Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fourth of July Break

Thursday, June 30, 2016
July the 4th 1902
Loretta & Isabella report:

Monday the 4th of July is Independence Day, the anniversary of the day we Yanks declared our independence from Great Britain, and then had a big fight about it.

Happily, those hostilities are long behind us. Nowadays, our relationship resembles the main image in the Puck illustration. In 1902 Uncle Sam embraced John Bull. More than a century later, we’re still not shooting at each other, but continue to embrace our separated-by-a-common-language friends across the pond.

We in the U.S. will celebrate the anniversary with fireworks. And barbecues. And a lot of flag waving.

The Two Nerdy History Girls will be taking a long weekend to spend time with our families. We’ll return on Tuesday with our regularly scheduled blogging.

To our readers in the U.S. we wish a happy Fourth, complete with glorious fireworks. To our friends elsewhere: If you haven’t anything official to celebrate over the next few days, make something up and have a party.

Image: Puck, July the 4th 1902, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Stearns Tavern Dodges the Wrecking Ball

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Loretta reports:

In Worcester, you can’t just knock down an old building when you feel like it (except if you are certain unspeakable people who shall remain nameless). Historic structures get a one year stay of execution, unless the powers that be grant a waiver. Very often the waiver is granted and the building vanishes, and all we can do is take pictures to remember it by.

Recently, and much to our surprise, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, about which I wrote not long ago, got a one year stay of execution, though the odds of its surviving are not great.

The news is better about an old tavern in the town.

The Stearns Tavern is one of those buildings I must have passed a thousand times, in a car and on foot, without more than a glance. It was, until recently, a bank. Only in the last couple of years did I learn was one of Worcester’s oldest structures, dating back to about 1812. (I know: in England that’s practically yesterday, ultra-modern, but this is the U.S.)

We didn’t hold out much hope when the Stearns Tavern got its one year reprieve—but lo and behold, thanks to efforts by the city and several private companies, the tavern will be preserved. It’s moving, for the second time, to a more attractive location, and will get a new life as the centerpiece of a park.

For more about the tavern, here are some links:

Just the facts, ma’am here.

A more detailed story with lots of photographs here.

And the rescue story here.

Despite diligent searching, I’ve been unable to locate older images for a compare and contrast. In the meantime, these photographs are courtesy the indefatigable Walter M. Henritze III.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

See-Through Summer Dresses for 1782?

Sunday, June 26, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Satirical prints were in their glory in London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and for us researching Nerdy History folks, prints can be a wonderful source of information about society and fashion at the time. We just have to keep in mind that they're satire, not fashion plates.

This print is a perfect example. Glance at it quickly, and it looks like countless other prints showing the latest fashions, with three ladies showing both front and back views plus elegant hats and hair. The title of the print, Summer Dresses, makes it sound as if it's exactly that, too.

But if you look a little more closely (click on the image to enlarge it), you'll see that the women are combating warm weather by wearing less - a great deal less. They've left off their stays (corsets) and most of their other undergarments. The fabric of their gowns and aprons is so sheer that their bodies are plainly revealed (which makes those elaborate hats, stockings, and shoes a little strange by comparison.)

But it's a joke. Really. No London ladies were dressing like this. The light-hearted rhyming caption makes it clear:

   My Dear fair Friends
   For two great Ends
   This Summer Dress is recommended.
   Your Health's secured
   Sweet-Hearts insured
   The happy Objects here intended.

In other words, by parading about like this, ladies will not only stay cool and comfortable, but attract sweethearts galore.

But as is often the case with satirical prints, there's a grain of truth, however small, at work here. Over in France, Queen Marie-Antoinette was causing a sensation by wearing a new kind of dress dubbed the chemise a la reine, right.  This was a simple, unstructured dress made of white, light-weight cotton muslin that was a complete turnaround from the stiff silks and brocades, worn over rigid stays, that had dominated women's fashion for most of the century.

Although the chemise a la reine still looks like a lot of dress to modern eyes, in the early 1780s it was considered scandalously insubstantial. To the English satirical artists - the new styles were ridiculous, revealing, and above all FRENCH. See-through dresses were an easy target, and one sure to sell to the stalwart English print-buyers who must have delighted in the scantily clad women of Summer Dresses.

But such prints didn't stop Englishwomen from embracing the new muslin dresses for themselves. By 1785, fashionable aristocrats like Lady Elizabeth Foster, lower left, were posing for portraits wearing the English version of the chemise a la reine. Change was definitely in the air....

Thanks to Neal Hurst for recently posting Summer Dresses on his Facebook page.

Upper left: Summer Dresses, by an anonymous artist, London, 1782, British Museum.
Right: Portrait of Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, 1783. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Bottom left: Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Foster, by Angelica Kauffman, 1785, Ickworth House, National Trust.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of June 20, 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Image: Miniature corset, 1890s, most likely used as a salesman's sample.
• Elizabeth Simmonds, who had a lucky escape on the dissecting table, 1826.
• The polyamorous Christian Socialist utopia that made silverware for proper Americans.
• Archibald MacPheadris and his room: a Baroque merchant's house in Portsmouth, NH, 1716.
• How fashion magazines talked in the 1930s.
• The route of Don Quixote: following in the footsteps of one of the greatest novels of all time.
Image: Edwardian postcard: Suffering to achieve the ideal beauty, yet mocked for the fakery.
• How England became a nation of tea-drinkers.
• Horn and Hardart automats: redefining lunch time, dining on a dime.
• Six New England ghost towns.
• Gout, king's evil, plague in the guts, murder: how people died in 17thc London.
• The Elizabethan garden: plants that Shakespeare would have known well.
Image: Convenience store in St. James's Park, complete with cow, c1900.
• How two 18thc female pirates became BFFs on the high seas.
• America's obsession with presidential hair.
• A brief history of goldfish globes and goldfish hawkers.
• What she left behind.
Video: A favorite of dandies: the now-long-lost spat.
• How "domestic" was women's work, 1500-1700?
• A three-year-old's shoes are a powerful monument to the General Slocum tragedy of 1904.
Image: Judy Garland stood 4'11", but not in these - created for her by Salvatore Ferragamo in 1936 (and still sold today.)
• Fifteen women who deserve their own biopics.
• Be honest: can you really tell left from right?
• And then there were ten: surviving landmarked Dutch houses in Brooklyn, NY.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday Video: Grace Kelly's Royal Wedding, 1956

Friday, June 24, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Since June is the month of weddings, this seemed like the perfect Friday video for the season. The wedding of Oscar-winning American actress Grace Kelly to Ranier III, Prince of Monaco, had everything that celebrity-watchers crave: Hollywood and European royalty, a beautiful bride who gave up her movie-star existence for the love of her handsome prince. The fairy-tale analogies were unavoidable, and the world couldn't get enough. Beneath the near-constant glare of media attention, the two were wed in Monaco in a civil service on April 18, 1956, and in a religious ceremony a day later on April 19.

This short newsreel feature from British Pathé captures both the glamour and the frenzy that surrounded the wedding. What struck me most about it, however, was the breathtaking beauty of Grace Kelly, both as a woman and as a bride. She's also remarkably solemn, and I hope for her sake that later that day she was as happy and joyful as a bride should be, once she and her new husband were alone together away from the cameras.

If you received this post by email and are seeing a black box or empty space where the video should be, please click here to view the video.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Before Refrigerators: The Ice House

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Ice House 1817
Loretta reports:

Ice houses weren’t as rare in England as the excerpt from Ackermann's Repository for June 1817 makes one believe. Neither were baths, for that matter. And London did have its share of both. In the 17th century, King Charles II had not only one, but six ice houses built, including one for his mistress the Duchess of Cleveland.* You can read more about ice houses here, here, and here.

Photo of Duchess of Cleveland’s ice house scanned from Christopher Symon Sykes's Private Palaces.

Ice House Described
Ice House Described
*If you'd like to learn more about this remarkable woman, I highly recommend Susan Holloway Scott's (aka the other NHG) Royal Harlot.

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, June 21, 2016

Watch the Mantua-Makers Create a c1774 Dress in a Day

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Today is the longest day of the year. If you're an 18thc seamstress whose workday is determined by the light of the sun, it's a rare opportunity to make an entire dress in a day.

At least that's what will be happening today in the Margaret Hunter shop in Colonial Williamsburg. Beginning at 7:00 am and ending around 6:00 pm, a length of lovely printed cotton chintz will be transformed into a gown and petticoat much like robe à la françaiseleft. The eight women with the flying needles will be Janea Whitacre, mistress of the trade; Sarah Woodyard, journeywoman; Abby Cox, apprentice (all part of the Historic Trades program at Colonial Williamsburg); Rebecca Starkins, Adi Harris, and Kaila Temple, summer interns in the shop; Donna Brock, a CW volunteer; and Norah Worthington, resident costumer at the Baltimore School for the Arts, who will participate as part of a professional development exchange program.

Anyone in town with a Colonial Williamsburg pass will be able to visit the shop today and watch. For the rest of us, the dress's progress will be shown today on the Historic Trades Facebook page here. I'm told there will be streaming video as well as still photographs to show each step of pinning, cutting, and stitching to create the finished gown by the end of the day. Everything will be done entirely by hand, as it would have been done in the 18thc. (Just keep in mind that all this will be happening in Virginia time, in the Eastern time zone.)

For those of you interested in sewing along at home (you know who you are), Colonial Williamsburg is also offering this cotton chintz, right, exclusively on their website. It's a reproduction of an 18thc textile in their collection; for more information or to order, see here.

While making a dress in a day sounds like a grand-standing slogan, it wasn't that uncommon in the Georgian era. If a lady wanted a new gown to wear the day after tomorrow and had the money to pay for it, a mantua-maker and her seamstresses would be happy enough to oblige.

While suitable for drinking tea, calling on friends, visiting shops, or attending church, a gown and petticoat like this one wouldn't come cheaply. This is clothing for a wealthy, fashionable woman, or perhaps a successful woman working in the fashion trade who needs to impress her customers. Imported from India, cotton chintz printed in multiple colors was a luxury fabric, and could cost ten to fifteen shillings a yard, with a gown like this one requiring about ten yards of fabric.

By comparison, the cost of labor would only be about ten shillings. Labor was cheap in the 18thc, and that charge of ten shillings would be a set price, the same whether one seamstress worked for three days, or seven worked for one. The total dress could cost roughly £5-£8. The wages for a common seamstress? One-and-a-half shillings for a twelve hour day.

You can also watch a vodcast of the Colonial Williamsburg mantua-makers create a previous dress in a day: part one and part two.

Top left: Robe à la française, French, 1760s, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Bottom left: Photograph of Margaret Hunter Shop © Susan Holloway Scott.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Staying Happily Married for a Side of Bacon

Monday, June 20, 2016
Schweninger, Happy Family
Loretta reports:

One of my favorite tomes on my shelves is The Every-Day Book; or Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements etc., which the prolific William Hone published in 1826, and which was reprinted for many years thereafter.

In the entry for 20 June, he brings to our attention the custom of awarding a flitch (side) of bacon to a couple able to prove marital harmony a year and a day after the wedding.

The rather saccharine Victorian era image above left, a romantic imagining of a scene from the early 1800s, certainly is a strong contrast to Gillray's before and after matrimony images.

Dunmow Custom

Image: Carl Schweninger, Happy Family, via Wikipedia.

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

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of June 13, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Circassian bloom: cheek rouge for 18thc and 19thc ladies.
• "My present dreadful situation": the perils of fame as an 18thc actress.
Tabasco and the war against bland military meals.
Jane Austen's manuscripts are finally all digitized, and may now be viewed as a whole online.
Video: If you're a Regency era lady, a new spencer jacket is a great way to spruce up your look for summer.
• Converting Jews to Christianity in Regency England, 1809-1813.
• Lavish lace in the Martha Washington collection at Mount Vernon.
• What spilled ink and fingerprints reveal about medieval manuscripts.
Soldier newspapers in the American Civil War.
• Epic battles in medieval manuscripts: knights vs. snails.
Image: Pretty much all you need to know about Victorian children's literature.
• What did it mean to be called an Amazon during World War One?
• Why memes matter for feminism.
• America's mid-century rest stops were real roadside attractions.
• A Coney Island pie-maker invents the hot dog, 1870.
• Built around 1780, this Federal-style house in what is today Chinatown, NYC, managed to survive until the 1920s.
Image: Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his Chelsea home.
• Eight places associated with the wives of Henry VIII.
• Uncovered in Hyde Park: 165-year-old toilet remains from "spend a penny" exhibition.
• The Endicott pear tree: still alive in Massachusetts after nearly 400 years.
• Blood, controversy, and puddings in early New England.
• Changing concepts of time: art in a speeded-up world.
Image: Medieval church door in Gloucestershire believed to have been the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's entrance to Moria.
• They marched with torches: getting out the vote, 1840-1900.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Video: What Did Shakespeare's English Sound Like?

Friday, June 17, 2016
Romeo & Juliet
Loretta reports:

Not long ago, I posted a short video about the way the English language has changed over the centuries.

I raised the question about how understandable Shakespeare’s English would be to modern audiences: not only in the sense of unfamiliar words and phrases but also in terms of the sounds.

Lo and behold, wandering through YouTube at some point when I probably should have been working on the WIP, I found the answer as well as more glimpses of what goes on at the new Globe theater.

Image: Francesco Hayez, L'ultimo bacio di Giuletta e Romeo (Romeo and Juliet's Last Kiss)

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.

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, June 16, 2016

More About "Sir Joshua Vanneck and Family",1752

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Isabella reporting,

One of the things that Loretta and I enjoy most about this blog is learning from each other, and from our readers. Whenever we write a post with questions or things we don't quite understand, there's always someone out there who knows the answer. My recent post about the painting Sir Joshua Vanneck and Family by Arthur Devis (detail above; click on the image to enlarge it) inspired such interesting comments that I thought I'd share them here.

The first comment came from my fellow Nerdy History Girl, Loretta, who has a fine eye for old London landmarks, and at once recognized the bridge in the background, detail right, as the first Putney Bridge. Designed by architect Sir Jacob Acworth, the bridge was opened in 1729; legend says that the bridge was built after Sir Robert Walpole was unable to cross the river for an important meeting with King George I on account of a drunken ferryman. Loretta forwarded this slightly later image of the bridge from Picturesque Views on the River Thames Vol. II (1802); to the right you can also see the same square church tower that is in the Vanneck portrait.

Loretta also shared a quote about the bridge from Old and New London, Vol. 6, 1878. By this time, over a century after the painting, the old bridge must have seen better days: "Putney Bridge cost upwards of £23,000; it is not only a disgrace to the neighbourhood, considered as an object of use and necessity, but is more dangerous to boats upon the river." You can read more here.

When I shared the post on Twitter, I heard from Rebekah Higgitt, a Historian of Science and a Lecturer at the University of Kent. She pointed out that the small telescope used by the Vanneck ladies, detail left,  to survey the river was very similar to this portable reflector telescope made c1750, and now in the collection of Royal Museums, Greenwich.

Finally, there is this comment from Sarah Hall, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Frick Museum of Art, where I first saw the Vanneck painting last week. She had much more information to contribute regarding the Vanneck family, the mystery of Roehampton House, and the painter, Arthur Devis:

"[Devis's] way with fabrics is superb - although he often used figures/dolls in the studio to help him work out his composition - so the faces and figures tend to look similar and not have any real weight to them. The painting was made two years after [Sir Joshua's] wife died, so she is not included. There is no record of the sitters, but scholarship suggests the portrait may have been commissioned to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Anna Maria (in pink), and the subjects are likely (left to right): Sir Joshua, Mrs. de la Mont (likely his sister), Henry Uthoff (Anna Maria's husband), Gerard (son), Gertrude (daughter, with telescope), Joshua (son, on ground), Margaret (youngest daughter, on ground) , Anna Maria, Elizabeth (eldest daughter), and Thomas Walpole (Elizabeth's husband and cousin of Horace Walpole). They did live on an estate at Roehampton on the banks of the Thames which was known as Roehampton House - his son made extensive renovations and changed the name to Roehampton Grove - hence the confusion with what is now known as Roehampton House. Many wonderful details in this - I love the flowers strewn about strategically, and the glint of shoe buckles and hat trim, and the date and signature, camouflaged in the bark of the tree at left. The clothing is so beautiful, the figures are like frosted pastries."

So the Vannecks are in fact posing on the grounds of their own house. I'll admit I'm relieved to learn they're not trespassing in their beautiful silk clothing. That's Sir Joshua and his sister in the detail, lower right, with Henry Uthoff to one side (and doesn't Henry look as if he shares a tailor with Thaddeus Burr, as painted by John Singleton Copley?)

But Loretta came up with one final, scathing comment on Sir Joshua's house, also from Picturesque Views on the River Thames:

"Amongst the many elegant mansions that adorn the village of Putney, few have been erected on the banks of the Thames. That of the late Sir Joshua Vanneck stands conspicuous, but has nothing about it to render it an object worthy attention."

Oh, my....

But one more update: Loretta came across yet another reference to Sir Joshua's house, from Eighty picturesque views on the Thames and Medway, engraved on steel by first artists by W.G.Fearnside, n.d. - though probably mid-19thc or later:

"On passing through the bridge, the large red house, with a fine verdant lawn, situated on the right was originally the residence of Sir Joshua Vanneck, and once the boast of the river; but so many elegant villas have of late years adorned the banks, that this respectable mansion appears to have lost its former consideration."

Many thanks to Sarah Hall, Rebekah Higgitt, and of course Loretta for their contributions to this post.

"Sir Joshua Vanneck and Family at Roehampton House, Putney" by Arthur Devis, 1752, Frick Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Wicked Pursuit and Lord of Scoundrels Special Sale

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Loretta & Isabella report:

Yes, today’s post has nothing to do with history but with our real job—the one that pays: writing novels.

Today we offer a pair of eBook bargains.

From now until 18 June the eBook of A Wicked Pursuit—the first in Isabella’s Breconridge Brothers series—is on sale for $1.99

You can get your Amazon Kindle deal here

and your Barnes & Noble Nook edition here.

And as mentioned previously, Lord of Scoundrels is the featured June book for Avon Romance’s Diamond Anniversary.

As part of the celebration, the eBook is on sale for $1.99 through the end of this month.

You can get your Amazon Kindle edition here

and your Barnes & Noble Nook edition here.

Please note: The Two Nerdy History Girls have different publishers with different publishing and licensing arrangements.

This is why readers in the U.K. can get a £1.99 deal for Isabella’s book while Loretta’s bargain price applies only to the U.S. and Canada.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Relics of Old London, 1875-1886

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Loretta reports:

Thanks to an overnight visit to New Haven this past weekend, I was able to make two visits to the Yale Center for British Art. During the first, I made my way to the fourth floor gallery, one of my favorite places, to view the new display of the collections, “Britain in the World.” You can read about it here.

On the second visit, I spent a long time in a small, fascinating exhibit, Art in Focus: Relics of Old London, which runs until 14 August 2016.

On display were beautiful carbon photoprints of London buildings in the later Victorian era. These were part of a project begun in 1875 when “ a group of friends united to memorialize”* the Oxford Arms coaching inn, which was facing demolition. “Over the following decade, the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London continued to issue photographs of buildings that were abandoned, altered, or soon to be destroyed, to honor bygone and overlooked sites and to rouse public sentiment against such development projects.”
Oxford Arms, the galleries

Since I like to write road books, I was especially interested in the photos of old coaching inns. But all of the images give one a sense of time travel.

The exhibition photographs come from the Paul Mellon Collection, and are part of a complete set of 120 photographs the museum owns. The photos were originally issued in “portfolios of green morocco leather, with gilt lettering.” This, and the decision to produce carbon prints, which are highly stable and thus permanent, show that the images were meant to be a lasting record. According to the exhibition pamphlet, “the accompanying letterpress included detailed scholarly excavations of the layers of history in each site photographed.”

You can see the images and the descriptions at the Royal Academy Collections.

I also recommend a visit to one of the 2NHG’s favorite London blogs, Spitalfields Life, where you can see some Then & Now: Relics of London photos to compare with photos of the buildings that escaped destruction.

*All quotations from exhibition catalog: Art in Focus: Relics of Old London, Yale Center for British Art.

Image: The Upper Gallery, The Oxford Arms, Warwick Lane, 1875, ca.1875, scanned from Exhibition catalog (Note: the copyrighted images at, e.g., the Royal Academy of Arts, are much sharper. Oxford Arms, the galleries, looking from Warwick Lane, courtesy Wikipedia.
Oxford Arms in Better Days
Note: For those readers who are joining the Lord of Scoundrels read/re-read-along this month, Jessica would have watched the fight from a gallery like this, but in much better condition, obviously in 1828. Unfortunately, I lost the link to the image at left.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption (except for the one at left) will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fine Fashion from "Sir Joshua Vanneck and Family", 1752

Sunday, June 12, 2016
Isabella reporting,

This past weekend, I visited the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh, PA. I was at the art museum primarily to see the exhibition Killer Heels (more about that in a future post), but I also stopped by the European galleries. There I discovered this painting: Sir Joshua Vanneck and Family at Roehampton House, Putney by Arthur Devis.

It's what is known as a "conversation piece," a specific style of painting popular in 18thc Britain that usually shows the gentleman who commissioned the painting surrounded by his family in an elegant setting to display his wealth and taste. In theory, the people in the painting have been captured in a conversation, or engaged in a well-bred pastime such as drinking tea, playing music, or resting after a long walk.

Sir Joshua Vanneck (1702-1777) was born in The Hague and emigrated to London, where he became a successful merchant - though not quite successful enough to afford the house and grounds of Roehampton House, which appears in the painting, and which was owned by the Cary family. (The Vannecks' house was Heveningham Hall, Yoxford, Suffolk.) Sir Joshua and his extended family must have been strolling the grounds as visitors. Sir Joshua's full title was 1st Baronet Vanneck, of Putney, Surrey, where Roehampton House is located, and likely explains the reason for the setting.

As 18thc artists go, Arthur Devis (1711-1769) is never mentioned in the same breath as Georgian giants like Joshua Reynolds or Thomas Gainsborough. The painted Vanneck family could all be little dolls, their expressions nearly identical and their anatomy a bit uncertain. But as a chronicler of fashion, Devis shines. The silk gowns not only possess the perfect glossy shine, but also reveal slight puckers along the seams, and the lace trimmings are exquisitely captured, with the curving detail (I'm guessing) carved into the thick paint with the pointed end of the painter's brush.

The Vannecks are all stylish, according to their ages: Sir Joshua and his wife Mary Anne are conservatively dressed in clothes that are a bit old-fashioned, while their twin sons Gerrard and Joshua are dressed in the simpler versions of the adults' clothing. The young women in the center - daughters Margaret, Elizabeth, Anne Maria, and Gertrude (though I confess I don't know which is which) - are of course the most fashion-conscious.

I've pulled out several of my favorite details - as always, please click on the images to enlarge them. The embroidered kerchiefs, ruffles, and aprons (probably silk gauze or fine linen) are sheer enough to be layered over one another. Patterned ribbons zig-zag across their stomachers, the pointed inserts on the fronts of the gowns. The shapes of the hoops beneath the skirts are clearly defined. Caps are worn beneath the broad-brimmed hats. All three of these young ladies are wearing white fingerless mitts lined with a colored silk to match their gowns; you can see the pointed tips flipped back to show the contrasting pieces. And I love how the younger brother, about eight years old, is already wearing his hair in neat rows of side curls, pinned in place on either side of his face like an adult.

Details, Sir Joshua Vanneck and Family at Roehampton House, Putney by Arthur Devis, 1752, Frick Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of June 6, 2016

Saturday, June 11, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Dick Turpin, 18thc butcher and highwayman.
• America's bloody history: five famous dueling grounds.
• Why these anatomical models of women are not disgusting.
• The heraldry windows of Chawton House Library, here and here.
• How a chemical engineer returned home from World War Two and created a company that led to the...Tunnel of Fudge.
• Photographs that remind us what polio – now nearly wiped out world-wide – once looked like.
Image: A c1900 bodice with built-in bust enhancers.
• "The Newsboy is a trifle profligate": sketches of New Yorkers from 1840s.
• A gold "safety pin" from the 7thc BC.
Louisa Catherine Adams, the first and only foreign-born First Lady.
• Will the last person to leave Regency England in 1816 please turn off the light?
Image: From an 1880 census, Ellen Adams' occupation is "taking it easy."
• Fascinating obituary for Jane Fawcett, who went from being a London debutante to a decoder at Bletchley Park who helped doom the Bismark.
• For Outlander fans: ten things you (probably) didn't know about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites.
• A soldier of the Massachusetts line, 1777.
• Star-shaped Sunday school badge honoring Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887.
Image: Grand Central Terminal, NYC, by John Collier, 1941.
• What would Britain be like today if Charles II had been captured and executed in the 17thc?
• The murder confession of Mary Voce, 1802, which inspired George Sand.
• Discover the hair industry of the past through a 19thc hairwork buckle.
Gabrielle d'Estrees, mistress of the French Henri IV.
• Stuck on 1962: the ghost advertisements in London's abandoned underground stations.
Image: Some days, exactly, c1800.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Friday Video from the Archives: An 18thc Gentleman Longboards Through Bath

Friday, June 10, 2016

Isabella reporting,

A surprisingly energetic video for a lazy Friday in June, and well worth a repeat performance. Combine an 18th c. gentleman (well, at least that's what he's supposed to be) on a longboard, the beautiful streets of Bath, and a dash of Iron Maiden, and you get Georgian shredding, dude. (I'm sorry about the inevitable advertisements, but a quick click on the X will make them vanish.)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Parisian Porters in 1835

Thursday, June 9, 2016
Loretta reports:

As part of Avon’s Diamond Anniversary, they’re highlighting certain of their books, one a month. Since my historical romance, Lord of Scoundrels,* is being honored this month, I’ll be offering bits of related research.

One personage who appears in the first part of the book is the porter for the apartment building in Paris in which the heroine’s brother lives. The porter was the all-purpose servant for everybody in the building.
Porter of Paris

When I wrote the book, believe it or not, I had no access to the Internet. Google didn’t exist. My main source was Frances Trollope’s Paris and the Parisians in 1835.** As is often the case in travel writings, the author’s attitudes and prejudices color her observations. My English characters reflect some of these views, though I may tone them down a bit to accommodate my readers’ sensibilities. (In historical romance, it’s always a balancing act, on so many counts.)

Porter of Paris
In any case, as Ms Trollope makes clear, the position entailed a great deal more than that of the porter in a large English establishment, where many other servants, especially footmen, were available to perform various tasks.
Porter of Paris

You may wish to continue reading the chapter (just click on the link under the image and continue paging through): The author makes some interesting points about Parisian vs London modes of living.

If I understand correctly, the porter/concierge is still part of Parisian apartment life, albeit he/she seems to be a dying breed. Parisian readers, please feel free to chime in!

*EBook on sale this month for $1.99 (U.S. & Canada only, sorry!)

** From whom I’ve quoted before, here and here.

Porter of Paris image from James Jackson Jarves’ Parisian Sights and French Principles: Seen Through American Spectacles (1853)

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, June 7, 2016

What the Cherokee Woman Wore in Williamsburg, 1775

Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Isabella reporting,

I've often written here on the blog about the 18thc clothing of the British women of colonial Virginia as worn today by the interpreters of Colonial Williamsburg. I've mentioned how they took the fabric, ribbons, and accessories imported from Europe and created their own fashion statements and style. But as I learned this past weekend, I've been guilty of forgetting a large group of equally fashion-conscious women in the 18thc: the Native American women of the Cherokee nation.

Native Americans were very much a presence in the colonial capital, and Colonial Williamsburg now incorporates Native American interpreters and programs into the greater "story" of the city. There was a large Native presence in 18thc Williamsburg. Members of the Pamunkey, Nottoway, and many others were involved in trading, and it was was common to see young men from various Nations in town to attend the Brafferton Indian School at the College of William & Mary.

This past weekend Colonial Williamsburg featured a special event called "Return of the Cherokee", highlighting the Cherokee delegations that traveled to 18thc Williamsburg - about 500 miles from their homes in the more southern colonies - to negotiate treaties, trades, and alliances. The delegates might arrive by themselves or with their families, and they often camped within the city. One of these encampments was recreated this weekend, and became a center for modern visitors to learn more about Native American life in the British colonial era.

And, of course, I learned about clothes. According to Felicity Wite, above left, a member of the Lakota Nation and an interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, trading with first the Spanish and later the Dutch, French, and British brought the world's goods to the eastern woodlands. Native men traded furs and skins, fish, pottery goods, and wooden wares for European cloth, clothing, ribbons, handkerchiefs, and beads (a sample is shown right) that were fashioned into new styles to suit their own tastes and culture. Trade bells, thimbles, wire, buckles, and even exotic peacock feathers were put to new purposes as ornaments and embellishments.

For example, Felicity is wearing a woven check shirt that would have been intended for an Englishman, but among the Cherokees was equally popular with both women and men. Beneath it she is wearing a skirt made from English Stroud cloth, a woven woolen that was popular as a trade cloth. Silk ribbons are stitched onto the Stroud cloth to make a decorative stripe, with the ends notched and left hanging as a kind of decorative fringe. The skirt ties at the waist with a leather thong or belt. On her feet are moccasins made of smoked, brain-tanned deerskin with wool-lined cuffs, embroidered with white glass trade beads.

Another garment worn by both men and women (and soon adopted by Europeans on the frontier) was the match-coat. Originally made of fur or skin, the match-coat evolved into a large rectangle of traded Stroud cloth that could be wrapped and tucked around the body to suit the wearer's needs and tastes. Felicity showed me one match-coat, middle left, that was richly embellished with ribbons with gold thread and a pattern of white beads. Another, lower right, was not only trimmed with ribbons and woven tape, but also made use of the Stroud cloth's undyed selvage, or edge; while Europeans hid the selvages inside seams, the Cherokees incorporated the white border into their designs.

Felicity also explained that the women of each tribe had their own distinctive hairstyles. Hers was combed back into a sleek twisted club, lower left, and tied with a length of red cloth. Her "wheels" earring featured an ornament of interlocking circles, a popular motif, while in her other ear she wore a dangling triangle. Jewelry could have been made from silver, or from an old brass pot; it was the shine that mattered more than the intrinsic European value of the metal. Extra color came from the blue silk ribbon tied into the hoop.

Three blocks away from Felicity and the other women of the encampment was the mantua-maker's shop, filled with the stays (corsets), hoops, heeled shoes, caps, and sweeping petticoats worn everyday by European women (like this.) There couldn't be two more different ways of dressing, and yet both represent fashions for Virginia in 1775.

Many thanks to Felicity Wite for her help with this post.

All photographs ©2016 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Fashions for June 1855

Monday, June 6, 2016
June 1855 fashions
Loretta reports:

Last month we looked at some 1840s fashions.

This month we move into mid-19th century, where the skirts seem to be belling out more widely. Since Victorian fashion is foreign territory to me, I'm at a loss for intelligent observations, let alone clever ones about these steel engravings from Godey's' Lady's Book for 1855. I do love the flowers and lace framing the ladies' faces, under hat brims.

Given my ignorance, it  would be fun  to at least be able to do some compare and contrast with British fashion magazines from the era. Unfortunately, as is the case with the 1840s, it’s not easy to find fashion plates online, or when one does, they lack descriptions.*

Re today's descriptions: Guipure, for those of us who are ignorant of dressmaking terms, is a lace. Blonde, as my readers will be aware, is also a lace, the handmade version being quite expensive and thus an excellent way to display wealth.

1855 fashion description

*Warning: Rant follows in brackets

[While I’m grateful that somebody saved colored fashion plates, and they ended up in museums and libraries, it would have been much better had the entire magazine been preserved, to provide valuable insights into the time period. If saving the whole magazines was too much, people might at least have saved the descriptions, drat them!—end of rant]

Those of you interested in U.S. Victorian history and fashion may wish to subscribe to Accessible Archives, which has the complete Godey's collection online.

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, June 4, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of May 30, 2016

Saturday, June 4, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Art under the microscope: a close-up look at the silver-wrapped threads of a tapestry.
• Not fiction: Elizabeth Bennett, blacksmith at Blenheim 'Castle'.
• The Emperor Nero and the history of sunglasses.
• Was this going to be Marie-Antoinette's home if she'd escaped? Versailles on the Susquehanna.
• Conserving an 18thc gentleman's coat of many colors.
Image: Florence Nightingale's writing case.
• Brief video timeline of children's shoes from the collection of the Museum of London.
• "Limbs not yet rigid": a history of dissecting the living ::shudder::.
• The 18thc tax on gloves.
Marital coercion and the wife who got away, 1844.
Image: 19thc embroidered silk waistcoat with paddle steamers.
• Nineteenth century blogs for stamping embroidery patterns.
• Why the first cremation in America in 1876 was so controversial.
• World War Two through the lens of an African American soldier.
• A selection of early fashion and cloth trade-cards.
Image: Well, this is awkward....
• Who was the King of the Beasts in New France?
• Sumptuous 16thc Florentine portfolio binding.
Arson and rural poverty in 1830 - and the grim consequences.
• A fanciful (and terrifying - those insubstantial railings!) view of a future journey by airship from New York to Chicago in twelve hours, 1919.
• Truly retro recipe: ham banana rolls, 1947.
Image: Good job by the Royal Mail, who managed to deliver this letter in 1898 despite its vague yet artistic address.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Friday Video: English Through History, or, Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Friday, June 3, 2016
Loretta reports:

In a college seminar on Chaucer, we were required to learn to read and speak Middle English. Until then, I hadn’t realized the sound of English is not only slightly different from one locality to another, but can sound like another language entirely, depending on what century you’re in.

I wish today’s video creators had stuck with English English speakers throughout, since the change of accents adds a layer of confusion, I think. We Yanks started out with a fairly modern English which we gradually transformed into our own variety. That could form a program in itself, as could the English of Australia and New Zealand and India and everywhere else the language invaded.

Some, too, would disagree about how recognizable Shakespeare’s English would be to modern ears, and not just in terms of our ability to recognize words. Still, the point is made about English’s evolution, and our nerdy history readers are welcome, as always, to comment.

Image: Chaucer as a pilgrim from Ellesmere Manuscript in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, via Wikipedia.

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, June 2, 2016

Dressed for 1775: The Tailor's Intern, Colonial Williamsburg

Thursday, June 2, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Whenever I'm visiting Colonial Williamsburg in the summer months, I always try to share photographs of the summer interns from the Margaret Hunter shop. Not only does the summer internship program provide valuable hands-on experience for college students who are studying historic clothing, construction, and fashion, but it also fills the shop with younger workers - workers whose ages more closely coincide with their counterparts in the 18thc.

It's easy to forget how young the Georgian labor force could be. Extended schooling was a luxury for the upper classes, child labor laws did not exist, and the entire concept of the teenager is a twentieth century invention. Most young people worked, often at an age when we'd still consider them children. Chimney sweeps, cabin boys, scullery maids, and workers in the mines, mills, and factories toiled long hours in hazardous condition for little pay. By comparison, an apprenticeship with a mantua-maker (dressmaker) or tailor offered the opportunity to learn a skilled trade, and the possibility of relative security and success.

Ike Cech, above, is one of the tailor's 2016 summer interns (I'll share the mantua-maker's interns soon.) A student at the University of Wisconsin Madison, Ike is studying textile and fashion design with a focus on historic design. This is Ike's second summer at Colonial Williamsburg; last year he was part of the team sewing the reproduction of General Washington's marquee, or tent (see more about the tent here.)

It was hot and humid today in Williamsburg, and Ike shows how an 18thc Virginian would have dressed for the summer weather while keeping an eye on London fashion. He's wearing loose, lightweight striped trousers, a checked linen shirt, and a black silk neckerchief. His striped jacket is a light wool and worn open (see the same jacket here worn buttoned for a very different look.) The final jaunty touch: a white felted wool hat, the summer version of the ubiquitous black hat worn by most 18thc Englishmen.      

Photograph ©2016 by Susan Holloway Scott.          
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