Category Archives: Domestic Arrangements

A Jolly “Darning Party:” 1888

 

A Jolly “Darning Party.”

There is a very clever little housekeeper living in the busy portion of town and having a family of eight to look after, who makes light of family mending. Her method of disposing of this bugbear of the housewife may aid some of her weary sisters, whose lives are weekly blighted by the stockings and underwear to be made over anew.

“In the first place,” she says, “I make the three men and one boy in my family change their socks four times each week. When socks cost only 25 cents for a good pair, why should they not own a half dozen pair? Then on Sunday morning I overlook and collect all the soiled clothes and put aside every garment that needs mending. Monday morning, while the servant girl is washing the sheets, towels and such articles, my oldest daughter and myself rise a half hour earlier and mend all the torn or ripped articles before breakfast. When the clothes come from the ironing there are but few stitches to be set. I once had a girl who always insisted on putting her clothes to soak Sunday morning, but I persistently kept back those needing mending until Monday.”

Another family of growing children have a rather novel method of darning their stockings. There are four boys and five girls, three of the latter being able to darn nicely. Every Tuesday evening they have a “darning party.” The boys thread the needles, select the different cottons or wools, and the girls do the darning. The oldest boy reads some favorite book aloud, and at 9 o’clock cake and lemonade, or some like treat, is served. Any member of the family having more than two holes in one stocking is fined a penny for each hole, and the money goes to purchase new books.

The Saint Paul [MN] Globe 26 February 1888: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, really… a “darning party” in which only the girls do the work yet the boys get the treats? To use an American adjective, that is “darned” unfair. Mrs Daffodil suggests sequestering girls and refreshments behind locked doors until the boys learn to darn nicely.

The gentlemen, it seems, will do anything to avoid darning their own stockings, although there was a presumption that men as a species were utterly unable to undertake such delicate work.  Some ladies found in this male ineptitude a business opportunity:

In Philadelphia a guild of kind-hearted ladies has been formed to do mending for bachelors at low rates, It is conjectured that “they sew that they may reap.’ Nelson Evening Mail, 6 May 1886: p. 2

Mrs George Washington was praised for her ceaseless knitting and darning, as were ladies who invented darning efficiencies such as this

THREADED NEEDLE CASE

At a recent entertainment the hostess, a woman high up in the social world, tore her gown so that repair was necessary, and one of her intimate friends went up to her bedroom to chat while the mending went on. The maid produced a sewing case full of needles threaded with silk and cotton in different colors, so the work was quickly done. The hostess, as they went downstairs, boasted of her foresight in having needles always ready for evening work, as it had made her nervous to see her maid try and try again for a needle’s eye when she hurried. She not only has a stock of needles on hand in black and in white, but on the day that a colored frock is to be donned for dinner needles are threaded in that color and put in place in the work basket. In fact, the system has been so perfected that the cook has a stock of threaded chicken needles handy, threaded each as it is used, so that they all will be ready if many viands need a stitch or two, as many do, to keep some fancy sharp for baking. It takes only a few moments on a bright day to thread the needles and the system really saves eyesight and time. Evening News [San Jose, CA] 14 July 1911: p. 2

What a blighted life that woman “high up in the social world” must lead if her greatest boast is of pre-threaded needles….

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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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.

 

How Mother Did It: 1872

“HOW MOTHER DID IT.”

By Anonymous.

If we were to suggest one thing which, above all other things combined, would most contribute to the happiness of the young housekeeper, it would be to learn how to cook as a husband’s mother cooked. Mother used to make coffee so and so! Mother used to have such waffles! and mother knew just how thick or how thin to make a squash-pie! And, O, if I could only taste of Mother’s biscuit! Such are the comments of the husband, and of too many meal-tables. It would be only a little more cruel for the husband to throw his fork across the table, or to dash the contents of his teacup in his wife’s face. The experience of a contrite husband is good reading for those men whose daily sauce is “How Mother did it.” He says:—

“I found fault, some time ago, with Maria Ann’s custard-pie, and tried to tell her how my mother made custard-pie. Maria made the pie after my recipe. It lasted longer than any other pie we ever had. Maria set it on the table every day for dinner; and you see I could not eat it, because I forgot to tell her to put in any eggs or shortening. It was economical; but in a fit of generosity I stole it from the pantry and gave it to a poor little boy in the neighborhood. The boy’s funeral was largely attended by his former playmates. I did not go myself.

“Then there were the buckwheat cakes. I told Maria Ann any fool could beat her making those cakes; and she said I had better try it. So I did. I emptied the batter all out of the pitcher one evening and set the cakes myself. I got the flour and the salt and water; and, warned by the past, put in a liberal quantity of eggs and shortening. I shortened with tallow from roast-beef, because I could not find any lard. The batter did not look right, and I lit my pipe and pondered. Yeast, yeast, to be sure. I had forgotten the yeast I went and woke up the baker, and got six cents’ worth of yeast. I set the pitcher behind the sitting room stove and went to bed.

“In the morning I got up early and prepared to enjoy my triumph; but I didn’t. That yeast was strong enough to raise the dead, and the batter was running all over the carpet. I scraped it up and put it into another dish. Then I got a fire in the kitchen and put on the griddle. The first lot of cakes stuck to the griddle. The second dittoed, only more. Maria came down and asked me what was burning. She advised me to grease the griddle. I did it. One end of the griddle got too hot, and I dropped the thing on my tenderest corn while trying to turn it around.

“Finally the cakes were ready for breakfast, and Maria got the other things ready. We sat down. My cakes did not have exactly the right flavor. I took one mouthful, and it satisfied me. I lost my appetite at once. Maria would not let me put one on her plate. I think those cakes may be reckoned a dead loss. The cat would not eat them. The dog ran off and stayed away three days after one was offered to him. The hens wouldn’t go within ten feet of them. I threw them into the back yard, and there has not been a pig on the premises since. I eat what is put before me now, and do not allude to my mother’s system of cooking.”

The Donaldsonville [LA] Chief 17 February 1872: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  For “Wife Appreciation Day,” a salutary lesson for the officious husband! Mrs Daffodil has posted before on how a clever wife chastened an impossible-to-please husband who found fault with any dish she set before him, no matter how dainty. In the same post is an amusing story  of a widow who expertly trained her new husband to be less exacting in his tastes. It is odd how gentlemen who would not know one end of a fowl from the other when plucked, scalded, and nicely larded in the roasting pan, somehow have all the finer points of cookery at their fingertips.

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.

“I’m Not Superstitious, But–“: 1926

“I’m Not Superstitious, But—“

Nina Wilcox Putnam

America’s Only Woman Humorist [!!?!?!]

As Sir Walter Raleigh said, when spreading his coat over the mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth, “Step on it, kid, this is your lucky day and mine, too. I only regret that I have but one coat to lay down for my country.”

And how true it is that some things bring you luck, providing you believe they do, certainly was proved to me not long ago when I luckily picked up the telephone receiver on a busy wire and heard that the cook was leaving over at Miss Demeanor’s. I was lucky and quick enough to beat all the other ladies in Dinglewood to luring her.

The cooks, if any, which we have had this part year have positively caused a draft going through our kitchen, that’s how fast they went. And now, quite by accident, I run across the fact that this cook was leaving, so naturally I ran across and asked would she come to us, and she said she would, and so I went right on back home and scrubbed the kitchen floor, washed the windows, tied red bows on the kitchen curtains, moved the best easy chair, radio and five-foot bookshelf out there, also a few little other odds and ends into her quarters such as my long mirror, my best red room slippers, and etc. to make her feel thoroughly comfortable.

The Conquering Cook Comes

Well, the next morning, which was when we was expecting her, I fixed myself up as attractive as possible and sat down to wait for her. Pretty soon the doorbell give a loud ring, and my heart give a ditto leap, and I though, oh heavens, there she is and hurried to answer. Well, it was, actually she had showed. I took her bags and carried them upstairs and showed her her room, asked was there anything I could do for her, found she would fancy a little cake and tea, and then I left her in privacy while I went down to fix things up like she wanted, and while I was doing so, the bell rang again, and this time who would it be only that Mabel Bush, the one that’s married to Joe Bush of the Hawthorne Club.

Well, at first I thought where Mabel must have been shopping, on account she had something with her from pretty near every department of the Emporium. But no, she was merely going away for a coupula weeks and had brought some stuff she wanted to park with me while she was gone.

Say dear, she says when she had got her breath. I wonder would you mind taking care of my goldfish while I and Joe is out in Kansas visiting mother. He’s a real sweet little feller, ain’t you, Otto? See how cute he is, Jennie? And he don’t bite or anything unless he’s crossed. With that she hauled out one of the meanest looking goldfish I ever saw in my life. It gives me an awful funny look right off, but naturally I merely says why hello, Otto, nice Otto, pretty feller, of course I’ll take care of him, Mabel, what does he eat? Oh, fishcakes, she says, or any old thing. Now go to your Aunt Jennie, Otto, that’s the boy!

Mabel Dodges the Jinx

Well, I took his glass globe and put I on the table, a little uneasy over how the new cook would feel about another mouth to feed after I had told her there was only three in the family. But before I got a chance to go do any heavy worrying, Mabel had pulled a wild-looking fern out from a handbag, and set the poor helpless thing at my feet. ‘There!’ she says “I’m sure you don’t mind looking after that; all you got to do is water it once a day with double-filtered water, brush its leaves, pick the spiders and seeds off it, and give it a little sunshine.

Then before I had a chance to kick she was after me with another coupla bundles. “This is just the canary,” she says, “and here, my dear, is my peacock fan and my opal pin. Of course I’m not a bit superstitious, but I always say there is no use taking silly chances, and there have been three wrecks around mother’s neighbourhood lately, and I hate to leave them in the house in case burglars was to break in, so you don’t mind if I leave them with you, do you?”

Why Mabel Bush, I says, do you mean to tell me you are superstitious about taking them things with you? I says, why you ought to be ashamed of such ideas. I wouldn’t be so childish, why what harm can a father fan and few opals do? Well, she says, of course they can’t do any harm, I know that, so you really won’t mind keeping them until I get back? I says of course not, dear, but honest, I think you ought to take them along, just to overcome such nonsensical ideas.

Jennie Takes no Chances.

Well, Mabel wouldn’t insult my intelligence by taking them things off the place once she had brought them, so she left them and went on her way. And after she had done so, why I put the livestock around the dining-room, and then I didn’t quite know where to put that opal pin and Mabel’s peacock fan for safe-keeping. Of course I didn’t have the faintest feeling about keeping them in the house, even with a new cook there, so I left ‘em lay where she put them.

Then I picked up a pin off the floor, walking around so’s to make sure the point was towards me, and went out in the kitchen to ask Mary, the new cook, did she know anybody owning a second-hand black cat they didn’t need? Not that I really thought it would do any good, but some people have the idea a black cat is lucky, and while I personally myself certainly don’t believe in any such nonsense, why as long as I had the idea in my head I thought I might as well get a black cat to kinda counteract the idea of that fan and opals. Well, it seems Mary had a cat meeting my specifications up to her house and she offered to go right up and get it, but I wasn’t taking any chances of letting her out. So  says, oh no, don’t bother, I will go, where is it? And she says no. 13 West 113th St.

Luck Looks Up.

That number, of course, didn’t sound awful good to me, but I says to myself, now don’t be silly, it is a pure coincidence, you go get that cat just the same. So I did, and there was a ladder standing over the front door when I got there. Not that I minded this any more than poison, and naturally I hadn’t come all that long way in order to be turned back by a mere childish superstition. So I went under the ladder and knocked on the door and after a while somebody put their head out the window and says what do you want? And I says, Mary, that’s my cook, at least she was when I left home, told me her daughter had a black cat. And the party in the window says Mary’s daughter ain’t ever here Fridays, but I’ll get you the cat. So she done so in a bag, and my good luck started right away.

Well, anyways, I was lucky enough to get home alive and without being arrested in spite of the bloody murder that animal was yelling. And I was lucky with it another way, on account no sooner was that cat established in our home than I no longer had to bother feeding my goldfish. I didn’t haf to bury it, the nice kitty attended to all that.

Naturally, however, I had to replace Otto, so I ordered another poor fish of exactly the same pattern, ordered it kept down in the fish department of the Emporium until Mabel got ready to come back. It was just as well, anyways, on account the new cook claimed she never could of stood the noise it didn’t make.

Welcoming the Horseshoe

Now of course I wasn’t one bit superstitious about them opals being in the house, but I have to admit I commenced dropping tea spoons right after Mabel parked stuff with me. Not that I believe it really is unlucky to drop a spoon, but once I got the idea why I felt there wouldn’t be any actual harm in doing everything I could to counteract the thought. And so it was certainly rather cheering when Junior brought in a nice horseshoe with three nails in it. I had a good time gilding it up, and panting a few forget me nots on it, so’s nobody would think anything peculiar when I hung it up over the parlor mantel.

Ad nobody did, not even when by accident in hanging it, I happened to brush Mabel’s peacock fan off the mantel and into the open fire. I felt awful bad about this and what to do certainly was the question. It was one thing to page a new gold fish, but not a soul I knew kept even one peacock, and so he only thing I could hope for was that Mabel had her stuff well insured.

I wouldn’t want to lay the blame on any of Mabel’s belongings. I am not that kind of a fool, but it’s the truth that the very day I bought a picture postal of a peacock in order to make things up to Mabel the best I could, why somebody, the cat, so the cook said, left the dining room window open, let Mabel’s fern freeze, and of course, the only one of the same style our florist had in stock was twice as big and four times as expensive. But that didn’t matter so bad, because all I would have to do when she come back would be to say look, dear, what wonderful care I have taken of your plant, just see how it has grown and etc.

Worse and More of It.

Hot Bozo! As if that wasn’t enough the darn canary bird she had left on my hands commenced moulting. We could hear him at it every morning earl, and never once got dressed and down in time to stop him. So I had to go spend a couple or three dollars on hair tonic and after he drank the first couple of bottles he begun to look better. Just the same he had a distinctly shingle bobbed appearance by the time I got a letter from Mabel telling where she would be home in two days and if it wasn’t too much bother, would I mind ordering milk and ice, and loaning them a little coal, and running over to air the house and tell the furnace man to build a fire and ask the newspaper man to commence leaving the Morning Yell again. And she hoped it wouldn’t be too much bother.

So I done like she asked, and I addition carted all her stuff over for her—all, that is to say, except them opals. Look as I could, I wasn’t able to locate that pin any place. I stubbed my toe looking and every one knows that meant you’re going some place where you’re not welcome without that jewel? The cook got sore when I asked if she had seen the darn thing, and says well, if she wasn’t trusted, there was no use in he r staying any longer. So she took her bag, wages and departure.

And still I couldn’t find no pin, so I decided, well, that cook never would of left me flat like that and walked out unless she really had stolen it, after all! Not that I’m the least superstitious, but I might of known I wouldn’t have a minute’s luck with opals in the house. I don’t believe in any superstition in the world, but there has certainly been nothing go right since Mable left them stones here, and what and the world am I gonner tell her when I see her tomorrow?

One Superstition Left

Well, naturally there wasn’t nothing to do except tell her the truth. And so when Mabel come home and I was over there to her house with everything ready for her like she had asked, and she says how lovely and neighborly of you, dear, I’m afraid it’s been a terrible lot of bother. Why, of course I says, not in the least, darling. It’s been no bother at all. It’s been a pleasure. But, I says, I got bad news for you. I lost your opal pin, dear, not that I’m one bit superstitious, but it certainly brought me bad luck all the while it was with me and now it’s gone.

And she says, why Jennie Jules, she says, it was never there at all. I didn’t leave it there. I took it along with me after all, on account of the way you kidded me about being superstitious! And I give her one look. No! I says, meaning yes. So you never left it! I says. Well, I do guess there is one superstition I do believe in, after all, which is that when a person’s nose itches it means they are going to kiss a fool, and so, if you’ve got a mirror handy, I believe I’ll get the job over with right now.

The Sunday news [Charleston SC 17 January 1926

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Just in time for the 13th of the month, this whimsical account touches on just about every common superstition of the early twentieth century, as well as the problem of Keeping a Cook. Peacock feathers, opals, and black cats were all considered unlucky, although sceptics tried to reason people out of their fears of jinxes and hoodoos and fashion tried to trump superstition, all to no avail; some individuals still believe these articles to be problematic even to-day.

That rankly superstitious person over at Haunted Ohio has a theory, writing:

“Judging by the persistence of ‘superstitions,’ one wonders if, in the same way humans need certain vital gut bacteria and an exposure to dirt in childhood to maintain a healthy immune system, humans need a salutary dose of the illogical from time to time to top up whatever part of the brain it feeds.”

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 Civil Host: 1871

A Lesson in Civility.

A few days ago, says a correspondent, a laughable incident occurred to disturb the quiet of the hospitable Berkshire household where I am visiting. My genial host, who is a fine specimen of the old school gentleman, sat on the sunny piazza in his farming rig, smoking his favorite clay pipe, when a stylish team dashed up the drive with a great flourish, and one of the two male bipeds who occupied the carriage called out, as they drew up before the door, “Hallo, old fellow! Is this oaks?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Oaks, coolly, somewhat astonished at the salutation. “Well, then,” throwing the reins to the supposed menial, and jumping out, “this is the place, but what anybody ever built such a great ark of a house for, up here among the hills, beats me. Here, you, put up my horses and rub ‘em down and feed ‘em well, and see you don’t half do it, and then show us the fishing-pond or brook, or whatever it is, where them trout live, and the woods where we shall find them pigeons we’ve heard so much about.” And they strode through the open door into the sitting room. Both were dressed in real sporting costume, one equipped with rifle and game-bag, the other with fishing-rod, tackle and basket, looking, with all their fanciful accoutrements, much more appropriate to figure in a tableau than for actual service in the field. Mr. Oaks called some one to care for the team, and went himself to show them the way to the sporting grounds, coming back exceedingly amused to find us all rather indignant.

“They have ordered dinner to be ready at precisely 2,” he said, “with the proviso, that while you are about it, you shall get them something fit to eat.”

“And what shall I do about it?” asked Jennie, my host’s daughter.

“Oh! Have everything ready for them in good shape, and treat them as well as you can.”

The order was carried out to the letter. They came back, tired and hungry, with nothing of any consequence in the way of game; blustered round, swore at their guide for not showing them the right place; ordered brandy and water, and indulged in a little more profane language when told that there was nothing of the kind in the house; did ample justice to the dinner; called Miss Jennie “Betty” and “Bridget” when she went in with the desert, as her father insisted she should, and asked “if she had ever been to tunn, or seen the steam keers.” After dinner they lounged around, smoked cigars and expectorated on the carpet, and at last called out to their host, “Look here, old two hundred and seventy-five, get our team, and be quick about it. It is deuced mean for us to come away out here and not get any fish, and not see Oaks after we’ve heard so much about his droll stories; but I suppose you can tell us what our bill is, old avoirdupois.”

“You are quite welcome to what you have had,” was the reply, “as this is not a hotel, and I am William Oaks, as I could have told you some time ago had you inquired for the master of the house.”

You never saw two fellows so crestfallen. They stammered over no end of incoherent apologies of how they had often seen fish and game at the station, ten miles away, which the fortunate possessors said came from Oaks’, and had many times seen parties going to and from the same place, and had jumped at the conclusion that it was a public house. Mr. Oaks accepted their apologies in the peculiarly happy and graceful manner which renders him so popular, and told them a little story, very much to the point, upon the beauty of civility, and as Miss Jennie came down stairs just then, dressed in a heavy black silk visiting suit, he called to her, and as she came forward, introduced her with his old-fashioned courtly grace as, “My daughter, gentlemen! The mistress of her old father’s house, and the pride of his heart.” They awkwardly, sprang into the carriage which was waiting and drove rapidly down the mountain road. A friend coming in soon after had met and recognized them in the ravine, so that our curiosity in regard to their names and occupation was gratified.

The Eaton [OH] Democrat 8 June 1871: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Two male bipeds.”  No doubt of the “sula sula” or “Red-faced Boobies” species.

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.

 

Farmers’ Wives’ Vacations: 1898

1918 advertisement for electric stove.

Farmers’ Wives’ Vacations

Of course, the business man in the city should have a vacation, if he can afford it, and so should the society ladies, and the office-holders, and the clerks, and the dudes, but the one that needs a vacation most of all is the farmer’s wife, who plans and prepares hot meals for a household throughout the year. She may not care to go to the seashore, or to go fishing with a supply of bait in a jug; but she should be lifted out of the everlasting grind of three hot meals over a hot cook-stove every day by some sort of relief from such work for a portion of the heated season. It may not be practicable for her to even leave home at all, but much can be done to make her work more bearable. There should be a cool kitchen—one that is shaded and has all the fresh air that is going. In that kitchen there should be a stove that can cook a meal without cooking the cook. This is a day of successful and cheap oil and gasoline stoves. They can be used to prepare all the breakfast and supper anyone needs, and are used by tens of thousands for preparing dinners that require the usual boiling and baking. There should be a good supply of fruit to take the place of dishes that must be prepared over a stove. There should be convenient water, and there should be a boy that will do all outside chores. Above all, there should be a household that is willing to dispense with hot suppers and the usual supply of greasy dishes during the red-hot weather of August. This does not apply to many farm homes, it is true, but there remains a considerable number in which the hardships of the housewife during July and August are greater than men would bear if places could be exchanged.

The Holt County Sentinel [Oregon MO] 14 October 1898: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The picture of a farmer’s wife “slaving all day over a hot stove” was a proverbial one, particularly in advertisements for electric or oil stoves. “Summer kitchens,” in the warmer districts helped to keep the heat out of the house, but were still unpleasantly hot and fly-filled.

Then again, some husbands were Brutes, refusing to grant their hard-working wives any modern conveniences.

 Hot summer days with a big family to feed, augmented by the additional hands, she perspires over a huge coal stove, fire in which must be started before daybreak to get the early breakfast, and which heats the kitchen to suffocation long after sundown. A fireless cooker and a blue-flame oil stove would give her many hours’ rest, and a cool place to work in, but her husband’s mother cooked on that stove years before modem invention lightened woman’s work, and the husband sees no reason why what was good enough for his mother is not good enough for his wife. It is fortunate for him that he keeps the mail order catalog in such constant use himself, selecting farm implements and the like, that she never gets a peep in them, for could she see the small expenditure that would bring her ease and comfort she might break out in open rebellion.  [Successful Farming 1916]

Still, occasionally something good might be said about the old-fashioned hot cook-stove:

How a Pennsylvania Widow Served a Sewing Machine Agent.

The usually quiet little village of Leesport on the line of the Philadelphia & Reading railroad, eight miles above Reading, has had a sensation, which has caused a good deal of amusement. A Reading sewing-machine agent induced the head of a family to take a machine and pay for it in monthly installments. Before the machine was paid for, the husband and father died. The widow was in destitute circumstances, with half a dozen children, and unable to pay the balance owing on the machine, when the agent came round to take the machine away. She determined that he should not remove the machine until he had handed back at least some of the money that had been paid on it by her husband. He was apparently just as determined to secure the machine without returning any of the filthy lucre, insulted the woman and endeavored to take by force what he said belonged to the company by reason of the payment of monthly installments having been stopped.

While the agent was inside the house she locked both the front and back doors, and put the keys in her dress pocket, and being a robust woman “went for” the agent. She took hold of him and a severe and prolonged struggle ensued, while the children were frightened and cried and screamed. The widow threw the agent over the hot kitchen stove, and finally succeeded in setting him down on top of it and held him there, when he begged piteously for mercy. “For God’s sake, let me go, and I’ll pay you back every cent your husband paid me.” Being satisfied that he was severely scorched, if not partly roasted around the thighs, she pulled him off the stove, but held on to him until he had paid back every cent of the installments and then she gave him two minutes time to take the machine and clear out with it. The name of the plucky woman and also that of the agent, are withheld by special request.

Atchison [KS] Daily Patriot 30 September 1875: p. 1

 

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.