Category Archives: shopping

Woman’s Favorite Tipple: 1888

1901 girl with ice cream soda.JPG

WOMAN’S FAVORITE TIPPLE.

How the Delicious Ice Cream Soda Has Superseded Pink Lemonade.

“Strawberry and vanilla mixed, please, and don’t make it too sweet.”

There is the succulent sound of a syrupy pour, a gentle fizz and a gurgling gush, a delicate splash, as a lump of ice cream finds its way from a big metal scoop in the depths of the crystal glass, another agitato, appassionato, furioso, top off fizz, and the fair “guzzler” of Gotham is served with her ice cream soda.

Other people drink ice cream soda elsewhere, but not as they drink it her in New York—which is by the hour, by the minute, by the gallon, by the liquid ton. From early morn till dewy eve the stream of femininity and the stream of soda pass, ceaselessly, behind the window shades of the confectioner’s, where the delicacy is supposed to be served in its fizziest and most fascinating form. At a big desk, ear the door, and beneath a dangling placard, which bears the following instructive legend: “Buy your soda water checks here,” sits a placid and cold young woman, warbling a monotonous refrain, “One or two!” “Plain or cream?” and dealing forth small solferino [magenta-colour] waterproof tickets, which are eagerly pounced upon by the thirsting swarm and hurried away to the marble bar presided over by the rapid, elusive soda water clerk.

These clerks are usually girls, and they manipulate the ice-cream soda with a pleasing dexterity born of long and assiduous cultivation. They flit noiselessly among the array of bottles, deftly distinguishing Vichy from Apollinaris by the sense of “feel,” extract the juice from the slippery and deceptive lemon in the twinkling of an eye, never confuse chocolate with cranberry, nor insult the palate which craveth pineapple by the offer of sarsaparilla.

They mix and scoop and stir and serve the pushing, scrambling, insistent mass before them silently, swiftly, neatly and with an air of toleration which gives a qualified pleasure to the recipient. The writer followed one of these nymphs of the soda water fount to a quiet corner, whither she had repaired to quench her thirst with a glass of clear cold water, and when asked why she did not take an ice-cream soda she responded briefly with an amiable “Ugh!” expressive of nausea, which supplied all conversational deficiencies. Later, moved to further confidence, she placed one round jersey-clad elbow on the counter, mussed up her bang with one plum hand and proceeded to discourse, glad of a brief respite from the eternal mixing process.

“I don’t see how they can drink it! But then they don’t live in it as I do.”

“Been living in it long?” she was asked.

“’Bout four years now,” with a giggle which ended in a groan.

“Oh, yes, but you don’t serve ice-cream soda all the year around, you know.”

“Don’t we/ Well, I should remark that we did. Why, the rush begins here before the first of May and it keeps up harder ‘n harder all through June, July and August. In August the people tear in here and drink two or three sodas right down, one after ‘n other. They thin off through the fall till winter, and then, though we do an irregular business on the ice-cream, we sell the soda hot with bouillon, coffee and chocolate. Seem’s if people have got to drink something in New York all the time.”

“What is the favorite extract?” asked the writer. Not that it matters a flip whether Gotham soda water fiends prefer ginger beer to the nectar of the gods, but because of the hope of some amusing commentary from behind the bar.

“Oh, my! I couldn’t tell you that, but,” with a confidential lowering of the voice, “you mightn’t believe it, but do you know I’ve got so I can tell ‘em all apart—just what extracts they’ll take, I mean, and I can set them up—excuse me, you know what I mean—almost before they open their mouths. You see, it’s this way. The school girls all want strawberry and vanilla mixed, and the dark ones want coffee or chocolate, and the blondes, they take pineapple or lemon, and the old ladies call for sars’p’rilla, ‘cause its cooling to the blood, and the girls who come in with fellows want ‘just vanilla, plain’ –kind of innocent and simple—and the young widows always ask for Vichy, with ‘a touch of lemon.’ That’s where they’re smart. They can drink Vichy standing up straight and looking over the top of the glass. They don’t have to hang over it and snap for the ice cream, when it comes up, with one of these long spoons. Then Vichy don’t get up your nose and make it red, and make your eyes water. You’ll have to excuse me now—I’ll get bounced for loitering. See this girl coming in? She’s a raspberry.” And with a cheerful grin this small, slangy, soda water philosopher skipped back to her position at the other end of the counter.

New York World.

The Dayton [OH] Herald 8 February 1888: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is “National Ice Cream Day” in the United States and Mrs Daffodil now has a longing for what is called a “Brown Cow,” a concoction she has enjoyed when visiting in the States.  The ambrosial beverage contains chocolate syrup, vanilla ice-cream, and either Coca Cola or Root Beer, depending on what is in the ice-box. The passing of the old soda fountain is a matter of much regret to Mrs Daffodil, who also misses lime phosphates.

The soda fountain was known to be popular with courting couples–many gentlemen felt that indulging a sweetheart’s sweet tooth was a sound investment. And just as drug-stores often sold medicinal brandy, the soda fountain quietly catered to gentlemen who preferred a less sweet beverage.

Spiritus Frumenti

“What will you take, madam?” said the soda water clerk.

“A little strawberry in mine,” said she.

“And you, sir?” to the husband.

“Let me see,” (scanning the row of bottles which contained syrups) “Oh, yes; a little spiritus frumenti, if you please.”
And as they went off after drinking their soda water, she said softly: “Oh, George, how much better that is than drinking nasty horrid brandy, as you used to do before you joined the Murphy men, isn’t it?” and he said “he rather guessed it was.”

The Sunbury [PA] Gazette 28 June 1878: p. 1

The Murphy men, or Blue Ribbon Movement, were a temperance movement begun by Francis Murphy.

 

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

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

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A Modest Proposal About English Wedding Presents: 1872

A representative specimen of English wedding gift horror http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/23462/lot/212/

ENGLISH WEDDINGS, AND WEDDING PRESENTS.

It is a matter of unquestionable notoriety, that all marriages are made in heaven; and it is equally certain that the beautiful descriptions of them, which we read, must be due to celestial correspondents. Such choice of words, such felicity of arrangement, such grace of epithets, could not emanate from any inferior source; and the future historian will best gather from these chronicles the condition of the English language in our day, and the manners and customs of those who spoke it. We shall not, perhaps, be accused of unnecessary repetition, if we call attention to the subject.

The sun is shining, and peculiar interest is excited. The bridegroom is accompanied by his friend, who is officiating as groomsman, and who is qualified by frequent service for the efficient discharge of the multifarious duties which are attached to the position. At precisely thirteen minutes and a half past eleven they alight at the church, saluted by the acclamations of the crowd, the excitement of the bystanders, and the symphony of bells. When the door is opened, four and twenty perpetual curates and prebendaries, deans and archdeacons, begin to assist one another. The scene increases in interest, until the climax is reached, when the bride enters, leaning on somebody’s arm, and supported by her bridesmaids, supplied with jewelry by a neighboring firm, which thus has the good fortune to secure eight advertisements of its goods.

The religious ceremony is performed with peculiar solemnity, unbroken, save by the fidgeting of the groomsman; the benediction is pronounced, and on repairing to the vestry, the formalities of registration are gone through, — a part of the ceremony which is often described in language worthy of Burke. After this, the party repair again to a mansion or residence, where a sumptuous dejeuner is prepared, and numerous covers are laid; a mysterious but interesting process. It is here that English oratory is displayed to its best advantage; and graceful tributes are paid on all sides, characterized by good taste, by brevity, and fluency. The peer forgets his pomposity, and the fact that nobody listens to him elsewhere; the groomsman feels that the lightest part of his duties has come, and all regret the close of his remarks. At precisely four minutes past two the bride and bridegroom take leave of their friends, and seek the seclusion of a country-seat.

Meantime, the “friends” separate, and the correspondent is enabled to furnish those advertisements which all read with interest, if not with excitement. The enumeration of the presents and of the names, both of their eminent manufacturers and of their donors, fills columns, and affords invaluable opportunities for fine writing. The “members of the domestic household,” called sometimes by profane and illiterate people servants, contribute something difficult to carry, and impossible to pack.

It is interesting to know that the flowers were not the production of nature, but were expressly supplied for the occasion by the floral manufacturer; nor is the name of the pastry-cook wanting, who made the indigestible compound termed a “bride-cake.” A few years more, and we shall be told the incomes of the guests, their ages, and the construction of the ladies’ petticoats. It may be that publicity is thus ostentatiously given to the names of those who contribute towards the future menage of the happy couple, in order that the standard may be raised, and that the donor of a water-bottle may shrink from appearing in the same list with the donor of a diamond bracelet. That aim, however, has not yet been realized, and the list of objects is as varied, and as free from all connection with each other, as the words which make up a page of Johnson’s Dictionary.

The company is a medley one; sugar-basins and aneroids, an antique pair of bellows, the Zoological Gardens faithfully represented in ormolu, a musical-box, a sketch mounted as a fan, fifty travelling articles to make locomotion impossible, a basket of snowdrops, and nine addresses on vellum, congratulating the bridegroom on the examples he has to imitate and on the wisdom of his choice, quite unreadable from the magnificent flourishes with which the initial letters abound, and signed by the schoolmaster and schoolmistress in behalf of the scholars.

Were the bride and bridegroom endowed with ostrich-like digestions, they might find some use for these articles. As it is, they often prove the most unmitigated nuisance, a misery alike to him who gives and to him or her who receives. It occasionally happens that the announcement of an engagement, instead of recalling the fact that two people are perfectly certain of being happy for life, that the cares of this world are over for them, and that a beautiful account of their marriage will appear in the newspapers and enrich the literature of the country, only suggests the painful thought that a present must be given, and, in order to be given, must be bought.

To explain the grounds for this impression would be impossible; a slight relationship exists between the victim and one or other of the engaged pair, and the persons about to marry are going to live in London, possibly in a large house; it may be that the intending giver received at some former period a perfectly useless and now blackened object, too dirty to make its appearance again in the world of rubbish, and that he feels bound to reciprocate the attention. “Human nature,” says a great authoress, “is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person who either marries or dies is sure of being kindly spoken of.” Whatever may be the cause, the dilemma remains the same. Much mental agony is undergone, increasing as the interval before the marriage becomes shorter. Some prudent persons have a stock of objects always on hand, one of which they forward upon receipt of the intelligence; and thus they may have the good fortune to send the first of the fifteen inkstands which follow.

She who hesitates is lost; now helplessly bemoaning her condition, now peering uneasily into shop-windows, and finding that every thing costs seven pounds, when she is prepared to spend only four. Her sense of her unfortunate position daily grows in intensity, and she may next be seen sitting in a shop, with a choice selection in front of her, amongst which are a blotting-book covered with excrescences of brass like a portmanteau, a miniature helmet, two shepherdesses of modern Meissen, a silver-gilt machine for brushing away crumbs after breakfasting in bed, a gentleman in ormolu looking into a windwill about the same size as himself and of the same material, both containing cavities in their insides for matches, the discovery of which would occupy a lifetime. What a choice is here! The biggest fool of her acquaintance has just ordered the silver-gilt machine, which costs thirty pounds, so she takes the windwill with a sigh of relief, and sends it as a little object to remind her friend of the happy hours they have spent together.

Her friend sends in return a little note, assuring her that she will always value it, reflecting that it is a just requital for the ormolu porcupine stuffed with pins which she had presented on a previous occasion. But the donor and the windmill are not destined to lose sight of one another just yet.

It is bad enough to see the rubbish in the shop, but there is some excuse for the production of these costly and worthless trifles. What the dogs are in the East to the streets, the givers of modern wedding presents are to the trade, — the scavengers of refuse; what is too dirty, too useless, too ugly for other purposes, they absorb; but it is too hard to be called upon to look at it again when exposed to view in the drawing-room of the unfortunate girl whose future life is to be spent, or supposed to be spent, in its contemplation. There are entertainments of divers kinds and degrees of dullness; but the entertainment which is given for the display of the objects we have described is without an equal.

Neatly arranged upon the tables in symmetrical order lie these specimens of English taste, “several hundreds in number,” slips of paper being attached to them recording the names of the givers. Here the lady and the windmill meet once more, regretfully perhaps, for some kind friend announces that she only gave two pounds for the candlesticks opposite; another has picked up something for thirty shillings, which produces a sublime effect, and the name of the shop where similar objects can be procured is whispered in secret. There is a pleasing equality evinced in the display; her Grace and the housemaid think the same thing ” beautiful,” and probably spend the same amount of money upon the object of their admiration.

The custom of giving wedding presents, as it now exists, is a social tax which, though paid by every one, is only paid grudgingly and on compulsion. It represents neither affection nor interest, and is not productive of the smallest profit to any save the tradesmen whose wares are sold for the purpose. Its counterpart can only be found in the custom which existed a short time ago of giving leaving-books at Eton. The fashion was exactly analogous; little boys give them to big boys, to whom they always had been, and to whom they continued in after life, complete strangers, subscribing themselves their “sincere friends on their leaving Eton.” The head-master submitted to the custom at a smaller cost; wise in his generation, and being an elegant classic, he had published, or privately printed, a quarto edition of some Latin author, which, it is needless to say, nobody ever wanted, and no one ever bought. This peculiarly useless volume was exchanged for the sum of ten pounds, deposited in some corner of the room by the boy who was bidding good-by, whence it was generally supposed that the head-master ultimately took it. This pleasant mode of escaping the tax was, unfortunately, not open to those who paid for the leaving-books presented by their sons to their sincere friends, and who not unnaturally considered that the annual expenditure of fifteen or twenty pounds was hardly compensated by the possession of some scores of soiled copies bound in yellow calf.

What these books are to the library, wedding presents are to the ordinary furniture of a house. What is to be done with the windmill? Should the first opportunity be seized for getting rid of it, there is the risk that its donor will tenderly inquire after it. It cannot be given away after the lapse of six months; for its color is gone, and it looks as if it might have been present at Hilpah’s wedding to Shalum. The poor thing eventually finds a shelter and a home in some spare bedroom of a country house, where damp and dust hasten its decay. Sometimes it is destined to a harder fate. One swallow does not make a summer, and the gift of a wedding present does not insure the celebration of a marriage; the engagement may very possibly be broken off, and one of the consequences is the return of the windmill to its unhappy and original possessor, whose feelings on its re-appearance we forbear from commenting on.

If the State would include wedding presents among the assessed taxes, and fix a definite sum to be paid at the beginning of each year, great relief would be experienced; the government would, of course, realize a profit, and a large sum would still remain to be distributed as marriage portions. The present inequality would be remedied; for, as it is, those who never marry at all (and their number is daily increasing) receive no return for their original outlay; but on the institution of the tax this need no longer be the case. Single women, on attaining the age of forty-five, might, on condition of subscribing a declaration setting forth the extreme improbability of their marrying, and their aversion to that condition, receive the sum to which they would have been entitled on marriage. Widows, on the other hand, would get nothing under any circumstances, being exhorted to remain contented with the ormolu of the first marriage.

During the interval before the adoption of this plan we have but one remedy to propose. Surely the old shoes which are now so lavishly thrown away at the departure of the bride and bridegroom, are capable of conversion into some valuable substance; which cannot be predicated of wedding presents. Let, therefore, the next “groomsman ” set a bright example, and deserve well of society and the oppressed; as the carriage starts, let a shower of aneroids, barometers, bellows, candlesticks, vases, mosaics, and antiques, gracefully fall and flutter around it. Thus we feel sure that a “peculiar interest would be excited,” while the struggles of the crowd to possess objects which to their inexperienced eyes might seem capable of being exchanged for a shilling would give additional animation to the scene. The prevalence of this custom might be expected to modify to some extent the present fashion, the chief compensation for which must be found in the advantages which result from a study of the pages of the Court Journal.

Every Saturday 27 April 1872: p. 449-51

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil fears that she has nothing to add to these really excellent proposals, except to note that the shower might result in shards of broken Dresden china and glass in the streets. That would annoy the horses, but crossing-sweepers might be delighted with the added employment and tips.

It is a bore, but one may also exchange or sell the horrors.

As for the loss of wedding gifts to the ladies who remain unmarried, this “bachelor-girl’s” father and friends were thoughtful enough to make up the deficit: 

One of the great bugbears of spinsterhood has been demolished by a Minnesota woman. Though she had had many suitors, of course, she was still unwedded at thirty, and one day, as she was sending off a gift to a girl friend who was about to be married, she bewailed the fact that the bachelor-girl never got wedding-presents or a trousseau. Her father promised that she herself should not be slighted in this respect, whether she married or not, and a few weeks ago, when she accepted the offer of a business position and decided to take up her bachelor residence in Chicago, the old gentleman was as good as his word. He gave her a handsome check to buy a complete outfit of clothes, from shoes to bonnets, and many of her friends took up the idea and gave her useful and ornamental articles for her bachelor apartment. And now it is announced — whether it be through the aid of her fine feathers or not is not stated — she is to marry the president of the company that employs her.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] March 21, 1898

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.

 

Dressing the Bride: 1899

A PROFESSIONAL DRESSER OF BRIDES.

Miss Eleanor Burwell is a young woman who dresses brides. That is the way she makes her living, and a very good living at that.

The other day a friend of mine was married, and one morning, about two weeks before the eventful day, a card was sent up to her and I went down to see the caller, a Miss Burwell, whose name neither of us had ever heard before. She explained her business, and my friend engaged her.

Early on the morning of the wedding Miss Burwell appeared with her assistant. The entire trousseau, and, I might say, the bride, herself, was turned over to her. She first investigated the wedding outfit and saw that everything was as it should be.

She insisted on the bride’s remaining quietly in bed until 10 o’clock, the wedding not being until 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Then she had her out and tried on the wedding dress, gloves and slippers. Some alterations were necessary, a few stitches, and she took them. Next she turned her attention to packing the trunks, and in less than two hours the task was accomplished and a little book containing a complete inventory was put in the bride’s traveling bag. This inventory gave not only the list of articles but told exactly where they could be found. By this time the bride had finished her luncheon and was persuaded to take a nap and remain in bed until called by Miss Burwell, who, with her assistant, left the house to appear again promptly at 3:30 o’clock. Then a tepid bath was prepared; the bride awakened and while she was taking it they straightened up the room and laid out the bridal costume. The dressing of the bride was accomplished without the slightest hurry and in ample time. But best of all was the fresh, rosy face which shone through the bridal veil. It was so different from the haggard, nervous girl we all expected. She was not a bit tired or worried, and feeling that she was looking her very best, woman-like, she was supremely contented. Miss Burwell accompanied her to the church door, guarded against soiling her gown in the carriage, and gave the final touch to her veil and train as she entered.

After the ceremony she returned to the house, superintended the exchange of the bridal for the going-away gown, gave the final arrangements to the last trunk and the traveling bag; set the room to rights and left as quickly as the proverbial mouse.

The next day I saw her again and asked her to tell me about her work.

HOW MISS BURWELL BEGAN

 “I began four years ago,” she replied, “by dressing a friend of mine, and I thought her mother, who was a very delicate woman, would never get through thanking me. She said I was just the right person in the right place on such an occasion, and as I had left school and was on the lookout for something to do to earn a living, I decided to try dressing brides as a profession. I came to New York as our nearest big city and affording the largest field. Of course I had a few letters of introduction and a small amount of money, less than $50, in my pocket.

“My first customer was obtained through the minister to whom I had come with a letter of introduction. The bride was quite young and without a mother, so she depended on me entirely. Her trousseau, quite an elaborate one, had been prepared, but she was as nervous as a girl could very well be and keep her reason about her wedding day. I treated her just about as I did your friend, only she insisted on my coming to her for two days instead of one, and everybody complimented me on the results. Soon after I had another engagement with a girl out of town whose trousseau I helped to purchase. My work gave satisfaction, and since then I have had my hands full.

“Many of my customers wish me to assist them with their trousseau, that is in its selection and by seeing that the dressmakers and tailors give them perfect fits; others wish me to do just what I did for your friend, while there are some who require me only to dress them and arrange their veils. Of course a well-trained, competent maid could give her mistress much assistance on such an occasion, but my customers, as a rule, are not the very wealthy girls who can afford to keep such an attendant.

“While they pay me well for my services they do not feel that they can afford to keep expensive servants. Of course I am compelled to keep up with the latest styles, and for that purpose I spent two months in Paris last summer.  August and September are the poorest months in the year for weddings, while October, February and June are about the most popular. Often during these months I have as many as two brides a day to dress, and several times 1 could have had as many as four, but was obliged to refuse many engagements for want of time.

IT WOULD PAY OTHER WOMEN.

“Do I think it a work where other women can succeed? I see no reason why they should not. Here in New York there is certainly room for others, because, as I have just said, I have very often been compelled to refuse engagements. According to my observations there is a demand for just such a person, in all of our larger cities and a comfortable living to be earned. But the woman who undertakes it must be willing to perform her work not only as well as any one else, but she must do it just a little bit better. Many people can pack trunks very nicely, but I claim that no one can do it as well as I, nor can they drape a veil or place the bridal wreath as becomingly. I study and work out all the little details of every particular bride, and my time is entirely occupied, but I am well treated, well paid, live well and am saving money. So, naturally, I think my profession a good one.”

LAFAYETTE M. LAWS.

The Butte [MT] Miner 23 July 1899: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has much admiration for Miss Burwell’s ingenuity in making a profession out of what had hitherto been an unpaid duty of the sisters or friends of the bride. Her packing and cataloguing of the bridal trunks was alone certainly worth her fee. (We have previously heard of professional trunk-packers.) But one wonders why a haggard, nervous bride was expected? One hopes it was merely prenuptial nerves and exhaustion rather than uncertainty over the wisdom of her choice of groom….

 

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.

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.

The Baroness is Mistaken for a Shop-Lifter: 1871

baroness burdett-coutts

An Anecdote of Baroness Burdett Coutts.

By Mrs. Laura Curtis Bullard

Miss Burdett Coutts, upon whom Queen recently conferred the rank and title of baroness, is a tall, gaunt, angular woman, who more nearly resembles the traditional and popular type of the strong-minded female than any one of the prominent members of the woman’s rights party whom I have ever met.  A tolerably wide acquaintance with the leaders of this movement on both sides of the Atlantic has convinced me that scragginess is not a characteristic of the genuine “woman’s rights woman.” But in justice to Miss Coutts, I must hasten to say that her personal resemblance to the typical strong-minded female does not result from sympathy-with the sisterhood. On the contrary, she cherishes for this class the most wholesome aversion, and has taken pains publicly to disavow all participation in their sentiments, aims and purposes.

Miss Coutts is no longer young, but she has a fancy that juvenile bonnets become her—which it is scarcely necessary to say, a mistake on her part. In short, neither in person nor in dress is she the attractive woman she would be if nobility of soul, of heart and purity of character revealed themselves in personal beauty or accompanied by an instinctive knowledge of the sources of good taste which is unfortunately not often the case.

But where Miss Coutts is known no one would ever give a thought to the minor and external defects of this truly noble-souled and generous-hearted woman, whose generous  liberality is as widespread as the fact that she is the wealthiest commoner in England.

Angela Burdett-Coutts 1882 National Portrait Gallery

Angela Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, 1882, National Portrait Gallery

Of course she is a well-known and most welcome customer at all the fashionable shops in London, but she is not so familiar a habitue of the shops of Paris. During a visit to this latter city, not long since, she learned of the death of a distant relative, and she went to purchase mourning  to the shop, the Trois Quartiers, a large dry goods establishment something like, “to compare great things with small,” our own Stewart’s. She asked for mourning dress goods, and was shown, by one of the attentive shop-men to the proper department. “Please show this lady mourning stuffs,” he said, “two-ten.”

Miss Coutts made her selection and then asked for mourning collars; the clerk who waited on her accompanied her to the proper counter. “Please show this lady mourning collars-—two-ten,” said he, and left her. From this department she went look for mourning pocket handkerchiefs, escorted by the clerk, who passed her over to his successor, with the request, “show this lady pocket handkerchiefs—two-ten.”

As she had still other articles to buy, she was escorted from counter to counter, department to department, and everywhere these cabalistic words, ” two-ten,” were repeated by one clerk to another.

Struck by the peculiarity of this refrain, asked the proprietor, as she left the establishment, “Pray what does two-ten mean? I noticed each clerk said it to the other in your shop.”

“Oh, it is nothing,” he replied; “merely a password that they are in the habit of exchanging.”

But Miss Coutts was not satisfied with explanation. Her woman’s curiosity was piqued, and she resolved to unravel the riddle. So, in the evening, when the porter,  a young boy, brought home her purchases, after paying her bill, she said, “My boy, would you like to earn five francs?”

Of course the lad had no objection to and only wanted to know in what way he could do it.

“Tell me,” said the lady,’ “what does ‘two-ten’ mean ? I will give you five francs.”

“Why, don’t you know, ma’am?” said he, evidently amazed at her ignorance; “it means keep your two eyes on her ten fingers.”

The mystery was solved at last. All the clerks of the Trois Quarters had taken the richest woman in Great Britain for a shop-lifter.

She tells the story with great gusto, and one of her friends to whom she had related it in Paris repeated it to me.

The Titusville [PA] Herald 6 October 1871: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906) was (after the Queen) the wealthiest woman in England. A practical and an energetic woman, she used her fortune for the benefit of a large range of charities including co-founding the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which became The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. While she might have fallen prey to fortune-hunters, she lived with her governess for much of her life, although she did propose to her neighbour, the Duke of Wellington, who at the time was seventy-eight to her thirty-three years. He refused her gently and they remained friends. After the death of her governess, (and a decade after the story above) she shocked the world by marrying her protégé and secretary, a young American named William Ashmead-Bartlett, who was twenty-nine to her sixty-seven. In so doing, she forfeited most of her fortune, (the terms of her inheritance did not allow marriages to foreigners)  but by all accounts she counted all well lost for love. Her husband became an MP and carried on a legacy of philanthropy after her death.

We have read of refined lady shoplifters before in Prepared to Carry off the Store, The Lady and the Laces, and The Rat in the Muff.

 

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.

When Jane Met Lucy: 1910

the shoppers, william james glackens 1907-1908

The Shoppers, William James Glackens, 1907-1908 https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-shoppers/hAG8x65bfr6-oA

At the hat counter in the oval of the same mirror they recognized each other.

“I thought you were dead,” said Lucy.

“I wish I were,” said Jane; “but aren’t you going to kiss me?” They kissed.

“How glad! What a time since we have seen one another. Not since we left college. Are you married?”

“Two months ago, and I’m madly happy. And you? Divorced?”

“How did you know it?”

“I said that haphazard. Let me look at you, Jane. You are just the same with your serious air, cynical smile and passionate eyes. Do you remember how jealous I used to be of your eyes? And how do you find me?”

“Not changed in your face; but your body has expanded and you have become beautiful.”

Lucy is a frivolous creature and likes to be in the midst of a crowd. Shopping is her delight. Jane hates a crowd; it makes her nervous and she often ends by buying something she doesn’t like, merely to get away. And now she has no one to care how she is dressed. They get into a corner to continue their chat. Lucy says: “And you can’t help loving your divorced husband still?”

‘I can’t help it and I don’t want to,” Jane replies.

“Have you done anything since your separation to see him again?”

“Nothing. I left town and lived among strangers; so I have never even heard what has become of him. Besides, I suffered too much in my pride through him to risk further humiliation. Once I wrote and asked him for an interview—but changed my mind and tore my letter up.”

“You were right, Jane, quite right,” and Lucy squeezes Jane’s hand affectionately. “You must promise me not to give way again. I am sure you suffered worse afterward.”

Let’s not talk about it any more. Tell me about yourself. Your husband—is he young?”

“Thirty-eight.”

“Just the age mine would be. Dark?”

“Fair, with a beard and moustache.”Mine was fair, too. I always wanted him to wear a beard, but he refused.”

“You didn’t know how to manage it. A man prefers obeying to commanding. Mine insists that I shall dress very well.”

“Mine always accused me of spending too much. God knows that I am not so fond of fine dress. Is yours authoritative?”

“Not the least in the world.”

“Mine tyrannized over me. Capricious?”

“The most even-tempered man I have ever met.”

“Can such different men exist?”

“They may be made so,” Lucy said with a triumphant smile. It’s like this. Alfred Lyons, my husband—What’s the matter Jane? Hold up, people are looking at us. Jane—”

But Jane hears nothing. She has become livid; her eyes close and her face contracts. She utters a cry and then, with a mechanical gesture—the gesture of a sleepwalker—attacks her friend’s face with her steel pins.

“The heart,” she says in a dull voice, “let me strike her heart.”

She is conquered, disarmed and carried away through the crowd in an unconscious state.

Clara Belle.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 20 March 1910: p. 56

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil may have too suspicious a mind, but she wonders precisely what part Lucy played in serious, cynical, passionate Jane’s divorce.

It is always a mistake to leave town in the wake of such an affair. One needs to be on hand to witness or scupper the important events of the day. Had Jane been in town, it would have been an easy matter to invite Lucy for a congratulatory cup of tea—poisoned, of course, with some unremarkable toxin such as  foxglove, so that the Coroner would bring in a verdict of previously undiagnosed heart-disease.  Mrs Daffodil is certain that, had the the news of Lucy’s marriage been broken through the medium of neighbourhood gossip and been wept over in private, instead of being so insouciantly announced at the hat counter, Jane would have escaped both public embarrassment and the private asylum.

 

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.