Category Archives: Professions

Flowers for Aristocratic Tables: 1889

The-End-Of-Dinner-by-Jules-Alexandre-Grun-770x506 Edwardian dinner party.jpg

FLOWERS FOR THE TABLE.

Costly Decorations Affected by the Aristocracy.

Nell Nelson’s Chat with the Lending Floral Firms.

“You newspaper women,” said the monarch of the Elliott Floral Company, “make us a lot of trouble with your extravagant pens and superlative adjectives. You write Mrs. A.’s $50 order away up, and when Mrs. B. comes in with the article and wants us to beat it for $500 we are nonplussed, for the description calls for $1,500 worth of flowers.

“Half the trouble in this world comes from distorted facts and the other half is the result of bad cooking. The dream of Bellamy will never be realized until truth becomes chronic and the product of the kitchen digestible.

“There is no leading style in flowers or floral decorations, and no standard but that of individual taste. People pick their plants and cut flowers as they do their clothes and furniture ”

“The moneyed people like roses and orchids; the artists love palms and ferns, and many women would rather have a bunch of mignonette than a basket of voluptuous Beauty roses–those crimson, living, almost human things that intoxicate the senses. “Just now we are in a blaze of beauty, a cloud of glory, a heaven of perfume, and you have only to choose and I’ll send you anything you want.

“Here is the ‘Magna Charta,’ the rival of the American Beauty; both the same price–$15 a dozen.

“Here’s white lilac–the poet’s own flower and smell–now close your eyes! Can’t you feel Spring in your heart? My aesthetic soul, but it’s good!

“How much? Six dollars a bunch and six sprays in a bunch. Rolled up in paraffine paper and boxed in cotton batting, 1 don’t know a nicer bit of fragrance for a New Year’s offering. Do you?”

I said I didn’t.

“You see, the man or the woman who sends a flower to a friend wraps himself eternally in its perfume and wherever the breath of that blossom is caught, up he comes in face and form and voice, or the woman has no soul—that’s all.

“I once had the measles when I was in aprons,” the horticulturalist confided to me; “and while I was sick a little girl sent me an apple to smell, but not to eat.

” I can smell that rosy piece of fruit now, and I never pass a greening or a russet or a pippin that I do not see the wee maiden in fancy and bless her dear little heart. That’s the sentiment of it, but here’s the business.

“Flowers are abundant, but the demand amounts to a real tax, and prices are high as ambition.

“We never mix flowers. We don’t believe in it. There is as much individuality about blossoms as there is about belles, and so we arrange them, not in tulle and pearls, but in the very severest of vases, so as not to let the holder detract from the bouquet.

“We are daring enough, too, to put pearl roses in pearl cups, golden tulips in primrose-yellow bowls, and crimson roses in ruby forms–a privilege we have been encouraged to take with chromatics, by the audacity of Alma Tadema, Whistler and Burne Jones.

“We never build a table piece as high as the line of vision, and not even a child’s view across a dinner-table is obstructed. Orchids, roses, tightly bound hyacinths, spicy carnations, sweet-scented tulips and the dainty ma capucine buds, which are salmon-like in color, are all in demand for table decoration, and an art committee would be puzzled to tell which is choicest.

“About the biggest order we have filled this year came from the Union League Club fellows the night they entertained the Pan-American Society.

“There were flowers everywhere but under foot and in the air. We hung the little theatre with foliage tapestry, banked the stage with the glossiest and greenest of palms, and fringed the footlights with asparagus and mosses, that caressed a ridge of growing orchids.

“In the library there are six large tables niched between bookcases, and we piled the files and folios under the boards and on zinc covers planted the choicest flowers that the state afforded.

“One table was a solid bed of cut orchids, fringed with ferns, that cost us $600 to spread; another oblong had nothing but American Beauties for a cushion, and each rose was worth $1.75 that night; another was upholstered with pink, white and damask cyclamen, and roses, violets and carnations embossed the remaining boards. “The bookcases in the room are all low, and we used them for a bank of encircling palms, at the feet of which we planted wired and fantastic orchids that seemed almost human in the pale candle-light. “The supper was served in a suit of three rooms, and each board had a different flower piece. One was a massive rose cluster, the second was a rose piece with a streak of white narcissus running through it, and I can’t remember the other.

“At the Delmonico banquet, prepared for the same tourists, we put Summer on the table and festooned the balconies with her garlands and hanging plants, and pendent from the celling we hung a great globe of laurel, orange, lemon verbena and sweet-brier, with Central America picked out in true geographic position with closely stemmed cluster flowers. At this point a Van Rensselaer came in, and in a low rich contralto voice, with a pronounced English accent, asked for white violets, and I fled.

Dunder, who grows the roses that belong in the bowers of the Four Hundred, sighed when asked to name the ideal table decorations. “The best way to answer that is to show you my book. Here’s an order for to-night. The lady gives a dinner party for which she will use a solid gold service.

“There is a towering epergne to go in the centre of the table, and in it I will put orchids of delicate lavender and pure white, with the queen of ferns for relief.

“Strings of asparagus will be trailed along the cloth and carried up to the arms of the candelabra.

“Mrs. W. D. Sloane’s dinner tables are always decorated with American Beauties. That’s her favorite flower. Saturday night I sent her a flat basket, six feet in diameter, planted with those roses. The cluster was as big as a rose bush.

“Over the white cloth we scattered sprays, three feet long, with blossoms as large as cauliflowers and turned them so that the gorgeous flower threw the splendor of their color and perfume in the very faces of the guest.

“The prettiest novelty for a table was, in my mind, an order we filled for one of the white dinners for which Mrs. William Baylis is famous. With her while porcelain and satin polished silver, we used Puritan roses, the finest white flower cultivated.

“In the corners of the mahogany were small English egg-baskets of split willow, filled with lilies of the valley, and about the cloth were mats of mistletoe, heavy with their opaque berries. Those egg baskets are very fetchy. They are rude, you see, and have the appearance, when filled, of being just sent in by some friend.  “Pertinent to the season are the scarlet baskets, which we have sold by the thousand. Some we fill with English holly, some with crimson tulips, others with point sette leaves and a few with carnations and mistletoe.”

A call came over the telephone from no less a personage than Mr. Ward McAllister, and I was alone.

From a good-natured belle who has been in social circulation for several decades I learned that each leader has a flower to which she is as devoted as she is to a special perfume or grade of linen.

Mrs. W. W. Astor uses American Beauties at all her dinners. So does Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt. Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt prefers Gloria de Paris roses; Mrs. Elliott F. Shepard considers the La France the queen of roses; Mrs. Orme Wilson cheerfully pays $2 apiece for Magna Charta roses, and has from twenty to seventy on her table at a time.

Mrs. Ex-Secretary Whitney has a weakness for white and gold, and pearls. Puritans, Nun Hoste and Gabriel Luizet alternate in her dining parlor, while Mrs. Paran Stevens delights in Spring flowers and buys tulips, narcissi, daisies, May bells and hyacinths by the hamper.

The regulation flower for the bridal board is the Amazon lily, a peerless cup-shaped blossom that seems pouring its soul out in floods of perfume.

This lily is new, and like all rare things costly. For the price of a bowlful of Amazons you might have Dickens in calf, a Persian wool bath robe or roast young goose every day for a whole week, with a peck of apple sauce besides. Nell Nelson.

The Evening World [New York NY] 30 December 1889: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Fashions in flowers were followed as avidly as the latest modes from Paris. Mrs Daffodil has written about A Violet Luncheon, Flowers a Bride Should Carry, Modern Valentine Flowers, The Black Rose, and The Wild-Flower Wedding.

This Parisienne instructed her guests to arrange DIY centrepieces for a prize–a novelty both indolent and presumptuous, one feels. One can practically hear the waspish, postprandial comments from the departing guests.

Something new in table decoration is the creation of a Paris society woman. At a dinner given recently the guests were surprised to find the centre of the table piled high with a mass of cut flowers, including many varieties of roses, lilies of the valley, chrysanthemums, carnations, violets, ferns, smilax, etc. At each plate were placed three red, white and blue vases made of bohemian glass, each in a solid colour. Upon a raised tabourette in the centre of the table was a huge cut glass rose bowl which the hostess announced was to be given to the guest arranging the flowers in his or her three vases most artistically. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 10 November 1899: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil has made an annual ritual of sharing Saki’s “The Occasional Garden” in advance of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, opening this coming week.

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

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

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The Pet Photographer: 1908

Bulldogs portraits The New Book of the Dog 1911

FROM BABIES TO PETS

A Western Young Woman Who Switched Specialties.

PICTURES OF CATS AND DOGS

Devoted Her Time and Talents to Babies in the West, but Found None to Photograph in New York—Then She Discovered that Pets Belonged in Flat Houses and Acted Accordingly.

From the New York Sun.

“Private photographer, specialty, dogs and cats,” is the reading on the professional card of a prosperous young business woman who makes her home in a well-kept apartment house on Riverside Drive. Having read and duly pondered the statement a reporter asked the young woman to talk about her specialty.

To begin with, I used to make a specialty of children–little babies. There are so many more children in the West than here in New York! You know, I’m from the West,” the young woman went on.  “When I first came to New York I almost starved to death the first six months. It took me just that long to catch on.

“You see, I brought the idea of making a specialty of children with me to a place where there are no children. That is, none that people care about having photographed.

“It worried me to death at first. I couldn’t make out what was wrong. Then I began to realize that instead of wealthy and well-to-do people having children, as in the West, they all had either cats or dogs.  I had a set of new cards printed and set out.

Photographs in Great Demand

“I didn’t have a bit of trouble. It was all plain sailing. Everybody wanted her cat or her dog photographed, just as in the West everybody had wanted her babies’ pictures taken.

“In less than three months after I made this discovery I had every minute of my time engaged weeks ahead, and moved from the boarding house where I had found it difficult to make both ends meet with ‘specialty, children’ to a charming apartment of my own, with money to put in the bank.

“Cats are much more easily photographed than dogs for the simple reason that they are not so restless, have fewer eccentricities, or less individuality. I have known cats intimately all my life and have only found two varieties, so far as dispositions are concerned, the amiable cat and the spiteful cat.

“As for the intellectual cat and the stupid cat, they exist only in the fond imagination of their owners, so far as have been able to see.  Every cat that I am called on to photograph, to listen to its owner, is a marvel of intelligence. When I come to make their acquaintance, it is the same old thing, either spit or purr.

“Photographing a cat of the purr variety is the simplest thing imaginable. A few gentle strokes and it will remain in any position you place it; hold a bright colored object or a bit of food over its head and it will become animated at once; put an electric mouse or bird on floor and it will crouch and make ready for a spring.  If my subject is of the spitfire variety I follow the rule of contraries.

The Indifference of Cats

“Of all the cats that I have known I don’t believe six of them care for persons, only for places. In spite of this all too evident indifference, the owners of cats are as a rule attached to them. One cat whose photograph I have made every month since I have been in the business is the most indifferent little piece of flesh and blood that I have ever seen, yet its mistress, a wealthy unmarried woman, is as devoted to it as she or any other woman could be to a child.

“Blood? No, indeed, this little cat hasn’t even the slightest claims to blood. She was a regular little guttersnipe when I was first called in to take her picture.

“The lady had picked her up in the street only two days before. The little thing had been hungry and as the lady stepped from her carriage she whined and looked up in her face. I believe she even rubbed against her skirt.

“This was taken as a great evidence of intelligence, as the lady was especially fond of cats. Being without a pet just at that time the kitten was brought into the house and fed. She found her way into the parlor and there she has been ever since.

“At the present time she sleeps in a white enameled crib beside the bed of her mistress and has four carriages and a maid especially engaged to wheel her in Central Park. As for cushions and cloaks they are almost without number, and all of the finest and daintiest material.

“The owner of this cat considers it the greatest compliment that she can pay a person is to give him a set of photographs of this little white and black pussy. She is an attractive looking little animal, because she is clean, healthy, and well fed, but as for intelligence–well she is just the common purring variety of cat, and that is all there is to her.

Gives Her Cat Jewels

“There is another woman who calls on me quite frequently to photograph her pet and who elects to give her cat jewels. She is married and requires her husband to duplicate every present of jewelry intended for herself for her cat.

“This particular cat is one of the near intelligent cats that I have met. She really appears to be proud of her bracelets and necklaces. She not only seems to take pains to lie in such a position as to show her ornaments to the best advantage, but will often annoy a visitor until particular attention has been taken of them.

“Yet I have seen that cat take as much pride in a bright ribbon bow, strutting before the mirror to admire herself and scratching my skirt until I expressed my approval, so I cannot believe what the cat’s mistress affirms, that the cat knows an imitation stone from a real one.  If a person told me that a dog could tell the difference between real and imitation, I might be tempted to believe it, but a cat–I haven’t imagination enough for that.

“To get a good photograph of an intelligent dog one has first to know a little of the dog. A dog often has as much individuality as a human being.

“I have known owners and dogs as thoroughly mismatched as some parents and children, and yet there would be a certain attachment between them. Neither would understand the other and the result would be a sort of general irritation on the part of the dog.

Cases of Cross Dogs.

“Whenever the owner of a dog reports that it is an irritable animal I get the owner out of sight when taking the dogs photograph. I have never seen a case in which a healthy dog was cross or generally irritable that the surroundings were not to blame.

“Some dogs because of their training prefer indoors, and I have taken many very good photographs of dogs in the house, but, as a rule, I prefer to take my dogs out of doors. The dog’s individuality shows to much greater advantage as a rule out of doors.

“Of course, for dog photography one must depend almost entirely on snapshots. Dogs are too restless, and, like children, their expressions come in flashes.

“Another point about dogs is that, as a rule, they prefer to be taken with children, even where they are not accustomed to children. Whenever I have a dog particularly hard to take I take him to where there are children, get the kiddies interested in having their own pictures taken and in a little while the dog is in the humor and I get him at his best.

“Of course I find a good many freaks among the owners of my dogs but nothing like the same proportion as among those who have pet cats One of the greatest extravagances that have come to my knowledge was that of a well-to-do physician.

“He is middle aged and unmarried, but to all appearances a sensible enough person; yet when his dog died he not only went into mourning but sent cards announcing his dog’s death to all his friends. He didn’t allow the blinds of his house to be opened for weeks and I understood that he had the body of his pet shipped to his home in the Southwest for burial.

Illustrated Calendar Gifts

“Yes, the dog was a blooded animal but by no means remarkable. This man’s favorite token of his esteem to his friends was a calendar of his own making illustrated with photographs of his dog. The dog was a hideous old beast so one can easily imagine the fate of the majority of his calendars.

“Of course it is common enough for women to have their dogs dressed to correspond with their own gowns. Really when women have as much money and as little to think about as the average New York woman, I can’t see much harm in it. They might devote their time and thought to better things, that is very true, but on the other hand they might do worse.

“After one comes to understand the apartment house atmosphere it is readily understood why so many persons prefer dogs to children. Kiddies are nice and I think there are few men and women who wouldn’t prefer them if they could have homes, real homes, but not in an apartment house.

“The New York apartment house is the paradise of the pet dog, and they give me a comfortable living. I should advise any photographer wishing to make a specialty of dogs or cats to start business in a city where apartment houses abound. In the average apartment house one can count on finding at least six dogs whose owners are glad to pay for their photographs if not every month at least several times a year.”

The Washington [DC] Post 8 March 1908: p. 2

Next we hear from another photographer, who has a mixed human-pet clientele:

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’s Aide-memoire:  One rather fears for the continuation of the species when “damp putty” is the best one can say of an infant whom popular sentiment requires to be uniformly adorable. Still, Mrs Daffodil admits—she served as a nursery maid in the early years of her career—it is a fair description of many youthful scions of even the noblest houses and expresses the unpleasant stickiness which so often accompanies childhood.

As for the ladies who dote on their pets, Mrs Daffodil suggests that, had they known the term, they would have undoubtedly been delighted to describe their animal companions as “fur-babies.”

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 Jockey’s Ghost: 1880s

death and the jockey 1825

With the event known as the “Run for the Roses” scheduled for to-morrow, Mrs Daffodil yields the floor to that perpetual ray of sunshine over at Haunted Ohio, who shares the thrilling story of

A JOCKEY’S GHOST.

He Re-visits the Stables at the Race Course Where the Man was Killed.

 “A dispatch from Rochester, N.Y., dated August 19th, to the Indianapolis News says;”

Some years ago, in a running race at Detroit, Danny Mackin, a jockey, was killed by the horse he was riding making a sudden and vicious bolt and hurling his rider to the ground. When the jockey was picked up a stream of blood was running from a hole in his temple down his cheek and neck, A story has been current among jockeys and stablemen ever since Mackin’s death that his ghost walks at night among race-track stables, the quest of the spectre being presumably the horse that killed the jockey. This story has always been believed by stablemen, and if any ever had any doubt of it they are dispelled now, for the ghost itself was seen by at least a dozen of them at the Washington Driving Park stables one night recently.

The midnight watch of stablemen had come on duty, and the men were lounging in front of the stables, when one of them saw a slim figure in white approaching the stables from a clump of trees on the grounds. The man called the attention of his companions to the object. They all saw it clearly as it glided noiselessly towards the stable. When the apparition came full in the light of the large hanging lamp in the front of the stable and revealed the figure, clad in jockey garb and a face as white as the clothes, with a red streak running from the right temple, down the cheek and neck, like a line of blood trickling down, the stablemen were paralysed with fear. The spectre jockey passed into the stable through the open door. The door leading to the stalls where the racers were was closed, but the ghost kept right on, passed through the door as if it had been opened, and disappeared. One of the stablemen recovered himself sufficiently to think that perhaps this might be a clever trick of some one to get at the horses to do them harm, and he hurried forward and opened the door leading to the stalls, with the intention of preventing any such purpose. Two or three of his companions followed him. The apparition was moving slowly along the stall, stopping an instant at each one and then passing on to the next. The horses seemed to be aware of the mysterious presence. They neighed and plunged and stamped in their stalls as the spectre passed along.

The stablemen were again paralysed by this second vision of the jockey ghost, and stood motionless and speechless at the door. The apparition glided to and paused at every stall in the stable, turned its face for a moment toward the three terror-stricken men in the door, and disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as it had come. That they had seen the wandering ghost of poor Danny Mackin not one stableman of the midnight watch has the shadow of a doubt.

Oakland [CA] Tribune 17 September 1890: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does not like to spoil a thrilling yarn, but despite the best efforts of some of the finest scholars of the historical paranormal, the strict veracity of this story has not been confirmed. There are many stories of jockeys dying during races, but to date no actual trace of poor Danny Mackin’s existence, let alone death, has come to light. The fact that the horse and the Detroit racing venue are not named and that various syndications of the tale name Rochester Driving Park rather than Washington Driving Park as the location of the ghost’s walk, suggests that this may be a Victorian “urban legend” rather than the exact truth. Alternately, a prankster may have been at work—ghost-impersonators were a perennial nineteenth-century problem. Still, if true, the story begs the question: What revenge was the phantom jockey prepared to take—indeed, what revenge could a disembodied spirit take—upon the horse that killed him?

 

Other supernatural tales of the race-track: The Jockey Wore Crape, and Hunches and Hearses at the Racetrack.

 

 

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.

La Fête du Muguet: 1912

faberge lily of the valley

A spray of lily of the valley in pearl, nephrite and diamonds, c. 1900, by Faberge. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21517/lot/93/

[In Paris] the palm of popularity must be given to the lily of the valley—the muguet des bois.

What the forget-me-not is to the German Gretchen, the muguet des bois (the wild lily of the valley) is to the Paris grisette, and thus it has been for untold generations. The first of May is known as the Fête du Muguet, and on that day, not only is it traditional for children to make presents of bunches of wild lilies of the valley to their elder brothers and sisters—the flower seems to be dedicated to youth—but in the streets surrounding the opera-house, where all the big dressmakers are, you will see at luncheon-hour troops of the young girl apprentices wearing bunches of muguet in their simple bodices. The muguet brings luck, and it appeals more than any other flower to the humble little Parisienne’s sense of poetry, this delicate spike with its double row of little milk-white bells, its broad tapering leaf, and its peculiarly evocative scent. No doubt she feels that in a sense it reflects herself. Is not her life just such another ringing of the changes on a chime of little silver bells, whose flash and tinkle last for the brief space of a spring season? She has the same native wildness, and simple unconscious elegance. To start forth on a bright Sunday morning for one of the woods near Paris, and pick muguet, is her ideal of a holiday excursion.

“En cherchant du muguet,
Du muguet dans la clairière;
En cherchant du muguet,
Du muguet d-a-ans l-a-a f-ô-r-e-t!”

[In search of the lily of the valley,

the lily in the clearing,

in search of the lily of the valley,

the lily of the valley in the forest!]

she sings, and on her way back she pets her lilies of the valley as if they were human beings: “Oh, the beautiful muguet, how sweetly it smells!” Elaborate are her plans for disposing of it. One large bouquet will remain in her room for at least a week, reminding her every moment of the delightful day she has spent. A few sprays will be given to the concierge, or janitor, whose good graces are to be cultivated; while the remainder will go to grand maman, who will not fail to be tearfully reminded thereby of her own sylvan excursions in search of muguet in those far-off days when there were hardly any railways, and it was half a day’s journey to the woods at Meudon.

According to the herbalists, the petals of the lily of the valley contain a toxic substance, which, like digitalis, has a directly stimulating effect upon the heart. Perhaps this may account, by some subtle process of sentimental telepathy or suggestion, for the charm which the muguet so potently exercises over the heart of those essentially Parisian little beings, all made up of nerves, gaiety, and emotions, the midinette of the dress-making atelier, and the grisette of the Latin Quarter. The street-cry, “Fleurissez-vous, mesdames: voila le muguet!” (Beflower yourselves, ladies: behold the lily of the valley!), followed by, “Du muguet! Achetez du muguet! Du bon muguet parfume!” (Lilies of the valley! Buy the lilies of the valley! Fine scented lilies of the valley!), is one of the oldest in Paris. The muguet harvest is as much a godsend to the pariahs of the Paris pavement as is the hop-picking in Kent to the submerged tenth of the London East End. The May morning has hardly dawned before a procession of ragged, footsore tramps comes streaming into the city from the neighbouring woods, loaded with muguet. On May Day waggon-loads of muguet arrive by train. The flowers are picked when they are still in the earliest bud, for the little Parisian lady likes to see them open out under her own eyes, and so have the illusion that their lives are linked with hers. In some of the great forests round Paris it is forbidden to pick the muguet on pain of a fine; for the pheasants are laying at this season, and to steal the eggs on the pretence of looking for lilies of the valley is a common trick with the villagers.

 Sensations of Paris, Rowland Strong, 1912: pp. 233-236

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is May Day and instead of the cliches about May Queens and the famously bad weather of the holiday, Mrs Daffodil thought she would post instead about the French holiday of La Fête du Muguet, the feast of the lily of the valley. This is said to have had its origins with the Valois King Charles IX when he was presented with a bunch of lilies in 1561 as a porte-bonheur. Charmed, he began giving the ladies of the court lilies on 1 May.  Mrs Daffodil suggests that lilies of the valley brought  the King himself scant luck: his reign was marred by the French Wars of Religion and the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

 

In the language of flowers, lilies of the valley mean love, luck, and the return of happiness. They are a favourite of Royal brides: Queen Victoria, Grace Kelly and Catherine Middleton all carried bouquets of lily of the valley.

Despite its name, the lily of the valley is actually a member of the Asparagaceae family. However, you would not dare to enjoy the flower, blanched, with hollandaise sauce. Lilies of the valley are extraordinarily toxic if ingested. This fact may explain the curious Devonshire superstition that it is unlucky to plant a bed of lilies of the valley; the person doing so is likely to die within the next twelve months.

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers a very happy and clement May 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.

 

Something Advantageous: 1840s

SOMETHING ADVANTAGEOUS;

OR, A FAMILY FRACAS.

I once attended a very poor old man of the name of Jordan, in his last illness. I call him poor, but yet he was not in want, and had about him the comforts of life. When he was near his end, he said to me—

‘Doctor, I want to know the truth from you. I am not in the habit of being flattered by the world. There was a time, indeed, when it ‘fooled me to the top of my bent;’ but that was long ago. Do you not flatter me, but tell me your real opinion. Shall I soon die, or shall I linger on a brief career, in a world I am quite willing to be done with?’

‘You desire me,’ replied I, ‘to be candid with you, and I will. You are on your death bed.’

‘How soon shall I be immortal?’

‘That I can not say. But your hours, so far as human experience can teach me to predict, are numbered.’

He was silent for a few moments, and a slight spasm passed across his face.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘it is the lot of all. I have lived long enough.’

‘Is there no friend or relation, Mr. Jordan,’ said I, ‘to whom you would wish to send? You are here, as you have often told me, quite alone in lodgings. Perhaps you would like to revive some old recollections before you leave the world.’

‘Not one,’ he said.

‘Are you so completely isolated?

‘Most completely. I have tried all relations, and found them wanting. But still I have remembered them, and made my will. It is now between the mattress and sacking of this bed, and Mr. Shaw, the only honest attorney I ever met with, and who resides in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, will carry my intentions into effect I was rich once in early life. How dark a day.’

‘What day?’

‘To-day. How dark and misty it has come over, doctor.’

His sight was going fast, and I felt certain that it would require but little patience, and a small sacrifice of time to see the last of Mr. Jordan.

‘Yes,’ he continued, speaking in an odd, spasmodic fashion. ‘Yes, I was rich, and had many a crawling sycophant about me, many smiling faces at my board; but there came a reverse, and like fair flowers at a sudden frost, my kind friends hid their heads. I was nearly destitute, and thinking and believing that the ties of blood would be strong enough to bind to me, in my distress, those with whom I claimed kindred, and who had been delighted to claim kindred with me, I went to them, a visitor.’

‘And failed.’

‘And failed, as you say. They dropped from me one by one. Some remembered slight offenses; some were never at home; some really thought I must have been dreadfully improvident, and, until they were convinced I had not, could not assist me. Doors were shut in my face—window blinds pulled down as I passed. I was shunned as a pestilence — my clothes were in rags — my step feeble from long want of common necessaries. And then an old school companion died in the West Indies, and left me £20,000, which I received through the hands of Mr. Shaw.’

‘A large fortune! And your relations?’

‘Heard of it, and were frantic. I disappeared from them all. From that day to this, they have not heard of me. Do you love wild flowers?’

‘Wild flowers?’

‘Yes. Here are heaps just from the teeming garden. Look, too, how yon cherub twines them in her hair. The stream flows deep to eternity!’

‘Mr. Jordan, sir,’ I cried. ‘Mr. Jordan, do you know me.’

‘Come hither, laughing, gentle spirit,’ he said, ‘bring with you your heap of floral gems. Yes, I know this is the sweet violet. Mary, my Mary; God knows I love you.’

It was a strange thing but, at the moment the blind of the window, which I had drawn up to the top, came suddenly rattling down, and the room was quite dark. I raised it again, and then turned to the bed,

Mr. Jordan was a corpse!

What a remarkable change had in these few moments come over the old man’s face. The sharp lines of age had all disappeared, and there was a calm, benign expression upon the still features, such as in life I never saw them wear.

‘A restless spirit is at peace,’ I said, as I felt for the will where he told me it was placed, and found it. It was merely tied up with a piece of red tape, and addressed to Mr. Shaw, 20, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields; so I resolved to trust no other messenger, but to take it in my hand myself. I told the landlady of the house that her lodger was no more; and that she would no doubt hear immediately from his solicitor, and then I left.

‘Well, Mr. Shaw,’ I said, after I had mentioned to him the manner of Mr. Jordan’s death, ‘here is the will, sir, and I presume I have nothing further to do than to thank you for your courtesy, and bid you good evening.’

‘Stay a moment,’ he said. ‘Let me look at the document. Humph! a strange will. He leaves the form of an advertisement here, which is to be inserted in the morning papers, calling his relations together, to here the will read.’

‘Indeed!’

‘Yes, Well, I shall, as I see I am named trustee, do as he wishes. He states that he is very poor.’

‘Why, he spoke to me of £20,000.’

‘Did he really? A delusion, sir, quite a delusion. £20,000! He had that amount twenty-five years ago. But, sir, as you have attended him, and as I happen to know he had a high opinion of you, I should like you, as his friend, to be with me, as it were, in future proceedings connected with his will!”

‘In which there is a mystery, eh! Mr. Shaw!’

‘A little—perhaps a little bit of post mortem revenge, that is all, which I am not now at liberty to descant upon. But I will take care to coincide with you, and I shall hope that you will follow the old fellow to the grave.’

I promised that much, and duly attended the funeral. It was a quiet, walking affair, and from the manner of it I felt quite convinced that there were not funds to make it otherwise. A mound of earth alone marked the spot in the little church-yard at Barnes, where Mr. Jordan slept the sleep that knows no waking. A drizzling rain came down. The air was cold and eager, and I returned home from the funeral of Mr. Jordan, about as uncomfortable as I could.

o o o o o o

The next day the following advertisement appeared in a morning paper, and caught my eye as I sat at breakfast:

‘If any of the relations of Mr. John James Jordan, deceased, will call at the office of Mr. Shaw, 20, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields, they will hear of something advantageous.’

I made up my mind to call upon Mr. Shaw during the day, and about three o’clock, I reached his chambers, or rather I reached the stair-case leading to them, and there I had to stop, for it was quite besieged by men and women, who were all conversing with great eagerness.

‘What can it mean?’ said an old woman; ‘I’m his aunt, and of course I speak for my Ned!’

‘Well, but bother your Ned,’ said a man, ‘he hardly really belongs to the family. I’m his brother. Think of that, Mrs. Dean.’

‘Think of what, you two-legged goose?’

‘Pho, pho,’ said another man, ‘I knew him very well. I’m his cousin. Hilloa! what’s this? Who are you?’

A woman in tattered garments, but who still looked like a beautiful one, stood hesitatingly at the foot of the stairs.

‘Is this Mr. Shaw’s?’ she said. ‘Hush, Mary, hush! don’t my dear.’ ‘But I am hungry, mamma,’ said the little girl, who was holding her by a handful of her dress.

‘Oh, Mary—do not dear; we—we shall soon go home. Hush, dear, hush, hush! Is this Mr. Shaw’s?’

‘Yes,’ said a fat woman, ‘and who is you, pray?’

‘I—I saw an advertisement. I am his aunt Grace’s only child. My name is Mary Grantham. This is my only child. She—she is fatherless and has been so for many a day,’

‘What,’ cried a man, ‘are you the Mary he broke his heart about?’

‘Broke his fiddlestick,’ said the fat woman.

‘Good God, do I live to hear that!’ exclaimed the woman with the child.

‘You had better go up to the solicitor at once,’ whispered I. ‘Come, I will show his door,’

I made a way for her through the throng of persons, and we soon reached the chamber.

‘Here is another of Mr. Jordan’s relations, Mr. Shaw,’ said I, ‘I find you have had quite a levee.’

‘I have indeed, doctor. You must come at twelve o’clock, next Monday, madam, when the will of Mr. Jordan will be read by me to all around.’

‘I thank you, sir.’ She was about to leave the chambers, when I interposed.

‘Pardon me, madam,’ I said. ‘But as I was the only person with Mr. Jordan, at the time of his decease, I wish to ask you a question. If I mistake not, your name was the last that passed his lips. ‘Mary, my Mary,’ he said, ‘God knows that I loved you!’

She sank into a chair, and burst into tears.

‘You, then,’ I added, ‘are the Mary whom he loved. Ah, why did you not, if you can weep for him now, reciprocate the passion?’

‘I did love him,’ she cried; ‘God knows, and he, who is now with his God, knows how I loved him. But evil tongues came between us, and we were separated. He was maligned to me, and I was wearied by entreaties and tears, until I married another. She, who has turned me from him, and severed two hearts that would and should have been all the world to each other, confessed the sin upon her death-bed.’

‘Who was it?’ said Mr. Shaw.

‘His mother! From no other source could I have believed the tales I was told. But I did not then know enough of the world to think that there were mothers who could malign their own children. We were

Separated–my husband died, leaving me that last little one, of many. We are very, very poor—no one will help us—an acquaintance showed me the advertisement, and urged me to come—it was a false hope. But I find that there are strong arms and brawling tongues below, that I can not contend against.’

‘Never mind that,’ said the solicitor; ‘it is my duty to read the will on Monday, and as a relation it is your duty to attend at the same time. I tell you to have no expectations.’

I saw Mr. Shaw try to slip some money into her hand, and I saw a crimson flush come over her face as she said, ‘We can still work:’ and then, fearing she had been harsh to one who wished to be kind, she shook his hand in both of hers, and said. ‘God bless you, sir, I thank you from my heart.’

Bang, bang! came to the door of the chamber, a minute after Mary had left, and upon its being opened, a man of about six and thirty made his appearance.

‘Something advantageous!’ he gasped, for he was out of breath; ‘what—what is it? Give it me, give it me! How much? Good God, don’t let any body else have it. I’m his youngest brother—give it to me.’

‘If you will attend here at 12 o’clock on Monday, the will will be read.’

Bang, bang, bang!

‘I’m thoroughly besieged,’ said Mr. Shaw; ‘now, madam, who are

you?’

‘Something advantageous,’ screamed a masculine looking woman;

‘I’m a relative—what is it? Come on, my dears. Here’s my five dear daughters, and my baby—come along.’

‘Be off with you,’ cried the younger brother.

‘Did you speak to me, you wretch,’ said the lady, and she planted a blow in his face that made him reel again. ‘Take that; I know you are a sneaking hound; you used to be called the chimpanzee in the family, you poor, scorched-up-looking bundle of cat’s-meat.’

Several more arrivals now took place, and poor Mr. Shaw was fairly bewildered. Sounds of contention arose on the staircase—shrieks from family combatants came upon our ears, and finally, I advised Mr. Shaw to paste a placard on the outer door of his office, on which was written,

‘The will of Mr. Jordan will be read here on Monday next, at twelve o’clock, precisely.’

The riot gradually subsided. The evening came on, and all the relations of the deceased had been and gone. Mr. Shaw and I supped together, and I promised to be with him punctually at twelve o’clock on Monday, for I was as curious as anybody could be to hear the will read, and at all events, anticipated a bustling scene upon the occasion. I was not doomed to be disappointed.

o o o o o

It is a habit of mine rather to be too soon than too late, and in the present instance I found it a most useful one, for I really almost doubt if I should have got into the chambers of Mr. Shaw at all, if I had been later than I was.

I had fairly to push Mrs. Mary Grantham in, despite a vigorous opposition; and a man stopped my own entrance, crying—

‘Who are you? What relation are you?’

‘His grandfather’s uncle,’ said I; ‘and if you don’t make way I’ll pull the nose off your face.’

It was well that Mr. Shaw occupied very spacious chambers, or otherwise he could not have accommodated one-half of the persons who came to the reading of the will; and never in all my life did 1 sec such malignant looks pass from one to another, as shot from the eyes of the relations. It was a most pitiful picture of human nature.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ said Mr. Shaw; ‘ahem! ahem!’

There was a death-like stillness.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am commissioned to read to you the—the —what shall I call it?—it is hardly a will—of the late Mr. Jordan. No, it certainly ought not to be called a will, for a will, properly speaking, is a testamentary—”

‘Read, read, read!’ cried a dozen voices.

‘Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to see you are all in respectable mourning.’

‘Except one,’ said the younger brother; ‘there’s his Mary, that he was so fond of. Oh, dear me! she only comes for what she can get.’

Mrs. Grantham burst into tears. There was a little shabby piece of black crape upon her arm, and another upon the arm of her child.

‘I—I could not,’ she said; ‘ I could not do more. God help me! I had not the means!

‘Read, read, read!’ cried all the voices.

‘Ahem!’ said Mr. Shaw, reading; ‘I, John James Jordan, being very poor, and having in vain called upon every relation I have in the world, for assistance, and found none, have to state that my heart was filled with bitterness and uncharitableness toward them. But still I think that they are not dead to all feeling; and this being my last will and testament, I desire that my debts, amounting to the sum of one pound, three shillings, and eight pence, be paid forthwith of my estate; that my funeral be strictly private, in Barnes churchyard, where I last parted with one whom I loved, but who has gone abroad, I am told; and to that one of my relations who will erect a tombstone, I bequeath—

‘Hark! will you!’ cried one; ‘be quiet. Go on—yes, yes. Oh: you wretch, where’s your feelings! Go to the devil!’

‘Really, ladies and gentlemen,’ said I, ‘this is most indecorous.’

‘I bequeath,’ continued Mr. Shaw, ‘my dying blessing and forgiveness.’

Mr. Shaw then folded up the will and put it into his pocket, saying— ‘I wish you all good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I sold the few clothes and other matters he died possessed of, and paid for the funeral, and his debts; being myself minus one shilling and four pence, which I hope you will some of you pay.’

It is quite impossible by any words to fairly depict to the reader the appearance of Mr. Jordan’s relations at this moment. If the fabled Gorgon’s head had suddenly appeared, and transformed them all to stone, they could not have looked more completely paralyzed and panic-stricken.

‘A tomb-stone!’ shrieked twenty voices. ‘A tombstone!’

‘A tombstone!’ said Mr. Shaw. ‘A small one would not cost much. You could put on it a suitable inscription. Here lies—’

‘Lies here—never mind,’ said the brother. ‘Never mind. I—I—Oh, that’s all, is it.’

‘You are a humbug,’ said the masculine woman to Mr. Shaw, ‘and so was old stupid Jordan.’

‘Go to the deuce, all of you,’ shouted another; ‘a tombstone indeed.’

Mr. Shaw was wiping his spectacles.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to add,—’

‘Oh, stuff, stuff! Bother! A tombstone indeed; I shan’t stay another moment. An old thief. I wish a tombstone had been down his throat. Come on! Come on! It’s all a do.’

‘But, ladies and gentlemen.—’

They were quite deaf to the remonstrances of Mr. Shaw, and in a few moments the chambers were quite clear, with the exception of Mrs. Mary Grantham, who was sobbing bitterly. She then rose, and looked at me hesitatingly. Then she looked at Mr. Shaw, and she seemed to be struggling to say something. She placed her hand in her bosom, and drew forth a ring tied to a black ribbon, and then, with a convulsive effort she spoke.

‘This—this ring—it is my only valuable possession. It was given to me thirty years ago, by him who is now no more, my cousin John, who loved me. I have clung to it in pain and in sorrow, in difficulty and in distress; I have never parted with it. I seemed to be but only separated from him while I had it near my heart. But now, great distress forces me—to—to part with it. Will—will neither of you gentlemen buy it of me. I—I shrink from its going into the hands of utter strangers.’

‘Humph!’ said Mr. Shaw; ‘there are a couple of sovereigns for it.’

She took the money, and then, after one long, lingering look, and a fervent kiss at the ring. she laid it on the table. and tottered from the place. I was about to follow her, but Mr. Shaw held me back.

‘Hold! hold!’ he said.

‘You are a brute sir,’ said I. ‘Take your hands off me; I will buy the ring of you and give it back to her. It breaks her heart to part with it, I see,’

‘I shan’t part with it,’ he said; ‘you are a very hasty man, doctor.’

I was very angry, and bounced out of the office. I looked eagerly about for Mrs. Grantham, but could not see her. I walked hurriedly across the square, and as chance would have it. I went in the same direction she did. My first impulse was to speak to her, and my second thought was to follow her, and to see where she went. She crossed Holborn, and traversed some of the long streets that lead into the New Road, where she arrived at last, and finally paused at a stone-mason’s yard.

I could have shed tears at that moment, for now I felt why she had parted with her cherished ring. She stayed about a quarter of an hour at the stone-mason’s, and then she came out and walked slowly away. I did not follow her further, but I went into the mason’s yard, and said to him—

‘Did that lady give you an order?’

‘Why, yes, sir, such a one as it is. She has got me to do a stone for two pounds, and she’s paid me. I’m to meet her at the churchyard at Barnes to-morrow morning at nine o’clock with it. and put it up. It’s only to have on it the name of John James Jordan. and under that. ‘God bless him.’

I walked away with a sort of mist before my eyes, and it was an hour before I recovered my composure. ‘I will meet her,’ thought I, ‘at the grave of her last love, and I will be a friend to her, if she never have another in the world. She shall have her ring again, if I force it from the lawyer. She shall have it. I’ll go and get it now, at once.’

I suppose I looked in a very tolerable passion when I got back to Mr. Shaw’s chambers, for he got behind a table when he saw me, and said— ‘Come, come, no violence.’

‘Hark you, sir,’ said I; ‘you have got the ring. There’s your money. Give it me directly, sir. Mrs. Grantham, poor thing, is going tomorrow morning, at nine o’clock, to place a stone at the grave of Mr. Jordan, and I intend to be there and give her her ring.’

‘Oh! very well. Bother the ring. I don’t want it. It ain’t worth half the money I gave for it. There it is; don’t bother me.’

I took up the ring, then put down two sovereigns, and casting upon him a withering look, which, to tell the truth, he did not seem much to care about, I left the chambers.

o o o o o

A soft. damp, white mist covered up all objects, and made the air uncommonly raw and chilly, as on the following morning, just as the clock of the church at Barnes chimed the three-quarters past eight, I entered the churchyard.

The first thing I then did, was to fall over somebody’s grave, for I was looking for Mrs. Grantham, instead of minding where I was walking; and then a voice said—

‘There you go again, as violent as usual, doctor;’ and in the dim mist I saw Mr. Shaw, the solicitor, to my great surprise.

I was going to say something, but at the moment I was nearly knocked down again, by some one brushing past me. A gleam of sunshine came out, and the mist began to clear away, when a most singular scene presented itself. A few yards off was the grave of Mr. Jordan, and kneeling by it was Mary, his first love. with her child by her side. Mr. Shaw stood to my left, and at his feet there knelt a respectable looking young man—I recollected him as Mr. Shaw’s clerk.

“Good God! Richards,’ said Mr. Shaw, ‘is that you? What is the matter?’

‘Oh! sir,’ said Richards. ‘I have come to ask your forgiveness. The spirit of my poor old father stood by my bedside all night. Oh, God! oh, God! it was dreadful; and I knew what it was for. Oh! sir, forgive me. I—I peeped into the will, sir, while you went out to dinner—Mr. Jordan’s will—and—and I went round to all the relations, and sold the secret for two pounds a-piece, and—and—’

Mr. Shaw gave a jump that astonished me.

‘Doctor, doctor,’ he shouted; ‘for God’s sake run down the London road and bring the man with the gravestone. Oh! good gracious. Oh! d——n yon, Richards. Ha! ha! ha! Oh! here he is. Oh! bless you for a prudent stone-mason; you shall get well paid for this job. Hip! hip! Hip!—hurrah!’

I thought, to be sure, that Mr. Shaw must have gone mad. There was a man looking over the railing of the church-yard, with a spade on his shoulder; to him Mr. Shaw said—

‘Five guineas for that spade.’

The man thought he was mad, and tried to run away; but he dropped the spade; and in another moment Mr. Shaw’s coat was off, and he was digging away like fury.

‘Where’s the stone!’ he cried: ‘bring the stone. That’s right. Poke it in—prop it up. That’s the thing—all’s right. Here we are. Another knock. All’s right—all’s right.’

‘Lor!’ said the stone-mason, as he lifted up his hands; ‘look there!’

I looked in the direction he indicated, and there, to my astonishment, I saw arriving, carts, coaches, cabs, and wheel-barrows, and each containing a tombstone. A regular fight ensued at the entrance of the churchyard; and engaged in the fight I recognized the relations of Mr. Jordan. Heavens, how they cuffed each other!

‘Hold!’ cried Mr. Shaw; ‘you are all too late, although you had information you ought not to have had. There is already a stone on Mr. Jordan, and placed, too, by the only one who knew not what you all know. Listen to the conclusion of the will—‘And to that one of my relations who will erect a tombstone to my memory, I bequeath my blessing and forgiveness, and eighty thousand pounds in bank stock.’ ‘Madam,’ to Mrs. Grantham, ‘I congratulate you.’

‘And there’s your ring.’ said I; ‘Mr. Shaw, let us shake hands; I understand you now.’

‘Ha! ha!’ said Mr. Shaw, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you had better all of you keep the tombstones for yourselves. You can get the name altered, for if you don’t, I’m very much afraid you will not find them

SOMETHING ADVANTAGEOUS.’

The Cincinnatus, Vol. 1, 1857: pp. 31-40

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does so like a happy ending…. Except, possibly for Mr Shaw’s clerk, who will, it seems likely, lose his situation.  And possibly for the greedy relatives, although, to be fair, tombstones can be easily altered or even re-sold to recoup their losses. One predicts that some of the tombstones will be soon needed, as Mr Jordan’s volatile relations succumb to chagrin-induced apoplexies.

 

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.

Hints for Earth Day Economies: 1859-1903

Although Monday was, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed,  “Earth Day,” a time to take stock of how we use the resources of the planet, there is never a bad day to reflect on consumption and its consequences. There has been a societal move against “fast fashion” and a resurgence of “Make Do and Mend.”  Mrs Daffodil will, therefore, “recycle” several posts on the subject of domestic economy in dress, on the clever makers-over of tired garments, and the second-hand clothing trade.

One would go far before one would discover a more ingenious clan than these Southern Ohio ladies and their cunning tricks of skillful fingers.

Although this lady, who traded in second-hand silks and this gentleman, who prospered in left-over laundry, are an inspiration to all of us.

Some clever gentlemen took a leaf from the ladies’ domestic economy books and learned to update and repair their wardrobes.

A fascinating tour of a 19th-century “recycling” firm and an examination of the “rag trade.”

The second-hand trade was a boon to actresses, and the buying, selling, and hiring of costly gowns worn by the Four Hundred, was a practice well-known to the upper echelons of Society.

The second-hand clothing trade extended even unto royalty, as we see in this peep at Queen Victoria’s stockings.

One of Mrs Daffodil’s heroines is this resourceful lady, who set herself up as a “Dress Doctor,” long before Hollywood costumer Edith Head co-opted that title.

Of course, selling one’s evening dresses involve some unwitting “recycling,” as this lady found to her dismay:

Not long ago (write “X and Z” in the Globe) a lady in dealing with the proprietress of a second-hand clothing business, sold to her several evening dresses, which were perfectly fresh and good, but which she could not wear again, as her friends knew them too well. They had probably been worn three times each. The second-hand wardrobe lady remarked, by the way, that all her purchases were for the colonies. Seems odd, does it not? But to return. A few days after the gowns were sold their original owner missed a very pretty old-fashioned diamond clasp, and, inquiring of her maid, discovered to her tribulation that it was in one of the evening dresses she had sold. “Sewn firm on the left shoulder, my lady,” quoth the maid. She proceeded diplomatically to work, sent the maid to the shop, and, in consequence of her operations there, became again the possessor of her discarded gown at exactly seven times the price she had sold it for. The diamond clasp was still in it, its safety being due to proximity to a mass of crystal trimming which formed an epaulette, the clasp having been added with a view to making the whole mass look “good.”

Otago Witness 9 February 1893: p. 42

 

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 Jewel Detective: 1910

 

THE JEWEL DETECTIVE.

Workings of a Secret System by Which American Importers of Precious Stones Keep Tab Upon Tourists Abroad and Hold Up the Hands of the Government in the Suppression of Smuggling.

She was a handsome, middle aged woman of evident taste and refinement and that decided something of air and manner which inevitably indicates the wealthy American to the calculating eye of the European shopkeeper, A glimpse of her as she moved slowly down the jewelry section of the Rue de la Paix, in company with her slender, fresh faced daughter, was enough to start a flutter behind each glittering store front.

Suave, frock coated proprietors, smiling, buxom proprietresses along that famous street beyond Cook’s watched her eagerly, sometimes even going so far as to murmur a respectful invitation from the doorway as she paused a moment before some wondrous display. To them she was the legitimate summer prey, one in the annual flight of the gold laden from the Golden Republic across the seas. For such they were accustomed to spread, their nets and prepare their lures.

“Will Madame be pleased to enter? Madame is not obliged to purchase.”

But Madame gave no answer, intent singly upon the windows and pursuing her way like one who knows her own mind, until she stopped before a certain shop near the end of the row”.

“This is the place,” she announced.

“Yes,” nodded her daughter. “We saw it here, and yon remember he asked a hundred francs less than the woman in the Plaza Spagna, in Rome, wanted for hers, which was ten stones shorter and awfully skimpy. Oh, mother, I do hope he hasn’t sold it!”

They entered, to the despair of neighboring rival dealers and the delight of the one. A question brought relief, for “it” had not been sold, and the proprietor, shrewd, named the former price to a centime.

“It” was revealed as a shimmery, resplendent necklace of pearls and diamonds, and the two women presently embarked upon the operation, dear to the feminine soul, of allowing a clever salesman to sell to them something they already had decided to buy.

While they were engaged in examining the gorgeous rope of jewels, comparing it with other inferior pieces laid out for background, listening to the soothing patter of the proprietor and prolonging the negotiation in divers pleasant ways, a man sauntered in from the street.

He was dressed in respectable but unobtrusive style. A casual observer would have set him down indiscriminately as a German, a Hungarian or a Continent travelled Englishman of moderate means and would have forgotten him the next moment. The one definite note in his appearance was the absence of any. He was eminently ordinary, retiring and colorless–except as to his eyes. A close observer might have dwelt upon those eyes, which were habitually lowered. They were small, clear and sharp as flashes from polished steel. The face in repose was commonplace behind its trim Van Dyke. With the eyes open and at work it was wonderfully alert, nervous and ferretlike.

jewel detective

Making the Bargain.

The assistant in the shop left the fascinating game in progress with a sigh of regret and came forward to attend the new customer. It appeared that he desired a watch charm, something novel and not too expensive. The assistant produced a tray of trinkets and the stranger took a seat at the further end of the counter, where he began a deliberate and silent selection. The assistant, scenting a long sale and a small one, gave to him only perfunctory attention, absorbed in the masterly tactics of the proprietor.

“No, Madame, I could not make it less than forty thousand francs. But remark the saving. I can give you a bill of sale for half the amount, which, at sixty per cent. will mean a payment of only twenty-four hundred dollars in duty. Thus the necklace will cost you a trifle more than ten thousand dollars, and you could not duplicate it in your country for fifteen–no, not for twenty. But Madame, attention! I have something else here. Observe this magnificent pendant. As an inducement I will add this for two thousand francs, which is absolutely worth ten.”

And so it went. The women compared, discussed, bargained in a well bred, distinguished manner; the proprietor plied his trade; the assistant watched breathlessly and the odd customer attended strictly his search for a three franc watch charm that suited him. None of the others considered him for a moment; a state of affairs with which he was quite content. He remained in the shop until the women had completed their purchases, when he finally chose a trifle and departed as inconspicuously as he had come.

The women had not recognized the stranger, and they would have been properly astonished had they known the amount of miscellaneous Information he possessed concerning them. It would have been a distinct shock to them had they learned that this same quiet person had been at their elbows, through half of Europe; that he had followed them into jewelry stores in Rome, Genoa, Interlaken, Vienna, Innsbruck and Berlin; that he was familiar with every chapter in their hunt for a stunning necklace at a bargain; that he was aware of the date on which they were booked to leave for home and the name of the steamship.

They would have been somewhat uneasy could they have guessed that after leaving the Rue de la Paix the mysterious nondescript hied himself to the private office of the special agent of the United States Treasury department resident in Paris, with whom he left a memorandum embodying all the essential facts concerning the transaction of the day.

Two weeks later the handsome, middle aged American woman and her daughter, after signing declarations for the revenue officers to the effect that they were bringing nothing dutiable, landed upon a Hoboken pier. A search of their baggage revealed nothing of special interest to the officers, but they were not permitted to leave with other fellow passengers in like case.  Inspectresses took charge of them, and in spite of protests they were subjected to a search. The result was humiliating and disastrous, for the necklace was discovered, together with lace and other valuables worth some $25,000. In addition to confiscation of the property they were compelled to pay a heavy fine, besides enduring arrest, unwelcome notoriety and court hearings.

When the affair with its attendant lessons for such an attempt to defraud the government of its legal dues had passed, the two women, mortified and shamed, remained in ignorance of the method by which customs officials had so unerringly detected them for smugglers among the hundreds of first class passengers. In New York there were, and are, four men who could have told them that method in all its details Those men are the employers of the keen eyed watcher, and no one of them had, or has, the slightest official connection with the government.

 The End of the Trail.

A luxurious, mahogany furnished office, at No. 182 Broadway, forms the rendezvous once or twice a week, for the group. They are all serious minded business men and they meet behind the sober sign board of a dignified business concern. While there they transact certain affairs with all the secrecy and precaution of Nihilist plotters. By training and profession they are importers of jewels; by necessity and enterprise they are directors of one of the most remarkable detective systems in the world. They come together to confer in their capacity as officers of the Precious Stone Importers’ Protective Association.

From this quiet office, apparently given over solely to the common concerns of commerce, is controlled a band of secret agents which covers the highways and byways of Europe, and in which the man with the ferret eyes is a trusted member. From here issue orders which place every wealthy American tourist in Berlin, Madrid, St. Petersburg, Naples and similar accustomed haunts under an espionage of which he is blissfully unaware. Here are read and discussed reports on the doings of hundreds of men and women who are wont to believe that for three months of the year at least their comings and goings are unnoted.

The “jewel junta” and its employe, the jewel detective, represent a most remarkable private attempt to hold up the hands of the United States government. Smuggling has cost American dealers millions of dollars, but no others have suffered so heavily and so consistently as the dealers in precious stones. Now the importers have entered the game in person and are actively engaged in running down the perpetrators of a species of crime which was threatening their very existence.

Their aim is not to interfere with or to supplant the regular official machinery already in operation for the detection of smugglers. But for years they have seen the government fight a losing fight against disregard for certain laws among a large and growing class of prosperous Americans. The government was pretty well able to take care of the professional smuggler–the man or woman who took up the hazardous occupation of a goods runner and braved the gauntlet of the customs habitually. With the vast increase in foreign, travel during recent years, however, a new and very much more complex element was introduced. What of the well-to-do citizen, or, more especially, the wife and daughters of the well-to-do citizen who could see no wrong in swearing falsely and would adopt any expedient to evade the payments upon articles purchased abroad which the laws of the land declare must be met?

It was through the unprofessional and pre-eminently respectable smuggler that the importers of precious stones began to feel the heaviest losses. They were confronted by promise of a time when every prospective purchaser of gems would save the money against the summer trip abroad, spend it there and bring back the property in defiance of all safeguards. The government, in response to repeated complaints, added to its secret service force abroad and attempted to watch the jewelry firms and other sources of smuggled valuables. But the result was far from satisfactory and the importers themselves finally conceived the idea of lending a hand in aid.

Then was formed the Precious Stone Importers’ Protective Association, which undertook to furnish the government with additional information concerning foreign purchases of jewels. The association discovered that there was ample opportunity for its activities, and slowly it built up its present competent system. It now has feelers all over the ground where American tourists annually expend vast sums far from home. It is responsible, though its “junta” and its agents, for scores of arrests each year, and it is making smuggling a much less attractive and profitable occupation for the homecomer who considers himself or herself exempt from the law.

The Eye Always Open.

When you walk down the Rue de Rivoli or Rue de la Paix next time in search of that diamond tiara for your wife, remember that you are being watched as closely, if with less deadly purpose, as you would be should the Parisian police trail you for a desperate criminal. As long as you are in the jewelry district and you bear the outward marks of prosperity, you are an object of intense interest to some lynx-eyed individual who sees in you a possible smuggler.

And you may be sure that if you make a considerable purchase you will be no stranger to the customs men when you land in New York. They will know all about that tiara, and so probably will the members of the “jewel junta” at No. 182 Broadway. If you declare the purchase and pay the legal duty, well and good. Otherwise—look out.

Should you decide to procure your valuable gift in some other of the centres of the jewelry trade, at the marvellous shops of Venice or Florence or Lucerne, you will run an equal chance of surveillance. In the Parisian shopping districts agents are particularly numerous, for here the wandering American is most likely to be tempted by the gorgeous window displays. But the jewel detective is omnipresent.

The detective may be either a man or a woman. In either case you seldom will be made aware that you are being watched. The agents employed are persons whom the “junta” can trust implicitly and who understand their business. Many of them are engaged exclusively in the work of detection. Others work on cases that fall directly under their notice. All, or nearly all, mingle unsuspected with the tourist horde. They may be themselves in the guise of wealthy Americans or they may be natives and residents of Europe. The “junta” needs many sharp eyes and is quite indifferent to the personal tactics of its agents so long as results are produced. Sometimes an agent bungles, but not often.

An excited gentleman rushed into the office of the American Consul General in a European capital one day this summer and demanded explanations, protection, trouble and battle ships all in a breath.

“I’m being followed, I tell you,” he shouted. “I want to know what it all means. Things have come to a pretty pass when a citizen of the United States is dogged all around Europe by a scamp who watches him wherever he goes.”

The Consul calmed him and heard his story. It seemed that the citizen’s wife and daughters had noticed a red-faced man who seemed much interested in their shopping expeditions during their stay in Paris. His interest had not ceased there, for he had turned up again when they made the tour of the stores in Brussels, and again in Budapest he was still at their heels, appearing mysteriously whenever they approached a jewelry shop.

When the Consul understood the situation he smiled. “There is a very simple process by which you can rid yourself of this particular follower,” he said.

“How? What?”

“When you catch sight of him next time just shake your finger at him. I’ll go bail he never bothers you again.”

“I can’t expect that to frighten him,” protested the citizen.

“Yes, you can,” returned the consul. “When he seems that he’s been noticed, that you are aware of his espionage, he’ll leave you quick enough.”

“You do you make out he is?”

“You’d have to ask that question of a few estimable gentlemen in New York,” returned the Consul. “Unless I’m much mistaken he is one of the agents of the precious stone importers, and it is very rarely that they pick one so stupid as to allow himself to be discovered. He’s been watching you in expectation of witnessing a purchase of jewels. Let him know that you have noticed him and he will disappear, for his usefulness has ceased so far as you are concerned.”

“Do you think that will end the matter?”

“No,” said the Consul. “Frankly, I don’t. It will end it for him, but some other agent, more circumspect and skilful, is quite likely to be on your case to-morrow.”

“It’s an outrage,” exclaimed the citizen.

“Very likely, from your point of view,” said the Consul, with a shrug. “But you certainly can’t blame the agents and I don’t see how you can blame the importers. The enforcement of the revenue regulations means life or death to them. They are simply rendering efficient aid to Uncle Sam, in their own interest, of course, but incidentally in the interest of law and order.”

Usually the jewel detective works on a roving commission. It is his custom, on reaching a large city, to obtain lists of those who are stopping at the leading hotels. The detective, being versed in his craft, soon winnows out the useless names and finds the available material among the Americans who are likeliest to make considerable purchases. These he watches, and if any are wont to linger in the vicinity of the jewelry stores he is keen on the scent immediately. Probably some one party or individual will attract his particular attention. Observing that Mrs. Blank is intensely interested in the subject of diamond stomachers, and is in the habit of pricing them wherever she goes, he comes naturally to the conclusion that Mrs. Blank is very apt to buy a stomacher before she leaves Europe.

He accordingly attaches himself, unobtrusively, to the company of Mrs. Blank. He may follow her for a month or two months, even longer. Whenever she has any negotiations with a jeweller the detective makes it his business to find out what that negotiation was. When he finds a sale he promptly notifies the Treasury agents, who are hunting for just such information themselves, and the news is transmitted to the port at which Mrs. Blank will land in this country. In New York it is Collector Loeb who ultimately receives all such reports. Then the detective transmits a full account of his efforts to the “jewel junta” and casts about him for fresh opportunities.

The Precious Stone Importers’ Protective Association is a country-wide body and seeks to strengthen the barriers against jewel smugglers on all the borders of the United States. Most of its members have their businesses in New York, where ninety percent of the precious stones imported into the country pass in. But the discoveries made by its secret agents have frequently found full fruition far from the metropolis.

A woman jewel detective employed by the “junta” once stumbled upon a large transaction involving a sapphire and diamond necklace. The sale took place in Paris and, as usual, she attempted to discover the steamship by which the wealthy Chicagoan who made the purchase would return to the United States. She watched him during his stay in the French capital, but without learning anything of his plans. He did not visit Cook’s or any of the steamship offices and he was upon the eve of departure by train for the South when she was forced to present her incomplete case to the Treasury agent. A government revenue man was put upon the Chicagoan’s track and followed him to Marseilles, thence by P. and O. steamship to Bombay, then to Colombo, Singapore and Yokohama, where he lost him.

He picked up the trail again where it led aboard a chance tramp to South America, followed, found the scent at Valparaiso, hurried on to Panama, Vera Cruz and Mexico City, and was in time to notify the proper officials on the Mexican frontier when his man started by train for Chicago. The necklace was found neatly sewed inside the Chicagoan’s straw hat and was promptly confiscated.

Their Own Police Bureau.

Thus a case started by a jewel detective is likely to be finished far from the beaten path of travel. Numerous instances of attempted smuggling from Canada have been prevented. The smuggler is traveling chiefly for pleasure, of course, but having heard direful tales of the strict custom supervision in New York he bethinks him that he might just as well return by a roundabout route where the officials are less curious. He does not know, poor man, that the detective “spotted him at the time he made his purchases and that a warm and intimate reception awaits him.

The “junta,” as members of the trade have come to call—or miscall—the executives of the Precious Stone Importers’ Protective Association, is composed of Mr. Ludwig Nissen, president; Mr. Alfred Krower, vice president; Mr. Arthur Henius, treasurer, and Mr. George Whitehead, secretary. These four constitute the association’s directing bureau in its real work, the maintenance of the foreign detective force. They have acquired the subtlety and shrewdness of so many successful police chiefs in the course of their effective co-operation with the government.

Mr. Nissen, the president, has been the formulative force in the association. It is he who keeps the books wherein the names and reports of the various agents are recorded. Those books would make interesting reading if they should ever be opened to inspection. Mr. Nissen has but recently returned from Europe, where he was occupied with the reorganization of the staff.

“We have been subjected to some criticism in certain quarters for our participation in the enforcement of the revenue laws,” said Mr. Nissen a few days ago, “but the fact remains that our efforts cannot possibly annoy any one except actual violators of those laws. The smuggler, private or professional, is a criminal, and we are bound to do all we can to suppress him.

“The spread of smuggling as a general practice among American tourists has reached an alarming extent. It is due, I think, to the American tendency toward lawlessness and has found its readiest growth in the very class where it should have found the least. The prosperous man looks to the laws of his country to protect his property. When such a man takes to breaking laws himself he is undermining the efficiency of the very thing he demands and leans upon. It was to check private smuggling that we entered the field to lend what assistance we could to the government.

“In this I think I can say we are serving not only our own interests and those of the government but those of American merchants at large. If we are able to deter a traveller from spending abroad it means so much more money in this country, not necessarily for the jeweller but for all tradesmen, and hence for artisans and workingmen.”

Smuggling Poor Business.

In regard to smuggled jewels Mr. Nissen made a remarkable point, which was emphatically concurred in by the two other association officers who were with him in his office. He stated flatly that jewel smuggling, even if successful, did not pay in actual dollars and cents.

“I have never seen an article of jewelry purchased abroad and smuggled into this country which could not have been duplicated right here in New York for less than the purchase paid,” he declared. “The foreign dealer invariably charges an American a higher price than the American dealer would, and the article, moreover, is usually inferior. He plies his trade by representing to the tourist that American dealers have to pay sixty per cent duty on all goods and hence have to add that sixty per cent to their sale price.

“That is not so. Unset jewels are imported at but ten per cent duty and rough jewels come in duty free. These are the only kinds that we importers handle. The American dealer consequently fixes his price at the wholesale cost of the stone, plus ten percent duty, plus workmanship and a reasonable profit. The European dealer has the same wholesale and practically the same workmanship items to start with, but he expects a hundred per cent profit from the free handed, credulous tourist.”
Mr. Nissen and his associates were one in declaring that whatever improvement has been brought about recently in the matter of the prevention of jewel smuggling has been due to Collector Loeb, without whom, they said, most of the work of their detective force would be unavailing.

“I cannot emphasize too strongly,” said Mr. Nissen, “that we are under the greatest obligation to the man who is now Collector of the Port of New York. Before he entered the office the association was of slight value in the warfare against smuggling. Frequently in the past we have presented perfectly reliable information concerning private smugglers only to have it set aside or to stand helplessly by while a settlement was effected and the criminal went his way rejoicing.

“Mr. Loeb, on the other hand, has welcomed our co-operation and has acted vigorously and honestly with every case we have called to his attention. As long as he is in office we have a fair chance of putting an end to the pernicious and dangerous practice of smuggling.”

The Fort Wayne [IN] Sentinel 24 September 1910: p. 27

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: When one thinks of the enormous expense involved in hiring a vast network of invisible jewel detectives—their commissions as well as travelling and lodging expenses—one wonders if those millions of dollars of trade and duties lost to smugglers were ever actually recouped. Mrs Daffodil does not like to spoil a thrilling story, but she has a nasty, suspicious mind and suspected that stories like these were designed as more of a deterrent than an actual account of gemological espionage. If ladies thought that every nondescript stranger was surreptitiously noting their purchases, they might be less likely to sew diamond necklaces into their underthings. Mrs Daffodil, who likes to be thorough, has found some evidence, in the form of sworn testimony in hearings on gem tariffs in 1922, that there was, in fact, no such network of lynx-like eyes. At that hearing, Mr Roland G. Monroe, representing the Precious Stones Importers Protective Association, complained of a lack of smuggling convictions, and asked for an appropriation of money so that the Customs department could  hire “a special squad of at least six men” to assist with enforcement. While there really was a Precious Stones Importers Protective Association lobbying for lower duties on gemstones, one suspects that any “special squad” of the U.S. Customs Department was not given an unlimited expense account to dog the steps of rich Americans from Paris to Vienna.

Mrs Daffodil has written about smuggling before in “I’m a Smuggler,” and The Widow’s Baby.

 

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.