Category Archives: Dance

Dancing with the Fairies: 1820s-1840s

 

Polly Williams, a good dame who was born in Trefethin parish, and lived at the Ship Inn, at Pontypool, Monmouthshire, was wont to relate that, when a child, she danced with the Tylwyth Teg. The first time was one day while coming home from school. She saw the fairies dancing in a pleasant, dry place, under a crab-tree, and, thinking they were children like herself, went to them, when they induced her to dance with them. She brought them into an empty barn and they danced there together. After that, during three or four years, she often met and danced with them, when going to or coming from school. She never could hear the sound of their feet, and having come to know that they were fairies, took off her ffollachau (clogs), so that she, too, might make no noise, fearful that the clattering of her clog-shodden feet was displeasing to them. They were all dressed in blue and green aprons, and, though they were so small, she could see by their mature faces that they were no children. Once when she came home barefoot, after dancing with the fairies, she was chided for going to school in that condition; but she held her tongue about the fairies, for fear of trouble, and never told of them till after she grew up. She gave over going with them to dance, however, after three or four years, and this displeased them. They tried to coax her back to them, and, as she would not come, hurt her by dislocating ‘one of her walking members,’ [Jones, ‘Apparitions.’] which, as a euphemism for legs, surpasses anything charged against American prudery.

British Goblins, Wirt Sikes, 1881: pp 79-82

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Young Polly was fortunate that she escaped from the fairy dance with a mere sprained ankle and that she did not meet the more usual fate of those who entered the fairy circle: finding that a hundred years had  passed like mere minutes while she was disporting herself in the barn.

The fate of a lad named Taffy ap Sion was a cautionary tale for those drawn to dance with the fairies.

Taffy ap Sion, the shoemaker’s son, living near Pencader, Carmarthenshire, was a lad who many years ago entered the fairy circle on the mountain hard by there, and having danced a few minutes, as he supposed, chanced to step out. He was then astonished to find that the scene which had been so familiar was now quite strange to him. Here were roads and houses he had never seen, and in place of his father’s humble cottage there now stood a fine stone farmhouse. About him were lovely cultivated fields instead of the barren mountain he was accustomed to. ‘Ah,’ thought he, ‘this is some fairy trick to deceive my eyes. It is not ten minutes since I stepped into that circle, and now when I step out they have built my father a new house! Well, I only hope it is real; anyhow, I’ll go and see.’

So he started off by a path he knew instinctively, and suddenly struck against a very solid hedge. He rubbed his eyes, felt the hedge with his fingers, scratched his head, felt the hedge again, ran a thorn into his fingers and cried out, ‘Wbwb! this is no fairy hedge anyhow, nor, from the age of the thorns, was it grown in a few minutes’ time.’ So he climbed over it and walked on. ‘Here was I born,’ said he, as he entered the farmyard, staring wildly about him, ‘and not a thing here do I know!’ His mystification was complete when there came bounding towards him a huge dog, barking furiously. ‘What dog is this? Get out, you ugly brute! Don’t you know I’m master here? —at least, when mother’s from home, for father don’t count.’ But the dog only barked the harder. ‘Surely,’ muttered Taffy to himself, ‘I have lost my road and am wandering through some unknown neighbourhood; but no, yonder is the Careg Hir!’ and he stood staring at the well-known erect stone thus called, which still stands on the mountain south of Pencader, and is supposed to have been placed there in ancient times to commemorate a victory. As Taffy stood thus looking at the Long Stone, he heard footsteps behind him, and turning, beheld the occupant of the farmhouse, who had come out to see why his dog was barking.

Poor Taffy was so ragged and wan that the farmer’s Welsh heart was at once stirred to sympathy. ‘Who are you, poor man?’ he asked. To which Taffy answered, ‘I know who I was, but I do not know who I am now. ‘I was the son of a shoemaker who lived in this place, this morning; for that rock, though it is changed a little, I know too well.’ ‘Poor fellow,’ said the farmer, ‘you have lost your senses. This house was built by my great-grandfather, repaired by my grandfather; and that part there, which seems newly built, was done about three years ago at my expense. You must be deranged, or have missed the road; but come in and refresh yourself with some victuals, and rest.’ Taffy was half persuaded that he had overslept himself and lost his road, but looking back he saw the rock before mentioned, and exclaimed, ‘It is but an hour since I was on yonder rock robbing a hawk’s nest.’ ‘Where have you been since?’ Taffy related his adventure. ‘Ah,’ quoth the farmer, ‘I see how it is—you have been with the fairies. Pray, who was your father?’ ‘Sion Evan y Crydd o Glanrhyd,’ was the answer. ‘I never heard of such a man,’ said the farmer, shaking his head, ‘nor of such a place as Glanrhyd, either: but no matter, after you have taken a little food we will step down to Catti Shon, at Pencader, who will probably be able to tell us something.’ With this he beckoned Taffy to follow him, and walked on; but hearing behind him the sound of footsteps growing weaker and weaker, he turned round, when to his horror he beheld the poor fellow crumble in an instant to about a thimbleful of black ashes.

The farmer, though much terrified at this sight, preserved his calmness sufficiently to go at once and see old Catti, the aged crone he had referred to, who lived at Pencader, near by. He found her crouching over a fire of faggots, trying to warm her old bones. ‘And how do you do the day, Catti Shon?’ asked the farmer. ‘Ah,’ said old Catti, ‘I’m wonderful well, farmer, considering how old I am.’ ‘Yes, yes, you’re very old. Now, since you are so old, let me ask you—do you remember anything about Sion y Crydd o Glanrhyd? Was there ever such a man, do you know?’ ‘Sion Glanrhyd? O! I have some faint recollection of hearing my grandfather, old Evan Shenkin, Penferdir, relate that Sion’s son was lost one morning, and they never heard of him afterwards, so that it was said he was taken by the fairies. His father’s cot stood some where near your house.’ ‘Were there many fairies about at that time?’ asked the farmer. ‘O yes; they were often seen on yonder hill, and I was told they were lately seen in Pant Shon Shenkin, eating flummery out of egg-shells, which they had stolen from a farm hard by.’ ‘Dir anwyl fi!’ cried the farmer; ‘dear me! I recollect now—I saw them myself!’

British Goblins, Wirt Sikes, 1881: pp. 75-78

A thimbleful of black ashes. Consider yourself warned, you who would be lured by the sweet sound of elfin music to the fairy ring….

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.

Advertisements

Independence Day Tableaux: 1918

Liberty and Columbia [All photographs from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.]

As a loyal subject of the Crown, it would be inappropriate for Mrs Daffodil to celebrate Independence Day, particularly as she feels that much in American life would be improved under the reign of a female sovereign. She does, however, send the best compliments of the day to her American readers,  along with these vintage images of patriotic tableaux held on the Ellipse in Washington D.C., circa 1918, just before the end of the Great War. Mrs Daffodil further hopes that the champagne will be properly chilled and the hampers packed with all good things for your holiday picnic luncheons.

 

liberty

Mrs Daffodil is uncertain what this lady represents–The Spirit of Freedom? Democracy? Liberated France? The Spirit of Electricity?

The entire Ensemble. It seems as though there were Druidesses present.

The entire Ensemble. One crosses Miss Columbia at one’s peril.

druidess

An American Druidess? Her costume is a bit of an enigma, as is the building in the background. It seems too near and the wrong shape to be the Capitol Dome.

A more martial version

The stalwart Miss Liberty

Washington 4th of July tableaux

And a stern, martially attired Columbia in her Liberty cap, who seems in need of a spear.

 

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
.

This post originally appeared in July of  2013.

A Patch-work May Day Entertainment: 1904

May Day 1903

At a May Day entertainment given last year a popular hostess noted the fact that there was repeated controversy among her guests concerning May Day traditions and ancient customs among various nations, which gave her an Idea for this year’s novel May party. She has chosen for her guests all the members of her literary club, and other friends who are fond of literary research and competition. To a certain number she has assigned the task of searching out and describing quaint May Day celebrations whose origins have been lost in the mists of remote antiquity. Others have been requested to describe the customs that have been handed down from our Gothic ancestors. Still others will describe quaint celebrations that have their origin in the Floralia of the Romans. The strange May festivals of the ancient Druids, and the May games which Christianity finally adopted from these, will also be brought up for consideration, with prizes awarded (of course) for the best papers on the various subjects. But the most interesting feature of the entertainment will be the acting out of many curious customs.

As the entertainment will be given on the eve of May Day, the festivities will be continued until the “Meeting of the Dew” may be celebrated in the early hours of May Day morning. When the people of ancient Edinburgh used to assemble at Arthur’s Seat to “meet the dew” May dew was thought to possess all kinds of virtues. Even the English girls went into the field to wash their faces in it at dawn, in order to procure a good complexion. Samuel Pepys records in his delightful diary that his wife has gone to Woolwich for a little change of air “and to gather the May dew.” This form of celebration would have to be omitted when the entertainment is given in a city home, but as our hostess has spacious grounds surrounding her suburban house, the “meeting of the dew” will be a novel feature of the celebration.

Another quaint festivity that can be carried out on the lawn if desired, but which might also be celebrated as a parlor dance for a city home, is the German Walpurglsnacht, and although the witches may not “ride up the Brocken on magpies’ tails,” their weird dance may be celebrated—the witches who dance on the Brocken until they have danced away the winter’s snow.

The “Parade of Sweeps” will be an interesting feature of the entertainment. It is said that the parade of sweeps in bowers of greenery lingered on rather longer in England than May poles. It is supposed to have originated in this way—and this story will be told by one of those to whom the searching for English festivities has been assigned. Edward Wortley Montagu (born about 1714) who later was destined to win celebrity by still stranger freaks, escaped when a boy from Westmont School, and borrowed the cloths of a chimney sweep, in whose trade he became an adept. A long search led to his discovery and restoration to his parents on May 1, in recollection of which event Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu is said to have instituted the May Day feast given by her for many years to the London chimney sweepers. A few of the guests who are humorously inclined will don costumes of the old-time chimney sweeps, and after their mirth-provoking “dance of the sweeps,” will retain the costume while acting the clown during the remainder of the entertainment.

The final celebration before the May Day breakfast—which will be served shortly after midnight, in the earliest hours of May Day morning—will be patterned after a quaint custom in Lorraine, in which jokes on individual guests will play an important part. In Lorraine, girls dressed in white go from village to village stringing off couplets in which the inhabitants are turned into somewhat unmerciful ridicule. The girls of this place enlighten the people of that as to their small failings, and vice versa. The village poets harvest the jokes made by one community at the expense of another, in order to shape them into a consecutive whole for recital on May Day. The girls are rewarded for their part in the business by small coin, cakes and fruit.

Although the idea of reward and of going from village to village for adaptable jokes will not be carried out, this can be made a charming feature of the festivity. To a number of practical jokers has been assigned the task of forming into laughable couplets all the faults and failings or peculiarities of the various guests, and while the unpleasant sting of personality will be avoided, by omitting mention of any particular guest in connection with the various accusations, there will be continual sport In choosing the guest to whom the joke seems most applicable.

Caldecott, Randolph, 1846-1886; May Day

Caldecott, Randolph; May Day; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/may-day-204629

Several quaint old-time dances will be Introduced during the evening; but as no May Day party can be quite complete without the English dance around the May pole, a flower-decked pole will be a feature of the parlor decorations. And after the final May dance in good old English style about this pole, each guest will receive as a souvenir one of its gay silk streamers and a floral wreath or garland. Phebe Westcott Humphreys.

The Country Gentleman, Volume 69, 1904: p. 378

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil finds the whole thing a contrived, patch-work sort of entertainment. What sane hostess would try to cram academic papers, dew, dancing witches, and the May Pole into a single party?  One might even call it a “crazy quilt.” Witches and May Poles and Sweeps, oh my!

To be Relentlessly Informative, Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, who died in 1800, gave for many years a May-day entertainment to the chimney-sweeps of London at her house in Portman Square. These sooty guests were regaled with roast beef and plum-pudding, and a dance succeeded, while each of them received a shilling on his departure.

Mrs Daffodil has written before on the Ideal and the Real May Day, as well as some other over-elaborate May Day pageants and a parody of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s bumpity-thumpity poem, The May Queen, adapted for inclement weather, as is Britain’s wont on that day.

 

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 Floral Fête: 1892

 

A Floral Phaeton Santa Barbara

THE SANTA BARBARA FLOWER CARNIVAL

In April 19 the city of Santa Barbara California, engaged in a magnificent Floral Festival, a “Battle of Flowers,” which lasted four days. The affair was a success from first to last, and reflects great credit upon the inhabitants of the city, for everybody from mayor to common citizen seemed to have a hand in the enterprise. The event was evidently based upon both sentiment and good sense; it was a grand holiday, adapted to the tastes of all, from gray-haired men and matrons down to little children. And much to the credit of the city be it said that those elements which during public holidays so frequently lead to excesses of various kinds were entirely wanting. This open-air flower-festival was as innocent and pure as it was gay and cheerful.

santa barbara floral fete tandem floral cart

In our churches and Sabbath schools a day known as Floral Day has for some year been quite generally observed. The Santa Barbara festival was an enlargement of this—a city instead of a mere congregation participating. Such consistent methods of engaging in public festivals are commendable, and it is with pleasure that we devote space in this issue to some notice of the event.

Before the visit of President Harrison to the Pacific Coast early in the current year, C. F. Eaton, of Monticello. suggested among ways of showing general appreciation of the presence of our chief magistrate a “Battle of Flowers,” such as may be seen every year in the city of Nice, France. The idea was adopted and the result was so satisfactory that later on a score of the leading citizens resolved to inaugurate an annual season of floral festivities. For this purpose the Santa Barbara Floral Festivities Association was formed. This year witnesses the first season of its usefulness. It is the intention of the association to incorporate, and thus to provide for such a festival yearly in Santa Barbara.

floral wheels of the bicycle club santa barbara

This season’s festivities began with a display of horticultural products in the pavilion at the fair grounds. Owing to the lateness of the season and the remarkable weather of the past month. it had been feared that this would not be a very brilliant success. So much is always expected of Santa Barbara because of her celebrity as the home of the rose and many subtropical flowers, that more than one true friend of the city shook his head over the prospects of the horticultural exhibit. But it was a decided and pronounced success, as all who visited the pavilion testified.

Santa barbara carriage in louis style

But the great event of the carnival was the street procession which signalized the triumphal entry of the goddess Flora to this fair city. At an early hour of the day on which it took place, the people on the main street had begun to decorate their several places of business so that all might be in readiness for the pageant of floral cars and other vehicles passing. Much taste was shown in adorning the buildings, and garlands, cornucopias, vines, pampas-plumes, evergreens, flags and hunting were everywhere used in abundance. Many windows were converted into flower-gardens, filled with lilies, roses and other flowers.

The day itself was all that could be desired for making a success of the procession. All the forenoon State street was one surging mass of pedestrians and carriages. Hundreds of strangers were everywhere present, every street-car was filled, and the busses and hacks did a thriving business. All the people were bent on having a thoroughly good time and on making the most of the day.

Santa Barbara decorations of Devoniensis roses

It was nearly two o’clock when the procession began to move. The first vehicle that followed the band of music and the marshal with his aids was a grand floral float twenty feet long and eight feet wide, drawn by four large gray horses ridden by boys and led by four men dressed in semi-oriental costumes. The float stood about five feet from the ground and from the top downward was draped with moss and calla-lilies. The top was painted and upholstered to resemble water upon which floated five shell-like boats. The four smaller boats were occupied by beautiful young girls. Each boat was supplied with golden oars and silken sails. In the larger and more beautiful boat sat the goddess Flora— Senorita Carmelita Dibblee. Behind the goddess and rising above her was a very handsome canopy of silk— outside yellow, inside pale azure-blue with delicate figures of small roses. This was draped with tassels and ropes of silk. The sails were of white satin. Ribbons of satin passed from each boat to the hands of the goddess.

Of the many other vehicles which entered into the pageant, there is not space to give a description here. Some of them are shown in the annexed engravings, made from photographs. Suffice it to say that they represented the application of much taste and skill, while it was plain to see that flowers without stint were available for the occasion. One native flower of which all Californians are proud — the eschscholtzia, was used with lavish profusion, and roses loading the air with fragrance, lilies, callas, marguerites, smilax and wild brodiaeas were among other kinds freely employed.

During the four days of the festival a brilliant reception, a grand tournament, and a ball were given; also a competitive display of flowers and fruits, for which numerous cash prizes were given. No sooner was the floral fête-day over, than the participants began to consider the good reasons apparent for an annual perpetuation of the day in Santa Barbara. It is to be hoped the example here set forth may be widely heeded, and that such fête-days may be multiplied throughout our land.

American Gardening 1892: pp. 395-396

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is desolate at not having any illustrations of the shell-like boats of the Goddess Flora and her attendants, but hopes that the floral carriages will make up for the lack. Mrs Daffodil understands that there is a similar entertainment held every year in Pasadena, California called “The Rose Bowl Parade” where floats entirely made of various sorts of vegetation delight viewers. It has something to do with American foot-ball, which is not the proper sort, so details are scanty in the British papers.

Mrs Daffodil normally leaves matters floral to the gardeners, but Angus McKew, head gardener at the Hall, has been good enough to inform Mrs Daffodil that the Eschscholzia is also known as the California Poppy, while brodiaeas are commonly called “cluster-lilies.” Mrs Daffodil is greatly obliged to Mr McKew and will try to temper the Hall’s requests for cut flowers.

 

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.

Shoeing for a New Play – Theatrical Footwear: 1901

SHOEING FOR A NEW PLAY.

Footwear a Big Item in a Stage Production—Cost from $1000 to $1600

Some Trials of a Theatrical Bootmaker.

Through some oversight the manager of a theatrical company that is soon to “try” an elaborate costume play upon an Eastern city has neglected to make arrangements to have the company shod, and the anxiety into which the cast has been plunged by this carelessness gives some idea of the importance which attaches to the matter of shoeing for a modern stage production. The actors who have been engaged for this one took it for granted that the usual arrangements had been made with the usual bootmaker for providing them with the proper footgear, and all that they would have to do would be to drop in any day and leave their measurement. That is the way they have been accustomed to buying their stage shoes, and they have been dropping into a little shop in Union Square, which has practically a monopoly in theatrical bootmaking, every day for the last week. The woman who is in charge of the shop during the proprietor’s absence says: “It will teach them all a lesson.”

A man, who from dress and manners was obviously from stageland, entered the shop and with an air of easy assurance took a chair and announced that he had come to be measured.

“For what?” asked the woman.

“For what?” repeated the actor, “why, for the shoes I am to wear in -—,” mentioning the title of the play.

“We know nothing about the boots you are to wear in that piece,” said the woman; “but possibly if you will leave your order we can get them out for you in time—what style is it you want?”

The actor’s easy assurance gave way instantly to bewilderment, and from bewilderment to mental stampede. “Style,” he echoed, gazing helplessly around him, “why, classic, Spanish, Louis XIV.—I don’t know, how should I know? Something like that thing there in the show case,” and he pointed to a black satin Spanish slipper with high heels slashed with yellow and trimmed around the top with silver, “that’s what I want, isn’t it? something on that order, anyway.” The woman told him that it would be impossible to fill an order from so meagre a description, and advised him to go around to the costumers’ and obtain details. The actor humbly promised to do so.

When he had gone the woman turned to another customer. “That man,” she explained, “would have known all about the boots he is to wear, if he had seen them; that is, if we had made them for him he could have pointed out where they were historically and otherwise wrong. As it is, you can see for yourself how ignorant he is, and how helpless. It is customary for a manager, when a new play is to be put on, to leave the order with a bootmaker for all the footgear that are to be worn by the cast; the style and the designs are sent to us by the costumer, or in some cases, are left to our own judgment,”

“What does it cost to shoe a company for a first-class production?” inquired the customer.

“From $1000 to $1600 dollars,” the woman answered. production will cost about $900.

“And who pays for all that?”

“Why, the actors themselves. It costs each one from $80 to $100, according to the number of changes he or she has to make in the course of the play. The supers, of course, do not have to pay for the shoes they wear—they are included in the company’s property.”

The popularity of historical plays has made the high kid boot extending above the knee, and known to the trade as a “knickertaur,” in greater demand than any other style. They cost from $10 to $18 a pair. Other costume boots vary in price from $8 to $40 a pair.

“How many dancing shoes,” said the woman in the shop, “do you suppose that young woman there (pointing to a photograph of a woman balancing airily on one great toe) how many shoes do you suppose she ordered here yesterday? Two hundred pair. Almost as many as some people wear in a lifetime, isn’t it? She’s going to Australia, and she doesn’t want to run short of shoes.”

The shoes which the young woman had ordered and which are kept in stock were quite shapeless and heelless affairs. A pronounced box toe explained the ease with which ballet dancers pose for minutes at a time on them. “And all the glittering tinselled sham,” continued the shopkeeper “which you read about as ‘existing behind the footlights, does not apply to these wares. They are of the best material and best workmanship, and cost more than any shoes of any sort sold in this country.”—[N. Y. Evening Post.

Boot and Shoe Recorder: 4 September 1901: p. 29

pink boots

Bejewlled satin boots worn by music hall variety artiste Kitty Lord, 1894-1915 http://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/Online/object.aspx?objectID=object-91634&start=34&rows=1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has shared information about theatrical costuming and some unusual special effects such as stage thunder and lightning, sandstorms, and giant dragons. Theatrical footwear, despite the “sock and buskin” being shorthand for the profession, has received much less attention than its costumes and special effects. Yet where would our chorus be without ballet shoes? Where would high-kicking music hall artistes be without tall satin boots? Where would our leading men be without their discreet lifts to allow them to tower over their leading ladies? For example:

“There is the raising of the actor’s shoes. We can make a man two inches taller, without spoiling the shape of his foot; this enables many an artist to hold positions that he could not fill without these raised shoes. Some of our leading artists wear them. The giants in the museums wear them to make them still taller. I remember once a friend of mine, an actor, came to Chicago to join ‘The Burglar’ company. The manager noticed at rehearsal that he was shorter than the leading lady—that would never do. He came to me and told me his troubles. I told him to cheer up—sit down and let me take his measure, and explained to him the process of raising shoes. On the opening night he was one inch taller than the leading lady, and every one was happy. It may be remarked that many people resort to this device in their street shoes.”

The Saint Paul [MN] Globe 12 April 1897: p. 8

Smaller feet were also part of stage wizardry and this “Cherman” shoe-maker [Mrs Daffodil cannot do the dialect] also elevated actresses with what sound like chopines:

“I suppose,” said the reporter, “that it’s part of a theatrical shoemaker’s art to make women’s feet appear smaller?”

“Women?” he said. “Vy do you say only women? Let me dell you dat men are shust as vain as women. I make de feet look smaller for both. Don’t ask me how, for dat is a secret of de craft. Most beople dink de high heel does it. But it’s more dan dat. You must get de heel shoost so. I also make bedple taller. Dere’s Janauschek—I fill her up mit cork and sawdust.”

“Fill her up with cork and sawdust?”

‘‘Dat is, de shoes of her. I make her two or tree inches higher dan she is.”

Time 26 September 1885: p. 102

slap stick shoes

Music Hall “slap-stick” shoes worn for the “Big Boot Dance” by Sammy Curtis. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1114606/theatre-costume/

Mrs Daffodil is reminded by the shoes above of the host of a vintage variety television show, a Mr Edward Sullivan, who used to announce that his viewers were about to witness “a really big shoe.”

 

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 Tot and the Wig: 1894

toupee before and after 1898 wig

A GRAVE MATTER

[Toronto Globe]

A couple of gentlemen were strolling through a cemetery, when one drew his companion’s attention to a stone on which was inscribed, “Little Johnnie, aged 3.”

“You may hardly credit it,” was the remark, “but Master Johnnie, before his demise, did me slap out of $800 a year, not to speak of a charming wife.”

“How on earth could a child of 3 manage that,” asked the other.

“In this fashion: As you are aware, I am quite bald and wear, for appearance sake, a wig. One hot day, being alone with the youngster, I took the thing off and gave it to him to play with for a few minutes. Well, I had proposed to and been accepted by the child’s mother’s sister, a splendid girl, possessed of property bringing about $800 a year. We were just on the eve of getting married. One day my affianced was carrying Johnnie, and the little chap suddenly began to howl for no apparent reason. He could not, of course, give utterance respecting the cause of his grief, but made signs that he wished me to hold him. When I took the child in my arms the imp instantly grabbed at my wig and pulled it off. Then my beloved perceived that the luxuriant chestnut curls which she had so often admired were not my own, and she nearly fainted. Net morning I received a note stating that she could never marry a man with a head as bare as a billiard ball. I heard subsequently of dear little Johnny’s decease. I didn’t require to use my handkerchief, I assure you.”

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 3 March 1894: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Perhaps Mrs Daffodil has a nasty, suspicious mind, but she does wonder if the resentful narrator bore any responsibility for little Johnny’s demise. A mystery box of poisoned chocolates delivered to the tot? Luring the child with the promise of a puppy out into the garden where there was a forgotten well with a rotted cover? It seems a trifle suspicious that he would find himself strolling with a companion precisely where the boy was buried and, what is even more damning, call attention to the grave and the child’s perfidy…. Everyone says that murderers revisit the scene of their crimes, or perhaps their victim’s burial place.  Mrs Daffodil feels certain that a proper inquest would have revealed the hand behind little Johnnie’s untimely death.

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 Chorus Girls Make a Dragon: 1893

ali baba headline

GIRLS MAKE THE DRAGON

Startling Stage Realism Ingeniously Made of Harmless Material.

[Boston Herald]

There are, indeed, tricks in all trades, and, as theatrical business has become more or less of a trade, it follows that it has its tricks. “In “Ali Babi,” the big spectacle presented by the American Extravaganza Company at the Globe Theater, there appears at a given hour something which makes a man who has been drinking feel queer, while the prohibition contingent look at it with horror and then with delight. This is the snake, or as it is billed, the dragon, and it is forty feet long. It is a very ingenious affair, and was made in Paris by M. Ganet, the master of properties of the Chatelet Theater.

The body of the reptile is nothing more nor less than twenty young women who travel on all fours, and who, at the right moment and a given signal, jump up and reveal themselves as diabolical sprites. They are clad in gray tights and green bodices, and on their heads are little horned skull caps. The article of attire that gives to each the appearance of apportion of the serpent’s body, and which, when the twenty girls creep along in follow-the-leader fashion, makes a wriggling, creeping snake of monstrous size, is a satin-lined cloak of thin canvas, which is roughly painted and mottled in green, yellow and white to represent the scales of a reptile’s hide.

The awe-inspiring, bird-like head, with rolling, ghastly eyeballs and crocodile jaws, serrated with rows of cruel, sharp teeth, is said to be the most ingenious part of the affair. It is made of papier mache and wicker work, light enough for a boy to carry, and, with devices inside to move the jaws and eyes.

The eyes are swung on a pivot and worked by means of a spiral spring. The huge jaws are hinged, and a stout lever inside, with the aid of a little muscle, makes them snap and yawn ferociously. Each nostril is shaped like the crater of a volcano, and the aperture from which the molten lava would come is replaced by a little alcohol lamp, the faint, blue flame of which cannot be seen from beyond the footlights. Over each of these lamps the fan-shaped mouth of a long tube comes. About six inches from the lamp and connected with the tube is a receptacle for lycopodium. When the boy who manipulates the apparatus concludes that it is proper for the dragon to make an imposing display of its ferocity, he blows through the tube, the powdered club-moss seed is scattered over the alcohol flame and makes a ghastly bluish and altogether startling flash.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 11 March 1893: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The dragon was a high-light of the Ali Baba entertainment and was invariably mentioned in reviews and advertisements.

“The Dance Diabolique,” executed by twenty secundas, who are metamorphosed from a monster fire-breathing dragon…. The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 1 January 1893: p. 6

And

The ballets of “Ali Baba” are three in number, and are novel in both movement and costuming. They are a Nautch dance in the first act, a demon dance in the second act, in which a monstrous, fire-breathing dragon is instantaneously transformed into a score or more of dancing sprites… The Indianapolis [IN] Journal 23 April 1893: p. 10

 Victorian stage designers were most ingenious, creating on-stage sand-storms and thunderous tempests. Costume designers peopled the stage with fanciful animals and made fairies fly.  A forty-foot dragon would have been a mere bagatelle.

Mrs Daffodil regrets that she was unable to find a photo-gravure of the ensemble en dragon, but she was able to locate an illustration of one of the costumed young ladies.

ali baba dragon chorus girl costume

A thumbnail sketch of the costume of one of the chorus who made up the body of the dragon.

The dragon dance sounds like an uncomfortable occupation, even for the young and lithe. Mrs Daffodil suggests that a more appropriate name for the entertainment would have been “Creeping Beauty.”

 

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.