Christmas Shopping in Gotham: 1892

Christmas Shopping

Christmas Shopping


“Van Gryse ” describes the Ante-Holiday Rush for Bargains.

There is nothing, unless it might be the international yacht- races, which creates the furore in New York that Christmas does. For at least three weeks before the holy day, the city is in a ferment. The shopping streets are packed ; the large stores are jammed. It is as much as your life is worth to go into Macy’s, and Fourteenth Street is a sight worth going a long way to see.

On Sixth Avenue, the happy hunting-ground of the penniless, the crowd moves slowly, plowing along in a double line, one side going uptown, one going down. It is mixed in character here. A stunning carriage comes tooting along, and draws up at the kerb with a rattle of chains and a glitter of varnish. Two lovely ladies alight. The one is a plump matron, some years past thirty. She is furred, and beaded, and perfumed, and corseted to the finest point. She is too fat for beauty, but has a lovely, fresh skin, and looks as if she liked a good dinner better than almost anything else in the world. The other is a slim, young lass, too well-grown to be her daughter — perhaps a younger sister. She is all in tan color and sable, with a big, furry hat, trimmed with lace and pink roses. She is something exquisite in her wonderful, delicate, frail, ethereal way. The footman holds the door open for them, and they rustle into one of the big stores, and the crowd of tawdry beauties and avenue belles stand round and stare at them.

The other women on the avenue are on a middle plane. They are not quite so unkempt as the Fourteenth Street gang, and, also, not so fine as the Twenty-Third Street set. A quantity of them are country folk, in for holiday shopping. These are big, rosy, buxom women, with round cheeks like winter apples, and a great reserve of strength to carry them through the day. They forge ahead aggressively, and, as a rule, carry their own bundles. A good many well-dressed girls filter through the throng, snugly dressed for a morning’s hard work, in close-fitting coats, little round hats, a small collar of brown fur clasped round their necks, their hands in red dog-skin gloves, and their feet in very pointed, shiny shoes. They look so well-fed, and prosperous, and busy that one imagines at once that they are heiresses out for a peep into the town’s cheaper by-ways. As a rule, however, if you follow them into some shop, you will find them spending a chary dollar or two on a silver stamp-box or a pressed-glass bottle for the toilet-table. And one such purchase as this will occupy a whole morning.

Inside the Sixth Avenue places — “emporiums” they call them — the crowd is terrific. Here the human mass is packed close, and the air is horrible. The ceilings are low, the ventilation wretched, and one-half of the throng belong to the noble army of the great unwashed. Add to this that most of these big shops have a restaurant concealed somewhere in their purlieus, and one may form a mild idea of the condition of the atmosphere. Upon ascending a flight of stairs — the elevator being so densely packed that it is tempting Providence to get into it — one is assailed at the top by a penetrating odor of ham-and-eggs, mingled with a strong aroma of coffee. At the same instant, an excited female, in an imitation sealskin coat, holding clasped to her bosom a large, low-runner sleigh, uses her free hand to clutch you violently by the arm, and demands fiercely: “Where is the restaurant?”

A polite person would tell her, an indifferent one would say he did not know, a rude one would suggest to her to follow her nose, and leave her wondering if she had a cold in her head or Russian influenza.

Emerging from Sixth Avenue, in an exhausted condition, one wends a weary way toward Fourteenth Street, and, being possessed of the curiosity which is such a blight on the character of the most perfect, stands on tiptoe for a good ten minutes to see over the heads of the crowd into Macy’s window. There is some kind of a panorama going on in there, and occasionally one catches glimpses of beautiful dolls, with frizzled heads and satin robes, moving round in stately tableaux. Some kindly personage near by informs you that it is a panorama in dolls of ” The Magic Flute,” and, simultaneously, a large man pushes you violently against three small boys, whom you, in turn, crush up against a woman with dyed hair and painted eyes. She, having had her foot trodden upon, vociferates angrily and straightens her hat, a remarkable edifice, upon which nod all the flowers that bloom in the spring. Then she pulls down her white-lace veil and goes away, murmuring threats of vengeance and wagging her draperies of old-blue plush.

Presently, having rested against one of the door-jambs, thought of all the examples of heroic endurance that history tells of, fortified yourself with a quinine pill, and silently determined to do or die, you press your hat on tightly and button your coat, if you are a man, and, if you are a woman, grip your skirt and settle your bonnet-pins more securely, and enter Macy’s with a firm front. A seething sea of women, from which, here and there, a man towers like a rock, greets you in the doorway and beats you back against a counter where some haughty damsels are selling photograph-frames. You pause here, catch your breath, lighten your hold on your umbrella, muff, or stick, and plunge in. Elbows are driven into you, high heels crush your toes, angular ends of exceedingly hard bundles give you savage digs as their owners bear them toward the door. Lost children get about your feet and appear to cling there till rescued by distracted mothers. People seem to tread all over you and to take a cruel joy in driving you up against the corners of counters and the sharp ends of brass rails. You begin to feel that you have been perforated in several places and that the edges of some of your bones have been rubbed through by constant friction.

You, in your turn, do a little private pushing, and tramping, and crowding. You tread on a good many skirts, which give with a rending sound. You glide sideways through the press with some success. You extricate from the mass the woman who — with a Noah’s Ark under one arm, a baby under the other, a go-cart dragging from her hand, and a real, woolly dog on rollers hanging from her elbow — is about to give way to despair. You get angry, and furiously knock the cane that the young man in front of you carries pushed up under his arm, so that the ferule of it hits people in the eyes and pushes off women’s hats. You are filled with a sort of sick fatigue at the sight of the shop-girls, who — pale, tired, breathless — go on making out checks and answering questions with the regularity and dogged persistence of pieces of machinery.

Once out on the street again, the fresh air revives your drooping spirits. The wide pavement is filled to the gutter with the Christmas throng. Along the kerb, conversing together and singing the praises of their wares, stand long lines of hawkers. There are sellers of beads and colored-glass balls for Christmas-trees ; sellers of shredded tinsel that one drapes over the tree ; sellers of little black imps in long, narrow bottles ; sellers of skeletons twisting round on lines of cord placed across a semi-circle of wood ; sellers of a mechanical toy which represents a man, woman, and dog walking together down Broadway ; sellers of cheap picture- books, of paper Punch-and-Judy shows, of note-paper, of metal photograph-frames.

From these to the stores the crowd surges in hurried distraction. Never were seen people in such haste. No wonder we Americans are a nervous, irritable, high-strung race, when we tear ourselves to pieces in this fashion. Every one appears to be fearfully pressed for time. The universal hurry soon communicates itself to the most determined loiterer, and you have not passed under the black -and-gilt clock that mounts guard opposite Hearn’s, when you find yourself tearing like the rest. Women in twos, women in threes, women alone, dash by you almost on the run. Young girls with set faces, their little, jet-trimmed hats all askew, rush across the street nearly under the horses’ feet. Pale-faced mothers drag children along by one arm. All the world is in breathless haste to buy their Christmas presents. No wonder the people are all bedraggled and pallid. Two blocks of this wearies one more than a ten-mile walk in the country would do.

Between twelve and one, this exhausted company, feeling the need for sustenance, drops into a convenient hostelry known as some sort of a dairy. Why “dairy,” heaven knows Anything less like a dairy could not be imagined. In the front of the place, near the entrance, several long counters are ranged. Behind these, numerous beautiful young ladies preside, and, for the trifling consideration of a dime, will hand out to you, on an inch-thick plate, one aged bun and an attenuated Charlotte russe in a roll of paste-board. Other delicacies of the like description are set along the counters under glass covers. They look somewhat like the cakes and dainties that people pretend to eat on the stage. The whole place — the regular piles of ossified cakes and buns, the counters, and the attendant nymphs — recall to one’s mind the restaurant in the depot at Omaha.

The shoppers in the neighborhood seem to find the dairy quite a harbor of refuge. They patronize it in large crowds. Back of the entrance, where the counters and the high stools are, there is a restaurant proper. It is really an immense place, extending through nearly to the next street. Here the world, still pursued by that feeling that time is flying and no precious moments must be lost, sits and feeds with terrible swiftness. The Indian-juggler feat is performed on every hand with wonderful address and a calm assurance that bespeaks long practice. A great smell of “coffee and sinkers ” goes up toward the ceiling, and the crashing of crockery is mingled with the musical voice of some unseen personage, who screams orders down into the depths of the kitchen regions. Over all, a piano-organ is heard grinding out the “Dolores ” waltz in a fierce endeavor to dominate the general hubbub.

But the timid feaster at the counter dares not enter into this thickly populated place of feasting. He lingers at the counter and is consumed with a scorching thirst, precipitated by the one bun and the Charlotte russe in the paste-board cover. Relief presents itself in the shape of a large, nickle-plated affair, with a tap in the front, which looks like a cross between an ice-cooler and a Babcock fire-extinguisher, and which certainly must contain some sort of drinkable liquid.

Approaching a haughty young person who stands behind the counter, and asking what that urn-like object might be filled with, you are tersely and coldly told: “Bullion!”

This does not mean precious metals, as one might suppose, but beef-extract. You deposit another dime, and the young person draws from the urn a small cupful of boiling water. Into that she puts a spoonful of a sticky-looking brown substance, stirs it round once or twice, sets the cup down in front of you, also a pepper-box and a salt-cellar, and departs. The pepper won’t come out and the salt-cellar is empty. You savor the bouillon. It is of a raging heat, and, also, of a weird smell. You taste charily, put down the spoon, and meditate for a moment. At this instant, the piano-organ, with a convulsive scream, breaks from “Dolores”  into the middle of “Sweet Dreamland Faces,” and goes off into that pensive strain at a hard-gallop. The “bullion” sends up a cloud of odorous steam. You wipe your lips carefully on a handkerchief, and, continuing to press it against your nose, you take a hurried departure.


New York, December 23, 1891.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 11 January 1892

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  In light of “Black Friday” scenes, so distressingly full of stampeding customers and rudeness, plus ça change….

Mrs Daffodil will resume her regular service 2 December; she must supervise the unpacking of the Christmas decorations this week-end.

A Thanksgiving Day Reception: 1896

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "Thanksgiving greetings." The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Thanksgiving greetings.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections.


Thanksgiving Day Receptions Are the Latest Fashionable Fad From the Windy City.

Many Chicago women will give Thanksgiving Day receptions today. They are distinguished chiefly by appropriate decorations, costumes and refreshments. The rooms can be completely transformed by taking down all the portieres and replacing them with others made of cranberries strung on a fine but stout twine, red in color. Popcorn strung alone and alternately with the berries makes a pleasing variety. Loop some of the strands back and let others hang straight, like the portieres of beads and glass of Japanese manufacture. Strings of the cranberries are very effective when festooned over white lace curtains.

Cover the lamps with shades of red, white and blue crepe tissue paper. In place of the large chairs and divans put large, golden pumpkins. They make charming dashes of color and are very comfortable seats. From the flour and feed store beautiful ears of red and white corn may be procured to be hung form the gas fixtures with red, white and blue ribbons.

If the reception is given in the afternoon, tea with wafers and pumpkin chips will be sufficient refreshments if dainty bonbons which can be purchased in the national colors about Thanksgiving time, are added. “Nutted dates” make a delicious confection for the tea table and are easy to prepare. Purchase the best dates (there are three grades), remove the pit and fill the vacancy with a pecan nut rolled in granulated sugar.

To make “pumpkin chips,” which are often mistaken for the most expensive imported preserves, take a deep yellow pumpkin, peel and slice very thin; to each pound of chips add a pound of sugar and a gill of lemon juice, with the grated lemon rind; stir well and let them stand over night; the next day cook very slowly until tender; then skim the chips out and let them stand two days to cool and become firm; then put them in a jar with enough of the sirup poured on to keep them moist.

If the Thanksgiving reception is given in the evening the guests should be requested to come attired in Colonial costume. The refreshment table can be decorated with broad ribbons of red, white and blue, and candles used of the same color; but strange to say, blue candles are hard to find, though they can be specially ordered. A tiny silk flag at each place makes a pretty souvenir for the guests to carry home.

The floral decorations should be entirely of chrysanthemums, the November flower. The ice cream is served in forms representing the autumn vegetables, such as pumpkins, squash, carrots, etc., in their natural colors. Coffee, with whipped cream, and cakes will be sufficient, as the guests will doubtless have partaken of a bountiful dinner.

Music, consisting of national airs, should be given during the evening, beginning with “America” and ending by the guests all joining hands and singing “Auld Lang Syne.”

Boston [MA] Journal 26 November 1896: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While this information is given for those of her American readers who wish to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in old-fashioned style, Mrs Daffodil will be spending the day at the Hall drawing up battle-orders for the coming Christmas house-parties.

No matter how festive the look of cranberry portieres, Mrs Daffodil draws the line at draping them over white lace curtains. The possibility of staining is far too great and it is as much as Mrs Daffodil’s job is worth to explain to the laundry that they must re-wash and starch all the drawing-room lace curtains as a result of their mistress’s fruit-whim.  Perhaps the meat-packing millionaires of Chicago have more amenable laundry staff.

As for seating one’s guests on pumpkins—well, really. If one could actually locate a quantity of giant squashes sufficient to furnish the drawing room, what would the harvest be? Tippings and frustration one fears! Any novelty is far outweighed by the discomfort.

In any event, if any of her readers use these ideas for their Thanksgiving or Harvest-Home parties, Mrs Daffodil urges them to send photographs.

Mrs Daffodil also wishes her readers a happy Thanksgiving. She herself is most thankful for their kind attention.

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.


Henry Goes Shopping for His Sweetheart: 1906

Mrs Henry Spencer Lucy in mourning. Oil painting on canvas,Christina Cameron Campbell, Mrs Henry Spencer Lucy (d. 1919) [?1826 - 1898] by Giuseppe da Pozzo (Conegliano 1844 - Rome 1919), signed G da Pozzo Roma. A full-length portrait of the wife of Henry Spencer Lucy, who died 1890, and eldest daughter of Alexander Campbell of Monzie.In 1890 she assumed the name Cameron-Lucy in her widowhood. She is seen dressed in black with a white cap and veil, drawn back, sitting on a throne onsmall raised platform with a footstool n the carpet at her feetnext to carpeted table with a framed photgraph, small urn, ?chalice/monstrance and various other effects, holding a pice of paper in her hand.

Mrs Henry Spencer Lucy in mourning.  by Giuseppe da Pozzo  Note the widow’s cap.

A Shopping Incident.

The young man screwed his courage to the sticking point and dashed into the large drapery establishment. lnside were many customers, all ladies, and many attendants, all ladies, too, and all dressed in black, and looking very tall and dignified. Henry was sorry for himself; he regretted having ventured. All his courage had oozed out at his finger tips he felt very small and limp.

“Are you being attended to?” asked one tall young lady, severely.

“Yes that is, nun-no,” answered Henry.

“What is it you would like?”

“Well, I don’t quite know. It isn’t what I like, but— the fact is, it’s for a lady.”

“Yes. What article?”

“I really can’t tell, but I thought 1 would give her something.”

“Your mother?” asked the attendant with something like a smile.

“No, no, not quite my mother. What are those things there?”

“Those are the new silk stockings.”

“Oh, I beg pardon I really didn’t know. No, I don’t care to look at them; I don’t think they’d do.” Poor Henry was perspiring freely now and his knees were weak and trembling. “Something more like that, I think.” He pointed desperately at a bundle.

The young lady endeavoured to ignore his request, and a faint tinge of colour showed in her cheeks. “Wouldn’t you like to look at some hats?” she said hastily.

“No.” said Henry, feebly, “she has a hat. I really think those—“

“Those are petticoats,” said the attendant, desperately. “Shall I show you a few?”

Henry had almost collapsed. “Pup. pup-petticoats?” he gasped. “No, don’t show them, please. Gimme one of those.” He pointed to some articles displayed on a stand.

“Are you quite sure they will suit?” asked the young lady.

“Oh, yes, positive,” faltered Henry “Just the thing, I’m sure.” Henry would have bought a thousand-gallon boiler, or a ship’s anchor anything to get away from the terrible shop, where all the women were staring so, and most of them were laughing.

The parcel was made up. Henry paid and fled, and that evening he presented the dear eighteen -year-old girl he was courting with an elegant widow’s cap.

Observer, 23 June 1906: p. 23

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There were many different styles of widow’s caps for every degree of age and mourning, from coquettish confections for the “merry widow,” to the lappeted or “Marie Stuart” cap made popular by Queen Victoria, to the severe black crape for the inconsolable or the professionally grim. Caps could be made at home, but ladies were counseled that the results were rarely satisfactory. It was far better to purchase from a maison de deuil or a milliner.

A widow's cap for an elderly lady, c. 1891 New York Digital Collection

A widow’s cap for an elderly lady, c. 1891 New York Digital Collection

We have few records of gentlemen purchasing mourning for ladies; possibly Henry’s cautionary tale explains why.

You may read more about the popular and material culture of Victorian mourning 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

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.


A Curse on Emperor Franz Josef: 1848

Countess Karolyi curses the young Emperor Franz Josef

Countess Karolyi curses the young Emperor Franz Josef

Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef died 21 November 1916. While he died peacefully in his bed, his reign of 68 years was full of tragedies, which some said were the result of a curse. Mrs Daffodil trusts that her readers will excuse the length of this post in view of its lurid exposition of imperial scandals. The supposed curse came about in this way:

“May Heaven and Hell blast your happiness; may your family be exterminated; may you be smitten in the persons of those you love best; may your children be brought to ruin and your life wrecked, and yet may you live on in lonely, unbroken, horrible grief, to tremble when you recall the name of Karolyi!”

This was the curse pronounced on the Emperor Franz Joseph by the Countess Karolyi, whose son was put to death by order of the Emperor for participating in the Hungarian uprising. The Countess is said to have shrieked out her curse at the Emperor when he appeared at a State ball in Vienna.

“It will come to pass!” she cried as the attendants dragged her away.

Surely her words were prophetic, for death has come to the Emperor’s best loved relations in a most tragic manner. Today we find him tottering with old age, standing alone like some great tree which a storm has shorn of its branches.

“Nothing is spared me!” cries the venerable head of the House of Hapsburg as he sits in his palace surrounded by every luxury which wealth can procure, the most pathetic figure in European history.

The recent assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne, and his devoted wife by a nineteen-year-old fanatical Servian adds another chapter to the long line of Hapsburg tragedies which have shocked the world during the past quarter of a century, and the sympathy of the world goes out to the old man who has suffered almost beyond endurance. His reign has been a stormy one, and in the earlier days of his life his rule was marred by cruelties not so much y his wish, but by the influence of his high spirited mother, the proud, cold Archduchess Sophia, who during the first few years of his reign held absolute sway over the young ruler’s acts. In those days it was no uncommon thing for the Archduchess to be hooted on the streets of Vienna and called the wholesale murderess of the Hungarians… [Franz Joseph’s] troubles began early in his reign, as a few months after he came to the throne dissension arose throughout the land which were followed by external aggressions.

The Curse In 1853.

In 1853 the list of tragic incidents which have marred his reign began when an attempt was made to assassinate him. Early one afternoon in February of that year the Emperor was taking his daily walk on the ancient bastions which used to encircle Vienna, attended by a single aide-de-camp, Count O’Donnell. The two men had stopped to view the movements of the soldiers who were drilling nearby. Suddenly a man ran up the narrow steps leading to the bastion and dealt the Emperor a violent blow with a knife. The blow was aimed at the neck, but it struck a bone behind the ear and did not inflict a serious wound although the concussion caused partial blindness for a time. The man proved to be a Hungarian named Lebenzi [János Libényi]—a tailor by trade. He declared that he was determined to kill the Emperor and had waited for the opportunity for some time…The Emperor was kindly disposed toward his subjects, even the Hungarian rebels, and tried to win them, but the Archduchess Sophie had formed the policy of his reign—a cruel, heartless policy which carried death and exile to many. She was heartily disliked by the people, and the historians regard it almost a miracle that she was not assassinated during one of the Hungarian uprisings.

Marries Princess Elizabeth.

When “Franzl,” as she affectionately called her son, was about twenty-three, she set about to find him a wife, so she sent him on a courting expedition to the home of the Duke of Bavaria, who had married her younger sister. Among the daughters of the Duke was the Princess Helene, who was just nineteen, and the mother hoped that her son would fall in love with his princess, but she was destined to disappointment for he paid little attention to the Princess Helene and fell in love with her younger sister, the Princess Elizabeth, who was then only fifteen years of age. A year later they were married and the beautiful princess charmed all Austria and Hungary as well. She bore the name of the patron saint of the latter, and when she came with the Emperor to Budapest the wildest enthusiasm prevailed. She studied their language and spoke it like a native. Even today she is known as the good angel of Hungary, and a special museum has been established where articles which at one time belonged to her are on exhibition. Of a naturally vivacious disposition [Some called her vivacity eccentricity; others labeled it “the madness of the Wittelsbachs”] the new Empress chafed under the restraint of Court etiquette and did a lot of unheard of things which shocked the Austrian royalty, but delighted the pleasure-loving Hungarians.

For a time the couple led an existence of unclouded happiness. Four children were born as the result of their union. The oldest, the little Archduchess Sophie, named for her grandmother, died of typhoid fever in early childhood. The disease was contracted from drinking water sent from a Vienna spring. In some way it became uncorked and spoiled, but the nurse did not discover it until the child was taken ill.

The second child, the Archduchess Gisela, is now the Queen of Bavaria. The other two children were the Archduchess Marie Valerie, who became the wife of Franz Salvator, Archduke of Austria-Tuscany, and Prince Rudolph, the heir to the throne.

The Empress lost her health after the birth of the Crown Prince and had to spend much of her time away from the Emperor at the different “spas” of Europe.

Then the Archduke Maximilian was persuaded to go to Mexico to rule over that restless land. He was urged to do this by his wife, the Empress Charlotte, and his mother, the Archduchess Sophie, the latter being most insistent in her demands—declaring that she wanted to be known as the mother of two Emperors. But the Curse of the Hapsburgs fell once more, for Maximillian was executed by the Mexicans and his wife, the beautiful Empress Charlotte, ended her days in a mad house.

Death Of The Crown Prince.

The hopes of the Emperor now became centered on the Crown Prince, who grew to manhood universally beloved by all his subjects. Always of a shy and retiring disposition, the young prince spent much of his time in shooting and became a taxidermist of no mean ability, [!!!] mounting up the results of his shooting expeditions for the National Museum. He married the Princess Stephanie, the second daughter of King Leopold II, of Belgium. There seems to have been very little love in the matter of the Crown Prince seemed to have been infatuated with the Baroness Marie Vestera. In 1889 the Curse fell once more on the Hapsburgs, for the heir to the throne was found dead at his hunting lodge at Mayerling not very far from Vienna. Beside him was the dead body of the Baroness. All sorts of rumors were afloat as to how the couple met death, and it was finally given out as suicide, but as suicide was so abhorrent to the Catholic Church the Empress refused to believe that her son had taken his life. However, no effort was made to find the murderer and the case is still known in Austria as “the Mayerling mystery.”

The death of the Crown Prince had an alarming effect on the Empress who was devoted to her son. She never appeared at Court after his death, but wandered from place to place in her sorrow. The Emperor, who was always devoted to his wife, did all in his power to lift the veil of melancholy which seemed to envelope her, but without avail, and to use the language of a noted Hungarian writer: “The sorrowing woman in black wandered from country to country as though a dread shadow pursued her.”

Empress Assassinated.

The Curse of the Hapsburgs was destined to claim her in its clutches, and this occurred while she was in Switzerland trying to recover health and strength to be present at the Emperor’s Jubilee in 1898. Walking on the Quai de Mont Blanc in Geneva, accompanied only by her lady-in-waiting, the Countess Sztaray, she was stabbed by an Italian anarchist, who used a sharpened shoe awl as a weapon—driving it into the heart of his victim. By a strange coincidence, it was very like the knife used ears before when Franz Joseph’s life was attempted. The dress worn by the Empress at the time of her death is one of the relics preserved at the Elizabeth museum in Budapest. Only a tiny blood stain appears upon the gown, the Empress having died of internal haemorrhage.

This seemed to be the crowning sorrow of the many which had fallen upon the Emperor, and those who know him best declare that he has never been the same since the “Geneva tragedy.”

Other Sorrows.

But the trials of the Emperor were not over, for a few years later his favorite sister-in-law, the Duchess d’Alencon, lost her life in the great fire which swept over a charity bazar in Paris, and only a short time afterward one of his nieces was burned to death at the Palace of Schoenbrun.

Then his granddaughter, the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the dead Crown Prince fell in love with a young army officer of the House of Windisch-Graetz, who was serving with a regiment quartered at Vienna. After a stormy scene with her grandfather she obtained his consent to marry the young man. The young man then became Prince Otto of Windisch-Graetz, and on the day of the marriage the entire junior branch of the house to which the bridegroom belonged was given the rank of “Serene Highness.” But even this marriage was destined to bring disgrace, for only a short time after the wedding the Archduchess fired a shot at an actress of whom she was jealous. Her mother, the Princess Stephanie, in the meantime had created a scandal at Court by marrying Count Louyay and had caused the Emperor no little humiliation by her extraordinary behaviour at Court.

The Emperor’s grandchild, Princess Louise, of Tuscany, astounded both Vienna and Paris by the life which she led and when reprimanded for it flaunted her escapades in the face of the royal family by publishing a sensational account of her mad career. Still another granddaughter was destined to bring sorrow to the venerable Head of the Hapsburgs when she eloped with an army officer and lived with him for some time before her family forced her to marry him. The Archduchess Louise was the next to create a scandal, for she deserted her husband for a music teacher. [Mrs Daffodil must note that Princess and Archduchess Louise are one and the same.]

Archdukes Cause Scandals.

The male members of the family, too, added grief to the declining years of the Emperor. The Archduke Leopold after a career of debauchery married a second rate actress and was deprived of his titles and exiled. [Another Archduke, Johann Salvator,  renounced his titles, married an actress, and was lost at sea.]  Archduke Louis Victor, another brother who was known as the greatest roué in Europe, had to be confined in an insane asylum. [He was fond of young men and of dressing in ladies’ clothing.]  Archduke Otto was dismissed from the army owing to a scandal which he had caused, [one really cannot pick just one from the lengthy list…] and the Archduke Ladeslas [Mrs Daffodil can find no trace of this individual] was killed while on a hunting expedition by a peasant in revenge for cruelty practiced by him on this class.

Francis Ferdinand Marries Beneath Him.

Even the man who up to a short time ago was the heir to the throne, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, caused the Emperor no little trouble. This young man paid a visit to the home of the Archduchess Isabella, who expected him to marry her daughter. Among her ladies-in-waiting was Sophie Chotek, a young Bohemian of good family. The Archduke was at once smitten by the charms of the beautiful girl and he determined to make her his wife. When the Archduchess Isabella learned of the turn of affairs she at once dismissed the girl and sent her home to Bohemia. The Archduke returned to Vienna and announced his intention of marrying the pretty Bohemian, to his uncle, the Emperor. There was a long stormy scene at the palace, but in the end the Archduke won, but only after he had made an oath that children by this marriage should not inherit the throne. The wedding took place very quietly—not even the bridegroom’s brother being present. However, it turned out happily, and three children were born to the couple. In the meantime, the daughter of the Archduchess Isabella—the young girl who had “set her cap” for the heir to the throne entered a convent much to the sorrow of her family. On learning this the old Emperor is said to have declared that although he ruled a mighty nation he was not master of his own house.

After a time, however, the charming manners of the wife of the heir apparently won the heart of the lonely ruler and he conferred upon her the title of the Duchess of Hohenberg. She had great influence with her husband and was gradually changing his policy, but before he was able to put her theories into practice the Curse of the House of Habsburg fell-the husband and wife were shot to death in Bosnia, the little country which had fallen a prey to the Austrian land-grabbing propensities.

“Sophie, live for our children,” were the Archduke’s last words, as he sank back against the cushions of the carriage dying. But the Duchess never heard, for she became unconscious after the first shot. The children had remained at Schoenbrun with the Emperor while their parents were paying their official visit to Bosnia and were playing in the garden beside him when the news of the assassination reached the palace. The heart-broken old ruler is said to have gathered them in his arms and told them of the awful fate of their devoted father and mother.

New Heir Popular.

This makes the Archduke Charles Francis, the younger brother of Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne. This young man who is but twenty-seven years of age has always been a favorite with the Emperor and is immensely popular throughout Austria and Hungary. His tastes are democratic, and he is said to be as mild and ingratiating as his uncle is stern and forbidding. Then, too, he is happily married to the Princess Zita of Parma, and their children may inherit and thus the House of Hapsburg may be preserved.

The Emperor Franz Joseph in the course of nature cannot live much longer. Will the terrible Karolyi Curse, which has so relentlessly pursued the Hapsburgs, have spent its force at his death?

Lexington [KY] Leader 2 August 1914: p. 27

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Well, good gracious, where does one begin? The journalistic excellence of the American press is always suspect, but there are an unusual number of errors and misunderstandings. This may perhaps be excused by the  thorny underbrush that is the Hapsburg family tree: their habit of intermarrying and re-using the same names renders a written programme almost essential in sorting out the “players.”

Let us start with the canard that the Imperial marriage between Franz Josef and Elisabeth was in any way an “existence of unclouded happiness.” The couple were utterly unsuited to each other; Elisabeth recoiled from the physical aspect of marriage and detested pregnancy. She spent much of her marriage fleeing her husband with numerous trips abroad.

Princess Elisabeth, daughter of Crown Prince Rudolph, was a willful child from the very start. Her husband, Prince Otto, had been engaged to another woman, but when the Princess wished to marry him, the Emperor ordered him to break off his engagement, which he did. The year after their marriage, the Princess shot an actress whom she found with her husband. The newspapers vacillate between declaring that the actress died and denying the shooting ever occurred. Princess Elisabeth, in later life, became a Socialist and was known as “The Red Archduchess.”

Archduke Francis Ferdinand’s children were most definitely not playing with the aged Emperor when their parents were assassinated; nor did the Emperor tenderly take them in his arms. In fact they were shunned by the Court and raised by a friend of their father’s. They were of little interest to the Emperor, since they could not inherit.

As for the whether the  Karolyi Curse spent its force at the Emperor’s death, we all know how tragically the career of his heir Archduke Charles ended: the horrors of the Great War, the young Emperor renouncing sovereign power (he never actually abdicated), exile, and death from consumption, age 34.  His wife, the former Empress Zita, and family of eight children struggled through war, poverty, and privation. Empress Zita died in 1989, aged 96.

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 Ghost in the Rosy-Posy Dress: c. 1880s

Jean-Etienne Liotard, Marie-Josephe von Sachsen,

Jean-Etienne Liotard, Marie-Josephe von Sachsen,

A friend of mine, Mrs. M–, a very charming, highly educated Scots lady, told me this experience.

“When we first came to Paris,” she began, “we took a little house at St. Cloud. It was quite a modem house, built I should think about 1885. I can tell you nothing of its history, you know what French people are, they will be frightfully affable and tell you everything but what you want to know.

“All we could discover was that the house had been converted from a private dwelling to a Pension for old ladies. Some twelve or fourteen of them had been living in the house, and it was apparently successful enough, but the owner had suddenly shut it up, and the doors had been locked till they were opened for us to inspect it. Altogether it was about as commonplace and everyday a dwelling as you would wish to see, four fairly large rooms below, with a little stone-flagged hall running between them. A short flight of stairs and on the landing a long narrow room we made into the drawing-room; above this landing the four bedrooms–all hopelessly banal and mediocre after the French fashion.

“At first I sat in the drawing-room to work, to write and to sew, and saw my cook there in the mornings. After the first few days she asked me to give her orders in the hall, where she would come to meet me, saying in excuse that the drawing room made her cold.

“For the first week I did not notice this coldness, because the weather was hot and coolness was grateful; but after that it became dull, and as I was sitting there sewing one Sunday morning, an icy wind blew suddenly across my face and sent my hair all out of its ribbon. There was a curious rushing noise along with the cold wind, and a feeling of dampness. I was so surprised that I could not call out, or run–I simply sat on, and almost instantly I was overwhelmed by a sensation of the bitterest misery. A feeling of wrong and oppression caught me and crushed me to the depths. I passed about ten minutes of the most unimaginable suffering. It was awful! Then suddenly I sprang to my feet and fled–I never sat in the drawing-room again. But whatever was there did not confine itself to its walls. It came out and walked about the house, preceded by that chill blast. One day, talking to the cook in the little stone hall, her muslin apron suddenly blew out in front of her, as if a whole gale were blowing through the house. ‘Oh, Madame!’ she cried, ‘you have left open the drawing-room window.’

“‘Go, then, and shut it, Marie,’ I said.

“‘She came back running. ‘Madame! Madame! The windows are all shut; but the door is open.’

“After that, no one of the maids would go near the drawing-room, and we ceased to use it.

“The house was always full of vague noises, sometimes a whispering sound would follow my husband at night, when he went his rounds at bedtime; sometimes a voice would call my name softly and insistently for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. There were always rustlings on the stairs and at the drawing-room door.

“One night I was standing beside my little girl’s cot, hearing her prayers, when she paused, and nodded smilingly several times, turning her head as she did so, as if following somebody’s movements. Her little cat, sitting on the bed beside her, did the same, its eyes flaming. I looked round, thinking my husband bad entered the room. There was no one.

“‘Jan,’ I asked, ‘who were you smiling at, then?’

“‘Oh, just the Little Old Lady,’ she answered;  ‘she always comes at tespasses (trespasses); she nods and smiles, an’ I nod an’ smile–that’s poli–isn’t it, mummie?’

“I agreed that it was, and went to find her father. After some consultation, we moved the cot to our room and put it next the bed. For three nights the child said her prayers without interruption, but the fourth she stopped and smiled and nodded over her finger-tips–the Little Old Lady had found her.

“‘What is she like, Jan?’ I asked. Jan looked critically into space, and replied,

“‘She’s little, with rosy-posy dress, an’ long curly hair, all white, an’ an awfuu hole in her breast—oh, awfuu! ‘ and she shook her head commiseratingly.

“I was horrified, but the child did not appear to be frightened. I lay down on the bed till she was asleep, and woke up very cold, to see what looked like a small woman in a long curled eighteenth century head-dress, just fading away from the rail of the child’s cot.

“I was so terrified by this, that I sent Jan to her grandmother, and did not have her again till we were in our present residence. We left that house three months before our lease terminated.”

“Some More French Ghost Stories,” Phil Campbell, The Occult Review April 1919

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: But why was a lady of the Ancien Régime haunting a house built c. 1885? Those expert in the study of the paranormal might say that perhaps there had been an earlier building on the site to which the ghost belonged.  The prettily-dressed ghost—a victim of the Terror?—may have been perfectly harmless, but one shudders to think of that awful hole in a ghostly bosom. It is all too reminiscent of that grewsome story, “Lost Hearts,” by M.R. James.

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.


“A pen’orth of soda and a bit of soap”: London’s Municipal Washhouses: 1899

Mangling Room, Hornsey Road Laundry (London). Charge for use ofthe laundry, first hour, 2c.; second hour. 3c.: each succeeding hour, 4c. 30,420women used the laundry for the year ending March 3lst. 1896.

Mangling Room, Hornsey Road Laundry (London). Charge for use ofthe laundry, first hour, 2c.; second hour. 3c.: each succeeding hour, 4c. 30,420women used the laundry for the year ending March 3lst. 1896.


A Remarkable Charity Maintained in the Slums of the Big City


Hundreds of Thousands of Poor People Benefited

An Idea Born of the Cholera Epidemic

Cost of a Washing.

 LONDON, Sept. 8. I had often heard of the great municipal washhouses of London and what blessings they have proved to the overwhelming slum element of the grimy east end of the biggest city in the world. With the true spirit of the American abroad, I resolved to ask no questions, but, on the contrary, arrayed myself in an old dress, did up a  bundle of clothes, and after the manner of a bona fide London “missus,” I too disappeared into the washhouse.

Passing a turnstile, which registered what number of washer I was, I found myself at the “box office.” Here a slip of paper was given me stamped with the time of my entrance.  I also bought with my best cockney accent “a pen’orth of soda and a bit of soap,” for added to the horror of London’s filth is the hardness of the water, which renders it useless without a liberal supply of softening. Then I entered a large room clouded with steam and reeking with the concentrated odor of innumerable wash days. An attendant took my time slip, and discerning that my old clothes were a degree less dilapidated than is usual followed me to the cloak room with warnings in all keys:

“That’s a good jacket, don’t leave it here. They’ll steal it , mum,” pointing out to the washers. “They’ll tyke everything you ‘ave , the flowers out of your ‘at, heven your ‘at pins, you’ll tyke ’em all with you, if you tyke my hadvlce.”

A Good-Natured Neighbor.

I was then assigned a section in a long row of washers and found myself in possession of a large zinc tub separated from my neighbor’s by a half partition. It was divided crosswise into two, and there were many faucets and discharge pipes, the working  of which I did not understand. I accordingly turned to my neighbor for informatlon. Although time meant very precious pennies to her, she willingly stopped to help me, and did so from time to time, as it was necessary. This illustrates the good nature characteristic of the London common people, and I could not help contrasting it with an experience in the same position in a Paris wash house. The response given when information was asked was “Go back to Germany and find out.” Thus I discovered that the front tub is for washing , the back for rinsing, and when these processes are over by an ingenious device steam may be introduced through a perforated pipe and the clothes boiled. I then repaired to the steam wringers. Here the women stood with arms akimbo waiting their turn and gossiping meanwhile , their garrulous voices rising above the din of wringers and running water: “I sy, Dolly , I’m In love,” or “Dysie, think of a lydy’s keeping a byby out till yght o’clock at night!”

Rags and Jags.

What queer figures they were! I could not help thinking ot the old nursery rhyme:

“The beggars have come to town

Some in rags and some in jags,

And some in velvet gowns. ”

On a shelf was a hat covered with roses and ostrich plumes getting limp in the clouds of steam and near me a woman was wearing a dirty velvet waist with one sleeve dangling, ripped from wrist to shoulder. Here again came a contrast between the English and French working woman. French workers in the same posltlon would be dressed in neat black skirts with clean bodices of blue jean or print; when they went away the washing would be wrapped In a black bundle handkerchief, a black crochetted cape thrown over the shoulders, the hair brushed to almost Japanese gloss and no hat at all. English women, on the contrary, those I saw around me, wear clothes trimmed with silk and velveteen, dirty and slouchy, the skirts almost invariably dragging on the ground, and the poorer the woman the more pretentious the hat with its elaborate architecture of feathers and flowers. In summer, instead of folding away the winter cloak , they wear it through the hottest weather, principally as a screen to hide the rags beneath. A French friend seeing for the first time a crowd of girls pouring out of a London factory took them to be beggars, but her surprise reached the maximum when she saw the charwoman on her knees on the front walk “clay-pipeing” the steps in a black dress whitened with dust and a white apron blackened with dirt, her slovenly figure surmounted by a bonnet trimmed with velvet.

In laundry work, as well, I could not but remark the inferiority of the English woman, whose pathetic bundles of filthy rags emerged from the wash in about the state where a French woman would plunge them Into the tub. In three minutes my clothes were wrung and I pulled out the wooden horse which had been placarded with my name, and, hanging the clothes around the ribs, I pushed it back into the hot-air chamber.

Here again a disinterested “party” warned me to keep a sharp lookout lest “they” steal all my wash. In twenty minutes they were dry, and I carried the fresh crisp bundle, missing, however, the sweet odor of linen dried in a country garden, into the mangling room. This was a large light room, as clean as a new pin, where several women were rolling towels and sheets in the great steam mangles, and adjoining I found the ironing room. This was small, with all the necessary appliances, such as hot irons and blankets. Only one woman was here, a professional laundress, who told me that the day before she had washed and ironed ten dozen clothes in eight hours.

At the exit my ticket was again stamped with the hour. The entire expense for the three hours I had been there was 10 cents. The average rate is 6 cents the first two hours, and 4 cents every hour after.

Started by a Liverpool Woman.

The very poor live not in flats which are a luxury for the rich , but in rooms of old houses abandoned by the middle class which have no conveniences, and to them especially these wash-houses are a boon. In the year 1897-98 they wore used by over 400,000 washers. They are entirely municipal, being under the control of the local vestries, who have invested over $3,000,000 in them.

The idea originated with a woman, Catherine Wilkinson, the wife of a laborer living in the crowded part of Liverpool. During a cholera epidemic she allowed her neighbors who had no means of heating large quantities of water to wash their clothes on her premises. The ladies of the District Provident, realizing the great benefit of this privilege to the poor, hired additional rooms, enabling Mrs. Wilkinson to provide for eighty-five families a week. Seeing the eagerness of the poor to avail themselves of these meager accommodations the corporation of Liverpool determined to erect, at the public expense, wash-houses in connection with the baths for the people. Their venture, opened in 1842, was the first establishment in England. They are now to be found in all the principal towns.

As far as I can learn there is only one municipal public laundry in the United States, that is in St. Paul, and for the use of men. It is a question for American women to consider whether in the crowded slums of our great cities such establishments might not prove a wise provision for the poor.

 The Omaha Daily Bee 14 September 1899: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One wonders if the discouragingly ill-cleansed clothes were the result of a lack of a pen’orth to purchase washing-soda. Hard water renders any laundry day more difficult.  Equally, Mrs Daffodil feels that the investigative authoress was unkind in her comparison of French vs. English work-a-day fashion choices. The used clothing trade was brisk in England, but, other than the “slops” for sailors, working-class clothing was worn literally to rags and rarely survived to be resold. Possibly the only items on offer (or available to steal from the washhouse cloak-room) were dresses trimmed with satin and velveteen: the cast-offs of the upper classes, as well as those spectacular hats, which were a kind of badge of honour for the working-class female.  And what profiteth a neat jean bodice if it be not accompanied by the good nature characteristic of the London common people?

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.