Category Archives: Holidays

Making Her Father’s Grave: 1879

orphans decorating their fathers' graves

Decoration Day at Philadelphia: Orphans Decorating Their Fathers’ Graves in Glenwood Cemetery, 1870s

Making Her Father’s Grave

A Pathetic Scene Witnessed in an Ohio Cemetery

[From the Sandusky (O.) Register.]

A little girl with tangled locks, peeping from under a calico hood, clad in a dress of chintz, loitered behind us as the great dusty crowd moved out of the gates of Mount Adna the other day after they had scattered their flowers and done honor to the dead. Dreamily she gazed after them, her eyes filled with a far away look of tenderness, until the last one had disappeared and the rattle of the drums had died away. Then she turned and vaguely scanned the mounds that rose about her, clutching still tighter the fading bunch of dandelions and grass that her chubby hand held. An old man came by and gently patted her curly head as he spoke her name, but she only shrank back still further, and when he told a passing stranger that the little one’s father had died on shipboard and been buried at sea, there was only a tear drop in the child’s eye to tell that she heard or knew the story.

When they were gone she moved on further to a neglected, empty lot, and, kneeling down, she piled up a mound of earth, whispering as she patted it and smoothed it with her chubby hand: “This won’t be so awfully big as the others, I guess, but may be it will be big enough so that God will see it, and think that papa is buried here.” Carefully she trimmed the sides with the grass she plucked, murmuring on: “And may be it will grow so that it will be like the rest in two or three years, and then maybe papa will sometime come back and”–.

But she paused, as though it suddenly dawned upon her young mind that he rested beneath the waves, and the tear-drops that sprang to her eyes moistened the little bunch of dandelions that she planted among the grasses on the mound she had reared. When the sexton passed that way at night as he went to close the gates, he found the little one fast asleep, with her head pillowed on the mound.

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 30 October 1879: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Victorian mourning was built around a fixed and ideal ritual: an edifying death-bed, preparing the loved one’s body for the grave, the funeral, and then the burial in a quiet, green cemetery beneath a headstone with a touching inscription, where the family could visit, plant flowers, weep, or picnic. Decoration Day was an important holiday for the bereaved. Graves were tidied and planted and the dead were remembered.

Those whose loved ones never returned: whose bodies were either not identified or were buried on a distant battlefield felt a sense of incompleteness beyond their personal loss: they had also been deprived of essential parts of the mourning ritual.

Mrs Daffodil knows of a person whose Great-Great-Great Grandfather was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. Family lore says that his head was shot off so that his body was never identified and was buried as an “Unknown” at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  The man’s daughter never turned away a tramp, believing it might be her father come back.

 

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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A Patch-work May Day Entertainment: 1904

May Day 1903

At a May Day entertainment given last year a popular hostess noted the fact that there was repeated controversy among her guests concerning May Day traditions and ancient customs among various nations, which gave her an Idea for this year’s novel May party. She has chosen for her guests all the members of her literary club, and other friends who are fond of literary research and competition. To a certain number she has assigned the task of searching out and describing quaint May Day celebrations whose origins have been lost in the mists of remote antiquity. Others have been requested to describe the customs that have been handed down from our Gothic ancestors. Still others will describe quaint celebrations that have their origin in the Floralia of the Romans. The strange May festivals of the ancient Druids, and the May games which Christianity finally adopted from these, will also be brought up for consideration, with prizes awarded (of course) for the best papers on the various subjects. But the most interesting feature of the entertainment will be the acting out of many curious customs.

As the entertainment will be given on the eve of May Day, the festivities will be continued until the “Meeting of the Dew” may be celebrated in the early hours of May Day morning. When the people of ancient Edinburgh used to assemble at Arthur’s Seat to “meet the dew” May dew was thought to possess all kinds of virtues. Even the English girls went into the field to wash their faces in it at dawn, in order to procure a good complexion. Samuel Pepys records in his delightful diary that his wife has gone to Woolwich for a little change of air “and to gather the May dew.” This form of celebration would have to be omitted when the entertainment is given in a city home, but as our hostess has spacious grounds surrounding her suburban house, the “meeting of the dew” will be a novel feature of the celebration.

Another quaint festivity that can be carried out on the lawn if desired, but which might also be celebrated as a parlor dance for a city home, is the German Walpurglsnacht, and although the witches may not “ride up the Brocken on magpies’ tails,” their weird dance may be celebrated—the witches who dance on the Brocken until they have danced away the winter’s snow.

The “Parade of Sweeps” will be an interesting feature of the entertainment. It is said that the parade of sweeps in bowers of greenery lingered on rather longer in England than May poles. It is supposed to have originated in this way—and this story will be told by one of those to whom the searching for English festivities has been assigned. Edward Wortley Montagu (born about 1714) who later was destined to win celebrity by still stranger freaks, escaped when a boy from Westmont School, and borrowed the cloths of a chimney sweep, in whose trade he became an adept. A long search led to his discovery and restoration to his parents on May 1, in recollection of which event Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu is said to have instituted the May Day feast given by her for many years to the London chimney sweepers. A few of the guests who are humorously inclined will don costumes of the old-time chimney sweeps, and after their mirth-provoking “dance of the sweeps,” will retain the costume while acting the clown during the remainder of the entertainment.

The final celebration before the May Day breakfast—which will be served shortly after midnight, in the earliest hours of May Day morning—will be patterned after a quaint custom in Lorraine, in which jokes on individual guests will play an important part. In Lorraine, girls dressed in white go from village to village stringing off couplets in which the inhabitants are turned into somewhat unmerciful ridicule. The girls of this place enlighten the people of that as to their small failings, and vice versa. The village poets harvest the jokes made by one community at the expense of another, in order to shape them into a consecutive whole for recital on May Day. The girls are rewarded for their part in the business by small coin, cakes and fruit.

Although the idea of reward and of going from village to village for adaptable jokes will not be carried out, this can be made a charming feature of the festivity. To a number of practical jokers has been assigned the task of forming into laughable couplets all the faults and failings or peculiarities of the various guests, and while the unpleasant sting of personality will be avoided, by omitting mention of any particular guest in connection with the various accusations, there will be continual sport In choosing the guest to whom the joke seems most applicable.

Caldecott, Randolph, 1846-1886; May Day

Caldecott, Randolph; May Day; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/may-day-204629

Several quaint old-time dances will be Introduced during the evening; but as no May Day party can be quite complete without the English dance around the May pole, a flower-decked pole will be a feature of the parlor decorations. And after the final May dance in good old English style about this pole, each guest will receive as a souvenir one of its gay silk streamers and a floral wreath or garland. Phebe Westcott Humphreys.

The Country Gentleman, Volume 69, 1904: p. 378

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil finds the whole thing a contrived, patch-work sort of entertainment. What sane hostess would try to cram academic papers, dew, dancing witches, and the May Pole into a single party?  One might even call it a “crazy quilt.” Witches and May Poles and Sweeps, oh my!

To be Relentlessly Informative, Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, who died in 1800, gave for many years a May-day entertainment to the chimney-sweeps of London at her house in Portman Square. These sooty guests were regaled with roast beef and plum-pudding, and a dance succeeded, while each of them received a shilling on his departure.

Mrs Daffodil has written before on the Ideal and the Real May Day, as well as some other over-elaborate May Day pageants and a parody of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s bumpity-thumpity poem, The May Queen, adapted for inclement weather, as is Britain’s wont on that day.

 

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.

 

Happy Easter from Mrs Daffodil

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers the happiest of holidays accompanied by spring-tide flowers, chocolate eggs, a fetching head-dress, and fluffy animal companions.

 

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.

 

Making Easter Bonnet Flowers: 1903

summer flower hat

Flower garden hat, just right for an Easter bonnet, c. 1915 http://www.augusta-auction.com/list-of-upcoming-sales?view=lot&id=15341&auction_file_id=33

Making Flowers for Gorgeous Easter Bonnets

By John Mathews

The door flew back suddenly—and I stood in the midst of an artificial-flower garden. The air was filled with a song and the voices were those of women. About me on long tables were heaps of half-finished blossoms. Around the tables sat the flower-girls, singing, as their fingers flew rapidly over bits of colored cloth. Roses and daisies and violets were blooming by the hundreds; leaves were unfolding, green branches were growing before my very eyes. And the flowers which were being produced in this atmosphere of song were Easter blossoms, the most brilliant and the most conspicuous of all that are seen on that beautiful holiday, for they were the flowers of the wonderful Easter bonnet .

And this was the busiest season in the big New York flower factory, which produces every year hundreds of bushels of the artificial floral gems. I saw at once that the making of flowers has become an art, for by the cunning combination of muslins and silks, velvets and satins, with amazingly delicate tints, a picture is made of the real rose or the real violet or daisy—a picture that, while it is only an imitation, possesses beauty in itself, just as a landscape, while only a copy, has much of the charm of that from which its inspiration comes. Here was a most unusual situation in this flower garden. If the flowers had been real, and the place where they bloomed a garden, instead of a big, dingy room, it would have been only natural for the gardeners to be gayly singing. But for factory workers to be making music as they toil is a thing not often known.

I have heard of great cigar factories in Florida where an orchestra plays to lift the spirits of the men while their backs are bent in labor. And I have heard, too, of other factories where the women who are employed are cowed and suppressed and not permitted, on pain of fine, to speak to each other excepting in a low tone of voice. But here was a factory where the workers were allowed and even urged to sing. And it seemed a particularly appropriate combination — the song and the flowers for the Easter time. A dozen of the girls were singing in strong, clear voices a popular air, one of the sort that lend themselves to notes long-drawn-out. The chorus ran something like this:
There are eyes of blue,
There are brown eyes too,
There are eyes of every size and eyes of every hue.
But if you are wise,
You’ll take my advice,
And be careful of the maiden with the dre-a-my eyes.

There was no weariness, no doleful note, in the song, for it bore the joy which it, also gave. And while they sang the women worked the faster, their fingers performing the routine to which they were accustomed, while their spirits, no doubt, floated away very pleasantly on the wings of the music. Not only is there a humanitarian, but a practical business purpose, as well, in this musical accompaniment to the daily toil of the factory. Men and women both work best when they are most happy and contented. If the girls in this flower factory were not finding relief from the drudgery of their work in song they would be talking, and when they grew emphatic or their conversation became descriptive, these persons, being women, might frequently illustrate what they said with motions of their hands; and hands thus employed would not be making flowers. There would be more gestures than blossoms. But as they sing, their hands never stop. Thus these girls and women become happier and more efficient at the same time, for there is great power in music.

In the centre of this scene of industry and song stood a tall, graceful young woman who is of first importance in this story because it is she who makes the first designs of the blossoms, and also conducts the department which finishes them.

-

Artificial flowers packed in their original box, c. 1875-1900 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1349734.1

The manufacture of artificial flowers is one of the great industries. Formerly the best flowers and the largest quantities came from abroad, the most beautiful and costly from Paris, the cheaper grades from Germany and Austria. Millions of artificial flowers are still brought from Europe for the American woman’s hat, but the American factories are growing fast, and are becoming rivals of those of France in the perfection of their product.

The smallest varieties of flowers, the forget-me-nots, for instance, are seldom made here. They can be bought more cheaply in Germany, for there they are manufactured at small cost by women in the prisons, girls in convents, and even by school children after school hours. This labor is cheaper than any that can be found in America. But they make the roses, daisies, geraniums, violets, pansies, and all of the others in the largest and best factories of the United States. And some of the copies of these bright gems of the floral world are so skillfully and artistically made that one hesitates before deciding that the artificial is not, after all, a real flower.

The tall young woman, designer of the blossoms and captain of the flower-girls, showed me exactly how a rose was made, a great pink French rose of delicate tint, growing deeper toward the centre.

“Beginning with the petals,” she said, separating a large rose into its parts, “you will see that each is a single bit of muslin—a sort of three-cornered piece, you will notice. The outer petals are the largest, and they decrease in size as they near the centre of the flower.”

She spread the pink pieces out on the table before her. There were forty-eight of them.

“I determine the size of the petals from the real rose,” she said, “pulling out its petals and then copying them on to a pattern. From this pattern a stamp is made. It is like a pinking iron, or a chisel. You hit it on the end with a heavy hammer and drive it through the cloth.”

On the top floor of the factory two strong men were carving out the flowers with these tools. The stamps were driven with each blow of the hammer through several thicknesses of cloth, cutting out the rose petals, or daisy blossoms, or poppy blooms. Before the flowers are stamped out the cloth is first starched in preparation. It is stretched on perpendicular frames and the starch is applied with a brush. When it has dried the cloth is placed before the two men who handle the blacksmith’s hammers.

Then the different parts are colored, and this, as well as the designing of the shape of the flowers, is all-important. In the coloring room are huge bowls and pots filled with coloring matter, for many hundreds of tints are mixed and used in a single factory. A rose petal is pink at the outer edges and light green around the part where it adheres to the flower head. The petals are dipped by hand, first into the green coloring fluid, which contains alcohol to “set” it, and then into the pink color when the green has dried. And there is a great steam-heated drying room where the parts of flowers are put on shelves in trays to dry. The rose petals are then sent to the flower room, which is presided over by Miss Essie Hoar, the designer of flowers in this factory of David Spero.

The petals are put between sheets of thick blotting paper which are moistened. They are taken out of this to be crimped and rounded, for you know there are many curves and swells in each little rose petal. The shaping of the petals is done while they are still damp. A pair of small hot pincers is used to make the convolutions in the surface of each petal. To give the flowers their proper curve and form, a large number of little machines are employed. They are operated by girls and supplied with heat by gas jets, so that while the flower is pressed it is dried and held in shape by the starch which it contains. The rose petals are now ready to be placed on the head of the stem.

Here, again, deftness and skill are required. A cluster of starched threads with tips of a yellow composition is imported from Germany. These threads become the stamens and pistil of the rose. Miss Hoar took the cluster of threads, fastened it to the end of a wire stem, and then began to place the petals around it, dipping the end of each of them in glue. And her fingers moved very rapidly and the rose grew fast, each petal assuming its proper place and position. In less than a minute it was a gorgeous, full-blown flower. Then its stem had to be put on.

Rose stems are made of small hollow tubes of stiffened muslin stained green and cut in the factory to the length desired. But the thorns of the artificial rose are of soft little rubber tips which are put on with glue at regular intervals along the stem. This hollow green tube is slipped over the wire about which the rose blossom grew, and is held there by glue. A tiny green, hollow cup is placed under the head of the flower, the stem being pulled through it. The leaves are fastened to the stem, and the rose is a rose indeed.

The flower factories in the United States buy most of their material from abroad. The stems of various sizes come in coils like rope and are called tubing. The leaves, already stained green, are brought to the United States in boxes, but in the flower factory they must be put on their stems and the veins put in them by a stamping machine. The petals of many flowers are two-colored, the top being of one shade and the under side of another. This fact presents another problem in flower-making. The cloth for such flowers must be painted before the petals are stamped out. The muslin is hung in frames and then one side is painted the tint desired. When that is dry the brush is used on the opposite side with another color, and then the cloth is laid before the stamping iron.

Some one from the flower factory goes every year to Paris. His eyes follow the hats of the women as he sees them on the fashionable boulevards, in the cafés, or at the theatres. And he writes home describing the flowers that he has seen on these hats. The factory at once begins making these flowers with might and main, for it is an absolute certainty that the flowers worn on hats in Paris will a little later be worn on hats in American cities. There are flowers, however, which are in steady demand for several years together. One of these, designed by Miss Hoar, was a velvet daisy of dark red, lustrous hue. Of these 150,000,000 were sold in two years.

with grapes and leaves dec 1917

1917 hat decorated with grapes and leaves

During some seasons cherries are worn on hats; sometimes grapes adorn the feminine bonnets. And the making of this artificial fruit becomes a part of the industry of the flower factory. When grapes are in vogue an entire glass-blowing establishment may be employed to supply the large flower-maker with the little, thin, glass balls which form the body of the grape or cherry. This glass fruit is then dipped in coloring matter and, if it is a grape, is sprinkled, also, with potato flour before the color is dry. This gives the velvet effect of the real fruit, so that the artificial grape is one of the most luscious-looking creations imaginable.

Frank Leslies Weekly 16 April 1903

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A fascinating look at a pretty trade and how delightful that the flower-makers are encouraged to lift their young voices in song!

It grieves Mrs Daffodil to undermine this charming picture of embowered maidens, but what the author does not mention is that the green of the leaves and stems was Scheele’s Green–an arsenical green also known as Paris Green–which, although known to make the complexion pale and interesting, was slowly poisoning these young women. Given the insouciant view of many factory owners, one shudders to think what other hell-brews were used in the making of these lovely objects.

 

 

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.

Martha Washington’s Preserved Pears: 1912

What is perhaps the most valuable jar of preserved pears in the world is in the possession of J. W. Mossburg, and is on exhibition at his restaurant on Pennsylvania avenue.

It Is a bushel jar. and was preserved, it is said, in 1760 by Martha Washington. Mr. Mossburg purchased the pears five years ago for 50 cents, and was not aware at the time that they had such a famous history.

He has recently learned from several men who attended the Philadelphia exposition in 1873 that they were on exhibition there, and from that fact he has traced their history back to the days of Martha Washington. They were preserved, it is believed, in 1760 in an earthen jar, and were never unsealed until they were transferred from the earthen jar to the glass one which now holds them, for the purpose of showing them at the  Philadelphia exposition.

Tracing Pear’s History.

According to John M. Boulter, of Philadelphia, who remembers seeing the pears at the exposition, they were removed to Philadelphia by Ali Benson, an old slave of the Washington’s immediately after the burning of the White House. It is said that when the slave was driving his load, he was held up by some British soldiers and forced to give up several Jars of the pears and some rare old wine. It was several days before he got the rest of his load to Philadelphia, and gave them to John C. Mailer, a friend of the Washington family, who was to keep them until the war was over.

When, at the close of the war, most of the pears were brought back to Washington, several Jars were left as a present to Mr. Mailer. At the time of the Philadelphia Centennial they were brought to light by Mrs. Eilen C. Haller, a descendant of John Haller, who showed them at the exposition.

martha washington's pears

Sold to Woman.

After the exposition was over the pears were sold to Mrs. John J. Keenan, of Baltimore. The price is said to have been $2,000. After the death of Mrs. Keenan’s husband, the pears were sold by the executors of the estate to Charles Sensencsy, of Washington, and their value seems to have been forgotten.

Mr. Mossburg considers the pears almost invaluable, and says he has refused an offer of $300 for them, and several offers of less amounts. The pears are perfectly solid, and so carefully were they preserved that even those touching the sides of the jar do not appear to have been at all flattened.

Society Wants Them.

Judge Charles S. Bundy. a prominent member of the Oldest Inhabitants Association of the District of Columbia, will Introduce a resolution at the next meeting of that organization, requesting that it take some action toward securing the jar of pears. Judge Bundy believes that such a valuable relic should not be owned privately, but should either be brought back to Mt. Vernon or put into the hands of some patriotic organization.

“These pears, preserved by Martha Washington In 1760, are In my opinion, one of the most valuable relics in the country,” declared Judge Bundy yesterday, “imagine having in our possession, in these modern days, a sample of the cookery of Martha Washington nearly 152 years old! Every precaution should be taken to safeguard the relic, and I for one am strongly In favor of having the pears taken over by some patriotic organization or cared for by the Government.”

Mr. Mossberg recognizes the propriety of having the fruit in possession of some patriotic organization, but at the same time felt that it was not an impropriety for him to retain possession of them as long as he allowed the public to view It freely.

Mossburg’s Position.

“You can readily appreciate my position In this matter,” he said yesterday. “The pears are, so far as I know, the only surviving examples of the cookery of Mrs., Washington. For that reason I am not over willing for them to leave my possession. Of course, if some responsible public organization would take them over, and guarantee that they would not get Into private ownership again, it is possible that 1 would part with them, if they are to remain in private ownership, I, above all people am entitled to keep them.”

A letter has been received from the regents of Mt. Vernon, asking that they be allowed to Investigate the authenticity of the history of the pears. Mr. Mossburg answered the letter, stating that he was exerting every effort to procure all documents necessary to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt the verity of his relic. The pears are of the Bartlett variety, and were grown. it is believed, in the orchards of Mt. Vernon.

While the recipe used by Mrs. Washington for preserving this particular jar of pears is not positively known, there seems to be no reason for supposing it was not the same as that now In the possession of Mrs. Arvllla McDonough, of 1401 Massachusetts avenue. This recipe, in the language in which it was originally written. is as follows:

“Ye pears shoulde be very freshe. Washe and put yhem into bollng lye for on minute. Remove and put yhem Into cold water. Nexte put ye fruit into a prepared sirupe of sugar and water. Use an half pound of sugar for everie pound of ye fruit; water to dissolve. Now cook for on quarter of an hour. Remove and put on plates to cool. Boyle sirupe down to one-half  its original quantitie. Put sirupe and pears into jars and add brandy. Seal while hote.”

“If Martha Washington were alive today and attempted to use her recipe for preserving pears, she would get in trouble with the pure food experts,” said Dr. Harvey W. Wiley when discussing the recipe supposed to have belonged to Mrs. Washington, now in the possession of Mrs. Arvllla McDonough, of 1401 Massachusetts avenue northwest.

“The recipe would have been all right,” continued the expert. “It would have been excellent if she had left out the part about boiling them in lye. That is plainly in violation of the pure food laws and there was a possibility of the poison getting into the pears if the skins were not promptly removed after immersion.

“The pears now in the possession of Mr. Mossburg are, I should say, not dangerous, even if Mr. Mossburg cared to eat them, which I understand he does not. The immersion in brandy for so many years has probably purified them even if they did originally become poisoned.”

The Washington [DC] Times 11 September 1912: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Happily, in time for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers in the States who celebrate Presidents Day, there has been quite a stir about the newly discovered Washington pears, said to have been “put up,” by Martha Washington herself.

From the time of the United States Centennial in 1876, the public was fascinated with the Revolutionary period and with relics of the early days of the United States. Martha Washington, in particular, was an object of reverence, as the Mother of Her Country. Exhibitions and reports on garments, weapons, locks of hair, and jewellery worn or owned by the Washington family filled the newspapers. There was also something of a “colonial revival” in dress, which had the disastrous result that many genuine 18th-century garments were altered for fancy dress, pageants, or “Lady Washington teas.”  (Mrs Daffodil has previously written of a disastrous attempt to organise such an entertainment, as well as a young lady who deceived the Concord Ball with a “genuine” 18th-century gown aged with the assistance of coffee and camphor.)

As for the “verity” of the Washington pears, Mrs Daffodil cannot find any independent evidence that the famous pears were any more than a canny marketing device on the part of Mr. Mossburg, the owner of the Cafe Florentine.

Mrs Daffodil has just been quietly taken aside by a kindly friend who points out that the recent thrilling discovery was actually of General Washington’s hairsfound by Archivist John Meyers in an ancient book at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Mrs Daffodil, who, distinctly heard “pears,” regrets the error.

Here is Susan Holloway Scott, author of I, Eliza Hamilton, on the fascinating “back story” of the Washington hair.

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 Dress-Maker’s Lover: 1879

The Dress-Maker’s Lover.

Cupid is at work again in our community, and this time he has rammed an arrow right through the swain, but it seems has only tickled the gay young dress-maker a little with the feathered end of his dart. The following poem written by the victim tells the whole story:

Only this one dear boon I ask,

That you will give me your a dress,

That in your smiles I yet may basque,

And gain new life at each caress.

 

The blushes mantle on your cheeks;

Deny me not, it’s dread foulard;

I’ve pressed my suit for days and weeks,

And sent you letters by the yard

 

Oft at your feet I’ve knelt and braid,

But you have cut me short and square;

It lace with you, but I’m a frayed

You will not make up to me fair.

 

It’s sashy pale has grown my face,

Though all things look most navy blue;

I’ll collar mine, or I will face

Whatever evils may ecru.

The State Rights Democrat [Albany, OR] 19 September 1879: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A Valentine’s effusion of the most cutting pattern…. It is obvious that the speaker considers himself incom-pleat without his be-stitching companion. Mrs Daffodil feels that he is waist-ing his time. A man who took such liberties with the language would be ill-suited to matrimony and without stay-ing power. He might wish to so-lace himself with Mr Hugh Rowley’s jokes:

Why is love like Irish poplin?

Because it’s half stuff.

Why is a deceptive woman like a seamstress?

Because she is not what she seams!

Puniana, Hugh Rowley, 1867: p. 213-4

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the happiness of loving and being loved on this Valentine’s Day.

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.

Dr Graham’s Whirl-wind Courtship: 1850s

Abraham_Solomon_-_First_Class_-_The_Meeting___And_at_first_meeting_loved___-_Google_Art_Project

First Class, The Meeting–And At First Meeting, Loved, Abraham Solomon, 1855

A Very Short Courtship

Dr. Graham having passed a very creditable examination before the Army Medical Board, was commissioned an assistant surgeon in the United States army in 18__, and ordered to report for duty to the commanding officer at Fort M’Kavett, Texas.

There were no railroads In the western country at that time and the usual way of getting to Texas was by the Mississippi river to New Orleans, and then crossing the Gulf to stage It up through the State.

Dr. Graham was very desirous of examining the western country mineralogically, so applied and received permission from the War Department to go by way of Arkansas and the Indian Territory to his post.

On his arrival at St. Louis he shipped the greater part of his baggage by way of the river, and taking only what he could carry on horseback, started on his journey.

While in St. Louis, at the Planter’s Hotel, he formed the acquaintance of a gentleman, who, learning where he was going, gave him a letter of introduction to his brother, who was a farmer living on his route to Arkansas.

It is not necessary for us to follow him on his road, or tell what discoveries he made in the interest of science; sufficient it is that one day, toward dusk, he reached the house of the gentleman to whom he had the letter, and dismounted, knocked at the door and presented his letter to the judge (even in those days every one was a judge in Arkansas), who would not have needed it to have accorded him an open-handed welcome; for travelers were a God-send and news was as much sought after then as now.

After a short visit, he proposed to go on to the next town, about four miles off, where he intended to put up for the night. The judge would not listen to his leaving, and was so cordial in his desire for him to stay that he would have been rude not to have done so.

The judge, after directing one of the servants to attend to his horse, invited him into the dining room, where he was introduced to the wife and daughter of his host, and also to a substantial western supper, to which he did ample justice.

After supper they adjourned to the parlor, and he entertained his new-made friends with the latest news from the outside world. The judge brewed some stiff whisky punch, which Graham, socially inclined, imbibed quite freely. The old couple retired, and left their daughter to entertain him; and whether it was the punch, or what, at all events he made hot love to her, and finally asked her to be his wife and go to Texas with him, to which she consented. She being very unsophisticated and innocent, took everything he said in downright earnest, and with her it was a case of “love at first sight.”

But I am anticipating. During the night our friend, the doctor, woke up, and remembered what he had said, and it worried him; but he said to himself, after emptying his water pitcher:

“Never mind, I’ll make it all right in the morning. I must have made a fool of myself. She’s lovely, but what must  she not think of me!” and rolled over and went to sleep again.

Morning came, and upon his going to the parlor, he found the young lady alone, for which he blessed his lucky stars, and was just about to make an apology, when she said:

“I told mamma, and she said it was all right,” at the same time giving him a kiss which nearly took his breath away. “Papa is going to town this morning, dear, and you ride in with him and talk it over; but he won’t object, I know.”

“But, my dear miss, I was very foolish, and—“

“No, indeed; you were all right.”

“Well, I will go to my post, and return for you, for I must go on at once.’

“No, I can go with you.”

“You won’t have the time.”

“Oh, yes, I will. Papa will fix that. It would be such an expense for you to come back all the way here.”

“But I have no way of taking you.”

“I have thought of that; that does not make any difference. Father will give us a team.”

With nearly tears in his eyes he went in to breakfast, to which at that moment both were summoned; but, alas! appetite he had none. It was not that she was not pretty and nice; but he thought what a confounded fool she must be not to see that he wanted to get out of it. But it was no use. When the judge started for town, Dr. Graham was sitting beside him. The judge saved him the trouble of broaching the subject by starting it himself:

“I always, young man, give Nell her own way; so it is all right; you need not say a word.”

“But I’ve got to go on to-day.”

The old judge turned his eyes toward him. He had an Arkansas bowie in each, and one of those double-barrel shot-gun looks as he said:

“You ain’t trying to get out of it, are you?”

The doctor, taking in the situation, said, promptly, all hope being gone:

“No, sir.”

“That’s right. I will fix everything for you; give you that black team of mine, and a light wagon to carry your wife’s things.” (here the doctor shuddered) “and a thousand as a starter. You can be married to-night, and leave early in the morning. That will suit, won’t it?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Graham, faintly. But on the judge turning toward him, he said, “yes, sir, certainly.”

“After you get fixed at your post I’ll come down and pay you a visit. I have been thinking about selling out and moving to Texas for some time; it’s getting crowded here, and things are a-moving as slow as ‘lasses in wintertime.”

Things were arranged as the old judge said. The marriage took place, and the army received an addition to its ladies in the person of the Arkansas judge’s daughter, and Dr. Graham has never regretted the obduracy of his father-in-law, or the amiable simplicity of his wife.

Marin [CA] Journal 27 March 1879: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Perhaps Mrs Daffodil wrongs young Mrs Graham, but “unsophisticated” and “amiable simplicity” are not the adjectives she would have selected.  A young lady whose Papa always gave her her own way was unlikely to have been satisfied with life on a molasses-slow Arkansas farm. She must have dreamed of the day that a dashing, sun-bronzed Army officer would come to call and partake of her father’s fatal punch. The notion of a carefully reared young lady being left to entertain a gentleman on her own also suggests a certain familial calculation.  Mrs Daffodil, for one horrified moment, thought she was witnessing the opening lines of a risque “farmer’s daughter” anecdote….  But the “hot love” was, we are assured by the context and the fact that the Marin Journal was a family newspaper, probably no more than an innocent spot of waist-encircling or tiny-hand-pressing. It is rather a relief to learn that it all worked out so well. Young ladies who are used to their own way often do not take kindly to martial or marital discipline. But one suspects that Nell was far from being a “confounded fool.”

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.