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The Pet Photographer: 1908

Bulldogs portraits The New Book of the Dog 1911

FROM BABIES TO PETS

A Western Young Woman Who Switched Specialties.

PICTURES OF CATS AND DOGS

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

From the New York Sun.

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

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

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

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

Photographs in Great Demand

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

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

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

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

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

The Indifference of Cats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gives Her Cat Jewels

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

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

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

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

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

Cases of Cross Dogs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustrated Calendar Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it easier to photograph dogs than babies?”

“Oh, a thousand times. You can fix a dog’s attention and hold it for a time without difficulty. Then, dogs faces are more or less expressive. None of them has the look of stupidity that the average baby wears except the pug. Pug dogs, by the way, are the easiest to take. All you have to do is to put them in front of the camera and they go to sleep at once. The most difficult dog I ever struggled with was an Italian greyhound. It was a delicate and extremely sensitive little creature, and endowed with almost human intelligence. It couldn’t keep its shadowy legs still half a second to save its life. We worked half a day, and succeeded at length in making a picture that was half satisfactory.”

“Do you photograph many dogs?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When Jane Met Lucy: 1910

the shoppers, william james glackens 1907-1908

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

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

“I thought you were dead,” said Lucy.

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

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

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

“How did you know it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thirty-eight.”

“Just the age mine would be. Dark?”

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

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

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

“Not the least in the world.”

“Mine tyrannized over me. Capricious?”

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

“Can such different men exist?”

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

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

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

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

Clara Belle.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

The Dudes in the Shop Window: 1892

inman male mannequin c 1930-40

LAY FIGURES MADE OF WAX.

Dudes With No Consciousness of Being in a Shop Window

The four most elegantly attired gentlemen in Washington have regularly two new suits of clothes every week. They have plenty of time for dress because they do no toil of any sort for their living.  At this season of the year they may be seen at all hours playing croquet, reclining in hammocks in pajamas and otherwise amusing themselves appropriately to the character of the weather. In winter they spend their time in promenading, clad in the richest of fur coats, when they are not in evening dress at suppositious parties or receptions. It is the misfortune of these persons–for such chronic gorgeousness and ease were never intended by nature to be the portion of real human beings–that they are not alive. They are merely dummies, set up in a window on a Washington business street for the purpose of showing how far the costume will go to make the man, notwithstanding hackneyed assertions to the contrary.

The first thing that strikes the casual observer about these individuals is that they represent a distinctly foreign type. One might imagine that they belonged to one of the legations here. They are palpably Frenchmen, which is very natural, inasmuch as their heads were made in France. Their bodies were manufactured in New York city, but art in this country has not yet been applied successfully to the modeling of heads and hands for such dummies. Accordingly these latter are imported from abroad. It is the same way with dolls. The heads are cast in wax and painted in alleged flesh tints, the hair being human, both that of the scalp and the mustaches. Wax is likewise the material of the hands, the original models for which were cast from real hands, and the blue veins are indicated with surprising fidelity by lines drawn with the brush beneath the superficial paint.

WHERE THE DUMMIES ARE MADE AND BOUGHT.

All things considered, it is not surprising that the really costly parts of a first-class lay figure of this description are the head and hands. They are imported by a firm in New York city, which makes dummies an important feature of the supplies it manufactures and sells for the purpose of what is called “window dressing.” The latter has come to be an art in these days, and men who are expert in it command very considerable salaries—as high, it is said, as $6,000 a year. A dummy of the best make can be purchased for $125. It has ball-and-socket joints at the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, wrists and ankles, so that it can be placed in any attitude that a real human being is capable of assuming.

This is the price for adult dummies; children similarly constructed cost less. However, for most of the purposes of the shopkeeper who employs such forms to show his goods, less elaborate manikins serve as well. For example, to display trousers only a pair of legs is required. These are either in standing pose, with the knees together, or they are in what is technically termed “attitude.” The customer wants to see not only how he will look when erect and stationary, but also what the aspect of his lower limbs will be when his admirers of the opposite sex see him approaching on the street. Persons who pretend to understand the sentimental cast of the female mind assert that a woman’s impression of a man is very largely modified by the shape of his lower limbs. Did ever any one know of a lady killer who was bowlegged?

VARIOUS SECTIONS REPRESENTED.

So the best dummies for legs are made in the walking attitude. There are others which represent the upper part of the masculine frame, for only male lay figures are spoken of here, on which shirts or coats may be shown. The newest thing in this line is a body and legs which may be used together or separately as happens to be desired. The bodies of the lay figures are composed of papier mache, the arms and legs are of wood and the feet are of iron, this last for the purpose of giving them a strong and heavy foundation to stand upon. As a rule the trunks and lower limbs are clad tightly in jersey cloth. Of course the manikins are dressed just as helpless people would be, their shirts being pulled over their heads, their trousers being drawn over their legs and buttoned and their toilet adjusted in all other respects to suit propriety as well as fashion.

creepy wax mannequin head

1920s wax bust for shop display.

THE WINDOW DRESSER’S PETS.

The expert who dresses the show window in which the four French gentlemen so constantly appear regards them all as personal friends, taking the keenest interest in their welfare, having always an anxious consideration for the becomingness of their attire, and not infrequently resorting to the paint pot for the improvement of their complexions. Unfortunately, they are not able to brush off any casual fly which may alight on their noses, and it is not possible to wash their faces with soap and water when they are soiled. Wax, too, melts readily, and care has to be taken that no direct ray of the sun shall strike them through the glass. Such a misfortune occurred the other day and the result was that a rosy-cheeked boy of ten short winters and a late spring who was going to school with a satchel over his shoulder at 9 o’clock in the morning was taken out of the window at 2 p.m. with his visage so distorted that he looked like a victim of goiter in an anatomical museum.

When the foreign gentlemen and relatives of theirs, juvenile and otherwise, are not on exhibition their heads and hands are taken off and put in a cool place. The latter are very apt to get broken, in which case a little cement is used to unite the parts and varnish is put on with fresh paint over it. Only a day or two ago a golden-haired child in kilts was knocked over by a careless customer, and his head was so fractured all the way up the back that he will not be of any use in future.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 July 1892: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A novelty in shop-window display was to hire a “wax man,” a living individual made up to look like a mannequin, designed to attract custom by arousing the curiosity of the public as to whether or not he was real. Such men were probably cheaper than the costly wax figures, certainly as intelligent, and at least as good-looking.

This gent took up a bet that he could not imitate a wax figure in the window of a Berlin hairdresser.

A bet made by a wag of Berlin on New Year’s Day attracted crowds to one of the principal streets of the capital. In this street there is a hairdresser’s shop, and the author of the bet had undertaken to sit for four hours, without moving, in the place of the wax figure in the window. At three in the afternoon he appeared at his post, dressed in a white sheet and with a huge wig on his head surmounted by a fez cap. Every effort was made by the bystanders to make him show some sign of life. Street boys were tempted by the promise of large rewards to make their most ridiculous grimaces, and address him in all sorts of funny speeches; but all in vain. He remained immovable until the clock struck seven, when he rose, bowed gravely to the assembled crowd, and retired into the shop.

The Guardian [London England] 12 January 1869: p. 5

For some terrifyingly supercilious mannequins from a master of the art, Pierre Iman, see this link.

 

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 Irish-American Dressmaker: 1899-1909

dunlevy blue gown

A gown by Cincinnati dressmaker Anna Dunlevy, c. 1905-6 http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/collection/collections/?u=11692921

The Irish-American Dressmaker.

“The Irish-American woman dressmaker is the equal of the French man dressmaker,” said a Parisienne at a tea in New York. “Her skill amazes me. It is no wonder she gets on.

“I have traveled all over the east and in every city I have found the finest dressmaking custom quite monopolized by Irish-American women. All the really fashionable shops are conducted by Kate O’Reilly, or Madge Muldoon, or Mme. Rafferty, or a person of some such Hibernian name.

Why the Irish-American should develop in the United States such a talent for dressmaking is a thing I can’t explain. But there the thing is—you can see it plainly for yourself—and the American woman who pays Mme. Rafferty or Madge Muldoon $100 for a gown is more likely to get her money’s worth than if she bought an imported costume at twice the cost.

Miltonian [Milton PA] 26 March 1909: p. 3

IRISH DRESSMAKERS.

Skill and Taste of Women from the Green Isle.

New York women may in time go to Dublin for their fashions. as they do now to Paris and Vienna. though that time may not be in the near future. There seems to be a general feeling that for really good taste in gowns one must go to a woman who is by birth or ancestry from Erin’s sunny isle.

“There is no one who can make a gown like an Irish woman.” said a woman who knows good gowns. speaking about their making the other day. “They have perfect taste, and they seem to have a special talent for putting things together. Take some of the best modistes in New York, and you will find they are Irish. There is O’Brien– pronounced with an emphasis on the ‘O’ and none on the ‘Bri’–in Philadelphia; she is Irish. When I want a satisfactory gown made I always go to an Irish woman, if I can.”

“Come to think of it,” said another woman, “I think my dressmaker is an Irishwoman, and she certainly has a most wonderful knack. She never measures and puts down a whole lot of figures, as some dressmakers do, but she slashes out something, puts it on me, and some way it always comes out all right.

“For instance, I went to her one day and wanted something in a great hurry; could she oblige me? Yes, she would. So she got a piece of lining, looked at me, slashed away at the cloth, and in a minute or two had something that looked like the lining of a waist. These pieces she did not haste together, but pinned them on me. ‘You may come for a fitting of the bodice and skirt tomorrow,’ she said. I don’t know how she does it, but when I went the next day the bodice looked as if it was half done, and it fitted too.”–(New York Times.

The Boston [MA] Globe 4 February 1899: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil cannot explain the magical talent of the Irish-American dressmaker, especially when the newspapers were so full of condescending Irish dialect stories and jokes, as well as bitter complaints about the unreliability of Irish servant girls, invariably called “Bridget.”  Perhaps “Bridget” preferred the relative independence of dressmaking to the drudgery of the scullery.  And, had one previously been in domestic service, it must have been gratifying to have an otherwise imperious mistress quailing before the censorious eye of the dressmaker, who, after all, knew her most intimate secrets.

red velvet and lace gown

Red velvet and lace gown, c. 1906, by Cincinnati designer/maker Anna Dunlevy http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/collection/collections/?u=11692370

The gown above and the one pictured at the head of this post was by Irish-American dressmaker Anna Dunlevy, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who is described as “a highly respected and sought-after dressmaker, who employed 500 women at her peak of popularity, embraced this initiative and engaged many Irish women to create lace for some of her most sumptuous gowns.”

“By mid-1910, Irish crocheted lace from Cincinnati was considered as fine as the lace coming straight from Ireland. To this day Cincinnati is renowned for its fashion and lace made during its Golden Age from the 1870’s to the early 1920’s.” https://mgnsw.org.au/articles/nature-fashion/

Mrs Daffodil, alas, has not been able to identify the Philadelphia modiste named “O’Brien.”

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.

Mrs Daffodil’s Christmas Greetings

 

2013.521.1

Hanging the Holly Christmas card

Mrs Daffodil thanks her readers for visiting

and wishes for them the happiest of holidays and all good things in the new year.

 

 

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 Festive Christmas Tree: 1906

the festive christmas tree illustration 1906.JPG

The Festive Christmas Tree

It will not be the fault of the shop-keepers if your Christmas tree is lacking in characteristic beauty, for as early as November first the toy departments were beginning to assume a “Christmasy” aspect.

The number of people who purchased decorations at that time was altogether surprising, and from the first week of November to Thanksgiving the buying has been unprecedented. There are two good reasons for early buying; the novelties, of course, quickly disappear and the stock becomes exhausted; again when purchased in ample time there is less danger of the frail ornaments being broken, which is sure to occur when the holiday rush is on for good and everybody is making for the same goal.

While there is nothing strikingly new or unusual among the fanciful embellishments for this year’s Christmas tree, they are sufficiently satisfying and ornate to please the little men and women for whom they are intended, happy sojourners in the Land of Delusion.

FAD FOR DIMINUTIVE TREES.

It is probably owing to the small box-like rooms that prevail in recently built houses and the growing popularity of flat-life that brought the diminutive tree into favor. At any rate, real and artificial trees from 24 inches to l yard high and from this height to the fast vanishing giant balsam that ends unwillingly beneath the ceiling are all equally desirable according to recent advice.

Every purchaser buys a tree best suited to the available space in his home. Children may trim and untrim small trees and so engage their time for days at a stretch, whereas with the usual size tree this is not possible. Besides, there is an economical side to the dwarf-like tree, which is vastly better than none at all, when a larger one proves too great a tax for a slender purse. The attendant annoyance of falling greens and the time required in trimming the tree are reduced to a minimum.

Small trees are also employed to bear the gifts for the children, which is even more fun than finding them under the tree.

ORNAMENTS IN BLOWN GLASS.

A number of very attractive shapes are shown in colored glass ornaments, besides the standard ones that have been doing service for many years. The coloring this year seems to be unusually brilliant, three or four hues often being combined in one piece. Many of the more expensive ones are hand-painted and encrusted with diamond dust.

All sorts of egg and oval shapes are conspicuous, striped, plaided and rainbow tinted, with queer little spirals of gilt running over and around them.

About a hundred and one different models for airships, some horizontally built, others like balloons swinging vertically, are in profuse assortment. These are mostly seen in a single color with spirals of gilt surrounding them. Boats, horns of plenty, besides hosts of others, may be added to the list. Many musical instruments are displayed alike in painted glass, with bright and dull finish.

Bunches of grapes in gold, silver, green and purple glass are available from 5 cents to $1, and must assuredly be included among the essential decorations.

FANS AND FAIRIES.

Miniature fans with the tops finished by frills oi a plain color and enlivened with tinsel, ornate flowers, fancy heads and sparkling dust, are among the attractive novelties; these fans vary from three to six inches, the sticks are of gilt and silver paper, some of which are mounted on heavy cardboard.

The Christmas fairy does not flourish in her undisputed sway today as she did when we were nursery enthusiasts. But she is the same ornate, fluffy spangled lady, sometimes wearing frilled skirts of gold paper, again one of coarse lace with paper flowers and bits of tinsel and stars or one of cotton net standing out in a characteristic, bouffant fashion.

Quite amusing are the little roly-poly decorations, dudes, Indians, clowns, dancing girls, besides those of the animal tribe, rabbits, dogs, cats, pigs, bears and what not, all fancifully garbed, with their bearing attached to swing on the tree.

NOVELTIES IN PAPER AND BEADS.

Both plain and crepe papers enter largely into the fanciful designs of all sorts. Very graceful indeed are the horns of plenty of embossed gold and paper filled with flowers, some of which support a fairy butterfly, glistening with varicolored diamond dust.

Large single flowers, the rose, chrysanthemum and sunflower, besides sprays, are realistically designed in colored papers, their petals touched with gold and silver dust. Torpedo bonbons, wishing bon bons gayly decorated with tinsel, fancy heads and flowers are fashioned of colored papers. These, it may be whispered, are not in the least difficult to make and very effective, and in white, scarlet, yellow, pale blue and pink make a good showing. I neglected to say that in some of the single flowers of crepe paper a little doll’s face unexpectedly appears.

Among the most effective novelties handled by several houses are those of varicolored beads, made up into unique little ornaments. Many of these are of pendant persuasion and occasionally combined with glass beads, as in air ships, for example.

Strings of glistening glass beads and crystal shapes, some in one color shading from light to dark, again several colors alternating with each other, produce a most artistic effect when arranged in garland fashion. In pure white they catch and reflect the light, like so many diamonds.

Crystal or glass fringe in gracefully shaped oval pendants of varying color add a refined brilliancy, to the tree as a whole that seems unmatched by any other medium of decoration.

MARJORIE.

The Sunday Journal [Minneapolis MN] 9 December 1906: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has written on this subject before, discussing how to make a Christmas fairy for tree or table. The vogue for “diminutive trees” also calls to mind an ingenious lady who made miniature beaded trees.

It is rather sad to think that so many of the ornaments so delightfully described above have not survived. The glass ornaments are easily shattered–and even more readily if any person in the house found an air- or pellet-gun under the Christmas tree and especially if they have seen the film, The Thin Man. 

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 Night at La Scala: 1836

night at la scala illustration

A NIGHT AT THE “SCALA.”

By Oscar Zurich.

It was the third day of the carnival at Milan, 1836. Donizetti’s immortal masterpiece, “Lucia di Lammermoor,” had been performed for the first time at the San Carlo in Naples, a few months previous, and was then making its triumphal tour throughout Italy.The genius of Bergamo’s sweet bard had attained its culminating point. “Fra poco,” its great aria and the stupendous magnificence of the septette had electrified the entire musical world; even the star of Rossini had been eclipsed by the incredible success of the younger composer.

Milan was in an uproar; the streets, squares, and arcades were illuminated a giorno; the cathedral in marble majesty glittered beneath the glare of innumerable lanterns, while the joyous quip and laughter of sixty thousand pleasure-seekers made the old, narrow streets ring and echo again, and the “Scala,” Italy’s greatest opera house, ablaze with glory, had placed before the entrance, in letters of flame, the magic word “Lucia.”

No wonder the crowd hastened thither; for eighty lire you could not have obtained a seat. It was the third representation—the third only–and fame, beauty, or gold could not have forced an entrance. It was now six o’clock; the pit and gallery boxes and stalls of the immense theater were crowded to suffocation. Four thousand eager people–four thousand anxious, soulful Italians–were waiting with subdued frenzy for the curtain to rise.

The nobility of Lombardy graced the boxes, the political celebrities of the city crowded the passages, all the elite of the art-loving town had flocked thither.

The heat was stifling; at half-past six the overture began. The immense throng was silenced at the first wave of the conductor’s baton. Was it not to hear the last and the most admirable of Donizetti’s operas? Had not the Neapolitan papers been devoured with avid eyes? Was It not to hear the songs over which Italy was raving? And last, but not least, was it not to applaud the beauteous prima donna, Alfieri, who had achieved such a colossal success the two previous nights?–their favorite–their idol–the divine Alfieri! who had sung for seven consecutive seasons in Milan, alike renowned for her consummate art, her beauty, and her unrivaled voice! Ah! how the audience was moved!–how it trembled with expectant ecstasy! the curtain rose.

The hunters’ chorus was listened to with religious attention; the baritone’s song and cabaletta which follow caused but a slight impression in spite of their veritable excellence, and the shifting of the scene to the park where Lucia makes her first appearance was welcomed with a hushed murmur of delight.

A frail, white-robed female form advanced toward the footlights, her eyes were cast down, and she moved slowly near the prompter’s box. There she stood still, raised her eyes and gazed full upon the audience.

A howl of anger and disappointment arose from the crowded house:

Non è Alfieri!” (She is not Alfieri!) was echoed on all sides; groans, hissing, and stamping of feet drowned the orchestra. Some vociferously cried out, “Basta! basta! We want Alfieri!”

The frail woman confronting the enraged audience appeared not in the  least disconcerted, and walked leisurely around the stage during the uproar. A man peeped out from the side-scenes. It was the director.

“Who is that woman?” he asked. “It is not Alfieri!”

“No one saw her enter,” was the reply.

Again the conductor raised his baton; the unknown prima donna seemed to rouse herself from her pensiveness and lethargy, and moved solemnly toward the centre of the stage.

The clamor had ceased. She raised her eyes to the level of the first tier, and stood in the full force of the light. She was wondrously beautiful, but white–white as a shroud of snow; deathly, spectrally white!–not a tinge of rose enhanced the marble graces of her face, which was purely, faultlessly Greek.

Her eyes, black and radiant, flashed luridly. When she dropped them their tint became sad, gray, and crepuscular. Her lips shone red as vermilion, and seemed like a gash—like a hideous gash–when contrasted with the whiteness and rigidity of her face.

Her hair, long and purplish, in undulate tresses rioted over her shoulders, pure and colorless as marble.

She had no ornaments. A tuberose thrust in a rebellious curl adorned her brow; around her throat was a piece of broad, black velvet Her dress was white–all white.

She gazed weirdly upon the audience and began, in a strange, vague, unearthly tone of voice, the ravishing aria of “Lucia” upon hear entrance.

I was present, and I can recall perfectly the cold sensation and chilliness I felt at the first few notes.

It seemed to me as if some humid cavern had been suddenly opened, and that I had breathed the first icy wafts of air emanating therefrom.

Not a sound save her voice was heard. Her hands hung listlessly by her side. I do not remember how she finished. I heard her first strange tones change to a soft, sweet voice of fascinating, bell-like brilliancy, and I awoke from a trance by hearing the audience shriek and stamp with delight.

The applause was feverish and frantic, then suddenly ceased as if by enchantment; the strange woman had turned aside and began the ordinary stage business and duet with Edgardo, as Alfieri would have done. The act ended in indescribable amazement.

“Who is she? Who is she? What a voice!” and such exclamations were heard on all sides.

The director appeared at this moment, evidently anxious to find out for himself who the beautiful pale songstress was, but could answer no inquiries.

In the meantime I hurried behind the scenes to Alfieri’s dressing-room, where I had often gone to chat with her, expecting to see that marvelous creature.

The apartment was illuminated; Lucia’s bridal costume for the second act was ready on the sofa; a bottle of Asti wine, which Alfieri always partook of between the acts, stood on the table; but naught proved that the room had been occupied previously by another–nothing showed the presence of the new-comer.

I waited a few minutes, took a few whiffs from my cigarette, and was about to return, when I spied upon the door an earring of such uncommon size that I stooped to pick it up, and gazed upon it in wonder, held spellbound by its beauty.

It was a solitaire diamond, richly set, of a slightly greenish tint. I knew the value of green diamonds, and estimated this one to be worth at least seven or eight thousand dollars, being really finer than any I had seen in the famous vaults of Dresden.

I hastened down to the director’s office to remit it, thinking it belonged to the new-comer or to Alfieri. The director was absent; soon I heard the bell ring. The diamond in my hand, I hastened to my seat.

The unknown woman again entered; she was, if possible, a tinge paler than before. She wore gloves this time, and her lips were not so cruelly red. She sang, and, ye gods, what song! Her voice soared, spread, fused with other invisible voices; It rang sonorously, and murmured divinely in magnificent power and harmony—a voice all fire, a voice all soul.

I trembled–the audience quivered.

Still that strange being stood in the same position, still did her great luminous black eyes gaze continually upward; she seemed not to heed her fellow-artists; the bewilderment of Edgardo, the anxious, inquiring glance of Ashton did not move her; she would glide by them like a sylph, a vision–light, ethereal, graceful. No one heard her walk–she sang!

Again the curtain fell, again the house cried out with delirium. “Brava! brava!” yelled the rabble.

But no one appeared.

Again I went to Alfieri’s box while the ballet (which in those days was performed between the acts) was going on, but it was empty; so I returned to listen to the animated discussions and conversations in the lobby.

“Alfieri is eclipsed; she is Pasta and Persiani combined! she is not human, she is an angel from Heaven’s gates!”

“’Tis the Beatrice of Dante descended from Heaven!”

A friend came from behind the scenes.

“Well, what news, Ricciardo? Have you seen her?”

“No, but Grazzini has” (Grazzini was the tenor, a handsome fellow), “and he tells me he spoke to her–forced to do so by some subtle, magnetic attraction. He told her of his wonder, his admiration, his love, I believe, and she answered him, in Milanese dialect, ‘We shall meet again.'”

The bell rang, and the curtain went up slowly. The lights seemed to burn badly, and the heat was stifling, but upon the entrance of the mysterious stranger a sudden chill pervaded every one.

We did not breathe to listen, and as I gazed upon her, charmed by her supernatural beauty, I noticed that from one of her ears hung a bright, large stone, similar to the one I held in my hand. Scarcely had I seen it when she caught my eye. She smiled–the only time. I averted my glance. The music went on.

The scene where the unhappy Lucia, after having been dragged to the altar by her heartless brother, realizes the full atrocity of his conduct, seemed to influence the sombre sprite-like prima donna, for she roused herself at last and acted–acted with the frenzy of passion, acted with the sublimity of pathos and despair. She was intense, superb in the mad scene. Her voice had sobs of anguish.

Up swelled the vertiginous staccato high above the moans of the orchestra. She raved, she wept, and the large tears rolled down her white cheek; her hair floated wildly over her quivering shoulders, and still rang forth her magical, heartrending notes.

I trembled; the house groaned.

The mad scene neared its end, and the musicians, as if ordered, ceased to play. They looked at her, she sang unaccompanied. It was terrible, unique, sublime.

The culminating point arrived, and the pains and pangs of Donizetti’s masterpiece vibrated on her lips as they had never done on lips before. She gazed wildly, stupidly about, when she stopped, and I saw drops of blood ooze from her mouth; she fell heavily upon the stage, and the curtain went down. The house was in tears.

Half an hour later all Milan knew of the miraculous performance at the Scala. The last act of the opera was listened to without curiosity, Lucia not appearing in it. Nothing occurred except the indisposition of the tenor, Grazzini, who was taken suddenly ill, and I afterward learned, died that night.

Milan, outdoors, all fun and animation, could not comprehend the story told in the cafes and on the squares. The reports were called exaggerated, and the singer’s phenomenal voice a myth. No one could find her, and it was in vain that I waited for more than an hour in Alfieri’s box.

The director told me confidentially that he was as nonplussed as the audience, and had never beheld the marvelous singer before. Then, as he left me, he superstitiously added: “She was a spirit, I believe.”

Full of conflicting thoughts, I walked sadly homeward, and heard again through the quiet streets, far away from the riot and revel of the carnival, the heavenly echo of that unutterably divine voice.

I walked on, and passed across the Saint Italda Cemetery to near my home. It was late. The noise of Milan’s festivities reached my ear from time to time faintly, but I heeded it not, wrapped as I was in my reverie and musing.

Within a few steps of my house, separated by a high wall from the end of the graveyard, there, beneath a few cypress trees, in the full glare of the moon, 1 beheld a rather unusual sight.

The cemetery, through which I passed regularly every night, and which I knew in every nook and corner, seemed in that particular spot to present  a different aspect than it ordinarily did.

I advanced, and remarked with astonishment that a tomb had been desecrated, and that a coffin had been exhumed!

Sure enough, the sod on either side was all strewn and scattered here and there, footprints were plainly visible, and to my horror I saw that the coffin was open. In it, wrapped in a faded yellow shroud, was a human form.

I was about to call for the guard, when my eye was suddenly attracted by a faint greenish light twinkling near the top of the coffin.

I stooped over, and to my amazement saw a diamond earring in the lobe of the corpse’s ear–the mate of the one I had found.

The moonlight, checkered by the tree-boughs, did not allow me to view the face, and trembling I drew aside and lit a match. Approaching, I gazed on the body. It was the spectral songstress!

Utterly bewildered, with haggard eyes and quivering knees, I grasped the coffin lid and replaced it over the livid face. On it was written in large letters:

Virginia Cosseli,

Queen of Soprani,

Died September, 1781,

Requiescat in pace.

I remember a wild thrill of horror came over me and I fell senseless.

For weeks I raved in delirium. When I had sufficiently recovered I left Milan. People were still talking of the mysterious prima dona and the famous representation of Lucia. They have not understood, but I believe in spirits.

Frank Leslie’s Pleasant Hours, Vol. 30

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has nothing to add, except to note that it was perhaps a good thing that the lady was not recalled for an encore.

 

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.