Sunday, October 30, 2016

Finding Relief in the Lady's Garden at Vauxhall, 1788

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Isabella reporting,

As interesting as all life in the past is to us now, it's the common aspects that our readers seem to find most interesting. Forget riding in a coach or dancing in hoops. Where and how did our heroines answer nature's call before indoor plumbing? This explains why a six-year-old blog post on the necessary bourdaloue remains one of our all-time most popular - and why this 18thc satirical print will probably be both amusing and informative. As always, please click on the image to enlarge it.

The pleasure gardens at Vauxhall were among the most popular entertainment spots in Georgian London. Several generations of Londoners of every rank put on their finery (and the occasional mask) and came to stroll, dance, dine, and flirt beneath the legendary lights. With its tree-shaded paths, Chinese-inspired pavilions, popular music, and statues and paintings by famous artists, there was much to amuse - and plenty of places to find mischief, too.

But even Vauxhall's glamorous settings had a baser side.  It had to, after all that drinking and dining. Or as Christopher Smart observed in a popular journal:

   "In sweet Vaux-hall I love to stray:
    But wish it were completely gay:
    In splendid Scenes we drink and eat:
    In sordid Huts – evacuate."*

Apparently many visitors of both sexes didn't bother to seek out the "sordid Huts", but chose to take advantage of the shadowy paths and bushes to relieve themselves. For ladies who were a fraction more fastidious, there was also the "Lady's Garden", shown in this 1788 print.

Apparently being reserved for the use of ladies didn't mean the facilities had much in the way of amenities or privacy. Along two walls is a bench forming a communal latrine, with four women in various stages of relief and distress, their fashionable skirts gathered up around them. Keep in mind that there would have been no "flushing" mechanism beneath the women, and imagine what the smell must have been by the end of a busy evening.

The towering plumes on the women's hats and in their powdered hairstyles come dangerously close to the open flames of the candles in wall sconces behind them, offering one more hazard. Discarded on the floor are a nosegay, an unmatched glove, and an advertisement sheet - which probably would have been used in place of modern toilet paper - for Dr. Leak's pills, a popular quack venereal remedy and a sly jab at the sexual assignations that often occurred at Vauxhall.

To the right sits one woman ostentatiously retying her garter, perhaps a potential customer for Dr. Leake, while another is freshening her makeup at a looking glass. This tall woman, detail right, is believed to be Lady Sarah Archer, an aristocratic widow famous for her independence, her love of gambling, and her interest in politics and outdoor sports (she drove her own phaeton and rode to the hounds.) In the eyes of misogynistic 18thc caricaturists, however, her greatest sin was being over forty with a fondness for makeup and fashion. She is always cruelly drawn with florid cheeks and an exaggerated hooked nose to accentuate her supposedly unfeminine appearance - and what better way to mock her further than to show her painting her face in a communal outhouse?

* From the wonderful Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke & Alan Borg. See Loretta's post about this book here.

Above: The inside of the lady's garden at Vauxhall Drawing attributed to Henry Kingsbury; published S.W. Fores, 1788. The British Museum.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of October 24, 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The ghosts of Old London.
• After World War One: A silk surplus, armistice fashion, and a philanthropic innovator.
• How four young brothers skipped out on digging potatoes and walked sixteen miles to watch the British army march to Cambridge in 1775.
• An 1837 court case over how a woman fought back after an unwanted kiss.
• Bringing the drugstore home: the history of the bathroom medicine cabinet.
Image: Dr. Townsend's residence was the largest in New York City when it was built in 1853; it only survived until 1868, when it was torn down to build another, larger house.
• Cured by a nightmare.
• How ancient Roman athletes and fans cursed rival teams during the postseason.
Dr. James Barry: the woman who fooled the Royal College of Surgeons, Queen Victoria, and the world.
• Country house telephones.
• Chasing the sun: Annie Maunder, the 19thc woman forgotten by science.
Image: Victorian slippers embroidered with floral motifs.
• The halls of the Great Exhibition, 1851.
• Central Park's lost statue to Commerce.
• What do people most get wrong about history?
Jet and dressed in black in the Victorian era.
Period pains: how were women's menstrual cramps regarded in the past?
Image: Rare early color photograph of young Russian peasant women, 1909.
• Stepping back in time at a Parisian fencing club.
• Classical splendor: Painted furniture for a grand Philadelphia house in the early 19thc.
• The early 20thc fashion empire of Lucile - with roots in Guelph, Ontario.
• Which sister made this extravagant, mid-19thc pieced quilt?
• When the world truly stank, tussie-mussies were a breath of fresh air.
Image: Just for fun: discover your Regency name.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Video(s): Fashion Treasures from the Museum of London

Friday, October 28, 2016
Isabella reporting:

Today's post combines the best of Friday Videos and Breakfast Links. Timothy Long, Curator of Fashion and Decorative Arts at the Museum of London, creates wonderful super-short videos highlighting special items from the collection. Most of the videos are largely silent with hand-lettered captioning as guideposts, and only Mr. Long's hands appear (clad in bright blue gloves) as he turns the garments.

So far, however, Mr. Long has yet to post the videos on YouTube or Vimeo, and so I can't embed them here. But this is too much under-a-minute information not to share, so here are links to some of my recent favorites. If you're on Twitter, you can also follow Mr. Long directly @fashion_curator. You never know what he'll uncover next!

• The finer details of a pair of super-skinny men's trousers, c1810, above, including a close look at how the seams split and were mended.

• The curious pocket on a 1940s blouse.

Epaulettes c1900 in their own velvet-lined carrying case.

• Exploring the interior of a c1805 silk satin dress.

• The Countess of Airlie's ermine-trimmed velvet dress, belowwas worn to the coronation in 1911 of George V, and again in 1937 for the coronation of George VI.

• An elaborate 1830s uniform coat that belonged to a Deputy Lieutenant of the City of London.

• Uncovering the sheets of archival tissue paper to reveal a glimpse into London's haberdashers.

• An 18thc embroidered men's coat with a mysterious past.

• Finally, what Mr. Long calls his favorite discovery of 2016 (so far): a collection of Edwardian chokers.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

London in October in 1826

Thursday, October 27, 2016
Loretta reports:

I discovered Peter George Patmore’s Mirror of the Months through Hone’s Every-day Book, which quoted from the excerpt below. Rather more readable than many writers of the time, Patmore vividly describes the sights and sounds of England, town and country, during each month of the year. He offers some insights into society—with lower case as well as capital S—as well as painting some charming domestic scenes, like this one. Anybody who’s been in London in the autumn will relate, I’m sure.
“But has London no one positive merit in October, then? Yes; one it has, which half redeems all its delinquencies. In October, Fires have fairly gained possession of their places, and even greet us on coming down to breakfast in the morning. Of all the discomforts of that most comfortless period of the London year which is neither winter nor summer, the most unequivocal is that of its being too cold to be without a fire, and not cold enough to have one. At a season of this kind, to enter an English sitting-room, the very ideal of snugness and comfort in all other respects, but with a great gaping hiatus in one side of it, which makes it look like a pleasant face deprived of its best feature, is not to be thought of without feeling chilly. And as to filling up the deficiency by a set of polished fireirons, standing sentry beside a pile of dead coals imprisoned behind a row of glittering bars,—this, instead of mending the matter, makes it worse; inasmuch as it is better to look into an empty coffin, than to see the dead face of a friend in it. At the season in question, especially in the evening, one feels in a perpetual perplexity, whether to go out or stay at home; sit down or walk about; read, write, cast accounts, or call for the candle and go to bed. But let the fire be lighted, and all uncertainty is at an end, and we (or even one) may do any or all of these with equal satisfaction. In short, light but the fire, and you bring the Winter in at once; and what are twenty Summers, with all their sunshine (when they are gone), to one Winter, with its indoor sunshine of a sea-coal fire?”
Images from Ackermann's Repository.
Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

From the NHG Library: "An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion After the Revolution"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Loretta and I both have more research books crowding our respective houses than either of us would like to admit. Yet there's always room for one more, especially when that book fills an important gap on the shelf.

I'm currently working on a historical novel set in 18thc America during and after the Revolution. (That's all I'm saying for now - everything will be revealed soon enough, with a publication date of September, 2017.) It's a fascinating period in American history, with the dramatic achievements of the war giving way to the difficult process of not only building a new country from the ground up, but also creating a national identity to go with it.

Part of that new identity was deciding what Americans should wear. Of course, for many people this meant continuing to wear what they'd worn before the Revolution, but for more fashion-conscious Americans, this was a serious question. They wanted to continue to be as stylish as their counterparts in London and Paris, but they didn't want to follow the fashion dictates of the royal courts. Displaying taste and wealth would also be a challenge in homespun. As the subtitle of this new book asks: "What's a patriotic American to wear?"

An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion After the Revolution, above, is a new companion book to an exhibition currently on display at the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington, D.C., through April 29, 2017. This beautifully written and designed book is much more than a mere exhibition catalogue, however. It contains dozens of full-color photographs of surviving garments - many shown on mannequins, complete with accessories, right - plus fashion plates, portraits, and other images from the era.

There are also thoughtful, informative essays written by experts in the field of historic fashion and textile, including lengthy footnotes to primary sources (be still my nerdy history heart!) Clothes for men and women of every class are covered, including enslaved people. And for readers who appreciate the "behind the seams" approach to fashion history, detailed, scaled patterns of garments complete the book. Congratulations to Alden O'Brien, Curator of Costumes & Textiles, DAR Museum, and her staff for creating such a wonderful book.

An Agreeable Tyrant deserves a place in every costume-lover's library, and on the shelves of American historians as well. And yes, it's an excellent resource for us fiction-writers. I've already referred to it to "dress" my characters, and I've given it the ultimate endorsement: I didn't receive this for review, but ordered it myself as soon as it was available.

If you're interested in purchasing a copy of An Agreeable Tyrant, you can order it directly from the DAR Museum's site here.

Above (left to right): Silk gauze dress, 1810; Purple silk dress, 1810; Silver brocaded evening dress, 1810s, all from a private collection. Photograph copyright DAR Museum.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Naughty Watches of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Monday, October 24, 2016
Loretta reports:

At a recent authors event, readers asked about the naughty watch a character buys in my book Lord of Scoundrels: Was this based on research or imagination?

If you Google “erotic watches,” you’ll know I wasn’t making this stuff up. So yes, the idea came from research—done in the days before Google existed, I ought to point out. These days, it would have been easier.

While I was aware of snuff boxes with erotic scenes inside the lid, the pornographic watch was news to me. I was especially intrigued to learn that watchmakers had been creating these devices as early as the late 1700s. This includes Abraham-Louis Breguet, a famous, highly-regarded watchmaker mentioned in Lord of Scoundrels.

Eric Bruton’s The History of Clocks & Watches offers a black and white illustration of a carriage watch, from which I developed the one in my book.
“It shows the time, day, date, and sidereal time, strikes the hours and quarters, and plays tunes on six bells. On the back a human figure in three parts keeps changing and below it some ‘curtains’ can be drawn aside to reveal an animated pornographic scene.” 
The watch was made in London in 1790.

Though it’s not like the watch shown in The History of Clocks and Watches, this one works more or less the same way: an innocent front, with an animated scene on the other side. Googling the subject will bring you quite a few examples, including one on YouTube—but I'll let you search, if you wish. I'm trying to keep this post at least somewhat family-friendly.

Image (not erotic to my knowledge): Chevalier et cachet watch between 1790-1799 (gift of Liz and Peter Moser, 2006), courtesy Walters Art Museum.

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

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of October 17, 2016

Saturday, October 22, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• How London's Foundling Hospital defied "gruel stereotypes."
• A 2,000 year old canister of ancient Roman face cream, including the finger marks of the user.
Emily Brontë's homely life.
• Shades of Victorian fashion: lilacs, lavenders, plums, and purples.
Black women, slavery, and the silences of the past.
Image: Lovely, evocative autochrome photograph taken in Longwood Gardens, 1915.
Male midwives and disobedient women in 18thc Britain.
• Ann Mead: the life and death of a teenaged nursemaid, 1800.
• Ominous illustrations of ventilation, 1869.
• Boston's Rat Day, 1917.
• Is this note passed between the lines at the Battle of Antietam stained with Civil War blood?
Image: Skilled needleworker Mary, Queen of Scots, embroidered this cat.
• George Washington's "racy" letter about a donkey goes on sale.
Signs of old London.
• Designer Ann Lowe: how a little-known black pioneer changed fashion forever.
Dance card from 1924 for an engineers' dance - check out the names of the dances!
• Famous illustrators depicting knitters and knitting - and here are some vintage photos of knitters, too.
Image: Appalling early 20thc anti-suffragette poster.
• Before George Washington became a general or a president, he tried his hand at poetry, with mixed results.
• In search of the lost mosque of Kew Gardens.
• A 1950s version of Yelp? The Gustavademecum, a NYC dining guide for engineers and explorers.
• The beautiful English romantic painting of Samuel Palmer.
Image: Little Egyptian faience model of a hedgehog,  made around 1300-1500 BC.
• Following the geometry of fire in the National Archives.
• The lighter side of 15thc magic.
• Monuments to some of the world's most pawsome cats.
• The history of the rural cemetery movement, which brought Victorians to picnic among the gravestones.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Video: (Un) Dressing Mr. Darcy

Friday, October 21, 2016
Loretta reports:

Writers as well as readers who’ve tried to work out the details of historical clothing generally appreciate a chance to see actual human beings wearing historically accurate attire.

Isabella and I have been fortunate in being able to call on the expertise of the tailors and milliners of Colonial Williamsburg. We’ve also posted what we’ve learned and seen there. Although I set my books in a later time period than the site focuses on, the historians there have The Knowledge of various eras, and have advised me on many points. But not everybody can consult with them while writing or reading a book. A demonstration like this one can answer a great many questions.

Though my current stories are later, too, than the time period recreated in this video, and the cut of coats and breeches/trousers change, as do hats, the principles apply.

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, October 20, 2016

An Englishwoman's Abolitionist Statement, 1827

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Today (especially during this election year) people wear a printed t-shirt to display their political allegiances and concerns to the world. In the 19thc, the abolition of slavery was an important and emotional social movement, and abolitionists found many ways to show their support their cause. Abolitionist motifs and slogans appeared on everything from jewelry to porcelain to printed scarves, handkerchiefs, and workbags like this one, newly acquired for the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

Although workbags originally were intended to carry a woman's sewing or embroidery (her "work"), by the 1820s they had become more general carry-alls for daily essentials, much like a modern purse. Most workbags were decorated with prettily embroidered patterns, but this one carried a more serious and somber message. Printed on the front is a copper plate image of an enslaved man in chains, while in the background others are being whipped by their master or overseer. Though this may seem somber for a lady's accessory, by the early 19thc the figure of a kneeling slave had become the unofficial symbol of the abolitionist cause.

A workbag like this was also viewed as a show of sympathy to the enslaved people themselves. While it might be considered improper or indelicate for a lady to become too deeply involved in a cause as sordid as abolition, it was acceptable for English ladies to demonstrate their emotional concern for those who suffered.

On the back of the workbag is printed an excerpt from William Cowper's 1784 poem on slavery, The Task:
   "Thus man devotes his brother, and destroys;
    And worse than all, and most to be deplored,
    As human nature's broadest, foulest blot; ––
    Chains him, and whips him, and exacts his sweat
    With stripes, that Mercy, with a bleeding heart,
    Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast."

According to the collection's label:

"Established on April 8, 1825, the Birmingham, England, Female Society for the Relief of British Negro Slaves, produced literature, printed albums, purses and workbags [including this one] for sale to help raise awareness of the cruelty to enslaved Africans and to provide money for their relief. These women, many members of the Society of Friends or Quakers, began one of the earliest Free Labor Movements specifically against the purchase of slave-made West Indian sugar. Identical objects and literature crossed the Atlantic and helped to fuel the American abolitionist movement."

Many thanks to Neal Hurst, Associate Curator of Costume & Textile, Colonial Williamsburg, for sharing this with us.

Workbag, made by the Female Society for the Relief of British Negro Slaves, 1827. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Forged Banknotes in the Regency Era

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
£1 Bank Note 1814
Loretta reports:

In researching Dukes Prefer Blondes, I spent some time looking up criminal cases. I was struck by the number of prosecutions for coining and forgery. That was why the short entry (shown below) in Hone’s Every-day Book about forged notes caught my attention.

I found an explanation at The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913.
Forgeries 1818

“Between 1797 and 1821, the period known as the ‘restriction’, new, primarily copper coins and, most importantly, inexpensively produced £1 and £2 notes were brought into circulation. The poor quality of these notes led to a spate of forgeries, which in turn led to a high number of prosecutions led by the Bank [of England] itself, for both forgery and uttering forged notes.”

If you’re curious about what old bank notes looked like, you can scroll down this page.
Bank of England 1809

You can look at a forged note from 1936 here.

And the Old Bailey website also offers a history of money & what it bought.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ann Flower's Drawing Book, c1753-1760

Sunday, October 16, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Sketchbooks are the notebooks of artists. They use them to explore influences, capture quick impressions, and save ideas for later work, all in (mostly) visual form. But like many notebooks, sketchbooks are often fragile, made of inexpensive paper that over time disintegrated, and often discarded by the artist her/himself, or tossed later after the artist's death.

Compared to Europe, there were relatively few artists in colonial America, and even fewer of their sketchbooks survive today. Only three are currently known: one each by John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West, and the one featured here by Ann Flower. Copley (1738-1815) and West  (1738-1820) are prominent names in art history, men whose talent was encouraged and supported, and whose skill eventually carried them from the colonies to London and the celebrity of noble, even royal, patrons.

Ann Flower (1743-1778) was a Quaker woman from Philadelphia who would never have considered a career as a professional artist, or have travelled to Europe to pursue such a career. This modest sketchbook, or drawing book, and several pieces of her needlework are all that remain of her youthful creative spirit. It's believed to date from around 1753-1760, when Ann would have been an adolescent, living in the largest city of the American colonies.

I saw Ann's sketchbook and her embroidered book cover, bottom right, as part of the Embroidery: The Language of Art exhibition currently at Winterthur Museum (see here and here for other posts I've written about this exhibition), and I learned more about her and her work at the Winterthur conference inspired by the exhibition this weekend. Amanda Isaac, Associate Curator, George Washington's Mount Vernon, has extensively studied Ann Flower and her work, and spoke about her drawing book as well as women's artistry in colonial Philadelphia.

Ann's sketchbook is small, only about 8" x 5" and made from fifteen sheets of paper. While it was purchased commercially, over time she tore some pages out, and added another. She drew in pencil and in ink, and added color with watercolor paints purchased from Philadelphia shops. The early pages of the book are filled with the kind of brightly colored, fanciful birds popular in 18thc embroidery, including a stupendous peacock, middle left, plus a rabbit, and a cat. Ann was a skilled needleworker, and it's possible she was experimenting with new designs or archiving older ones. There are also designs for flowers, vases, and animals.

But later in the book, Ann also drew from her life: pictures of Philadelphia women, middle right, detailing their dress, and a view of a house that may have been her own. (I particularly liked the thin black ribbons worn around the throat of one of the women that, according to Ms. Isaac, were a worldly fashion embraced by young Quaker women around 1760, and deplored by their elders - exactly the kind of thing that a teen-aged artist would note.) Fragments of faces in faded pencil peer from the pages, and more realistic drawings of flowers and birds were likely copied from botanical prints. Although untutored and unsophisticated, there's an undeniable energy to her drawings, and a quick eye for detail.

The final section of the sketchbook contains carefully inked patterns for embroidery, as well as colored drawings of flowers copied from a well-known 18thc book: Augustin Heckel's The Florist; An extensive and curious collection of Flowers/For the imitation of/Young Ladies,/Either in Drawings, or in Needlework. Ann's versions weren't literal copies of Heckel's work (so much for ladylike imitation), but her own interpretations. When she designed the embroidery for the book cover, she combined Heckel's flowers with her own to create a new design, a bouquet tied with curling ribbons, and clumps of strawberries on the spine.

The book cover is the last known example of Ann's needlework, and it likely must have held special significance for her. It covers a copy of the Anglican Church's Book of Common Prayer that was given to her by her father around the time of her marriage in 1765. Ann left the Quaker meeting to marry a man who was an Anglican, and the prayer book may have been her father's way of supporting her as she left her old faith behind. As Ms. Isaac suggested, the elaborately worked cover, too, may also been Ann's way of making her new religion and new life her own by surrounding it with familiar flowers and needlework.

While I know most of you won't be able to visit Wintherthur to see Ann Flower's sketchbook in person, the museum has made it available to read or download online here.

Many thanks to Amanda Isaac for sharing her research on Ann Flower.

Above: Illustrations from a Sketchbook, by Ann Flower, watercolor, pencil, and ink on paper, c1753-1760. Winterthur Museum.
Below: Embroidered Book Cover, by Ann Flower, wool and silk on linen, c1765. Winterthur Museum.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of October 10, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Doris Duke, the last Gilded Age socialite of Newport, RI.
• Bowled over at the 1927 Highland Park Bowl.
Lord Woolton Pie: recipe and history of the much-mocked carrot pie created during wartime rationing and which might be worth trying today.
Image: Chills: when you find something in an old book....
• Mad, bad, and dangerous to spar with: boxing with Byron.
• Was Florence Foster Jennings really the worst singer in the world?
• Postage due: the perils of American Civil War mail delivery.
• Nineteenth century children employed in dangerous trades.
Image: This failed 1838 constitutional amendment would have forbidden duelists from holding public office.
• Work out like an Edwardian: read 1913 Physical Culture for Women online.
• The clothes! Wonderful photos of American department store workers, c1898-1900.
Accidental explosions: gunpowder mishaps in Tudor and Stuart London.
Image: At the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, a librarian's tombstone that looks like a catalogue card.
• Huh: in 1875, someone published a novel with rivals "Trump" and "Clinton."
• Ten Dickensian character names deciphered.
• Thomas Newington's recipes, 1715.
• The nearly-lost drawings of an artist who spent most of his life in an insane asylum.
Image: Wouldn't you like to know more about Miss Macdonald, the inventress of this 1818 walking dress?
Tape loom weaving and its traditions in colonial North America.
Repetition is celebrity: Austen and Shakespeare.
• Combating the fear of "white slavery" in the 1930s: the FBI, sexual predators, and the Mann Act.
 Short video: It's just a box of old sewing supplies....
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Video from the Archives: A Glimpse Back to the Edwardian Past, c. 1900

Friday, October 14, 2016

Isabella reporting,

This isn't a single video, but a series of short, silent clips pieced together. The description notes that it's also been "enhanced," with the focus sharpened and the speed made consistent. That said, it's a wonderful slice of Edwardian life, a medley of street scenes, factory-dominated landscapes, amusement parks, family scenes, dockside farewells, and holidays at the beach. The caption on YouTube says the clips were mostly shot in London, with some perhaps from Cork, Ireland as well.

Much like one of our earlier Friday videos from 1895, the people here may have been arranged before the camera, but no one is acting. Seeing how everyone walks, how their clothes move and how they carry themselves, the carriages and wagons and early motor cars - it's as close as we'll get to being able to look backwards in time more than a hundred years.

Several things stood out to me while watching this:
    1) Everyone dressed much more formally then, no matter what the occasion.
    2) Boys and men have always been willing to stick their faces in front of a camera.
    3) Wherever the people in the last scene are, it's an incredibly happy crowd. So many smiles!
    4) The women's hats are fantastic, and so are the men's moustaches.

What do you see?

If you received this post via email, you may be seeing an empty space or black box where the video should be. Please click here to view the video.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Views on Tobacco in 1832

Thursday, October 13, 2016
Cigars, by H. Heath (1827)
Loretta reports:

From the time Sir Walter Raleigh brought it to England, tobacco had its detractors as well as proponents.

Henry James Meller's Nicotiana (1832), whose full title is almost as long as one of its chapters, is very much a pro-tobacco document. However, it’s also an interesting historical one. I chose one from hundreds of possible excerpts, mainly because this isn’t the only 1800s book I've found recommending tobacco as a preservative for teeth.
Tobacco for teeth
More tobacco treatment

If you start on page 83,
you can learn about the many ailments it was alleged to cure, including lung ailments.

Cigars, by H Heath 1827, courtesy Wellcome Images via Wikipedia.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sewing in a London Garden, c1800

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Since my last two posts have featured an 18thc sampler and another worked in 1673, it's not surprising that embroidery and sewing have been in my thoughts lately. When I came across this charming painting with women sewing in a London garden, I knew I had to share it here. As always, please click on the images to enlarge them.

The Chalon Family in London was painted around 1800 by Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767-1849), who was known primarily as a painter of animals. Born in Switzerland, he studied art in Paris, and came to England in the late 18thc to paint the portraits of the favorite dogs and horses (though he also painted at least one giraffe) of the British aristocracy. Unfortunately, Agasse seems to have suffered the fate of many artists who have more creative talent than business acumen, and, as one historian put it, he "was born poor and died poor."

So who are the people in this painting? I'm guessing that this is the Chalon family mentioned in an 1862 edition of the Art Journal. These Chalons were French Protestants, driven by the French Revolution first to Switzerland, and then finally settling in London. The two sons of the family, Alfred and John Chalon, both in time became artists, and it seems likely they would be acquainted with Agasse, a fellow emigre from Switzerland who was also familiar with Paris.

It's an informal painting, the kind of picture that artists make as gifts for friends or for their own amusement, and small (only about 5" x 7".) Even though the specific identities of the people have been forgotten, they definitely have the look of a family at ease with one another. The women are engaged with their work, while the men talk over the wall. Though there's no documentation, I wouldn't be surprised if the man leaning over the fence was Agasse himself, bottom left.

But all that speculation aside, there's a wealth of details in the clothing of the four women. The oldest woman, upper left, sitting by herself and warily looking up at the artist, is dressed in the style of an earlier generation, in a plain gown, kerchief and ruffled cap. She's also wearing a floral-printed pinner apron, something I can't recall seeing before (Has anyone else out there seen one in a collection or in another painting?) Instead of needlework, it appears that she's peeling white turnips with a plate of peeled ones on the ground beside her, and more turnips with the leaves still attached to her left.

The four younger women are much more stylishly dressed in the high-waisted gowns and bonnets of the early 19thc. I'm particularly intrigued by the blue over-bodice or sleeveless spencer with the little ruffle at the back - don't you wish she'd turn around to show the front?

Gathered around a polished table and seated in chairs that were probably brought outdoors from an inside parlor, the women are making the most of the sunlight, workbaskets at the ready. The woman in the center is wearing eyeglasses, and I wonder if the woman to the left is also wearing them. Eyeglasses of the era didn't necessarily hook around the ears, but instead were secured with a ribbon through the bows and across the back of the head; is the black ribbon just above her nape attached to her eyeglasses?

The Chalon Family in London by Jacques-Laurent Agasse, c1800, Yale Center for British Art.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Leadenhall Market in 1815

Monday, October 10, 2016
Leadenhall Market
Loretta reports:

I’ve previously posted excerpts  (here and here) from the Alimentary Calendar section of Ralph Rylance’s The Epicure’s Almanack, originally published in 1815 and republished in 2012 with extensive, useful  notes.

The following excerpt is from the section on markets in and about London. There were quite a few (more than I was aware of). Mr. Ryland rates Leadenhall Market as Number One.
“Leadenhall Market, independently of the sales of hides and leather effected there, is by far the most considerable market in London. The articles sold here are town and country-killed meats of every sort, and of the primest quality. In addition to the usual variety of fine beef, veal, and mutton, some of the first rate butchers here expose, during the winter season, specimens of very delicate house-lamb, which is usually sold by the quarter, at Christmas tide from fifteen to twenty-five shillings each.”

Meat Market by Pollard
The meats include all possible cuts of pork, as well as poultry:
“Not only turkies, bustards, geese, peacocks and peahens, guinea fowls, pullets, capons, pigeons, ducks, wild and tame, widgeons, teal, plovers, quails, woodcocks, snipes, larks, and all other lawful game are sold here.”

Unlawful game was sold as well, under the counter, by a method of coded words.

“Around the wholesale poultry-market are the shops of several retail poulterers of great fame, such as Messrs. Mott’s. Here are roasting-pigs, eggs, and fresh-butter, in great abundance; nor is there wanting a proportionate supply of the finest fish in season.” Here also are two or three excellent tripe-shops. This is the most considerable market in London for tame and wild-rabbits, wild in particular, which arrive every day during the season from the several warrens in Essex, Herts, and Suffolk.”

Starting here you will you'll find a detailed history and description of Leadenhall Market, including which days which items were sold.

Image above, from Ackermann's Repository, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art via Internet Archive. Image below, James Pollard, The Meat Market, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of October 3, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The weathervanes of old London.
• A crewel pocketbook for Benjamin Stuart, 1763.
• Beautiful images of New York and New England by Robert L. Bracklow, a weekend photographer in the 1890s.
• Unusual suspects: finding the humanity in vintage mugshots.
• Giles Cory, the only person in American history pressed to death by a court of law.
• The links between Queen Elizabeth I and the Muslim rulers of the late 16thc: England's forgotten Muslim history.
Image: Beautiful woodcut-printed kite, c1855.
• Time-travel down NYC's Fifth Avenue with photographs from 1911 and today.
Death personified: the many different appearances of death in culture.
Runaway! Recapturing working women's dress through runaway advertisement analysis, 1750-90.
• "Every minutes counts": the legacy of photojournalist Katherine Joseph.
Drowning in Tudor England: Why was water so dangerous?
• Forgotten Georgette Heyer stories to be republished.
Image: A page filled with drawings and signatures, c1909, from the visiting book kept by Lady Olwen Ponsonby, daughter of the eighth Earl of Bessborough.
• Snakes, mandrakes, and centaurs: a medieval herbal now online.
• The opposite of a muse: for two decades a medical secretary in Paris persuaded scores of renowned photographers to take her picture (NSFW).
• New postage stamps honoring Agatha Christie don't just celebrate her mysteries - they contain their own.
Image: A flashy 1920s billboard advertising "Holeproof Hosiery."
• The monstrous 18thc Beast of Gevaudan.
• How an imaginary island - said to be inhabited by sorcerers and giant black rabbits - stayed on maps for five centuries.
• What to expect when you're expecting, from a 1671 midwife.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Video: Cooking 101 for the 20th century

Friday, October 7, 2016
Loretta reports:

Someone recently told me that the height of gourmet dining early in his adult life was Trout Almondine, and that reminded me of going to fancy restaurants decades ago, where it did indeed star on the menu.

Most of what’s in the film is strange to me, but then, I did grow up in an immigrant household, in New England, and wasn’t exposed to much of the food that my husband, for instance, grew up with in the South. Of course, watching some of our cooking shows today, the people in the film likely would have been equally puzzled.

I wonder how many of these food ideas traveled from Britain to the U.S. or vice versa. I also wonder how many of us dress to cook in the style of the woman in the first segment. But I do lust for her jewelry. And her dress. And the mid-century dishware.

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, October 6, 2016

An Early Sampler from Salem, MA, 1673

Thursday, October 6, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Here's another sampler from the exhibition Embroidery: The Language of Art, currently on display at Winterthur Museum. This one, too, doesn't fallow into traditional notions of what a sampler should be.

Most Americans today think of 17thc New England as a mythical Pilgrim-Land, where everyone is dressed in black with buckles on their hats, barely scraping out an existence in the new land before they finally erupt into the paranoia and persecution of the witch trials. It's seen as a grim, forbidding place where it's always winter, and it's more than a little scary.

Yes, the first years of the Massachusetts Bay Company were grim. But by the middle of the century, life was growing more comfortable. Many of the settlers in the Boston area were prospering, and actively trading by ship with London, and therefore with the rest of the world. The silk thread for this sampler likely came in one of those ships, and it could have come to a Boston or Salem shop from silk manufacturers in France, Italy, or even China. Even those north American colonies were already part of a global economy.

This sampler was made fifty years after the first Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, and twenty years before the infamous witch trials. Sarah Collins, the young woman who made the sampler, signed and dated her work in the bottom rows of letters.  She lived in Salem, a coastal town about twenty miles outside of Boston with a good harbor, and she must have belonged to one of the families that was benefiting from this shipping trade. Clearly she wasn't required to work all day in the fields or preparing food for her family's sustenance, as girls might have done earlier in the colony's history. Instead she had sufficient time to devote to learning elegant, decorative needlework like this, and she was likely encouraged to do so as a sign not only her own skill, but as proof of her family's gentility.

The stitches and patterns are traditional designs that, once learned, could be employed in different ways. Letters and numbers would have been used to mark linens, shifts, and shirts, while the floral designs could embellish both clothing and household linens. Most of the sampler is worked in cross stitch, although there are some more linear stitches used as well. (Compare these geometrically-inspired designs with the more free-flowing flowers of the needle lace sampler I posted earlier from the 1790s.) Though faded with time, the colors would once have been rich and vibrant, and their selection would have been an integral part of Sarah's creation.

What impressed me the most, however, is not only Sarah's skill at needlework and design, but also the extraordinary tidiness of her work. The sampler is displayed sandwiched between two sheets of Plexiglas so that both sides are visible. If it weren't for the letters being backwards and the colors of the thread being brighter on the reverse (shown above right), it would be impossible to tell the right from the wrong side of the sampler. For Sarah, Puritan Massachusetts wasn't necessarily gloomy, but a place that included flowers, colors, and gleaming silk on fine linen - and beautiful embroidery.

Winterthur will be hosting a needlework conference in connection with this exhibition on October 14-15, 2016. Entitled Embroidery: The Language of Art, the conference speakers will include international experts on needlework as well as hands-on workshops in the needle arts. Click here for the conference brochure for more information.

Sampler, worked by Sarah Collins, 1673. Winterthur Museum. Photographs copyright Winterthur Museum.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fashions for October 1898

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
1898 suits
Loretta reports:

It appears that 1898 continued a change in fashion begun in 1897, when the huge leg o’ mutton sleeves disappeared, along with clashing colors. C. C. Willett Cunnington, in English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century tells us:
“The new conception was that the dress should be fluffy and frilly, undulating in movement with ripples of soft foam appearing at the feet; colours harmonizing with each other, surfaces broken with flimsy trimmings and revealing submerged depths of tone. The softened outlines, willowy and slender, created the illusion that these aery habitations must be occupied by beings composed of stuff less solid than flesh and blood.  ... This style survived well into the present [20th] century and during the last years of the nineteenth century did not arrive at its maturity.”
1898 visiting dresses

According to the book, “The emancipatory movement associated with the nickname ‘the New Woman’” along with the personal freedom the bicycle offered women, explains the change. “The alarm created by such innovations created, as it usually does, an apparent swing-back to the ultra-feminine in fashion. By such devices the pace of progress is seemingly checked and the male sex reassured. After a stride forward woman will affect to mark time by a return to fluffiness.”
1898 fashion description

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

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Beautiful Needle Lace Sampler, 1795

Sunday, October 2, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Last week I visited one of my favorite places, Winterthur Museum, and among the current exhibitions is Embroidery: The Language of Art. Our readers know that embroidery is one of my absolute favorite things, and this exhibition had plenty of examples to make me ooh and ahh.

For most modern people, the word "sampler" means cross-stitched letters and designs. It can be that, yes, but a sampler can also feature all kinds of needlework, from decorative stitching to darning stitches and even the so-called plain stitches used to construct clothing and household goods. Most samplers were worked by schoolgirls as they learned the various stitches. Not only were the samplers an educational tool, but they could become a kind of record of stitches for future projects. If a sampler was decorative as well, then it could also be proudly displayed by the girl's family as proof of her newly-acquired expertise.

The identity of this sampler's maker is now sadly lost beyond her initials, but her exquisite workmanship remains. Worked in a school in the Philadelphia area, the sampler features both traditional embroidery stitches and needle lace to create a stylized basket of flowers, a motif popular with embroiderers in many different cultures. The sampler is worked in silk thread on linen. (As always, please click on the images to enlarge them.)

Needle lace, sometimes called Dresden work, involves cutting or drawing away parts of the supporting fabric and then using the needle to weave elaborate patterns to fill in the empty spaces. This example must have required phenomenal skill and patience from its young maker. The needle lace sections are done with very tiny stitches - the geometric circles shown in the details are only about 1-1/2" in diameter. (The pink backing is modern to provide contrast.)

Yet there's an unmistakable exuberance and joy to the design as well. Too often fine embroidery seems like drudgery to 21st century eyes, but a piece like this is clearly as much an expression of the young needleworker's imagination as a painting might have been. You can see her enjoyment in her design and her pride in the precision of her stitches. How fortunate her work has survived so we can enjoy it, too!

Winterthur will be hosting a needlework conference in connection with this exhibition on October 14-15, 2016. Entitled Embroidery: The Language of Art, the conference speakers will include international experts on needlework as well as hands-on workshops in the needle arts. Click here for the conference brochure for more information.

Above: Sampler, by "M.S.", worked in the Delaware Valley, 1795. Winterthur Museum.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of September 26, 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The amazing 19thc butter sculptures of Caroline S. Brooks.
• A humble skirt worn by an enslaved child finds a place in history.
• The mystery of the phantom page-turner.
Native American captive Elizabeth Hanson,  a Quaker mother in 1724 New England.
Explore all the treasures of the Red Drawing Room at Blenheim Palace in 360 degrees.
Skeleton of a teenaged girl confirms cannibalism at Jamestown.
Image: Gold leaf on Coptic shoes, making a fashion statement while strutting the streets of ancient Egypt.
Fingerspitzenformer, otherwise known as a late 19thc fingertip shaper. Really.
• Danger and the amorous woman: prostitution in 19thc Britain.
• An inspired pot.
• Many questions from the title alone of this 1892 advice book to read online: "How to Get Married Although a Woman, or, The Art of Pleasing Men" by a Young Widow.
Image: Enchanting c1915 autochrome portrait of a lady happily surrounded by her books.
• Inside the old-fashioned world of New York's vintage girls.
• Benjamin Franklin's silver court sword is coming up for auction.
• Why John Hancock's signature was so big and other hands FAQs about the Declaration of Independence.
Image: Bonnie Prince Charlie's stunning silver-hilted broadsword, found on the battlefield after the defeat at Culloden.
• Domestic and imported woolen cloth in a medieval town.
• The Wolf's Water, coming from a historic London pump.
Queen's House, Tower of London: the most complete high-status, timber-framed building in London that predates the Great Fire of 1666.
The Countess Greffulhe, Proust's fashion queen, reigns again in a new exhibition.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket