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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.


“What Can I Do With Birch Bark?” Nature Crafts: 1890


A birch bark notebook painted with strawberries, given to HRH Prince Albert Edward, later King Edward VII, on his 1860 trip to Canada.


Novel and Artistic Uses for Summer Spoils

What May Be Done with Birch Bark and Corn Stalks

Shell Portiere

Mermaid Scarf

“What can I do with birch bark?” writes a correspondent. “I spent last summer in the lake regions of Maine, and gathered quantities of beautiful pieces, some of them very large.”

There are so many beautiful uses to which birch bark can be put that I scarcely know where to begin. A piece 7 by 9 or of any desired size makes a nice cover for a blotter. Paint or draw with India ink some little sketch, and fasten to the blotters like a book by punching holes in the corners and running a ribbon through, with a bow at either end. Dark red makes a pretty contrast with the gray brown of the bark.

It will cover an old frame most artistically. Use pieces of any size, fastening them on with very small tacks and letting edges and corners curl up here and there. A bit of gnarled twig, a pine cone or a pretty piece of lichen can be placed at each corner. This would frame a woodland etching delightfully. Brackets and wall pockets may be covered with the bark alone, or with bark and lichens. Mounted on wide, handsome ribbon it makes the daintiest sort of souvenir menu cads. Write the menu on the bark with India or brown ink in quaint, irregular letters and tack the pieces on ribbon a very little wider, and two inches longer on each end than the bark. Fringe out one inch of this. They may be mounted on white, pale green, pale or dull gold, light blue, dark red or golden brown.


In the country home of an artist on the borders of Lake George is a room in which birch bark has perhaps found its artistic limit. As in most country houses the room is a low one. About two and a half feet from the baseboard a narrow moulding of plain wood runs around the room, and the ceiling is of beams stained to represent old oak. A dado is formed of golden corn stalks cut into regular lengths and nailed to the baseboard at the bottom and the moulding two and a half feet above. The top is finished by running lengths of stalks horizontally, thus hiding completely the strip of moulding. A sharp, small saw must be used to cut the stalks into equal lengths, and as straight, firm and even stalks selected as possible. The side walls are covered with a greenish gray or grayish green cartridge paper. The frieze, ether or ten inches wide, is formed of irregular pieces of birch bark nailed to the wall with small brads. The joinings are hidden or emphasized by trailing bits of Florida moss or pieces of beautifully colored lichens form tree trunk and fence rail. It is finished top and bottom with a moulding of corn stalks. Long, slender brads are used to nail the stalks that form the dado.

You may make a pretty card receiver for the hall or for a corner of the parlor. Take three long, strong cat tails and cross them as in the illustration, fastening in your last season’s seaside hat, of which you have covered the brim and crown with birch bark, with a rim of lichens or Florida moss. Tie a huge bow of golden brown ribbons were the stalks meet. Laundry lists, card cases, and many such articles can be covered with birch bark, as well as glove and handkerchief boxes.


Ladies who are making read for a summer in the mountains or by the seashore may be glad of the following idea for fancy work from “M.U.S.:”

“This table cover is made of one yard each of olive and light blue felt. Taking the latter for the centre, I cut the former into four equilateral triangles, couching the same onto the blue centre with a thick strand of pale yellow filoselle.

“After painting in oil with a good deal of spirits of turpentine the appropriate designs on the corners—viz., dogwood bloom for spring, wild rose for summer, oak and maples leaves in red, bronze and yellow for autumn, and holly and mistletoe for winter, I drew with a white chalk pencil a line two inches from the edge of the tablecloth as the depth of the fringe, into which the felt was to be cut after everything as finished. Above this was embroidered a heading for the fringe using two shades of gold colored silk, the darkest a burnet sienna, and the lightest of the same shade as that used for uniting the two tints of felt as already described. Do not attempt to cut the felt for the fringe until the painting and embroidery are done, as it gets unnecessarily beaten about in pinning the felt to the stretcher and would make the embroiderer frantic by catching into her silks.

“Of the embroidery, by the way, although it looks like a bona fide netted heading to a fringe, it is only one of the simple ‘crazy’ stitches—just a line of ‘cat stitch,’ then in the subsequent line each stitch is taken loosely linked to the bottom of the upper stitch—not through the felt, save at the bottom of the stitch.

“This table cover looks exceedingly artistic and expensive, which latter it is not—that is, if you can do the painting yourself.”

If you cannot do the painting you can at least embroider the designs in outline or long and short Kensington stitch with very good effect, almost equal to painting, in fact, if the Kensington embroider is used.


“An ingenious girl of my acquaintance,” writes “Bo-Peep,” “has added to her cosey parlor at a trifling expense two artistic and novel specimens of her handiwork. When I describe them to you and tell you the actual cost I am sure all of you who go to the seashore this summer will have next winger a ‘shell portiere’ and a ‘mermaid scarf.’ Do you remember the thin, yellow, almost flat shells which are so abundant on all beaches? Of course you do, but when you saw them by hundreds in the white sand I am sure you never imagined what a beautiful portiere could be made from them. Yet to this use have they been put by my young friend. She pierced each shell with a hot wire, and then with a delicate wire fastened the narrow end of one to the wide end of the next until a string sufficiently long to reach form the curtain pole to the floor was made. Enough of these were fashioned for the entire portiere. At the top they are held in place by a narrow strip of cloth of the same color as the shells. The effect is something like the Japanese portieres, but the coloring being Nature’s own is prettier, and then the cost—twenty cents, the price of the wire, and twelve cents for the strip of cloth.

“For a scarf dainty enough to grace the home of a sea nymph, buy a yard of Nile green India silk. Sew the shells on either end in artistic confusion, putting here and there a pretty bit of dried, golden brown seaweed. Make a fringe of the shells in the same manner as you made the portiere, only join them with Nile green embroidery silk instead of the wire. The scarf shows to particular advantage thrown over a highly polished antique oak frame enclosing a delightful water color of Maine’s wild coast.”

New York [NY] Herald 18 May 1890: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil feels that the correct answer to the question “What can I do with birch bark?” is “It makes excellent tinder for lighting the fire or stove.”

Behind stories like this is the notion that the “ingenious girl” must do something with every scrap of birch-bark and sea-weed  picked up in an idle moment. Ladies’ magazines are chock-a-block with ideas for making sea-weed pictures, shell ornaments, and all manner of natural fancy-work. Even on holiday, ladies were not permitted to be idle:

If women staying at seashore resorts will spend part of their idle time in collecting a variety of shells, they may utilize them in the fall for a unique door drapery. Fasten the shells thickly on fish netting, then drape of the netting over a door casing and let it hang down at the sides. The shell trimmed netting also makes an attractive portiere by lining it with a light shade of sea green silk finished material. The Ypsilanti [MI] Commercial 12 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil has nothing against shells, but suggests that there is no such thing as “a pretty bit of dried, golden brown seaweed” in a domestic interior.  And the very idea of birch-bark friezes, lichen trimmings, and corn-stalk dadoes would make any self-respecting parlour-maid shudder at their potential for collecting dust and harbouring insect life.

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 Wealthy Widow Weds a Ghost: 1894







The Bangs Sisters, May and Lizzie, Continue to Startle the Peaceful Residents of a Massachusetts Town—

The Spirit Bridegroom.

Onset, Mass., Special to Inter-Ocean.

May Bangs, one of the Bangs sisters, materializing mediums and slate writers of Chicago, now at Onset Bay, declares positively and without any provisos that a person in flesh and blood in this life could be married to a materialized spirit. She declares that a woman from the west, a woman of wealth, had been married to her spirit lover in the very room in which she sat.

Charming May Bangs and her sister, the great spiritualists, who, when at home, reside in Chicago, have lately startled the natives of Onset, Mass., This statement means more than might appear on the surface when it is added that the little town is almost wholly made up of spiritualists. Thither the Bangs sisters hied themselves some weeks ago to take part in the summer assembly of the eastern societies. They made their headquarters at Happy Home cottage, where they were daily visited by pilgrims in search of friends and relatives long since in the “other world.” Among those visitors was a rich widow from the far west, who wanted to see her lover, how had been a captain in the United States army. The captain, who came from Maryland, died on the eve of his marriage to the rich widow. For a year she has worn widow’s weeds and longed for even a visit from the spirit of her departed lover. Miss Bangs informed her that she could not only produce the captain’s spirit, but that the marriage ceremony that had been cut off by death would be performed in Happy Home cottage. A few days ago an item was given out for publication to the effect that the ceremony had been effectually performed some days before. In speaking of it, May Bangs said:

“I materialized the form,” she said, “and the lover came out of the cabinet attired in the uniform of an army officer. The premises had been previously examined to prove that there was no mortal about. The materialized spirit asked that the curtains be drawn for a while to shut off the front parlor. The bride wanted him to put on her slippers and he did.

“Only a faint light shone through the room where the minister and others were waiting. He kissed her numerous times. The bride was in a new wedding dress. Then the materialized spirit lover requested that the marriage ceremony be performed and the request was granted. He placed a ring on her finger. They were together a long time that evening.” The reporter who investigated the spiritual marriage had heard from other sources of such a matrimonial event and from two different persons he had heard that the woman in the case was from the west, that she was wealthy, well-educated and a woman of refinement. She is said to be a firm believer in spiritualism and has long know the Bangs sisters, Lizzie and May. She is about 35, short in stature, plump in form and dresses elegantly. Another account of the wedding from the lips of one who claims to have possession of facts, is this:

“On the night of Aug. 8, which was Wednesday, everything was ready for this strange ceremony, and the wedding party, consisting of about half a dozen persons, was within the walls of ‘Happy Home’ cottage, which is but a few rods distant from the grove where all the big spiritualistic meetings are held. Miss ___, who was to be married to one who had passed away, had purchased flowers and with her own hands had decorated the rooms. Curtains covered the windows just as at a séance. A single dim light was burning in the parlor, just a candle in a box, the tiny flame being subdued by blue glass.

“Lizzie Bangs and the minister were to be seen in this room next to the street, surrounded by the floral display of ferns and lilies. A cheese cloth had been hung across the double doorway which led into the cabinet-room behind.

“May Bangs came tripping down the stairs and entered the dark little apartment where the spirits first made their appearance. She was followed by the bride, who took a seat in the cabinet-room and awaited the appearance of the sprit who was to become her husband. May Bangs materialized the form of a late captain of the army, who in life hailed from Maryland.

“An ordained minister then went through the marriage service, and at the close declared the couple to be husband and wife. When the minister, who is a woman, at present in Vermont, finished, she was heard to say that she hoped it was really a materialized spirit that was married, for if it was a man in earth life he was married sure enough.”

It is rumored that when the Bangs sisters start for Chicago on Monday two young men will go with them. one of these young men, who struck Onset with only $2 in his pocket, has been spending money lavishly of late.

“I’ve stuck a snap,” he said to a reporter. “I am going to Chicago with May Bangs, but I’m going to get $20 in my fist before I start, or I don’t go. I’ve had a promise of $15 and week and my board bill. Have you heard of the spirit marriage? It took place all right. The spirit groom was George—Capt. George__. They wanted me to put on a uniform and represent the groom, but I was out with May once, and Miss__ bobbed up suddenly and May had to introduce me to her, so the girl knew who I was.”

The strange marriage has been the talk of Onset for some time, but as most of those there are deep-dyed spiritualists they think it nothing unusual.


New York, Aug. 26. [This case] The Onset Bay spook wedding recalls with a difference the famous marriage in the family of the late George D. Carroll, once of Dempsey & Carroll, stationers, who wasted much of his substance on a medium named Fanny Stryker. Carroll has lost a young son, and, though the medium never materialized the youth for him, she did act as priestess in a “spirit marriage” between the boy and “Bright Eyes,” a ghost with no family name. Elaborately engraved invitations for the ceremony were sent out and the priestess officiated in white uncut velvet. The elder Carroll died recently in comparative poverty and the medium buried him.

Dallas [TX] Morning News 9 September 1894: p. 5 and The Fort Wayne [IN] Sentinel 10 September 1894: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Such “spirit marriages” were a regrettable and venal feature of Victorian spiritualism; they usually ended in tears, lawsuits, or an asylum. Lawyers would have difficulty in untangling the legal status of the young man who played the dead Captain George, although the lady parson, wittingly or unwittingly, seems to have voiced an obvious truth. There was still the question of who signed the wedding licence and, in the United States, unlike France and China, marriages between the living and the dead are not sanctioned.

That person wearing orange blossoms over at the Haunted Ohio blog has written about a gentleman who married his late sweetheart in Cincinnati and a rather stingy bridegroom who foolishly thought that he could save on household expenses by marrying a spirit bride.


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.