Category Archives: Animals

Snake-skins in Fashion: 1882-1912

BEAUTY IN SNAKE-SKINS.

LATEST VAGARY OF FASHION.

This autumn will bring the snake-skin dress into fashion. Mr. Gerrett, the originator of this development, informed a newspaper representative recently that its advantages are more manifold than would appear at the first glance.

“Marvels can be achieved by the python’s skin, in the hands of a clever designer,” he said, “for this skin never pulls or gives. It is both waterproof and pliable, and it can, by skilful manipulation of its wonderful scale marking, bring into prominence a pretty point or hide a defect.

“By using the python’s skin for footwear a foot can be made smaller, or it can be given breadth or tapered to a point.

“Then why should not an entire figure be modelled on these lines–breadth here, a slim line there, attention called to a pretty waist, or angular hips transformed into beautifully rounded ones by the magic aid of the python’s skin?

“Not only will women benefit by this idea, but the python’s skin should make men’s golf shoes impervious to weather, furnish lapels and, cuffs to motor-coats, and make elaborate waistcoats which will not wrinkle and which will disguise rotundity.

“I have already many orders for python shoes and many exquisite shoes, this autumn will be made in grey lizard, but for absolute smartness nothing will approach the gorgeous skin of the python.”

New Zealand Herald, 6 August 1910: p. 2

Yes, python embraces every curve….

COATS FROM SNAKESKINS

For once fashion has taken a direction which promises to be of general benefit to humanity. Women, or at least such as have access to the longest purses, shortly are to use snakeskin for garments for quite everyday wear, says a London dispatch to the Chicago Inter Ocean. One can scarcely imagine a more poetic revenge by the daughters of Eve on their old enemy, the serpent tempter.

Whether the new robes will prove as artistic as is expected remains to be seen. They will certainly lend themselves in skilful hands to the emphasizing of whatever graces there may be in the person of the wearer, and if the fashion thins out the number of these dangerous reptiles all over the world humanity will owe a debt of gratitude to the inventor of new modes.

We may yet come to see python skin sold by the yard over the dry goods counters, for the python is a big reptile, occasionally reaching, when full grown, thirty feet in length and a foot or more in diameter. Thus, apparently, a single skin might supply enough stuff to make an ordinary gown along modern lines. What the cost will be one cannot yet say. It will obviously be high, for serpents of the largest size are not to be met with every day.

The market price of skins, in view of the coming demand, already has gone up to a very high figure, and in Borneo, Sumatra and all over the Malay archipelago native hunters are scouring the wilderness, tempted by the offers of dealers in Paris and Vienna, and killing and capturing every big snake they meet with.

Properly prepared snake skin is both soft and durable. The anaconda is already “bespoke” for the latest thing in motor coats, and thus used makes an attractive novelty. Made up in the delicate shades of cream color and brown, and lined with satin to match, the material forms most attractive garments, which are especially desirable by reason of their lightness. They weigh almost nothing at all, and, it is reported, “never wear out.”

Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ] 13 August 1912: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil regrets that these beautiful snakes were hunted almost to extinction in the name of fashion. She feels that the world needs more giant pythons and anacondas to keep mankind on its toes.

Light and durable and attractive though snake-skin garments might be, there were certain drawbacks:

Recently snakes and lizards have been furnishing some share of the material for what are considered the most elegant styles of pocket-books, portmonnaies, gentlemen’s match-safes, card-cases, side bags with girdles, and fashionable trifles of all kinds. Yet it is by rather slow degrees that the boa-constrictor elegance has been winding itself into favour with us; in some of the European cities it is reported as having become much more the rage. Here in the manufacturing shop, however, may be seen the snake skin untanned, just as brought from South America, and resembling what one sees in the British Museum. Its markings are very beautiful, with the gold-touched stripe through the centre and the irregularly conjoined diamond and triangle shapes at either side. It is this natural design which is so much prized for objects like the side-bag or the pocket-book. Yet the material may have, perhaps, the fault of not wearing quite satisfactorily. The edges of the scales are apt to get rubbed up the wrong way so as to cause very soon a seedy appearance of the article. For the prevention of this roughening tendency gums are introduced, however, with more or less success in the process of preparing the skin for manufacture. The Citizen-Examiner 19 April 1882: p. 2

Snakes, of course, do not sling handbags carelessly about, nor do they sit on their coats in taxi-cabs or motor-cars. They glide through whatever jungle they inhabit, smoothing their scales the correct way and  ensuring that they do not end up looking like a parrot dragged through a hedge backwards. One expects that it is altogether too much to ask of the heedless young woman in a python dress who fancies herself a serpentine temptress to be mindful of the grain of her scales.

Mrs Daffodil regrets that the only specimen she was able to find of early snake-skin garb is the shoe at the head of the post. There was, however, a rage for the reptilian in the 1930s-40s and again in the New Age of the 1970s and in the opulent ’90s. Mrs Daffodil shares some of those fashions on her facebook page.

Mrs Daffodil has also discussed the fad for lizard fashions and for snake garters.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

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

 

 

 

 

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Baby’s Pitty Itty Picture: 1911

His “Pitty Itty Picture”

By MAX MERRYMAN

“Yes, it’s the very first time he ever had his photograph taken, so, of course, we want to get the very best picture possible, and —no, grandma; I don’t think, after all, that we’d better try to have it taken with his little rattle in hand. Do you, Aunt Harriet? You see, he would be apt to want to shake the rattle at the very moment when the photographer wants him to be perfectly still; but I don’t believe we can get him to keep perfectly still for ten seconds. He is really the most active child I ever saw, Mr. Photographer. He doesn’t even lie still in his sleep. I really think that it is nervousness more than anything else. The doctor says that the child is perfectly well. In fact, I never saw a healthier child. He has never been sick a minute, and he is six months old today: I didn’t want his photograph taken any earlier than that, for I think that a baby hardly ever has much expression until he is about six months old, although every one says that our little Reginald is different from most babies in that respect. His Aunt Lucy was saying yesterday that he had the most intelligent expression of any—oh! I want several negatives taken, and see which one I like best. His grandma — that is, my mother here — wants one just head and shoulders; and his other grandma is very anxious to have a full figure, with him lying on a pillow we brought with us. His Aunt Lucy wants us to try and get a profile of him for her, for she says he has really a remarkable profile for a child of his age; and I want one picture with him in my arms, and his dear little cheek cuddled up to mine; and then we think it would be nice to have him and his two grandmas taken together; and I want one with him and my mother and myself all in it, showing three generations. I think that—better not fuss with his hair, grandma. Those little curls are about right, and I hope they will show good in the picture. So many people rave over his hair. My sister has a baby boy, ten months old, and he hasn’t a third as much hair as our baby has; but then he has never been real well, and he weighs a pound less than our baby, and—yes; we will be ready in just a few minutes. We want to slip on his best dress. We brought it with us in a box, so that it wouldn’t be all mussed up by him wearing it. Then we brought his best little cap, that his Aunt Jennie sent him from out West, and we want one taken with it on to send to her. This odd little rattle we brought is one his grandma had when she was a baby, and she thinks it would be nice to have it in his hand when it is taken. I am expecting his father in every minute. He said that he would meet us here at—here he is now! Here we are, papa, baby and all, and—see him hold out his little hands to his papa! He did that when he was only four months and one week old, and a friend of mine has a baby, eight months old, that has never yet held out its hands to any one. I want one photograph with the baby in his father’s arms, and—be careful, papa! Don’t get the child excited, or it will be so hard to get him still for his picture. The moment he sees his father he wants to romp and play. He is so full of vitality and—no, Aunt Kitty, I don’t believe that we’d better all go into the operating-room with him. I think that if his papa and his two grandmas and I go it will be enough. Too many might distract him and make it hard to keep him still. Is your father coming in, papa? You know, he said when he was over to the house last night that perhaps he would try to come in, and we thought that maybe we would have him and you and the baby taken together, as you all have the same name. I do think that it is nice to hand down a family name from one generation to another, and—yes, we will be ready in just a moment, as soon as—now, mamma’s baby is going to have his own, owney, itty picture taken, so he is, and he must be ever and ever so—what? Baby isn’t going to cry! Oh, ray, my! Tut, tut, tut! He won’t cry long. He never does. A cousin of mine has a baby that will cry all night, but, of course, the poor child isn’t well. I don’t think that well babies ever cry much, and I know that—papa, you’d better step out of sight until I get him ready. He wants to go to you when you are around. I do hope that the pictures will come out good. You see, we want to have some of them enlarged if they are good, and, as I say, it is his first photograph, and—baby doin’ to have his own, owney, pitty itty picture taken—yes, he is! The picture man will show baby itty bird—yes, he will! Baby must be good. Hand me a safety-pin, some one. Have you his little comb, grandma? Aunty Lou, supposing you moisten a corner of my handkerchief with water. There is a tiny smooch on one cheek. There, I think he is about ready. I do hope the picture will come out good! We mean to have more taken on his first birthday, and every birthday after that, and—no, papa, I’d better carry him into the operating-room. Tome, baby, and have his owney, own, pitty itty picture taken!”

Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song, and story, 1911

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can only pity the unhappy “Mr Photographer.” Mrs Daffodil previously wrote on the demanding “tin-type girls” who made his life a misery.

One photographer confessed to a reporter that he found infants to be trying subjects.

The artist was a heavy-eyed man; his hair was unkempt, his scarf was disarranged, and his coat-sleeves were turned up. He looked weary.

“I have just been attempting to fix a baby’s attention,” he said, in an explanatory tone, “by throwing handsprings behind the camera. When I showed the negative to the mother she made the inevitable observation that the face lacked expression. Can you put expression on the surface of a lump of damp putty?”

“Is it easier to photograph dogs than babies?”

“Oh, a thousand times. You can fix a dog’s attention and hold it for a time without difficulty. Then, dogs faces are more or less expressive. None of them has the look of stupidity that the average baby wears except the pug.

Pug dogs, by the way, are the easiest to take. All you have to do is to put them in front of the camera and they go to sleep at once. The most difficult dog I ever struggled with was an Italian greyhound. It was a delicate and extremely sensitive little creature, and endowed with almost human intelligence. It couldn’t keep its shadowy legs still half a second to save its life. We worked half a day, and succeeded at length in making a picture that was half satisfactory.’

“Do you photograph many dogs?”

“About 200 a year. Though work is done by a few specialists. The big photographers won’t bother with dogs.” New York Sun.

The Daily Globe [St. Paul MN] 3 January 1884: p. 3

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 Stuffed Cat-skin: 1860s

A Stuffed Cat-skin.

An eccentric and parsimonious old lady, who died in a small village in the State of Maine, some twenty years ago, always kept a half dozen cats about the house. She was a dried-up-looking old crone, and some ill-minded people had gone so far as to call her a witch, doubtless because of her oddities and her cats, “black, white, and brindled.” When one of these delightful night-prowlers departed this life, the old lady would have the skin of the animal stuffed, to adorn her mantel shelf. My informant said he had once seen them with his own eyes, arranged along on the shelf, some half score of them, looking as demure and comfortable as a stuffed cat could, while the old woman sat by the fireplace, crooning over her knitting work.

The woman paid no bills that she could avoid, always pleading poverty as her excuse for the non-fulfilment of her responsibilities.

One dark and stormy night she was taken very sick, and by a preconcerted signal to a neighbor, — the placing of a light in a certain window, — help was summoned, including the village doctor, to whom she owed a fee for each visit he had ever made her. But this was fated to be the doctor’s last call to that patient.

“O, doctor, then I am dying at last — am I?”

The physician assured her such was the case.

“Then, doctor, I must tell you that you’ve been very patient with me, and have hastened day or night to see me, in my whims, as well as my real sickness, and you shall be rewarded. I have no money, but you see all my treasures arranged along on the mantel-piece there?”

“What!” exclaimed the doctor ; “you don’t call those cats treasures, I hope!”

“Yes, they are my only treasures, doctor. Now, I want to be just to you, above all others, because you’ve not only served me as I said, but you’ve often sent me wood and provisions during the cold winters —”

Here she became too feeble to go on, and the doctor revived her with some cordial from his saddle-bags, when she took breath, and continued, —

“See them, doctor; eleven of them. Which will you choose?” The doctor, with as much grace as possible, declined selecting any one of the useless stuffed skins; when the old lady, by much effort, raised her head from the pillow, and said, “Well, I will select for you. Take the black one —take — the black — cat — doctor!” and died.

Her dying words so impressed him, that he took the cat home, and, on opening her, — for it was very heavy, — he found that the skin contained nearly a hundred dollars, in gold.

The Funny Side of Physic: 1880: p. 400-2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A macabre case of a black cat being lucky!

Recently Mrs Daffodil posted a story by Mr Oscar Wilde on the theme of deceptive appearances, The Model Millionaire. The nineteenth century press was found of stories about immensely wealthy misers who went about in rags and the eccentric places they hid their treasures, such as the following:

“ Peg-leg” Dan used to be a familiar figure on Clark Street, in Chicago. He sold pencils and chewing-gum from a little tray that swung from his neck, and the thump of his peg-leg helped to wear away the sidewalk from daylight to night-time. Then, one day they picked up what was left of Dan, and tried to patch it together on the operating-table at the hospital.

“Just look out for my peg,” he’d say anxiously; and to please him, the old wooden leg was stood up beside his cot where he could look at it.

“I’m going to will you that, nurse,” he told the white-capped girl who soothed his last hours, and she smiled back, and told him he’d need it himself.

“No, I won’t, and I ain’t joking, either.“ he said earnestly. ” Don’t you forget what I say. You can have that peg-leg as soon as they’ve finished with me, ’cause you‘ve been good to me. understand. nurse? Don’t you forget.”

She did not forget. She took the old. battered wooden leg as a memento of the kind-faced, brave old cripple. And. on closer examination, the leg was found to be hollow. and jammed with bills of high denomination. making it as valuable as was ever the “precious leg of Miss Kilmansegg.”** Something over fifteen thousand it yielded as “ Peg-leg” Dan’s treasure-trove. left to the nurse who was kind to him. And she didn’t forget.

**A reference to “Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg,” a poem about a solid gold artificial limb by Thomas Hood.

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.

 

Richard Snowflake, Esq.: late 1880s

Five Pounds of Intelligence.

Charles Dawbarn

Richard Snowflake, Esq., was his name, but he graciously allowed his particular friends to call him “Dick.” Only eighty ounces of French poodle, counting flesh, bones, and early white hair; but then, it was all permeated with an intelligence that counted by the ton on the scales of heaven.

Civilization demands of man that he become a specialist. He must walk in a narrow groove all day, even though he put on a dress-coat when evening comes and pretend to be just like his fellows. Nature laid the same command upon Richard Snowflake. He looked like a poodle, barked like a poodle, and perhaps bit like a poodle, but he had hobby. He was a specialist, and in his own line acquired a distinction and achieved success possible, only, to a dog born under very peculiar planetary influences.

The stars had marked him as their favorite seven months before my friend made his acquaintance in the city of Detroit. But the mark was small at that time for he only weighed two pounds; one dollar and fifty cents was his price—seventy-five cents a pound for the poodle, with the intelligence thrown in. Mortals are short-sighted, but the angels wept with joy. Richard’s life-work demonstrated a wider field than the broad avenues of Detroit. In fact his destiny amongst his fellows was to become a Cyrus B. Field, a Jay Gould and a Russell Sage, all rolled into one little dog of the French poodle variety. He was born with a faculty for accumulating wealth, but unlike Jay Gould he could not begin with a patent mouse trap. A mouse was too small game for Richard Snowflake, Esq. He was far too honorable to use water to increase his capital, indeed his friends say he grew up from two pounds to five almost entirely upon milk.

The first evidence of special talent was given by Richard a few months after his change of ownership. He was in a carriage sitting quietly in the lap of his mistress whose husband was driving, when suddenly he insisted on getting out. It was the work only of a moment to run to the side of the road and return with an envelope containing two ten-dollar bills. Of course he was praised and petted for his financial ability. In a week or two he found more money, and at intervals of weeks or months continued his collections. His mistress kept an account of his earnings for the two years of his short life, including the value of a diamond ring which he fished out of the drains of a long deserted home, and she assured me the total amount was over three hundred dollars.

One day a boy—an evil-minded, wicked boy—pointed his toy pistol at poor Richard. In a glass case on the parlor table now reposes the martyred Snowflake. As the lady was telling me the history, we were looking at the little hero who lay there with glass eyes and a curly tail, and the cruel bullet was under his fore paw. The husband was in the front room and confirmed the story, as he said he had been present at several of the collections taken up by Richard for the benefit of the family.

So far, the Seybert commission will of course talk learnedly about the attraction of cohesion, and show us how Kellar, the magician, can do the same if any body can be found who will lend him a couple hundred dollars and an old diamond ring. But there was a postscript which carries the mystery a step further into the field of Spiritualism where the Journal fights its battles of today.

Just a week after Richard Snowflake, Esq. had ceased to snap at flies, and had gone to the paradise where it is believed fleas are refused admittance, his mistress felt him in her arms as she was walking in the street. Being clairvoyant and clairaudient she says she saw him and heard his cheerful little bark of greeting. Suddenly be jumped down and ran across the street. She followed till he stopped with his paw on a crumpled-up ten-dollar-bill. It was his contribution to the funeral expenses. He never appeared again, and if ten dollar bills are still lying around loose or flattering in the air, they are now doubtless gathered by dogs of another breed.

The reader might ask if I believe the story.

I have testified that I stood by the glass case containing the dead dog and the fatal bullet while listening to the wonderful narrative. There, too, was the cash account kept by the day, all ready to be added up by the skillful accountant. The ten dollar bills were the only missing links in this wonderful biography. The magician was dead.

But the dog-ghost, and that last ten dollar bill? Yes, I heard all that too. I saw neither the ghost nor the bills. The reader and the editor have exhausted my testimony, save that I remember the lady said the dog seemed half asleep and refused to eat for some hours before each find, and that she was conscious of influences at such times although they never assumed human form or personality. So the mediumship of life below man might be an interesting theme for discussion.

San Leandro, Cal.

Religio-Philosophical Journal 4 January 1890

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a very curious story! One has certainly heard of intelligent dogs doing clever things, such as the French dog who traded game birds for bread and the dogs who collect for charity at railway stations. But a dog with a nose for treasure is a very rare breed, indeed. How agreeable it would be to have a pet like Richard Snowflake to collect ten-pound notes or valuable jewellery whenever he left the house. Certainly it would make a nice change from the little offerings Snuff, the Hall mouser, lays on the hearth rug.

To be Relentlessly Informative, Mrs Daffodil was puzzled by the reference to water and milk, but apparently it refers to “watering one’s stock,” an ethically dubious practice of the Robber Baron class.  Kellar is Harry Kellar, an eminent American conjurer. The Seybert Commission studied psychic phenomena and Spiritualism. It was not unusual for Victorian pet owners to stuff their defunct pets and display them under glass. There is even a famous ghost legend about a dog in a glass case from the Isle of Wight.

 

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 White Cat: 1844

Photo @warren photographic. You’ll find more of their wonderful pet photographs here: http://www.warrenphotographic.co.uk/26883-white-rabbit-and-white-cat

THE WHITE CAT OF C.

The following story, which appears in Mrs. Crowe’s last book, has just been vouched to us by the lady who furnished the account to Mrs. Crowe, and our readers may rely on its perfect accuracy. It is as well authenticated as the rabbit of the Wesley family, or of any of the more modern and well proved appearances of animals:—

About fifteen years ago, I was staying with some friends in Yorkshire, and our host, Sir G. W., being very much crippled with gout, was in the habit of driving about the neighborhood, on which occasions, I often accompanied him. One fine summer’s evening, we had just entered a lane, when, seeing the hedges full of wild flowers, I asked my friend to let me alight and gather some; I walked on before the carriage till I came to a gate, a common country gate, with a post on each side, and on one of these posts, sat a large white cat, which though seen by the groom as well as myself, was not visible to my friend. I thought he must be joking or else losing his sight, and I approached the cat, intending to carry it to the carriage: as I drew near, she jumped off the post, but to my surprise, as she jumped, she disappeared! No cat in the field,—none in the lane—none in the ditch! I was quite bewildered; and when I got into the carriage, again my friend said, he thought I and James were dreaming. I had a commission to execute as we passed through the town of C., and I alighted for that purpose at the haberdasher’s; and while they were serving me, I mentioned that I had seen a beautiful cat, sitting on a gate in the lane, and asked if they would tell me who it belonged to, adding, it was the largest cat I ever saw. The owners of the shop and two women who were making purchases, suspended their proceedings, looked at each other, and then at me, evidently very much surprised.

“The lady’s seen the White Cat of C.,” cried two or three. “It hasn’t been seen this twenty years.”

The pony getting restless, I hurried out, and got into the carriage, telling my friend that the cat was well known to the people at C., and that it was twenty years old.

In those days, I believe I never thought of ghosts, and least of all should I have thought of the ghost of a cat; but two evenings afterwards, as we were driving down the lane, I again saw the cat, in the same position, and again my companion could not see it; I alighted immediately and went up to it. As I approached, it turned its head and looked full towards me with its mild eyes, and a kindly expression, like that of a loving dog; and then, without moving from the post, it began to fade gradually away, as if it were vapour, till it had quite disappeared.

All this the groom saw; and now there could be no mistake as to what it was. A third time, I saw it in broad daylight, and my curiosity greatly awakened, I resolved to make further enquiries amongst the inhabitants of C., but before I had an opportunity of doing so, I was summoned away by the death of my eldest child, and I have never been in that part since.

The British Spiritual Telegraph, 1859

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “The rabbit of the Wesley family” refers to what psychical researchers might term a “poltergeist” outbreak at Epworth Rectory, home of the Rev. Samuel Wesley, father of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Among other apparitions, Mrs. Wesley saw an animal in the house resembling a badger, while a serving man saw “something like a white rabbit, which came from  behind the oven, with its ears flat upon the neck, and its little scut  standing straight up.” Family letters relating the entire mystifying affair may be found at this site.

Mrs Crowe is Catherine Crowe [1803-76], author of novels and children’s stories, but best remembered for her collection of stories of ghosts and ghost-seers, The Night Side of Nature. The subject seems to have unhinged the lady’s mind, for she was found in the streets of Edinburgh “clothed only in her chastity, a pocket-handkerchief, and a visiting card,” under the delusion that she was invisible. An admirable account of this unfortunate event is found here.

In this muted account, the ghostly white cat seems (although this is not stated explicitly) to be a token of the death of the narrator’s child.  White objects–doves, rabbits, owls, White Lady spectres, arsenical powders–are well-known to peasant and folklorist alike as death omens.

 

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.

Fashionable Shagreen: 1917-1923

It is, Mrs Daffodil has been reliably informed, something called “Shark Week.” Mrs Daffodil does not, as a rule, celebrate ocean-going predators, but it is an excellent excuse to discuss the fashionable uses for shagreen.

FASHIONABLE SHAGREEN.

WONDERFUL EFFECTS.

Four centuries ago shagreen—a handsome Chinese presentation of fish skin was the envy of all the young dandies about town, says an overseas fashion recorder. But shagreen was exclusive and expensive, cured and cut and shaped by hand, and it was only the dandy with a long purse who could afford to have this lovely decoration on his sword sheath or snuff-box. Once again Bond Street has revived shagreen. It has been displayed in the shop windows for some months, and just around the corner, off Old Bond Street, you will find the workers of the Chinese fish skin busy curing, “kneading,” and dyeing it to the perfection of its finished state.

Just as was the case 400 years ago, it is still exclusive and costly.

The process of manufacture is long and difficult. The skin does not lend itself to factory production, so that in shagreen articles you have one of the most beautiful of the hand-made productions.

Shagreen experts tell me that the skin is “practically everlasting,” and, what is more delightful, age intensifies its beauty. It looks lovely bound with silver in brush-and comb sets. There are complete outfits for the secretaire, and endless small things like scent sprays, cigarette and match cases, and a few book-bindings are shown. The colours are exquisite—soft blue, grey, rose and especially green. It was the green that was used in the early 17th century—for the art of making shagreen take subtle dyes was not then known—and some fortunate people have pieces of green among their family heirlooms. In the little “factory ” 1 was shown shagreen as it arrives from the Orient. Actually it is (he skin of a small rare shark, and the raw material is as stiff and hard as a board. The placoid scales of the shark give it a very rough surface. It looks as if tiny pebbles have been embedded in the skin. They feel like stone. In the old days the skin of horses and wild asses was treated to imitate shagreen and part of the process was to embed a certain seed in the skin while it was soft, and so artificially manufacture the knitter 1 surface. As a rule the real skin arrives in a creamy tint and often in a colour that requires no dye. Many hours of labour have to be spent filing down the hard scales and kneading the buckram like texture to the softness of kid When ready for mounting the hard nodules have been transformed to a pearl-like pattern and even after dyeing this creamy colour remains where the scales were, and on this particular shark every pore seems to be a scale. No two skins are alike. Frequently two skins put into a bath of green dye will take the colour in two totally different shades. This not only annoys the worker but adds to the price of the finished article. Shagreen is used effectively to line the bathroom walls in the Queen’s dolls’ house, where the ceiling is of snail shell and the bath of rose rock crystal.

New Zealand Herald 27 November 1926: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: When we speak of “shagreen” and sharkskin, these, of course, refer to the actual skin of a shark rather than the louche shiny suiting fabric favoured by cads.

While sharkskin has long been in use as a luxe leather, it was not until the Great War’s leather shortages that its potential was once again explored.

Shortage of Leather

Demand for Military Purposes Leaves Little for Civilian Uses.

America’s entrance into the war has created a demand for fancy leathers.

For example, more leather has been cut up for wrist watch straps this year than ever before and the demand is increasing. Officers’ vests are being made from chamois skins. Leather is required for binding army manuals and reports and there is a big demand for leather for covering field glasses, cameras, surgical instruments, cases, etc. Steel helmets must be lined with leather. Leather is also needed for automobile and airplane equipment.

There is a great demand for leather for straps, revolver cases, harnesses and saddlery, not to mention money belts, pipe cases, trench cigarette cases and the like.

Pigskin for Leggings.

It is said that the demand for pigskin for leggings and other military equipment has practically exhausted the supply of this leather and cowhide is now being used by manufacturers of these articles.

No Walrus for Bags.

Little walrus will be seen in bags and cases this year as the Newfoundland catch of this animal was the smallest in many seasons and, due to the war conditions, no Norwegian skins came to this country this year. It is said that the high price of those skins which were obtained in Newfoundland practically prohibits their use.

Unless next year’s American catch is unusually large and some way is found for releasing Europe’s supply of these skins, genuine walrus leather will probably be conspicuously absent in bags in this country for the rest of the war.

Seeking a Substitute

Dealers and manufactures ware now concerned with the question of what is to take the place of walrus. Alligator skin, once so popular, is out of the question. Alligator skin went out of fashion when its growing scarcity made its price prohibitive.

In the years since his tanned hide furnished the most popular bags of the day, the alligator has not increased in numbers. The Florida supply is practically exhausted. It has been suggested, though, that the hunting of these reptiles in Mexico and South America might be profitably developed.

Finding a Use for Sharks.

Sharkskin is the newest and most likely addition to bag leathers. Like that of the walrus, the skin of the shark is about an inch thick when it is removed from the fish. It is soft and spongy before it is tanned, but becomes a tough, fibrous leather when cured.

A special process of tanning has been developed for shrinking fine, scaly, file-like surface of sharkskin until it assumes a grain similar to walrus. This process makes the skin practical for traveling bags.

Sharks are already being hunted by two companies formed for this purpose and a number of skins are being made up into bags. One manufacturer is said to have taken 2000 of these skins. If a dependable supply of skins can be obtained, sharkskin may become a factor in the leather trade. At present the uncertainty of the supply and the high prices which must be realized naturally restrict its sale. Dry Goods Economist, Vol. 71, 17 November 1917: p. 81

When we speak of “shagreen” and sharkskin, these, of course, refer to the actual skin of a shark rather than the louche shiny suiting fabric favoured by cads.The “special process” was the key to shark skin leather:

SHARKSKIN SHOES

Hides of Sea Fish Used in Lieu of Cow Leather.

Ft. Myers, Fla., April 4. Sister in devilfish dancing pumps. Dad in sharkskin shoes. Mother in stingaree slippers.

These things will soon come to pass. A plant at Sanibel, Fla., is making them now.

These fish, heretofore useless to man, are being caught and brought to the plant. Their skins are tanned. The tanning process was invented by Ehreinrich, president and promoter of the Ocean Leather Company.

Ehreinrich has become wealthy by selling the European and South American rights to his process.

Suit Cases and other leather goods will be made.  Salisbury [NC] Evening Post 4 April 1921: p. 6

To Mrs Daffodil’s chagrin, she has not been able to locate an image of early 20th-century shagreen shoes. These are from Persia, c. 1800

The steaming jungles and the rolling ocean alike are being ravished for materials for feminine footwear. Many a debutant today selects shoes of snake skin in which to scale the social scarps. In supply this new and crying need, many a python has wrapped its last.

However, the real hippopottomus’ hip, as one Broadway comedian expresses it is sharkskin. Shoes of this type are gray in tone and the supply of material, so far as New York is concerned is inexhaustible. Any hook for an attractive feminine bait will catch a dozen thick skinned gray sharks any day in any pool between the Waldorf and the Westchester road houses. The Bee [Danville VA] 12 December 1923: p. 3

“The real hippopottomus’ hip,” is the youthful slang used to express the notion that sharkskin shoes are the dernier cri. One suspects that “sharks” is the vernacular for “not quite a gentleman.”

SHARKSKIN IS SWAGGER SAYS THE EFFETE EAST

It’s Used Now to Trim Motor Coats, As Well as for Smart Accessories.

New York, Oct. 30. A football game at the polo grounds serves to emphasize the esteem in which shark skin is held at present. The rough and swagger and sporty looking leather is made into any number of articles such as purses, cigarette cases and hand bags. Sometimes the skin is used to cover the handle of an umbrella, and it formed the cuffs and collars of one remarkable motor coat seen at the polo grounds Saturday. Rockford [IL] Republic 30 October 1922: p. 4

A Shark Skin bag, 1922

Shark skin and white leather form one of the large, unusual bags carried by the Duchess Sforza, who favours rare design and dimensions. Vogue Vol. 59, 15 May 1922: p. 33

Silver-mounted shagreen clock, 1904 http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21325/lot/105/

In addition to its uses in fashion, shagreen was popular for furniture inlays, cases for scientific instruments and cutlery, and desk accessories such as stamp cases, calendar frames, and bell pushes. It is rather nubbly in texture and is usually dyed a soft, arsenical green colour. The parlourmaids will attest that the texture gives it a special propensity to collect dust.

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 Disappointed Lunchist: 1871

fly-trap

Fly Trap

A Disappointed Lunchist.

Every city that has been fortunate enough to attain the metropolitan proportions of Dubuque, has a species of the genus homo who subsist on the free lunches set out on the counters of the various saloons. Among saloon keepers they are known as the lunch fiends. They gravitate from one point to another, picking a bone here and a crust of bread there, and are generally disposed to hang around until some customer, taking pity on their woebegone appearance, invites them up to drink. And this brings us to tell how nicely one of these gentry got fooled the other day.

Heeb, the brewer, being much annoyed by flies, invested in one of Capt. Jack Parker’s patent fly catchers and placed the same up on the counter of his bar. The trap is of wire, the flies entering from the bottom and proceeding to the top, where they find themselves prisoners. In order to coax the flies into the concern the trap is placed over a plate, which is filled with a conglomeration of musty crackers, Limburger cheese, orange peel, stale beer and other delicacies, forming a dose not altogether palatable, but which appears to be well-suited to the stomach of the flies.

The other day a lunch fiend entered Heeb’s establishment, and beholding the fly trap for the first time, and the plate under it, he naturally concluded that the same was set out for a free lunch, and that the wire arrangement had merely been placed over it to protect it from the flies. The lunch fiend concluded that this was his opportunity for breaking a somewhat prolonged fast. He waited patiently until the bar keeper’s back was turned, and then he pounced upon that plate as eager as a greedy hound, and had half the fly bait down his gullet before he discovered his mistake. We have only to add that the savory morsel came up again as quickly as it went down, and the last seen of the lunch fiend he was taking a bee line for Dunleith. He don’t hanker after any more of that kind of food.

Dubuque [IA] Daily Times 1 July 1871: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One really can find 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.