Category Archives: Humour and Satire

Baby’s Pitty Itty Picture: 1911

His “Pitty Itty Picture”

By MAX MERRYMAN

“Yes, it’s the very first time he ever had his photograph taken, so, of course, we want to get the very best picture possible, and —no, grandma; I don’t think, after all, that we’d better try to have it taken with his little rattle in hand. Do you, Aunt Harriet? You see, he would be apt to want to shake the rattle at the very moment when the photographer wants him to be perfectly still; but I don’t believe we can get him to keep perfectly still for ten seconds. He is really the most active child I ever saw, Mr. Photographer. He doesn’t even lie still in his sleep. I really think that it is nervousness more than anything else. The doctor says that the child is perfectly well. In fact, I never saw a healthier child. He has never been sick a minute, and he is six months old today: I didn’t want his photograph taken any earlier than that, for I think that a baby hardly ever has much expression until he is about six months old, although every one says that our little Reginald is different from most babies in that respect. His Aunt Lucy was saying yesterday that he had the most intelligent expression of any—oh! I want several negatives taken, and see which one I like best. His grandma — that is, my mother here — wants one just head and shoulders; and his other grandma is very anxious to have a full figure, with him lying on a pillow we brought with us. His Aunt Lucy wants us to try and get a profile of him for her, for she says he has really a remarkable profile for a child of his age; and I want one picture with him in my arms, and his dear little cheek cuddled up to mine; and then we think it would be nice to have him and his two grandmas taken together; and I want one with him and my mother and myself all in it, showing three generations. I think that—better not fuss with his hair, grandma. Those little curls are about right, and I hope they will show good in the picture. So many people rave over his hair. My sister has a baby boy, ten months old, and he hasn’t a third as much hair as our baby has; but then he has never been real well, and he weighs a pound less than our baby, and—yes; we will be ready in just a few minutes. We want to slip on his best dress. We brought it with us in a box, so that it wouldn’t be all mussed up by him wearing it. Then we brought his best little cap, that his Aunt Jennie sent him from out West, and we want one taken with it on to send to her. This odd little rattle we brought is one his grandma had when she was a baby, and she thinks it would be nice to have it in his hand when it is taken. I am expecting his father in every minute. He said that he would meet us here at—here he is now! Here we are, papa, baby and all, and—see him hold out his little hands to his papa! He did that when he was only four months and one week old, and a friend of mine has a baby, eight months old, that has never yet held out its hands to any one. I want one photograph with the baby in his father’s arms, and—be careful, papa! Don’t get the child excited, or it will be so hard to get him still for his picture. The moment he sees his father he wants to romp and play. He is so full of vitality and—no, Aunt Kitty, I don’t believe that we’d better all go into the operating-room with him. I think that if his papa and his two grandmas and I go it will be enough. Too many might distract him and make it hard to keep him still. Is your father coming in, papa? You know, he said when he was over to the house last night that perhaps he would try to come in, and we thought that maybe we would have him and you and the baby taken together, as you all have the same name. I do think that it is nice to hand down a family name from one generation to another, and—yes, we will be ready in just a moment, as soon as—now, mamma’s baby is going to have his own, owney, itty picture taken, so he is, and he must be ever and ever so—what? Baby isn’t going to cry! Oh, ray, my! Tut, tut, tut! He won’t cry long. He never does. A cousin of mine has a baby that will cry all night, but, of course, the poor child isn’t well. I don’t think that well babies ever cry much, and I know that—papa, you’d better step out of sight until I get him ready. He wants to go to you when you are around. I do hope that the pictures will come out good. You see, we want to have some of them enlarged if they are good, and, as I say, it is his first photograph, and—baby doin’ to have his own, owney, pitty itty picture taken—yes, he is! The picture man will show baby itty bird—yes, he will! Baby must be good. Hand me a safety-pin, some one. Have you his little comb, grandma? Aunty Lou, supposing you moisten a corner of my handkerchief with water. There is a tiny smooch on one cheek. There, I think he is about ready. I do hope the picture will come out good! We mean to have more taken on his first birthday, and every birthday after that, and—no, papa, I’d better carry him into the operating-room. Tome, baby, and have his owney, own, pitty itty picture taken!”

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

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can only pity the unhappy “Mr Photographer.” Mrs Daffodil previously wrote on the demanding “tin-type girls” who made his life a misery.

One photographer confessed to a reporter that he found infants to be trying subjects.

The artist was a heavy-eyed man; his hair was unkempt, his scarf was disarranged, and his coat-sleeves were turned up. He looked weary.

“I have just been attempting to fix a baby’s attention,” he said, in an explanatory tone, “by throwing handsprings behind the camera. When I showed the negative to the mother she made the inevitable observation that the face lacked expression. Can you put expression on the surface of a lump of damp putty?”

“Is it easier to photograph dogs than babies?”

“Oh, a thousand times. You can fix a dog’s attention and hold it for a time without difficulty. Then, dogs faces are more or less expressive. None of them has the look of stupidity that the average baby wears except the pug.

Pug dogs, by the way, are the easiest to take. All you have to do is to put them in front of the camera and they go to sleep at once. The most difficult dog I ever struggled with was an Italian greyhound. It was a delicate and extremely sensitive little creature, and endowed with almost human intelligence. It couldn’t keep its shadowy legs still half a second to save its life. We worked half a day, and succeeded at length in making a picture that was half satisfactory.’

“Do you photograph many dogs?”

“About 200 a year. Though work is done by a few specialists. The big photographers won’t bother with dogs.” New York Sun.

The Daily Globe [St. Paul MN] 3 January 1884: p. 3

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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Encore: A Bashful Bridegroom: 1830s

Country Wedding, John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

A Bashful Bridegroom

Senator Sebastian, of Arkansas, was a native of Hickman county, Tenn. On one occasion a member of Congress was lamenting his bashful awkwardness. “Why,” said the

A Bashful Bridegroom

Senator Sebastian, of Arkansas, was a native of Hickman county, Tenn. On one occasion a member of Congress was lamenting his bashful awkwardness. “Why,” said the senator from Rackensack, “you don’t know what bashfulness is. Let me tell you a story, and when I get through I will stand the bob if you don’t agree that you never knew anything about bashfulness and its baneful effects. I was the most bashful boy west of the Alleghenies. I wouldn’t look at a girl, much less speak to a maiden; but for all that I fell desperately in love with a sweet, beautiful neighbor girl. It was a desirable match on both side, and the old folks saw the drift, and fixed it up. I thought I should die, just thinking of it. I was a gawky, awkward country lout about nineteen years old. She was an intelligent, refined and fairly well educated girl in a country and at a time when the girls had superior advantages, and were therefore superior in culture to the boys. I fixed the day as far as I could have put it off. I lay awake in a cold perspiration as the time drew near, and shivered with agony and thought of the terrible ordeal. The dreadful day came. I went through with the program somehow in a dazed, confused, mechanical sort of a way, like an automaton booby through a supper where I could eat nothing, and through such games as “Possum Pie,” “Sister Phoebe,” and all that sort of thing. The guests one by one departed, and my hair began to stand on end. Beyond the awful curtain of Isis lay the terrible unknown. My blood grew cold and boiled by turns. I was in a fever and then an ague, pale and flushed by turns. I felt like fleeing into the woods, spending the night in the barn, leaving for the west never to return. I was deeply devoted to Sallie. I loved her harder than mule can kick; but that terrible ordeal!—I could not, dare not stand it. Finally the last guest was gone, the bride retired, the family gone to bed, and I was left alone—horror of horrors, alone with the old man. “John,” said he, “you can take that candle, you will find your room just over this. Goodnight, John, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul,” and with a mischievous twinkle in his fine gray eye the old man left the room. I mentally said “Amen” to his “Heaven help you,” and when I heard him close a distant door, staggered to my feet and seized the farthing dip with nervous grasp. I stood for some minutes contemplating my terrible fate, and the inevitable and speedy doom about to overwhelm me. I knew that it could not be avoided, and yet I hesitated to meet my fate like a man. I stood so long that three love letters had grown in the wick of the tallow dip and a winding sheet was decorating the side of the brass candle-stick. A happy thought struck me. I hastily climbed the stair, marked the position of the landing, and the door of the bridal chamber. I would have died before I would have disrobed in that holy chamber, where awaiting me a trembling and beautiful girl, a blushing maiden, “clothed upon” with her own beauty and modesty, and her snowy robe de nuit. I would make the usual preparations without, blow out the light, open the door, and friendly night would shield my shrinking modesty and bashfulness and grateful darkness at least mitigate the horror of the situation. It was soon done. Preparations for retiring were few and simple in their character in Hickman, altogether consisting of disrobing, and owing to the scarcity of cloth in those days man was somewhere near the Adamic state when he was prepared to woo sweet sleep. The dreadful hour had come; I was ready. I blew out the light, grasped the door-knob with a deathly gripe and a nervous clutch; one moment and it would be over.

One moment and it wasn’t over by a d__n sight. I leaped within, and there around a glowing hickory fire, with candles brightly burning on the mantel and bureau, was the blushing bride, surrounded by the six lovely bridesmaids.”

The Fresno [CA] Republican 24 June 1882: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add….

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.

 

How Mother Did It: 1872

“HOW MOTHER DID IT.”

By Anonymous.

If we were to suggest one thing which, above all other things combined, would most contribute to the happiness of the young housekeeper, it would be to learn how to cook as a husband’s mother cooked. Mother used to make coffee so and so! Mother used to have such waffles! and mother knew just how thick or how thin to make a squash-pie! And, O, if I could only taste of Mother’s biscuit! Such are the comments of the husband, and of too many meal-tables. It would be only a little more cruel for the husband to throw his fork across the table, or to dash the contents of his teacup in his wife’s face. The experience of a contrite husband is good reading for those men whose daily sauce is “How Mother did it.” He says:—

“I found fault, some time ago, with Maria Ann’s custard-pie, and tried to tell her how my mother made custard-pie. Maria made the pie after my recipe. It lasted longer than any other pie we ever had. Maria set it on the table every day for dinner; and you see I could not eat it, because I forgot to tell her to put in any eggs or shortening. It was economical; but in a fit of generosity I stole it from the pantry and gave it to a poor little boy in the neighborhood. The boy’s funeral was largely attended by his former playmates. I did not go myself.

“Then there were the buckwheat cakes. I told Maria Ann any fool could beat her making those cakes; and she said I had better try it. So I did. I emptied the batter all out of the pitcher one evening and set the cakes myself. I got the flour and the salt and water; and, warned by the past, put in a liberal quantity of eggs and shortening. I shortened with tallow from roast-beef, because I could not find any lard. The batter did not look right, and I lit my pipe and pondered. Yeast, yeast, to be sure. I had forgotten the yeast I went and woke up the baker, and got six cents’ worth of yeast. I set the pitcher behind the sitting room stove and went to bed.

“In the morning I got up early and prepared to enjoy my triumph; but I didn’t. That yeast was strong enough to raise the dead, and the batter was running all over the carpet. I scraped it up and put it into another dish. Then I got a fire in the kitchen and put on the griddle. The first lot of cakes stuck to the griddle. The second dittoed, only more. Maria came down and asked me what was burning. She advised me to grease the griddle. I did it. One end of the griddle got too hot, and I dropped the thing on my tenderest corn while trying to turn it around.

“Finally the cakes were ready for breakfast, and Maria got the other things ready. We sat down. My cakes did not have exactly the right flavor. I took one mouthful, and it satisfied me. I lost my appetite at once. Maria would not let me put one on her plate. I think those cakes may be reckoned a dead loss. The cat would not eat them. The dog ran off and stayed away three days after one was offered to him. The hens wouldn’t go within ten feet of them. I threw them into the back yard, and there has not been a pig on the premises since. I eat what is put before me now, and do not allude to my mother’s system of cooking.”

The Donaldsonville [LA] Chief 17 February 1872: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  For “Wife Appreciation Day,” a salutary lesson for the officious husband! Mrs Daffodil has posted before on how a clever wife chastened an impossible-to-please husband who found fault with any dish she set before him, no matter how dainty. In the same post is an amusing story  of a widow who expertly trained her new husband to be less exacting in his tastes. It is odd how gentlemen who would not know one end of a fowl from the other when plucked, scalded, and nicely larded in the roasting pan, somehow have all the finer points of cookery at their fingertips.

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.

“I’m Not Superstitious, But–“: 1926

“I’m Not Superstitious, But—“

Nina Wilcox Putnam

America’s Only Woman Humorist [!!?!?!]

As Sir Walter Raleigh said, when spreading his coat over the mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth, “Step on it, kid, this is your lucky day and mine, too. I only regret that I have but one coat to lay down for my country.”

And how true it is that some things bring you luck, providing you believe they do, certainly was proved to me not long ago when I luckily picked up the telephone receiver on a busy wire and heard that the cook was leaving over at Miss Demeanor’s. I was lucky and quick enough to beat all the other ladies in Dinglewood to luring her.

The cooks, if any, which we have had this part year have positively caused a draft going through our kitchen, that’s how fast they went. And now, quite by accident, I run across the fact that this cook was leaving, so naturally I ran across and asked would she come to us, and she said she would, and so I went right on back home and scrubbed the kitchen floor, washed the windows, tied red bows on the kitchen curtains, moved the best easy chair, radio and five-foot bookshelf out there, also a few little other odds and ends into her quarters such as my long mirror, my best red room slippers, and etc. to make her feel thoroughly comfortable.

The Conquering Cook Comes

Well, the next morning, which was when we was expecting her, I fixed myself up as attractive as possible and sat down to wait for her. Pretty soon the doorbell give a loud ring, and my heart give a ditto leap, and I though, oh heavens, there she is and hurried to answer. Well, it was, actually she had showed. I took her bags and carried them upstairs and showed her her room, asked was there anything I could do for her, found she would fancy a little cake and tea, and then I left her in privacy while I went down to fix things up like she wanted, and while I was doing so, the bell rang again, and this time who would it be only that Mabel Bush, the one that’s married to Joe Bush of the Hawthorne Club.

Well, at first I thought where Mabel must have been shopping, on account she had something with her from pretty near every department of the Emporium. But no, she was merely going away for a coupula weeks and had brought some stuff she wanted to park with me while she was gone.

Say dear, she says when she had got her breath. I wonder would you mind taking care of my goldfish while I and Joe is out in Kansas visiting mother. He’s a real sweet little feller, ain’t you, Otto? See how cute he is, Jennie? And he don’t bite or anything unless he’s crossed. With that she hauled out one of the meanest looking goldfish I ever saw in my life. It gives me an awful funny look right off, but naturally I merely says why hello, Otto, nice Otto, pretty feller, of course I’ll take care of him, Mabel, what does he eat? Oh, fishcakes, she says, or any old thing. Now go to your Aunt Jennie, Otto, that’s the boy!

Mabel Dodges the Jinx

Well, I took his glass globe and put I on the table, a little uneasy over how the new cook would feel about another mouth to feed after I had told her there was only three in the family. But before I got a chance to go do any heavy worrying, Mabel had pulled a wild-looking fern out from a handbag, and set the poor helpless thing at my feet. ‘There!’ she says “I’m sure you don’t mind looking after that; all you got to do is water it once a day with double-filtered water, brush its leaves, pick the spiders and seeds off it, and give it a little sunshine.

Then before I had a chance to kick she was after me with another coupla bundles. “This is just the canary,” she says, “and here, my dear, is my peacock fan and my opal pin. Of course I’m not a bit superstitious, but I always say there is no use taking silly chances, and there have been three wrecks around mother’s neighbourhood lately, and I hate to leave them in the house in case burglars was to break in, so you don’t mind if I leave them with you, do you?”

Why Mabel Bush, I says, do you mean to tell me you are superstitious about taking them things with you? I says, why you ought to be ashamed of such ideas. I wouldn’t be so childish, why what harm can a father fan and few opals do? Well, she says, of course they can’t do any harm, I know that, so you really won’t mind keeping them until I get back? I says of course not, dear, but honest, I think you ought to take them along, just to overcome such nonsensical ideas.

Jennie Takes no Chances.

Well, Mabel wouldn’t insult my intelligence by taking them things off the place once she had brought them, so she left them and went on her way. And after she had done so, why I put the livestock around the dining-room, and then I didn’t quite know where to put that opal pin and Mabel’s peacock fan for safe-keeping. Of course I didn’t have the faintest feeling about keeping them in the house, even with a new cook there, so I left ‘em lay where she put them.

Then I picked up a pin off the floor, walking around so’s to make sure the point was towards me, and went out in the kitchen to ask Mary, the new cook, did she know anybody owning a second-hand black cat they didn’t need? Not that I really thought it would do any good, but some people have the idea a black cat is lucky, and while I personally myself certainly don’t believe in any such nonsense, why as long as I had the idea in my head I thought I might as well get a black cat to kinda counteract the idea of that fan and opals. Well, it seems Mary had a cat meeting my specifications up to her house and she offered to go right up and get it, but I wasn’t taking any chances of letting her out. So  says, oh no, don’t bother, I will go, where is it? And she says no. 13 West 113th St.

Luck Looks Up.

That number, of course, didn’t sound awful good to me, but I says to myself, now don’t be silly, it is a pure coincidence, you go get that cat just the same. So I did, and there was a ladder standing over the front door when I got there. Not that I minded this any more than poison, and naturally I hadn’t come all that long way in order to be turned back by a mere childish superstition. So I went under the ladder and knocked on the door and after a while somebody put their head out the window and says what do you want? And I says, Mary, that’s my cook, at least she was when I left home, told me her daughter had a black cat. And the party in the window says Mary’s daughter ain’t ever here Fridays, but I’ll get you the cat. So she done so in a bag, and my good luck started right away.

Well, anyways, I was lucky enough to get home alive and without being arrested in spite of the bloody murder that animal was yelling. And I was lucky with it another way, on account no sooner was that cat established in our home than I no longer had to bother feeding my goldfish. I didn’t haf to bury it, the nice kitty attended to all that.

Naturally, however, I had to replace Otto, so I ordered another poor fish of exactly the same pattern, ordered it kept down in the fish department of the Emporium until Mabel got ready to come back. It was just as well, anyways, on account the new cook claimed she never could of stood the noise it didn’t make.

Welcoming the Horseshoe

Now of course I wasn’t one bit superstitious about them opals being in the house, but I have to admit I commenced dropping tea spoons right after Mabel parked stuff with me. Not that I believe it really is unlucky to drop a spoon, but once I got the idea why I felt there wouldn’t be any actual harm in doing everything I could to counteract the thought. And so it was certainly rather cheering when Junior brought in a nice horseshoe with three nails in it. I had a good time gilding it up, and panting a few forget me nots on it, so’s nobody would think anything peculiar when I hung it up over the parlor mantel.

Ad nobody did, not even when by accident in hanging it, I happened to brush Mabel’s peacock fan off the mantel and into the open fire. I felt awful bad about this and what to do certainly was the question. It was one thing to page a new gold fish, but not a soul I knew kept even one peacock, and so he only thing I could hope for was that Mabel had her stuff well insured.

I wouldn’t want to lay the blame on any of Mabel’s belongings. I am not that kind of a fool, but it’s the truth that the very day I bought a picture postal of a peacock in order to make things up to Mabel the best I could, why somebody, the cat, so the cook said, left the dining room window open, let Mabel’s fern freeze, and of course, the only one of the same style our florist had in stock was twice as big and four times as expensive. But that didn’t matter so bad, because all I would have to do when she come back would be to say look, dear, what wonderful care I have taken of your plant, just see how it has grown and etc.

Worse and More of It.

Hot Bozo! As if that wasn’t enough the darn canary bird she had left on my hands commenced moulting. We could hear him at it every morning earl, and never once got dressed and down in time to stop him. So I had to go spend a couple or three dollars on hair tonic and after he drank the first couple of bottles he begun to look better. Just the same he had a distinctly shingle bobbed appearance by the time I got a letter from Mabel telling where she would be home in two days and if it wasn’t too much bother, would I mind ordering milk and ice, and loaning them a little coal, and running over to air the house and tell the furnace man to build a fire and ask the newspaper man to commence leaving the Morning Yell again. And she hoped it wouldn’t be too much bother.

So I done like she asked, and I addition carted all her stuff over for her—all, that is to say, except them opals. Look as I could, I wasn’t able to locate that pin any place. I stubbed my toe looking and every one knows that meant you’re going some place where you’re not welcome without that jewel? The cook got sore when I asked if she had seen the darn thing, and says well, if she wasn’t trusted, there was no use in he r staying any longer. So she took her bag, wages and departure.

And still I couldn’t find no pin, so I decided, well, that cook never would of left me flat like that and walked out unless she really had stolen it, after all! Not that I’m the least superstitious, but I might of known I wouldn’t have a minute’s luck with opals in the house. I don’t believe in any superstition in the world, but there has certainly been nothing go right since Mable left them stones here, and what and the world am I gonner tell her when I see her tomorrow?

One Superstition Left

Well, naturally there wasn’t nothing to do except tell her the truth. And so when Mabel come home and I was over there to her house with everything ready for her like she had asked, and she says how lovely and neighborly of you, dear, I’m afraid it’s been a terrible lot of bother. Why, of course I says, not in the least, darling. It’s been no bother at all. It’s been a pleasure. But, I says, I got bad news for you. I lost your opal pin, dear, not that I’m one bit superstitious, but it certainly brought me bad luck all the while it was with me and now it’s gone.

And she says, why Jennie Jules, she says, it was never there at all. I didn’t leave it there. I took it along with me after all, on account of the way you kidded me about being superstitious! And I give her one look. No! I says, meaning yes. So you never left it! I says. Well, I do guess there is one superstition I do believe in, after all, which is that when a person’s nose itches it means they are going to kiss a fool, and so, if you’ve got a mirror handy, I believe I’ll get the job over with right now.

The Sunday news [Charleston SC 17 January 1926

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Just in time for the 13th of the month, this whimsical account touches on just about every common superstition of the early twentieth century, as well as the problem of Keeping a Cook. Peacock feathers, opals, and black cats were all considered unlucky, although sceptics tried to reason people out of their fears of jinxes and hoodoos and fashion tried to trump superstition, all to no avail; some individuals still believe these articles to be problematic even to-day.

That rankly superstitious person over at Haunted Ohio has a theory, writing:

“Judging by the persistence of ‘superstitions,’ one wonders if, in the same way humans need certain vital gut bacteria and an exposure to dirt in childhood to maintain a healthy immune system, humans need a salutary dose of the illogical from time to time to top up whatever part of the brain it feeds.”

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.

Girl Wanted: 1874

Lady: “But I very much dislike dogs in the kitchen!”
Cook: “Then it would be no use my engaging of myself, Ma’am—for my object is to get a comfortable home for Tiny and myself!”
Punch 10 April 1875: p. 159

GIRL WANTED

Yes, I want another—”A tidy girl to do house-work in a small family—good wages and a good home.” That’s the way my advertisement always reads, and as soon as the paper is out the girls commence coming. Tidy girls from ten to sixty-five years old come pulling the bell, and when told that they won’t suit they put on such a look of contempt for the door, the door-plate, the front gate and the entire institution, that the world seems three degrees hotter than before.

I always engage the girl. This is because of an idea of mine that I can read human nature, and because I do not fear to tell them in plain English what is expected of them. After the door-bell has been pulled about five times, the right-looking sort of a girl makes her appearance. She says she saw the advertisement, and is invited in. She says she can do any kind of cooking; loves to wash; is fond of children; can never sleep after five o’clock in the morning; never goes out evenings; does not know a young man in Detroit, and she’d be willing to work for low wages for the sake of getting a good home.

She is told to drop her bundle, lay off her things and go to work, and a great burden rolls off my mind as I congratulate myself that the prize-medal girl has arrived at last. She’s all right up to about seven in the evening, when she is suddenly missed, and returns about ten o’clock to say that she “just dropped out” to get a postage-stamp. The next day she begins to scatter the tea-spoons in the back-yard, stops her ironing to read a dime novel, and at supper-time wants to know if I can’t send the children off to live with their grandfather, get a cook stove with silver-plated knobs and have an addition built to the kitchen. That evening a big red-headed butcher walks in, crosses his legs over the kitchen table, and proceeds to court Sarah. She doesn’t last but a day or two longer, and then we secure another.

This one is right from New Hampshire, and doesn’t know a soul in Michigan, and yet she hasn’t finished the dinner dishes before a cross-eyed young man rings the bell and says he’d like to see Hannah for a moment. After seeing him, Hannah concludes not to stay, as we are so far from St. John’s church, and as we don’t appear to be religious people.

The next one especially recommends herself as being “just like their own mother” to the children, and isn’t in the house half a day before she draws Small Pica over her knee and gives him a regular old Canadian waltz.

The next one has five recommendations as a neat and tidy girl, and yet it isn’t three days before she bakes the shoe brush with the beef, washes her hands in a soup tureen, or drops hairpins into the pudding.

I growl about these things after a while, but I am met with the statement that they had worked five years for Governor this, or Lord that, and that in all that time no one had so much as looked cross-eyed at them. I am called mean, ill-tempered, particular, fault-finding, and all that, and the girl goes away wondering why the Lord has spared me as long as He has.

We’ve been wanting “a good, tidy girl” for these last twelve years, and I suppose that we may go another dozen and still be wanting.

“Quad’s Odds” M. Quad, 1874: p. 173

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Domestics come and domestics go, but The Servant Question is eternal….

Mrs Daffodil has been fortunate in her selection and retention of staff, but the many jokes on saucy servants and demanding domestics hide the pain of those in suburban villas and New York brownstones longing for a Girl.

Mrs. Hiram Daly — “And so you’ve got your old cook back! I thought you told me she was married about three months ago, and had gone to housekeeping.”

Mrs. Riverside Rives — “She has given up housekeeping and has come back to me.”

Mrs. Hiram Daly — “What was the matter?”

Mrs. Riverside Rives — “She couldn’t get a girl.” — Puck, 1893

Mistress (severely) — “If such a thing occurs again, Norah, I shall have to get another servant.”

Norah — “I wish yer would; there’s easily enough work fer two of us.” — Tit-Bits. 1901

Binks: Oh, yes, she carries herself like an empress, and bosses me around all she likes now; but wait until we are married, and then see how she’ll fawn and cringe.

Winks: To you?

Binks: No, to the servant girl.

The Philipsburg [MT] Mail 15 August 1895: p. 7

Mrs. A: “I see you have got a new servant girl.”

Ms. B. “Yes, I make it a point to get a new one every month.”

Mrs. A: “But that must be very inconvenient.”

Mrs. B: “Yes, but there’s nothing going on in this town that I don’t know all about it.”

Illinois State Register [Springfield, IL] 28 August 1887: p. 2

First suburban — ” Hello, Smith! You are got up regardless. Going to a wedding?”

Second suburban— “No. I’m going in town to try to engage a cook, and I wish to create a good impression.” — Bazar, 1892

Mistress (trying to be agreeable) “What are your favorite dishes, Bridget?”

The new cook: “To ate or to break, mum?” 

Daily Illinois State Register [Springfield IL] 2 April 1907: p. 10

 

Mrs Daffodil has previously written on How to Spoil Servants

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 Disappointed Lunchist: 1871

fly-trap

Fly Trap

A Disappointed Lunchist.

Every city that has been fortunate enough to attain the metropolitan proportions of Dubuque, has a species of the genus homo who subsist on the free lunches set out on the counters of the various saloons. Among saloon keepers they are known as the lunch fiends. They gravitate from one point to another, picking a bone here and a crust of bread there, and are generally disposed to hang around until some customer, taking pity on their woebegone appearance, invites them up to drink. And this brings us to tell how nicely one of these gentry got fooled the other day.

Heeb, the brewer, being much annoyed by flies, invested in one of Capt. Jack Parker’s patent fly catchers and placed the same up on the counter of his bar. The trap is of wire, the flies entering from the bottom and proceeding to the top, where they find themselves prisoners. In order to coax the flies into the concern the trap is placed over a plate, which is filled with a conglomeration of musty crackers, Limburger cheese, orange peel, stale beer and other delicacies, forming a dose not altogether palatable, but which appears to be well-suited to the stomach of the flies.

The other day a lunch fiend entered Heeb’s establishment, and beholding the fly trap for the first time, and the plate under it, he naturally concluded that the same was set out for a free lunch, and that the wire arrangement had merely been placed over it to protect it from the flies. The lunch fiend concluded that this was his opportunity for breaking a somewhat prolonged fast. He waited patiently until the bar keeper’s back was turned, and then he pounced upon that plate as eager as a greedy hound, and had half the fly bait down his gullet before he discovered his mistake. We have only to add that the savory morsel came up again as quickly as it went down, and the last seen of the lunch fiend he was taking a bee line for Dunleith. He don’t hanker after any more of that kind of food.

Dubuque [IA] Daily Times 1 July 1871: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One really can find nothing to add….

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 Safe and Sane Fourth: 1911

 

Gee whiz! Don’t I wish every day wuz de fourth, E.W. Kemble, c. 1904 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010717080/

Mrs. Jarr Lays Plans for a Safe and Sane Fourth.

Does She Succeed? Poor Woman! Just Listen Now

By Roy L. McCardell.

“I really ought not to open this till to-morrow,” said Mrs. Jarr, as with reluctant hands she started to undo the package that had aroused so much interest upon its arrival, per c.o.d. delivery, at the Jarr domicile.

“But you said you would, maw! You said you would!” chorused the little Jarrs.

“Well, as its near dinner time, I suppose I might as well,” said Mrs. Jarr. “I only know this: That is that it is a good idea. And if we had done it before it would have been much better for all concerned. For it really is terrible the way the children get burned and injured by those dreadful fireworks on the Fourth of July, and that is why I heartily agree with Miss Ann Teak of ‘The Modern Mothers,’ in her advocacy of a Safe and Sane Fourth, and the substitution of objects symbolic of freedom and patriotism for dangerous explosives.”

“But, maw, ain’t we gonna have any firecrackers?” whined the little boy. “I never burned myself except with sizzors and they didn’t hurt.”

“May Rangle has got a whole lot of fire trackers,” said the little Jarr girl. “I’m doin’ over to her house and we are doin’ to tie ‘em on the tat’s tail.”

“Emma!” cried Mrs. Jarr reprovingly.

“I agree with the children,” said Mr. Jarr, “Not with hurting or scaring of the poor cat, of course; yet I think that it’s a lot of mollycoddles who would deprive the children of making a little harmless racket on the Fourth. Safe and Sane Fourth! Huh, I think it’s a tame and timid one without firecrackers!” 

“Now, there you go! Inciting the children to all sorts of dreadful things!” remarked Mrs. Jarr plaintively. “It’s no wonder I have a hard time inculcating refinement in these innocent little lambs! Miss Ann Teak told me of an orphan child on the east side who said he would rather have ice cream any day than firecrackers.”

By this time Mrs. Jarr had the strings off the package and the box open, disclosing a mass of gayly colored paper objects. She contented herself with giving Master Jarr a reproving look for his heretical observations and began placing the colored paper things on the table.

They were napkin holders in the shape of firecrackers, the napkins being rice paper ones in the semblance of American flags. There were also scalloped streamers of red, white and blue, which Mrs. Jarr proceeded to drape from the chandelier over the dining room table.

“There!” she said, as she fastened them up. ‘See how beautiful and patriotic these pretty but harmless things make the table for a Fourth of July dinner! Your Aunt Emma, after whom you are named” (here she was addressing the little girl), “always has her table decorated so prettily that it gives one an appetite to see it. It is true that she never has anything much to eat, but one forgets that. On Washington’s Birthday she has little hatchets and cherries, and Thanksgiving Day she has little toy paper turkeys and paper pumpkins and witches’ hats and you forget how slim the meal is.” 

“Aw, is this all, maw?” inquired the boy, regarding the table decorations with disdain. “Ain’t we gonna have any fireworks to-morrow?”

“You can have some torpedoes, which are not dangerous, and some of those sparklers, that look so pretty and do not do any damage,” replied Mrs. Jarr. “But you won’t have a single thing if you are not a good boy and say you are grateful to mamma for getting these pretties. And here are fans with pictures on them showing ‘The Spirit of ‘76’ and the “Signing of the Declaration of Independence,” she added.

“Aw, you can’t make any noise with a fan! Who wants a fan!” cried Young Hopeful, and he screwed up his face in an energetic endeavor to cry.

“I like de fans, div ‘em ta ME, mamma!” cried the little girl. “Anyway I can shoot off Mary Rangle’s fire crackers to-morrow.”

“Now, Willie, if you say one word more you shan’t have any supper and you shan’t have any ice cream to-morrow and you shall never be permitted to go to the moving pictures,” cried Mrs. Jarr, warningly. “We are going to have a Safe and Sane Fourth in this house without any injuries and without any danger of fires!”

But she spoke too soon. The napkin holders looked so greatly like cannon fire crackers that Master Jarr had touched a lighted match to the imitation fuse. It flared up and caught the paper streams from the chandelier and the next minute there was a blaze.

Mr. Jarr got the fire out with such minor personal damage as burned eyelashes and scorched hands. It is likely that the unsafe and insane Fourth will transpire, as usual, to-morrow at the Jarr’s.

The Evening World [New York NY] 3 July 1911: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The unheeded plea for a “Safe and Sane Fourth” went out every year.  Dire casualties from fireworks mounted yearly, despite desperate diversions by hostesses who entertained their “Independence Party” guests at daintily decorated tables:

The house was beautifully decorated with crimson rambler roses, blue larkspurs, and white flowers, large eagles of crepe paper, flags, and national colors. After a short program of patriotic songs and humorous readings, the hostess passed pencils and papers with the words “Independence Day,” from which we were to make as many words as possible. After this we were given a paper flag with stripes on, but with the place for stars left blank; around the two parlors were tacked up on the wall pictures of well-known people, actors, authors, and political leaders. We guessed these “stars” and wrote their names in the blank spaces.

The next event was the luncheon, served at small tables. Place cards were hand-painted miniature Uncle Sams, and blue and white china and cut glass were used. Each plate contained pressed chicken and a peanut butter sandwich, both cut in star shape, potato salad on a lettuce leaf, a beet pickle, cheese straws, and a spray of blue flowers. At the end of this course each lady was presented with what appeared to be a four-inch firecracker, but upon unwrapping, it was found to contain a short comical story. Woman’s Home Companion 1913: p. 99

Mrs Daffodil concedes that pretty paper decorations and comical firecrackers would undoubtedly lack the pyrotechnic panache enjoyed by Mr and Master Jarr.

Still, one would not wish to be May Rangle’s cat.

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.