Friday, October 21, 2016

(Un) Dressing Mr. Darcy

Friday, October 21, 2016
Loretta reports:

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

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

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

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

An Englishwoman's Abolitionist Statement, 1827

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Isabella reporting,

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

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

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

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

According to the collection's label:

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Forged Banknotes in the Regency Era

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

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

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

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

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

You can look at a forged note from 1936 here.

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

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ann Flower's Drawing Book, c1753-1760

Sunday, October 16, 2016
Isabella reporting,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of October 10, 2016

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