Category Archives: History 1910-1930

The Arsenal Worker Walks: 1918

how to dress for munition making

AN ARSENAL WORKER

Utterly worn out, she slept. At the latter end of a fortnight’s night shift at a munition factory she slept.

** * * *

When she got up at four-o’clock that afternoon — after her six hours’ so-called “night’s rest,” she felt ill; but she had her bath, dressed, found she could not eat her five-o’clock dinner, yet she must catch the quarter-to-six train for Woolwich, as they were shorthanded, many overseers and forewomen being away owing to “flu.” Gallantly struggling to do her duty to her country, after two years’ arsenal work, this soldier- woman was back in her “shop “as usual by 7 p.m. It was a freezing night, the journey was dark in the cold third-class railway carriage filled with sixteen weary people, whose day’s work was over just as hers was about to begin. The rain drizzled through the fog, and the whole world looked drear.

Worn out with the dark, the chilliness, yet stuffiness of the atmosphere of her “shop,” the lack of food — by eleven o’clock our little munition worker was so utterly done up that she went to her head man and asked to be let off at the “half-night.”

She was a steady and constant worker, always at her post like a sentinel at his box.

Certainly,” he said; “and if you run you can catch the 11:15 train.”

She was quick. She caught the 11.15 train back to town, and sank into a corner of a thinly filled compartment.

Later, rousing herself, chilled to the bone, she realized she was in total darkness — deep, dark, foggy darkness — alone in a third-class railway carriage.

Where was she? Fearing to get out, knowing the danger of slipping on to the roadway and of passing engines, she opened the window, to find nothing but a blank wall before her. Opening the other window, she saw the glint of railway lines, and in the distance a little dim red light.

She called out. No one answered.

She called again.

The little red lamp paused, and shook.

She called a third time. And a voice replied.

Gradually the little lamp came nearer. At last it stood below the carriage door.

“Where am I? “she asked.

“Cannon Street,” replied a gruff voice.

“How did I get here?”

“Don’t know.”’

“Can I get a taxi? “

“Lor’, no.”

“Can I get a tube?”

“Lor’, no.”

“Can I get a bus? “

“Lor”, no.”

“Where am I?”

“On a siding at Cannon Street Station.”

“How did I get here?”

“Don’t know.”

So out she came to the accompaniment of grunts from the kindly man, who condescended to light her along the rail track.

It was 12.30 a.m.

The station was all shut up. The last train had gone.

“Is there a waiting-room?” she asked.

“Shut up.”

“Is there any hotel where I can go? “

“Shut up.”

“What am I to do?”

“Walk.”

“What do you mean?”

“Walk,” he replied.

“But I live miles from here; I don’t know the City, I live beyond Baker Street Station.”

“I can’t help that,” he replied. “If you want to get there you must walk.”

Finally, he escorted her to the door of the great station, and when she inquired the road, remarked, “Just walk west.”

Thoroughly chilled, having been eighteen hours without food, feeling absolutely ill, she started on that terrible night of fog and drizzle to walk west.

The tears rolled down her cheeks, and a great lump in her throat nearly choked her, but she struggled on. The darkness seemed oppressive, the distance interminable.

At last she met two postmen. She explained her woes.

“Can I get a taxi?”

“Lor’, no.”

“Can I get a tube?”

“Lor’, no.”

“Can I get a bus?”

“Lor’, no.”

“Where am I? “she exclaimed.

“Bank of England, miss.”

“What am I to do? “she reiterated.

“There is nothing to do at this hour of the night, miss, but walk,” they smilingly replied.

They were polite but hopeless. On she trudged.

Joy of joys. Before her she saw a hansom cab —actually an old-fashioned, war-time resuscitated hansom  cab. Up to the driver she went, and said sweetly, “I haven’t very much money with me, only 3s. 6d.;  but I can get more when I get home.”

He refused to drive her. No persuasion availed. He flatly refused. So she trudged on again.

At last, in the dim light, she realized that the building opposite must be the Post Office. It was then 1.30 a.m.

The street was utterly deserted, as the City alone can be. That City — the greatest city in the world —which throbbed with bustling life during the working hours of day, was empty and lonely.

A policeman was standing at his beat.

Feeling ready to drop, with tears rolling down her face, she related her story of woe.

“You look ill, miss; I am sorry for you,” he said. “You had better stand along o’ me. Woolwich, did ye say?”

“Yes.” She nodded.

She really found human consolation in the kindly words of the policeman, and supported herself against a large red letter-box. She felt content and less lonesome.

She does not know how long she stood there: but suddenly the gentleman-in-blue dived across the street, put out both his arms, and called “Halt!”

A motor-car had sprung from nowhere. He had barred its progress.

“Could you give this lady a lift?” he said. “She works at Woolwich, and is dead done.”

“Certainly,” replied the driver of the car — and the midnight driver happened to be a lady.

The car was full of Tommies, who made room for the weary munition worker, and the car proved to be one belonging to the Y.M.C.A. on its way to headquarters at Tottenham Court Road.

The comfort of the seat, the warmth of the welcome of the Tommies cheered her, and when she got to head-quarters she stepped out, thanked them all, and prepared to walk two further miles to her flat.

“Oh!” said the chauffeuse, “I will gladly run you along there,” and she did.

As they parted on the doorstep of the cosy flat that its owner had never seen even on Sundays except to sleep in, the war-worker thanked her warmly, and said— “I always go to the factory every day with 5s. in my purse; that pays my fares and canteen, and although  I am a forewoman I only earn 30d. a week, so I should be in a sorry plight but for my own income. Some of the girls under me, who do piecework, of course earn far more than I do. I have only 3s. 6d. left in my purse to-day from my railway fares. Would you take it and drop it in the Y.M.C.A. box for me? If it was fifty times that sum, it would hardly express my thanks for your kindly help to-night.”

And the two women workers, the one a chauffeuse, the other a factory forewoman, shook hands beneath a green painted, almost obliterated, street light at 2.30 a.m. on a bitter, sleety March morning, both high-born women — representative of others — who have left their comfortable homes to do their bit for the country’s good.

The little munition worker crawled upstairs, unlocked her door. All was cold and still. She was not expected till 8.30, nearly six hours later, so no fire or breakfast awaited her.

The lick of a warm tongue and a gentle rub of a little black nose was the gleeful “How do you do?” of her dog. Comforted by his greeting, our little war-worker sank into bed. But she was up again that afternoon in time to catch that 5.45 train back to the factory for another twelve hours’ night shift, with three hours’ daily travelling.

And that gently reared woman did this for two years and a half to help send munitions to our men at the front.

Was she not a woman-soldier? And didn’t that gentle-born lady deserve a D.S.O.?

But she didn’t even get an O.B.E.

Women and Soldiers, Mrs. Alec-Tweedie, F.R.G.S., 1918

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One feels sorry for anyone in the grip of la grippe, but if the lady war-worker had her own income, why on earth did she not carry enough money for an emergency cab? We have heard from Mrs Alec-Tweedie before in the poignant story of A Parlour-maid Goes to War. Mrs Alec-Tweedie was Ethel Brilliana Harley Tweedie, a travel writer and passionate advocate for women’s rights. She shows herself a bit blinkered by the British class system in her comments about “high-born” and “gently reared,” as if the inhabitants of the posher parts of town were to be specially commended for doing work  considered the exclusive provenance of the “lower classes.” Her book might be classed as propaganda, as it seems designed to inspire women to leave their comfortable homes and join the war effort. However, she makes an important point that the wages paid to female war workers were absurdly low, especially considering the long hours, the dangers from explosion and exposure to toxic chemicals.  And she rightfully considers the workers women-soldiers, doing important work and deserving of recognition, as we remember all of the Fallen on this Remembrance Sunday.

 

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.

Jack Horner Pies for Hallowe’en: 1909-1916

jack horner pie for halloween

A Halloween party without a Jack Horner surprise pie would be Hamlet with the Dane and Ophelia and even the ghost left out, so barren would the good old day be without this standby. Made of crape paper and holding little prizes and favors, this novelty is sure to be a success with children and grownups alike. In the pie illustrated each little witch with her bright white spotted dress and apron, red cardboard hat and tiny broom, is attached to a string at the end of which is a suitable favor. Weird red “devils” and ugly black cats are perched on the handle of the basket.

The Colfax [WA] Gazette 28 October 1910: p. 8

JACK HORNER PIES.

The Jack Horner pie is a favorite sort of decoration nowadays for all occasions, and as it serves both as a decoration and a receptacle for favors, it is especially valued by the hostess. It is most appropriate for the Halloween frolic.

One Jack Horner pie is simply huge golden pumpkin, made of crepe paper stretched over a wire frame. Inside the paper pumpkin there are little favors, fastened to ribbons. These ribbons are passed through slits in the pumpkin and at their other ends, one of which is placed at each plate, are tiny pumpkins.

A most beautiful Jack Horner pie for a girl’s party represents a pretty doll driving In a goose wagon drawn by black cats. The goose–which is no more than a pasteboard candy box–can be bought at a good candy store, and the black cats are the usual weird coal black little things, harnessed up with scarlet ribbons, which the dollie inside the wagon holds in her small hands. But as to this small lady, she is nothing but head and hands, for her ballooning skirt is meant only to cover the tissue paper bag containing the gifts. A very effective pie could be made of two flat pieces of cardboard cut out to represent a weird at of the Hallowe’en species and painted black. Fasten these each side of a narrow cardboard box, also painted black, and glue crimson paper around the inside of the box to serve as the pouch for the presents. Slit holes in the paper bag for ribbons to come through, and twist around the top lightly so that everything will come out easily.

A clock is a novel Jack Horner pie. It is a round box, of course, covered with yellow paper. On its big face are fastened figures representing the hours of black paper. Two black hands point to the witching figure for 12 o’clock. Hanging from the bottom. like so many pendulums, are ribbons’ which are to be pulled when time comes for the guests to get their gifts.

Still another “pie” is a basket of pumpkins. The basket is covered with yellow paper and in it are lots of little paper pumpkins. Each, of course, contains a gift and when gift time comes the basket is passed around.

Then there is the witch pie. This is a witch made of a doll’s head, with a capacious orange paper skirt and black paper shawl and cap. Under the skirt are the gifts, with yellow or black ribbons attached to them escaping from beneath the hem.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 27 October 1916: p. 16

The imposing centerpiece illustrated [at the head of this post] is a Jack Horner pie, filled with favors. These favors are hidden in the basket which forms the foundation for the “pie,” and ribbons, passing up through the piecrust of crepe paper are attached to the little witches which decorate the top of the pie. The big witch head in the center is added merely ass an ornament and may be presented ceremoniously to some particular guest. A fringe of snappy mottoes with brooms attached surrounds the basket and the handle is covered by witches’ brooms made of faggots in which roost hobgoblins, banshees and other terrifying creatures. Such a centerpiece, of course, would cost a substantial sum, but the same idea might be carried out with less expense, using one good-sized witch for a center and bringing the ribbons attached to the hidden favors over the edges of the basket where they form a fringe finished by little apples or yellow crepe paper pumpkins. The fagot brooms may be easily made form ordinary twigs and hobgoblins and black cats cut form paper may nestle in the branches.

The Topeka [KS] State Journal 30 October 1909: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Jack Horner pies were not just for Hallowe’en, but seemed to receive the most coverage at that time. Many and varied were the shapes and prizes.

Countless are the tiny trifles for 5 cents and less one can find in the stock of some stores and which make the nicest little souvenirs for child parties. One tray discloses little bundles made up of five toys each–a tiny wooden pail of bright apples, a black rake, a black cat, a green frog, a carrot, a cucumber or an onion. Garden vegetables seem to be eminently appropriate for Halloween and everywhere there are delightful candy boxes simulating them. They are all effective on the table, and every box may serve as a souvenir. The small vegetables are, of course, only of painted wood or of cotton, but children find them amusing when they haul them out of a Jack Horner pie.
The more novel the Jack Horner pie for Halloween the more amusing it will seem, so a good deal of personal ingenuity may be exercised. One pie turned out by a toy shop is made like a French doll, the dainty little lady carrying an immense bandbox of flowered paper, this, of course, holding the gifts. Another doll is set in a little cardboard wagon, six black cats, with scarlet leashes, drawing the trap. Behind the wagon fall the ribbons to be pulled, and when the critical moment comes the wagon will go to pieces like the one horse shay.
The Jack Horner pie for Halloween is also often hidden in the stomach of a big scarecrow, and there are balloon aeroplane and goose and owl pies, the gifts tucked away inside the hollow ornament, and covered with tissue paper, so that they jerk out without trouble. But the big paper pumpkin
makes the most effective pie of all for Halloween, and when it is turned out with highest art it may cost $10 in the shop.

The Pensacola [FL] Journal 24 October 1911: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil was explaining the Jack Horner pie to an American acquaintance unfamiliar with the idea, who wondered how the crusts were kept fresh until sold and how the crusts did not crumble when the ribbons were pulled.

 

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

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

A Halloween Prank:1910

1910-1919 veiling mourning hat

When a young man rapped timidly at his door the other evening, Rev. George I. Foster, 1106 Addison-rd N.E. opened it. The young man, who was not tall, told Rev. Mr. Foster bashfully that he had come to be married.

“To whom?” asked the minister.

“To her,” said the young man, and he pointed into the gloom of the porch to a rather tall young woman whose features were hid under a heavy dotted veil. It was chilly out and there wasn’t much time for parley.

“Won’t you step in?” said the minister.

In the front parlor Rev. Mr. Foster began conversation with, “You are the couple of whom my wife spoke at dinner?”

“I suppose we are,” replied the prospective groom. “I called up this afternoon.”

So the two stood up and Rev. Mr. Foster began the ceremony.

The young woman was very modest. She answered the questions in her turn, but she couldn’t talk loud. She kept her hat and veil on and perhaps that hindered her or else it was all new to her, or she had a cold. Anyway she managed to make herself heard and when the ceremony was ended the little husband asked what the fee was. He was laboriously pulling a pocketbook out of his trousers’ pocket.

“Now, where is the license?” asked Rev. Mr. Foster, according to rule.

“Why, we had no license,” said the young man as he tendered a bill.

“Then you’re not married.”

“What, not married?” came from the astonished bride and groom together.

The minister said that was the case.

“Very well,” said the young couple.

The young woman lifted her veil, the young man tore a tiny mustache off his lip and there stood Mrs. Foster, the pastor’s wife and Mrs. Alfred Shaw, a near neighbor and friend.

It was Halloween. Rev. Mr. Foster said it was very skillfully done.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 3 November 1910: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil suspects that, had the prank been perpetrated on anyone but a man of the cloth, “skillfully done” would have been the least of the comments from the victim of the imposture. Mrs Daffodil also wonders who tipped off the newspaper. The newspaper rather spoilt the fun with its headline:

MINISTER, ON HALLOWEEN, MARRIES HIS WIFE TO WOMAN LIVING NEAR BY

Goes Through Ceremony According to Rote, Discovering Joke Only When License to Wed is Asked and Refused.

The Rev. Mr. Foster, who was Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Cleveland, Ohio was quite the artistic nibs: he wrote and published operettas, cantatas, and band music. He also knew about the importance of casting the right person for the part. In 1907 he wrote an operetta for the children of the church, “Jack the Giant Killer.” Since none of the children were tall enough for the role of the giant, he looked out from the pulpit at his congregation one Sunday, noted a fellow who towered over his pew-mates and afterwards congratulated a bemused draftsman named John Davis on getting the part. He died in 1935 and the church seems to have closed its doors soon afterward. No one could fill his clerical or theatrical shoes.

Mrs Daffodil wonders if the Rev. Mr Foster was near-sighted. A man’s suit and a “tiny mustache” seems scarcely adequate to conceal the face, form, and sex of a “near neighbor and friend.”

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.

Encore: Cross-Word Clothes: 1925

cross-word-dress-and-hat

 

Once the Cross-Word Puzzle was something you worked out in the newspaper. Now it is something Dame Fashion works out in women’s clothes!

When Arthur Wynne of Mountain Lakes, N.J., a modest and retiring newspaper man, invented the brain-teasing vertical and horizontal combination, he planned to amuse his children and their playmates. But it wasn’t long before everybody in the Jersey town was lugging a dictionary and a copy of Wynne’s latest acrostic. Then the fad was taken up by New York and points West.

However, it was when the new season brought out the latest things in feminine toggery that everybody discovered Fashion has become an addict to the little black and white squares. Sometimes she goes so far as to letter them, working out clever words and phrases down the fronts of gowns or stockings!

One such gown was brought into America by a debutante who had been visiting Paris—proving that the French capital is solving ‘em, too!

Then there was the cross-word frock that electrified Palm Beach the other day, with the little white blocks all waiting for somebody’s pencil and a few key letters scattered here and there.

There is the cross-word coat, a dashing sports garment of soft wool with the checks somewhat larger than they appear in the silks of dresses.

cross-word-buckles

The slipper with the cross-word buckle is one of the least bizarre innovations of the fad. But the puzzle stockings, guaranteed to make women look shorter and men look longer, offer plenty of opportunity for mental exercise.

cross-word-hat

The cross-word hat now rules the millinery world. And the smartest thing of the moment for masquerades is a cross-word costume. San Francisco [CA] Chronicle March 1925: p. 1

As for the novelties in shoes, the “cross-word” pump is probably the outstanding footwear of the season. It is shown in checked satin with a cross-word block pattern in black and white, and while no words are designed to fit into the squares, no doubt some bright mind will think of some.

Cross-Word Frock

So if a maiden is seen with her eyes modestly cast down, don’t conclude that she is shy; she’s probably trying to think of a word of four letters to fit in the space across the vamp of her cross-word pump.

Indeed it’s going to be a disturbing season for the cross-word fans for if no cross-word pumps are in sight, there’s almost sure to be a cross-word silk frock, and think of all the words to be fitted into a dress pattern, even a short as the present ones!

These cross-word prints come in three color combinations, most attractive in themselves, but the opportunities they offer for mental exercise was dazzling. Think of a quiet afternoon spent with a girl so arrayed; a modern Omar [Khayyam] might indeed write:

“A cross-word frock, a loaf of bread, and thou, oh, wilderness were paradise enow.” Tampa [FL] Tribune 3 March 1925: p. 18

On the other hand, some were less than sanguine about the fashionable fad:

cross-word-frock cross-word-frock2

CROSS-WORD PUZZLES

POPULAR CRAZE GRIPS ENGLAND.

LONDON, January 10. The first cross-word frock appeared on Bond street yesterday, indicating Britain’s final surrender to the cross-word puzzle craze. The familiar black-and-white squares, arranged in fantastic groupings, adorned the frock, the ends of the scarf, the front of the small felt hat, and the sides of the new fashionable envelope-shaped handbag. Cross-word “jumpers” are also appearing daily. Otago [NZ] Daily Times 16 January 1925: p. 8

cross-word-stockings

Cross-Word Stockings American Fad in Paris

Paris, Jan. 2. The “cross-word puzzle” stocking is the latest novelty among Paris hosiery makers.

When the first really cold days of Winter came, silk stockings of gossamer texture were gradually discarded and many women adopted fine hand-made Angora wool stockings.

This is the material of which the “cross-word puzzle” stockings are made. A shopkeeper got the idea from a puzzle design which he saw two American women working over while waiting to be served. A few days later he displayed in his windows a stocking of checker-board design with the squares in black and white, about the same size and distributed haphazard in the manner which has become familiar to lovers of cross-word puzzles.

The novelty has found good customers among American women, but French women call it hideous. The cross-word fad itself has not reached France as yet. Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 2 January 1925: p. 2

cross-word-sweater

The girls themselves are using the verticals and horizontals to enhance their charm. The squares in picturesque arrangement now appear as borders on scarfs, trimming on hats, sweaters, dresses, not only in black and white, but in every shade of the spectrum.

There is now cross-word jewelry, rings, bracelets and brooches; cross-word stockings, with a key-letter at the top of the first column, and cross-word lingerie, of black and white chiffon. And fashionable hostesses are likewise serving cross-word muffins at their tea tables—cakes made of brown bread and white! San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 26 April 1925: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is “Dictionary Day,” so Mrs Daffodil felt that a reprise of this wordy fashion fad would not come amiss. The cross-word craze raged across the States in the 1920s creating a generation of feverish enthusiasts. Librarians complained that “legitimate users” of dictionaries were being thrust aside by puzzle-fiends, while newspapers such as The New York Times (now known for its difficult cross-words) sniffed at the fad and predicted its demise within months.

Mrs Daffodil was amused by the “cross-word stockings.” If worked in pencil, one is apt to poke holes in the gossamer fabric; if the solver is one of those insufferable persons who works cross-words in ink, there is hell to pay in the bath. The young lady wearing the “cross-word hat,” looks rather desperate, as if the chapeau was one of those mitres worn by heretics at the stake. One notes two damning words filling her puzzle squares: “hot,” as in le jazz hot and “nut,” which was the male equivalent of a “flapper.”

Originally, Mrs Daffodil sought in vain for extant examples of these ephemeral garments. One wonders if this tennis dress was an echo of the cross-work frock?

But, lo!

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.

Blackmail by Carrier Pigeon: 1903, 1910

pigeon blackmail

BLACKMAIL BY CARRIER PIGEON

Blackmail by carrier pigeon is the very latest novelty in Paris.

On Sunday night during the past summer a tradesman received an anonymous letter, the writer of which desired that he would disclose certain secrets of the tradesman unless he received 4000 francs to be sent by carrier pigeon.

“On Tuesday morning,” he was told, “four carrier pigeons will be sent to you. Each bird carries under its wing a little case, in which you will place a 1000-franc note. You will then set the pigeons free, and if they do not return to me by midday I shall know what to do.”
The pigeons arrived from four different railway stations in Paris on Tuesday morning, as stated. The tradesman handed them over to the police, who set them free, weighting them lightly enough to allow them to fly, but heavily enough to make them fly slowly. They followed on bicycles in the hope that they thus might betray the blackmailer into the hands of justice, but he had also flown when the police arrived.

Los Angeles [CA] Herald 2 January 1910: p. 31

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One wonders what kind of secrets the blackmailer had to report about the tradesman, but perhaps even the most upright tradesman has a skeleton or two in the cupboard. Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the joke about a man who sent twelve of his most respectable friends an anonymous telegram reading: “Fly at once! All is discovered!” All twelve disappeared and were never seen again.

One young Frenchwoman found herself the victim of pigeon-blackmail with some very high stakes:

Blackmail by Aid of Homing Pigeon.

Latest French Style in Crime Beggared an Heiress and Didn’t Help the Blackmailer.

Paris, Feb. 6. The latest thing in crime is blackmail by carrier pigeon. The police do not know how many rich persons have fallen victims to it and are completely puzzled by the case of the one victim who has reported her loss. She is, or was. Mlle. Lucile de Beaupre of Rouen. The attempt at blackmail has cost her her whole fortune of 500,000 francs ($100,000) and has not enriched the blackmailers.

Mlle, de Beaupre was to inherit the amount from her grandfather when she became 25 years of age. Under the will, the money was to go to another branch of the family should the girl marry before that age. During a visit to Paris she fell in love with a lieutenant named I.ebrun. Being ordered to Algiers, he persuaded her into a secret marriage.

Two days after she returned home, believing her secret save in the keeping of only her husband and herself, she received a large package. Supposing it was from Lebrun, she opened it in her room. It contained a live pigeon. Having heard from I.ebrun something of the use of these birds and still believing he had sent it, she searched the pigeon and was horrified to find, neatly rolled in a quill under one wing, the following message: “To Mme. Lebrun, formerly Mile. Lucile de Beaupre; I am aware of  your recent marriage and I happen also to know the sum of money you will forfeit if the matter becomes generally known. If you value my secrecy and have confidence in my discretion, the fact shall go no further. As a testimony from you that you have such confidence, I suggest that you place within the quill which contained this letter, two 1000-franc notes. Having done that, I shall expect you to liberate the bird within the next 12 hours.”

The note bore no signature and was not even in handwriting, being composed of letters cut from some printed matter and carefully pasted on. Unable to get 2000 francs ($400) without her parents’ knowledge, the girl consulted the priest who had been her confessor from childhood. He persuaded her to confess the whole affair to her parents. They were highly enraged and Papa de Beaupre declared the money must be raised and remitted per pigeon at all hazards. The priest with difficulty induced the irate parent to call in the police and give up all hope of getting the 500,000 franc legacy in the family.

The Spokane [WA] Press 6 February 1903: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil has a nasty, suspicious mind.  She would suggest that the blackmailer was Lieutenant Lebrun himself–young Lucile would have recognised his hand-writing, hence the pasted letters–who found himself in financial embarrassment and knew that his new wife had a lucrative secret that her family would pay to keep hidden.

Strangely, the pigeon-blackmail method was not a short-lived fad.  As late as the 1930s and 1940s, blackmailers were still trying to collect via pigeon, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “flying squad.”

AIRPLANE TRAPS BLACKMAILER BY TRAILING PIGEON

German police have successfully employed an airplane to foil a blackmail plot, although the criminal was ingenious enough to use a carrier pigeon in his operations. A Hamburg resident received a package containing the pigeon and a letter, instructing him to attach notes amounting to 5,000 marks to its neck and release it. Two pilots in an airplane trailed the pigeon and photographed from the air the dove cote in a suburb on which it alighted. Confronted with this evidence, the criminal confessed.

Popular Mechanics December, 1929  

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.

 

 

Gowns and Omens–Dressmakers’ Superstitions: 1911

hemming a skirt 1895 seamstress

GOWNS AND OMENS.

Odd Superstitions That Darken Dressmaker’s Shop.

“Women who wear fine dresses are as superstitious as the girls who make them,” said a dressmaker. “If the little accidents that happen in the workroom were not mercifully concealed from the owners of rich gowns they would be sick with apprehension half the time. I had one customer who refused to accept a very expensive dress because a girl who assisted with the fitting dropped a pair of scissors, which fell point down and stuck in the floor. That meant an order for mourning within six months. [It might also mean dismissal or death for the person who dropped the scissors.] The customer hoped that by refusing the hoodoo dress she could avert the calamity, but the precaution was useless. In less than three months her father was dead.

“Girls are especially particular in their work on wedding dresses, for if a tiny drop of blood from a pricked finger should fall on the gown the bride would surely die before the end of the year. Then there is green thread. Whether the customer is there to see it or not, no dressmaker will keep green thread near spools of another color. Green thread used for basting means the return of a dress for alterations, and there is enough trouble of that kind in a dressmaking establishment without deliberately bidding for it.

“Women who are themselves superstitious are never surprised or offended at a sewing girl’s untidy coiffure. The girls tumble their hair about on purpose when working on a large order, for it is a sacred belief among dressmakers that a hair inadvertently worked into the garment shows that more work is coming soon from the same customer.”

Stafford [KS] County Republican 10 August 1911: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has written before about the idea that sewing a hair into a wedding gown will bring the seamstress a husband.

Green was widely thought to be an unlucky colour.  Today one would think that was because the dye was often the deadly Scheele’s Green. The superstition might more plausibly be blamed on the fairies:

Green an Unlucky Color.

The Scotch Highlanders considered it unfortunate to wear the fairies’ fatal green in a fight, especially on a Friday, and in many places in rural England, this same belief that the fairies looked upon green as their peculiar hue and resented the wearing of this color by mortals was generally held. Wisconsin State Journal [Madison WI] 23 October 1899: p. 3

Seamstresses had a whole wardrobe of superstitions regarding the dressmaking business as well as matters of life and death.

Dressmakers’ Superstitions.

Theatrical folk are generally supposed to take the palm for superstition, but dressmakers are not far behind. No matter how gilt edged and “madamed” and given to big bills and scornful of anybody who comes to heir afoot she may be, and especially of the somebody who can’t afford silk lining, she wouldn’t dream of sewing the gown while upon you. “Take a stitch while you’re trying the dress on!” she cries. “Mercy, no! I wouldn’t dream of such a dreadful thing. Don’t you know what it means? Every one of those stitches would stand for a lie that somebody was telling about you, and the longer the stitch the bigger the lie.” That is what she will tell you if you ask her or any of her aides to take the least little “tack” in the garment. “Well, I will if you’re willing to run the risk,” said one of the profession resignedly. “Yes, I know I can’t do it so well off you, but it’ll take at least six stitches, and that means just six lies—big lies, too, for the stitches are awful long.” She regarded the customer who was willing to fly thus in the face of fate as nothing short of a marvel.

Mower County Transcript [Lansing MI] 5 January 1898: p. 2

Black Pins and Dressmaking.—A dressmaker, about 30 years old, born and resident at Torquay, when “trying on” or fitting on a new dress to a customer, declined to use a black pin, remarking that were she to use it the dress would certainly not fit.  Report and Transactions: The Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, Vol. 12, Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, 1880: p. 112

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If a garment is cut out on Friday, the person for whom it is made will not live unless it is finished on the same day. Southern Indiana.

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Beginning on Saturday a garment that cannot be finished means death. Ohio.

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Whoever works on a sick person’s dress, he or she will die within the year. Massachusetts.

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When a woman who has been sewing puts her thimble on the table as she sits down to eat, it is a sign that she will be left a widow, if she marries. Central Maine.

This latter superstition provides an admirable excuse to procure a pretty thimble case and consistently place the article within.

 

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.

Finery for the Forehead: 1920

forehead jewel coiffure 1920

The Solitary Jewel Once More Reigns in the Realms of Finery for the Forehead

Finery for the Forehead

The Picturesque Modern Revival of a Charming Style of Headdress Introduced by the Beauties of Ancient Rome and Greece.

By Jean Seivwright

“Beauty unadorned is adorned the most” is all wrong, according to today’s leaders of fashion. And, without more ado, they prove their contention by demonstrating the utter folly of this old-time saying.

With jingling bracelets they embellish their ankles. Gorgeous rings set their fingers a-sparkle; jeweled girdles scintillate about their waistlines, and most striking of all—enters the jeweled head-dress.

Now as Miss America has a variety of ancestors, she chooses her forehead finery with a nice discrimination. Her particular type of beauty must be enhanced. With wealth and art at her command she can have what she wants.

MOP coiffure 1920

The Encircling Coronet Is of Hammered Silver, While Over the Forehead Hang Mother-o’-Pearl Drops.

Is she a Viking’s daughter with golden tresses and wistful blue eyes? Then the soft lustre of mother of pearl will appeal to her. But if the fire of some Eastern Potentate still slumbers in her heavily-lidded eyes the ornate and barbaric will be her choice. Other beauties find inspiration for their adorning in the quaint head-dress of the peasant or the jeweled cap of a court favorite.

peasant headdress coiffure 1920

The Peasant Head-dress of Sheerest Cambric Takes on a New Guise When Interpreted in Silks and Jewels for the Beauty of Today

But all are agreed that the forehead must be ornamented. Many of these jeweled head-bands are of fabulous price. But the golden eagle is no longer a rare coin that languishes in solitude in the old stocking we have all heard about. Golden eagles fly in coveys these days and big dividends keep up the supply.

“Ha, ha!” laugh the lords of the twentieth century, and just as merrily their ladies echo their mirth, “What’s money for but to spend.” So they chase from one end of the country to the other seeking new ways of spending their money. Sumptuously caparisoned it’s many a day since they bid farewell to the “kirtle brown.” Shimmering satins, priceless laces and jewels from crown to toe add to the glitter of their passing.

Of course, like every other innovation, the adorning of the forehead is really a resurrected fashion. In the days of the law-giving Romans and the beauty-loving Greeks most wonderful finery was designed for fair women. Doubtless if we could trace the origin of this mode still further back we might discover that our delightful ancestress in the Garden of Eden originated this style. Who knows whether she favored a gay array of glistening apple seeds, or found delight in the sparkling pebbles that vied with the weeds in her garden?

pearl coiffure 1920

Pearls with All Their Lore of Tragedy and Romance Gleam in the Golden Coiffure and on the Snowy Forehead of a Famous New York Beauty.

History of course does not make any record of this. However, we do know that the Romans delighted in handsome head-dress. They kept hosts of slaves to arrange their hair. And that was no mean task. It was a regular function. There were puffs to be attached, unruly tresses to be smoothed and various artificial appendages to be arranged. Oh, yes, the office of chief lady’s maid was no sinecure in those days, for her lady’s hair must be so disposed that her jewels would show to the best advantage. And whisper it not, but even in those days the blonde was a power in the land. To have golden hair was an ambition for which one was even willing to dye!

ear-ring coiffure 1920

Today’s Mode of Coiffing May Give No Opportunity to Display Ear-rings, but Their Place Is Gladly Taken by Jeweled Chains Elaborated with Many a Novel Pendant to Simulate the Ear-ring.

Another delightful whim of fashion in the Roman Empire was to have three or four earrings dangling from each ear. However, when puffs became the vogue in Rome feminine ingenuity had to find another way to display her jewels, so the forehead was bejewelled. And wonderful results were achieved, one of the most picturesque being an embroidered net. But mark, the embroidery was not of silken threads but of jewels–glittering rubies and emeralds with clusters of pearls.

crespine coiffure 1920

The Crispine Whose Threads of Gold Are Enlivened with Sparkling Jewels

Along about the time that Philip the Bold was creating many a flutter in feminine hearts, the fair enchantresses forsook the modest net, albeit they sparkled with many a gem and adorned their heads with gorgeous creations of peacock feathers. This was an opportunity not to be overlooked, so the forehead came in for its share of attention.

As centuries rolled on women still believed that the decoration of the forehead was essential. The notorious horned head-dress brought down the denunciations of the Church on its wearers. But they went merrily on making them more grotesque and formidable looking. In those days, gentle reader, you will remember that there were no subway crushes. Also the everlasting rush was unknown. Women had time to think how to beautify themselves…

But in this land of the free you may choose your forehead finery irrespective of any restrictions, for the quest of beauty is the only motif that inspires the wearing of these gorgeously jewelled ornaments.

The Washington [DC] Times 16 May 1920: p. 32

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The illustrations suggest a veritable treasure-trove of costuming inspiration for the passionate heroines of authoresses such as Marie Corelli, Ouida, and Elinor Glyn. Despite their glamour, we cannot call these adornments completely frivolous:  forehead jewels are, of course, the perfect camouflage for the worry lines that inevitably accompany the tangled love-lives of Egyptian princesses and Balkan queens as plotted by lady novelists.

However, Mrs Daffodil cannot condone the pendants worn just above the nose, no matter how elegant or exotic. One fears an epidemic of crossed eyes.

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.