Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gone Fishin'

Thursday, August 24, 2017
Rowlandson, The Angling Party
Susan and Loretta report:

Yes, it seems like only yesterday we took a break, but now it's family time—at the beach, away from social media (well, mostly).

One of us will be back sooner than the other, but we'll both be back in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, we hope you, too, will make the most of these last weeks of summer (or winter, if you are in the other hemisphere).

See you in September!

Image: Thomas Rowlandson, The Angling Party, 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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Turnpike Gates Demolished

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Turnpike Gates
Loretta reports:

Some while ago, I reported my surprise at learning the Hyde Park Corner Tollgate was taken down as early as 1825. It was one of numerous traffic-slowing structures on the London roads, like Temple Bar (but more of that anon).

During my visit to the London Transport Museum, some clippings from the Illustrated London News gave me another little surprise: Hyde Park Corner Toll-gate might have gone away in the 1820s, but the majority of turnpike gates stayed in place for a long time afterward, in spite of decades of complaints, until the 1860s.

This week has witnessed the abolition of turnpike toll obstructions upon fifty miles of road in and about London on the Middlesex side of the Thames. It was many years ago that the agitation for their removal commenced, and the Illustrated London News then took the lead in advocating this important matter of social and economical reform. We have therefore thought it worth while to engrave Sketches of some of the tollgates which have been so familiar to every Londoner's eye. and which, having partly disappeared in the last few weeks, are henceforward to be utterly demolished. The City-road gate and the Islington gate, which were situated amidst a dense population, with the gates of Kensington and Notting-hill, which barred free communication with the western suburbs and villages beyond, have been selected for these Illustrations. Under the “Metropolis Turnpike. Road Act Amendment" (which takes effect from the 1st of July), twenty-five toll-gates and fifty-six side bars are done away with. At Fulham. including Walham-green and Earl's Court, all the gates and side bans are removed; also at Kensington, Hammersmith, Notting-hill, Harrow-road, Kilburn, and Camden Town, the latter comprising the King's-road gate, High-street, Chalk Farm, and the Brecknock gate, as well as the gate in the road at Kentish Town. Further removals take place at Holloway, Islington, Ball’s Pond, Kingsland-road, Cambridge-heath, Hackney, Twickenham, and Teddington.  All the gates and side bars of the city-road are included. We congratulate the whole metropolis upon the abatement of this nuisance, and hope soon to record its total extirpation on the Surrey as well as the Middlesex side of the river.
—The Illustrated London News, 2 July 1864
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, August 20, 2017

The "Keenest Sorrows" in August, 1804, After Alexander Hamilton's Death

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Susan reporting,

One of the more interesting books that I discovered in my research for my new book I, Eliza Hamilton was a solemn compendium with a monumental title: A Collection of the Facts and Documents, Relative to the Death of Major-General Alexander Hamilton: With Comments: Together with the Various Orations, Sermons, and Eulogies, that Have Been Published Or Written on His Life and Character. 

Published not long after Alexander Hamilton died from wounds incurred in his infamous duel with Aaron Burr in July, 1804, the book is exactly what that title says it is. Today's publishers often rush such titles to press to cash in on a topical event, usually branding them as "special souvenir collector's editions" and the like, but in 1804, this was unusual. Then again, the circumstances were unusual, too. The country - and particularly Hamilton's hometown of New York City - were stunned by news of a duel between the former Secretary of the Treasury and the current Vice President, and shocked by Hamilton's subsequent death.

The outcry was immediate. Even those who didn't fault Burr and felt that duels of honor still had their place between gentlemen (the practice was already illegal in New York), no one could deny the tragic waste of Hamilton's life, or the terrible effect his death had on his widow and young family. Charges of murder were filed against Burr, who had fled New York for the more sympathetic southern states. The city of New York was plunged into official, black-draped mourning. More pointedly, ministers deplored the sinful practice of dueling from their pulpits.

A Collection....was assembled by William Coleman, a former lawyer (and former law partner of Aaron Burr) who had been chosen by Hamilton in 1801 to be the editor of the Federalist newspaper, The New York Evening Post. Coleman himself was no stranger to duels; earlier in 1804, he had killed a man in a duel over a dispute with a rival newspaper.

Nor was Coleman an impartial editor. In the preface, he described Hamilton as "my best earthly friend, my ablest adviser, and my most generous and disinterested patron." He quickly put together the collection both as a tribute to Hamilton, and a defense of his friend's actions relating to the duel, and the book was published before the end of the year. A 1904 edition of A Collection.... is available to read for free online here.

One article in particular - from the August 29, 1804 edition of The Albany Centinel - touched me the most since it focussed on Eliza. Immediately following her husband's death, Eliza was so distraught that friends and family feared for her sanity. She did not attend the funeral, and soon retreated with her daughters and younger sons to her father's house in Albany. Yet by the end of August, she must have been beginning to appear again in public - though as this excerpt shows, her grief was clearly still painfully raw.

"On Sunday morning the afflicted Mrs. HAMILTON attended divine service in the Presbyterian Church in this city, with her three little sons [I'm guessing that this must have been her youngest sons, John Church, 12, William Stephen, 7, and Little Phil, 2.]

"At the close of a prayer by the Rev. Mr. Nott, the eldest boy dropped on his face, in a fainting fit.

"Two gentlemen immediately raised him, and while bearing him out of the church, the afflicted mother sprung forward, in the agonies of grief and despair, towards her apparently lifeless son.

"The heart-rending scenes she had recently struggled with, called forth all the fine-spun sensibilities of her nature – and seemed to say, that nature must, and will be indulged in her keenest sorrows – She was overpowered in the conflict, and likewise sunk – uttering such heart-rending groans, and inward sighs, as would have melted into mingled sympathies, even Burr himself.

"Both of them soon recovered – and while the little son was supported standing on the steps, yet speechless, the most affecting scene presented itself – a scene, could it be placed on canvas by the hand of a master, would be in the highest degree interesting and impressive. The mother, in this tender situation, fastened herself upon the son, with her head reclining on his left shoulder – the agonies so strongly painted on her countenance – her long flowing weeds – the majesty of her person – the position of both – and above all, the peculiarity of their trying situation in the recent loss of a husband, and a father – who could refrain from invoking on the head of the guilty author of their miseries, those curses he so rightly merits? The curse of living despised, and execrated by the voice of a whole nation – the curse of being held up to the view of future ages – a MONSTER, and an ASSASSIN."

Poor Eliza!

Above: Gold mourning ring, containing the braided hair of Gen. Alexander Hamilton, presented to a friend of Hamiltons by his wife in 1805. New-York Historical Society.
Below: Title page, A Collection of the Facts and Documents, Relative to the Death of Major-General Alexander Hamilton.... New York: Printed by Hopkins & Seymour for I. Riley & Co, 1804. Collection, University of California Libraries.

Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my latest historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, now available everywhere.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of August 14, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• How the entire small town of Katonah, NY was moved for New York City's water system - in 1897.
• Keyboards are over-rated: cursive writing is back, and it's making us smarter.
• An historian's dream: previously unknown cache of letters and papers belonging to 18thc Philadelphian Elizabeth Willing Powel discovered in the bottom of an old trunk.
• Decorating advice from Edith Wharton.
• The women's suffrage wagon of feminist & suffragist Lucy Stone.
• A scrapbook from 1723 tells the story of 36 men tried for piracy in colonial Newport, RI.
Image: White House's State dining room fireplace is inscribed with John Adams' wish: "May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof."
• Clothes as historical sources: what bloomers reveal about the 19thc. women who wore them.
• The impact of seeds, immigration, and nativism on California farms in the 1920s.
• How ballet dancers held their tights/stockings in place before elastic and lycra.
• Even in the 1700s, book clubs were really about socializing and drinking.
• Image: Joseph Paxton designed the Crystal Palace inspired by the "transverse girders and supports" of the giant water lily.
Aphra Behn: the first English woman to make her living as a professional writer was also a spy.
• The persistent presence of the 18thc female debtor.
Marie Maynard Daly: the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry made significant scientific discoveries towards combatting cardiovascular diseases.
• The royal twins of Versailles: Louise Elisabeth and Henriette of France.
Image: Coat worn by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, complete with pomatum stains on the back collar.
• Shameful rags or handsome clothes? The clothing of the 17thc poor in England.
• Everyone knows the music of Hamilton now - but what music did the real Alexander Hamilton listen to during his lifetime?
Just for fun video: Be brave, ducklings!
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, August 18, 2017

"The Most Elegant Expressions Used in the Art of Courtship", c1750

Friday, August 18, 2017
Susan reporting,

If your weekend reading includes our Breakfast Links round-up, then you've likely come across an article or two from the New England Historical Society's blog.

This week the NEHS featured one of the most popular books printed (and reprinted) in both 18thc England and America: A New Academy of Compliments: Or, the Lover's Secretary: Being Wit and Mirth Improved, by the Most Elegant Expressions Used in the Art of Courtship, In divers Examples of Writing... Letters, relating either to Love or Business.  No author is listed for this noble work, but then the entire book was probably cobbled together by the printer from multiple sources. Everything was fair game in those pre-copyright days, and there has always been a market for self-help books like this.

Although earlier editions exist from the late 17thc, there's one dated 1750 that's available free online for all of you who might need a little help in the social department. I'm sharing a few snappy responses for different social circumstances. But be prepared to study: these hot opening lines are every bit as wordy as the book's title.

To court a Gentlewoman on honourable Terms:
   MADAM, I account this to be the happiest day I ever had in all the course of my life, wherein I have the Honour of being acquainted with you.

To which the Gentlewoman replies:
   SIR, if I knew any thing in me worthy your Merits, I should think myself obliged to employ it in honouring of you. But finding nothing but Imperfection and Weakness, I believe the Knowledge of me will hardly yield you any content, much less Happiness. 

But perhaps the Gentleman isn't in pursuit of an honourable (and apparently pathetically insecure) Gentlewoman. Perhaps he'd rather "accost a Lady, and enter into Discourse with her."
   MADAM, I believe Nature brought you forth to be a scourge to Lovers, for she hat been so prodigal of her Favours towards you, that it renders you as admirable as  you are amiable.
 [Thus you may see how to speak to her. But here you must note that if it be a Lady to whom you had never spoke before, and with whom you are fallen passionately in Love, and towards whom you are resolved to continue your Love, you should proceed in this Manner]....

   MADAM, if you accuse me of Temerity, you must lay your own Beauty in Fault, with which I am so taken, that you must lay your own Beauty in Fault, with which I am so taken, that my Heart is ravished from me, and I am totally subjected to you.
[You may make Use of such Language, and pursuing your Intent, reflect always upon your Constancy; shewing by your Discourses, that you are truely in Love, and so discreet and faithful , that none can be comparable to you.]

So how does the Lady respond to all these Discourses? Apparently with inscrutable one-liners that sound like the 18thc version of the Magic 8-Ball, otherwise known as "Witty and ingenious Sentences to introduce and grace the Art of Well-speaking."

   SIR, I must enroll you in the Catalogue of my dearest Friends. You overcharge me with too great a Favour, in your condescending to pay me a Visit.
   SIR, the Ocean's not so boundless as the Obligations you daily heap on me. I'll lodge them in my Bosom, and always keep them in my Heart. 

And my personal favorite:
   SIR, Your Tongue is as smooth as Oil with courtly Flatteries. You have inflamed me with the Ardency of your Deserts. 

Still, as I read through this little book, I kept imagining aspiring heartbreakers of both genders struggling to memorize these suggestions. Perhaps the lady in the painting above has brought her own cheat sheet. How many of these would-be sweethearts were still rehearsing their drolleries in feverish whispers before the ball or the stroll in the park? And how many, finally (I hope!) abandoned the effort, and instead spoke plainly, from their own hearts?

Undaunted? Here's the direct link so you can make sure "the Virtues of your Mind would compel a Stone to become a Lover, and devote himself  your humble Servant."

Above: Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan van Reysschoot, 1740. Yale Center for British Art.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Coffin Cab at the London Transport Museum

Thursday, August 17, 2017
Loretta reports:

Even though they belong to the privileged classes, characters in my books often make use of public transportation, mainly for anonymity. I’ve put them in hackney coaches and hackney cabs (and, in the new book, A Duke in Shining Armor, in a wherry).

For Dukes Prefer Blondes, I researched cabs and coaches obsessively—and blogged about them, too, here and here—but my interest has by no means palled. So of course I was excited and delighted to find this model of an 1820 hackney cab at the London Transport Museum.

I think the model helps give a sense, as illustrations may not, of just how small it was. This one in particular would not have fit two people, and the information page on the museum's website says it had space for only one passenger. Certainly, it corresponds to the Cruikshank illustration, the first one shown in this blog post.

But Omnibuses and Cabs: Their Origin and History tells us the hackney cabriolets introduced in 1823 “had accommodation for two passengers.” Since my current books are set in the 1830s, I go with the roomier model, the one appearing in the second illustration in last year’s blog post.
Hackney cab

Still, the London Transport Museum’s earlier model does give the 3D view, and readers familiar with Dukes Prefer Blondes will, I hope, have a clearer idea what the real thing was like. For instance, we can see the apron that protected passengers from kicked-up dust and stormy weather. What the model doesn’t show are the curtains. Omnibuses and Cabs tells us, “The fore part of the hood could be lowered as required, and there was a curtain which could be drawn across to shield the rider from wind and rain.” The curtain isn’t visible in the London Transport Museum model.  Either it was a later development, too, or it’s lost in the blackness of the interior. I couldn’t be sure, then or now: It’s not easy to see into a black box, through a glass case, let alone take photographs of it.

Photograph copyright © 2017 Walter M. Henritze III

Image below: detail from James Pollard, Hatchetts, the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly
courtesy Denver Art Museum 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, August 15, 2017

A Turban for a Regency Lady

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Loretta reports:

On my recent trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum's Textiles and Fashion Department, this turban, and the various accessories* showcased with it, caught my eye. Judging by fashion prints, turbans and toques seem to have remained popular for decades. By the 1830s, they expanded, to match the extravagantly gi-normous hats and bonnets and sleeves of the era.

This one is not so extreme. Dated 1818-1823, it also offers a good example of the difference between a fashion print and the real thing.

As the information page at the V&A explains, British milliners did not know exactly how a turban was constructed. It’s possible that the real thing wouldn’t have been quite such a hit with the ladies, except, perhaps as fancy dress, as in this example.

But milliners did lovely things with the turban concept, adding feathers, jewels, lace, and the sort of floral decoration you can see on the V&A information page. I do suggest you enlarge the images at the site, which include a top-down view showing the level of artistry and craftsmanship involved.

Here’s an earlier Regency era turban, which is a bit more like a beret.

One thing that struck me about the turban on display: It seemed as though it would go well with 1930s style clothing, and probably several other fashion eras. Can we call it timeless?

*You can find out more about the fan here on its V&A page.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Lasting Legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

Sunday, August 13, 2017
Susan reporting,

Legacies are notoriously fickle things. They're difficult to create, and even harder to maintain.

Yet one New York woman's legacy still flourishes after more than two centuries. Built on kindness and a genuine concern for the welfare of others, the legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854) continues today because the same challenges that faced many children in 1806 unfortunately remain a part of our society in 2017.

During her lifetime, Eliza Hamilton thought of the present, not posterity.  Born to privilege and married to Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, she still believed in helping others directly. She brought food, clothes, and comfort to refugees of the French Revolution, and to new widows after yellow fever epidemics. She took in a young motherless girl who'd no place to go, and the child became part of her own family for years. In 1797, she was one of the founders (with her friend Isabelle Graham and her daughter Joanna Graham Bethune) of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children.

When Alexander Hamilton died after his infamous duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, Eliza was grief-stricken, but refused to fade into genteel widowhood. Financial difficulties - Hamilton had left her saddled with many debts - forced her to seek assistance from family and friends to support herself and her children, yet still she continued to help others. Her late husband had begun life as a poor and fatherless child, and orphans were always to hold a special place in her heart - and her energies.

In 1806, Eliza, Isabella Graham, and Joanna Bethune founded the Orphan Asylum Society in the City of New York (OAS). Eliza was named second directress. The OAS began with sixteen orphans, children rescued from a harrowing future in the city's streets or almshouses.

But Eliza and her friends realized that these first orphans must be only the beginning of their mission. In the first years of the nineteenth century, New York had grown into the largest city in America with a population of over 60,000, crowded largely into the winding streets of lower Manhattan. the harbor had made the city a major port, and goods and passengers arrived from around the world.

While some New Yorkers prospered, many more fell deeper into poverty and disease, and it was often the children who suffered most. In greatest peril were children who arrived in the city as new orphans, their immigrant parents having died during the long voyage. Completely alone, these children were often swept into dangerous or abusive situations with little hope of escape.

Eliza and her friends would not abandon them. With each year, the OAS grew larger, and was able to help more children, yet the goals of the OAS never changed. Children were provided not only with food, clothing and shelter, but also education and the skills of a trade so that they cold become independent and successful adults.

In 1821, Eliza was named first directress (president), with duties that ranged from the everyday business of arranging donation for the children in her charge to overseeing the finances, leasing properties, visiting almshouses, and fundraising to keep the OAS growing. With her own sons and daughters now grown, these children became an extended family. She took pride in each of of them, and delighted in their successes, including one young man who graduated from West Point.

She continued as directress until 1848 when she finally, reluctantly, stepped down at the age of 91, yet she never lost interest in the children she had grown to love. When she died in 1854 at the remarkable age of 97 - over fifty years after her beloved Hamilton - The New York Times wrote of her: "To a mind most richly cultivated, she added tenderest religious devotion and a warm sympathy for the distressed."

The OAS that Eliza Hamilton helped found continues today. Now known as Graham Windham, it has evolved into an organization that supports hundreds of at-risk children and their families in the New York area. Times have changed - the 19th century's orphans are today's youth in foster care - but the mission remains true to Eliza Hamilton's original goals: to provide each child in their care with a strong foundation for life in a safe, loving, permanent family, and the opportunity and preparation to thrive in school, in their communities, and in the world.

"We serve the children who need us most," says Jess Dannhauser, president and CEO of Graham Windham. "It's a deep personal commitment for us. We don't turn anyone away. These are hard-working, courageous kids who want to make something of themselves and are looking for ways to contribute, and we're constantly adapting to discover the best ways to serve them."

Last week - August 9 - marked the 260th anniversary of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton's birthday. Although I completed writing I, Eliza Hamilton months ago, I've been thinking a lot about Eliza again lately, especially in a world that seems to have become increasingly selfish and uncaring, with little regard for those in need.

Not long ago, I visited the churchyard of Trinity Church in Wall Street, where Eliza and Alexander Hamilton are buried side by side. It's become something of a pilgrimage site for fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda's phenomenal musical, and Alexander's ornate tomb in particular is often decked with flowers and other tributes.

On this morning, Eliza's much more humble stone - where she is described only as her father's daughter, her husband's wife, as was common for 1854 - was notably bare, and I resolved to find a nearby florist. Before I did, however, I stopped inside the church itself. Near the door is a box for contributions to Trinity's neighborhood missions, and I realized then that Eliza didn't need another memorial bouquet. Her legacy instead continues in the example of her own selflessness, compassion, and generosity to others. With a whisper to the woman who'd lived long before me, I tucked the money I'd intended for flowers into the contribution box.

Thank you, Eliza, and may your legacy always endure.

Upper left: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, by Ralph Earl, 1787, Museum of the City of New York.
Right: Mrs. Alexander Hamilton miniature by Henry Inman, 1825, New York Historical Society.
Lower left: Grave of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. Photograph ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott. 

Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my latest historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, now available everywhere.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of August 7, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• A timeline of fashion history 1784-1970 through fashion illustration.
• A tale of two authors: Jane Austen and Germaine de Stael.
• Remembering Grace Darling, a true heroine who became a Victorian media sensation.
Emma Allison, a "Lady Engineer" at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.
• Remembering the 19thc Chinese script that only women could read.
• Sneaky: a recently declassified (by the CIA!) recipe for invisible ink from World War One.
• The complicated lives of the 18thc poor in England: going for a soldier.
• ImagePlaying cards from 1942 had important secrets.
• What the deuce! The curse words of Charles Dickens.
• Secret Versailles, after hours.
Soldier-printers' interjections of encouragement made on the American Civil War battlefield.
The Temple of the Muses: the biggest and cheapest bookstore in the 18thc world.
• What became of Charlotte Williams, the illegitimate daughter of the fifth Duke of Devonshire?
Image: Harvest knots, exchanged as tokens of love and courtship.
 Frances Folsom Cleveland: the 22-year-old FLOTUS as an 1880s Washington celebrity.
• Six of New England's most famous writers' houses.
• Did Alexander Hamilton (and probably Thomas Jefferson, too) hold this coin?
• Did French priests want to marry during the French Revolution?
• The Greenwich Village house for being the Louisa May Alcott House - but isn't.
• Found: a lunch box from 4,000 years ago.
Image: Mary Shelley's memorial album with locks of her friends' hair.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Video: The Apostrophiser

Friday, August 11, 2017
Loretta reports:

Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a way to connect today’s video to history, but no matter. “Nerdy,” I think, takes care of the category, although there might be some nerdy people who can pass an incorrectly punctuated sign in a calm and collected manner, perhaps shrugging or shaking their heads sadly.

They are not me. My hands itch to correct. But I do not, merely go on my way, grumbling or ranting, depending on whether I’m alone or in company.

But certain others take a more activist approach.

Here’s one gentleman who decided to make the world a safer place for apostrophes.

Youtube Video: Grammar vigilante - The 'Apostrophiser' Bristol's grammar nazi

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.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Recreating the 18thc "Ruins of Rome" Wallpaper in the Schuyler Mansion

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Susan reporting,

When Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) began building his estate near Albany, NY in 1761, he was determined to make it a suitable home for his growing family as well as for his stature as a gentleman of wealth and property.

Called The Pastures, the brick house was to be elegant and substantial in its Georgian symmetry, and sit grandly on eighty acres high on the hill overlooking the Hudson (or North) River so that visitors coming to Albany from New York City would be sure to see it first. Twenty-eight-year-old Philip wanted his house to be as impressive inside as it was commanding from the exterior, and while the house was being built, he combined a business trip to London with something of a decorating spending spree.

I've already shared the dramatic wool-flocked wallpaper that Philip bought, replicas of which can be seen today on the walls of the house (now called the Schuyler Mansion.) But even more impressive was the scenic wallpaper he bought for the upstairs and downstairs halls. Unlike most 18thc wallpaper which was block-printed, or "stampt", this paper was painted entirely by hand in tempera paint in shades of grey - en grisaille was the term - to mimic engraved prints. In fact, the entire scheme of the papers was an elaborate trompe l'oeil to represent framed paintings and cartouches, all custom designed for the walls and spaces they would occupy.

This was, of course, extremely expensive, and as much a sign of Philip's deep pockets as his taste. The wallpaper he ordered featured romantically scenic landscapes by the Italian painter Paolo Panini, and was called "Ruins of Rome." The "Ruins of Rome" wallpaper was so rare and costly that there are only two examples of it known to survive in America: in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, MA, and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, which has installed the paper taken from the now-demolished Rensselaerwyck, the home of Stephen Van Rensselaer II, also near Albany. (Yet all status and expense is a matter of degrees; the scenic wallpaper was inspired by aristocratic rooms like this one from Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, UK, which features real Panini paintings in gilded, carved frames and Genoese cut velvet on the walls.)

But for colonial New York, the wallpaper was grand indeed. Philip became a general during the American Revolution, and the wallpaper formed the first impression of the house's many illustrious guests during that era, including Benjamin Franklin, the Marquis de Chastellux, and George and Martha Washington, as well as gentlemanly British "prisoners" such as Major John Andre and General John Burgoyne.

Oh, and there was that one other young officer who ended up marrying the Schuylers' second daughter Elizabeth: Alexander Hamilton. (Eliza often returned to The Pastures throughout her married life, and the house is something of a secondary character in my new novel, I, Eliza Hamilton.)

Tastes change, however, and cities and families change, too. After General Schuyler's death in 1804, the family sold The Pastures, and the land around it was divided and developed. Albany grew to surround the house, which passed through various owners before finally being purchased by the State of New York and opened as a historic site in 1917.

The scenic wallpaper had long been removed. But over the last few years, the state's Peebles Island Resource Center, led by Rich Claus and Erin Moroney, has painstakingly recreated a high-quality digital reproduction of the "Ruins of Rome" based on the wallpaper from both the Lee Mansion and the Van Rensselaer installation in the Met, but redesigned to fit the Schuyler Mansion's walls and woodwork as perfectly as the original once did. The new wallpaper was completed and hung as part of the Mansion's centennial celebration this year. As you can see from these photos, it's a glorious recreation, ready to impress modern visitors just like their 18thc counterparts.

Many thanks to Danielle Funiciello of the Schuyler Mansion, and social, cultural, & architectural historian Judy Anderson (former curator of the Jeremiah Lee Mansion & author of Glorious Splendor: the 18thc Wallpaper in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion)  for their help with this post.

The Schuyler Mansion is open for tours; please check their Facebook page or call for days and hours.
All photographs ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott.

Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my latest historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, now available everywhere.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Execution Bell at St. Sepulchre-Without-Newgate

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Loretta reports:

Though my book Dukes Prefer Blondes, with its barrister hero, was published last year, my interest in the 19th C English criminal justice system has by no means diminished. During my stay in London, I’d planned to visit many of the sites mentioned in the story and look for inspiration for a future story. My husband and I started the investigation with a London Walk titled “Crime and Punishment.” Our guide on this occasion was Richard III (no, not that one: this was not a ghost walk).

Along with many other crime-associated sites, some of which I’ll write about eventually, Richard III took us to the Church of St. Sepulchre Without Newgate.

Standing so close to Newgate Prison and the Old Bailey, the church featured in public executions, and its bells tolled on the fatal day.

The night before was rather more macabre. Round about midnight, the St. Sephulchre’s clerk would travel across the street through a tunnel, to stand outside the condemned prisoner’s cell. There the clerk would ring the handbell pictured here, and recite to the prisoner the following comforting ditty:

All you that in the condemned hold do lie,
Prepare you, for to-morrow you shall die;
Watch all, and pray, the hour is drawing near
That you before the Almighty must appear;
Examine well yourselves, in time repent,
That you may not to eternal flames be sent.
And when St. Sepulchre's bell to-morrow tolls,
The Lord above have mercy on your souls.
Past twelve o'clock!
St. Sepulchre Watch-House
There seems to be some disagreement about when this practice ended. The plaque in the church says it “died out in the early part of the 19th Century.” The London Encyclopedia tells us it ended in 1744.

The church was deemed to need a watch-house, to deter grave-robbing and, possibly, escapes. What we see today is a complete rebuild of the original 18th century structure, which was destroyed in WWII.

You can read more about the church here at the London Historians blog.

All images: Photo copyright © 2017 Walter M. Henritze III

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Spoils of a Patchwork Quilt

Sunday, August 6, 2017
Susan reporting,

When I was little, my godfather spoke often about a Meissen porcelain platter that he'd hidden in his knapsack during the last days of World War II. He'd guarded it fiercely, refusing to let it out of his sight until he could bring it home as a trophy of the war. He assured us that it had belonged to Hitler, and had been part of the Führer's own dinner service.

To be honest, I don't remember the actual platter itself. Had my godfather sold it? Did it failed to survive the Atlantic crossing back to New York? I don't know. But even then it was clear to me that the real significance of the platter to my godfather wasn't its intrinsic value, but that it represented a piece of the enemy that he'd won and kept, a trophy to be proudly discussed and marveled over for the rest of his life. It was tangible proof that when he'd fought for his country, he'd been among the victors.

Of course, my godfather wasn't alone in this. No matter how much officers frown and governments try to outlaw looting, soldiers have always brought home "souvenirs" from their battles and their enemies - the infamous spoils of war.

I thought of that earlier this year when I first saw these baby shoes, cut from the red wool of a captured British uniform coat during the American Revolution, and I thought of it again when I saw the quilt, above, on display at Winterthur Museum. Although the quilt is believed to have been made in the early 19thc, a family heirloom from the American Revolution dominates the patchwork pattern. The unusual scarlet shape in the middle is a man's 18thc red wool cloak. The larger semi-circle would have wrapped around the wearer's shoulders, while the smaller semi-circle would have folded back around the neck into a collar. The cloak would have been worn over another coat as an extra layer of warmth and protection during a harsh winter.

Family tradition says the cloak was captured from a British soldier by an ancestor fighting in the northern campaigns, where the weather was coldest, during the American Revolution. The cloak was then likely passed down through the next two generations, and probably with a tale or two attached as well. Winterthur believes the quilt was most likely made by Myranda Codner Patterson (1808-1881) around the time of her marriage to Thomas Patterson in 1828. From there, the trail becomes a bit more hazy. There were several ancestors in the Codner and Patterson families who were the right age to have fought with the Continental Army, but it's unclear which one might have actually captured the cloak.

No matter. When Myranda (or whoever else might have made the quilt) began to cut her patchwork pieces, she left the bright red wool cloak untouched, and instead incorporated its geometric shape into her design. It's easy to imagine the stories that surrounded the quilt after that. Imagine being a child tucked beneath it, and hearing about how your brave ancestor plucked this very cloak from the shoulders of a wicked redcoat officer. Imagine touching that red wool as you drifted off to sleep, and dreaming of hard-fought victories won for the sake of liberty and America.

Much like my godfather and that Meissen platter.

Above: Quilt with inset 18thc men's cloak. Possibly made by Myranda Codner Patterson, possibly Ohio, early 1800s. Winterthur Museum. Photo courtesy of Winterthur Museum.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Shameless Self-Promotion: Read the First Chapter to I, ELIZA HAMILTON

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Susan reporting,

Later this week, my publisher, Kensington Books, will post the first chapter to my new historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, on line.

But subscribers to my mailing list are reading it now - and you can, too. Simply click here to join my mailing list and you'll be sent an instant link to the preview. I promise your information won't be shared with anyone else, nor will I fill your inbox to overflowing. You'll only hear from me perhaps 2-3 times a year with important news or offers, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.

Hey, even George Washington has HIS copy....

Breakfast Links: Week of July 31, 2017

Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Everything you've ever heard about chastity belts is a lie.
• Joys and sorrows: Lewis Hine at Ellis Island.
• Sketches from a journey across Europe in 1817.
• So how many miles in a month did the old wool spinners cover with a walking wheel?
• The truth about John Quincy Adams' skinny-dipping and reporter Anne Royall.
• Did the invention of the sewing machine mean liberation or drudgery for 19thc women?
Image: Witnesses: three chestnut trees at Hougoumont bear musket ball scars that prove they were there in 1815.
• On-line exhibition: Victorian Valentines: Intimacy in the Industrial Age.
• Mapping Dante's Inferno, one circle of hell at a time.
• America's first woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell.
Image: Navigate your way around the Roman city of Londinium c AD50 with this interactive map.
Fashion's attics: in Italy, designers maintain their own archives both for preservation and inspiration.
• "Picturing Places", a new online resource from the British Library, helps to visualize the Georgian past with images from their collection.
Benjamin Franklin's London.
Image: Medieval Italian colored glass drinking horns.
• What Shakespeare's house looked like in 1737.
• The lost young love of John Quincy Adams.
• Did Jane Austen develop cataracts from arsenic poisoning?
• Over 120 years later, this garden of glass flowers is still blooming.
Image: Just for fun - the cover of Enlightened Bride magazine.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, August 4, 2017

From the Archives: A Glimpse into the Edwardian Past

Friday, August 4, 2017

Susan 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 notice?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fashions for August 1852

Thursday, August 3, 2017

August 1852 fashions
August 1852 fashion description
Loretta reports:

Last year, in my 1850s fashion post, I lamented the dearth of complete magazines, with fashion plates, online for the Victorian era. It seemed that Godey’s was about all there was, with one or two Petersons. Since then, I’ve found a nice collection of the London and Paris Ladies’ Magazine of Fashion on Google Books. The magazine is rich in fashion prints. For August 1852,  I chose Plate 1 because it shows a court dress, which tends to be quite a different fashion species from other clothing, even evening dress. While the plumes tend to give it away, court dress also stands out in prints like these because it’s so elaborate.  This one is clearly so, dripping with jewels.

Plissé refers to fabric with a pleated or puckered finish. Interestingly, the Merriam- Webster dictionary lists a “first known use” of the term in 1859,” yet here it is in 1852. I’ve had this same experience many times, finding earlier usages in 19th century books online than the OED or M-W list.

Barège is a thin fabric made of silk and cotton or wool.

To compare and contrast actual dresses with prints, you might want to look at some early 1850s fashions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online costume collection here, here, and here.

Images from The London and Paris Ladies' Magazine of Fashion, ed. by Mrs. Edward Thomas, via Google Books.

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, August 1, 2017

Seeing the Emotion in the Words of a Handwritten Letter, 1797

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Susan reporting,

One of the most challenging aspects of writing historical fiction is trying to remove all the fusty layers of time and interpretation to capture the immediacy of the past. Whenever possible, I look to primary sources - letters, diaries, journals - that give voices to long-gone people. Seeing those original words reprinted in a book or on-line is useful, of course, but being able to see the originals of those same letters can take research - and inspiration - to an entirely different level.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to see first-hand one of Abigail Adams' more famous (or more infamous, depending on your perspective) letters now in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Abigail was no fan of Alexander Hamilton, nor was her husband, John Adams. As young as the American republic was in1797, vitriol, name-calling, and backstabbing were already part of the political system, and there were few rivalries more bitter than the one between Hamilton and Adams. Each had many reasons, and both were right: Hamilton believed he'd been shut out of the government he'd help create during George Washington's presidency, while Adams felt that Hamilton had undermined his attempts to win a second presidential term himself. Each accused the other of unseemly ambition, and both were justified there, too.

As can be expected, Abigail supported her husband, and loathed Hamilton. The Adamses had always been frank in writing to one another about politics, and her (low) estimation of Hamilton echoed his own. The letter that she wrote in late January, 1797, begins calmly enough, with notes of the weather and the "pain and anxiety of Seperation." Then she launches into gossip she'd heard regarding Hamilton, followed by her own appraisal of his character, only to realize at the letter's end what she's written:

"Mr. Black told me the other day on his return... that Col. H[amilton] was loosing ground with his Friends in Boston. On what account I inquired. Why for the part he is said to have acted in the late Election. Aya, what was that? Why, they say that he tried to keep out both Mr. A[dams] and J[efferson], and that he behaved with great duplicity....that he might himself be the dictator. So you see according to the old adage, Murder will out. I despise a is my firm belief that if the people had not been imposed upon by false reports and misrepresentations, the vote would have been nearly unanimous. [Hamilton] dared not risk his popularity to come out openly in opposition, but he went secretly cunningly as he thought to work....

"Beware of that spair Cassius, has always occured to me when I have seen that cock sparrow. O I have read his Heart in his wicked Eyes many a time. The very devil is in them. They are laciviousness itself, or I have no skill in Physiognomy.

"Pray burn this Letter. Dead Men tell no tales. It is really too bad to survive the Flames. I shall not dare to write so freely to you again unless you assure that you have complied with my request."

Obviously, John Adams didn't obey Abigail's request. Read as transcribed here, her words are indeed "bad," but to see them as she wrote them in the original letters showed exactly how angry she was.

Compare the delicacy of Abigail's greeting in the same letter, right, with the closing paragraphs, lower left. (As always, please click on the image to enlarge.) By the time she reached "Beware of that spair Cassius..." she was driving the pen across the page, her letters growing darker, wider, and less formed as she pressed the nib of her pen furiously across the paper. How much more powerful - and revealing - those words are in their handwritten version!

Many thanks to Sara Georgini, Historian and Series Editor, Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, for showing this letter and others to me. Excerpt from letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, January 28, 1797, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Above left: Abigail Adams by Jane Stuart (after Gilbert Stuart), c1800, Adams National Historic Park.
Right & lower left: Excerpt from letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, January 28, 1797, Massachusetts Historical Society. Photo by Susan Holloway Scott.
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