Souvenirs for All Souls Eve: 1894

A Brownie, by Joseph Jacobs

A Brownie, by Joseph Jacobs

Souvenirs for All Souls Eve

New York, Oct. 27, 1894

Fashionable people are doing their frivoling less and less in the town and more and more at their country seats. Halloween, which, as all the world knows, comes on the last day of October, and in the heart of the Indian summer, is an ideal fete for the jolly house parties that are making merry in Lenox and Tuxedo and all along the line of the autumn stamping grounds of the smart set.

To make a short story of several detached chapters, culled from other books, Halloween is to be given over this year to feasting and dancing, and midnight trick revels that are to be robbed of their grewsomeness out of consideration for the timidity of the timorous and divested of the more boisterous bumpkin antics out of regard for elegant Belindas and Bobbies who do not like to ruin their togs bobbing for apples in a tub and doing similar feats of the peasantry.

There are to be any number of dinner parties on Halloween, with dancing for the aftermath; and for the cotillion, without which a dance nowadays is like a bird without a song, all the favors are being ordered with especially reference to the manifold folk tales of the Scottish country folk, from whom most of the Halloween tricks and trumperies have been handed down.

Foremost are the Brownies.

Good fairies, good luck. The Brownies done in gold and enamel, some of them of special magnificence, by private order, into precious stones, are harbingers of fair fortune, and as such are the star Halloween gifts of the season.

The “nits,” as the peasantry of Scotland call nuts, will be named and toasted in the big hall fireplaces of many a fine country house, but the modern maid does not like to avow her flirtatious propensities by openly naming the nuts, and for her especially delectation there are Halloween nuts this year in gold and silver that open when a tiny spring is pressed, disclosing a trinket case in which a bauble of elegant workmanship reclines, mayhap a ring, perhaps a thimble for mademoiselle’s embroidery or charity sewing.

A stick pin that has been designed for a Halloween gift gets it cue from the line of Burns’ Halloween “Pou the stocks,” or rather from the superstition that the poet there refers to. Pulling the stalk of a Kale plant is the first of the old ceremonies of the evening, and the silversmiths and goldsmiths, have made all their tiny stalks straight and fair, to show that the omen is a good one.

Of candlesticks there is an infinite variety, with one or two especially made for the eve of All Saints mysteries. One that has a mischievous sprite for a holder is quaint and bound to supply at least one extra face in the looking-glass. Another odd little holder is the stem of an apple, the fruit forming the base.

One of the most elegant gifts for a faire ladye on Halloween will be a triple mirror with candelabra attachment, a desideratum of the dressing-room that comes high, but is so useful the year round it is one of the best of tokens for the season.

Besides the costlier gifts, there are any number of comparatively inexpensive trinkets that answer for German favors, among them being many times “twa red cheekit apples” made in natural hues of silk and crepe paper, and also some trick apples that open to disclose bonbons.

The fad of ever hostess is to have unique favors and this presupposes a specially designed supply. For a house party in the Berkshires there are being made some witch caps and brooms, and for the man some fantastic “jumpers,” all of which are to be donned just before midnight in which to work some spells that are to take place in a huge new barn on the estate.

In the Halloween supper that is to follow, the place of honor is to be given to a dish of “butter’d so’ns, wi’ fragrant lunt,” prepared by the Scotch recipe, sowens with butter in place of milk, forming the chief article of diet on a properly observed Halloween.

Uniqueness rules. It also costs. The novelties of the season are largely prepared to fill private orders, but the dealers report a growing demand for trinkets symbolizing special fetes and for this general trade that has not arrived at the munificence of having special designs made to their order, nothing is in greater demand than the Brownies, who in their several “Shapes upon their several pins will go off careenin’ fu’ blythe that night.”

Dinah Sturgis.

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 28 October 1894: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: So amusing to see the upper-classes trying to ape their inferiors by playing the games of the “peasantry,” and by giving folklore-themed favours at their cotillions.

A traditional Hallowe’en ritual is to name nuts for various lovers then put them on a grate in the fire. If a nut burns nicely, that love is true. If it pops, the lover will prove false. Maidens gazing in mirrors were said to see the face of their future husband on All Souls Eve. One wonders if the mirror described above would produce a single loving apparition in triplicate or if the vision would give a selection of three different potential husbands? “Sowens” is a kind of sour oat porridge. “fragrant lunt” refers to steam rising from the dish. “Pulling the kale” was yet another marriage divination ritual where the length and straightness of the stalk indicated one’s future spouse. See this instructive article for more detail and much Scots dialect.

The Moon Party, a Halloween Entertainment: 1914

Selene Victorian fancy dress.

Selene Victorian fancy dress.

“Moon Party” Makes Novel Halloween Entertainment.

One of the most pleasant social affairs is a moon party. This is the sort of entertainment to give on Halloween (or Thanksgiving) when the harvest moon is in evidence.

Those who are willing to go to some trouble in preparation for the function will find in a moon party something out of the ordinary.

For invitations use colored cards with silver or white moons ferescent or full) on them. Write on the cards the following or some other verse:

Dear friends, this greeting brings to you

An invitation hearty

To join with us on Halloween

A merry moonlight party.

Moons of every description are to be used in decorating—full, crescent, de-crescent, half and gibbous. These may be made of silver or white paper. They may hang from ribbons or cords and may be festooned all about.

The receiving party may be composed of mythological characters associated with the moon.

The first of these may be the “moon maker” (Segende Nah), who cause the moon to issue from a deep well so brilliant that the real moon was concealed by it. His dark blue robe should be covered with bright red moons and he should carry a wand.

Another may represent “Phoebe,” (the moon as the sister of the sun) arrayed in silver and white.

A third may be “Astarte” (the crescent moon), the moon with the crescent horns; and a fourth, “Ashtoreth” (the Phoenician goddess moon), sometimes called the “queen of heaven” (Jeremiah VII: 18).

“Selene” (the moon goddess), may be represented with wings on her shoulders and a scepter in her hands.

“Cynthia” should be included as the moon in the open heaven who “hunts the clouds.”

And from embattled clouds emerging slow

Cynthia came riding on her silver car.

The lighting for the room should simulate moonlight. Vines and branches should be so hung as to throw their shadows on floor and walls.

As the people arrive they are given each a numbered crescent shaped souvenir bearing an appropriate quotation. Those holding the same number are partners in the game of “moon raking.”

“This game it should be explained to those taking part, gets its name from the legend of the farmer who once took a rake to rake the moon from the river under the delusion that it was a cream cheese.

The “moon rakers’ are attached to each other by pairs (by means of a white tape half a yard long. They are instructed to go and rake for the moons (round, white candy tablets), which have been hidden among which is a green cheese (cloth) moon.

The finder is awarded a tiny moonstone.

The fact that the moon rakers are bound together makes it difficult for them to search and adds to the liveliness of the game.

Another interesting game is that of the “man in the moon.” A big, white moon with a man’s face on it is outlined on a dark curtain. Each player essays in turn to pin the eye nearest the place intended for, a small favor being presented to the one who succeeds.

“Jumping over the moon” is another good moon party game. A moon is suspended from a rod held at a certain height and the player who jumps clear over it at the greatest height is the winner.

Cheese sandwiches, crescent in shape are appropriate for refreshments, with moon shaped or star shaped cookies and wafer disks.

J.A. Stewart.

672 S 51st  st. Philadelphia. Pa.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 18 October 1914: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have Cynthia, but where is the goddess Diana, she of the crescent- moon crown?  It is not as if there is not admirable precedent for the goddess’s use as a fancy-dress character by the highest in the land:  the Empress of the French was said (in this caustic article) to be appearing at a fancy-dress ball in the character of the bare-limbed goddess.


The Empress of the French expected to give a grand fancy ball at her mother’s, the Countess de Montijo’s house, on Friday last, April 27. An exchange brought over by one of the recent steamers, says:

Eugenie, it is announced, will appear as the Goddess of Diana, equipped for the chase, and her dress will be composed of a short skirt of tulle, and of a body of flesh-colored silk, liberally embroidered with diamonds.

A large diamond crescent, and two stars to match, will sparkle on the forehead of the Goddess; the feathers of her arrows will be bedropped with diamonds, as a thread of gossamer with dew, and the pretty little pink boots, that are to give a finish to the costume, will likewise be adorned with precious gems set in anklets of gold. The jewels, some of which, it is said, will be wrenched form the crown, are more important to the costume than at first sight might be imagined. The dress of the Goddess Diana, consisting merely of a short tunic, and what are technically termed “fleshings,” would scarcely be becoming to a lady of high degree, though it might be exceedingly effective on the stage. But add a circle of diamonds to the scanty habiliments, and the standard of propriety is changed at once. Diana’s silver bow may not command much respect; even Diana’s real moon, inasmuch as it costs nothing, may be unheeded; but a Diana, with a crescent of diamonds—diamonds on her boots, diamonds on her arrows—is admissible into the most rigid circles.

Alexandria [VA] Gazette 5 May 1860: p. 2

The Empress Eugenie was widely regarded as a low-ranking and unsuitable match for the Emperor Napoleon III, an amusing attitude, considering the antecedents of that upstart Bonaparte. The Empress did give a series of extravagant fancy-dress balls in 1860 and called upon her favourite couturier, Charles Frederick Worth for imaginative costumes for her and her guests.  Here is a design for “Diana:”

From the Victoria & Albert collections

From the Victoria & Albert collections

However, the acerbic tone and the nonsense about wrenching jewels from the Crown make one suspect that this article was a piece of anti-Eugenie propaganda rather than an actual account of a fancy-dress costume.

The “moon-maker” was an 8th-century Arabian magician, also known as Hakim Ben-Hashem. He wore a veil to conceal the brilliance of his eyes, the result of causing a moon to issue from a well and remain visible for a week.


Electric Lights and Squirrels in Fancy Dress: 1909


Alice Vanderbilt as the Electric Light. See more images of the surviving dress at

Alice Vanderbilt as the Spirit of Electricity. See more images at


Unique and Weird Effects in Fancy Dress Costumes in London.

London, January 23. Pageantry has seized the popular imagination, and in consequence there are to be an unprecedented number of fancy-dress balls and head-dress dinner and tea parties.

Already the head-dress parties are in full swing, and quaint head-gear descriptive of various advertisements and the titles of notable books are adding to the gayety of country house parties. The “Merry Widow” hat and other footlight favorites are also in demand.

The fancy-dress ball this season is taking precedence over all other forms of private entertaining, and it is already rumored that a royal fancy-dress ball is to be a fixture of the future. Every day brings increasing orders to costumers for fancy dresses of original design; for those of Shakespearean and Wagner’s heroes and heroines, for historic modes, for popular stage frocks, for the numberless old-time favorites representing the seasons, and for “Salome” dresses.

Strange as it may seem, there has been a great demand for “Salome” robes, modeled after Maude Allan’s own, for wear at private balls and parties. These robes are made of sterner stuff than that used by the famous dancer and the garish bosses and jewels, reflecting a myriad lights, are strikingly effective among the black swirling draperies.

The modern costumer must be up to date, and each passing event, therefore, has some suggestion for him: hence the robe “Penny Post to U.S.A.” Again, pink satin is used, and the panels of the Princess robe are painted with pictures of the different post offices of England and America. The head-dress is composed of photographs of the Postmasters-General of England and America. In the hand will be carried a tiny barrow full of parcels and on one shoulder will be a perfect model of the Lusitania, gleaming with electric lights, and on the other piles of letters.

Of exquisite beauty is a design called “On the moors.” It is in mauve satin, with a jaunty little tight-fitting coat, and the skirt is covered with purple and white heather. A squirrel sits perkily on one shoulder and a pheasant graces the other. The head-dress is also of heather, but it is lit up with a myriad lights.

A new dress for men is the “Flip-flap,” which is most ingeniously devised. The knickers and coat are made of white satin and light arms are attached which can be revolved at will. The end of the arms are filled with tiny figures representing people, and are lit with electricity.

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 24 January 1909: p. 35

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Maud Allen was a dancer, notorious for her sensational “Dance of the Seven Veils,” in her production of “Vision of Salomé.” This photo-postcard will suggest why. In 1918 she was accused of obscenity, espionage, and various other crimes as popularised by Mr Oscar Wilde.


The up-to-date Penny Post fancy dress celebrates the new Transatlantic Penny Post–a penny an ounce for letters sent to or from England. The Lusitania was mentioned as carrying the first mailbags in October of 1908. One cannot imagine the Postmasters-General of England and America being a picturesque feature of those headdresses. The Lusitania was of course, torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915 with a loss of 1,198 souls. This was one factor that brought the Americans into the War in 1917.

The “Flip-flap” was an early roller-coaster amusement park ride. Mrs Daffodil hopes that the squirrels and pheasants used to accessorise “On the moor” were specimens of the taxidermist’s art.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.


The Spook Syndicate: 1905

A bill for the play "The Castle Spectre," c. 1800. Naturally there is a ghostly nun.

A bill for the play “Castle Spectre,” by “Monk” Lewis, c. 1800


There is a fresh reason for weeping and gnashing of teeth among the trust hunters. That is, if we are to credit a prospectus just issued by Mr Symington Spiffkins, latterly a London materializing medium and now the head and front of what is known as the Spook Syndicate, Limited.

“It occurred to me,” says the distinguished gentleman, “That every year more and more Americans are either purchasing or renting estates in the Old World. A very few of these properties are properly equipped with select and guaranteed spectral attractions, and with a view of filling the want I established the Spook Syndicate, Limited, which may be said to virtually control the ghost market.

“It is not too much to say that we have a corner on white ladies, wood demons, banshees, wraiths, bogeys, black knights and headless horsemen, lately carrying on business at old stands in various ruins, mouldering castles, manor houses and chateaux.

“All our phantom folk are engaged under a guarantee to perform their duties and keep regular hours, so that there may be no disappointment to the lessees. Some especially startling novelties are ready for the coming season. Terms invariably in advance.”

There is much more of this preface in the prospectus, and then follows some specimen attractions which should certainly bring business. Here are a few taken at random:

“No. 96—Black knight, in fine state of preservation. Carries his head under his arm (very desirable). Rattles a chain with horrible emphasis. Good family ghost, warranted kind and does not appear to children. Hours 12 A.M. to 2 A.M. May be engaged by the season or for a term of years.

“No. 62—Green goblin, with forked pink tail. Emits sparks. More economical than fireworks. Shrieks like the dinner horn of a deaf-mute asylum. Can be relied on to frighten an inebriate away from his cups. Very old. Five hundred years at his last place, where he gave great satisfaction.

“Lot A—White ladies. Very select assortment. Prices according to age and historic details. Suitable for sentimental couples and readers of Marie Corelli. Warranted a cure for dope fiends. Can be engaged with or without blood-curdling groans. Note—Heads will be popular this season. Phosphorescent eyes and veils are no longer considered fashionable.

No. 16—Upper part of a king (unique speciality.) For some centuries the feature of a ruined tower by the North Sea. May be highly recommended. Appears promptly at 1 A.M. and engages in looking for his lost legs. A consolation prize for those who have failed to get presented at court. ‘Half a king is better than none.’ Recommended for engagement to wives who wish to break their husbands of late hours.”

Mrs. Spiffkins further announces “a great drive” in “sheeted specters, midnight hags, phantom huntsmen and black dogs.” In sort, the American who intends to rent or buy an estate abroad should examine the stock of the Spook Syndicate, Limited.

Baltimore [MD] American 30 July 1905: p. 48

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is always amused at the rich Americans who wish to lease a haunted stately home so they can boast to their friends about the headless cavalier in the Blue Room or the ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots going bump in the Long Gallery.  The same people would demand a reduction in their rent if they believed they had a ghost in their residence in New York, Chicago, or St. Louis.

But the brashness of Americans is a familiar comic theme, as Mr Oscar Wilde demonstrated in “The Canterville Ghost.” Britain also witnessed the unedifying spectacle of that climber, Baron Astor of Hever (née William Waldorf Astor), bribing his way to a peerage and thinking that by buying Hever Castle, once Anne Boleyn’s home, he and his guests would be able to hob-nob with her ghost. With a strength of character unusual in the ectoplasmic, she refused to appear. Or perhaps it was merely that she was not on the books of the Spook Syndicate and was thus under no obligation.

White Mourning as a Symbol of Sorrow: 1903, 1912, 1917

white mourning 1912


Whether it be the weeds of woe dictated by the heart’s agony over the loss of a beloved one, or the conventional mourning imposed by state or custom, the sartorial symbols of grief vary with times, places and people. Only in deepest, most lusterless black have we Americans of the nineteenth century been able to show to the world how great was the loss imposed upon us by the death of those dear to us.

Since the twentieth century came in there has been a noticeable tendency toward the lightening of the outward gloom, the sign of our inward grief. An increasing number of persons have protested against donning prescribed mourning, and a still larger number, while adhering in the main to the old order, have modified it so as to make their mourning less oppressive to the wearer and to all beholders.

That black clothes are not the only means of expressing sorrow of the dead is evident if we take into consideration the mourning colors prevailing in other lands and in other times. White is the official mourning of China, as impressive and less depressing than our black. Violet, which we recognize as a minor degree of mourning, is deep mourning in Turkey. Shades of yellow, merging into brown, have expressed the sorrow for loss of life in several eastern countries, including Egypt and Persia. Blue and scarlet have also had sanction as mourning colors in the past.

So, intrinsically, the hue of the garb has no significance other than convention gives. If one has courage one may refuse to accept the dictum of convention. When it was announced recently that Mrs. Madeline Force Astor, the youthful widow of John Jacob Astor, would wear white instead of black, a sigh of relief went up from many who shrink from the somber robes and suffer from their discomforts in warm weather. If one of such social standing could so break with conventions others would surely follow her example. The announcement did not mean that Mrs. Astor would not wear any black during her period of mourning. On ceremonial occasions she will doubtless conform to the prevailing custom and wear black to escape being conspicuous, but she will have a supply of white gowns, hats and accessories which will be easily distinguishable form white wear which is not mourning. All of the white garments worn by her will be guiltless of sheen or luster. Flowers and lace are taboo; white crepe and all kinds of dull, soft white materials ware employed….

This summer more white appears in mourning outfits than has been seen for a long time. Most of it is intended, of course, for young girls and for persons who have completed the regulation period of “deep mourning.” What that period is depends upon adherence to the rules made by the combined opinions of milliners, modistes and public, especially that part of it that we call “society.” It is only slowly that the two years formerly religiously required of a widow for the wearing of crepe veil and all black outfit is being modified. Sticklers for etiquette still adhere to this rule. Greater elasticity in mourning apparel is allowed to other bereaved persons. A mother, a duaghter, a sister may shorten the period of her mourning and modify its lugubrious character with less reproach. Relatives of more remote degree are no longer compelled by censorious opinion to wear black unless their inclinations or interests dictate it….

Nothing is considered by the milliners real mourning except the heavy English crepe, although the dull silk nun’s veiling is preferred by many persons, not only because it is less expensive, but because they shrink from the feeling of crape. When the widow’s deep mourning is laid aside, Brussels or other net with a crepe border is substituted. This is also worn as first mourning by those of a lesser degree of kinship to the deceased.

White in mourning millinery makes its appearance in the becoming “widow’s cap.” Next it is found as the facing of the all black hat, which, by the way, is very popular this season. Then there are the lighter combinations of black and white; the white hat (dead white, it must be) with dull black roses or other flowers which may be worn with black or white gown; the dull black straw with trimming of white crepe or tulle and perhaps some such feather as the marabout, and the all-white hat to be worn with white frocks, especially by the young girl. These white hats are trimmed sometimes with a band and bow of white crepe or with French crepe, which, of course, expresses a less degree of mourning than the regular English crepe. Sometimes French crepe and lusterless white wings are used on a young girl’s hat.

White mourning veils are usually made of net with a white crepe order, the length of the veil and the width of the border indicating the period of mourning. Bands of white crepe on dull finished white gowns are correspondingly graduated….

White mourning gowns may be of any material that does not have a sheen, and they should always be guiltless of lace, embroidery or any sort of decorative garniture. Tucks, pleats and folds are the proper trimming. Inserts of net are also permissible. A handsome mourning costume of dull silk had the yoke made of a small figured net having almost the effect of crepe, but not so heavy. Bands of this net were also inserted in the skirt. The long coat to be worn with this gown was made of the same kind of silk, with folds, binding and buttons of the same.

Another gown was of the new dull finish Alaska satin trimmed with broad bands of white crape.

The various nets make very pretty summer gowns alone or in combination with thin silks or muslins. The tucks are varied in width and grouping to relieve the plain effect caused by lack of other trimming.

The white mourning accessories are shown in an attractive variety. For the deeper mourning white crape is used with good effect for neck and sleeve bands or for deep flat collars. In combination with tulle, French crepe, lawn and other thin white fabrics, it has a wider range of usefulness. These are used, too, without the crepe for mourning that is past its deepest stages, and are accounted proper mourning as long as they are made with a deep hem as a finish and with no more decoration than pleats or tucks afford.

White mourning parasols are made of lusterless silk, plain or with tucks, and have dull finished white handles.

The San Francisco [CA] Call 7 July 1912: p. 32

vogue vol 59 widow white mourning

White mourning from 1922.

The fad for wearing white mourning received a decided impetus when Mrs. John Jacob Astor, whose husband was lost on the Titanic, donned it as an expression of her widowhood. Many women who already had a positive dislike to black mourning, followed her example, but the fact remains that black is more in consonance with the feelings of those in grief, while white mourning is passe at the present time and can be procured only with difficulty on special order.

Nevertheless, for certain climates and seasons, white mourning, when worn with white hats and costumes, is not only beautiful and suitable, but eminently smart. In California, or Florida, it may be worn appropriately by a young widow or young girl throughout the year.

White English crape is now made in the same perfection by Courtauld as the black, a secret process which that firm has not divulged for more than 100 years.

Very few white veils are made entirely of this white crape, but it is used as a border—one and one-half inch wide—on veils of white shadow mesh or craquele or filet, or hexagonal mesh, or Georgette crepe, or white Brussels net, and makes charming borders on white costumes, and on collars of white chiffon or Georgette crepe. Face-veils made of any sort of quiet-patterned mesh veiling, without figures, and bordered on one side and the two ends, is stylish and proper, when applied to an all-white hat and worn with an all-white costume. No flowers, not even white ones, are permissible, and no jewelry except a strand of pearls. White shoes or spats, stockings, handbag, gloves, handkerchief are absolutely de rigueur, if white mourning be attempted at all.

Millinery Trade Review, Volume 42, 1917

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “White mourning,” only truly came into favour in the early 1910s.  As noted, the young Mrs John Jacob Astor, who was only 19 when widowed in the Titanic disaster, set the trend. However, only about a decade earlier, the style was regarded with suspicion.

“White” Mourning

All-white crepe is now advocated by a New York fashion writers for widows during the summer. She says: “For a summer outfit for a young widow gowns trimmed with white crape, made of white crape, hat with a long white crape veil, a white crape parasol and everything to match, is immensely smart, and, be it added, very becoming.” Imagine such a thing! The uninitiated would surely wonder what a woman so attired was trying to impersonate. She would seem a cross between a bride, wandering about without her bridegroom, and a tragic actress doing Lady Macbeth off the stage.

The aforementioned New York writer of fashions must be possessed of a sense of humor which is, in vulgar parlance, “a dandy.”

There are widows to-day who do not wear mourning as is mourning at all, but at least they do not make themselves conspicuous in a bizarre costume like that described.

The white mourning costume is never likely to be popular until women lose their ideas of appropriateness altogether.

Charlotte [NC] Observer 1 July 1903: p. 7

“White mourning,” was known as the prerogative of royalty: the so-called deuil blanc, which we note in some portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots. A more recent manifestation of white mourning was the spectacular “White Wardrobe” created by Norman Hartnell in 1938 for her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth, whose mother died just before a state visit to France. And at the 2004 funeral of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, her daughters all wore white mourning.

Portions of this post appear in The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.




Reminiscence of an Old Needlebook: 1872

Here you will find the story of the pictured needle-case.

Here you will find the story of the pictured needle-case.


I “’spect I grow’d,” in the city of Chicago, in 1849, under the deft fingers of Mrs. Pierce, a very estimable lady of the Presbyterian Church, though she usually attended the Sewing Society of the Canal-Street Methodist Episcopal Church. If I could, I should love to tell how the little old Canal-Street Church graduated into the Jefferson, and from that to the present splendid, commanding Centenary; but I leave that for some one better posted in Church history.

In those days sewing society and prayer-meeting expressed what we meant, just as well as the “circle,” which is now so much in vogue; and for my part I think it sounded quite as religious. There are so many circles—”circles around the moon,” “select circles,” “spiritualist circles,” and “political circles,” that I feel like discarding the word entirely, only when speaking of those things. But pardon this digression.

I was composed of the best material—light-blue enamel cloth and deep-blue satin, neatly bound with blue silk, though I do not know as I need to mention my color, as this is not as essential to respectability now as it used to be. My center was a roll about two inches in diameter, covered with the enamel and satin, and a band around each end, to hold the scissors. My leaves were white flannel, edged with a neat stitch; in one end a porte-monnaie, and the other a satin pocket, shirred with a blue silk cord. I was very nicely stitched by hand, not with one of those painfully accurate machines which leaves no room for complacency at your own handiwork.

I remember well when I was finished off and passed round to the ladies for inspection. I was greatly admired, and pronounced as pretty as I could be, until some one suggested that if there had been a thimble-sink in the roll I should have been perfect. Alas! thus early I learned we are not to look for perfection either in feature or form.

I can even recall the names of many of the ladies who were present, and whom I often met during my stay in the city. After a whispered consultation, they decided to make a present of me to the wife of their pastor. I need not say that our admiration was mutual, and neither of us has ever regretted our intimate relation as mistress and servant. I shall not attempt a pen-portrait of her. She would not allow it; she would shake her finger at me deprecatingly

if I were even to tell you her name was, for she is naturally retiring, and does not like her name to appear in print too often. She feels it is presuming too much on the magnanimity of her friends. For many years I was favored with a place by her side or in her reticule, wherever she went, whether for an afternoon visit or a month, and I never failed to attract attention and excite admiration. Indeed, I do not know but my vanity was a little stirred by such expressions, “Perfectly beautiful!” “How convenient!” and the like. But after a while “a change seemed to come over the spirit of my dreams.” I could scarcely define what it was, only I felt there was something wanting, until accidentally I observed a change in the tense of the ladies’ remarks, who noticed me particularly. Instead of as formerly, it was “What a pretty needle-book this has been— to which my mistress would reply, sometimes with a sigh—for I think she sort of analyzed my feelings—”Yes, it has been a beauty, and I cherish it still for the sake of the dear friends who gave it me.”

Ah, my friends, there are none but old folks and old needle-books who know the sorrowful grief that comes to our hearts when, conscious of our own failing energies, we hear such remarks as “she has been a splendid woman,” or “he has been a giant in intellect.” Happy is it for us if we may take to ourselves the “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I think I may take this much to myself, without arrogance—if I have not always carried the best needles for my mistress, it has not been my fault, but she seldom used any others. My needles were always ready for every good work, either at home or abroad, from making the ”dainty dresses” to garments for grandpa and grandma, and the snowy shroud in which the little loved ones were tenderly infolded as they were laid to their last sleep, as well as the wedding trousseau of my young mistress; and, too, many of my needles, like Dorcas, have gladdened the hearts of the poor. My young lady was a baby when I came to live in the family, and she was such a darling, just as all babies are. Her little blue eyes would dance at sight of me, especially while I was a forbidden object for her inexperienced fingers, and it was really amusing, as she grew older, to see with what womanly dignity she would select a needle, for she “must go to sewing.” It was not uncommon, after this, to find needles on my leaves as crooked and pointless as an infidel’s argument.

At length my last great trial came and passed, as they will with all old folks and old needlebooks. It happened on this wise. Last Christmas my young mistress made a beautiful new needle-book and sent it to her mother, with this message: “Now, mother, I do hope you will not use that old thing any longer!” She did not mean to be ungrateful to an old family servant, but only had a thoughtless way of speaking, as young ladies often have. Accordingly, to indulge her, as mothers love to do, my mistress removed my needles to the new needle-book, but I noticed her eyes grew humid as she carefully brushed and rolled me up, to lay me away with other cherished mementos of the past. Doubtless the power of association brought familiar forms and faces vividly before her, many of whom still live…while others have crossed the flood and found their promised reward. I comfort myself with the thought that not one of my companions in this “old folks’ retreat” will awaken more sacred, loving memories than myself.

The Ladies’ Repository, Volume 32, 1872

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In the days when needles were dear and needlework was an important domestic skill for clothing one’s household as well as the deserving poor, a needle-case was an essential part of a lady’s equipage. Some were shaped like books or pocket-books, while others, like this one, had pincushions or compartments, were rolled up, and were often called “huswifes.” Although this particularly garrulous specimen did not have a “thimble sink,” it had a porte-monnaie, which is a coin-purse or wallet. Dorcas was a New Testament disciple “full of good works and almsdeeds,” known particularly for her skill with the needle. When she died, women showed Peter (who then raised her from the dead) the many garments she had made. (Acts 9:36-38)

Here is another pretty specimen:


How to Make A Real-Life Halloween Witch: 1908


Vintage witch postcard courtesy of

Vintage witch postcard courtesy of


Must Carry Proverbial Broom and It May Be Covered With Paper

For children nothing adds so much to the thrilling joy of Halloween as to have a “real, live witch” direct the different tests and games

Her costume is so simple to make that even an impromptu sorceress is possible in most families. The high, peaked cap should be cut from stiff cardboard covered with black paper muslin and pasted over with green snakes, little red devils and yellow cats.

The gown can be several rough breadths of black paper muslin, draped on the person who is to wear it, and roughly sewed together so as to have a short-waisted effect and wide, flowing sleeves.

Around the neck should be brought a narrow, pointed kerchief of red muslin. On one sleeve should be sewed a great yellow cat, cut from paper and on the other a curling green snake as big and as curved as the sleeve permits.

The witch must carry the proverbial broom, the handle of which can be covered with orange paper. On her shoulder should be sewed, as if perching there, a stuffed toy cat, such as is to be found in nurseries.

To make the face more gruesome the mouth should be supplied with a set of teeth cut from orange peel. These are simply a strip of the peel about half an inch deep and wide enough to fit around the top jaw. The teeth are cut into regular slits, with enough space left at the top not to have the set break through. When adjusted, the orange teeth not only transform the looks but the voice of the witch. It is well for her, however, to have several sets made for emergencies.

The hair should be allowed to hang and the face have white streaks of paint put on, while phosphorus should be rubbed on forehead, nose and ends of fingers so that it has a gruesome shine in a dark room.

The Washington [DC] Times 29 October 1908: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One imagines the gruesome shine of the phosphorus continued for longer than the duration of the Hallowe’en party.  Phosphorus in cream form was a highly effective rat poison. Persons making phosphorus matches were often killed or mutilated by a bone disease known as “phossy jaw.”  The substance was also used by the military in incendiary bombs. One supposes that this is just another manifestation of Hallowe’en’s  dangerous pranks and poisoned candies, so often reported in the papers of the past as innocent frolics.