Category Archives: Edwardian

Madame Nordica’s Homesick Pearl: 1914

Lillian Nordica with pearls and tiara

Mme. Lillian Nordica with some of her famous pearls, and a charmingly simple tiara. http://www.lilliannordica.com/lillian-nordica

HOW NORDICA’S “RESTLESS PEARL” WON ITS WAY HOME

The Strange Story of the Famous Singer’s “Homesick” Gem, Its Curious Influence on Her Career, and the Tragedy That at Last Ended Its Wanderings.

While the body of Mme. Lillian Nordica, the greatest American prima donna, is making its way to her native country for burial a strange story precedes it. Since her lonely death at Batavia, Java, the story became current in the Dutch town in the South Seas and, passing from lip to lip, has arrived in New York. It is a tale of mystery and its chief figure is a restless yellow pearl.

The prima donna loved jewels. When she died it was found that she had collected a round million dollars’ worth of them. In her collection pearls were her favorites. The costliest and most beautiful object in her jewel box was a three-strand necklace of creamy pearls whose value is $105,000. Another and smaller necklace was of pearls, but held in the light they flung out-blueish rays. The greatest Brunhilde preferred the rich shades of the larger and more valuable necklace. It was her wont to hold these favorites of hers in the sunlight or in the strong light and exclaim: “Look at the yellow beauties!”

The singer, like Calve, loved yellow. It was the color of sunshine. It seemed to her to hold charm of life, to hold and reflect it And that was why, according to the strange story, she bought the pearl in which, this story centres.

It was a yellow pearl and was her first great jewel. She bought It in the early jewelless days while she was studying in Paris and while the world of music was waiting to be conquered by her.

It lay in a jeweler’s window In the Latin quarter, displayed at an absurdly low price. Passing the shop with another music student she saw it, lingered and admired it. Against her will it lured her within the shop. She asked to see it, and the jeweler placed it in her hand.

“Look,” she said, “it is like a great yellow eye! How can you sell anything so beautiful at that ridiculous price?”

The French shopkeeper shrugged his expressive shoulders. “It is the absurd, the ignorant superstition, mademoiselle. It has it that this pearl brings to its owner success, but with it many tears and much unrest. But of those La Belle American need not be afraid.”

“Will it bring failure?” Lillian Norton–for that was Nordica’s name–laid the pearl upon the counter and gazed at it with mingled admiration and misgivings.

“But no, mademoiselle! On the contrary, I have it from the man who sold it to me that the person who owns it will have the great success. He will grow rich and famous, but the tears and the unrest–he said he was not happy in the home. He was marrying, he said, his third wife. The others he said have parted from him in the life. He was about to marry the third and he would not have in the home a disturber. He sold me the pearl for a little less than I offer it to you, a very little less, Mademoiselle.”

“It’s like Balzac’s ‘Peau de Chagrin,’ isn’t it? But I’m not superstitious,” said the young American. “I have no husband. I have only my ambition, and if this does disturb them I shall not care.”

“He is only restless, Mademoiselle,” reiterated the shopkeeper. “He have come from the waters of Java, The natives say the deep yellow pearl is ever homesick for its native waters. It will never let its owner rest until it is back at home.”

“Some day,” said the singer, “I may restore him to his native waters.”

Laughing, she departed with the yellow, eye-like pearl.

But before she left she asked another question:

“Just where did the pearl come from?”

“From one of the atolls in the Gulf of Borneo, madame. We have traced its history. I warn madame that it is superstition but it is not happy.”

The singer laughed.

Hitherto Lillian Norton’s life had been one of poverty, of hard work, of grim determination and unflagging resolve. But she overflowed with Yankee grit Born on a farm in Maine, the granddaughter of Camp meeting John, a revivalist whose resonant notes shook woods or shores where he camped and sang of a Summer; a shopgirl in Boston until she was discovered by a vocal teacher who heard her singing as she re-arranged the goods on the counter; too poor to rent a piano, practicing with the aid of a pitch pipe for two years; three years of barnstorming, concert work, these had been her experience when she came to Paris to study and fell in with the restless pearl. But her face was turned to the East. In her soul was an unconquerable resolve.

Yet from the moment of her purchase of “the restless pearl” troubles beset her. She made her debut in a village in northern Italy and the Italians groaned at her. Bruised but not beaten she returned to Boston. Boston refrained from hisses, but not from severe criticism. To New York she went and sang in the Academy of Music. New Yorkers were a shade kinder, but they, too, lacked enthusiasm. It was far from a triumphal entry into her own country.

To Europe she returned, taking a new name to hide the old defeats. No longer was she Lillie Norton. She had become Lillian Nordica.

To Paris came Fred Gower.  Gower was a young American whom Professor Bell had sent to France to introduce his telephones A countryman told him of the struggles of a beautiful and talented young American and her mother to keep their brave heads above the waters of debt and penury while the daughter strove for grudging recognition from the arbiters of musical destinies in Europe. Fred Gower met the Widow Norton and her daughter and with the daughter he fell in love in the rash, headstrong way of his temperament.

They were married. Soon they discovered themselves to be unhappy. Friends of both diagnosed the case as one of hopeless incompatibility. The artistic temperament and the bent of the inventor and promoter formed a clashing discord.  [Gower did not want his wife on the stage and went so far as to burn some of her music and destroy some of her clothing.] The discord rent the nerves of the singer. It set the temper of the inventor and promoter out of tune. There was a rumor of continued differences, of a possible separation. But chance or fate strangely intervened.

Fred Gower was an amateur balloonist He had made several successful journeys in the upper airs. In one of these he had crossed the English Channel. Yet from the tour of the upper currents conceived and carried out at this time he never returned. The collapsed balloon was found floating in the channel.

But, as though the oracle of the restless pearl had spoken truly, triumph came soon after for the singer. She was permitted to sing at Bayreuth. She was the first of the American prima donnas to be permitted the honor. The Germans applauded her. With the stamp of German recognition upon her she went to England and sang at Covent Garden. Again success! She went to St. Petersburg and sang for the royal family. Among the million dollars worth of jewels is a bracelet presented her by the Czar. In New York, where she had been coldly received, a furore greeted her. In Boston fortune turned a full-faced smile upon her.

Still, according to the story of the restless pearl, homesick for its South Sea waters, there must be tears. They came. They followed closely upon her marriage to Zoltan Doehme, an Hungarian tenor, whom the critics appraised as “a man of moderate vocal ability, but of undoubted grace of person.” Again discord. Alienation, silence, the invocation of the law. By successive steps the pair descended from the heights of happiness.

Zoltan Doehme was a teacher as well as a singer. Geraldine Farrar was one of these who benefited by his instruction and criticism. When separation came she aligned herself with her friend, Mme. Nordica, rather than her master. Divorce followed upon eight years of the prima donna’s second marriage.

During this time of slow severance of the bonds that had been forged in love, Mme. Nordica gave her confidence to Frau Wagner’s shoulder. The widow of the German composer patted the proud head bowed upon her shoulder. “Tears.” said the widow of Wagner. “Lieber Himmel. Es ist immer dos selbe. You are like Wagner. You are a genius. He was a genius. And genius is always lonely, always dissatisfied. Their souls never rest”

There followed a period in which Mme. Nordica’s energies were focussed solely upon her art Fame followed her glorious voice, and artistic appreciation, but not always–indeed not often–peace.

Twice she severed her connection with the Metropolitan Opera House management She appeared under the direction of various managers in opera. She made long concert tours.

Five years ago she took a third husband. He was George W. Young, a banker, who had a short time previously been divorced. Nor had the courtship been a calm one. Again there were tears and unrest. The former Mrs. Young lent the element of turbulence.

After her third marriage the prima donna became interested in a method of reduction that was in vogue in France. She introduced it in America. Her own figure became girlish through the treatment. And perhaps her power of resistance was lessened.

Her last marriage would have seemed to be a haven from the turbulence of the great singer’s life. Her home crowned a hill at Ardsley on the Hudson, overlooking a wide valley and almost within sight of Harmon, where her dream, a Bayreuth of America, was beginning to become a realization. Often, standing on the veranda, her splendid eyes sweeping the soothing scene, she said: “I have come to the Peaceful Valley of my life.” It is pleasant to think of the diva at this time, to linger upon this tender phase of her turbulent existence.

Her assets were a husband to whom she was devoted and of whom she was intensely proud, a home that was a place of peace, fame that had spread round the civilized world, and the glittering mass of her million dollars worth of jewels.

Mme. Nordica’s jewels, according to careful appraisement of their value were:

1 three-strand pearl necklace of cream-colored pearls…. $150,000.

1 three-strand necklace of blueish pearls…. $100,000

1 long necklace of graduated emeralds, alternating with diamonds, with pear-shaped solitaire diamond pendant… $500,000

1 diamond necklace of graduated stones… $125.000

Earrings to match each necklace…$10,000

Bracelets and rings, chiefly set with diamonds, pearls and emeralds. $110,000

Odd pieces and uncut stones, including a curious deeply yellow pearl… $5,000.

But behold, according to the story that comes from far away Batavia, the influence of the “restless pearl.” Restless itself, it begot restlessness in its possessor. Not content with her triumphs, Mme. Nordica conceived the plan of a round-the-world tour. She would girdle the world with song, she said, then spend the remainder of her years in her peaceful valley.

Seven months ago she began her world tour. Christmas she spent aboard the vessel Tasman. Three days later in a terrific storm the vessel went ashore in the Gulf of Papua– near an atoll where pearl fishers dived! When the prima donna was rescued her nerves of steel were broken. She wept as a babe that would not be comforted. Weakened by fright and exposure to the elements, she yielded first to nervous prostration, then to pneumonia, A Dutch physician combatted her desire to continue her journey.

“But I shall go mad if I wait here,” she cried, and against his protest sailed for Batavia. There, during three weeks she seemed to regain her lost strength. Her nerves of steel were returning. But a relapse occurred. On May tenth she died on a stormy night far from her peaceful valley.

When an inventory of her belongings was taken before the body started its long homeward journey. May 17, most of the million dollars worth of jewels were found. But the yellow pearl was missing.

Those who accompanied her and who had been, at her bedside at Thursday Island, remembered seeing it. It had lain on the stand beside her bed. Its rich color she said comforted and cheered her. It had been among her effects when she sailed for Batavia. But when the life force passed from the majestic Brunhilde, the yellow pearl vanished. Was it stolen by a pilfering servant? Had some unguessed power replaced it in its native waters?

Whatever it may be according to the Batavian legend the restless pearl is at last, like its owner, at rest.  Homesick, it had found its home.

The Austin [TX] American 14 June 1914: p. 24

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is a pity that Madame could not have simply dropped the petulant pearl overboard, recovered her health, and finished her world tour in peace.  Let this be a cautionary tale for those who would disregard knowledgeable jewellers’ warnings about unhappy pearls….

Despite the idyllic “peaceful valley” picture painted above, her marriage with her third husband, Mr George Young, seems to have been as unhappy as those with her first two spouses.  She pointedly mentioned a sum of $400,000 she had already given Young in the will disinheriting him, which she made shortly before her death.

Despite her lack of marital success, Mme. Nordica attracted jewels from admirers all over the globe, such as this diamond tiara, the gift of New York opera-goers.

madame nordica's american tiara 1896

Madame Nordica’s American Tiara

The diamond tiara that is to be presented to Madame Nordica on the opening of the brief spring season of opera is now on exhibition at Tiffany’s.

Although it is a particularly beautiful jewel, of exquisite workmanship, I fancy Madame Nordica will value it less than the roll of parchment that accompanies it, on which are inscribed the names of the people who have chosen this way of showing their appreciation and pride of the American woman who, through indomitable pluck and courage and the hardest kind of study, has made herself the greatest lyric artist on the stage of the world to-day.

As each subscription was limited to ten dollars, several hundred names appear on the artistically-illumined roll of parchment.

Mrs Astor’s name heads the list and is followed by the names of Mrs. Vanderbilt, Mrs. George Henry Warren, Mrs. Ogden Goelet, Mrs. Belmont, Mrs. Henry Sloane, Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, Mrs. George De Forrest, Mrs. Elisha Dyer, Mrs. Gambril, Mrs. Kernochan, Mrs.Havemeyer, James Otis, Mrs, Cooper Hewitt, Peter Marie, Mrs. Townsend Burden, Mrs. Orme Wilson, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Buchanan Winthop–in short, everybody who is known in the social and artistic world seemed so delighted to send their subscriptions that the office of treasurer of the fund, held by Mr. Otis, made that gentleman a very busy man.

The Illustrated American, Vol. 19 4 April 1896: p. 481

Given Mme. Nordica’s initial cool reception in New York, this little diamond tribute must have been most gratifying to the prima donna.

 

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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The Suffragette Costume: 1910

A lady's mannish Tyrol hat, c. 1901 http://collections.lacma.org/node/232927

A lady’s mannish Tyrol hat, c. 1901 http://collections.lacma.org/node/232927

SUFFRAGETTE COSTUME THE LATEST

The suffragette costume will be a novelty of the winter fashions—the derniere cri—the United Ladies’ Tailor Association of America say, and they ought to know.

The suffragette gown should meet the requirements of the most advanced suffragist. The skirt is made in two parts, like men’s trousers, but the deft tailor has been able to make it appear as if it were a diminutive straight lined tailor skirt, when the suffragette is not in action. On a manikin the skirt doesn’t in the least suggest trousers. It is made with hip pockets, so that if the suffragette wants to make a campaign speech she can keep her hands in her pockets man fashion.

The tailor who designed it explains that the coat is a short, slightly fitted box affair with regulation men’s pockets, revers and lapel button hole.

“Of course, you don’t have to be a suffragette to wear this comfortable new suit,” the tailor says, “for it is fine for any woman, especially if she is fond of walking. It is splendid for skating, and for golf or tennis or any athletic sports or for shopping, as the division does not impede the leg action as the ordinary skirt does. It ought to be called the Flatiron skirt, but I thought I’d recognize the fast increasing body of women who want the ballot.”

Another new corner in the world of fashion is the busy woman’s coat. A woman can start out at 6 o’clock in the morning wearing an evening gown and nobody will be the wiser, as this clever coat will conceal the fact. It is made with an envelope pocket in the back, where the train can be concealed, and it buttons up the back to hide the low neck gown. There are eight buttons on the coat. At noontime if the lady wants to lunch she can unbutton two buttons and change her coat into a smart tailor suit. At 3 o’clock, if she wants to motor, two more buttons are unfastened, a cape slipped up, and she has an entire change for autoing. At 5 o’clock, if she wants to take tea in her aeroplane, she can unfasten two more buttons, and she is ready to fly. At 6 o’clock she can undo two more and be dressed for a restaurant and at 9 o’clock she can check her coat and be ready to dance the rest of the night.

Duluth [MN] News-Tribune 28 September 1910: p. 4

Constance Wilde in a divided skirt. On 6 November 1888, Constance Wilde delivered a speech 'Clothed in Our Right Minds' to the Rational Dress Society defending 'divided skirts.' [Thanks to Eleanor Fitz for posting this on Twitter.]

Constance Wilde in a divided skirt. On 6 November 1888, Constance Wilde delivered a speech ‘Clothed in Our Right Minds’ to the Rational Dress Society defending ‘divided skirts.’ [Thanks to Eleanor Fitz for posting this on Twitter.]

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has never understood why a suffragette’s costume was required to mimic that of the gentlemen. Who would be tormented by a high-starched collar or a stiff-bosomed shirt? Why the unalloyed fascination with bifurcated garments? Mrs Daffodil has never had any trouble performing the most arduous duties in a skirt. A skirt will swing and fall freely, whereas divided skirts have a troubling tendency to bunch. They seem double the bother of skirts.

Then there is the question of pockets. Pockets are not the exclusive property of pantaloon-wearers. If a lady needs pockets, they may easily be added to her suit or gown. The dressmaker may raise her eyebrows, but you are the one paying the bill.

And that bill might be shockingly high–not unlike the premium ladies still pay for quality clothing and for maintaining that clothing, such as dry-cleaners’ bills, which are higher for cleaning women’s articles than for comparable ones for men.

mrs o h p belmont's suffragette costume 1910

Mrs. O.H. P. Belmont’s Suffragette Costume, 1910

Suffragette Costumes, Only $225.

From New York comes the new of another model suffragette costume and it cost only $225, too!

To Mrs. Alma Webster Powell of Brooklyn belongs the honor of designing it. She wore it for the first time at a suffrage meeting Thursday night. She says women are bound to adopt it.

“It consists,” says the dispatch, “of a pair of black serge bloomers, fastened to a piece of goods that fits smoothly over the hips, a long, easy-fitting black serge coat, with black satin buttons down the front, and shining black boots that extend half way to the knees. The bloomers are full and are plaited upon the smooth hip covering.”

What could be more fascinatingly masculine? But the critical mind is compelled to note an interesting distinction. The suffragette costume tends, in respect to form, more and more to the masculine ideal. But in other respects, particularly as to price, they show no evidences of approach.

To judge from Mrs. Powell’s $225 suffragette costume–and she has another for evening wear that cost only $375–and from the fact that the model female voter togs exhibited at the show of the New York Tailors association cost $175, they can never take the place of trousers.

Trousers are accustomed to appear in show windows with such enticing legends as “This Nobby Pair Only $6”; or “Take Me Home for $5.75; or “Was $7. Now $4.35.” That is one of the most familiar commercial aspects under which trousers appear to the world at large.

Imagine a typical suffragette suit, as they are being made and reported, attempting a similar show window role! “Very Nobby–Only $375!” “Special Sale Today–$225!” “Trousers Without Suffragette Coat–This Week Only $150!” The very idea is ridiculous.

Who has not seen, at some time or other, an attractive sign “Mercury $3 Pants”–borne about town in a wagonful of brass band? Could the trousering, as expounded at present, expect to figure in a similar connection? Well, hardly! It would simply be a waste of money to hire a wagon and a brass baud to exploit a sign reading “Venus $375 Suffragette Suits.” or something to that effect.

It may also be confidently stated that there would be something absolutely ridiculous in the sight of a kite flying above Chicago, bearing a long streamer exalting, not somebody’s $16 men’s suits, but the Carrie Chapman Catt, or the M rs. O. H. P. Belmont, or the Alma Webster Powell “$225 Suffragette Quick Sellers.”

Why suffragette trousers should cost more than pants can ever hope to cost is not wholly clear. We only know they do. No suffragette costume yet reported sells for less than $175. That fact emphasizes the distinction between the gorgeous trousering and the simple, democratic trouser or common, plebeian pants.

The Inter Ocean [Chicago IL] 6 November 1910: p. 6

The Suffragette Suit designed by American Tailors Asssociation November 1910

The Suffragette Trouser Suit, as designed by a group of New York tailors, 1910

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 Handsome Man a Mistake: 1903

 

Leyendecker handsome man

The Handsome Man a Mistake.

Her Royal Highness, Woman, has decided that physical beauty ought to be the monopoly of her sex, and that the Handsome Man is a mistake. She has been investigating him in various roles, and declares that as a lover he is unsatisfactory, as a husband a failure, and as a brother a nuisance. The fiancée of the good-looking man has to pay dearly for her capture of an Adonis. She lives in a state of perpetual siege against a host of fair rivals, and has to run the gauntlet of such remarks as “I wonder what that handsome Mr Jones can see in that Enid Smith,” and “Isn’t it funny how good-looking men always marry such plain wives?” Her troubles are only augmented when she becomes a young matron. She has to stoically endure her husband’s flirtations with other women— who will flatter him if she will not — and to smile amiably when Mrs Robinson praises Jack and Muriel —

“Such pretty children; so like their father!” Last, but not least, she must skimp her wardrobe, while her attractive husband spends on his ties and socks what the Ugly Man would have concentrated cheerfully on his wife’s fur coat.

As a brother the Handsome Man is certainly not an unmixed blessing. From the first moment he opens his “beautiful” eyes he is the idol of an adoring mother, who displays to his moral shortcomings a more than beetle-like obtuseness. As he grows older she palliates his love for pleasure and his disinclination for work by the excuse, “Jack is so good-looking, he is sure to marry an heiress if he goes into society.”

The sister of the  Handsome Man is only asked to parties where the hostess dare not ask him without her, and she is ordered to be civil to all sorts of people who detest her but admire “dear Jack.” Then the handsome brother is generally a woman’s man, which means that Jack will not bring men friends home to smoke and play ping pong and fall in love with his sister. If the modern girl could have her choice in such a matter, she would plump unreservedly for a plain, good-natured, ordinary brother, who would contentedly accept the back seat allotted by twentieth-century women to the “mere man.”

Troublesome though the Handsome Man undoubtedly is, it is probable that, in spite of all her protestations, her Royal Highness Woman will continue to admire and marry him. The Handsome Man of to-day certainly compares favourably with the “pretty” man of 50 years ago. That popular hero was narrow-chested, puny, and pink-and-white, while black whiskers inevitably adorned” his thin cheeks. Today the Handsome Man is stalwart, well set-up, and muscular, for mere beauty of feature will count for very little. He may not be industrious, but he is wise enough to play cricket, football, and golf, and is, by the way, almost as conceited of his prowess in these directions as of his classic nose and chin and “beautiful” eyes.

Otago [NZ] Witness 18 March 1903: p. 61

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Bothersome though they are, these difficulties pale in comparison with the swath cut through happy homes and boarding houses by creatures so utterly lacking in conscience. Mrs Daffodil feels that the word “mistake” is woefully inadequate, given the damage that they do.

The Ravages of the Handsome Man.

There should be something done at once to put a stop to the ravages of the handsome man. The handsome man has not been noted for his nice regard for the rights of other men since the days when Paris ran away with Helen and involved Troy and Greece in a deadly war. It was supposed that the growth of morality and good manners had somewhat curtailed the piratical tendencies of the man who was born with a handsomer face than his neighbors and that he had of late confined his blandishments to susceptible maidens. Some late instances, however, indicate that he is at his old tricks and that he has not reformed at all, but is pursuing his calling of poaching on his neighbors’ preserves quite as vigorously as in the days of Antony and Alcibiades. He is cosmopolitan in his tastes and slights neither high nor low in his attentions.

A young German began housekeeping with his new-married wife in Newark. The young Teuton was poor in this world’s goods, possessing only the wealth of his wife’s affections and a half interest in a bouncing baby. To eke out the slender income of the family a handsome boarder was taken. About a week ago the handsome boarder concluded to leave town and took with him the whole establishment, with the exception of the husband, including $250 in money belonging to. the injured man. A German chemist, while en route to tins country a short time ago, became acquainted with a fair daughter of Germany, to whom he was married on his arrival at New York. The young couple set up their household in Hoboken and to help pay expenses a handsome boarder, also of Teutonic extraction, was taken. After a time the husband thought he discovered that the new boarder was too fond of his wife and ordered him to leave the house. He left, but took the wife and baby with him. It is needless to say that the two German husbands are of one opinion about the deserts of handsome men.

The handsome man does not confine his ravages to the homes of the humble. This is made apparent by a late Hartford scandal. The son of a political millionaire, himself the possessor of no inconsiderable claims to manly beauty, married a fascinating widow who was not only beautiful but talented. But a handsomer man from Boston cast his evil eye on that happy home and it was not. Two suits for divorce and a legal quarrel about the division of a property are the present results of too much handsomeness on the part of that Boston man.

The handsome man of moderate means and good character is also proving dangerous. A New Brunswick family, consisting of husband, wife and three interesting children, has lately become the victim of his wiles. The handsome man in this case is a church member and the trusted employe of a manufacturing company. He has left the church scandalized, the company short and the married man without either wife or children. It is not worthwhile multiplying instances to prove that the handsome man is dangerous and ought to be abolished. That fact is too apparent to admit of a single doubt. A much more interesting inquiry at present is to know how to abolish him. The shotgun and the strong arm of the law have proved alike powerless, and the statesmen and philosophers of this country should bend their gigantic intellects to the task of devising some means to accomplish this necessary work. It may be suggested by way of beginning that young married men should be very chary of handsome boarders.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 11 February 1883: 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.

The Black Alpaca Coat: 1905

man's 1905 coat

Concerning a Black Alpaca Coat

By J.C. Plummer

(Copyright, 1905, by Daily Story Pub. Co.

“Sandy,” said Captain Pole, as he shifted his tiller so as to pass a barge towing down the bay, “you’d better ask Kate Haggerty to have you when we get to port.”

“There’s na hurry,” replied Sandy ‘McDougal, mate of the schooner Ajax, enjoying his pipe.

“Go ahead,” retorted the skipper, pettishly, “you’ll wake up some morning and see another chap living off Kate’s money.”

“She’s na got it yet,” expostulated Mr. McDougal.

“But she’ll have it when her uncle dies and he’s old as the hills.”

“Hoots, only seventy and men are living longer than they did,” said McDougal, “it’s little saprised I’d be if he lives to be ninety.”

“Well,” remarked the skipper, “if you don’t want a wife with ten thousand dollars, all right.”

“There’s na hurry,” insisted McDougal, “if I’d marry her now I’d have to sapport her, mebbe, for ten years before her uncle dies.”

Dennis Haggerty, stevedore, was worth at least ten thousand dollars and his only relative was Kate Haggerty. There was no scarcity of women in the world forty years back, but Dennis and his brother Michael must, perforce, fall in love with the same girl and she chose Michael. Dennis never forgave them and carried his resentment to the second generation, never noticing their daughter, Kate, not even when, her parents dying very poor, she started out to make her living. Kate, thirty years old, plain as to face and expert in sordid economy, only knew she had an uncle because people told her so. She gave no heed to the news when she did hear it and went on earning a very scant living with very hard work.

Now, Captain Pole knew something. He and Fergus McNeal were witnesses to Dennis Haggerty’s will which left all he possessed to Kate Haggerty.  McNeal had immediately sailed on a voyage to Australia and the skipper, practically, was the sole possessor of the secret. He knew Kate and liked her so he did some thinking. “Kate’s getting old,” he mused, “and in looks she’s more like a barge than a racing yacht, but there’ll be plenty of good for nothing fellows to marry her when they know she’ll have ten thousand dollars. They’ll spend every cent of it for her.”

Then he apprised Sandy McDougal, his mate, of the secret and introduced him to Kate.

“He’s too stingy to ever spend her money,” soliloquized the skipper, “and he’ll make her a good husband.”

Sandy courted cautiously.  Kate, with a dowry of ten thousand dollars, was very attractive, but his characteristic stinginess made him hesitate about incurring the expense of a wife until the dowry was possessed. As to Kate, who had never had a beau, she dreamed dreams and watched for Sandy’s coming eagerly.

The inexpensive courtship, for Sandy never spent a copper on Kate, dragged on like a voyage through the calm belt and Captain Pole chafed.

McDougal was overlooking the tarring down of the schooner’s rigging when the skipper came aboard much excited.

“Old Haggerty’s sick,” he whispered to Sandy, “he’s pneumony and he’s too old a man to get well. Now’s your time, Sandy.”

For a moment Sandy wavered then he said, “He may get wull, there’s na hurry.”
Captain Pole coupled Mr. McDougal’s name with an adjective and went gloomily below.

Captain Pole’s watch was a massive machine to which he lay great store and when it became out of order there was only one watchmaker in the city who was permitted to repair it. After his abortive effort to excite Mr, McDougal to action he glanced at his watch and found it stopped.

“I’ll take it to Smoot,” he said, and he left the schooner, scowling at the immovable McDougal, who was still working on the rigging. The skipper had left his watch with Mr. Smoot and was about to depart when he remembered that Dennis Haggerty lived directly opposite the watchmaker. He glanced across at the house and then he rubbed his eyes and stared.

It was not the evidence that Mr. Haggerty was having some repairs done to his front steps that caused him to stare, but attached to the bell pull was a streamer of crape.

He hastened back to the schooner.

“He’s dead,” he gasped.

“Ye na mean it?” exclaimed McDougal.

“There’s crape on the door, that’s a landsman’s flag at half mast. Get your best rigging on and come, there’s not a minute to be lost.”

Mr. McDougal was soon attired in his best black suit of clothes and the two set out for Miss Haggerty’s boarding house.

“Now,” said the skipper, “if she says yes, you ask for an early wedding day. When this here news gets out there’ll be a lot after her,” and, he added, with unnecessary candor, “most anybody can beat you in looks.”

Miss Haggerty was at home and would see Mr. McDougal in the parlor. Captain Pole chose to await on the street the result of his mate’s suit and walked up and down in front of the house. Presently McDougal came to the door and beckoned to the skipper.

“Well,” said that gentleman, as he reached McDougal, “is it all right?”

“I have na asked her yet,” replied McDougal nervously. “Are ye sure ye did na make a mistake in the house.”

“No,” roared the skipper, “it was Dennis Haggerty’s house. Hurry up, man, or you’ll lose the chance.”

In a half hour’s time McDougal came out.

“We’ll be married in a week,” he said. “The landlady is a witness of the engagement. I nope ye’re na wrong in the house.”

Captain Polo was aroused early in the morning by Mr. McDougal, whose countenance showed great menial perturbation.

“Ye’ve ruined me,” said he, shaking his fist at the skipper.

“What’s the matter?” exclaimed the captain.

“It was na crape on the door,” howled McDougal, “the man who was fixing the steps hung his black alpacy coat on the bell-pull.”

The skipper whistled.

“I’ll na marry her,” shrieked McDougal, “I’m sweendled.”

“Then,” retorted the skipper, with difficulty repressing a roar of laughter, “she’ll sue you for breach o’ promise. The landlady is a witness you know.”

The next week Mr. McDougal and Miss Haggerty were married in the most inexpensive style and five years later Captain Pole, witnessing a parade of the United Irishmen, marked with surprise how sturdily old Dennis Haggerty bore the banner.

The Western News [Stockton KS] 9 March 1905: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  In this modern era, we have no conception of the alarm and despondency caused when crape was seen fluttering ominously from the door knob or knocker to announce a death. That chronicler of crape over at Haunted Ohio has written of the “crape threat“: a campaign of textile intimidation, and tells in The Victorian Book of the Dead about a young man said to have been shocked to death by learning of the death of his father via the crape on the door.

As for Miss Haggerty, Mrs Daffodil regrets that Captain Pole interfered.  Barge-like Kate may never have had a beau, but Sandy hardly seems the stuff of dreams. We may hope that she got her money’s worth out of her unwilling husband. And when she at long last inherited her uncle’s money, Mrs Daffodil hopes that she showed Sandy the (crape-hung) door.

 

 

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.

Fashions in Stationery: 1873-1923

pink china stationery rack

Ceramic stationery rack, late 19th c. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1225935

Although there are few vagaries of fashion to be noted in the paper used for friendly and ceremonious correspondence, there are certain definite rules which govern its use, and which the woman who desires to be considered good form cannot overstep.

Every season there are novelties in stationery put on the market, but the wise woman never allows herself to be tempted by the lovely tinted papeterie, which, although a delight to the eye, does not appeal to her innate sense of what is correct. The dreamy blues, romantic rose colors, and dainty greens, should be relegated to the very young, as these delicate shades appeal to the budding tastes of girls and boys, and harmonize with the gushing sentiments of the very youthful. The fancy-stamped paper with the victor’s wreath, the regal fleur-de-lis, and the four-leaved clover in gold or bronze, belong properly to the epoch when the heart is worn upon the sleeve, and the school-boy or girl runs riot with sentiment, harmlessly expressed upon ornate stationery.

When big square envelopes are introduced as a passing vagary, these enthusiastic young people enclose their letters in envelopes big enough for the official correspondence of a cabinet minister; when small ones are used, they run to Liliputian styles.

Men and women of the world never commit themselves to a passing caprice, and cling to the heavy cream-laid octavo sheet, which is at the same time elegant and unostentatious, and which boasts of no ornamentation, save, perhaps, the family crest or coat of arms elegantly emblazoned in the proper heraldic colors, blended with gold, silver, or bronze. Some persons deem this assumption of armorial bearings arrogant, and not in consonance with republican principles; there is, however, no reason why those who are entitled to this distinction should not display their escutcheon upon their stationery. The monogram is frequently substituted, and the cunning of the engraver is evidenced in the artistic entwining of the graceful cipher. According to the canons of good taste, the monogram should not be of too elaborate a character; in fact, to be correct, it must not assert itself conspicuously, while at the same time expressing individuality and elegance.

Fashion’s decrees do not permit of the use of the crest or monogram upon the envelope; it is sufficient to have it engraved at the head of the letter-sheet.

The use of ruled paper is relegated to school children and the untutored classes; properly educated persons do not require lines to guide them; in fact, with the present fashion of straggling handwriting, lines would hamper rather than aid the accomplished letter-writer.

mourning stationery a

Mourning stationery from Dyrham Rectory, Chippenham. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/453623

For mourning, the excessively deep black border is no longer de regle , a narrower one being sufficient to conform with the dictates of mourning etiquette. It is not necessary to intrude the insignia of one’s grief upon the world, but black-bordered paper is the natural accompaniment of the garb of woe. A black monogram or crest may be used upon heavy white paper.

kingston lacy stationery assortment

Stationery assortment from Kingston Lacy. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1256865

For country houses, the hostess provides herself with a quantity of stationery for the season, designed, not for herself alone, but for the use of her guests, a generous supply of which is placed in the escritoire of the guest chamber. As nowadays all country houses are distinguished by names, it is the proper thing for the recipients of the lady’s hospitality to conduct their correspondence on the paper which bears, in the fac-simile handwriting of the hostess, the historic or fancy name of her residence.

The country clubs, the athletic and social clubs, all have an appropriate device engraved upon the stationery which is to be used by members.

In these days of yachting, yacht stationery is supplied to the guests of the owner. Sometimes it is ornamented with nautical emblems, or it bears the name of the craft and the monogram of the yacht club; in many cases the pennant of the club is used, the different colors affording a fine opportunity for the handicraft of the skilled engraver.

In these times of rush and utilitarianism the proper sealing of a letter may almost be classed among the lost arts; even women of leisure deem it a waste of time to use sealing-wax, although those who cling to elegant usages never omit this ceremony, save when writing upon matters of business.

There is nothing more suggestive of daintiness, than the envelope with its circle of pale-colored wax, stamped with the impress of the family coat-of-arms or a graceful monogram. Sealing a letter savors of leisure and elegance, and few women are past-mistresses of the art; men rarely take the trouble to seal their letters.

Courtesy of Messrs. Dempsey & Carroll.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, August 1877

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a difference several decades makes in the notion of size and colour in stationery:

UP TO DATE STATIONERY

Good Form as Shown in the Details of Letter and Note-Paper.

For short notes, invitations and the like, small note size paper, which measures six inches by four and one-quarter inches or thereabouts, is used. For letters the sheet is more nearly square, approximately five and half inches wide by six and a half long. Both are folded once and slipped into envelopes that exactly fit.

Foreign correspondence makes the only exception to this rule, and for letters to be sent abroad a thinner, lighter paper is the preferred one. The very latest novelty in envelopes of this thin, satin finished paper displays a lining of one of the new fashionable colors—purple, gray, red or blue.

The lining is not more than tissue weight, yet the color renders it opaque, and it is possible to send a letter of generous length without excessive postage, while at the same time the contents are protected from curious eyes.

The engraved monogram, initial or address at the top of the sheet in the centre is always in good taste, or, if desired, the address may be used in combination with the initial or monogram. In the latter case the address may either be placed below the initials or in the centre with the monogram or the initials occupying a space to the left.

Simple script letters, from half to three-quarters of an inch in height, intertwined, afford a pretty effect, and are in excellent taste, says McCall’s Magazine . Blocked letters are combined in many attractive ways, and just now there is a marked preference for long, narrow monograms, whether used alone or in combination with the address. Small letters are often enclosed in a little frame of medallion style, but these are mostly preferred by young girls, the larger designs being chosen by more mature folk.

Dull blue and dull red inks for printing monograms and addresses are favorites, gray is liked by many, and tan is always effective on a white ground, while both silver and gold are in good style. Bright colors and startling effects are always to be avoided, but there all rule ends.

Owners of country houses and of boats large enough to serve as temporary homes frequently use the name as well as the general address; as, “The Cedars,” followed by the name of the town. Every yacht club has its own flag, and often this is used together with the owner’s private signal, in the left hand corner, while the name of the boat or the owner’s monogram occupies the centre of the page; or, if a different arrangement is preferred, the signal flags can be shown above, directly in the centre.

Telephone numbers are important, when living out of town, and often the centre of the sheet shows the address, while diagonally across the left hand corner is printed the telephone call and number, the same style of letter being used for both.

The Sun [New York NY] 10 March 1912: p. 35

While every correspondent knew the niceties of papeterie in the 1870s, novelty in stationery drew comment from the late 1800s onward. This novelty actually sounds rather pretty:

Pale green notepaper, with the crest or initials in mother-o’-pearl, is also a fad of fashion.

Auckland [NZ] Star, 31 May 1924: p. 22

stationery portfolio

Stationery portfolio of embossed leather, gilt, and set with a scene in painted mother-of-pearl. Mid-19th century. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/stationery-portfolio/JAGxkKi3k6yodQ

Country-house hostesses evinced much anxiety about their stationery assortments. Guest rooms were often supplied with special boxes for writing paper. This lockable specimen, in leather,  from Penrhyn Castle suggests stationery of Royal Dispatch box importance.

penrhyn castle stationery box

Stationery box from one of the guest rooms at Penrhyn Castle. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1421560.5

Country House Stationery.

Hostesses who look well to the comfort of their guests always have in every room a bountiful supply of note paper and correspondence cards, inscribed with the name of the house, the post-office address and the telephone number—if there is one.

Country-house stationery may deviate somewhat from the conventional styles considered correct for town use, and if one chooses to use khaki brown note paper or robin’s-egg blue, or even coral pink, one’s vagary will be quite excusable. The name of the house may also be printed at the top of the sheet when nothing less than engraving would be tolerated in town. Some hostesses provide postage stamps for their guests, but this is rather an expensive fad. Telegraph blanks should, however, be in every room, so that telegrams may be speedily dispatched when necessity arises. Post cards bearing pictures of the house or some interesting bit of scenery near-by are always highly appreciated in the guest room.

The Repository [Canton OH] 26 May 1912: p. 31

One might think that such stationery stalwarts as mourning stationery were impervious to fashion, but such was not the case. Just as heavily craped veils fell out of fashion, so did the heavy black bordered letter and envelope.

crossing the bar mourning stationery

Crossing the bar mourning stationery, 1890s. https://museum.wales/collections/online/object/4f076e0c-bbdb-3c36-b54d-30a20556e148/Mourning-stationery-box-of/?field0=string&value0=mourning&field1=with_images&value1=on&index=2

A new idea in mourning stationery is the envelope in pure white save for a fine line of black defining its deeply pointed flap, but with a black tissue paper lining.

Daily Capital Journal [Salem OR] 28 May 1913: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil rather shudders at the notion of green ink being “ultra-fashionable,” and as for green sealing wax….

The latest fad in stationery is note paper of a tawny orange shade, known as Indian gold, on which she who would be ultra-fashionable must write in green ink, securing her envelopes with green sealing wax. Excepting its novelty , which may render it acceptable to some, the fancy seems to have nothing to recommend it, and will probably be but short-lived.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, July 1893

 

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 Inspector Smelled a Rat: 1902

rat trap 1915.JPG

The Inspector Smelled a Rat.

The sight of vast quantities of coin has a stimulating influence on human wits, to such an extent that Uncle Sam is kept busy “coppering” efforts of geniuses to “do” the various mints. Some of the schemes devised are so smooth that the government officials are unwilling for their nature to be divulged at least until the law has been twisted into shape to fit the new form of theft. Time and again methods have been evolved for which no legal antidote is discoverable and which can only be punished by dismissal, not by criminal prosecution. One of the latter types was recently worked on a western mint, according to the report of a late arrival via the Southern Pacific. It was this way. The gold is rolled into strips from ingots in the rolling room and carefully weighed out again. The “in” and “out” figures should tally so they did until recently when a suddenly daily deficit appeared. Each evening there was a loss of $10 or $20 and the director of the mint grew hot in the collar. A personal search was made of every one leaving the room, but the shortage continued.

Finally, one day the inspector in the coinage department smelled, a rat, a real rat, which had fallen a victim to the jaws of a deadfall during the night. Although it was still early in the day, the rat asserted itself until it dawned upon the inspector that decomposition had progressed with remarkable rapidity for a one-day corpse. The trap, he knew had been emptied of another rodent the evening before, for he remembered seeing an employee pick up the thing by the tail and toss it through the small slot above the window.

A flash of intelligence came to the official, and he waited. Later a “stamper” approached the trap, remarking jocularly ‘’Nother rat,’ bent over, fooled with the trap and then tossed the creature out of the window. The inspector was out in a flash and reached the ground just in time to see a gent pick up a defunct rodent, slip it into a leather grip and decamp.

The commotion made by the inspector put the employee on his guard, and he threw no more rats.

He was soon dismissed for cause and went away damning his own laziness, for instead of getting busy and keeping a supply of fresh rats on ice, he used and reused the same fellow until he became faisandé [overripe] and put the authorities next to his game. However, he justified himself by saying that was the only rat he had found with a mouth large enough to hold $35 worth of gold. Exchange.

The Leavenworth [KS] Times 2 September 1902: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil will note that, even to-day, those persons in charge of securing clients’ intimate financial details have the same difficulty in apprehending and convicting miscreants who would steal those golden “user-names” and “pass-words.”  The only thing that can be said in the favour of these criminals is that they have moved beyond rats, into “phish.”

 

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.

Mistaken Economies of Women: 1907

 

TEXTILES

MISTAKEN ECONOMIES OF WOMEN

Every woman, no matter how much a spendthrift she may be, has periodical attacks of economy, frugality, stinginess, call it whatever name you will—something that makes her unwilling to part with even the most worthless of her possessions.

Some one excuses her by saying that it is woman’s nature to draw toward her whatever comes within the range of her vision, but whatever the cause it seems born in woman, like her love for laces and puppies and doll babies.

That is one of the reasons that women are such bargain hunters. They buy because things are cheap, and therefore they reason that it is economy to become possessed of those bargains. In their frugal minds they argue that if they don’t need it now they will at some future time, so they plank down their money and march out of the store, hugging their bargain, whatever it happens to be.

That is the reason also why houses are made with attics and lots of closet room. They are for the women to stow away the things they do not need—and probably never will need.

Ever heard of a man saving anything? As soon as s man’s hat gets a dinge in it he gives it to the ash-man. Likewise his frayed collars, his fringed trousers, his old shoes and his other belongings. The Ashman or the garbage gentleman naturally falls heir to everything as soon as the season is ended.

Not so with the woman.

Up in the attic there are trunks and boxes and telescopes and weather-beaten old satchels, literally bulging with old clothes and other things the woman is saving. Over in the corner stands a walnut bed they bought when they first went to housekeeping. Somebody told her once long ago that walnut would be very scarce and valuable some of these days, so she is saving it.

There are hats up there that have been collecting dust and cobwebs, for 10 years and dresses so old that they have come back into style again—almost.
There are stings of buttons and scraps of lace, and rolls of gingham and silk and calico, that have been saved for patches. The garments of which these scraps of silk and gingham and calico are remnants were worn out long ago, but she still keeps the rolls because they may come in handy some of these days.

There are six or seven umbrellas in the corner. No, they are not umbrellas, either, but skeletons of umbrellas. Not one of them would turn water. They are merely shreds of Gloria cloth and wire and wood—but she is keeping them, probably for a rainy day.

There is an old muff and a long snake-like boa hanging from a wooden crosspiece, and both are full of moths, which some day are going to crawl downstairs and reconnoiter the parlor, and look over the rug and the piano.
She is saving that fur, for she has  hunch that some day she will want a dress trimmed with fur, but its dollars to round doughnuts that she will have forgotten it by the time she buys the dress, or else the moths will have finished the fur.
The secondhand dealer would give her exactly 50 cents for that walnut bed, and the ragman would give her half a cent a pound for those old skirts and basques and polonaises and overskirts and pelisses and things, the very names of which she has forgotten since the time they were in vogue. She couldn’t get a cent for the fur nor the umbrellas for the very good reason that they are no earthly use to anybody.

There might have been times in the history of every one of these articles when they would have been of value to somebody. Some woman would have been grateful for those garments; some poor, old, ailing body would have rested easier for that old walnut bed; even those umbrellas and those old furs might have kept water and frost away; but up in the attic, where they have collected dust for years. They have benefited nobody. After all, there is such a thing as being too saving.

The Pittsburgh [PA] Press 8 September 1907: p. 47

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is most convenient, to be sure, to blame women for any clutter around the home. Mrs Daffodil knows of far too many gentlemen who cling to the detritus of long-discarded hobbies and sports, not to mention the rotting carcasses of sports cars, which, had they been put into trim, might have been enjoyed or else sold for a tidy profit at auction.

As the winter holidays approached, Mrs Daffodil noted a plethora of articles urging a pre-holiday “cleanse,” which suggests a rather dreadful stay at some country-house clinic where the inmates ingest kale juice and raw nuts. The items to be discarded were things like plastic containers, wire clothing hangers, and even cardboard boxes of food, which were to be decanted into sanitary glass jars.  There may be some merit in binning sauce-stained Tupperware missing its lid, but Mrs Daffodil draws the line at keeping only those things that have been used within the last year and which “bring joy.”  Under that standard, Mrs Daffodil would have to purge the Hall of an immense and gruesome Caravaggio painting of Judith and Holofernes, as well as several heirloom tiaras of immense value, but limited aesthetic appeal.

 

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.