Category Archives: etiquette

A New, Frank Guest Book: 1915

Visitors’ Book The Manor House. Studland 1908 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1255992

A NEW, FRANK GUEST BOOK

One Which Will Prove Helpful to the Hostess and Bring Comfort to Guests

At one of the big country houses a new sort of guest book has been installed and it bids likely to prove a tremendous success. At this place there is a guest house, an annex for the accommodation of guests, and in each of the sleeping rooms therein is a guest book, bound to match the furnishings of the room. One is covered with block printed English chintz, another has a cover of rose brocade, bound on with gilt braid and still another is in black and white printed linen. But the bindings are not the interesting part of the guest books.

At a week-end party a little while ago each guest was requested to make a new use of the guest book. After registering the guest was to make truthful comment on the guest house, and, in fact, the whole house—friendly criticism as well as praise.

Monday morning, before the party broke up, the hostess gathered the books before her on a table, and read out the comments to the guests, and the result was decidedly entertaining.

Here are some of the entries:

“The hot water in the bathroom assigned to me,” wrote the guest, “does not run well. I like the way the windows are shaded so that the early sun doesn’t waken one.”

Another wrote; “Why didn’t you say that my room was pink so that I could have brought pink lingerie and negligee? DO tell me next time what color my room will be. Your maid has a lovely way of wrapping a hot water bottle in blue Canton flannel at the bottom of the bed each night. It is delightful.”

“The south window in my room rattled in the wind, and never did I see anything more comfortable than that little reading stand and light by my bedside,” read another.

And this: “I think the futurist paper in your dining room is awful. I and my lovely new dinner gown swore at it horribly, and I really think neutral-toned walls are far better in the dining room. But your guest house is a dream, and really I’m not cross about that fascinating dining room paper.”

There were other entries, each written frankly. And they were not only interesting to the guests, they were of real help to the hostess. For one thing, she had little wooden pegs made, and placed a box of them in each room so that they could be wedged into rattling windows, and so save sleepless hours. After this she does intend to tell her guests—the women of them—the color of their rooms. A plumber took five minutes to fix the hot water—and but for that entry she might never have known of its slowness and her guests might always have been inconvenienced.

It is a clever idea, this new guest book, far more interesting than the old book that was merely a record of names and dates.

Tulsa [OK] World 24 February 1915: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has known a great many hostesses who kept private “guest books” about the idiosyncracies of her guests: their favourite foods, their preferred amusements, positions on important political questions, sensitive conversational topics, mistresses or lovers du jour—a hundred-and-one helpful and compromising details that a hostess needs to create a delightful country-house stay or a lucrative black-mail.

This hostess is to be commended for inventing, well in advance of Tripadvisor, the candid hotel review. Mrs Daffodil feels, however, that while wooden pegs are a useful stop-gap measure, the truly considerate hostess would look into having the windows replaced.

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.

 

Hearse Horses: 1860-1911

 

Miniature model of a hearse and horses, c. 1865-75 http://www.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M990.674.1

It is the week-end of the Royal Windsor Horse-show and Mrs Daffodil has been persuaded by a box of really excellent chocolate cremes to allow Chris Woodyard, the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, to post a guest article on the theme of “hearse horses,” a class which Mrs Daffodil can confidently assert will not be on the programme at Windsor. In view of Prince Phillip’s impending retirement, a Hearse Four-in-Hand event might be seen as lacking in tact.

But enough persiflage. Chris Woodyard is champing at the bit….

Hearse and plumed hearse horses, 1870

In the United States, until the advent of the automobile hearse, hearse horses were a cherished commodity, well-known and sometimes beloved by the communities they served. The acquisition of a new pair of hearse horses was, like the purchase of a new hearse, an important event—something to be puffed in the papers. A smart team of plumed hearse horses was a selling point for any undertaker.

As late as 1911, E.F. Parks, an undertaker in Bryan, Texas, announced the arrival of “our fine team of hearse horses” rhapsodizing: “They are simply beautiful. White with a touch of red about the ears, back and hip. They are full brothers 5 and 6 years old.” Undertaker Parks even ran a contest for several weeks in the local newspaper to name the horses, selecting “Prince” and “Pilot” as the winning names. The Bryan [TX] Eagle 16 March 1911: p. 1

Mexican hearse with six netted horses. 1884

Articles about the acquisition of hearse horses often stressed the animals’ training (which seems to have been primarily about gait and speed), yet there were hundreds of accounts in contemporary newspapers of hearse horses running away or colliding with trees, trains, or telegraph poles, often with grave consequences.

FUNERAL HORROR FRIGHTENED HORSES

The Corpse of a Man Pulled After the Demolished Hearse in a Runaway

Rochester, N.Y., Feb. 24. A ghastly accident occurred at the double funeral of Mr. and Mrs. John Hackett, held near Lyons yesterday afternoon that has deeply shocked that community.

While the first hearse, drawn by a spirited team of blacks, was passing through a deep snow drift the horses became frightened, and, unseating the driver, ran away. The hearse containing the coffin and the remains of Mr. Hackett tipped over and the casket was demolished, throwing out the corpse, which, becoming entangled in the wrecked hearse, was dragged a considerable distance over the bare road and through deep snow drifts. When the terrified team finally broke loose from the wrecked vehicle and its ghastly occupant, the corpse was so badly mangled as to be almost unrecognizable. A driver was sent to look up another casket, which was procured several hours later, after which the funeral procession proceeded to the cemetery, where both bodies were interred in one grave. Tucson [AZ] Daily Citizen 24 February 1902: p. 4

One undertaker, when he discovered that the hearse horse he had trained could not keep to the required solemn gait, made the best of a bad job and released the horse to a racing career:

There is a son of Del Sur in California that they call “The Los Angeles Del Sur Wonder,” but known, for short, as the “hearse horse.” He was bred by an undertaker, and used for a while hauling the hearse. He was found to be rather faster than was needed to keep at the head of the procession, and being trained, trotted a 2.20 gait and paced in 2.18. Otago Witness, 28 April 1892: p. 27

 

White child’s hearse with driver outside Neil Regan Funeral Home, Scranton, PA c. 1900 http://en.wikipedia.org

An essential part of funeral pageantry, black horses were used for many adult funerals; white horses—or sometimes white ponies—drew the white hearse of the maiden, the child, or the infant. White horses were also used at state funerals:

Last of the Lincoln Hearse Horses.

A local celebrity recently died after a kind, useful life of thirty-eight years, says the Indianapolis Journal. His name was Jesse, and the one act which entitled him to mention was participation in the funeral cortege of the martyred Lincoln. He was the last of the six white horses which drew the hearse containing the honored body along the streets of Indianapolis. His mate in the proud but sorrowful lead of the team died eight years ago. The McCook [NE] Tribune 3 July 1891: p. 8

Since they were so much in the public eye, certain traits made for the most desirable hearse horses. In the United States, this was a suggested standard:

A more popular hearse-horse is coal-black with no white markings, and he must also have a long, flowing tail. Occasionally they are accepted when slightly marked with white, which is less objectionable on the hind feet than in the face or on the front feet….A hearse requires a horse from 15-3 to 16-1 hands high and weighing 1200 to 1250 pounds. Quarterly Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Volume 21, 1909 p. 490 and 512

In England, a matched set of black Drenthe horses from Hanover were employed at royal funerals. For the fashionable society funeral, black Belgian stallions were the ne plus ultra. Some of the cheaper imported stallions lacked the all-important tail-weepers and were provided with false tails:

A queer English custom is that of decorating the black hearse horses with long false black tails. They attract no more notice on a street in Liverpool than do the black nets used in this country to cover the horses. Pierre [SD] Weekly Free Press 16 November 1905: p. 1

The use of nets, as seen in several of the illustrations, seem to have been confined to the Americas. If draped, a European funeral horse would wear a blanket, as we see in these pictures of Russian and Roumanian hearse horses.

Russian hearse with elaborately draped horses, First World War http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205250983

Draped Roumanian hearse horses c. 1920

Rich in detail is this account of the “Black Brigade” of funeral horses in London. I’m particularly amused by the horses being named for current celebrities. It is also fascinating that an influenza epidemic put pressure on the supply of desirable hearse horses.

A sample of the Black Brigade

THE BLACK BRIGADE

A good many of the coal horses are blacks and dark bays, and by some people they are known as ‘the black brigade ‘; but the real black brigade of London’s trade are the horses used for funerals. This funeral business is a strange one in many respects, but, just as the jobmaster is in the background of the every-day working world, so the jobmaster is at the back of the burying world. The ‘funeral furnisher’ is equal to all emergencies on account of the facilities he possesses for hiring to an almost unlimited extent, so long as the death rate is normal. The [funeral] wholesale men, the ‘black masters,’ are always ready to cope with a rate of twenty per thousand —London’s normal is seventeen—but when it rises above that, as it did in the influenza time, the pressure is so great that the ‘blacks’ have to get help from the ‘coloured,’ and the ‘horse of pleasure’ becomes familiar with the cemetery roads.

A hundred years ago there was but one black master in London. He owned all the horses; and there are wonderful stories of the funerals in those days when railways were unknown. The burying of a duke or even a country squire, in the family vault, was then a serious matter, for the body had to be taken the whole distance by road, and the horses were sometimes away for a week or more, and were often worked in relays, much on the same plan as the coach-horses, only that rapid progress through the towns and villages was impossible, for the same reason that no living undertaker dare trot with a tradesman within the limits of the district in which the deceased happens to have been known and respected….

Hearse with Plumes, John Henry Walker, 1850-85 http://www.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M930.50.7.409

Altogether there are about 700 of these black horses in London. They are all Flemish, and come to us from the flats of Holland and Belgium by way of Rotterdam and Harwich. They are the youngest horses we import, for they reach us when they are rising three years old, and take a year or so before they get into full swing; in fact, they begin work as what we may call the ‘half-timers’ of the London horse-world. When young they cost rather under than over a hundred guineas a pair, but sometimes they get astray among the carriage folk, who pay for them, by mistake of course, about double the money. In about a year or more, when they have got over their sea-sickness and other ailments, and have been trained and acclimatised, they fetch 65£. each; if they do not turn out quite good enough for first-class -work they are cleared out to the second-class men at about twenty-five guineas; if they go to the repository they average 10£; if they go to the knacker’s they average thirty-five shillings, and they generally go there after six years’ work. Most of them are stallions, for Flemish geldings go shabby and brown. They are cheaper now than they were a year or two back, for the ubiquitous American took to buying them in their native land for importation to the States, and thereby sent up the price; but the law of supply and demand came in to check the rise, and some enterprising individual actually took to importing black horses here from the States, and so spoilt the corner.

Three-horse hearse, c. 1895-1898 http://www.historymuseum.ca/collections/artifact/140018/?q=deueil&page_num=2&item_num=2&media_irn=5249990 Canadian Museum of Civilization digitized historical negatives

Here, in the East Road, are about eighty genuine Flemings, housed in capital stables, well built, lofty, light, and well ventilated, all on the ground floor. Over every horse is his name, every horse being named from the celebrity, ancient or modern, most talked about at the time of his purchase, a system which has a somewhat comical side when the horses come to be worked together. Some curious traits of character are revealed among these celebrities as we pay our call at their several stalls. General Booth [founder of the Salvation Army], for instance, is ‘most amiable, and will work with any horse in the stud’; all the Salvationists ‘are doing well,’ except [George Scott] Railton, ‘who is showing too much blood and fire. Last week he had a plume put on his head for the first time, and that upset him.’ [Journalist W.T.]Stead, according to his keeper, is ‘a good horse, a capital horse—showy perhaps, but some people like the showy; he does a lot of work, and fancies he does more than he does. We are trying him with General Booth, but he will soon tire him out, as he has done others. He wouldn’t work with [biologist Thomas Henry] Huxley at any price!’ Curiously enough, Huxley ‘will not work with [physicist John] Tyndall, but gets on capitally with Dr. [philanthropist Thomas John] Barnardo.’ Tyndall, on the other hand, goes well with Dickens,’ but has a decided aversion to Henry Ward Beecher. [Liberal statesman John] Morley works ‘comfortably’ with [Conservative politician & PM Arthur] Balfour, but [Liberal statesman William Vernon] Harcourt and [Irish political leader Michael] Davitt ‘won’t do as a pair anyhow.’ An ideal team seems to consist of [political activist and atheist Charles] Bradlaugh, John Knox, Dr. [Alfred] Adler, and Cardinal [Henry Edward] Manning. But the practice of naming horses after church and chapel dignitaries is being dropped owing to a superstition of the stable. ‘All the horses,’ the horsekeeper says, ‘named after that kind of person go wrong somehow!’ And so we leave Canon [Frederic] Farrar, and Canon [Henry] Liddon, and Dr.[William Morley] Punshon, and John Wesley and other lesser lights, to glance at the empty stalls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, now ‘out on a job,’ and meet in turn with [celebrity quack doctor] Sequah and [Louis] Pasteur, [hypnotist Franz Anton] Mesmer and [Electrohomeopathy inventor Cesare] Mattei. Then we find ourselves amid a bewildering mixture of poets, politicians, artists, actors, and musicians.

‘Why don’t you sort them out into stables, and have a poet stable, an artist stable, and so on?’

‘They never would stand quiet. The poets would never agree; and as to the politicians—well, you know what politicians are, and these namesakes of theirs are as like them as two peas!’ And so the horses after they are named have to be changed about until they find fit companions, and then everything goes harmoniously. The stud is worked in sections of four; every man has four horses which he looks after and drives; under him being another man, who drives when the horses go out in pairs instead of in the team.

One would think these horses were big, black retriever dogs, to judge by the liking and understanding which spring up between them and their masters. It is astonishing what a lovable, intelligent animal a horse is when he finds he is understood. According to popular report these Flemish stallions are the most vicious and ill-tempered of brutes; but those who keep them and know them are of the very opposite opinion….

There is an old joke about the costermonger’s donkey who looked so miserable because he had been standing for a week between two hearse horses, and had not got over the depression. The reply to this is that the depression is mutual. The ‘black family’ has always to be alone; if a coloured horse is stood in one of the stalls, the rest of the horses in the stable will at once become miserable and fretful. The experiment has been tried over and over again, and always with the same result; and thus it has come – about that in the black master’s yards, the coloured horses used for ordinary draught work are always in a stable by themselves.

1880 hearse

The funeral horse hardly needs description. The breed has been the same for centuries. He stands about sixteen hands, and weighs between 12 and 13 cwt. The weight behind him is not excessive, for the car does not weigh over 17 cwt., and even with a lead coffin he has the lightest load of any of our draught horses. The worst roads he travels are the hilly ones to Highgate, Finchley, and Norwood. These he knows well and does not appreciate. In a few months he gets to recognise all the cemetery roads ‘like a book,’ and after he is out of the bye streets he wants practically no driving, as he goes by himself, taking all the proper corners and making all the proper pauses. This knowledge of the road has its inconveniences, as it is often difficult to get him past the familiar corner when he is out at exercise. But of late he has had exercise enough at work, and during the influenza epidemic was doing his three and four trips a day, and the funerals had to take place not to suit the convenience of the relatives, but the available horse-power of the undertaker. Six days a week he works, for after a long agitation there are now no London funerals on Sundays, except perhaps those of the Jews, for which the horses have their day’s rest in the week.

To feed such a horse costs perhaps two shillings a day—-it is a trifle under that, over the 700—and his food differs from that of any other London horse. In his native Flanders he is fed a good deal upon slops, soups, mashes, and so forth; and as a Scotsman does best on his oatmeal, so the funeral horse, to keep in condition, must have the rye-bread of his youth. Rye-bread, oats, and hay form his mixture, with perhaps a little clover, but not much, for it would not do to heat him, and beans and such things are absolutely forbidden. Every Saturday he has a mash like other horses, but unlike them his mash consists, not of bran alone, but of bran and linseed in equal quantities. What the linseed is for we know not; it may be, as a Life Guardsman suggested to us, to make his hair glossy, that beautiful silky hair which is at once his pride and the reason of his special employment, and the sign of his delicate, sensitive constitution.

The Horse-world of London, William John Gordon, 1893, pp 139-147

****

We find equally telling detail in this section from an article on unusual professions. Painting over inconvenient white portions of a funeral horse was widely practiced. An 1875 article tells of undertakers “not stinting with paint or black lead.” A lady observer in 1912 wrote about “dyed horses” in Paris funeral processions.

Vista of funeral horses, man painting out a white fetlock.

The last curious industry deals with funeral horses. Mr. Robert Roe, of Kennington Park Road, has imported these stately animals for upwards of twenty-five years. It seems they come from Friesland and Zeeland, and cost from £40 to £70. There must be about nine hundred funeral horses in London. The average undertaker, however, keeps neither horses nor coaches, but hires these from people like Seaward, of Islington. Mr. Seaward keeps a hundred funeral horses, so that a visit to his stables is an interesting experience.

“It is dangerous,” said one of my informants, “to leave a pair of these black stallions outside public-houses, when returning from a funeral; for these animals fight with great ferocity.” Once, at a very small funeral, the coachman lent a hand with the coffin; but, in his absence, the horses ran amuck among the tombstones, which went down like ninepins in all directions.

A white spot takes a large sum off the value of a funeral horse. In the photo one of Mr. Seaward’s men is painting a horse’s white fetlock with a mixture of lampblack and oil. A white star on the forehead may be covered by the animal’s own foretop.

On the right-hand side in the photo. will be seen hanging a horse’s tail. This is sent to the country with a “composite” horse— a Dutch black, not used for the best funeral work, owing to his lack of tail. He is sold to a country jobmaster, with a separate flowing tail, bought in Holland for a shilling or two. In the daytime, the “composite” horse conducts funerals, the tail fastened on with a strap; but at night he discards it, and gaily takes people to and from the theatres.

Worn-out funeral horses, one is horrified to learn, are shipped back to Holland and Belgium, where they are eaten.

The Strand Magazine, Vol. 13, 1897: p. 202

At least, that was the practice in England; Belgian horses were prized in their native country for their tender meat. In the United States, a hearse horse often retired to green pastures, after a long and useful career. This clever hearse horse had a well-deserved tribute paid to him on his retirement.

KEPT UNDERTAKERS BUSY

Horse Always Stopped at Houses Where Crape Hung on Door.

From the New York Press.

Having reached such a degree of zealousness in behalf of his owner’s business interests that he would stop in front of any house on the front of which symbols of mourning were displayed, Dan, for twenty years a faithful horse for Thomas M. O’Brien, an undertaker of Bayonne, N.J., has been retired on a pension. The undertaker made arrangements with a farmer in Orange county to take good care of Dan for the rest of his life, and to give him decent burial when he dies. Dan was shipped away yesterday. Twice when on the way to the railroad station the horse balked, and it was noticed that each time he balked it was in front of a house with crape hanging on the door. It was not until the driver whispered in Dan’s ear that his boss already had the jobs that the intelligent animal consented to move on.

Dan knows the way to and from every cemetery within 20 miles of Bayonne. Some persons even assert that he knows most of the family plots in those cemeteries. More than once the horse placed O’Brien in an exceedingly embarrassing position by stopping with a hearse in front of houses on which mourning was displayed regardless of whether O’Brien had been retained to have charge of the burial.

One of the stipulations entered into between O’Brien and the Orange county farmer is that Dan must not be compelled to do any work. He must have good oats and timothy hay in winter and, added to that, all the grass he can eat in spring, summer, and fall.

“He’s earned his retirement by twenty years of faithful work,” O’Brien said. “If he were a man instead of a horse, he would have been a partner long before this. He was simply indefatigable in hunting for new business.” The Washington [DC] Post 17 January 1909: p. M10

Shrouded horses with hearse, 1858, advertising Undertakers Massey & Yung, San Francisco

The hearse horse might also serve as an equine memento mori as in this elegiac New England article:

THE OLD HEARSE HORSE

Among the long-standing fixtures of our day are the Hearse-man, the venerable Robert Bell, and his scarcely less venerable old Black Horse, which will be twenty years old next months. For fourteen years the same man and the same horse have been in attendance at almost every funeral that has taken place in our city. For nearly two thousand times have they borne to their resting places the old and the young—the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlettered. There can be seen scarcely a more grave sight than these funereal accompaniments. The old horse though lively and active on other occasions, knows the moment a corpse is put into the hearse, and he will scarcely mind the admonition of a whip to change his speed from walking. His master is growing infirm and the horse is nearly blind—a premonition that all must ere long return to the dust. Portsmouth [NH] Journal of Literature and Politics 12 May 1860: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is sure that we are all very grateful to the subfusc author for being so relentlessly informative and are pleased to have learned something new to-day about this department of the Victorian funeral industry.

Mrs Daffodil has noticed an unlikely resemblance between the plume-adorned hearse-horses with their dark burdens and beplumed circus horses drawing brilliantly carved and coloured circus wagons at a stately pace. One idly wonders if an aged circus horse ever retired to a career as a hearse-horse or if a black horse of too cheerful a disposition might run away with the circus.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

How to Celebrate May-Day: 1863, 1912, 1928

The May Queen, W.E. Tucker, 1843

The May Queen, W.E. Tucker, 1843

Mrs Daffodil asserts that the proper English May-Day consists of floral displays, dancing rustics, various contests of strength, agility, and alcohol consumption, a good deal of fumbling about in the shrubbery, and, of course, the crowning of the May Queen. (Mrs Daffodil prefers to ignore the co-opting of the holiday by the International Labour Movement.)

Our American cousins , too, took up the flowery garlands of the celebration, adding little touches of their own to the festival. One fears they did not fully appreciate the pagan undertones of characters like “Jack-in-the-Green” or “Robin Hood.”  However, perhaps subliminally, they acknowledged the propriety of using the imagery of a Spring Fertility Festival for a bridal shower. “Perky” May-Pole, indeed….

The Indians call the month of May the “Time of the Flower-Moon.” Just as April is filled with rain showers, May is the month for bride-showers, following the order of the flower-moon preceding the honeymoon for the June bride.

A luncheon shower is a pleasing way of entertaining the bride-to-be. The table can be decorated effectively with a pink and green May pole for a centerpiece, its flower streamers in corresponding colors draped down to different places on the table. At the end of each, folded in pink paper blossoms, are little notes, preferably in verse, directing the bride-to-be to different part of the house (on the mantel, behind the phonograph, and so on), each a hiding place for a dainty gift for the bride—flowered lingerie, smart china, or any gift that carries out the flower motif.

Miniature May poles made of striped candy sticks and ribbons, with the guest’s name written on a flat card to which the stick is fastened, will serve as place cards, and you may have pretty little “May baskets” filled with candy at each cover.

If you are serving your guests at small tables, there may be different centerpieces for each table. “Jack-in-the-green,” a clown, dressed in pink and green, and hidden in a bouquet of flowers, is charmingly reminiscent of old England. The “Lady of the May,” a child’s doll, decorated with flowers, signifies a popular old custom you might work into your scheme of decorating, or, if you are using a long table, you may have the May pole in the exact center. “Jack-in-the-green” at one end and the “Lady of the May” at the other.

Games apropos to the occasion may feature the Robin Hood idea—Robin Hood, you know, always figured prominently in the celebration of the first of May. Tiny bows and arrows and a flower-decorated target will furnish amusement—with a gay May basket, some tiny present hidden beneath its flowers, for a prize. And nothing would be more fun or more appropriate than to crown the bride-to-be “Queen of the May” during your party.

For your bridge game use score cards decorated with spring blossoms, and go to a little extra trouble with your pencil. Wrap it in pink and green strips of paper, hand colored ribbons from it, and stick it in a paper-covered spool for a base, so that it will stand up straight and perky like a May pole when not in use. Seattle [WA] Daily Times 24 April 1928: p. 19

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It really is rather extraordinary how long even bowdlerised and ill-understood versions of the May-Day Festivities survived. Even in the United States, May-Pole dances and parties were a staple of young ladies’ academies and, as we have seen, bridal showers. Rather earlier, there was advice on May-Day Tableaux for the young. Mrs Daffodil gives a single sample so as to not weary her readers.

TABLEAU  I— MAY

Let the furniture be removed from the stage, and the background draped with white, looped with garlands of flowers and leaves; the floor covered with white, and flowers scattered over it. One single figure represents May. A beautiful blonde should be selected. Let her wear pure white; the dress long, full, and floating; her hair should fall free, either in curls or waving ripples, and a wreath of delicate flowers rest on her head; flowers should appear to fall all about her; in her hair and on her dress (small pins, or a few stitches of thread will fasten them); her hands are raised, her eyes uplifted, as if she were just about to rise and soar away. The writer has seen a lovely child so dressed and standing, and the tableau was as beautiful as can be imagined. Godey’s Lady’s Book May 1863

Crowning the May Queen, c. 1910

Crowning the May Queen, c. 1905

Mrs Daffodil is not quite sure when the escalation of May-Day Pageants began, but in this account from 1912, the May Queen is accompanied, not only by the traditional English Robin-Hood and Hobby Horse, but a parade-of-all-nations including (inexplicably) Roman maidens and Japanese girls. Each of the national groups had its own suggested dance figure, song or May-Pole braiding pattern. If one was ambitious and had a stock of willing young ladies, one could reconstruct the entire tedious pageant by consulting this detailed book.

A SUCCESSFUL MAY-DAY PAGEANT.

At six o’clock in the evening, just about sundown, the processional pageant of all the players, two and two, carrying their ornamental accessories proceed in their march to the May-pole, heralded by the forester’s bugle horn. There are groups of various national dancers in the characteristic costume of their countries including the little milkmaids with cap, apron, and pail; the Scotch Highlanders with plaid cap and feather; the English shepherdesses with their crooks, looking like a band of veritable Bopeeps; the graceful Roman maidens, with their musical pipes and garlands; some Japanese girls with their parasols, waddling and tiptoeing. Rollicking and wild with glee come Robin Hood and his merry men, for the Morris dances, not forgetting the hobbyhorse with spirited “false trots, smooth ambles and Canterbury paces.” The inimitable jester with his pranks, and the little black-faced chimney-sweeps. The pageant procession approaching the May-pole, the centre of the scene, is led by the May Queen and her retinue, half of the attendants on each side of the queen, partners on opposite sides. Each attendant holds a garland of the canopy in her hands. The Festival Book: May-Day Pastime and The May-Pole Dances, Revels and Musical Games for the Playground, School and College, Jennette Emeline Carpenter Lincoln, 1912

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the Maddest Merriest Day Of All the Glad New Year.

See another May-Day post about a May-Queen controversy. And this, about the ideal vs. the actual May Day. And this parody of the all-too-easily-parodied Tennyson’s “The May Queen,” adapted for inclement weather.

 

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 Senators Discuss French Garters: 1894

Peacock garters with enamelled buckles http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/16306/lot/164/

OUT OF SIGHT

It Is Permissible to Present a Lady with Garters During Lent

Senators Want to Stop This

Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. George Gould and Others Have Received Garters as Presents.

Perhaps the difficulty arising out of the unclothed condition of Augustus St. Gauden’s emblematic young man [on a World’s Fair medal] has caused the action of a committee of the United States senate with reference to garters—women’s garters—to pass entirely untouched. It is not generally known that the Lenten season, in accordance with the dictates of French fashion, is recognized among people of fashion and wealth as the appropriate time for making a present of a pair of garters to a lady. This assertion, which is strictly accurate, can only excite surprise because most persons are too poor to afford to present a high priced pair of garters to anyone, and hence the class which feels interest in the style in garters is necessarily a small one. Thus very few are aware that Mrs. Paran Stevens, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. William Waldorf Astor and Mrs. Potter Palmer have not only received presents of jeweled garters, but are admitted authorities on the subject.

But it was only recently that the garter question came up for consideration among members of the senate. It seems that the committee on post officers and post roads, of which Senator Cameron is chairman, had its attention called to an announcement which has been appearing in the journals of the country and is but a specimen of many similar cards which the Lenten season renders timely.

The announcement called upon the lovelorn youths of the land to present their inamoratas with a pair of garters embellished with several different mottoes of which the purchaser could have his choice.

It was desired that steps be taken to make such announcements unlawful, as opposed to public morals. The garter men had their representatives before the committee, which includes Senators Hill, Vilas, Irby, Mills, Hunton, Mitchell, of Oregon, McMillan, Wolcott, Dixon and Washburn. The garter men declared that their industry gave employment to hundreds of work-people and that the most noted society women and men in the country purchased garters ranging in price from one dollar to five hundred dollars.

“But these mottoes,” said the chairman, “are they not suggestive?”

The garter men’s representative declared the high society women of the country wore garters on which mottoes appeared and that they were in many cases on the garters which men of fashion presented to women of fashion.

“Heavens,” exclaimed Senator Irby, “I’d like to see any man present my women folk with the things.” And in the midst of a loud laugh the matter went over.

French sable garter “Le Fuit La Liberte” http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/garter-122129

However, there is no danger that the traffic will be interfered with. The New York jewelers are the ones who thrive most upon the present Lenten traffic in these objects, and they are the recognized authorities on etiquette connected with the subject. Anyone who enters the great marts of the precious stone trade may see stacks of high priced and bejeweled garters, all mottoes and gems exposed for sale at prices which denote that only the wealthy can invest in them.

As noted, Mrs. Paran Stevens and the princess of Wales are mainly responsible for the garter fad among their respective countrywomen. It is not deemed proper for a married woman to receive a present of a pair of garters from anyone but her husband or a near relative. Similarly, an engaged girl may with propriety receive such a present only from her fiancé. Thus Frederick Gebhard gave a pair of pearl and golden garters to the young lady to whom he was engaged. Hobart Chatfield-Taylor bought for his wife the celebrated rajah’s garters seen at the world’s fair for which, it is said, he paid five hundred dollars. Cornelius Vanderbilt presented to his wife only a week ago a pair of diamond garters. It may be noted that it is not good taste to have a motto on garters which are jeweled. But in the absence of a gem of any kind the motto is imperative.

Why the Lenten season should be the chosen time for making presents of garters has never been satisfactorily explained. It is true that among the French, through whom the craze has assumed its present proportions, no man ever presents a pair of garters to a woman except in Lent. At any other time such a gift would be deemed an insult. Nor is it permissible for a man to present his gift in person. The garter should invariably be sent by mail or express with a note in the package in which the objects must be described as “clasps.” It would be in bad taste, for instance, for a woman to receive a pair of garters from her fiancé in propria persona. The gift should be acknowledged by letter—never verbally.

It is unfortunate that this whole subject of presenting garters should be considered ludicrously. It is vulgar to treat any such subject humorously even in print. For instance, such women as Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Seward Webb, Mrs. Coleman Drayton, Mrs. George Gould, and others, as noted, have received such gifts with no more concealment than would be striven for in the case of the presentation of a ring or brooch. In any large city, and more particularly in New York, men of position and influence step up to the jewelry counter and ask to see the garters with the utmost composure. Mr. Barton Willing, the brother of Mrs. John Jacob Astor, gave an impetus to the trade when he returned from France shortly before his sister’s wedding, and in Philadelphia there was a veritable garter rage that winter.

High priced garters are bought by men only. The present Lenten season has witnessed an extraordinary revival of the garter fad, for the reason , it is supposed, that the gifts made at Christmas were necessarily curtailed in quantity owing to the hard times.

Many of the creations which attract so much attention in the window are from France, a country which has long reigned supreme in this fad. Hence the prevalence of French mottoes on them.

As to the probability that the senate committee will feel called upon, in accordance with the appeal of a Comstockian society, to put a stop to the alleged free and easy style of garter advertising literature, that is not likely. There are too many influential interests. But if they did it would crush an industry which is already beginning to attain proportions. For instance, there is an American garter clasp in the market which is admittedly superior to anything of the kind yet produced and which is manufactured in silver and gold for shipment to France in quantities.

Young men who make Lenten presents of a garterian nature should be careful to see that the clasp is what is technically termed padded. Otherwise there is likely to be a compression of one of the most sensitive portions of a girl’s leg. The jewelers usually have circulars which give diagrams on the subject of garters. Very few young men are aware, for instance, that a certain patent claps which is excellently adapted to the conformation of a slender girl’s limb would be most inappropriate for the contour of a stout young woman’s adipose tissue. It is necessary to get the advice of some experienced person beforehand, if one is not versed in this matter.

When a girl gets such a present she should be careful not to wear the articles just above the knee. That is, a jeweled garter should be adjusted at least two inches above the knee joint, as there is otherwise danger of a compression of the ganglionic nerve. The ungraceful gait of many otherwise well-poised girls is due to carelessness in this respect. It was Berry Wall’s boast before his marriage that he could tell whether a girl was wearing her garters properly or not by the way she walked.

Morning Star [Rockford IL] 16 February 1894: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: If the senators did not like motto garters, they certainly would have disapproved of the “snake garter” There is very little in this world that shocks Mrs Daffodil, but a group of senators debating about such intimacies as garters decorated with French mottoes strikes Mrs Daffodil as somehow indecorous. One pictures those gentlemen rushing off to their jewellers to acquire a pair of those salacious articles to send to some young person of their acquaintance.  Honi soit qui mal y pense, indeed….

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 Family Budget: 1875

THE FAMILY BUDGET.

A Meeting was held in the library of the mansion belonging to John Smith. Esq., on Tuesday last, to consider the annual financial statement of Mrs. Smith. Mr. Smith occupied his usual chair, and Mrs. Smith was accommodated with a seat on the sofa. Amongst those present were the Misses Smith (4), John Smith, Esq., Jun., and Masters Tommy and Harry Smith. Charles Dashleigh, Esq. (nephew of Mrs. Smith), was also in attendance.

Mrs. Smith opened the proceedings by explaining that the holding of the Meeting had been strongly opposed by the Chairman (Mr. J. Smith).’ She regretted to say that she had been compelled to resort to force to gain admittance. (” Shame!”) But skill had overcome power. (“Hear, hear!”) The library fire had been purposely allowed to expire; and when the Chairman rang for fresh fuel, an entrance had been secured under cover of the coal-scuttle. ( Cheers.) However, there they were; and they were well satisfied to let matters rest. She would explain as briefly as possible the position of affairs. This year the grant for Millinery would have to be materially increased, as trains were growing longer and longer day by day. Moreover, full evening dress was beginning to be worn again at the Opera. Meat was never dearer, and, in spite of the “Stores,” grocery of all kinds was excessively expensive. The Meeting would remember that twelve months since an additional grant had to be made to pay for the brougham; but this sum would not be saved this year, as it had already been expended in purchasing a box at Covent Garden. (“O! O!”’ from the Chairman.) There was also a great increase in the item, “&c.” Last year “&c.” amounted to £874 5s. 6d. ; this year “&c.” had increased to £1,202 4s. 7 1/2d.

The Chairman said he would like to have a list of the items included in the term ” &c.”

Mrs. Smith had no doubt but what he would. (Laughter.) She could only say that ” &c.” meant lots of things. (“Hear, hear!”) For instance, the children’s schooling, bouquets, subscriptions to the Circulating Library, and, in fact, a lot of other things she could not remember at the moment. It saved a great deal of time and trouble to put the things down in a round sum. (“Hear, hear.'”) To meet this expenditure, she looked, as usual, to the cheque-book and banking account of Mr. Smith—the gentleman now occupying the Chair. (Cheers.)

Miss Smith complained of the small grant allowed for pin-money. False curls had greatly increased in value during the past year, and really the sum she received scarcely sufficed to pay the bill of the hair-dresser. She must have some more money, to avoid appearing in the character of  “a perfect fright.”

(“Hear, hear.”)

The Misses Angelina and Laura Smith corroborated the statement of their elder sister.

Mr. Smith Junior said he must have an additional fifty pounds a year allowed to him, as flowers in the button-hole were coming into fashion again.

Mr. Charles Dashleigh said he had looked in on the chance of his uncle being able, or, rather willing, to do something for him.

The Chairman was understood to say that he was neither able nor willing to do anything for his nephew—an announcement that was received with much cheering.

Mr. Charles Dashleigh observed that, after that statement, he need not stay any longer. (“Hear, hear!”) He would merely add that he had always managed to live at the rate of £2000 a year on an income something under £200. How he managed to do this was as great a mystery to himself as it was to the rest of the civilised world. The speaker then withdrew.

Mrs. Smith said, that the business of the Meeting being over, she merely had to ask the Chairman for a cheque. (Cheers.)

The Chairman, after observing “What must be must,” (a remark which caused some merriment,) retired from the Library, avowedly to get his cheque-book, which he said had been left in the Dining-room.

After waiting patiently for half an hour for the return of the Chairman, the Meeting ascertained that that gentleman had treacherously left his home for his Club.

Upon this discovery being made, the Meeting passed a vote of want of confidence in the absent Chairman, and separated angrily.

When our parcel was made up, Mr. John Smith was still dining.

Punch 24 April 1875: p. 180

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It has often been said that if the government would find itself in a solvent condition, it would do well to adopt the budgetary methods of the prudent and thrifty housewife.  This popular idea may have been overstated as it does not allow for the naturally improvident or the purchase of false curls and boxes at Covent Garden.

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.

 

Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914

1906 Floral Tribute for a member of the Elks.

1906 Floral Tribute for a member of the Elks.

To-day, Mrs Daffodil (since she cannot exactly say that she is “pleased to welcome”) once again yields the floor to that funereal person over at Haunted Ohio, Chris Woodyard.  One supposes it is useless to suggest a change of climate, subject, or temperament to a writer so entrenched in the subfusc world of Victorian mourning, but Mrs Daffodil will gently note that a holiday in some sunny Mediterranean country might be cheering.  Mrs Woodyard will address the history of grave concerns over grotesqueries in funeral flowers.

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Flowers are an appropriate symbol for the excesses of the Victorian funeral. Newspapers documenting large funerals would note the details of these sometimes bizarre floral arrangements and their donors as if keeping score and setting a societal standard for the next bereaved family. The florists claimed that floral excess was a result of customer demand; the public, in turn, said that the pressure arose from over-zealous florists. There were also dark whispers about innocent flowers being tortured into strange and unnatural shapes.

Some trade journals made an effort to stem the tide of truly hideous design by publishing the damning details of floral tributes that they felt were beyond the pale. A Chicago correspondent to The Garden minced no words about current trends:

Floral Gargoyles.

 Here, in America, is the home of the grotesque as well as of the picturesque. Aristocracy and democracy jostle each other, and aristocracy gets the worst of it. We had a bad boiler explosion here lately, and among the emblems sent to a victim’s funeral was a floral clock set for the hour of the explosion! A theatrical treasurers’club sent a floral pass, ‘Admit one.’ Let us hope it was recognised. Gates ajar, open windows with plaster doves thereon, and tawdry wire frames showing through pillows of red and yellow flowers, all tend to vulgarise funerals, and to inspire the words ‘no flowers.’ When the city council is inaugurated, then are the florists busy. Gigantic keys, Indian clubs, desks, chairs, all are on hand, all of natural flowers distorted to suit perverted tastes. We need a renaissance in art to strike the florists here, and strike them hard. The Garden 1 June 1901: p. 385

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Funeral “set pieces” generally fell into several categories: wreaths, pillows, and sprays—and, said the critics, monstrosities. Some of the latter had evocative titles and florist supply catalogues carried wire frames to create the more elaborate arrangements such as “Faith, Hope, and Charity,” (an anchor, cross, and heart) “The Sad Hour” (a floral clock); “The Broken Wheel,” “The Harp,” (or lyre) and “Gates Ajar,” an exceptionally popular design. Stuffed doves, often used to accessorize the “Gates Ajar” arrangements, could be purchased or leased.

"Gates Ajar" arrangement topped with a star.

“Gates Ajar” arrangement topped with a star.

For this next story of a client who desired a floral horse’s head with real glass eyes, I’m afraid I do not have an illustration. Perhaps these rather ghastly arrangements for deceased members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will give an idea of what the ultimate effect might have been.

A floral arrangement given by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks for a deceased member. 1906

A floral arrangement given by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks for a deceased member. 1914

elks-head-funeral-flowers

1906 Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks floral tribute.

 

A short time ago a certain prominent and popular business man of Cleveland died after a short illness. A day or two prior to his demise one of his business associates went into a florist’s establishment and made some inquiries concerning funeral flowers, and finally placed an order that to his mind embodied all the desirable attributes of such a piece of work. It was to be emblematic of the business in which the deceased had been engaged, and it had occurred to the would-be purchaser that nothing could better represent that idea, than a floral horse’s head! But being a far-seeing business man, accustomed to keeping his eagle eye on the dim and uncertain future, and knowing that such a novel and original design might present some difficulties to a florist when it came to working out the idea, he had thought it best to take time by the forelock and get things moving in good season! The unhappy florist dodged the issue as long as possible by suggesting that the man might get well, but without success. The businessman knew what he wanted and pretty nearly when he wanted it and so the florist had to go ahead with the monstrosity. It seems to me that for downright grim, ghastly, provident, cold-blooded unsentimentality this party is entitled to the pie foundry. But about the time that a sufficient quantity of black cloth had been laid in, and whilst the florist was racking his brain to obtain a life-like wire frame and fiery and spirited glass eyes to go with the same, the order was changed for something not quite so startling. Possibly the man of unique ideas was sat upon by his colleagues. The American Florist 8 June 1895: p. 1148

The employees of the Postum Cereal Company did not have far to look to find inspiration for a floral tribute for the company founder:

Floral tribute for Charles W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company.

Floral tribute for Charles W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company.

Among the set pieces [at the funeral of Charles W. Post] none attracted more attention or expressed more sincere love than the floral piece given by the employes of the Postum Cereal Company. This is the piece we mentioned first, and which is shown here. The design was made to represent the little barn in which he first began making his food products in 1895. This little white building was carefully cherished by its late owner, and still stands in the beautiful grounds surrounding the Postum Cereal Company’s administration building and general offices at Battle Creek, and is always pointed out to visitors as the place where the business began. Doubtless many of our readers have visited the Postum plant and have seen this little building. The floral design was an especially difficult one to bring out because of the demands of perspective. The piece was made by S.W. Coggan, florist, Battle Creek. It measured 6x5x2 feet, and in its construction 2,285 flowers were used. The background was dark pink carnations; the barn proper white carnations. The outlines and roof were of forget-me-nots; the frame effect of American Beauties, adiantum and asparagus green. Corners of frame over roof, Easter lilies, lilies of the valley and pink Killarney roses. The piece bore the inscription, “From his Employes”

The American Florist, Vol. 42 23 May 1914: p. 936

This “bag-man’s” traveling valise was railed against in 1903, yet was still being included in the pages of funeral flower albums in 1914.

freak-traveling-bag-funeral-flowers

Freak Floral Designs

As an example of how not to do it, the accompanying illustration of a floral traveling bag may be worth a place. The design from which the photograph was taken was made by the Iowa Floral Co., Des Moines, for some local traveling men and gave great satisfaction. The body was of Enchantress carnations, the ribs on top and ends of Lawson, while the handle was of violets.

When an order of this kind comes along it has to be filled, but such freak things are in every way to be deprecated. They are a good deal of trouble to make and use a lot of stock lessening the retailers’ profit unless a very big price is paid. But as to anything pretty or artistic there is absolutely nothing in them. It is not even possible to see a good flower in the whole thing for the carnations are cut short and stemmed and packed just as thickly as possible together. It is devoid of all beauty and no retailers with a sense of the artistic or the uplifting of the trade at heart will encourage the making of such flat, ugly and unprofitable things. As hinted above retailers have not always the last word on such points but the making of this class of goods should be discouraged as far as possible. How much more satisfactory in every way would a pretty wreath or other design be than this, supposing the same amount of money was spent. This kind of “art” is best left to the candy makers and confectioners. It is unworthy the attention of florists.

The American Florist: A weekly journal for the trade, 23 January 1909: p. 1290

The demand for special funeral emblems applicable to the vocation of the deceased oftimes taxes the inventive genius of the florist, and some of the pieces suggested by the surviving friends frequently seem very ridiculous. A butcher in our vicinity, being in condition for a funeral, one of his intimate friends came to order a floral offering and insisted on its being in the form of a cleaver. It occurred to me that such an implement was hardly the proper thing. But no one could tell the road he went or the conditions he would encounter at the end of his route. Perhaps it was the very thing he would need.

A commercial traveler having been assigned a new territory, in the unknown world, I was asked to make a floral grip for his funeral ornamentation, by some of his friends. Did he die of the grip, I asked. Oh, no! but as his satchel was his constant companion, one said, we thought it would be a very appropriate emblem for this sad occasion. Alright, I replied, it shall be made, but will I fill it with light underwear, or do you think something heavier would be needed? Not knowing his destination, they failed to advise, so as a precaution, the man being an acquaintance of mine, I filled the grip with wet moss, which you know has a very cooling effect.

American Florist, Volume 21 1903

And how I wish I had a photograph of this postmaster’s novel floral tribute. Truly something for the dead-letter office!

A Novel Floral Design.

P.R. Quinlan & Co., Syracuse, N.Y., made a novel floral piece, the gift of the employes of the Syracuse post office in memory of Edwin H. Maynard, assistant postmaster. It was a 4-foot panel 24×42 inches containing a canceled envelope. The stamp was in pale colored Lawsons and the cancellation which bore the date of his death was in small blue chenille lettering. Upon the floral letter where the address is usually placed was the inscription, “To our beloved assistant postmaster.” The outline of the envelope was maroon carnations representing the envelope in mourning. The groundwork of the panel was Enchantress carnations trimmed with roses, lilies and swainsona. A.J.B.

The American Florist 30 June 1905: p. 1044

1914 seems to have been a particularly fertile year for bad taste in funeral flowers. Here are a few unusually elaborate specimens:

sad-hours-clock-and-doves-funeral-flowers

This “Sad Hours” arrangement is fully seven feet high.

immense-lyre-funeral-flowersa

To judge by the cupboards on the right, this lyre arrangement is at least five feet high.

Fraternal orders, trade unions, and vocational groups often clubbed together to provide floral tributes with the appropriate theme.

his-last-alarm-fireman-funeral-flowersa design-for-master-house-painters-funeral-flowersa 174a-floral-chair-funeral-flowersa

I cannot read the lettering on the floral chair above–it looks as though someone draped foliage and moss over an actual swiveling office chair and wired on a stuffed dove. Possibly the writing says “Our Mayor?” or “Our Mary?”  Another in the “floral chair” genre was labeled “The Vacant Seat.”

Garish as these arrangements are, they pale by comparison with this last example, a floral tribute to a man whose life was cut short in a terrible accident.

Derrick funeral flowers.

Derrick funeral flowers.

THE PENULTIMATE DESIGN.

In the collection of unique designs, the one shown in the illustration on page 11 is entitled to a place at the front. It represents a derrick in flowers made by Lester F. Benson, an Indianapolis florist, on the order of a committee representing the Structural Iron Workers of America, for one of their members who was killed as a result of his gauntlet catching on the hook as the engine started. The man was lifted thirty feet from the ground before his cry, “Slack down,” was heard, and before the order could be obeyed the glove slipped from his hand, resulting in a fall which broke his neck. The design was made sectionally, to work the same as a real derrick, and the committee insisted on the florist placing a glove on the hook!

Of course no florist maintains that such a design is in anything but the most execrable taste; such gruesomeness is an utter perversion of the idea which prompts the sending of flowers to a funeral. The flowers should carry a message of sympathy, and by their purity and beauty should speak of the life beyond, should contain no suggestion of mundane things, least of all a reference to the route of departure of “the late lamented.” The derrick design appears to be just one step removed from the limit. The man who wishes to accomplish the ultimate no doubt will make for a murder victim some such design as the following: Take two clothing-store wire dummies; fit them out with suits of flowers, instead of cloth; raise the arms of each, one figure leaning forward in the act of firing a flower pistol; bring the left hand of the other toward where a man’s heart is supposed to be, and the right hand to his uplifted head; lean this figure backward. Mount the two figures, in the relationship that will suggest itself, on a base of boxwood or galax and there will be nothing further that can be demanded of the florist, unless with such a design the widow fails to survive the shock.

For the florist who makes monstrosities in flowers it is to be said: Hardly any florist has so poor a conception of the uses of flowers that he suggests any such designs; the florist nearly always simply is carrying out the instructions he receives from his customers, and must either do this or see an order involving a goodly sum go to a competitor. Florists are like others—they are likely to do that which they are best paid for doing, but it is in line for every florist to do something toward turning customers to better things in flowers.

The Weekly Florists’ Review 20 April 1911: p. 10

So much for the customer always being right…

Still, one suspects that, despite the florists’ repeated and bitter condemnation of bad taste, there was money to be made by catering to the vulgar whims of the customer.

These set-piece shaped floral arrangements began falling out of favor around the time of the First World War when Victorian mourning conventions were thought to be less relevant in the face of so many deaths. Immense and garish floral tributes still had their place—at the funerals of gangsters and film stars, but by the mid-1920s they were considered thoroughly old-fashioned.  The only pieces I’ve seen recently which seem to carry on the tradition of shaped floral tributes are U.S. flag panels and floral rosaries designed to hang inside the casket lid.  I have not had the opportunity to ask any modern florists if they ever get requests for flower lyres or for  “Gates Ajar,” but in this Age of Individualism, I suspect that there are still orders for the unorthodox and highly personalized funeral arrangement, sans the stuffed doves.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is sure that we are all very grateful to Mrs Woodyard for revealing these examples of vulgarity in funeral flowers, thus enabling us to avoid embarrassing faux pas at our own obsequies.

For more on funeral flowers, see these posts: “No Flowers” and Corsets and Beer Wagons: Floral Vulgarities, which also appear in The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

 

The Kettle-drum and the Winter Picnic: 1874

tea-party-1902-5

“KETTLE-DRUM.”
Another Fashionable Folly – Winter Picnics.

In this country we have few gentlemen of leisure, and in society, ladies’ clubs to the contrary notwithstanding, you can do little without gentlemen. While these are daily absorbed in some pursuit, ladies have been compelled to abandon themselves to lounging, dressing, calling, lunching, reading novels, and other weak efforts to kill time, cultivating society principally as an evening amusement, which usually resolves into the crush and jam of a party. Now, however, in large eastern cities, ladies are turning young men who have leisure, into account. They are invited to “kettle-drums,” a species of entertainment something like a high tea, where ladies are in the preponderance, where the rigidity of full evening dress is not required, where the proceedings are easy and informal, servants only being admitted with trays of refreshments, and then excluded, the hostess herself pouring tea or chocolate for her guests, and where society plans are discussed, suggestions made, and people decapitated without mercy. The “kettle-drum” has in it the elements of immense success, but it is necessarily confined in its sphere of operations. It was at a party of that character that the notion of a “winter picnic”—another scheme to kill time of those who have nothing to do during the day—was proposed. The modus operandi of the latter is thus described: A lady volunteers the use of her house, which she is expected to decorate with evergreens in profusion—holly, mistletoe, cedar, pine and the like—and also provide tea. The rest of the eatables the gentlemen contribute. One sends a hamper of ready cooked game, another fruit, another cakes and biscuits, another the creams and ices, and so on, until the collation is complete. Wine is not favored; instead, “Russian” tea is the vogue, simply Pekoe, choice Bohea or Mandarin tea, with thin slices of lemon floating in it instead of milk. As much of the house as possible is thrown open, halls are festooned with green, tubs and pots containing plants from the conservatory, or hired from a neighboring greenhouse, are placed here and there, and the table is spread picnic fashion by the company themselves, who also restore the dishes to the baskets and wind up with a dance. We heard it rumored that a lady, prominent in society in this city, is making preparations for a “winter picnic” at an early day.

Morning Republican [Little Rock AR] 13 January 1874: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To be Relentlessly Informative, the origins of the term “Kettle-drum” are shrouded in the mists of the seventeenth century:

The origin of the Kettle-drum as somewhat obscure, but if history speaks truly, they were very common during the reign of that gay monarch, Charles the Second. The ladies returning from the hunt, gathered together for a tea-drinking and some light refreshment, the entertainment being known as a “drum,” to which the term kettle was later prefixed. The term Kettle-drum can not, therefore, be applied to anything but a tea-drinking; and, strictly speaking, should include only a light refreshment of sandwiches, cake, and biscuits. At no afternoon entertainment, at present, unless a full dress reception, is coffee or wine fashionable, chocolate or bouillon being the substitutes; and these, as well as tea, should be served in small dainty cups, the cream and sugar being handed each guest on a salver. Cook Book of the Northwest 1887: p. 167

Naturally, it was an English importation.

The kettledrum, or five o’clock tea, is really a very admirable institution, and a great relief in the severe formality and heaviness of average English entertainments. The guests drop in a little after four, the ladies retaining their hats and wraps. There are pictures and books to discuss, music at intervals; the rooms and balconies are filled with flowers; there is presently an ethereal little refection of wafer-thin bread and butter, delicate cakes, coffee and tea, served upon exquisite porcelain; and then after a little more talk and music the company melts unceremoniously away, and the little meeting has been simple, inexpensive—not–gay, for that would not be English, but pleasantly content—an excellent thing in the right houses, and in the wrong ones an evil of bearable weight and duration. The Galaxy, Vol. 15, February 1873: p. 260

Mrs Daffodil has long served the leisured class and no fashionable folly such as a “winter picnic” would surprise her. Still, one is rather shocked at the “soft” socialites holding such a soirée indoors. Where is that rugged American spirit? Here is how a proper “winter picnic” might be achieved: 

WINTER PICNIC HINTS

A winter picnic may be great fun

Ice and snow offer as many inducements for out-of-doors sports as any thing we have in summer. Two things, however, are essential really to enjoy a winter picnic. The first is proper clothing. Sweaters, woolen gloves and arctics are essentials. The second is the lunch. This should be much more substantial than the summer fare. If possible, have a good fire and cook at least one hot dish. In cold weather metal is disagreeable to handle, so use enameled ware cups and plates, which won’t break if dropped by cold fingers. Ham and eggs fried over a camp fire make a hearty lunch, and if an enameled ware frying pan is used it will be found easier to manager than the heavier iron variety. A little ingenuity will suggest many tasty hot dishes and winter picnics once tried will become a favorite pastime.

Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 23 November 1915: p. 11

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.