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Advice to Young Skaters: 1874


Advice to Young Skaters.

Never try to skate in two directions at once.

Eat a few apples for refreshment’s sake, while skating, and be sure to throw the cores on the ice for fast skaters to break their shins on.

There is no law to prevent a beginner from sitting down whenever he is so inclined.

Skate over all the small boys at once. Knock ‘em down. It makes great fun, and they like it.

If you skate into a hole in the ice take it coolly. Think how you would feel if the water were boiling hot.

If your skates are too slippery buy a new pair. Keep buying new pairs until you find a pair that is not slippery.

In sitting down do it gradually. Don’t be too sudden; you may break the ice.

When you fall headlong, examine the straps of your skates very carefully before you get up. That will make everybody think you fell because your skate was loose.

Wear a heavy overcoat or cloak until you get thoroughly warmed up, then throw it off, and let the wind cool you. This will insure you a fine cold!

After you get so you can skate tolerably well, skate three or four hours—skate frantically—skate till you can’t stand.

The Spirit of Democracy [Woodsfield OH] 10 February 1874: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Inexperienced skaters might also take advantage of the useful


Our readers can see the proportions in the cut. The bottom of the runners being slightly curved, the frame is easily turned in any direction. The ends of the runners being turned up, enables the frame to pass over any reasonable impediment, thus saving it from stopping, and being thrown over forwards; the long tails would not allow it to be pulled over backwards. The skater’s hands being placed on the hand rail, between its supports, prevents her from upsetting the frame sideways.

Godey’s Lady’s Book December 1863

skating frame

Advice on skating abounded, such as How to be Decorative While Ice-Skating and what NOT to do on the ice–A Swell Party on Ice.  Mrs Daffodil’s soundest advice is to stay indoors where you may spread oil-cloth on the parlour floor and slide about to your heart’s content, with no danger of frost-bite or pneumonia from an icy plunge. There a simple tug at the bell brings a convenient tray of tea, cocoa, and biscuits, something that cannot be said for frozen ponds, which are generally not equipped with servants’ bells.

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 Maid with Red Hair: 1899


In the spring of 1899, being then a member of a certain Psychical Research Society, and hearing that a ghost had been seen at No — Southgate Street, Bristol, I set off to interview the ladies who were reported to have seen it. I found them (the Misses Rudd) at home, and on their very graciously consenting to relate to me their psychical experiences, I sat and listened to the following story (told as nearly as possible in the eldest lady’s own words) : ” It is now,” she began, ” some ten years since we were the tenants of the house you mention, but I recollect what I saw there as vividly as if it were yesterday.

“The house, I must tell you, is very small (only eight or so rooms), dingy, and in a chronic state of dilapidation ; it stands in the middle of a terrace with no front garden to speak of, save a few yards of moss-covered tiles, slate-coloured and broken, whilst its back windows overlooked a dreary expanse of deep and silent water. Nothing more dismal could be imagined.

“Still, when we took it, the idea of it being haunted never for one instant entered our minds, and our first intimation that such was the case came upon us like a thunderbolt.

“We only kept one maid, Jane (a girl with dark hair and pleasant manners), my sisters and I doing all the cooking and helping with the light work. The morning on which incident No. 1 happened, knowing Jane to be upstairs occupied in dusting the rooms, and my sisters being out, my mother asked me to go into the kitchen and see if the stove was all right as ‘there was a smell of burning.’

“Doing as she bid, I hastened to the kitchen, where a strange spectacle met my sight.

“Kneeling in front of the stove, engaged apparently in polishing the fender, was a servant-girl with RED hair; I started back in astonishment. ‘Who could she be?’

Too intent at first to notice my advent, she kept on at her work, giving me time to observe that she was wearing a very dirty dress, and that her rag of a cap was quite askew. Satisfied she was not ‘Jane,’ and wondering whether some one else’s maid had mistaken our kitchen for her own — the houses in the terrace being all alike — I called out, ‘Who are you? what do you want?’ — whereupon, dropping the fire-irons with a clatter, she quickly turned round, displaying an ashen-pale face, the expression on which literally froze me with horror.

“Never! never had I seen such an awful look of hopeless, of desperate, of diabolical abandonment in any one’s eyes as in those of hers when their glance met mine.

“For some seconds we glared at one another without moving, and then, still regarding me with a furtive look from out of the corner of her horrible eyes, she slowly rose from the hearth, and gliding stealthily forward, disappeared in the diminutive scullery opposite.

“Curiosity now overcoming fear, I at once followed. She was nowhere to be seen; nor was there any other mode of exit by which she could have made her departure than a tiny window, some four feet or so from the floor and directly overlooking the deep waters of the pond to which I have already alluded.

“Here, then, was a mystery ! What had I seen? Had I actually encountered a phantasm, or was I but the victim of an exceedingly unpleasant and falsidical hallucination? I preferred to think the former.

“Not wishing to frighten my mother, I intended keeping the incident to myself, writing, however, a complete account of it in my diary for the current year, but, a further incident occurring to my youngest sister within the next few days, I determined to reveal what I had seen and compare notes.”

The eldest Miss Rudd now concluded, and on my expressing a desire to hear more, her youngest sister very obligingly commenced:

“I had been out shopping in the Triangle one morning,” she said, “and having omitted to take the latchkey, I was obliged to ring. Jane answered the summons. There was nothing, of course, unusual in this, as it was her duty to do so, but there was something extremely singular in what appeared at her elbow.

“Standing close beside — I might almost say leaning against her (though Jane was apparently unaware of it) — was a strange, a very strange, servant-girl, with red hair and the most uncanny eyes; she had on a bedraggled print dress and a cap all askew ; but it was her expression that most attracted my attention — it was horrid.

“’Oh Jane!’ I cried, ‘whoever is it with you?’

“Following the direction of my gaze, Jane immediately turned round, and, without a word, FAINTED.

“That is all. The apparition, or whatever you may please to call it, vanished, and the next time I saw it was under different circumstances.”

“Will you be so kind as to relate them?” I inquired.

Miss Rudd proceeded: “Oh! it is nothing very much!” she exclaimed, “only it was very unpleasant at the time — especially as I was all alone.

“You see, mother, being delicate, went to bed early, my sisters were at a concert, and it was Jane’s ‘night out.’

“I never, somehow, fancied the basement of the house; it was so cold and damp, reminding me not a little of a MORGUE or charnel-house; consequently I never stayed there a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, and on this night in question I was in the act of scurrying back to the drawing- room when a gentle tap! tap! at the scullery-window made me defer my departure. Entering the back kitchen, somewhat timidly I admit, I saw a face peering in at me through the tiny window.

“Though the night was dark and there was no artificial lighting at this side of the house, every feature of that face was revealed to me as clearly as if it had been day. The little, untidy cap, all awry, surmounting the shock-head of red hair now half- down and dripping with water, the ghastly white cheeks, the widely open mouth, and the eyes, their pupils abnormally dilated and full of lurid light, were more appallingly horrible than ever.

“I stood and gazed at it, my heart sick with terror, nor do I know what would have happened to me had not the loud rap of the postman acted like magic; the thing vanished, and ‘turning tail,’ I fled upstairs into the presence of my mother. That is all.”

I was profuse in my thanks, and the third Miss Rudd then spoke:

“My bedroom,” she began, “was on the top landing — the window over-looking the water. I slept alone some months after the anecdotes just related, and was awakened one night by feeling some disgusting, wet object lying on my forehead.

“With an ejaculation of alarm I attempted to brush it aside, and opening my eyes, encountered a ghastly white face bending right over me.

“I instantly recognised it, by the description my sisters had given, as the phantasm of the red-headed girl.

“The eyes were terrible! Shifting its slimy hand from my forehead, and brandishing it aloft like some murderous weapon, it was about to clutch my throat, when human nature would stand it no longer — and — I fainted. On recovering, I found both my sisters in the room, and after that I never slept by myself.”

“Did your mother ever see it?” I asked.

“Frequently,” the eldest Miss Rudd replied, “and it was chiefly on her account we relinquished our tenancy — her nervous system was completely prostrated.”

“Other people saw the ghost besides us,” the youngest Miss Rudd interrupted, “for not only did the long succession of maids after Jane all see it, but many of the subsequent tenants ; the house was never let for any length of time.”

“Then, perhaps, it is empty now?” I soliloquised, “in which case I shall most certainly experiment there.”

This proved to be the case; the house was tenantless, and I easily prevailed upon the agent to loan me the key.

But the venture was fruitless. Three of us and a dog undertook it. We sat at the foot of the gloomy staircase; twelve o’clock struck, no ghost appeared, the dog became a nuisance — and — we came away disgusted.

A one-night’s test, however, is no test at all; there is no reason to suppose apparitions are always to be seen by man ; as yet we know absolutely nothing of the powers or conditions regulating their appearances, and it is surely feasible that the unknown controlling elements of one night may have been completely altered, may even have ceased to exist by the next. At all events, that was my opinion. I was by no means daunted at a single failure. But it was impossible to get any one to accompany me.

The sceptic is so boastfully eager by day. “Ghosts,” he sneers, “what are ghosts? Indigestion and imagination! I’ll challenge you to show me the house I wouldn’t sleep in alone! Ghosts indeed! Give me a poker or a shovel and I will scare away the lot of them.” And when you do show him the house he always has a prior engagement, or else the weather is too cold, or he has too much work to do next day, or it isn’t really worth the trouble, or — well! he is sure to have some very plausible excuse; at least, that has been my invariable experience.

There is no greater coward than the sceptic, and so, unable to procure a friend for the occasion, I did without one; neither did I have the key of the house, but — taking French leave — gained admittance through a window.

It was horribly dark and lonely, and although on the former occasion I did not feel the presence of the superphysical, I did so now, the very moment I crossed the threshold. Striking a light, I looked around me: I was in the damp and mouldy den that served as a kitchen; outside I saw the moon reflected on the black and silent water.

A long and sleek cockroach disappeared leisurely in a hole in the skirting as I flashed my light in its direction, and I thought I detected the movement of a rat or some large animal in the cupboard at the foot of the stairs. I forthwith commenced a search — the cupboard was empty. I must have been mistaken. For some minutes I stood in no little perplexity as to my next move. Where should I go? Where ought I to go if my adventure were to prove successful?

I glanced at the narrow, tortuous staircase winding upwards into the grim possibilities of the deserted hall and landings — and — my courage failed.

Here, at least, I was safe! Should the Unknown approach me, I could escape by the same window through which I had entered. I felt I dare not! I really could not go any further. Seized with a sudden panic at nothing more substantial than my own thoughts, I was groping my way backwards to the window when a revulsion of feeling made me pause. If all men were poltroons, how much would humanity ever know of the Occult? We should leave off where we began, and it had ever been my ambition to go — further.

My self-respect returning, I felt in my pocket for pencil, notebook and revolver, and trimming my lamp I mounted the stairs.

A house of such minute dimensions did not take long to explore; what rooms there were, were Lilliputian — mere boxes; the walls from which hung the tattered remnants of the most offensively inartistic papers were too obviously Jerry built; the wainscoting was scarred, the beading broken, not a door fitted, not a window that was not either loose or sashless — the entire house was rotten, paltry, mean; I would not have had it as a gift. But where could I wait to see the ghost? Disgust at my surroundings had, for a time, made me forget my fears ; these now returned reinforced: I thought of Miss Rudd’s comparison with a morgue— and shuddered. The rooms looked ghastly! Selecting the landing at the foot of the upper storey, I sat down, my back against the wall — and — waited.

Confronting me was the staircase leading up and down, equally dark, equally ghostly; on my right was what might once have been the drawing-room, but was now a grim conglomeration of bare boards and moonlight, and on my left was an open window directly overtopping the broad expanse of colourless, motionless water. Twelve o’clock struck, the friendly footsteps of a pedestrian died away in the distance; I was now beyond the pale of assistance, alone and deserted — deserted by all save the slimy, creeping insects below — and the shadows. Yes! the shadows; and as I watched them sporting phantastically at my feet, I glanced into the darkness beyond — and shivered.

All was now intensely suggestive and still, the road alone attractive; and despite my spartonic resolutions I would have given much to be out in the open. The landing was so cramped, so hopeless.

A fresh shadow, the shadow of a leaf that had hitherto escaped my notice, now attracted and appalled me; the scratching of an insect made my heart stand still ; my sight and hearing were painfully acute; a familiar and sickly sensation gradually crept over me, the throbbing of my heart increased, the most inconceivable and desperate terror laid hold of me: the house was no longer empty — the supernatural had come! Something, I knew not, I dare not think what, was below, and I knew it would ascend.

All the ideas I had previously entertained of addressing the ghost and taking notes were entirely annihilated by my fear — fear mingled with a horrible wonder as to what form the apparition would take, and I found myself praying Heaven it might not be that of an elemental.

The THING had now crossed the hall (I knew this somehow instinctively) and was beginning to mount the stairs.

I could not cry out, I could not stir, I could not close my eyes: I could only sit there staring at the staircase in the most awful of dumb, apprehensive agonies. The thing drew nearer, nearer; up, up, UP it came until I could see it at last — see the shock-head of red hair, the white cheeks, the pale, staring eyes, all rendered hideously ghastly by the halo of luminous light that played around it. This was a ghost — an apparition — a bona fide phantasm of the dead ! And without any display of physical power —it overcame me.

Happily for me, the duration of its passage was brief.

It came within a yard of me, the water dripping from its clinging clothes, yet leaving no marks on the flooring. It thrust its face forward; I thought it was going to touch me, and tried to shrink away from it, but could not. Yet it did nothing but stare at me, and its eyes were all the more horrible because they were blank; not diabolical, as Miss Rudd had described them, but simply Blank! — Blank with the glassiness of the Dead.

Gliding past with a slightly swaying motion, it climbed upstairs, the night air blowing through the bedraggled dress in a horribly natural manner; I watched it till it was out of sight with bated breath — for a second or so it stopped irresolutely beside an open window; there was a slight movement as of some one mounting the sill: a mad, hilarious chuckle, a loud splash — and then — silence, after which I went home.

I subsequently discovered that early in the seventies a servant-girl, who was in service at that house, had committed suicide in the manner I have just described, but whether or not she had RED hair I have never been able to ascertain.

P.S. — The Ghost I am informed on very reliable authority, is still (August 1908) to be seen.

Some Haunted Houses of England & Wales, Elliott O’Donnell, 1908

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Red hair was considered to be either the mark of the Devil or a sign of a coarse or depraved person. While one might consider engaging a red-headed scullery maid, a red-headed parlour maid could not have been countenanced.

We have heard supernatural tales from Mr O’Donnell before: The Ghost with One Shoe; The Banshee Sang of Death; The Spectral Hound.  He, Mrs Daffodil has observed, had a wide streak of misogyny, was obsessed with “Elementals” and decay, and—Mrs Daffodil knows that you will be grieved to hear it—often paltered with the truth. Still, we are obliged to him for providing us with the grues on snowy afternoons.


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 Hubbard’s Three Warnings: 1800



It was in the days of our grandmothers, when there were brick ovens in the land, that Mr. Hubbard bought his house, and bought it very much against his wife’s will. It was a lonely house, and reported to be haunted. It was next to a graveyard, which, though unused, was not cheerful, and which had likewise the reputation of a ghost. However, Mr. Hubbard did not believe in ghosts, and was too cheerful to be depressed by warnings, and never intended to be lonely.

“Mrs. Hubbard,” he said, when his wife shook her head over the purchase, “I got it cheap, and it is a good one. You will like it when you get there. If you don’t, why then talk.”

So the house was bought, and into it the Hubbard family went. There was scarcely a chance for a ghost to show his face amid such a family of boys and girls. Mr. and Mrs. Hubbard counted ten of them, all noisy ones.

Having once expostulated and spoken out her mind as to the house, Mrs. Hubbard gave up the point. She scrubbed and scoured, tacked down carpets and put up curtains, and owned that the place was pretty. As not a ghost appeared for a week, she made up her mind that there were no such inhabitants; she even began not to mind the tombstones. So the house got to rights at last, and baking-day came about. In the press of business they had a great deal of baker’s bread, and were now tired of it.

Mrs. Hubbard never enjoyed setting a batch of bread to rise as she did that which was to be eaten for the first time in the new house.

“For I cannot get up an appetite for stuff that nobody knows who has had the making of,” said Mrs. Hubbard; “and all puffy and alumy besides.”

So into the oven went the bread, and out it came at the proper time, even and brown and beautiful as loaves could be. Mrs. Hubbard turned them up on their sides as she drew them forth, and they stood in the long bread-tray, glorious proofs of her skill and the excellence of the oven, when Tommy Hubbard bounded in. Tommy was four, and when at that age we are prone to believe that anything will bear our weight. Tommy, therefore, anxious to inspect the newly-made bread, swung himself off his feet by clutching the edge of the bread-tray, and over it came, loaves and Tommy and all.

Mrs. Hubbard flew to the rescue and picked up the loaves. All were dusted and put in the tray again but one. That lay bottom upward under the table.

“A bothering child, to give me so much trouble!” she said, as she crawled under the table to get it. “A—oh—ah—dear, dear, dear—oh—oh my—”

And there on the floor sat Mrs. Hubbard, screaming, wringing her hands and shaking her head. The children screamed in concert. Mr. Hubbard rushed in from the garden, where he was at work.

“What’s the matter, mother?” he gasped.

Mrs. Hubbard pointed to the bottom of the loaf lying in her lap.

“Look there and see!” she said. “It is a warning, William; I am going to be taken from them all.”

And he looked, and he saw a death’s-head and cross-bones as plainly engraved as they possibly could be.

“It is accident,” said Mr. Hubbard. “Such queer cranks do come, you know.”

But Mrs. Hubbard was in a troubled state of mind, as was but natural.

“The stories about the haunted house were true,” she said, “and the spirits have marked the loaf. I am afraid it is a warning.”

And the loaf was put aside, for even Mr. Hubbard did not dare to eat any of it.

Mrs. Hubbard got over her fright at last, but the news of the awfully marked loaf spread through R__, and the people came to Hubbard’s all the week to look at it. It was a death’s-head and cross-bones certainly; everyone saw that at a glance; but as to its meaning, people differed. Some believed that it was a warning of approaching death; some thought that the spirits wanted to frighten the Hubbards away and get possession of the house again all to themselves. This latter supposition inspired Mrs. Hubbard with courage; finally, being a brave woman, she adopted the belief, and, when another baking-day arrived, put her loaves into the oven once more, prepared for cross-bone, and not to be frightened by them. The loaves baked as before. They came out brown and crusty as Mrs. Hubbard turned each in her hands. There were no cross-bones visible, but on the last were sundry characters or letters. What no one could tell until there dropped in for a chat a certain printer of the neighborhood, accustomed to reading things backward.

“By George!” said he, “that is curious. That is curious—r-e-s-u-r-g-a-m, resurgam; that is what is on the loaf—resurgam.”

“It is what they put on tombs, isn’t it?” asked poor Mrs. Hubbard, faintly.

“Well, yes,” said Mr. Hubbard, being obliged to admit. “But it is not so bad as cross-bones and skulls.”

Mrs. Hubbard shook her head.

“It’s even solemner,” said the little woman, who was not as good a linguist as bread-maker “I feel confident, William, that I shall soon be resurgamed, and what will these dear children do then?”

And now that the second loaf was before her eyes, marked even more awfully than the first, Mrs. Hubbard grew really pale and thin, and lost her cheerfulness.

“I have a presentiment,” she said over and over again, “that the third baking will decide who the warning belongs to. I believe it is meant for me, and time will show. Don’t you see how thin I am growing?”

And though Mr. Hubbard laughed, he also began to be troubled. The third baking-day was one of gloom. Solemnly, as at a funeral, the family assembled to assist in the drawing.

Five loves came out mark less, but one remained.

Mrs. Hubbard’s hand trembled; but she drew it forth; she laid it on the tray; she turned softly about. At last she exposed the lower surface. On it were letters printed backward, plain enough to read this time, and arranged thus:

“Died April 2d, lamented by her large family.”

“It is me!” cried Mrs. Hubbard. “I am to go to-morrow. This is the 1st. I do feel faint. Yes, I do. It is awful, and so sudden!”

And Mrs. Hubbard fainted away in the arms of the most terrified of men and husbands.

The children screamed, the cat mewed, the dog barked. The oldest boy ran for the doctor. People flocked to the Hubbards. The loaf was examined. Yes, there was Mrs. Hubbard’s warning—her call to quit this world.

She lay in bed, bidding good-bye to her family and friends, her strength going fast. She read her Bible and tried not to grieve too much. The doctor shook his head. The clergyman prayed with her. Nobody doubted that her end was at hand, for people were very superstitious in those days.

They had been up all night with good Mrs. Hubbard, and dawn was breaking, and with it she was sure that she must go; when, clattering over the road and up to the door came a horse, and on the horse came a man, who alighted. He rattled the knocker and rushed in. There was no stopping him. Up the stairs he went to Mrs. Hubbard’s room, and bolted into it.

Every one stared at him as he took off his hat.

“Parding!” said he, breathlessly, “I heard Mrs. Hubbard was a-dying—and she’d warnings on her bakings. I came over to explain. You see, I was sexton of the church here a few years ago, and I know all about it. You needn’t die for fear just yet, Mrs. Hubbard, for it is neither spirits nor devils about, nor yet warnin’s. What marks the loaves is old Mrs. Finkle’s tombstone. I took it for an oven-bottom, seeing there were no survivors and bricks were dear. The last folks before you didn’t get them printed off on their loaves because they used tins, and we got used to the marks ourselves. Cross-bones and skulls we put up with, and never thought of caring for the resturgam. So you see how it is, and I am sorry you’ve been scared.”

Nobody said a word. The minister shut his book. The doctor walked to the window. There was a deadly silence. Mrs. Hubbard sat up in bed.

“William,” said she to her husband, “the first thing you do, got a new bottom to that oven.”‘

And the tone assured the assemblage of anxious friends that Mrs. Hubbard was not going to die just yet

Indeed she came down the very next day. And when the oven had been reconstructed, the first thing she did was to give invitations for a large tea-drinking. On which occasion the loaves came out right.

Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine, Volumes 45-46, 1877: pp 209-210

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  In the past there was a good deal of superstition about houses by church-yards, much of which, Mrs Daffodil fears, was entirely reasonable. Church burial grounds were the haunt of the Resurrection Men, as well as unhygienic effluvia and miasmas from a surfeit of burials. In fact, the entire rural cemetery movement materialized out of the spectre of disease arising from the graves. It was also difficult to keep the bright, cheerful outlook when faced with one’s mortality every time one looked out a window.  To-day, of course, one would be making enough to live luxuriously in the South of France by leasing the house to “ghost-hunters.”

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s readers may be horrified by the sexton’s casual treatment of the old grave-stones, but it has ever been thus. In London’s St Pancras Churchyard there is a tree surrounded by gravestones, known as the “Hardy Tree.” Before he became known as a writer of salacious and grittily realistic fiction, Thomas Hardy worked as an architect. He was employed to help clear away the graves to built the Midland Railway over part of the churchyard. Many and varied were the uses for old tombstones under such circumstances. That stone-faced person over at Haunted Ohio has helpfully provided a post on “A Few Uses for a Dead Tombstone.”

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.

Knitter’s Face and Knitting Nerves: 1917-1918


knitting for soldiersA

Knitting for Soldiers, Julian Alden Weir

In the wake of patriotic needle-work for the Great War, came a host of new ailments.


What is the strange expression worn by women these days? This puckered browed, pursed lipped, strained expression? Why, it is the knitter’s face, and it has lately become prevalent in Pittsburg. One sees it at club meetings, at the theatre, at the Red Cross room, and in the homes. Far from being a disfigurement, the knitting face is a badge of patriotism as unmistakable as a food pledge window card in one’s front window. It means that the party who is wearing it is working hard for the comfort and pleasure of our American boys in the army and navy. The silly young thing does not wear it as she clicks away on a pink and pale-blue sweater for her own graceful shoulders; it belongs only to the women and thoughtful young girls who, bending over a khaki sweater, dream of the warmth that will come to some far away boy when he slips it on over his half frozen body. The symptoms of the face are five, to-wit: Tensely knit brows, eyes cast thoughtfully downward, lips puckered anxiously, jaws fairly set and the general expression of rigidity. Not only does the face bear its testimony, but it has spread to the upper portion of the body, which is likely to be held at a stiff angle, arms close to the sides and muscles tense. At the Red Cross room it is seen daily for that is where members of those wearing it congregate. The Sun [Pittsburg KS] 15 November 1917: p. 4

A New Disease

Chicago reports the outbreak of a new disease which is spreading eastward. The epidemic, known as “knitter’s face,” afflicts not only women, but also some boys and men. The affliction is characterized by a tense facial expression. High fever and partial delirium are the first symptoms, the sufferer invariably muttering incoherent phrases in which the words, “knit sixteen, purl two,” “cast off” and “arm size” occur with frequency. Color blindness speedily follows, the patient evincing the keenest delight in the crudest combinations of tints. The advanced stages of the disease are marked by atrophy of all social emotions.— The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review 1918: p. 18


Appendicitis, tonsillitis and good old-fashioned grippe have got to take a back seat. There is a new epidemic in Montana. It is “knitting face,” which the name given by a clinic of physicians, who recently discussed its causes and effects. The malady is both contagious and infectious. It made its first appearance soon after war was declared, and it has been spreading with great rapidity. Husbands are worried, physicians, baffled, and even children notice a difference in the appearance of mothers and older sisters, as  result of its effects.

At the beginning there were only a few cases but it has spread now into homes, offices and schools and is especially noticeable around women’s clubs and society affairs.

It is easy to distinguish those afflicted. In the early stages it is most noticeable, by a look of great concentration, and constant moving of the lips, as if counting “one-two-three-four” with an occasional “one-two-three—darn” and a quick movement of the fingers as if unraveling something.

In the more pronounced cases the victim is constantly in a deep state of concentration, and while sitting in a street car rides two or three blocks past her corner without thinking to get off. Her face becomes set in stern lines, her mouth drawn and eyes narrowed leaving the impression that the victim is in physical pain. The Ronan [MT] Pioneer 9 November 1917: p. 6

The nerves of the patriotic knitters also suffered.


Margaret Harvey. The feminine contingent of Denver’s population is decidedly out of fashion. Knitting nerves have been in existence for more than two weeks in New York city and not one case of the malady has been discovered in Denver as yet. Which goes to show that the New York women are up-to-date in their ailments as well as in their occupations, fads and amusements.

Knitting nerves are like many other diseases which have been introduced into polite society after some fad has become especially popular throughout the country. For instance, the “tango foot” was a general ailment several years ago when the social world was busy tangoing. Then “fox trotitis” and “moviezootie” were discovered. After the craze for knitting nerves subsides, “Hooveritis” will, no doubt, find its way into society as a result of the stringent conservation regulations adopted by the women throughout the country. Whether the conservation disease will affect the brain or the stomach is a question that must be decided by the physician who originates it. It will become more general perhaps than knitting nerves, due to the fact that it will not be confined to the women who put the conservation ideas into practice, but may extend to every member of the family.

Stopping to consider the conservation question, some ingenious person might originate various maladies and blame them on the food administration. Instead of knitting nerves, they might have “Hooverized nerves” or “sweetless day nerves”; for, if the sugar shortage become much more pronounced in the East, it’s bound to affect those who eat large quantities of candy for the benefit of their nerves alone.

Conservation of coal is apt to bring on all kinds of rheumatism and influenza and grip, to which any resourceful person could attach elaborate names. Wheatless and meatless days will doubtless give some up-to-the-minute physician an opportunity to discover a new ailment, as everyone knows how necessary proteins are to the manual laborer and lighter foods to the thinker.

As for lightless nights, no end of unusual diseases might develop from this order of the government. Young people, no doubt, will be the most susceptible to any maladies resulting from dimly lighted parlors and theaters, one of which will surely be “spooneritis.” Many new diseases of the heart are apt to baffle medical authorities and these are bound to become contagious if the war continues much longer.

But to return to knitting nerves, it is perhaps due to the fact that the knitters of Denver are too much engrossed in their work to devote any of their time to being nervous that the disease has not made its appearance here. The majority of Denver women who knit are of the opinion that the occupation serves as a sedative for the nerves and many nervous women have taken up knitting principally for the purpose of benefiting their health. Dr. Louis R. Weizmiller of the New York Y.M.C.A., the originator of this 1918 style of maladies, says that knitting nerves are the result of overwork on war knitting. Denver women object to the disease, however, and demonstrate their absence of nerves by knitting as they read and study. Denver [CO] Rocky Mountain News 13 January 1918: p. 13

One newspaper fearlessly pooh-poohed the notion that knitting caused disease. 

The Knitting Habit.

Lowville Journal and Republican:

The “knitting face” and “knitting nerves” are being discovered by doctors who like to see their names in print. Oh, well, the brilliant medicos simply have to discover some new malady occasionally in order to keep pace with the new cures. Don’t mind ‘em, ladies! Go right ahead with your Red Cross work. The knitting habit isn’t a disease, anyway; it’s a remedy for bridge-whist-shattered nerves and it will prove a blessing and comfort to young men whom you may never see, but who will rise up and call you blessed. Watertown [NY] Daily Times 18 January 1918: p. 2

And others made dreadful puns on the subject:

“Knitting Face.”

From the Kansas City Star.

Another familiar sight due to the war, reported from Chicago, is the “knitting face.” Consisting, we presume, of the knitted brow, the off-cast eyes, the double-stitched chin and the purled teeth. The Washington [DC] Post 7 November 1917: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As is often the way, a ladies’ affliction suddenly becomes a male problem:


Dr. L.A. W. Welzmiller, physical director, and Dr. C.P. Christensen, psychology society president, both of New York, announce that thousands of women are breaking down under “knitting nerves,” and that the spread of this new ailment is becoming very serious.

We are ready to believe it. Mother sits all hunched up, all day and all evening, and knits and knits as if there were only 3 instead of 365 days in the year, and her nerves collapse. We surely want the physical directors and psychologists to do all they can for her.

But aren’t the experts going to give one solitary thought to father’s knitting nerves? He’s got ‘em. He gets home from a day’s hard work and finds mother fiddling away with the pretty needles on a sweater. Daughter Susie is over in one corner working at a helmet. Son Willie is in another corner sawing out a wash rag. The odor of Bridget’s burning potatoes fills the sitting room, as Bridget’s soul goes out to a pair of wristlets. All father has to do is to sit down and consume the gladsome evening time by, for and of himself. Continue the situation about seven evenings the week, and the real, agonized patient for “knitting nerves” treatment is father. Everybody knits but father, and he just sits around lonesome and has “the nerves.” Miami [OK] District Daily News 2 January 1918: p. 4

The medical profession seemed to enjoy creating new maladies. Mrs Daffodil has previously examined The Telephone Face; Motor-car Face, and Tango Foot.

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.




How Spoopendyke Missed the Masquerade: 1885

(c) Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


“Say, my dear,” said Mr. Spoopendyke, as he hurried in, hot and breathless, late from his business, “did you get me a fancy dress for the masquerade to-night?”

“It’s all ready,” replied Mrs. Spoopendyke, beaming. “You go as—let me see as—let me see–. I go as a Spanish guitar-girl, and you go as—as—it’s either Louis XIV., or Oliver Cromwell, or Sir Robert Burns, I’ve fogotten which the man called it.”

“I do, do I?” said Mr. Spoopendyke, glaring around. “I go as one of ’em, do I? As they are all dead, and as I will do for all three, p’raps you got a coffin. Show me the coffin. Fetch out the interconvertible catafalque and help me on with it. Has it got sleeves?”

“It isn’t a coffin,” explained Mrs. Spoopendyke. “It is a doublet and __”

“It’s a doublet, is it? Well, that relieves me of one of ’em. I thought from the way you spoke. Mrs. Spoopendyke; it was a triplet. Is there a trousers with it? Got a shirt? I told you to get me a bandit suit, didn’t I? Fetch out this Cromwell business! Show me this man Burns! Any sword go with it?”

Mrs. Spoopendyke brought forth a worn red velvet jacket, trimmed with tarnished braid, and a pair of yellow velvet knee-breeches, slashed up the side. This she supplemented with a felt hat, and a pair of jack-boots armed with spurs.

“Maybe it is a bandit’s suit, after all,” she suggested.

“Which is the Louis XIV. end of this thing?” demanded Mr. Spoopendyke. “Where does the Olivier Cromwell part begin? Show me the Burns element on this schedule! If I’m going to get into this thing chronologically I must begin with the king and wind off with the poet; which is the king part?” and Mr. Spoopendyke shot out of his business suit and drew on the velvet trousers. “Where’s the rest of ’em?” he demanded, surveying an expanse of unclothed limb. “This whole thing is only one leg. Where’s the pair for the other leg? Give me some more trousers;” and Mr. Spoopendyke scowled about him.

“Don’t the boots come up to meet them?” asked Mrs. Spoopendyke, in some trepidation.

Mr. Spoopendyke pulled on the boots, but still there was an exposed space of nearly a foot.

“I s’pose this bare-legged arrangement is the Burns part,” grinned Mr. Spoopendyke. “He was a Highlander, and this much of me is Burns. Show me the Cromwell part now. Is that hat it?” and Mr. Spoopendyke put on the hat and breathed hard. “Where’s the rest of me? My head and legs are all right; bring out my back and stomach!”

Mrs. Spoopendyke handed him the jacket, and he plunged into it with a jerk.

“That what you wanted?” he howled. “Couldn’t you make more’n three epochs of me? Didn’t the man have but three historical dates? Pull that jacket down a couple of centuries, can’t ye? Don’t you see the bottom of the thing is two hundred years from reaching the waistband of the Burns breeches?” and Mr. Spoopendyke tugged at the abbreviated coat and snorted with wrath.

“Maybe that was the way it was meant to go,” argued Mrs. Spoopendyke. “I, saw__”

‘You sawed off the coat and pants, now s’pose you saw off a rod of this hat and patch ’em out again! When did Cromwell wear that hat? What kind of a bet did he win that on? Say, where’s the scaffold that goes with these politicians? Fetch out the headsman!” and Mr. Spoopendyke danced into the closet and out again. “Bring me some Charles I. to hide my legs!” shrieked Mr. Spoopendyke, combining the historical ideas he represented in one grand yell. “Fetch me three suppers for one old idiot that trusted his wife to find a suit for him!” and Mr. Spoopendyke thrust his arm to the shoulder through the Covenanter’s hat, and split the coat of the lamented Louis from tail to collar-band. “Look out for some Scotch romance!” and he ripped off the pants and fired them into the grate. “Here comes another page in the annals of crime!” and the boots went out the window.

“And we—can’t go—go to the mas—masquerade at all.” sobbed Mrs. Spoopendyke.

“Write an epitaph on the back of my neck, and I’ll go as a tombstone!” yawped Mr. Spoopendyke. “Put three beds in my side and a torn stair-carpet at my back, and I’ll go as a French flat! Discharge the hired girl and get up a cold dinner, and I’ll go as a boarding-house! But if you think I’m going to any masquerade in bare legs like a baby, and bare-backed like a circus, just to advertise a hymn-book, a gin-mill, and a broadaxe factory, you’re left, Mrs. Spoopendyke. You hear me? You’re left!” and Mr. Spoopendyke drew on his night-shirt.

“It’s too awfully mean for anything,” mused Mrs. Spoopendyke, as she laid away the Spanish guitar-girl’s costume, and warmed up her crimping pins. “I tried to get something that would suit him, and he don’t appear pleased with it. Another time I’ll get him a sheet and a pair of socks, so he can be a Roman senator, and if he is disappointed and tears ’em up it won’t cost so much.” With which profound reflection Mrs. Spoopendyke said her prayers, and, planting her cold feet in Mr.Spoopendyke’s stomach, sank gently to rest.

The Australian Journal September 1885: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil feels compelled to explain that part of the joke is that Mr S’s costume is so generically “antique” that it could represent Louis XIV, Oliver Cromwell, or Robert Burns. This is suggestive of certain elaborate gowns Mrs Daffodil has seen listed on auction sites such as “Ebay,” described as “Renaissance/Tudor/Marie Antoinette/Civil War/Victorian,” under the quaint notion that anything with a big skirt might pass for a garment from any one (or several) of those eras.

Mrs Daffodil suggests that Mrs S., in acquiescing to her disagreeable husband, missed an unprecendented opportunity to go to the masquerade as a Spanish guitar-girl and meet a gentleman (in all senses of the word) who might prove a much better mate than the current model. “Disgraceful” is the only word for Mr S’s conduct. Mrs Daffodil wonders that he has not been poisoned by the hired girl.


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.


Whistling Girls: 1885-1891

Mrs Bertha Stockwell with students at her whistling school, c. 1949


What a Professor of Anatomy has to Say

The Proper Method of Producing the Vibrations

Whistling Out of Tune

[New York Letter]

“The best whistlers I know,” said a fashionable doctor, “are young ladies. It is like the warbling of a mocking bird. They can whistle much higher notes than a man, and in a very clear and bell-like tone. I know a young lady who whistles and accompanies herself on a guitar. The effect is really very pretty, and her friends often beg her to favour them with an air. I met her down at Nantucket last summer, and it was her habit to sit on the beach in the evening and whistle plaintive negro melodies. When we went out sailing she was very welcome for the same reason. I think she whistled her way into the affections of a very desirable young man, and I hear they are engaged.”


A New York girl was quite indignant when asked why girls couldn’t whistle. “Can’t whistle?” she said. “Why, they can whistle! All the girls I know whistle. Up at Vassar we had whistling concerts. We used to practice at night in the dormitories when the matron was gone and the lights were out, and if you weren’t very sleepy it was fun to lie in bed and hear ten girls whistling ‘In the Gloaming’ all together. We had one girl who could whistle through her fingers like a boy, but then she was a regular tomboy. She could run, play ball, climb trees, and box better than any other girl in the college. There was another girl who could only whistle by drawing in her breath, but that was better than not whistling at all.”

A professor of anatomy said: “The mouth has more muscle than any other portion of the body—the number varies from nineteen to twenty-one. The chief muscle is the orbicularis oris or sphincter muscle. The muscle is in two parts, the upper extending from the nose to the mouth. The two parts are interwoven at the corners of the mouth so that they act as one muscle. Their minor circumference circumscribes the opening of the mouth. This muscle, by modifying the state of the expired air produces in it vibrations of a peculiar character, and this is whistling.


“In whistling the lips are pursed up so that only a small aperture remains. The air is driven from the lungs into the mouth, where it distends the buccinators muscles of the cheeks, and these muscles contracting aid in forcing out the air through the lips. The tongue compresses the volume of air in the mouth, and so adds to the sharpness of the whistle. The benefit of the tongue is readily seen when an attempt is made to whistle sharply with an indrawn breath. Women have the same muscles of the mouth as men, and are generally as well able to use them. There is no reason at all why everybody should not whistle.

“Some try to whistle by blowing through their pouting lips, but that is not the idea at all. The mucous membrane of the lips must be drawn tense, so that it will vibrate by the current of air passing over it. These vibrations are communicated to the air column, and hence the tone, varying with the tension of the lips and air. It is exactly on the same principle that the vocal cords work. The lips adjust themselves voluntarily according to the musical ear of the whistler, as it is impossible for him to distinguish the different positions of the lips in sounding the various tones. People with no ear for music will invariably whistle very much out of tune, while people with a cultivated ear will whistle very finely. As women are, as a rule, more musical than men, they can whistle better when they set about it. However, it is greatly a matter of practice.”

Bismarck [ND] Tribune 20 October 1885: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The learned professor of anatomy seems determined to drain every suggestion of pleasure out of the thing. Mrs Daffodil will not offer the obvious allusion to “Whistling women and cackling hens…”

Nineteenth-century whistling was viewed very seriously as one of the musical arts. Contests and concerts were held to showcase the tuneful lips, as in this account of dueling whistlers.

Eminent Whistlers Meet

Mrs. Alice J. Shaw, the whistling prima donna, and her company appeared at the opera house before a good audience. An additional number was furnished by Thomas F. Brown, the local whistler, who, by the way, Maj. Pond, Mrs. Shaw’s manager, asserted would be “knocked out.” Nothing of the kind happened, however, and Mr. Browne’s peculiar style of whistling compared very favourably with Mrs. Shaw’s.

Mrs. Shaw rendered Arditi’s familiar “Il Bacio,” and was warmly encored, to which she gracefully responded. Mr. Browne received an ovation when he appeared. He whistled “The Forest Fairy,” and responded to an encore with a medley of operatic selections, and on being recalled gave “Kathleen Mavourneen.” Mrs. Shaw’s volume of tone is somewhat superior to Mr. Browne’s. Her notes are peculiarly sweet and birdlike, and at the same time are quite penetrating. Her trills and runs were all good, and the expression and execution were excellent. She has one advantage over Mr. Browne, and that is her musical training, but he latter overcomes that by his natural ability. In the lower register Mr. Browne excels Mrs. Shaw, particularly in the flute or piccolo intonation. His range is about three octaves, and his execution of the high notes was brilliant. He possesses one strong feature which Mrs. Shaw lacks, and that is his peculiar double tonguing.  Arizona Champion [Flagstaff, AT] 14 March 1891: p. 1

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 Matter of Three Inches on a Bathing Suit: 1902

The immodestly short bathing-costume.



A matter of three inches on a bathing suit that really would not be voluminous if it had thirteen inches added to it, has been the cause of a broken engagement.

The insidious suit, which steeled the heart of a man and put a proud girl on her mettle, is owned by Miss Sallie Kerstris of Upper Roxborough, N.Y., who is visiting in this city. The suit is made of red, green and blue cloth, and from the description would be an admirable thing for flagging trains.

A few nights ago, Miss Kerstris and Wesley Kinlamb, her affianced husband, attended a small reception at the home of a mutual friend in Denver. Miss Kerstris and her friend had ordered bathing suits together, and they were looking them over in the women’s wrap room. Some one dared Miss Kerstris to don her suit and ask Kinlamb in to inspect it. It was no sooner said than done, but when Kinlamb learned the nature of the summons, he refused to go.

Thereupon Miss Kerstris and her friends repaired to the room where the lover was. One glance was enough to tell him that the skirt was too conspicuous. He turned away blushing. Everybody else in the room seemed to be delighted with the garb.

“How do you like it, Wesley?” asked Miss Kerstris.

“It’s awful,” he replied ungallantly. “You can’t wear that thing at Glenwood Springs.”

“Well, I intend to wear it,” said Miss Kerstris, with an angry stamp of her foot.

You are not going to Glenwood Springs with me unless you have that skirt made at least three inches longer.”

“Then I won’t go to Glenwood Springs with you. I won’t speak to you.”

“Very Well. Good night,” and Kinlamb left the house.

Some of Kinlamb’s friends said he was right, but most of the guests sided with Miss Kerstris and the bathing suit. The party broke up and Miss Kerstris went home in a tearful mood, declaring that she would “never marry him, never!”

As she stepped on to the trolley car she carried the bathing suit done up in a neat little package in her hand.

Denver [CO] Post 17 August 1902: p. 29

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Proper bathing attire for ladies and gentlemen has been the subject of public debate since mixed bathing became general. Was a skirt necessary for modesty? Were stockings essential to keep the gentlemen from Impure Thoughts?  What about one piece suits? Bloomer suits? Rubber suits? With every passing year, bathing costumes became more abbreviated, arousing howls of protest from the Mrs Grundies of the world.

Less usually did these howls arise from “Mr Grundy.” Mr Wesley Kinlamb (a Dickensian name if ever there was one) seems to have been an exceptionally modest and disagreeable fellow, refusing a summons to inspect the bathing costume and then blushing and blustering at his fiancée when she (to his mind) shamelessly flaunted it before him.

Mrs Daffodil considers that the lady was well-rid of such an ungallant suitor, although she has not been able to verify that the couple did not later reconcile. One hopes not. Mrs Daffodil could imagine the lurid testimony in divorce court:  recriminations about a fashionable peek-a-boo waist, a too-seductive hat, and vile accusations of being too attentive to some gentleman at a party. It is a sordid picture.

There were some husbands who wished to dictate what their wives ought to wear; they were invariably ridiculed in the press.

Another view of the fatal bathing suit.

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.