engrossed in his book that he doesn't realize he's turning into a lion.
• Mrs. Astor is snubbed by the ghost of Anne Boleyn, 1916.
• Fascinating history of clowns & our fear of them, including Joseph Grimaldi, Charles Dickens, & Pierrot.
• The 70-year-old virgin, 1738.
• Included in Miss Leslie's 1864 advice to ladies: Never say slump, stoop, or mayhap.
• After the American Revolutin, a patriot edits his hymnal accordingly.
• Double vision? 18th c. sheet music with a printer's "slur."
• Working with worm-eaten mushrooms: an 18th c. recipe for ketchup, and nary a tomato in sight.
• Early Quakers wished to "wait together upon the Lord in Pure Silence," yet were associated with "roarings, yellings, howlings" and sexuality.
• "Ciao" was originally a way of politely decclaring "I am your slave" - more words with Italian origins.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Casual Friday: English vs. French Method of Directing Traffic

Friday, August 9, 2013
Loretta reports:

Some of the world's more entertaining traffic police have been filmed for TV.  Some are as graceful as dancers, some quite comical.

Here, Jacques Tati offers an interesting view of cultural differences in directing traffic. 

Illustration:  "Traffic squad police," showing a New York City officer in 1911 stopping a wagon to allow three women to cross the street, is courtesy  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Go Fly a Kite (or a Carriage): The Charvolant, 1827

Thursday, August 8, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Long before the Wright Brothers, the earliest pioneers of aviation relied on the wind to carry them into the air, whether in the gondolas of hot-air balloons, or, in a few disastrous examples, through feather-and-canvas wings. But one English visionary imagined an entirely different kind of wind-blown travel.

George Pocock (1774-1843), a schoolteacher, evangelist, and inventor from Bristol, was fascinated by kites as a way of harnessing the power of the wind. His experiments - one involved a kite-propelled chair that lifted his daughter over 270 feet into the air! – led him to design the "Charvolant"(flying or kite-carriage), lower right. Patented in 1826, the Charvolant was the first true horseless carriage. Relying on a pair of large kites on long lines for power, the Charvolant could carry six passengers at speeds of up to 25 mph. In his 1827 book, The Aeropleustic Art, or Navigation in the Air by the Use of Kites, or Bouyant Sails, Pocock recorded that on a straight road, the Charvolant could cover a mile in under three minutes. Pocock's prose certainly flies along, too:

This mode of travelling is of all others the most pleasant: privleged with harnessing the invincible winds, our celestial tandem playfully transpierces the clouds, and our mystic moving car swiftly glides along the surface of the scarcely indented earth; while beholders, snatching a glance at the rapid but noiseless expedition, are led to regard the novel scene rather as a vision than a reality.

Pocock and his Charvolants became popular sensations, and on one run between Bristol and Marlborough, a Charvolant passed the famously fast royal mail coach. But such break-neck speed could also lead to social disaster. One racing Charvolant showed abominable bad manners by passing the elegant horse-drawn coach of the Duke of Gloucester, a breach of etiquette that required the Charvolant's driver to come to a hasty, contrite stop to let the Duke pass.

Alas, the Charvolants had considerable drawbacks. They were difficult to control, and even a carefully-trained driver could find them challenging and unpredictable.  Despite Pocock's best efforts, they never developed into a practical method of transportation.  But in the idealized drawing from his book, above, showing a balmy landscape with fashionable passengers, Charvolants seem to be the perfect way to travel.

Above: Charvolants travelling in various directions with the same Wind
Below: Patent Kite and Charvolant
Both plates from The Aeropleustic Art, or Navigation in the Air by the Use of Kites, or Bouyant Sails, London, 1827
If you're interested in reading more - there's a slightly later edition of the book available to read for free on Google Books here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Madam, Control Your Temper

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Loretta reports:

So the question is, Does this make your blood boil?
Female Temper

It is particularly necessary for girls to acquire command of their temper, because much of the effect of their powers of reasoning and of their wit, when they grow up, depend upon the gentleness and good humor with which they conduct themselves. A woman who would attempt to thunder with her tongue, would not find her eloquence increase her domestic happiness. We do not wish that women should implicitly yield their better judgment to their fathers and husbands, but let them support the cause of reason with all the graces of female gentleness.

A man, in a furious passion, is terrible to his enemies; but a woman, in a passion, is disgusting to her friends ; she loses all that respect due to her sex, and she has not masculine strength and courage to enforce any other kind of respect. These circumstances should be considered by those who advise that no difference should he made in the education of the two sexes.

The happiness and influence of woman, both as wives and mothers, and indeed, in every relation, so much depends on the temper, that it ought to he most carefully cultivated. We should not suffer girls to imagine that they can balance ill humor by some good quality or accomplishment; because, in fact, there is none which can supply the want of tenderness in the female sex.

The Ladies' Companion, Volumes 3-4, 1835

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Every Girl Should Know About Wearing Hoopskirts, 1938

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Fashion repeats itself, and supporting skirts from beneath - whether by a farthingale, hoops, or a crinoline, depending on the century - is a style that keeps coming back. We've featured it here on the blog many times, including here and here.

But until I came across a tearsheet from a 1938 Fall Fashion issue of Life Magazine, I'd no idea that hoops had also had a brief resurgence for evening wear in the late 1930s, an era that I'd always thought was defined by slinky, body-conscious bias-cut gowns. (This tearsheet was part of an amazing exhibition, RetroSpective, currently on display at the Museum at FIT, New York - I'll be writing more about this exhibition next week.)

The editorial copy in Life describing this "new" fashion in dance frocks, above left, is amazingly snarky, even for fashion reporting, including this gem: "American women, notoriously hippy, are expected to pounce upon the bell-shaped silhouette. The nipped-in waist, the wide-spreading skirt, are perfect camouflage for excess pounds below the waist...." And this was from a mainstream American magazine!

I also loved how these small, sarcastic cartoons, (as always, click on the image to enlarge) that illustrate the perils of wearing a hoopskirt in the 1930s were so similar to the challenges facing the Victorian ladies in their crinolines, as well as this poor 18th c. lady betrayed by her hoops. It made me think of what a 2013 fashionista would face if the cycle of fashion brings back hoops again: imagine wrestling the things through a modern airport security check, or onto a stool at Starbucks. But you never know....

Click here to read the entire feature on Fall Fashion, available online courtesy of GoogleBooks - including what must have been a pretty racy photoshoot of a model in a revealing black hoop petticoat and corset.
Top: "A hoop hangs under this black taffeta dress with blue ruchings", photo from Life Magazine, Sept. 5, 1938.
Below: "What Every Girl Should Know About Wearing Hoopskirts", illustrations from Life Magazine, Sept. 5, 1938.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fashions for August 1833

Monday, August 5, 2013

Loretta reports:

Archery dress, like riding dress, appears only infrequently in the fashion magazines.  The last archery dress I showed was here.

A couple of years later, the color, once again, is green, but the style is a little different, and the later head wear, I think, rather dashing.

As to the evening and opera dresses—I would love to see the real thing.  The lace must have been magnificent.

Please click on illustrations to enlarge.

Read online here

 —Court Magazine (a later incarnation, I understand, of La Belle Assemblée), August 1833.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion: A New Cover for a New Book

Sunday, August 4, 2013
Isabella reporting:

Sharp-eyed readers will have already noticed a new addition to the column to the right: yes, there's a NEW cover added to the mix, meaning that there's a new book making its way towards publication. Published by Ballantine/Random House, A WICKED PURSUIT is the first book in my new trilogy of Georgian historical romances featuring the three sons of the Duke of Breconridge – young gentlemen who briefly appeared in my last book, WHEN THE DUKE FOUND LOVE.

Now older and a good deal more experienced, the three noble brothers are about to do the unthinkable: settle down and marry.  Harry Fitzroy, Earl of Hargreave, is the first to meet his match and lose his Lady Augusta Wetherby, a lady who's not at all what Harry (or anyone else) expected.

A WICKED PURSUIT will be released in late February, 2014, in both paperback and ebook formats, and it's already available for pre-order at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And fear not, British readers: once again my books will be published at the same time in the UK, Australia, & New Zealand by Eternal Romance.

For more about this book in the coming months, click here for my Facebook page - and I'd be most grateful for a "like" as well while you're there.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of July 28, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013
We're back after our short break with a big serving of breakfast links - our weekly roundup of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images.
• Laboring language: the ever-changing vocabulary of childbirth.
• The power of conscience in the exemplified in the genuine and extraordinary confession of Thomas Bedworth, 1815.
• How to sell a wife, 1787.
• Wonderful illustrations from Cruikshank's London Almanack, 1835.
Spring houseskeeping things cool in 19th c. America.
• Carpenter, Clark, Chapman, Parker...a history of surnames and what they mean.
• Delicious! 18th c. recipes for lemon creams.
• Rich hangings in a humble house: wonderful photos from the 16th c. at the open-air Weald and Downland museum, West Sussex.
• Mrs. McCulloch's pictures.
• Now-questionable fashion tips from The Woman's Dress for Success Book, 1977.
• "Waterloo teeth": how 19th c. smiles might be filled with dead men's teeth.
• "Why does an S look like an F?": a beginner's guide to reading early modern texts.
• What on-line dating looked like in 1880.
• Beautiful block gingerbread.
• Intriguing fashion history "Who Wore It Better?" separated by 200 years.
• A map of vice in San Francisco's Chinatown, 1885.
• Separating the fact from the myth: Peter Francisco, epic super-hero of the American Revolution.
• Forgotten by history: royal babies you've never heard of.
• Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) and his scientific library at Chatsworth.
• A fashionable bath-house for sea bathing, 1893.
• From the proceedings of the Old Bailey, London: the trial of two smugglers who went by the collective name of 'Poison', 1747.
• Sin and scandal: the Langworthy case of 1887.
• Sea-wives, widow's walks, and the whaling life in 19th c. America.
• An 18th c. condom sold at Christie's, decorated with a "fraught sexual encounter."
• An exuberant 1880s bustle.
Parch marks in the ground caused by heat wave reveal ghostly outlines of long-lost outbuildings surrounding 16th c. mansion. More examples here at Montacute House.
• If you're of a Certain Age (or have kids that age): the legend of the Oregon Trail, a pioneering educational video game.
• The complicated history of Rufford Abbey.
• A well-meaning NYC churchwoman in 1897 takes groups of boys to the country for fresh air - but forgets to tell their parents.
• The 10th c. sisters of Anglo-Saxon King Aethelstan.
• Business or charity? Why did African-American cook Malinda Russell publish a cookbook in 1866?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Video: An 18th c. Gentleman Longboards Through Bath

Friday, August 2, 2013

Isabella reporting,

A surprisingly energetic video for a lazy Friday in August! Combine an 18th c. gentleman (well, at least that's what he's supposed to be) on a longboard, the beautiful streets of Bath, and a dash of Iron Maiden, and you get Georgian shredding, dude.

Thanks to fellow blogger Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century for posting this first on Twitter!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Royal Baby is Born in 1840

Thursday, August 1, 2013
Victoria, Princess Royal, 1842
Loretta reports:

While, unlike the Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Victoria didn’t have the media camped outside the hospital or dogging her every move, she did not exactly have privacy, either.  If you follow the link to the rest of the account (too long to post here), you may be surprised at how public the birth of her first child was.
The Court.
The town was taken somewhat by surprise on Saturday afternoon, by the announcement that the Queen had given birth to a Princess. For although the event was expected to occur shortly, the wise in such matters had set it down for some days later. The ringing of bells, however, which spread from spire to spire, strengthened the report as it ran from mouth to mouth; and in a little while a royal salute from the Tower-guns confirmed it. In the evening, the following official announcement was published in a London Gazette Extraordinary—
      "Buckingham Palace, 21st November 1840.—This afternoon, at ten minutes before two, the Queen was happily delivered of a Princess. His Royal Highness Prince Albert, her Royal Highness the Dutchess* of Kent, several Lords of her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, and the Ladies of her Majesty's Bedchamber, being present.
      "This great and important news was immediately made known to the town, by the firing of the Tower guns; and the Privy Council being assembled as soon as possible thereupon, at the Council-Chamber, Whitehall, it was ordered, that a form of thanksgiving for the Queen's safe delivery of a Princess be prepared by his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be used in all churches and chapels throughout England and Wales, and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, on Sunday the 29th of November, or the Sunday after the respective ministers shall receive the same.
      "Her Majesty and the young Princess are, God be praised, both doing well."
      The Court Circular contains the following official record of the circumstances and observances with which the event was ushered in—
"Her Majesty was taken unwell at an early hour on Saturday morning, and the medical gentlemen were in consequence summoned to Buckingham Palace…”

      Read the full account here.
 *Spelling has not been corrected.
Illustrations courtesy Wikipedia:  above, Winterhalter, Portrait of Victoria, Princess Royal, 1842, below:, Winterhalter, The Princess Victoria, Princess Royal as Crown Princess of Prussia in 1867.
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