Category Archives: Gardening and flowers

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.

 

“No Flowers”: 1891

"Gates Ajar" funeral flower tribute. [private collection.]

“Gates Ajar” funeral flower tribute. [private collection.]

NO FLOWERS AT FUNERAL

But You Can’t Defeat an Enterprising Florist

[Chicago Mail.]

“Remember that that ‘Gates Ajar’ must go up to Brown’s before 9 o’clock to-morrow morning,” said a Wabash-avenue florist to one of his employes the other afternoon, “and don’t forget that it is to be an n.f. affair and that you’ll have to keep our eyes open.”

“What is an n.f. funeral?” I ventured to ask, after the young man addressed had left us.

“No flowers,” sententiously answered the proprietor.

“That means, then, that you are taking flowers to a funeral where they are prohibited?”

“Precisely.”

“Do so frequently?”

“Every day.”

“Then ‘no flowers’ really doesn’t mean no flowers after all, does it?”

“It doesn’t if we can help it—rest assured of that. We are here to sell flowers. The funeral trade forms an important part of our business, and we have to protect ourselves against the anti-floral cranks as best we can. The ‘no flowers’ order is a fashionable fad and nothing else. It originated in New York years ago at a funeral of one of the Vanderbilts, who requested that no flowers should be displayed during his obsequies. I was working for a new York florist at that time, and I well remember what a flutter this innovation caused among the tradesmen in our line of business. They did not care about losing the single Vanderbilt job, but they feared that such an example in the ultra-fashionable world would be followed by its general adoption. Thus a whim of fashion might deal a severe blow to the floral trade. The leading florists immediately held a conference and it was unanimously decided that the great funeral must not be permitted to set the fashion and inaugurate an anti-flowers era. Several very costly and elaborate floral pieces were prepared, but I spite of all we could do the orders of the deceased were obeyed to the letter and we were unable to get a solitary flower inside the Vanderbilt residence. An attempt to bribe the servants failed, as they had received ironclad instructions not to permit a floral offering of any kind whatsoever to be taken inside the house. This ultimatum fell like a wet blanket upon our hopes, but still we determined not to quit the field without making one last bold ‘bluff.’ A magnificent ivy cross was made—one of the finest that ever was seen in this country. I was about six feet high and was composed of a mass of English ivy leaves and tendrils. It represented a good round sum, let me tell you, and a good deal of work. But there was not a bud or a flower in it anywhere. Just before the time appointed for the exercises to begin we took the cross to the Vanderbilt residence, and, as we expected, were stopped at the door by a liveried lackey, who denied us admission.

“But there must be no delay about this matter, we insisted. ‘It must go in and at once. Come now; we have no time to parley with you.’

“’You can not come in.’

“’We must.’

“’I have strict orders not to admit any flowers. I can not do it.’

“’But there are no flowers in this. Look at it for yourself. It was built entirely in accordance with the wishes of the family. You have no orders against admitting ivy, have you?’

“He hesitated. Just then something round and hard dropped into his hand. He was lost. A moment later that beautiful cross stood at the head of the casket. I shall always remember the remark of my companion as we left the house: ‘Well, Jim. We’ve beaten the old man cold at his own game.’”

Talk about push and business enterprise! Are there any limits beyond which they can not go?

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 8 August 1891: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The “anti-flower cranks” came in several flavours:  reformers who felt that the tributes contributed to the extravagance of Victorian funerals; those who found them vulgar; and those who had medical grounds. Here is an argument from the latter:

The reformers suggest that the notice of the death which appears in the papers should end with the announcement: “No flowers.” A novel argument against the sending of these tributes is that the petals of the flowers serve to keep the germs which are given off from the dead body, and in the case of people who died from infectious diseases they may become a positive source of danger, and…be absolutely death dealing. Then again the custom of preserving these wreaths is denounced by many medical men, who contend that they, containing as they do morbific bacteria, are a constant source of danger and a menace to the healthy life of those who afterward occupy the rooms. Evening Star [Washington, DC] 14 February 1891: p. 12

“No Flowers at Funeral” is an excerpt from The Victorian Book of the Dead, which contains other stories about floral tributes at funerals in its look at the popular culture of Victorian death and mourning.

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 Wild-Flower Wedding: 1898

Gathering Wild Blossoms

Gathering Wild Blossoms

The wild flower wedding is said to bring luck to the bridal pair; their children’s children will rise up to call them blessed. September and October are ideal months for weddings and share their popularity only with June and its wealth of roses. However, while the summer month offers only one flower in abundance, the autumn offers many blossoms, to be had for the picking.

The most beautiful decoration imaginable may be arranged from the small purple and white daisies, golden-rod and Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot). The abundant rains of this summer insure vigorous and lovely wild flowers, during the next six weeks, and an hour’s trolley ride will place one in the midst of a wonderful crop of them. These will decorate drawing-room or church chancel gracefully and effectively.

It is a fact well worth knowing that the tiny Michaelmas daisy, as it is called in the old country, may be picked and used the day before it is needed and look only the prettier the next noon for its sleep in church or room over night.

Twice the writer has seen an “insider” at weddings where this fact has been proven. They were cut with long stems, and placed in masses over chancel windows, on the cross-beams and wherever the arrangement was most effective. By the next morning the flowers had closed and formed a tiny white bud. The exquisitely dainty effect may be imagined when the reader is told that every window had first been massed with cedar which had been picked in the neighboring woods.

Young light green branches which grew low down and sheltered from the sun were chosen, and left the trees none the worse for the loss of a little underbrush.

The bell which hung over the heads of the happy pair was made of these same flowers over a foundation of wire with asparagus green as a background.

On the wedding morning the more fragile flowers were added to the decorations, but golden-rod in abundance had been freely used the day before.

Just here comes to mind another hint for wild flower decoration, which is to use the drain pipe jars, such as are used for umbrella stands, and are very effective filled with golden rod, daisies and wild carrot.

Most country church societies possess a tent or two used for bazars, strawberry festivals, and the like, and will gladly rent them for a small sum. At the two weddings mentioned the breakfast or luncheon was served in one of them instead of crowding the guests into the house. The bride and groom with their attendants and the bride’s parents stood in the drawing-room only long enough for the company to file by and out into the open air again, offering their congratulations on the way.

After this, with appetites well sharpened, all repaired to the tent, which was forty feet long, the sides looped high and the poles covered with the same green and white decorations so effective in the church.

Many, beautiful garden flowers had been sent, and formed rich and varied coloring on the table, but they certainly had to take second place.

In case of a city wedding it would scarcely be possible to use wild flowers in the abundance described above, for a large haywagon was pressed into service to carry the golden-rod and greens for these occasions, but a basket trunk, with its contents lightly pressed down and damp cotton on top and bottom, will hold a surprising amount of material. But why not be bolder still, and charter a cart, such as is used to peddle fruit? Its owner will be made happy, while a merry party helps him to fill it with the most beautiful load imaginable.

Brides of today are too scientific to place any value upon signs, but there is no harm in the knowledge that a wild flower wedding is said to insure for bride and groom a long and happy life, with children and grandchildren to rise up and call them blessed.

New England Florist, Volume 4: 1898 p. 381

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil does not like to suggest that the editorial staff of New England Florist was paltering with the truth, but the notion of a wild-flower wedding being lucky does not appear in Notes & Queries or other standard folk-lore reference works. Still, newly-invented “fake-lore” or not, it is a charming thought and might prove popular with those people who are forever clambouring about things being “green.” Mrs Daffodil will tactfully not mention the old rhyme:  “Married in green, ashamed to be seen.”

Of course, the reality of the thing might prove rather different:

How lovely would a wild-flower wedding be—in theory! Wood anemones make an ideally-poetic ornament, but they are too fragile for practical purposes. Harebells shrink and shrivel almost immediately they are gathered. Even the sturdy foxglove droops it head within an hour, and the primrose lolls and lounges on its slender stalk like a delicate lady. A sunflower and hollyhock wedding would do for the Kilmanseggs of this world. The race is far from extinct, and loves the grand and gaudy as much as ever it did in the days of Hood the greater. [The reference is to Miss Kilmansegg and Her Golden Leg, by Thomas Hood.] We might have fruit weddings, and very pretty they would be for brides and bridegrooms who have reached the autumn of life; and for some weddings we wot of, winter berries would form a neat and fitting accompaniment. Truth, Volume 10, 1881: p. 722

golden rod

Mrs Daffodil would recommend that if golden-rod has been brought in by the wagon-load, as suggested by New England Florist, those wedding guests or members of the bridal party who are sensitive to its pollen, might wish to carry several pocket-handkerchiefs.

For a look at more conventional bridal flowers, (or “abnormal greenhouse products,” as a wild-flower fancier described them in 1892), see “Flowers a Bride Should Carry: 1902.”

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.

 

Mrs Daffodil Takes a Holiday

messengerbird

Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Materialising Flower Apports

Corsets and Beer Wagons: Floral Vulgarities

Animal Likenesses in Flowers

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with opulent picnic hampers and minimal insect accompaniment.

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.

 

Mrs Daffodil Reviews Her Readers’ Favourite Posts of 2015

reading woman

 

Mrs Daffodil has been leafing through her scrapbooks and noting the posts that most found favour among her readers. As the year 2015 passes, here are some nostalgic favourites. Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the happiest of New Years!

An archival post on The Angel of Gettysburg is a perennial favourite.

A look at the grewsome relics of King Charles I was also popular.

A Bashful Bridegroom was the “hit” of the June bridal specials.

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands continues to fascinate.

How to Make Stage-Thunder and Lightning seems to have struck a chord.

Also popular were An X-ray Spook Party, Motto Dresses, Men who wear Corsets, Bicycle Jewellery, and, a personal favourite of Mrs Daffodil, who was able to “scoop” that person of mortuary fancies over at Haunted Ohio, The Death Drawer.

Mrs Daffodil will return to her regular level of service early in January 2016. Happy New Year!

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.

 

 

 

An Autumn Leaf Entertainment: 1910

AUTUMN LEAF ENTERTAINMENT

Invitations for a pretty Autumn function in the open were written on cards shaped (from a sheet of cardboard) to represent Autumn leaves.

One side of each card was daintily tinted in yellow, scarlet or green, while on the reverse was written an informal bidding worded like this:

“Come and enjoy the splendor of the Autumn leaves on the lawn at Hollywood, next Thursday fortnight, from 3 till 6.

Autumn leaves of red and yellow,

Autumn leaves of gold and scarlet.”

When the guests arrived on the appointed date it was discovered that the entertainer had contrived to have an exactly equal number of men and women present. Each guest was given a wooden rake tied with ribbon of some color, and men and girls whose ribbons matched were partners for the games of the afternoon.

The first of these was where guests were conducted to the leaf strewn lawn and were assigned to the task of raking up the leaves. Two small prizes were offered for the largest heap of leaves collected by any pair of partners during the next ten minutes, guests ranging at will over the greensward, but respecting, of course, any little piles gathered up by other players. The man and girl who succeeded best in this endeavor, in the judgment of their hostess, won little enameled pins for collar or cravats, representing scarlet and yellow Autumn leaves.

During the next half hour the leafy masses raked up in the preceding game were used as the basis of another contest. The entertainer explained that each rake was ornamented with ribbon in a hue that might be duplicated in the Autumn leaves. She announced prizes in waiting for those who during the next ten minutes should discover in the pile raked up by them the largest number of leaves of the color used on their rakes. Some of the wooden implements, it was found, had scarlet, some a paler red, some lemon yellow, others green, others dull ochre, etc. Those holding these colors accordingly went in search of them. The best collections won for their makers sofa pillows embroidered in a design of Autumn leaves.

After the awarding of these prizes the company adjourned to the porch for a round at progressive cards. Each little card table was decorated with a colored faience bowl containing some beautifully tinted ivy with blue berries and the tally cards were leaf shapes which the hostess punched with a ticket chopper to indicate progress won. The prizes were blotters and penwipers representing colored maple leaves.

Later on the cards and other appurtenances of the game were removed and the guests enjoyed a dainty Indian Summer refreshment at the little card tables.

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 30 October 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil must applaud the ingenuity of the “entertainer” who contrived to have her guests clear the lawn of “Hollywood” of the surplus autumn foliage under the guise of a “game.” Little enamelled leaf pins and sofa-cushions embroidered with leaves are a small price to pay for a clean swath of greensward. The pairing of the couples was a clever touch, designed to disguise the true motives of the hostess. One wonders if she also managed to win enough at the card game to pay for the dainty Indian Summer refreshments and the penwipers.

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.

 

 

Flowers a Bride Should Carry: 1902

A 1907 wedding couple and page boy. http://lafayette.org.uk/may5353.html

A 1907 wedding couple and page boy. http://lafayette.org.uk/may5353.html

Flowers a Bride Should Carry

By Martha Coman

Flowers  always been pre-eminently a symbol of nature’s bursts of joy, and for that reason, perhaps, more than any other, excepting their own beauteous excuse for being, they have been used lavishly for all festive occasions. But there is no one time when flowers are so universally called upon to play an important part as in the month of June, for then it is that the carved arches of the church and the walls of the home echo back the triumphant notes of the wedding march. There is but one thing fairer than a perfect day in June, and that is a June bride, clad in shimmering satin and crowned with folds of frosty lace.

The flowers the bride shall carry is a question to be decided by her own individuality, for every girl has her favorite, and her wedding day is a welcome opportunity to make her choice a public one. The bride’s bouquet is not invariably of pure white, though the paler colors are more effective and much more acceptable than the deeper ones of red or pink. Lilies-of-the-valley made up into one of the beautiful shower bouquets are about as appropriate for the fair maiden as anything, though there are innumerable combinations possible in the way of orchids and violets.

The shower bouquet is rarely successfully turned out by an amateur, and those persons who save the last sweet service of personally arranging the bride’s flowers for their own fingers had best not attempt much in the way of a shower. But the palest of pink roses or the beautiful bride roses are at hand and can be easily arranged. The sweet, old-fashioned white lilac is a most acceptable flower to use when the bouquet is put together by loving hands rather than by busy professional ones, and it lends itself easily to an admirable result.

White orchids combined with the delicate green of the Farleyencis fern make a stunning bouquet, especially when the whole is tied lavishly with broad, soft velvet ribbon that matches exactly in shade the delicate petals of the rare exotic. This flower and fern, put together in the form called the “Princess Plume” bouquet, is a most beautiful and effective accessory to the bride’s attire.

The violet cuff bouquet was a fad for a time, as was also the Du Barry collarette of the same modest but popular flower. The collarette and cuff effects were generally used only for the bride’s attendants, the bride herself carrying a huge shower bouquet of white violets. Leghorn hats of white, lavishly decorated with pink roses and tied on with broad streamers of ribbon to match, are very pretty for bridesmaids, and it is then a most effective idea to have the attendants carry only large bunches of waving, feathery, maidenhair fern. Wild sweet-brier roses and apple blossoms are very lovely for floral decorations, but they are rather difficult to manage when it comes to the bouquets, and so they are both more popular for wall and aisle decorations.

wedding flowers article illustration

Marguerites are pretty for the little pages to carry, and they are also most effective for banking chancel rails and the like. One extremely pretty wedding occurred not long ago, at which marguerites were extensively used, as this was the bride’s favorite flower, and also because she was a Marguerite in name.

The pages, two boys and two little girls, carried straw hats tied in the form of baskets and swung over the arms of the children with broad streamers of ribbon. The hats were filled to overflowing with the nodding field flowers, and after they had been decorously carried up the aisle to the altar, and when the ceremony had been performed, the little tots walked down the aisle ahead of the bride and groom strewing in their path the blossoms from the basket hats. It was done so solemnly and so sweetly by the grave-faced children, and was in itself so tenderly significant, that many a spectator found himself looking on with dimmed eyes.

Another most effective idea in the way of a novelty is that of having the bride’s attendants carry shepherds’ crooks, the long, graceful affairs painted pure white, and to each one tied a beautiful bouquet of Mermot roses. From these depend sweeping streamers of white velvet ribbon. The effect is extremely beautiful. When orchids of a pale and most delicate tint are tied with velvet ribbons it is often the fad to have the streamer ends embroidered in the same tints.

Gardenias and violets are a lovely combination, though it is generally the custom to use either the one flower or the other. A bridal bouquet has a certain sweet dignity of its own, and this must not be encroached upon by any injudicious combinations of colors. The “plume” bouquet is one now very popular, and its name really indicates its peculiar shape. The plume is built, not as a round or shower bouquet is, but the plume is made to lie along one’s left arm, the heavy heads of the long-stemmed roses lying over the crook of the elbow, and the stems crossing the front of one’s gown. Sweet peas, the long-stemmed variety, are very stunning made into a double plume, or with great bunches of the flowers at both ends, and when this is the case the centre is carefully wrapped with wide ribbon, which hides the stems successfully and leaves only the pretty blossoms in sight.

At one of the early spring weddings which occurred while the lilacs were still in full bloom, the bride carried a beautiful loose bunch of pure white lilacs, relieved only by the subdued green of their own pretty leaves, while her attendants carried great bouquets of the same flower, but in the purple shade. Great branches of the same old-fashioned flowers were fastened about the altar rail and lined the aisle, and the clean, spring-like fragrance was everywhere.

Perhaps, when it comes to the last word concerning the flowers for the bride, and unless her individual taste is rather out of the ordinary, there is nothing lovelier for the maiden than a great loose bunch of the real bride roses, those heavy-headed white flowers that are at once so lovely and so symbolical.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, 24 July, 1902

"The Bridal Wreath," by Currier & Ives, mid-19th century. http://art.famsf.org/currier-and-ives/bridal-wreath-19992025

“The Bridal Wreath,” by Currier & Ives, mid-19th century. http://art.famsf.org/currier-and-ives/bridal-wreath-19992025

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In some families there exists the custom of including a sprig of myrtle, symbol of love and constancy, in the bridal bouquet.

A pretty German custom that is beginning to be observed here is to plant a spray or two of the bridal wreath when it is made of natural flowers. The wife of a well-known German citizen, full of this tender sentiment, brought with her to this country a flourishing little plant grown from her own myrtle wreath. A little while ago her daughter was married and her wreath was composed of the starry blossoms from her mother’s carefully tended shrub. Omaha [NE] World Herald 17 August 1891: p. 3

All royal brides who are related to the Queen have a sprig of myrtle on their wedding day that is cut from a particular tree. This tree was grown from a slip sent from Germany for the bridal bouquet of the Princess Royal, and the tree it was cut from dates back to the time of the Crusaders. Otago [NZ] Witness, 30 December 1897: p. 43

An 1885 brides-maid's crook with flower arrangement.

An 1885 brides-maid’s crook with flower arrangement.

As for shepherds’ crooks for the brides-maids, they are (Mrs Daffodil has personally observed) deadly in the wrong hands, so perhaps the less encouragement they receive, the better. As this 1890 article observed:

Bridesmaids have not yet learned to carry their canes as gracefully as Watteau’s creations handled the insignia of their pastoral calling. Let me advise any lady desirous of adopting this fashion at her own wedding to see that the bridesmaids are well-drilled previous to the ceremony, so that uniformity in the carriage of the canes may be observed.

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.