The Heavy-Weight Scales at the Resort: 1893


They Were Fixed So as to Afford Encouragement to Invalids.

When the stoutest young lady at Fort Monroe got upon the scales there was a hush of expectancy, says the Washington “Star.” Up to that point everybody was pleased, because everyone seemed to have gained in weight. The girl with the auburn ringlets had uttered a little shriek of delight when she found for the first time in her life she tipped the scales at over 100 pounds. The youthful matron in black, who had said all along that it was only her mourning that made her look thinner was triumphant when her avoirdupois was registered at 111. As for the fair creature with the balloon sleeves and incipient crinoline, she declared that she had never before weighed within eight pounds as much.

When the stoutest young lady got aboard she said with amiable resignation:

“Put on the 50 pound weight, I’ll need it.”

So the iron disk representing 50 pounds was put in, and the register was slid along by the girl with the auburn ringlets. Strange to say it passed up to the very end of the bar without making the scale drop.

“Guess you’ll have to put on another 50,” giggled the unfeeling creature in the balloon sleeves.

The stoutest young lady began to look alarmed.

“It isn’t so!” she exclaimed, indignantly. “I don’t weigh an ounce over 179 pounds.”

But the girl with the auburn ringlets had already added the extra 50-pound weight, which caused the scale to respond at once. It promptly registered 202 pounds.

The stoutest young lady looked as though she did not know whether to burst into tears or to slap off the bonnet of the girl with the auburn ringlets and stamp on it.

“It is a cheat and a horrid fraud!” she declared. Then she raised her parasol with an emphasis that nearly broke one of the ribs and marched away.

Just at that moment a colored waiter passed by with a basketful of napkins. The youthful matron in black stopped him.

“Is this weighing scale correct?” she said.

“Yes’m,” he replied. Then, scratching his head, he added, “They is heavy-weight scales.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“They is for folks what comes here for health,” he explained. “Everyone weighs a lot more on them than city scales. They is a s’perior article of weighin’ machine.”

“Oh, I see,” said the young women in black. “They are expressly intended to afford encouragement to invalids staying at the hotel.”

“Yes’m,” responded the colored man. “Ten to thirty pounds worth of encouragement. You got the idea.”

Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 21 May 1893: p. 21

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Snug in our era of antibiotics, we have long forgotten the perils of water-borne diseases and consumption, that rendered the sick dangerously underweight—hence the need for resorts to build up the invalid. Weight gain was the best symptom of recovery. Mrs Daffodil once worked with a strapping young woman from Austria who said that, while she led a romping, outdoor sort of a life as a child, if she or her siblings had the grippe or other debilitating illnesses, their weight was anxiously monitored. Upon recovery, they were stuffed with rich foods—rather like those unfortunate Strausbourg geese—to bring them back to what was believed to be a healthy weight.

In deference to modern sensibilities, Mrs Daffodil has altered the waiter’s dialogue to something less offensive than the dialect of the original.

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.



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