Saturday, October 31, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of October 26, 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015
Time for Breakfast Links - our weekly round-up of fav links to other articles, images, blogs, and websites via Twitter.
Oscar Wilde's tenure as editor of a high-end woman's magazine.
• English fertility towns: was there really something in the water?
• Gossip girls: early tea parties and the sexist slang they inspired.
• New National Parks Service website allows you to tour Ellis Island through your computer.
• For sale: Edith Wharton's $16,500 baby rattle.
• The real story of witches in Salem, MA, 1692 to 2015: "tragedy to farce without the pause for history in between."
• How Pauline Bonaparte lived for pleasure.
Image: a lovely example of marbling in a 19thc. book.
• Ghosts are scary, disabled people are not: the troubling rise of the "haunted" asylum for entertainment.
• Changing image of American girlhood: scanned Girl Scout equipment catalogues, 1918-2015.
• The London beer flood of 1814.
• Benjamin Howell, a 19thc. confectioner who also sold patent medicines
• A young Nantucket woman paints autumn in 1797.
Image: the fashionable silhouette for 1900.
• Atmospheric photographs of 1930s London at night.
• A spider that tumbled into a paper press in 1650 can be seen today, embedded in a math book.
• A woman convicted and beheaded for witchcraft 300 years ago to get a retrial.
Ernest Hemingway, clutterbug: the stuff he left behind.
• Who was the mysterious female Agent 344, a Revolutionary War spy who has never been completely identified?
Erotic dreams and nightmares from antiquity to the present.
Image: WWI munitions workers - no medals for an extremely dangerous job.
• A medieval love letter (and eat your meat!)
• Running his stall and crying his wares: recording of a 1930s herbalist from Petticoat Lane, London.
Glastonbury Tor and the labyrinth of the soul.
• Witch houses.
• Just for (Halloween) fun: what if your favorite books were Halloween candy?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Video: Skeleton Dance

Friday, October 30, 2015
Loretta reports:

Concluding Halloween week, we’re taking another trip to the cemetery. This time, it’s courtesy Disney’s Silly Symphonies, and the amazing artists and musicians who made them in the days before computers. This one is from 1929.

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 29, 2015

Revisiting a Special 18thc Wedding Dress

Thursday, October 29, 2015
Isabella reporting,

While I was in Boston last week, I visited the Bostonian Society at the Old State House to see an old friend - if an 18thc wedding dress can be considered a friend! I've previously written two other blog posts (here and here, with many more photos) about this extraordinary wedding dress, embroidered by Boston bride Elizabeth Bull Price in the 1730s.

At that time, I'd only seen the dress flat on its back in its storage box. Now, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the dress has been conserved for exhibition and a custom mannequin and display case provided, and it can currently be seen in the Council Chamber of the Old State House. In that historic and very male space, the dress is a decidedly feminine interloper, standing there across from the life-sized portrait of King Charles I.

But history affected the women of Boston as well as the men, and Elizabeth Bull Price (1717-1780) saw the small colonial town of her childhood grow into one of the most important cities of a new country. Her dress is a reminder that while the heated politics of 18thc. Massachusetts may dominate the history books, men and women were still falling in love and marrying, with all the usual dreams for shared and happy futures.

With the dress on the mannequin, it's now possible to see Elizabeth's skillful embroidery, right, from all sides; the back, above left, is particularly striking. (It was a very sunny morning, so my apologies for the slanting sunlight in these photos.) Although nearly 300 years old, the colored silk threads are vibrant, the floral designs elaborate and lively. It's also easier to see the alterations that transformed the 1730s dress into an 1830s one, to be worn by a later Price family member. This is the version of the dress that survives today.

That young woman was tiny. According to the measurements of the mannequin, she was about 5'2", and her corseted figure would today wear a J.Crew size 000. The now-unknown 19thc seamstress who updated the dress fortunately was respectful of Elizabeth's handiwork, and it's fascinating to see how she made deep pleats in the skirts to avoid cutting. Alas, the bodice and the puffy sleeves are decidedly 1830s additions, but I'm guessing that the little embroidered "wings" , lower left, over the puffed sleeves are the sleeve flounces from the original dress.

The dress is on display until early November, to be followed by the dress's original petticoat - also beautifully embroidered. If you're on the Freedom Trail, it's well worth a visit. For more about Elizabeth Bull Price and more photos, see here for an excellent article by Tricia Gilrein, Collections Manager and Exhibitions Coordinator of the Bostonian Society.

All photographs ©2015 Susan Holloway Scott.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Rural Cemetery of Worcester, MA

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Worcester's Rural Cemetery
Loretta reports:

I am a huge fan of cemeteries, and Worcester, though a small city, has several. I didn’t know that the places I admired so much were known as “garden” or “rural” cemeteries until my husband educated me. I had assumed that cemeteries were always park-like places, even though I’d visited a number of the remaining old-style burial grounds—or parts of them—preserved next to churches in the middle of cities. Even when reading Dickens’s Bleak House, with its ghastly image of an overcrowded burial ground, stinking of decay, I didn’t quite get it. Understanding the history deeply enhanced (as history normally does) my appreciation of these places.

So naturally I was excited to attend a lecture* recently “Withdrawn from the Bustle of the World: Worcester’s First Garden Cemetery.” [Coincidentally, a few days ago I came upon a terrific article that explains the development of the garden cemetery. I’ll let you click on the article to get the background, while I offer a few tidbits from the lecture I attended.]

In November 1837, a local lawyer, Edward D. Bangs, gave what turned out to be a stunningly effective Lyceum lecture, pushing for Worcester to create a rural cemetery. Worcester had three burial places in the center of town, all horribly overcrowded, disrespected, and neglected. And kind of gross. One enterprising business used the cemetery next door for drying clothes. Nobody’s grave was permanent. In one case, when railroad needed the space where a burial ground was, the railroad got it.

Bangs's 1837 lecture turned out to be inspiring beyond what you’d imagine. Others in the city, especially those of a horticultural turn, had already caught the garden cemetery bug, and a couple of our prosperous, civic-minded citizens bought land with cemeteries in mind. In September 1838—yes, less than a year after the lecture—Worcester’s first rural cemetery (called, aptly, Rural Cemetery) was dedicated, on land donated by Daniel Waldo.

In their early days, before the advent of public parks, rural cemeteries served as parks as well as places of burial. There, not only could families finally own and tend to their plots, but members of the public could also get away from the bustle and noise of the city and enjoy the trees, flowers, shrubs, and walkways as well as their own thoughts.

Even today, though the city has grown up around it (enough to hide the cemetery—which is why so many people don’t know it exists), the Rural Cemetery remains a beautiful oasis, a place for walking, discovering, and contemplation.

*by William D. Wallace, Executive Director of the Worcester Historical Museum

Photographs by Walter M. Henritze III

Daniel Waldo

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

From the Archives: Candy Corn, a 19thc. Treat

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Isabella reporting:

Trick or treat! Since today is a travel-day for me, I've pulled this Halloween-themed post from the archives. 

While modern candy-makers offer scores of new treats every year, there's one that's stood the test of time: candy corn. According to the food experts at Gourmet magazine, candy corn was first created in the 1880s as the culinary brain-child of Philadelphia's Wunderle Candy Company.

Nineteenth century candy-lovers were already gobbling sugary treats in the shapes of vegetables, fruit, and other plants, and Wunderle owner George Renninger suggested the company try kernels of corn next. This was more a marketing challenge than a candy-making one, for Americans at the time regarded corn as feed for livestock, not people, and very little was consumed on polite dining tables. But Wunderle's tri-color layering captivated buyers, and the new little candies were an immediate hit. Originally linked to harvest and available only in the fall months, candy corn soon became connected with Halloween as well, and as Halloween as a holiday grew in popularity in the 20th c., so did candy corn: today the industry sells more than 35 million pounds of candy corn each year. That's one sweet treat.

The delightful Halloween postcard, below, comes from the collection of the Toronto Public Library. Printed in 1909 in Germany for the American market, this postcard is only one that the library shared on its blog here - definitely worth a look!

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Ghost in the Dining Room

Monday, October 26, 2015

Loretta reports:

Continuing with my somewhat Halloween-themed posts, I offer a ghost story, as reported in Ackermann’s Repository of 1822.

Unlike other entries in the pages preceding it—humorous letters to the editor probably written by the editor or another regular contributor—this is short, and rather poignant, I thought.

Ghost story

Ghost story
Image is from a vintage label for “The Black Cat” brand of Valencia oranges

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of October 19, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015
Ready for your weekend browsing - our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images via Twitter.
Highland fever: from 1829 onward, where Londoners shopped for all things Scottish.
• "Tom Jones": the history of a female soldier in disguise.
• Amazing photos of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
• Early 20thc. rebel Jean Rennie: an angry young kitchen-maid who earned her degree.
• How the Suffragettes used fashion to further the cause.
• Representations of fashion in the 1785 Lady's Magazine.
Image: Early 20thc. velvet swan hat.
• Exploring Blackwell, a stunning late 19thc. arts and crafts house in the heart of the Lake District.
• Naughty putti.
• Photographs of 19thc. women and their really, really long hair.
• Sharpers, shopkeepers, and the Georgian era.
• The only eyewitness painting of Lincoln's assassination is finally being restored.
Image: 1925  cartoon from Punch: "Good Heavens, man, grow your hair - you look like a girl!"
• Road trip: in defense of historic mid-century American motels.
• A 1920s posographe was essential for early filmmakers who wanted to make sure the light was just right.
• From bloodstone to fish soup: 18thc. recipes featuring iron.
• The mysterious and majestic stone circle at Lochbuie.
• Medieval animal tales from manuscripts.
• Image: "The Little Royal Astronomer" c.1850-60 features the children of Queen Victoria.
• London in the age of improvement: the Regent's Canal.
• American families from the 1830s in folk art by Joseph H. Davis.
• Photographs from the New York World's Fair, 1964-65.
• The role of British women pharmacists making explosive/dangerous chemicals during WWI - and why they demanded the vote.
Motherhood in art: from miracle milk to joke-shop breasts.
Bad air: pollution, sin, and Victorian science fiction, 1880.
Image: Man-bun, historical Highland style.
• The truth behind the Battle of Trafalgar.
• Just for fun (and just in time for Halloween): recipe for "creative" mid-20th century Banana Spook Cake.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Video: Behind-the-Scenes at the Fox Historic Costume Collection

Friday, October 23, 2015

Isabella reporting,

Fashion exhibitions are wildly popular with museum-goers, but they're not easy ones for curators to arrange and mount. Historical clothing can be fragile and susceptible to lighting, and each piece requires a custom mannequin or display fixture.

This short video - by Sean Quilty and Drexel University's College of Computing and Informatics -goes behind the scenes of the Immortal Beauty exhibition from the Fox Historic Costume Collection, Drexel University. While I've already shared several pieces from the exhibition here, here, and here, this video focuses on what is perhaps the most popular garment in the entire show (at least among Philadelphians): a brilliant coral evening gown from the 1960s designed by Givenchy for Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco.

If you receive this post via email, you may be seeing only a black box or empty place where the video should be. Please click here to watch the video.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Alabaster Sarcophagus

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sarcophagus of Seti I
Sarcophagus at British Museum
Belzoni Chamber
Loretta reports:

During a trip to London a few years ago, I had, among other authorial/Nerdy History Girls thrills, a chance to see the famous alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I,
in Sir John Soane’s Museum.

As mentioned in Lord Perfect, this sarcophagus, which Giovanni Belzoni found and sent back to England, languished in the British Museum for some time, precisely because of the item’s “pecuniary value” being so high.

 As you read the excerpt with its (to us) odd theories, please bear in mind that at the time, nobody could read hieroglyphs. The names antiquities scholars used for Egyptian kings (like Psammis) were the names ancient Greek and Latin authors had given them. Most educated gentlemen were familiar with these authors to a degree we might find hard to imagine.

Most educated gentlemen would have been able to read Greek and Latin. Many were fluent in Hebrew and other ancient languages, as well as modern languages like French and German. Their theories were based on their interpretations of classical works as well as the latest research. Their extensive linguistic expertise did pay off when they finally had a key to interpreting the strange Egyptian symbols, signs, and shorthand.

Text excerpt from The Philosophical Magazine and Journal, Volume 58, 1821

Images: Sarcophagus from 1905 General Description of Sir John Soane's Museum.
Belzoni chamber from 1835 Description of the house and museum on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, the residence of Sir John Soane.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Another 18thc Love-Letter Puzzle (and This One Needs Solving)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Isabella reporting,

I've shared a couple of other 18th-19thc love-letter puzzles on the blog before (here and here), but this one, now in the Graphic Arts Collection of Princeton University's Rare Books and Special Collections, is the first that I've seen that invites solving.

This blog post from the Firestone Library asks readers to print out the two sides of the puzzle, figure out the folds, and, if successful, to share the solution in the comment section. (The images in Princeton's post are larger than I can manage here.)

Now, I'm not sure how they got the pictures of the folded puzzle if they themselves were unable to solve the folds. Perhaps it's been folded together to match the heart for the photo, and inside it's a mismatched mess. And in a further case of unsolvable puzzles, the only way to leave a comment on the post is to possess an active Princeton University webID - which I, for one, do not possess, nor likely ever will.

Whatever. It still seems like a challenge that some of our readers – who surely must include origami experts, cootie-catcher-and-fortune-teller-makers, and the stray skilled road-map-refolder – would enjoy. As with every historical love-letter, I wonder about the ultimate purpose of this letter as well: did it prove the sender's devotion, and help win the recipient's heart?

From Princeton's blog, I also learned that rare book librarians have a  more formal expression for puzzle letters like this one. Such techniques are called  examples of "letterlocking," clever ways to deter snoopy folk and impress the recipient with the amount of time and energy spent on the production. Here's a link to a blog by Jana Dambrogio, the Thomas F. Peterson conservator at M.I.T. libraries, that has many more examples of letterlocking. Pretty cool!

Valentine puzzle, no author known, c1700s. Graphic Arts Collection, Firestone Library, Princeton University.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bills of Mortality 1830

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Loretta reports:

I’ve posted Bills of Mortality before, for 1820. It was a little disappointing not to get the same kind of detail—e.g., what people died of—for 1830. This Wikipedia entry seems to account for the dearth of information. It's important to remember that these are the figures for burials in the Church of England, which leaves out many people.

Even so, and allowing for the drawbacks of the data compilation, we can still find food for thought.  The slight increase in births and deaths would correspond, I think, to the increase in population. If the year were 1832 or 1833, I'd expect a much higher death rate, because this was when the first major cholera epidemic struck the U.K.

Bills of Mortality 1830
Meanwhile, though, given the increase in population, the rates are similar, including the high death rate of children under two years old.

Image: St. Mary's Church, Woolwich, 1845, courtesy Wikipedia. Image for 1820 edition is a scan from my copy of the book.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Trio of Opulent 1920s Dresses

Sunday, October 18, 2015
Isabella reporting,

When Loretta recently wrote a post featuring the latest fashions for 1919 - the first glimpse of new styles for a new age - the simplicity of the fashions appealed to many of you. The uncorseted clothing for women of the 1920s was in fact much more relaxed, with a narrower and less complicated silhouette that hadn't been seen in fashion for over a hundred years.

But uncomplicated didn't mean plain, at least where couture dresses were concerned. In skilled hands, those simple rectangular shapes became the perfect canvas for lavish beading, lace trims, embroidery, tassels, and all-around embellishment. Rich fabrics and brilliant, saturated colors added to a lavish sense of opulence.

I saw these three dresses in the Immortal Beauty exhibition from the Fox Historic Costume Collection of Drexel University, Philadelphia. In a gallery filled with beautiful clothes, they stood out like the gems that they are.  They glowed, and I can imagine how they must have stood out in any party.

The afternoon dress on the left is the work of Vitaldi Babani,  a Parisian fashion house founded in 1894 that also imported and sold exotic goods from around the world. With its vivid color and dramatic patterning, this velvet dress reflects the international influences that were so much a part of 1920s design.

The other two dresses are evening wear, designed by the trendsetting Callot Soeurs. The three French sisters - Marie, Marthe, Régine, and Joséphine - were known for their luxurious, detailed garments, and they often incorporated Asian textiles and motifs into their designs. The dresses came from the estate of Philadelphian Amanda "Minnie" Drexel Fell Cassatt, whose taste favored the opulent creations of the Callot Soeurs.

The details in the dresses are astonishing, featuring elaborate embroidery and faux gemstones. The close-up of the bodice (click on the image to enlarge it fruther), right, shows how the metallic thread embroidery was given extra texture through the use of hundreds of tiny glass pearl beads. With the sheer shoulder straps blending into the skin, this dress would have been quite daring, a stunning, shimmering fashion statement that's still modern today.

Immortal Beauty will be on display from October 2 - December 12 in the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery on Drexel's campus at 3401 Filbert Street. The exhibition is open Tuesday-Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Above: Afternoon dress by Vitaldi Babani, c1926; Evening gown by Callot Soeurs, 1926; Evening gown by Callot Soeurs/Henri Bendel, 1919.
Below: Detail, Evening gown by Callot Soeurs, 1926.
Photographs copyright 2015 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of October 12, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015
Ready for your Sunday browsing - our weekly round-up of favorite links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images via Twitter.
• "A pearl of a woman....goodness without sin": 16thc. Queen of France Claude de Valois.
• Adventures in chintz: rediscovering the traditional techniques of traditional 18thc. Indian chintz designs.
• A literary history of dot, dot, dot....
• A love story like you see in the movies: Jacob Riis and Elisabeth Gjortz.
• Image: A crowded schoolroom on the Lower East Side, NYC, was photographed in 1890 by Jacob A. Riis.
• The continuing mystery of Edgar Allen Poe's death: nineteen theories.
• The skin she lived in: how a 19thc. physician used the skin of one of his pauper-patients to bind books.
• The haunting human zoo of Paris.
• A visit to the opera in 1886, including a clever place to stash your hat.
• Roaring horses, lame dogs, and the reframing of British veterinary surgery.
• Neighborhood by neighborhood: where to catch cholera in London during the 1832 epidemic.
• A Regency history guide to Stourhead.
Image: This photo is more than 100 years old, yet it still evokes autumn in New England.
• "You little confounded toad": genuine Georgian eccentric Dr. Messenger Monsey.
• Photographer William Whiffin captured early 20thc. London.
• "Wish you were here": the first postcards were introduced 145 years ago.
• Here lies Fluffy: pet obituaries, written by the owners left behind.
Image: You could still find your way around central Cambridge using this 440 year old map.
• An economic history of leftovers.
• London's clothing streets, from Boot Street to Whalebone Court.
• The story behind the Irish flag.
Image: Delicious embroidered details on an 18thc. gentleman's waistcoat.
Fire prevention through history.
• Jess, the whiskey-loving mare, 1829.
• Nine trendy words that are older than you think.
Image: We can relate: Christina Rosetti's reaction to having her poetry reviewed in The Times, as drawn by her brother Dante Gabriel Rosetti, 1862.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Video: Top 10 Duels in History

Friday, October 16, 2015
Cruikshank, Duel
Loretta reports:

In Gentlemen’s Blood, author Barbara Holland says,

“There was much to like about the duel. It was a regulated way for one man to prevail over another when he felt the need to do so, and an improvement over the informal ambush, or sending out henchmen to break the enemy’s skull by night on the highway.”

In Samuel Johnson’s opinion dueling was “more justifiable than war in which thousands go forth without any personal quarrel.”

Our readers will hold varying opinions on the subject. Please feel free to explore the topic in the comments—that, or duels you’d have put in your Top 10 list, or maybe other movies with excellent dueling scenes?

Image: Cruikshank, The Point of Honor decided, or the Leaden argument of a Love affaire, from The English Spy, 1825

For [many] more of our blog posts on the subject, just type in “duel” in the search box.

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.

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.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Leather Stays for 18thc. Working Women

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Isabella reporting,

My trips to Colonial Williamsburg usually include a report on some luscious new silk gown for a lady from the mantua-makers (which I promise I will do next week.) But here's something different, for a different kind of 18thc. woman: a replica pair of leather stays (corset) made by another of Colonial Williamsburg's historic trades, the leather-breeches makers.

While more affluent women in the Georgian world wore stays that were an elaborate construction of linen and buckram reinforced with strips of whalebone, women of the laboring classes wore stays made of stiff leather. Not only were leather stays substantially less expensive (they were the stays given to poor women as "charity stays"), but they also were much sturdier, and offered more back support for jobs that required physical exertion. They also gave the fashionable conical silhouette to women couldn't afford the whalebone stays. Like all stays, leather stays were never worn next to the skin, but over a shift, and under the wearer's other clothing.

Saddler and leather-worker Jay Howlett (we have shared his craftsmanship making 18thc.-style leather breeches here and here and replicating one of George Washington's leather field cases here) and intern Emma Cross recently completed new leather stays for two of Colonial Williamsburg's tradeswomen: apprentice blacksmith Aislinn Lewis and apprentice tinsmith Jenny Lynn, lower right. Both had discovered that whalebone stays were insufficient for the kind of manual labor their work involves, with fraying linen and errant whalebone popping through the stitched channels. Leather stays should be the answer, just as they were for their historical predecessors.

Based on 18thc. originals in English and Colonial Williamsburg collections, these stays, above, are in three pieces: two front/back pieces, and a stomacher to fill in the space left by the lacing in the front. The steer leather is insole shoulder, the thick leather used for the soles of shoes. It IS thick, too - see the scrap piece in Jay's hand, right. The pieces were designed to fit the future wearers and drafted as a paper pattern, above left, by tailor and stay-maker Mark Hutter before they were cut from the leather.

The pieces were scored (a shallow cut), lower left, where they needed to bend to accommodate the curves of the body, and eyelet holes were punched in the front and back for the 1/4" linen laces. The top and front edges were finished with a soft goatskin leather binding, both to protect the wearer from chafing, and to add a bit of style. The stomacher was covered with fabric to be make it possible to pin the woman's bodice, worn over the stays, into place. The leather tabs at the bottom flared out over the wearer's hips to help support her petticoats (skirts.)

The stays took Jay and Emma about twelve hours to complete - as opposed to the fifty or more hours required for a pair of whalebone stays. In the 1770s, a pair of leather stays would have cost about eight shillings, while a whalebone pair could have cost anywhere from twelve shillings to several pounds for ones with extra-fine boning and a silk cover.

The leather stays had just been delivered to Aislinn and Jenny, and neither have had a chance to wear them to work yet. Before they can, the stays will require wet-shaping - soaking the leather and wearing them wet until they dry, to help conform to the wearer's shape for a personalized fit. I'm looking forward to hearing the experiences of the two women as they adjust to their new leather stays, and how the stays adjust to them. Updates will be coming!

Further reading: Mark Hutter recommends Stays and Body Image in London: The Staymaking Trade, 1680-1810 by Lynn Sorge-English; the 18thc. stays on which these reproductions are based are described in this book.

Many thanks to Jay Howlett, Emma Cross, and Jenny Lynn for their help with this blog.

Top photo courtesy of Jenny Lynn.
All other photographs ©2015 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Bee Whisperer

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Cruikshank, Bee Swarm
Loretta reports:

One of the delights of Hone’s Every-Day Book  is an entry like this one.

I was especially struck by the concluding paragraph. It’s all too easy to cite instances of animal cruelty during previous centuries. Horses, for instance, were worked to death. All the same, hundreds of years before PETA, it isn’t unusual to read expressions of concern like this—or see compassion for animals in prints.

Hogarth’s Cruelty is but one example.  Henry Alken’s print series, The High-Mettled Racer, sympathetically follows the career of a race horse to his sad end, as does Charles Dibdin’s poem of the same name.
Bee Management

Bee Management

 Image: George Cruikshank, Pic Nic party disturbed by a Swarm of Bees, 1826, courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Early-Morning Walk Through Colonial Williamsburg

Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Yes, I'm back in Williamsburg, VA this week, researching and visiting family and friends. As I've mentioned before, I like Colonial Williamsburg in the early morning hours, when the light is sharp and clear and there aren't many modern folk about.

No grand pictures of the Governor's Palace; I prefer the less photographed spots. Here are four photos I took Monday morning. If you enjoy these, there are more (and will be more still, throughout the week) on my Instagram account here.

Above left: Tailor's apprentice Michael McCarty welcomes the first customers of the day to the Margaret Hunter shop. He can be very persuasive presenting the shop's wares. Even Barbie seems impressed, doesn't she?

Above right: The back gardens behind the houses on Duke of Gloucester Street offer all kinds of surprises. Look closely, and you'll see a local cat (no doubt offended by how the nearby thoroughfare is referred to as DoG Street) lounging on the corner of the white fence.

Lower left: A glimpse of one of the landmark building: the top of the Courthouse silhouetted in the morning sun. I'm not sure what those writhing plants are in the foreground, making their final stand of the season - any ideas among our gardening readers?

Lower right: New buildings in Colonial Williamsburg are rare, but this year the 18thc. outdoor Market House (the original was built in the 1750s, and torn down in the 1790s) was recreated. Here an interpreter begins to bring out the day's stock of baskets.

All photographs ©2015 Susan Holloway Scott

Monday, October 12, 2015

Astley's Amphitheatre: What's Playing in October 1811

Monday, October 12, 2015
Astley's, from the Microcosm
Loretta reports:

In my third Dressmakers book, Vixen in Velvet, the hero takes the heroine to Astley’s Royal Circus. For the performance, I used descriptions from the 1830s, when Andrew Ducrow was manager, and Miss Woolford was the beloved equestrienne.

This critique below of an Astley’s performance comes from a generation earlier, when King George IV was the Prince Regent. It’s the sort of show Jane Austen might have seen.
Astley's Show 1811

You can learn more about Astley’s here at Jane Austen’s World as well as at the Victoria and Albert Museum, whose account of Astley’s covers Andrew Ducrow’s and Miss Woolford’s time as well as the interesting story of a famous equestrienne of the Victorian era.

Astley's Show 1811
As always, the blog Spitalfields Life has a larger, crisper, more beautifully colored version of the above illustration (please scroll down) from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London, originally published in 1808-10.

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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of October 5, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015
Ready for your browsing pleasure - our weekly round-up of fav links to other websites, blogs, articles, and images via Twitter.
• Conserving 19thc. actress Ellen Terry's famous costume embellished with beetle-wings.
• The early 20thc. magician who astounded the world by raising spirits and talking with mummies.
• Who were Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and how did they become pirates?
• The final resting place of the bishops of London.
• The now-forgotten "scribbling woman" who outsold Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Image: Early 20thc. unworn corset still in original box.
• A medieval town and its imported and domestic woollen cloth.
• The Chiswick churchyard where William Hogarth now lies with his neighbors.
• Why ancient Rome matters to the modern world.
• The incredible expandable medieval book.
Image: Brilliantly colored early 20thc. advertising fan.
Scars of war: shrapnel and bomb damage that remain as reminders in modern London.
• The fashion police in 16thc. Italy.
• The paper airplane collector of New York.
• A history (and an ode to) strong women in black turtlenecks.
• Creature feature: centaurs.
Image: Joseph Lister's hearse, 1912.
• A fanciful 1873 cast-iron facade on Broome Street, NYC, features sunflowers.
• This looks like an intriguing one-week exhibition on costume at the University of Washington.
• Ahoy! The English language is chock-a-block with invisible nautical terms.
• Unbuilt London: 19thc. plans for straightening the Thames.
Image: From Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, 1922: "the explosion of pedigreed bunk."
• Feeding the troops: the emotional meaning of food during wartime.
• A very close look at the earthquake repairs to the Washington National Cathedral.
• "I beg to apply for a ticket": Lenin visits the British Library.
• Moptops to Apple Corps: the language of the Beatles.
• Just for fun: Who knew Doc Marten and William Hogarth would become design collaborators?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Video: Horrible Histories and George IV's Not-So-Bad News

Friday, October 9, 2015
Isabella reporting,

We haven't had a Friday Video from the Horrible Histories crew for a while. Here's one of our favorites: George IV receiving news that, to him, isn't nearly as bad as it should be. It's easy to imagine the real George's reaction probably wasn't much better.

He probably believed he had good reason, too. This video isn't far from the historical mark (always the case with Horrible Histories.) As most of our readers already know, George IV (1762-1830) did have to wait most of his life to claim the crown; his father, George III was 82 when he died, and George IV himself was nearly 60. The fact that the younger George had also served as Regent while his father suffered from his final mental illness likely only made him more impatient. While he waited to become king, he did in fact lead a life filled with complicated womanizing, gormandizing, and spending, as the video describes. He was not a well-regarded monarch - not because he was fat (thought that did make him an easy target for the viciously barbed caricaturists of the day), but because he was self-indulgent, extravagant, and irresponsible.

But the video is amusing....

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Art of Listening

Thursday, October 8, 2015
1835 French Fashions
Loretta reports:

It had seemed to me that listening had become a lost art, which I blamed, as one does so much else, on technology.

Then I came upon these pages in The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness of 1833 (the English translation is the U.S. edition of a French etiquette manual).

Apparently, every generation needs to be reminded, and not everybody learns or cares to learn. While some of the rules in the book will seem to us very dated and even backward, this part at least strikes me as reasonable and kind, in the way etiquette is supposed to work.


 Fashion illustration for April 1835 courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Casey Fashion Plates.
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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Made in America: A Stylish Silk Gown, c. 1780

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Isabella reporting,

I promised I'd share a few of the pieces in detail from the wonderful Immortal Beauty exhibition by the Fox Historic Costume Collection of Drexel University (more information about the exhibition here), and here is one of my favorites.

This robe à l'anglaise was made around 1780 by a skilled mantua-maker whose name is now lost. The cream-colored silk has a faint woven shadow stripe, and is strewn with polychrome bouquets. Crisp silks like this one were the latest fashion, reflecting a new interest in designs inspired by nature with an overall lighter feel. The curators have looped up the skirts in back à la polonaise, and that gathered silk in the back would have been further accentuated by a false rump (more about these here) underneath. With all those tiny pleats in the skirts and matching petticoat, this dress would have floated around the wearer like a rustling silk cloud.

I hadn't seen the short, capped over-sleeves before (I'm sure that some of our readers will know their proper name), but they are definitely a trend that appears in French fashion plates of the time. The mantua-maker accentuated this detail by cutting the rest of the sleeve cross-ways: the upper sleeves have vertical stripes, while on the lower parts the stripes run around the arm. It's a subtle touch, and the sign of a talented seamstress. She also took care to match the fabric's blossoms on the front of the bodice and along the elegantly seamed back - a detail that not only required a good eye, but more fabric as well, adding to the overall cost of the dress.

But this could have been an expensive dress for other reasons as well. Stylistically it dates to around 1780, and in 1780, America was still in the middle of the Revolutionary War with Great Britain. This silk is English, and from its design it's unlikely to have been languishing on some colonial merchant's shelf since before the war. Was it smuggled into America past British warships? If so, then the cost would have made it an even more luxurious dress - and more special to the fortunate woman who wore it.

Day Dress, anonymous maker, c.1780. American made of English silk. Fox Historic Costume Center, Drexel University. Top & bottom left photos ©2015 by Susan Holloway Scott.  Right photo by Monica Stevens Smyth.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fashions for October 1919

Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Loretta reports:

Well, this was an odd situation. I downloaded the relevant issue of the Delineator, in order to show you the images in as large and clear a format as I could. Unfortunately, following up the day after, I couldn’t find Vol 95, for July-December 1919, online. That’s why you are not getting the captions taking you to the source. If it comes back from the ether soon, I’ll update.

Meanwhile I invite you to enjoy these early 20th century fashions, which show how much women’s dress changed from the look I showed you for 1905, last month. We’re moving away from that S curve of earlier decades to the slimmed down, straight silhouette foreshadowing the fashions we associate with the roaring twenties and its boyish look.

Fashion plates from The Delineator, Volume, 95, October 1919.

Please click on images to enlarge.
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