Monday, February 29, 2016

Answering Nature's Call in Paris in the 1800s

Monday, February 29, 2016
Domed cast iron urinal
Loretta reports:

This article* about public urinals in Paris reminded me—again—of the emphasis on beauty as well as utility that prevailed well into the early part of the 1900s. Even factories made of plain red brick had their artistic flourishes and touches. If you’ve ever been inside an old factory building, you might have noticed the effort to add beauty to elevators, handrails, and so on. Structures built for utilitarian purposes might feature stained glass or elaborate cast iron work.

I suppose the modern styles of urinals are easier to maintain and keep clean, but I find myself wishing a way could be found to make them add something to the aesthetics of the street.

Urinal with eight stalls
Photographs by Charles Marville (1813-1879). Above left: Cast iron urinal with domed roof, on curb of street, Place du Théâtre Français, Paris, France, circa 1865, courtesy State Library of Victoria under the Accession Number: H2011.126/33. Below right: Urinal with eight stalls surrounded by shrubbery screen, a lamppost with single lantern at each end of stalls, Jardins des Champs-Élysées, Paris, circa 1865, courtesy the State Library of Victoria under the Accession Number: H88.19/2/107a. Both images via Wikipedia. (If you click on the Wikipedia link, you'll find a direct link to the State Library of Victoria image.)

*Sent to me by my alert-to-nerdy-history husband.

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, February 27, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of February 22, 2016

Saturday, February 27, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The enduring appeal behind an iconic Boston painting.
• "Under the influence": mesmerism in England.
• Tickets on the royal dime: a tattered document tells what royal mistress Nell Gwyn saw at the playhouse.
Skiing through the Depression (and colorfully, too.)
• How the Spirella Corset Company forever changed women's undergarments.
• The latest technology in 1790: George Washington ordered these argand lamps for Mt. Vernon.
• Scottish myths: Wulver the kind-hearted Shetland werewolf.
Image: 1911 census page where a suffragette refused to complete: "no vote no census."
• How the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was celebrated in India.
• Preserving and displaying a pair of Egyptian curtains from 6th-7thc AD.
• While Charles Darwin was writing hist masterpiece, his children were drawing on it.
• Belinda's petition: how an ex-slave successfully won a case for reparations in 1793.
Sex in the Middle Ages.
• Eighteenth century families on terraces and out-of-doors in art.
Image: Waiting for parcels of food, Cheapside, London, 1900.
• Harry Stokes and "female-husbands" of the 1800s.
• How Catherine de Medici made gloves laced with poison fashionable.
• "She was both poxt and clapt together": confessions of sexual secrets in venereal cases.
• Ancient Pompeii lives again as Italian officials unveil six more restored ruins.
• What makes Franz Liszt still important?
• Pocket Books and Liquid Bloom: advertising in the 18thc Lady's Magazine.
Image: What the Victorians threw away: alphabet cup.
• The strange and mysterious history of the ouija board.
• Scientist Mary Somerville will be the first woman other than a royal to appear on a Scottish banknote.
• Mrs. Abigail Norman Prince and her French evening shoes, 1875-1885.
Crime keeps you young - or maybe not.
Pancake Day in the Georgian era.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Tudor Era Cleanliness

Friday, February 26, 2016
Frances, Lady Bridges 1587
Loretta reports:

Looking at the title of this post, some readers will wonder what cleanliness has to do with the Tudor era. It tends to be assumed that our forebears were dirtier and smellier than we are.

As has been pointed out in a number of 2NHG posts,* this may not be the wholly correct picture. It turns out that the lives of our ancestors are not always what we supposed they were. Sometimes our assumptions are mostly true, sometimes there’s an element of truth, and sometimes what we take to be true is, essentially, historical myth.

How To Be a Tudor
Certainly, this piece by historian Ruth Goodman, on Tudor-era cleanliness, made me rethink my ideas about the Tudor era. I offer it in place of the Friday Video.

Ruth Goodman, by the way, has written other books about her experiences living the life of the past. How To Be a Tudor  is the most recent. How To Be a Victorian is next in line on my History Books TBR shelf.

*Some samples of our posts about cleanliness are here, here, here, here, and here.

Image: (Unknown artist) Frances, Lady Bridges 1587, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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

Thursday, February 25, 2016

From the Archives: More About Sultanas, c.1770

Thursday, February 25, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Since I'm visiting Colonial Williamsburg this week, I thought I'd share one of my favorite posts from a past trip. 

Recently I shared a pair of portraits of two 18th c. ladies, both wearing pink costumes called sultanas. It's most likely that both ladies were wearing versions of the stylish costume as provided by the artists. But a conversation this week with Sarah Woodyard, mantua-maker's apprentice in the Historic Trades program of Colonial Williamsburg, made me want to share a bit more about this interesting garment.

Yes, the exotically-named sultana was fashionable attire for a portrait, but ladies were also choosing them for elegant at-home wear, too. Cut in a relaxed T-shape much like a gentleman's wrapping gown, sultanas were usually worn without stays, and must have been wonderfully comfortable in comparison to a closely fitted gown over boned, laced undergarments.

Sultanas could be worn loose and open over another gown or shift, right, or wrapped and tied into place with a sash or belt. The simple shape displayed sumptuous fabrics like silk to best advantage, and the sultanas in portraits are often made more luxurious with fur trimming.

Versions of sultanas and wrapping gowns first appeared in England in the late 17th c., and were both inspired by clothing that had made its way through the trade routes to Turkey, India, and China. Such clothing was not only exotic and fanciful, but carried with it the new sophistication of Orientalism, a tangible symbol of England's growth as a world power.

A gentleman might (and did) wear his wrapping gown over breeches and a shirt as informal daywear away from home, but ladies only wore their sultanas at home, or as part of a fancy-dress costume a la Turquebelow left. Despite their richness, the unstructured simplicity of a sultana implied intimacy. A lady could receive guests in her drawing room wearing a sultana, and one would also be considered the perfect, slightly daring dress for the hostess of an intellectual salon.

The Colonial Williamsburg mantua-makers had made a replica sultana c. 1770 of pink changeable silk taffeta, above left. Inspired by the two portraits in my post, Sarah dressed one of the shop's summer interns, Monica Geraffo, as a Georgian lady at home in her sultana, her tatting in her hand and her workbag on the table beside her. True Nerdy History Girl inspiration!

Many thanks to Sarah Woodyard and Monica Geraffo for their assistance with this post.

Above left: Photograph © Susan Holloway Scott.
Right: detail, Catherine Fleming, Lady Leicester, by Francis Cotes, c.1775. Tabley House Collection.
Lower left: detail, Mrs. Trecothick, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1772. Christie's.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Death of John Keats

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
John Keats
Loretta reports:

William Hone, the author of Hone’s Every-Day Book (which I frequently cite) wasn’t shy about giving his opinions, a trait that landed him in court more than once.

I was aware of Byron’s having joked that a bad review finished Keats off. This entry in the Every-Day Book, though, was rather more touching, and very much in Hone’s plain-spoken, pugnacious spirit. Any writer  who’s suffered a nasty review can testify to the unpleasantness of the experience. It has certainly aided and abetted writer’s block in some cases; aroused defiance in others. Has it ever hastened an author’s death? I don’t know. But I promise you that it has led to some writers' fantasizing about hastening the critic’s demise.

In fact, though it’s generally agreed that Keats died of consumption (tuberculosis), there is debate about the role mercury played in shortening his life. He has written that he took it, so that’s not disputed. But why is another question. Some believe he took it to treat a venereal infection; others point out that mercury was used to treat other ailments, and Mr. Keats's health issues were complex.

February 23.
1821. John Keats, the poet, died. Virulent and unmerited attacks upon his literary ability, by an unprincipled and malignant reviewer, injured his rising reputation, overwhelmed his spirits, and he sunk into consumption. In that state he fled for refuge to the climate of Italy, caught cold on the voyage, and perished in Rome, at the early age of 25. Specimens of his talents are in the former volume of this work. One of his last poems was in prospect of departure from his native shores. It is an

Ode to a Nightingale.
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains 
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, 
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains 
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk; 
Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 
But being too happy in thine happiness,— 
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees, 
In some melodious plot 
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, 
Singest of summer in full-throated ease. 
 ... *

This ode was included with "Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems,” by John Keats, published by Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, who, in an advertisement at the beginning of the book, allude to the critical ferocity which hastened the poet's death. —Hone’s Every-Day Book Vol II (originally published 1827)

*Please click on above the link to the Every-Day Book for the full poem.

Image: Cover of May Clarissa Gillington Byron's A Day with Keats (1913) courtesy Project Gutenberg.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fashionable Technology, c.1740

Sunday, February 21, 2016
Isabella reporting,

When I first glanced at this 18thc. genre painting, Midday (it's part of a series of four pictures showing the times of the day), I did a double take. Were these ladies looking down at a cell phone? Of course they weren't - the lady in blue is holding a gold pocket watch, below, not an iPhone, whose invention was still some 250 years in the future.

But the inclusion of that pocket watch made me think. Although pocket watches had first come into use in the 16thc., in 1739, when this picture was painted, they remained a luxury item that only the affluent would have possessed. It was  a status piece, often beautifully crafted of precious metals and enhanced with jewels, engraving, and enamel, and comparable to expensive designer watches today.

Yet a watch wasn't just a piece of jewelry. A pocket watch represented the newest technology of the time, a tangible representation of the Age of Enlightenment in precise clockwork. The miniaturization of a clock that could be held conveniently in your hand and carried in a pocket was still a marvel. For the first time in history, people were able to measure their days and nights by hours and minutes instead of the movements of the sun and the moon in the sky overhead

Watches marked not only the passage of time, but also introduced the concept of punctuality, which previously had been fluid at best. In an earlier era, the four people in this painting would have known it was noon because the sun was at its zenith, and a nearby church bell might be tolling the hour. Now, in 1739, they had the watch to tell them, its face proudly displayed so that all could read it.

Which, really, is not so very different from a group of young people today, consulting the glowing little screen in their hand that tells them the time, the weather, the nearest, best place for pizza....

Above: Detail, The Four Times of Day: Midday by Nicolas Lancret, c. 1739-41, The National Gallery, UK.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of February 15, 2016

Saturday, February 20, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Touching love-letters from sailors at sea.
• Wonderful: The friendship book of Anne Wagner, compiled 1795-1834.
Street life in Victorian London, captured in photographs.
• History of a chair that probably belonged to John Hancock.
• The introduction of anesthesia: imagine surgery without it.
• Curious 18thc cats.
Image: The 1587 death warrant for Mary, Queen of Scotts, signed by Elizabeth I.
Parcels and boxes: 19thc textile shopping.
• A 1765 complaint about a wife eloping begins an investigation into an unhappy marriage.
• Not entirely accurate, but still interesting: the Belle Epoque body-con dresses that shocked early 20thc Paris.
• In the 15th-17thc, earwax was considered both versatile and useful.
• Thackeray's own original drawings for Vanity Fair reveal points not mentioned in the text.
• Who invented the first false eyelashes?
Image: Marie Antoinette's Green Library from Versailles.
• The problem with "always" and "never" in historical costuming (and really history in general.)
Courting and romance in the 18thc press.
• Forget the groundhog - according to Anglo-Saxon calendars, February 6 is the last day of winter.
• Five lovely letters on the pleasures of reading and the benefits of libraries.
Image: Word War One poster warning against spies.
• Was Charles Dickens the first celebrity medical spokesman?
• As "White Mouse", Nancy Wake was among the most decorated secret agents of the World War Two.
• The noisy Middle Ages.
• What do Thomas More, Hans Sloane, and a Moravian burial ground have in common?
Junk mail is nothing new, as these 19thc examples show.
• Did Martha Washington really have a tomcat named after Alexander Hamilton?
Image: Block and axe from the Tower of London that was also used as a child's chair in a Yeoman Warden's quarters!
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Video: Washing a 17thc. Royal Tapestry

Friday, February 19, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Housekeeping in a royal palace is a bit more complicated than a quick run-around with the vacuum. Priceless furnishings and artwork require special treatment that is often complicated, costly, and technologically challenging.

The tapestries that were hung on the walls of Hampton Court Palace not only displayed the wealth and power of the royal family, but also helped keep back the drafts in the vast (and largely unheated) rooms of the Palace. Over the centuries, the tapestries also attracted dust and dirt that had diminished their visual impact and stressed their fibers. But how do you clean a tapestry that's as large as a small house?

This wonderful short video shows how textile conservators tackled the task of washing February, one of the largest Mortlake tapestries in the Palace's collection. The wash bath was specially built for the tapestries, using de-ionised (soft) water, a custom detergent mixture, and the most gentle of touches. For more about conserving the tapestries, see the Palace's website here.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pitt's Cabinet Globe Writing-Table of 1810

Thursday, February 18, 2016
Cabinet Globe Writing-Table
Loretta reports:

Looking into catalogs of early 19th century furniture, I’m always struck by the number of multi-purpose items. We’ve shown some of these articles in previous posts. (Here,  herehere, and here are some examples.)

For me, Pitt’s Cabinet Globe Writing-Table epitomizes this “high degree of ingenuity ... displayed by British artists,” as well as the “elegance and usefulness” so highly prized in the time before Form Follows Function and Less Is More.

Sometimes I wonder whether less is simply less.

Cabinet Globe description

Description continued
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, February 16, 2016

The Significance of a Diamond-Studded Bicycle, c1890

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, and those best friends usually appear in a ring. But the unknown lady who wore this brooch was probably revealing a good deal more about herself than that she liked sparkly jewelry.

True, the small (it's less than 3" long) bicycle fashioned of gold with diamond "tires" and a ruby lantern does have plenty of flash. Most likely a custom-designed piece, it's beautifully made: the wheels spin and the pedals turn, and there's even a tiny bicycle chain that turns with the rear wheel. It would have been expensive, a brooch for a lady who probably already had other, more serious diamond pieces in her jewel box.

But a bicycle brooch wouldn't have been merely whimsical in the 1890s. According to the museum's website, this represents a very specific kind of British bicycle designed for a serious cyclist, the rare woman who wore "rational cycling dress" or bloomers for riding. Most 19thc women's bicycles omitted the support bar above the wheels to accommodate long skirts; today many women's bicycles still don't have that bar, even though young girls getting their first flashy pink bikes aren't going to be riding them in trailing petticoats. The woman who wore this brooch would have understood the difference, and would likely have been proud to show how dedicated she was to her sport.

Yet a bicycle brooch in the 1890s would have suggested much more than just sport. Bicycles offered women an exhilarating new freedom, an ability to travel on their own and at will in a way that they'd never experienced before (see this earlier blog post on the subject.) A woman riding a bicycle was a strong, capable woman who didn't need to rely on a man to determine where she going. By extension, this new freedom was closely tied to the suffragist movement. A diamond-studded bicycle brooch would have been seen as making a statement for female independence, and for women's suffrage.

Above: Bicycle brooch, probably English, mid-1890s. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph courtesy of the MFA, Boston.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Germs Discovered in 1835

Monday, February 15, 2016
Volvox globator
Loretta reports:

Well, I’ve just gone down a rabbit hole, all on account of this entry in the Athenaeum of 26 September 1835 (first column).

‘An Essay on the Nature of Diseases, by A. Green, L.L.B.‘—An essay on mirth by an undertaker, we could understand, for things may be defined by their contraries; but an essay on diseases by an L.L.B., was rather puzzling, until the secret transpired in the few first pages. The author has been to see the oxy-hydrogen microscope exhibited, and has been “ frighted from his propriety" by the spectacle. His hallucination is, that all diseases are occasioned by animalculae; and his logical formula is this: “ whatever may be, may be; nothing prevents it from being, therefore it is." It is curious to remark. that this theory ends precisely where all other medical theories have hitherto ended. " We may know, or at least believe, that a disease is caused by some minute creatures, of some kind, situated somewhere; but we may neither know the kind, nor the situation, nor what medicines can be made to come into contact with them, nor what will destroy them when it is in contact, except by experience. The means of cure can only be known by experience; and experience must therefore still be the foundation of medical science, or at least of such part o fit as is of practical utility." This, which is the last sentence of the book, looks something like a return to reason; and we hope that this first victory of the sane over the lunatic animalculae may be followed up to a complete and final conquest. In this hope, we should have passed the matter in silence, but that it affords a not uncommon specimen of "graduated" wisdom, which it may be useful to study, at the present moment of university reformation ; and as such, we recommend it to public attention.

Here's an excerpt from Mr. Green's Essay on the Nature of Diseases (1835):
It is known to every one, that by the aid of the microscope, there may be seen in water which has been exposed for some time to the open air, minute animated beings, generally very transparent, and presenting an organization more or less simple ... The popular interest recently acquired by the solar microscope, and still more by the oxy-hydrogen microscope, induces us to believe that all our readers have sufficient knowledge of the microscopic animalcula, to be interested in the discoveries which have recently been made in the part of natural history, which relates to them.  

Nearly all the reviewers went ballistic:
“The proposition that animalcules are the causes of all diseases is not new, neither is it true. Thus to imagine that animalcules are the cause of all continued and intermittent fevers, all contagious diseases, syphilis, plague, hydrophobia, small-pox, measles, hooping-cough, scarlatina, sea-scurvy ... appears to us not only untenable, but perfect nonsense.”—London Medical and Surgical Journal 1835.
Microscopic creature 1829 image

Review in The Spectator, Volume 8, 1835.   Somewhat more open-minded review in The Metropolitan Magazine, Volume 13, 1835 (Bottom of page). 

Images: (above) Volvox globator, from The Microscope and Its Revelations, 1891; (below) Microscopic illustrations of living objects, 1840—note that the image was drawn in 1829.

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, February 13, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of February 8, 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Revealing the truth about 18thc women's necklines.
Strawberry Hill: Horace Walpole's eccentric house that inspired the Gothic Revival.
• How daylight shaped the worklives of 16th-17thc people.
• Twenty-four Old English words we should start using again.
• Tracking down an early 19th London tailor's family and his shop.
Image: "Better than a dog" but "less money for books": Charles Darwin's 1838 list of reasons for and against marrying.
Breakfast with John Adams.
Medieval challenges: how do you put a torc around your neck?
• How LACMA added this rare surviving zoot suit to its collections.
Image: This headstone is the definition of a "badass."
• The first known fencing master in America was a Black man who escaped slavery.
• In search of Queen Victoria's voice.
• Restoration of Roman tunnels gives a slave's eye view of Caracalla Baths.
• The full story of the body (and severed head) of Charles I.
• "Dear Rosey": an 18thc British soldier far from home seeks help from his wife.
Image: There is so much to love about this 19th headline.
• Ever-evolving toyland: Barbie's lurid past in the 1940s as a sexy German call girl.
• When pyjamas ruled the fashion world.
Image: Yanks in Germany want more books.
• How an 1830s children's magazine taught the hard truths of slavery.
• The funeral of Queen Jane Seymour.
• New exhibition highlights "plus-size" garments across four centuries.
• A cheerier version of the Depression years, in hyper-bright postcards of recreatio spots.
Image: Ornate Victorian public toilet.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Video: A Day in Pompeii

Friday, February 12, 2016
Loretta reports:

My nerdy history interest in England has continued for many years alongside an abiding fascination with Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. One of my latest purchases is Mary Beard’s SPQR. In the world of fictional detectives, I’ve been a devoted follower of Lindsey Davis’s Falco series.

So of course Pompeii fascinates me. There are much longer programs on the subject, including this one hosted by Mary Beard.

But I found this short video animation rather haunting.

You can read more of Mary Beard on the subject of Pompeii here.

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, February 11, 2016

From the Archives: The Myth of the Regency Sylph

Thursday, February 11, 2016
Isabella reporting:

Seeing the fashions of 1810 featured in Loretta's blog reminded me of how fashion influences more than just silk and ribbons: it can also determine the stylish ideal of the body beneath those clothes.

Too often, however, the modern perception of what was hot in the late 18th-early 19th c is more a reflection of 21st ideals, especially as influenced by contemporary film versions of Jane Austen's novels. Our sylphs would not have been theirs. Keira Knightley, right, and Gwyneth Paltrow would have been pitied as sad, scrawny creatures, even perhaps consumptive. The ladies that everyone was ogling in a real Regency ballroom would have looked much more like this caricature of the notorious Emma, Lady Hamiltonleft, by Thomas Rowlandson.

While later in her career, Emma would be cruelly depicted as blowsy and obese, here she is shown as an eminently desirable and fashionable beauty, with high breasts and well-rounded thighs and bottom. The same kind of lush figure tumbles through countless other drawings by Rowlandson and James Gillray; Google either artist, and you'll see these women over and over. It's easy to look at this body-type and imagine it wearing the clothes in the 1810 fashion plate, or in this one from 1808

The more flattering portrait of Emma, below, also shows exactly how robust a stylish lower half must have been. With fashion dictating a temporary respite from boned corseting, narrow waists lost their importance as an erogenous zone. Instead the interest  shifted to the lush, voluptuous curves below the waist, revealed by the drifting drapery of light silks and linens. For men who had been raised in an era when these mysterious body-parts had been hidden by hoops and heavily draped skirts, the sudden change must have been...exciting.

Where did this different kind of body ideal come from? Just as ancient Roman and Greek art and architecture was influencing nearly every aspect of the decorative arts in the late 18th-early 19th c, fashion, too, took a classical turn. High-waisted gowns and draping shawls were designed to emulate ancient fashions, embroidery patterns featured classical motifs, and looped and knotted hairstyles showed a classical influence as well.

But the undressed bodies of ancient nude statuary also set new standards of physical beauty. While Georgian aristocrats on their Grand Tours were busily checking out naked marble goddesses all across the Continent, one of the must-see statutes was the Aphrodite Kallipygos, right, on display in Naples. This much-admired statue is thought to be a 1st c BC Roman copy of an earlier Greek bronze, and her provocative pose must have left a definite impression of classical booty on countless young Englishmen.

The statue may also have influenced Lady Hamilton, living with her husband Sir William in Naples. For special guests to their villa, Emma performed her "Attitudes," a series of graceful poses inspired by classical art – the same "Attitudes" satirized by Rowlandson in the caricature at the top of this page. While Emma performed in a quasi-classical costume, not in the buff as Rowlandson shows her, there is a similarity between the pose – and the voluptuous figure.

Top left: Lady Hamilton's Attitudes by Thomas Rowlandson, 1790
Lower left: Detail, Emma, Lady Hamilton as Ariadne by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1790
Lower right: Aphrodite Kallipygos, artist unknown, 1st c BC, National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Queen Victoria's Stormy Wedding Day

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Cruikshank, Very Unpleasant Weather
Loretta reports:

This week in history—
Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on 10 February 1840. I used the event, and the bad weather preceding it, as a backdrop to a short story.

“The weather during the preceding night was more boisterous than any we have experienced during the winter.  It “blew great guns from ten o’clock until sunrise when—
      The dawn was overcast, the morning lower’d,
      And heavily in clouds brought on the day,
      The great, th’important day,
on which were to be celebrated the nuptials of our maiden Sovereign and Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg.

It continued to rain almost without intermission until noon, when the weather partially cleared up and continued fine, but threatening during the remainder of the day.”— The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 1840
The detailed account of the wedding begins here. And you can find my other blogs on the subject here and here. If you search “white wedding dress,” you’ll find posts explaining that Queen Victoria was not the first bride to wear white.

Image: George Cruikshank, Very Unpleasant Weather,1835, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Advice for Writers of Romantic Fiction, 1790 - and 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Publishers, editors, and critics have always been ready with suggestions for writers - handy rules that, if followed, are sure to guarantee a story that readers will devour. The advice in the clipping, below right, comes from an 18thc newspaper, The World, appearing in the September 17, 1790 edition. Although nearly 250 years old, modern writers and readers of romantic fiction may find these rules surprisingly (or perhaps depressingly) current.

I've transcribed them below:

"It is absolutely necessary for female NAMES to be culled with delicacy, that they may be more interesting – HARRIET, ISABELLA, LEONORA, AUGUSTA, INDAMORA, FLORINDA, WILHEMINA, ALMERIA, SOPHONISBA, &C. And as for surnames, take the NEVILLES, the GRENVILLES, the BELVILLES, the SAVILLES, the HOWARDS, the GODOLPHINS, the MOWBRAYS, and the MONTGOMERIES; be particularly careful, that they are all Honourable, or Right Honourable, or Dutchesses, or Countesses, or Baronesses, or Baronetesses, by which means the dignity of the story is preserved; for who could with any decency be supposed to love HANNAH GRIMES,  or MARTHA DICKENS, or MARGARET SIMS! As for the MEN, they must all be Lords, Knights, Captains, Colonels, or Counts, and should generally keep phaetons and four, or elegant little gigs; they must have fought duels without end, and be fond of deep play; and if, from excess of sensibility, they have occasioned a FEW DIVORCES, it makes the work infinitely more interesting.

The more things change....

Many thanks to another of our friends of the blog, writer/historian Emily Brand, who spotted this item for us.

Above: Young Girl Writing a Love Letter, by Pietro Antonio Rotari, c1755, Norton Simon Art Foundation.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of February 1, 2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The history of resourceful 20thc clothing made from printed flour and feed sacks.
• Fascinating new site from the Newberry Library highlighting historical paleography (history of handwriting.)
• "Like swallowes", or what happens when a 17thc poem meets a recipe for face cream.
• An 1851 chemise for comfort.
• Drunkard, Merryboy, Younker: some popular names for 17thc dogs.
Image: Women from India, Syria, and Japan who completed their medical education in Philadelphia, 1885.
• Ten fabulous French chateaux for sale in case you win the lottery.
• Do you have an "open head"? Mrs. Corlyn's unique headache remedies can address that.
Image: Animation showing how Boston's Old State House - and its setting - has changed over the centuries.
• Elite dining in early 1900s Manhattan: frogs legs and potato chips.
• Eight classic novels reduced to their punctuation.
• Ancient Romans once filled the Colosseum with water and staged a mock sea battle.
• Victorian cat funerals. 
Image: The blue-and-white dishes in this 17thc Dutch doll house are Chinese export ware.
Transportation and love tokens.
Napoleon was a popular subject for 19thc chess sets.
• Eight words that reveal the sexism at the heart of the English language.
• Historical sheet music: dancing Downton-style.
• London's Duke of Monmouth street names.
• "Laura had a feeling": Fascinating interpretation of Little House on the Prairie.
Image: A tartan treat for celebrating Burns Night - Royal Stuart tartan kilt ensemble, 1822.
• The queen mother's rebel cousin.
• London's Sailortown: servicing the Royal Navy in the 18th-19th centuries.
• Rare painted cloth banner celebrating Thomas Jefferson's election over John Adams, 1800.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Video: Boston by Streetcar, c1903

Friday, February 5, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Some of our most popular Friday Videos have featured turn-of-the-20th-century cities captured by early outdoor cameramen, usually from a streetcar. Here is Paris, and here's New York (in a blizzard) - and now we have these street scenes of Boston, c1903.

For those familiar with the city, this short film includes views of North Station, South Station, Atlantic Avenue, Copley Square, and Huntingdon Avenue. It's also a chronicle of urban transportation: while most people are traveling by foot, there are plenty of horse-drawn vehicles as well as streetcars, plus the newer trolleys and elevated cars whose tunnels are seen under construction.  It's also a time without crosswalks or traffic lights, with pedestrians jaywalking with bravado. I love seeing how formally everyone is dressed, too, with almost every man and woman wearing a hat. For more about the film, see this article by the New England Historical Society.

This video was shared with me almost simultaneously by two of the blog's New England friends, Kimberly Alexander and Andrea Cawelti. Thank you both!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Hairdresser, 1827

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Loretta reports:

The Book of English Trades was a guide aimed mainly at a young audience, explaining what people did and what they were paid. It continued to appear, year after year, and you can find it online in many editions. The clippings here are from the 1827 edition.

You can read the full entry online beginning here.

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, February 2, 2016

Men in Kilts in Paris, 1815

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Some things never change. While there can be no doubt as to the courage shown by Highlanders in battle over the centuries, the fascination with what they're wearing (or not) beneath their kilts appears to be at least two hundred years old, if this this print is any indication. (As always, please click on the image to enlarge.)

In October, 1815, when this print was made, the Treaty of Paris that ended the Napoleonic Wars had yet to be signed, but Paris and much of France was already occupied by soldiers from the Coalition countries that had defeated Napoleon. Among these countries was Great Britain, who contributed soldiers from Ireland, Wales, and Scotland as well as England.

Apparently the Highlanders shown here were among those soldiers occupying Paris. Strolling together through a park, they've paused to buy fruit from a vendor. As they bend down to complete their purchase, the two fashionably dressed women behind them are making not-so-subtle excuses to bend over themselves - one to retrieve the child's toy, the other to adjust the laces on her shoe - and thereby gain a, ahem, better view. The print's title, Le Prétexte, (The Pretense) says it all, doesn't it?

A small observation: while it's difficult to identify the gender of children in this era since both small boys and girls were dressed in much the same garments, I'm guessing that the toddler in the print, right, is male since he's playing with a ball, and not a doll, and the ribbon sash is red, a masculine color for the time. If you look closely, you'll see that beneath the child's gown he is is wearing gathered pantalettes, intended to keep him decent while he plays. The pantalettes appear to be plaid, much like the tartan of the soldiers' kilts. Hmm....

Above: Le Prétexte  published by Aaron Martinet, Paris, October, 1815. The British Museum.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Fashions for February 1812

Monday, February 1, 2016
Ball Dress February 1812
Loretta reports:

Though I took a detour to 1836 for last month's fashion plate, in order to illustrate my latest book, I’m hoping this year to show you the evolution of style, decade by decade. Of course, if something irresistibly fabulous turns up in the “wrong” era, we’ll make another detour.

But today we’re looking at Regency—interpreting the term very narrowly this time as the period from 1811 to 1820, when the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent because the reigning monarch, King George III, was too ill to rule. (Social historians and others, however, tend to refer to a broader period, which Wikipedia concisely summarizes here, in the second paragraph.)
Walking Dress February 1812

These two dresses, though, fall smack dab into the Prince Regent’s time, with the classic vertical muslin styles we associate with Pride and Prejudice, and which happen to be illustrated in especially beautiful prints in Ackermann’s Repository.
Dress Description February 1812

I would call your attention to the description of the hat, which I would love to see in real life.

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.
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket