Sunday, January 12, 2014

Miserable Winter Weather, 1825

Sunday, January 12, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Considering how much of the Northern Hemisphere is wallowing in snow, sleet, and Arctic Vortex, this pair of prints from 1834 seems particularly appropriate. (As always, please click on the image to enlarge.)

Although they're ostensibly for the Christmas holidays – the caption below the man reads "A merry Christmas & a happy new year in London" while the woman's caption replies "The same to you, sir, & many of 'em"  – they're  more portraits in weather-related misery than any seasonal good cheer. Without the modern protection of down coats and waterproof boots, these two are not happy. The wind is blowing and the snow is wet, umbrellas are sprung and noses are red, and it's altogether clear that they would much rather be anywhere else, thank you very much.

The winter miseries also continue in the backgrounds. Here in the 21st century, we can't wait for the plows to arrive after a heavy snow, for a passable street is the first step back towards normalcy after a storm. But there were no snow-plows in 1825, and as these prints show, streets would have remained a snowy, slushy mess. Not only do other pedestrians slip and slide, but the horses do as well, no matter how the drivers exhort them to do otherwise. Up above, other men struggle to clear the rooftops, shoveling snow onto the hapless passersby below. Brrrrr!

Above: Detail, The same to you, sir, & many of 'em, George Hunt, printmaker. c. 1825, London. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
Below: Detail, A merry Christmas & a happy new year in London, George Hunt, printmaker. c. 1825, London. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.


Deb Watley said...

Those are great prints! This is my fifth South Dakota winter, and I'm still adjusting. But, it would be so much harder to handle walking in the wind in a long skirt like the woman in the print. I've never seen boots like that, though. Were they just for snow?

Zenspinner said...

Goodness, her shoes look like chopines, almost! I'd be curious to see more like them from this period - technically it's too late for chopines, but it looks like they serve the same purpose.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking that, also--it looks like she's wearing pattens. No one can offer us any insight?

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

My guess is that she's wearing pattens. Pattens were a kind of overshoe or clog with a raised sole that tied on over regular shoes;in the print, you can see her laces flopping wetly before her. In theory pattens lifted your feet above wet or dirty streets and protected your shoes, with the added advantage of making you taller and lifting the hems of your skirts clear of the muck, too. Some pattens have iron rings that attached to the wooden sole. So yes, same theory as chopines.

Hmm, sounds like a good topic for a future blog post! :)

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