Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Isabel Florence Hapgood

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Loretta reports:

Not long ago, I posted about the Oread Institute, an early college for women, and promised to write about one of its students.

Isabel Florence Hapgood is one who’s often mentioned in pieces about the Oread Institute. She wasn’t its only famous student, but she’s the one I learned was buried in Worcester. With guidance from William Wallace, Executive Director of the Worcester Historical Museum, my trusty photographer spouse found the grave at the Rural Cemetery, and this photo is the result. It’s a modest marker for a remarkable woman, famous in her day. Because she never married, her body was returned to Worcester, to be buried in the Hapgood family plot in the Rural Cemetery (she's on the left) next to her twin brother, who didn't marry, either.

Isabel Florence Hapgood (1851–1928) attended the Oread Institute from 1863–65, then went on to Miss Porter’s school in Farmington, Connecticut.
She turned out to have a knack for languages—“After graduating, she used her exceptional gift for languages to master in the next ten years most Romance and Germanic languages, and, most importantly, Russian, Polish, and Church Slavonic. She obviously was taken with Russian and…engaged a Russian lady to achieve natural fluency in spoken Russian.”—A Linguistic Bridge to Orthodoxy: Isabel F. Hapgood, by Marina Ledkovsky
In 1885 her first translations from Russian to English appeared. In the years following she translated major works by Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Gorky, Chekhov, and Sonia Kovalesky, among others. She also wrote for the New York Evening Post and the Nation. Her life turns out to be quite exciting: Among other things, she was friends with Leo Tolstoy, invited to visit the Empress Alexandra, and had a narrow escape from Russia when the Revolution began.

I would recommend you read at least pp 5-6 of this presentation, to get a sense of her accomplishments and how highly regarded she was.

The History of the Oread Collegiate Institute is a highly detailed account. Among other things it lists faculty and students throughout the school’s history. Ms. Hapgood’s entry is here. She’s in Wikipedia, of course, and the Encyclopedia Britannica. There's a short bio here at Lost Womyn’s Space, and you can see her autograph here.

Cemetery photograph by Walter M. Henritze III. I have been unable to find the original source for the image below, which appears in numerous places.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Tragedy of the Ex Dress & the Settee, c1760-80

Sunday, November 27, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Fashion never stands still. But as we've discussed here before, women in the past didn't always buy a new dress to reflect a new style, but instead refurbished, retrimmed, or remade existing clothes that they already owned to fit the latest trends. (See examples here, here, here, and here.)

However, that's not what happened to the once-lovely 18thc dress shown here in pieces.

Last week I visited Winterthur Museum for a fine Nerdy History Girls afternoon with Linda Eaton, John & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles. Linda showed me some of the treasures of Winterthur's costume and textiles collection - my idea of a perfect afternoon. In one of the storage rooms, Linda pulled a long archival box from a shelf and asked me if I'd like to see some "ex dresses." This was a new term to me, and at once I envisioned dresses worn by someone's former girlfriend. But in curatorial language, the "ex" refers more to the former state of the textile; in other words, it once was a dress, and now it's a fragment.

When new in 1760-1780, the ex dress shown here was a fashionable robe a la francaise (like this one), with a floating, pleated back and full petticoat, or skirt. The costly silk was likely woven in either Lyon, France, or Spitalfields, London, England, and then made up into a dress for a wealthy woman. The now-unknown mantua-maker who cut and stitched this dress was a skilled seamstress: the meandering floral pattern is carefully matched on the front of the bodice, with the two fronts mirroring one another.

The dress survived intact until the mid-20thc, when it fell prey not to another dressmaker, but to an upholsterer. In a practice common at the time, the dress was cut apart to provide a period-correct fabric for the 18thc settee also in Winterthur's collection, lower right. In theory this was a good choice: the settee was made in New England in 1760-1775, around the same time as the dress, and the style of the robe a la francaise offered plenty of yardage. In the hierarchy of colonial antiques, furniture outranked clothing until the late 20thc (when the study and collecting of historic dress began to be taken more seriously), and so the dress was sacrificed to outfit the settee.

At least the pieces of the dress that couldn't be used were saved - the bodice plus the shaped
sleeve ruffles, upper right, - but while the fragments are useful for study, they're also heartbreaking. To me the final indignity is the the remnants of the linen lining from the back, above left, showing the inner lacing that would have adjusted the now-vanished pleats.

Many thanks again to Linda Eaton for her assistance with this post.

Left: Ex Dress, maker unknown, silk woven in France or England, dress made in North America, 1760-1780, Winterthur Museum.
Lower right: Settee, maker unknown, Massachusetts, 1760-1775, Winterthur Museum.
Photographs used with permission of Winterthur Museum.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thanksgiving Break

Thursday, November 17, 2016

As has become our custom, we'll be taking off a week or so from blogging, tweeting, pinning, and all-around social-networking to spend time with family, friends, and a good book or two. Both of us have early-January deadlines (the same day - what are the odds?), so there will probably also be a bit of holiday-writing in the mix.

We each have much to be thankful for - including you, the very best readers, followers, and fellow-nerdy-history-folks in the world.

Have a fantastic holiday,

Loretta & Isabella

Thanksgiving postcard by John Winsch, 1910, New York Public Library.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A College for Women is Founded in 1848

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Oread Institute 1853
Loretta reports:

Once upon a time, in my college days back in the last century, I lived on Castle Street in Worcester. Behind our little street rose a hill*), which we learned was Castle Hill. Queries about the name evoked responses like, "I heard there was a castle on the hill. Or a school or something.” That was about as much as I ever learned, until recently, when a vintage postcard arrived at our house. It showed a castle, and its title, “Oread Institute,” connected in my mind with my old neighborhood, because I recalled a street by that name not far away.

As my husband I have been learning, Worcester was a happening place in the 1800s and first half of the 1900s.This was why I wasn’t completely surprised when I read here why Worcester was chosen as the site for one of the United States' first higher education institutions for women. It was built by Eli Thayer, and modeled on his alma mater, Brown University. Founded in 1848, it opened 14 May 1849.
History of Oread Institute
Oread Institute in 1870s

As this piece in Gleason’s Pictorial of 19 March 1853 points out, “Here woman enjoys exclusively those privileges which some have regarded as the rightful prerogative of the other sex, having the advantages of a collegiate course of study, if she chooses. And in the attainment of that to which she has long aspired, she is happy.”

Here's a view of Worcester from the Oread Institute in 1858, and here is a detailed study of the college. It
closed in 1881. From 1898 to 1904, it was the Worcester Domestic Science Cooking School.** In 1934 it was demolished.

We’ve located the grave of one of its graduates, about whom I’ll post at a future date.

Image at top: Oread Institute 1853, courtesy Yale University Art Gallery. The photograph below it is described thus:  "The Oread Institute, in Worcester, Massachusetts, was an important and popular women's school from 1848 until it closed its doors in 1881. This ca. 1870's photograph is significant not only because it captures the school in its final years, but because it was taken by a woman, Ms. Augustine H. Folsom." Image and quote courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester MA.   

*This is the case with most streets in Worcester: level ground is in short supply.
**It's believed that shredded wheat was invented there.

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, November 13, 2016

From the Archives: How (Not) to Dress a 17th c.Puritan Maiden

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Historical clothing is one of our favorite topics on this blog, and readers of both our posts and books will know how hard we try to get things *right* when in comes to what people were wearing in the past. Yet I'm also willing to concede that there can be considerable wiggle-room when it comes to theatrical costumes (no one really expects Cinderella to wear a perfect replica 18th c. gown, do they?) and other artistic expressions of past fashion.

But what happens when that artist's vision becomes such a potent image that it wipes the real thing clear away?

That was my thought yesterday while reading one of my favorite blogs, historian Donna Seger's Streets of SalemA recent post featured the 19th c. Anglo-American painter George Henry Boughton (1833-1905), and how his paintings of 17th c. New England Puritans have influenced how we today imagine those early settlers. (Read her post here.) She's right: Boughton's paintings have illustrated countless school history books, and his version of Puritan dress is still widely accepted as the real thing. In fact, when I did a search for the painting, left, the Google best guess that comes up is "Puritan fashion", followed by links to a teaching site that labels this as an example of "colonial clothing."

Except that it isn't. Like most history-painters, Boughton's intentions were the best, but what this young woman is wearing bears no more real resemblance to 17th c. clothing than the sturdy stone walls and substantial brick buildings in the background do to mid-17th c. architecture in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Boughton painted his Puritan maiden in 1875, and to me her expression and posture seem more akin to a fashionable lady of that era; compare her with the lady in James Tissot's Portrait, also painted in 1875.

But it's the costume that Boughton contrived for his model that fascinates me the most. I'm guessing that, like many artists, he had a collection of antique and fancy-dress clothing in his studio, and he assembled an outfit from bits and pieces that looked right to him. To be fair to Boughton, he was trying to create an artistic mood, a somber, thoughtful reverie set in the past, rather than a 17th c. fashion plate. In 1875, people regarded historical clothing as old clothes to be worn to masquerades (no one loved fancy-dress more than the Victorians), and the academic study of dress and fashion was in its infancy.

Still, I'd like to offer a challenge to you. Among our readers, there are many art historians, re-enactors, costume historians, historic seamstresses and tailors, and others of you who know your historical fashion. How many different elements and eras can you see represented in this young woman's costume?

Above: A Puritan Maiden, by George Henry Boughton, 1875, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of November 7, 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Prize money: frigates, treasure, and Jane Austen.
• The heroines of 19thc cookboooks.
Kissed against her will: a Victorian case of assault and abuse of power.
• Mesmerizing video via drone of the mist rolling off the cliffs on the Dorset coast.
Image: Women fishing next to a Studebaker "Big Six" touring car, 1919.
• American child brides and the dangers of underage sex.
• The unique beauty of Dante Gabriel Rosetti.
Extreme bagpiping situations, from Antarctica to the Beaches of D-Day.
• A metal detectorist finds a 15thc gold ring.
• Sophia Smith's 1818 sampler, made in Connecticut.
• How Emma Hamilton brought ancient Greek fashion to 18thc Europe.
Image: Gold brooch, c1860-80, depicting a wyvern, a winged two-legged dragon with a barbed tail.
• When Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe met, and Dickens' pet raven inspired Poe's poem.
• Evanion, the Royal Conjurer, plays with fire.
• In 1798, nascent party politics turned George Washington's birthday into a political headache for John Adams.
• The Jersey City devil.
Image: In praise of doodling! This doodle of a fool was drawn by artist Hans Holbein in the margin of a book in 1515.
• "On being over-fond of animals", 1765.
• Casket couture? Fashions for the grave, 1915.
• More than just a soundtrack: drums, bugles, and bagpipes in the Seven Years War.
• Was the color green fashionable in the 18thc?
Image: Just for fun: more proofreader marks.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Video: Recreating an 18thc Agateware Teapot

Friday, November 11, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Recreating an object from the past using the original methods is one of the best ways to understand both the object itself as well as the complexity of the process. It also provides a fresh appreciation for the skill of the original tradespeople, as well as the amount of time (and imagination) that went into making things by hand in the pre-mechanized era.

This novelty agateware teapot from the Victoria & Albert Museum was made in Staffordshire c1750-1765. It was intended to resemble natural agate stone with a swirling effect achieved through layering multicolored clay. The scallop shell shape was created by pressing a thrown base into a mold cast from actual shells, with additional pieces like the spout, handle, and lid made and added separately.

That's the short version of how the teapot was made. This video features Michelle Erickson, who was Ceramic Resident: World Class Maker at the V&A in 2012,  recreating a replica of the original teapot,  and showing exactly how labor-intensive that 18thc process was.

Above: Teapot, maker unknown, c1750-1765, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Isabella reporting,

No matter who wins the United States election today, there will be so much history being made that a history-related blog post today seems sort of unnecessary. It's history that all we Americans have a chance to help create, too. This early 20thc woman has the right idea, and Loretta and I completely agree with her (though we hope all you men go to the polls as well.) Use your vote!

"Women! Use Your Vote", early 20thc, Getty Images.

Monday, November 7, 2016

From the Archives: Creating Fashionable Coiffures in 1828

Monday, November 7, 2016

1828 hair styles & headwear
Loretta reports:

In my book Lord of Scoundrels, set in 1828, the hero finds the heroine's clothing and hair amusing. I know that when our readers see the fashion plates for the 1820s and 1830s, many feel the same way. But I love Romantic Era fashion, especially the extravagant sleeves and nutty hairstyles. There's an exuberance I find irresistible. The hair, especially, climbing ever upwards, charms me. But one does wonder how this sort of architectural arrangement was managed in the days before hair spray and gels.

Isabella/Susan to the rescue! She sent me a link to a site where historical hairstyles are recreated.  This inspired me to investigate how it was done and what hair products they used.  So I turned to my trusty The Lady’s Stratagem.
One style we see again and again involves two or more big loops sprouting from the top of the head.  In fashion plates, these present an interesting hairstyling puzzle, which the recreations (Photo 2, top row.  Photos 1 & 2, second row) help solve.  According to The Lady’s Stratagem, the hair can be tied first or:

“Just as commonly, the hair is not tied:  you gather it and hold it very firmly In your left hand, twist it with this same hand, and immediately place the comb on it to hold it.  Then you make nœuds d’Apollon or Apollo knots; so are called the large loops of hair on the summit of the head.  This style has been in fashion for a long time; every one says that it will last.”
And it did, well into the 1830s, until about 1836-7, when fashion went droopy.
Since the instructions quoted in The Lady’s Stratagem are lengthy, I can only refer you to that book for the details on creating this style—or, if your French is better than mine, you can follow the directions in Arte de se coiffer soi-même, enseigné aux dames (1828) (here or here).

From what I can determine, one of the hair oils we’ve seen advertised or similar product or a pomade was used to keep hair smoothly in place.

Images: upper left, courtesy Los Angeles Public Library; lower right from Arte de se coiffer soi-même, enseigné aux dames, courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de france.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it. Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you enlarge further and find out more.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of October 31, 2016

Saturday, November 5, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• A dress of Spitalfields silk.
• A place that harbors memory: the children's burial grounds in Mayo.
• Sure to ease voting concerns: 18thc recipe for Election Cake.
• Where did those pointy, black, "witch hats" come from?
• The divine messages of a Victorian spiritualist's drawings.
•  The Scottish play and the real Macbeth.
Monkeys acting like humans in art.
• A woman's work: the market Narrative of Nancy Prince.
• Floating worlds: the letters (and envelopes) of Edward Gorey.
Adelaide Knight, leader of the first east London suffragettes.
Image: World War Two soldiers made clear grips for their pistols to display photos of their sweethearts.
• The problem with museum acquisitions....
• Long-toppled statue of King George III to ride again, thanks to a Brooklyn studio.
• Thomas Edison's least successful invention was the Spirit Phone.
Image: Never be lost: 17thc map-patterned court robes
• Mid-life crisis? John Adams contemplates his birthday.
• The mysterious and majestic stone circle at Lochbuie, on the Isle of Mull.
• The Green Book was an essential guide for 20thc black motorists.
Image: Victorian-era embroidered slippers.
• The Empress Josephine and the French prophetess.
• The strange history of books bound in human skin.
• Discovering a Belle Epoque theatre inside a Parisian shoe store.
• Nelly Custis, George Washington's step-granddaughter, received many letters from the Lafayette family; explore them here.
• How Britain learned about bathrooms from the Ottoman Empire.
Image: A whimsical book store sign in the Netherlands.
• Are book collectors really readers, or just cultural snobs?
• The story of 20thc Stepney sewing machinist Marie Iles.
• For all of you watching Poldark: the history behind the series.
Video: A real-life race between a tortoise and a hare. Guess which one wins?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday Video: Jewelry & Its Stories at the V&A

Friday, November 4, 2016
Loretta reports:

A while back, Susan/Isabella posted a blog about a jewelry reward the Prince Regent gave to the women he’d entrusted with keeping his daughter, the Princess Charlotte, from running amok.

Today’s video spotlights these peridots as well as revealing the letter’s contents—and can’t you just picture the conditions under which the letter was written? In a few cryptic words, the writer conjures quite a scene—at least in this writer’s mind.

This isn’t the V&A jewelry collection's only story. The video features several other pieces, including some worn by Catherine the Great. I was particularly intrigued by the tale of how one modern piece was created.

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, November 3, 2016

From the Archives: How Guy Fawkes Crossed the Atlantic & Became Pope Night, 1745

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Isabella reporting:

Because our friends in Great Britain will celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on Saturday, it seems like an excellent time to revisit this post. 

Guy Fawkes Day is a holiday that may have a dark past, but it's certainly alive and well and full of bonfires and fireworks. Yet while it may seem a quintessentially British holiday, there's also a strong history of the celebration in New England as well as Old.

The Massachusetts colony was largely settled in the early 17th c. by English Puritans, and those conservative Protestant values continued to rule the colony. The bonfires and effigy-burning of the Fifth of November was one of the transplanted traditions that prospered, but by the middle of the 18th c., it had developed a few distinctly Yankee quirks. Several colonial wars against the French served to increase distrust and fear of Catholics. While the memory of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot weren't forgotten (the "Remember, Remember" song was duly sung), in all the northern colonies the celebration was now called Pope Night, and a rowdy time it was.

In Boston, crowds of  young men, sailors, and apprentices thronged the streets, dividing into two rival gangs, while costumed boys thumped on doors and begged money for drink. Each gang had their own procession and effigies of the Pope, friars, priests, and devils, and after a fierce brawl between the two gangs (ah, American contests of sports supremacy!), the winners captured the losers' effigies, and everything was finally burned in a satisfying bonfire. Special noisemakers, fashioned from conch shells and called "Pope's horns", added to the din, like 18th c. vuvuzelas.

As political tensions in Boston increased with England in the years before the Revolution, other effigies of unpopular public figures found their way into the procession, including the Catholic Pretender to the British throne James StuartLord North, and Lord Bute. Later infamous Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold earned his place in the flames, too. A 1745 newspaper described the scene:

Tuesday last being the Anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, two Popes were made and carried thro' the Streets in the evening...attended by a vast number...armed with clubs, staves, and cutlashes, who were very abusive to the Inhabitants, insulting the Persons and breaking the windows, &c., of such as did not give them money to their satisfaction...the two Popes meeting in Cornhill, their followers were so infatuated as to fall upon each other with the utmost Rage and Fury. Several were sorely wounded and bruised, some left for dead, and rendered incapable of any business for a long time to the great Loss and Damage of their respective Masters.

For more about Pope Night in the American colonies, check out this excellent site commissioned by The Bostonian Society. Also see one of our favorite history blogs, Boston 1775, which has numerous posts on the subject.

Above: Detail from Extraordinary verses on Pope-night, or, A commemoration of the Fifth of November, giving a history of the attempt, made by the papishes, to blow up king and Parliament, printed in Boston, 1768. Collection, Library of Congress

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fashions for November 1908

Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Dresses November 1908
Loretta reports:

Between 1907 and 1908 fashion underwent a major change in terms of silhouette. If you compare this plate to the one posted at left, the difference is obvious. The top-heavy S-curve has smoothed out, and a more vertical look—which may remind you a bit of the Regency style—has taken over.

According to Jane Ashelford’s The Art of Dress,
 “the waistband was raised above its natural level, the skirt was narrowed, and the longer and straighter-fitting corset, introduced in 1908, produced a much smoother and more elongated shape.”

November 1908 dress descriptions

Images courtesy University of Michigan via Hathi Trust.

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.

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