Category Archives: Theatre

The Theatrical Hairdresser’s Revenge: 1880s

hairdressers manual parting 1906

POMATUM POTS AND BRUSHES.

The Theatrical Hairdresser’s Cruel Revenge.

The theatrical hairdresser generally has a shop in some street which is in a transition condition from that of residence to business. His establishment is on the parlor floor of what was once a handsome mansion, and he has had the two front windows knocked into one, to accommodate a big affair in which he displays wigs of all sorts, false hair of all colors and no end of an assortment of adjustable beards, whiskers and moustaches. In addition to these he deals in cosmetic powder and mysterious face washes, which he purchases by the gallon at a drug store for next to nothing and retails at a profit of several thousand per cent, as his own secret composition. He also rents beards and wigs out, but as he has exaggerated ideas as to rates, it is a little cheaper to purchase outright than to lease from him. Still, he does a heavy business in the leasing line with the amateurs, who not only hire all their capillary decorations from him, but also employ him on the occasion of their performance to attend on them and make them up for their parts.

His professional connection is his most interesting one, however. At the back of his shop is a little room strongly scented with fancy soaps and perfumes. In it, of an afternoon, he is to be found operating on the heads of ladies who have a free-and-easy manner and chat about scenes, hits, calls before the curtain and the like to other ladies who wait their turn very much as men wait in a barber shop on Sunday morning.

When his afternoon’s work is done, and the last of his fair customers has gone away with her hair elaborated into artistic and bewildering forms,

The Artist Prepares for His Evening’s Work.

This consists in the packing up of an endless assortment of grease paints, chalk balls, oil pots, pomatum pots, scent vials, scissors, tweezers, combs and brushes, not to mention a hundred or more of other objects in a morocco-covered case. An hour before the curtain rises he passes the back doorkeeper and vanishes in the gloom of the unlighted stage.

It you happened into the dressing-room of the leading lady or the star, fifteen minutes later, you would find him hard at work. The lady herself, in her corsets, with a towel over her shoulders and her heels on the dressing-table, is seated pulling at a cigarette or lazily conning her part. While the hairdresser performs his work, the waiting maid moves about arranging her mistress’ attire for its coming use. When the momentous task is accomplished, all my lady has to do is to slip into her dress and wait for her call.

Having finished the customer who, by reason of her superior position, claims precedence, the hairdresser extends his artistic favor to such of her less important sisters as have not been dressed during the day. Then he devotes himself to the gentlemen.

The leading man wants a shave, and gets it in locomotive time. The lover must have his hair patted in the middle and his moustache waxed; it is scarcely hinted at than done. The comedian’s wig needs dressing–it is brushed into form while he is making up his nose. The hair dresser is never idle. If he has nothing else to do, he may be lending slicks of cosmetic and balls of grease paint out of his box to people who have forgotten theirs.

The hairdresser does not take much Interest in the drama, except that which his instinct of business inspires him with. But on opera he comes out strong.

If he can insinuate himself into the service of some singer, no matter how humble, he is in his glory. He performs his professional duties toward him or her with the loving tenderness of a true artist. I know a tonsorial artist who in his day was the special hair-dresser of Grisi, Mario, and other famous singers of both sexes. He knows more stories about them than their biographers do, and is always telling them. One of his favorites is to the effect that he used to preserve all the combings from the heads of his patrons in the operatic line, which he made up as souvenirs, tied to a card with pink, blue or whatever colored ribbon their one-time owner favored.

The Mementos Commanded a Ready Sale

among the admirers of the divinities they represented. At one time there was such a run on the hair of one singer that he could not supply the demand legitimately. Happily, however, his wile’s crowning glory was of the same color, so he cut it off close and got enough for it in retail lots to open one of the finest shops in New York.

At least, so he told me; and as he was shaving me at the time I did not like to run the risk of impugning his veracity.

There is a legend current in the craft of a theatrical hairdresser who fell in love with a popular actress he was frequently called upon to beautify. He confessed his devouring passion on his knees but she laughed him to scorn. More than that, she insisted on his continuing his ministrations to her and made him the butt of her heartless gibes while he was devoting himself to enhance her loveliness. The iron entered his soul and he swore vengeance. One night, when he had to prepare her for a most important part, he surpassed himself in the splendor of her crowning decoration. Having finished, he anointed her golden locks with a compound of a peculiarly fascinating aromatic odor, which so attracted his callous enslaver’s notice that she asked him what it was.

“It is a mixture of my own, madame,” he replied. “I call it the last breath of love.”

The actress remarked that she would call him a fool, and he bowed and withdrew. A few minutes later, when she appeared behind the footlights, instead of the roar of applause which she expected, she was hailed with a tempestuous scream of laughter.

Her discarded lover had had his revenge. He had dyed her golden locks with a chemical which turned pea green as soon as it was dry. She dresses what hair she has left herself now, while he is boss of a five-cent shaving emporium, never speaks to any lady but his landlady, and has a Chinaman to do his washing. But he buys a seat in the front row every time she plays, and feasts his eyes on the remainder of his vengeance.

The Boston [MA] Globe 13 January 1884: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: No doubt the would-be lover found this a most piquant revenge, despite his demotion to the five-cent emporium. Mrs Daffodil suggests that the verdant-haired actress could have easily made a career change to the circus where brightly-tinted hair is desirable, if not a requisite. She also would have made a brilliant mermaid-in-a-tank attraction.

As for the opera-lover, one hopes that he compensated his wife for the loss of her hair with a selection of stylish wigs and a holiday in Paris.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a noted theatrical wig-maker and a Court Hairdresser. Other discussions of historic barbering and hair-dressing may be found in this page’s “Hair and Hair-dressing” category.

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

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

 

 

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The Nail in the Skull: c. 1600, 1840s

celtic knot with skull 1900.JPG

AN ENGLISH GREEN-ROOM STORY.

There is a story told in English green-rooms, for the truth of which, writes Celia Logan, in the N.Y. Dispatch, I cannot vouch. It is to the effect that a certain carpenter, a long, long time ago, murdered his wife by driving a nail into her skull. He fled, and the better to conceal his identity, became an actor. He rose to eminence, and the whirligig of time and the wheel of chance brought him to the very village in which years before he had killed his wife, whose murder, however,–so the story runs—had not been suspected, her long, thick black hair concealing the cruel wound from which no blood had flowed.

The part was Hamlet. Whatever memories the place evoked, he had sufficient mastery over his feelings to keep them hidden. The first scene of the fifth act came on. The theatre stood on what had formerly been a burial ground, and the property man had not far to go for skulls, but just dug a little and brought up a dozen or more, and at night tossed them into the trap for the gravedigger to shovel on the stage. He handed a skull to the Hamlet, saying:
“Here’s a skull now hath lain you in the earth for three-and-twenty years.”

Hamlet—“Whose was it?”
Gravedigger “This same skull, sir, was Yorick’s skull, the king’s jester.”

Hamlet took the skull saying: “This—“

He turned pale and staggered, for the skull had left on it one long lock of black hair. Handed to him upside down, the lock fell back, revealing a nail in the skull! The actor recognized it as that of the woman whom he had murdered twenty-three years before. At this mute evidence of his guilt coming from the grave to confront him the actor lost his presence of mind and his senses.

In his insane utterances he revealed his terrible secret, and was only saved from punishment by his fellow actors hushing him up and hurrying him away. He never recovered his reason, and died in a madhouse, raving of the nail in the skull.

About thirty years ago a story was written by a Frenchman on this same ghastly subject, laying the scene in private life in France, and making the perpetrator of the deed a woman. It had a great success, and to this day is occasionally revived, and goes the rounds of the newspapers, but old English actors insist that it was founded on the incident in theatrical life which I have just related, and which did transpire on the British stage.

Rhode Island Press [Providence RI] 21 July 1877: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A nice story to give one the grues!  This was a popular version of what those more learned than Mrs Daffodil might term an “urban legend,” and came in various flavours. Dr John Donne was said to have been the discoverer of a nail-murderess.

The Murderer discovered.

When Dr. Donne, afterwards Dean of St. Paul’s, took possession of the first living he ever had, he walked into the church-yard, where the sexton was digging a grave, and throwing up a skull, the doctor took it up to contemplate thereon, and found a small sprig or headless nail sticking in the temple, which he drew out secretly, and wrapt it up in the corner of his handkerchief. He then demanded of the grave digger, whether he knew whose skull that was: he said he did very well, declaring it was a man’s who kept a brandy shop; an honest drunken fellow, who, one night having taken two quarts of that comfortable creature, was found dead in his bed next morning,  –Had he a wife?—Yes.—What character does she bear? —A very good one: only the neighbours reflect on her because she married the day after her husband was buried. This was enough for the doctor, who, under the pretence of visiting his parishioners, called on her. He asked her several questions, and, among others, what sickness her husband died of. She giving him the same account, he suddenly opened the handkerchief, and cried in an authoritative voice, Woman, do you know this nail? She was struck with horror at the unexpected demand, and instantly owned the fact.

A Thousand Notable Things, Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquise of Worcester, 1822

Mrs Daffodil always likes to give credit where credit is due; she found the John Donne anecdote along with an exceedingly nasty ghost story in a post by that pointed person over at Haunted Ohio—The Old Lady with the Nails.

 

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.

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

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 Peril of Perfumed Lipstick: 1922

Arman Kaliz and Amelia Stone

Armand Kaliz and Amelia Stone “The Happiest Couple in Vaudeville”

If Paris hadn’t sent the “perfumed lipstick” to Broadway no discord might have jangled Broadway’s “perfect romance.” Nobody along the Rialto might be saying, “Isn’t it too bad about Arman Kaliz and Amelia Stone! There was one stage romance that seemed made in heaven. And now just look at them–separated, suing and scrapping.”

But the perfumed lipstick arrived. It was the very latest fad, a cute little vial with a pencil to tap the perfume atop the rest of the mouth makeup. And all the beauties began to dab their pretty pouts with essence of heliotrope and attar of roses. And Amelia Stone says Arman Kaliz came home one night and gave her the usual affectionate husbandly kiss, and she drew back and her nose crinkled and she tasted something strange and saccharine left by Arman’s salute, and she said, almost like the temperance wife in the play, “Arman, you’ve been kissing!”

Arman denied the indictment vigorously. But right there, according to Miss Stone, began the jealousies that finally took her into court, asking for a legal separation, and caused two fights one between Arman and an admirer of Amelia’s, and one between Amelia and a friend of Arman’s. Before the perfumed kiss wafted along, the team of Stone and Kaliz had been just as happy a combination in private life as it was on the stage. Their romance was famous for the devotion manifested on both sides. Whenever pessimists sniffed at the notion of true love between players, optimists triumphantly pointed to Stone and Kaliz.

Miss Stone was a Detroit comic opera star, who made her premiere in “A Chinese Honeymoon.” She has been the prima donna of a number of Broadway successes. When she married Arman Kaliz, in 1910, she declared she was madly in love with him. He declared he was madly in love with her. Everybody was delighted especially when they kept right on being madly in love with each other.

Mr. Kaliz was and is a champion kisser on the stage, that is. When he approached his leading lady in the flare of the footlights, slid one deft arm about her waist, tipped back her chin, and–kissed her–his matinee audience never failed to flutter.

The Kaliz kiss became celebrated among theatregoers. It was a feature of the Kaliz vaudeville sketch “Temptation” last season, and it is the big moment of “Je Vous Aime,” the act in which Kaliz stars this year on tour with “Spice of 1922.”

Miss Stone didn’t show any particular anxiety about the Kaliz kiss so long as her husband confined it to public performances. She knew that the stage kiss, generally speaking, is impersonal–to be regarded no more seriously than any other piece of “business.” But, outside business hours, she held that the Kaliz kiss belonged to nobody but herself.

Thus her disquiet when she says she detected the ghost of exotic perfume on the lips of Mr. Kaliz. She does not say what brand of perfume it was. She does not state positively that it was a different scent from her own favorite. But, evidently, she had seen the cute little wrinkle from Paris–the perfumed lipstick. Anyway, she was indignant. Mr. Kaliz was touring then with “Temptation.” Miss Stone was not playing in the act. She went along just to be near her husband. The beauty of the sketch was Miss Pauline Garon. And Miss Stone told her husband she thought he was more attentive to Miss Garon than professional courtesy required. At all events, Miss Garon left “Temptation” in the middle of the tour and returned to New York.

That first quarrel of Amelia Stone and Arman Kaliz was by no means the last. Each admits that, with jealousy tarnishing their great love, the “perfect romance” was seriously shaken. They separated. They were reconciled. They quarreled again. They separated again. Mr. Kaliz says Miss Stone was forever nagging him.

Miss Stone discussed her position freely to a reporter, and gave for publication the following letter from Kaliz:

“Assuredly, Amelia, two people who, I believe, understand right from wrong, cannot continue wrong such as this forever,” he wrote to her after one violent quarrel. “They are simply hurting each other. I did nothing to cause your display of temper last night, and the situation was no more serious than, unfortunately, a hundred others which have happened between us. . . . How could you, a girl whom I have always regarded as being in a situation entirely alone as far as refinement and culture are concerned, run out into a public hall in a hotel disheveled and improperly clad, trying to disturb other guests in order that they might inquire into our unfortunate situation?  . . As you won’t let me live with you decently, then I must, under the circumstances, do the thing which you said you wish and that I have tried so hard to avoid–live without you.”

After the separation, when Miss Stone was living at a Broadway hotel and Kaliz at his own apartment, Miss Stone accosted Miss Garon one day as the latter was leaving a restaurant and scratched and slapped her. Tit-for-tat followed. Almost the duplicate of this incident was staged, with Mr. Kaliz as the aggressor and a friend of Miss Stone’s as his opponent, after Mr. Kaliz moved out of his apartment and turned it over to Miss Stone as part payment on the temporary alimony that had been arranged.

Kaliz says he was passing the apartment late one night when a taxicab stopped before the door and he saw his wife alight with two men. Though he was separated from her, he boiled with rage when he beheld what seemed to him to be one of the men kissing his wife good night.

Rushing across the street he cried, “What do you mean by kissing my wife?” and aimed a left at the nearest man’s jaw. The kiss was denied, but the blow was returned. The two men leaped into the taxicab and told the driver to speed up.

Kaliz hopped on the running-board. He lunged at the men. The taxicab careened southward. Kaliz was crying to the driver to go to a police station. The driver was taking orders from nobody but his fares. Finally Kaliz was pushed off somewhere on the lower East Side.

Though Kaliz had been suspected of kissing by Amelia Stone, and in turn had accused her of being kissed: though Amelia Stone had slapped the face of the girl she deemed her rival, and though Kaliz had punched the man he deemed was his rival–hostilities did not end there.

Kaliz investigated. He learned, he says, that the man who, he said, kissed his wife was Dr. L. J. Lautman, a prominent Brooklyn dentist. To reporters Dr. Lautman did not deny that he was with Amelia Stone and had a fight with Kaliz. But he did deny the kiss.

Kaliz employed detectives to watch his wife. They reported that Miss Stone and Dr. Lautman were to attend a masquerade ball together at Long Beach, a favorite Long Island resort. Kaliz decided to attend the ball himself. He went. He peered into the face of dancer after dancer. But he found neither. And Dr. Lautman and Amelia Stone deny that they were among those present.

Miss Stone has filed suit for a separation and alimony. H. S. Hechheimer, attorney for Kaliz, says he has prepared a suit asking $100,000 for alleged alienation of the wife’s affections. Yet occasionally they see one another. When a stage “drop” fell and struck Mr. Kaliz on the head during a recent rehearsal he called for his wife at the hospital. She thought he was dying and went to his side. Friends joyfully predicted a reconciliation. But the report was premature. Mr. Kaliz recovered. There was another quarrel. Broadway sighed and shook its head. Its “perfect romance” seemed shattered beyond any hope of repair. Now Mr. Kaliz is quoted as declaring he will always be “free.” And Amelia Stone has only this to say–Paris has invented many gim-cracks that are harmless; but when it introduced the perfumed lipstick, Paris invented trouble–for one married pair, anyway.

The St. Louis [MO] Star and Times 22 October 1922: p. 60

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is amused by the American newspapers’ unusually accurate transliteration of the French-born Mr Kaliz’s Christian name—Armand—as “Arman.”

Should one attribute the tribulations of this couple to his Parisian insouciance over kissing (the historic record states that with actress Florence Browne this “champion osculator” set a world’s long-kiss record of 10 minutes) or ought we, like Miss Stone, his wife, blame the perfumed lipstick manufacturers for the cosmetic’s aphrodisiac properties?

The latest dainty fad from Paris was also seen as causing problems for easily confused gentlemen:

America is importing perfumed lip-stick from France! Well, in the first place, it’s disadvantageous for a man—a fellow will be terribly confused on a dark night if he tastes attar of roses when it should have been heliotrope.

University Daily Kansan [Lawrence KS] 24 October 1922: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil suggests that if a fellow is that easily confused, he should not be kissing anyone in the dark.

 

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

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

A Game of Stealing Spoons: 1892

THE LATEST FAD.

The Way Some Boston Girls Are Amusing Themselves

The Spoon Question at the Tremont Theatre, and Its Explanation—Pretty Girls and an Unpretty Game—How One Girl Plays It—Dilemma for the Hotel Men.

To the Editor of the Herald: It chanced one day not so very long ago that I saw the nervous and energetic business manager of the Tremont Theatre in a more nervous and energetic mood than usual. It was hot; the board of health, he thought, was not doing everything it might to make Boston a model city in summer, and he was suffering from both causes. On this occasion neither cause was, however, the mainspring of his complaint. It was not his own grievances that were weighting upon him as heavy as Atlas’ burden; it was righteous indignation against a public’s ingratitude.

“Think of it,” he ejaculated hoarsely, thrusting his chin forward, and emphasizing his words with his thin, nervous hand, “we give them the best kind of a summer show; we give them mighty good music out here between the acts; we give them ice cream, gratis—and good ice cream, too—and what do they do in return? I’ll tell you just what they do; some of them carry off the spoons; that’s what they do.”
The idea was so deliciously ludicrous that one could not help laughing. What in the world they could do with such useful spoons, perfectly appropriate to their purpose, but hardly desirable for private establishments or domestic pride, puzzled me.

It puzzles me no longer.

The explanation came in the oddest way, but it was absolutely convincing.

A few evenings later I was calling on some stay-in-town people. There were several young people in the room—pretty girls most of them. A popular actress was of the party, and in a very amusing way she was relating

What She Called her Cheek

In taking a party of four down to see “Puritania” one evening and telling with much laughter how the entire party marched out between the acts and partook of free ice cream. “We were determined,” she said, “to take in the entire show, but I must confess that it was not unalloyed pleasure to me. I for one felt that it was a rather large ‘deadhead’ contingent to eat at the courtesy of the house. You ought to have seen the way I bolted the cream. I was in mortal agony for fear Mr. Childs would come along and see the performance. I suppose we were welcome enough, but it did seem to me like ‘crowding the mourners’ a bit.”

Just as the laugh went round the young hostess spoke up: “I say, dear, there was only one thing needed to make that affair simply magnificent. You ought to have stolen the spoons. That would have completed the thing in great shape.”

Supposing that they had heard the statement of “spoon lifting,” just as I had, I mentioned the fact and my inability to account for such appropriating of valueless things. A shout of laughter greeted my seriousness. The young girl of the house rose from her low seat, dropped me a curtsey, and pirouetting across the room, took from a table in plain sight a tray of filigree silver, and with a laugh and another low curtsey presented it to me. On it reposed nearly two dozen indifferent looking spoons, mostly after dinner coffees. I looked from the tray to my hostess. In answer to my amazed glance—for the spoons were not to be confounded with the souvenir fad—she began telling the spoons off in her hands. “Parker House, “ “Tremont House,” “Young’s,” “The Victoria,” “Grand Hotel,” “Langham,” and so on, until I had seen stamped on the back of a series of plated spoons the name of almost every hotel and restaurant in town.

“That,” she cried in triumph, with a wave of her hand, “is my collection of hotel spoons, and I flatter myself that it would be hard to beat it.”

So this is the latest “fad” of the collector. Society girls are making collections of hotel spoons, and the most remarkable feature of the fad is that the spoons are collected surreptitiously, and the collectors take the greatest possible pride in the number they can exhibit. The modus operandi seems to be to get a young man to do the collecting. Of course, it costs more to get the spoons in this way than it would to buy them, but they are only valuable because they are secured irregularly. Usually two or three young people go in for a lunch, which always ends with coffee. Then the sport begins, and much of the maneuvering to “collect’ the spoon and get away before the waiter notes or suspects its loss is said to be very funny. Up to date it is thought that the waiters have

Not Got on to the Game.

There is said to be as much excitement in it as if it were a game of chance, as so many of the girls find much difficulty in avoiding an attack of hysterical giggling, and spoiling the whole thing.

There is one Boston girl who will have no spoon in her collection which she has not collected herself, and she has one of the largest exhibits of her success of any one in her set. Her method is all her own. It is warm weather. She wears her summer gowns cut V-shaped in front. During the coffee drinking she casually drops her spoon her lap, and as carelessly covers it with her napkin. When she wipes her mouth she manages to drop the spoon down her neck, if you please. Why she does not put it in her pocket is a mystery. It would be simpler, but I suppose it would not be so exciting, certainly not so startling, so bizarre—or, possibly, she does not have a pocket.

This new “fad”—that is exactly what these girls call it—admits of strange possibilities, if it should become an epidemic, as fads are always liable to do. I found myself on my way home that night calculating—if I know five girls who are collecting (let us be gentle for the moment and avoid the real verb), there are liable to be 50 who have taken it up. If 50, why not 500? If 500 take to making such collections, what will the hotel man do then, poor thing? Who can say where this collecting will stop? Why not collect china, too? From ages there have been jokes about the men who jauntily carried off the napkins in their pockets, and women who helped themselves to hotel towels. It may be that the jibes at them were all unjust. May not they, too have been “collecting.” May not the discredit that has fallen on the man who helps himself to overcoats in front halls be unfair? Why should not a man make collections of overcoats whose sole value should lie in the fact that they do not belong to him? Why not make collections of furniture? Smuggling it out of hotels by private messengers would, it seems to me, make a very exciting game, and tax the ingenuity of the collector; it would require as much calculation as playing chess or cracking a crib. So much the better.

Seriously, the lack of moral conscience shown by young people today is in too many instances startling. It is dangerous to generalize, of course, but such facts as these are far from amusing. Doubtless this new fad originated with some young collegian whose animal spirits got away with him, and a deed which of itself is absolutely a crime—for wrong is a matter of quality, not quantity—loses on a safe acquaintance its real status. This was proved to my satisfaction on the evening in question. A girl, who when she was first told of this latest fad was shocked, became so infatuated before the evening was over that she was prepared to start a collection of her own.

Now these girls were well brought up. I doubt, if they were hungry, if it would occur to them to steal food, or if it did occur to them if they would have the nerve to do it. Yet with full pockets they make a

Game of Stealing Spoons.

Whose only value arises from the dishonest manner in which they have been acquired. Not one of them thought of the wrong in the deed. They thought only of the fun.

If a poor girl in  the South Cove, having nothing except desires for a possession she might never hope to secure, were to steal a 25-cent trinket, she would get marched off to the station house. The case may not look exactly parallel. It is not. All the excuses are on the side of South Cove.

It would be very entertaining to know what the waiters think of the little society game. Perhaps they have not got on to it yet; perhaps they are still rated for the loss of the spoons; perhaps they are charged with them. When admirers of women assert that the feminine nature is singularly lacking in moral sense, it is customary for gallantry to loudly deny the impeachment, but do not the times give proof of their lack of principle?

What would happen if some irate hotel keeper, totally lacking in a sense of humor—and there be such men keeping public houses right here in Boston—were to make an example of a collector?

What would happen?

Well, probably the judge would look upon it as a good joke, and if the court room was in a good humor the laugh would go round. For all that the notoriety would not be desirable.

Perhaps the business manager of the Tremont may feel differently when he knows that the public that eats ice cream is not stealing the spoons, but “collecting” them. It may comfort his indignation to know that nothing so vulgar as stealing is going on in that fashionable playhouse, but that a new game of help yourself is being played by self-considered respectable people. And then, again, perhaps he won’t see the joke.

In the meantime it may not be without its compensations. I heard one woman remark to another in the horse cars: “I am going to ‘Puritania’ again Monday. I want to see them steal the ice cream spoons.”

Boston [MA] Herald 31 July 1892: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wishes to make it clear that she is merely reporting on a shocking moral trend; not advocating it. Such light-hearted theft should not go unchecked. Giggling amateurs do not realise that they make it more difficult for hard-working, professional criminals to ply their trade.

It is Mrs Daffodil’s understanding that hotels have much the same problem with towels, robes, ash-trays, and other amenities that find their way into guests’ suit-cases. Some shrug and accept the losses. Others post notices that pilfered items will be added to the bill.  Still others, resourcefully, have taken to selling souvenir amenities. As the young ladies might say, “Where’s the fun in that?” To paraphrase a well-known axiom: “Stolen fruit tastes the sweetest.”  (Or perhaps “Ice cream tastes sweetest when eaten from a stolen spoon.”)

 

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.

Independence Day Tableaux: 1918

Liberty and Columbia [All photographs from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.]

As a loyal subject of the Crown, it would be inappropriate for Mrs Daffodil to celebrate Independence Day, particularly as she feels that much in American life would be improved under the reign of a female sovereign. She does, however, send the best compliments of the day to her American readers,  along with these vintage images of patriotic tableaux held on the Ellipse in Washington D.C., circa 1918, just before the end of the Great War. Mrs Daffodil further hopes that the champagne will be properly chilled and the hampers packed with all good things for your holiday picnic luncheons.

 

liberty

Mrs Daffodil is uncertain what this lady represents–The Spirit of Freedom? Democracy? Liberated France? The Spirit of Electricity?

The entire Ensemble. It seems as though there were Druidesses present.

The entire Ensemble. One crosses Miss Columbia at one’s peril.

druidess

An American Druidess? Her costume is a bit of an enigma, as is the building in the background. It seems too near and the wrong shape to be the Capitol Dome.

A more martial version

The stalwart Miss Liberty

Washington 4th of July tableaux

And a stern, martially attired Columbia in her Liberty cap, who seems in need of a spear.

 

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
.

This post originally appeared in July of  2013.

The Floral Fête: 1892

 

A Floral Phaeton Santa Barbara

THE SANTA BARBARA FLOWER CARNIVAL

In April 19 the city of Santa Barbara California, engaged in a magnificent Floral Festival, a “Battle of Flowers,” which lasted four days. The affair was a success from first to last, and reflects great credit upon the inhabitants of the city, for everybody from mayor to common citizen seemed to have a hand in the enterprise. The event was evidently based upon both sentiment and good sense; it was a grand holiday, adapted to the tastes of all, from gray-haired men and matrons down to little children. And much to the credit of the city be it said that those elements which during public holidays so frequently lead to excesses of various kinds were entirely wanting. This open-air flower-festival was as innocent and pure as it was gay and cheerful.

santa barbara floral fete tandem floral cart

In our churches and Sabbath schools a day known as Floral Day has for some year been quite generally observed. The Santa Barbara festival was an enlargement of this—a city instead of a mere congregation participating. Such consistent methods of engaging in public festivals are commendable, and it is with pleasure that we devote space in this issue to some notice of the event.

Before the visit of President Harrison to the Pacific Coast early in the current year, C. F. Eaton, of Monticello. suggested among ways of showing general appreciation of the presence of our chief magistrate a “Battle of Flowers,” such as may be seen every year in the city of Nice, France. The idea was adopted and the result was so satisfactory that later on a score of the leading citizens resolved to inaugurate an annual season of floral festivities. For this purpose the Santa Barbara Floral Festivities Association was formed. This year witnesses the first season of its usefulness. It is the intention of the association to incorporate, and thus to provide for such a festival yearly in Santa Barbara.

floral wheels of the bicycle club santa barbara

This season’s festivities began with a display of horticultural products in the pavilion at the fair grounds. Owing to the lateness of the season and the remarkable weather of the past month. it had been feared that this would not be a very brilliant success. So much is always expected of Santa Barbara because of her celebrity as the home of the rose and many subtropical flowers, that more than one true friend of the city shook his head over the prospects of the horticultural exhibit. But it was a decided and pronounced success, as all who visited the pavilion testified.

Santa barbara carriage in louis style

But the great event of the carnival was the street procession which signalized the triumphal entry of the goddess Flora to this fair city. At an early hour of the day on which it took place, the people on the main street had begun to decorate their several places of business so that all might be in readiness for the pageant of floral cars and other vehicles passing. Much taste was shown in adorning the buildings, and garlands, cornucopias, vines, pampas-plumes, evergreens, flags and hunting were everywhere used in abundance. Many windows were converted into flower-gardens, filled with lilies, roses and other flowers.

The day itself was all that could be desired for making a success of the procession. All the forenoon State street was one surging mass of pedestrians and carriages. Hundreds of strangers were everywhere present, every street-car was filled, and the busses and hacks did a thriving business. All the people were bent on having a thoroughly good time and on making the most of the day.

Santa Barbara decorations of Devoniensis roses

It was nearly two o’clock when the procession began to move. The first vehicle that followed the band of music and the marshal with his aids was a grand floral float twenty feet long and eight feet wide, drawn by four large gray horses ridden by boys and led by four men dressed in semi-oriental costumes. The float stood about five feet from the ground and from the top downward was draped with moss and calla-lilies. The top was painted and upholstered to resemble water upon which floated five shell-like boats. The four smaller boats were occupied by beautiful young girls. Each boat was supplied with golden oars and silken sails. In the larger and more beautiful boat sat the goddess Flora— Senorita Carmelita Dibblee. Behind the goddess and rising above her was a very handsome canopy of silk— outside yellow, inside pale azure-blue with delicate figures of small roses. This was draped with tassels and ropes of silk. The sails were of white satin. Ribbons of satin passed from each boat to the hands of the goddess.

Of the many other vehicles which entered into the pageant, there is not space to give a description here. Some of them are shown in the annexed engravings, made from photographs. Suffice it to say that they represented the application of much taste and skill, while it was plain to see that flowers without stint were available for the occasion. One native flower of which all Californians are proud — the eschscholtzia, was used with lavish profusion, and roses loading the air with fragrance, lilies, callas, marguerites, smilax and wild brodiaeas were among other kinds freely employed.

During the four days of the festival a brilliant reception, a grand tournament, and a ball were given; also a competitive display of flowers and fruits, for which numerous cash prizes were given. No sooner was the floral fête-day over, than the participants began to consider the good reasons apparent for an annual perpetuation of the day in Santa Barbara. It is to be hoped the example here set forth may be widely heeded, and that such fête-days may be multiplied throughout our land.

American Gardening 1892: pp. 395-396

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is desolate at not having any illustrations of the shell-like boats of the Goddess Flora and her attendants, but hopes that the floral carriages will make up for the lack. Mrs Daffodil understands that there is a similar entertainment held every year in Pasadena, California called “The Rose Bowl Parade” where floats entirely made of various sorts of vegetation delight viewers. It has something to do with American foot-ball, which is not the proper sort, so details are scanty in the British papers.

Mrs Daffodil normally leaves matters floral to the gardeners, but Angus McKew, head gardener at the Hall, has been good enough to inform Mrs Daffodil that the Eschscholzia is also known as the California Poppy, while brodiaeas are commonly called “cluster-lilies.” Mrs Daffodil is greatly obliged to Mr McKew and will try to temper the Hall’s requests for cut flowers.

 

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

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