Category Archives: History 1910-1930

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.

 

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The Most Eccentric Dresser in America: 1916

THE MOST ECCENTRIC DRESSER IN AMERICA
Barbara Craydon

There is in America at least one woman to whom the styles do not matter. Styles may come and styles may go but Baroness Else von Freitag leaves them out of her calculations altogether. She is her own designer and dressmaker. One might say that she dresses as she paints, for as an artist this highly temperamental woman is a follower of the futuristic school.

Seven years ago Baroness von Freitag came to America from Germany. It was not until she entered the art field in New York that she began dressing otherwise than in a semi-conventional way. In fact she seems to have caught her inspiration from the riotous colors of the futurists, and was seen in some of the most marvelous clothes New York has ever observed.

Everything that comes to her hands may be turned to a use in her art of dress. One electrifying costume is trimmed with common meat skewers painted in most intricate design. Another is ornamented with the gilt spiral springs such as one uses in hanging bird ages. Elaborate bead work, resembling the wampum of the Indians figures largely in her scheme of decoration, and heavy embroideries of futuristic design and brilliant colors are made from nothing else than knitting wool. The baroness never throws anything away, and the effect in her clothes is marvelous.

“Clothes,” said the baroness in her studio, “should always be a matter of inspiration not of one person for thousands of different style women, but of each individual. When one follows the styles and makes herself a slave to those who invent the fashions she might just as well be in the uniform of an institution as not for all the individuality expressed in her garments. The only difference between the conventionally dressed persons and the inmates of an institution is that the style and texture of the garment is changed several times a year. While there is little expense in charity uniforms there is a demand for great outlay of money by those who are slaves to the fashions and listen to the dictates of the fashion makers.

“How often have you heard a woman say, ‘yes, the dress is pretty but I cannot wear it, I do not feel right in it.’ What more than an expression of that kind does one need to show that clothes ought to be made for the individual character? It does not matter from what materials things are constructed as long as they suit the personality of the wearer, as long as the colors blend harmoniously.

“Look about you at nature. It is seldom that the landscape presents a pale, fade-away pastel appearance. Flowers are bright with color, greens are vivid, all colors are bright. Why not use them in one’s garments? I revel in color, I must have color and plenty of it, but the colors must be put together artistically. I have found that persons who generally cling to one color have a mental attitude toward the world and things in general that harmonizes pretty well with their colors. Drab clothes fit drab-colored minds. Perhaps that is why people who have been gifted with brilliant minds have worn clothes that have been called fantastic in cut and in color. They have been criticized for such things and have been called eccentric, but then the world always calls persons whom they do not understand eccentric. It is the simplest way out for simple minds, a way that does not demand analysis, and removes all necessity of particular thought.”

Among the studios of New York City the baroness von Freitag has frequently been urged by fellow-artists to pose for pictures and it sometimes amuses her to do so. Her poses are full of imagination, full of life. There are times when she refuses to pose, especially if she does not like the style of work that the artist is doing. She insists that she must be in sympathy with the artist’s work, must understand what he is doing before she can give him a satisfactory pose. The baroness says that just standing or sitting still for an artist is no posing.

The baroness has a most marvelous collection of rings, many of them are silver set with dull stones, others she was made herself from artistically arranged beads. Some of these that she has made are futuristic in the extreme. One might say that she practically paints with her needle and the beads. The result is weird but extremely interesting.

“Why should I not cover my hands with rings if I wish?” she said, looking up from her work. “Others cover their hands with gloves. I think gloves ugly. I would certainly to feel at home with my hands encased with gloves. But my rings are a joy and pleasure to me. Sometimes I can wear only one. It depends upon my state of mind. But when I am very happy and gay I like to wear them all. Barbaric? Perhaps it is. If so, I like the barbaric.”

Shoes, also, the baroness thinks, ought to be a matter of artistic work on the part of the wearer. One pair of slippers of black satin she has made into footgear to suit her. These are Oriental to an extreme, beaded and ringed. And from the back of one hang two large beaded tassels.

When an ordinary “slave to fashions” might spend a day in selecting a hat the baroness will spend a week in making one to please her. One creation is made from the crown of a derby hat which this original woman has painted and glazed until it looks like a highly lacquered helmet. On top, for a decoration, is a long bone hair pin partly sheathed in an intricate bead design. At the back of the hat coming down to the nape of her neck she has added a strip of silver-covered cardboard edged with a gilt trimming. The effect is that of a headpiece of an Amazon, and when dressed in the costume she has designed to go with the hat the baroness carries with her one of her pet alligators.

Truly if one searched the United States from coast to coast, from north to South, it might be difficult to find a more amazingly gowned woman than the baroness, and it would also probably be difficult to find a woman who spends less in money or more in energy on her clothes than she does. As for the enjoyment derived from clothes, the baroness takes a delight in her costumes that is extremely frank and genuine enough to suggest that clothes pleasure may have been neglected by the philosophers as an element of the art of life.

New Orleans [LA] States 1 October 1916: p. 45

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Baroness (the newspaper misspells her name, which is correctly rendered Else von Freytag-Loringhoven) was born Elsa Plötz in the supremely un-futuristically-named town of Swinemünde, Germany.  She came to the United States after helping her second husband fake suicide to escape his creditors. She was a luminary of the Dada and avante-garde movements.  Mrs Daffodil must confess that she is inherently unsympathetic to movements known as “Futuristic” or, indeed, as any sort of “istic,” as they suggest those who advocate the wearing of tin-foil head-gear.

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

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

Fashions in Stationery: 1873-1923

pink china stationery rack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mourning stationery a

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

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

kingston lacy stationery assortment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Messrs. Dempsey & Carroll.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, August 1877

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

UP TO DATE STATIONERY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stationery portfolio

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

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

penrhyn castle stationery box

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

Country House Stationery.

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

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

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

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

crossing the bar mourning stationery

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

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

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

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

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

Godey’s Lady’s Book, July 1893

 

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

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

 

Lady Embalmers: 1892-1921

 

EMBALMING BODIES.

STRANGE OCCUPATION FOLLOWED BY MANY AMERICAN WOMEN.

They Are Adepts at Ministering In the House of Mourning—Modern Developments of the Ancient Egyptian Art of Embalming the Dead.

Very few Americans know that the ancient art of embalming has been completely restored and improved, though not in the ancient way. Not only are bodies now preserved far more perfectly than at any time by the Egyptians, but all the unpleasant, not to say revolting, incidents of their practice are avoided.

At the outbreak of our civil war it was taken for granted that speedy decay was the fate of all the dead, and it was only by such rude appliances as ice and salt or the most pungent drugs that any of the bodies of those slain in battle could be taken home for burial. The demand suddenly created set hundreds of physicians and undertakers to investigating, but such is the natural reverence for all that is old that people generally spoke of embalming as a lost art, and even the scientific declared that in this climate it would be impossible to preserve a corpse as in ancient Egypt.

At the very beginning of the war one Confederate and several Federal surgeons began to study methods of corpse preservation, and the net result of all their labors and those of many other gentlemen may be summed up in one sentence; All the old, barbarous methods are discarded, and in their stead arterial injection and other processes which do not mutilate the corpse in the slightest degree are employed.

The business of embalming seems like a queer occupation for the gentler sex, but it is an interesting fact that there are now nearly 300 ladies in the United States engaged in undertaking, and several of these are very skillful embalmers. Mrs. J. L. Young of Vinton, Ia., began as her husband’s assistant, but soon developed such a mastery of it that he gave her entire control. She is a native of New York, born Miss Fellows.

Mrs. James T. Brett of Milwaukee, a native of Boston, developed early in life a peculiar aptitude for ministering in the house of mourning and is now truly scientific ladies’ embalmer. She is also a writer of ability, a lady of refinement and high social position. Mrs. Fred H. Russ of Chicago, of the firm of “Mr. & Mrs.. Fred H. Russ,” as it is now established, is also a skillful embalmer and very graceful writer. Mrs. John Greenslade of Bellevue, O., studied embalming under the instruction of Professor Renouard and has been in the practice two years. Mrs. Heaton Dart was the first lady embalmer in New York city and state, took a thorough course of study and has been in the business over 10 years.

Miss Fannie Gardner of Vincennes has the honor of being the first lady undertaker in Indiana. She has also taken a course in the study of embalming and is entering on the work. Mrs. Ellen Moore of Reading, Pa., began to serve as an undertaker in 1831, and at date of her last report had laid out 5,438 bodies. Another very old practitioner is Mrs. George F. Wildman of Bridgeport, Conn., who began in 1845 at the age of 16.

It goes without saying that every city and considerable town should have at least one lady well informed on the subject, for so long as present ideas prevail the corpses of both sexes will be embalmed.

The Owensboro [KY] Messenger 23 July 1893: p. 7

NO LITTLE UNDERTAKING

Is Implied in Mrs. Heaton Dart’s Strange Choice of Occupation.

Mrs. Heaton Dart enjoy the distinction–and a rare one it is nowadays–of being almost the only woman in her particular field of labor. And yet, withal, Mrs. Dart is an unassuming person. She gives herself no airs. She does not act the Pharisee toward the women who do not possess her knowledge. No, she doesn’t look down on them at all.

It may be that one reason for this modest attitude is that not one of the millions of women who don’t know how to do what Mrs. Heaton Dart does envies her her knowledge. For the fact is Mrs. Dart is an embalmer. She and her niece are the only women in New York State who are professional embalmers, and there seems to be no disposition to rob them of their laurels.

Mrs. Dart lives in a pretty flat near Central Park. She has an attractive face distinguished by a peculiarly strong mouth. An observer would at once put her down as a woman of intelligence and refinement, a womanly woman, and a plucky woman, but without the almost brutal indifference which often asserts itself in men who become familiar with trying experiences. Mrs. Dart looks as If she could make a success of almost anything. That does not lessen one’s curiosity as to why she chose to make a success of embalming. But she is quite ready to give the reason.

“Seven years ago,” says this woman of the gruesome profession, “1 was living in Scranton. Pa., when a sister-in-law of mine died. I needn’t tell you the whole story, but will say that the experience we then had with an embalmer, so called, was so terrible that my brother asked me to learn the business myself, simply to be able to take care of our own family. I was a widow and needed some occupation, so I took a course at the College of Embalming, and became so enthusiastic over the work that I came to New York, and have practised the profession for five years.

“I met with the most violent opposition from the undertakers. There were ten thousand of them in their association, and they put every possible obstruction in my way. Why? Oh, they said that they had men whom they paid regularly, and that if I came in to attend to special cases these men had to sit around idle. You see, anyone would rather have a woman or child embalmed by a woman than by a man. I have often been asked by families for whom I have worked to embalm the body or a man. I always refused, because if I say that only women embalmers should care for the bodies of women I must be consistent, and see that the rule works both ways.

“The undertakers make it hard for me in another way, too. They give me the very worst cases: suicides and people who have been burned to death or have died of contagious diseases. I have had many a strange experience, but for all that, I love my work.”

Mrs. Dart got out her instruments, which she carries in a harmless-looking music roll, and gave details of her professional work. She talks of the forty funerals a month, following the forty embalmings, of which she has charge. There, again, her feminine tact and taste are highly appreciated. There are fashions even in funeral robes, and it takes a woman properly to adjust a big sleeve or to loop the draperies with violets, this latter being quite a fashionable funeral fad. The demands for Mrs. Dart’s services have become so numerous that she has trained her niece to be her assistant and the two women are very proud of the profession they have so strangely chosen.

The Sun [New York NY] 10 September 1893: p. 17

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil applauds these pioneers of the mortuary profession, particularly Mrs Dart with her “harmless-looking music roll.” There was, indeed, quite a bit of resistance from the gentlemen embalmers, but as embalming became an essential part of funeral service, some took the view that the delicacy brought to the (embalming) table by a lady practitioner, was a selling-point.

VIRGINIA UP WITH THE TIMES

We notice by one of the Twin City papers a boast of having lady embalmers, which is a modern idea, for the care of ladies and children. Virginia is up with the time on this point, as we have a lady embalmer in our city who is a graduate of the Barnes School of Anatomy, Sanitary Science and Embalming of Chicago, the largest and most advanced educational institution of its kind in the world. After graduating this lady has successfully passed both Wisconsin and Minnesota Board of Health examinations and been granted a license to practice. The lady of whom we speak is Mrs. Selma Ala, of the firm of Edward Ala & Co. of this city. She is a lady of rare ability in the profession, a kind and pleasant disposition with whom we can all leave the care of our beloved dead ones and know that honor, respect and tenderness will ever be shown. We can appreciate the privilege of having such a lady to perform these necessary duties that it is not right and proper for a man to do. The secrecy maintained by mother, sister, wife or daughter should be kept sacred to their memory, and how can we better regard their feelings than by employing a lady embalmer. The Virginia [MN] Enterprise 1 March 1912: p. 7

Mrs Harry Mason White directly addressed the question of

Women as Embalmers

  1. Should lady embalmers and lady assistants be encouraged by the profession?
  2. Having been asked to answer the above question, I herewith reply, speaking from my seven years’ experience as a lady embalmer.

When death enters the home, and robs it of mother, daughter or prattling babe, the bereaved family naturally turn to a sympathetic friend for advice and assistance.

At that time a lady embalmer may not only perform her necessary duties for the departed one, but by her tender and solicitous care for the comfort and assistance of those who mourn, she will prove a blessing and surely a friend never to be forgotten.

Are our loved ones not as sacred in death as in life, and should we allow the opposite sex to perform work at that time, which we would not allow in life?

The question, “If a nurse washes and prepares a body for the undertaker, why is a lady embalmer required?” is often asked. Every member of the profession certainly knows, or should know, that a gentleman called upon to do the embalming may just as well do all the work as part of it; there is no dividing line; a lady embalmer should perform the entire work from the time she is called in until the body is placed in the casket.

When an experienced woman is in charge, the family, having full confidence in her ability, give the care of their dear ones to her, knowing she will arrange the clothes, dress the hair and attend to the minor details as she would for her own.

Should the lady embalmer be encouraged by the profession? Yes, a lady who not only understands the art and science of embalming, but who is expert in all the other details of the work, by her kind and sympathetic manner to the bereaved can comfort them in their sorrow and is by all means a necessity and a growing need.

Has the business reached the high goal entitling it to be called a profession? At the present day, decidedly no; had it attained that elevated standard, lady embalmers would be constantly sought for, but at the present time, the undertakers are jealously guarding every entrance by which a woman may enter this path of duty.

When the lady embalmer is recognized by the undertaker it will be an evidence that it is worthy to be called a profession; for the gentle and refining influence of successful ladies in the business, will raise the public estimate and tend to elevate the business to a profession in its true sense, and make it an art which any true participant should be proud to practice, and a profession in which any lady would certainly not be ashamed to be engaged.

MRS. HARRY MASON WHITE.

The Essentials of Anatomy, Sanitary Science and Embalming, Asa Johnson Dodge, 1906:  pp. 227-228

Despite the inroads made by these early lady embalmers, the profession was still, alas, subject to foolish jokes:

Why Wait?

As a special inducement to kick the bucket we find Yonkers undertakers advertising “Lady Embalmer.”

Baxter Daily Citizen [Baxter Springs KS] 10 October 1921: 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.

If you have an interest in Victorian mourning customs and curiosities, you will want to visit The Victorian Book of the Dead Facebook page and the blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

What Shall I Give: Christmas Suggestions for the Seven Ages of Man: 1913

18ct gold dressing table set Tiffany 1930s

18-ct gold Tiffany gentleman’s dressing table set, 1930s https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/24252/lot/357/

WHAT SHALL I GIVE?

CHRISTMAS SUGGESTIONS. (By Imogen in the “Dominion.”) The most distracting thing in the world is to know what to give at Christmas time, and the difficulty is still more accentuated when the recipient is a man, and since there are so many men there must be an equal number of. sorely-perplexed women ransacking their brains for ideas that may materialise into new, useful, or ornamental gifts for members of their family, friends, or those of any other standing in their regard.

In desperation the question was hurled at a modest, unsuspecting, hard-working man the other day.

“What would you like for a Christmas Present?

The pen fell out of his hand and he subsided into his chair. “This is awfully sudden,” he murmured in subdued, tones. “Have you come in for unlimited wealth?”

“No! I’m, merely wanting to know what men like for presents.” was the crushing reply.

“Oh Is that all!”

A pause.

“I see what you’re after,” he broke out. with a sudden rush of discernment. “You shall have my little lot.”

After a few seconds’ laboured thinking, he handed in triumph a small sheet of paper. “Quite simple, don’t you think?”

The paper read as follows:

“One new pipe, costing 2s 6d; one new cricket bat, weighing only 21b 4oz, with sliding cane in the handle; one pair feather-weight shoes, weighing .0005 of an oz. so that I could field at cricket.”

The suggestions found an encouraging reception, especially the featherweight shoes. Another occupant of the room was asked his preferences. His cup of happiness was so full, however, that all he could think of was a new pipe (evidently an insatiable and everlasting need among men) and, as an afterthought, a pair of bath slippers, and not even after a few minutes devoted to hard thinking could he think of any other need. He was not a millionaire either, or if he was he kept the fact a deep, dark, horrible secret, possibly, a necessary thing in these Socialistic, Red Federation days. A newcomer into the room was asked ingratiatingly what he would like given, to him. Delightedly he smiled. “It’s very kind of you. There are a few trifles I would like, especially as I may be going to England shortly. Shall I begin?” He began!!!

“A safe money-belt; a fitted suitcase; a. dressing-case; a shaving outfit; pair of prism binoculars; Thermos flask; monogramed pocketbook; walking-stick medicine case; military brushes; opera glasses; silver shoehorn collar-case; silver soap cup; safety razor; fountain–!!!

“Why, what is the matter I can still go on, you know.”

It was an undoubted fact. He was prepared to go on for quite a long time, but a telephone call being made upon him, he had to vanish.

A comprehensive addition to the little list of possible gifts enumerated above might be found in the appended suggestions, which are taken from the Christmas number of the “Ladies’ Home Journal.” It is quite suited to the seven ages of man:

rabbit rattle

German velvet rabbit rattle, c. 1906 http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1122524/soft-toy/

For the Baby Boy.

Hanger for his wardrobe, trimmed baby basket, celluloid, rubber, and stuffed toys, hand-made dresses and skirts, celluloid toilet sets, rompers, worsted cap, silk bonnet, corduroy coat, stuffed animals, silver cup, low table and chairs, eiderdown bath robe, rattle, ring, and dell, pillow-cover, bootees, worsted sacque, sweater, leggings, carriage cosy, rag doll, silver spoon, table tray, bath thermometer.

For Little and Big Boys.

House slippers, building blocks, indoor-outdoor games, balance toys, moving toys, mechanical toys, soldier’s suit, fireman’s suit, books, dog, kitten, rabbit, bird, dog-collar, folding desk, roller skates, comb and brush set, kindergarten gifts, reflecting lantern, camera, bicycle, athletic game books, clothes-brush, penknife, boxing gloves, pedometer, pocket compass, inexpensive watch, Indian clubs, blackboard, electric train, painting book, bow and. arrow, scout equipment, shooting game with cork ammunition, cowboy suit, vocational toys, filled school case, tool chest, stilts, boy’s suitcase, camping tent, microscope, gauntlet gloves, tool-chest, stationary engine, referee’s whistle, school pennant, megaphone, developing film.

 

The Young Man, Father, and Grandfather.

Gloves, silk hosiery, slumber slippers, blanket robe, housecoat, sectional bookcase, lawyer’s brief case, wing chair, footstool, pictures, desk, carving set, handy box, week-end trunk, Malacca walking-stick, evening slippers, rain-coat, silk shirt, hip pocket book (monogrammed), spring grip dumbbells, bill fold and wallet, medicine cupboard, leather key case numbered for 10-1 dozen keys, barometer, thermometer, flexible top cloth brush, silk or knitted muffler, umbrella, coin purse, magazine subscription, sweater, football, starter’s golf clubs, tennis racket, silk or flannel pyjamas, manicure set, triplicate mirrors, brush and comb set, toilet water.

travelling rug hermes 1930s

A leather and woollen travelling rug by Hermes, c. 1930s https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15398/lot/286/

If He Travels.

Leather sewing box, rubber-lined tourist cases, soft leather, necktie case’ with stickpin and collar button pockets, travelling rug and strap, leather shirt case with collar, cuff, glove, and tie compartments, suitcase, umbrella, travelling medicine chest, commutation ticket case, fitted toilet case, traveller’s slippers in case, fitted leather correspondence case, leather jewellery box.

 

If He Motors.

Fitted emergency case with instruction book, lunch basket, gloves, clock, pennant, automobile match safe, foot muff or warmer, motor roll for coats, etc., leather air cushions, motor rugs, goggles, muffler, leather shell coat.

cartier chinoiserie letter opener watch

Cartier chinoiserie letter opener/paper knife with clock. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22466/lot/1147/

For His Desk and Den.

Large calendar, newspaper rack, clock, desk set, letter clip, postage scales, assorted stationery, expanding hook shelves, large scrap basket, desk scissors, reading lamp, cushions, ivory paper knife.

gentleman's gold pocket watch chain and seal 1929

Gentleman’s gold pocket watch, chain, and fob, c. 1929 https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/17233/lot/188/

In Gold and Silver.

Eyeglass case, scarf pin, shirt studs, key chain, signet ring, charm, cuff links, gold pencil, fob, lapel chain, watch, gold buckle with leather belt, gold vest-pocket fountain pen, platinum chain for evening wear, silver photo frame.

1920s shetland golf jumper

A 1920s Shetland golf jumper, useful for any out-of-doors sport. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O368372/golf-jumper-unknown/

For Outdoor Life.

Leather leggings, folding pocket camera, driving gloves, raincoat, blazer, stop watch, athletic jersey, harness, saddle.

Timaru [NZ] Herald,  20 December 1913: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil would note that although slippers do appear  on the list, gentlemen rightly recoil from those beaded, Berlin-wool-work horrors young ladies inflict upon them.

Let us hear from a candid gentleman who enumerates the many useless gifts he has received over the years and frankly states what he wants:

A Christmas Letter.

From the Christmas Peck.

Dearest Phyllis:

Pray remember when you’re making up the list of your presents for December (unless I am to be missed) that I’ve slippers, picture brackets, smoking sets of various types, half a dozen smoking jackets, thirty-seven meerschaum pipes, twenty patent “kid glove menders,” collar boxes by the score, of embroidered silk suspenders forty-eleven pairs or more! That each year since I was twenty I’ve received a paper weight, have penwipers, ink stand plenty, paper cutters—twenty-eight. That I’ve Browning and Longfellow by the hundreds—every kind; Shakespeare—black and blue and yellow; Milton till I’m nearly blind!

So there’s just one present only that I’m wanting in this year of my bachelorship so lonely—that’s yourself, my Phyllis dear.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 25 December 1897: p. 15

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.

Liverwurst and Limburger: Christmas Presents Made at Home: 1911

house horrible button hook hanger

A button-hook hanger made from a potato masher. An example of a Happy Hands at Home holiday gift.

How To Make Christmas Presents at Home

(The first of our famous and helpful “How To Make” series.) By F. P. PITZER

A Teething Ring For Baby.

Keep an old liverwurst in a cool place for a day or so, and then rivet the ends together. Then cover the whole with wursted—oh, pshaw! we mean worsted—wrapping it around as closely and tightly as possible. This will prevent the liverwurst from biting the baby.

Cologne Bottle Holder.

First have a first-class tailor take the measurements of the bottle. Then take a silk sock—one can be found in almost any eight-dollar-a-week clerk’s washing—and cut off at the top where the garter generally takes a grip with its tin teeth. Then cut a few holes in the top and run some baby ribbon through them, so that the opening can be readily tightened or loosed. Into the holder thus made slip the bottle. If the bag is lined with banana skins, the bottle will slip in more easily. If it is to be used to hold a flask instead of a cologne bottle, never mind the baby ribbon or the sock.

A Jewel Case.

Get a cube of limburger cheese, and with a stiletto cut out the insides and line with zinc. Cover the outside with wallpaper. Sprinkle the interior with Towne’s Remarkable Hair Grower. (For sale at this office. Well recommended by such shaggy-haired funny fellows as Bill Nye, R. K. Munkittrick [humourist, author, and editor of Judge] , J. K. Bangs, W. J. Lampton [satirical writer and poet] and others too humorous to mention.) In a few days the grower will cause hair to sprout out on all sides and make a fine, soft lining. Building the box from cheese makes it stronger and a scentsible gift.

A Button Holder.

Cut the stiff bosom from your father’s or husband’s best shirt. Tie a ribbon to the name plate at the bottom, and then, rolling it upward, tie the same through the excavation where his dollar-twenty-five stud usually rests. Close up the sides of the cylinder thus made with sausage skin, and cut a hole in the top just large enough to admit a button. Do not make it too large, or it might admit cigar stumps, ashes, cuds of tobacco or other emblems of masculine civilization. Baby ribbon can dangle all around it, like a Boer’s whiskers. When finished, varnish the whole thing with maple syrup. This syrup will catch and hold any burglarious flies that might call to steal some of the buttons.

Book-markers.

Perhaps the best book-markers we have ever seen were ten chubby little bread-and-jam-covered fingers that evaded its nurse and walked up the shelves of our bookcase one day. But, of course, every one hasn’t these little fingers in the house, so we give the following more simple method of making a handy bookmarker. Cut a piece of birch bark from an elephant’s hide, two inches wide and four inches long. Any elephant will stand long enough to permit you to carve a piece of hide from his envelope. He may strike you with his trunk, but he will soon tire of this. After you have cut out a piece of the proper size, chew on one end of it until it has the resemblance of fringe and then with a red-hot poker burn an appropriate motto in the left-hand corner, such as “Damn the Trusts,” “Let Well Enough Alone,” “Stand Pat,” or other quotation appropriate for a quiet home. Do not burn these mottoes in the hide before it is taken from the elephant. We know of only one man who tried to do this, and now he is in a place where his poker stays continually red-hot.

Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song, and story, 1911

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  We have previously read of the Empress Augusta’s appalling Christmas gifts. Then there were the useless articles of fancy-work so often dispensed at Christmas with no recourse, but to accept them graciously.

It is frequently said that, in gift-giving, “It is the thought that counts.”  Mrs Daffodil has seen entirely too many thoughtless gifts and would amend this axiom to include a thought for the actual recipient’s tastes, wants, and needs.

Still, Mrs Daffodil knows that many people fervently subscribe to the “happy hands at home” school of holiday gifts. They derive moral and spiritual satisfaction from their handicrafts and there is no dissuading them from their fell purpose. It is in the hopes of pushing these Happy Handers to the reductio ad absurdum that Mrs Daffodil appends a few more hints.

Christmas Hints

A simple and tasteful homemade picture frame may be constructed from common gas pipe cut into suitable length and tied together at the corners with shoe strings.

A neat paperweight may be made by wrapping half a brick in paper such as butchers use and tying it with red tape.

A dainty towel rack may be fabricated from a baseball bat and two cigar boxes. Shellac the boxes and sandpaper the bat.

An ordinary cobblestone hand-painted with lampblack and household ammonia makes an excellent door weight.

A novel pipe rack for fastidious smokers may be made from a small strip of one inch plank. Bore holes in it for the stems of the pipes to pass through.

A dried muskmelon shell makes an attractive tobacco jar.
Janesville [WI] Daily Gazette 16 December 1904: 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.

 

The Deferred Appointment: 1911

The Deferred Appointment

Algernon Blackwood

The little “Photographic Studio” in the side-street beyond Shepherd’s Bush had done no business all day, for the light had been uninviting to even the vainest sitter, and the murky sky that foreboded snow had hung over London without a break since dawn. Pedestrians went hurrying and shivering along the pavements, disappearing into the gloom of countless ugly little houses the moment they passed beyond the glare of the big electric standards that lit the thundering motor-buses in the main street. The first flakes of snow, indeed, were already falling slowly, as though they shrank from settling in the grime. The wind moaned and sang dismally, catching the ears and lifting the shabby coat-tails of Mr. Mortimer Jenkyn, “Photographic Artist,” as he stood outside and put the shutters up with his own cold hands in despair of further trade.

It was five minutes to six. With a lingering glance at the enlarged portrait of a fat man in masonic regalia who was the pride and glory of his window-front, he fixed the last hook of the shutter, and turned to go indoors. There was developing and framing to be done upstairs, not very remunerative work, but better, at any rate, than waiting in an empty studio for customers who did not come—wasting the heat of two oil-stoves into the bargain. And it was then, in the act of closing the street-door behind him, that he saw a man standing in the shadows of the narrow passage, staring fixedly into his face.

Mr. Jenkyn admits that he jumped. The man was so very close, yet he had not seen him come in; and in the eyes was such a curiously sad and appealing expression. He had already sent his assistant home, and there was no other occupant of the little two-storey house. The man must have slipped past him from the dark street while his back was turned. Who in the world could he be, and what could he want? Was he beggar, customer, or rogue?

“Good evening,” Mr. Jenkyn said, washing his hands, but using only half the oily politeness of tone with which he favoured sitters. He was just going to add “sir,” feeling it wiser to be on the safe side, when the stranger shifted his position so that the light fell directly upon his face, and Mr. Jenkyn was aware that he—recognised him. Unless he was greatly mistaken, it was the second-hand bookseller in the main street.

“Ah, it’s you, Mr. Wilson!” he stammered, making half a question of it, as though not quite convinced. “Pardon me; I did not quite catch your face—er—I was just shutting up.” The other bowed his head in reply. “Won’t you come in? Do, please.” Mr. Jenkyn led the way. He wondered what was the matter. The visitor was not among his customers; indeed, he could hardly claim to know him, having only seen him occasionally when calling at the shop for slight purchases of paper and what not. The man, he now realised, looked fearfully ill and wasted, his face pale and haggard. It upset him rather, this sudden, abrupt call. He felt sorry, pained. He felt uneasy.

Into the studio they passed, the visitor going first as though he knew the way, Mr. Jenkyn noticing through his flurry that he was in his “Sunday best.” Evidently he had come with a definite purpose. It was odd. Still without speaking, he moved straight across the room and posed himself in front of the dingy background of painted trees, facing the camera. The studio was brightly lit. He seated himself in the faded arm-chair, crossed his legs, drew up the little round table with the artificial roses upon it in a tall, thin vase, and struck an attitude. He meant to be photographed.

His eyes, staring straight into the lens, draped as it was with the black velvet curtain, seemed, however, to take no account of the Photographic Artist. But Mr. Jenkyn, standing still beside the door, felt a cold air playing over his face that was not merely the winter cold from the street. He felt his hair rise. A slight shiver ran down his back. In that pale, drawn face, and in those staring eyes across the room that gazed so fixedly into the draped camera, he read the signature of illness that no longer knows hope. It was Death that he saw.

In a flash the impression came and went—less than a second. The whole business, indeed, had not occupied two minutes. Mr. Jenkyn pulled himself together with a strong effort, dismissed his foolish obsession, and came sharply to practical considerations. “Forgive me,” he said, a trifle thickly, confusedly, “but I—er—did not quite realise. You desire to sit for your portrait, of course. I’ve had such a busy day, and—’ardly looked for a customer so late.” The clock, as he spoke, struck six. But he did not notice the sound. Through his mind ran another reflection: “A man shouldn’t ‘ave his picture taken when he’s ill and next door to dying. Lord! He’ll want a lot of touching-up and finishin’, too!”

He began discussing the size, price, and length—the usual rigmarole of his “profession,” and the other, sitting there, still vouchsafed no comment or reply. He simply made the impression of a man in a great hurry, who wished to finish a disagreeable business without unnecessary talk. Many men, reflected the photographer, were the same; being photographed was worse to them than going to the dentist. Mr. Jenkyn filled the pauses with his professional running talk and patter, while the sitter, fixed and motionless, kept his first position and stared at the camera. The photographer rather prided himself upon his ability to make sitters look bright and pleasant; but this man was hopeless. It was only afterwards Mr. Jenkyn recalled the singular fact that he never once touched him—that, in fact, something connected possibly with his frail appearance of deadly illness had prevented his going close to arrange the details of the hastily assumed pose.

“It must be a flashlight, of course, Mr. Wilson,” he said, fidgeting at length with the camera-stand, shifting it slightly nearer; while the other moved his head gently yet impatiently in agreement. Mr. Jenkyn longed to suggest his coming another time when he looked better, to speak with sympathy of his illness; to say something, in fact, that might establish a personal relation. But his tongue in this respect seemed utterly tied. It was just this personal relation which seemed impossible of approach—absolutely and peremptorily impossible. There seemed a barrier between the two. He could only chatter the usual professional commonplaces. To tell the truth, Mr. Jenkyn thinks he felt a little dazed the whole time—not quite his usual self. And, meanwhile, his uneasiness oddly increased. He hurried. He, too, wanted the matter done with and his visitor gone.

At length everything was ready, only the flashlight waiting to be turned on, when, stooping, he covered his head with the velvet cloth and peered through the lens— at no one! When he says “at no one,” however, he qualifies it thus: “There was a quick flash of brilliant white light and a face in the middle of it—my gracious Heaven! But such a face—’im, yet not ’im—like a sudden rushing glory of a face! It shot off like lightning out of the camera’s field of vision. It left me blinded, I assure you, ’alf blinded, and that’s a fac’. It was sheer dazzling!”

It seems Mr. Jenkyn remained entangled a moment in the cloth, eyes closed, breath coming in gasps, for when he got clear and straightened up again, staring once more at his customer over the top of the camera, he stared for the second time at—no one. And the cap that he held in his left hand he clapped feverishly over the uncovered lens. Mr. Jenkyn staggered… looked hurriedly round the empty studio, then ran, knocking a chair over as he went, into the passage. The hall was deserted, the front door closed. His visitor had disappeared “almost as though he hadn’t never been there at all”—thus he described it to himself in a terrified whisper. And again he felt the hair rise on his scalp; his skin crawled a little, and something put back the ice against his spine.

After a moment he returned to the studio and somewhat feverishly examined it. There stood the chair against the dingy background of trees; and there, close beside it, was the round table with the flower vase. Less than a minute ago Mr. Thomas Wilson, looking like death, had been sitting in that very chair. “It wasn’t all a sort of dreamin’, then,” ran through his disordered and frightened mind. “I did see something…!” He remembered vaguely stories he had read in the newspapers, stories of queer warnings that saved people from disasters, apparitions, faces seen in dream, and so forth. “Maybe,” he thought with confusion, “something’s going to ’appen to me!” Further than that he could not get for some little time, as he stood there staring about him, almost expecting that Mr. Wilson might reappear as strangely as he had disappeared. He went over the whole scene again and again, reconstructing it in minutest detail. And only then, for the first time, did he plainly realise two things which somehow or other he had not thought strange before, but now thought very strange. For his visitor, he remembered, had not uttered a single word, nor had he, Mr. Jenkyn, once touched his person… And, thereupon, without more ado, he put on his hat and coat and went round to the little shop in the main street to buy some ink and stationery which he did not in the least require.

The shop seemed all as usual, though Mr. Wilson himself was not visible behind the littered desk. A tall gentleman was talking in low tones to the partner. Mr. Jenkyn bowed as he went in, then stood examining a case of cheap stylographic pens, waiting for the others to finish. It was impossible to avoid overhearing. Besides, the little shop had distinguished customers sometimes, he had heard, and this evidently was one of them. He only understood part of the conversation, but he remembers all of it. “Singular, yes, these last words of dying men,” the tall man was saying, “very singular. You remember Newman’s: ‘More light,’ wasn’t it?” The bookseller nodded.

“Fine,” he said, “fine, that!” There was a pause. Mr. Jenkyn stooped lower over the pens. “This, too, was fine in its way,” the gentleman added, straightening up to go; “the old promise, you see, unfulfilled but not forgotten. Cropped up suddenly out of the delirium. Curious, very curious! A good, conscientious man to the last. In all the twenty years I’ve known him he never broke his word…”

A motor-bus drowned a sentence, and then was heard in the bookseller’s voice, as he moved towards the door. “…You see, he was half-way down the stairs before they found him, always repeating the same thing, ‘I promised the wife, I promised the wife.’ And it was a job, I’m told, getting him back again… he struggled so. That’s what finished him so quick, I suppose. Fifteen minutes later he was gone, and his last words were always the same, ‘I promised the wife’…”

The tall man was gone, and Mr. Jenkyn forgot about his purchases. “When did it ’appen?” he heard himself asking in a voice he hardly recognised as his own. And the reply roared and thundered in his ears as he went down the street a minute later to his house: “Close on six o’clock—a few minutes before the hour. Been ill for weeks, yes. Caught him out of bed with high fever on his way to your place, Mr. Jenkyn, calling at the top of his voice that he’d forgotten to see you about his picture being taken. Yes, very sad, very sad indeed.”

But Mr. Jenkyn did not return to his studio. He left the light burning there all night. He went to the little room where he slept out, and next day gave the plate to be developed by his assistant. “Defective plate, sir,” was the report in due course; “shows nothing but a flash of light—uncommonly brilliant.” “Make a print of it all the same,” was the reply. Six months later, when he examined the plate and print, Mr. Jenkyn found that the singular streaks of light had disappeared from both. The uncommon brilliance had faded out completely as though it had never been there.

The Times-Democrat [New Orleans LA] 12 March 1911: p. 39

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Algernon Blackwood is perhaps best known for his “weird” supernatural and horror fiction. This is a workmanlike example of one of his ghost stories.

Mrs Daffodil regrets that the death-like countenance of Mr Wilson did not appear in the plate or the print so that the image could have been presented to his wife as a memento (mori) of the occasion. Normally a post-mortem photograph would be taken at the home of the deceased, with the decedent passively submitting to the professional ministrations of the photographic artist. The notion of a post-mortem photograph taken of a subject who not only walked into the photographic studio but posed himself at a table containing a vase of artificial roses is uncommonly chilling.

 

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.