Monday, March 31, 2014

Reasons to Love Her in 1927

Monday, March 31, 2014
View at source
Loretta reports:

Though research for my books takes me to 1830s magazines online, I’m obviously not immune to wandering into other eras.  I’ve ventured into the pages of The World’s Work, for instance, to report on automobiles and inventions (here and here).

It’s been interesting to see the way magazines change and the way they don’t. In the 1820s and 1830s magazines, I found lots of poetry, much of it lugubrious (as you'll discover in the pages of my latest book). But there were comic poems, amusing anecdotes, and jokes, too.

The 1920s magazines seem to be less enamored of tragic verse. "A Few Reasons Why I Love Her" comes from a 1927 Life magazine, which gives the bulk of its space to humor, and includes pieces by Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker, among others.

I wonder how many of these points a man of today might consider applicable.
View at source
 —Life, Volume 90, 1927

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the Google books page where you can enlarge more.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of March 24, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014
Served up fresh for you: our weekly round-up of favorite links to other blogs, web sites, articles, and images, all gathered from around the Twitterverse.
• Jane Austen and the art of letter writing.
Americans abroad in 1893: naive, brash, insistent on meeting kings, & carrying boxes of turtles.
• How two men "edited" Queen Victoria, and forever changed our impressions of her.
Swaddling clothes.
• 1908 "Temperance Map" has the best names for the bad places drinkers will visit.
Shaving in the trenches: washing and grooming during the Great War.
Image: Clash of two worlds - a medieval library still used by monks today (Erzabtei St. Peter, Switzerland.)
• The Epicure's Almanack: London's first "good food guide", 1815.
• An 1803 green enamel mourning ring & the history of enamel in jewels.
• When & why colonial America's greatest painter took his brush to Europe.
• Pauper boys at the Metropolitan District School, 1872 - learning a trade and patience through "make & mend."
• Hand-colored English butterflies, each page dedicated to a different patron, 1760.
Uncommon soldiers: women in the American Civil War.
Image: Georgian Londoners at Bullock's Museum, 22 Piccadilly, 1816.
• So creepy-cool (and perhaps even useful): maps of Hell.
• Ironclad patriotism: when Germans gave up their gold jewelry to battle Napoleon.
• Twenty-two images from NYC's golden age of bridge-building.
• A famous statesman remembered as an irritating teenager: Pitt and the Pompadour pony.
• The 1911 Switzer Home & Institute for Girls, New York: where working girls paid $3.50 a week to live in an all-female hotel with two meals a day.
Image: Eighteenth century butchers and beaux: not a good combination.
• Sherlock Holmes' most famous case was published on March 25, 1902.
Bodie, CA, the Wild West's most photogenic ghost town.
• The ten best fictional mothers in pictures.
• The girl with the Christian tattoo: religious-magical practices in late antique Egypt.
• Historical truth or myth? "Beds were shorter back then because people were shorter."
Molly Stark's story of the British evacuation of Boston, 1776.
• Dead men's teeth: short history of early dentures.
Image: Angry letter, 1799, from the Marquis de Sade to a columnist who wrote his obituary, prematurely and incorrectly.
• "My party dress": Mrs. Eddy visits the House of Pingat, 1878.
• Monarch and monkeys.
ª Portraits of patients from Surrey County Asylum, c 1855.
• Fascinating use of Mormon "brand" to sell aphrodisiacs in the 19th c.
• Photographs of twins from the 1850s to the 1950s.
Long-forgotten London in 19th c. engravings before the era of photography.
Image: Salon des Porcelaines dans les Petits Appartements du Roi, Versailles.
• This is your brain on knitting (and it's all good, too.)
• Traveling for suffrage: riding the rails across the country in 1916.
• Fifty-one delightfully geeky language facts.
• Quack! A 1930 dress decorated with ducks. Or maybe they're ostriches?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

VIXEN IN VELVET has a page and an excerpt and everything

Loretta reports:

Another self-promotion interruption, but I’ll keep it short.

Readers have been asking where the third book in my Dressmakers series is. 

As some of my loyal readers are aware, Leonie’s (the youngest Noirot sister) book took longer than usual to write.  But I did write it, and Vixen in Velvet is in the very last stages of production, with a release date of 24 June 2014.

If you’re curious, please take a look at Vixen in Velvet’s page on my updated website, where you’ll find a book description as well as an excerpt.

Then you might want to drop by the Blog page and sign up to get my blog
(much more occasional than this one) via RSS feed.  And maybe you might mosey over to the Latest News Page, scroll down, and sign up for my equally infrequent newsletter.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Shameless Self-Promotion: Download Silk is for Seduction for £0.99

Friday, March 28, 2014
Loretta reports:

I’m preempting the usual Casual Friday post to bring my Kindle readers in Great Britain & elsewhere some nice pricing news.

Mills & Boon, my UK publishers, are putting on a special deal for Mother’s Day (not the U.S. Mother’s Day—but the UK Mother’s Day on Sunday 30 March).  For a short time only, readers can download the first book of my Dressmakers series, Silk is for Seduction, for only £0.99.

As it says on the Amazon page, you save £6.00!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lalique Collar Necklace

Thursday, March 27, 2014
Loretta reports:

Today, jewelry.

As I reported in my post about the amazing Art Nouveau bedroom set at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Sidney and Francis Lewis Galleries had me in a state of swoon.  There’s more furniture, which I hope to present at a future date.  But first I thought you might like a look at one of the several stunning examples of René Lalique’s jewelry—something one doesn't find a lot of online.

I had seen photos of Edwardian era women wearing collar necklaces but this was my first chance to look closely.  This “Umbels Collar” is dated ca. 1901-2, and made of gold, enamel, glass, and diamonds.  As the articles here and here mention, Art Nouveau artists and craftsmen used stylized natural forms.  Here, we’re looking at the flowers of everyday herbs.  But we'll see bugs, birds, and reptiles as well.

Consuelo Vanderbilt was fortunate to have the long, swanlike neck to wear this style successfully.  I’m not sure it’s quite so becoming here

Another example of a Lalique collar, but without the chain, is here at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

That Big Georgian Bum, c. 1780

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Isabella reporting,

While I was in Colonial Williamsburg last week, I fell in love with this replica pale blue silk gown, left, worn by apprentice mantua-maker Sarah Woodyard during her presentation for the Millinery Through Time conference (another picture here.) Sarah served as forewoman for the gown, directing fellow apprentice Abby Cox, who did most of the cutting, stitching, and fitting. As always, please click on the images to enlarge them.

Called an "Italian" gown, the style was popular in the late 1770s through the 1780s, and featured a close-fitting bodice, two-piece sleeves, and a skirt with the fullness gathered to the back. Similar gowns are often seen in 1780s portraits by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun like this one, and in drawings like this by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

It's a graceful, flattering gown, without the ungainly width of the hoops worn earlier in the century. But even though hoops had fallen from fashion, something was needed to support those silk skirts from behind.

Enter the false rump, or false bum, or derrières, which is just French for much the same. First appearing around 1776, the false rumps were exactly that: two pillow-like cushions that tied around the waist and boosted the posterior to outlandishly large proportions. Some bums were made from cork, while others were stuffed with horsehair or sheep's wool.

The false bum that Sarah is wearing is made from linen, stuffed with sheep's wool. Tied over her stays, shift, and petticoat, they look like saddlebags, but under the gown, they make her waist look smaller by comparison, and display the shining pleated silk to best advantage. She reports that sitting in narrow chairs can be something of a challenge.

But (hah!) there couldn't be a fashion more tailor-made for the scathing pens of Georgian caricaturists, who gleefully drew fashionable women with HUGE bums. The satirical print below is called The Bum Shop, and it shows exactly that: two Frenchmen (of course) are fitting women with the new style, with examples of their wares hanging on the wall. The shopkeeper is (of course) named Monsieur Derrière; the caption reads:

"Derrière begs leave to submit to the attention of that most indulgent part of the Public the Ladies in general, and most especially those to whom Nature in a slovenly moment has been niggardly in her distribution of certain lovely Endowments, his much improved (aridae nates) or Dried Bums so justly admired for their happy resemblance to nature. Derrière flatters himself that he stands unrivalled in this fashionable article of Female Invention, he having spared neither pains nor expence in procuring every possible information on the subject, to render himself competent to the artfully supplying this necessary appendage of female excellence."

By the 1790s, the fashion for big bums faded away, as all extreme fashions do. Yet while such styles may disappear, they're usually dormant, not extinct; seventy-five years later, the latest must-have is another form of false rump called the bustle.

Photographs copyright Susan Holloway Scott.
Below: The Bum Shop, published by S.W.Fores, London, 1785. The British Museum.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Art Nouveau Bedroom at the VMFA

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Loretta reports:

In addition to my lengthy visit with Catching Sight, the sporting prints exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, I had time to wallow in the Sidney and Francis Lewis galleries.  Among other glories, these house what the New York Times describes as “the most important collection of Art Nouveau outside Paris.”

The collection, of which I now have several hundred pictures, includes jewelry, furniture, household utensils, ceramics, lamps, and stained glass.  Since I’m not an art historian, I’ll not attempt to explain Art Nouveau, its origins and philosophy, but refer you to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wikipedia entries on the subject,  and take you directly to this showstopper of a bedroom set by Louis Marjorelle.

The set, made about 1905-1908, is of mahogany, rosewood, marquetry of woods, bronze, gilding, and upholstery.

“The suite, among the most important Art Nouveau furniture in the United States, was illustrated in a 1909 French magazine and originally on view at the 1909 International Exhibition of Eastern France in Nancy.   As in a contemporary furniture showroom, a patron at Majorelle’s gallery would select individual objects such as a bed, cabinet, or chair from the showroom floor or an illustrated  catalog.”

The gilded bronze water lilies appear in much of Majorelle's furniture, as seen in a similar bed at the Musée d’Orsay

Quoted material is from information provided at the museum.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Return Engagement: How Many Tradespeople Did It Take to Dress an 18th C. Lady?

Sunday, March 23, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Since today I'm in transit, returning home from the "Millinery Through Time" conference at Colonial Williamsburg, I thought this post from the archives seemed a good one to revisit. Look for more from my visit on Wednesday.

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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of March 17, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014
We hope that Spring is here at last, and not just another day on the calendar, either. Here's our first Breakfast Links of the new season: our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, web sites, articles, and images, gathered fresh via Twitter.
• Ready for summer! Beauty & the beach, a guide to 1920s-30s pyjama dressing.
Walk through 19th c. London with the Museum of London's Victorian street view.
• Artistic cross-pollination: Mughal flower studies and their 17th c. European inspiration.
• A 9th c. bell and its shrine believed to have belonged to St. Patrick.
Image: We're sure that a typo like this, on the first page of your book, was just as painful in 1830 as it is now.
• Fantastic set of photos of working class Philadelphians, 1910-1940, by John Frank Keith.
• True crime: a Manchester detective and an 1871 London murder case
• Eighteenth century recipe for Irish Sack, a treat for mice & men.
• A vintage NYC subway ride (complete with vintage-dressed passengers and ads.)
Image: Stupid medieval behavior: sawing through the border decoration.
• Not what you think (unless you're from Philadelphia): the humble Irish potato, a St. Patrick's Day ambassador of good will.
• What William Shakespeare's classroom looked like.
• A medieval meal for real.
Image: Gladys Zielian had The Look in 1919.
Companions in battle: animals of the American Civil War.
• Happy ending for an old Vermont bookstore.
• A sad tale of 18th c. illegitimacy, and a young mother hanged within weeks of the birth.
• Fascinating history of NYC's 75th Street Riding Academy, built in 1887 - now home to cars, not horses.
Image: Lantern Walkway, Chester, England.
• Sixty years ago, young women programmed the ENIAC, the first all-electronic programmable computer.
• A persistent history myth: the colonial "courting candle."
• A cockatoo perched in a Renaissance painting forces rethink of history & early trading routes.
• All your questions answered about medieval charms.
• A Brooklyn, NY woman's colorful quilt, 1867, reflects her experience of the Civil War.
• Fifteen exquisite historical fashion accessories.
Harlequins at Princeton.
• A NSFW ebook-download via Guttenberg guaranteed to liven up your reader: The Merry-Thought: or the Glass-Window & Bog-House Miscellany, a compilation of 18th c. bathroom wall graffitti.
Image: Pultney Bridge, Bath.
Greek fire: nine facts about the Byzantines' secret weapon.
• The dark history of Jack Sheppard, an infamous 18th c. criminal.
• A bumpy bike ride to equal rights.
• One writer's rankings of Jane Austen's leading men (and no, we don't necessarily agree.)
Image: Gorgeous Georgians at the Fashion Museum, Bath, England.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Casual Friday: How to make tea

Friday, March 21, 2014
View at source
Loretta reports:

About the time I discovered this video clip, I found another, from the 1950s, extolling the virtues of bagged tea.  As tea fanatics are aware, bagged tea is made with tea dust, the stuff left over at the end of the leaf-grading process.

To a tea fanatic, the idea of making tea in big urns is even less appealing than making it with tea bags.  But there's no way to provide an army hot tea in in little teapots.  And I give credit to the makers of this film for showing so much care and  respect for this wonderful beverage.

Illustration: Edward Penfield, [Girl holding tea pot and cup on tray] between 1884 and 1925, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"A Morning Ramble" from 1782 Comes to Life in Colonial Williamsburg

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Isabella reporting,

As I've written earlier, I'm visiting Colonial Williamsburg this week to attend the "Millinery Through Time" conference in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Margaret Hunter Milliners Shop as a historic trade site.

One of the high points of the conference for me was the presentation on this 1782 print, below, called A Morning Ramble, or – the Milliner's Shop. The presentation was given by Sarah Woodyard, apprentice milliner and mantua-maker in Colonial Williamsburg's historic trades program (and someone who has appeared frequently and patiently on the blog in the past, such as here, here, and here.) As Sarah explained,

"Three milliners are pictured behind a counter, stitching together lacy caps, ready to tend to their customers. However, these customers are not ladies in need of caps, but flirtatious gentlemen sitting on the counter with masquerade tickets in hand. These gentlemen illustrate the delicate moral line that a shop woman had to walk: maintaining her virtue, while selling her wares. While the men in the image might have been lured into the shop to flirt with the pretty milliners, it is the hope of the shop woman that the gentlemen would also be tempted by fashionable goods behind the counter.

"Behind the counter are shelves holding boxes labeled 'love' and 'coxcomb.' While they are a satirical comment on the gentlemen customers, these labels also tell the story of a complex, varied trade, since there was no single product that defined the eighteenth-century millinery trade. The diversity of the goods and services sold, as well as the diverse clientele of a millinery shop, were features of the female-dominated millinery trade. A wide audience for an ever-changing range of fashionable goods meant the potential for great profit. Milliners also had connections to the global fashion industry with their contacts and vendors abroad. The minute details of A Morning Ramble tell the much larger story of the millinery trade's place within society, fashion, and the global economy."

In other words, this was a total Nerdy History Girl event.

But as thoughtful as Sarah's presentation was, the most entertaining part came at the end, when she and three of her fellow apprentices - Abby Cox, apprentice mantua-maker and milliner; Mike McCarty, apprentice tailor; and Aislinn Lewis, apprentice blacksmith - wore clothes made by the Margaret Hunter Shop and recreated A Morning Ramble, above. Mike is wearing a wig of yak-hair, but the stupendous hair of the three ladies is all their own (more about that hair in a future post.)

If you wish you'd attended, take heart. There's another historic trade shop conference on the horizon: November 14-15, 2014, celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Wigmaker's Shop.

Top: A Morning Ramble Recreated, photograph © 2014 by Susan Holloway Scott.
Below: A Morning Ramble, or – the Milliner's Shop, published by Carington Bowles, after Robert Dighton, 1782. The British Museum.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Catching Sight: The World of the British Sporting Print

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bachelor's Hall: Full Cry
Loretta reports:

My recent travels took me to Richmond, VA.  Naturally, a museum being in the vicinity, I went.

In fact, I visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts every chance I get because (1) it houses a fine collection, with style; (2) its walls always show me something relevant to my areas of research; and (3) its permanent collection includes a breathtaking collection of Art Nouveau furnishings and jewelry, which I’ll share with you in future posts. The restaurant is genius, too, by the way.

It was my good fortune to be in town when Catching Sight: The World of the British Sporting Print was on show.  Many of the works in this exhibition of 18th and 19th century sporting prints belong to the Museum’s collection, but are too fragile to keep on permanent view.  Some were on loan, mainly from the Yale Center for British Art, which also had a tremendous benefactor in Paul Mellon. Among several knockouts—familiar prints made new because they were full size, inches from my face—were Charles Cooper Henderson’s The Olden Time and James Pollard’s Approach to Christmas and Cottagers Hospitality to Travellers.

In and Out Clever
 And then there was Henry Thomas Alken, with whom I’ve become familiar while searching for driving and riding scenes.  Along with some witty views of hunting, his work in the show included a set of six prints titled The High Mettled Racer.  They tell in pictures and verse the story of a thoroughbred, from foal to death, and have proved impossible to find online in this particular iteration, although there are lots of “after Alken” versions, not half so vibrant, to my mind. From the first verse:

He now is all nature, his limbs finely formed,
His mouth never bitted, his whole form unadorned;
 By rich colour’d silks, platted mane, and such stuff,
For a thorough breed Foal is quite handsome enough.

It’s poignant, and since I cry over Little Nell no matter what Oscar Wilde said and no matter how many times I read The Old Curiosity Shop, you can be sure I cried over the horse, right there in the gallery.

If you can get to Richmond, this is a show worth seeing.  If you can’t, the catalog will at least show you tiny versions of this glorious collection of prints.

Illustrations are courtesy the Yale Center for British Art, since the VMFA seems not to have any of their collection online.  Above left:  Francis Calcraft Turner, Bachelor's Hall:  Full Cry (1835 to 1836) courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.  Below right:  Henry Thomas Alken, In and Out Clever (undated), Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection, Gift of Francis P. Garvan, B.A. 1897 (for Whitney Sporting Art Collection in memory of Harry Payne Whitney, B.A. 1894  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Fashionable Birthday Party in Colonial Williamsburg

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Isabella reporting,

This week I'm attending the Millinery Through Time conference at Colonial Williamsburg. It's been a wonderful gathering - an entire auditorium filled with true-hearted Nerdy History Folk, and I wish all the rest of you could be here with us, too.  It's also turned into a kind of impromptu Fashion Week, Colonial Williamsburg-style.
The conference is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop. While the shop is housed in one of the original buildings, dating to the 18th c., it was used for many different purposes over the centuries. Before it was restored to a colonial-style shop in the 1930s, the building had most recently been used as a garage. Sixty years ago, the shop was returned to its original purpose as a millinery shop, and opened to the public as part of Colonial Williamsburg.

While the talks, papers, and workshops presented at the conference have shown how the millinery trade has evolved over time, the first night's reception was mainly a celebration in honor of the shop and its people.

And, like all good birthday parties, attendees were dressed to the proverbial nines. Many of them are re-enactors, historic costumers, and interpreters at historic sites and museums, so the clothes were quite splendid, as you can see here. The best part is that everyone shown here MADE their own costumes - no rentals here! Please click on the photos to enlarge them; I've made them small here to be able to include more.

Most importantly, happy birthday to the Margaret Hunter Shop!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Iron Lung Story

Monday, March 17, 2014
Loretta reports:

We’ve blogged about historical medical practices before (here, here, here, here, and elsewhere (under the label “medical matters”).

But this device, which I encountered at the Southwest Florida Museum of History, falls well within the realm of at least some of our readers’ memories.

Not everybody these days remembers what life was like before the first polio vaccine was available:  the warnings to keep away from crowded areas, the fears of going to beaches and pools, and the stark terror of depending on an iron lung for survival.  In 1952, nearly 58,000 Americans contracted polio.

Anyone whose childhood touched on a  part of the pre-polio vaccine era will recognize this device, and for some, it’s the stuff of nightmares.  But it saved lives.  We may think of polio as a crippling disease, but the virus could kill by paralyzing muscles needed for breathing.

The iron lung is the solution Philip Drinker and Louis Agassiz Shaw devised in 1927, and which John Emerson improved in 1931.

“The patient was enclosed in the iron lung up to his neck.  A bellows-like apparatus created and released a vacuum causing the lung to work and induce breathing.”  This means that “air was …forced in with such pressure as to actually force all air out of the lungs …think of someone sitting on your chest!  When that pressure was released …or the person on your chest got off …your lungs would suck in air.” An electric motor powered the device, But it could be worked with a hand crank if electricity failed.

The Fort Myers, Florida, Fireman’s Club held a series of fish fries to raise the $2,250  needed to buy this iron lung in 1950.  When it arrived in Fort Myers, it was placed on a float and displayed in the Edison Pageant of Light Parade.”  It arrived in time for the last of the big polio epidemics of the 1950s. 

The sight of children and adults wearing leg braces like these is less common, but it’s part of a not-so-distant past.

Quoted text is from information provided at the Southwest Florida Museum of History.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of March 10, 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014
Breakfast Links are up! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, all gathered for you from via Twitter.
• Fascinating interactive map, overlaying very detailed Victorian maps onto today's London.
• The exquisite wistfulness of 19th c. vegetarian personal ads.
• Meet Jonathan, St. Helena's 182-year-old tortoise.
Image: The original London Met Police Uniform
• Delicious green 1950s cocktail dress for an early St. Patrick's Day treat.
• Churchill's wish upheld as a new cat is welcomed to Chartwell.
• Crossed wires: the gendered technology of the Princess Phone.
• Edward Eliot's sexual prowess before marriage earned him the nickname "Sir Bull."
Image: Googling "evolution of cats" can take you to some weird places.
• George Washington, father of two scoops.
• The cost of a curtsey: the expenses of Court Presentation, 1907.
Mary Darly, mother of the 18th c. caricature.
Image: A gymnastic class, c 1900.
Saffron cakes and the mystery of the Blew Peel - an 18th c. recipe.
• Bride kidnapping, leather dildos, and an angry king: must be the Earl of Rochester!
• Revolutionary War patriot Samuel Cutts and his 1780s suit.
• In 1914, a Manhattan woman is defiant as judge orders she be spanked for not kissing her husband.
• Walking hundreds of miles for suffrage: General Jones and her army of suffrage pilgrims.
• Making "your haire as yellowe as golde"; hair dye and health.
Image: Stylish motorcyclists Baker & O'Brien in front of the White House, 1914.
• Beautiful illustration shows the evolution of the typewriter.
• Depictions of dogs & cats with 18th c. women and children in portraits: symbolic, or just pets?
• The meanings of a 16-year-old prisoner's tears in the 1840s.
• Eyewitness accounts of the Great Storm of 1703, the worst storm in England's history.
Image: Perfect of a lazy weekend: Holloway Reading Stand, c. 1890
• A John Adams letter "like a freight train barrelling over the epistolary countryside bearing a cargo of bad attitude."
Crinoline calendar, 1861: drawing of a young woman with the months of the year on her skirt.
• A gorgeous 17th-18th c. silver filigree perfume set, possibly from Seringapatam.
Animals in warfare from Hannibal to World War One.
• A 400-year-old vest, made on a machine, of the finest red silk. But who did it belong to?
• Perils of ancient London Bridge: collapse, fire, and human waste.
• Is this really a rare photo of the Bronte sisters?
Image: A lesson in husband-taming, 1859.
• A baby duchess and her pet dog, c. 1595.
• A dining delicacy from 1879: ortolans.
• Charles Spurgeon's early photographic portraits of 1880s Londoners.
• Video of Victorian and Edwardian undergarments, from the Fountainhead Museum.
• Confusing how-to for 19th c. flirtation with gloves.
• Women in the saddle: the Kaiser and The Times agree on medical danger of females riding astride.
• And here are the hazards of horseback riding for men, plus some unusual 17th c. cures.
Image: Burberry's first shop in 1886. Thomas Burberry created the gabardine in 1879.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Return Engagement: 5,000 Years of Dogs in Art

Friday, March 14, 2014

Isabella reporting,

Yes, we've had this as a Friday Video before - but there are so many beautiful images (and pooches!) that it's well worth a return engagement. This wonderful compilation is the work of Moira McLaughlin, surely a dog-lover. See here for a complete list of all the artworks.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Early Floridians Give Us a Little Surprise

Thursday, March 13, 2014
Loretta reports:

English history, especially of the 19th century, is my first love, else I wouldn’t be in the business I’m in.  But if there’s a museum in the vicinity—any vicinity—resistance is futile.  All kinds of subjects can arouse my my innate nerdiness.  Years ago, working on some audio programs for the Orange County Regional History Center in Florida got me interested in its past, as mentioned here and here.

Naturally, when I heard about the old railway station in Fort Myers, Florida, which houses the Southwest Florida Museum of History, I had to make a field trip.

You will rarely see me entranced with dinosaurs and prehistoric people. But this vignette caught my attention, perhaps because of my addiction to Ancient Egypt, and the burial customs that have allowed us to learn so much about their world.  Without the mummies, ancient papyri, and other artifacts found mainly in tombs, we wouldn't know a fraction as much as we do. Likewise, thanks to this New World burial custom, archaeologists have been able to  study the DNA of a very ancient people, with surprising results.

“By the early Archaic period (about 7000 years ago), complex cultures existed among the early Florida peoples.  One such group in Southwest Florida practiced unusual burial rituals.

“When a member of the group died, they wrapped the body in cloth or hide and staked the wrappings into a shallow grave at the bottom of a pond  These burials took place within a day or two of death.  The muck at the bottom of the pond quickly covered the body, not unlike the process of fossilization, preserving it for future archaeological study.”

Among other things, scientists have learned that the 7,000 year old Floridians and today’s Native Americans are not genetically related.

Which raises the questions, Where did they come from?  To whom are they related?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Elegant Frock Coat, Fit for Mr. Pitt, c. 1780

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Isabella reporting,

It's no secret that I have a weakness for the beautifully embroidered gentleman's coats of the late 18th c. (see past blogs here and here.) The design and workmanship in these garments are unrivaled – even the buttons can be little masterpieces – and they also mark the last gasp of the male peacock before the somber fabrics and tailoring of the 19th c. come in to favor, and remain so today.

In fact any gathering of Western male politicians or world leaders shows a sober group indeed, uniformly clad in dark suits and white shirts; American presidents get away with red ties and navy suits in the name of patriotism. But it wasn't always so, as the coat shown here demonstrates.

Now in the collection of the Museum of London, this coat was worn by William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806.) Pitt was one of Britain's most famous and most successful prime ministers. Having become the country's youngest Prime Minster at the tender age of 24, he skillfully guided Britain through two ministries and some of its most tumultuous history in an era that included the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, a national economy that was evolving with the Industrial Revolution, and a king –  George III – who was subject to fits of madness.

While Pitt was known for his intellectual brilliance, he was not a flamboyant individual. His portrait, lower left, shows a gentleman already embracing the severe new fashions. But when it came to dressing to attend His Majesty's Court, he chose this coat, with a matching waistcoat and breeches.

Made of once-brilliant purple silk velvet, the coat has suffered grievously over the centuries, including a stint as a theatrical costume during the 19th c. (Oh, the sad ruin to so much 18th c. clothing, caused by the Victorian love of fancy dress!) Threads have popped and sequins have been lost, the velvet has faded and grown rumpled, and those strange lace cuffs must have been added to please some now-forgotten leading man. But there's still enough of the coat remaining to glimpse its former splendor, and to imagine it being worn by the Prime Minister to a candle-lit, glittering affair at the palace.

For more information and photographs of this coat, please visit The Private Life of William Pitt, an excellent blog devoted to the Prime Minister's life. Written by social historian & researcher Stephenie Woolterton, the blog is one of my personal favs for insight into the late Georgian political scene.

Above right: Details, Frock Coat Worn by William Pitt the Younger, c. 1790s, Museum of London. Photographs by Stephenie Woolerton.
Lower left: William Pitt the Younger, by Gainsborough Dupont, 1787. Burrell Collection.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Riding the Chamber Horse, an 18th c. Exercise Machine

Sunday, March 9, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Contemporary Americans are not the only ones who purchase expensive exercise equipment in the hope of achieving physical fitness. Eighteenth-century English gentlemen (and likely a few ladies as well) used this peculiar-looking device, left, to help burn off the effects of those infamously lengthy Georgian dinners. Called a chamber horse, it was designed to replicate the up-and-down motion of horseback riding.

How did it work? The "rider" sat on the seat with his feet on the floor or step (some models like this one featured a step that pulled out, like a drawer) and his hands on the side arms. Inside the bellows-like leather portion were tiers of metal springs, divided by wooden boards. When the rider pressed down, the springs gave way with a certain resistance, then bounced the rider back up again. This bouncing was supposed to mimic horseback riding, and was considered excellent exercise as well as a cure and preventative for everything from nervous diseases to that all-purpose catch-all ailment, the "spleen."

Henry Marsh of Clare Market claimed to be the inventor of the chamber horse, and he was advertising them for sale in 1739. They became very popular in the later 18th c. with exactly the same kind of people who buy treadmills today: affluent people who are too busy for outdoor exercise, or who don't like to work out in bad weather, or don't really feel up to anything more strenuous. Surviving examples vary in the details. The more expensive ones masquerade as fine furniture, with mahogany frames, Moroccan leather, and brass nail heads. Even the cabinetmaker Thomas Sheraton showed them in his catalogues.

The bouncing must have been fun, too, since a version was made as a nursery ride for the children of King George III. Considering how the King and Queen Charlotte had fifteen children, the vigorous action of the chamber horse might have been popular in the palace as a way to wear out all those little princes and princesses.

But like modern exercise equipment, the fad for chamber horses passed, and by the late 18th c., they were falling were out of fashion. Also like modern equipment, there were likely many chamber horses that were purchased, used for a few weeks or months, and then abandoned to the attic or lumber room. Used ones appear frequently in auction catalogues; Jane Austen mentions them in her unfinished 1817 novel Sandition: "And I have told Mrs. Whitby that if anybody inquires for a chamber-horse, they may be supplied at a fair rate – poor Mr. Hollis's chamber-horse, as good as new – and what can people want for more?"

Those of you who have read my new book, A Wicked Pursuit, will remember how Harry Fitzroy's physician recommended a chamber horse for rehabilitation after a broken leg. Harry, however, found other, more imaginative uses for it....

To see an antique chamber horse in action (at least what action there is), fast-forward this video clip to about the 1:15 mark.

Left: Regency Mahogany Chamber Horse, courtesy Christie's Auctions.

Shameless Self-Promotion: An Isabella Bradford Book "Bundle"

Isabella reporting,

Many thanks to all of you who are enjoying my new book, A Wicked Pursuit - I appreciate your support!

Some of the characters in A Wicked Pursuit also appear in my first three books for Ballantine/Random House, which feature the romantic adventures of the Wylder Sisters in 18th c. England. These three novels have been recently released as an ebook "bundle" – an inelegant publishing term for a collection of books at a lower price than if purchased individually.

Included in the bundle: When You Wish Upon a Duke, When the Duchess Said Yes, and When the Duke Found Love. It's a great way to catch up with the series, and it's a bargain, too. Huzzah!

Here's the link to the Wylder Sisters bundle on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and it's also available through the iTunes store.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of March 3, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014
Our clocks spring ahead this Sunday morning, and although we lose an hour, we're not about to short-change your Breakfast Links – our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, all gathered via Twitter.
• The unexpected allure of the 18th c. castrato.
• "One of the damnedest trampling matches you ever saw": when early 20th c. archaeologists talked trash.
• Antebellum splendor vs. the brutality of slavery: thoughtful article about the narrow interpretations of slavery at Southern Plantation Museums.
Image: The consequences of war in The Crimea 160 years ago: Florence Nightingale visits the wounded at Scutari Military Hospital.
• "A great many pretty caps in the windows of Cranbourn Alley. I hope when you come we shall both be tempted": Jane Austen writes to her sister Cassandra, 1814.
• 18th c. fencing: the humble petition of Peter Renaud.
• The staircases of Old London, as seen in glass slides once used for magic-lantern shows.
• Irene Castle on how the Tango led the world to dress reform, 1914.
Image: Dancing on a tumbling world, divided between love and scholarship.
• The intriguing story of Dido Belle, daughter of a slave, at Kenwood in 18th c. England.
• Up in the air, in the margins, on stilts.
• When John met Sarah: convict courtship in 19th c. Australia.
Image: A male momento mori figure used for spiritual contemplation, c 1800. One half is flesh, the other a skeletal.
• Debunking the myths surrounding Zelda Fitzgerald.
• Cringe or starve: as cold as regimented Victorian charity?
• Fashion myths: the connection between the hobble skirt and Coca-cola.
Image: Unusually long knitting needles & a large ball of yarn in a fashion plate, c. 1801.
• Among the perils of drinking water in the 17th c.: 255 frogs.
• "Our hero is a sportsman": British domestic interiors in 19th c. India.
• "Successful marriages start in the kitchen": mid 20th c. sexist advertising at its finest.
• Amazing photographs of the murmurations of starlings.
• Intriguing photos from the 1860s show a Paris that no longer exists.
• The poignant story of a 1918 parlour-maid turned munitions-worker, making shells during the Great War.
Image: "She didn't like seven sample husbands" that commercial Cupid sent, 1914.
• The return of the monocle: one part hipster, one part Mr. Peanut.
• That's a-maze-ing: garden mazes and labyrinths.
• How do you treat a woman in 1715 who thinks she's already dead?
• Scottish poet Robert Burns and 18th c. oatcakes.
Image: Perhaps the best Penguin ever for World Book Day?
• Traveling for suffrage: two women, a car, a cat, and a mission.
Chawton House Library appeals for funds to help fight floods that put collection at risk.
• "He called him old Roague and old Pedler and old Pimpe": rough words from 17th c. sailors.
• The tales of Darab, a beautifully illustrated medieval Persian prose romance.
• Photographs of a lovely spring day in London's Hyde Park, 1951.
• A shimmering cream silk dress, 1920s.
• Historical pancake recipes for Shrove Tuesday.
• Cock Lane and Cockspur Street: London streets with interesting histories.
• Wealthy NYC women form the Colony Club in 1900 - not because they wanted a club, but because they wanted a clubhouse.
• Margery Kempe, author of a medieval autobiography.
• Time-traveling celebrities.
Image: "Plymouth Dockyard", by James Tissot, 1877.
• Why are all these 16th-18th c. ladies dressed as Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt?
• The sad lot of syphilitic whores of Georgian London.
• How the great wheels for spinning survived.
• An awful fire of 1797: thousands of sacks of grain at Albion Mills were destroyed by fire with the smell of burnt toast.
• From the key to the Bastile to George Washington's false teeth: the top ten objects in the collection of Mount Vernon.
Image: If other professions were paid like writers, artists, & musicians.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Casual Friday: British Accents Explained

Friday, March 7, 2014

Loretta reports:

Accents have always fascinated me, often as a mystery to be solved.  Where is this person from?  In Florida, I had occasion to hear Midwestern U.S. accents frequently—but about the closest I could come to identification was “Midwestern,”  and this covered a large swath of territory, since I couldn’t distinguish Illinois from Wisconsin, let alone pinpoint cities.  Clearly, our language is not entirely homogenized yet.

Great Britain is a smaller place, yet the regional accents have managed to survive there, too, along with the mystery of their origin.  “Hmm.  Is that Cornwall or Devon?”  London I can identify fairly well, and I’ve a general sense of the north of England.  I can understand people in Glasgow, while in Edinburgh they might as well be speaking Ancient Egyptian.  It’s truly fun to hear the different ways English is spoken (another time, we can talk about regional usage and word choices) so I was delighted to come upon this short, canny sampling of accents.  This time I have to thank whoever posted it on Facebook, because due to a brain freeze, I failed to note the source.

Also, due to the technical limitations of my brain, I am offering a link rather than an embedded video.

You can listen here.

Illustration from Gray's New Book of Roads, 1824
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