Category Archives: Edwardian

The Girl in the Car: 1903

woman in coffin 1876 American Enterprise. Burley's United States centennial gasetteer and guide

Ghost Editor, Fort Worth Telegram

Dear Sir: I had never been a believer in the supernatural prior to the occurrence of the incident which gives rise to my story, but the facts which I am about to relate had the effect of purging the skepticism that had hitherto prevailed in my mind regarding such matters.

During the year of 1903 I was employed as an express messenger on the Fort Worth-Texarkana run.

One night there was transferred to my car from the western division a coffin containing a corpse consigned from El Paso to Schenectady, N.Y., and while this is no unusual traveling companion for an express messenger, the night in question was one which prompted thoughts of the supernatural, gloomy with a stillness in the air that foretold the approach of a heavy storm.

Being absorbed with routine matters which demanded my attention, little time was given to thought of the contents of the pine box lying in a far corner of the car. Vivid flashes of lightning and the ominous aspect of the sky made it plain that the elements would soon be warring. Being forty-five minutes late out of the last station passed and due in Longview at midnight, we were traveling at a rapid rate with an endeavor to make up the time lost. The air of the car being somewhat close, I stepped to the door and threw it half open. Simultaneously a blinding flash of lightning, accompanied by a crash of thunder, made me start back involuntarily from the open door. Before I could recover my composure, a gust of wind swept thru the car, extinguishing every light. I sprang to the open door and slammed it together, avoiding a deluge of rain that fell as the sluice gates of heaven had been opened. Turning quickly with a view to relighting my lamps, a flash of lightning revealed to me the form of a girl about twenty years of age standing in the center of the car. In my astonishment, thinking that my imagination had served me with an illusion, I waited for a second flash that again revealed the form of the girl, and while my gaze was limited to the momentary glare, I took in every detail of her figure and dress. She was attired in a brown street dress with long gloves to match, and her dark hair fell loose in a mass around her shoulders, contrasting strongly with the paleness of her face. For a moment I could scarcely move. My first thought was of how this girl could have gained entrance to my car while the train was moving at the rate of forty miles an hour. Another lightning flash showed the girl advancing toward me with her arms outstretched in a imploring attitude. My glance in this brief second also reverted to the farther par of the car, and to my horror observed the lid of the coffin thrown to one side and now standing open. This was the first time that I had associated the form of the girl with the supernatural, and my senses seemed to leave me as I dashed to the door and slammed it violently ajar. As I did, something seemed to pass me, and vanish out into the storm, followed by a wailing cry that even now at times rings thru my ears. I staggered back from the door from which I had sought to plunge and fell heavily to the floor of my car.

When the train reached Longview the baggage man climbed into my car and discovered my condition. A stiff drink of whisky brought me back to my normal senses and I recited my story.

After the lamps had been re-lit, a promptly investigation was made of the box in my car, which was found intact and strongly nailed.

Various opinions were presented by my train associates, and I caught  some of them winking knowingly.

I carefully noted down the address and destination of the coffin and the name of the consignor. A few days later I wrote to Schenectady requesting of the consignor a description of the corpse, and a week later received an answer describing in both feature and figure the girl whom I so fully described to my fellow workers the night of the visitation. I answered this letter, confiding my interest in the matter, with the request to be advised if the lady had formerly worn a brown dress, receiving a reply in the affirmative and to the effect that it was in this she had died from heart failure thru climbing a flight of stairs at a hotel in El Paso.

Do I believe in ghosts/ Well, I have another occupation than that of express messenger. Yours truly,

W.K.T. SCOTT

Fort Worth [TX] Star-Telegram 13 December 1907: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A nice, shuddersome story!  One can readily understand the narrator’s resignation from his occupation after such an uncanny encounter.

After the American Civil War, when embalming became more widespread, it was commonplace to ship corpses via the rails. The Wells Fargo company was one of the first in this field; they found an ingenious and heartless way to exploit the deaths of consumption patients.

AN INDUSTRY IN CORPSES
How an Express Company and an Undertaker Whack Up on Consumptives.

The Wells-Fargo Company does some queer things in the way of business, but the strangest perhaps is a new line, worked up by one of the shrewdest agents of the country at Denver. Colorado is a sort of last chance of consumptives, and pretty generally they die there. Most of them are supplied with money from home in regular installments, so when they die not enough coin is found among their effects to pay an undertaker. Undoubtedly many of them would be buried by the county, but right here’s where the company gets in.

It has a contract with an undertaker who takes charge of the body, embalms it, and gets it all ready for shipment. Then the Fargo agent wires to the agents in the towns from which the deceased received letters. If any relatives can be found it is a sure thing, and nine times out of ten enough friends can be found to put up a check for the undertaker’s charges and transportation. When this has been done the body is shipped to the friends or relatives by fast train, and turned over by the agent. The company makes a fat annual profit out of this melancholy business–“the corpse industry,” they call it—it is a good snap for the undertaker, and this county is saved just so many dollars. Many a time there have been three to four corpses at once in the company’s “cooling room” at Denver awaiting notice from friends in just this way. It is a cold day when W.F. & Co., can’t discover a new way to turn an honest penny.

The Pittsburg [PA] Dispatch 19 July 1891: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil thanks Chris Woodyard for that diverting Wells Fargo anecdote, which appears in her book, The Victorian Book of the Dead, also available in a Kindle edition.

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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A Practical Heiress: 1911

teens couple

A Practical Heiress.

“Darling,” he asked as he drew his fiancée closer to him, “am I the only man you ever kissed?”

“Charles,” she replied somewhat testily, “I would like to ask you a few questions before we go any further. You are no doubt aware of the fact that papa is worth several million dollars, aren’t you?”

“Y-yes.”

“You understand, no doubt, that when he dies all of that vast fortune will be left to me?”

“Y-yes.”

“You know that I have $500,000 in cash in the banks?”

“Y-yes.”

“And own half a million dollars’ worth of property?”

“Y-yes.”

“And many share of stocks and bonds?”

“Y-yes.”

“And that my diamonds are valued at $100,000?”

“Y-yes.”

“And my horses and automobiles at $75,000?”

“Y-yes.”

“And my yachts at $50,000?”

“Y-yes.”

“And my dogs at $25,000?”

“Y-yes.”

“Then, for goodness sake! Why don’t you talk sense? What difference would it make to you if I had kissed a thousand men before I met you?”

“He hemmed and hawed and stammered and blushed, and tried to think of a suitable reply, but finally had to give it up; and when the great heiress began to talk of something else he heaved a deep sigh of relief, and swore to himself that he would be more careful in the future.

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

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: No doubt the great heiress believes that she can Mould the stammering and blushing Charles into something more serviceable—possible even into a man who talks sense. Mrs Daffodil would like to remind the heiress, who seems to have chilled champagne in her veins instead of blood, that it is vulgar to talk of money, that hobby-husbands eventually become tiresome, and that worms do turn.

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 Telephone Tapper: 1903

candlestick telephone 1902

A TELEPHONE EAVESDROPPER

“Of all the strange occupations the strangest is that of telephone tapper,” said an old employe of the telephone company the other day. “There aren’t ten men in Chicago who know what a telephone tapper is, but there are hundreds of persons who have come to grief through his work.

“The tapper is a man who is hired by the telephone company. His business is to tap the wires on party lines, at hotels, and such places, to see if the telephone is being used by persons who are not careful of what they say. Often the company receives complaints that telephone users say unprintable things that are unavoidably overheard. The company tries to do away with this sort of patronage. Hence the tapper.

“The tapper must be a man of infinite patience. I have known them to sit for 20 hours at a stretch waiting for a signal. When a complaint is made that the wrong kind of talk is circulating on a party line the tapper goes to one of the houses, generally the home of the complainant, and taps the wire. This is done with a specially constructed instrument, just as does any telephone. It is fastened to the regular phone and then the tapper sits back with the receiver clamped to his ear to await a call.

Takes Notes on What He Hears.

“He takes notes on every conversation he hears, and sometimes he must repeat his vigil day after day. As a rule he does not have to wait many hours, because the persons who use the telephones recklessly are at the instrument about as often as they can find time. “Not long ago a complaint was made by a man on a party line. He said that a very disgusting courtship was being carried on over the wire, and that his wife and daughter could not take down the receiver without hearing something they should not hear.

“The tapper was sent out to investigate. He rigged up his instrument and sat down to wait. All the afternoon he stuck to his post, hearing only the orders given to the butcher, the grocer, or the cola man. Finally in the evening shortly before dinner, the bell rang three times. The tapper looked at his notebook and learned the call was for the home of a well-known family. Soon the click was heard as a receiver came from the hook, and a young woman’s voice called out ‘Hello!’

“’Is this Miss___?’ asked a masculine voice.

“’Yes,’ went to the answer over the party line; ‘is this you?’ asked the young woman, calling the man by name. You see, the tapper had learned there in a minute who were the guilty parties. He remained at the receiver and heard a conversation that I would not repeat. He let the couple finish their conversation and then returned to the complaint office. Next day notice was served on the people who live in the house on the party line that the telephone must not be used as it had been in the past. The young woman protested that she had not talked over the telephone in a week, but when notes on the conversation were shown to her, she arose and indignantly swept from the room.

Some Laughable Experiences.

“The tapper often meets with laughable experiences. One of them was sent out to investigate the case where a man was in the habit of swearing a great deal when using the telephone. After a long wait without hearing him one day he left. Going back the next day he was more successful. He had hardly taken up his watch when the bell rang. The man he was after was calling another person.

“The men were at outs, it seemed, and began quarreling and swearing at each other. The talk soon became furious.

“’I’ll not stand for your way of doing, and I’ll take a punch at you the first time I see you,’ said one of the men, with a liberal supply of oaths.

“’If you do, your wife won’t know you when you go home,’ the other retorted, sandwiching a few smoking epithets between the other words.

“The verbal duel grew hotter. The tapper had the name of one of the men, but the other he did not know. But he finally got it. The conversation kept on until one called the other some kind of a liar.

“’I’ll whip you for that, or my name isn’t ___’ yelled the unknown, and the tapper had completed his chain. No complaints have since been made by persons on that line. The tapper’s work put an end to the disagreeable conversations.

“Of course, it very often happens that the tapper waits vainly for his parties, but he hears enough of the private affairs of people to fill a dozen such notebooks as he carries. One of the men was on a line not long ago when the bell rang and a young woman answered the ‘phone.

Talked of Champagne.

“’How’s your head today, dearie?’ asked a young man who had the other end of the line.

“‘Big as a balloon. I could hear champagne corks popping all night long. No more of the bubbles for me,’ came the answer.

“’I’ve been feeling badly all day, too. I can taste that chop suey yet. What did your mother say?’

“‘Oh, not much of anything. I kept out of sight. I’ve got to go to an old club meeting tonight and I’d rather take a whipping.’

“At this point in the conversation the click of a receiver was heard on the line.

“‘Watch out,’ said the young man, warningly; ‘somebody is cutting in. Good-bye.’

“A tapper was sent down to one of the big hotels on Michigan avenue not long ago. The hotel management said that guests had complained of overhearing distasteful talk over the wires. The tapper rigged up his instrument at the switchboard and waited. I don’t know that he got the right parties, but he heard one very lively little conversation.

“A drop at the switchboard fell, indicating that a guest in a certain room was calling. In a refined voice an elderly man asked for a number which I have since learned is that of a ‘phone in a Drexel boulevard home.

“‘Is this Mrs. So-and-so?’ asked the man.

“‘Yes,’ came the answer.

“‘How about a nice little dinner tonight down town?’ was the next question.

“‘All right,’ answered the woman; ‘but, say, this is the last one. My son is coming home from Yale for his vacation in a few days, and my husband is coming on from New York with him. You must not call me up under any circumstances after this. I’ll be down at 5:30 this evening, but we’ll have to abandon our little dinners. It’s too bad, but you know when the cat comes home the mouse must keep hidden.’

“The tapper knows pretty well what is going on about town and could tell many stories. He is a close-mouthed fellow, however, and knows it is best to keep still. If the people who use telephones knew that they are telling their stories to a tapper as well as to the person at the other end of the line, they would be more careful.

“Tappers themselves say that dead men and telephone tappers tell no stories, but the latter keeps a record of what he learns, and in the record are the names of some people who are supposed by their friends to be of the goody-goody sort.

“It’s a peculiar kind of work at any rate, and one of which the public knows nothing.”

Tacoma [WA] Evening News 21 March 1903: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To judge from remarks in the early-twentieth-century press, the work of the tapper was considered rather sordid and unethical.  All the peeping and prying was entirely too suggestive of the unpleasantries of what lawyers called “divorce work.” One is reminded of the statement of U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson who closed the intelligence-gathering Cipher Bureau with the remark, “Gentlemen do not read each others’ mail.”

Of course, the profession still exists on to-day with, of course, rather different machinery and objectives. One doubts that any of to-day’s  tappers are interested in improper language or courtships, unless they have been specially hired by a suspicious spouse.

Mrs Daffodils wonders that there was ever a necessity to enlist trained operatives to “listen in” on illicit telephone communications. There were many talented amateurs who routinely and “inadvertently” overheard party-line conversations and who would happily report their findings to a rapt audience.

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 Unblushing Peek-a-Boo Waist: 1906

peekaboo waist

Midsummer Follies in Dress

How the Unblushing Peek-a-Boo Shirt Waist Has Grown Worse and Worse Until It Has Gotten Into the Courts.

From the New York American.

The well-recognized innate tendency of woman to carry fashions to outrageous extremes receives a startling illustration this year in the garment popularly known as “the peek-a-boo waist.” It has now reached a phase of disclosure entirely beyond anything dreamed of in civilized countries; since the pagan fashions of drapery yielded to the advance of modesty.

The peek-a-boo waist heads the list of all the follies which woman is committing this summer in the name of fashion. Philosophers, be it noted, have observed that woman is especially prone to commit follies in summer. Associated with the peek-a-boo waist in prevalence and in provocative character is the open-work or peek-a-boo stocking.

The question of the peek-a-boo waist is a serious one for the American people. Leading clergymen have thundered denunciations of it from the pulpit. It has given rise to cases in police courts. In the opinion of clergymen, magistrates and other high authorities, it is the cause of wickedness, strife and widespread demoralization in social and business life.

The New York Telephone company has been forced to issue orders that its women employees shall not wear peek-a-boo waists.

It was found that the men employees were so distracted by the new developments and vagaries of the peek-a-boo, as exhibited by their near neighbors in the Office, that they were practically unable to attend to business, thereby causing great annoyance to the public. A leading bank president called to have his house telephone disconnected for the summer, and addressed his instructions in vain to an assistant manager, whose eyes were busy exploring the mysteries of a peek-a-boo waist.

Even a Parisian leader of fashion has declared that the peek-a-boo waist is immodest. The Countess de Noailles has declared that any woman who wears a shirt waist exposing her bare shoulders is deficient in good breeding. The decollete gown may be excused on the ground that it is worn in the company of friends and intimates, but the peek-a-boo unveils the wearer to the populace. The denunciation from a Parisienne is as significant in its way as that of religious leaders.

In one case the waist led to a violent altercation between persons of good social position and a subsequent appearance in the police court. Upon a recent evening Mrs. Mary Linck and her husband, of No. 835 Cherry street, Philadelphia, were returning home from the theater. They were in a crowded street car and were both standing up. Behind them stood Mr. Joseph Bruce, of No. 4541 North Twentieth street. Mrs. Linck was wearing a peek-a-boo waist of unusually provocative design. The demon of perversity was aroused in Mr. Bruce by the sight of this garment just under his nose. He happened to have an instrument of mischief at hand in the shape of a straw. This he passed through the interstices of Mrs. Linck’s waist and proceeded to tickle her. Thinking it was a mosquito Mrs. Linck slapped at the place on her back, and Mr. Bruce quickly withdrew the straw. He chuckled deeply at the joke, and began it again as soon as she took away her hand. There were actually a great many mosquitos in the air. She slapped and slapped and told her husband how maddening the mosquitos were. Suddenly she turned round and caught Mr. Bruce in the act of tickling. She angrily denounced the offender and grappled with him. Mr. Linck then had the car stopped and gave Mr. Bruce into the custody of a policeman.

Bruce was arraigned at the Central police court before Magistrate Kochersperger, who decided that the act of tickling constituted a technical assault and battery, and held Bruce in $600 bail for trial. It is considered by many that the peek-a-boo waist should be regarded as a justification of this offense, or at least, a greatly extenuating circumstance.

Dr. Jacques Schnier, a dentist, of No. 604 Lexington avenue, New York, appeared before Magistrate Whitman in the Yorkville police court and made a complaint against Miss Adelina Weissman, who lives in the same house. Miss Weissman is pretty and plump, with flashing black eyes and abundant hair. The doctor complained that she wore “an awfully tantalizing peek-a-boo waist,” and that wearing this she came and looked at him while he was engaged in the delicate art of filling teeth and distracted his attention. The magistrate did not find a cause for criminal proceedings, but warned Miss Weissman not to disturb Dr. Schnier unnecessarily.

By the church the peek-a-boo waist is generally condemned. Mgr. McNamee, of St. Theresa’s church, Brooklyn, looked over his congregation and was shocked that most of the young and attractive women in it were wearing peek-a-boo waists, and in many cases very short sleeves.

“It is disgraceful the way some of the women come to the altar to receive communion,” said Mgr. McNamee. “I have been pained to see them coming to the sacrament with these transparent waists, and, worse yet, with sleeveless waists, with hideous looking gloves as substitutes for sleeves. I hope I will not be obliged to say any more on this question.”

The Rev. Dr. MacFarland, on behalf of the Ministerial association, of Iowa, denounced the peek-a-boo. “Our mothers would have thrown up their hands in holy horror if they had been asked to wear the kind of waists the girls now wear,” he said….

A few Sundays ago the pastor of St. Cecelia’s church, in Rochester, Pa., Rev. Father Schoerner, on rising to preach saw before him in the congregation two young women wearing especially flagrant examples of the up-to-date, open-work, sleeveless shirtwaist.

“Go home!” he thundered at them. “Take off those bathing suits; this is a church of God, not a bathing resort.”

Father Schoener’s only mistake was the injustice he did to the bathing suit. At no known resort would bathing suits modeled on such a design be permitted…

Women are showing a fondness this summer for several garments which seem fitting accompaniments of the peek-a-boo waist. One of these is the thin white bathing suit. At Lake Hopatcong. N. J., a young woman gave a fine imitation of Venus rising from the sea. She wore a costume that seemed too beautiful to wet. It was of white brilliantine, trimmed with blue polka dot silk. The blouse was sleeveless, the neck was low, the skirt was short. A white silk cap was perched on Venus’s head. Long, very long, extremely long pink silk stockings encased her limbs.

When this bather emerged from the water and took a sun bath on the pavilion 600 persons surrounded her, but their stares did not disconcert her. When finally she went to the bathhouse a crowd followed her. The manager of the bathhouse ordered her to leave by the rear door and warned her to wear a different bathing suit the next time she bathes there.

The Rev. Mr. Johnson has been preaching against young women, and young men, too, “who go about the bathing grounds with their chests bared and their arms exposed.”

It is interesting to recall briefly the evolution of the peek-a-boo waist. Like other outrageous fashions, such as the crinoline and the eel-tight skirt, it had a comparatively innocent beginning. That was in the year 1900. It was at first confined to a simple little yoke, outlining a pretty girl’s neck and giving fleeting glimpses of the interior decorations. It was graceful, coquettish, piquant. It was a tantalizing hint, not a bare-faced revelation.

By 1902 the peek-a-boo shirt waist had reached another stage in its evolution. The open-work yoke had extended its limits and began to frankly disclose features which garments were supposed to veil.

In 1904 the extent of open-work territory claimed by the shirt waist was increased by spacious Vs descending in front and in the rear to points beyond the limits that mere men had expected fair woman to fix.

In 1905 “panels” of various shapes came to the aid of the V’s in adding space, variety, interest and intricacy to the area of exposure. In the present season the shirt waist, it is believed, has got as near to the Trilbyan “altogether” as it may dare to go.

And fitting companions in disclosure and exposure of the peek-a-boo, apt aiders and abettors in allurement of the casual eye are the open-work stockings. Like the peek-a-boo, they, too, began their career in most modest guise.

Mere pinpricks traced in varied designs that flashed faint, fleeting visions of pink-white points of flesh. But today they also have advanced to a point where the word “open-work” possesses hardly strength sufficient to be adequately descriptive.

The Topeka [KS] Daily Capital 19 August 1906: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil, who is always annoyed by the gentlemen who have so much to say about the modesty of women’s dress, wonders if these depraved peek-a-boo wearers were also sans corsets, chemises, or corset-covers? Even in summer underthings, the amount of flesh exposed in the sheerest tulle or lawn waist would be negligible, stimulating only to those of powerful imaginations who focused their attentions (or a straw) on fleeting visions of pink-white points of flesh. In short, Peeping Toms.

There is an antiquated argument that goes like this: ladies who leave their homes in a state of immodest dress somehow deserve to be tickled by straws or worse. To which Mrs Daffodil crisply replies, Rubbish. A gentleman may enjoy the view, if he is able to do so discreetly and without giving offence,  but he is not then allowed to denounce it from the pulpit.

 

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 Aristocats: 1909

 

OUTFITTING HER MAJESTY, THE CAT, NOT AN EASY TASK NOW

The Society Feline Is Many Grades Removed from the Midnight Prowler on the Back Fence.

Blue Blood in a Cat’s Veins Is a Costly Fluid

Fashionable People Are Turning Nowadays from the Dog to the Cat

More Cats Were Seen in Newport Last Seasons Than Ever Before in its History

A Cat Is Better Fitted For Carrying About.

The proverb maker says “A cat can look at a king.” But it takes a king to look at a fashionable cat these days. At least a king of coin, for a society feline is as far removed from the midnight prowlers, whose habitat is a plank on the backyard fence as the moth is from the star. Blue blood in a cat’s veins is a costly fluid. Most cats serve only the boy in the backyard and the cartoonist, but a cat of fine blood and prize markings is a feline gem of the rarest ray serene. And each ray of blood, so to speak, is worth its weight in silver.

Fashionable folk are turning from the dog to the cat. The cat is being gradually promoted from the basement to the sleeping basket in the parlor. Instead of sleeping wherever it can the cat now has a specially made sleeping basket and wears a nightgown. The cat craze is spreading everywhere. More cats were seen at Newport last summer than ever before in all its history. And this when the time of the cat is winter. A cat looks more fashionable in winter than in summer. A dog can follow all right in the summer, but in the winter he can’t jump through the snow; and if he does he gets is boots all dirty. A cat is fitted for carrying. Then in the winter time when the dog cannot very well accompany his owner the cat comes into her own. Her long, thick fur makes her look appropriate when the snow blows and the wind bites. When the air sings and brings red to women’s cheeks a cat looks a picture under a woman’s arm.

 

 

This winter more than forty cat shows will be held in the United States. Rare cats will be exhibited and blue ribbons will be awarded from Bangor, Me., to Pasadena, Cal. Even in Canada cat fairs will be held. There the two governing bodies that hold these shows, and the books of these institutions show that there are 2,000 pedigreed cats in the United States. And all the fashionable Toms and Tabbies are not pedigreed, nor are they social climbers. By chance they happen to have the marks and qualifications that go to make a desirable cat, and the first thing they know they are raised to the ranks of society by being taken up by a cat lover.

Ask the first man you meet on the street, or the person next you on the car what he imagines a fashionable cat is worth and he will wrinkle up his brows for a moment and say: “Oh, I suppose about $20.” Then he will blush and built fortifications by saying that he supposes there might be one cat worth that much.
Tell a cat fancier that and he will slap his knees in glee. He will inform you impressively that you couldn’t any more than buy a night prowler for that.

Why, $20 wouldn’t go very far toward outfitting a cat even. Goodness no! Twenty dollars would leave a cat’s wardrobe so barren that a cat of luxury would get up and stalk majestically away. Put $20 in a cat’s outfit and you would have to have the bill of sale to know that you had bought anything at all. It wouldn’t more than buy a cat blanket and a few catnip balls. Cat is another way of spelling money. Especially if you put fashionable before it. A kitten from a blooded sire sells for from $50 to $100. Yes, actually sells. That is the mark-down price, too. The value of an average prize-winning cat is about $150. Then when you begin to sift them out for the best the price jump up like steel on a squeeze. Whenever you start out to buy a blooded cat or kitten take a full pocket-book. Cats often change hands at $500.

 

Mrs. George Lynas, an Indiana woman, has a cat that she bought in England for $525. This does not include the expense of bringing him over. He is a Persian Chinchilla, and is 3 years old. His name is Rob Roy II. Of Arrandale. His name is no more aristocratic than he is. Mrs. James Conolisk of Gowanda has a cat valued at $800. Ho, that is not just the value she puts on it; there are several persons who would like to become his owner at that figure. That is not all. C.H. Jones of Rochester, N.Y., has a cat that he holds at $2,000. No, that is not a mistake—there should be three ciphers after the “2.” The animal’s name is Honorable Peter Stirling—or “Petie.”  Honorable Peter is a very famous cat, and is known wherever cat lovers congregate. “Petie” has a record behind him, for he has promenaded on Broadway with his master without string or chain. He walks along with his master with all the proud dignity of his namesake. Two thousand dollars would buy enough ordinary cats to have made the Pied Piper hurry out early in the morning and study the want ad section. If you had $2,000 to invest in the common or backyard variety of cats you would have to put electric trucks on all the furniture vans in town. The Egyptians who held cats to be sacred and bowed down to them in worship would only give two or three kopecks for a bushel of them. Such a cat as “Petie” ought to be able to look at a whole battalion of kings and never get fussed.

¿With Kindest Greetings for this Christmas dayî

Lithograph scrap, cat in a slipper, 1870s

A complete outfit for a cat looks like an inventory of the trunk of a belle going to the seashore for a month. Tabby has to have more things to wear than a bride. Tabby must have a collar. Some cats have lived and flourished to a ripe old age on the division fence who never once felt the need of a collar. But you must remember that our Tabby is a fashionable cat. A collar worn by Fluff would never do for Tabby, Never! Horrors! no! A dog collar on a cat! Again horrors! Even if nine tenths of the people can’t tell a dog collar from a cat collar it would never do to put Fluffs collar on Tabby. Tabby could never lift her eyes in self-respect if she had to wear a dog collar.

lalique cats choker

The caption is ambiguous as to whether this Lalique glass collar is a collar engraved with cats or a collar designed to be worn by cats, c. 1906-8 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/cats-choker/IgHy04_MHQ64MA

A cat collar is rope-shaped—round–so that it will fit down into the fur. The collar isn’t to show much, for the cat’s fur is an adornment. On a short haired cat a collar of some width may be used, but never on a cat of long fur. The color of the collar must harmonize with the color of the cat. A cat properly rigged out is a study in color harmony. There should be no abrupt changes of color; the blankets, collar and leading string should present one impression—an artist would call it a “tone.” The rigger out of cats is just us much of an artist as the man who sticks his thumb through a palette and smears paint on his jacket. Before a man will begin to outfit your cat he steps off a few pace and casts a critical eye over her, studying her just as a decorator does a room before he begins operations. As far as the ensemble will harmonize this year the prevailing color in collars is tan and brown.   Last year the collars had a touch of red in them, but this season they are more sombre. A collar costs just what you want to pay for it—usually more. You can begin at $10 and keep on for some time. The costlier collars are set with stones; often a small diamond gleams on top of the collar, or a row of moonstones may encircle the leather belt. When you begin putting stones and jewels on the collar of your cat you are adding ciphers behind the first figures on your check-book with great celerity. Then a “lead” must be bought. The lead is of braided leather or silk cord and must harmonize with the collar and blanket. Otherwise there would be a discord in the color symphony.

cat in cradle 1880 Letters from a Cat

A cat of caste must have three blankets at the very least. No self -respecting cat can have fewer. A dog would need more, of course, but a cat, since its hair is its show, must have a wardrobe of three blankets. One is a house blanket; this is to keep its fur slick and smooth. Then it must be the possessor of a heavy winter blanket, and a lighter one for spring. The ruling color for winter blankets is dark, with blue as a choice. The spring blanket may show more color. On a cat of color a Scotch plaid may be worn, but if the cat is of solid color the fast color should be kept to. From the present rage in cat and cat accessories it will not be long until the fashion magazines will devote a corner to the latest styles in cat outfittings side and side with the latest in women’s hats and muffs.

Your pocketbook gets a full breath when you come to boots; a dog can wear rubber boots or leather hoots and enjoy them, but a puss in boots goes only in Mother Goose rhymes. Boots were tried for cats, but the cat always sat down and tried to get them off. But cat cuffs make up for lack of boots. A cat cuff is a kind of wristlet worn around a cat’s ankle. They are made of leather, and fasten on with a polished buckle. Some of them have minute bells, which give a soft tinkle as Puss picks her way. When she skips and frolics they play a merry tune. The old story of the cat being belled is now a fact. For traveling there is a specially made bag. It looks like any ordinary bag, but when the conductor goes on by the owner reaches down and rolls up the end. Cross bars show, and from the inside Puss pushes her nose against the screen. This is to give her air. This bag costs from $11onward and upward.

A basket to ship Tabby when you don’t feel like carrying her may be bought. It has airholes, and an opening where food may be put in. It costs $6. You put your pet in, give her some food, and you need not worry about her, for, with the conveniences of the basket, she will have a safe and easy trip to her destination. A cat housed up must have exercise. For this purpose for people who do not send their animals to a regular cattery during the snowy days, a cat gymnasium may be bought. This is a little woolen affair that sets on four legs, and may be put up in the nursery or in any open room. The cat may climb the pole, thus sharpening its claws or strike at the swinging balls that hang in the middle. Across the top is a round perch, on which it is the delight of the average cat’s life to walk. It will try and try until it succeeds. When it grows tired it gets in the swinging basket and can rock itself by walking from one side to the other. A cat exercising outfit gives a cat health and contentment.

wicker cat bed

Wicker cat bed that belonged to Sara Roosevelt, mother of Franklin D. Roosevelt. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/-/rAGFVwloddJN6Q?childAssetId=gAEkRmepzQQaZQ

When night comes the cat is put to bed. But it is not by opening the door and putting her out. And here comes the nightgown. It has two little sleeves for the forelegs, and tucks and puckers and frills, to say nothing about the lace at the collar and the pink ribbons. Puss sticks her forefeet into it, it is drawn over her, then buttoned at the top. If you buy the gown downtown you pay $4 up. Generally up. Then you put Tabitha in her little sleeping basket. It is of wicker, and has one low side for her highness to crawl in over. In the bottom is some kind of skin, usually goat, making it as soft and downy as can be. The basket is shoved under a bed or a piece of furniture during the daytime. A cat used to sleeping in a basket will not sleep anywhere else. The sleeping basket wears a tag reading $3.

In the morning comes the manicuring. For there is a special manicure set, with two brushes, two combs, a box of nail paste, a buffer to make the claws glisten, a pair of nail clippers, and a toothbrush, Some of the boxes have a bit of chamois skin, which will give luster to a cat’s hair when rubbed over it. And again some of the ultra cats have nail files in their manicure sets; these files give the nails a delicate rounding off that must make a cat’s heart pound with joy. A manicure set with your monogram on the leather case will mean $25 at the very least. A cat of the blue ribbon class has to be manicured just the same as an heiress. A cat is the daintiest of animals but still she has to have her teeth brushed; and if the brush does not eradicate all the tartar she must be taken to a cat hospital.

cats in a scales 1873 St Nicholas

A cat of blood is watched over night and day, in sickness and in health. If she falls ill she is taken to a special cat hospital in an ambulance, where a white-suited doctor with the walls of his office hidden by degrees in Latin and penmanship flourishes feels her pulse, looks at her tongue, and taps her ribs. When he performs an operation on your kitty you couldn’t tell the bill from that of a private hospital. At the hospital cats are boarded, exercised, and groomed. Attendants do nothing else than wait on them. Every whim that floats through the cat’s mind is promptly attended to. If you wish to go out of town for the summer yon can leave your Napoleon Bonaparte, or Josephine, at the hospital, assured that every attention known to man will be given your pet.

cat headstone

Pet cat’s headstone, Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/93302

Finally, when your cat dies she may be buried in a cat cemetery, and have her own tombstone and flowers. A small fee keeps up the lot. There is such a cat cemetery at Yorktown Heights, N. Y., where the graves are laid out in neat, orderly rows, and stone headpieces richly carved rear themselves to the memory of departed Tabbies and gone-but-not-forgotten Toms.

Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY] 21 November 1909: p. 15

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is that delightful holiday, “International Cat Day,” when our feline friends are celebrated. Cook has made some tempting dishes of chicken for all of the Hall cats and they have received an extra ration of catnip.

Like the “dandy dogs, the aristocrats of dogdom, the cat, too, has her day and her fashionable accoutrements.

victorian cat collar with bell

Cat collar with bells.

Fashionable cats are now ornamented with collar and bells, so that puss makes music wherever she goes. Weekly Chillicothe [MO] Crisis 13 November 1884: p. 1

And one would give much to see a chat chapeau created by a Parisian milliner. These portraits of “Monkey” and his hats are from the 1940s.

 

Cats’ Millinery Marks Parade of Parisiennes

Paris, Oct. 30. Cats have ousted dogs in the affections of French women. Whereas, in the past it was considered fashionable for a Parisienne to promenade with a dog dressed in a neat tight-fitting coat, today this Parisienne is out of date if she does not take with her a cat, often of priceless value. But cats do not wear coats. They wear specially-fitted and made hats.

Below the Sacre Coeur, up at Montmartre, there lives a hatter. In his shop window he has on exhibition the tiniest hats ever seen in France. At any hour of the day cars roll up outside the shop and Madame, carrying her pet cat under her arm, walks inside the shop and Madame, carrying her pet cat under her arm, walks inside the shop and engages in an earnest conversation with the hatter. She has come to have her pet angora tried for a hat. She prefers a bowler shaped hat as a change to the soft slouch hat. She also wants to purchase a small top hat for her pet for evening wear. The hatter’s recommendations of a soft velvet hat fall on deaf ears. The hatter says bowler hats fit the cats better than any other and he has large orders on hand. El Paso [TX] Herald 30 October 1920: p. 21

 

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.

Mr Binks’s Safety Hammock: 1909

The Hammock Tissot

SAFETY HAMMOCK

MR. BINKS FOUND INVENTION SUCCESS.

But He Will Improve It When He Gets Well, At His Daughter’s Request.

Ellis Parker Butler.

Author of “Pigs is Pigs,” etc.

Randolph Binks of Betzville , is passionately fond of reclining in a hammock, but up to the present he has never reclined in one to any great extent. Mr. Binks is an excellent citizen, but is more rotund than any other man in this county, and when he reclines in a hammock so much of him rotunds upward that it overthrows the equilibrium, and the hammock quickly but gracefully turns over and drops Mr. Binks on the ground with a thud. Any man less passionately fond of reclining in a hammock would have given it up long ago, but Mr. Binks said in our hearing that he would be blamed if he would let any hammock in creation get the best of him. He says he has gently climbed into the hammock over 8,902 times, put his head back carefully, grasped the edges, and that each and every time the hammock has revolved half a revolution suddenly, and spilled him on the hard, hard ground. He says that at about the eight thousand nine hundred and third time he decided that be had been attacking the hammock too gently, and that it must be taken roughly, like the nettle, to be handled properly, so he stood back and made a leap, landing in the hammock. This was almost successful, except that the hammock acted like a springboard and, taking Mr. Binks, threw him six feet against the fence, head first, breaking three pickets. In his temporary anger Mr. Binks arose and kicked the hammock, which then grabbed him by the foot, yanked his other foot off the ground, and bumped him down on the back of his head.

When he became calm Mr. Binks went as far away from the hammock as he could get and sat down on the ground and studied it, and he came to the conclusion that what the hammock needed was a counter-weight. If there was a greater weight attached to the underneath of the hammock when Mr. Binks got into it, it could not turn over. He said he wondered that no one had ever before thought of putting a keel on a hammock, and he immediately began looking about for a good, heavy weight. The best thing he could find was an old millstone, and he built up a solid wall of loose brick underneath the hammock. On top of this he laid the millstone, and then he pressed the hammock smoothly against the millstone, and, warming two quarts of glue, he poured it into the hammock and went away to allow the glue to harden in peace.

That evening Adelia, Mr. Binks’s daughter, and her fiancé, young Wilfred Doppelgang, went quietly into the back yard to sit in the hammock and spoon. They sat.

About three hours later Adelia raised her head from Wilfred’s shoulder and said, “It don’t seem like you hug as hard as you used to. Wilfred!” She said this in a reproachful tone of voice, implying that perhaps Wilfred did not love her as of yore and Wilfred, who did love her as of yore, tried to take his arm from about her waist, and get a new strangle hold, but, alas! he could not! He could not get his arm loose for that hug. In the course of three hours the glue had hardened and the hug had become a permanent, guaranteed fast embrace. He had undoubtedly allowed his sleeve to repose a moment or more in the glue, and Wilfred’s sleeve and the back gores of Adelia’s shirt waist had become one and inseparable. This is desirable in a union of states, but it is not recommended for all purposes.

With consternation Wilfred then started to leave the hammock. So did Adelia. Instantly, without a moment’s hesitation, they did not leave. Reader, have you ever been glued to a large, round, sandy complected millstone? Have you ever seated yourself upon a millstone well buttered with glue, with the girl of your choice beside you, and then sat there until the glue hardened  and you became, as you might say, two souls with but a single thought? Wilfred and Adelia could not arise; they could not even sidestep. They were glued to the millstone, and the millstone was glued to the hammock, and the hammock was tied to two large trees, and the roots of the trees extended many, many feet into the soil. There was but one thing to do.

Cautiously leaning forward, Adelia and Wilfred began to remove the loose pile of brick from beneath the millstone, until all the bricks were gone. Then, wrapped arm in arm, they began to joggle the hammock. It  was a trying moment. Suddenly, as out of a clear sky, there was a sound of ripping, breaking, tearing, and then a thud. The millstone had fallen to earth, taking with it the central portion of the hammock. This left a large hole in the hammock. It also took with it— Pardon me, I should say it also left a large___ At any rate Wilfred and Adelia sped hastily toward the house.

Half an hour later Mr. Randolph Binks strolled home, and all was silence. As has been said, he is passionately fond of reclining in a hammock. He has since remarked to Uncle Ashdod Glute that his invention of a non-tipping hammock was a success.

Formerly, when he entered a hammock one thing always happened — the hammock reversed itself and threw him out. But now Randolph Binks walked up to his hammock and threw himself into it with confidence.

The hammock did not, Mr. Binks says, throw him out. Mr. Binks merely walked up to the hammock in the dark and threw himself into it. Mr. Binks says that in passing through the hole that had been torn in the hammock he thought very few things worthy of reproduction by the press. He says he merely passed through in a simple, unconventional way  and met the millstone quite informally, saluting it with the back of his head. He says it was a mere love tap—for the millstone.

Mr. Binks claims that his hammock was a success on three counts: First—The hammock did not turn over and drop Mr. Binks on the ground with a thud; he fell through. Second–The hammock did not drop him on the ground with a thud; he hit the millstone. Third—The hammock did not drop him with a thud: the noise was clean and sharp, like the iron rim of the millstone. Mr. Binks says he can think of only one improvement. Hereafter when he wishes to glue anything under a hammock he will choose a feather bed rather than a millstone.

(Copyright. 1909. by W.G. Chapman.)

New York [NY] Daily Tribune, 24 October 1909: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Hammocks, as we have seen, can be instruments of seduction, although in this case, the attractive qualities of the object were entirely the result of two quarts of well-warmed glue. While we can but admire Mr Binks’s “make-lemonade” spirit about the success of his invention, we urge him not to quit his usual day-time employment.

The malign disposition of the hammock was well-known, as this poem celebrates:

THE INIQUITY OF THE HAMMOCK.

Josh Wink, in Baltimore American.

Consider now the hammock, how it lurketh like a snare.

To grab the unsuspecting man and throw him in the air.

Yea, verily, the hammock hath a look of innocence, but it may take the strongest man and throw him to the fence.

The hammock hangeth to the trees with meek and humble look,

And tempteth foolish man until he cometh with a book.

And climbeth in and stretched out and openeth the page,

And then the wicked hammock getteth up its fiercest rage.

It turneth like a serpent, and it taketh such a clutch

Upon the feeble victim that he gaspeth very much.

It whirleth him about the air and swingeth him around, and when he opens his eyes again he’s slammed upon the ground.

O, surely, surely, this is so, yet over him the while

The hammock swayeth quietly and seemeth then to smile.

But yet again the man doth get within the hammock there, and thinketh he will read the book and banish all dull care.

And then again the hammock jumps before a page he’s read,

And ere he knoweth what is up he standeth on his head.

Yea, verily, and then again a hammock in the shade

Will cunningly exert itself and lure a foolish maid

To seek to rest within its folds, and when she sitteth in

The hammock, it will almost seem to wear a happy grin.

It seizeth on the maiden fair and chuckleth at her shriek;

She spraineth both her dainty wrists and moaneth “O, alas!”

And findeth that her hammock sways with truly pleasant gall,

And seemth to inquire of her “good sakes! Did some one fall?”

O, yes, my son, and on a time, when Cupid holds his sway,

And some enamored youth comes round to learn the happy day,

‘Tis then the hammock taketh them and in the air doth hump,

And giveth both their foolish heads a most terrific bump.

And slingeth them about the place until it getteth tired.

And when it wearieth at last across the yard they’re fired;

The man descendeth in a heap upon the garden walk;

The maid hath hairpins in her eyes and is too mad to talk;

And then the wicked hammock waits in most unholy glee

To hear the racket that it knows is very sure to be;

For when the maid regains her breath she riseth to her feet,

And voweth that the man himself is full of all deceit,

And that he pulled it down himself ad that she never more

Will see his face, and wisheth that he’d gone an hour before,

And that she’ll never, never, be his bonnie blushing bride,

And so he getteth to his feet and far away doth ride.

My son, beware the hammock when it swings itself aright.

For it can make the proudest man a truly humble sight.

The Ottawa Journal [Ontario Canada] 29 August 1901: p. 4

 

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.

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

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.