Jewel Thieves in the Big Stores: 1895

JEWELRY THIEVES.

SCHEMES EMPLOYED FOR BEATING THE BIG STORES.

Women Are as Bad as Men, Though They Don’t Put Up Such Large Jobs– The Diamond Customer Who Rode In a Private Carriage and Was an Elegant Man.

“All through December we employ detectives,” said the manager of one of the largest jewelry stores in Broadway. “One of these detectives stands by the door. There is always something about his dress and general demeanor which tells his calling, so the professional shoplifters give us a wide berth. Amateurs there are who try to get away with goods, but usually they are easily scared and replace the missing articles at once when they are made aware that their movements have been watched. When a piece of jewelry is missed under circumstances which indicate that it has been stolen, a detective saunters up to the customer suspected and pretends to search for the missing ring or chain or bracelet, whatever it may be. ‘It was here a moment ago, madam,’ he says. ‘It must have caught in your dress or in the lace on your sleeve. Please look and see.’ Then he moves away, and, as a rule, the woman produces the piece of jewelry, expressing surprise that it should have been found about her. Occasionally, however, the suspected person denies all knowledge as to the whereabouts of the lost article. In this case, if the facts warrant it, a bill for the full value of the jewel is  presented to her, and the choice of paying the bill or producing the stolon goods is offered.

“Lots of small things are stolen in the holiday season,” continued the manager. “These are hatpins and other little trinkets, worth a dollar or two, sometimes only 50 cents They are too insignificant for us to bother about. Were we to raise an alarm or say much about such petty thefts it would probably cause us to lose the sale of goods worth hundreds of dollars. ‘I had such a fright at such and such a store the other day,’ one woman would say to another. ‘They accused such a nice looking lady of stealing, and I believe she was perfectly innocent,’ and neither of those women would come into the store again. When the detective sees these hatpin and scarfpin lunatics, he intimates to them in a quiet way that the house does not want their custom, and they take the hint and depart. No attempt is ever made to recover the small articles.”

“The sharpers who play for big stakes resort to all sorts of ingenious devices to get possession of the goods.” said the manager of another large business house. One evening a gentleman of fine appearance entered the store. He had driven up in a private carriage, with a coachman in livery. He looked at diamond necklaces and earrings, examined them closely, called for a magnifying glass to look at the stones and was very particular as to his selection. Finally he picked out the particular diamonds he wanted and ordered them sent to his hotel, where he would give a check for them. He was an elegant looking man of fine address and bearing, but the fact that he gave us no references, made so few inquiries about the stones he bought and so quickly made a selection in a matter that most men would take a day or two to deliberate about made me suspicious. I determined to take those diamonds myself to the hotel. The gentleman received me in a sumptuously furnished apartment, and his manner was courtesy itself as he asked me to be seated

“’My wife is in the next room,’ he said, ‘I want to give her a little surprise Excuse me while I take the diamonds into her. I’ll only keep you waiting a few minutes.’

“‘My instructions are that the diamonds are not to go out of my hands until they are paid for,’ I replied.

“‘Oh! Very well, then,’ he said carelessly. ‘I’ll put them in that drawer there, lock the drawer and give you the key while I go into the other room for the check.’

“‘I cannot let the diamonds go out of my hands,’ I replied again. He looked somewhat disconcerted at this, and then his manner changed abruptly, and all his suavity deserted him.

“‘I’ll lock them In that drawer and give you the key, whether you like it or not,’ he said angrily. ‘I am accustomed to having my own way.’

I had a loaded pistol with me, and in a second I had it leveled at him, warning him that any more talk like that or any attempt to touch the diamonds would fix him so that he wouldn’t ever see his wife again.

“‘You’ve got a thief in room No. so and so,’ I said to the hotel clerk a few minutes later, and I related what had occurred. He was slow to believe me, because the man had given them a big draft on a Denver house, and they had let him have $600 or $700 on it. I went with him up to the room, and even in that brief time the rascal had disappeared. It turned out that he had no wife with him at all. I examined the bureau in which he was so anxious that I should deposit the diamonds and found that he had made a hole in the wall against which the bureau stood and a corresponding hole in the back of the drawer. As the bureau was placed against the wall which separated the two rooms he occupied, it would have been easy for him to get the diamonds into the other room while I held the key to the drawer in my hand. The full value of the diamonds he had selected was nearly $8,000.”

“We were unwittingly the participators in a peculiar transaction just a few weeks ago,” the manager continued. “A man selected jewelry to the amount of $150 and gave us a certificate of deposit on a certain bank in payment. The money was in reality deposited in that bank, but the man who bought the jewelry had forged some one else’s name on the certificate. His method of procedure was unique. He advertised for a young man to do his collecting. He informed the young fellow who answered the advertisement that he must deposit $150 in the bank as security, and give him the certificate of deposit. ‘You won’t lose the money,’ he told the young man. ‘It will be right there in the bank for you unless you do something crooked. I only require this of you to protect myself.’ He then forged the young fellow’s name, got the jewelry with that certificate.

AND THEN SKIPPED.”

“Women who have things sent C.O.D. and then try to outwit the messenger are among the swindlers we have to look out for,” the superintendent of another jewelry house told the reporter. “Women travel all about and are constantly meeting other women on cars and steamboats to whom they take a fancy and with whom they strike up an acquaintance and exchange  cards. For convenience we will say that Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jones met in this way. Mrs. Jones has a handsome home. Mrs. Jones arranges to call on Mrs. Brown at a stated hour on a certain day. Mrs. Jones selects some particularly choice piece of jewelry at our store, something with rubies or diamonds in it (rubies, you know are worth just what you choose to ask for them now, they are so scarce.) She tells us to send the package C.O.D. to Mrs. Brown’s address, on such and such a street. She orders it sent within an hour or so; and she will have a check made out.

“Mrs. Brown being well known, it seems likely that her guests would buy such things. Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jones sit chatting in the parlor. Mrs. Jones is notified that a boy wishes to see her, and the boy is invited into another apartment where the business may be transacted. Mrs. Jones takes the package, asks the boy to wait a moment while she goes into the next room for the money, check, or whatever it is, closes the door of the parlor where the boy sits, and quietly walks out of the street door. The boy, becoming impatient, asks for the lady. Mrs. Brown discovers that her new friend is nowhere to be found. She tells the boy that Mrs. Jones does not live there, but was only calling. The boy in consternation goes back to the store, and Mrs. Jones goes on her way rejoicing and looking out for the next richly dressed, amiable woman she may meet who seems likely to possess a handsome home in a high-priced neighborhood, and who will invite her to call.”

Not long ago, a well-dressed, rather distinguished looking woman of middle age selected some diamonds at a store on Broadway. She had about three pieces of jewelry laid aside, worth in all about $1,500.

“I wish you to send these C.O.D. when I notify you,” she said. “My husband is a very peculiar man. If he happens to be in the right frame of mind he’ll give me anything I ask for, but if he isn’t in a good humor I can do nothing with him. I will notify you just when to send these things and you must send them immediately.”

She said she was the wife of a physician in New York, a man noted for his skillful treatment of insanity and kindred maladies. The firm was tolerably well acquainted with this physician, and when the lady gave notice a clerk was sent up

WITH THE THREE PARCELS.

“Have each parcel settled for first before you hand out the next,” the clerk was instructed; and it was well that this warning was given. When the young man reached the house the lady greeted him kindly, and without asking to look at the diamonds herself went into the next room for her husband. The clerk recognized the doctor at once, having often seen him in the store.

“How do you feel?” asked the doctor.

“Oh, pretty well. I’ve brought up the diamonds,” said the young man, and he handed out the smallest package for the doctor’s inspection.

Instead of opening it, the doctor placed it on the table and invited the young man to come into the next room. The wife had not again appeared, and, thinking the doctor was about to make out the check the clerk followed him into an adjoining apartment. Instead of proceeding to business, the doctor asked the young man again how he was, saying that he didn’t look very well.

“I’m much obliged, doctor, for your interest,” said the clerk, “but I’m in a great hurry to get back to the store, and I wish you would make out the check and see if these other diamonds suit you.

“Take your time, take things easy,” said the doctor. “I’ll fix that all right presently. Don’t you ever have any pains in your head about here?” and the physician began to feel about the young man’s temples and seemed to have forgotten altogether about the errand that brought him there.

“I never felt better in my life, doctor,” declared the clerk, “and you really ought not to fool away my time this way. I’ve got to get back to the store. Are you going to take the diamonds or not?”
“Never mind about the diamonds,” said the doctor, soothingly; “they’ll be all right. Do you have any pain or dullness in the back of your head?”

“No,” said the young man impatiently, thinking that the doctor must be a little unbalanced in his mind. “I never have any pain anywhere. Are you going to buy the diamonds or not? I can’t stay here any longer,” and he rose to leave the room.

“Tell me,” said the physician, “what store you are talking about? Have you any credentials to prove whom you are working for?”

THE YOUNG MAN,

Completely bewildered, took letters out of his pockets to prove his identity, and then remembered the package of jewelry on the table in the other room.
“The diamonds you wife ordered!” he gasped.

“My wife!” exclaimed the physician in amazement. “I am not a married man. Where is your mother?” the doctor continued, as they returned to the parlor.

“My mother is in Philadelphia,” replied the clerk. “Do you know my mother?”

“My God!” exclaimed the older man, “we’ve both been fooled. I thought that woman was your mother. She came here yesterday and told me she had a son who was fast getting insane; that one of his hallucinations was that he was selling diamonds. She seemed greatly distressed and begged that I should do all that I could for you. She said that no one would take you to be demented at first glance.

The woman had made off with the package on the table, and but for the clerk’s precautions would have got the whole $1,500 worth of jewelry.

One evening when the detective, who stood near the door of a store, had gone to dinner, a young man, not more than 23 or 24 years old, entered a jewelry store and asked for diamond rings. He seemed to admire them greatly, and as he picked them up one by one he slipped them on his finger. He had seven valuable rings on when, like a flash, he bolted for the door. He nearly knocked down a customer who was just coming in and jolted against several people who ere all too much astonished to stop him. Two of the clerks ran after him. It was holiday time, the streets were crowded, and he did not get very far before he was captured. There was not a single ring on his finger, but after searching in his pockets the policeman thought to turn his umbrella upside down and out rolled the rings.

“Ain’t they beauties?” the thief remarked as they fell on the pavement. A plea of insanity was urged for this wholesale robber and so many warm friends came to plead for him that the firm did not prosecute him. Another night a young man selected a handsome ring in the same store. Just as he had picked it out the door was suddenly thrown open, and someone screamed as if the building was on fire. The ruse was successful. In the moment that the clerk who was waiting on the young man locked away toward the door the customer bolted and was never seen again, the crowd that had collected favoring his escape with his valuable prize.

The Enquirer [Cincinnati OH] 26 January 1895: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is always intrigued by the ruses adopted by thieves and confidence-tricksters.

She will add one more trick to the choice selection above.

Paris jewelers have been duped by thieves who kept watch on the windows of the chief stores and made paste gems to imitate those displayed. Then on a given day members of the gang visited the different stores, made small purchases, looked at the jewelry displayed in the windows, but declined to buy on account of the high price. The jewelry they looked at, however, went with them and the jeweler calmly restored the substituted bogus gems to his window, all unconscious of the deception.

The Macon [MS] Beacon 16 August 1890: 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 anecdote

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.

Gerty’s Elopement: 1889

GERTY’S ELOPEMENT

“I understand, then, you mean an elopement? Oh, surely, surely, Gerty, you never can be in earnest?”
Gerty Fane sat on a fallen log. whose mossy cylinder was half hidden in tall, plumy ferns, and where the trembling July sunbeams rained down through soft summer foliage like a cascade of gold. An artist would have painted her as a wood nymph. with her hair of braided sunshine, her deep, limpid eyes, and the peach-like bloom upon her perfect cheeks.
And yet this dew-eyed beauty was neither more or less than a factory girl, who worked a machine in the big shop whose gray stone chimneys rose out of the hollow below, at a dollar a day; a girl who had grown up on a diet of yellow-covered novels, and dreamed of knights and ladies and perilous adventures.
“Yes,” said Gerty, lifting her dew-blue eyes, “an elopement. Isn’t it romantic? And isn’t he handsome?”
Sarah Willis looked sadly down into the eyes that were so like blue flowers
“Gerty,” said she, “I beseech of you to think twice about this business. Have you forgotten Francis Tryon?”
“Francis Tryon! Only a cutter in the shop!”
“An honest, honorable man,” said Sarah, impressively.
“Why don’t you take him yourself, since he is such a paragon?” retorted Gerty, saucily.
“Because he loves no one but you.”
“Then he may leave off loving me at his leisure,” said Gerty. “I don’t care a fig for him, and never shall. I am going to marry Mr. Montressor; and I never would have told you of the elopement if I had supposed you were going to be so ill natured about it. My father is as unjustly prejudiced against him as you are, and so I am driven to it.”
And Gerty Fane tried to vail her exaltation beneath a tone of injury as she rose up and began to make her way through the tall ferns. Sarah looked wistfully after her.
“A spoiled, harmless little beauty!” she said to herself. “But Mr. Tryon was kind to me when I came here friendless and alone; and Mr. Tryon loves her; for his sake I will not stand quietly by and see her rush on to ruin.”
“You see,” Gerty Fane had told her, confidentially, “I am to go to the shop on Wednesday, just as usual, so that my father will not suspect anything, and then I am to feign a headache, just at train time, and leave work, step quietly on board the train, and go to Pittsburg; there I stop at the Hapgood house. He comes there the next day, and we’re married; and then we shall go to Saratoga, or Newport, or Long Branch, or some of those aristocratic places; and won’t it be charming?”
But Sarah Willis shook her head dubiously.
“I don’t like Mr. Montressor’s looks,” said she.
“He’s just exactly like that picture, ‘Lord Byron,” in the ‘Poets of England,'” retorted Gerty, triumphantly.
“He is only a traveling salesman.”
“But he’s to be a partner in the firm in the fall. He told me so himself, and he showed me the photograph of his employer’s daughter, who is madly in love with him.”
“Why don’t he marry her, then?”
And now Gerty dimpled into radiant consciousness. “I suppose because he likes me best.” said she.
“Oh, Gerty! and you believe all this farrago?” sighed Sarah, despairingly.
“You’re only jealous because you haven’t such a lover yourself,” retorted Gerty, frowning under her curls like a lovely, willful child. And then Sarah Willis abandoned the task of remonstrance. But for all that, the thought of Frank Tryon’s heart-break lay sore and heavy at her inmost soul.
“She may go to ruin her own way,” thought Sarah; “but she shall not drag him down with her. Montressor–Montressor I know I have heard the name somewhere–it carries a disagreeable remembrance with it. I remember now! It was a Mr. Montressor that boarded so long with Aunt Polly Sharker, and then went away without settling his score. George Gordon Montressor! that was the name! I’ll go see Aunt Polly this very night. I can easily get there on the train by 9 o’clock, and back again in time for work tomorrow morning. And if there is anything to be found out, I’ll find it! Francis Tryon was good to me once, and I shall never forget it.”
***
“Can I speak to you tonight, Gerty?”
Gerty Fane was hurrying away from the great workroom where the buzz of wheels was gradually decreasing, and the girls were beginning to look for their hats and shawls, when Francis Tryon advanced toward her.
“No!” she retorted, petulantly. “I’m in a hurry!”
“Then I will walk along toward home with you.”
“I’d rather go alone!”
He cast one sad, reproachful glance toward her and stepped back. “Gerty—” began he.
“I’m not Gerty, I’m Miss Fane.” said the girl, half defiant, half frightened. “And I’ll trouble you to keep your distance.”
And away she flew like an arrow out of a bow. She was just in time for the train that paused a minute at the solitary little depot in the woods, and, leaning back in the seat, reflected joyfully that she was already beginning the elopement.
Pretty, blossom-like little fool! How little had she calculated the end of her rash experiment! And yet to her it seemed that she was beginning to live romance.
It was toward 10 o’clock at night when the train stopped at Pittsburg. The Hapgood house was nearly opposite the terminus, a comfortable, old-fashioned wooden structure, its windows gleaming with lights, like the shine of friendly eyes; and thither Gerty bent her footsteps.

“Oh!” said the plump, motherly landlady, “it’s the young lady from Wardham village as a room was engaged for by Mr. Montressor. Number 16. Yes, it’s all right, Miss. Please to walk up. The lady’s there, waiting for you!”
“The lady?”
“Mrs. Montressor, you know,” said the landlady. “And a fine, handsome person she is, only a trifle stout, as we all is, when we gets toward 40 odd.”
Gerty stood as still and white as if she was turned to stone.
“His mother, I suppose,” she told herself, regaining courage. “How kind of him to send her here, to welcome me!”
At the same moment the landlady flung open the door of number 16, a small cozy room, with a bright lamp burning on the table.
“It’s the young lady, mem!” said she, dipping a courtesy.
And a fat woman, gayly dressed in cotton velvet and imitation lace, waddled forward.
“Oh!” said she, “good evening, my dear. So you’re the gal that’s goin’ to marry my husband?”
“Your husband?” echoed Gerty.
“Don’t be alarmed,” said the fat woman, busying herself with the strings of Gerty’s hat. “We was divorced eight years ago. He couldn’t support me, and I wasn’t goin’ to support him. He’s had two wives since. But don’t worry. He’s got bills from both of ’em. One of ’em drank, and t’ other one said he drank. I guess they was both true! And now he’s shined up to you! Well. I guess you’ll get enough of him: a great lazy, drinkin’ vagabond, as was raised in Pork Hill workhouse, and served two terms in the penitentiary for forgin’ Lawyer Odderley’s name to a check for $50.”
Gerty stood pale and shocked.
“It is false!” gasped she. “You are inventing these lies to estrange me from him.”
“Bless your heart, my dear, no I ain’t,” said the fat woman, with a comfortable, chuckling laugh. “What should I gain by estrangin’ you from him? I don’t care. I’ve my marriage lines to show, and my papers of divorce, and Gordy’s welcome to marry as many new wives as Bluebeard, for all I care.”
Gerty turned to the landlady.
“How early does the first train for Wardham start in the morning,” said she.
“At 4 o’clock,” said the landlady. The railroad hands go down on it.” “So will I.” said Gerty. “And how about the gentleman as engaged the rooms?” questioned Mrs. Hapgood.
“I’ll never speak to him again!” said Gerty, with spirit.

She was at her machine the next morning, as usual, and when Frank Tryon came past she looked up shyly into his face.
“Please, Mr. Tryon,” she said, “won’t you forgive me for being so cross with you last night? I–I am very sorry. And if you can walk home with me tonight–”
That was enough for Mr. Tryon. They were engaged before the moon was an hour high that night!
For Gerty’s fancy could not endure the idea of being fourth or fifth wife to a man who had once graced the penitentiary, and Mr. Montressor never beheld his pretty fiancee again.
And Sarah Willis kept the secret of her elopement well.
The Shippensburg [PA] Chronicle 12 September 1889: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A spoilt little beauty she may be, but Gerty is far from harmless. Her engagement to Mr Tryon is one best characterised as “rebound.” Mrs Daffodil wonders if there had not been quite so many Mrs Montressors–if she had been, say, only the second wife–if she would have gone through with the elopement. One fears that Gerty will continue to sigh over yellow-covered novels and long for perilous adventures. Sooner than later she will tire of the faithful Mr Tryon for whom she does not care a fig and run off with some plausible, Byronesque drummer with a wife and five children back in Buffalo. If there was any justice in this world, Mr Tryon, hurt by Gerty’s refusal, would have walked home with Sarah Willis and immediately awakened to her kindliness and goodness, recognising that Gerty’s dew-blue eyes and hair of braided sunshine concealed a cankered heart. One does not like to dwell on the sequel to this “happy ending.”

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.

Smart Uniforms for Domestic Service: 1919

An engaging figure is the little parlor maid in her trim frock, demure collar and dainty cap and apron.

SMART UNIFORMS

for Domestic Service

The well trained maid who commands good wages expects to wear a uniform; there is no question about a cap, or a certain kind of collar or gown. She will wear what her new mistress requires in the way of service clothes and, of course, she expects her new mistress to pay for the same. A house maid or a waitress used to be expected to come to a new place equipped with at least one decent black frock “for afternoons,” and a certain number of fresh white aprons as well as gingham kitchen or “working aprons.” Now, however, all aprons are “found” by the employer, even the checked gingham kitchen aprons: and a new house maid may not even possess the one decent black gown. Unless it is provided for her, she is likely to wait on the dinner table in a V necked Georgette blouse and hobble skirt, or a garnet cashmere frock trimmed with red bugles. Fortunately these service clothes do not cost a great deal of money if one’s ideas are simple and not too individual. A plain, correctly cut black afternoon dress of sateen may be had for about three dollars; one of cotton mohair will cost five dollars or over. Such a dress, for the maid of all work’s afternoon hours, will have a straight, slightly gathered skirt and a buttoned-in-front bodice with long sleeves. The bodice may have a neck band for the attachment of linen collars, or it may be cut out slightly at the throat for wear with a turned down lawn collar. Smart looking parlor maids and waitresses in fashionable houses wear turned down collars opening in a cool, shallow V very often, and the style is more becoming and artistic than the stiff collar coming high at the throat–and vastly more comfortable for the maid! Sleeves, however, are always long and rather close-fitting. Never, on any account. will the waitress or parlor maid be permitted bare forearms–except during those morning hours of strenuous housework when a print frock is worn. Even then, the sleeves will be long, with a buttoned cuff so that the turned-back sleeves may be rolled down instantly and neatly buttoned if there is a call to the front door.

Aprons come singly or in sets, with cuffs and collar to match. The smaller the apron, the more coquettish the uniform; and all aprons for housemaids, parlor maids and waitresses are now rather small. The huge white apron covering the skirt is quite extinct for household domestics, except for the nurse who wears it occasionally in the nursery. A conventional type of apron for the maid-of-all-work in the afternoon, or for the parlor maid and waitress, is pictured. Strips of embroidery that form shoulder straps give a dainty trimming touch and a bit of the embroidery crosses the little bib of the apron. Collar and cuffs are of hemstitched linen or of cotton lawn made crisp and stiff with boiled starch. The linen accessories are much the best however; they are more easily and quickly laundered without starch and they have a glistening, spic-span look when adjusted. They also wear much better, under the frequent launderings necessary, than cheaper cotton lawn sets. The maid in the picture wears a very neat frock of black alpaca, and surely no maid could object to such a becoming cap of frilled net with black bows! It is never wise to insist upon a cap until you have “sounded” the new maid’s sentiments on this point. Good maids are hard to get these days and the cap question may arouse an antagonism that will make the first week hard for employer and domestic. Usually it is best to approach the cap question diplomatically. Provide the prettiest little cap you can find and let Abagail try it on in her own sanctum and note the becoming effect before any words are spoken.

Footwear is a more important question than that of caps anyway. One has seen many a maid prinked out in ribbon-trimmed cap and coquettish apron–with run-over, bulging shoes or shabby slippers. The maid should not be allowed to “wear out her old street boots around the house;” a constant practice with Abagails of the inefficient type. Service shoes should be insisted upon by the mistress–neat, low-heeled, quiet-soled boots or slippers of soft leather, and in perfect condition. Black slippers with white stockings are worn now with black frocks and white aprons by maids in many exclusive homes. Where expense is no object the maids are dressed in fetching uniforms of special type, the gowns of some unusual shade, like pearl gray, wine color, coffee brown or gray-blue. Aprons, cuffs and collar are of fine handkerchief linen, daintily scalloped, and the aprons are diminutive affairs with crisp ties. For special occasions there are aprons and collar sets of starched white net, scalloped or hemstitched. The maid in the picture has a skirt exactly the right length: short enough to be out of the way and permit quick stepping about, yet not short enough to suggest coquetry.

The Burlington [VT] Free Press 5 July 1919: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The question of the servant’s cap–regarded as the badge of servitude–was a fraught one, as we see from this British court case:

SHOULD MAIDS WEAR CAPS?

A Question Now Exercising Social Circles In .England.

From the Now York Sun.

In the dearth of stirring public topics which has followed the adjournment of Parliament, London newspapers are earnestly discussing the question whether maid servants ought to wear caps. As might, have been expected, the Tory and Liberal Unionist organs maintain the affirmative with energy, white, with one exception, the representatives of Radical opinion seem inclined to favor the revolt against what they term a badge of servitude. The controversy is not without interest to some American households in which cap wearing is Imposed upon female servants with Anglomaniac rigor.

The incident which gave rise to the agitation of this question was the following: One Mary Chappell was engaged by a Mr. Kennedy in the capacity of house or parlor maid at a stipend of $4 a week. At the end of nine days the damsel, in her own words, “emphatically refused” to wear a cap and was summarily dismissed. She sued Mr. Kennedy in a County Court for her wages and he pleaded that she had broken her contract by disobeying lawful orders. The Judge overruled the plea and held that, in the absence of any express stipulation with regard to wearing a cap, the order was not lawful and judgment must accordingly be given for the plaintiff with costs. Commenting on this decision the London Standard, giving voice to the convictions and feelings of aristocratic employers, denounces the housemaid litigant as a snob.

It is urged by some Tory organs that the defendant. In this notable case of Chappell vs. Kennedy should appeal from the judgment of the Magistrate and carry the matter, if necessary, through successive tribunals to the House of Lords.

Already, it seems, a groom, emulous of Mary Chappell’s notoriety, has firmly declined to shave off his moustache. [Grooms were traditionally clean-shaven.] The Standard in its pessimistic forecast looks forward to the time when even top boots, or a swallow-tailed coat, may be regarded as the livery of shame. Reasoning solemnly and even tearfully upon the subject, it assures servants that no sensible man objects to adopting the distinctive garb of his occupation. It points out that officers wear their uniform while they are about their work; so do barristers and professors and tutors In universities and the great public schools. To these alleged analogies, however, the maid servants turn a deaf ear.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 21 August 1891: p. 5

It was also axiomatic that servant girls would borrow their mistresses’ clothes. And who could blame them? No matter how smart the uniform or coquettish the cap, to attract the attention of the local policeman or greengrocer, one needed a more sophisticated wardrobe than that provided by one’s mistress or by her paltry wages.

Employment Agent: “Those are fine recommendations that gurl has, mum. Shall I send for her to come and talk with you?”

Mrs. Bronston. “Is she tall or short?’

“Rather tall, mum; but—”

“Is she fat or thin?”

“Rather stout, mum, a good strong—”

“Is she stouter than I am?”

“Oh, yes, mum, a good deal.”

“She won’t do. She’d split the seams of every dress I have.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 9 August 1891: p. 9

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 anecdote

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.

He Didn’t Like the Tea: 1897

French porcelain tea caddy The Philadelphia Museum of Art


DIDN’T LIKE THE TEA.

But His Scheme to Have It Better Was A Dismal Failure.

A certain suburban gentleman, who somewhat of a gourmet, discovered one day that his wife was giving him tea at 1s. 4d. to drink. Although he had never made any complaints about the quality of the tea, no sooner did he discover the price than he detected all sorts of shortcomings in the article supplied, and when he went down to business that morning he dropped into a tea store and bought a pound of orange pekoe at 3s. 6d. This he carried home in the night, and taking the opportunity of the kitchen being empty he hunted round till he found the tea caddy, which was nearly full. The contents of this he threw away and replaced it out of his own package. It had not been his intention to say anything about the substitution, but next morning he could not help referring to the improved quantity of the beverage

“This is something like tea this morning,” he said. “Don’t you notice the difference?”

“No, I don’t,” said his wife. “It tastes to me exactly like the tea we have been drinking for the last month, and so it should, for it is the same tea.” The husband laughed.

“That’s just like a woman,” he said. “You never know what is good and what isn’t unless we tell you. Now, I could have told you with my eyes shut that this tea is better than what we hove been drinking.”

“It is a pity you haven’t been drinking with your eyes shut all along,” retorted the lady. “Anyway it is the same tea.”

“Now I’ll just prove to you,” said her husband, “how defective a woman’s sense of taste is. Yesterday I bought a pound of 3s.6d. tea, threw out what was in the caddy and put mine in its place. And to think that you never noticed the difference!”

“Which cuddy did you empty?”

“One on the upper shelf of the pantry,” was the reply.

“I thought so,” said the lady quietly. “That was some special tea I keep for special occasions. The caddy with the cheap tea is in the cupboard in the kitchen, and this,” she added, with an exasperating smile, as she lifted the teapot, “was out of the selfsame caddy as it has been every morning. What a blessing it must be to you to possess such a cultivated taste! I have heard that tea tasters get very high salaries. Now, why don’t you”—

But he cut her remarks short by leaving the room.

The Bucks County Gazette [Bristol PA] 11 November 1897: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The gentleman who is convinced that he can cook better than his wife or other trained professional, was a familiar figure of fun in the 19th-century. Strangely, such gentlemen always get their comeuppance…

We have seen examples in Mr Greenleaf’s New Cook, How Mother Did It, and The Bullfrog Dinner.

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 anecdote

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 Man Milliners of Paris: 1892

Two Worth ball gowns, c. 1892 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Collection.

AN ART OF FRANCE.

THE MARVELOUS CREATIONS OF PARIS’ MAN MILLINERS. What Happens to the Customer Who Seeks Fashion in the Shops of the  Dressmakers

Composing a Costume

The Models and Their Duties

Passing an Inspection

The Visit of the Autocrat

How Even the Bravest of Society Fares In the Realm of Style.

There is no outside show nor elegantly-dressed window at the Paris dressmaker’s. The great dressmaker or couturier is not a simple tradesman but an artist. His studios–for he is a man!–generally occupy two or three flats in one of those plain-fronted Restoration houses which line the Rue de la Paix, the Rue Taitbout, or the Rue Louis Legrand. Entering by a large porte-cochére as broad as it is high, you mount a carpeted staircase with walls of simili marble, or simply painted yellow. Through the open doors you see here the packing-room, there workrooms, with squadrons of girls sewing and handling piles of silk on long tables under the superintendence of a lean and severe-looking woman in black. The first reception-room is somber; the walls are hung with tapestry representing landscapes in Normandy and Brittany; the folding doors are painted black; on the chimney-piece are huge bronze-zinc candelabra and a clock surrounded by a nickel-plated Diana; the carpet is dingy and worn. To the left, seated at a desk, is a blonde and effeminate bookkeeper. Moving around the tables charged with piles of stuffs are one or two salesmen–M. Cyprien or M. Alexandre. The head salesman, an elegant person, dressed in black silk in the summer and black satin in the winter, receives the visitors and puts them in communication with the great couturier himself, or with one of his leading women assistants, termed premiéres.

The couturier is a curious creature, a great artist. Pompadour had her tailor Supplis, who is said to have been a designer of genius; the eighteenth century had Mme. Cafaxe, the famous modiste-couturiere, whose bills were as enormous as those of her successors at the present day; but the conditions of feminine elegance have changed since then. The grandmothers were content with spring, summer, autumn, and winter toilets, with a stock of gowns, mantles, and headdresses of a material appropriate to each season. Worth, Pingat, and Aurelly, the three great couturiers who directed feminine elegance under the empire into the paths of art and taste, introduced the “costume” element into dress: and now, instead of dressing his customers four times a year, the modern couturier dresses them ten, fifteen, and twenty times a year. A woman nowadays orders a dress for this ball, another for another ball; she wants a costume for the Grand Prix race-day; a gown for a certain garden party; a special costume for a yachting excursion; a dozen costumes for the seaside, etc. The dressmaker collects the engravings of Eisen, Debucourt, and Moreau; he advances money to mount looms at Lyons to create new stuffs; he keeps an army of brodeuses (embroidery women) at work to make unique trimmings; he examines and confesses his customers, studies them morally and physically, and invents becoming and original toilettes by the hundred. Thanks to these great artists (!) marvelous “lampas” have been brought to light. Lyons has made faithful reproductions of the most admirable brocades, of the most sumptuous plushes, and of silks with golden tissues and all that was so exquisitely magnificent in times gone by. Ex-Empress Eugénie used to be one of the greatest “coquettes,” as regards costume, under the second Empire. Princess Mathilde, Princess of Sagan, Princess of Metternich, Countess of Pourtales, and the Marquise of Galiffet were then the leaders of fashion.

The Dressmaker a Confidant.

Thanks to his continuous relations with all these noble women, the dressmaker becomes often the confidant and even the banker of some of his clients. In a word he occupies a novel and peculiar position on the confines of society. Living in an atmosphere of caprice, he is himself capricious; breathing an air impregnated with perfumes, he is often a victim of chronic neuralgia, which increases tenfold the natural irritability of the artistic nature., The couturier reigns over his elegant customers like a tyrant who knows that he is indispensable. And in truth he is the great arbiter of universal elegance, the oracle of the most beautiful women. From Oceanica to Peru, from Suez to Panama, and from Petersburg to the Cape of Good Hope large trunks arrive, carrying to the daughters of Eve the handsomest “chiffons,” prettily ribboned and saturated, as it were, with that exquisite atmosphere of the Rue de la Paix which has become in a certain sense the temple of all luxury, of all delicacy, of all refinement! And how delighted are they, the poor exiled ones, who dwell thousands of miles from the sacred precincts. How they untie each knot of ribbon with infinite precaution, like devotees arranging a relic. Their curious eyes devour the glittering stuffs. Hardly do they dare touch the costume itself, which when lifted from the depths  of the trunk expands its leaves like a flower whose enraptured corolla blooms beneath the gorgeous rays of the sun. Her heart beats; she blushes, for the emotion is sweet–it is coquetry!

House of Worth Paris salon.

It is between 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon. In the reception-room the first woman attendant (Madame la première vendeuse!–such is her official appellation) divides her attention between a dozen women who are looking at the new silks, handling the piles of lace and artificial flowers strewn on the tables, eying curiously half-finished skirts and bodices without sleeves that lie in heaps on the chairs and chattering in strange slang: ” Velvet is again the fashion this winter.” (On est au velours cet hiver!) “Faille is not the mode, I see,” “Surah corkscrews so awfully.” In the adjoining rooms are seen the demoiselles-mannequins, young woman automates, whose business it is to show off in their perfect figure dresses and mantels. With a weary, empty expression the automate walks silently over the thick carpets from room to room and from morning to night, wearing now a court mantle, now the dress of an American millionaire’s wife, now the robe of a queen. Her capital is her figure and her bearing, and her salary is proportioned to her elegance, rising in some cases to $2,000 a year. All languages and all accents are heard, and elegance of all grades meets in the drawing-rooms of a great couturier–the blue-blooded aristocrat, the princesses of the Comédie Francaise Theater, exotic parvenue, and the fashionable demimondaine. Each in turn passes into one of the small trying-on rooms, draped with blue or brown satin, and heated to green-house temperature. The elegant woman, partly undressed, and wearing simply her corset and a short silk dress trimmed with lace, waits in front of the looking-glass. The dress arrives in fragments–a queer mixture of silk, stiff muslin, lining, and loose threads. First comes the corsagère, or woman attendant on the bodice; she takes a regular mold of the torso in coarse canvas, such as the tailors use to pad coats; on this mold the bodice is built, and at the second trying on it is brought all sewn and whaleboned, but only basted below the arms and at the shoulder. Crac! Crac! The corsagère rips and rips away, and then proceeds to pin and lace and make cabalistic signs with a yellow pencil, cutting and slashing here and there with wonderful surety of eye and hand. “Does Madame feel her corset?” she finally asks; and if it is right, Madame replies, satisfied: “Yes ; I’m at home in it!” The Next Step Toward the Finale.  

Next comes the jupière (woman attendant on the skirt). She has charge of the relevés and the details of the train. Then follows the specialist who is charged with what is called the “mounting of the skirt,” and who drapes the skirt on a lining of silk, and crawls on her knees round, and round the woman for half an hour at a time. Dressmaking is perhaps one of the few arts in which the subordinate workers still show a certain amour propre and something of the artist’s ambition. In their light-fingered collaboration with the imagination of the masculine couturier they delight to produce masterpieces, and spare no pains, especially when they have to do with a woman of fine natural figure–“toute faite,” as they say–who has not the artificial dressmaker’s waist.

Meantime the voice of the master is heard as he comes out of one of the trying-on rooms. He is storming at one of the leading women because a “ruche” has been substituted for a flounce, and because a light-colored fur has been put on the mantle of the Countess de Z., a delicate blonde! It is not the creation of models that is difficult; it is to get the models executed. “I am not seconded. The whole mantle will have to be remade. It is enough to drive one crazy! Be good enough to tell M. Cyprien to inquire who is responsible for the error.” And the great artist passes into another room, where several women are waiting in their half-finished dresses for a word of approval from the master, or a touch from his magic hand that will perfect a seam or crumple a mass of tulle into a vision of beauty.

One woman will humbly call the great artist’s attention to a certain fold in her Watteau train. The great artist will shrug his shoulders, and say brusquely, “Madame la Baronne, you look like a broomstick in that robe. Take it off, and come again tomorrow. I will compose something else for you. I am not in the vein today.” He salutes and passes on to another woman. But he cannot digest the patent fact that some one attached to his staff was not aware that “Watteaus” were for blondes who are not too slim and “Violas” (the sober draperies and the rich stuffs of the seventeenth century) were attributed to grave-looking and severe figures and to those that have some majesty about them. As to Madame la Baronne she will take off her robe in disgust and console herself by going to try on her new riding habit in the “Salon des Amazons.” This room is draped in green velvet and adorned with side-saddles, whips, and stirrups; on the table are rolls of dark cloth and silk hats, with green, brown, and blue veils; in the middle is a life-size wooden horse, on which the Baroness mounts to have the folds of her amazon, or riding-habit, arranged. An insipid blonde young man is specially told off to aid the woman mount the dummy steed.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Collection

The final trying-on of the finished costumes is a great day in the life of all modern French élégantes, who often invite their friends to the fête. Then you hear in the vestibule or in reception-room such orders as this: “Show M. X. in for Mme. de F.’s trying-on.” “Show M. de Y. in for Countess M.’s trying-on–“for there are men, and especially painters, who are excellent judges in dressmaking, or “chiffons,” as they call the art. Countess M., aided by one of the young women in black, puts on first the skirts which have been cut and made with as much care and skill as the costume itself, for it is an axiom in modern dressmaking that the underclothing is half the battle. Then, having donned her dress, she appeals triumphant in the drawing-room where her friends are waiting, and in the stuffy little room, the air of which is thick with the perfumes of ylang-ylang, heliotrope, jonquil, poudre de riz, and odor di femina, the chorus of admiration breaks out, and the whole staff of the establishment is admitted to contemplate the masterpiece. The première, the chef des jupes, the chef des corsages, the chef des garnisseuses, etc., each in turn opens the door and with a coaxing intonation of voice asks permission to enter.

It Is a Daily Scene.

And so, day after day during the season, there is a perpetual frou-frou of silk and a chattering of musical voices on the staircase and in the salons, and day after day the effeminate bookkeeper adds to the total of the bills– which will be paid who knows when and who knows how? There are women whose bills amount in a year to as much as $30,000 and $40,000. This is enormous, the philosophic observer may remark to the great artist, who will reply in his most delicate and flute-like voice: “Yes, yes! But only think, I have just terminated an embroidered mantle for Countess K. which costs $6,000.” And hailing one of the automates who chances to be passing by, he says: “Mademoiselle, will you kindly go and fetch the mantle for Countess K. to show to Monsieur. Is it not lovely? Look how it falls!” And the master tumbles to his knees in ecstasy before his last creation.

The type of the great couturier has been put upon the stage in its grotesque aspect by Gondinet in his comedy “Paris,” and by “Gyp” (Madame de Martel) in her Gymnase piece, “Autour du Mariage.” But the purely artistic and the psychological aspect of the artist would repay study, and if there were a Balzac living nowadays it would certainly tempt him. The principal Parisian dressmakers are all uncommon personalities. Their names are Messrs. Worth, Felix, Pingat, Roger, Laferrière (Sarah Bernhardt’s preference), Pasguier, Doucet, Rouff, Morin, and Mme. Rodrigues. They are skillful beyond expression in drapery stuff, harmonizing colors, and creating those marvels of silk, and lace, and tulle, which constitute the inimitable toilettes of the Parisiennes, the model to which the civilized world still looks for its highest inspiration. It has been said, and the statement is not devoid of truth, that the leading lady dressmaker in Paris treats all artists and literary men as her equals. She, one day composed a toilette for Mme. Alexandre Dumas, and in complimenting her upon it, M. Dumas said to her: “Madame, you are the Meissonier of dressmaking.”

Chicago [IL] Tribune 9 April 1892: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One is not quite certain what M. Dumas was intimating. Meissonier was a painter of sieges, military manoeuvres, and Napoleonic battle scenes….

Although unnamed, the “man milliner” is, of course Charles Frederick Worth, the autocrat of the cutting-table. He was born in England, but came to France, drawn by the allure of Paris fashions. Strangely, while he first rose to fame in creating exquisite toilettes for the Empress Eugenie, he was never summoned to Windsor or Buckingham Palace to dress Queen Victoria.

Worth might have been called the “millionairess whisperer.” His gift for self-promotion and supreme self-confidence allowed him to dictate to his stupendously wealthy clients exactly what they would wear and how they would wear it. If he did not like the look or figure of a client, he would summarily dismiss her. He seems to have appreciated rich American ladies, saying, famously, that they “have faith, figures, and francs – faith to believe in me, figures that I can put into shape, francs to pay my bills”.

After Worth’s untimely death in 1895, his sons continued the business and the firm’s association with Lyon, creating exquisitely beautiful silk brocades, exclusive to the House of Worth.

Jean-Philippe Worth butterfly gown, 1898, Metropolitan Museum of Art. The skirt has been woven a la disposition.

Mrs Daffodil has often posted about couture and dressmaking, such as this post on the rivalry between M. Poiret and the Queen of Chiffon, Lucile.

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 anecdote

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.

Mrs Daffodil Takes a Holiday

end of the summer season mermaid and sea serpent

Mrs Daffodil is taking a brief holiday and will return next week.

 

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 anecdote

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 Conscientious Broker: 1889

yellow jacket silver mining company stock certificate 1887

The Conscientious Broker.

I heard a very clever story on a prominent broker a few days ago–a man whose name I am not at liberty to discuss, though I may say that he is well known as a picture buyer. This broker had some mining stock which he had long regarded as worthless, and one day when he found an opportunity to get rid of it at a pretty fair consideration, he was very happy. That very night, however, after he went home, he received a telegram announcing that this mine, of which he had sold the stock, had developed a lead of extraordinary richness. An hour afterward the purchaser of the stock received a telegram from the broker, who desired to see him immediately upon a subject of great importance. The buyer called and was told by the servant that the broker was very ill and could not be seen.

“But I must see him: I have been sent for by him not half an hour ago ”

The servant went upstairs and brought back word that the visitor might go up.

The broker was in bed, moaning with pain. The lights were turned low. When the visitor entered the broker began:

“My dear Jones, I have had to-day another of the dreadful attacks I am subject to, and I am afraid this last one is going to ‘do me up.’ I sent for you to confess that I have taken advantage of you in a business transaction, and I want to make reparation before I die. That mining stock I sold you to-day was really worthless, and it troubles me that I took advantage of you.”

“Oh, nonsense; that is all right. I didn’t pay you much for it and I can easily sell it to somebody else.”

“No, that will not do. I want to take it back and pay you back your money. I can’t rest until I have made this right.”

“Oh, well if you feel that way, of course I will give you it back.”

“Very well, and while I am able to sign a check I will prepare one, and, in the meanwhile, you can bring back the stock.”

The visitor went home, got the stock, and returning it, received the check which the now utterly exhausted broker had filled out for him. He went away musing upon the vicissitudes of human life and filled with profound sympathy for the sorrowing family of the rapidly sinking broker.

And the broker? The moment his customer was out of the house he leaped out of bed and gleefully danced around the room in a manner that would have aroused the envy of Carmencita could she have seen it. But the customer, next day, when he learned of the rise in the value of the stock, metaphorically kicked himself for his stupidity in being taken in by a broker’s “conscience.”

The Ketchum [ID] Keystone 23 November 1889: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil shared this diverting anecdote with a scholar who is studying Victorian urban legends. He noted that he would have preferred an ending where the customer sells back the shares at double the original price, and is then revealed as the sender of the falsely optimistic telegram.

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 anecdote

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.

 

“Will you be my summer girl?”: 1909

The Jaunty Summer Girl

A SUMMER GIRL

“Will you be my summer girl?” he asked, as she sat on the rail in front of him. her sailor hat aslant of her rippling locks and her pretty little feet swinging in front of her.

“Do you want me to be?” she asked.

“Do I want you to be? Yes, assuredly, I want you to be.”

“And what will you do for me if I am your summer girl?”

“Everything. I’ll dance attendance; I’ll be your slave. I will feed you with chocolates, and ice cream, and–”

“I will be your summer girl.” and she held out her little brown hand “Thank you; you’re very kind, and I am delighted.”

“But, tell me. what does being a summer girl consist of?”

“Why, the most delightful, unfettered companionship–nothing serious on either side no promises–no false hopes–just a sort of mutual attention, don’t you know.”

“That suits me perfectly–yes, I’ll be your summer girl.”

That was the way it began. And what a summer girl she was to be sure. How she tripped through green fields with him, picking wild flowers and singing her merry songs. How she pulled away at the oars of the little cedar boat, with her sleeves rolled up to the elbow, calling upon him to watch the rounded muscle as it swelled her pretty arms.

But if these things were attractive how infinitely more attractive was the way she fell into calling him “Harry, ‘ and the pleasant little familiarity with which she treated him. It was not a sisterly familiarity exactly, not friendly one, and not the familiarity of one jolly good fellow for another, yet it smacked of all three, with a little touch of sentiment thrown in and a certain off-handedness to tone it down.

“You are an ideal summer girl,” he said to her one evening in the moonlight–“absolutely ideal.”

“Thank you,” she returned demurely; “I am glad I suit your majesty.”

“You are not glad. You don’t care a bit.”

She laughed merrily.

“What does that make me out?” she asked.

“Oh, only a summer girl,” he responded.

Unfortunately, summer days cannot go on forever, and toward the end of August there comes a chilling breeze across the waves, which shrivels up summer things, and makes one begin to think of heavier flannels and felt hats.

He had passed through the chummy stage, the brotherly stage, even the cousinly stage, and he had now reached a point where all feeling of relationship ceases, and where the desire for relationship begins. The little sprite was going home. The rolling waves would resound no longer to the music of her voice.

“Kitty–don’t let it be good-bye. Don’t say it’s all over. I love you, Kitty. You’re not only a summer girl, are you?”

“But, Harry, you only asked me to be a summer girl.”

“I know, dear, but now I ask you to be something else.”

The sprite laughed and shook her head.

“Too, late, old fellow,” she murmured–“too late! Jack Hilton asked me to be his all-the-year-round girl, and I have consented. You’ve had what you asked for, Harry.”

New Castle [PA] Herald 27 July 1909: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well!  The heartless minx! How dare she take Harry at his word and be merely the “ideal Summer Girl?” Mrs Daffodil wonders how long Harry nursed a grudge against Kitty. Obviously he assumed that she would, in the time-honoured tradition of newspaper short fiction, fall helplessly in love with him.

This next examination of the Summer Girl species is particularly distasteful about her “convenience” and her “cheapness”–attributes more suited to lauding washing-up powders than young ladies. It also likens her to a sweet, but transient fruit.

Mrs Daffodil will remain frigidly silent about the notion of “cling” kisses required of the Summer Girl.

THE SUMMER GIRL

Charming Creature Who Reigns Supreme During the Heated Term.

The summer girl is a peculiarly American product, says the Trenton Times. No other soil, so far as known, has ever produced her. She seems to have been discovered several years ago by some college students, and has since been cultivated to a large extent all over the country. She is a very popular creature in certain quarters, possesses undoubted charms and has her advantages. It might not be amiss just now to enumerate a few of her uses.

The summer girl is a good convenience. She does not expect to be fondled and fed on dainties that during the winter. The young man who cultivated her acquaintance knows just when and where to find her. He is not expected to become acquainted with her before strawberry time. She does not display her fairy charms, so to speak, until the cream season is thoroughly ripe. The hammock in which she swings and the perforated sleeves that she wears do not appear before June.

The Summer girl is sentimental. Having an active existence only during the warm months, it becomes necessary for her to lay in a stock of sentiment during the three months that will last throughout the year. Therefore she is very sweet, very tender, very caressable. The young mail who claims her for his own for  June to September is believed to have a very “soft” time of it. He is supposed in sentimental slang, to have all the hugging and kissing he wants. The Summer girl always has a supply of kisses on hand. It is true some of her kisses are rather stale, having been lent all Winter, but when they are warmed up they pass very readily for fresh ones. The young man who cultivates Summer girls is not very particular what kind of kisses he gets so long as they are the cling kind.

The Summer girl is pretty. If she wasn’t pretty she wouldn’t be a Summer girl. She wears a pretty girl’s dress, has a pretty girl’s teeth, and puts on a pretty girl’s smiles. She also has a dimple or two to add to the picture. She is usually plump, but not stout; well formed, but not rotund. The young man who pays for her strawberries and cream, and takes her to picnics where they play Copenhagen [a game where the boys chase the girls and claim a kiss] is always proud of her. The Summer girl never gets soiled or looks dirty. She even manages to keep her back hair in good shape after a hugging match.

The Summer girl is not very expensive. Her wishes are few and cheap. A row on the river now and then, an occasional buggy ride, a plate of ice cream on a warm evening and an escort to a picnic about once in two weeks nearly sums up her wants. Being only a summer girl, she does not expect those presents and that devotion that belong to the regular every-day-in-the-week and twice-on-Sunday-all-the-year-round girl. The Summer girl is more like some luscious fruit that comes only for a time and is gone for the year, but it is peculiarly sweet while it lasts.

The Leavenworth [KS] Times 5 August 1883: p. 2

 

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 anecdote

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 Women Folk are Canning Fruit: 1908

canning jars in pantry 1907

THE OUTCAST

You ask me why I weep and moan

Like some lost spirit in despair,

And why I wander off alone,

And paw the ground and tear my hair?

You ask me why I pack this gun,

All loaded up, prepared to shoot?

Alas, my troubles have begun—

The women folk are canning fruit!

There Is no place for me to eat,

Unless I eat upon the floor;

And peelings get beneath my feet

And make me fall a block or more;

The odors from the boiling jam

All day assail my weary snoot;

You find me, then, the wreck I am—

The women folks are canning fruit!

Oh, they have peaches on the chairs,

And moldy apples on the floor,

And wormy plums upon the stairs,

And piles of pears outside the door;

And they are boiling pulp and juice;

And you may hear them yell and hoot;

A man’s existence is the deuce—

The women folk are canning fruit!

The Emporia [KS] Gazette 20 August 1908: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Even without the citation, Mrs Daffodil would know that this is an American poem because, in England, the correct, and vastly more accurate term, is “bottling fruit.”  It is jarring to hear the Americanism “canning,” when the container is glass.

To judge by the range of articles on “scientific canning,” and the perils of scalding fruit and exploding canning jars found in the vintage papers of the States, the subject was no joking matter.

Mrs Daffodil is indignant to report that she has found only one joke on the subject that meets her exacting standards of humour:

The Vermont housewife who read that English nobles have lots of hares in their preserves, says she tried it to the extent of putting a whole chignon into some blackberry jam, and the jam didn’t seem a bit better for it.

Kalamazoo [MI] Gazette 2 August 1881: p. 2

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 anecdote

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.

 

Ballooning the Coming Sport: 1909

Ballooning to Supersede Motoring as Pastime

Wealthy French Women Giving Parties and Wearing Elaborate Costumes.

In its story of how woman has come to the front and in Paris, at least, has made aviation a social pastime, Vogue says:

“As might be expected, woman has brought to ballooning, as to every other human endeavor shared by her, a softening and beautifying touch. At a recent fete given by the ‘Stella’ at the park of the Aero Club of France, flowers were made the keynote of the entertainment. Members of the club in six parties made ascensions in balloons of equal number, and all of these balloons were named for flowers and each was decorated with the living blossoms that corresponded. Thus Mme. Surcouf sailed away in Les Bluets, and her globular vessel was decked with corn flowers. Mme. Defosses-Dalloz, a vice president of the ‘Stella,’ and Mme. Omer-Decugis, also of the club, were borne aloft in Les Roses and the car of their air chariot was smothered under La France roses. Mme. Abulfeda and Mme. Dumas, other members, occupied Les Paquerettes, and accordingly employed Easter lilies for its floral embellishment. The Comte de Castillon de Saint-Victor acted as pilot of the balloon occupied by another ‘Stella’ enthusiast, Mme. Monnot, and on her car Les Pivoines she had lavished a wealth of peonies. And so it went, every car in the fete had its bank of flowers, and as the balloons rose over the beautiful park showers of blossoms descended to the feet of the spectators.

***

“And not only this, but the aeronautes of the ‘Stella’ have set the fashion in their ascensions en spherique of wearing dainty and becoming apparel. It had once been the case that a woman in preparing for a balloon trip discarded all her pretty garments and donned heavy boots, corduroy skirts or knickers, thick woolen or flannel sacques and velveteen or leather jackets. Not so with the ‘Stellas,’ as they have already been dubbed in the French capital. A trip in the clouds means less to them than a trip in a motor car, so far as change of raiment is concerned. A long veil, which may be used to tie on the hat and to keep confined rebellious locks which are disturbed by the upper currents of air, and a heavy coat that will keep one warm when passing through a cloudbank of mist or when in the higher and colder levels–and any afternoon toilette is transformed into your modern sky sailor’s equipment.

***

“There can be little doubt that with the wealthier French women ballooning is the fad of the hour. As a sport it has replaced motoring, which once, held such complete sway over Parisian society and which is now considered slow and passé. A glance at any smart Parisian journal will reveal the prevalence and the popularity of balloon riding, for the papers are filled with accounts of the dally ascensions made by this, that and the other group of  pleasure seekers, while the advertising pages display notices of where balloons may be bought or hired, tell of what parks offer facilities for ascensions, and even print the schedules of rates at which skilled pilots may be hired by the hour.

“Week-end balloon parties are just as common as are week-end  house parties in this country. The hostess need not ask her guests if they fly; it is taken for granted that they do, and that they will take a part in the fete as a matter of course. And as a matter of course, they do. With the large, double-envelope balloons, which are used for these social air trips, danger is reduced to a minimum, ballooning being far safer, for instance, than motoring or boating. Women frequently make these short flights alone, and two or three women will make up a balloon party which scorns the services of a masculine pilot.”

Buffalo [NY] Courier 1 September 1909: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed, “Aviation Day” in the States. The United States press was all agog over the fair balloonists of France and, naturally, wished American ladies to come to the fore in this fashionable sport.

A great deal has been said and written about the formation of a woman’s aeronaut club in this country, but as yet no effort has been made to form such a club. Fame awaits the man or woman who shall make the first move in this direction. Necessarily, the founder of such an organization must be a person of wealth and leisure and an enthusiast on the subject of aviation.

And yet what the French women have accomplished in this respect can surely be done by American women and done with éclat. It is plainly evident that ballooning is the coming sport of the well-to-do.

Grand Forks [ND] Daily Herald 9 September 1909: p. 5

 

However, it was clear that the Parisian’s afternoon toilettes with the casual addition of a veil did not suit the practical English or American spirit. A fashion letter from the manager of the firm of Burberry gives some helpful suggestions for the would-be Queens of the Air:

LONDON FASHIONS.

By May Dawson

London, May 4. The exceptionally fine weather experience of late has induced balloonists to venture forth at an earlier date than usual, and the season for this new sport bids fair to be an exceptionally good one.

Only a few years ago a balloon trip was regarded as foolhardy. Now it is looked upon as an amusing hobby. Since Mrs. [Hugh] Iltid Nicholl first ventured up on “The City of York” balloon, many ladies having followed her example.

It is obvious, however, that the picture hat and long skirt of Mayfair are hardly suitable for aerial flight, and the West End tailors are turning their attention to the serious question of meeting the dress demands of the lady balloonist.

“The most practical dress for a lady balloonist,” said the manager of Messrs. Burberry, in an interview, “should be made of gabardine, slimber [Burberry’s proprietary weather-proof cloth] or, for the coldest weather, loden, which is a particularly thick yet light woven cloth worn by the Alpine guides.

“The fashionable color is a green with a slight ruddy brown tinge. The coat is worn short and lined with fleece or silk, with two breast pockets, two cross pockets, and two hand-rests for the purpose of keeping the hands warm.

“The skirt is an adjustable one, which means that it can be drawn up by invisible cords, which by forming a pleat half way down, enables the wearer to get out or in the car with great facility, while it can be let down while traveling to keep the feet warm.

“Over the coat comes a ‘slip-on’ waterproof lined with either fleece, silk, fur or wool. A tailor-made shirt of opal crepe should be worn beneath, with a broad belt of the same material as the coat or skirt.

“We are introducing a special ballooning cap made of a fine opal crepe in the very palest shade of green, which is not damaged by the rain. It is in the jelly-bag shape, the end being fastened down on the right side by a quill. An opal silk veil, which is woven in colored silks should also be worn with the costume, shading from the green of the ballooning cap, to the ruddy shade in the coat and skirt. Canadian mittens are made of the same material as the coat and skirt.

“To make the costume complete the lady balloonist should wear dark brown boots, or if she wishes, should have the leather dyed in exactly the same color as the coat and skirt.”

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 5 May 1907: p. 20

The earliest American lady balloonist  was Mary Myers, known professionally as “Carlotta, the Lady Aeronaut.” One may be reasonably confident that she did not dress like the young lady on the cigarette card at the head of this post.

 

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 anecdote

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.