Category Archives: Fads

Hints for Earth Day Economies: 1859-1903

Although Monday was, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed,  “Earth Day,” a time to take stock of how we use the resources of the planet, there is never a bad day to reflect on consumption and its consequences. There has been a societal move against “fast fashion” and a resurgence of “Make Do and Mend.”  Mrs Daffodil will, therefore, “recycle” several posts on the subject of domestic economy in dress, on the clever makers-over of tired garments, and the second-hand clothing trade.

One would go far before one would discover a more ingenious clan than these Southern Ohio ladies and their cunning tricks of skillful fingers.

Although this lady, who traded in second-hand silks and this gentleman, who prospered in left-over laundry, are an inspiration to all of us.

Some clever gentlemen took a leaf from the ladies’ domestic economy books and learned to update and repair their wardrobes.

A fascinating tour of a 19th-century “recycling” firm and an examination of the “rag trade.”

The second-hand trade was a boon to actresses, and the buying, selling, and hiring of costly gowns worn by the Four Hundred, was a practice well-known to the upper echelons of Society.

The second-hand clothing trade extended even unto royalty, as we see in this peep at Queen Victoria’s stockings.

One of Mrs Daffodil’s heroines is this resourceful lady, who set herself up as a “Dress Doctor,” long before Hollywood costumer Edith Head co-opted that title.

Of course, selling one’s evening dresses involve some unwitting “recycling,” as this lady found to her dismay:

Not long ago (write “X and Z” in the Globe) a lady in dealing with the proprietress of a second-hand clothing business, sold to her several evening dresses, which were perfectly fresh and good, but which she could not wear again, as her friends knew them too well. They had probably been worn three times each. The second-hand wardrobe lady remarked, by the way, that all her purchases were for the colonies. Seems odd, does it not? But to return. A few days after the gowns were sold their original owner missed a very pretty old-fashioned diamond clasp, and, inquiring of her maid, discovered to her tribulation that it was in one of the evening dresses she had sold. “Sewn firm on the left shoulder, my lady,” quoth the maid. She proceeded diplomatically to work, sent the maid to the shop, and, in consequence of her operations there, became again the possessor of her discarded gown at exactly seven times the price she had sold it for. The diamond clasp was still in it, its safety being due to proximity to a mass of crystal trimming which formed an epaulette, the clasp having been added with a view to making the whole mass look “good.”

Otago Witness 9 February 1893: p. 42

 

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 True Cost of China-painting: 1887

hand painted cornflower plate

Limoges plate, hand-painted with cornflowers.

RATHER EXPENSIVE

A Fair Young Decorator’s Husband Deals in Facts and Figures.

“What do you think of it?”

A young housekeeper was exhibiting to an investigator a handsomely decorated plate which leaned against a neat easel on the mantel of her pretty drawing-room.

“Beautiful.”

“Guess where it came from?”‘

“France, perhaps.”

“No. I bought the plate down town and decorated it myself.”

“An excellent idea! You can now have as handsome a dinner set as there is in New York at a mere trifling cost.”

“That shows what you know about it,” interposed the husband of the fair artist, with just a trace of sadness in his tones.

“I don’t see why you say so, John,” retorted the latter.

“Let’s figure the cost. I probably have kept a closer watch upon that department of the business than you have done.”

“Well, begin.”

“In the first place, the plate itself cost you $3?”

“I know,” returned the artist, with an air of triumph; “but you can’t cut a decorated plate like that for less than $5.”

“That may be so,” continued the husband cruelly. “Next you bought about an ounce of liquid gold, which cost $3.75. You used about half that amount.”

“Not all on that plate, John. You know I spoiled about as much as I used.”

“I know you did, my dear, and you ruined about $3 worth of carpet with the stuff; but I didn’t intend to reckon that in this table. Then you bought a book of instruction which cost $2.50 more. And you took six lessons on the design you painted, at $1 a lesson. If you paint any more plates, you will have to take more lessons. Isn’t that so?”

“Yes, but I will only need one or two on each plate from this time on.”

“I haven’t mentioned the paints and brushes you bought They cost $10 more, but will probably answer for some time to come in your future work. I’ve not finished yet. It cost $1 to have the plate fired. Now, let’s see what the cost is:

Plate………. …$3.00

Gold……………$1.87

Carpet spoiled…$3.00

Lessons………..$6.00

Book…………..$2.50

Paints…………$10.00

Firing…………..$1.00

TOTAL             $27.37

“That is just shameful, John. You know my next work won’t cost me nearly so much.”

“We’ll see about that,” continued her husband. “Your plate will cost $3; gold (barring accidents) say $1, lessons $2. paint, say $1, and firing $1. That makes $8. Pretty high price to pay for a $5 plate, eh? This doesn’t include the expense of a headache, backache and loss of temper which a painting always produces in you. Neither does it take in the amount of vexation your illness always causes me. No, my friend,” added the husband, in conclusion, as he turned to the investigator, “I find it cheaper to buy my china. I am afraid a whole dinner set would leave me nothing to buy food to dine on.”

Monongahela [PA] Valley Republican 3 November 1887: p. 1

hand painted fairy plate

Meissen plate probably hand-painted by an amateur china-painter from a published design. https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/43805829_a-small-meissen-circular-plate-pale-yellow-border-the

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: China painting was touted as a genteel hobby, eminently suitable for ladies’ delicate hands and aesthetic sensibilities, although its proponents elided over the costs. Importers of fine china were also less than sanguine about the craze and had their methods for dealing with enthusiasts.

The China-Painting Craze.

“You say the price of this beautiful hand-painted dinner set is $175?”

“Yes, madam.”

“And the price of this plain set of the same ware if $171, only $4 difference/”

“Yes, madam.”

“Then, how can that be real hand-painting? Surely it must cost more than $4 to decorate a set like that. The figures are exquisite.”

Both dinner sets were of Limoges ware. They were displayed in a Broadway crockery house. The decorated set had delicate figures traced on each of the hundred or more pieces.

“I assure you, madam, that it is genuine hand-painting,” he replied. “The slight difference in price does not arise from the cheapness of the painting. It comes from the highness of the tariff.

“Well, I thought so,” said the lady. “I’ve done some painting on china, and I know such beautiful work as that could never be had for $4 a set.”

“Just as I thought, too,” said the dealer, when the lady had gone. “She is one of them.”

“One of what?”

“The women with the china-decorating craze. I told a little fib about the tariff, or rather, stretched the meaning. It is our tariff on customers, and not the customers tariff, that makes the small difference in price. We charge within a trifling amount of as much for plain Limoges and other high-grade chinas as we do for the richly-decorated sets, simply to keep the plain sets out of the reach of persons (principally women, by the way) who otherwise would buy them and make their own hand-painted decorations. Few persons can tell real art-work from dabs on china, any more than they can on canvas. If we gave the china-decorating cranks a chance we’d soon have the market flooded with real Limoges ware, hand-painted by home talent. By making the plain sets almost as expensive as the imported hand-painted sets, we shut out these amateurs. This course is pursued by the trade generally.”

The Jewell County Review [Mankato KS] 1 December 1887: p. 7

 

 

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.

Lenten Costumes: 1876-1890

lent is over2

Lent is Over and the Curate is a thing of the past.

Beginning in the 1870s, a penitential garb was adopted by some fashionable ladies:

Exclusive New York modistes are already displaying some very ecclesiastical looking toilets, designed for special wear during the Lenten season. Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 February 1889: p. 10

The fashion seems to have arisen out of mourning garb and costumes were designed and sold by mourning retailers like Jay’s:

BLACK LENTEN COSTUMES, at Two Guineas each. Messrs. JAY, having had numerous applications from their patronesses for some kind of black dress suitable to the season of Lent, have produced special LENTEN COSTUMES, which, with a sufficient quantity for a bodice unmade, they are selling at £2 2s. each, and which have already obtained the most extensive approval. Jay’s. The Times [London] 13 March 1876: p. 18

There were always critics of modish fashions for widows and of the adoption of those fashions by those not in mourning:

The most successful of the season’s belles in society are widows scarcely out of their weeds. Mourning costumes were never more carefully or coquettishly made. They are not so simple, generally, as a strict regard for propriety might dictate… Widows’ caps have become the jauntiest imaginable, if desired, and in short, mourning is no longer necessarily very somber. To show how much in favor black has grown, it is only necessary to tell that

LENTEN COSTUMES

Will be quite commonly worn this year. They are already being made, and those who don them intend to stick to the quasi-mourning during the whole forty days preceding Easter. This Lenten dress will be black alpaca, serge or cashmere, and cut close in the throat, around which will be a clerical linen collar in black or white linen. The make-up of the garment will be severely simple. A missal, bound in black and edged with silver, will be suspended by a silver chain from a black belt, fastened with a plain, square silver clasp. The bonnet of black will be of the close-sided or white muslin, simply trimmed, will be worn around the neck blow the collar, fastened down with a silver pin representing a Lenten lily; and for the six weeks the hair will be uncrimped, unwaved, unbanged, parted in the middle and laid back behind the ears. In acute cases the underclothes and nightclothes will be embroidered in black, and the stockings will be on the inky hue. Thus attired a good many women might take a further step into religious somberness by getting into a nunnery , and nobody would say them nay, for they will be unfit for the gaze of man. On the other hand, such attire will be rather becoming to rosy and youthful women, and may lead to that other religious rite called marriage. Upward rollings of the eyes and mild pensiveness of countenances will go along with these modifications of sackcloth and ashes. I don’t say that the girls who do these things are humbugs. I will go no further than to express the opinion that not one in ten knows the real meaning of Lent, or would go around the corner to find out…. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 12 February 1882: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Many are the fashion notations, satirical observations, jokes, and sarcastic imprecations muttered under the breath about the Merry Widow. Mrs Daffodil has previously noted anecdotes about the wearing of mourning merely because it was so becoming, so it is no great surprise to find this fashionable austerity adopted as a faux-religious observance during the season of Lent when so many social amusements were forbidden. One expects that the Easter toilettes were that much more brilliant, as a gourmand relishes his meals the more after a course of taking the waters.

THE LENTEN COSTUME What the Fashionable Woman is Coquetting With Now.

New York, Feb. 27. In this season of sackcloth and ashes when the pleasures and vanities are supposed to be laid aside for more sober diversions, woman, seeing that her hands are tied regarding the elegant and showy wardrobe of the ball-room, coquets with her Lenten costume. In this make-up she resembles more closely the fashion plate in a woman’s journal than anything else.

Apparently she regards this as a sort of penance for looking so much prettier before, and it requires so little sacrifice on her part to pose as such a doll, but more likely it is her inherent coquetry which makes her adopt this sedate costume to prove to her admirers that all is not vanity, but a very chic woman can array herself in anything and look well, knowing the great secret of suitability. The less devout, but as clever a devotee is aware that the sober tint without relief of bright color is not becoming to her and here her own judgment is exercised. St Louis [MO] Republic 1 March 1890: p. 16

The austerity of the “Lenten Costume” was good in principle, but became something of a joke.

[Joke 1] “Dolly’s wearing a new Lenten costume.”

“Why do you call it Lenten?”

“She seems to have sacrificed about half of it.” The Hutchinson [KS] News 28 March 1921: p. 3

[Joke 2]

Mrs. Tiptop: Do you know, my dear, that fashion now requires that ladies must wear Lenten costumes?

Mr. Tiptop: Lenten costumes! Are they expensive?

“I am sorry to say they are—fearfully so. It’s some new sort of cloth, but I will have to have one, dear, at once.”

“Humph! Seems to me I’ll be the one that will do the repenting.” The Topeka [KS] Daily Capital 13 May 1887: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil was amused by Lenten shopping restrictions as voiced by a “dear old churchwoman.”

“During the early days of Lent,” said a dear old churchwoman to your correspondent yesterday, “I never shop for anything but black and white goods.” Dear old precisian, she had spent the better part of the morning in deciding the merits of two pieces of silver and black brocade either of which was handsome enough to divert her thoughts from her sins during the morning lesson by the bare memory of it, but she fancied herself very virtuous indeed because she had stopped at the color line—as not a few fancy it for the good of their souls to go to Lenten service in a black gown; and a silver mounted prayer book, swung by silver chains, is simply a patent of humility. Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 12 March 1881: p. 10

This post was originally published by Mrs Daffodil in 2015.

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

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

 

A Crazy Quilt Tragedy: 1911

Domestic Tragedy.

“Lobelia!” The voice of Mr. M’Swat was high-pitched and imperative, yet had a note of vague alarm in it.

“What is it, Billiger?”

“I can’t find my neckties.”

“Your neckties? They’re scattered all over the bureau.”

“I don’t mean the ties I wear every day. I mean the others.”

“What others?”

“The—the ones I’ve worn from time to time, you know, and put away, as good as new.”

“How should I know anything about them?”

“Do you mean to tell me, Lobelia, you don’t know anything about a a—box of neckties I have kept for years in this second drawer?”

“What a fuss you are making over a box of old rags! What do you want of it, anyway?”

“I want to put a few of these in it. You don’t know what you’re talking about, madam, when you call them a lot of old rags, either. I want to know where they are.”

“Well, you needn’t go to rummaging through any more of those drawers. You won’t find them there. I can tell you that.”

The wrath of Mr. M’Swat assumed a lurid, ghastly character.

“I think I have certain inalienable rights in this house, Lobelia Grubb M’Swat,” he said. “And among these is the right to keep my neckties in my own drawer, in my own dressing case, in my own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States and the statutes in such case made and”—

“You needn’t tell the neighbours about it. Before I’d make all that racket about a lot of old, worn-out neckties–”

“Who told you they were old and worn out? Didn’t you hear me say distinctly they were”—

“Now, you know, Billiger M’Swat, you haven’t worn one of those old ties for years and years. What’s the use”—

‘Then you do know something about them! I thought sol Why did you try to deceive me? Why did you tell me”—

“That’s right! Accuse your wife of lying!”

“Didn’t you tell me you knew nothing about them?”

“No, sir! I said nothing of the kind!”

“Lobelia! Wife of my bosom! Look me in the eye. Where are those neckties?”

“Wh-what do you want of them?” asked Mrs., M’Swat, rather feebly.

“I simply want to know what has become of them.”

She put her handkerchief to her eye. ”

“I–I th-think it’s just mean”—

“What’s mean?”

“Here I’ve slaved away day after day, making something nice”—

“Lobelia, where are those neckties?”

“Billiger, I have made them up into the loveliest crazy quilt”—

“A crazy quilt!” he yelled. “Thunder and Ben Franklin! Woman do you know what you have done!”

“lt was nothing but a lot of old”–

Mr. M’Swat became tragic.

“Mrs. M’Swat,” he exclaimed, in a deep bass voice. “I have been making a collection of artistic neckties for ten years. Some of them cost me over a dollar. None of them less than 50 cents. You have ruined a unique, unequalled, original 75dol. collection of ties”—

“Oh, Billiger, why didn’t you tell me?”

“To make a 4dol. crazy quilt! Why didn’t you tell me?”

Husbands and wives, why will ye hide things from each other?— Chicago Tribune.

North Otago [NZ] Times 8 April 1911: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The craze for “crazy patchwork” was a long-standing one and one perhaps responsible for more marital unhappiness than any number of Vamps. Mrs Daffodil has written of the patch-work “mania” and the terrible lengths ladies would go to for “samples” to make their quilts and of their depredations on the households’ wardrobe. It was a dark time…

Truth in Jest

The girl with soft grey eyes and rippling brown hair that walked all over your poor fluttering heart at the charity ball, has just finished a crazy quilt containing 1,064 piece sof neckties and hat linings, put together with 21,390 stitches. And her poor old father fastens on his suspenders with a long nail, a piece of twine, a sharp stick, and one regularly ordained button.

Southland Times 26 January 1886: p. 4

This squib suggests that the craze even changed fashions in men’s neckties:

The crazy quilt rage goes on in as intense a fashion as that of roller skating, and Lent has not subdued but rather emphasized the rush for “pieces” of the most gaudy hues. Men growl that their neckties are not safe, the dry goods houses are getting niggardly about samples, and gradually masculinity is arraying itself against another woman’s right. Have you noticed the tendency toward sobriety in color in men’s neckties? It is a growing one and only the result of a plot between men and brothers against women and sisters. And I don’t wonder at it. Neither will you, when you lose a brilliant-hued scarf for days and have almost forgotten it, when it suddenly appears to you in the form of a center piece in a crazy quilt. I have gone necktieless, suffered and cursed, and am therefore a rabid adherent of the new movement in neckties, even if it, in the end, leads us to black and sober solid colors. There are more ways of crossing a river beside jumping it. Therefore a change of style in mankind’s wear that will cripple the crazy quilt mania will be in the nature of an elevation of the dynamiter with his own mechanical can.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 25 March 1885: 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 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.

 

A Phrenological Failure: 1824

veggie face

 

The science of Phrenology is not likely to be long in fashion. Important anticipations were entertained of indications and discoveries in the head of Thurtell, but they have failed. Some time ago a gentleman found a large turnip in his field, the shape of a man’s head, and with the resemblance of the features of a man. Struck with the curiosity, he had a cast made from it, and sent the cast to a Society of Phrenologists, stating that it was taken from the head of Baron Turnempourtz, a celebrated Polish Professor, and requesting their opinion thereon. After sitting in judgment, they scientifically examined the cast, in which they declared that they had discovered an unusual prominence, which denoted that he was a man of an acute mind and deep research, that he had the organ of quick perception, and also of perseverance, with another that indicated credulity. The opinion was transmitted to the owner of the cast, with a letter, requesting as a particular favour that he would send them the head. To this he politely replied, “that he would willingly do so, but was prevented, as he and his family had eaten it the day before with their mutton at dinner.”

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 135,1824

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The “science” of Phrenology was just getting started. Although it was scientifically discredited by the 1840s, it survived in the patter of the snake-oil salesman, and as a popular lecture-circuit topic and parlour entertainment into the early 20th century, as Mrs Daffodil has written in Bump Parties: 1905, 1907.

Thurtell was John Thurtell who murdered Mr William Weare over a gambling debt. The crime caused a sensation; the gruesome particulars were memorialised in a ballad, part of which ran:

They cut his throat from ear to ear,
His head they battered in.
His name was Mr William Weare,
Wot lived in Lyons Inn.

Thurtell committed a vicious murder, but was astonishingly stupid over it, openly boasting that he would “do” Weare, who was said to have cheated Thurtell at cards, and leaving the murder weapon, one of a matched set he owned, in the road. No doubt the phrenologists wanted to analyse his cranium to determine where he went wrong and prevent future murderers from making the same egregious errors.

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 Valentine Charm Party: 1911

cupid and two putti.JPG

VALENTINE CHARMS

A recently engaged girl gave a charming valentine charm party to her young girl friends. The invitations were made of water-color paper, and were in the form of tiny padlocks, with a dainty key attached. A painted Cupid was on one side and the following words filled the other: “If thou wouldst know the secrets and charms of love which St. Valentine keeps under lock and key, meet at the mystic board at 29 Chestnut St., at eight o’clock, on February fourteenth.” After a session of girlish chatter, and a social game or two of “Hearts,” the guests were taken to the dining-room, which was hung with many-colored dangling hearts. Heart-shaped ices, “kisses,” “lover’s delight,” etc., were served. Garlands of vines, rosebuds and hearts trailed from the chandelier over the white cloth. The centerpiece was a mammoth crimson rose made of crape paper surrounded by ferns, and its heart contained as many petals as there were guests. Each petal was fastened to a white satin ribbon which led to each place. After the plates had been removed, the guests remained at table and the charms began, when each guest gently drew her streamer and its petal. The petal contained her fortune. The heart of the rose being drawn away disclosed a tiny Cupid in a white satin bride’s slipper. The slipper was filled with crape-paper rose leaves of various colors. Each guest received three leaves on which she wrote a lover’s name (a different lover for each leaf). and dropped them into her individual bowl of water. The first to come up was to be her future husband. On each place-card was found five bay leaves, a tiny crimson candle, two matches and a pencil. Then tiny cups of tea were brought in. The maidens wrote their wishes on the bay-leaves, lighted the candles and burned the leaves, so that the ashes fell into the tea. At a given signal the tea, ashes and all, was consumed, and thus St. Valentine’s help was insured for the gratification of the wishes. Each guest then received an egg, on the shell of which was written the name of her best love, with indelible ink. The eggs were boiled and each lassie claimed her egg. Then the yolks were removed and salt put in its place. The girls bravely ate the eggs, salt and all, while their wishes were made. If they retired without taking a drink of water, the person of whom they dreamed was to be lord of the future, and the wish would come true. The favors for the occasion were satin sachets with a garland of rosebuds and lovers’ knots painted on the surface. A long-stemmed crimson rose was pinned to it. In the heart of each rose was a tiny gilt heart with a quaint valentine verse on it.

-Florence Bernard.

The Delineator, Volume 77, February 1911: p. 157

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What dainty accessories as a backdrop to the performance of ancient (and to be perfectly frank, rank) superstitions!  Mrs Daffodil has written before about the Valentines’ rites and customs of yore in Holly Boys, Ivy Girls, Eggs, and Billets. The bay leaves were more usually pinned to the young lady’s pillows, but one supposes there are fads in love charms as well as Valentines.

 

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.