Saturday, February 28, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of February 23, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015
Fresh for your morning reading - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web-sites, blogs, articles, and images, all gathered for you via Twitter.
Mary Robinson, 18th c. writer and actress, and the solace of sorrow.
• A tribute to the ferocious ladies of the 19th c. Illustrated Police News.
Fascinating story about Charlotte Bronte, Currer Bell, and a bird book.
Image: Cut steel fan, c. 1810, depicting Diana's Temple, with original leather and cardboard box.
• See the work that goes in to conserving a 1920s beaded flapper dress.
• Some of the world's most interesting independent bookstores.
• Quiz: which Impressionist artist are you?
• An 18th c. toy kitchen and its modern counterpart.
• Regency advice: how to prevent cold feet in bed.
Monopoly's inventor: a Progressive woman who didn't pass 'Go.'
• Juvenile genius: the school boys and girls who wrote for the 18th c. Lady's Magazine.
• Arthur Wellesley repackaged: the birth of "Wellington."
Video: A heritage walk with author William Dalrymple in Mehrauli, Delhi's hidden gem.
• An expression of Victorian prudery, an aid to thieves, or just an awkward fashion statement? The crinoline and its caricaturists.
Image: Light brown pelisse worn by Lady Byron (Arabella Millbanke) on her wedding day in 1815.
• The problem with historical fiction: fiction needs heroes. History doesn't.
• Seriously - how did the most beautiful library in America get demolished?
• From opera tiers and tiaras to tatters on the bread line: slice of life reporting from New York, 1904.
• In 1771, Henry Barnes took his slave Prince Demah to London for art lessons.
• Even great writers get panned: one-star reviews for ten classic books.
Image: Ticket for the dress ball at Versailles on the occasion of the marriage of the Dauphin, February 24, 1745.
• Rare photos from the Selma March take you into the thick of history.
• Cornelius Vanderbilt's private stables in 19th c. NYC resembled a Moorish temple.
Downton Abbey's wedding dress will brighten your day.
• A hoard of fan letters reveals that Agatha Christie's books inspired devotion from the darkest places.
Image: After Waterloo, the Gordon Highlanders marched through Paris, precipitating a fashion for tartan.
• Where New Yorkers met for coffee in the 1790s.
• Confessions of a comma queen: learning to love life in the house of style.
• The first shoemakers arrived in America in 1610 - but just don't call them cobblers.
• Sally Smith, the 18th c. "ghost" of Brumby Wood Hall.
• Unraveling the evidence on the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England.
• Great question: how was the Revolutionary War paid for?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Video: Blenheim Palace on a Frosty Morning

Friday, February 27, 2015

Isabella reporting,

I love how new technology can be combined with centuries-old history to create dazzling results. Cameras mounted on high-flying drones are offering view of historical landmarks that were previously unimaginable (like our recent Friday video of the Palais Garnier in Paris.)

Today's short clip captures one of Britain's most famous county houses, Blenheim Palace, on a frosty January morning. Located in Oxfordshire, Blenheim is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and was built in the early 18th c. in gratitude by the country for the military accomplishments of the first duke, John Churchill. Those of you who have read my historical novel, Duchess, written as Susan Holloway Scott, will recall the trials of the poor architects attempting to please the demanding first duchess Sarah Churchill, as well as the political infighting that the house's costly twenty-year-long construction caused.

But that, like the Battle of Blenheim that gave its name to the house, is all long in the past.  What we have today is a magnificent palace of a house, and from the lawns and gardens glistening with frost to the impressive silhouettes of the roof, this is truly an impressive bird's eye view.

If you receive this post by email, you may be seeing only a blank space or black square where the video should appear. Please go directly the blog here to view the video.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Convict Ship Statistics 1826

Thursday, February 26, 2015
The Discovery as a prison ship
Loretta reports:

Some months ago, I offered crime statistics for 1830s London.

One surprising statistic was the low number of executions.  If you look at the original sentences, you see that hundreds of people were sentenced to death, for small crimes like stealing a loaf of bread or a handkerchief.  However, very few of those convicted were hanged.  A number would be pardoned, but in the majority of cases, the sentences were reduced, sometimes to a prison term, and sometimes to transportation to Australia. 

But first the convicts would spend time on a prison hulk. If you’ve read Dickens’s Great Expectations, you’ve encountered the hulks and their denizens.  Here’s a set of statistics from the February 1826 Annual Register.

Image: The Discovery as a Prison Ship at Deptford.  Launched as a 10 gun sloop at Rotherhithe in 1789, it served as a convict hulk 1808-12 and 1820-34.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Georgian India: Finding Inspiration in the Paintings of Johann Zoffany

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Isabella reporting,

This week marks the release of my latest historical romance, A Sinful Deception, and as promised, I'm going to be writing several posts featuring the background for the book.

Paintings are a major influence on my writing. The German painter Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) is best known today for his portraits of the British royal family, but he also traveled to India and created a number of fascinating paintings that document Georgian life in that farthest corner of the Empire. This was not the later India of Kipling, and interaction between the English and Indians was much less rigid.

The two girls with a cat, above left, are a detail of a larger family group, and I thought of it often while writing about my heroine and her half-sister, both born in India. The girl on the left is shown not only in fashionable clothing that follows London styles, but her pose, with one leg crossed, is a favorite in elegant English portraiture. In sharp contrast is the girl on the right, most likely a servant, whose posture is more straightforward, and her clothes likely much more comfortable, too.

The unfinished group portrait, lower left, shows English Major William Palmer of the Bengal Artillery with his jewel-covered wife, Bibi Faiz Bakhsh Begum, their children, and other members of their family. His pride and devotion are clear, standing protectively over the little group, and another inspiration for my heroine's father and his extended household.

Above left: Detail, Colonel Blair and his Family with an Indian Ayah, by Johann Zoffany, 1786, The Tate.
Bottom left: Detail, The Palmer Family, by Johann Zoffany, 1785, The British Library. For much more about The Palmer Family painting, please see the British Library's blog post here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

"A Sinful Deception" On Sale Today

Monday, February 23, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Finally, finally - I'm SO happy to announce that today is publication day for my newest historical romance, A SINFUL DECEPTION, which means that it's on sale everywhere, and in every format - print, ebooks, and audiobooks.

This is the second book in my Breconridge Brothers trilogy (the first book is A WICKED PURSUIT, which is also still available), but you won't feel lost if you begin here.

This is a story that's been rattling around in my head for a long time.  I've always wanted to write a book that includes not just Georgian England, but also the farthest corners of the British Empire. My heroine, Serena Carew, was born in India, the daughter of a nobleman stationed there. While Serena has spent most of her life as an English lady, her Indian heritage is impossible for her to forget – and it's also one of the things that Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy, the second son of the Duke of Breconridge, comes to love about her most.

Nerdy History Girl that I am, I'll be sharing some of the background history that inspired A SINFUL DECEPTION in my next few blog posts.

Click here to read the first chapter.

Buy A SINFUL DECEPTION, in both paperback and ebook formats, from Amazon here, from Barnes & Noble here, from Books-A-Million here, and Powell's Books here. If you're a big-box-store shopper, the paperback version is available at Target here.

You can also order both paperback and ebook editions directly from my publisher, Random House, here.

The audio version is available from here.

For those of you in the UK, A SINFUL DECEPTION is published by Headline Books/Eternal Romance, who is offering it for sale in ebook and paperback here. It is also available from your local bookstores as well as AmazonUK here.

A Regency-era Heartbreaker

Loretta reports:

This entire section from The English Spy is worth reading (please click on the link/scroll down to Cytherean Beauties), but I selected this bit, because of its description of a fellow who might well be a Regency hero or villain, depending on the use he makes of his charms and the sort of heroine he runs up against.  And though the description dates to the 1820s, I believe some of us have met the present-day version.  The Regency had quite a few names for the women described later in the piece, but what would you call this charmer?
If ever there was a fellow formed by nature to captivate and conquer the heart of lovely woman, it is that arch-looking, light-hearted Apollo, Horace Eglantine, with his soul-enlivening conversational talents, his scraps of poetry, and puns, and fashionable anecdote; his chivalrous form and noble carriage, joined to a mirth-inspiring countenance and soft languishing blue eye, which sets half the delicate bosoms that surround him palpitating between hope and fear; then a glance at his well-shaped leg, or the fascination of an elegant compliment, smilingly overleaping a pearly fence of more than usual whiteness and regularity, fixes the fair one's doom, ; while the young rogue, triumphing in his success, turns on his heel and plays off another battery on the next pretty susceptible piece of enchanting simplicity that accident may throw into his way. The English Spy, 1825

Image:  Sir Thomas Lawrence, Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Earl Granville (between 1804-09), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of February 16, 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015
Out of the cold and into the Breakfast Links! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, websites, articles, and images via Twitter.
• Whip it! Valentine's Day custom in 19th c. NY involved public displays of flirtatious flagellation.
• A personal touch: the wedding shoes of a New England bridegroom, 1819.
• William Wynne Ryland, hanged for forgery, 1783.
• The conservation of Marie-Antoinette's chair.
• Lizards and lettuces: ancient Greek and Roman aphrodisiacs.
• To shill a mockingbird: how a manuscript's discovery became Harper Lee's "new" novel.
• Dreaming of the past and 19th c. whitework, embroidery patterns, and wedding shoes.
Image: Time to harness up the sleigh again - 18th c. sleigh from Amsterdam.
• A New York Public Librarian discovers the secret history of a novel by investigating its watermark.
• Darling, can you spare a dime? How the Victorians fell in love with pocket change.
• The surprisingly raucous private life of the Madisons, a first family that kept their true selves for friends only.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans: How an All-American celebration evolved from Old World carnivals.
• Ten abandoned lighthouses with strange and tragic histories.
• The letter than President Harry Truman didn't send to Senator Joe McCarthy (but should have!)
• What Jackie Kennedy liked to eat: menus from her French chef during the White House years, 1960-1963.
Image: The tiny hippocamp on this 2nd c. Roman ring is smiling.
• Edward Dando, the celebrated 18th c. oyster-eater.
• Six reasons why France should salute the Duke of Wellington.
• Manufactured in Chelsea.
• Queen Victoria's treasure: the musket-ball that killed Admiral Lord Nelson.
• Possible Anne Boleyn portrait found using facial recognition software.
• Controversial restoration of Chartres Cathedral's interiors.
Image: The masts of HMS Trincomalee dominate Hartlepool's historic quay.
• Thomas Barnes, late 19th c. photographer of London's East End.
• "Imprudent acts and great bastards": 19th c. sex tips.
• Historic knitting pattern: "Knitting steering gloves for our soldiers", 1915.
• Sir Thomas Thyrwitt: a man, a dream, and a prison in the wilderness of Dartmoor.
• All's fair in love and classified ads: three centuries of public spouse shaming.
• "Great care is required when handling poisonous snakes": sage advice from India regarding snakes, 1877.
Image: Crowded omnibus ride in London, 1865.
• Marilyn Monroe and Max Factor: the business of looking good.
• Possible Anne Boleyn portrait found using facial recognition software.
• Flipping open this early 20th c. U.S. Mailbag reveals a disturbing reality about segregation.
• Because you didn't know it was there: Tumblr proving the invisible connection between hop-hop and art before 1600.
• Just for fun: video showing what happens when historical costumers meet modern cars.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Video: The King's Chocolate Kitchen

Friday, February 20, 2015
Loretta reports:

Those enduring this particularly ghastly winter may want to make a cup of hot chocolate and settle in to watch this short video.  But I hope chocolate and/or history lovers everywhere will enjoy this story about the loving recreation of ... yes, the king’s own chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court Palace.
The photo of of an early 18th century chocolate pot in the Victoria & Albert Museum was taken by Valerie McGlinchey.

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, February 19, 2015

From the Archives: What a Woman Blacksmith Wore, c. 1775

Thursday, February 19, 2015
Isabella reporting:

Deadline-itis is plaguing me this week, so I'm dipping back into our archives for this popular post from the past.

We've seen many stylish women's clothes that have come from the talented needles of the mantua-makers in the Margaret Hunter ShopColonial Williamsburg. Whether a ball gown for Lady Dunmore, a pink silk gown copied from a portrait, or the everyday block-printed cotton gown for a fashion-conscious apprentice, these replicas of 18th c clothing have been impeccably cut and sewn by hand, exactly as their Georgian predecessors would have done.

But while fine ladies, women of the middling sort, and shop owners represent the most style-conscious women of the American colonies, there were plenty of other women – tradeswomen, servants, the wives of soldiers, farmers, and others of the lower sort – who also needed clothes that suited their lives. Recently the mantua-makers were delighted to create clothes for a new member of the historic trades program. Aislinn Lewis, left, is the newest blacksmith's apprentice at Colonial Williamsburg. She's not there just to fulfill an equal-opportunity clause; there were documented women silversmiths, tinsmiths, whitesmiths, and blacksmiths working in 18th c. Britain and in the American colonies. (For more about these women, see this article from the CW Journal.) Aislinn is an accomplished ironworker, too, a graduate of the American College of the Building Arts who specialized in forged architectural ironwork.

Shown here at work in the forge, Aislinn's new clothes show what an 18th c woman engaged in physical labor would have worn. Unlike the fitted gowns of the middle and upper classes, Aislinn wears a short red wool bedgown, a loose-fitting, T-shaped garment that allows plenty of room for movement. The bedgown wraps in front and is pinned in place, and is further secured by the strings of her checked linen apron. Her matching red petticoat and underpetticoat are also of wool, and around her throat is a blue linen neck handkerchief. Her hair is covered with a ruffled linen cap, not only for modesty and a bit of style, but also for protection. In fact all the fabrics of her clothes serve this purpose. While many modern synthetic clothes use fibers and dyes that are highly combustible, a spark that lands on wool or linen will smolder first, and are much safer for the wearer – especially a wearer who works around an open fire.

Photographs courtesy of the Margaret Hunter Shop, Colonial Williamsburg.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A View of London from Japan in the 1860s

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
 Loretta reports:

As often happens, I stumbled on these London scenes while looking for something else.  As also often happens, I found myself lured into sleuthing.

The artist is Utagawa Yoshitora, popular in his time but a bit of a mystery today.  We don’t know when he was born or when he died, but he was working from about 1850-80.  About this time, Japan was opening up to the West.  Most Japanese had never seen foreigners before, and images of foreigners and foreign parts were in high demand.  Prints like these, known as “Yokohama” prints, were made by artists who, like everybody else, had never seen any of the people or places they portrayed.  It’s believed that Yoshitora, who’d lived near Tokyo, might have seen some foreigners, which made his people’s clothing a bit more realistic than those of other artists.  However, like the others, he depended on illustrations from foreign publications in creating his scenes.

We know he was a well regarded artist—and that he got into trouble with the strict Japanese censors for a satirical print (note that English satirists got into trouble, too)—and was sentenced to 50 days in handcuffs (I am not sure what this means—jail, house arrest???).

The Yokahama prints eventually went out of fashion, and Yoshitora himself vanishes after 1880.

These three prints form a triptych, which I’m unable to assemble for you, given the blog’s limitations.  But I think each is charming enough on its own.  I’m not sure about the 1866 date the Library of Congress entry provides, since the British Museum site tells us the demand for these pictures peaked in 1861.

You can read in more detail about Yoshitora at my sources, here, here, and here.

Images: Utagawa Yoshitora, Triptych, Picture of London, England, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sumptuous New Fashion History: "Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette"

Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Isabella reporting,

There are few things that make the heart of a Nerdy History Girl beat faster than a new fashion history book. I know it's only February, but I'm willing to bet that Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell (Yale University Press) might just be the fashion history book of the year.

This is not just another pretty costume book (though it is a glorious volume for picture-browsing), nor is it another telling of Marie-Antoinette's love of clothes. Instead historian Ms. Chrisman-Campbell explores how 18th c. style and fashion permeated nearly every level of Parisian society, with an influence that extended globally through economics and politics.

The excesses of the royal court are here, but so are the extraordinary talents of the specialized craftspeople and merchants who created and sold the newest gowns, coats, and irresistible caps, as well as those manufacturing the latest in cosmetics, textiles, hair styles, jewels, lace, and every other branch of the fashion trade. (For an idea of just how many different trades it took to clothe a stylish lady, see this post.) In this equation, the consumer, too, was every bit as important as the supplier: "The Parisian in general is inevitably abstemious," wrote Louis-Sebastien Mercier in 1783, "eating very badly out of poverty so he can pay the tailor and the bonnet seller."

Also intriguing is the emergence of the petite-maîtresse ("little mistress"), the 18th c. equivalent to today's "fashion victims" - the women "whose primary occupation is keeping up with the latest fads, regardless of how frivolous, arbitrary, unflattering, or expensive. The term was not necessarily derogatory; it was a common and useful form of social taxonomy and, to those who prided themselves on their modishness, highly complimentary." Ms. Chrisman-Campbell supports her well-researched observations with numerous quotes from primary sources; the notes and bibliography are also scholarly and thorough, something the NHG in me appreciates.

But in addition to being a thoughtful, intelligent book, it's also a supremely beautiful one. There are lavishly printed color images on almost every page, from familiar portraits of the French queen in her ruinous finery by Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, to lesser-know paintings, fashion plates, and satirical prints. Photographs of extant garments and details of exquisite embroidery and textiles reinforce the luxury described in the text.

With the excesses of New York Fashion Week currently visible all over the social media (could there be a better modern example of the petite-maîtresse than Kim Kardashian-West?), it's fascinating to consider the historical context of fashion - and how the more things change, the more they stay the same (Plus les choses changent plus elles restent les mêmes.) I only hope it doesn't end in the twenty-first century the way it did in the eighteenth: with the fall of the guillotine's blade.

Many thanks to Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell and Yale University Press for supplying a copy of this book for review.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Joseph Addison explains men & women

Monday, February 16, 2015
Rowlandson, Elegant Company Dancing
Loretta reports:

Magazines of the 1800s, like those of today, devoted a lot of ink to explaining men and women, what makes them tick, and how they ought to behave. Some of the works are stunningly misogynistic.  This excerpt, originally printed in the Spectator in the early 1700s, is gentler and more balanced—and proved very popular.  It was excerpted repeatedly in publications throughout the 1800s (I found an excerpt in a ladies magazine of 1833), and probably into the 1900s.  How well do you think it applies today?
Women in their nature are much more gay and joyous than men; whether it be that their blood is more refined, their fibres more delicate, and their animal spirits more light and volatile; or whether, as some have imagined, there may not be a kind of sex in the very soul, I shall not pretend to determine. As vivacity is the gift of women, gravity is that of men. They should each of them, therefore, keep a watch upon the particular bias which nature has fixed in their minds, that it may not draw too much, and lead them out of the paths of reason. This will certainly happen, if the one in every word and action affects the character of being rigid and severe, and the other of being brisk and airy. Men should beware of being captivated by a kind of savage philosophy, women by a thoughtless gallantry. Where these precautions are not observed, the man often degenerates into a cynic, the woman into a coquette ; the man grows sullen and morose, the woman impertinent and fantastical.

By what I have said we may conclude, men and women were made as counterparts to one another, that the pains and anxieties of the husband might be relieved by the sprightliness and good humour of the wife. When these are rightly tempered, care and cheerfulness go hand in hand ; and the family, like a ship that is duly trimmed, wants neither sail nor ballast.
But whatever was the reason than man and woman were made with this variety of temper, if we observe the conduct of the fair sex, we find that they chuse rather to associate themselves with a person who resembles them in that light and volatile humour which is natural to them, than to such as are qualified to moderate and counterbalance it ... When we see a fellow loud and talkative, full of insipid life and laughter, we may venture to pronounce him a female favourite : noise and flutter are such accomplishments as they cannot withstand. To be short, the passion of an ordinary woman for a man, is nothing else but self-love diverted upon another object; she would have the lover a woman in every thing but the sex.

The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Volume 3, Ed. Richard Hurd, (1811)

Image: Thomas Rowlandson, Elegant Company Dancing, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.Clicking on the image will enlarge it. 

Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of February 9, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015
Ready to take away the early-morning chill - a fresh serving of Breakfast Links, our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, collected for you via twitter.
• "Inflame her to venery with wanton kisses": the joy of sex, 1684-style.
• Box it, bag it, wrap it: medieval manuscript transportation devices.
• The near-death, and revival, of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
• Scars in limestone: finding traces today of the horrific 1920 Wall Street bombing.
• 1890s corded corset from the Chisolm Trail Museum.
Image: The kitchen at Winchester College c1900: the poor cook's face says it all.
• Detailed recreation of a Victorian household: Amy Miles' miniature house.
• Shudder! 18th c. dentistry.
• From the Yorkshire Gazette, 1822: Man wants a wife. No adjectives spared.
Image: Watch this time-lapse video of how the recent Massachusetts snow storm blanketed the famous 17th c. House of Seven Gables in Salem.
• Eight reasons why a dog is a broken-hearted woman's best friend, 18th c. style.
• This is so strange yet unbelievable cool: listen to what traditional embroidery patterns sound like if played as a laser-cut textile in a music box.
• London's ancient livery companies and street names.
• How news of Paul Revere's ride was published - and censored - in 1775.
• Devastating photos of 19th c. Native American children before and after entering the Carlisle Indian School.
Image: Miss Hedgehog
Glorious gentleman's ring, 1789-1790, commemorating Battle of St. Vincent in blue glass, gold, and pearls.
• Lead-filled billy club used by the "Massachusetts League of Freemen" when dealing with slave-hunters, c. 1845.
• When did reading become an emotional, intrinsically nostalgic activity?
• Old ways prove hard to shed, even as crisis hits centuries-old kimono trade in Japan.
• London in mineature: Mogg's 1806 pocket map.
• Beauty spots and the French pox.
Image: Bloomsbury Square in London as it appeared in mid-18th c. complete with cattle.
• An awesome 1950s Plaza Hotel cocktail menu to peruse online. A Rhett Butler, anyone?
• Fascinating costume analysis of the portrait Marie Antoinette a la Rose.
• Several topics related to the Battle of Waterloo, including the women at the battle; the last British eyewitness to the battle was Elizabeth Watkins, who died in 1904.
• Washing and restoring four 18th & 19th c. baby bonnets for exhibition.
• Henry VIII and his musical spies: see here and here.
• Ten things people once complained would ruin the English language.
Image: The Snow Queen, 1890
Vinegar Valentines for the one you love to hate.
• Amusing gallery of restaurant business cards from 1870s-present.
• Charles Dickens on the horrors of fame.
• The trailblazing black models who changed fashion forever.
• Recovering the Doves Press type, thrown into the Thames in 1916 by a vindictive Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, and a digital facsimile here.
Image: Mummy portraits from Roman Egypt, 0-200 C.E.
• From Alice in Wonderland to Swan's Way and The Bell Jar: ten great meals in literature.
• Ten imaginatively repurposed industrial buildings that were abandoned.
• Manuscript road trip: tracking the 19th c. Spanish Forger (who was probably French.)
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Video: How to Sit in an 1860s Hoop Skirt

Friday, February 13, 2015

Isabella reporting,

Whenever we share a image of a mid-19th c. lady in a hoopskirt or crinoline (like these fashionable ladies from 1860, below), we're invariably asked how those ladies sat in what amounts to an oversized wire lampshade tied around the waist.

So once again we turned to one of the friends of our blog, historical seamstress and re-enactor Jennifer Rosbrugh, for the answer. (Previously Jennifer showed us how to sit in a bustle.) Jennifer recently posted this video on her own blog, and we felt it was well worth sharing. And yes, if you possess a hoop skirt, please try this at home!

Right: "Dressed for a Party", Godey's Lady's Book, September, 1860.

If you receive this post by email, you may be seeing an empty space where the video should be. Please go directly to the blog here to view the video.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Cottage for Two Ladies in 1817

Thursday, February 12, 2015
1817 cottage
Loretta reports:

Readers enduring vile winter weather may enjoy this bit of escapism—a cottage in a pretty, rural setting.  Given our various posts about servants, it’s interesting to read of two ladies needing three female servants and one gardener.  Would you have expected more or fewer servants?
Ackermann’s Repository 1817

Cottage description

 Images courtesy Philadelphia Art Museum via Internet Archive.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"A Heavy Fall of Snow" in London, 1821 - and in Boston, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Isabella reporting,

This weekend I've been visiting in the Boston area, just in time for another major snow-storm. Twenty-two inches of fresh snow fell this weekend, which helped set a new regional record for the most snow in a 30-day period: 71.6 inches. There's still more of the white stuff drifting by the window right now. The city is pretty much closed for clean-up today, with all public transportation shut down, as well as schools, universities, and many businesses.

All of which makes this 1821 print by Richard Dighton (1795-1880) seem particularly apt. I've shared other prints by Dighton that feature winter miseries, and he captures the awfulness of cold weather so perfectly that I have to think he spent much of the cold weather months dreaming of the Caribbean.

Here a dapper gentleman with yellow gloves and a fur-collared overcoat (and Herculean thighs!) runs afoul of the man clearing snow from the roof of a shop. An accident, or perhaps an intentional, irresistible attack upon that gleaming beaver hat?

I particularly like how the shop belongs to "Careless. Skate Maker...", with rows of ice skates hanging in the windows. The true question, of course, is who here is really careless: the skate maker, the shoveler, or the hapless gentleman.

Above: A heavy fall of snow (plate two of 'A London Nuisance' series), by Richard Dighton, 1821, published by G. Humphrey. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Laws regarding servants

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Servant registry office
Loretta reports:

On many occasions, we’ve talked about servants’ work and the cost of keeping them (here, here, here, here—and more if you click on the "servants" label at right).

What many of us are not aware of are the various laws enacted to protect servant as well as master.

Very likely, at least a few items on these pages will surprise some of our readers.  They certainly surprised me.  Masters did not have quite the power one would expect.  Notice how many decisions about employees needed to be brought before magistrates.  This might have been a mere formality, magistrates usually being people of some standing in a community and likely to take the employer’s side.  All the same, it’s interesting to discover that servants as well as master had some protection.  And please do note the paragraph dealing with pregnant servants.

Laws re servants

 —The Servant's Guide and Family Manual  (1831)

Image: Thomas Rowlandson, Register office for the hiring of servants (ca 1800-1805) courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Upcoming Exhibition for Lovers of Historical Shoes

Sunday, February 8, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Anyone who reads this blog knows our great love for shoes. We're not shy about it; we state it right up front, over there beneath our selfie.

With that in mind, I'm delighted to announce an upcoming exhibition devoted not only to historical shoes, but also the women who wore them. Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories 1750-1850 will be opening on Valentine's Day (how appropriate!) at the Portsmouth Athenaeum, Portsmouth, NH, and will run through June 5, 2015. Over forty pairs of shoes borrowed from various collections will be featured as well as a number of costumes and accessories, and admission is free. The 1750 print of The Shoe Peddler, above left, appears on the invitations to the exhibition, and the peddler's wares hint a the diversity of the show as well.

One of this blog's good friends, Dr. Kimberly Alexander, is co-curator of the exhibition, and she has generously shared advance photos of several of shoes with us.  In the past,"the ankle and instep were considered sexually charged," she notes. "How much of a glimpse of that region the onlooker captured had to do with flirtation....You can learn so much from the way people wore their shoes, altered, their shoes, saved their shoes. [Men and] women's shoes give us a chance to talk about what their lives were like."

Take the story of the shoe, right, (and yes, it was once part of a pair that was split so that two of the wearer's children could each have a memento.) The shoes were worn by Sally Brewster Gerrish, the newlywed daughter of innkeeper William Brewster. President George Washington visited Portsmouth in 1789, and of course a ball was given in his honor. Since Washington slept at the tavern kept by Brewster, Sally was asked to ride in the carriage with the president, and these were the shoes she wore with her ball gown. The once-stylish shoes have crumpled a bit over the centuries, the silk has faded, and the decorative buckles that closed them have long since been removed, but the magic remains in the slippers a young Yankee lady wore to an unforgettable ball.

The detail of the shoes, below left, tell a story that's more about evolving tastes and fashions. By the end of the 18th c., women's dresses had changed dramatically. Gone were the wide skirts and stiff stays to shape the body. In their place were softer, more narrow gowns with raised waists that reflected an interest in classically-inspired silhouettes, combined with exotic accessories such as plumed turbans and paisley patterned shawls from India. This shoe is as flat as an ancient sandal, with a sharply pointed toe that accentuated the new narrower skirts, and the Eastern-inspired design printed on the leather brought a touch of exoticism to the now-unknown New England lady who wore it. (And I have to admit that I'd love to wear these now myself.)

I'll be sharing more images and stories from the exhibition over the next weeks. See here for information about the exhibition.

Above left: The Shoe Peddler or The Shoe Seller's Wife, by Martin Engelbrecht, c. 1750. Bavarian State Library.
Right: Brocade shoe, maker unknown, c. 1789. Portsmouth Historical Society.
Lower left: Fine grained slipper with "Alhambraesque" detail, c. 1790s, Portsmouth Historical Society

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of February 2, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015
Some of you may have seen a phantom version of this appear mid-week, when I accidentally hit "publish" instead of save, and in another, totally unconnected bit of internet weirdness, an old Breakfast Links from January was sent out to subscribers this morning.  Clearly Mercury's in retrograde....
Fresh for your weekend enjoyment: our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, images, & articles via twitter.
• Out of the shadows: images of 16th-18thc Black children as servants and slaves, and why American portraits were different.
• Bronte family writing table goes on show at Haworth Parsonage.
• Commonplace books that are far from common.
• "The heat is beyond your conception": Robert Beverley and the 18th c. Virginia climate.
• A genuine Almack's voucher.
• An extremely rare survivor: the Lincoln mantua, c1730.
• The wreck of the SS London in 1866 spotlights Victorian values and behavior in extremis.
• "Female husbands" in the 19th c.
•  Raden Saleh Sjarif Boestaman (1811-1880) Javanese aristocrat and painter.
• How Catherine Tylney Long became the "richest commoner in the British Dominions" in 1814.
• The wide variety of 18th c. trade cards.
• The real Artful Dodger, 1818.
• Looking at a 17th c. family portrait with symbolic indications that some of the family members were deceased.
• The duel of Lord Camelford and Captain Best, 1804
• "I give you this, as a token of my love": expression of love from 18th c. transported convicts.
• Sex and the single man in late medieval England.
• Two hundred hours later: the incredible journey of this Dior couture dress.
• Image: "Her smile was as misleading as a detour": The best similes of 1926.
• Count Paolo Ruffo, an Italian officer at Waterloo.
• Magna Carta: modern lasers help reveal clues behind King John's lost treasure.
• Paris wants its unique rooftops to be made Unesco world heritage site.
• Searching for the lost 17th c. Hunt House in Salem, MA.
• When ice was hot: a skater shares his life-long love for razzle-dazzle ice shows.
• Vessel of light: the stunning luminescence of Peterborough Cathedral.
• Image: Following the fleet: herring girls photographed at Great Yarmouth by Donald Shields in 1904.
• "Grewsome relics" of Charles I: 1813, 1845, 1904.
• Dog days: military dogs and mascots.
• Speaking bluntly: the French writer Colette offers advice for how to critique your friends.
• Flipping out over hand-held movies, a century before smartphones.
• The ten most beautiful libraries in America.
• "Beggars: Caution!" An old vagrancy sign.
• Image: Face to face with a very rare (only five are known)  Stradivarius guitar c 1688, and this is what it sounds like.
• Thoughtful article on where knitting and other traditional crafts fit into today's fast-fashion world.
• Speech bubbles: the connection between medieval and modern books and media.
• Decade by decade intimate photographs of American soldiers at war.
• Wolf Hall is wrong: Thomas More was a funny, feminist Renaissance man.
Hungry for more? Follow us on twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday video: Aristocrats of the Downton Abbey era

Friday, February 6, 2015
Alken, In and Out Clever
Loretta reports:

This short piece, part of a series exploring the changes the aristocracy underwent in the period between the wars, offer a glimpse of the reality behind the world of Downton Abbey.

Image: Henry Alken, In and out Clever, Courtesy 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.

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 or this link to YouTube.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fireworks on the Grand Tour, 1770s

Thursday, February 5, 2015
Isabella reporting,

After watching the extravaganza of the Super Bowl half-time show, ending (of course) in fireworks, my Nerdy History mind naturally wandered off to these paintings by one of my favorite 18th c. painters, Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797).

I've shared Wright's marvelously detailed and incisive portraits on the blog before (here, here, and here), but he was also known for his dramatically lit landscapes. He especially liked the contrast between night skies and fire, from a single candle to an erupting volcano. Fireworks, like these, must have been irresistible to him.

But these are no ordinary fireworks. These three paintings show the Girandola at the Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome. Girandola - the Italian name derives from the spinning wheels that were part of the firing mechanisms (we'd call them pinwheels today) - were staged annually on Easter Monday and the Feast Day of SS Peter and Paul, and, more rarely, in honor of a new pope. This spectacular display was a must-see for English visitors on the Grand Tour, who wrote home in rhapsodies over what they'd seen: the perfect combination of gaudy explosions against the fabled cityscape of Rome.

This quote from Robert Adam about the Girandola of 1755 is typical:

"[The Girandola] exceeded for beauty, invention and grandeur anything I had ever seen...the grandest part...being thousands of rockets which were sent up one at a time, which spread out like a wheat sheaf in the air, each one of which gives a crack and sends out a dozen burning balls like stars, which fall gently downwards till they die out...." 

Joseph Wright expressed his delight in the fireworks in these paintings. He was in Rome in February in 1775, and first viewed the Girandola for the inauguration of Pope Pius VI. He noted the correlation between the fireworks and the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in Naples, another popular site for visiting Englishmen, and painted companion pieces of Vesuvius to go with these of the Girandola: "the one the greatest effect of Nature, the other of Art that I suppose can be."

Certainly these paintings convey the brilliance and excitement of the fireworks - you can practically hear the crackles and explosions as the rockets shoot into the night and the hiss of the sparks falling into the river. All that's missing is Katy Perry....

Top left: Firework Display at Castle Sant'Angelo, by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1775, Birmingham Museums Trust.
Right: The Annual Girandola at the Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1775-1776, National Museums, Liverpool.
Bottom left: Firework Display at the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1779, Hermitage Museum.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hardwick Hall, the model for Athcourt

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Hardwick Hall 1813
Loretta reports:

Because readers seem to be very interested in the posts about locales and vehicles mentioned in Lord of Scoundrels*, I'm continuing the visual guide.

Athcourt, where Lord Dain resided, is on the fringes of Dartmoor.  It’s based, however, on Hardwick Hall, which is in Derbyshire.  But there are moors there, too, and Hardwick Hall certainly is atmospheric.  I chose it because it looked like the sort of place Dain would have grown up in and because I had a picture of it in cross-section—so helpful in seeing the movie in one’s head.  Since a great deal of action takes place in this house, the cross-section was invaluable.

You can see a black and white version of the cross section here.

The National Trust publication about Hardwick Hall includes a cross section in color, as well as many interior views, including the Long Gallery, down which Dominick runs au naturel. Below is a Victorian pseudo-Elizabethan view of the gallery, but it hasn't changed much.

*Yes, still celebrating the book’s 20th anniversary.

Images: North View of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire and
Interior View of the Hall at Hardwick, by John Buckler (1813), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. Gallery image from The Mansions of England in the Olden Time, Vol 2, 1870

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Keeping Warm: Carriage Boots for Ladies, 1880-1900

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Winter is definitely here in all its February bluster, and keeping warm involves as many layers as possible. But whenever Loretta and I look at the fashionable clothes from the past, we always wonder exactly how those ladies kept warm in the days before central heating

In the later decades of the 19th c., carriage boots came to the rescue - at least for the affluent ladies who had not only the boots, but the carriages in which to wear them. Carriage boots were worn on the way to balls and dinners, protecting dainty evening slippers and keeping feet in silk stocking warm. (This furry footwarmer was another option.)

Some were worn over the slippers, while others were exchanged for shoes on arrival. The ones in collections seem to be primarily American - though I don't know if this is because they were a practical but showy fashion favored by Americans, or because it was colder in America.

The boots were designed for luxurious warmth, and usually lined with fur. The outer fabric was most often understated black velvet or silk, tied with black ribbons, and always tastefully appropriate for evening (like these.) But as the three pairs here show, even a carriage boot could make a fashion statement.

The boots, c. 1880-1890, top left, come from the Russian virtual shoe museum known as Shoe Icons. It's the undulating emerald green velvet that really makes these special. Did they match a special evening gown, or were they just made to suit a lady with flamboyant taste?

The flat wool boots, right, (from the Brooklyn Museum Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) aren't quite as fashion-forward, but they do make a statement. The patterned wool fabric is actually a wide ribbon, most likely designed for the upholstery trade. Despite their date (1870-1890), they look very street-style modern - almost like fur-lined high-tops.

And then there are these boots, c. 1900, lower left, from the Bata Shoe Museum. These must have been the highest of high-end carriage boots. They're made of cream-colored silk brocade, and lined with matching mink. Luxury, indeed.

Think carriage boots look more cozy and chic than a pair of Uggs? One of our TNHG friends, American Duchess, sells replicas of historical footwear - and among their newest models are these 1880s carriage boots.
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