The Inspector Smelled a Rat: 1902

rat trap 1915.JPG

The Inspector Smelled a Rat.

The sight of vast quantities of coin has a stimulating influence on human wits, to such an extent that Uncle Sam is kept busy “coppering” efforts of geniuses to “do” the various mints. Some of the schemes devised are so smooth that the government officials are unwilling for their nature to be divulged at least until the law has been twisted into shape to fit the new form of theft. Time and again methods have been evolved for which no legal antidote is discoverable and which can only be punished by dismissal, not by criminal prosecution. One of the latter types was recently worked on a western mint, according to the report of a late arrival via the Southern Pacific. It was this way. The gold is rolled into strips from ingots in the rolling room and carefully weighed out again. The “in” and “out” figures should tally so they did until recently when a suddenly daily deficit appeared. Each evening there was a loss of $10 or $20 and the director of the mint grew hot in the collar. A personal search was made of every one leaving the room, but the shortage continued.

Finally, one day the inspector in the coinage department smelled, a rat, a real rat, which had fallen a victim to the jaws of a deadfall during the night. Although it was still early in the day, the rat asserted itself until it dawned upon the inspector that decomposition had progressed with remarkable rapidity for a one-day corpse. The trap, he knew had been emptied of another rodent the evening before, for he remembered seeing an employee pick up the thing by the tail and toss it through the small slot above the window.

A flash of intelligence came to the official, and he waited. Later a “stamper” approached the trap, remarking jocularly ‘’Nother rat,’ bent over, fooled with the trap and then tossed the creature out of the window. The inspector was out in a flash and reached the ground just in time to see a gent pick up a defunct rodent, slip it into a leather grip and decamp.

The commotion made by the inspector put the employee on his guard, and he threw no more rats.

He was soon dismissed for cause and went away damning his own laziness, for instead of getting busy and keeping a supply of fresh rats on ice, he used and reused the same fellow until he became faisandé [overripe] and put the authorities next to his game. However, he justified himself by saying that was the only rat he had found with a mouth large enough to hold $35 worth of gold. Exchange.

The Leavenworth [KS] Times 2 September 1902: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil will note that, even to-day, those persons in charge of securing clients’ intimate financial details have the same difficulty in apprehending and convicting miscreants who would steal those golden “user-names” and “pass-words.”  The only thing that can be said in the favour of these criminals is that they have moved beyond rats, into “phish.”

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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Nurse Sees a Ghost: c. 1910s

nurse and baby

The Old Nurse’s Story

By Gerda Calmady-Hamlyn.

The following story was related to me by a respectable elderly woman—a children’s nurse—who said she had held “no belief in ghosts or any of that there sort of nonsense” till the curious experience which I am about to relate fell to her lot.

Nurse Mitchell had undertaken a temporary but extremely well-paid post at W——, a town in the Midlands famous alike for its beautiful Cathedral and the fact that the bones of a world-renowned novelist lie buried therein. She was to be nurse to a young married-lady with one very delicate and fretful baby requiring the greatest care. The lady was not the actual owner of No. 21, Stevenstone Street; she merely rented what appeared a most picturesque old place, with low casement windows, carved and panelled walls, and a corkscrewy sort of staircase—”just the sort to break your neck over—going downstairs on a darkish night.” Originally the quaint abode may have been built as two separate smaller houses, joined together now by the staircase alluded to. There was a wide hall in the centre from which opened doors into passages leading away to the kitchen-regions; while upstairs were bedrooms round a gallery, and the nursery at the back part of the house.

Nurse had been in residence for over a week, and her infant charge had proved so unusually fretful that she found herself tied almost entirely to the nursery. One morning, after a particularly restless night, she was carrying baby from his own apartments to those of his mother in the front part of the house, and had to pass down the winding staircase, across the hall, and up on the farther side, holding the child on one arm and a bundle of shawls upon the other. Both burdens proved somewhat cumbrous, and just as Nurse reached the most difficult portion of the stairway the bundle of woolly shawls began to slip. She must either drop them altogether, or lessen her hold on the sleeping infant. That would be pretty sure to wake him—a thing to be avoided at all costs. At that crucial moment. Nurse Mitchell caught sight of a plump little dark-haired girl, in a pink-cotton dress and neatly-starched cap and apron, very similar to the little between-maid, Polly Awcott, who usually brought up her breakfast and supper trays.

“Polly, my girl,” cried she, “just come and give me a hand with these shawls or I’ll drop them and the blessed baby too in another minute!”

To her amazement, the girl paid not the faintest attention to her request, but slipped through a red baize door leading to the pantries and disappeared from view.

Late that evening. Nurse went down to the kitchen to fetch hot water, and seeing that same girl (as she believed) who had played her such a shabby trick, said, “Hullo, Polly, is that you, I see? Why didn’t you come this morning when I called to you, may I ask? You might have stretched out a friendly hand.”

Polly, who was a wholesome sensible-looking girl with a smiling face, stared at Nurse with a puzzled expression, then burst into a laugh, in which several of the other domestics joined.

Nurse Mitchell began to feel angry. “What’s the wonderful joke all about?” she exclaimed.

Cook, a fat good-natured woman, explained, “It’s nothing, Nurse; nothing against you anyway; this house is supposed to be haunted, by a maidservant. We’ve most of us seen her, and one or two of us have spoken to her, but she never answers back. Neither does she do any harm to us or anyone else that I know of— just flits about the house, an inoffensive little thing, sometimes in a pink-cotton dress such as Polly wears of a morning, sometimes in a neat black afternoon get-up, as if she were going to the front door to let in callers. Whose ghost she is, or what she’s supposed to be doing here none of us know.”

“Fancy that now,” exclaimed Nurse in astonishment; “I wouldn’t have believed what you say for one single minute if I hadn’t seen the little maid with my own eyes!”

“I’ve always heard that this old house was haunted, and it has been my wish ever since I grew up to try and get a place here and see what I could for myself,” put in Peggy the kitchen-maid, a striking-looking damsel with luminous psychic black eyes.

After which, Mary the head housemaid, said, “That ghost you saw, Nurse, ain’t by any manner o’ means the only one in this house; there’s far worse than that. One parlour-maid here got the fright of her life one evening, and left before she’d been in the place six days. Two visitors were expected the day after she came, a young married couple; and Annie K—–had orders to prepare the big blue spare-room for them to sleep in. That’s just over the drawing-room suite, and is the best bedchamber in the house. About six o’clock in the evening, —the visitors weren’t due to arrive till nearly eight—Annie ran upstairs to the blue room with clean towels and to see that all was straight. She opened the door to walk in, and saw a beautiful young lady, standing in front of the glass, wearing a pink silk dressing-jacket and lace petticoat, who had masses of lovely golden hair flowing down over her shoulders! For a moment Annie fancied that the lady guest must-have arrived by an earlier train, unbeknown to her. ‘If you please, Ma’am,’ she began, but all of a sudden, the young lady swung round from the glass with a face of the most awful fury, rushed across the room as swift as a sheet o’ greased lightning. Annie hurried out and the lady slammed the door behind her. In the passage Annie fainted and it was an hour and more before anybody found her. Her people came and took her away, and the doctor said she was on the verge of brain fever.”

As much of the history of the old house as Nurse Mitchell could discover ran something like this—it belonged to a wealthy family of bankers. Some sixty years before Julia, the only daughter of the house—a beautiful young girl of nineteen—became engaged to a young man whom her people highly disapproved of. Parents were strict in those days, and the father was so enraged at his daughters engaging herself without his knowledge that he forbade his would-be son-in-law the house and kept the unhappy damsel virtually a prisoner, permitting her to hold communication with no one, not even to see a friend. Somehow or other she escaped by the help of a maidservant, and her lover having sailed for India, mistress and maid agreed to follow him. The ship on which they sailed foundered, and all on board were drowned. It was after that the hauntings at 21, Stevenstone Street began. Months went by without tidings of the fate of the two fugitives; but long before news of their death reached England, Julia had appeared in spirit form, first to a favourite brother, and then to other members of the family. The maid also was frequently seen, both then and afterwards—a little quiet flitting figure, who molested no one and disappeared at once if you spoke to her.

Nurse Mitchell concluded—“I don’t like them kind o’ things, do you ma’am? and I hope I’ll never take situation in another haunted house. I don’t wonder that wretched parlour-maid gave notice!”

The International Psychic Gazette August 1919: p. 167

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is quite a roster of staff: delicate servants who fall into brain fever at the sight of a ghost in an attractive combing jacket, kitchen-maids with luminous psychic black eyes, and a ghostly maidservant who, even though correctly garbed for her duties, won’t lend a helping hand.  Mr Elliott O’Donnell has written censoriously about the slatternly appearance of a ghost-maid with red hair. And who could forget the ghost of that previous paragon of a maid, Ann Frost, who gave such trouble when she was murdered?

It is no wonder that ladies despair over the “servant question.”

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Our Pet Handkerchiefs: 1889

1884 grape handkerchief

1884 handkerchief trimmed with point de gaze. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/handkerchief-66177

OUR PET HANDKERCHIEFS.

Handled with Caressing Fingers, Sighed Over and Cherished.

Something About Their Styles, Textures and Exquisite Finish.

Do you pet a handkerchief? No? Then you are not a woman and this article is not for your perusal.

Some women pet hobbies, others pet dogs, a few pet babies, but all the gender pets handkerchiefs.

The woman doesn’t live with a streak of the aesthetic in her nature, who hasn’t a filmy rag or two folded away in her for-ever-and-ever box and hallowed by the memory of other times and other lives.

It is only necessary to pick up one of these sheer little napkins to experience a palpitation of the heart. It is sure to be pretty, a little yellow with age, and faintly suggestive of some delicate scent that brings back a schoolboy, a sweetheart or the hero of some Commencement ball, lawn party or kettledrum. Perhaps there is a stain of lemonade on it; maybe it’s teardrop, but whatever the blemish, it is as sacred as the pale colors that mellow an old prayer rug.

The scent of flowers will recall a woman’s face and voice to the man in a reverie and a cloud of cigar smoke, but nothing will resurrect the Jack or Tom or Billy of long ago quicker than the sight of his handkerchief. If he is dead there’s a gentle kiss to his memory, and if he is married a sigh and perhaps a scrutiny of the web as if to divine in its meshes the reason of it all.

You have to be a woman with a lot of sentiment in your soul to fully understand a girl’s love for a bit of lace and mull.

It’s a species of idolatry such as a virtuoso lavishes upon a choice piece of miniature painting. It is handled with caressing fingers, sighed over, dreamed over, rinsed in perfume, folded away in withered rose leaves, and to think even of laundering it would be a profanation.

With all her love and reverent worship of lace and fine linen, there isn’t a woman in a whole congregation who is a judge of either fabric. In buying she looks at the decoration. If it is pretty the article is purchased, and as a rule she would rather have an ornamental handkerchief for 75 cents than a sheer linen plain edge. Ironed with a silver gloss and finished with open embroidery or cheap lace, any clerk with a tongue can make the fair customer believe that she is getting all linen, which in reality is all but 1-10 of 1 per cent. Cotton.

Men, as a rule, do better in their purchases. They don’t pretend to be judges. When an article is submitted his highness shakes it in the air. If the fluff flies he doesn’t want it, and he runs through the stock playing flag with each article until one is found that beats the air clean.

The handkerchief markets of the world are in the north of Ireland, in France and in Switzerland. Perhaps nine-tenths of the trade is supplied by the Irish firms, Belfast being the real centre of supply. The fabrics are sent to the distributing agencies, by whom they are bunched with threads and patterns, to be again distributed among the skilled needlewomen, by whom they are hemstitched, decorated in black or drawn-work and white or colored embroidery. These unfortunate workers receive an incredibly small sum for their labor, but, poor as it is, they are glad to do it. Irish-made handkerchiefs vary in price from 25 cents to $3, and while warranted to be all linen the fabric may be a coarse quality.

It is difficult to say which are the finest goods of French or Swiss make. In either it would seem as though the acme of needlework had been reached, and the very perfection of linen weaving.

Textures of such exquisite finish as to suggest silk are by no means uncommon, but you will have to pay $3 for a specimen, and that, too, without a vestige of trimming or decoration. The hemstitch varies from one-sixteenth to an inch and a half, but it is a real luxury to feel the delicate web against your face. Handkerchiefs of this sort are carried by high-born ladies and by others not so high, but of equally exalted notions about the elegancies of life.

It is said that in her boots, gloves, and linen a woman’s taste mirrors itself, and there is much truth in the saying. Handkerchiefs with scalloped edges, dotted borders and needle-wrought hems are indeed beautiful, but the poetry of a handkerchief hangs about the frill of a lace, which may be one-third of an inch or a hand deep, but must be the real thread.

handkerchief trimmed with valenciennes lace

Embroidered handkerchief trimmed with Valenciennes lace, mid-19th c. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/-/HQHw3duV2A7pxQ?childAssetId=zQFwpV6cZuPLQw

Of all handkerchiefs the most genteel is a dollar square of linen lawn edge with narrow valenciennes. It was a handkerchief of this sort that the gentle Elizabeth Barrett had in her hand when the poet Browning felt his heart desert him. It is, too, this same style that you will be attracted by if you ride much in the Fifth avenue stages or touch elbows with the slowly moving matrons and haughty beauties of the Knickerbocker set. You can pay $25 for a piece of Swiss embroidery or $25 for a fancy in French with a vine of open-worked lilies round the edges, neither of which will begin to champ like the sheer linen with its suggestion of fine lace that $5 will procure.

The stage is no a poor field for the study of the beautiful hand loom. Mrs. [Lily] Langtry habituated herself to the use of linen lawn that was as delicate as the inner lining of a silk-worm’s house, that could not have cost less than $50 a dozen, exclusive of the lace that edged them. Pauline Hall has some superb specimens of lace woven about a centre of sheerest linen about the size of a checker square, and the charm of Mrs. [Cora Urquhart Brown-] Potter’s handkerchief was the faint odor of violets that seemed a part of the web and lace.

[Helena] Modjeska likes a filmy piece of French mull with the narrowest edge of lace. Miss [Mary] Eastlake has a fancy for Nottingham lace that she buys in the town by the dozen, and the last consignment to Mme. [Adelina] Patti consisted of satiny hand-woven linen with two deep hems, very simply stitched.

NELL NELSON.

The Evening World [New York NY] 27 December 1889: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In some of our discussions of the cost of ladies’ wardrobes, we have frequently seen reports of very costly handkerchiefs.  However, Miss Nelson asserts that it is not the cost, but the memories and sentiments associated that make a handkerchief a “pet.” Mrs Daffodil purses her lips dubiously at how useful such a “pet” accessory might be: they cannot be trained to repeat clever bon mots; they do not chase off burglars; nor are they effective mousers despite their French appellation of “mouchoir.”  Scarcely worth their keep, one thinks.

Mrs Daffodil appreciates how some gentlemen show a more practical attitude towards the quality of their linen:

A Madrid journal [La Tela Cordata] is printed on linen with a composition easily removable by water, and the subscriber, after devouring the news, washes his journal and has a handkerchief.

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 3 September 1899: p. 8

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Ice Carnival at Leadville: 1896

leadville's ice palace 1896

The great social-amusement event of the season in the far West is the opening of the Ice Castle at Leadville. Colorado, under the auspices of the Crystal Carnival Association, and life in the Carbonate Camp is, for the months of January, February, and March, to be one continuous round of pleasure, fun and entertainment for all who have leisure.

The present season marks a new era in the camp, in its recovery from the effects of the silver slump, and in its attaining new fame as a great gold producer. It also marks a temporary departure from the intense attention to mining and money getting that has possessed the people of the camp for nearly two decades. It tends toward an appreciation of the artistic, toward indulgence in amusement for amusement’s sake, and to a too unfrequent recognition of the social side of life.

The Leadville Carnival, according to its managers, bids fair to be the most successful concern of its kind ever undertaken in America. The idea was born of the restless energy that characterizes the people of the high, altitudinous portion of the West. It was seized, in lieu of a mining boom, with rare avidity and enthusiasm, and. backed by the plethoric purses of bonanza kings, it has crystallized into a magnificent structure of cold splendors—an artist’s chef d’ouevre  in ice. It is a veritable palace, patterned in a measure after those of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Its site is nearly two miles above sea level, on a ridge in the Leadville basin, and overlooking the city of Leadville and the valley of the Arkansas, picturesque in winter snow and belts of sombre conifers. The grim snow-clad peaks of the Musquito and Saguache ranges rise to majestic heights on either side of the valley, and the cycloramic view from the ice castle is one of alpestrine, wintry grandeur.

For two months about two hundred men have been employed in erecting the building, which is of the Old Norman school of architecture, and in which three hundred thousand feet of lumber and five thousand tons of ice are used. The greatest length is four hundred and fifty feet and the width is three hundred and fifty feet. It is a permanent frame structure, encased with solid walls of ice. Two massive octagonal towers ninety feet high flank the main entrance. Flag-staffs rise from the towers to the height of one hundred and twenty feet.

The effect is of massive architectural beauty. Within the portals stands a huge female figure in ice, representing the glorification of Leadville. With one arm she points to the eastern hills, and in the other she holds a scroll bearing the legend “$207,000,000.” These being the figures which represent the total metallic wealth produced by the camp—since its conversion front a placer-mining into a lode-mining camp.

ice statues in the leadville palace

Ice statues in the Leadville ice palace

The main chamber is a skating rink with fifteen thousand square feet of ice surface. Its ceiling is decorated with a heavy frost-work of artificially produced rime. Corinthian columns of solid ice, inclosing incandescent lights before tin reflectors, support the roof.

The grand ballroom has a floor of grooved Texas pine. The annexes include an auxiliary ballroom and dining hall, and a complement of modern conveniences; icicle effects are given in the decorations. The eastern annex is finished in terra-cotta and blue, and the western annex in orange and blue. Throughout the edifice an effort has been made to combine beauty of scene with comfort, a fitting abode for the devotees of the Frost King.

ice statues in the leadville palace 2

A museum annex has a lot of snow statuary carved out of snow slushed solidly and then sprayed, and exhibits of fruit. flowers, and mechanical appliances in solid cakes of ice. A programme of divertisements throughout the winter on an elaborate scale has been planned, and a season of festivities, glittering pageantry, and winter sports has been inaugurated. Chief among them will be the storming of the ice castle by the Snow-Shoe and other clubs, the castle being held and defended by the Leadville Press Club. Various gala and occasional days have been set, and brilliant balls and receptions will be given from time to time. Among the outdoor attractions is a toboggan slide two thousand feet long with a double rush.

Leadville is gay with bunting, the colors being old gold, silver, copper, and lead, representing the royal and chief base metals produced by the camp. The official souvenir badge is of silver and gold, a bucket of ore hung on a bar composed of a shovel, pick. and hammer, emblematic of the miners’ calling. On the streets gay carnival costumes mingle with the picturesque garb of the miners.

The director-general of the Crystal Carnival. Mr. Tingley S. Wood, is a representative and successful miner, operating on a large scale, and owning productive properties in the gold belt and silver contact zone. He is a native of southeastern Ohio, and resides with his family part of the time in Springfield, Illinois, where he is a member of the famous Sangamon Club. Mr. Wood is a gentleman of dignified demeanor, handsome, courteous, and urbane. Always well dressed, he is thoroughly versed in geology, mineralogy, and the mysteries of smelting, and is the ideal successful miner.

That the fair sex will be brilliantly represented at the Carnival will be understood by any one who will glance at our page of pictures of the prominent women of Leadville.

Julius Von Linden

The Illustrated American 11 January 1896: p. 345

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Undoubtedly a glittering occasion, to judge by the lavish prose of Mr Von Linden. Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the fancy-dress skating carnivals of Canada and the luxury ice hotels of the frozen north.  While acknowledging the novelty (and the appeal of seeing the Northern Lights in their native habitat), Mrs Daffodil is at a loss for why one would travel so far to spend the night in an unheated chamber, when one might experience the same sensations at any week-end spent at an English country-house.

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Lady Embalmers: 1892-1921

 

EMBALMING BODIES.

STRANGE OCCUPATION FOLLOWED BY MANY AMERICAN WOMEN.

They Are Adepts at Ministering In the House of Mourning—Modern Developments of the Ancient Egyptian Art of Embalming the Dead.

Very few Americans know that the ancient art of embalming has been completely restored and improved, though not in the ancient way. Not only are bodies now preserved far more perfectly than at any time by the Egyptians, but all the unpleasant, not to say revolting, incidents of their practice are avoided.

At the outbreak of our civil war it was taken for granted that speedy decay was the fate of all the dead, and it was only by such rude appliances as ice and salt or the most pungent drugs that any of the bodies of those slain in battle could be taken home for burial. The demand suddenly created set hundreds of physicians and undertakers to investigating, but such is the natural reverence for all that is old that people generally spoke of embalming as a lost art, and even the scientific declared that in this climate it would be impossible to preserve a corpse as in ancient Egypt.

At the very beginning of the war one Confederate and several Federal surgeons began to study methods of corpse preservation, and the net result of all their labors and those of many other gentlemen may be summed up in one sentence; All the old, barbarous methods are discarded, and in their stead arterial injection and other processes which do not mutilate the corpse in the slightest degree are employed.

The business of embalming seems like a queer occupation for the gentler sex, but it is an interesting fact that there are now nearly 300 ladies in the United States engaged in undertaking, and several of these are very skillful embalmers. Mrs. J. L. Young of Vinton, Ia., began as her husband’s assistant, but soon developed such a mastery of it that he gave her entire control. She is a native of New York, born Miss Fellows.

Mrs. James T. Brett of Milwaukee, a native of Boston, developed early in life a peculiar aptitude for ministering in the house of mourning and is now truly scientific ladies’ embalmer. She is also a writer of ability, a lady of refinement and high social position. Mrs. Fred H. Russ of Chicago, of the firm of “Mr. & Mrs.. Fred H. Russ,” as it is now established, is also a skillful embalmer and very graceful writer. Mrs. John Greenslade of Bellevue, O., studied embalming under the instruction of Professor Renouard and has been in the practice two years. Mrs. Heaton Dart was the first lady embalmer in New York city and state, took a thorough course of study and has been in the business over 10 years.

Miss Fannie Gardner of Vincennes has the honor of being the first lady undertaker in Indiana. She has also taken a course in the study of embalming and is entering on the work. Mrs. Ellen Moore of Reading, Pa., began to serve as an undertaker in 1831, and at date of her last report had laid out 5,438 bodies. Another very old practitioner is Mrs. George F. Wildman of Bridgeport, Conn., who began in 1845 at the age of 16.

It goes without saying that every city and considerable town should have at least one lady well informed on the subject, for so long as present ideas prevail the corpses of both sexes will be embalmed.

The Owensboro [KY] Messenger 23 July 1893: p. 7

NO LITTLE UNDERTAKING

Is Implied in Mrs. Heaton Dart’s Strange Choice of Occupation.

Mrs. Heaton Dart enjoy the distinction–and a rare one it is nowadays–of being almost the only woman in her particular field of labor. And yet, withal, Mrs. Dart is an unassuming person. She gives herself no airs. She does not act the Pharisee toward the women who do not possess her knowledge. No, she doesn’t look down on them at all.

It may be that one reason for this modest attitude is that not one of the millions of women who don’t know how to do what Mrs. Heaton Dart does envies her her knowledge. For the fact is Mrs. Dart is an embalmer. She and her niece are the only women in New York State who are professional embalmers, and there seems to be no disposition to rob them of their laurels.

Mrs. Dart lives in a pretty flat near Central Park. She has an attractive face distinguished by a peculiarly strong mouth. An observer would at once put her down as a woman of intelligence and refinement, a womanly woman, and a plucky woman, but without the almost brutal indifference which often asserts itself in men who become familiar with trying experiences. Mrs. Dart looks as If she could make a success of almost anything. That does not lessen one’s curiosity as to why she chose to make a success of embalming. But she is quite ready to give the reason.

“Seven years ago,” says this woman of the gruesome profession, “1 was living in Scranton. Pa., when a sister-in-law of mine died. I needn’t tell you the whole story, but will say that the experience we then had with an embalmer, so called, was so terrible that my brother asked me to learn the business myself, simply to be able to take care of our own family. I was a widow and needed some occupation, so I took a course at the College of Embalming, and became so enthusiastic over the work that I came to New York, and have practised the profession for five years.

“I met with the most violent opposition from the undertakers. There were ten thousand of them in their association, and they put every possible obstruction in my way. Why? Oh, they said that they had men whom they paid regularly, and that if I came in to attend to special cases these men had to sit around idle. You see, anyone would rather have a woman or child embalmed by a woman than by a man. I have often been asked by families for whom I have worked to embalm the body or a man. I always refused, because if I say that only women embalmers should care for the bodies of women I must be consistent, and see that the rule works both ways.

“The undertakers make it hard for me in another way, too. They give me the very worst cases: suicides and people who have been burned to death or have died of contagious diseases. I have had many a strange experience, but for all that, I love my work.”

Mrs. Dart got out her instruments, which she carries in a harmless-looking music roll, and gave details of her professional work. She talks of the forty funerals a month, following the forty embalmings, of which she has charge. There, again, her feminine tact and taste are highly appreciated. There are fashions even in funeral robes, and it takes a woman properly to adjust a big sleeve or to loop the draperies with violets, this latter being quite a fashionable funeral fad. The demands for Mrs. Dart’s services have become so numerous that she has trained her niece to be her assistant and the two women are very proud of the profession they have so strangely chosen.

The Sun [New York NY] 10 September 1893: p. 17

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil applauds these pioneers of the mortuary profession, particularly Mrs Dart with her “harmless-looking music roll.” There was, indeed, quite a bit of resistance from the gentlemen embalmers, but as embalming became an essential part of funeral service, some took the view that the delicacy brought to the (embalming) table by a lady practitioner, was a selling-point.

VIRGINIA UP WITH THE TIMES

We notice by one of the Twin City papers a boast of having lady embalmers, which is a modern idea, for the care of ladies and children. Virginia is up with the time on this point, as we have a lady embalmer in our city who is a graduate of the Barnes School of Anatomy, Sanitary Science and Embalming of Chicago, the largest and most advanced educational institution of its kind in the world. After graduating this lady has successfully passed both Wisconsin and Minnesota Board of Health examinations and been granted a license to practice. The lady of whom we speak is Mrs. Selma Ala, of the firm of Edward Ala & Co. of this city. She is a lady of rare ability in the profession, a kind and pleasant disposition with whom we can all leave the care of our beloved dead ones and know that honor, respect and tenderness will ever be shown. We can appreciate the privilege of having such a lady to perform these necessary duties that it is not right and proper for a man to do. The secrecy maintained by mother, sister, wife or daughter should be kept sacred to their memory, and how can we better regard their feelings than by employing a lady embalmer. The Virginia [MN] Enterprise 1 March 1912: p. 7

Mrs Harry Mason White directly addressed the question of

Women as Embalmers

  1. Should lady embalmers and lady assistants be encouraged by the profession?
  2. Having been asked to answer the above question, I herewith reply, speaking from my seven years’ experience as a lady embalmer.

When death enters the home, and robs it of mother, daughter or prattling babe, the bereaved family naturally turn to a sympathetic friend for advice and assistance.

At that time a lady embalmer may not only perform her necessary duties for the departed one, but by her tender and solicitous care for the comfort and assistance of those who mourn, she will prove a blessing and surely a friend never to be forgotten.

Are our loved ones not as sacred in death as in life, and should we allow the opposite sex to perform work at that time, which we would not allow in life?

The question, “If a nurse washes and prepares a body for the undertaker, why is a lady embalmer required?” is often asked. Every member of the profession certainly knows, or should know, that a gentleman called upon to do the embalming may just as well do all the work as part of it; there is no dividing line; a lady embalmer should perform the entire work from the time she is called in until the body is placed in the casket.

When an experienced woman is in charge, the family, having full confidence in her ability, give the care of their dear ones to her, knowing she will arrange the clothes, dress the hair and attend to the minor details as she would for her own.

Should the lady embalmer be encouraged by the profession? Yes, a lady who not only understands the art and science of embalming, but who is expert in all the other details of the work, by her kind and sympathetic manner to the bereaved can comfort them in their sorrow and is by all means a necessity and a growing need.

Has the business reached the high goal entitling it to be called a profession? At the present day, decidedly no; had it attained that elevated standard, lady embalmers would be constantly sought for, but at the present time, the undertakers are jealously guarding every entrance by which a woman may enter this path of duty.

When the lady embalmer is recognized by the undertaker it will be an evidence that it is worthy to be called a profession; for the gentle and refining influence of successful ladies in the business, will raise the public estimate and tend to elevate the business to a profession in its true sense, and make it an art which any true participant should be proud to practice, and a profession in which any lady would certainly not be ashamed to be engaged.

MRS. HARRY MASON WHITE.

The Essentials of Anatomy, Sanitary Science and Embalming, Asa Johnson Dodge, 1906:  pp. 227-228

Despite the inroads made by these early lady embalmers, the profession was still, alas, subject to foolish jokes:

Why Wait?

As a special inducement to kick the bucket we find Yonkers undertakers advertising “Lady Embalmer.”

Baxter Daily Citizen [Baxter Springs KS] 10 October 1921: p. 4

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

If you have an interest in Victorian mourning customs and curiosities, you will want to visit The Victorian Book of the Dead Facebook page and the blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Mistaken Economies of Women: 1907

 

TEXTILES

MISTAKEN ECONOMIES OF WOMEN

Every woman, no matter how much a spendthrift she may be, has periodical attacks of economy, frugality, stinginess, call it whatever name you will—something that makes her unwilling to part with even the most worthless of her possessions.

Some one excuses her by saying that it is woman’s nature to draw toward her whatever comes within the range of her vision, but whatever the cause it seems born in woman, like her love for laces and puppies and doll babies.

That is one of the reasons that women are such bargain hunters. They buy because things are cheap, and therefore they reason that it is economy to become possessed of those bargains. In their frugal minds they argue that if they don’t need it now they will at some future time, so they plank down their money and march out of the store, hugging their bargain, whatever it happens to be.

That is the reason also why houses are made with attics and lots of closet room. They are for the women to stow away the things they do not need—and probably never will need.

Ever heard of a man saving anything? As soon as s man’s hat gets a dinge in it he gives it to the ash-man. Likewise his frayed collars, his fringed trousers, his old shoes and his other belongings. The Ashman or the garbage gentleman naturally falls heir to everything as soon as the season is ended.

Not so with the woman.

Up in the attic there are trunks and boxes and telescopes and weather-beaten old satchels, literally bulging with old clothes and other things the woman is saving. Over in the corner stands a walnut bed they bought when they first went to housekeeping. Somebody told her once long ago that walnut would be very scarce and valuable some of these days, so she is saving it.

There are hats up there that have been collecting dust and cobwebs, for 10 years and dresses so old that they have come back into style again—almost.
There are stings of buttons and scraps of lace, and rolls of gingham and silk and calico, that have been saved for patches. The garments of which these scraps of silk and gingham and calico are remnants were worn out long ago, but she still keeps the rolls because they may come in handy some of these days.

There are six or seven umbrellas in the corner. No, they are not umbrellas, either, but skeletons of umbrellas. Not one of them would turn water. They are merely shreds of Gloria cloth and wire and wood—but she is keeping them, probably for a rainy day.

There is an old muff and a long snake-like boa hanging from a wooden crosspiece, and both are full of moths, which some day are going to crawl downstairs and reconnoiter the parlor, and look over the rug and the piano.
She is saving that fur, for she has  hunch that some day she will want a dress trimmed with fur, but its dollars to round doughnuts that she will have forgotten it by the time she buys the dress, or else the moths will have finished the fur.
The secondhand dealer would give her exactly 50 cents for that walnut bed, and the ragman would give her half a cent a pound for those old skirts and basques and polonaises and overskirts and pelisses and things, the very names of which she has forgotten since the time they were in vogue. She couldn’t get a cent for the fur nor the umbrellas for the very good reason that they are no earthly use to anybody.

There might have been times in the history of every one of these articles when they would have been of value to somebody. Some woman would have been grateful for those garments; some poor, old, ailing body would have rested easier for that old walnut bed; even those umbrellas and those old furs might have kept water and frost away; but up in the attic, where they have collected dust for years. They have benefited nobody. After all, there is such a thing as being too saving.

The Pittsburgh [PA] Press 8 September 1907: p. 47

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is most convenient, to be sure, to blame women for any clutter around the home. Mrs Daffodil knows of far too many gentlemen who cling to the detritus of long-discarded hobbies and sports, not to mention the rotting carcasses of sports cars, which, had they been put into trim, might have been enjoyed or else sold for a tidy profit at auction.

As the winter holidays approached, Mrs Daffodil noted a plethora of articles urging a pre-holiday “cleanse,” which suggests a rather dreadful stay at some country-house clinic where the inmates ingest kale juice and raw nuts. The items to be discarded were things like plastic containers, wire clothing hangers, and even cardboard boxes of food, which were to be decanted into sanitary glass jars.  There may be some merit in binning sauce-stained Tupperware missing its lid, but Mrs Daffodil draws the line at keeping only those things that have been used within the last year and which “bring joy.”  Under that standard, Mrs Daffodil would have to purge the Hall of an immense and gruesome Caravaggio painting of Judith and Holofernes, as well as several heirloom tiaras of immense value, but limited aesthetic appeal.

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Province Man’s Story of a Blizzard: 1840s

blizzard story in Winter Frolics Matildy and Bob

THE PROVINCE MAN’S STORY

“Yes, I’ve no doubt that blizzards are fearful to encounter, but I do not think they can be much worse than a downright north-easter of the Province,” said a gray-bearded New Brunswicker to a Western man, who had been relating to the few passengers of the steamer plying on the river between Tobique and St. John his experience of one of those terrible winter storms which so frequently sweep down upon the exposed people of the Northwest.

“I remember one in particular,” he said, “for it gave me a lameness that’s going to stay by me as long as I live.”

After listening to the Western man’s adventure, we were all anxious to hear that of the Province man’s, and urged him to favor us. He at last assented.

“I was eighteen,” he said, “that winter, and tough as a young buffalo. I had never been sick, and scarcely knew what it was to be tired. My father was a lumberman. He went into the logging-swamp that winter, towards the head of the Miramichi River, and left me to take care of the family, –a pretty large one, counting in all the children. I was the oldest.

“The winters are long in that part of New Brunswick, and a good deal of snow falls. At that time there were but few settlements, the one nearest to where we lived being about forty miles away; so you may know there wasn’t much going back and forth for the women-folks.

“But for that matter, there were five or six families living in our settlement, and I will say we used to have some pretty good times together. We seemed almost like one family, and when one was in need of help the others were sure to give it.

“One of our neighbors was a Mr. Moore. He married a girl who lived in the settlement next to ours, and all her folks lived there. In the winter he worked in the woods with the rest of the men, and as his children were small, he used to hire me to look after the chores that were necessary about his house.

“Well, about the middle of that winter, it was in February, I think, Matildy, that was Mrs. Moore, got word that her mother was sick, and that, if she wanted to see her alive, she must go to her at once.

“The poor woman was nearly frantic with anxiety. Her husband was in the woods, and she had no way of getting to her father’s house. I think she had not seen her mother for two years.

“‘William,’ said my mother, coming home from the Moore cabin, where she had been to spin flax and comfort the sorrowing woman, ‘I think you’ll have to go.” “‘I’m going at once, mother,’ I said, for I thought she meant that I must go to Mrs. Moore’s and attend to the chores.

“‘Not that,” she replied, surmising what I was thinking about. ‘You must go to the settlement with Matildy. How should I feel if my mother was dying, and I could not see her? Now, get your chores all done up to-night, so you can start in the morning by daylight. I’ll see to things while you’re gone.”

“But what’s to be done with the children?’ I asked.

“’They’re coming to stay with me until Matildy gets back.”

“So it was settled that I should go with Mrs. Moore, and if she did not stay more than a day or two, I was to bring her home. The sky had threatened a storm for a number of days, and I expected to get up the next morning and see a snow-storm. But it was a bitter cold morning—too cold to snow then, though the sky was still gray and heavy, showing plainly enough that there’d be a heavy fall of snow as soon as the weather was warmer.

“It didn’t take long to get the horse and sled ready, and putting on father’s moose-skin coat, we started, Matildy carrying her baby, that was not more than six months old, in her arms, swathed in a blanket of lynx-skins.

“It was scarcely light when we set off, and it was very slow travelling through the narrow, rough road. We had not got more than three miles from the settlement when it begun to sprinkle snow, and in an hour more the flakes were coming down thick and fast. A cutting wind swept through the woods, driving the snow into our faces, and it looked doubtful to me whether we should ever get to the next settlement in such a storm.

“I wanted to turn back, but Matildy would not consent to this. So I had nothing to do but whip up old Bob and get on as fast as we could.

“But the storm grew worse and worse. The wind kept rising, and the air was so thick, with the driving snow that I could scarcely see a rod beyond the horse’s head. Noon came, and we were not over ten or twelve miles from the settlement. The snow was now so deep that the horse could make but little headway through it and against the heavy wind.

“We had food with us, but we could not stop for luncheon with the storm piling the big drifts all about us. Part of the time I walked behind the sled to lighten the load, and when it got so deep that Bob–the horse—couldn’t pull through, I tramped a path; and so, tramping and wallowing, we managed to get on a few miles further.

“But towards night the horse showed signs of giving out, and we had not gone over two-thirds of the way. I can assure you, it made me feel about sick to think of being out in that storm all night. Not that I feared so much for myself, for, as I said, I was tough as a buffalo and could have found some snug corner to stow myself away in, and in the big moose-skin coat could have been quite comfortable; but there was Matildy, and the baby, poor thing, was beginning to cry. I feared they both would perish before morning.

“By jerking and encouraging, Bob was made to start again. But his strength and courage did not last, and after another half-mile of plunging and tramping he lurched over the thills into the snow and gave out entirely. All my urging couldn’t get him on his legs again.

“Suddenly I got an idea, and untackling Bob from the sled, I tied his legs together with the straps of the harness, so that he could neither get up nor thrash about. Then, drawing the sled alongside of him, I canted it up sideways, setting the stakes to keep it from turning over fully, and thus made a sort of shelter to break off the wind.

“Going into the edge of the woods, I cut a lot of fir-boughs with my big knife and made a sort of bed for Matildy and the child, snug up against Bob’s back, covering them over with the quilts and skin, tucked in warm about them; and then I covered all with another thick coat of boughs.

“Then I went on towards the settlement, fifteen miles distant, for help. It soon became dark, and I never can tell you half what I suffered stumbling along through the drifts, half blinded by the whirling snow and nearly breathless; sometimes laying down and feeling that I never could go another rod; but the thought of Matildy and the baby in the snow drove me on—and I’ve no doubt saved my life.

“When within two miles of the settlement the road came out near the river, and for the rest of the way it was mostly cleared land. But it troubled me to keep the road. I was afraid I should wander off and never find the settlement.

“But there was a Hand leading me through that night and storm that I had never known before— and it led me safe; for, after wandering around till I was so exhausted that I was about to lay down in despair, I caught the glimmer of a light ahead.

“Ah, never was a half-drowned sailor more thankful for the sight of a life-boat than I was for that little spark of light! I crawled towards it shouting with all my strength.

“It came from a little log-hut on the outskirts of the settlement, where a logger’s wife was nursing a sick child. Hearing my cries she roused her husband, who came out to my assistance.

“As soon as it began to grow light the man got one of his neighbors—for I was too badly frozen to go back with him—and taking a horse and sled, started after Matildy and the baby.”

“And did they find them alive?” asked a listener, furtively brushing away the tears. “Yes, ma’am, they did. The snow had drifted over them, and so kept out a good deal of the cold, though Matildy was considerably frost-bitten. The baby was asleep, as comfortable as though it had been at home. But old Bob was dead. The journey and the cold had been too much for him.

“That spring the people at the settlements contributed money and bought my father another horse, so we wa’n’t much the worse off,” concluded the old man, seeming to be quite unconscious of his own heroism. Youth’s Companion.

Junean County Argus [New Lisbon WI] 23 August 1883: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A breathless moment there at the end. But poor, poor Bob….

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.