Category Archives: Children

Autobiography of an Old Pair of Scissors: 1875

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN OLD PAIR OF SCISSORS.

I was born in Sheffield, England, at the close of the last century, and was like all those who study Brown’s Shorter Catechism, made out of dust. My father was killed at Herculaneum at the time of the accident there, and buried with other scissors and knives and hooks and swords. On my mother’s side I am descended from a pair of shears that came to England during the Roman invasion. My cousin hung to the belt of a duchess. My uncle belonged to Hampton Court, and used to trim the king’s hair. I came to the United States while the grandfathers of the present generation of children were boys.

When I was young I was a gay fellow—indeed, what might have been called “a perfect blade.” I look old and rusty hanging here on the nail, but take me down, and though my voice is a little squeaky with old age, I can tell you a pretty tale. I am sharper than I look. Old scissors know more than you think. They say I am a little garrulous, and perhaps I may tell things I ought not.

I helped your grandmother prepare for her wedding. I cut out and fitted all the apparel of that happy day. I hear her scold the young folks now for being so dressy, but I can tell you she was once that way herself. Did not I, sixty years ago, lie on the shelf and laugh as I saw her stand by the half hour before the glass, giving an extra twist to her curl and an additional dash of white powder on her hair—now fretted because the powder was too thick, now fretted because it was too thin! She was as proud in cambric and calico and nankeen as Harriet is to-day in white tulle and organdy. I remember how careful she was when she ran me along the edges of the new dress. With me she clipped and notched and gored and trimmed, and day and night I went click! click! click! and it seemed as if she would never let me rest from cutting.

I split the rags for the first carpet on the old homestead, and what a merry time we had when the neighbours came to the “quilting!” I lay on the coverlet that was stretched across the quilting-frame, and heard all the gossip of 1799. Reputations were ripped and torn just as they are now. Fashions were chattered about, the coal-scuttle bonnet of some offensive neighbour (who was not invited to the quilting) was criticised, and the suspicion started that she laced too tight; and an old man who happened to have the best farm in the county was overhauled for the size of his knee-buckles, and the exorbitant ruffles on his shirt, and the costly silk lace to his hat. I lay so still that no one supposed I was listening. I trembled on the coverlet with rage, and wished that I could clip the end of their tattling tongues, but found no chance for revenge, till, in the hand, of a careless neighbour, I notched and nearly spoiled the patchwork.

Yes, I am a pair of old scissors. I cut out many a profile of old-time faces, and the white dimity bed-curtains. I lay on the stand when your grand-parents were courting—for that had to be done then as well as now—and it was the same story of chairs wide apart, and chairs coming nearer, and arm over the back of the chair, and late hours, and four or five gettings up to go with the determination to stay, protracted interviews on the front steps, blushes and kisses. Your great-grandmother, out of patience at the lateness of the hour, shouted over the banisters to your immediate grandmother, “Mary! come to bed!” Because the old people sit in the corner looking so very grave, do not suppose their eyes were never roguish, nor their lips ruby, nor their hair flaxen, nor their feet spry, nor that they always retired at half-past eight o’clock at night. After a while I, the scissors, was laid on the shelf, and finally thrown into a box among nails, and screws and files. Years of darkness and disgrace for a scissors so highly born as I. But one day I was hauled out. A bell tinkled in the street. An Italian scissors-grinder wanted a job. I was put upon the stone, and the grinder put his foot upon the treadle, and the bands pulled, and the wheel sped, and the fire flew, and it seemed as if, in the heat and pressure and agony, I should die. I was ground, and rubbed, and oiled, and polished, till I glittered in the sun and one day, when young Harriet was preparing for the season, I plunged into the fray. I almost lost my senses among the ribbons, and flew up and down among the flounces, and went mad amongst the basques. I move round as gay as when I was young; and modern scissors, with their stumpy ends, and loose pivots, and weak blades, and glaring bows, and coarse shanks, are stupid beside an old family piece like me. You will be surprised how spry I am flying around the sewing room, cutting corsages into heart-shape, and slitting a place for button-holes, and making double-breasted jackets, and hollowing scallops, and putting the last touches on velvet arabesques and Worth overskirts. I feel almost as well at eighty years of age as at ten, and I lie down to sleep at night amid all the fineries of the wardrobe, on olive-green cashmere, and beside pannier puffs, and pillowed on feathers of ostrich.

Oh, what a gay life the scissors live! I may lie on gayest lady’s lap, and little children like me better than almost anything else to play with. The trembling octogenarian takes me by the hand, and the rollicking four-year-old puts on me his dimpled fingers. Mine are the children’s curls and the bride’s veil. I am welcomed to the Christmas-tree, and the sewing-machine, and the editor’s table. I have cut my way through the ages. Beside pen, and sword, and needle, I dare to stand anywhere, indispensable to the race, the world-renowned scissors.

But I had a sad mission once. The bell tolled in the New. England village because a soul had passed. I sat up all the night cutting the pattern for a shroud. Oh, it was gloomy work. There was wailing in the house, but I could not stop to mourn. I had often made the swaddling-clothes for a child, but that was the only time I fashioned a robe for the grave. To fit it around the little neck, and make the sleeves just long enough for the quiet arms—it hurt me more than the tilt-hammers that smote me in Sheffield, than the files of the scissor’s-grinder at the door. I heard heart-strings snap as I went through the linen, and in the white pleats to be folded over the still heart I saw the snow banked on a grave. Give me, the old scissors, fifty bridal dresses to make rather than one shroud to prepare.

I never recovered from the chill of those dismal days, but at the end of life I can look back and feel that I have done my work well. Other scissors have frayed and unravelled the garments they touched, but I have always made a clean path through the linen or the damask I was called to divide. Others screeched complainingly at their toil; I smoothly worked my jaws. Many of the fingers that wrought with me have ceased to open and shut, and my own time will soon come to die, and I shall be buried in a grave of rust, amid cast-off tenpenny nails and horseshoes. But I have stayed long enough to testify, first, that these days are no worse than the old ones, the granddaughter now no more proud than the grandmother was; secondly, that we all need to be hammered and ground in order to take off the rust; and thirdly, that an old scissors, as well as an old man, may be scoured up and made practically useful.

Around the tea-table, Thomas De Witt Talmage, 1875: pp 50-52

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a little strange to find a useful household article so sententious, boastful, and sentimental—all at the same time, but there was a 19th-century vogue for these whimsical first-person “autobiographies” of inanimate objects as we have seen previously in the life-stories of a corset and an old needle-book. In the current era, when nearly everything from fashion to spouses is disposable, one wonders what objects will be left to sell their stories to the tabloids?

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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Shrieks in the West Room: 1835

Shrieks in the West Room at Flesbury

A plain statement of the facts, as they occurred, without any attempt to embellish or magnify them, will be given.

Early in 1835, my brother John was taken seriously ill, and for many weeks his life hung in the balance. A crisis was reached and passed, followed by a fortnight of mingled hope and despair. At the end of that time his condition showed so great an improvement that the most sanguine hopes for his recovery were entertained by all the family, except his mother and aunt, who continued to be very anxious so long as the doctors were unwilling to give a decidedly favourable opinion.

It was between five and six o clock on a fine spring evening, towards the end of March. The sinking sun was cheerfully lighting up the West room, where three of John’s sisters and his brother William were sitting, having just left their father in the dining-room. Their mother and aunt had returned to John’s room. The West room adjoins the principal staircase, which leads up from the entrance hall through the centre of the house. There is a small landing at the door of the West room, the stain ascending a little further to the principal landing. A second flight leads to the upper landing, on which opened the room occupied by John. Owing to the centre of the house being open, any sound in the hall is distinctly audible on the upper floor. The offices are reached by a long passage behind the hall and the dining-room, so that ordinary sounds from the hall or the staircase cannot be heard there.

The children in the West room were all in the highest spirits. They were no longer feeling anxious about their brother and were even a little inclined to think that their elders had been unnecessarily alarmed. Poor dear Johnnie, they told each other, after all the fuss that had been made, was getting well.

To be sure, it was impossible to spoil him; he was such a dear good boy and never made a fuss about himself. But even now Mamma and Aunt would not believe that he was not going to die. In fact, that very day at dinner. Mamma had been actually crying again. The children went on to discuss the two doctors who were attending John. The younger of the two had particularly annoyed them that day m reporting on the state of the patient to their father. While admitting an increase in strength and appetite, he had added, ‘Still, I see no improvement.’ ‘Papa said he was ridiculously inconsistent,’ one of the children remarked; and someone went on to say something which raised a general laugh. The laughter had not ceased when a piercing shriek rang through the room. It was as if uttered by someone standing on the landing just outside the open door.

There was silence, and then a second shriek like the first; another silence, and then yet a third shriek, even louder and more prolonged than the others, and ending in a rattling, gurgling sound, as though someone were dying.

The children in the room were struck with horror. None of them is likely to forget that awful sound. As I write, it seems to ring in my ears.

In a moment the door of the drawing-room, on the further side of the hall, was thrown open, and Mr Carnsen, who had been sitting in the room alone, hurried across the hall to the foot of the staircase. He called in an agitated voice to his daughter, whom he knew to be in the West room ‘Gertrude, what is the matter! Who is screaming in that dreadful manner!’

‘Papa,’ we answered, ‘we don’t know. It wasn’t one of us, though it seemed quite close.’

‘It sounded as though someone were in great distress,’ our father said. ‘Go down to Grace and ask her if the people in the kitchen are all right, although the noise did not seem to come from there.

Gertrude went at once and found the housekeeper alone in the big front room. She was standing as if listening and declared she had distinctly heard three shrieks. She was wondering what could be the matter and though positive that the sound had come from further off than the kitchen, she went there to enquire if the servants knew anything.

When she returned her usually florid face was quite pale. ‘Oh, Miss Gertrude,’ she said, ‘there is no hope for Master John — that is what it means. What we heard was none of the servants, and no human voice. The servants heard the screams too but they seemed to come from far off.’

‘How can you talk such nonsense!’ Gertrude replied. ‘A person like you ought to know better. Papa says you must find out what it was and let him know.’

The girl then returned to the hall, where she found her father talking to the old doctor, who had just arrived. Mr. Carnsen was saying: ‘It was like a woman’s voice, screaming as though in the utmost distress. You would have supposed she was being murdered.’

The doctor replied that he had been crossing the lawn at the time, and that if the noise had come from outside the house, he must have heard it.

After Gertrude had reported the failure of her enquiries, her father asked her to tell her mother, who was in John’s room, of the doctor’s arrival. On her way upstairs, she looked into the West room, where she found that the others had been joined by Ellen, a faithful and attached servant, with the youngest child, then about two and a half, in her arms. Ellen said they had been in one of the rooms on the first landing when they had heard the shrieks, coming, as it were, from the West room or near it. The child asked, ‘Who is screaming, Ellen; I didn’t scream’; and picking her up the maid had run to the West room to find out what was the matter.

One of the children remarked: ‘Poor Johnnie! How frightened he must have been!’

Whereupon Ellen suggested: ‘Could it have been Master John seized with a fit?’

Struck with this idea, Gertrude ran upstairs. The door of her brother s room was partly open, and when she went in she saw him lying with a very placid look on his fact. As she passed the bed, he gave her a look and a smile, but did not speak. Her mother was resting on the sofa and her aunt was reading by the window. Nothing in short, could have been quieter or more composed than the room and its inmates.

After announcing the doctor s arrival, Gertrude went over to the bed to discover if possible, without alarming her brother, if he had heard the shrieks.

‘Johnnie, how quiet you look!’ she said. Have you been asleep?’

No, Gertrude,’ he replied, ‘I was not asleep and I knew the doctor had come. I heard Dash give his little bark’ — meaning a short single bark which the old dog, who lay on a mat in the hall always gave when the doctor arrived. So it seemed that John had heard the bark, but not the awful shrieks which had rung through the house and been heard by everyone in it except himself and those who were with him.

The doctor was now on his way up and Gertrude, as she left, beckoned to her aunt to follow her. In the West room she told her of their experience, the aunt replying that everything had been exceptionally quiet that afternoon in John’s room.

He had been lying awake, but without speaking for some tune and no unusual noise of any kind had been heard.

An immediate search was made, every possible and impossible cause being sought for and suggested; but all was in vain; no explanation was forthcoming.

Next morning, the doctor came to breakfast, accompanied by his brother, the old clergyman, who occasionally visited John; and while they were there, the housekeeper and the farm bailiff were called in and questioned as to the result of the enquiries which, by Mr. Carnsen’s orders, they had made. One point was clear: the sounds had been made in the house, since no one outside had heard them. The accounts of all those inside the house talked: there had been three shrieks at short intervals; it was as though a woman’s voice were being strained to the utmost; and the noise had ended in a dying rattle. What was most unaccountable was that the shrieks were loudest on the staircase, close to the West room, and therefore should have been distinctly audible in John’s room just above; yet everyone there was utterly unconscious of them.

Nothing more could be done. The servants were given strict orders not to allow any report of what had happened to leak out. Mr. Carnsen, who disliked the subject so much that no one ventured afterwards to allude to it in his presence, enjoined a similar silence on the children. The clergyman, after hearing all the evidence, pronounced the incident to be of a kind for which it was impossible to give a natural explanation. He told us that we could not pretend to deny the reality of what we had heard, but must not give way to superstitious fancies Some lesson or warning which time would make more clearly known, was intended.

From that day onwards, even those of us who had been most hopeful, found their confidence gone, though for another week John’s health continued to show signs of improvement.

After that he took a turn for the worse, and three weeks from the day when the shrieks were heard he died. It may be asked whether a similar warning was given on the occasion of the death of any other member of the family

Fifteen years later, John’s young sister, Emma, was on her deathbed. In the middle of the night, just before the end, those who were watching in her room heard sounds of hysterical wailing and lamentation passing through the house The noises ceased as she drew her last breath A few months later, when the daughters were watching by the deathbed of their mother they had so strong an expectation of hearing that unearthly voice once more, that they told each other they ought to doubt the evidence of their senses if it came but it did not come. Nor was any warning given of the deaths of two of the sons in distant lands, or when Mr Carnsen himself passed away in March 1860 as he knelt in prayer by his bedside.

Further Stories from Lord Halifax’s Ghost Book, 1937, pp. 3-9 (reported earlier in an abbreviated form in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 16 November 1888).

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As the Proceedings and the introduction to this story in The Ghost Book says, ” Lord Halifax copied the following story from a manuscript, written by the sister of John Carnsen, the child concerned, who died on April 22nd 1835, aged eleven. He added the information that ‘the house where the events of this narrative occurred is Flesbury, a lonely country house on the north coast of Cornwall. The family who reside there are the only descendants of the Carnsens of Carnsen, in Cornwall.’ The names are given as they appear in The Ghost Book, but Carnsen should probably be Carnsew, the name of an old Cornish family, and Flesbury, should probably be Flexbury, near Bude.”

Ah, that is so often the trouble with supernatural accounts: the narrator wishes to disguise the name of the family or the location so that the family is not embarrassed or the house does not get a bad name. One wonders if such subterfuges confused the wailing spirit, who did not appear at the death of the narrator’s brothers, mother, or father, but instead found itself in the Bude-Stratton Business Centre car park, puzzling over a Ordnance Survey map in search of a non-existent family and house.

 

 

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.

“Honest Toil” Parties for Labor Day: 1916

“HONEST TOIL” PARTIES FOR LABOR DAY

Labor Day, which as you remember falls September the sixth, should furnish a wealth of inspiration for early autumn parties. The motif of “horny-handed toil” is a new one upon which to base a merrymaking and the entertainer who develops it cleverly could hardly fail to sound an original note. The idea of the various trades affords a basis for splendid games, including the guessing contests by way of diversions for an evening.

An attractive way to write the invitations for such a party would be:

“Fellow Laborer: On the evening of September the sixth representatives of all the trades, unions, and professions assemble at address of hostess to celebrate the annual festival of ‘honest toil.’ We hope you will find it possible to attend. Please come as a member of the Bakers’ Union.”

If a costume party would be too great a tax upon prospective guests, a head-dress party can be substituted, the head-dresses being nothing more expensive than colored paper and appropriate in shape to the traditions of the guild to which the guest is elected for the evening. Each union could have from four to six members to start the fun at a table specially designated for their group. Before proceeding to the tables have a “grand march of labor,” three times around the room to music. Now break ranks that all may proceed to the table of their respective guilds, there to compete for a prize in store.

The different vocations which could be utilized in this way are legion. A few will suffice to show the plan and at the same time provide fun for a party of generous size. Suppose we choose for them bakers, tailors, farmers, sailors, architects, shoemakers, and artists.

For the bakers’ table provide tiny pads with pencils and call on the men of flour and dough to write down as complete lists as possible of words relating to the staff of life. Such words as “bun,” “twist,” “sandwich,” “roll,” etc., are those meant. If the players are of a literary turn, see who can write down most quotations regarding bread. Or give each a saucer on which is a slice of bread from which he is asked to model a figure of anything that suggests itself, a prize being in store for the most ingenious. Have a bowl of water on the table, in which each may moisten his fingers before beginning the modeling.

Sailor from the HMS Victory

To the sailors could be given packages wrapped in paper and tied with a number of hard knots. The player who first opens his package by untying the knots wins the prize. Present this with a humorous allusion to ” thirty knots an hour.” A toy ship under sail could be displayed and the Jackies could compete by making pencil sketches of it. Another good hint would be a question game founded on parts of a ship.

Which part of a ship is an English coast town? Hull. Which part consists of acorns or small seeds? Mast. Which side explains what the ship sails for? Port. Which part is a pack of cards? Deck. Which part is a small house? Cabin. Which part is a common mineral?- Spar. Which part is energetic advertising? Boom. Which part is an act of courtesy? Bow. Which part is part of a flower? Stem. Which part is severe demeanor? Stern.

The tailors could dress dolls with tissue-paper, or they could design and paint paper dolls to illustrate the styles of the moment. A list of words applying to dress in the past (such as “surtout,” “wimple,” “buskin,” “jerkin,” “doublet”) could be written and the men of cloth asked to define them.

The architects could write short papers on “My Ideal Home.” They can cut and paste the doll-house paper furniture which comes among kindergarten supplies with an award for rapidity and neatness. Or they, too, might answer questions in a riddle game, called “The House That Jack Built.”

Which part of a house looks impolitely? Stairs. (stares). Which part is the same as the first temptation? Eaves (Eve’s). Which part is pure Greek? Attic. Which part stands badly? Stoop. Which part is to worship? A door (adore). Which part closes a letter neatly? Ceiling (sealing). Which part of a big room is coldest? The frieze (freeze).

Interesting, too, would be a guessing game, for which the entertainer clips from the magazines pictures of historic houses and mounts them on cardboard, guests being asked to distinguish Mt. Vernon from Monticello, and so on.

Let the shoemakers have a comic contest in sewing shoe-buttons on strips of leather. Or provide shoestrings and revive the former hobby of making fob chains and purses from these lacings.

The artists may be called on to guess the painters of twelve masterpieces, represented by the penny prints. The prints may be cut into small pieces and used as a picture puzzle. For a funny contest each artist might be required to sketch his vis-a-vis.

A delightful idea for supper is to give each couple a “full dinner-pail,” which they are to share. For a kettle-lunch serve baked beans, lettuce sandwiches, a ripe pear or banana, some doughnuts or slices of pie. Pass coffee on trays, or have a bowl of lemonade or fruit punch from which each can help himself.

LABOR DAY GAMES FOR CHILDREN

For quite young children too old for the amusements of mere tots and too young for guessing games that are in any way difficult, a specially jolly pastime is called General Strike. While not difficult it will be found to delight and interest the children.

Dipping into a basket with eyes closed each child selects one of the little symbols there jumbled together which suggests some, trade or occupation. Thus, for the Shoemaker, a shoe; for the Bricklayer, a tiny red carboard brick.

Or it may be that head-dresses, made up out of crepe and tissue of different colors and representing certain trades, are in the basket and that each child instead of a simple symbol pick out one of these to be worn during the game. This, of course, is where costume embodying Labor Day suggestions is not worn.

Now, at a given signal, all the players begin to pantomime the trades they have drawn. Thus, the carpenter saws or hammers, the sailor pulls in an imaginary anchor, the engineer blows a whistle, etc. Now someone in the party has secretly been given a slip, which commissions him after pantomiming a certain time to cease doing so, and thereafter remain as quietly as possible, calling no attention to the fact that he is motionless. The children know that such a paper has been given, but do not know to whom. It is, therefore, necessary to watch carefully in all directions so as to immediately detect the player who is motionless. The second player on seeing the first motionless becomes so also. This is called Going on Strike, and it continues spreading in all parts of the room until but one player remains at work. This person must perform a penance as imposed by the rest. Any number of rounds of the Strike Game can be played.

LABOR DAY GAMES FOR ADULTS

For older players a competition in naming or guessing the different trades or occupations which celebrities followed during their youth or lifetime would prove most interesting. Twenty-five names might be written down upon each player’s card opposite which names he is required to write the occupation once followed by their owners. Here are a few to start the list with:

Of what trade was Hans Sachs, the German poet? (Shoemaker); Benjamin Franklin (Printer), Shakespeare (Actor), Francis Bacon (Lawyer), Cervantes (Volunteer Soldier).

A plaster cast of some celebrity who began life in obscure condition and achieved success through his own efforts would make an attractive prize.

How It Is Made

For a quiet contest try this good one. The entertainer, who has previously provided herself with a good book on the subject, distributes little blank books in which she asks her guests to describe the process of making or doing something quite ordinary. For instance, this might be glass making or the production of yarn. Half an hour is given in which to prepare one’s account. At the end of that time the different papers are read aloud, followed by a short but true account from the book. The differences in the account will probably be great enough to cause much fun. If glass making is described, the prize should be a pretty trifle in glass. If wool is in question, the gift should have a woolly basis.

THE WORKINGMAN’S WISDOM

Have half as many cards as there will be guests and let a lady and gentleman share a card between them. On each card have a series of proverbs and quotations about labor with words omitted in each phrase. Guests are requested to fill in the missing words in competition for a prize. Examples of the incomplete proverbs would be:

A bad workman (blames) his (tools).

The laborer is (worthy) of (his) (hire).

You cannot (make) (bricks) without (straw).

Man may work from sun to sun, But woman’s work is never done.

The Mary Dawson Game Book, Mary Dawson, 1916: pp. 705-712

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is aware that many of her readers reside in the United States where Labour Day (or Labor Day as it is spelt in that efficient American way) is celebrated. She thought that it might be amusing to suggest some old-fashioned ways to celebrate the joys of “honest toil,” which, Mrs Daffodil suggests, are frankly overrated. The idea of little innocents playing a game called “General Strike” is a diverting one. The instructions do not mention brickbats, barricades, or “bullhorns,” which seems to take a good deal of the fun out of the thing.

Mrs Daffodil will be taking a brief holiday while the Family is off to New York to enjoy the U.S. Open Tennis contest and will return to the blog Wednesday next.

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.

 

Hints for Summer Travellers: 1913

Good Ideas for the Summer Traveler

By Companion Readers

Making Children Intelligent Travelers—A mother with two children of grammar school age found it necessary to take a long journey. She provided herself with folders containing a good map of the section to be traversed and brief descriptions of the important towns. A time table giving the time of arrival and departure from each station, the altitude and distance from the starting point, aroused great interest.

The children had their own inexpensive watches, and thoroughly enjoyed following the time table to see if the trains arrived and departed from the stations on time; and also, at their mother’s suggestion, they noticed the altitude of certain important points and whether they were going up or down grade (by the direction of streams, etc.). They also noticed the distance from their original starting point. Early training of this sort produces intelligent travelers. K. E. A.

A Steamer Box

By Clio Mamer

For a friend who was given a trip to Europe by her father, I decided to get up a steamer box. She was to be on the water six days, so I asked eleven of the girls with whom we were both upon intimate terms to send me a little present for her. I asked them to send gifts small both in size and price. I wrapped each gift in tissue paper and tied it with baby ribbon. On the outside of each package I wrote the day upon which it was to be opened, and these packages were then packed in the smallest box that I could squeeze them into. I gave my friend instructions that she was to open only two of the packages a day. Among the contents of the box were: a diary, an ink pencil, a package of envelope paper, a wash cloth in a rubberlined case, a powder bag. an embroidered jabot, and small boxes of candy and nuts.

An impeccable shoe trunk from Yantorny, c. 1914-1919

Summer Trip Shoe Bag
By C. S. Spencer

Make a cretonne shoe bag the size of the back of your trunk, and tack it with four thumb tacks in the top tray. It is easily adjusted to the back of the trunk when your destination is reached, and will not interfere with raising the lid.

Trunk and Tray Cloths
By Mrs. F. W. Terflinger

A set of trunk and tray cloths make a most acceptable and inexpensive gift to a traveler. They are to be placed between the underwear and other clothing, or between dark and light gowns. One should always be reserved to be tucked neatly over all when the main part of the trunk is filled. Cut your material an inch or two larger than the body of an ordinary trunk, and bind with bias seam tape before placing two or three initials in the center of each cloth. There should be two or three of these cloths for the body and two smaller ones for the tray. The larger of the two for the tray should be double and bound only on three sides, finishing the fourth side with a hem and casing for drawstrings. This serves as laundry bag. I have seen sets made of white indian head and finished on the edge with a heavy lace, but the prettiest of all are made of light blue linen or chambray. bound and worked in white. Embroider on each tray cloth the initial of the friend for whom you make it. Woman’s Home Companion, Volume 40 1913: p. 21

Women who travel a great deal are including sets of pyjamas in their outfits far wear on sleeping-cars and steamers. They are made of silk, either white or colored, with full Turkish trousers and a loose jacket to the knees, large turn-down collar trimmed with lace, which is cascaded down the front, frills of lace at the wrists and edge of the jacket. A loose girdle is worn or not, as the fancy dictates. In the Red Sea or Indian Ocean most of the women passengers aboard ship wear this arrangement, and the custom is being adopted in this country. The Argonaut March 21, 1898  

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Useful suggestions, all, to which Mrs Daffodil would add an affecting incident, which suggests an article which might best be left at home:

A SLEEPING-CAR EPISODE

The Uniontown (Pa.) Standard narrates this exciting incident: “A few nights ago a passenger on the western bound train, Connellsville route, engaged a berth in one of the palace sleeping coaches. When she was ready to retire she took from her satchel a gum bed, which she inflated and placed upon the regular bed in the berth she was to occupy. It happened that her berth was very close to the stove, and the night being rather cold the porter fired up pretty lively. The heat from the stove caused the gum bed to expand until the pressure got so great that it collapsed with a tremendous shock, similar to that of a cannon, and the passengers jumped out of their berths in their night clothes, thinking there was a collision. The force of the collapse threw the lady against the ceiling of the berth, but did not hurt her beyond a slight bruise. When the real state of affairs was known and the lady was found to be unhurt, the thing created considerable merriment among the passengers, and that lady vows she will never take any more gum beds with her when she goes a traveling. The Fremont [OH] Weekly Journal 15 January 1875: p. 2

And do avoid wearing wool when travelling with the tots:

Kiddie-Kar Travel

In American there are two classes of travel—first class, and with children….

I had a cousin once who had to take three of his little ones on an all-day trip from Philadelphia to Boston. It was the hottest day of the year and my cousin had on a woollen suit. By the time he reached Hartford, people in the car noticed that he had only two children with him. At Worcester he had only one. No one knew what had become of the others and no one asked. It seemed better not to ask. He reached Boston alone and never explained what had become of the tiny tots. Anyone who has ever travelled with tiny tots of his own, however, can guess. The Benchley Roundup, Robert C. Benchley: p. 66

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 Little Children’s Watches: 1882

The Little Children’s Watches.

Yesterday an old man entered a Little Rock store, and taking from his pocket an old buckskin pouch he emptied two coins on the counter, and the, after regarding the silver for a few moments said; “Mister, I want to buy some goods to make a dress.”

“That money is mutilated, old gentleman. This twenty-five-cent piece has notches filed in it, and this fifty-cent piece has been punched. You see they have been abused. I can’t take them.”

“Abused,” said the old man. “Abused,” and he took up the fifty-cent piece and looked at it tenderly. “And you won’t take it on account of the holes. Heaven grant that I did not have to offer it to you. Years ago, when my first child was a little girl I punched a hole in this coin and strung it around her neck. It was her constant plaything. At night when she went to bed we’d take it off, but early at morning she would call for her watch. When our John—you didn’t know John, did you? No. Well, he used to come to town a good deal.”

“Where is he now?” asked the merchant, not knowing what to say, but desiring to show appreciation of the old man’s story.

“He was killed in the war. I say that when John was a little boy I strung this quarter around his neck. One day his watch got out of fix, he said, and he filed these notches in it. He and his sister Mary—that was the girl’s name—used to play in the yard and compare their watches to see if they were right. Sometimes John wouldn’t like it because Mary’s watch was bigger than his, but she would explain that she was bigger than him and ought to have a bigger watch. The children grew up, but as they had always lived in the woods they were not ashamed to wear their watches.

When a young man came to see Mary once she forgetfully looked at her fifty cents. ‘What are you doing?’ asked the young man, and when she told him she was looking at her watch, he took it as a hint and went home. After this she did not wear her watch in company.

Well, Mary and the young man married. John went off in the army and got killed. Mary’s husband died, and about two years ago Mary was taken sick. When her mother and I reached her house she was dying. Calling me to her bed, she said: ‘Papa, lean over.’ I leaned over, and, taking something from under her pillow, she put it around my neck and said: ‘Papa, take care of my watch.’”

The old man looked at the merchant. The eyes of both men were moist. “Do you see that boy out there on the wagon?” he said. “Well, that is Mary’s child. I wouldn’t part with this money, but my old wife, who always loved me, died this morning, and I have come to buy her a shroud.”

When the old man went out he carried a bundle in one hand and the “watches” in the other.

Little Rock (Ark.) Gazette.

The Abbeville [SC] Press and Banner 22 March 1882; p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Shrouds, strangely enough, could be purchased from one’s local dry-goods store. Here is a more light-hearted account of such a purchase: The Trousseau Night-dress.

Mrs Daffodil’s readers will, she hopes, excuse her from further comment, as she has something in her eye.

 

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 Safe and Sane Fourth: 1911

 

Gee whiz! Don’t I wish every day wuz de fourth, E.W. Kemble, c. 1904 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010717080/

Mrs. Jarr Lays Plans for a Safe and Sane Fourth.

Does She Succeed? Poor Woman! Just Listen Now

By Roy L. McCardell.

“I really ought not to open this till to-morrow,” said Mrs. Jarr, as with reluctant hands she started to undo the package that had aroused so much interest upon its arrival, per c.o.d. delivery, at the Jarr domicile.

“But you said you would, maw! You said you would!” chorused the little Jarrs.

“Well, as its near dinner time, I suppose I might as well,” said Mrs. Jarr. “I only know this: That is that it is a good idea. And if we had done it before it would have been much better for all concerned. For it really is terrible the way the children get burned and injured by those dreadful fireworks on the Fourth of July, and that is why I heartily agree with Miss Ann Teak of ‘The Modern Mothers,’ in her advocacy of a Safe and Sane Fourth, and the substitution of objects symbolic of freedom and patriotism for dangerous explosives.”

“But, maw, ain’t we gonna have any firecrackers?” whined the little boy. “I never burned myself except with sizzors and they didn’t hurt.”

“May Rangle has got a whole lot of fire trackers,” said the little Jarr girl. “I’m doin’ over to her house and we are doin’ to tie ‘em on the tat’s tail.”

“Emma!” cried Mrs. Jarr reprovingly.

“I agree with the children,” said Mr. Jarr, “Not with hurting or scaring of the poor cat, of course; yet I think that it’s a lot of mollycoddles who would deprive the children of making a little harmless racket on the Fourth. Safe and Sane Fourth! Huh, I think it’s a tame and timid one without firecrackers!” 

“Now, there you go! Inciting the children to all sorts of dreadful things!” remarked Mrs. Jarr plaintively. “It’s no wonder I have a hard time inculcating refinement in these innocent little lambs! Miss Ann Teak told me of an orphan child on the east side who said he would rather have ice cream any day than firecrackers.”

By this time Mrs. Jarr had the strings off the package and the box open, disclosing a mass of gayly colored paper objects. She contented herself with giving Master Jarr a reproving look for his heretical observations and began placing the colored paper things on the table.

They were napkin holders in the shape of firecrackers, the napkins being rice paper ones in the semblance of American flags. There were also scalloped streamers of red, white and blue, which Mrs. Jarr proceeded to drape from the chandelier over the dining room table.

“There!” she said, as she fastened them up. ‘See how beautiful and patriotic these pretty but harmless things make the table for a Fourth of July dinner! Your Aunt Emma, after whom you are named” (here she was addressing the little girl), “always has her table decorated so prettily that it gives one an appetite to see it. It is true that she never has anything much to eat, but one forgets that. On Washington’s Birthday she has little hatchets and cherries, and Thanksgiving Day she has little toy paper turkeys and paper pumpkins and witches’ hats and you forget how slim the meal is.” 

“Aw, is this all, maw?” inquired the boy, regarding the table decorations with disdain. “Ain’t we gonna have any fireworks to-morrow?”

“You can have some torpedoes, which are not dangerous, and some of those sparklers, that look so pretty and do not do any damage,” replied Mrs. Jarr. “But you won’t have a single thing if you are not a good boy and say you are grateful to mamma for getting these pretties. And here are fans with pictures on them showing ‘The Spirit of ‘76’ and the “Signing of the Declaration of Independence,” she added.

“Aw, you can’t make any noise with a fan! Who wants a fan!” cried Young Hopeful, and he screwed up his face in an energetic endeavor to cry.

“I like de fans, div ‘em ta ME, mamma!” cried the little girl. “Anyway I can shoot off Mary Rangle’s fire crackers to-morrow.”

“Now, Willie, if you say one word more you shan’t have any supper and you shan’t have any ice cream to-morrow and you shall never be permitted to go to the moving pictures,” cried Mrs. Jarr, warningly. “We are going to have a Safe and Sane Fourth in this house without any injuries and without any danger of fires!”

But she spoke too soon. The napkin holders looked so greatly like cannon fire crackers that Master Jarr had touched a lighted match to the imitation fuse. It flared up and caught the paper streams from the chandelier and the next minute there was a blaze.

Mr. Jarr got the fire out with such minor personal damage as burned eyelashes and scorched hands. It is likely that the unsafe and insane Fourth will transpire, as usual, to-morrow at the Jarr’s.

The Evening World [New York NY] 3 July 1911: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The unheeded plea for a “Safe and Sane Fourth” went out every year.  Dire casualties from fireworks mounted yearly, despite desperate diversions by hostesses who entertained their “Independence Party” guests at daintily decorated tables:

The house was beautifully decorated with crimson rambler roses, blue larkspurs, and white flowers, large eagles of crepe paper, flags, and national colors. After a short program of patriotic songs and humorous readings, the hostess passed pencils and papers with the words “Independence Day,” from which we were to make as many words as possible. After this we were given a paper flag with stripes on, but with the place for stars left blank; around the two parlors were tacked up on the wall pictures of well-known people, actors, authors, and political leaders. We guessed these “stars” and wrote their names in the blank spaces.

The next event was the luncheon, served at small tables. Place cards were hand-painted miniature Uncle Sams, and blue and white china and cut glass were used. Each plate contained pressed chicken and a peanut butter sandwich, both cut in star shape, potato salad on a lettuce leaf, a beet pickle, cheese straws, and a spray of blue flowers. At the end of this course each lady was presented with what appeared to be a four-inch firecracker, but upon unwrapping, it was found to contain a short comical story. Woman’s Home Companion 1913: p. 99

Mrs Daffodil concedes that pretty paper decorations and comical firecrackers would undoubtedly lack the pyrotechnic panache enjoyed by Mr and Master Jarr.

Still, one would not wish to be May Rangle’s cat.

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.

 

Papa Not a Very Acceptable Guest: 1752

LYONS, March 5.

AN Affair has lately broke out here which is very remarkable. An eminent Trader of this City, who had acquired an easy Fortune, had a Couple of handsome Daughters, whom he married to his Liking, and divided between them all he had, upon an Agreement that he should pass the Winter with the one, and the Summer with the other. Before the End of the first Year, he found sufficient Grounds to conclude, that he was not a very acceptable Guest to either; of which, however, he took no Notice, but hired a handsome Lodging, in which he resided for a few Weeks. He then applied himself to a Friend, and told him the Truth of the Matter, desired him to give him two hundred Livres, and to lend him fifty thousand in ready Money for a few Hours. His friend very readily complied with his Request. The next Day the old Man made a grand Entertainment, to which his Daughters, and their Husbands, were invited. Just at the Dinner was over, his Friend came in a great Hurry, told him of an unexpected Demand upon him, and desired to know it he could lend him fifty thousand Livres. The old Man told him, without any Emotion, that twice as much was at his Service if he had wanted it; and going into the next Room brought him the Money, After this he was not suffered to stay at longer in his Lodging; his Daughters were Jealous if he remained but a Day more at one House than the other; and after three or four Years spent in this Manner, he died last Month; when upon examining his Cabinet, instead of Riches, there was found a Note, in which were these Words, He who has suffered by his Virtue, has a Right to avail himself of the Vices of those by whom be suffered; and a Father ought never to be so fond of his Children, as to forget what is due to himself .

The Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, VA] 25 June 1752

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While not all children are as unfeeling as the daughters above, we have previously seen in these pages the account of a clerical gentleman victimised by his daughter’s caprices in sewing smuggled lace into his overcoat, and a shamefully calculating daughter in The Resurrection of Willie Todd.

Then there is this minx:

The old gentleman went into the parlor the other night, at the witching hour of 11:45, and found the room unlighted and his daughter and a dear friend occupying a tete-a-tete in the corner by the window. ‘Evangeline,’ the old man said, sternly, ‘this is scandalous.’ ‘Yes, papa,’ she answered sweetly, ‘it is candles because times are so hard, and lights costs so much, that Ferdinand and I said we should try and get along with the starlight.’ And papa turned about, in speechless amazement, and tried to walk out of the room through a panel in the wall paper.

Portsmouth [OH] Times 15 December 1877: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil wishes all the fond Papas in her readership a very happy day, as well as grateful-spirited children.

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.