Category Archives: Holidays

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


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.

A Valentine’s Adventure as told by a Letter Box: 1889

postman cupid

 The Queer Adventures of a Valentine: AS TOLD BY A LETTER-BOX.

There is a popular and erroneous impression in general acceptance among people, that we, conglomerate atoms of inanimate nature, are, because of our passivity, senseless and uncomprehending. It is a mistake, and yet I care so little to prove our equality, in this respect, with human beings, that, were it not that I feel convinced of my own power to tell a tale superior in every respect to the quantity of unreadable trash in the shape of MSS. that is confided to my care, I should prefer to rust into my grave, rather than force myself into notoriety by demonstrating the fact by actual and incontrovertible evidence.

The story which I am about to relate extends over the space of a year, and embraces two fetes of St. Valentine. It is only a true little tale of ordinary human passions—love, jealousy, and hatred—not a powerful, thrilling tragedy with great dramatic climaxes and blood-curdling situations and dénouements, such as I read sometimes in the still watches of the night, before the critical eye of the professional reader scans them with merciless severity; but a short story of certain events in the lives of a few obscure, unknown individuals which have come under my personal observation.

It was a raw, gusty afternoon in February, the 13th day of the month, as I knew from the mass of embossed envelopes of all sizes and descriptions which had been shoved down my throat during the day. My jaws positively ached from incessant opening and shutting, and even my capacious abdomen was constantly filled to repletion, notwithstanding the kind and regular efforts of my friend, the collector, to lighten my load. The last deposit had been a box of such dimensions that, in the attempt to squeeze it into my weary mouth, the sender had nearly suffocated me, and I was sick and tired of the whole nonsensical business. The street lamps were being lighted, and the approach of night was heralded by the swift on-coming of the grey shadows of her outriders. The bare, gaunt branches of the leafless trees bent and bowed low in homage to the advent of the ebon lady, while aloft, in the dusky heavens, the faint light of a silver crescent and tiny, twinkling points of brilliancy showed that not on earth alone was honor being done her sable majesty.

I was tired to death, as I say, and was about closing my eyes, hoping that I might catch a few winks, when I heard a soft patter of steps gradually slackening until they finally came to a standstill by my side. I opened one eye slowly, and then, being rather pleased and conciliated by the prospect, unclosed the other. Before me stood, in evident hesitation, a slender, delicate maiden of perhaps eighteen years, poorly clad, but of a sweet, fair countenance, balancing, undecidedly in her hands, an envelope of the description above alluded to. There were many emotions legible on the shy, young face; a tender perplexity in the gentle blue eyes, doubt and timidity in the quiver of the pretty, curved lips, and embarrassment in the delicate flush on the transparent skin. There was apparent indecision in the action of the shabbily gloved hands which now raised the missive to my eager lips and anon drew it tantalizingly away. Evidently she could not quite make up her mind to taking the irrevocable step, and I was becoming quite fearful lest I should lose the opportunity which I desired of discovering to whom and of what nature this valentine might be, when my hopes were quite dashed by an incident which took place.

Down a side street came the clatter, clatter of a pair of high heels, a sound which, in her abstraction, the young girl failed to notice until it had almost ceased, when a loud voice proceeding from the owner of the noisy articles startled her out of her reverie.

“Hello, Annie! cold, isn’t it? Going my way or waiting for Paul Benson, eh?”

The words were accompanied by a significant wink and chuckle which not even the florid beauty of big black eyes, full, red lips and glowing cheeks could render other than coarse and vulgar. The other shrank and lost the dainty flush of embarrassment in a still, white heat of anger, and the contrast between the two girls was that of the vivid full-blown peony and the quivering mimosa.

“Neither the one nor the other, Miss Hardy,” she said, in a low, cold tone. “My way is entirely the opposite of yours. Good night,” and, slipping the missive quickly into her pocket, she passed on.

But the swiftness of her action was yet too slow for the eyes that watched her, and knowing the vacillating character of woman’s nature perhaps better than Florence Hardy, after deliberating a moment, moved into the shadow of a projecting door-way and waited. The receding figure of the girl soon diminished its swift pace, which grew slower and slower until it became a mere saunter which, after a few halting steps, stopped entirely. Evidently the anger aroused by the taunting words of the girl named Hardy had been dissipated by a more potent emotion and the temptation to send the dainty, white messenger on its way had overcome her fear of observation, for, turning suddenly, she walked swiftly back, opened my mouth with a soft but determined movement, thrust in the valentine without a moment’s hesitation and moved away.

Oh, how I longed for a voice, no matter how feeble a quality, to whisper in the small shell-like ear a warning that the black, lustrous eyes of her enemy were still watching her from the concealing door-way: I could do nothing to aid in this little romance, of whose secrets I was being made custodian, but resolved to satisfy my curiosity by a peep into the enwreathed and flower-decorated envelope which was bearing a message of love from the sweet, pure heart of the gentle maiden to some unknown and perhaps careless lover. Peering, by virtue of the privilege which I enjoy, through the cheap, thin paper of the cover, I saw— not one of the gaudy, high-colored effusions which are, on these fêtes, Cupid’ s stock in trade—but a small, square sheet of paper across one corner of which was tied with virginal ribbon a fragrant, lovely cluster of deep purple violets, while beneath, in a slender, girlish handwriting, were the following verses:
Hast ever sought a violet, love,
Deep in the forest’s heart?
Hast ever watched the tiny thing
Thus shyly growing apart?

Hast ever plucked a violet, love,
And laid it on thy breast?
Dost know the weight of perfume rare
By which its heart’s opprest?

So, like the violet in the wood,
Has grown this love of mine
For thee; I’d share its fragrance with
My faithful Valentine!

I was so interested in reading these lines that I forgot to notice the movements of the girl in the doorway, and soon the appearance of the collector warned me that I had been none too quick in mastering the contents of the envelope. He was a good-looking, jovial young fellow, with an eye to a pretty girl—as I had frequently remarked—as he pursued his duties and, while he unlocked the door of my heart, he whistled a merry tune which was broken abruptly as a loud, familiar voice accosted him:—

“Here, Mr. Jennings, wait a moment. I’ve been waiting for you the best part of an hour.”

“Good evening, Miss Hardy! What can I do for you? Got a valentine too big for the box, for your best man, and want me to put it in here?” motioning to the huge, striped ticking sack which lay on the pavement at his feet.

“No, not exactly. If I was going to send a valentine to my best man, I wouldn’t send it much further on,” with a bold, coquettish glance from the black eyes which made the young fellow color with pleasure. ‘The truth is, I want you to do me a favor. It’s rather against your rule, I guess, but twon’t do any harm, as it’s my own property that I want to get back again, and no one will be the wiser. You see”—coming quite close to him and laying a large, well-shaped and gloved hand on his arm—”I dropped a valentine into that box, an hour ago, to one of my old beaux and, come to think it over, I guess there ain’t much use in keepin’ on an old affair like that, when my feelings are all for someonè else, so I want you to get it back again. You’ll give it to me, won’t you?”

There was an eagerness in her tones which should have warned him that some deeper designs lay behind her apparently frivolous desire; and oh, how I yearned for a voice that I might testify to her base purpose! But alas! “The woman tempted me and I did eat.” Soon the dainty white envelope with its address of

“Mr. Paul Benson,

Care Messrs. Harding and Cole.

New York City.”

lay in the out-stretched hand, a few tenderly intoned thanks and Ralph Jennings’ lapse in duty had brought suffering and sorrow to one young heart, anger and wounded vanity to another, and the gratification of an evil desire to a third. By just such a trifling misdemeanor was the whole Pandora box let loose upon the world.

The next morning I was awakened early by the pressure of a hand upon my mouth, and, being very sensitive to personal influences, I felt such a shudder of repulsion at the touch, that I opened my eyes and found that the person who had so affected me was no other than the girl called Hardy. Now was my time for retaliation, and, quick as a thought, I brought my upper lip down upon her fingers with such a force that she gave a little scream, and muttering, “that vile box,” turned away. I glanced at the letter she had forced down my unwilling throat, and, to my great surprise, found the envelope the same as that she had abstracted the evening before, save for the addition of two small initials in the corner—A.C.

Determined to see if, indeed, the girl had repented of her evil act during the night, I peeped through the cover to discover if the original contents remained intact. Alas! what a change had been wrought. Instead of the dainty bunch of violets and the tender little plea for love, a coarse, common sheet of paper bore one of the vile caricatures, with its miserable attempt at versification, commonly known as “comic valentines.” Now I divined the creature’s wicked intentions, and did my best to foil it by contracting my person so that the ugly imposture fell down into my remotest corner. My efforts were in vain, however, for when the collector again made his rounds, he gathered it in with the others, and I was left, lonely and desolate, to bemoan its wretched transformation.

Days and weeks passed by, and the miserable trick played upon this little romancer so disgusted me with human nature that I quite lost my interest in reading the letters confided to my care. Often I saw the young girl called Annie pass and repass my house, and with pain and sorrow I watched the increasing lassitude and fragility of the slim, girlish frame. She probably worked in some shop, or perhaps sewed for her living— the latter I rather think, for I remember that she often carried a bundle, as of work. It was some weeks before I overcame my contempt of humanity sufficiently to care to peruse its affairs, but finally I resumed my interest in my old amusement, and one day, in May, was again made the recipient of a letter of Miss Hardy’s. Her already exhuberant manner had gained an. added boldness, and she bounced across the street and accomplished her errand with a swaggering gait and insolent air that were in great contrast to the languid pace and shy demeanor of her quiet, gentle little rival.

Ah! What a dreadful thing is this lack of speech, when one is a mute witness of wrong and evil doing! As I read the notice addressed in a coarse, round hand. to Annie Chase, I felt what a curse my dumbness had been in hindering me from righting, before it was too late, the wrong which had been committed. This was the announcement on the newspaper clipping which was on its way to the poor young sewing girl:

“Hardy-Benson. In New York City, April 19th, by Rev. Samuel Small, Florence Hardy to Paul Benson. All of N.Y.”

For a week she did not appear at all, and then, one morning, I saw her coming. Was it she, or was it her ghost , I wondered, that approached in the early morning sunshine? I could see the golden nimbus about her fair white face afar off, before I could distinguish the features or discover the terrible change in the countenance. I had thought her fading so fast that nothing could hasten the alteration; but one glance showed me the wide difference between even a feeble hope and utter despair. So wan, so white and spirit-like was the gentle, pitiful face, that I wondered there was strength sufficient in the fragile form to support it.

One night, in June, I saw the man whom she loved. It was a very warm—almost a hot—night, and she was toiling wearily up the street with a huge bundle in her arms, when, just under the light from the lamp above, she came face to face with a tall, fine-looking fellow of, perhaps, twenty-five years. The suddenness of the encounter betrayed her. She gave a soft, pitiful little cry, “Paul!” and then, her strength forsaking her, leaned against my iron frame for support. I could feel the painful quivering of the slight body, the delicacy and attenuation of the slender limbs—and he! Ah, you would have pitied him, too! the strong, stalwart young fellow, as he gazed from the height of his splendid manhood down upon the transparent beauty of the face, whose terrible alterations were so marked under the brilliant light of the lamp.

“Annie!” he cried, “My God! Annie!”—incredulously, as if he could scarce believe the evidence of his own senses, and then, as if moved by an irresistible impulse, he stooped suddenly and gathered her close to him, while, as he gazed hungrily at the altered face, I heard him mutter, “Damn her, damn her!”

For a moment she lay passively in his arms, and then her strength came back to her. She drew herself hurriedly away ere his lips had done dishonor to her pure, white cheek, and, as he whispered, “I know all, now, Annie, all; God forgive me!” she flashed one look upon him from the depths of her beautiful eyes—a look which was a blending of reproach, entreaty, forgiveness, but above all of enduring love—and fled into the darkness. This was almost the last time I ever saw her. Whether she was too ill to leave her home, or whether, fearing another similar meeting, she purposely avoided this street, I know not; but for a long, long time I heard nothing of her.

Business grows slack in the summer. People are out of town, and my burden of letters is considerably diminished. I care little to read the uninteresting epistles, made up of almost nothing, which are sent from the stay at-homes to their more fortunate absent friends. There is a stagnation of news in the hot season, too, which invests every item and accident with a fictitious value, and the cry of the newsboy dwells with undue stress upon events which, at another and busier season, he would deem quite unworthy of his notice. So it was that one hot day in August these peripatetic little venders made the air vibrate with one oft-repeated and almost unintelligible cry of—

“Ter—rible ax-dent-in a’n’ Albany hotel—woman ‘lopes from her home in N’York—the runaway couple meet with a ter-r-ible death in an elevator!”

I paid little heed to the cry until, as my old friend, the collector, stopped beside me, I heard him say to a man near by:

“Say, Jim, that’s a fearful thing about Florence Hardy.”

“What?” said the man thus addressed.

“Why, haven’t you heard? She ran away from Paul Benson with a man from Albany; they went to a hotel there, and going up in the elevator the thing gave way, and they fell from the fourth story. Fearful thing! I used to like the girl pretty well myself, at one time, but I guess she led poor Benson a life.” And the two men moved away together, leaving me horror-struck at this new event in the little drama to which I had been a sort of god-father.

Often after this I saw Paul Benson. I think he must have moved into my neighborhood, for he frequently stopped and put a letter into my mouth, addressed, evidently, to his parents, in a distant New England town, and, as I read these honest, manly epistles, I felt convinced that the writer was worthy of the love which Annie Chase had bestowed upon him. I noticed every day an increasing firmness in his tread and a more upright, noble carriage of the head and shoulders, as if a weight had been lifted therefrom. But of Annie Chase never a glimpse or a word. I could not tell whether she was living still or whether the gentle spirit had fled from too great a burden of suffering.

At last came round the 13th of February again; and again the aproaching fête was made evident to me by the superabundant accumulation of mail-matter in my interior. The eve of St. Valentine was this year quite different to that of the past. No wind howled dismally amid the bare branches; no fierce, cold blasts lay in wait about the corners to chill and buffet the wayfarer; to-night all was still and quiet, so still that every footstep was audible even at a great distance. I was becoming quite a connoisseur in footsteps and could foretell the approach of my regular contributors before they came into my range of vision. Suddenly I heard a firm, manly tread that sounded very familiar. I had guessed aright, for it was Paul Benson, indeed, who came swiftly onward in the silent night. He stopped beside me and searched for a minute in his pocket, taking therefrom a white something which he held a moment in his hands, then, glancing steadily around, he lifted it slowly to his lips and consigned it to my care. Eagerly I scanned the name it bore: “Miss Annie Chase.” She was then alive! I glanced through the paper and what did I behold! The identical valentine with its bunch of violets—faded and scentless now—and the tender little sentiment beneath which had been supplemented by an addition in a firm, masculine hand:
I thought to pluck a violet sweet,
But ere my tender clasp
Had seized the prize, it palsied grew
From the poisonous sting of an asp.

Again I’d pluck a violet sweet,
Say, has that love of thine,
Like these, thy emblems, faded quite?
Or, am I still thy valentine?

Now all this happened more than two years ago, and there has never come a reply to that valentine, neither have there been any more letters deposited within me from which I could learn the sequel of this little romance; but a week ago I saw coming slowly up the street two familiar figures, one of which pushed before it a well-blanketed perambulator in which a tiny morsel of humanity was sleeping. They were the figures of a man and woman; the former I easily recognized, but the face of the latter was so radiant and happy that in its new and unfamiliar expression I had some difficulty in tracing the sad and gentle beauty of Annie Chase.

Godey’s Lady’s Book: February 1889

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah, that fatal fascinator:  “A man from Albany…”  We could not help but read the tell-tale adjectives that presaged the fall of that “full-blown peony.” “florid,” “coarse, “vulgar.”  And, frankly, anything might be expected of one who used her feminine wiles to lure an innocent postman from the Path of Duty.

But, really, Mrs Daffodil (who has read entirely too many Valentine’s pot-boilers) has lost all patience with young men who are so lacking in confidence (despite their “firm, manly” ways) that they not only throw over the girl of their heart after ostensibly receiving a rude Valentine from said Beloved, but do not even have the nerve to inquire politely if there had been some mistake at the central sorting office.  Instead, they rush off and marry someone entirely unsuitable, furnishing plot tension, and delaying the happy ending (if happy ending there is) for several pages. Paul Benson was fortunate that his Annie did not go into a Fatal Decline on hearing the news of his marriage. Personally, Mrs Daffodil would have liked to have seen her cut him in the street for his foolishness. But that would have been a waste of a florid villainess and the chatty, sentient, and sentimental post-box.


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.

Modern Valentine Flowers: 1911

Costly Flower Valentines

No one welcomes St. Valentine’s day more heartily than the florists unless it is the candy dealers. The modern valentine is a far cry from the lace paper and cardboard affair. Also it costs a lot more than the old-fashioned sort. The old time valentine was often a serious proposition—so serious that the sender never dreamed of inclosing his card, knowing that the recipient would have no trouble at all in guessing where it came from. The average young man sent one a year—that is, if he sent any at all. The modern way is different. Oftener than not the donor’s card goes along with the valentine, and if a leading florist is to be believed one young man will send half a dozen floral valentines.

This is speaking generally, of course. There are exceptions, as, for instance, a young man who the other day placed an order with a florist to be delivered to a certain young woman on St. Valentine’s morning by 8 o’clock. He was particular about the hour, wanting to be first in the field, he said. His valentine was to be of violets made into a heart-shaped design ten inches at its widest part, pierced with a slender dagger of solid gold bought at a leading jeweler’s. This was to be inclosed in a pure white satin paper box, tied with four-inch wide violet satin ribbon. The girl who didn’t like that valentine would be hard to please, the florist admitted, even though the donor’s card did go along.


Violets for the Girl

Violets, he said, are a popular valentine for the reason that they are a popular corsage decoration. They mean faithfulness, and it is easy to form them into a heart-shaped bunch. In one case instead of sending the usual long violet pin with the flowers, the florist put in a pin supplied by the customer, made of silver, topped with an enamelled Cupid.

“Corsages are in the lead for valentines, next come boxes of cut flowers, preferably roses, next fancy pieces combining flowers and china or silver or gold—the latter, though, usually going to older women,” said the florist.

“Some young men take the trouble to find out a girl’s pet flower and won’t take anything else. A 10-inch across bunch of lilies of the valley is ordered for one young lady and we have orders for gardenia, camellia, and orchid valentines made up in corsage size.

Pink carnations are the favorites of one young woman who will get two dozen of the finest we can send as a valentine.

“White lilacs are ordered for the valentine of a woman who is devoted to this flower, which is not easy to get at this season. I have the privilege of mixing white and pink lilacs if I can’t get really fine white ones.”

One of the most costly valentines ordered at this store is destined for a widow. This is made of the finest specimens of orchids, the sort shading from pink to lilac. It is a three-story affair, standing when finished about three feet high. The lowest round contains two gilded wicker oval baskets, between which rises a tall gilded rod adorned with two oblong gilded vases one above the other. Baskets and vases are lined with zinc and will hold water. When sent each receptacle will be filled with orchids and orchids will drop from one to the other, practically covering the whole frame.

Another orchid valentine is of the same order, but smaller, consisting of one oval basket with a handle following its widest part, and which covered with orchids gives the basket a two-story look.

China cupid in gondola

China cupid in gondola

Pink Roses Final.

“Valentines of silver gold or china receptacles filled with flowers did not originate with florists,” a Washington flower dealer said. “I don’t mean large pieces, but dainty, fine, often costly vases and small jardinières which may be used simply as art objects. One of these, in the shape of a gondola, a bunch of cupids sitting in the prow, the whole thing not more than nine inches long, represents a valuable kind of porcelain. I understand, and the article is almost a work of art. This, filled with violets, goes to a lady for a valentine. A silver box with a hinged cover, about 8 by 5 inches and 5 inches deep, was brought in last year to be fixed up with violets for a valentine. It was intended for a jewel box, I believe.

“All sorts of vases in all sorts of shapes are utilized to carry the flower valentine, some of them quite tall and not costly; others smaller and costing a stiff price. These, as a rule, go to older women. When fancy flower pieces are sent to young women the foundation is usually of fancy straw or wood.

“When a man comes in and orders a certain kind of roses and a good many of them sent to a young woman as a valentine I generally take a good look at him, for that sort of order oftener than most others indicates something really doing in the sentiment line. At other seasons to send roses to a girl doesn’t mean nearly so much as when they are sent on St. Valentine’s day. Roses by common consent mean love, and when a man picks out the deepest pink variety in the store—well, as I said before, it usually means something doing. Send his card with it? Yes, indeed.”

The candy dealers, too, have taken to using all sorts of china receptacles filled with bonbons for valentines. Some are low and flat; others two stories high; not unlike an airship, and each when divested of the candy is a pretty ornament for table or cabinet.

One variety of the two-story pattern has a hollow champagne bottle poised aloft and filled with bonbons. The lower part is decorated china and the bottle is removable.

In the leading confectioners’ exquisite example of Dresden and of Sevres china shaped as boats, pony carts, wheelbarrows, and automobiles are included in the novel candy holders provided for those able to pay pretty well for a valentine, and though the connection between sentiment and bric-a-brac is not very clear, at the same time this is the style of valentine the up-to-date girl is quite likely to prefer.

The Washington [DC] Post 12 February 1911: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Violets, in the language of flowers, mean modesty, love, and faithfulness. If they are white, “candor” or “innocence.”  They have long been a staple of Valentine’s Day; they are also associated with half-mourning. There is a moral there somewhere, but Mrs Daffodil does not care to dwell on it.

One does wonder what the language of flowers has to say about a three-feet-high arrangement of orchids destined for a widow? While orchids signify “beauty” and “refinement” in the language of flowers, Mrs Daffodil associates them with the nouveau riche and “stage-door Johnnies” of the Music Halls. Perhaps the giver of the orchids intends the recipient to exchange her weeds for flowers.

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 Valentine Prospectus: 1871

cupid sweeping up love letters The Carolyn Wells year book 1909 1908

Sweeping up on the Stock Exchange floor.

We transcribe, as a tail-piece, a singular valentine, in the shape of a prospectus of a public company in full working order, which was actually received last year by a worthy knight and gallant soldier, who, now a veteran, has left his blood in nearly every quarter of the habitable and inhabitable globe. The puzzles that occur in the list of “Corresponding Agents” are, it may be said with reverence, about as clumsy as they are transparent:—

valentine prospectus


valentine prospectus 2


The Dublin University Magazine, Volume 77, 1871

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  While the ideal marriage in England was a love-match, fully sanctioned by the proud, pragmatical parents, most upper-class marriages contained sordid elements of business in the form of marriage settlements and might well be framed on the order of a corporate merger. (Mrs Daffodil recalls vividly the mercenary negotiations in the case of Consuelo Vanderbilt and the 9th Duke of Marlborough.) One is shocked to find the bride-to-be in this passage referred to a “pecuniary liability.”

A lady who has a fortune at her own disposal sometimes sets all such prudential measures as settlements at defiance, and consigns herself and her belongings to the absolute disposal of her future husband. Believing, in the ardour of her affection, that no change from time or circumstances can ever alter the conduct of her devoted admirer towards herself, she resents every attempt on the part of friends to convince her of the necessity of any kind of self-protection. She is apt to infer that acts of prudence are simply acts of suspicion, and will not consent to any accordingly. That the latter course is sheer folly may be proved by every one not hopelessly under the influence of love-blindness. Far from misconstruing just measures, a really disinterested man is anxious that his bride-elect should receive every protection her guardians may judge necessary to her future welfare; at the same time it is only reasonable that the conditions imposed on himself should not be of too stringent a nature. Every man that marries undertakes a pecuniary liability, in the form of a wife, and should not be stripped of the means of meeting that liability. The higher in the social scale of society that observation is made, the more closely are honourable dealings apparent in the matter of marriage settlements.

Cassell’s Household Guide, 1869: p. 117

Mrs Daffodil notes that the address of the adored object is a German one. One supposes that the ponderous Teutonic humour amused the recipient.

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.


“She looks most like Mother:” 1868

the feast of the bean king twelfth night

The Feast of the Bean King (Twelfth Night), Jacob Jordaens, 1640-45

A Story from Paris

A Paris letter tells us the following story of a Twelfth Night fete in that city:

A wealthy family in the aristocratic Boulevard Malesherbes were amusing themselves in seeking the king’s portion, or the ring in the festal cake, when a lady of the company says to the hostess:

“I wish my portion to be given to the poorest little boy we can find in the street.”

The servant was dispatched on this cold night, and not far from the house he found a ragged urchin trembling with cold and hunger. He brought him up, was ordered into the saloon, where a thousand lights glittered and sparkling fire gladdened and surprised him. As he drew his portion which the benevolent lady had promised; and as luck would have it, the little fellow found the ring, and, of course, he was king. They all shouted out, that being king must choose a queen. He was asked so to do, and, looking around the company, he chose the very lady who had proposed to cede her portion of the cake. He was asked why he chose her. He said: “I don’t know; she looks most like mother!”

“Whose mother?”

“My mother! I never knew her, but was stolen away from her, and here is her portrait!”

With this he drew from out of his ragged coat a likeness proved to be that of the very lady herself, who, while in Italy, had her child stolen from her, and how he turns up a poor little ragged Savoyard, dragging along a miserable existence in Paris while his mother by an intuition, perhaps, felt that in the air near to where she was, was one so near to her.

The Hornellsville [NY] Tribune 20 August 1868: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Would a child stolen from his mother still retain her portrait? Surely those who took the child would have disposed of anything of value. Still, it is a pretty story, and we must not cavil too much at a holiday story with a happy ending. Twelfth Night Parties were the riotous end to the Christmas season. Here are some details of the feast:

Twelfth Night Parties

In England and on the Continent this used to be the time chosen for elaborate masked balls and parties. A ring was concealed in an immense cake, and the guest obtaining it was made . “king” or “queen.” It is a matter of history that Mary, Queen of Scots, honored her maid Mary Seaton, by robing her in her own royal apparel to be the ” Queen of Twelfth Night.”

Tradition says that on this day every vestige of Christmas green must be taken down and burned. This is a peace offering to evil spirits, and assures good luck to the household.

Invitations to a Twelfth Night party afford an opportunity for the pen-and-ink artist to show her skill. A bonfire piled high with holly wreaths, or a cake with a ring suspended over it, is a suitable decoration. If there is no open fireplace for the burning of the greens, there may be a back yard, where the decorations may be offered with due ceremony.

Twelfth Night Cakes

Cakes are to Twelfth Night what the tree is to Christmas. In London, on the night before this festival, there are always crowds before the bakery shop windows to see the wonderful examples of cakes both great and small; these are ornamented with mechanical toys, live birds, and all sorts of grotesque decorations.

Decorations for a Twelfth Night Table

This decorative scheme was carried out in England, and is easily adaptable by any hostess who can imagine how things will look and then carry out the idea. The centrepiece was a court jester’s cap made in sections of different colors, with bells on the points. A circle of snapping-cracker paper caps surrounded it. At either end of the table there was a crimson, cushion, on which rested gorgeous gilt crowns for the King and Queen. When the cake was passed, the guest who received the bean hidden in the cake, was the King; the pea designated the Queen, and the clove the Court Jester. The other guests appropriated the snapping caps, crowns were donned, and a merry time ensued.

“Dame Curtsey’s” book of novel entertainments for every day in the year, Ellye Howell Glover,1907: pp 5-7

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 Victorian Book of the Dead

A book on the popular and material culture of Victorian death and mourning.

Morbid Curiosities

Promoting the education and interest in all things death-related and removing the stigma from the fate we are all destined for

Week In Weird

Paranormal News, Reviews, and Reports of the Strange and the Unexplained

Hayley is a Ghost

'When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.'

Lindagodfrey's Blog

Author & Investigator of Strange Creatures

The Concealed Revealed

Shedding light on the concealed object, revealed

A Grave Concern

A member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits

Ghostly Aspects

Supernatural Folklore

Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!


If Monsters Don't Exist, Why Are They Out To Get Me?

Misc. Tidings of Yore

Forgotten Lore & Historical Curiosities

Haunted Ohio Books

This is the official website of the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series and the Ghosts of the Past series by Ohio author Chris Woodyard

Deathly ponderings

The mutterings of a couple of thanatology nerds


All that's weird in Oz.

freaky folk tales

A haunting we will go...

Two Nerdy History Girls

A blog about costume, history, and social ephemera