Thursday, August 23, 2018

Gone Fishin'

Thursday, August 23, 2018
Susan & Loretta report:

We were doing a lot of typing in June ... and July ... and August. But summer’s ending, and it’s time for a break. We’ll be back the second week in September.

Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy these last lazy, hazy, days of summer. For those of you who, like us, have sweltered in ghastly heat and humidity and drowning in local imitations of monsoon season, we wish a change in the weather for something much more agreeable.

See you in September!

Image: Enrique Estevan y Vicente, Zwei Anglerinnen mit Parasol am Bach (Two female anglers with parasol at the stream) 1880

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Woman Reads, Wearing a Bonnet Indoors—Really?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Blacklock, A Quiet Read
Loretta reports:

A short time ago, this image appeared on social media, with a question about women wearing hats indoors while reading. This sort of thing leads to my putting on my deerstalker hat and sticking the pipe in my mouth—but not the needle in my arm—and sleuthing.

My collection of historical dress images includes a goodly number of early 19th century ones in which women are indoors, reading, wearing a headdress. They are usually in morning dress, and the headgear is a cap. Some caps are so elaborate, though, that at first glance they seem to be hats, like the English lace cap on the left in this image.

This fashion plate, of a promenade dress, definitely shows a hat (straw), and the woman is holding a book open. Since she’s wearing a rosary and cross,  she could be in church, and that could be a prayer book she’s holding. Or not. We often see Regency-era fashion plates of women wearing crosses with evening dress: It’s jewelry.

However, the painting in question is not from the Regency era. It comes from the late 19th/early 20th century, during a period of Regency nostalgia. In the early 1800s, Jane Austen was liked in some quarters, dismissed in others, but essentially no big deal. It wasn’t until the 1880s that she became a rock star. At this time editions of her books illustrated by the likes of Hugh Thomson and C.E. Brock begin to appear, and we start to see a Regency revival in painting. The image in question is from this Regency revival/nostalgia era, when artists like Edmund Blair Leighton, Frederick Morgan, Frédéric Soulacroix, Giovanni Boldinim and many others created their versions of the Regency (and Empire) eras.

Kennington, Lady Reading by a Window c 1900
Looking into this later time period offered a little more enlightenment. William Kay Blacklock’s painting is dated circa 1900. In the late 1800s/early 1900s, I did find a few images of women reading, indoors, wearing hats, like this one by Frederick Carl Frieseke, and this one by James Guthrie.

In conclusion, I can’t altogether explain it, but the image might be historically inaccurate only for the era it’s conveying. Or maybe not. Maybe the lady is sitting in the dentist’s office, waiting her turn. Or maybe she's waiting for her boyfriend to come and collect her for a drive in Hyde Park. Or maybe, as author Caroline Linden suggested, "She's getting ready to go out but just wants to finish one last chapter..." What do you think?

If you've seen other images with this reading-indoors-wearing-a-hat theme, please feel free to share.

My thanks to Lillian Marek for sending me on this very interesting and educational investigation!

Images: William Kay Blacklock, A Quiet Read, possibly circa 1900; Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Lady Reading by a Window; Gandalf’s Gallery 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.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Queen(s) with the Pearl Earrings

Sunday, August 19, 2018
Susan reports:

I've written an earlier blog post about the large pearl that King Charles I wore in one ear. It seems only fair to write about an equally famous pair of pearl earrings worn by his queen, and several others besides. Many legendary jewels of the past have disappeared through wars and revolution, or have been broken up, re-cut, and reset until they bear no resemblance to their original design. But these magnificent earrings, left, have miraculously survived with both pearls and diamonds intact, and with a tantalizing history to match.

The earrings first appear as part of the dower jewels of Marie de' Medici (1575-1642), an Italian princess who left her native Florence to wed the French king, Henry IV (1552-1610). The de' Medici family was old, powerful, and very wealthy, and the jewels that Marie brought with her astonished the French court. At this time, pearls were the most valuable of precious gems, rare accidents of nature. The two almost perfectly matched droplet pearls in the new queen's favorite pair of pendant earrings were of a quality not been seen before in Paris. Other women at the court wore pearl drops (many ladies in 17th c. portraits are shown with them) but most of these pearls were coated glass. Marie's were real, and fit for a queen. She was painted wearing the earrings, right, in 1616 by Peter Paul Rubens.

When Marie's youngest daughter, the princess Henriette Marie (1609-1699), married the English King Charles I (1600-1649) in 1625, Marie gave the pearl earrings to her as a wedding gift. Henriette, too, was painted many times wearing the earrings, including this portrait of her as a young wife in 1632 by Sir Anthony van Dyck. Her marriage was a happy one, and blessed with many children. But the earrings brought Henriette no luck as the English queen. Her husband's unpopular politics eventually led to a disastrous civil war that cost him his life. Henriette was forced to flee the country in 1644 soon after giving birth to their last daughter, and leaving the baby behind. In exile in France with her sons, she was forced to gradually sell all her jewels first to help support her husband's army, and then, as a widow, to keep herself from poverty. Mementos of happier times, the pearl earrings were among the last jewels to go, finally being purchased by her nephew, the French King Louis XIV (1638-1714) in 1657.

The nineteen-year-old Louis had fallen desperately in love with eighteen-year-old Marie Mancini (1639-1715), the Italian niece of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, the king's primary minister. At first the match was approved both by the cardinal and Louis's widowed mother, and Louis presented the pearl earrings to Marie as his future queen. Marie's portrait, left, shows her wearing the pearls along with flowers in her hair. But politics intruded and the match was broken off, with Louis instead marrying the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa, and Marie wed to the Roman Prince Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna. But Marie kept the king's pearls, and the earrings were by now so associated with her that they became known by her name, the Mancini Pearls.

No one is certain whether she left the earrings to one of her children, or sold them herself during her long and tumultuous life. In fact, there is no record of the pearls at all for nearly 250 years, until they appeared at Christie's auction house in New York in October, 1979. There they were sold to a private collector for $253,000, a price that almost seems reasonable considering all the history attached to them. They remain among the most famous jewels ever sold by Christie's.

Now I know that pearls, however beautiful, are inanimate objects, the work of an irritated oyster. But don't you wish these earrings could tell their story, and repeat even a few of the confidences and endearments, promises and secrets once whispered into the ears that wore them?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of August 13, 2018

Saturday, August 18, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Dr. David Hosack, revolutionary nerd - and physician to both Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
• The skeleton suit: sounds scary, but not to the little boys who wore them in the early 19thc.
• "A Gentleman having married a wife made this request to her that she would not ride upon a great dog in the house": gossip from 17thc vicar John Ward.
• Eighteenth century business women and their trade cards.
Mrs. Bridget "Biddy" Mason was brought to Los Angeles as a slave in 1851; she died free, and one of the city's wealthiest women.
Image: The Marquis de Lafayette used pre-printed invitations for Monday night suppers; guests included Americans like Adams, Jay, and Jefferson visiting Paris.
• "Anyone can develop a good telephone personality": How to Make Friends By Telephonea 1950 guide.
• In July, an 18thc white oak from Washington's era fell at Mount Vernon, but most of the stories surrounding the tree were from the Civil War.
Image: John Adams drew this map of his local taverns in Braintree and Weymouth, MA, in 1760.
• The drowned, submerged prehistoric forests of Lincolnshire.
• Aunt Fanny's school bell, c1920.
Old Bet, the first elephant brought to America, arrived in Newburyport, MA in 1797.
• Influenced by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, workhouses built in 19thc England were designed to split up families by putting them in different laboring groups.
• The deadly 1911 heatwave that drove people insane.
Image: Mona Friedlander and Joan Hughes, the first women to fly military planes in Britain, 1940.
Julia Child's recipe for a thoroughly modern marriage.
• Benjamin Franklin discovers tofu for America.
• Six historic sites in Britain that survive from the Age of Steam.
Image: Cat paw-prints preserved in medieval tiles.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday Video: Beautiful Music from an 18thc Harp

Friday, August 17, 2018

Susan reporting,

Here's a wonderfully peaceful way to ease into the weekend: harpist Nancy Hurrell plays a short selection on an 18thc French pedal harp in the collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Made in Paris around 1785 by master luthier and harp-maker Godefroi Holtzman, the harp, right, is an exquisitely beautiful instrument, a work of art even if it didn't make such lovely music. For more information about the harp, please see the museum's page here.

Romance from Sonata in B-flat major (op.13, no. 1), 1775-90, by Jean-Baptiste Krumpholtz, performed by Nancy Hurrell.

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Votes for Women: The 19th Amendment

Thursday, August 16, 2018
The Awakening 1915
 Loretta reports:

In a few days, we mark a milestone in women’s rights.  On 18 August 1920, the state of Tennessee ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. constitution, providing the three-quarters majority needed for adoption.

Here’s what it says:
"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
 "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
It Doesn't Unsex Her
Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California, whose wife, Ellen Clark Sargent, was a suffragist, first introduced the amendment to Congress in 1878. Yes, it took only forty-two years. And the women’s fight for the right to vote had begun decades earlier. But long, long fights have been the case with a great many other milestones in legislation, like abolishing slavery.

We all know the suffragists were ridiculed and abused all the way to the ballot box, but you might want to look at samples of what some people found hilarious, here (let's also ridicule women's fashion while we're at it), here, here, here, here, and here. Note that suffragists are always unattractive, sometimes monstrous. Elderly spinsters appear frequently. Wearing eyeglasses.

Yet a few years later we find images mocking the anti-suffrage side, here, here, here, here, here, and this powerful (and surprising, given the date) image of native American women.

You'll notice that Puck, which had published some of the more infuriating images in this collection, either couldn't make up its mind or finally changed its tune.

I Did Not Raise My Girl To Be a Voter
Images: Hy Mayer, The Awakening, 20 February 1915, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA; Milhouse, Katherine, It Doesn't Unsex Her, 1915, via Wikipedia;  "I did not raise my girl to be a voter." Soprano solo with vociferous supporting chorus of male voices, 1915, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA .
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 14, 2018

An 18thc Man's Waistcoat Becomes a 1950s Woman's Vest

Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Susan reporting,

In our time of fast-fashion and clothing that's made to be disposable, the exquisite clothing of the upper classes in 18thc Europe and America seems stunningly beautiful. Embroidery, embellishment with sequins and faux pearls, silk damasks so artfully woven that they defy modern reproductions: the Georgian era is one big delicious candy-box of precious textiles.

I'm not the only one to think this way, either. These textiles and clothes were so valued that they often had many lives, first being updated and remodeled repeatedly to fit the original owner, and then again by future generations as well. The amount of fabric and the construction (which could easily be unpicked) of most 18thc gowns made them ripe for refashioning. I've written about several of these recycled gowns before, including here, here, and here.

The clothing of 18thc gentlemen, while just as lavish as that worn by the ladies, seldom received the same treatment. This is not only because the men's coats, waistcoats, and breeches were fitted and tailored, providing little fabric for a new project, but also because after 1800 or so, men's clothing took a decidedly more somber turn. There was little interest among men in the 19thc or 20thc to refurbish a spangled pink velvet court suit (except, perhaps, by Liberace.)

But there's an exception to every rule, and the vest shown, left,  is the glorious proof.  It's currently on display in Fashion Unraveled, a wonderful exhibition at the Museum at FIT through November 17, 2018.

The vest began its clothing-life looking much like the men's waistcoat, right. Made in second half of the 18thc, both waistcoats feature professionally worked embroidery, placed to accentuate the wearer's taste and form. Sometime around 1950, however, a clever seamstress took one of these 18thc men's waistcoats, adapted it to a woman's figure, and created the vest.  Preserving the impact of the original embroidery, but shortening the length and adding the darts to create the close-fitting silhouette characteristic of the late 1940s-1950s, the vest would likely have been worn with a full skirt.

Don't know about you, but I'd wear either one (or both!) of these waistcoats now....

Left: Woman's Vest, remodeled c1950 in America, from an 18thc man's waistcoat. Museum at FIT. Photograph ©2018 Susan Holloway Scott.
Right: Man's Waistcoat, c1760-70. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Waltz in Its Early Years

Monday, August 13, 2018

Waltzing 1821
Loretta reports:

Some comments on the kinds of physical activities ladies of the 18th and 19th century engaged in led to me to thinking about dancing, and waltzing in particular.

Early in my writing career, I became aware that the waltz had changed over the years, and the early form of the dance wasn’t quite like what we’re familiar with. Images like the ones I’ve posted here don’t look like the style of waltz we’re used to.

According to Elizabeth Aldrich’s From the Ballroom to Hell, “During the first forty years of the nineteenth century, waltzing couples turned clockwise as partners while traveling counterclockwise around the room. This constant spinning, never reversing, could and did produce a feeling of euphoria—or worse, vertigo—that could result in a loss of control.”
9 Positions of the Waltz 1816

The dance was controversial. Lord Byron disapproved. Yes, really. Others said it was unsuitable for unmarried, highly sensitive, and/or delicate women. I can tell you from my own experience, learning to waltz in a ballroom dancing class, that it is very sexy, and I understood why people disapproved. Also, though I was much younger then, I wasn’t used to ballroom dancing, and one waltz left me a little winded. Even with lots of practice, an entire evening of dancing, in the Regency and Victorian eras, must have provided vigorous exercise.

If you're curious about the precise steps for this era (though they do vary), Carlo Blassis's (trans by R. Barton), The Code of Terpischore, offers a detailed description of the waltz. I have a hard time reading these sorts of instructions, but others of you may be able to picture or re-enact it better.

I wanted to focus on this excerpt, however, which gives a sense of one difference between earlier and later forms of the waltz: “The gentleman should hold the lady by the right hand, and above the waist, or by both hands, if waltzing be difficult for her; or otherwise, it would be better for the gentleman to support the right hand of the lady by his left. The arms should be kept in a rounded position, which is the most graceful, preserving them without motion; and in this position one person should keep as far from the other as the arms will permit, so that neither may be incommoded.” This does correspond with the early 19th century images.

Here is a note from Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society; with a glance at Bad Habits (1836): “If a lady waltz with you, beware not to press her waist; you must only lightly touch it with the open palm of your hand, lest you leave a disagreeable impression not only on her ceinture, but on her mind.”
Cruikshank, Specimens of Waltzing 1817

For a more detailed account of the waltz—with lots of lovely images—you might want to read Paul Cooper’s post at Regency

Images: Waltzing 1821, courtesy Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection; Detail from frontispiece to Thomas Wilson's Correct Method of German and French Waltzing (1816), showing nine positions of the Waltz, via Wikipedia; Specimens of Waltzing, George Cruikshank, 1817-06-04, courtesy New York Public Library.

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. FYI: If you order a book through one of my posts, I might get a small share of the sale.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of August 6, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Recreating the lace in a 17thc portrait of Lady Anne Clifford.
• The legendary French drummer boy Joseph Bara of the French Revolution.
• Lifting the lid on plants, poisons, and the power of color (plus how hard it is to kill the beetles needed to make cochineal.)
Image: Wealthy visitors c1900 to seaside resort at Scarborough, Yorkshire, peer down at women gutting fish for their very hard livelihood.
• The persistence of sixteen-year-old Felicite Kina and her ability to negotiate Napoleonic law to maintain kinship ties.
• A 6thc Lombard warrior buried in northern Italy appears to have worn a knife as a prosthetic weapon in place of his amputated forearm.
Ann Catley, the feisty diva.
Image: Gorham Silver ice cream hatchet, c1880.
• The early 20thc pigeons that photographed the earth from above.
• The gravestone of poet John Keats: romancing the stone.
• Itching and scratching: 18thc flea traps.
• The creation of the new London docks in the early 19thc.
Image: Tiny handmade book created in 1807 by 11-year-old Hannah Coffin.
• How an 18thc clergyman cured a sty on his eye by rubbing it with his tom cat's tail.
• What became of the wild ravens of London?
• William Corder and the Red Barn Murder, 1827.
• How incest became part of the Bronte family story.
Video: A Roman signet ring is an amazing metal detector find.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Video: Roller Skating in a Corset and Bustle

Friday, August 10, 2018
Loretta reports:

Many readers express dismay at the clothing of the post-Regency 19th century, and how restrictive it seems. There's an assumption that women couldn't do much while wearing corsets and layer upon layer of undergarments. Dress historians and re-enactors, however, have shown us otherwise. For example, some years ago I attended a talk by Astrida Schaeffer, during which she showed photos of Victorian women (whose clothing made it clear they were wearing corsets—not to mention all the other layers) performing various outdoor activities.

My post the other day about bustles drew more of the dismayed comments on social media, e.g., women couldn't do any work in these clothes. And so, naturally, I hunted for evidence that women did not spend all their time lying on sofas in a swoon. I think this video, of a lady skating while wearing a corset and a bustle and the elaborate dress of what seems to be the 1880s, offers a good demonstration. Gina White's even wearing Victorian-era roller skates, which apparently aren't easy to maneuver.


Image above left is a still from the video.
 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 (which will take you to our blog) or the video title (which will take you to YouTube).

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Lasting Legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

Wednesday, August 8, 2018
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 Alexander - 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."

Today - August 9 - marks the 261th anniversary of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton's birthday. Although I completed writing I, Eliza Hamilton over a year 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 - especially children - in need.

In May, 2017, 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 and 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, by Daniel P. Huntingdon, c1845, American History Museum, Smithsonian. Gift of Graham Windham.
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, available everywhere.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Bustle in the Mid-1880s

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Bustle dress ca 1885
Loretta reports:

A reader’s comment on my 1885 fashion post, regarding the weight of this type of fashion, sent me in search of more than my vague guess at weight and (in)convenience. While 19th C ladies wore numerous undergarments, I’m focusing on the bustle, since emphasis on the booty is one of the most striking features of the year’s fashions.

From C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington’s The History of Underclothes, I learned that “the name “bustle” was, in the 1880s, considered a little coarse. ‘Tournure’ or ‘dress improver’ was a more ladylike appendage to the lower back.”

The bustle, according to the Cunningtons, “as a separate article from the petticoat with back flouncing, began to return in 1883, in a short form for the walking dress and longer for the evening. By the next year it was either attached to the bodice or the petticoat, or it might be in the form of crescentic steels introduced into the back of the dress itself. By 1885 a horsehair pad, some six inches square and often called a ‘mattress’ was added; the American kind, of wire—‘which answers the purpose much better; was but one of many other varieties. Unlike that used in the 1870s, the bustle of the 1880’s produced a prominence almost at right angles so that it was popularly declared a tea-tray could be comfortably rested on it.”

This image shows the bustles sans accompanying undergarments.

The image at right, also from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gives a better idea of the underpinnings. The bustle is described as “Cotton twill, cotton-braid-covered-steel, and cotton-braid cord.”
1885 undergarments

Here is an 1885 cotton twill and wire bustle from about 1885. This bustle shows a slightly different approach, from about the same time. At the V&A is this bustle pad from France. The item appears in Eleri Lynn's Underwear: Fashion in Detail (2014) with this commentary: “By 1880 the bustle had all but disappeared, making a re-emergence around 1883. However, instead of the low drapery of the mid to late 1870s, the new style was sharp and angular, jutting out at right angles to the body. This square bustle pad is made from glazed calico trimmed with silk cord, and fastened with a waist tape. It is stuffed to a very solid shape with straw and would have been worn with several petticoats.” The book, which I recommend, also shows the steel bustle in closeup.

Given the images and the vast amounts of trimmings on the clothing itself, I’m now inclined to agree with the reader that this fashion would be rather heavy and awkward—for us. The ladies, I assume, would have been accustomed, and mightn't have thought of their clothing in that way.

Images: Woman’s 2-piece silk bustle dress, France, c. 1885, and Bustle and undergarments c 1885, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Costume and Textiles Department.

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. And, just so you know, if you order a book through one of my posts, I might get a small share of the sale.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Winged Lions' Feet, Dolphins, & Horns-of-Plenty: Sofas for a New America, 1800-1830

Sunday, August 5, 2018
Susan reporting,

Last month I visited the Ten Broeck Mansion, an elegant Federal-style house built in Albany, NY. Built in 1797-98 by General Abraham Ten Broeck and his wife, Elizabeth Van Rensselaer, the house sits high on a hill, overlooking the Hudson River. The mansion is currently the home of the Albany County Historical Association, and most of the rooms are shown decorated to reflect the tastes of the early 19thc owners. I will be writing more about the Ten Broeck Mansion in a future blog post, but today I wanted to feature some of the most interesting - at least to me! - pieces of furniture on display: the sofas. (As always, please click on the images to enlarge them.)

Today we think of a sofa (or couch, or sectional) as the most comfortable piece of furniture in most American homes, a large, soft, and often over-stuffed place for serious lounging. The term "couch-potato" is not to be taken lightly when thinking of modern American sofas.

In the 18thc, however, a sofa was still a rarity in most American homes. Instead most homes featured a variety of chairs that were moved around to suit a room's various purposes (dining, receiving visitors, playing cards), and then placed along the walls of the room when not in use. Lounging wasn't the primary goal. In fact, it probably wasn't even possible in most 18thc chairs.

By the early 19thc, however, American homes were grander and larger, and tastes were changing. The classically inspired French Directoire crossed the Atlantic and became American Directory or American Empire, as exemplified by the work of master American cabinet maker and furniture designer Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854.) The style was considered  to possess a particularly patriotic American flavor, incorporating classical design elements much as the American government was modeled on those of Rome and Greece. Acanthus leaves, rosettes, winged lions' paws, and dolphins are ancient motifs, while baskets of fruit, sheaves of wheat, and horns of plenty promised prosperity and abundance for the still-new country.

A sofa in the Directory style became the perfect centerpiece for American parlors, often as part of a matching suite of furnishings. Not only did the sofa display the owners' exquisite taste, but their pocketbook as well. Elaborately carved of imported woods like mahogany and luxuriously upholstered, often in silk, the large and lavish sofa was an expensive status piece.

Alas, tastes in decor are always changing, and what made an imposing statement two hundred years ago is simply too large and unwieldy for modern houses and apartments.  With their minimal cushions, these sofas also don't look up to the task of serious Netflix binge-watching, either.  But for pure craftsmanship and elegant design, I'll take one of these sofas over a sectional any day.

There are numerous sofas from this period on display in the Ten Broeck Mansion. I think I counted at least a half-dozen, each more imaginative than the last, and in beautiful condition. I'm featuring details of the carving from four of them here.

Many thanks to Karen Giordano, Albany County Historical Association, for her assistance with this post.

Top left: Sofa, c. 1800, carved mahogany. On loan from Gladys V. Clark.
Middle left & right: Sofas, c1810-1830, carved mahogany with upholstery. Both on loan from the Museum of the City of New York.
Bottom right: Sofa, c1810-1830, carved mahogany with upholstery. From bedroom furnished by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Photographs ©2018 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Breakfast Links: Week of July 30, 2018

Saturday, August 4, 2018
Breakfast Links are served! Our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Jane Austen and the Prince Regent: the very first purchase of an Austen novel.
• Charles Knowlton's Fruits of Philosophy; or, the Private Companion of Young Married People, 1832, the first popular manual on birth control and the first book on the subject by a physician.
• Gentle Annie Etheridge: no dainty lady on the Civil War battlefields.
• From billets-doux to swiping right: how the language of dating and courtship has evolved.
• Stunningly beautiful example of Shingle Style Architecture: the 1878 Eustis Estate.
Image: Scorched by the current heatwave, the landscape surrounding Blenheim Palace reveals the ghostly outlines of the 1705 formal gardens.
Child stealing in Regency England.
• How romanticized photographs and accounts of St Kilda produced a distorted idea of an idyllic Scottish lifestyle on the islands.
• Making the historical personal: reflections on pregnancy and birth.
Image: An Italian parasol with beaded mermaids, c1800.
• An afternoon in Great Bardfield.
• Can reading make you happier?
• For workers at the Du Pont power mills, the fear of accidental explosions was constant; 228 people were killed at the mills between 1802-1921.
Image: The wife of an officer killed at Waterloo had his remains boiled, and one of his vertebrae made into this memento mori box.
• When Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur was a Bernice Frankel, US Marine, and served in World War II.
• The 18thc paintings that inspired the costumes in the 2006 movie Marie Antoinette.
Louise de Lorraine-Vaudemont, 16thc Queen of France.
• Why some 1880s-1920s gravestones are shaped like tree trunks.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday Video: Dressing an 18thc English Gentleman

Friday, August 3, 2018

Susan reporting,

Here's another wonderful fashion history video from the Lady Lever Art Gallery and National Museums of Liverpool, and a companion to this video demonstrating how an 18thc elite woman dressed for her day.

This jaded gentleman is not so much dressing, as being dressed, languidly presenting himself to his valet. Personally, I want to share this video with every copy editor who has queried the word "fall" in relation to 18thc breeches. One picture (or video!) is worth a thousand words.

Thanks to costume historian Pauline Loven and director Nick Loven of Crow's Eye Productions for sharing their latest video with us.

If you received this video 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, August 2, 2018

Fashions for August 1885

Thursday, August 2, 2018
August 1885 fashions
Loretta reports:

C. Willett Cunnington, in English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteen Century, expresses no affection for the fashions of this period. “To appreciate the Bustle Era of the ‘80’s, now at its height, it is necessary to recognize that it was accepted as an alternative to the greater horror of the crinoline. The latter would have made the tailor-made walking dress and impossibility whereas with this excrescence behind progress forward was still possible.”

In introducing us to the 1880s, he writes, “The fashions of the ‘80’s were more remote than those of any other decade from modern standards of taste.” According to him, “The principle was strict, that beauty should make no passionate appeal. The epoch was, above all others, anti-anatomical.”

Not quite the way I see it, but every era has its own interpretation of fashion, and we need to put this fashion historian’s observations in the context of his time. The book was published in 1937.

Fashion plates are from the August 1885 issue of The London and Paris Ladies' Magazine of Fashion, which included back views of the dresses, as you see.
Fashion plate description

Fashion plate description cont'd
Reverse of fashions
Broché: woven with a raised figure; brocade
Crepon: a heavy crepe fabric with lengthwise crinkles
Surah: a soft, twilled silk or rayon fabric

I apologize for the small, blurry description images, and recommend you click on the links for better pictures.
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. And, just so you know, if you order a book through one of my posts, I might get a small share of the sale.
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