“An Inspiration to Watch You Try on a Gown:” Clever Modistes: 1893

An exotic robe from Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon. Image from UCLA. https://blogs.library.ucla.edu/special/tag/lucy-duff-gordon/

An exotic robe from Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon. Image from UCLA. https://blogs.library.ucla.edu/special/tag/lucy-duff-gordon/

A visit to the imposing mansion occupied by two clever modistes is thus described in the New York Sun:

“When a customer drives up to the stately entrance, a liveried footman assists her to alight, and then holds open the heavy plate -glass vestibule doors. Apparently he is the sole masculine element on the place, for no sooner does she enter the wide, lofty hall, carpeted through in crimson, than three or four well-dressed women come forward. Two half-grown maids — bell-girls, evidently — sit about in crisp skirts and smart caps and aprons, ready to run errands at a moment’s notice. All about are evidences of luxury and wealth. Hot-house flowers bloom everywhere, and cheerful wood-fires burn in wide-open chimney fire-places. One of the reception committee takes the visitor in hand, and in five minutes the artless woman is convinced the whole establishment has been on the qui vive for her coming. All these long-waisted, admirably groomed young persons know her by name, a dozen anxious inquiries are made for her health. They are sure months have elapsed since her last visit, during which time she has certainly grown stouter or thinner, as the case and her aspirations warrant. After one of the small waiting-maids has been dispatched and bidden, with great empressement, to say that ‘Mrs. Jones is willing to be fitted,’ the flattered visitor is conducted into a cozy lounging-room.

Here she is relieved of her wraps, is settled in a big arm-chair, has a hassock thrust under her feet, and tea is offered her, together with the latest magazines or a dish of harmless gossip. If in advance of her appointment, she is never suffered to be wearied, for the deferential, but loquacious, attendant talks cleverly and is a genius at listening to personalties, no matter how dull. Accounts of Maud’s toothache, the butler’s impertinence, or Mr. Jones’s ill temper apparently thrill her with interest, and when the bell-girl begs madam’s presence in the fitting-room, she has absolutely to tear herself away.

However, one fails to appreciate the triumph of the system until a gown is to be tried on. Here more bows, and smiles, and sugar-coated inquiries await the visitor. Her basted lining is produced, and just as she is about to slip it on, the woman begs a thousand pardons, envelops madam’s bare shoulders in a fleecy wrap, and taps the bell sharply. She then explains that the senior member of the firm, Mme. A., made it a special point to be called when Mrs. Jones should be fitted. ‘She says the lines of your figure are a poem,’ adds the adroit flatterer, ‘and it is an inspiration to watch you try on a gown.’

By this time Mme. A. appears in a trailing robe of scarlet crepe de chine, bringing with her a perfume of violets. She is an elegant consummation of the methods that dominate her establishment, all suavity and smartness. She talks entertainingly as the work progresses, then breaks off to advise a slight lowering of the waist line, warns the fitters to remember they are handling the handsomest figure in New-York city, and she (Mme. A.) will permit no carelessness or marring of its symmetry. To prevent tedium she orders a number of Parisian novelties to be shaken free of their tissue paper and sacheted cases, catches up a sumptuous golden-brown velvet, holds it near her customer’s rosy cheek, and is filled with speechless admiration at its becomingness.

This sort of thing simply coins gold for the firm. It is as much a part of the business as meeting due notes, employing expert hands, or charging exorbitant prices. There is plenty of hard, shrewd sense, thriftiness, and superior ability behind this flummery, but women dearly love to be hoodwinked, and there are some people with wit enough to take advantage of this knowledge.”

The Argonaut [San Francisco CA] 6 February 1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The two modistes sound as if they were precursors to Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon, famed Edwardian couturière. Here is how one of her biographers describes her salon:

Reclining in a flowing tea-gown upon a chaise longue in the showroom of her Swiss-gray salons, her trademark bandeau encircling a mass of copper locks and rows of pearls sweeping past her knees, Lucile held court for her flutter of worshipful minions, directed her legion of assistants and received her august patrons. Here, chattering and animated, she smoked monogrammed, scented cigarettes perched in a long, straw-tipped holder, wielded a diamond-studded lorgnette and intermittently lavished silken-gloved caresses upon the ubiquitous swarm of pets which lay contented across her lap or sat protectively at her feet.

Lucile: Her Life by Design, Randy Bigham

The Rose Room, image from http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org

The Rose Room, image from http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org

Lucile also had a special display area for her line of startlingly sensuous lingerie–The Rose Room.

“Its walls were hung with pink taffeta, over-draped with the frailest lace and the pink taffeta curtains at the windows and around the day-bed were caught up with garlands of satin, taffeta and jeweled flowers” The day-bed, a focal point of the Rose Room, was of carved, gilded wood, upholstered in rose-pink.  It was a replica of a day-bed Madame de Pompadour had owned and was in keeping with the rococo theme of the room.   [Source: The IT Girls: Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, the Couturiere ‘Lucile’, and Elinor Glyn, Romantic Novelist, Meredith Etherington-Smith and Jeremy Pilcher,London: Hamish Hamilton, 1986.]

Mrs Daffodil has previously reported on “The Queen of Saleswomen,” a talented lady with a clever line of patter to induce a customer to buy. Salesmanship is all about the Psychology of the Individual.  And, perhaps, about an atmosphere where anything, including the most intimate dreams of the client, may come true.

An Easter Hat Design Contest: 1915

As Easter weekend approaches, Mrs Daffodil thought you  might like to try  your own hand at designing an Easter bonnet. This was a contest run in a number of United States newspapers in 1915. The illustrations were printed, one a day, for a week, doubtless boosting circulation. If you are feeling creative, please fill in your own design and post on Mrs Daffodil’s Face-book page. Mrs Daffodil has no prizes to award, but would be delighted to see her readers’ millinery creations.

easter bonnet - draw your own contest


Design Your Own Spring Hat and Get It Made Up By an Expert, All Free of Charge

Girls of Tacoma and Southwest Washington

Here’s your chance to design your own spring bonnet along the most fashionable lines and have it presented to you, all made up, by one of the big millinery establishments of the city—FREE!

Every day next week The Times will print a two-column dummy head, leaving space for your design. Each face will be of a different type, so as to give wide variety. The general spring styles must be adhered to, but you may make it a small, chic hat, or a big, artistic one, as you please.

It’s Artistic Ideas That Will Win

Fine drawing won’t count—but you must make your ideas clearly understood.

The last picture will be printed a week from today.

The drawing must all be in by noon of Tuesday, March 30. The name of the winner will be printed in the home edition of March 31. The judges will be the fashion editor of The Times and Mrs. Cash H. Johnson, designer for the Floriece Millinery Shop.

And then—girls, here’s the big news—the Floriece Shop will set its best maker and trimmer at the task of building in the best possible shape the hat as designed by the contest winners.

Winner To Wear It Easter Sunday

The hat will be finished as fast as careful workmanship can accomplish it and will be exhibited in the Floriece display windows, 914 Broadway, all of Saturday, April 3, and any part of Friday for which it may be ready.

AND on Saturday night, April 3, this nifty creation will be handed over by Mrs. Johnson free of charge, to the winner for her to wear Easter Sunday, the next day.

Read These Rules Carefully

No sketches will be returned.

There is no age limit. Any girl or woman, except milliners or those connected with millinery shops or with The Times—may compete.

You can send in as many drawings as you wish, provided, of course, that in each case one of the dummy heads printed in The Times is used.

The prize will be awarded for the best single design no matter to which one of the six heads it may be adapted.

Now, girls, watch for Monday’s paper—AND GET BUSY.

The Tacoma [WA] Times, March 20, 1915, Image 1

This is a smaller picture of one of the hatless heads on which the girls of Tacoma and surrounding territory are asked to draw “the most attractive Easter hat.” But do not send in designs on this cut. Wait until next week when it will be reprinted in larger size.

hat contest

One of our own artists (a mere man) was asked to try his hand at designing a bonnet for the hatless head.

He did the following:

hat contest2

What do you think about it?

Can’t some of you girls do better?

Of course, this is printed just to show you one way to get into the Easter Hat Contest. This style must not be copied. Yours must be your own idea.

hat contest3

hat contest4


easter hat contest 2easter hat contest 1915 The winning entry appears below. Mrs Daffodil found it to be serviceable, rather than artistic in nature.

This is the hat design of the 804 submitted, which took first prize in The Times’ Easter Bonnet Contest. It is the work of Miss Emma Curtit, Avalon Apts. Miss Curtit is a stenographer in the city engineer’s office. For all the details of the judges’ report see page. 5.

Her design is of a large hat on sailor lines with a flat brim. It is quite simple in pattern and calls for trimming in black and white, which is extremely modish this season….A few boys competed; in all cases, we believe, with the laudable idea of giving the prize if they won, to their mothers. We wish there were prizes enough to go around, so they would have the pleasure of doing this. Robert Nutt of Alderton, age 13, and Elmer Haaland, 322 East Spokane St., were among the boys with a millinery bent of mind.

The Tacoma [WA] Times 31 March 1915: p. 1

easter hat winner

The Nose Ring Fad: 1913

Mlle. Polaire [Émilie Marie Bouchaud] and her nose ring.

Mlle. Polaire [Émilie Marie Bouchaud] and her nose ring.


By Gene Morgan

Mary had a little ring.

It sure set off her clothes,

And everywhere that Mary went

She wore it in her nose!

Mrs. Grundy, society’s leading shock absorber, is due to get shocked again. This time it’s not the tango nor the shadowgraph skirt.

It’s the nose ring!

Naturally the mode originated in Gayparee, France. The principal exponent of the nose ring, its most successful booster, is Mlle. Polaire.

Polaire is the party with the $50,000 temperament and the two-bit waistline, who was billed in New York last year as the ugliest actress in the world. She was so ugly, declared her advance agent, that she was positively fascinating. So everybody flocked to see her, and when she counted her percentage of the gate money she expressed herself in perfect French as follows;

“Gee, it’s great to be hidjus!”

During her Yankee engagement Polaire introduced the fad of wearing yellow face powder. As a matter of fact, yellow face powder was an original American novelty, having been worn by Sioux chieftains when Carlisle college was nothing but a college yell. But, anyhow, Polaire revived it so successfully that New York women would have nothing in complexion tints but the yaller flavor.

With this and their penciled eye-brows a lot of Gotham belles looked like blonde Chink ladies.

If Polaire could introduce the ochre map dust with such striking ease, I bet her victory with the nose ring will be swift and decisive. Jewelers will be besieged by fashion’s slaves, eager to be outfitted with the ornament heretofore indigenous to Kaffir belles and prize hogs.

The nose is not pierced to accommodate the new nasal hoop. So quell your piercing screams, Nanette. The ring clinches the division between the two nostrils and hangs on the upper lip. All the finest gold models are quite tiny. Our American spirit of excess may increase the diameter of the rings until the Miss Dinerout will have to act haughtily and hold up her head so that no spinach will cling to the ornament.

He bought a nice engagement ring.

But Love was forced to linger.

He has not dared since to propose,

For should he place it on her nose

Or hang it on her finger?

Nose rings might prove a boon to shoppers if the trinkets were made large enough and strong enough. A tired bargain hunter might attach her handbag to the ring and have all of her arms for the parcels. Besides, having the mesh bag out there in front would mean having her purse under her nose all the time.

Husbands of prominent suffragettes are looking forward to the nose-ring style with impatient eagerness. It will be easy then to lead around their wives at the end of a string in spite of shrieks and protests.

Ye-e-e-e-es, it will!

Has the nose ring appeared already in this city? I want to know.

And will anyone who knows, ring?

The Day Book [Chicago, IL] 1913

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is rarely shocked by fashion trends, but even she reeled momentarily at the illustration. The fascinatingly repulsive Mlle. Polaire claimed to be striking a blow for women with this fashion. She framed the fad in terms of a protest against the “suffragism fetish,” which, subversively, gives power back to women.

“Men, the enemy, if not always positively stupid, are at least slow of perception. They might not accept the figurative wearer on the strength of her truly feminine aspect and methods, but if the ring is there, in material substance, it amounts to a confession which they cannot misunderstand, or minimize the sincerity of its wearer. It is as though the woman were to say:

“’Behold! I admit my subservient state. You are the master! Lead me whither thou wilt!’

“Do not mistake, my sisters, there lies our real power, as of yore. Once men are satisfied that we desire them to lead us, all their defenses are down; we may do with and to, them as we will–and as we have done for centuries until, with incredible folly, some of us sought to force ourselves into vainglorious, ostensible ‘equality.’”

“In order to continue to lead men around by their noses all we have to do is to meekly wear rings in our own.”

The Times Dispatch [Richmond, VA] 5 October 1913: p. 57

Mlle. Polaire was a provocative figure in fin de siècle Paris. She was noted for her very tight-lacing–her waist was said to be 16 inches–for her heavy black eye-makeup, and for travelling with a young African servant she called her “slave.” One observer said she trembled like a stuck wasp when she danced.

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.

Captain Smith of the RMS Titanic Seen After His Death: 1912

Captain Edward J. Smith, Master of the Titanic

Captain Edward J. Smith, Master of the Titanic

The anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic is approaching so Mrs Daffodil felt that a ghostly story from that tragedy would be appropriate.


Of the Ill-Fated Titanic

“Seen” on Streets of Baltimore, According To a Former Shipmate of Captain Smith

Special Dispatch to the Enquirer.

Baltimore, Md., July 20. The statement that Captain E. J. Smith, commander of the ill-fated Titanic, was not drowned in the disaster, but was seen safe and sound Friday morning in Baltimore, was made to-day by a retired mariner, who claims to have been a shipmate of Captain Smith for more than 17 years.

Peter Pryal, 9074 Valley street, who was Quartermaster on the steamship Majestic, of the White Star Line, 30 years ago, when Captain Smith commanded the vessel, made the statement, and added that he had not only seen the Captain, but talked with him.

Mr. Pryal also said that he saw Captain Smith last Wednesday morning, but was skeptical as to his identity, and to confirm his belief that the Captain was alive, went to the same spot Friday morning to see the Captain again. So shocked was Mr. Pryal at seeing the man he believed dead that on his return home he suffered a nervous breakdown.

At 9 o’clock Friday morning he went to Baltimore and St. Paul streets and stood on the corner for almost an hour. Finally to his astonishment he saw the same man approaching him. Walking up to him, he said, “Captain Smith, how are you?” Then, according to Mr. Pryal, the man answered: “Very well, Pryal, but please don’t detain me; I am on business.”

Hardly able to stand, so great was his astonishment, Mr. Pryal, without realizing what he was doing followed the man to St. Paul and Fayette streets.

Several times the man turned and when he finally saw Pryal behind him rushed into the Calvert Building, and, according to Mr. Pryal, endeavored to lose himself in the crowd. Pryal was behind him, however, and followed him through the Equitable Building and saw him board a west-bound car on Fayette street.

His pursuer boarded the same car and saw the man get off at the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Station, where he purchased a ticket to Washington. As he passed through the gates to board the car he turned to Mr. Pryal, smiled and said: “Be good, shipmate, until we meet again.”

Mr. Pryal when seen to-day said that he did not expect to be believed when he told of the incident and added with great earnestness that he was willing to swear to his statements.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 21 July 1912: p. 3

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin 3 August 1912: p. 3 adds the details that “It was while on his way to the office of Dr. Mactier Warfield for treatment for an internal disorder last Wednesday that he swears he first saw approaching him the commander of the Titanic. Attired in a neat-fitting business suit of a light brown color, straw hat, and tan shoes, the man carried two suitcases and was staring straight ahead. Pryal approached him and spoke, but received no reply. The man seemed unconscious of his surroundings and continued walking rapidly west out Baltimore Street.”

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A detail given later in the article is that Dr. Warfield (who appears to be related to the grand-father of that rather dreadful American woman who ensnared the Prince of Wales, briefly King Edward VIII.) was treating Captain Pryal, but “felt he was perfectly sane.” We meet Captain Pryal again in 1914 under rather sensational circumstances. 


Supplications to the Virgin Mother give Man Relief, he Claims

Baltimore, Jan. 21. In answer to his prayers to the virgin mother for two years a cancer on his nose from which he has suffered for the last 27 years has been cured, declares Peter Pryal, aged 72.

The old man said he retired one night, and on awakening he discovered that the cancer, which had been eating its way into his left eye and into his brain, had been cured. Pryal discarded the shield which he has worn over his nose for years and the skin of the nose was perfectly dry.

The Mahoning Dispatch [Canfield, OH] 23 January 1914: p. 5

One wonders how much an incipient cancer eating into the eye and brain influenced Captain Pryal’s vision of the master of the Titanic? It seems beyond doubtful that Captain Smith survived the sinking of his ship. In fact, a Spiritualist medium was pleased to be able to bring the late Captain Smith the exoneration afforded him by the maritime court of inquiry. It seems a little odd to Mrs Daffodil that a spirit able to see from the Great Beyond to a séance room in Great Britain should not have been able to hear the verdict for himself.

Disregarding chronological order I will here state what came to me as I read the verdict of the British court of inquiry pronounced on July 30th by Lord Mersay, the presiding Judge. In reading the words: “In the circumstances I am unable to blame Captain Smith. Other skilled men would have done the same thing in the same position,” I hear Captain Smith say: “I thank God for that—I have wished and wished and wished I might know how that investigation ended and now I have read it when you read it, and I cannot sufficiently thank God for showing it to me. I don’t see how I could have done otherwise than as I did. I had done it hundreds of times before and nothing had ever happened. Every captain who crosses the ocean does it. It is wrong of course but then it is the custom. Could we know such terrible conditions as had never been known before prevailed? As I said before, those long ships are too unwieldy to use in crossing the ocean or in any other place. Tell them if they use them again there will be just such another accident and they must give them up. No other ship must be built of the size of the ‘Titanic’ It will be fatal to many more people than were lost on her. I insist upon your publishing this. It is most important. That is all. Smith—late Captain of the’Titanic’”

There Are No Dead, Sophie Radford de Meissner, 1912

Madame de Meissner also appears in this post over at the Haunted Ohio blog about tales of Titanic premonitions.

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.

A Ghastly Mummy Unveiled: c. 1900

The "Elder Lady" mummy believed to be Queen Tiye, grandmother of Tutankhamun.

The “Elder Lady” mummy believed to be Queen Tiye, grandmother of Tutankhamun.


“During one of my sojourns in Paris,” says Mr. Elliott O’Donnell, in his “Byways of Ghost Land,” “I met a Frenchman who, he informed me, had just returned from the East. I asked him if he had brought back any curios such as vases, funeral urns, weapons or amulets. ‘Yes, lots,’ he replied, ‘two cases full. But no mummies! Mon Dieu! No mummies. You ask me why? Ah! Thereby hangs a tale. If you will have patience, I will tell it you.’

“The following is the gist of his narrative: “‘Some seasons ago I traveled up the Nile as far as Assiut, and when there, managed to pay a visit to the grand ruins of Thebes. Among the various treasures I brought away with me was a mummy. I found it lying in an enormous lidless sarcophagus, close to a mutilated statue of Anubis. On my return to Assiut, I had the mummy placed in my tent, and thought no more of it till something awoke me with startling suddenness in the night. Then, obeying a peculiar impulse, I turned over on my side and looked in the direction of my treasure.

“The nights in the Soudan at this time of year are brilliant, one can even see to read, and every object in the desert is almost as clearly visible as by day. But I was quite startled by the whiteness of the glow which rested on the mummy, the face of which was immediately opposite mine. The remains—those of Met-OmKarema, lady of the College of the god Amen-ra —were swathed in bandages, some of which had worn away in parts or become loose; and the figure, plainly discernible, was that of a shapely woman with elegant bust, well-formed limbs, rounded arms and small hands. The thumbs were slender, and the fingers, each of which was separately bandaged, long and tapering. The neck was full, the cranium rather long, the nose aquiline, the chin firm. Imitation eyes, brows, and lips were painted on the wrappings, and the effect thus produced and in the phosphorescent glare of the moonbeams, was very weird. I was quite alone in the tent, the only European who accompanied me to Assiut, having stayed in the town by preference, and my servants being encamped at one hundred or so yards from me on the ground.

“Sound travels far in the desert, but the silence now was absolute, and, though I listened attentively, I could not detect the slightest noise —man, beast and insect were abnormally still. There was something in the air, too, which struck me as unusual; an odd, clammy coldness that reminded me at once of the catacombs in Paris. I had hardly, however, conceived the resemblance, when a sob—low, gentle, but very distinct—sent a thrill of horror through me. It was ridiculous, absurd. It could not be, and I fought against the idea as to whence the sound had proceeded, as something too utterly fantastic, too utterly impossible. I tried to occupy my mind with other thoughts—the frivolities of Cairo, the casinos of Nice; but all to no purpose; and soon, on my eager, throbbing ear there again fell that sound, that low and gentle sob. My hair stood on end; this time there was no doubt, no possible manner of doubt—the mummy lived! I looked at it aghast. I strained my vision to detect any movement in its limbs, but none was perceptible. Yet the noise had come from it, it had breathed—breathed—and even as I hissed the word unconsciously through my clenched lips, the bosom of the mummy rose and fell.

“A frightful terror seized me. I tried to shriek to my servants; I could not ejaculate a syllable. I tried to close my eye-lids, but they were held open as in a vice. Again there came a sob that was immediately succeeded by a sigh; and a tremor ran through the figure from head to foot. One of its hands then began to move, the fingers clutched the air convulsively, then grew rigid, then curled slowly into the palms, then suddenly straightened. The bandages concealing them from view then fell off, and to my agonized sight were disclosed objects that struck me as strangely familiar. There is something about fingers, a marked individuality, I never forget. No two persons’ hands are alike. And in these fingers, in their excessive whiteness, round knuckles, and blue veins, I read a likeness whose prototype, struggle how I would, I could not recall. Gradually the hand moved upwards, and, reaching the throat, the fingers set to work at once to remove the wrappings. My terror was now sublime. I dare not imagine, I dare not for one instant think, what I should see. And there was no getting away from it; I could not stir an inch, and the ghastly revelation would take place within a yard of my face!

“One by one the bandages came off. A glimmer of skin, pale as marble; the beginning of the nose, the whole nose; the upper lip, exquisitely, delicately cut; the teeth, white and even on the whole, but here and there a shining gold filling; the under lip, soft and gentle; a mouth I knew, but—God, where? In my dreams, in the wild fantasies that had oft-times visited by pillow at night—in delirium, in reality, where? Mon Dieu! WHERE?

“The uncasing continued. The chin next, a chin that was purely feminine, purely classical; then the upper part of the head—the hair long, black, luxuriant—the forehead low and white— the brows black, firmly pencilled; and last of all, the eyes!—and as they met my frenzied gaze, smiled, smiled right down into the depths of my living soul, I recognized them—they were the eyes of my mother, my mother who had died in my boyhood! Seized with a madness that knew no bounds, I sprang to my feet. The figure rose and confronted me. I flung open my arms to embrace her, the woman of all women in the world I loved best, the only woman I had ever loved. Shrinking from my touch, she cowered against the side of the tent. I fell on my knees before her and kissed—what? Not the feet of my mother, but those of the long-buried dead. Sick with repulsion and fear I looked up, and there bending over and peering into my eyes was the face, the fleshless, mouldering face of the foul and barely recognizable corpse! With a shriek of horror I rolled backwards, and, springing to my feet, prepared to fly. I glanced at the mummy. It was lying on the ground, stiff and still, every bandage in its place; whilst standing over it, a look of fiendish glee in its light, doglike eyes, was the figure of Anubis, lurid and menacing.

“‘The voices of my servants, assuring me they were coming, broke the silence, and in an instant the apparition vanished.

“I had had enough of the tent, however, at least for that night, and, seeking refuge in the town, I whiled away the hours till morning with a fragrant cigar and a novel. Directly I had breakfasted, I took the mummy back to Thebes, and left it there. No thank you, Mr. O’Donnell, I collect many kinds of curios, but—no more mummies!”

True Ghost Stories, Hereward Carrington, 1915

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In these pages we have previously seen accounts of a fad where ladies had themselves photographed as mummies. Most ladies take such great care of their complexions that Mrs Daffodil cannot fathom why they wished to be immortalised as withered, hennaed creatures in filthy bandages. As the entertaining Mr O’Donnell illustrates, there is a certain mysterious allure as to the features so tantalisingly veiled by those bandages. But that eminent alienist, Dr Freud of Vienna, would almost certainly have something to say about this witness’s vision of his beloved mummy’s eyes….

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.

A Rag Doll at Appomattox: 1865

The rag doll who witnessed the end of the American Civil War.

The rag doll who witnessed the end of the American Civil War.

For Mrs Daffodil’s American readers, on this anniversary of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General U.S. Grant at Appomattox, the story of an unusual witness to history.


The Part She Played in the War of the Rebellion

Almost every little girl in this country has at one time or another rejoice in the possession of a rag doll which was quite the dearest thing she had. Just as mother ducks show the ugly duckling the most attention, so do make- believe mothers think the most of their plain rag babies.

You would hardly believe it possible, however, that a full grown man would care for a rag doll, at least care enough for it to keep it always locked up in a safe deposit vault with his gold and most valuable papers. No, it is not a doll that once belonged to the man’s little daughter and precious on that account. There are a hundred men who would like to own it and would give several hundred dollars for it.

“Whatever makes the thing so valuable?” you ask, and here is the answer: This particular rag doll is an historic doll. With its eyes of ink it saw General U.S. Grant draft the terms for the surrender of the Confederate army, and the same black eyes saw courtly General Lee place his signature to the papers. All this happened at Appomattox, when the army of Northern Virginia surrendered on April 9, 1865. Except for the signing of the Declaration of Independence this is, perhaps, the most important event in the history of the nation.

The conference over the surrender was held at the McLane [McLean] house, one of the largest in the village. Some child in the household left the doll in the corner of a sofa in the parlor as she scampered away at the approach of the officers. During the signing of the papers Dollie sat up as well as she could, clad only in a sort of sleeveless shirtwaist of faded calico.

When the conference was over and the generals had left the room, some of the younger officers, exceedingly full of spirit now that the long war was ended, discovered the rag doll and recognized in her the “silent witness.” Though this scarecrow of rags had done nothing to warrant the familiarity, young Custer, afterward killed in an Indian massacre on the plains, caught her up and threw her at the head of “Mike” Sheridan. He in turn used her as a playful missile with another office as target. So she suffered the terrors of war, though she had been a witness of the peace conference.

When the rush for souvenirs came, Colonel T.W. C. Moore, of Sheridan’s staff, secured the doll as his portion and carried her off to an honorable captivity in his Northern home. She is now the highly prized possession of T. Channing Moore and dwells in a safe in the city of Hartford.

There is not the least doubt of the rag doll’s authenticity. She seems to have made a strong impression on the young officers who romped with her on that memorable afternoon in the quiet little Virginia village. At one time Colonel Sheridan wrote to the doll’s owner: “I well remember the rag doll obtained from the room in the McLean house at Appomattox, where the surrender of Lee’s army to General Grant took place. The relic was unique and, though much fun was made over it at the time, as years go on the ‘silent witness’ will become more and more valuable. Do not let it get out of your possession, as I foolishly did the ink-stand I obtained as a relic of the same occasion.”

New York Daily Tribune 30 November 1902: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Although it may have been said that the military does not war on children, one imagines there were many tears shed by some child over the loss of the precious baby. Shockingly, there is no word about compensation for this unprincipled looting by officers of the United States Army.  T. Channing Moore was Thomas Channing Moore, a member of the New York state assembly and son of Colonel Moore of Sheridan’s staff.  “Mike” Sheridan was Michael Vincent Sheridan, brother and aide to General Philip Henry Sheridan, who was present at the surrender. “Young Custer” was, of course, General George Armstrong Custer. A story written from the point of view of the doll herself, with her photograph, may be found here, at the Appomattox Courthouse National Park website.


Unappreciated Shakespeare: 1875

Children Acting the "Play Scene" from Hamlet, Charles Hunt

Children Acting the “Play Scene” from Hamlet, Charles Hunt



A few days ago, young Gurley, whose father lives on Crogan street, organized a theatrical company, and purchased the dime novel play of ” Hamlet.” The company consisted of three boys and a hostler, and Mr. Gurley’s hired girl was to be the “Ghost” if the troupe could guarantee her fifty cents per night.

Young Gurley suddenly bloomed out as a Professional, and when his mother asked him to bring in some wood, he replied: “Though I am penniless thou canst not degrade me!”

“You trot out after that wood or I’ll have your father trounce you!” she exclaimed.

“The tyrant who lays his hand upon me shall die!” replied the boy, but he got the wood.

He was out on the step when a man came along and asked him where Lafayette street was.

“Doomed for a certain time to roam the earth!” replied Gurley, in a hoarse voice, and holding his right arm out straight.

“I say, you—where is Lafayette street?” called the man.

“Ah! could the dead but speak—ah!” continued the boy.

The man drove him into the house, and his mother sent him to the grocery after potatoes.

“I go, most noble Duchess,” he said, as he took up the basket; “but my good sword shall someday avenge these insults!”

He knew that the grocer favored theatricals, and when he got there, he said:

“Art thou provided with a store of that vegetable known as the ‘tater, most excellent Duke?”

“What in thunder do you want?” growled the grocer, as he cleaned the cheese knife on a piece of paper.

“The plebian mind is dull of comprehension!” answered Gurley.

“Don’t try to get off any of your nonsense on me, or I’ll crack your empty pate in a minute!” roared the grocer, and “Hamlet” had to come down off his high horse and ask for a peck of potatoes.

“What made you so long?” asked his mother, as he returned.

“Thy grave shall be dug in the cypress glade!” he haughtily answered.

When his father came home at noon Mrs. Gurley told him she believed the boy was going crazy, and related what had occurred.

“I see what ails him,” mused the father, “this explains why he hangs around Johnson’s barn so much.”

At the dinner table young Gurley spoke of his father as the “illustrious Count,” and when his mother asked him if he would have some butter gravy, he answered:

“The appetite of a warrior cannot be satisfied with such nonsense.”

When the meal was over the father went out to his favorite shade-tree, cut a sprout, and the boy was asked to step out into the woodshed and see if the pen stock was frozen up. He found the old man there, and he said:

“Why, most noble Lord. I had supposed thee far away.”

“I’m not so far away but what I’m going to make you skip!” growled the father. “I’ll teach you to fool around with ten-cent tragedies!  Come up here!”

For about five minutes the woodshed was full of dancing feet, flying arms and moving bodies, and then the old man took a rest and inquired:

“There, your Highness, dost thou want more?”

“Oh! no, dad—not a bit more!” wailed the young ” manager,” and while the father started for down town he went in and sorrowfully informed the hired girl that he must cancel her engagement till the fall season.—Detroit Free Press.  

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineer’s Monthly Journal, Volumes 9-10, 1875

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.