Category Archives: Victorian

The Song of the Hammer: 1903

gossips patchwork picture

“Gossips” Patchwork picture redrawn by Carmel Wilson c. 1938 https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/patchwork-picture-gossips/8QFUFJIsR64J3Q

The Song of the Hammer.

At the home of a dame devout,

Who in mission work always led,

The sewing society sat about,

Plying their needles and thread;

And in a melodious key,

Without hesitation or stammer,

Incessantly and relentlessly,

They sang the “Song of the Hammer “:

Knock, knock, knock,

With never a halt or pause;

Knock, knock, knock,

Without provocation or cause.

Characters white as snow

Are daubed with spots of black,

While these righteous, merciful sisters sew

To cover the heathen’s back.

 

Knock, knock, knock,

None whom they know is spared;

Knock, knock, knock,

How their neighbor’s faults are aired!

The absent members, too,

Come in for their share of abuse,

While these worthy dames, with much ado,

Sew shirts for the heathen’s use.

 

“Now, there’s that girl of Clark’s,

Her conduct is really a shame,

With her tomboy capers and larks,

I just know her mother’s to blame!

And, although her mother’s my friend,

I’m sure that the giddy young flirt

Is bound to come to some bad end

As sure as I’m hemming this shirt!

 

“And that giddy young Mrs. Wright,

I’m sure you’ll all agree

That her conduct was simply a fright

At Mrs. DeLong’s last tea;

I’d not be a bit surprised,

But would think it a matter of course

If some day I should be advised

That her husband had sued for divorce.”

 

Knock, knock, knock,

While the hours are dragging slow:

Knock, knock, knock,

Till they all get up to go.

Their work for the day is o’er,

Their duty done with zest,

And when each is at home alone once more,

She’ll trim up all the rest!

 

Oh men with sisters dear,

With wives and sweethearts glad!

Did you ever happen to hear

Them giving their friends the gad?

If not, sneak home some day

And list to the sewing club’s clamor,

As they sing that old, familiar lay

Entitled “The Song of the Hammer.”

The Cleveland [OH] Leader 21 December 1903: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To be Relentlessly Informative, this is, of course, a parody of Thomas Hood’s poem “The Song of the Shirt.”

Indiscreet gossip might have embarrassing consequences, as one finds in these two little anecdotes:

Over the Fence.

Mrs. Slingonin put her head over the fence and thus addressed her neighbor, who was hanging out her week’s washing; “A family has moved in the empty house across the way,

Mrs. Clothes line.” “Yes, I know.”

“Did you notice their furniture?”

“Not particularly.”

“Two loads, and I wouldn’t give a dollar a load for it. Carpets! I wouldn’t put them down in my kitchen, And the children! I won’t allow mine to associate with them. And the mother! She looks as though she had never known a day’s happiness. The father drinks, I expect, Too bad that such people should come into this neighborhood. I wonder who they are.”

“I know them.”

“Do you? Well, l declare. Who are they?”

“The mother is my sister, and the father is superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school.”

A painful pause ensues.

The St Johnsbury [VT[ Index 29 May 1884: p. 3

CAUGHT IN THE ACT.

Two Ladles Discover How They Had Made Themselves Disagreeable.

Two ladies were standing on the doorstep of a house in Georgetown, where but a moment before they had rung the bell and were waiting to be admitted. One was talking along very intently, when the taller woman interrupted her. “Be careful,” she said, “somebody may hear you.”

“I’m very particular,” responded the other. “I looked all around before I said anything and there was nobody in sight.”

“That’s what I thought once, too, and I made a serious mistake. I was calling once, just as we now are, and was with a woman who could and did say the meanest things about people I ever heard talk. I’m not given to that kind of thing usually, but I do love a bit of gossip, and sometimes I am led into saying things I shouldn’t. On this occasion the lady we were to call on was not a favorite of mine, and when the other woman said something sarcastic I chimed right in and said I thought she was the silliest and most extravagant and homeliest and dowdiest and stupidest woman of my entire acquaintance, and that I only called from a sense of duty anyhow. And a few other things, like that, I said.

“Well, we were let in after a long wait and the reception we got was the chilliest I ever met with. I couldn’t understand it, for we were really on very good terms, as those things go, and we got out as soon as we could. That night I told my husband about it when he came home, and he wondered at it too. Next evening he came in smiling, and told me that the next time I had anything to say about my neighbors on their own doorsteps I bad better first see if there were any speaking tubes to tell on me. That explained it all in a second. A doctor used to live in that same house and he had a speaking tube at the door, as physicians do. The lady we were calling on had never changed it, and as I found out afterward, the moan thing, she used to sit close to the other end of that tube and listen to what people might be saying at the door.

“She didn’t make much by listening to me, and she didn’t dare to tell me that she knew what I thought of her, and I didn’t care if she did know, only since that time I have been more careful. There’s a tube up there, see?” and the tall lady pointed to an innocent looking monthpiece pouting out of the door frame. However, there was no response to their ring, and as they met the lady coming in just as they started away they felt perfectly safe and had a nice call.

The Scranton [PA] Republican 16 October 1897: p. 4

To be fair, not removing the rubber tube was not quite playing the game, although Mrs Daffodil admits that she would not hesitate to deploy such a device to her advantage.

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

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

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Grandmere Jeanneton: 1884

grandmere

“GRANDMERE JEANNETON.”

I was smoking my after-dinner cigar and reading Figaro on the esplanade in Strasbourg, when I was accosted by an old woman who inquired in French for the nearest photographer. She wore the common dress of the Alsatian peasant, and her dusty shoes indicated a long foot journey, but under her linen head-dress fell her white hair round a face that, sunburnt and wrinkled and wearing traces of recent tears, yet was so beautiful in its expression of tender goodness and touching resignation not unmixed with a certain pride, that I involuntarily addressed her as “Grandmere,” and forgetting that I had promised a friend to await his arrival, offered to guide her to her destination.

On the road she told me her simple story. She was a widow, and lived prior to the French-German war with her married son in a village, fifty miles from Strasbourg. They were well-to-do peasants before the enemy invaded their little village; but one morning they woke to find the Prussians encamped in their fields and making themselves perfectly at home. More troops arrived the next day and the following, until the quiet village was a big camp, where the enemy heaped up the stores needed for the siege of Strasbourg.

One dark night the camp was alarmed and a magazine containing among other stores a considerable quantity of powder was found on fire, and there was no doubt that it was the work of the inhabitants. Accordingly the next morning six of the most prominent or most patriotic of the inhabitants were brought before the Prussian commander, and after a short examination that proved nothing, without further trial, were shot in the square in front of the village church. The widow’s son was one of the six victims, and his wife, who became frantic with grief over his death, was the next morning found lifeless on his grave, thus leaving her infant son to the sole care of his grandmother.

The old woman now centered all her hope and all her affection in the little boy, and as he grew up she was fully repaid, for he loved his grandmother with an intensity often found in children who die young a love that was alone equaled by his veneration of his dead parents, his adoration of “la belle France” and his hate of the Prussians, for the old woman, who loved her country dearly, and never forgot that her husband fell fighting for it at “Solferino,” and that her son was killed by its enemies, instilled, perhaps unconsciously, both feelings in his young breast.

One day, when the boy was 10 years old, a Prussian official who inspected the village school was struck with his beauty and serious air, and addressed a question to him in German respecting his parents. “The Prussians killed them,” answered the boy in French. The official colored, and in a rebuking tone asked the boy why he didn’t speak German. “Because it is the language of my country’s enemies,” answered the boy fearlessly.

The official ordered him in arrest, and he was shut up in a chamber above the school-room, where he remained until night, when he boldly leaped from the window to the ground and, as he fell in a thick copse, escaped unhurt. The boy now fairly flew to his grandmother’s house, but as he was afraid of being seen and brought back to the school if he followed the road, he crossed in through the fields behind the village.

It was in the harvest and the grapes were ripe, so old Martin, the owner of the choicest grapes in the village, kept watch with a loaded shot-gun over his precious treasures. Softly he walks over the field behind the wine-press, when he hears something force its way through the grapevines. He stops and cocks his piece. He will now catch the thief who robs him of his biggest grapes. The moon is behind the clouds, out he sees the outline of a person running fast through the vines. “Halt!” he commands but the person never heeds him. He raises his gun–a flash–a scream–a fall of a body among the grapes, and when the old man arrives on the spot, he finds instead of the supposed grape thief a little curly-haired boy whose life is fast ebbing away with the blood that flows out and mixes with the crushed grapes; his black eyes are already fixed and glassy and it is with a faltering voice he whispers: “Give my love to grandmother and tell her– father! mother! I am coming”–his hands grasp the vines tighter, he raises himself to a sitting posture, the moon coming from behind the clouds shines on the wine leaves in his curly hair, a cry rises in his throat: “Vive la belle France!”–he sinks back, his eyes closed, and the orphan boy is gone.

“And it was me–me alone–who murdered him,” complained the grandmother when she concluded her tale. Her eyes were dry, but the muscles round the corner of her mouth worked convulsively and there was a great sob in her throat. “It was all my fault, the result of my unforgiveness; holy Mary have mercy–” and the old woman ran the black beads of her rosary through her fingers, murmuring her prayers.

We arrived shortly after at our destination, the atelier of a French photographer, with whom I was slightly acquainted. I introduced my companion to him, and he, after offering her a seat, addressed some questions to her about her picture. She looked at him with wonder, and finally replied that she only wanted a picture of her boy. “Ah!” said the photographer, “a little boy, very good, where is he!” A tear dimmed the old woman’s black eye, and for answer she pointed up to heaven. “Oh!” exclaimed my friend, “dead! I do not like to photograph dead bodies, but still as monsieur brought you here I will make an exception; when did your little boy die?”

“When the grapes ripen he will have been gone a year,” replied the grandmother.

“But, my dear,” began the photographer, perplexed, when I interrupted him, and taking him aside told him the old woman’s story and how she had walked fifty miles on her old legs to procure a likeness of her dead grandchild.

“But, my dear fellow, what can I do? I am grieved, upon my word I am; but what would you have me do? I can’t photograph angels!”

A noise of romping children was now heard and two boys, about 8 and 10 years old, came running into the atelier, crying at the top of their voices: “Oh, papa, voici!”

“Hush, children!” said the parent, “go away; I am busy,” and the happy boys disappeared laughing in the next room. A sudden idea struck me and turning to the old woman, who looked wistfully at the door through which the boys escaped, I asked her if she had kept any of her little boy’s clothes. “Indeed I have, monsieur!” she answered. “I have kept everything belonging to the little dear,” and opening a bundle she carried with her she continued: “Here is the best dress and (her voice sunk to a whisper) the last I ever saw him wear.”

I now took the photographer aside and made him acquainted with my plan for “photographing angels,” and after obtaining his promise of carrying out my instructions I persuaded the grandmother to leave her grandson’s clothing in the atelier and follow me to an inn, where I left her to the care of the buxom hostess.

Two days after the photographer sent for her and on her arrival handed her a picture at sight of which the old woman began crying freely. “My boy! my own darling boy! It is the clothes I spun every thread of myself and his pretty curly hair but why does he cover his face so? Won’t he look at me?” she asked suddenly, looking up from the picture that represented a little boy kneeling in a chair with his folded hands before his face.

“Oh!” remarked the photographer, “he is saying his prayers.”

“Yes, yes, I know! he is praying for his poor old grandmere. Oh, my darling boy!” and the great tears rolled down her wrinkled cheeks. “God and our lady bless you, messieurs!” said she when she grew calmer. “I am now going to pray by my boy’s grave until I follow him;” and refusing all aid for her trip home, but pressing her newly found treasure fast to her brave old heart, “Grandmere Jeanneton” left us.

As to the picture, our readers have of course all guessed that the photographer dressed his oldest boy in the poor peasant boy’s clothes; and who would not practice such a deception to see the tears that rolled down Grandmere Jeanneton’s aged cheeks?

The Argos [IN] Reflector 25 December 1884: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil was formerly in service in the household of Mrs Marrowfat, the society medium and shudders at the impostures by which that clever lady enriched herself at the expense of the desolate and sorrowing. And yet, somehow, Mrs Daffodil cannot bring herself to condemn the photographer who gave such consolation to the aged Grandmere who had lost everything.

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 Sewing Machine Agent and the Widow: 1875

lady at sewing machine 1860s

How a Pennsylvania Widow Served a Sewing Machine Agent.

The usually quiet little village of Leesport on the line of the Philadelphia & Reading railroad, eight miles above Reading, has had a sensation, which has caused a good deal of amusement. A Reading sewing-machine agent induced the head of a family to take a machine and pay for it in monthly installments. Before the machine was paid for, the husband and father died. The widow was in destitute circumstances, with half a dozen children, and unable to pay the balance owing on the machine, when the agent came round to take the machine away. She determined that he should not remove the machine until he had handed back at least some of the money that had been paid on it by her husband. He was apparently just as determined to secure the machine without returning any of the filthy lucre, insulted the woman and endeavored to take by force what he said belonged to the company by reason of the payment of monthly installments having been stopped.

While the agent was inside the house she locked both the front and back doors, and put the keys in her dress pocket, and being a robust woman “went for” the agent. She took hold of him and a severe and prolonged struggle ensued, while the children were frightened and cried and screamed. The widow threw the agent over the hot kitchen stove, and finally succeeded in setting him down on top of it and held him there, when he begged piteously for mercy. “For God’s sake, let me go, and I’ll pay you back every cent your husband paid me.” Being satisfied that he was severely scorched, if not partly roasted around the thighs, she pulled him off the stove, but held on to him until he had paid back every cent of the installments and then she gave him two minutes time to take the machine and clear out with it. The name of the plucky woman and also that of the agent, are withheld by special request.

Atchison [KS] Daily Patriot 30 September 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Isaac Singer patented  the sewing machine in 1851. It was touted as relieving the housewife from the drudgery of sewing, yet made possible even more drudgery in sweatshops.

We might debate who did it better:  how very different the methods of this “robust” widow were from those in another story of a widow and a sewing machine on the hire-purchase plan. Equally happy endings, except, possibly, for the scars impressed on that part of his anatomy by the agent. And a salutary anecdote about the importance of life insurance.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

gold sequins sun king fan

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

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

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

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

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

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

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

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

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

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

spring green Callot orientalist

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

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

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

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

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

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

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

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

 

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

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

Dancing with the Fairies: 1820s-1840s

 

Polly Williams, a good dame who was born in Trefethin parish, and lived at the Ship Inn, at Pontypool, Monmouthshire, was wont to relate that, when a child, she danced with the Tylwyth Teg. The first time was one day while coming home from school. She saw the fairies dancing in a pleasant, dry place, under a crab-tree, and, thinking they were children like herself, went to them, when they induced her to dance with them. She brought them into an empty barn and they danced there together. After that, during three or four years, she often met and danced with them, when going to or coming from school. She never could hear the sound of their feet, and having come to know that they were fairies, took off her ffollachau (clogs), so that she, too, might make no noise, fearful that the clattering of her clog-shodden feet was displeasing to them. They were all dressed in blue and green aprons, and, though they were so small, she could see by their mature faces that they were no children. Once when she came home barefoot, after dancing with the fairies, she was chided for going to school in that condition; but she held her tongue about the fairies, for fear of trouble, and never told of them till after she grew up. She gave over going with them to dance, however, after three or four years, and this displeased them. They tried to coax her back to them, and, as she would not come, hurt her by dislocating ‘one of her walking members,’ [Jones, ‘Apparitions.’] which, as a euphemism for legs, surpasses anything charged against American prudery.

British Goblins, Wirt Sikes, 1881: pp 79-82

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Young Polly was fortunate that she escaped from the fairy dance with a mere sprained ankle and that she did not meet the more usual fate of those who entered the fairy circle: finding that a hundred years had  passed like mere minutes while she was disporting herself in the barn.

The fate of a lad named Taffy ap Sion was a cautionary tale for those drawn to dance with the fairies.

Taffy ap Sion, the shoemaker’s son, living near Pencader, Carmarthenshire, was a lad who many years ago entered the fairy circle on the mountain hard by there, and having danced a few minutes, as he supposed, chanced to step out. He was then astonished to find that the scene which had been so familiar was now quite strange to him. Here were roads and houses he had never seen, and in place of his father’s humble cottage there now stood a fine stone farmhouse. About him were lovely cultivated fields instead of the barren mountain he was accustomed to. ‘Ah,’ thought he, ‘this is some fairy trick to deceive my eyes. It is not ten minutes since I stepped into that circle, and now when I step out they have built my father a new house! Well, I only hope it is real; anyhow, I’ll go and see.’

So he started off by a path he knew instinctively, and suddenly struck against a very solid hedge. He rubbed his eyes, felt the hedge with his fingers, scratched his head, felt the hedge again, ran a thorn into his fingers and cried out, ‘Wbwb! this is no fairy hedge anyhow, nor, from the age of the thorns, was it grown in a few minutes’ time.’ So he climbed over it and walked on. ‘Here was I born,’ said he, as he entered the farmyard, staring wildly about him, ‘and not a thing here do I know!’ His mystification was complete when there came bounding towards him a huge dog, barking furiously. ‘What dog is this? Get out, you ugly brute! Don’t you know I’m master here? —at least, when mother’s from home, for father don’t count.’ But the dog only barked the harder. ‘Surely,’ muttered Taffy to himself, ‘I have lost my road and am wandering through some unknown neighbourhood; but no, yonder is the Careg Hir!’ and he stood staring at the well-known erect stone thus called, which still stands on the mountain south of Pencader, and is supposed to have been placed there in ancient times to commemorate a victory. As Taffy stood thus looking at the Long Stone, he heard footsteps behind him, and turning, beheld the occupant of the farmhouse, who had come out to see why his dog was barking.

Poor Taffy was so ragged and wan that the farmer’s Welsh heart was at once stirred to sympathy. ‘Who are you, poor man?’ he asked. To which Taffy answered, ‘I know who I was, but I do not know who I am now. ‘I was the son of a shoemaker who lived in this place, this morning; for that rock, though it is changed a little, I know too well.’ ‘Poor fellow,’ said the farmer, ‘you have lost your senses. This house was built by my great-grandfather, repaired by my grandfather; and that part there, which seems newly built, was done about three years ago at my expense. You must be deranged, or have missed the road; but come in and refresh yourself with some victuals, and rest.’ Taffy was half persuaded that he had overslept himself and lost his road, but looking back he saw the rock before mentioned, and exclaimed, ‘It is but an hour since I was on yonder rock robbing a hawk’s nest.’ ‘Where have you been since?’ Taffy related his adventure. ‘Ah,’ quoth the farmer, ‘I see how it is—you have been with the fairies. Pray, who was your father?’ ‘Sion Evan y Crydd o Glanrhyd,’ was the answer. ‘I never heard of such a man,’ said the farmer, shaking his head, ‘nor of such a place as Glanrhyd, either: but no matter, after you have taken a little food we will step down to Catti Shon, at Pencader, who will probably be able to tell us something.’ With this he beckoned Taffy to follow him, and walked on; but hearing behind him the sound of footsteps growing weaker and weaker, he turned round, when to his horror he beheld the poor fellow crumble in an instant to about a thimbleful of black ashes.

The farmer, though much terrified at this sight, preserved his calmness sufficiently to go at once and see old Catti, the aged crone he had referred to, who lived at Pencader, near by. He found her crouching over a fire of faggots, trying to warm her old bones. ‘And how do you do the day, Catti Shon?’ asked the farmer. ‘Ah,’ said old Catti, ‘I’m wonderful well, farmer, considering how old I am.’ ‘Yes, yes, you’re very old. Now, since you are so old, let me ask you—do you remember anything about Sion y Crydd o Glanrhyd? Was there ever such a man, do you know?’ ‘Sion Glanrhyd? O! I have some faint recollection of hearing my grandfather, old Evan Shenkin, Penferdir, relate that Sion’s son was lost one morning, and they never heard of him afterwards, so that it was said he was taken by the fairies. His father’s cot stood some where near your house.’ ‘Were there many fairies about at that time?’ asked the farmer. ‘O yes; they were often seen on yonder hill, and I was told they were lately seen in Pant Shon Shenkin, eating flummery out of egg-shells, which they had stolen from a farm hard by.’ ‘Dir anwyl fi!’ cried the farmer; ‘dear me! I recollect now—I saw them myself!’

British Goblins, Wirt Sikes, 1881: pp. 75-78

A thimbleful of black ashes. Consider yourself warned, you who would be lured by the sweet sound of elfin music to the fairy ring….

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.

Shoes for the Surf: 1879-1922

bathing boots cartoon

From Mermaids: with Other Tales Piscatorial and Pictorial, Charles Henry Ross, 1886

 

At present most American ladies prefer a striped stocking to any slipper that can be devised, but now and then, when a beach is pebbly, a pretty foot is badly cut, and its owner wishes that its delicate covering had been more substantial. The French slippers have hemp soles with canvas tops and are fastened on the feet by ties matching the trimming of the dress. As a rule, an anchor is embroidered on the toe, and cork soles are placed inside. The French plates representing ladies clothed in the most approved style show these slippers fastened by means of enough cross-gartering to satisfy Malvolio himself, but this style is not likely to be adopted at American watering places. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 7 June 1879: p. 11

embroidered bathing shoe

Bathing-slippers should not be forgotten, nor their immediate purchase neglected, particularly if the shore be a frequented one, for then there will certainly be an ample store of broken glass, besides the usual sharp flints, oyster shells, and pebbles, to cut or bruise your feet. At many seaside places they may be procured, being made of plaited straw or of felt. In either case they need some embellishment, which may be given by the small expenditure of a piece of scarlet braid, and the turning of it into rosettes or bows, and sandals which cross over the foot and ankle, and are tied above it in a bow and short ends. These bathing-shoes and slippers may also be made by clever amateur hands out of felt or blanketing, or of very coarse flannel, embroidered in coarse crewel-work, and bound neatly with worsted braid. They may be soled also with a pair of cork soles, to be found everywhere, which should first be covered on both sides with flannel. Another method of making a bathing-slipper is to take a pair of old boots or shoes, cut them down to the required shape, and to cover the fronts—the only part left—with flannel to match the bathing-dress, trimming with worsted braid, and attaching sandals of the same to them, to keep up the heel. The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book, edited by Charles Peters, 1889

bathing sandals with ribbons 1903

Those who are truly thorough in this revival of an ancient mode are appearing on the beach without stockings, having their slender ankles and well-shaped calves crossed and recrossed with the canvas ribbons of their bathing sandals. Sometimes these are all white, though oftener you see gay colors looking pretty and effective against the gleaming white skin of which one gets scarcely more than a glimpse….Those who find this fad too much of an innovation compromise by wearing very thin lisle or silk stockings, so thin are they in fact that one could scarcely consider them as a real covering. The Washington [DC] Times 29 June 1902: p. 3

Although the assortment of shoes and boots is more limited, many changes may be achieved by the addition of silk laces to correspond in shade with the garment. Of course, there are the high laced boots of canvas, which are very trim and neat, finished by the silken string and tied in dainty bows; then some of our fair sisters may selected the prettily embroidered sandal with the crossed ankle ribbons that were worn many years ago, and still have a fascinating touch, particularly upon a small or well-shaped foot. Lastly, there are the plain little sandals with absolutely very little to them besides the sole and a strap to hold it on, and many of the bathers do not wear any shoes at all, but have the finest silk hosiery made to match the color of the bathing dress or its trimmings. To return for just a moment to a few suggestions regarding the hosiery, it might be well to know that some of the daintiest silken affairs worn are embroidered in small floral designs scattered at intervals and giving a touch of inconspicuous color to a dark ground, while others are woven in fine lace patterns and smart openwork stitches that reveal a hint of a white ankle peeping through the mesh. Ottumwa [IA] Tri-weekly Courier 21 June 1904: p. 2

NEW BATH SHOES

High Strapped Boots now Worn When Swimming.

Canvas lace and strap bathing boots that reach half way to the knees, are the latest novelty of the season added to the already complete list of accessories, and are particularly popular with women, because of the support they afford to the ankles, as well as for the good background they make for wearing elaborate hosiery.

Made in white, brown and black canvas with a heavy hand sewed cork sole, these new styles boots are decidedly attractive looking. The edges of the top are prettily scalloped, and the nickel buckles through which the straps pass that hold the boot in place make the fronts ornamental. If laces are used instead of straps, the boots are even prettier, with red, blue or yellow silk lacings zigzagged in diamond shapes across the front of the stockings.

These bathing boots are not lined and as a result are not warm, and the fronts are open except for the lacings or straps that do not interfere with the freedom of the muscles in swimming, while the height acts as an ankle support.

Soleless Shoes.

Many women prefer braided soleless swimming sandals, which are also new this year. They are made exactly like bed slippers with no sole and are fitted bout the foot with a draw string. They are made of white and black cotton stripes that look like shoe strings when braided into the slipper. These low bathing shoes are made with a long lap, or upper, and high sides, so that when pulled up the foot is incased to the ankle as if in a mitten. They are loosely woven and are cooler than the styles made with soles. They cost 49 cents.

Besides these novelties the old cork sole low cut style of bathing shoes in black or white duck or canvas, with one strap and buckle or lacings, are still the most popular with bathers, because of the cost. They may be purchased for from 22 to 50 cents a pair. The Washington [DC] Times 10 August 1905: p. 7

Bathing Shoes.

Bathing shoes for any member of the family may be easily and cheaply made at home, says Mothers Magazine. They are strong enough to protect the feet from the little stones on the beaches, and so light that you will hardly feel them at all. Many swimmers object to the regular bathing boots as being somewhat in the way, but these homemade ones are so very light as to cause no inconvenience. Take an old pair of stockings (if they match the bathing suit so much the better.) and cut them off just below the knee. If they come higher they are apt to hinder a swimmer’s movements. Hem the top edges and cut and buttonhole little slits all around, about one inch below the hem. Buy a pair of cork or loofah soles (or if you have an old pair of light slippers you can use the soles) and slip into the feet of the stockings, fastening them on well. Then, run a wide tape, or ribbon, if you prefer, though the slits at the top and tie around the leg, and you have a pair of really good bathing boots for no cost at all. The Oregon Daily Journal [Portland OR] 12 July 1913: p. 7 [And, Mrs Daffodil would add, of no style whatsoever.]

Brilliant Bathing Boots Please Paris

Silk on Velvet Footwear Impracticable, of Course, of It Wouldn’t Be Attractive

Paris Fashionable shoemakers are already being besieged with orders for the new bathing boots which have been the rage at the Riviera and Monte Carlo baths. These silk and velvet boots are brilliant in color, the most conspicuous being orange boots lined with purple, white lined with red, and green lined with yellow.

In accordance with the theory that whatever is fashionable must be unpractical these boots are not laced, but are of the slip-on kind, so that once in the water they are sure to slip off.

Bootmakers contend that the bathing boot must be wide and baggy around the leg, so as to permit freedom of movement, while fitting the foot like a glove, and while the impartial spectator may agree with their arguments he is obliged to doubt the practicability of the principle. Wisconsin State Journal [Madison WI] 26 March 1920: p. 10

All-Rubber Bathing Slippers

One of the surf bathing shoes made popular last Summer is made of colored rubber without fabric, and cured on a perfectly-modeled last. The stock is calendered with an imitation leather grain. The sole and vamp are of the same quality of rubber; the inner surface of the sole is faced with white rubber. The trimming strips also are of white rubber.

Evidently the shoe was not designed by a shoemaker, or the upper would have been joined with a heel seam, rather than in the center of the vamp where faulty workmanship more easily mars the appearance of the goods.

These bathing slippers are made in six different colors, in sizes from child’s No. 11 to men’s No. 11.

Rubber Soled Bathing Shoe

Another shoe for the surf that is being made for Summer swimming is of a mercerized fabric, and has light rubber sole, thick enough to keep the feet away from the pebbles of the beach, but not heavy enough to stop the wearer from having a good swim. Both Roma and American patterns are used. Some of the Roman sandals, of colored fabrics, with white straps, are fascinating. Some one-strap pumps are of red, blue, green and black fabric, and have white bindings.  Boot and Shoe Recorder 15 April 1922: p. 132

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Unless one is extraordinarily hardy, bathing boots are an essential accessory for a sea-side holiday. The beaches of Britain are stony and unforgiving, which is why we build piers. If a bather wishes to be coddled, rather than braced, they should try the south of France.

There were always controversies about the correct stockings to be worn with bathing costumes.

Some young women are bold enough to venture upon the beach in sandals to match their bathing suits but without stockings of any kind. While the idea is sensible from the swimmer’s point of view, for certainly both shoes and stockings hinder one’s movements in the water, it is not a fashion which recommends itself for use in public. The girl who likes a good swim and prefers wearing a sensible costume must enjoy the sport where spectators are few. The Washington [DC] Times 6 July 1902: p. 3

The notion from 1904 that “many of the bathers do not wear any shoes at all, but have the finest silk hosiery made to match the color of the bathing dress or its trimmings” seems an appalling waste of stockings, which would be instantly torn to pieces on beaches littered with stones and shells.

Silk stockings are not necessary for bathing unless sandals are worn. The fashion would prove too expensive for the average woman. Fine lisle thread are every bit as good and even if they last but little longer they can at any rate be more easily replaced. Open-work hose are never worn with a bathing costume.  With an all blue or red gown the stockings should be of the same shade, unless there is considerable black braiding, in which case the black hose is effective. With a black costume the stockings should be of the same color. From time to time sandals appear and for a while are thought absolutely necessary, but almost as suddenly they will be disappear and for a while will be quite forgotten. This year at least one pair has already been provided with each smart bathing suit, which looks very much as though this were a sandal season. The sandals now fashionable look much like heelless pumps, with a little strap across the instep, and if the beach is at all rough it is of inestimable service. The swimmer, of course, has no use for this little slipper, which is quite useless in deep water and only retards and renders swimming unnecessarily difficult. Los Angeles [CA] Herald 25 June 1905: p. 33

Those shell-studded beaches made cork soles seem an admirable idea. However, they, too, had their perils.

Mermaid With Cork Soles

[Salt Lake Letter in Ogden Pilot]

Writing of the lake reminds me to say, for the benefit of my Ogden sisters, be warned in time and don’t do when you go bathing as one of my lady friends did. She said the pebbles on the lake bottom hurt her feet, so she had a pair of sandals made with cork soles. She put them on and went into the water. She’s not a vain woman, but she has a pretty foot, and she showed it that day with less effort than she ever did before in her life. Her feet went up and her head (heavy, of course, with the weight of a brain that could originate cork soles for sea-bathing) went down—on somebody’s broad shoulders—or I might have been under the painful necessity of elaborating on ‘another case of strangulation from sea-water.” Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 24 September 1881: p.12

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.

Spoopendyke and the Bathing Suit: 1880

1877 men's bathing suit

A COMPLICATED GARMENT.

“My dear,” observed Mr. Spoopendyke, looking up from his paper, “I think I would be greatly benefited this Summer by sea baths. Bathing in the surf is an excellent tonic, and if you will make me up a suit, and one for yourself, if you like, we’ll go down often and take a dip in the waves.”

“The very thing,” smiled Mrs. Spoopendyke, “you certainly need something to tone you up, and there’s nothing like salt water. I think I’ll make mine of blue flannel, and, let me see, yours ought to be, red, my dear.”

“I don’t think you caught the exact drift of my remark,” retorted Mr. Spoopendyke; “I didn’t say I was going into the opera business, or that I was going to hire out to some country village as a conflagration. My plan was to go in swimming, Mrs. Spoopendyke, to go in swimming, and not grow up with the country as a cremation furnace. You can make yours of blue if you want it, but you can’t make mine of red, that’s all.”

“There’s a pretty shade of yellow flannel–”

“Most indubitably, Mrs. Spoopendyke, but if you think I’m going to masquerade around Manhattan Beach in the capacity of a ham, you haven’t yet seized my idea. I don’t apprehend that I shall benefit by the waters any more by going around looking like a Santa Cruz rum barrel. What I want is a bathing suit, and If you can’t got one up without making me look like Fulton street car I’ll go and buy something to suit me.”

“Would you want it all in one piece, or do you want pants and blouse?”

“I want a suit easy to get in and out of. I’m not particular about following the fashion. Make up something neat, plain and substantial, but don’t stick any fancy colors into it. I want it modest and serviceable.”

Mrs. Spoopendyke made up the suit, under the guidance of a lady friend, whose aunt had told her how it should be constructed. It was in one piece, and when completed was rather a startling garment.

“’I’ll try it on, to-night,” said Mr. Spoopendyke, eyeing it askance when it was handed him.

Before retiring Mr. Spoopendyke examined the suit, and then began to get into it.

“Why didn’t you make some legs to it?  What d’ye want to make it all arms for?” he inquired, struggling around to see why it didn’t come up behind. “You’ve got it on sideways,” exclaimed Mrs. Spoopendyke. “You’ve got one leg into the sleeve.”

“I’ve got to get it on sideways. There ain’t any top to it. Don’t you know enough to put the arms up where they belong?  What d’ye think I am, anyhow? A star fish? Where does this leg go?”

“Right in there. That’s the place for that leg.”

“Then where’s the leg that goes in this hole?”

“Why, the other leg.”

“The measly thing’s all legs. Who’d you make this thing for, me? What d’ye take me for, a centipede? Who else is going to get in here with me? I want somebody else. I ain’t twins. I can’t fill this business up. What d’ye call it, anyway, a family machine?”

“Those other places ain’t legs; they’re sleeves.”

“What are they doing down there? Why ain’t they up here where they belong? What are they there for, snow shoes? S’pose I’m going to stand on my head to get my arms in those holes?”

‘I don’t think you’ve got it on right,” suggested Mrs. Spoopendyke. “It looks twisted.”

“That’s the way you told me. You said, ‘put this leg here and that one there,’ and there they are. Now, where does the rest of me go?”

“I made it according to the pattern,” sighed Mrs. Spoopendyke.

“Then it’s all right, and it’s me that’s twisted,” sneered Mr. Spoopendyke. “I’ll have my arms and legs altered. All I want is to have my legs jammed in the small of my back and my arms stuck in my hips; then it’ll fit. What did you take for a pattern, a crab? Where’d you find the lobster you made this thing from? S’pose I’m going into the water on all fours? I told you I wanted a bathing suit, didn’t I?  Did I say anything about a chair cover?”

“I think if you take it off and try it on over again, it’ll work,” reasoned Mrs. Spoopendyke,

“Oh! of course. I’ve only got to humor the gastod thing. That’s all it wants,” and Mr. Spoopendyke wrenched it off with a growl.

“Now pull it on,” said Mrs. Spoopondyke.

Mr. Spoopendyke went at it again, and reversed the original order of disposing his limbs.

“Suit you now?” he howled. “That the way you meant it to go? What’s these things flopping around here?”

“Those are the legs, I’m afraid,” said Mrs. Spoopendyke, dejectedly.

“What are they doing up here? I see; oh! I see, this is supposed to represent me making a dive. When I get this on, I’m going head first. Where’s the balance? Where’s the rest? Give me the suit that represents me head up,” and Mr, Spoopendyke danced around the room in fury.

“Just turn it over, my dear,” said Mrs. Spoopendyke, “and you are all right.”

“How’m I going to turn it over?” yelled Mr. Spoopendyke. “S’pose I’m going to carry around a steam boiler to turn me over when I want the other end of this thing up? S’pose I’m going to hire a man to go around with a griddle spoon and turn me over like a flapjack, just to please this dod gasted bathing suit? D’ye think I work on pivots?”

“Just take it off and put it on the other way,” urged Mrs. Spoopendyke, who began to see her way clear.

Mr. Spoopendyke kicked the structure up to the ceiling, and plunged into it once more. This time it came out all right, and as he buttoned it up and surveyed himself in the glass the clouds passed away and he smiled. “I like it,” he remarked, “the color suits me and I think you have done very well, my dear; only,” and he frowned slightly, “I wish you would mark the arms and legs so I can distinguish one from the other, or some day I will present the startling spectacle of a respectable elderly gentleman hopping around the beach up side down. That’s all.”

The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 27 June 1880: p. 2

swimsuits 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have met the irascible Mr Spoopendyke before, as he complained of the masquerade costume the much-tried Mrs Spoopendyke had selected for him. Back in the day his vile abuse passed for humourous domestic banter. If Mrs Daffodil were Mrs Spoopendyke, she would have sewed a number of lead weights into the seams and hems of the bathing costume she had so kindly constructed and would have encouraged the lout to eat a hearty lunch and then take a nice long swim, far far from shore.

 

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.