A Welcome to a New-born Daughter: 1770

Although the infant Princess Charlotte has already been heartily welcomed by the entire Empire, this delightful letter would have set exactly the right tone for her babyship as the Royal family prepares for the Princess’s Christening this week-end.

Miss Talbot to a new-born child, daughter of Mr. John Talbot, a son of the Lord Chancellor.

You are heartily welcome, my dear little cousin, into this unquiet world: long may you continue in it, in all the happiness it can give; and bestow enough on all your friends, to answer fully the impatience with which you have been expected. May you grow up to have every accomplishment, that your good friend the Bishop of Derry can already imagine in you; and in the mean time, may you have a nurse with a tunable voice, that may not talk an immoderate deal of nonsense to you. You are at present, my dear, in a very philosophical disposition: the gaities and follies of life have no attraction for you; its sorrows you kindly commiserate; but, however, do not suffer them to disturb your slumbers; and find charms in nothing but harmony and repose. You have as yet contracted no partialities, are entirely ignorant of party distinctions, and look with a perfect indifference on all human splendor. You have an absolute dislike to the vanities of dress; and are likely for many months to observe the Bishop of Bristol’s first rule of conversation, silence, though tempted to transgress it, by the novelty and strangeness of all the objects round you. As you advance farther in life, this philosophical temper will by degrees wear off. The first object of your admiration will probably be a candle; and thence, (as we all of us do) you will contract a taste for the gaudy and the glaring, without making one moral reflection upon the danger of such false admiration as leads people, many a time, to burn their fingers. You will then begin to shew great partiality for some very good aunts, who will contribute all they can towards spoiling you; but you will be equally fond of an excellent mamma, who will teach you, by her example, all sorts of good qualities; only let me warn you of one thing, my dear, and that is, do not learn of her to have such an immoderate love of home, as is quite contrary to all the privileges of this polite age, and to give up so entirely all those pretty graces of whim, flutter, and affectation, which so many charitable poets have declared to be the prerogative of our sex. Ah! my poor cousin, to what purpose will you boast this prerogative, when your nurse tells you, with a pious care to sow the seeds of jealousy and emulation as early as possible, that you have a fine little brother come to put your nose out of joint. There will be nothing to be done then, I believe, but to be mighty good, and prove what, believe me, admits of very little dispute, (though it has occasioned abundance) that we girls, however people give themselves airs of being disappointed, are by no means to be despised. Let the men unenvied shine in public, it is we must make their homes delightful to them; and, if they provoke us, no less uncomfortable. I do not expect you, my dear, to answer this letter yet awhile, but as, I dare say, you have the greatest interest with your papa, will beg you to prevail upon him, that we may know by a line, (before his time is engrossed by another secret committee) that you and your mamma are well. In the mean time I will only assure you, that all here rejoice in your existence extremely; and that

I am,

My very young correspondent,

most affectionately yours,

C. T.

A Selection of Curious Articles from the Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 3, John Walker 1811

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The pious and ingenious author of the above letter, who died Jan. 9, 1770, aged 48, was the [unnamed! Caroline? Charlotte?] only daughter of Mr. Edward Talbot, Archdeacon of Berks, and younger son of Dr. Talbot, Bishop of Durham. There having been the most intimate friendship between him and the late Archbishop Seeker, his widow and daughter lived as inmates in his grace’s family till his death, when he left the interest of £3,000 to them and the survivor of them, and afterward the whole sum to charitable uses. 1770, Feb.



Flowers a Bride Should Carry: 1902

A 1907 wedding couple and page boy. http://lafayette.org.uk/may5353.html

A 1907 wedding couple and page boy. http://lafayette.org.uk/may5353.html

Flowers a Bride Should Carry

By Martha Coman

Flowers  always been pre-eminently a symbol of nature’s bursts of joy, and for that reason, perhaps, more than any other, excepting their own beauteous excuse for being, they have been used lavishly for all festive occasions. But there is no one time when flowers are so universally called upon to play an important part as in the month of June, for then it is that the carved arches of the church and the walls of the home echo back the triumphant notes of the wedding march. There is but one thing fairer than a perfect day in June, and that is a June bride, clad in shimmering satin and crowned with folds of frosty lace.

The flowers the bride shall carry is a question to be decided by her own individuality, for every girl has her favorite, and her wedding day is a welcome opportunity to make her choice a public one. The bride’s bouquet is not invariably of pure white, though the paler colors are more effective and much more acceptable than the deeper ones of red or pink. Lilies-of-the-valley made up into one of the beautiful shower bouquets are about as appropriate for the fair maiden as anything, though there are innumerable combinations possible in the way of orchids and violets.

The shower bouquet is rarely successfully turned out by an amateur, and those persons who save the last sweet service of personally arranging the bride’s flowers for their own fingers had best not attempt much in the way of a shower. But the palest of pink roses or the beautiful bride roses are at hand and can be easily arranged. The sweet, old-fashioned white lilac is a most acceptable flower to use when the bouquet is put together by loving hands rather than by busy professional ones, and it lends itself easily to an admirable result.

White orchids combined with the delicate green of the Farleyencis fern make a stunning bouquet, especially when the whole is tied lavishly with broad, soft velvet ribbon that matches exactly in shade the delicate petals of the rare exotic. This flower and fern, put together in the form called the “Princess Plume” bouquet, is a most beautiful and effective accessory to the bride’s attire.

The violet cuff bouquet was a fad for a time, as was also the Du Barry collarette of the same modest but popular flower. The collarette and cuff effects were generally used only for the bride’s attendants, the bride herself carrying a huge shower bouquet of white violets. Leghorn hats of white, lavishly decorated with pink roses and tied on with broad streamers of ribbon to match, are very pretty for bridesmaids, and it is then a most effective idea to have the attendants carry only large bunches of waving, feathery, maidenhair fern. Wild sweet-brier roses and apple blossoms are very lovely for floral decorations, but they are rather difficult to manage when it comes to the bouquets, and so they are both more popular for wall and aisle decorations.

wedding flowers article illustration

Marguerites are pretty for the little pages to carry, and they are also most effective for banking chancel rails and the like. One extremely pretty wedding occurred not long ago, at which marguerites were extensively used, as this was the bride’s favorite flower, and also because she was a Marguerite in name.

The pages, two boys and two little girls, carried straw hats tied in the form of baskets and swung over the arms of the children with broad streamers of ribbon. The hats were filled to overflowing with the nodding field flowers, and after they had been decorously carried up the aisle to the altar, and when the ceremony had been performed, the little tots walked down the aisle ahead of the bride and groom strewing in their path the blossoms from the basket hats. It was done so solemnly and so sweetly by the grave-faced children, and was in itself so tenderly significant, that many a spectator found himself looking on with dimmed eyes.

Another most effective idea in the way of a novelty is that of having the bride’s attendants carry shepherds’ crooks, the long, graceful affairs painted pure white, and to each one tied a beautiful bouquet of Mermot roses. From these depend sweeping streamers of white velvet ribbon. The effect is extremely beautiful. When orchids of a pale and most delicate tint are tied with velvet ribbons it is often the fad to have the streamer ends embroidered in the same tints.

Gardenias and violets are a lovely combination, though it is generally the custom to use either the one flower or the other. A bridal bouquet has a certain sweet dignity of its own, and this must not be encroached upon by any injudicious combinations of colors. The “plume” bouquet is one now very popular, and its name really indicates its peculiar shape. The plume is built, not as a round or shower bouquet is, but the plume is made to lie along one’s left arm, the heavy heads of the long-stemmed roses lying over the crook of the elbow, and the stems crossing the front of one’s gown. Sweet peas, the long-stemmed variety, are very stunning made into a double plume, or with great bunches of the flowers at both ends, and when this is the case the centre is carefully wrapped with wide ribbon, which hides the stems successfully and leaves only the pretty blossoms in sight.

At one of the early spring weddings which occurred while the lilacs were still in full bloom, the bride carried a beautiful loose bunch of pure white lilacs, relieved only by the subdued green of their own pretty leaves, while her attendants carried great bouquets of the same flower, but in the purple shade. Great branches of the same old-fashioned flowers were fastened about the altar rail and lined the aisle, and the clean, spring-like fragrance was everywhere.

Perhaps, when it comes to the last word concerning the flowers for the bride, and unless her individual taste is rather out of the ordinary, there is nothing lovelier for the maiden than a great loose bunch of the real bride roses, those heavy-headed white flowers that are at once so lovely and so symbolical.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, 24 July, 1902

"The Bridal Wreath," by Currier & Ives, mid-19th century. http://art.famsf.org/currier-and-ives/bridal-wreath-19992025

“The Bridal Wreath,” by Currier & Ives, mid-19th century. http://art.famsf.org/currier-and-ives/bridal-wreath-19992025

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In some families there exists the custom of including a sprig of myrtle, symbol of love and constancy, in the bridal bouquet.

A pretty German custom that is beginning to be observed here is to plant a spray or two of the bridal wreath when it is made of natural flowers. The wife of a well-known German citizen, full of this tender sentiment, brought with her to this country a flourishing little plant grown from her own myrtle wreath. A little while ago her daughter was married and her wreath was composed of the starry blossoms from her mother’s carefully tended shrub. Omaha [NE] World Herald 17 August 1891: p. 3

All royal brides who are related to the Queen have a sprig of myrtle on their wedding day that is cut from a particular tree. This tree was grown from a slip sent from Germany for the bridal bouquet of the Princess Royal, and the tree it was cut from dates back to the time of the Crusaders. Otago [NZ] Witness, 30 December 1897: p. 43

An 1885 brides-maid's crook with flower arrangement.

An 1885 brides-maid’s crook with flower arrangement.

As for shepherds’ crooks for the brides-maids, they are (Mrs Daffodil has personally observed) deadly in the wrong hands, so perhaps the less encouragement they receive, the better. As this 1890 article observed:

Bridesmaids have not yet learned to carry their canes as gracefully as Watteau’s creations handled the insignia of their pastoral calling. Let me advise any lady desirous of adopting this fashion at her own wedding to see that the bridesmaids are well-drilled previous to the ceremony, so that uniformity in the carriage of the canes may be observed.

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.


People Who Should Not Marry: 1903

Sound advice for the man or woman who marries for money.

Sound advice for the man or woman who marries for money.

Women Who Should Not Marry.

The woman who would rather nurse a pug dog than a baby.

The woman who thinks she can get $5,000 worth of style out of a $1,000 salary.

The woman who wants to refurnish her house every spring.

The woman who buys for the mere pleasure of buying.

The woman who does not know how many pennies, halves, quarters, dimes and nickels there are in a dollar.

The woman who thinks men are angels and demi-gods.

The woman who would die rather than wear a bonnet two seasons.

The woman who thinks that the cook and the nurse can run the house.

The woman who reads cheap novels and dreams of being a duchess or a countess.

The woman who thinks it is cheaper to buy bread than to bake it.

The woman who marries in order to have somebody pay her bills.

The woman who expects a declaration of love three times a day.

The woman who anticipates a good, easy time all her life.

The woman who cares more for the style of her winter coat than she does for the health and comfort of her children.

The woman who stays at home only because she has no place to visit.

The woman who thinks embroidered centrepieces and doylies are more important than sheets, pillow-cases and blankets.

The woman who buys bric-a-brac for her parlor and borrows kitchen utensils from her neighbors.

Men Who Should Not Marry.

On the masculine side it is the man who talks about supporting a wife when she is working fourteen hours a day, including Sunday.

The man who thinks it is all nonsense for a woman to want a ten-cent bunch of violets when she hasn’t seen a flower for five months.

A man who imagines a woman’s bonnet ought to cost about seventy-five cents.

A man who thinks his wife exists for the comfort and convenience of his mother and sisters.

The man who provides himself with a family and trusts in Providence to provide a home and something to eat.

The man who thinks all women are angels.

The man who thinks that no one but an angel is fit to be his wife.

The man who thinks a woman ought to be her own milliner, dressmaker, seamstress, cook, housemaid and nurse.

The man who cannot remember his wife’s birthday.

The man who thinks his wife is fixed for the season if she has a new gown.

The man who thinks a woman ought to give up a thousand-dollar salary and work in his kitchen for her board and a few clothes, and be glad of the chance.

The man who labors under the delusion that his wife’s money belongs to him.

The man who says, “Love me, love my dog.”

The man who thinks a parlor carpet ought to last fifteen years.

The man who has a $75 fishing tackle and cannot afford new curtains for the dining room.

The man who doesn’t know what on earth a woman wants with money when she has credit at a dry goods store.

The man who thinks a sick wife would feel a great deal better if she would get up and stir around.

The man who forgets his manners as soon as he steps across his own threshold.

The man who thinks he can keep house better than his wife does.

The man who loves to go home to grumble and growl.

The man who quotes the Apostle Paul on the “woman question” and who firmly believes that the mantle of the apostle has fallen upon him.

The man who looks upon his wife as a waste basket into which he dumps the “chips” collected during the day. –Philadelphia Inquirer.

New Castle, [PA] News, December 30 1903

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: And there, neatly tied up in a parcel, we find nearly every cliché of the nineteenth-century Battle of the Sexes. Some are still current in the twenty-first. On wet afternoons Mrs Daffodil sometimes enjoys an agony aunt column in one of the lurid tabloids favoured by the footmen. Recently she read a cri de coeur from a lady whose husband repeatedly ignored her birthday despite her exceedingly modest request for a fairy cake or a card, and a puzzled complaint from a gentleman who has given his inamorata a car, paid her bills, bailed her “cousin” out of jail, and yet feels that the cosy intimacy he had hoped for is somehow lacking. If Mrs Daffodil has learnt anything from the annals of agony-aunting, it is that a) many people enter alliances in a rosy cloud of misplaced hope, b) those same hopeful people seem determined to repeat their mistakes, and c) there is very little in domestic relations that cannot be mended by a dose of some undetectable poison. [Disclaimer: the latter course should only be put into the capable hands of a professional. It is always disagreeable to see amateurs in the dock.]

Here are rules for choosing agreeable husbands and hints to young men on selecting a wife.

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 Wedding at Midnight; A Phantom Bride and Groom: 1902

A gold framed locket, inset with marble containing miniature wedding photographs of Sir Bruce and Lady Chichester. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/986211

Rather ghostly bridal couple in a locket.  http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/986211


A Midnight Ceremony by Ghosts in a Little Wisconsin Church

La Cross, Wis., Feb. 22 [sic]

In spite of the efforts of hundreds to solve the problem of the phantom wedding in the little Norwegian Methodist Chapel at the southeastern outskirts of this city, the mysterious bridal couple continues to make their periodical visits to the place.

Every night the sidewalks and fences near the chapel are filled with patient watchers who hope to see and solve the weird scenes the neighbors swear take place before the altar on nights favorable for ghostly manifestations. You may see 200 people patiently waiting for the midnight hour, all dumb and motionless and regardless of the cold.

One of the neighbors, a woman, first saw the strange sight one night while attending a sick child at midnight. She saw a light in the church, and going to the house door, sought to discover the cause. Upon reaching the open air, she says she heard a shrill scream and the lights went out. Other neighbors were told of the strange proceedings and they watched and saw, but discreetly kept their discoveries to themselves, so that it was some time before any of the people in the locality found courage to tell the story outside.

It remained for Mrs. J. Kalbusnik to give the news to the public.

The story told by those who claim to have seen the spectral couple is that they appear at a point several feet from the door of the church, as though alighting from a carriage. Then, arm in arm, the man and woman approach the door and walk through it, for the watchers have never yet seen it open. The church lights up immediately with a dull, misty, glow, too dim to enable one to see objects distinctly, and the couple float up to a point in front of the altar. There they halt, and for an instant remain perfectly quiet. The phantom bride turns to the unearthly groom, utters a scream, and the whole scene becomes again enveloped in darkness.

Ropes have been tied across the door, declares Mrs. Kalbusnik, and still the ghostly visitors go through without the slightest hesitation and the ropes are not disturbed in the least. Sometimes several days elapse between visits.

Members of the La Crosse Spiritual Society have investigated and say that they have proved the truth of the story to their own satisfaction.

Who are the ghostly visitors?

The unquiet spirit of some unhappily wedding pair forced to return to this initial scene of their unhappiness till some strange accident shall loose them from their misery?

That can hardly be. No man living can remember a wedding in that little church that has resulted in sorrow.

There is an explanation however, that many people believe accounts for the misty manifestations.

In the early days of the pioneer West, a prairie schooner slowly made its cumbersome way across the barren stretches of country with but two occupants inside. They were a man and a woman, young and fair, and newly wedded. But their title to the happiness they so passionately sought was not clear. For the woman had been loved by another man, whom she too had loved and promised to marry.

But temptation came and she proved faithless. And no sooner had she started forth, the bride of the new born love, than the old love died, and by his own hand.

When the prairie schooner reached the Mississippi River, the unfortunate lovers met their doom. They were attacked by Indians and butchered to death, and those who tell the tale today declare their fate to have been a just retribution visited on them by Heaven.

Can it be the souls of these who return by night to the chapel?

Many women have suffered from the strain of seeing the ghostly pair. Miss Lily Johnson, who made the attempt several nights ago, fainted and was taken home.

Boston [MA] Journal 3 February 1902: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Bridal megrims, bashful bridegrooms, missing groomsmen, tiresome former lovers, anxiety about the wedding breakfast oysters—a bride has a hundred and one little worries on her wedding day. (One hundred and two if you count the mother-in-law who has threatened to don her own wedding gown for the ceremony because she has nothing else fit to wear.) The idea of repeating that day over and over ad nauseam; that is the true horror….

To judge by the many stories of spectral brides in the literature of the supernatural, the dictum that the dead “neither marry, nor are given in marriage,” seems to be speculative at best. Here is a previously-published tale of a ghostly wedding.

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 Marriage Mill of Manhattan: 1905

 Manhattan alderman marrying2THE MARRIAGE MILL OF MANHATTAN

By Nina Carter Marbourg

Illustrated with special photographs

There is a veritable Marriage Mill in New York. Spend a morning in it and then if you can, say that there is no romance in this prosaic world. In this mill the God of Love is not overburdened with care concerning the quality of his grinding, nor is he at all deliberate in the process.

When I stepped from the bright sunlight of City Hall Park, into the gloom of a long corridor that runs through the basement of the City Hall, I suddenly and quite unexpectedly collided with a group of men and women. Naturally I begged pardon, and asked where I could find the Marriage Bureau.

“It’s right here,” in a thin voice and accompanied by a series of suppressed giggles came from a girl near the wall. I started toward the door, when the same voice called out: “It is too early, lady, the door isn’t open yet. Yes we are waiting to get married,” she added amiably. “Been here this half hour. We’ve got to hurry too or put it off until noon, because if—if we are late at the office we’ll lose our jobs.”

Waiting for the opening of the marriage mill.

Waiting for the opening of the marriage mill.

Astonishing and unique it did seem to find young people making this plunge into the maelstrom of the marital sea in such a matter-of-fact way, just as though it were an every-day occurrence, and something that might be deferred until tomorrow without making much difference to either of them.

“You don’t mean to say that you will be married this morning and then go to your office and enjoy no honeymoon, do you?”

“Um—!” the bridegroom-elect rejoined this time, “and later on our vacations come at the same time so we are going away then. We’d have been married last week, only we couldn’t get a chance, one of us was working all of the time—. But…”

At this period of the interesting explanation a man came down the corridor. He cast a glance at the waiting couples, nodded, grinned, placed a key in the lock, turned it and announced: “Business begun for the day. Step in all youse who are in love and want to be married.”

The two young couples needed no urging, and the conductor of the marriage mill surveyed them critically as they filed to the chairs against the wall.


The chamber of ceremony is not over prepossessing. The ceiling is very low; an ordinary flat-topped desk stands at the back of the room; in front of it and around the sides of the wall are ranged a single row of chairs ; a smaller desk completes the furnishings. The supervisor waved the young people to the seats and without taking further notice of them proceeded to dust the desk. Presently he looked up, very much as though his grey matter had begun work.

“In a hurry?” he managed to say out of the side of his mouth, as he chewed a piece of gum.

“Yes, sir,” from the more courageous bridegroom.

“How much is it worth?” he paused a moment in his dusting and looked speculatively at the young people.

“Why, I’ll give you a dollar,” volunteered one of the men.

“So will I,” chimed in the other.

“Well “considered the keeper of the Mill, continuing his dusting, and, judging from the furrows between his brows, thinking deeply.

“Well?” queried the more audacious of the two men.

“Say,” ejaculated Mike, fixing the young people with his eyes, “Say did any of youse ‘lope?”

Indignation in all its righteousness arose; the four young people stood up as though they were mechanical dolls and the spring had been touched.

“Well! Well! That’s all right. Don’t get huffy about it. Stick to yer perches an’ I’ll see if I can hustle an Alderman fer youse. A dollar a piece you said? All right. Hi, Jerrey, pike down the shoot an’ hustle the Alderman. See? Git!”

During this performance the young people, having regained their respective chairs, sat staring at each other in blank amazement, but soon this dazed condition of their minds wore off and they looked rather sheepish.

The young man who entertained apprehensions concerning the safety of his “job” looked at his watch. His bride-to-be whispered at him. For an instant he gazed blankly at the floor and then, man fashion, answered in a distinctly audible tone:

“Yes, and we’ll get a new table for the dining-room and lace curtains bye-and-bye.”

The girl blushed as red as an American Beauty rose, and the young woman on the opposite side of the pillar giggled.

All five of us straightened perceptibly as a sharp, quick step neared the door; then the Alderman, that all-important Mr. Leopold Harburger of this morning’s romances, came in, tossed his hat on the desk, pulled off his gloves, and remarked as he did so: “Now, young people, if you are in as much of a hurry as I am, we’ve no time to lose. Who is first?”

“We are, sir,” returned the prospective purchaser of the new “table for the dining room and lace curtains bye-and-bye.”

“All right, step up; what’s your name?” said the Alderman without pause or break in his sentence.

”Henry Roth.”

‘”The lady’s?”

“Margaret Dean.”

“Your age?”





“New York, and so was she,” he added wishing to hurry matters and evidently thinking of his “job” the whole.

“Now, then, where are your witnesses?”

“Haven’t any.”

“Well, then, you two young people back there step up here, take the witness places and be sworn.”

The other couple did as the Alderman desired and presently the Master of Ceremonies was rattling on in his rapid-fire manner: “Bride and groom join hands. Henry Roth, do you take this woman, Margaret Dean, to be your lawful and wedded wife?”


“Margaret Dean, do you take this man Henry Roth to be your lawful and wedded husband, and do you promise to love, honor and obey him as long as you remain his wife?”


“Well, then, Henry Roth kiss your wife, Mrs. Henry Roth, and go back to your homes and be happy all the rest of your days; there you two stand back and play witnesses for these other young people as they have done for you; it will take you only a minute and as I am in a hurry you will accommodate me as much by doing this as I have by getting you two married and if you owe the keeper of this marriage bureau anything pay it before you go though there is no charge for anything down here.”

a world of advice to the young couple2

I drew a deep, long breath as Alderman Harburger completed this utterly unpunctuated list of instructions. It seemed as though his lung power must be exhausted, but before I had time to draw another breath he was off at the same mile-a-minute pace.


Within twenty minutes four people had been made two, everything was done up in proper shape, the certificates were ready, and the big red seal was placed on them. Then the young man paid the keeper of the Mill his little fee and in a second more had left the room.

“There,” said the Alderman as they disappeared, “I’ve done my duty by them. Now I’m going over to my office. I’ll be back by half-past ten. If others come, hold ’em or get another Alderman.” So saying, he picked up his hat and was off.

The superintendent once more regained his feather duster, not that anything needed dusting, but it was a habit with him. We were left alone in this strange Cupid’s Court. Resting his weight on one foot and flourishing the duster at intervals, he remarked: “You see, it’s this way. These young folks have no people in town, so they don’t have church weddin’s; they just come here, an’ we ties the knot fer ’em. Then there’s folks what ‘lope. Sometimes you can spot ’em, because they look so scared, but now and then they gets away. After them comes older folks what takes marriage just as indifferent like as they do anything else in life. They come here ’cause it’s like going ‘jest round the corner’ and there ain’t no fuss and feathers.” Here he dabbed at the chair as though he were making a body thrust at some hated enemy, and after a pause remarked in subtle, deep-meaning tones: “Last of all there’s them [ethnic slur.] S’pose you call ’em Italians. They are the worst ever. Why, they come here morning, noon and night, and—hello, there’s some now. Want to get hitched? All right, come in here.”

He motioned them to chairs with a grand sweep of his feathered scepter.

The party in hand was a queer one. It was comprised of the young Italian, his sweetheart, her father and mother. They were decked in holiday day regalia, all the colors of the rainbow could be found in the dresses of the women, and brilliant purple and red neckties threw the deep bronzed features of the men into fine relief.

Every Italian in America must be married twice. The man of Little Italy is married in his Church. To our authorities this means nothing, so a civil marriage is necessary. To the Italians a civil marriage means no marriage whatsoever, for this reason there is a double wedding.

The party from Little Italy sat staring in wide-eyed astonishment at the King of the chamber, the little bride-to-be tugged at her husband’s homespun coat sleeve.

“Say—where we find marrying man. Here? Yes?”

He of the homespun nodded, but the little woman was not yet content.

“S—ay, when, now?”

Again he nodded.

By this time two more couples had come to have the knot tied for them. They represented the up-town young people, a homey, comfortable sort. You perceived instantly that they were not strangers to Broadway, still they were not of the theatrical type, but a couple of young people who had succeeded in reaching the happy medium of existence. Being of such a class they sat down for a comfortable chat and a wait for the Alderman. To them, a wait of half an hour or so didn’t matter much; they could find plenty to interest them.

Suddenly there was a rustle of skirts in the corridor, a quick step, a flutter at the door, and a young man quite breathless, demanded: “Where’s the man who ties the knots?”

“He’ll be here after while,” slowly answered the attendant from behind his morning paper, wholly unmoved by this sudden entrance.

“Say, I’ll give you five dollars if you’ll get him here in as many minutes.

“Whew!” whispered Mike, and in an instant he had darted from the room.

He had forgotten to ask whether or not they had eloped; it did not seem to matter to him what they had done. The young girl was all of a flurry, and they sat down near the very much sophisticated young couple. The flurried young woman held her hand to her heart a moment, and the girl in the next seat passed her vingarette.

“Oh, thank you ever so much. You see we hurried and—and I’m a little out of breath and…”

“Why, child,” remarked the young woman of the vingarette, “you are as white as a ghost, now for heaven’s sake don’t faint, because if you do you’ll probably spoil it all. You see when you’ve had enough courage to elope—there, there, I can read it in your face, you’ve eloped all right enough—and as I was about to say, when you’ve had enough courage to do that you don’t want to ruin things at the very end. There now— here comes the Alderman and everything will be all right. Courage,” she whispered, as she patted the back of the small, well-gloved hand.

The timid girl smiled her thanks, and in a more breathless manner than usual the marriage ceremony was read. The young men exchanged cards and the newly-married pair were out of the marriage bureau door before you could comfortably say Jack Robinson.

The Alderman was just calling the second couple when the door burst open and a very red faced, irate little man raised on tip toe, and shouted: “Where are they?”

“Oh,” remarked the Alderman,” so they did elope after all. I thought so, for the fee was unusually big. Well, they have been gone some twenty minutes, and they said they were going to catch a train.”

“They did, did they?” shouted the little man, “What train where?”

“I don’t know,” said the Alderman, “But I’d advise you to telegraph their description.”

“Oh, it’s a shame. It’s a shame. I’ll forgive them, but I wanted to give them a fine wedding, and only said ‘No’ because I wanted the pleasure of being asked over again. So, they’ve stolen the march on me, the young rascals! Well, that makes me love ’em more than ever,” he completed, as he handed the Alderman a bill for no other reason than that his ill temper had turned to joy, and that smiles superseded the frowns.

“Now, I’m going to telegraph for them, and when I find them we’ll have to celebrate. Good-bye, thank you.”

“Good-bye,” responded the Alderman, “and good luck.” Then turning to the other American couple he remarked: “Queer old codger, isn’t he? Now, what on earth did he thank me for? Well, no time to lose, suppose you want to be made miserable, too?” jocosely smiled the marrying man.

“No, rather happy. But, say, won’t you do me a favor? Read that marriage ceremony in a way that we may understand what we are doing, for goodness sakes don’t make us say ‘yes’ to a lot of things we don’t intend to do.”

“All right,” laughed this good-natured Alderman. “Now, ready? We’re off,” and he read the ceremony in a more decorous manner than previously.

Presently these young folks were married and sauntered out of the Court, but before going, the bridegroom exchanged such a good, well-relished kiss with his bride that it made everybody feel particularly glad that this comfortable young pair had come to the Mill.

manhattan marriage mill2

The two Italians were next taken in hand. They could speak but little English and understand less. The marriage ceremony was read rapidly and when the Alderman came to the question: “Do you take this woman, etc.,” our friend of the feather duster nodded violently at the man and then the man nodded; the same performance was repeated when the question was addressed to the woman. So the ceremony was accomplished, the certificate was handed to the group, he turned it over and contemplated the big red seal. Presently he went to the table in the corner where the superintendent was sitting.

“Red spot,” he said pointing to the seal. “Two?”

“No, that’s all right.”


“No, one’s enough. You’re married now.”

“No. Two red spots.”

“Now, see here,” jerked out the keeper of seals, “you go on back to Little Italy, and be happy. You’re married fast enough, and one seal’ll hold the knot as tight as you want it to be tied. Most folks are willing to do with half a seal. So long.”

He waved the man imperiously aside. In all probability the Italian did not understand a word said to him, but so long was the sentence and in such a gattling-gun rapid-fire manner was it delivered that he picked up his hat and catching his little bride by the hand bolted out of the door, followed by the mother and father.

Sometimes there are as many as twenty or twenty-five marriages ground out in this mill a day. Sometimes it is very dull. There is always an Alderman on the tapis, and at a moment’s notice he will appear and say the word. Alderman Leopold Harburger holds the record for making the greatest number of marriages in the city. He is familiarly known as the “marrying Alderman” and well has he earned his title.

Any one who wants to may visit the Marriage Mill. All he has to do is to go to City Hall and inquire for the place. You may be stared at by the man of whom you inquire your way, but that need not trouble you, for down in City Hall they have a way of staring at one if one only asks where the Mayor’s office is.

The Hampton Magazine, Volume 14, 1905

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is surprised that the “little man” took the elopement with such equanimity. The bereft Papas in the story of The Elopement Bureau displayed much more temper.

The Italians are particularly mentioned because a large wave of emigration from Eastern Europe and Italy had swept the United States at the turn of the 19th century. Many had not yet assimilated into the American mould; hence the careless ethnic slur and remarks on the Italians’ multi-coloured clothing and imperfect command of English and of American customs. Several decades earlier the same charges had been levelled against Irish immigrants to the States (with the exception of the multi-coloured clothing) and with additional accusations of criminality, drunkenness, and humorous dialect stories. The fabled Melting Pot of America has seemed, at times, perhaps more like an Automat.

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.


My Daughter Minnie: A Story for Father’s Day: 1860

His Only Child. Mr Doty's Scheme for Retaining His Only Child

His Only Child. Mr Doty’s Scheme for Retaining His Only Daughter, Charles Dana Gibson


A few years ago—well, it is not less than forty—my little home flock was led, in the matter of years, by my daughter Minnie— a pretty name, I always thought. Minnie was a good child, and being the first born, was half maternal in her management of the latter comers, even down to little “Pigeon,” the latest and tiniest of all.

The picture of Minnie is just as fresh in my memory as though the forty years which have simmered and evaporated since, had been weeks instead. But it is a father’s eye that looks over these years at Minnie, and the beauty may be half fancy—a sort of affectional illusion. Those who love are transparent, if you know—we who imagine it is surface tint and surface light of which we are thinking.

This much I know, Minnie was the best, most affectionate and wildest of daughters —one of those spirited but industrious little creatures upon whose enterprise and tact the greatest and strongest of us will involuntarily lean.

‘Minnie, shall I want five or six breadths in this skirt?’ her mother would say.

Looking up, with just a little knitting of the forehead, after a moment’s thought Minnie would answer:

‘I think five will do, mother;’ and five it was.

I can hear, even now, the voice of Minnie’s mother–she has been gone twenty years, dear  heart!—calling from the head of the stairs:

‘Minnie! Say—Minnie!’

‘What, Mother?’

‘What shall we have for dinner to-day?’

‘You are tired, mother; let’s have a little ham and some eggs, with some peas from the garden, and bread.’ That settled the bill of fare.

And so it was through the livelong day; for in all the domestic policy Minnie, though only prime minister, possessed regal power.

At this time—these forty years ago—I was, of course, in the prime of life, and full of the cares and responsibilities which cluster and cling to one’s manhood.

I was largely engaged in the active business, received some light evidences of public confidence, saw a large family coming up about me—from all of which my natural positiveness and force of character received more or less strengthening.

One night, when the last candle had been extinguished and all was hushed, my wife said, with some anxiety of tone.

‘Husband, I feel uneasy about our Minnie.’

‘Minnie? Why, what is the matter? Is she sick?’

‘No; she isn’t sick, but—’

‘But what, wife?’

‘Why, Minnie is—I mean, she seems to be—well, I’m afraid she likes Jemmy Brun.’

‘Jemmy Brun! She’d better not.’ And I leaped to the floor and walked to the window. ‘Jemmy Brun and our Minnie!—a pretty match!’

‘I was afraid you would be disturbed, dear; but don’t take it so much to heart husband. I dare say we can put a stop to it.’ And motherly sobs came from the pillow.

‘Put a stop to it! I guess I will. Jemmy Brun and our Minnie!—I guess I will put a stop to it.’

And who was Jemmy Brun? A young man of some twenty-two years’ residence in the neighborhood, of good habits as far as I know, but altogether and diametrically opposed to my taste, to my ideal of manliness. I had always worshipped business tact and enterprise.

It had taken me, when a penniless boy, and brought me up through numberless difficulties to a position of influence. That which was found in my nature when young, was thus nourished and rooted through all the after years of struggle ripening into triumph.

The young man was of literary turn of mind; and taught in an academy; was a writer, it was said, for one or two periodicals. There was an air of sentiment about him, in his looks and manners, which came precisely within the scope of my contempt. I had known it in others—in strong business men—this utter contempt for the least possible manifestations of sentiment; for those unthrifty fellows who have never an eye or business, but hang upon the skirts of thought, clasp imagery, and ride upon rhythm. You may see it now every day in commercial antagonism of fact and fancy—of the figures which dot the pages of the ledger and those which illumine the lines of the poet. ‘The muses frowned on me,’ said a German poet, ‘for keeping account books.’ Undoubtedly. Nor is the knight of the balance sheet less intolerant toward those miserable fellows whose entire stock in trade can be stored within a very little cavity just behind the frontal bone.

My good wife had a time of it cooling me down, and prevented the adoption of most violent measures. Even when I had formally surrendered to her superior discretion, I chafed by times like a bear in harness. If wife had not been almost a Rarey [a famous horse whisperer] in fact, I should certainly have broken into plunging even sooner than I did.

Minnie was taken one day into solemn conference by her mother, with only pussy in the doorway as auditor. But the child, though she blushed very much, moved about from seat to seat, and tore pieces of paper into bits, declared that she was heart whole yet—as why shouldn’t she be?—for Jemmy Brun had never said a word to her which any man might not have said to any maiden. So wife and I got easy again.

But what should I see, one evening at twilight, while sauntering out under the shadows of my own grove of forest oaks, not far from the house, but two figures “flitting hither and thither among the distant trees.’ Like a knave, as I was, I sat on the ground and watched them; watched them nervously, glaringly, till I saw Jemmy Brun give Minnie a kiss on her lips, and looked lovingly after her as she slipped away.

I was reclining upon the sward by her path. Determined to meet and confront them, I sat and watched her coming.

Certainly Minnie’s face never wore that expression before. It was not gleeful, but it was radiant, and her eyes which were on the ground, and hence only visible as she came very near me, had a light and depth which I never saw before. She passed me: so utterly was the child absorbed in her own emotions.

‘Minnie!’ I said, in a tone which startled myself scarcely less than my child.

‘Oh!’ and she sprang from the path as though the sound had been a rattle among the grass.

I raised myself slowly—I am very slow when very angry, and standing stiffly before her glowered down into her eyes—Minnie’s beautiful, living eyes—with a sternness which had never failed to terrify. But the child, though she trembled like an aspen at first, brought her father’ s angry face with great composure.

I shall not repeat the words that followed; they never must be written; and would to God they had never been spoken!

Minnie had given him her heart, and would give her hand. How could she help it? Even her father’s anger would not prevent her fulfilling her word; for was not Jemmy Brun worthy, and was not her father’ s anger unreasonable and unjust? All this she said to me with the deep calmness of a perfect heroine, while I stood there almost as much astonished as angry.

“Wife, it’s all up with Minnie,” said I, striding into the sitting room, and breaking in upon a most delightful afternoon reverie, only relieved by the solemn ticking of the clock and the busy click of the knitting needles.

“Lord! what’s the matter?” and the ball of yarn rolled across the floor, while a flower pot on the window fell, spilling and crashing on the bricks outside, “there goes the flower pot—tell me quick—you look as pale as a sheet,”

‘Minnie has promised to marry that scapegrace in spite of us; she says she will to me, in the face of my absolute commands.’ Thereupon I walked the floor, wife staring at me the while. ‘I’ll never forgive her— never!’

‘Husband, stop and think. He—’

‘I won’t stop and think. I say I’ll never forgive her; and I won’t. Call her in.’

Wife left the room in search of Minnie. At length they came; both tearful. We sat down together, a constrained group; Minnie very tearful, but very sweet and beautiful. The interview was short, and these were the closing words:

‘Father, I have always been a dutiful child—you will do me that justice. But I love this man. You grant that his character is unimpeachable, but you forbid our marriage because you have a prejudice against him. I love and honor you, father . You cannot doubt that; but in this case I must follow the dictates of my own heart.’

‘Do so, if you will; but remember, your father will never forgive you.’

Thus ended the interview, wife sobbing distressfully, Minnie weeping quietly, and I sitting grim and angry.

Minnie kept her word and became the wife of Jemmy Brun.

I did not forbid them the house, as most angry fathers are said to do, but I told Minnie again that she had lost my love and care. Then I was so foolish as to see Jemmy Brun; and in a very silly speech inform him that since he was taking my daughter from her father without his consent, he need expect no gifts or favors now or henceforth. She would not be allowed to share in the family inheritance, nor should I render the least assistance if they ‘should come to want.’ I shall never forget the queer look the young man gave—a glance in which pride seemed almost vainly struggling with a cluster of mirth sparkles.

‘Very well, sir, we will try not to “come to want.” That was all he said; but the cool, self-possession of his manner made me feel as though I had undertaken to drive a nail and had pounded my fingers.

I had always been demonstrative toward my children—the elder as well as the younger Minnie had never lost her right to her father’s knee, nor did she ever meet me in the morning or part from me at night without a kiss. This was denied her now. Poor child! It was the sorest trial of all. Once or twice she clung tearfully to me in my sternness, and reaching up to clasp my neck with her white arms, tried to bend my lips to hers. No, I promised her never a kiss while I lived.

Women are strange creatures. There was my wife, who had entirely sympathized with me, as I supposed, absolutely giving aid and comfort to our recreant daughter. I verily believe that long before the wedding day came she was as thoroughly interested in the whole affair as though Minnie had been about to marry the best business man in town. Little use was it for me to tighten my purse strings and direct that the child should have no marriage outfit of wardrobes, pillowcases, counterpanes and the thousand and one et et ceteras in which mothers take such pride and pleasure.

In spite of me, but surreptitiously, Minnie was well provided for, I am sure. I remember that the shopman’s bills for some ten months thereafter seemed unusually full, both in number of items and footing of column; and I shrewdly suspect that my wife had arranged, with the tradesman to have the articles scattered along through the months. She was always a good financer.

The ceremony was performed in church, I was present, lest my absence should give too much great notoriety to the family jar. Useless. The whole town having long since been made acquainted with the state of affairs, the bride’s beauty and the bride-groom’s popularity, set many eyes on me with a sparkle of criticism in them.

‘He needn’t look so savage like,’ muttered a gruff old yeoman behind me; ‘there ain’t a likelier young fellow anywheres hereabout than Jemmy Brun; an’ though Minnie be purty as pink, it’s a good match, I say—a real even bargain—so.’

Long, long months went by after the marriage, tedious, unhappy months for me. I knew I was being soured by this self-imposed restraint on the affectional part of my nature. Minnie came to her old home sometimes. Once or twice she begged for the return of the old love, the old home kiss. No. My daughter was happy in her husband, happy in her home. But I saw very plainly that the bliss of the old home was lost to her.

Nearly two years went back into the past, shadowed in this manner, when a little human blossom was laid in its cradle. A little struggling wee thing—another Minnie. Poor me! Here was another influence to be stemmed, as boats stem another wave and another gust. But I braced myself; and when I had been forced into Minnie’s chamber, stood over the poor child with the little one on her arm, and heard the faint voice add to the sweetly beseeching look, ‘do kiss me, father !” I shook my head and went out.

One day a strange change came over the young mother, alarming the experienced, and giving to the physician that ominous air of grave mystery which strikes into the soul of the loving. I moved about, full of fear and guilty distress. The symptoms became more and more alarming—she was sinking. I was called to her bedside, as that of my first dying child. As I bent over the white face, almost translucent with meekness illuminated, by eyes all undimmed by illness, my Minnie gave me an old time glance of love, and throwing up her hands as if to clasp my neck, said faintly, but oh! so earnestly—

‘Kiss me father!’

I bent down to my daughter, my first-born, and we wept long together—the strong father and the faintly breathing child.

What do you think Minnie did? Why, she got well again, and in two months was as musical as a lark, and as gay, looking after the little Minnie like a pretty mother as she was.

However, the ice was fairly broken, and I was my old fatherly self ever after. Minnie even ventured, after a time, to make merry at my expense, over the fact that not only was Jemmy Brun the best of husbands, but of the well-known American writers.

I think I was a very great fool.

The Vincennes [IN] Gazette 15 December 1860

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is inclined to agree with the gentleman. But how delightful it is to find a self-important Victorian paterfamilias owning himself in the wrong!  Perhaps Mrs Daffodil is too suspicious, but she suspects a certain collusion between Minnie, Mama, and the doctor. And why not?  A little innocent deception may lead to happy endings all round.  Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers who are doting Papas, a very happy Father’s Day.

A comical post for a previous Father’s Day may be found here, and a tragic one (Mrs Daffodil will warn her readers that the story is utterly heart-rending) here.

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

Country Wedding, John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

Country Wedding, John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

A Bashful Bridegroom

Senator Sebastian, of Arkansas, was a native of Hickman county, Tenn. On one occasion a member of Congress was lamenting his bashful awkwardness. “Why,” said the senator from Rackensack, “you don’t know what bashfulness is. Let me tell you a story, and when I get through I will stand the bob if you don’t agree that you never knew anything about bashfulness and its baneful effects. I was the most bashful boy west of the Alleghenies. I wouldn’t look at a girl, much less speak to a maiden; but for all that I fell desperately in love with a sweet, beautiful neighbor girl. It was a desirable match on both side, and the old folks saw the drift, and fixed it up. I thought I should die, just thinking of it. I was a gawky, awkward country lout about nineteen years old. She was an intelligent, refined and fairly well educated girl in a country and at a time when the girls had superior advantages, and were therefore superior in culture to the boys. I fixed the day as far as I could have put it off. I lay awake in a cold perspiration as the time drew near, and shivered with agony and thought of the terrible ordeal. The dreadful day came. I went through with the program somehow in a dazed, confused, mechanical sort of a way, like an automaton booby through a supper where I could eat nothing, and through such games as “Possum Pie,” “Sister Phoebe,” and all that sort of thing. The guests one by one departed, and my hair began to stand on end. Beyond the awful curtain of Isis lay the terrible unknown. My blood grew cold and boiled by turns. I was in a fever and then an ague, pale and flushed by turns. I felt like fleeing into the woods, spending the night in the barn, leaving for the west never to return. I was deeply devoted to Sallie. I loved her harder than mule can kick; but that terrible ordeal!—I could not, dare not stand it. Finally the last guest was gone, the bride retired, the family gone to bed, and I was left alone—horror of horrors, alone with the old man. “John,” said he, “you can take that candle, you will find your room just over this. Goodnight, John, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul,” and with a mischievous twinkle in his fine gray eye the old man left the room. I mentally said “Amen” to his “Heaven help you,” and when I heard him close a distant door, staggered to my feet and seized the farthing dip with nervous grasp. I stood for some minutes contemplating my terrible fate, and the inevitable and speedy doom about to overwhelm me. I knew that it could not be avoided, and yet I hesitated to meet my fate like a man. I stood so long that three love letters had grown in the wick of the tallow dip and a winding sheet was decorating the side of the brass candle-stick. A happy thought struck me. I hastily climbed the stair, marked the position of the landing, and the door of the bridal chamber. I would have died before I would have disrobed in that holy chamber, where awaiting me a trembling and beautiful girl, a blushing maiden, “clothed upon” with her own beauty and modesty, and her snowy robe de nuit. I would make the usual preparations without, blow out the light, open the door, and friendly night would shield my shrinking modesty and bashfulness and grateful darkness at least mitigate the horror of the situation. It was soon done. Preparations for retiring were few and simple in their character in Hickman, altogether consisting of disrobing, and owing to the scarcity of cloth in those days man was somewhere near the Adamic state when he was prepared to woo sweet sleep. The dreadful hour had come; I was ready. I blew out the light, grasped the door-knob with a deathly gripe and a nervous clutch; one moment and it would be over.

One moment and it wasn’t over by a d__n sight. I leaped within, and there around a glowing hickory fire, with candles brightly burning on the mantel and bureau, was the blushing bride, surrounded by the six lovely bridesmaids.”

The Fresno [CA] Republican 24 June 1882: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add….

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.