Category Archives: The Great War

Fashionable Shagreen: 1917-1923

It is, Mrs Daffodil has been reliably informed, something called “Shark Week.” Mrs Daffodil does not, as a rule, celebrate ocean-going predators, but it is an excellent excuse to discuss the fashionable uses for shagreen.

FASHIONABLE SHAGREEN.

WONDERFUL EFFECTS.

Four centuries ago shagreen—a handsome Chinese presentation of fish skin was the envy of all the young dandies about town, says an overseas fashion recorder. But shagreen was exclusive and expensive, cured and cut and shaped by hand, and it was only the dandy with a long purse who could afford to have this lovely decoration on his sword sheath or snuff-box. Once again Bond Street has revived shagreen. It has been displayed in the shop windows for some months, and just around the corner, off Old Bond Street, you will find the workers of the Chinese fish skin busy curing, “kneading,” and dyeing it to the perfection of its finished state.

Just as was the case 400 years ago, it is still exclusive and costly.

The process of manufacture is long and difficult. The skin does not lend itself to factory production, so that in shagreen articles you have one of the most beautiful of the hand-made productions.

Shagreen experts tell me that the skin is “practically everlasting,” and, what is more delightful, age intensifies its beauty. It looks lovely bound with silver in brush-and comb sets. There are complete outfits for the secretaire, and endless small things like scent sprays, cigarette and match cases, and a few book-bindings are shown. The colours are exquisite—soft blue, grey, rose and especially green. It was the green that was used in the early 17th century—for the art of making shagreen take subtle dyes was not then known—and some fortunate people have pieces of green among their family heirlooms. In the little “factory ” 1 was shown shagreen as it arrives from the Orient. Actually it is (he skin of a small rare shark, and the raw material is as stiff and hard as a board. The placoid scales of the shark give it a very rough surface. It looks as if tiny pebbles have been embedded in the skin. They feel like stone. In the old days the skin of horses and wild asses was treated to imitate shagreen and part of the process was to embed a certain seed in the skin while it was soft, and so artificially manufacture the knitter 1 surface. As a rule the real skin arrives in a creamy tint and often in a colour that requires no dye. Many hours of labour have to be spent filing down the hard scales and kneading the buckram like texture to the softness of kid When ready for mounting the hard nodules have been transformed to a pearl-like pattern and even after dyeing this creamy colour remains where the scales were, and on this particular shark every pore seems to be a scale. No two skins are alike. Frequently two skins put into a bath of green dye will take the colour in two totally different shades. This not only annoys the worker but adds to the price of the finished article. Shagreen is used effectively to line the bathroom walls in the Queen’s dolls’ house, where the ceiling is of snail shell and the bath of rose rock crystal.

New Zealand Herald 27 November 1926: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: When we speak of “shagreen” and sharkskin, these, of course, refer to the actual skin of a shark rather than the louche shiny suiting fabric favoured by cads.

While sharkskin has long been in use as a luxe leather, it was not until the Great War’s leather shortages that its potential was once again explored.

Shortage of Leather

Demand for Military Purposes Leaves Little for Civilian Uses.

America’s entrance into the war has created a demand for fancy leathers.

For example, more leather has been cut up for wrist watch straps this year than ever before and the demand is increasing. Officers’ vests are being made from chamois skins. Leather is required for binding army manuals and reports and there is a big demand for leather for covering field glasses, cameras, surgical instruments, cases, etc. Steel helmets must be lined with leather. Leather is also needed for automobile and airplane equipment.

There is a great demand for leather for straps, revolver cases, harnesses and saddlery, not to mention money belts, pipe cases, trench cigarette cases and the like.

Pigskin for Leggings.

It is said that the demand for pigskin for leggings and other military equipment has practically exhausted the supply of this leather and cowhide is now being used by manufacturers of these articles.

No Walrus for Bags.

Little walrus will be seen in bags and cases this year as the Newfoundland catch of this animal was the smallest in many seasons and, due to the war conditions, no Norwegian skins came to this country this year. It is said that the high price of those skins which were obtained in Newfoundland practically prohibits their use.

Unless next year’s American catch is unusually large and some way is found for releasing Europe’s supply of these skins, genuine walrus leather will probably be conspicuously absent in bags in this country for the rest of the war.

Seeking a Substitute

Dealers and manufactures ware now concerned with the question of what is to take the place of walrus. Alligator skin, once so popular, is out of the question. Alligator skin went out of fashion when its growing scarcity made its price prohibitive.

In the years since his tanned hide furnished the most popular bags of the day, the alligator has not increased in numbers. The Florida supply is practically exhausted. It has been suggested, though, that the hunting of these reptiles in Mexico and South America might be profitably developed.

Finding a Use for Sharks.

Sharkskin is the newest and most likely addition to bag leathers. Like that of the walrus, the skin of the shark is about an inch thick when it is removed from the fish. It is soft and spongy before it is tanned, but becomes a tough, fibrous leather when cured.

A special process of tanning has been developed for shrinking fine, scaly, file-like surface of sharkskin until it assumes a grain similar to walrus. This process makes the skin practical for traveling bags.

Sharks are already being hunted by two companies formed for this purpose and a number of skins are being made up into bags. One manufacturer is said to have taken 2000 of these skins. If a dependable supply of skins can be obtained, sharkskin may become a factor in the leather trade. At present the uncertainty of the supply and the high prices which must be realized naturally restrict its sale. Dry Goods Economist, Vol. 71, 17 November 1917: p. 81

When we speak of “shagreen” and sharkskin, these, of course, refer to the actual skin of a shark rather than the louche shiny suiting fabric favoured by cads.The “special process” was the key to shark skin leather:

SHARKSKIN SHOES

Hides of Sea Fish Used in Lieu of Cow Leather.

Ft. Myers, Fla., April 4. Sister in devilfish dancing pumps. Dad in sharkskin shoes. Mother in stingaree slippers.

These things will soon come to pass. A plant at Sanibel, Fla., is making them now.

These fish, heretofore useless to man, are being caught and brought to the plant. Their skins are tanned. The tanning process was invented by Ehreinrich, president and promoter of the Ocean Leather Company.

Ehreinrich has become wealthy by selling the European and South American rights to his process.

Suit Cases and other leather goods will be made.  Salisbury [NC] Evening Post 4 April 1921: p. 6

To Mrs Daffodil’s chagrin, she has not been able to locate an image of early 20th-century shagreen shoes. These are from Persia, c. 1800

The steaming jungles and the rolling ocean alike are being ravished for materials for feminine footwear. Many a debutant today selects shoes of snake skin in which to scale the social scarps. In supply this new and crying need, many a python has wrapped its last.

However, the real hippopottomus’ hip, as one Broadway comedian expresses it is sharkskin. Shoes of this type are gray in tone and the supply of material, so far as New York is concerned is inexhaustible. Any hook for an attractive feminine bait will catch a dozen thick skinned gray sharks any day in any pool between the Waldorf and the Westchester road houses. The Bee [Danville VA] 12 December 1923: p. 3

“The real hippopottomus’ hip,” is the youthful slang used to express the notion that sharkskin shoes are the dernier cri. One suspects that “sharks” is the vernacular for “not quite a gentleman.”

SHARKSKIN IS SWAGGER SAYS THE EFFETE EAST

It’s Used Now to Trim Motor Coats, As Well as for Smart Accessories.

New York, Oct. 30. A football game at the polo grounds serves to emphasize the esteem in which shark skin is held at present. The rough and swagger and sporty looking leather is made into any number of articles such as purses, cigarette cases and hand bags. Sometimes the skin is used to cover the handle of an umbrella, and it formed the cuffs and collars of one remarkable motor coat seen at the polo grounds Saturday. Rockford [IL] Republic 30 October 1922: p. 4

A Shark Skin bag, 1922

Shark skin and white leather form one of the large, unusual bags carried by the Duchess Sforza, who favours rare design and dimensions. Vogue Vol. 59, 15 May 1922: p. 33

Silver-mounted shagreen clock, 1904 http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21325/lot/105/

In addition to its uses in fashion, shagreen was popular for furniture inlays, cases for scientific instruments and cutlery, and desk accessories such as stamp cases, calendar frames, and bell pushes. It is rather nubbly in texture and is usually dyed a soft, arsenical green colour. The parlourmaids will attest that the texture gives it a special propensity to collect dust.

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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Gentlemen in Borrowed Finery: 1886

Have you any second-hand clothes? No, never wear ‘em. Elderly Man Asking Young Man For Clothes, William Henry Hyde, 1888 https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-ea4a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Old-Clothes Man: Have you any second-hand clothes?
Algernon: No; never wear ‘em.
Elderly Man Asking Young Man For Clothes, William Henry Hyde, 1888 https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-ea4a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

OLD CLOTHES TRADE

MEN OF FASHION WHO APPEAR IN BORROWED FINERY

Secrets of the Business Disclosed

Common Clothes More Valuable Than Fine Fabrics

The “Change Act” and the Economy.

A reporter desirous of obtaining some information in regard to the old clothes trade in Brooklyn called on a local dealer. The reporter’s obliging informant was found surrounded by huge piles of clothing. He was intelligent and seemed to thoroughly understand his business. After making the reporter promise not to mention his name, he said:

“At certain seasons of the year the old clothes business is better than at others. More trade is done during April than in almost all the other months of the year put together. In April, gentlemen shed the clothes worn all winter and don spring attire. The clothing that has been worn in cold weather is, of course, unfit to wear during the heated term, and is usually pretty well used up. The prudent man, rather than put his winter clothes away, and in the fall take them out moth-eaten, sells them. I know men who can well afford a dozen suits, but who have none other but the one on their back. When they get a new one the old suit is sold or given away. It seems strange, but rough, common clothes are more valuable to dealers than fine fabrics. Fine broadcloth suits are not salable when they become a little worn. Much of our trade is done with poor people, who prefer rough to fine clothing.”

“Are the clothes bought by Brooklyn dealers all salable here again?”

“Oh, no; a big trade is, of course, done with residents, but a larger part of the old clothes purchased are sent south or to Ireland….In former years and during the famines, business with the Emerald Isle was brisk. Many strange and incredible scenes are often enacted in old clothes dealers’ shops. There is one branch of the business which I don’t think is done so much here as in New York. This is called the change act. Chatham street and the Bowery contain many dealers who make a specialty of the change trade.

THE “CHANGE ACT” EXPLAINED.

“The change act consists of changing a good suit of clothes for an inferior one, and in receiving a sum of money as an equivalent for the difference in value of the two suits. When a man is broke he will do anything to get money, and if he has a good suit and knows the ropes, he soon disposes of his own good clothes for some of inferior quality. For instance, if a man enters my place with a $40 suit of clothes on his back, and I trade him one worth $10, I can well afford to give him $5 or $8 cash to boot. Some fashionable gentlemen who are seen in a dozen different suits each month own but one.

“The manner in which they are enabled to cut a swell is as follows: Some old clothes dealers do a pawnbroking business in a mild way. If a man has a good suit he can, by paying a small sum, always exchange it for one of equal quality, and still not lose all ownership in his original suit. After he has worn the suit hired a few days he can, by paying a sum, wear still another suit. This arrangement can be continued indefinitely, and finally the lessee, if he desires, can have returned to him his original suit. I have one customer, an impecunious young man who is well known in society. If he is going out in the evening and wishes to appear in full dress, he comes here, leaves the suit of clothes he has been wearing and dons one of my dress suits. In the early morning the young man again appears, takes off the dress suit and puts on his own clothes. For the accommodation I charge only a small fee.”

Bismarck [ND] Tribune 28 August 1886: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has reported before on the “rag” trade, the “misfit clothiers,” as well as the second-hand market in ladies’ clothing, particularly patronised by actresses. Why should the gentlemen not take advantage of the old-clothes market to refresh their wardrobes? It sounds an easy and pleasant trade. Yet, something always comes along to spoil the fun; in this case, the Great War:

There is great mourning among the “hand-me-down” dealers. The marts where the impecunious were smartly endowed with West End “misfits” have closed down. “We cannot get the stuff,” is the cry of the beady-eyed salesman with the crisped hair who lurks mournfully behind a deserted counter. The war affects the second hand clothing trade because, you see, the young knut worn cast-off raiment was the mainstay of the business is now in khaki. He has not troubled his tailor in the matter of civilian clothing for many moons. Formerly a brisk trade was done in the morning coats and lounge suits discarded by young and fastidious officers. These were eagerly bought up by City clerks and others whose means were not equal to their taste in attire. Now, alas, they must dress as they can afford! Harper’s Bazaar February 1916

 

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 Hoodooed Princesses: 1913

The "hoodooed" princesses of 1913.

The “hoodooed” princesses of 1913. Above, from left to right: Augustine Victoria, wife of Manual of Portugal, reported estranged within a month of their marriage, but now apparently on excellent terms with her husband again; Princess William, of Sweden, who found her husband, her father-in-law, and the Swedish court too dreadfully dull and ran away to Paris. Below: Princess Isabella, of Austria, who burned her bridal gown on her wedding night, left her husband and has procured an annulment; Princess Ernest August, of Cumberland, the Kaiser’s only daughter, whose happiness was endangered by a question of state and who was finally saved from her brothers by her father; Princess Eitel, wife of a son of the Kaiser. The latter’s reckless career has been ineffectually hushed up.

Hoodoo of 1913 Catches Five Princesses

Beauties of Royalty Find Love Jinx Hard to Escape.

Paris, France, Jan. 3. “So the prince and the princess were married and they lived happily ever afterward.”

That old fairy tale idea is sadly knocked in the head this year of 1913. No less than six royal princesses have gone on the rocks in their voyages toward a happy union. Some of the matrimonial craft have been patched up and are again navigating but, all in all, the proportion of rifted hearts and blighted romances in circles of the purple just at present makes the lot of the throne tenants far from enviable. The modest newlyweds in a cottage, with their baby, their vine-clad porch and their humble pleasures may well look with pity upon the high places of wealth, pomp and splendor.

First, there is the dramatic story of the princess who burned her wedding gown in her bed chamber on the bridal night. A tragic culmination to what was believed to be a pure love match. Little by little the tale of Prince George of Bavaria and Archduchess Isabella Marie, of Austria, has come out. He was a dashing officer, decorated by the Kaiser, the best middle-weight boxer in Germany. She was not only a pretty girl, but a great wit, a jolly good fellow.

And a hag of a gypsy plunged them into woe!

Whether the prince had been a trifle wild, as royal youths often are doesn’t matter. It would have happened just as it did anyway. The archduchess, when the prince, whom she dearly loved, proposed, foolishly put him off for 24 hours instead of falling into his arms with a “yes.”

Consults Family Gypsy.

She consulted the family gypsy.

“Ottilie—Ottilie,” whispered the crone. “I see an Ottilie who will come between you and your husband.”

The next day the archduchess accepted her prince, consulting her heart. She renounced her Austria royal rights to facilitate the marriage. Everywhere the union was admired. The two were supremely happy, it appeared to those around them.

Tells of Vision.

Overwrought on the night of her wedding, a vision appeared to her. Here is the story in her own words to one of her maids:

“When, upon my arrival in Munich, I entered my bedchamber in the evening, I suddenly remembered the words of the gypsy. The room itself looked mysterious. When I undressed myself and went to bed—how can I describe my horror.

“I beheld on the white pillow three drops of fresh, red blood. I jumped out of bed, trembling, and rang the bell. Nobody came. I began to pray. Soon I heard a weird noise and, looking around, I saw distinctly the figure of a pretty young girl in a night gown, staring at my ironically. How she had come in, I do not know. She just walked to the bed and occupied it without a world. I trembled all over.

“Madame,” she whispered, “this is not your bed, it is mine.”

“She was pretty, with dark long lashes and black eyes, just as the gypsy had told me. I asked:

“Are you Otillie?” She nodded and whispered: “Certainly I am. What do you want of me?”

When the princess opened her eyes, the prince was kneeling over her, keeping a towel with cold water on her head. She wildly questioned him. Who was Otillie? He stammered and stumbled, as he well might, perhaps never having heard the name before.

“It’s true,” she cried. A wild scene ensured. A few hours later they had separated forever.

The marriage was annulled. Prince George took his place alongside the three divorced sovereigns of Europe, King Frederick August, of Saxony; Grand Duke Ernest Ludwig, of Hesse, and Prince Albert I, of Monaco.

Solves Problem With Death.

But to proceed with this fateful year’s developments.

The hateful subterfuge of a morganic marriage is a possible resort when a prince falls in love with a “common” girl. But what when a princess prefers a commoner to all the sickly crowned youth put before her for her selection?

The latter was the problem of the beautiful Sophie, of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and she solved it with—death.

It is a sad position which the house of Saxe-Weimar occupies—ancient and royal as the hills, but so impecunious their palace furnishings are threadbare.

The princess had been betrothed to a dissipated, middle-aged cousin, and had broken the engagement only by personal appeal to the Kaiser. A young lieutenant, whom she may have loved, had shot himself dead for her in Athens five years before and the crown princess of Greece, sister to the Kaiser, had wept real tears at his burial. The men of the house had in several cases found happiness outside of the purple. Her uncle, Duke Bernard, found a loving wife, and her brother, Prince Hermann, was also serene in his possession of a life partner not born to the palace. Her own father had fled to America in his youth and had even worked as a waiter in New York for a time. But what of the women of the family? Such exits from court restraint were barred to them. She was a proud girl, past 25, living a life without love.

There appeared the young von Bleichroeder, member of the banking house which is said to have made possible the German victory over France in 1870. The Kaiser, pitying the melancholy royal girl—he had even looked with favor on the young lieutenant—consented, but the grand duke of Saxony, head of the house, would not listen.

Is Made a Prisoner.

Then came an incident in the forest of Fontainebleau, near Paris. A gypsy’s child was killed by a magnificent motor car and in the car, it came out, had been the handsome young banker and Princess Sophie. After that Sophie kept to her room in the ancient, threadbare palace. She was practically under arrest.

She slept late one morning. A maid knocked long and hard and finally dared to push open the door. Across the bed lay a white form, a pistol clutched in her hand and an untied packet of letters half strewn upon the coverlet.

She had been called the most lovely princess in the world, but of this world she was no longer.

The Scandal of Princess William.

Then there is the scandal of the princess William. Lacking perhaps the tragic elements of the stories of Sophie and Isabella, it yet is not without its melancholy features. She had been a grand duchess of Russia, used to the gay and sometimes wanton life of the court of St. Petersburg. She is wedded to a cold Swedish prince. Her money buys him a palace. She is everything and he is nothing. The liveliest dancer, the brightest wit, the most sparkling figure in all Sweden, she is forced to endure the companionship of a stupid husband and the frown of an austere royal father-in-law. Of course she should have borne her trials, for the sake of her children if for no other reason, but modern human nature is prone to break restraints. Patient Griselda’s are rare today. She ran away to Paris. Ugly rumors followed. It was said she had betrayed her husband’s country to her fatherland—had sold Swedish military secrets to Russia. But such tales always rise in such circumstances. Perhaps we had better believe the dashing princess herself—that Stockholm was too deadly dull for endurance.

Honor First, Then Love.

It is hard for Americans to understand the circumstances which caused Prince Ernest Augustus, of Cumberland, to exclaim: “For me and my family honor comes first, then love!” He was and is dead in love with the Kaiser’s only daughter, now his wife, when he said it. We must remember how the iron hand of Bismarck closed upon and crushed the house of Hanover. It was a bitter wrong not forgot.

For a time it looked as though a bit of almost ancient history might defeat one of the few royal love matches. But the Kaiser is not so eager for crushing hearts—he has seen too many saddening incidents. He thought twice before he took a step which might have shattered his pretty daughter’s happiness—have made her a second Sophie, of Saxe-Weimar. His impetuous and imperialistic sons thought differently. They would have bereft the Hanoverian house of its last vestige of claim to its honors. But the Kaiser’s will prevailed. So it ever will be known whether the prince of Cumberland would have carried out his threat of resigning from the German army and retiring with his bride to live a peaceful, secluded life on their estate sin upper Austria, letting thrones go hang. The Kaiser undoubtedly breathed freer. His sons and his daughters and his relatives to the nth degree are not the least of his troubles. He was already worrying over his son, Eitel Frederick. Prince Eitel is a heavy, phlegmatic sort of individual. His wife, Sophie, of Oldenburg, is several years older, many times a millionaire, and a lover of good times, like Princess William, of Sweden.

Mystery in Manuel’s Life.

Lastly we come to the mysterious case of Manuel, late king of Portugal, and his bride, Augustine Victoria. They are not living together apparently in good terms. The absence of Manuel during his bride’s serious illness just after their marriage is unexplained, but the less said of it the better. Let us hope their royal bark is well enough repaired to weather all further storms.

El Paso [TX] Herald 3 January 1914: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: And a very happy Friday the Thirteenth to all! Mrs Daffodil is always amused by how distorted accounts of European royalty are in the American press. Let us look first at the story of Archduchess Isabella of Austria and Prince Georg of Bavaria. One does not find the story of the gypsy hag in the traditional histories. However, the Duchess’s wedding gown and trousseau were burnt just before the wedding. There were rumours that the Archduchess was in some way implicated. The couple were quite unhappy. They separated before the honeymoon was over; the marriage was annulled for nonconsummation (despite family statements that the couple merely had fundamental incompatabilities of character); and the discarded bridegroom later became a Catholic priest.  Archduchess Isabella became a nurse, serving gallantly in the First World War. She became engaged to a surgeon, but Emperor Franz Joseph refused his permission to marry. She never wed another.

Princess Sophie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (really, these smaller noble houses are as bad as the Russians or the Spanish with their strings of surnames.) fell in love with Baron Hans von Bleichröder, a wealthy banker of Heidelburg, but because of the difference in their station and religion, she was forbidden to marry him. While on holiday with von Bleichröder, Sophie hit and killed a child in France. Von Bleichröder paid compensation to the family and Sophie’s family tried to hush up the affair, but Sophie’s depression over taking a life and the scandal over her love affair with the banker led her to commit suicide in 1913.

Princess William of Sweden was the unhappy Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. She and Prince Wilhelm had one child before divorcing. The Prince, who was known to have many artistic and scholarly interests, began a relationship with sculptor Jeanne de Tramcourt immediately after the divorce; they lived happily together for many years until she was killed in an automobile accident. Grand Duchess Maria married a Russian Prince, escaped the Russian Revolution, opened an embroidery atelier, and wrote two books about her eventful life.

Sophie of Oldenburg married Prince Eitel Frederick, the brutal second son of the Kaiser. They divorced amid mutual accusations of adultery.

King Manuel of Portugal and his Dresden-china bride, Princess Augusta Victoria, initially separated during an illness early in their marriage. One speculates about nameless diseases; Manuel had formed a deep attachment to actress and dancer Gaby Deslys in Paris; he only gave her up when she moved to the United States in 1911. He married Princess Augusta Victoria in 1914.

Prince Ernst August ‘s father, Prince Ernest Augustus, 3rd Duke of Cumberland, refused to give up his claim to the throne of Hanover and also styled himself Duke of Brunswick. When Prince Ernst wished to marry Princess Viktoria Luise, only daughter of the Kaiser, the Duke of Cumberland turned over the Brunswick title to his son and became reconciled with the Hohenzollerns. The wedding was the last great gathering of European sovereigns before the Great War brought down so many royal dynasties.

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 Mask of Glory: 1920

Mrs Daffodil will caution the sensitive that some may find this post (and its illustration), which is about French soldiers disfigured in the Great War, disturbing.

The Mask of Glory

Paul Junka [pseudonym of “Mlle Ferponnes”]

A powerful car, marked with large white initials, U. S. A., called for me to begin my series of visits to the principal establishments of the American Red Cross in and around Paris. I was shown to-day one of the most ingenious and touching things that has arisen from the war, which if it has developed means of destruction to a degree hitherto unknown, has, on the contrary, exalted to sublimity acts of devotion and the divine art of healing sorrow.

“Now,” Miss Farrand, my guide, announced, with that lovely smile which told at the same time her intimate pride in the great things she showed me and the modesty which she brought to her role. “Now I will show you the masks.” “The masks?” “Yes; for the mutilated.”

We crossed Paris and reached that part of the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, which, with its little houses behind gates hung with ivy and glycin, recalled a corner of our calm Provinces, where, in similar dwellings and silent gardens, grow the virile virtues which our race has proved to the world—to the world that knew only its superficial and glittering side. The motorcar stopped before one of these homes, well designed to shelter the dream of a thinker and artist.

“Here is the studio of Mrs. Maynard Ladd, under whose direction the masks for the wounded are made.” said Miss Farrand.

We followed an alley between two walls covered with vines and entered a room where one noticed only plaster casts and molds, the habitual equipment of a sculptor’s studio. From thence we climbed three flights up to Mrs. Ladd’s private studio, and at first saw but a vast bay-window showing a sunlit perspective of sky and foliage. Several people were working here, and I was presented to Mr. Wlerick, the sculptor, Mrs. Ladd’s collaborator. As Mrs. Ladd was at Vichy, he courteously placed himself at my disposition to furnish me all details of interest.

A soldier rose to go, but Mr. Wlerick cordially called him back. “Wait a moment, will you, old fellow? Madame came to see the masks. Will you kindly show her yours?”

With military discipline the soldier made a haft turn and stood before me, his face raised for my inspection. He was a sharpshooter, with slightly olive complexion, and on the ardent face, under his rakishly worn cap, I could find nothing whatever abnormal. I was surprised, and said: “And the mask?” Mr. Wlerick smiled, saying, “He has it on. Look closer, Madame.” I approached and could, indeed, distinguish a faint line upon the soldier’s check; a shadow, rather, that went from mouth to ear. It was so slight a thing that I said, “Oh, yes,” out of politeness, not being able to realize that beneath the perfect appearance of the face was a terrible mutilation. Then, pressing the soldier’s hand, I added, “My friend, it is wonderful; no one could believe that you wear a mask!”

My sincerity was obvious, my astonishment so complete that I was not conscious of it. The poilu was overjoyed, saluted and went out; shortly afterward I understood why my simple words gave him such keen pleasure.

On one side of the large bay-window that lighted the studio numbers of plaster molds were lying. I started forward to see them and stopped, horror-struck. It was almost impossible to discover human lineaments in these casts that, nevertheless, represented poor martyred faces which had been serene, often beautiful, almost always smiling from being loved, from being young, and having all the future before them, and which were now but terrible formless ruins, something indescribable, “which has no more a name in any tongue.” There were noses torn off, twisted lips, disfigured chins and crushed foreheads—the whole gamut of deformity.

While I gazed, wide-eyed, Mr. Wlerick explained to me that these were the first molds, made upon the mutilé exactly as his wound had left him. Finally a second mold is modeled after a photograph of the blesse taken before his wound, which is a reconstruction of his normal face. To restore a complete resemblance to this visage and give back its proper psychological expression a medical study is often necessary, examination of the throat, etc. This work requires a rather long and delicate series of processes, no less than ten in number:

  1. A plaster negative on the mutilé.
  2. A plaster positive on the mutilé.
  3. Modeling after a photograph prior to the wound.
  4. and 5. Plaster molds on the portrait model.
  5. Galvanoplastie (deposit of sulphate of copper by electricity).
  6. Work of adjustment upon the blesse.
  7. Unalterable painting upon the mutilé.
  8. Placing of artificial eyes, lashes and brows.
  9. System of spectacles to hold the mask in place. “When this difficult work is ended and the arrangement is as it should be, it is difficult to realize that the one who wears this mask is generally completely disfigured,” continued M. Wlerick. “You have seen it in the case of the sharpshooter whom I presented to you just now. Here is his cast. . .”

The sculptor indicated a plaster mold which seemed a strange animal head and which would have appeared to be a caricature had not we compared it with the corresponding cast which showed the head reconstructed. For this terrible deformation was due to the absence of the whole lower part of the face, and I had not even guessed it! I understood now why my unthinking compliment had so delighted the poor soldier!

An example of a mask for a wounded soldier, 1919

An example of a mask for a wounded soldier, 1919

Upon further inquiries I learned that the invention of the mask is due to Captain Derwent Wood, of the Second London Hospital. Mrs. Ladd adopted it as it was first made, but it has been since developed and perfected. The first masks were necessarily heavy and quite different from the models of delicacy and lightness which were shown to me. The masks, if need be, may contain a dressing and are indestructible; if the wounded is careful they will last indefinitely. They are made at the expense of the American Red Cross, and the painting upon them has been rendered completely unalterable.

I approached another soldier who was seated in the center of the room. Standing beside him an artist, a colleague of Mrs. Ladd’s. was moving a paint-brush across his cheek with a light, gracious movement that would have seemed a gesture in a game if one had not known, as I had just learned, that this motion on the wretched wounded face represented the height of art and love. At this moment the painter was giving the finishing touches to the indefinable bluish tone that the razor leaves upon a close-shaven cheek. It was unbelievably natural, and one would have to be informed that it was not a face fresh from the hands of a careful barber, but rather an extraordinary imitation of a human visage.

“Oh, it is fine; it is splendid! How they should bless you, these young men!” I cried, considering by turns the soldier beaming with pleasure and the artist, who stood there as modest as though she had accomplished the most ordinary work. “Certainly they will never forget you; you make them again the lovely boys they were before their wounds; you give them back all the joys of life, all the possibilities of happiness.” Ah! how he looked at me, the poor poilu so terribly disfigured. I am sure this boy, tried beyond human endurance, was upheld in his adversity by the tenderness of a dream, and for him this mask, which hid so admirably his fearful and glorious misery, was the Mask of Love!

I was delighted with this sudden thought that came to me; then I smiled, for what I had believed to have been an inspiration was only a memory. The Mask of Love is the title of one of the most famous books by Daniel-Lesueur.

“These masks,” I said to those about me, “are a glorious achievement, indeed, and one can never sufficiently realize how much patience and talent is spent here to lessen the heroic suffering of our soldiers. However, it seems to me that the using of this mask implies a real vanity upon your part; for one should not hide a glorious wound, but wear it proudly. …”

They smiled, flattered, because in the depths of their simple souls they had sincerely thought themselves too disfigured to appear in public. A little farmer of Châlons expressed the humiliation that indiscrete looks cause our wounded. “Oh! you know, Madame, one does not like to be conspicuous. …”

Still filled with my idea. I continued, “Listen, I have an inspiration. I owe it, moreover, to your modesty. I shall call the article which I am to write concerning you the Mask of Glory, because it is, indeed, your glory you mask!” There were many exclamations around me, and Mrs. Ladd’s collaborators approved heartily.

Later, talking with Mrs. Ladd herself concerning the zeal expended and the difficulties conquered, Mrs. Ladd smiled gently and said, “We are amply rewarded by the joy of our mutilés. They write me very lovely letters; would you like to see them?” I accepted her offer eagerly and quote here two of the most affecting:

Dear Madame: I am so greatly satisfied with my mask that I cannot wait to come to thank you again. My parents, too, are very happy to see me as I am. When I arrived they scarcely recognized me as the same wounded man. Also the neighbors wondered how it is possible for one to make such a beautiful nose in so short a time! Briefly, it is a tremendous success. If I return to Paris, as I hope, I will certainly come to see you.François Gorall, September 6, 1918.

Madame: I surprised my parents with my mask and I can find no words to paint their delight; they could hardly believe it was I! You have done so much for me that I do not know how to express my gratitude, for it is thanks to you that I will be able to have my own home. My fiancée finds me not unpleasing and has not refused me as she would have had the right to do. She will soon be my wife.Marc Maréchal.

“All who enter here leave hope behind” was inscribed upon the portal of Dante’s Inferno. I would that a poet of genius might find the fitting inscription for Mrs. Ladd’s studio, where so many beings, secretly despairing, have found and will find supreme comfort. And once more the homage of our gratitude goes out to the American Red Cross, which has discovered here an incomparable and almost divine means of soothing one of the most poignant forms of human suffering.

The New France, Vol. 3, 1920: p. 544

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On this Armistice Day we remember the service of veterans everywhere, and especially the wounded, who bear scars both visible and hidden.

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 Jack-o-Lantern at War: 1918

pumpkin-dance-mother-earths-children-the-frolics-of-the-fruits-veg-1914

JACK O’LANTERN ENLISTED FOR WAR;

DOES DOUBLE DUTY

Jack o’ Lantern, high elf of Hallowe’en, is to be transformed by order of the food administration.

The merry twinkle of Jack o’ Lantern’s wide open eyes will be a trifle subdued this year. The gleam must come from a non-smoking candle with a regulated flame instead of the old flaring lights that made Jack a winking, blinking elf.

Big Mouth Barred.

And instead of the great, generous mouth, with its jagged teeth, that made the kiddies shiver with glee, the 1918 Jack o’ Lantern will smile properly from a neat buttonhole of a mouth.

It’s all because every pumpkin, whether it falls into the Jack o’ Lantern class or not, must eventually form “makings” for golden brown pies for the boys over there or for the home folks.

After your Jack o’ Lantern, with small, careful cutouts for features, has spent his little hour on the window sill, remove the candle, cut him into little bits, then boil him.

Here’s Sugarless Pie.

Now you are ready to make a pie.

And here, according to the food administration, is the proper sugarless way to proceed:

“With the mashed and strained pumpkin mix one-half cup of sorghum, one teaspoonful of cinnamon, two cups of milk, one-half teaspoonful each of ginger and salt and two eggs. Next make a wheatless crust of 1 1-2 cupfuls of rye flour, one-half cupful of barley or corn flour, water to make a dough, one-fourth to one-half cupful of fat and one-half teaspoonful salt.”

“Have fun with your pumpkins,” said Herbert Hoover, “but eat them afterward.”

Grand Forks [ND] Daily Herald 31 October 1918: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Herbert Hoover was, of course, later the President of the United States. At the time of this writing, he was head of the U.S. Food Administration, which administered food reserves, particularly for the troops and their allies overseas. There was rationing at home, hence the omission of sugar and wheat. “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” were two programmes for voluntary participation in rationing.

Mrs Daffodil might add that Mr Hoover sounds a bit of a spoil-sport. If the pumpkins were to be turned into pie, why could not the eyes and mouths be cut to regulation size and the scraps saved to be boiled?  Where is the Hallowe’en menace in a “neat buttonhole of a mouth?” “Small” and “Careful” are not adjectives associated with the holiday.  And why the fussy specifications about the  jack-o-lantern’s candle?   Requiring “a non-smoking candle with a regulated flame” smacks of an officious government interfering in the private pleasures of its citizens. It is this sort of thing that breeds Bolsheviks.

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.

 

 

Encore: Choose Your Fan and Then Your Flutter: 1919

fans2

American Girls Reviving the Fan, That Fit Symbol of Fluttering Femininity

Approach of Period of Coquetry Foreseen in New Popularity of Long Fashionable Appendage

By Esther Harney

Fans are coming back into vogue again. They never go out of fashion, of course, for they are as old as coquetry, as gallantry itself. But today they are appearing in full blaze of glory, a sure sign, we are told, that an age of coquetry and extreme femininity is approaching as a reaction from the stern period of the war.

Manufacturers will tell you this news happily. Not for years have they had so many orders for fans of every description from the hand-made lace and tortoise shell varieties of the duchess to the little inexpensive chiffon spangled fan which the high school girls “perfectly adore” to flutter at school “hops.”

Manufacturers will also tell you that there could be no stronger evidence of a general return on the part of woman to her ancient arts and wiles than this reinstatement of the fan. (They are qualified to speak—of course.) During the war there was little time for fans and for femininity. Nor in that period which preceded the war did woman fancy fans; instead she preferred a riding crop or a tennis bat. It was not the fashion then, you will recall, to be delicate and feminine.

But today with all our boys returning from overseas from harsh scenes of war and from other scenes and adventures (oh, the reputed wiles of les belles Francaises), American women are beginning to realize that they must rise to the occasion. Femininity must rule supreme. (The soldiers like womanly women, they say.) and as a symbol of lovely femininity the women have taken up the fan.

International Imagination.

Then, too, American girls are looking to France these days. (They are trying to cultivate an international imagination, you know.) And among the French, fans are popular. With them, for instance, the wedding fan is an important item of the marriage trousseau. And was it not Mme. E Stael who recognized an art in the graceful handling of the fan? “What graces,” she wrote, “are placed in woman’s power if she knows how to use  a fan. In all her wardrobe there is no ornament with which she can produce so great an effect.” Verily the revival of the fan in American can be traced to the influence of France on the American doughboy…

Descended from Palm Leaf.

All ages have contributed to the history of the fan. It has it pedigree like everything else. If a thorn was the first needle, no doubt a palm leaf was the first fan. Standards of rich plumage were present when the Queen of Sheba paid homage to Solomon. Queen Elizabeth gave the fan a place of distinction and was the cause of prosperity among the fan-makers of her day. She is said to have had as many as 30 fans for her use. During her reign ostrich feather fans were introduced in England. Charlotte Corday of French evolutionary fame is said to have used a fan expertly : She held a fan in one hand while she stabbed Marat with a dagger which she held in the other hand.

Great painters of all ages have tried their hands at fans. One famous artist spent nine years completing a fan for Mme. De Pompadour, which cost $30,000. Period fans arose to commemorate events, follies and fashions of the day. Besides an intermediary in the affairs of love a fan became a vehicle for satire, verse and epigram.  

Coronation of Napoleon fan, 1807 http://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/117894

Coronation of Napoleon fan, 1807 http://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/117894

In the canons of “fanology” are described “the angry flutter, the modish flutter, the timorous flutter, the confused flutter, the merry flutter, the amorous flutter.” A flutter for every type, you see.

American girls should then first choose their fan and then their flutter. Perhaps they will revive the art of miniature fan painting as a new profession for women. They should, of course, remember that they can learn much of the art of the fan from Europe (except from Germany. Can you fancy a German woman flirting with a fan?) and plan to obtain their practice on the back porch some hot July evening. That will surely amuse their soldier callers. And at least we all can afford a fan of the palm leaf variety. But if we must take up the fan, the symbol of the new age that is before us, just we also take up the spirit of the age in which it was wafted victoriously? Must we be Victorian?

Boston [MA] Herald 10 May 1919: p. 15 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  And what, Mrs Daffodil wishes to know, is wrong with being “Victorian?” Alas, the author of this piece was entirely too sanguine about a return to femininity. Far from becoming more womanly, young persons shingled their hair, abandoned proper corsetry, smoked in public, and adopted sexually ambiguous costumes and attitudes. The queenly curves of the pre-War years gave way to a flattened feminine figure that caused many physicians to despair of the continuation of the species. Still, in one detail, the author was correct: The beaded and brilliantined females who thronged the night clubs, did carry fans—immense, vampish affairs of ostrich feathers or sequined chiffon–but recognizably fans. One might suggest that these accessories lent their name to the Girl of the Period: the Flapper.

For a school of “fan-ology,” see this post.  And for more details on how to select a fan, this post.

A vampish fan of the period.

A vampish fan of the period.

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.

Volunteer Nurses in the Great War: 1914

nurses uniforms

The fashionable women of England are very anxious to help. At least they say they are, and never would we doubt a lady’s word. But their good intentions are thwarted on every side. Lord Kitchener does not want them as nurses. He says he prefers nuns, presumably because they have no matrimonial ambitions, and it is said that he went himself to a nunnery — fancy Lord Kitchener in a nunnery — in order to arrange matters. Doubtless Lord Kitchener has painful memories of the Boer War, where the lady helpers proved such a nuisance that he classed them with the flies as among the unbearable plagues of camp life.

But the ladies who stayed at home were nearly as bad. They, too, felt the enthusiasm of action, and so they made presents for the troops at the front. All kinds of presents, such as ladies make for each other at Christmas time and such as they give to their long-suffering male friends, who say things and throw the gifts away. They made candy boxes for them embroidered with pretty sentiments. They made night-shirt covers and pillow-cases and cigarette cases. They made collar-boxes and brush bags. Heaven only knows what became of all this truck. Presumably it was burned, but it was all innocent enough in comparison with the activities of the ladies who went to the front as nurses under the conviction that nursing meant bathing the brows of handsome young officers and writing letters for them to their mothers.

It is said that a good many of the volunteer nurses in the present war have expressed a preference for the nursing of officers and were thereupon requested to go home and stay there.

The French army allows no nurses at the front except nuns, who can be relied upon for the absolute and unswerving performance of duty and for an absence of the hysterias that so often afflict their more worldly sisters.

These nuns go to the firing line and show themselves as indifferent to bullets as the soldiers themselves. But the aristocratic French ladies are allowed to meet the wounded on their arrival in Paris and to offer their ministrations under the strict supervision of medical officers. And they show themselves as willing enough to do whatever is necessary, whether it be washing, scrubbing, or cooking.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 5 December 1914

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While there were many unsung heroines among volunteer nurses, those who had spent much time at the Front reported encountering too many “heroines” who sang their own praises:

My own latest experience was with an American woman of awful vulgarity. I asked her if she was busy, like everyone else in this place, and she said: “No. I was suffering from a nervous breakdown, so I came out here. What is your war is my peace, and I now sleep like a baby.” I want adjectives! How is one to describe the people who come for one brief visit to the station or hospital with an intense conviction that they and they only feel the suffering or even notice the wants of the men. Some are good workers. Others I call “This-poor-fellow-has-had-none.” Nurses may have been up all night, doctors may be worked off their feet, seven hundred men may have passed through the station, all wounded and all fed, but when our visitors arrive they discover that “This poor fellow has had none,” and firmly, and with a high sense of duty and of their own efficiency, they make the thing known.

No one else has heard a man shouting for water; no one else knows that a man wants soup. The man may have appendicitis, or colitis, or pancreatitis, or he may have been shot through the lungs or the abdomen. It doesn’t matter. The casual visitor knows he has been neglected, and she says so, and quite indiscriminately she fills everyone up with soup. Only she is tender-hearted. Only she could never really be hardened by being a nurse. She seizes a little cup, stoops over a man gracefully, and raises his head. Then she wants things passed to her, and someone must help her, and someone must listen to what she has to say. She feeds one man in half an hour, and goes away horrified at the way things are done. Fortunately these people never stay for long.

My War Experiences in Two Continents, Sarah Macnaughtan, 1919

In pre-Revolutionary Russia, too, Society Nurses were a problem. Grand Duke Nicholai had a solution.

In Russia, as in other countries, there were many women who, not appreciating the character of the services required, and merely from a shallow emotionalism, volunteered as nurses, more for the purpose of wearing the uniform and talking of what they were doing than because they sincerely wanted to help. They volunteered without knowing what they were expected to do, without any knowledge of nursing save that the Russian nurse’s headdress is becoming to almost any type of beauty.

A bevy of these women offered their services to the Grand Duke. He needed nurses, and he needed many nurses, but he wanted nurses, not society women who thought it would be interesting and romantic to hold the hand of a suffering soldier but had no idea of scrubbing floors or of sanitation or of all the hundreds of things nurses, and especially a war nurse, must know. So the Grand Duke told one detachment of them to come to a certain place where he would meet them and assign them to their duties.

They came, a fluttering lot of amateur ministering angels, and presented themselves as directed. The Grand Duke looked them over. There were about a hundred in the lot. He lined them up and made a speech to them.

“Ladies,” he said, “I appreciate, and so do my soldiers, and so does our country, the patriotic and heroic impulse that has caused you to offer yourselves as nurses. We need nurses. This war is very terrible and there is much suffering to be alleviated. I shall be glad of your services.”

The ladies all fluttered and were so glad and so interested and so anxious to go right into the hospital and make things easier for the poor, dear soldiers.

“But,” continued the Grand Duke, “in nursing, as in every other line of service, there are several divisions of labor. For example, we have officers to nurse and we have private soldiers to nurse. Now, of course, you ladies will have a preference. So I shall allow you to make your choice. All those of you who would prefer to nurse officers will please step over to this side, and those of you who are willing to nurse the private soldier will please step over to this side. I leave the choice to you. Of course it will be pleasanter, perhaps, to nurse the officers than the common soldiers but the common soldiers must be nursed too, you understand. Those who prefer to nurse officers on this side, if you please, and those on this side who are willing to go into the wards where the private soldiers are placed.”

The ladies divided themselves. All but about twenty of them thought that it would be much nicer and more interesting to serve their country by nursing handsome officers rather than peasants who were privates. But twenty said that they were willing to nurse the private soldiers, the peasants who had been wounded.

Whereupon the Grand Duke bundled back to Petrograd the ladies who wanted to nurse officers, and kept the twenty who really had a sincere desire to do something more for their country than wear a becoming headdress and sit about the cafes in it. That is a sample of the way the Grand Duke does things.

History of the World War, Frank H. Simonds, 1918

Despite the plague of titled lady nurses, there were a good many stately homes opened as hospitals and convalescent homes for the troops. See this delightful post, with its anecdote of the Duchess of Westminster and her way of “doing her bit” for the men in uniform.

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.