Category Archives: Frolics

The Young Man and His Valentines: 1887

[St. Valentine’s] day is observed right along now, and here in Springfield where we live, move and consequently don’t have to pay any rent, it is particularly celebrated. It’s the biggest day in the year for the largest percentage of people. I like St. Valentine’s day. I once paid $4.45 for a large, sweet-smelling affair with a heart-shaped basque and no end of flesh-colored kids, without buttons or anything on which to button, meandering around over it. I got another fellow to address the envelope. It was a girl on whose outline I was madly and passionately impaled. The other fellow was a good writer and the next day the girl accused him of sending her the valentine. He looked down in sweet confusion and said as he wiggled from side to side, “Oh, Miss Jones, who’d have thought you knew my hand-writing.”

Then the girl was sure it was him, and the next week she crocheted him a horse blanket and a lot of other fancy work, including a cute little money purse to be used as a savings bank in which his nibs was expected to put all his spare coin for missionary purposes. On  one side it had these crewel, crewel words, “Give freely,” and on the other side, “Love the giver.” The young man obeyed one of the mottoes, at least. I never in my life saw a man so stuck on himself. But I got even with him. He married the girl.

Since the sad and foregoing experience, I have rigidly adhered to the habit of slyly writing my name in one corner of every pretty and costly valentine I send. It adds to the poetry of the lovely trifle and keeps the girl’s father from kicking the necktie off of the wrong man.

I put my name once on a comic valentine which I sent to a young fellow whom I used to wake myself up at night with an alarm-clock to hate. I wanted him to know who sent it. It was a hideous caricature, got up in the most exaggerated style. It had a great mouth, like the map of somebody’s affected lung in the almanacs. It was unmistakably homely in six colors and a verse. I put my name on it and sent it to this fellow. I was wild with glee and excitement during the day, and fancied I could see him flinging himself over a four-story precipice and dashing his brains out with a three-“em” dash.

Next morning  I received a note from the recipient of the valentine. He had evidently recipped it. The note was as follows:

Springfield, O., Feb. 15, 1884.

Dear Fellow: — Photo received. Thanks so hard. But the signature was superfluous. I recognized the features as soon as I saw them. But don’t you think that part of the mouth was lost in the retouching of the negative at the expense of the naturalness of the picture.

Yours in earnest inquiry.

GUS.

P.S. I don’t speak positively about the mouth. I merely throw it out as a suggestion. I had to throw it out, as there wasn’t room enough in the house.

Once More,

Gus

The next time I met Gus, we had a chat and when we parted, he looked hurt—especially about the left eye. During the next week, Gus put in his time trying to decipher the inscription on a beef-steak, at a distance of a decimal part of an inch from his sense of sight.

When I was fourteen years old I was wildly stuck on a little girl who lived across from where we were accumulating a rent account. I determined to send her a valentine. I got a lovely one, with a beautiful vine clambering over it and a cluster of violets in the center. A sweet little cherub, attired in an intelligent look and a maxillary dimple, was peering out from between the violets, with one little fat leg trailing along behind him in the airy fashion that cupid affects. But the verse on it made me tired. It was something to the effect that when the starlight was kissing the moonlight and the evening zephyrs were exhaling a bouquet of vesper odors, then I loved her—oh, I loved her. I knew that my girl was a practical sort of a person who always split the family kindling and had to draw the family rain-water by hanging head downward in the cistern and dragging an old brass kettle along the bottom with a sound like an escaped Wagnerian overture. I knew that if I wanted to make any impression on her, I mustn’t spring any “Luna, thou art the moon” business on her, for she would simply come to the front gate and yell across to my folks to put me on ice before I got mildewed. So I made some verses entirely of my own composure and pasted them over the sentimental lollipop. This was my poetry:

Oh maid! My little speckled maid!

This is a world of trouble,

But when I see you—am I glad?

Well, I should gently bubble.

 

You are the apple of my eye,

As I have oft declared;

And I’m the apple, too, of yours,

Why then can’t we be pa(i)red?

 

Forgive me for my crime-like rhyme,

And should we ever part,

Dost know fair maid, what restest next

My madly palping heart?

I didn’t see anything of my girl for four days and I had concluded she had fallen into the cistern and broken her pledge. But on the fifth day she came sneaking across the street, shoved something under the front door, rang the bell, and then skinned back again as tight as she could go. On the way she stepped on her left ankle with her right foot and brushed away a mud-puddle in the road, but I laid it to excitement. My heart beat wildly as I heard my big brother go to the door, and present he returned with an envelope in his hand and a broad grin bordering the hair on his head. My brother had the broadest grin I ever stood beside and examined. He handed me an envelope. It was dog-eared and finger-marked. I tore it open. Inside was a half sheet of paper, with the following written on it in red ink:

You talk as though you were a chump,

Or took me for a flirt:

I guess the thing that’s next your heart

Must be your undershirt.

I let this girl alone after this and turned my affections elsewhere. I always felt hard toward the family, and as soon as I grew up and went to work for a newspaper I took my revenge out on her brother. I saw him washing his neck one day, and he got so much soil off of it that I wrote the item up and put it under the head of real estate transfers. He must have appreciated this delicate piece of satire, for I never knew him to repeat the operation.

There are somethings in a person’s life which ought not to be made fun of, and I deeply deplore the habit of sending comic valentines. I admit that the temptation is strong, but it ought to be resisted. I knew a man who had a mother-in-law on his wife’s side of the house, who had a cast of features that would stop the progress of time on a sun-dial when she looked at it. She was so ugly that her son-in-law used to keep a jar of cucumbers pickled by setting her photo next to it. Yet he did not go and get a horrible thing in four and five colors with a satirical verse, and send it to his mother-in-law. Not he. He simply sent her one of her own tintypes. She had him arrested. She then expired to slow curtain, soft music, and plaid fire.

Any young man of good address ought to have no trouble in having plenty of pretty valentines sent him. Mine is care REPUBLIC office. But any one who intends sending me comic ones will please address them to Box ¾, New Zealand.

CABRIOLET.

Springfield [OH] Daily Republic 29 January 1887: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The “comic” or “vinegar” valentine was the bane of St Valentine’s Day. The receipt of one of these horrors might cause tears, loving hearts torn asunder, ruptured engagements, horse-whippings, and even worse violence.  Still, unkind as it was, Mrs Daffodil feels that the verse hand-delivered by “the little speckled maid,” equitably summed up the narrator’s “chump” tendencies. One wonders what would have been the outcome had he not called her “speckled” (that deadly insult to the charmingly freckled complexion!) and had left the Valentine versifying to trained professionals.

To be Relentlessly Informative, the puzzling reference to “plaid fire,” refers to melodramatic theatrical conventions as in this passage from an 1866 edition of “Fun,” satirically describing a play: “Dance by all the characters, blue fire, green fire, red fire, plaid fire, grand transformation scene, and rhymed tags…”

 

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 anecdote

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 Society Reporter’s Christmas: 1893

society 1920

LITTLE EVA SWALLOWTAIL,

Or, The Society Reporter’s Christmas.

Early morn in the little parlor of a humble white cottage, where Susan Swallowtail sat waiting for her husband to return from the ball. It lacked but a few days of Christmas, and she had arisen with her little ones at five o’clock in order that William, her husband, might have a warm breakfast and a loving greeting on his return after his long night’s work.

Seated before the fire, with her sewing on her lap, Susan Swallowtail’s thoughts went back to the days when William, then on the threshold of his career as a society reporter, had first won her young heart by his description of her costume at the ball of the “Ladies’ Daughters’ Association of the Ninth Ward.” She remembered how gallantly and tenderly he had wooed her through the columns of the four weekly and Sunday papers in which he conducted the “Fashion Chit-Chat” columns, and then the tears filled her eyes as memory brought once more before her the terrible night when William came to the house and asked her father, the stern old house and sign-painter, for his daughter’s hand.

“And yet,” said Susan to herself, “my life has not been altogether an unhappy one in spite of our poverty. William has a kind heart, and I am sure that if he had anything to wear besides his dress-suit and flannel dressing-gown he would often brighten my lot by taking me out somewhere in the daytime. Ah, if papa would only relent! But I fear he will never forgive me for my marriage.”

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of familiar footsteps in the hall, and the next moment her husband had clasped her in his arms, while the children clung to his ulster, and clamored for their early morning kiss.

But there was a cloud on the young husband’s brow and a tremor on his lips as he said: “Run away now, little ones; papa and mamma have something to say to one another that little ears must not hear.”

“My darling,” he said, as soon as they were alone, ” I fear that our Christmas will not be a very merry one. You know how we always depend on the ball of the Gilt-Edged Coterie for our Christmas dinner?”

“Indeed, I do,” replied the young wife, with a bright smile; “what beautiful slices of roast beef and magnificent mince-pies you always bring home from that ball! Surely, they will give their entertainment on Christmas-eve this year as they always have?”

“Yes, but — can you bear to hear it, my own love?”

“Let me know the worst,” said the young wife, bravely.

“Then,” said William, hoarsely, ” I will tell you. I am not going to that ball. The city editor is going to take the assignment himself, and I must go to a literary and artistic gathering, where there will be nothing but tea and recitations.”

” Yes.” said Susan, bitterly ; “and sandwiches so thin that they can be used to watch the eclipse of the sun. But what have you brought back with you now ? I hope it is something nourishing.”

“My darling.” replied William Swallowtail, in faltering tones, ” I fear you are doomed to another disappointment. I have done my best to-night, but this is all I could get my hands on;” and with these words he drew from the pockets of his heavy woolen ulster a paper-bag filled with wine jelly, a box of matrons glacis, and two pint bottles of champagne.

“Is that all?” said Susan, reproachfully. “The children have had nothing to eat since yesterday morning except patis de foie gras, macaroons, and hot-house grapes. All day long they have been crying for corned-beef sandwiches, and I have had none to give them. You told me, William, when we parted in the early evening, that you were going to a house where there would be at least ham, and perhaps bottled beer, and now you return to me with this paltry package of jelly and that very sweet wine. I hope, William ” — and a cold, hard look of suspicion crept into her face — “that you have not forgotten your vows, and given to another…”

“Susan!” cried William Swallowtail, “how can you speak or even think of such a thing, when you know full well that…”

But Susan withdrew from his embrace, and asked, in bitter, cold accents: “Was there ham at that reception or was there not?”

“There was ham, and corned-beef, too. I will not deny it; but…”

“Then, William, with what woman have you shared it?” demanded the young wife, drawing herself up lo her full height, and fixing her dark, flashing eyes full upon him.

“Susan, I implore you, listen to me, and do not judge me too harshly. There was ham, but there were several German noblemen there, too — Baron Sneeze, of the Austrian legation. Count Pretzel, and a dozen more. The smell of meat inflamed them, and 1 fought my way through them in time to save only this from the wreck.”

He drew from his ulster-pocket something done up in a piece of paper, and handed it to his wife. She opened the package, and saw that it contained what looked like a long piece of very highly polished ivory. Then her face softened, her lips trembled, and her eyes brimmed over with tears. “Forgive my unjust suspicions,” she exclaimed, as she threw herself once more into his arms. “The mute ham-bone tells me, far more strongly than any words of yours could, the story of the society reporter’s awful struggle for life.”

William kissed his young wife affectionately, and then sat down to the breakfast which she had prepared for him.

“I hope,” she said, cheerfully, as she took a dish of lobster-salad from the oven, where it had been warmed over, “that you will keep a sharp lookout for quail this week. It would be nice to have one or two for our Christmas dinner. Of course we can not afford corned-beef and cabbage like those rich people, whom you call by their first names, when you write about them in the Sunday papers; but I do hope we will not be obliged to put up with cakes and pastry and such wretched stuff.”

“Quail!” exclaimed her husband. “They are so scarce and shy this winter that we are obliged to take setter-dogs with us to the entertainments at which they are served. But I will do my best, darling.”

As soon as William had gone to bed, Susan took from its hiding place the present which she had prepared for her husband, and proceeded to sew it to the inside of his ulster as a Christmas surprise for him. She sighed to think that it was the best she could afford this year. It was a useful rather than an ornamental gift — a simple rubber pocket, made from a piece of an old mackintosh, and intended for William to carry soup in.

But Susan had a bright, hopeful spirit, and a smile soon smoothed the furrows from her face, as she murmured: “How nice it will be when William comes home with his new pocket filled with nice, warm, nourishing bouillon!” and then she glanced up from her work and saw that her daughter, little golden-haired Eva, had entered the room, and was looking at her out of her great truthful deep-blue eyes.

It was Christmas-eve, and, as Jacob Scaffold trudged through the frosty streets, the keen air brought a ruddy glow to his cheeks and tipped his nose with a brighter carmine than any that he used in the practice of his art. Entering the hall in which the ball of the Gilt-Edged Coterie was taking place, the proud old house and sign-painter quickly divested himself of his outer wraps and made his way to the committee-room.

Then, adorned with a huge badge and streamer, he strolled out to greet his friends, who were making merry on the polished floor of the ball-room. But, although the band played its most stirring measures and the lights gleamed on arms and necks of dazzling whiteness, old Jacob Scaffold sighed deeply as he seated himself in a rather obscure corner and allowed his eyes to roam about the room as if in search of some familiar face.

The fact was that the haughty, purse-proud old man was thinking of another Christmas-eve ten years before when his daughter Susan had danced at this same ball, the brightest, the prettiest, and the most sought-after girl on the floor.

“And to think,” said the old man to himself, “that with all the opportunities she had to make a good match, she should have taken up with that reporter in the shiny dress-suit! It’s five years since I’ve heard anything of her, but of late I’ve been thinking that maybe I was too harsh with her, and, perhaps…”

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a servant who told him that some one desired to see him in the committee-room. On reaching that apartment he found a little girl of, perhaps, eight years of age, plainly clad and carrying a basket in her hand.

Fixing her eyes on Jacob Scaffold, she said:

“Please, sir, are you the chairman of the press committee?”

“I am,” replied the puzzled artist; “but who are you?”

“I am the reporter of the Sunday Guff. My papa has charge of the ‘What the Four Hundred are Doing’ column, but to-night he is obliged to attend a chromo-literary reception, where there will be nothing to eat but tea and cake. Papa has reported your balls and chowder excursions for the past five years, and we have always had ham for dessert for a week afterward. We had all been looking forward to your Christmas-eve ball, and when papa told us that he would have to go to the tea and cake place to-night, mamma felt so badly that I took papa’s ticket out of his pocket when he was asleep and came here myself. Papa has a thick ulster, full of nice big pockets, that he puts on when he goes out to report, but I have brought a basket.”

The child finished her simple and affecting narrative, and the members of the press committee looked at one another dumbfounded. Jacob Scaffold was the first to break the silence.

“And what is your name, little child?” he inquired.

” Eva Swallowtail,” she answered, as she turned a pair of trusting innocent blue eyes full upon him.

The old man grew pale and his lips trembled as he gathered his grandchild in his arms. The other members of the committee softly left the room, for they all knew the story of Susan Scaffold’s misalliance and her father’s bitter feelings toward her and her husband.

“What!” cried Jacob Scaffold, “my grandchild wanting bread! Come to me, little one, and we’ll see what can be done for you.”

And, putting on his heavy ulster, he took little Eva by the hand and led the way to the great thoroughfare, on which the stores were still open.

*******

It was a happy family party that sat down to dinner in William Swallowtail’s humble home that bright Christmas day, and well did the little ones enjoy the treat which their generous new-found grandparent provided for them. They began with a soup made of wine jelly, and ended with a delicious dessert of corned-beef sandwiches and large German pickles; and then, when they could eat no more, and not even a pork pie could tempt their appetites, Grandpa Scaffold told his daughter that he was willing to lift his son-in-law from the hard and degrading labor of writing society chronicles, and give him a chance to better himself with a whitewash brush. “And,” continued the old man, “if I see that he possesses true artistic talent, I will some day give him a chance at the side of a house.” — James L. Ford in Truth.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 2 January  1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does so like a happy ending. Society reportage, with its emphasis on “Upper Ten-dom” tittle-tattle, bore an ambiguous reputation. On one hand, etiquette proclaimed that a lady’s name should never be mentioned in the press except at her birth, marriage, and death. On the other, social columns were highly popular, both with the participants in cotillions, balls, kettledrums, and receptions, and with the “little people,” who thrilled vicariously to descriptions of fancy-dress costumes, champagne suppers, and cotillion figures and favours.

At the time of the writing of this piece, society journalism was becoming the purview of female journalists. Mr William Swallowtail, was fortunate to be rescued by his father-in-law from the hard and degrading labour of writing society chronicles before he was rendered redundant by a lady reporter who would be paid half his wages.

Still, it is a bit disappointing not to have seen the rubber pocket deployed.

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.

Novel Ways to Distribute Christmas Gifts: 1911-12, 1921

Clad as a Christmas tree and ready to distribute the presents.

Clad as a Christmas tree and ready to distribute the presents.

This post was previously published in December, 2013.

As we have seen, it isn’t enough to merely purchase and wrap presents in the traditional snowy tissue paper. To meet the newly-elevated standards, which, frankly, Mrs Daffodil finds rather nouveau-riche, one must disguise those presents in ingenious wrappings and, further, distribute them in unusual ways. The Queen of Italy, for example, distributed her Christmas presents in 1886 by lottery, The Prince of Naples and the Queen held satin bags—one filled with names and the other numbers. Mrs Daffodil imagines that the prizes on that occasion were far more lavish than the beef and blankets distributed to English estate workers. Here are several other instances of up-to-date present distribution:

A LIVING CHRISTMAS TREE

An animated Christmas tree would prove the greatest possible success. The part of the Christmas tree should be played by a tall child of twelve or thirteen, dressed to represent a fir tree. A white princess petticoat makes a good foundation, upon which wide flounces of dark green crinkled paper can be tacked. Several stiff white muslin petticoats should be also worn to stick out the dress at the bottom.

The “tree” must be hung with strings of silver tinsel, very light Christmas tree ornaments, strings of small gaily coloured crackers and a variety of bright penny toys, which should be lightly sewn onto the dress right through to the princess lining, for the weight of them would tear the paper.

The “Christmas tree” must have a cap adorned with a Christmas star and must stand in a red earthenware bread pan to represent the pot, the heavier presents being piled up round her feet.

A tiny brother clad as a wee Santa Claus with a red flannel dressing gown, adorned with bands of cotton wool spangled with hoar frost, wearing a cotton wool bear; or a wee sister as a Christmas tree fairy, in a frilly pink crinkled paper frock, with wings of silver paper and a twinkling Christmas tree star in her hair, armed with a pair of scissors, may be introduced into the scheme to cut off and distribute the gifts.

THE POSTMAN HIMSELF

“Postman’s Knock” has a delightfully Christmassy sound, and if well carried out is the greatest possible success.

The part of Postman should be played by father, uncle, or big elder brother, though, failing these, a feminine postman, providing she wears the traditional postman’s cap and a man’s overcoat and a sprig of holly in her buttonhole.

The one absolute essential is that the postman should bring with him a big bag filled with stamped and addressed parcels.

If the present distributing is to take place immediately after tea at a small Christmas party, a lively game, such as Hunt the Slipper or Blind Man’s Bluff, should be started and when the fun is at its highest a double postman’s knock comes at the door—the game stops abruptly and as the children glance wonderingly at one another, the hostess, having answered the knock, returns to say, “A parcel for Miss Mary Dash. Go out to the postman, dear, and fetch it.”

Out goes the small recipient to return a moment later with a fully addressed parcel, which he or she proceeds to unwrap, to the intense interest of the other children. A second knock heralds the return of the postman, who this time asks for Master Harold Dash, and so the game goes on, until each member of the company has been outside.

In order to make the parcels thoroughly realistic looking used stamps should be collected for some little time beforehand and a few gummed onto each parcel which, having been wrapped up in brown paper and string, may be further adorned with one or two Christmas seals.

A MAGIC COAL BOX

A magic Christmas coal box creates much amusement. For this small-sized presents must be chosen, in order that they may be wrapped up in black paper to resemble lumps of coal.

The “coal” is now piled into a big brass coal scuttle, or round witch’s cauldron, before being carried into the room, and the children are invited to come forward one by one to take a knob of coal with a pair of tongs provided for the purpose.

When they discover that each one contains a wee Christmas gift their delight knows no bounds, and one dare predict that such a novel form of “lucky dip” would prove an equal success at a grown-up evening party. 

London Evening News 19 December 1911: p. 7

Distributing the Gifts

Going to the post-office is a jolly method of distribution. Pasteboard and brown paper, aided by judicious grouping of chairs and tables, easily transform a room into a post-office, and a wisely selected postmaster may make the collection of mail an occasion of much merriment. Have general delivery and lock boxes, and at the general delivery window see that each person is properly identified.

A Christmas hunt is always exciting. The clue, given at the breakfast table, is written on a slip of paper in some such words as these: “Pass the parlor, shun the hall, seek the summer kitchen wall.” In that vicinity the gift will be found, wrapped and addressee. It adds to the fun if the directions lead first to other rhymes, three or four being followed up before the hidden treasure is found….

Still another hunt takes the form of a polar expedition and is great sport in the country when there is snow enough for it. Immediately after breakfast the entire party sets out for a walk. When they turn toward home, the host or someone selected as guide informs them that supplies are hidden along the way in various caches and they will do well to look out for them. Each cache is merely a mound of snow covering lightly a quantity of gift packages, securely wrapped. There need be only three or four mounds and the gifts should be divided promiscuously among them. If the walk has been long, the first cache to be found—that is, the one farthest from home—may hide a box of cookies, which will be haled joyfully and will make the gifts in the next cache an even greater surprise.
The last cache to be reached may be the centerpiece on the dining table. Here it should be of cotton glittering with diamond dust with the pole rising from the middle of it, a fat, squatty pole with a jolly Santa Claus top.

Small gifts may be concealed in a Jack Horner pie, brought to the table when dinner is finished. Choose a deep, round pan of a size to fit the number of the party and put into it the present, each daintily wrapped and marked with the name of the one to receive it. The Herald [Algiers, LA], 1921

One might also call upon a conjuror to hand out the Christmas gifts:

Next comes the conjuror, and especially the old-fashioned conjuror—he who produces hens from tea canisters, doves from beneath flower pots and yards of orange-coloured satin ribbon from his mouth. The “pocket conjuror,” whose skill lies in his fingers, is the one most generally met with, and all his apparatus, as his name implies goes into his pockets. He occasionally finds himself in a somewhat awkward situation, as hostesses have hit upon the idea of  distributing presents through the medium of the conjuror. At a recent party the unfortunate entertainer was made responsible for the production of a large elephant and a wheelbarrow.

London Standard 27 December 1912: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Here in the Servants’ Hall, we do not require a conjuror or “lucky dip” to distribute his Lordship’s Boxing Day bounty:  a dress length wrapped in tissue paper for the females and tobacco for the men. Mrs Daffodil is anticipating a length of black taffeta and a little extra in the pay envelope in token of his Lordship’s appreciation of her handling a delicate affair for one of his cousins, which, without her, would have been a matter for assisting the police with their inquiries. If the truth were told, Mrs Daffodil knows of several individuals who deserve to receive large lumps of genuine coal instead of cleverly wrapped gifts.

 

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 Christmas Stocking Auction: 1900

Victorian Christmas stocking

 

At a cotillion recently given in Calcutta Lady Curzon invented some new figures that may serve as hints to American hostesses….

The third and most brilliant figure was an auction sale of charming girls hidden wholly inside of huge Christmas stockings. Ten young women would be called up and carried into an adjoining room. They were persuaded to step into enormous stockings made of different goods–one a silk stocking, another a brilliant golf hose, another a plain, stout, yarn affair; a fourth was an old-style white stocking with a pink top, a fifth was a baby’s sock, a sixth showed wonderful clocks, a seventh was a clown’s stocking, an eighth was an open-work bas de soie, the ninth was a blue stocking, and the tenth was an old stocking patched and worn.. Every man at the ball was allowed freely to comment on the appearance and possible usefulness of the 10 Brobdingnagian hose, while the auctioneer swung his hammer and highly recommended the contents of these strange Christmas stockings. Cheerful giggles and pleased comments or indignant protests issued from the tops of the stockings as the crowd criticised, laughed, peered or guessed at the identity of the persons inside, and finally, when the bidding was over, the many-colored bags were opened. Tremendous surprise ensued, and the men who had bid highest waltzed off with their purchases, who were pleased or reproachful, in accordance with the good prices they had brought.

The Baltimore [MD] Sun 10 January 1901: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking…”   Mrs Daffodil wonders about how the young women were “persuaded” to step into the stockings–with chloroform or a cosh?  And was anything more than a waltz contractually implicit in those “purchases?” One would give much to know the sequel to such pairings. It could not have been pleasant to spend the remainder of the evening with the contents of the stocking sold for the lowest figure, or to find that a more liberal bidder had carried off the young lady of one’s heart.  A salutary lesson to parsimonious gentlemen.

 

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.

Notes in the Turkeys: 1899

King Turkey 1873

NOTES IN THE TURKEYS.

“This Thanksgiving has been a lucrative one so far as my collection is concerned,” said the boss faddist.

“Which of your collections do you mean?” asked the amateur.

“Why my collection of notes and messages that are found in the turkeys sent down here from the New England states. Did you ever heard of  a Thanksgiving turkey coming to town from Vermont for instance, that didn’t contain tucked away inside against the white meat, either a pair of red mittens or blue yarn socks or a message directed to some ‘little waif?’ A bird without that sort of stuffing would be very rare. As I have just mentioned, most of the things are addressed to little waifs. You see up there in the some of those faraway farms where the best turkeys come from they seem to have an idea that all the grown-ups in New York are crooks; that all the children are waifs, and that Potter’s Field is the only cemetery. I discovered that when I began to make my collection of turkey notes four years ago, and tried to learn the cause. I think I have discovered it.

“About 25 or 30 years ago, when book agents were in their prime and chromos were accepted as works of art someone wrote a book and called it ‘Sunshine and Shadow of New York.’ The book agents did the rest, so far as the New England farmers were concerned. There wasn’t much sunshine in that book, but the shadows were lad on thick and black. There were pictures in it of Harry Hill’s dance hall and a lot of similar institutions, not to mention wood cuts of thieves’ dens, and several hundred pages of reading matter to the effect that there wasn’t anything else in the town except, of course, Potter’s Field. The book was strong on that particular graveyard. Well, the book agents had a gold mine it, and if you go through the New England farm districts today, especially far away from the big towns, you will find that ‘Sunshine and Shadow of New York’ still shares the honors of the centre table in nearly every Sunday room, with the family Bible, the history of the country and its leading men and ‘Pilgrims’ Progress.’ The children look at those pictures Sunday, and that’s where they get their impressions that the kids here are waifs.

“But to return to this year’s addition to my collection. Just as I had expected, most of the notes in the turkeys from Vermont had something to say about Dewey. Here’s a sample.

“To the poor little waif who has her Thanksgiving dinner off of this nice turkey: When Admiral Dewey came home he walked by our house one day and just then this very turkey got out of the barnyard and ran across the road in front of him and the admiral must have seen it. I didn’t want to have this one killed this year, but pa says a turkey’s a turkey even if times are good, so I’ll send this note.

“’Your Loving Little Friend’

“Most all of the Vermont notes said that the birds in which they were concealed had been named Dewey. In a bird from eastern Connecticut I found a pair of blue yarn knit stockings wrapped up in a paper, on which was the message, “Whoever gets them, may they keep her warm through the long winter.’ That bird was in a big lot that was just going to be sent off to a Broadway restaurant where the patrons never wear anything but open-work hosiery winter or summer. You see I got all my specimens at the markets before the turkeys are delivered to the consumers. I have explained the situation to half a dozen butchers, and they all let me search for the notes through every fresh batch of birds that comes in.

“From southwestern Rhode Island I got a good note in a turkey that had evidently been reared and killed on the outskirts of the prohibition town of Westerly. It said: ‘It is the earnest wish of the maiden lady who raised this turkey and now sends it on the way that the great city to which it is going may sometime stamp out the awful curse of rum, as we have here in our own peaceful little town.’  New York Sun.

Boston [MA] Daily Advertiser 6 December 1899: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The placing of notes by piece-workers in garments or with food-stuffs was, apparently a common practice. Mrs Daffodil has previously noted it in Cora’s Christmas Doll, and in this story with a happy ending:

Novel Marriage in Minnesota.

Miss Estella May Duncan, of Mazeppa, Minn., was married in splendid style at Bellchester, Minn., a few days ago to Mr. John F. O’Connell of Woonsocket, R.I. About a year ago Mr. O’Connell purchased a dozen eggs in a Woonsocket grocery store. One of them appeared quite light and out of curiosity he opened it, only to find a dainty little note penned in rhyme suggesting a correspondence with the writer providing the finder would enjoy a little literary discussion. Mr. O’Connell promptly responded in rhyme, and a correspondence ensued that led to a courtship and a happy marriage. At the wedding dinner given at the home of George Duncan, a brother of the bride, after the ceremony, there was a handsome wedding cake, surmounted by an immense hen’s egg, bronzed. During the banquet the groom told the story of the romance and repeated the poetry addressed to Miss Duncan when he found the egg in a grocery store and also the verses which he found in the egg containing a request that the finder correspond with the writer.
Denver [CO] Rocky Mountain News 24 November 1895: p. 21

Rather than “Sunshine and Shadow of New York,” possibly the note-collecting narrator meant this book, with its “spoiler-alert” title: Lights and Shadows of New York Life or The Sights and Sensations of The Great City. A Work Descriptive of the City of New York in All its Various Phases: With Full and Graphic Accounts of Its Splendors, and Wretchedness; its High and Low Life; Its Marble Palaces and Dark Dens; Its Attractions and Dangers; Its Rings and Frauds; Its Leading Men and Politicians; Its Adventurers; Its Charities; Its Mysteries, and Its Crimes, By James D. McCabe, author of “Paris By Sunlight and Gaslight,” History of the War Between Germany and France,” “Great Fortunes,” “The Great Republic,” Etc. Etc. Illustrated with Numerous Fine Engravings of Noted Places, Life, and Scenes in New York. By subscription only and not for sale in the book stores. Residents of any State desiring a copy should address the Publishers, and an Agent will call upon them. See page 863.

You may read the book and judge its impressions of New York for yourself at this link.

 

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.

Vegetable Fancy Dress: 1889

cabbage leaf costume fancy dress

A VEGETARIAN FROLIC

A little while ago it was my good fortune to attend a most peculiar fancy dress party. It was held at a big country house, and the distinguishing feature of the affair was that every person was compelled to either dress as a vegetable or in a costume decorated with one. Although at first thought this seems to give but little scope to either taste or imagination, some really pretty toilets were arranged, the foundations of which embraced almost everything, including partly worn silks, natty street dresses, and dainty lace and mull gowns.

One stately dame in a trained black silk and  powdered hair, wore an Elizabethan ruff, plumes for the hair, and carried an immense fan, all composed of the crisply curled leaves of the kale plant.

A little auburn-haired beauty transformed her directoire gown into a very good representation of carrots by removing all the buttons and substituting slices of the vegetable, while the entire front was decorated with pressed carrot leaves.

onion fancy dress croce

Soup vegetables made a very attractive costume. A white mull dress with sprigs of parsley used effectively over it, and a tiny basket of the smallest of the other vegetables to be obtained.

A black lace gown, a profusion of bangles cut from a large yellow turnip, hair ornament of the same, and a corsage bouquet cut from white and yellow turnips and embellished with their foliage, was the costume evolved in honor of that plebeian vegetable by a young lady, with the help of a younger brother with a talent for fancy carving.

white asparagus fancy drss croce

Red peppers were used with pretty effect upon another black lace gown, but great care had to be exercised in placing them so that neither the wearer nor those who came in contact with her should suffer from their fiery nature.

Most of the members of the sterner sex contented themselves with a vegetable boutonniere, but one ambitious youth covered himself with glory and his business suit with corn husks arranged layer upon layer. His appearance can be better imagined than described.

Many other pretty, dainty, or funny toilets were contributed using popped corn, slices of pumpkin, pale green lettuce leaves, etc., for decoration.

Pieces of chamois, strips of flannel and stout linen were used underneath some of the cut vegetables to protect the dress fabric form stains.

ONE WHO WAS THERE.

American Gardening: November, 1889: p. 409

vegetable ball

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A fête which gave new meaning to the phrase “salad dressing.”

One imagines that the fall evening was chill; hence, no one adopted the original vegetable costume:

Leader of Fashion: “Oh, yes, this is the new vegetable costume suggested, you know, by that vegetarian dinner. What do you think of it?”

Cynic “Hum—pretty idea, but old—very old.”

Leader of Fashion (horrified) “Old! Why the dressmaker told us these were the very first. Who can have worn a vegetarian dress before us?”

Cynic: “Eve!”

Aberdeen [Scotland] Weekly Journal and General Advertiser for the North of Scotland 25 October 1884: p. 2

 

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.

Halloween Charms: 1903

apple peel

A young woman tosses an apple peel over her shoulder to divine the initial of her future husband.

Halloween Charms

Young men, who wish to decide their fate on Halloween should dress in their best, walk to the candy store about 7 p.m., purchase a box of the most expensive dainties, and go to the home of some girl. Be sure that you select the home of the one you imagine to be the bright particular star of them all. After asking for her, put your hat and stick within convenient reach, assume a pleasant smile, and when she appears give her the candy. Along with this say as many sweet things as come into your head. Then repeat slowly but distinctly these words: “Will you marry me?” If she answers “Yes” your fate is fixed.

A quaint old custom for girls who wish to peer into the future is to walk down the cellar stairs backward at midnight, holding a candle in the hand and peer into a mirror. There the face of the future husband possibly will be seen. An improvement upon this custom is for the girl to walk into the kitchen and secure a juicy apple pie. Return to the parlor, holding the pie carefully before you. Take a knife and cut it into quarters. Put one quarter on a plate, pour over it some rich cream, lay a spoon beside the pie and hand it to the young man, saying at the same time: “I made this pie myself.” This beats the cellar stairs and mirror experiment about ten miles. It is a certain augur of the future.

Throwing an apple peeling over the shoulder is another odd old custom for Halloween observance. The peeling is supposed to curl into a letter representing the initial of the future husband’s name. A better test than this is to let the young man see you idly scribbling. You write your first name and then his last name. Thus, if your first name is Lucille and his last name is Miggleberry, you would write “Lucille Miggleberry.” Naturally, he will want to see what you have written. Then you must blush and seem confused and try to tear of the paper. DO NOT TEAR IT UP. After due reluctance, let him see what you have written, coyly explaining that you just wondered how the names would look together.

Burning a paper on which is written the name of the adored one is also a favorite charm for Halloween. This is popularly supposed to bring him to his senses. A much surer plan, and a more sociable one, is to invite him to spend the evening, and also to ask another man—a handsome man who is tolerably smitten with you himself. Contrive to send the second man home earlier than the adored one. This is said to work well indeed.

Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 30 October 1904: p. 33

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Other Hallowe’en customs included hiding a dime, a ring and a thimble in a cake or a dish of mashed potatoes. The person finding the ring will soon be married. The one who gets the thimble will be a spinster. And the finder of the dime will never lack for money.  Mrs Daffodil suspects that there was often some sleight-of-hand involved in cutting the cake or dishing the potatoes. There were still other rituals involving mirrors at midnight and various rhyming charms at windows.

Mrs Daffodil is puzzled as to how a religious feast  celebrating the dead emerging from their graves to wander the earth became a festival of divinatory practices to identify one’s future spouse. One supposes it is a manifestation of that vulgar expression, “sex and death,” so amply represented in these latter days by the many “naughty nurse” Hallowe’en costumes.

Mrs Daffodil has written of other, darker Hallowe’en superstitions and of Queen Victoria’s celebration of Hallowe’en at Balmoral.

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.