Friday, January 30, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of January 26, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015
Fresh for your weekend reading pleasure: our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered for you via Twitter.
• The Waterloo hero, his daughter, her lover, and a duel: silver recalls a scandalous elopement.
• East Sheen Cemetery and the stunningly beautiful angel of death.
• Magnificent hauberk: ceremonial mail shirt of silvered and gilded copper, Transylvania, 1550-1600.
• Discovering Prince Demah, an 18th c. African-American artist.
• Nearly 150 years after his death, Robert E. Lee's descendants are still determined to keep his papers from historians.
• "Eat! Eat! Eat!" Those notorious early 20th c. tapeworm diet pills.
• Buying Queen Victoria's cast-off clothing, 1881.
Street names of London: wine, mutant swans...and Star Trek?
• Working class suffragists of the East End.
Image: Rosary bead from North France, c.1500: one side is Death, the other a pair of lovers.
• Tour Paris with the Marquis de Sade as your guide.
• The 1788 scandal of Fanny Apthorp never dies.
• Entertaining online costume resource: Le Costume Historique.
• The beautiful geometry of 18th c. forts built by the British in the American colonies.
• The London Frost Fair on the Thames, 1683-84.
• Dishonorable discharge: military ritual degradation & Dreyfuss in 1895.
Image: Ancient art deco style: Egyptian cosmetics case, 1279-1212 BC.
• A wealthy New York City family is tragically lost at sea in a steamship disaster after their daughter is presented at Court, 1854.
• A humorous guide to Victorian "railway phrases," many still relevant today.
• Sewing shrouds: the 19th c. girl shroud-makers of New York.
• Naughty nuns, flatulent monks, and other surprises of sacred medieval manuscripts.
Image: A cautionary 17th c. woodcut: a warning against the dangers of swearing.
• Gorgeous book covers from the Folger Library collection.
• The unfulfilled promise of the Crock-Pot, an unlikely symbol from the 1970s of women's equality.
• Dark arts: the painter Hans Holbein and the court of Henry VIII.
Barns are painted red because of the physics of dying stars.
Image: A gentleman's cabriolet, 1820-1830.
• Ingenious solution for writing scores: 1935 Keaton Music Typewriter.
• "You need not run; you are done for": a case of attempted wife murder & Victorian Broadmoor.
Sentimental jewels of colonial Australia.
• In honor of the 202nd anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, the NYPL selected their twelve most quotable lines.
• Just for fun: Is it safe to walk your dog in a blizzard? Charting the snow depth in Boston this week by dog-height. Stay inside, Fido!
• Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday Video: New York City in a Blizzard, 1902

Isabella reporting,

By now everyone has heard how New York City was braced for a monumental blizzard that never happened (though the people to the north who did get walloped would have appreciated NYC taking their share of the snow first.)

This short film, however, shows a storm that did materialize, over a hundred years ago. Filmed on February 17, 1902,  the clip offers a panorama of Madison Square, and with it, a sweeping impression of a busy city street at the turn of the 20th century.

Clearly there are no crosswalks or traffic signals, with people freely wandering about in the street, even if it means dodging street cars, horses, carriages, and dogs. Early into the clip, there's even a horse-drawn fire apparatus racing towards the camera, with the team of horses slipping in the snow. Snow is piled everywhere, and without plows, there are men with shovels - none of whom seem to be working particularly hard. Really, there's so much packed into these couple of minutes, that each time you watch it you'll discover something else.

New York City in a Blizzard, February 17, 1902, directed by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company. Library of Congress.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Windsor Castle in 1813

Thursday, January 29, 2015
Windsor Castle 1813
Loretta reports:

Like Princess Charlotte’s Warwick House, a number of royal residences have disappeared over time.  Richmond Palace, Nonsuch Palace, Carlton House, are just a few of these.  Windsor Castle remains, though, as does its allure.

Nowadays we’re unlikely to find vessels like these plying the river or cows placidly looking on from the shore.  Yet it’s likely the Regency-era painter would have romanticized the setting.  Maybe this stretch of river was a bustling place then, too, but bustling in a non-motorized fashion.

In any case, I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast the views—from 200 years ago, a bit less than 100 years ago, and recently (please click here)—from the river.

View of Windsor from Ackermann’s Repository January 1813.

Windsor ca 1890-1900
View of Windsor between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900 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 allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Intrepid Women: Zazel, The World's First Human Cannonball

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Isabella reporting,

Athletic derring-do in the past was usually something done by men, while the ladies watched and swooned. But there were exceptions. I've written about high-wire aerialist Bird Millman, and here's another: a Victorian teenager who, under the stage name of Zazel, became the world's first human cannonball.

English-born Rosa Maria Richter had been raised in an acrobatic family, and by the time she was fourteen she was already a seasoned performer on the high-wire. Zazel was the protégé of Canadian aerialist William Leonard Hunt, known as The Great Farini, and renowned for being the first to cross Niagara Falls on a high-wire. Always striving to create a more exciting act, Farini had created the prototype for launching a human through the air to land (with luck) into a woven safety net.

The newly opened Royal London Aquarium seemed to be the perfect venue for Farini's "cannon" (the satisfying explosion that thrilled audiences had little to do with the cannon's actual propulsion, which relied more on springs and luck.) Farini persuaded sixteen-year-old - some sources say she was only fourteen - Zazel to complete her usual aerial act with a spectacular finale.

The act debuted on April 2, 1877. Waving as she slid into the long metal barrel, Zazel was next seen to be shot seventy feet into the air to land in net. Posters featuring Zazel's act accentuate her slight figure flying over the heads of spectators, but the reality probably had more to do with sheer courage than grace. The danger was undeniable. The cannon's mechanism was unpredictable, and Zazel herself had little control of her flight or where she'd land.

Still, she became an instant celebrity, earning £200 a week to huge crowds in England and America, where she became one of P.T. Barnum's favorite performers. As was inevitable with a young woman in a skimpy (for then) costume, much was made of her physical beauty, with one writer advising that "her most perfect figure warrants repeated viewings." She posed for cartes de visite, right, to be sold as souvenirs. Some photographs featured her lying suggestively on a tiger skin, while others played to her youth and innocence, looking modestly down at a bouquet.

But while the audiences may have clamored for more, Zazel's time in the spotlight was short. A misguided launch sent her far from the safety net and crashing to the ground, where her back was broken by the impact. Fortunately she recovered, but her career was done. She wisely retired, and disappeared into less thrilling but safer obscurity.

The poster, top, makes it clear that Zazel is the star of the show, calling her the "Champion of the World." Not only is she shown flying through the air, but also dancing along the high-wire in various poses. The card, lower left, includes a poem from a love-struck admirer that reads in part:
                  POLICEMEN! I have lost my heart
                    Here in the Westminster Aquarium,
                  Since first I saw her rapid dart
                    Across the disper'd Velarium.
                  A form that Phidias might confess
                    As graceful as a young gazelle,
                  With raven hair, and ruby dress,
                   And winsome eyes, make up ZAZEL!

Top left: Selby, Pullman & Hamilton's 8 Shows: Zazel's Cannon Feat, 1881, lithograph, The Ringling Museum.
Right: Zazel, London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, late 19th c. Victoria & Albert.
Bottom left: Zazel, Standidge & Co. Lithography, c. 1870s. The Ringling Museum.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's a traveling chariot?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Loretta reports:

If you’ve read stories set in the early 1800s, you’ve probably encountered traveling chariots.  In Lord of Scoundrels, my hero and heroine travel in such a vehicle from London to Dartmoor. 
Between the town chariot and the travelling chariot, or post chaise, there was no difference in the design of the body. The nature of their use occasioned the alteration of name. The former was fitted with a seat in front, and generally furnished with a hammer-cloth; but this, in the case of plain chariots, was dispensed with. It was in all cases mounted upon a perch carriage, either with straight perch, or curved, with crane neck, and suspended upon whip springs, to be later on succeeded by the C spring. Many of these chariots were very elaborately finished; in some cases the bodies were made with quarter lights, having Venetian blinds, and a feature was made in the decoration of the panels by painting ornamental borders and floral wreaths thereon ...

The travelling chariot, or post chaise, was naturally of a plainer description than the town chariot. As already observed, the body was of the same design, and invariably fitted with a sword case, an excrescence, as it were, on the back, the access to which was gained from the inside of the body, and covered by the back squab. At first, the hind carriage supported a travelling case, which was afterwards displaced for a rumble. There was ample provision for luggage. In addition to a large boot, or box, fixed on the front carriage, there were imperials on the roof, and a bonnet case fixed between the front of body and the splasher. By removing these cases and substituting a driving seat, the travelling chariot was readily converted into a town chariot. The post chaise, it should be observed, was always driven by postilions.

Papers Read Before the Institute of British Carriage Manufacturers, 1883-1901

More images here, here, and here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dandies on Ice, 1818

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Isabella reporting,

Today the U.S. Figure Skating Association concluded their National Championships for another year, with extremely talented young athletes making all those jumps, spirals, and spins look effortlessly elegant.

That description does not apply to the dandies in this print.

Doubtless with visions of that same effortless elegance, these young fellow have dressed to the nines to venture out on the ice.  In the early 19th c., skating was a wonderful way to put one's self on display to admiring ladies, as well as to one another. But while these gentlemen have taken care that their neckcloths are perfectly pleated and their collars high over their years, they forgot that skating is anything but easy, and the results are not pretty. As one of them cries as he topples to the ice, "Oh Lord! How they are laughing at us!" (As always, click on the image to enlarge it.)

So while the title of this print may be Skaiting-Dandies, Shewing Off, I'm afraid the the only thing they're showing is their perfect dandified silliness.

Loretta and I both have a weakness for dandies. For more of their mishaps, see here, here, and here.

Above: Skaiting-Dandies, Shewing Off, by Charles Williams, 1818. Walpole Library, Yale University.

Shameless Self-Promotion: "Yours Forever" at the Bostonian Society

Isabella reporting,

Booksignings and appearances can be among the highlights of a writer's life, a chance to meet readers and chat with booksellers (and occasionally direct shoppers to the food court.) But this February, I'll be part of a Valentine's Day event on Tuesday, February 10, at 6:00 p.m. that will be something very special.

Hosted by The Bostonian Society, the museum and historical society in the Old State House, Yours Forever will offer a memorable evening for all fellow Nerdy History folks in the Boston area. You'll be able to view artifacts related to love drawn from the Society's collection, and have a chance to meet one of the most famous couples in New England history, John and Dolly Hancock. In addition, I'll share some of my favorite 18th c. love stories - especially the ones that have inspired my books – and sign copies of my most recent novel, A Wicked Pursuit. Hors d'ouerves and dessert will also be served.

There's a limited number of tickets available - the dictates of a landmark building! - and I hope you'll join me. See here for more information and tickets.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of January 19, 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015
For your weekend reading - our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, websites, articles, and images, collected via Twitter.
• Fascinating long read: the lives of an 18th c. gentleman's coat.
• Stunning first photo of a large crowd: 1848 Great Chartist Ralley.
• "Ladies made happy": Victorian "parlor ladies" and their crochet.
• Street names of London: Prudence and whalebones.
• Holding the private and state apartments for the royal family: the Fountain Court at Hampton Court.
• Slut-shaming, eugenics, and Donald Duck: the scandalous history of sex-ed movies.
Image: Global moment: Fan depicting Empress of China, Wanpoa, 1784welcomed by French, English, Dutch , and Chinese officials.
• A few words about the codpiece (and the Wolf Hall codpiece controversy.)
• Raymond Yard's whimsical 1930s jewel-covered rabbits, dressed as waiters.
• The "horrid lash": why the 19th c. army liked flogging, and the public hated it.
• "Rhythmical Essays on the Beard Question": beard haters in the 1860s.
• Thomas Vyse, 19th c. straw hatter maker.
• Knitting pattern for steering gloves, 1915, for trawler-men on minesweeping duties.
• What opportunities did the 19th c. American West offer women versus back East?
Edward II and his favorites.
• The curious case of Adam Ranier, the only man known to have been both a dwarf and a giant.
• Is this Henry VIII's hat?
Image: Night Fete at Olevano by James Baker Pyne 1853-4. Painted in Rome.
• Painstaking work on a 19th c. sailor's wool coat from shipwreck of Civil War ship Monitor.
• Ahh, that smell! Whatever became of ditto machines?
• Mrs. Bouverie and Mrs. Crewe: two Whig hostesses from the 18th c.
• "It was a wretched end to a vivid life...." The death in Calais of Emma, Lady Hamilton.
Image: The Duke of Devonshire taking a nap in the Lower Library at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, c 1995.
Fan presented by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria on her 39th birthday, May 1858.
• An atlas in cloth: Captain Cook's rarely seen fabric book.
• Walking on the bottom of the Regent's Canal.
• Edwardian sexual codes and why the lovers of Downton Abbey become more passionate with age.
• Guided by voices: architecture designed for ghosts and the spirit world.
• Dress code: the history of "business casual."
Image: Striking court dress is made from Egyptian silk brocaded in gold and silver, 1801.
• A few winter hats, plus artists Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt.
• Surprising chart: which country in the world has highest percentage of women representatives in government? (Hint: the UK is #60 on the list, the US #75)
Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon's artistic niece.
• How the British governed India in the 19th c. from a West End hotel.
• One London mansion, many layers of history: 3 Savile Row.
Image: Victorian-style catfight, 1890: "I hope you're not so tired as you look."
• Just for fun, thanks (of course) to The Onion: Nation's historians warn that the past is expanding at an alarming rate.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday video: Dartmoor in time-lapse

Friday, January 23, 2015
Loretta reports:

Recently I wrote about Dartmoor and the inspiration it provided for Lord of Scoundrels (celebrating its 20th anniversary this month). If you’ve never had the privilege of visiting, this time-lapse video will give you a sense of this very special place.* 

I had originally intended to show you another video, but had trouble loading it.  You can try here.

Image: Lovers Leap, Holne Chase, Dartmoor, England Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

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, January 22, 2015

An Uncommon Commonplace Book, 1749

Thursday, January 22, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Nowadays if you want to record something to remember for further reference, you likely take a quick photo on your cell phone for your Instagram account. But in pre-computer days, you wrote such things into your commonplace book.

A combination of scrapbook, diary, and notebook, commonplace books were bound books of blank pages, to be filled however the owner pleased. I especially like a 17th c. synonym: a "silva rerum", or a "forest of things." Most often the pages were filled with passages copied from books, plays, poems, or sermons that were significant to the user, but surviving commonplace books also include scientific observations, random thoughts, and newspaper clippings pasted in place. Especially in a time when books were rare and/or expensive, commonplace books were a handy way to store information for later use.

They were intensely personal, meant primarily for the user rather than posterity, and as a way to store information and inspiration. They're filled with penmanship that ranges from dazzling to undecipherable, but there are also plenty of doodles and random flourishes, and missing words haphazardly inserted.

Commonplace books were kept by humble clerks and great writers alike, including John Milton, John Locke, H.P. Lovecraft, Francis Bacon, and E.M. Forester. University students were encouraged to keep them as a way of organizing ideas and thoughts, and as memory aids. Even Sherlock Holmes kept commonplace books to assist with his cases.

Although commonplace books might seem at odds with the digital age, rare book collections are now putting them online for a wider audience to read. Here is a commonplace book focused on tips and thoughts on angling (fishing), compiled between 1694-1717 by Nathaniel Bridges. Here's a legal commonplace book kept by Thomas Jefferson from 1762-1767, compiled while he was a young law clerk. And here is the late 19th c. commonplace book of Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, sister-in-law and close friend to poet Emily Dickinson, that includes wedding notices and postcards.

But one my favorite commonplace books can be read hereIt consists of two volumes, and is the work of Melisinda Munbee between 1749-1750. Dedicated to the author's father, Valentine Munbee, it's a collection of poetry, written out in impossibly perfect penmanship supported by faint, neatly hand-ruled lines. There are a few endearing glitches: on page 22, right, there's a correction: "The following six lines should have been inserted at ye asterism [asterisks]."

What makes this particular commonplace book so special? Miss Munbee completed it at the very tender age of five years, five months - as she proudly states on the title page, above.

Thanks to John Overholt, curator of Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University, for sharing Miss Munbee's commonplace book on twitter.

Above: A collection of various kinds of poetry, by Melesinda Munbee. manuscript, 1749-1750. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A barouche for 1820

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Loretta reports:

Those who’ve read Pride & Prejudice may recall Lady Catherine’s offering to take Elizabeth partway home in her barouche.

The one illustrated is a somewhat more modern version of Lady Catherine’s vehicle, but the overall principles remain the same.  Here you can see a barouche in recent use.You can find out more about the Russian Droschki mentioned here.
Barouche description

Images from January 1820 Ackermann's Repository, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, via Internet Archive.

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

From the NHG Bookshelf: A Gilded-Age Guidebook for Aspiring American Beauties

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Isabella reporting,

We seem to be in an Edwardian-Gilded Age Renaissance. The new season of Downton Abbey recently began in America, and Smithsonian has also launched its own series, Million Dollar American Princesses, with both featuring 19th c. American heiresses who went across the Atlantic to find husbands among the British aristocracy.

As the exhibition of costumes from Downton Abbey wound down its record-breaking run at Winterthur Museum (see my earlier post here), I attended an entertaining talk by Carol McD. Wallace, co-author (with Gail MacColl) of To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery. Originally published in 1989, To Marry has been reissued to appeal to the new surge in interest in the "buccaneers," as novelist Edith Wharton dubbed them: the American beauties who traded staggering fortunes for noble titles.

And this book is fun.  Filled with illustrations and photographs, gossip and scandal, it's the kind of book readers can as easily browse as read cover to cover, and always find considerable entertainment. There's advice on everything from the costs (vast) of running a country estate with years of deferred maintenance, to choosing the proper wardrobe (also vast) for a Season in London. The niceties of calling cards, professional beauties, court presentations, the cut direct, and Newport cottages are also discussed. All the legendary American husband-hunters are here, from Astors to Vanderbilts, to the queens of Midwest commerce, and for the modern sight-seer, there's also a handy directory of which heiresses' homes in Britain are now open to the public.

I especially enjoyed the contemporary quotes that are liberally sprinkled through the books. For example, this from Oscar Wilde: "American youths are pale and precious, or sallow and supercilious, but American girls are pretty and charming – little oases of pretty unreasonableness in a vast desert of practical common-sense."

The fabulous couturier Charles Frederick Worth was more direct: "My Transatlantic friends are always welcome; they have what I call 'the three F's': figures, francs, and faith! That is why I like dressing the Americans."

Or, in the words of a popular musical-comedy song of the day: "The almighty dollar will buy, you bet/A superior class of coronet;/That's why I've come from New York City of U.S.A."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gifts for the Chinese Emperor in 1816

Monday, January 19, 2015
Gifts for Emperor of China
Loretta reports:

This article in the January 1816 Ackermann’s Repository caught my attention for several reasons.  First, it was fascinating to consider the array of toiletry articles and other domestic articles, the scents available, the claims for the products, and, the sheer number of items this gift comprised.  Second, having recently read a review of a book about the the Opium Wars and England’s relationship with China in the 19th century, I was interested in the East India Company’s approach to “establishing ... commercial relations with that country upon a more solid basis.”
Gifts description

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

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of January 12, 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015
Ready for your weekend browsing pleasure - our weekly round-up of our favorite links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered for you via Twitter.
• Fagin's children: mugshots of Victorian child criminals.
• A fairy-tale wedding for a star-crossed wartime romance with a "war husband", 1946
• How to flirt with a book: 18th c. ladies reading.
• Do you know the proper length of an early 20th c. court presentation gown?
Image: Detail, early 19th c. embroidered chenille garter with metal clasp.
• Vintage photos of the dogs of Old London.
• "The funeral of Mrs. Potato": a roundup of World War One recipes.
• Knitted cap & stockings: rare survivors of everyday clothing from an 18th c. shipwreck.
• Intense Flickr collection of vintage Do Not Disturb signs.
Image: Charles Dickens' directions for his own funeral.
• A purse with a camel? Charming 19th c. souvenir from Turkey.
• Effectively terrifying, potentially lethal: sensation-made Parisians and their X-ray spook parties, 1897.
• An evolution of the intriguing, fashionable ruff throughout the 1500s.
• The great department stores of Edwardian Edinburgh.
• The truth behind a longstanding myth: immigrant surnames were not changed at Ellis Island.
Image: The Codex Rotundus, a Flemish book of hours just nine centimeters across, c. 1480.
• Lost in the (chain) mail: details of a medieval craft.
• The tiny album of a "fairy wedding": the albumen prints of Tom Thumb & Lavinia Warren, 1863.
• Reconstructing the perfect 18th c. dessert.
• French trading cards from 1902 imaging women of the future.
• Here's what NYC women were wearing on their feet in the winter of 1900.
Image: A 14th c. ivory panel showing Arthurian scenes: Lancelot on sword bridge, Gawein fighting lion.
• Charms, chains, and bracelets: why Queen Victoria's taste in sentimental jewelry is still popular today.
• Women in 18th c. English politics: the 1784 election.
• Would you have been considered beautiful in the ancient world?
• A lonely Englishman in India pines for the simple life back home, 1821.
• Fancy a pint? Flickr collection of vintage photographs of old UK pubs and inns.
• Five medical innovations from the American Civil War.
Image: This beautiful c. 1770s hat was made for Barry Lyndon, and later also was used in Marie Antoinette.
• Collection of stunning wrought-iron Victorian carriages to be sold with an estimate of £1.5 million.
• Goose, cabbage, & cucumber time: 18th c. tailor's slang.
• Twenty-five of the most majestic libraries in the world.
Image: 18th c. Japanese print by Suzuki Harunobu of children building a snow-lion.
• Fascinating collection of early fashion and trade cards.
• Just for fun: best Tina Fey joke from the Golden Globes ceremony.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Video: Soaring through the Palais Garnier, Paris

Friday, January 16, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Paris is known as the most romantic of cities, and surely the most unabashedly romantic building in the French city is the Palais Garnier, also known as the Opéra de Paris. (Many readers will recognize it as the setting for Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera, and the subsequent movies and musical.) Built in 1861-1875, the building is a glorious example the excess of Paris in the Second Empire, and this short video clip beautifully captures that spirit. I especially love the glimpse of the red-lined private box - imagine the intrigues those walls have seen over the years!

The accompanying music is "Thais: Act II: Meditation" by Jules Massenet.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Talking About Climate Change in 1827

Thursday, January 15, 2015
Mail Coach in snow
Loretta reports:

Talking about climate change in the early 1800s?  This was something of a surprise to me at first.  Then I realized that this piece was written only a decade after the Year Without a Summer, during what is known as the Little Ice Age
In that context, the theories become quite interesting.

In the discussion of cold weather in North America and Europe, you’ll notice no mention of a volcanic eruption.  And can you imagine 19th century naval vessels trying to move glaciers?* 

Climate change

Climate change
15 January entry from William Hone, The Every-day Book Vol II (1827-28).

*The asterisk in the article refers to a Morning Chronicle piece I’m unable to access.  Undoubtedly another publication—probably several—will have stolen it, but which one(s) and where will take some tracking down and may elude me altogether.

Image:  James Pollard, The Mail Coach in a Drift of Snow (1825).

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fit for a Winter Princess: An Embroidered Silk Mantle, c. 1880s

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Isabella reporting,

With many of us in the Northern Hemisphere shivering with the January cold, this elegant mantle, or cloak, seems like a most stylish way to keep warm.

Included in the recent exhibition of embroidery, The Diligent Needle, at Winterthur Museum, this cloak is made of quilted, cream-colored silk and trimmed with white feathers (which have been replaced.) The silk is embroidered with a pattern of flowers and swirling plume-like leaves, and the embroidery in turn is embellished further with crystal beads. These are dimmed somewhat in the photograph, but in person they glitter like diamonds, or perhaps icy snow.

According to the exhibition label:

This mantle, which was embroidered by professionals, bears the label of the label of the Lewis & Allenby firm, one of the largest silk mercers in London. The firm had large premises on Regent Street and Conduit Street, both areas that catered to wealthy shoppers. Known for their high-quality goods, Lewis & Allenby sold garments to Queen Victoria, who granted them the right to state on their label: "Cloak Makers to the Queen."

This style mantle, with a tailored shoulder flaring out dramatically at the hem, was a popular shape in the 1880s; the fashion plate, left, shows similar fashions worn for day. Designed to accommodate the pronounced bustles in fashion in the 1880s, the mantle would have draped gracefully around the body, and at the same time provided a dramatic yet simple shape for the richly textured embroidery.

See the Winterthur page here for more photos and details.

Above: Mantle, probably made in London, 1880s, silk & beads on silk, reproduction feather edging. Winterthur Museum.
Below: Detail, Les Modes Parisiennes, "An Afternoon Musicale", Peterson's Magazine, December, 1888.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Scoundrel Lord & Dartmoor

Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Loretta reports:

This month is the 20th anniversary of the publication of Lord of Scoundrels.
My publisher, HarperCollins, has celebrations planned, and I’ll be doing some shameless self-promotion here, though in the Nerdy History Girl spirit.

One of the questions many authors dread is “Where do you get your ideas?”  Who knows?  Lord of Scoundrels evolved from so many inspirations.  One was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, which eventually led me to Dartmoor.

I wrote of the hero, “His was a Dartmoor soul, where the wind blew fierce and the rain beat down upon grim, grey rocks, and where the pretty green patches of ground turned out to be mires that could suck down an ox.”

Dartmoor bogs
Though quite a bit later than the time of my story, what S. Baring-Gould had to say about the “wild and wondrous region of Dartmoor” and its bogs in A Book of Dartmoor (1900), does capture the spirit of the place, which I tried to evoke—including the humor.

Dartmoor bogs
Image, Hay Tor Rocks, courtesy me.

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

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Useful Yet Elegant: Black Silk Aprons, c.1770

Sunday, January 11, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Aprons were an important feature of European dress for women in the 18th c. While sturdy linen or cotton aprons obviously served to protect the petticoat for women working at home or at a trade, aprons that were made of sheer muslin and embellished with embroidery also were worn as a pure fashion statement.

While I was visiting Colonial Williamsburg last month, our friends in the Margaret Hunter millinery shop were at work embroidering a gentleman's waistcoat. While all the mantua-makers are adept (very!) at fine embroidery as well as dressmaking, it took this project to make them realize a serious gap in their own wardrobes. As anyone who embroiders knows, the process involves many tiny clipped threads of silk floss that often end up stuck to the embroider's clothing - not a desirable look regardless of the century.

But 18th c. needleworkers had a remedy for this. They protected their clothes with wide aprons made of black silk. These were tied around the waist in a knot or bow at the back, with the front piece pinned in place to the bodice beneath - giving the aprons the name pinners. The silk was sufficiently slippery to keep those pesky threads from sticking, and to be easily brushed clean at the end of the day. In addition, the black silk provided a high-contrast background that was easy on the eyes for embroidery, particularly whitework. It's likely that seamstresses in the dressmaking trades also wore such aprons for the same reasons.

Seamstress Nicole Rudolph, left, models her new apron - so new that the pockets were still pinned in place when I took this picture. While she and the other women in the shop are interpreting professional needleworkers, the practical black silk pinner apron was also adopted by ladies employed in recreational needlework. In the painting, right, the Archduchess Marie Christine of Austria is spinning thread on a miniature wheel on her lap, and along with her diamonds and pearls, she's wearing a black silk apron.

Above: Photograph copyright Susan Holloway Scott, 2014.
Below: Self-portrait of the Archduchess Marie Christine of Austria (1742-1798), daughter of Franz I and Maria Theresa, and spouse of Albert, Prince of Saxony, c. 1765.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of January 5, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015
The perfect way to begin the new year: our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered for you via Twitter.
• One hundred years ago: the world and fashion in 1915.
• What's your hobby? The dandy horse, or draisine, or hobby horse, an uncomfortable way to travel (and show off) in 1819.
• Sure cure for a bad-hair day: mid 19th c. caps of hair and silk to add style.
• Curious 18th c. luxury wallhanging: gilt leather.
• A most macabre 15th c. tomb in Lincoln Cathedral.
Epiphany: the evolution of the story of the journey & adoration of the Magi in art.
Image: Array of shoes worn by Queen Victoria's children.
• Terrorizing the unwary in 1804: the Hammersmith Ghost.
• The sounds that animals make: the medieval version.
• Stunning new aeriel photos of Blenheim Palace.
• Long-hidden letters finally unravel the mystery of the death of Oscar Wilde's wife Constance.
Image: Glasgow's Buchanan Street in the 1890s.
• Two interpretations of 17th c. painted faces, based on period cosmetics.
• Honest and industrious: petitions to the East India Company on New Year's Day,1843.
• Photos celebrating the women workers of World War One.
• The daily life of an introvert, illustrated (could also apply to most writers.)
• Remarkable 15th c. heart-shaped songbook now fully digitized to view online.
Image: "Journeys end in lovers meeting": Georgian art for a fan inspired by Shakespeare celebrates Twelfth Night.
• Surviving early 19th c. Martello Towers, built to help defend England during Napoleonic Wars.
Puritans in the snow.
• Groovy, baby: oh so modern man-caves from the 1960s-70s.
Menus from White Mountains, NH, resort hotels 1865-1903.
• Fascinating interpretation of controversial 1891 painting "The Captive" by E.Irving Course - and a possible link to Winslow Homer.
• Why traditional Scottish kilt-making is looming back into view.
Image: Working out in the gym: detail of Fourth Century mosaic of Ten Maidens.
• The first Chinese-language newspaper printed in America: in San Francisco, 1854.
• The power of angels: a charm against the plague.
• From Miss Magic Marker to Miss Frankfurter: a parade of strange, vintage beauty queens.
• Three creative Qs from medieval illuminators.
Image: Caution poster, Boston, printed after Fugitive Slave Act passed in 1850.
• Drinking chocolate in the 18th century.
• A Victorian prison wagon, 1836, designed "to carry 20 Prisoners inside."
• The world's most beautiful libraries are being photographed for a new project.
• Five insane after-death adventures of famous people's bodies.
• Butter versus oleomargarine: the "Butter Wars" of the 1880s.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Videos: How 17th century women, Puritan & not, really did dress

Friday, January 9, 2015
Loretta & Isabella report:

Isabella recently showed us a pretty, but historically fanciful portrait of a 17th C Puritan miss and invited us to point out the inaccuracies.

Today, thanks to Twitter follower Beatrice Bazell, who alerted us to the YouTube clip, I present for your viewing pleasure the one and only Lucy Worsley, properly attired, first as a Puritan lady, then as a lady of King Charles II’s court.

For a less stylish example, check out this Scholastic video, below, from Plimoth Plantation, the living history museum devoted to life in the early 17th c. colony. This interpreter's dress is probably more accurate to what was being worn by the New World Puritans: simple, unadorned, dusty, and limp from everyday wear.

Image: "Ladies' Party from a Gobelin of the seventeenth century," Carl Kohler, History of Costume, courtesy Internet Archive.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Stylish Lady Mary and a Basket of Cherries, 1793

Thursday, January 8, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Most of the portraits I've featured in blog posts have been of adult sitters, but I couldn't resist sharing this charming – and quite stylish – young lady.

She's Lady Mary Beauclerk, the only daughter of the 6th Duke of St. Albans, Aubrey Beauclerk, and his first wife Lady Jane Moses Beauclerk. Lady Mary was only two when she sat for her first portrait, yet clearly she's making a fashion statement.

She's wearing a white muslin gown - standard attire for both young girls and boys at the time – but around her waist is a wide ikat sash that likely was imported from India, or perhaps France. She has little red shoes and a lace-trimmed cap, but the main attraction is that hat.

Hardly an ordinary baby bonnet, her hat appears to made of fine woven straw, lined with white silk, and features a towering crown decked with grey silk ribbons. When I think of how difficult it is to persuade most small children to keep hats on their heads, I wonder how the artist managed to have her pose.

The secret might have been that basket of cherries. Cherries and other fruit often appear in portraits of children in this time. Although the exact meaning in this painting isn't known, they usually symbolize purity, youth, and vitality - although here they also co-ordinate nicely with Lady Mary's red shoes. The basket was a prop from the artist's studio, and appears in at least one more of his portraits with small children, so perhaps the cherries were his way to amuse young sitters.

And no, the cherries don't symbolize an early death. Lady Mary grew up to be an heiress with a sizable fortune of £100,000, and in June of 1811, she married George William Coventry, 8th Earl of Coventry. She had two children, and died at 54 in Naples, Italy. In this portrait, she looks like a little girl with a lot of spirit and personality, which may have been part of her family inheritance, too: her father's dukedom had been created a century before to honor the son of Charles II and his mistress, the famously "pretty, witty" actress Nell Gwyn - who would have been her 6X grandmother.

The artist of this portrait is also interesting, because he was American. James Earl (1761-1796) was born in Leicester, MA, the younger brother of another painter, Ralph Earl (1751-1801). While nothing is known of James's early artistic training, at his brother's urging he traveled to London to study, and remained there for about a decade. There he improved his skill and found great success, including exhibiting at the Royal Academy. He painted the portraits of many of the prominent American Loyalists who had been forced to flee to England by the Revolution, and while he didn't have the lofty titled clientele of Sir Joshua Reynolds or Thomas Gainsborough, painting the daughter of the Duke of St. Albans must have been quite a coup for him – and likely helped him find more status-conscious patrons when he returned to America.

Above: Lady Mary Beauclerk, by James Earl, c. 1793-94. Crystal Bridges Museum Collection, Bentonville, Arkansas.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The layout of a 19th C coaching inn

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Hatchetts-The White Horse Cellar
Loretta reports:

Those of us writing books set during the coaching era often puzzle over coaching inns.  Even when we actually visit coaching inns in England, we may not feel enlightened.  We don’t see the horses or the stablemen.  The once-bustling yard is often converted to an eating area, with picnic benches and flowers.  Sometimes the interior has been redone to look more ye olde than is quite authentic.  Here’s the basic layout, courtesy H.D. Eberlein & A.E. Richardson, The English Inn Past & Present.
Custom had decreed the arrangement of an inn plan.  There was the usual courtyard with its arched or beamed entry.  There was a hall for receiving guests, a main staircase, a coffee room and a dining parlour.  Some inns could boast a special apartment for dining coach passengers only.  In addition there were smaller apartments known respectively by the names Sun, Moon, Star, Crescent or Paragon.  From 1700 to the year 1760 the arched entries were low, for until the latter date outside passengers were not encouraged.  After the accession of George the Third, when outside travelling became more general, the inside passengers were treated as belonging to an inferior order.  Not only did landlords show increased respect to the outside passengers, but a subtle compliment was paid to the coach proprietors by the landlords when alterations to the arched entries were made to their respective inns.   ...

Bull & Mouth Inn
No definite system of planning seems to have been adhered to through the centuries for inns other than to provide a yard around which were grouped sets of lodgings and a further yard for stabling and wagons ... The old inns of London consisted in the main of a block facing the street with an entry to a courtyard within, the front part of the house being reserved for sitting-rooms and eating parlours. The problem of the Georgian buildings was to provide easy ingress though an arched entry for coaches, which made their way out through a gate in the further yard.  To right or left of this entry, which varied according to circumstance, there was generally a large room where coach passengers could dine; to the left was the coach office and a passage connecting with the bar and the coffee room.  The drawing room was on the first floor.  This arrangement was generally followed in all parts of the country.
Images:  Pollard, Hatchett’s, the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly (from which my hero and heroine set out in Scandal Wears Satin).  From Denver Art Museum collection.  T.H. Shepherd, The Old Bull & Mouth Inn, from London and Its Environs in the Nineteenth Century (1831 ed), courtesy Internet Archive.

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How (Not) to Dress a 17th c.Puritan Maiden

Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Isabella reporting,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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