Funeral Drill: 1912

Hearse and Mourning Coaches, William Francis Freelove http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_220846/William-Francis-Freelove/page-1

FUNERAL DRILL.

Two stories are told quite seriously by a contributor to London ‘Truth, which it is difficult to accept at face value. The first relates a system of funeral drill to which a wife in the shires declares she has been subjected. She writes:

“Sir,—Some months ago I married ___, who is a well-known but eccentric man. After the honeymoon we retired to his estate, when began the annoyance of which I complain.

Every Wednesday a hearse and several mourning coaches are driven up to the front door, and mutes carry down from my husband’s bedroom a coffin which is supposed to contain his remains!

Draped in widow’s weeds, and accompanied by several of the servants, I have to follow this, my husband marshalling the procession, and directing the proceedings generally!

‘Be careful; do not ram the rails,’

‘Bend your head more reverently, dear,’

‘Slower, please,’

‘Keep your distances; it looks so slip-shod.’

The coffin is raised into the hearse, and I and several of the householders occupy the coaches, whilst the gardeners and others follow on foot, my husband drilling us until the funeral service is completed, even to the lowering of the coffin into the grave!

I can scarcely hope that this letter will not be intercepted, but should it reach you, will you publish it, that your readers may know to what length a man will go in indulging his peculiarities?”

Mataura [NZ] Ensign, 26 February 1912: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: That gentleman’s eccentricities were not as singular as one might think. The Divine Sarah was celebrated for allegedly sleeping in her coffin, or, at the very least, posing for photographs in it:

Sarah Bernhardt posing in her coffin.

A certain lady who is not over-religious, in the usual acceptation of the term—Madame Sarah Bernhardt—has her whole life toned and seasoned and solemnised by the presence of the grim, even if dainty, case in which her mortal remains are to be interred. She has got a new coffin to replace the old one, which some time ago, along with her other personal effects, was seized by her relentless creditors. The present coffin is daintily lined with blue silk, and at the head has a soft little pillow trimmed with Valenciennes lace. It is Sarah’s grim humour to sleep in her coffin sometimes; and, to be quite consistent, she dresses herself in something not unlike a shroud. But usance dulls the edge of appetite, and this funeral fad of the Divine Sarah has a tendency to make the coffin a joke and the grave a jest.

Roses and Rue: Being Random Notes and Sketches, William Stewart Ross, London: W. Stewart & Company, 1890: p. 168

Returning to Mr Funeral Drill’s eccentricities, “peculiarities” is perhaps the kindest euphemism for such tastes. The lady’s statement about the note being intercepted suggests alarming and sinister possibilities. If this were a Gothic Novel written by a lady with three names, our heroine would be a great heiress, wooed in a whirlwind courtship and married before she could discover her husband’s morbid fancies. Then, one day, the funeral drill would go on without her and the coffin would be buried, the lady’s absence explained by an indisposition which would shortly lead to a permanent residence in the South of France for her health, despite no one seeing her en route. Her tragically early death in France would be announced and shortly thereafter Mr Funeral Drill would remarry….

Mrs Daffodil suggests that after the first few repetitions of this macabre ritual, the lady should have taken steps to ensure that the next funeral was no drill, but the genuine article.

For more on Victorian funerals and mourning, please consult The Victorian Book of the Dead by Chris Woodyard, also available in a Kindle edition.

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.

 

Rubber Fashions at the Sea-side: 1914-1919

Rubber swimming ensemble, 1914

Each succeeding summer brings with it new styles in bathing caps, which as a rule follow as closely as possible the prevailing modes in millinery, but the array of styles and colorings available to the bathers of this particular season is even larger than usual, and includes bonnets, caps and hats in endless variety and in all the most desired shades, made of rubber, as well as of rubberized satin, etc., and adorned with berries, fruit, leaves, flowers and ribbon—all of rubber or rubberized to stand any amount of wetting in either salt or fresh water. Four especially attractive models are here illustrated.

Rubber bathing caps, 1914

Rubber bathing hats, 1914

The first is an all-rubber cap, which can be obtained in blue, cerise or emerald green, with the rubber rose at the side in contrasting color. The second model, with rosette trimming, is of the “Castle” type and comes in black and navy blue. The third model is a rubberized silk turban and is made in black, navy blue and purple, with the wired donkey ears of the same material as the cap. The last of the four is an all-rubber cap, decorated with velvety rubber flowers and obtainable in blue, cerise, coral, and purple.

But the manufacturers of rubber goods have not been content this season to supply a variety of new and pleasing models of bathing caps. They have extended their line of accessories for the bathing costume to include numerous other articles, several of which are also shown. The first of these cuts shows an all-rubber sailor collar, the edge of which is decorated with tiny rubber roses—something that is bound to add an air of up-to-dateness to any bathing suit. This cut also shows a pair of rubber buckles, a decoration that can be appropriately applied not only to the belt or girdle, but with perhaps even greater effectiveness to the bathing slippers, which have heretofore presented rather a bare appearance because of the lack of a buckle that would withstand the effects of frequent immersion in salt water. The next figure [at the head of this post] shows a bather to whose costume has been added a rubber sash or girdle, which close under a bunch of rubber flowers, the ends of the sash being in Roman stripes in colors to match the plaid cap. As will be noted, this bather is also equipped with a cape of rubber, an accessory which has become very popular this season for wear over the bathing suit. Wreaths of rubber roses are also obtainable for use in trimming the extremely popular beach hat—and they are very genuine appearing and highly decorative. In fact, the line of rubber accessories for the present season has reached a degree of elaborateness never before attained, and would seem to be complete. India Rubber World 1 July 1914: p 547

Very simple, but hygienic, are the lines of a bathing corset made of rubber sheeting. This material is not stiff but sheds water like a duck, and proved itself a comfort last season to many a plump mermaid who “did not feel comfortable without a corset.”… Oregonian [Portland, OR] 18 June 1916: p. 6

Neckwear, sashes, garters, flowers, beach balls of inflated rubber, and long fringe-edged scarfs, are also made of the rubber sheetings in gay colors and of gum rubber. A beach scarf of white rubber is a very handy thing to wrap oneself up in when coming in out of the sea. These scarfs are quite wide and long and have striking designs in contrasting rubber at the ends above a deep row of rubber fringe. Oregonian [Portland, OR] 18 June 1916: p. 6

Smart one-piece bathing suit of navy blue taffeta with rubber parasol and hat, 1919

Rubber Hats and Parasols

In many instances the new rubber bathing hats are fashioned with quite a wide brim and a crushed close-fitting crown, held with a rubber band, so that the hat is adjustable to any size head. One of the precautionary measures to be taken before putting one of these rubber hats on is the removing of every hairpin, as even one hairpin forgotten will often puncture the hat and render it useless. These wide-brimmed rubber hats are trimmed with rosettes and flowers of rubber, and when properly adjusted the effect is as modish and smart as though the hat were a typical sports hat or picture hat. These hats are developed in various gay colors or in soft shades of red, green or gold, and while they are rather expensive they are nevertheless in great demand.

The rubber parasols fashioned with four sections are very unusual in style and shape and are considered one of the exclusive novelties of the season. The great advantage of having the bathing suit parasol of rubber is that it is in no danger of being harmed when it is picked up by a bather who has just come out of the water and whose hands are still dripping with the salt brine. Everything worn by a bather or carried by a bather to the beach is not only apt to get wet, but almost sure to get wet before the day is over, so that the idea of the rubber parasol is a very practical one. American Cloak and Suit Review, Volume 17, 1919

 

An attractive example of the abbreviated type of bathing suit now worn by the smartest American women, 1919

Freakish and Startling Costumes Worn by Ladies at Beach.

The newest fashion for lady bathers is to wear artificial flowers made of India rubber. This certainly sounds a very extravagant fad, but seeing that these adornments are said to be wonderfully effective in beautifying the bathing costume and cap, there is every reason to expect this craze to be extremely popular all along the coasts. The art of making India rubber flowers has been brought to a state of perfection for this purpose, and instead of being merely clumsy sprays of colored rubber, as one might at first imagine, the buttonholes and wreaths thus manufactured are wonderfully artistic creations, varying from rich, massive peonies to dainty buttercups and lilies of the valley.

This novel fashion should prove a really pretty one, provided it is not carried too far and indulged in by the well-known type of “non-get-wet” bather, who may possibly welcome a bouquet of artificial flowers as an additional charm whilst “sun-bathing” in a pretty costume by the “briny.” Grand Forks [ND] Daily Herald 25 June 1914: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The rubber bathing costumes were not without their critics. They were banned from several beaches as indecently form-fitting. All-rubber suits also were clammy and easily torn. It was not until “Lastex”—rubber enveloped in other fibres—was introduced that their utility ultimately triumphed over wool swimming costumes. As Harper’s Bazaar wrote in 1934:

“There’s no wrinkle, no bag, no sag, even under the most ruthless sun! No other human device can even approximate that utter freedom, that perfection of fit, at rest or in motion, that airy but strictly legal sense of wearing nothing at all. There is no substitute for this elastic yarn, which imparts lasting elasticity to any fabric.” Harper’s Bazaar June 1934: p. 9

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 Husband Lost and Found: 1894

STRANGER

Than Fiction Is Real Life.

Romantic Story of Separation and Reunion.

After Twenty-Eight Years, Walter Henley, of Nashville, Finds His Wife.

Dover, Ky., March 16. Twenty-eight years ago last September Miss Josie Hamilton, an orphan, making her home with a maiden aunt living in Huntington, W. Va., was a passenger on an Ohio steamer from Cincinnati to that city. The second clerk on the boat was a young man named Walter P. Henley, whose home was in Pittsburg, and who will be remembered by river men of to-day as one of the handsomest and most popular clerks on the river. Young Henley became terribly smitten with the charms of Miss Hamilton, then a beautiful and vivacious young girl of 19 summers. The attraction was mutual, and it seemed to be a case of love at first sight with them both.

Before the boat had reached the young lady’s destination, Mr. Henley had engaged himself to marry the young lady, and the wedding was set for the following May. The first year of their wedding life was one of extreme happiness, the young bride continuing to reside with her aunt in Huntington, and making frequent round trips on the boat with her husband.

In the second year of their marriage, Mrs. Henley persuaded her husband to leave the river and open out a grocery store in Huntington. All went well for about a year, when Mr. Henley, who had acquired the habit of strong drink, indulged to such an extent that liquor became his master. As

THE HABIT GREW

Upon him he became cross and overbearing in his manner toward his wife, and frequent domestic quarrels were the result.

One day he indulged in an unusually violent quarrel with his wife, and in a fit of rage said he would leave the house and never return. He was as good as his word, and that night sold his store for a mere song and took passage on a down steamer for Cincinnati. From there he soon departed for the West. The heart-broken young wife, with the care of a bright, little baby boy, was left almost penniless by the deserting husband, and, to make matters worse, her aunt had died but a few months previous. She would not go to her husband’s people, as they had been opposed to their son’s marriage. Neither would she write to them. Instead she decided to go to an uncle, a Mr. Jackson, who was a prosperous farmer, living a few miles back of Covington, and who gave his niece and her babe a generous welcome.

With this kind relative Mrs. Henley and her little boy took up their permanent abode, and when Mr. Jackson, in 1882, sold his Kenton County farm and purchased 200 acres of fine land about 20 miles south of this place she came with him to the new home. In the meantime the deserted wife had never heard a word from or about her husband, and did not even know whether he was still living.

Six years ago the son, Charley T. Henley, then a bright and industrious young man of 22, and who had just received a business education at the Smith College, at Lexington, went to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was given a position in the real estate office a married son of Mr. Jackson, who had located in that city some 15 years ago. Now comes the strangest and most

ROMANTIC PART OF THE STORY.

And which reads more like fiction than an actual occurrence in real life.

Last January Mrs. Henley went to Chattanooga on a visit to her son. About a week after her arrival there, she was sitting in the office one afternoon chatting with her son and Mr. Jackson, when in stepped a well-dressed and portly gentleman with the air of an all-round business man. The stranger gave only a hurried glance at the lady present and introduced himself to Mr. Jackson as W. P. Henley, real estate agent, Nashville, Tenn.

It afterward developed that he had called to consult Mr. Jackson in regard to some Chattanooga property. At the sound of the gentleman’s name, Mrs. Henley, who had been keenly eyeing the visitor, gave a scream and fell to the floor in a dead faint. All three gentlemen went to her assistance, and the long absent husband, for such he proved to be, immediately recognized his wife and also his son, now that the mist was clearing away, as young Henley bore a striking resemblance to his father.

By the administering of proper restoratives Mr. Henley was soon brought to a state of consciousness, and then the husband, who appeared overjoyed at the strange and unexpected meeting, stated that the one hope of his life in recent years was now realized. He then told the

STORY OF HIS WANDERINGS

Since his desertion of his wife in Huntington. After sobering up in Cincinnati and coming to his senses he regretted what he had done, but his money was about all gone and he was ashamed to go back to Huntington.

On a sudden impulse he resolved to go out West and when he made a stake to send for his wife. At the same time he made a solemn pledge to himself never to drink another drop of liquor, and that pledge he had faithfully kept. He made money rapidly out West, and was soon in a splendid shape financially. And yet he could never hear anything from or about his wife and child.

He wrote to friends in Huntington, and they could only reply that she had left that city, but did not know where she had gone. He had drifted to the booming city of Wichita on the top wave of excitement, and by judicious investments and timely sales made quite a fortune in real estate. He had moved to Nashville three years ago and entered the real estate business, and in the meantime hand almost given up all hope of ever finding any trace of his wife and child. A complete reconciliation took place between the long separated husband and wife, and they are now living happily together in Nashville. Mr. Henley has taken in a partner in the real estate business and the firm name now reads Walter P. Henley & Son. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 17 March 1894: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Perhaps Mrs Daffodil is too censorious but anyone clever enough to make a fortune by judicious investments and timely sales, ought to have had the wit to hire a Pinkerton operative with some of that fortune to locate his wife and child, who, for aught he knew, were dead in a ditch somewhere.

One wonders if this was a species of “urban legend” common in the papers of the past. Here is another, similar story of a happy, improbable coincidence, albeit with a shipwreck, rather than liquor, as the agent of separation

A late issue of the Vallejo (Cal.) Chronicle says: ‘One of those strange episodes in human life which makes us sometimes wonder at “the eternal fitness of things.” occurred last night at the Vallejo junction. The tide being low on the arrival of the Contra Costa passengers for Vallejo were compelled to make quite a descent from the wharf to the boat, and the ladies required the assistance of the gentlemen present. A Mr. G., a grain speculator, was doing the agreeable in this respect, and one of the last ladies to descend was overburdened with a few bundles, which he took charge of, and accompanied the lady to the cabin, where they sat and engaged in conversation. The subject finally touched upon the nativity of each, when it was found they were both from the same town in Kentucky. This fact made each more communicative, when he inquired her name, which was given as Mrs. G. Immediately the gentleman grew pale and excited, and asked:

“You had a daughter, did you not?”

“I did “she responded. “Pray, how did you know that?”

“Is that daughter living?”

“She is, and at present on a visit to friends at Vallejo, where I am now going.”

“Merciful heavens!” he gasped. “My child!”

“Sir,” said the lady, rising; “what do you mean?”

“Mean?” he crazily replied. “Mean? Why, I mean that that daughter is my own child and you are my wife!”

Almost overpowered at this confession she plied him with questions, to every it one of which he returned a correct answer, when she was convinced that the man was really her husband, from whom she had been separated twenty years. It seems the twain were married at Paris, Ky., in 1858, and thirteen months afterward he went to Liverpool on business. The vessel on which he took passage was wrecked, and all on board were supposed to have perished.

The news coming to the young wife’s ears, she was utterly prostrated and was ordered to California by her physicians. Arriving here she took up her residence in Los Angeles. The husband was picked up from the wreck by a fishing smack and taken to some remote foreign port, where he was thrown upon a bed of sickness, which lasted some fifteen months. In the meantime he had written repeatedly to his wife, but received no answer. In his despair he concluded to risk a journey across the Atlantic. Feeble as he was he shipped before the mast on a sailing vessel, and in due time arrived in New York. From there he wrote three times to his wife, but received no answer.

Almost frenzied at the thought that she might be dead, and being without funds and no friends, he “faced” his fare clear to Kentucky, and shortly after arrived at Paris. Inquiries throughout the town assured him that his wife had disappeared a year or so before, no one knew whither. Some said she had gone in search of her husband, others that she might be dead, and others that she had gone to California. He sought the old family physician, but he had left the town some time before. Mr. G. then went to work at Louisville and made enough to bring him to California a year after his arrival in Kentucky. He searched everywhere for his absent wife, but without success, and finally gave her up as dead, and she also had mourned for his death. Neither, however, had married again, and last evening on board the Contra Costa was the first intimation either had that the other was in existence.

The now happy couple arrived here last night, and to the surprise of the friends of the lady she introduced her husband, from whom she had been separated twenty years. But imagine his unutterable surprise and joy when the mother led into the parlor a beautiful young lady, his own daughter, whom he had not seen since she was a babe. Father, mother and child will leave tomorrow for San Francisco, where Mr. G., who is now a comparatively wealthy man, has his business, and where they will hereafter reside.

The Abbeville [SC] Press and Banner 4 February 1880: 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 Ghost’s Whispered Story: 1870s

Niagara Falls, 1890

Was It a Dream?

A GHOST’S WHISPERED STORY.

They told me that the house was haunted. Nothing had been seen in the shape of an apparition by those who resided there; there was no terrific disturbance, no bright and mysterious light, but there was a general belief that the house was haunted. The ghost was a well-behaved ghost, and modest. On inquiring of one who had slept there, I learned that he had heard nothing except a confused murmur, a sound of low, indistinct speech, as of some one trying to speak while suffering under aphony. It was a laborious whisper, of which a word now and then was audible. I asked him what were the words, and he told me that two he remembered—”falls” and “boat”—but no others. The only thing remarkable about that was that others who had slept there had heard the same words. That gave me, I was quite sure, a key to the matter, and I smiled. I concluded the purchase of the house that very day. It was cheap enough. Nobody would live in it, and it was rotting through disuse. The owner, who needed ready cash, was glad to get rid of his profitless property. The house itself was a comfortable mansion, that cost 10,000 dollars to build, and the ground, rather more than three acre, had been handsomely laid out in trees and shrubbery, though now overgrown with brambles. The architect assured me that 1800 would put the house and grounds in order, and add modern conveniences. So I bought it for 2000 down, and had the necessary repairs made, their cost overrunning the estimate nearly 200 dollars. So that for 4000 dollars I obtained a handsome and convenient dwelling on the banks of a noble river, with the tiny demesne sloping to the south-west, having picturesque views on either hand, and in a good neighbourhood. The night before my family were to remove to it I took up my lodging in the house alone, having had a pallet laid down in the library.

I suppose the stories I had heard, though I had laughed at them, made their impression on my mind. Such things always do, in spite of reason. A vague feeling of easiness fills us m the presence of mystery even though our curiosity or our pride gets the better of our terror, and we probe the thing to the bottom, or try to. That may account for my restlessness, for I was restless and wakeful. I had been busy all day, in arranging furniture, and in directing the men at work on the grounds, in the latter case handling the spade and mattock myself quite often, and was thoroughly tired. Yet 1 could not sleep. It was 10 o’clock when I turned down the light so that it gave only a faint glimmer, and lay down. Eleven o’clock came, and 12, and I still tossed on my couch with open eyes. When the echo of the last stroke of the bell of the church in the neighbouring town of B__ died away, I felt there was some thing or some one in the room. I sprang up, turned the light on full, and grasped the loaded revolver which lay on the library table. There was no one there certainlv that I could see, and the door was locked, I and I laughed at my alarm. The next moment, as I threw myself in the great arm chair, I felt there was some one close to me. Just then there was a low and labored whisper at my right ear. The words distinct, though faintly uttered:

“Let me tell you my story,”

I sprang up and looked around. Nothing there. It appeared to be imagination, and yet I felt terror. Was I awake? I was, undoubtedly. The whisper came again:

“You must listen.”

I felt that to be true. The thin, icy, forced whisper held me by a spell. I could not have moved had flames burst out around me. Body and mind seemed stricken with palsy, I could hear, but nothing more. Then the whisper returned, and I can remember all that followed, word for word, and can write it out, again and again without varying a word or a letter.

“It was three miles above the cataract. As I stood upon, the river bank I could see, even at that point, with what swiftness the Niagara was hurrying toward the fatal plunge. There was a skiff tied to a root on the bank, and as it afforded me a seat, I stepped in and sat down in the stern sheets. There I played with my hands in the stream and listened to the distant incessant roar of the boiling waters. As I sat there I thought of my young wife hundreds of miles away, whom I had left a few days before to attend to some business in Canada, and whom I was to rejoin the next day, having taken this point on my way homeward. I sat there with my eyes half closed, and then, throwing myself backward, was lulled to sleep by the monotonous noise. How long I slept I do not know, but a piercing shriek, rising above the dull roar of the falls, awakened me. I looked round. The boat had broken loose, and I was far out in the stream, all drifting rapidly toward the falls. I sprang up to seize the oars and pull to shore. There were no oars in the boat.

“I glanced toward the shore. It seemed the bank was lined with men, women, and, children, who may have called to me, but I could hear nothing. My first impulse was to leap overboard, but then I could not swim.

“A man on the bank threw a lasso. I waited the coming of the loop, and reached my hand towards it, but it fell short. It was drawn in, and the man, running swiftly to a point further down, tried again. He apparently cast it with greater force, but it fell further off than before. I was being drawn nearer to the centre of the horse-shoe. “And now there came the lethargy of despair. I sat there without hope and without fear. My doom was inevitable. The motion of the boat grew faster and faster; the distant banks whirled past me, and then my spirit rose in a kind of ecstasy. I gave a sharp glance around me and laughed. As the boat struck the edge of the abyss and rose for the final plunge I caught sight of a dense mist; I heard above the roar the rush of a thousand wings; I felt as though I had been struck with a numbing blow, and breath and consciousness left me together.

“It seemed to be a dream, for when I recovered I found I was here in my own house. Yonder sat my wife, clad in black, her head buried in her hands. Yes! it seemed a dream, for though I tried to speak to her, my lips made no sounds and I heard nothing. I touched her, but she did not heed it. I looked around the room, bewildered.

“It was this library. There on a long table, which did not belong here, lay some- thing like a human form, covered by a sheet. What was it doing here? Whose body lay here? A new and more unspeakable terror seized me. I would like to have cried out. I could not. I was dumb.

“My wife arose and went to the table. ‘Now,’ I said to myself, ‘I shall know all.’ She raised the cover from her head, and, stooping down, kissed the face of the corpse. Could it be that my father-in-law, Colonel Barnesleigh, had died while I was away! I did not walk, but I was moved by some unseen power until I stood by my wife and over the dead body and looked down. I knew it all then. I recognised the cold, lifeless face. It was my own….”

Then the whisper ceased, and I fell in a deep sleep in the chair. It was daylight when I awoke. I looked around. Had I dreamed it all? On the table was the fragment of a newspaper. Picking it up, my glance caught the name of a former owner of the house, and I read as follows:

Melancholy Casualty.—A terrible event occurred on Friday last, Robert Grant of this village, on his return from Toronto, where he had been on business, stopped at Niagara. He took a walk above the falls after breakfast. He must have got in a boat and lost or broken the oars— though it is said no oars were in the boat at all. He was seen afloat by a large crowd of people just above the fall. Every attempt was made to rescue him, but unsuccessfully, and he was carried to death. His body was recovered on Sunday, and is now on its way here. He leaves a widow.

I had certainly seen never seen that paragraph before. I am quite sure of that. From that time out there had been no noises in the house, except such as could be easily explained, and the whispered voice never came again. Yet, if it were no dream, or no imaginary whisper, why should me ghost have told his story to me, and why should he tell it at all?

Thomas Dunn English.

Auckland [NZ] Star, 22 March 1879: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One does not expect impeccable logic in a ghost story, but to be perfectly frank, Mrs Daffodil has several objections to this sensational tale. One is that the narrator could easily have read or sub-consciously absorbed the contents of the newspaper fragment so conveniently situated on the table, thus generating a vivid and ghostly dream. Second, what sort of imbecile gets into a boat above the great Niagara cataract and, without noticing if the boat is securely moored or if there are oars, falls asleep, knowing that he cannot swim?

Perhaps this is only what might have been expected from Mr English, who was the author “Ben Bolt,” one of the hoariest chestnuts of the drawing-room recitation oeuvre and of such works as Walter Woolfe, or the Doom of the Drinker, a Temperance novel. (Mrs Daffodil shudders even to hint at the existence of such a literary genre.) The author also quarreled with Mr Edgar Allan Poe, who said that English was “a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind in topics of literature”.

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.

 

Fashionable Shagreen: 1917-1923

It is, Mrs Daffodil has been reliably informed, something called “Shark Week.” Mrs Daffodil does not, as a rule, celebrate ocean-going predators, but it is an excellent excuse to discuss the fashionable uses for shagreen.

FASHIONABLE SHAGREEN.

WONDERFUL EFFECTS.

Four centuries ago shagreen—a handsome Chinese presentation of fish skin was the envy of all the young dandies about town, says an overseas fashion recorder. But shagreen was exclusive and expensive, cured and cut and shaped by hand, and it was only the dandy with a long purse who could afford to have this lovely decoration on his sword sheath or snuff-box. Once again Bond Street has revived shagreen. It has been displayed in the shop windows for some months, and just around the corner, off Old Bond Street, you will find the workers of the Chinese fish skin busy curing, “kneading,” and dyeing it to the perfection of its finished state.

Just as was the case 400 years ago, it is still exclusive and costly.

The process of manufacture is long and difficult. The skin does not lend itself to factory production, so that in shagreen articles you have one of the most beautiful of the hand-made productions.

Shagreen experts tell me that the skin is “practically everlasting,” and, what is more delightful, age intensifies its beauty. It looks lovely bound with silver in brush-and comb sets. There are complete outfits for the secretaire, and endless small things like scent sprays, cigarette and match cases, and a few book-bindings are shown. The colours are exquisite—soft blue, grey, rose and especially green. It was the green that was used in the early 17th century—for the art of making shagreen take subtle dyes was not then known—and some fortunate people have pieces of green among their family heirlooms. In the little “factory ” 1 was shown shagreen as it arrives from the Orient. Actually it is (he skin of a small rare shark, and the raw material is as stiff and hard as a board. The placoid scales of the shark give it a very rough surface. It looks as if tiny pebbles have been embedded in the skin. They feel like stone. In the old days the skin of horses and wild asses was treated to imitate shagreen and part of the process was to embed a certain seed in the skin while it was soft, and so artificially manufacture the knitter 1 surface. As a rule the real skin arrives in a creamy tint and often in a colour that requires no dye. Many hours of labour have to be spent filing down the hard scales and kneading the buckram like texture to the softness of kid When ready for mounting the hard nodules have been transformed to a pearl-like pattern and even after dyeing this creamy colour remains where the scales were, and on this particular shark every pore seems to be a scale. No two skins are alike. Frequently two skins put into a bath of green dye will take the colour in two totally different shades. This not only annoys the worker but adds to the price of the finished article. Shagreen is used effectively to line the bathroom walls in the Queen’s dolls’ house, where the ceiling is of snail shell and the bath of rose rock crystal.

New Zealand Herald 27 November 1926: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: When we speak of “shagreen” and sharkskin, these, of course, refer to the actual skin of a shark rather than the louche shiny suiting fabric favoured by cads.

While sharkskin has long been in use as a luxe leather, it was not until the Great War’s leather shortages that its potential was once again explored.

Shortage of Leather

Demand for Military Purposes Leaves Little for Civilian Uses.

America’s entrance into the war has created a demand for fancy leathers.

For example, more leather has been cut up for wrist watch straps this year than ever before and the demand is increasing. Officers’ vests are being made from chamois skins. Leather is required for binding army manuals and reports and there is a big demand for leather for covering field glasses, cameras, surgical instruments, cases, etc. Steel helmets must be lined with leather. Leather is also needed for automobile and airplane equipment.

There is a great demand for leather for straps, revolver cases, harnesses and saddlery, not to mention money belts, pipe cases, trench cigarette cases and the like.

Pigskin for Leggings.

It is said that the demand for pigskin for leggings and other military equipment has practically exhausted the supply of this leather and cowhide is now being used by manufacturers of these articles.

No Walrus for Bags.

Little walrus will be seen in bags and cases this year as the Newfoundland catch of this animal was the smallest in many seasons and, due to the war conditions, no Norwegian skins came to this country this year. It is said that the high price of those skins which were obtained in Newfoundland practically prohibits their use.

Unless next year’s American catch is unusually large and some way is found for releasing Europe’s supply of these skins, genuine walrus leather will probably be conspicuously absent in bags in this country for the rest of the war.

Seeking a Substitute

Dealers and manufactures ware now concerned with the question of what is to take the place of walrus. Alligator skin, once so popular, is out of the question. Alligator skin went out of fashion when its growing scarcity made its price prohibitive.

In the years since his tanned hide furnished the most popular bags of the day, the alligator has not increased in numbers. The Florida supply is practically exhausted. It has been suggested, though, that the hunting of these reptiles in Mexico and South America might be profitably developed.

Finding a Use for Sharks.

Sharkskin is the newest and most likely addition to bag leathers. Like that of the walrus, the skin of the shark is about an inch thick when it is removed from the fish. It is soft and spongy before it is tanned, but becomes a tough, fibrous leather when cured.

A special process of tanning has been developed for shrinking fine, scaly, file-like surface of sharkskin until it assumes a grain similar to walrus. This process makes the skin practical for traveling bags.

Sharks are already being hunted by two companies formed for this purpose and a number of skins are being made up into bags. One manufacturer is said to have taken 2000 of these skins. If a dependable supply of skins can be obtained, sharkskin may become a factor in the leather trade. At present the uncertainty of the supply and the high prices which must be realized naturally restrict its sale. Dry Goods Economist, Vol. 71, 17 November 1917: p. 81

When we speak of “shagreen” and sharkskin, these, of course, refer to the actual skin of a shark rather than the louche shiny suiting fabric favoured by cads.The “special process” was the key to shark skin leather:

SHARKSKIN SHOES

Hides of Sea Fish Used in Lieu of Cow Leather.

Ft. Myers, Fla., April 4. Sister in devilfish dancing pumps. Dad in sharkskin shoes. Mother in stingaree slippers.

These things will soon come to pass. A plant at Sanibel, Fla., is making them now.

These fish, heretofore useless to man, are being caught and brought to the plant. Their skins are tanned. The tanning process was invented by Ehreinrich, president and promoter of the Ocean Leather Company.

Ehreinrich has become wealthy by selling the European and South American rights to his process.

Suit Cases and other leather goods will be made.  Salisbury [NC] Evening Post 4 April 1921: p. 6

To Mrs Daffodil’s chagrin, she has not been able to locate an image of early 20th-century shagreen shoes. These are from Persia, c. 1800

The steaming jungles and the rolling ocean alike are being ravished for materials for feminine footwear. Many a debutant today selects shoes of snake skin in which to scale the social scarps. In supply this new and crying need, many a python has wrapped its last.

However, the real hippopottomus’ hip, as one Broadway comedian expresses it is sharkskin. Shoes of this type are gray in tone and the supply of material, so far as New York is concerned is inexhaustible. Any hook for an attractive feminine bait will catch a dozen thick skinned gray sharks any day in any pool between the Waldorf and the Westchester road houses. The Bee [Danville VA] 12 December 1923: p. 3

“The real hippopottomus’ hip,” is the youthful slang used to express the notion that sharkskin shoes are the dernier cri. One suspects that “sharks” is the vernacular for “not quite a gentleman.”

SHARKSKIN IS SWAGGER SAYS THE EFFETE EAST

It’s Used Now to Trim Motor Coats, As Well as for Smart Accessories.

New York, Oct. 30. A football game at the polo grounds serves to emphasize the esteem in which shark skin is held at present. The rough and swagger and sporty looking leather is made into any number of articles such as purses, cigarette cases and hand bags. Sometimes the skin is used to cover the handle of an umbrella, and it formed the cuffs and collars of one remarkable motor coat seen at the polo grounds Saturday. Rockford [IL] Republic 30 October 1922: p. 4

A Shark Skin bag, 1922

Shark skin and white leather form one of the large, unusual bags carried by the Duchess Sforza, who favours rare design and dimensions. Vogue Vol. 59, 15 May 1922: p. 33

Silver-mounted shagreen clock, 1904 http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21325/lot/105/

In addition to its uses in fashion, shagreen was popular for furniture inlays, cases for scientific instruments and cutlery, and desk accessories such as stamp cases, calendar frames, and bell pushes. It is rather nubbly in texture and is usually dyed a soft, arsenical green colour. The parlourmaids will attest that the texture gives it a special propensity to collect dust.

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.

 

HER FIANCE WANTED PRIVATE VIEWS ONLY

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.

 

The Little Children’s Watches: 1882

The Little Children’s Watches.

Yesterday an old man entered a Little Rock store, and taking from his pocket an old buckskin pouch he emptied two coins on the counter, and the, after regarding the silver for a few moments said; “Mister, I want to buy some goods to make a dress.”

“That money is mutilated, old gentleman. This twenty-five-cent piece has notches filed in it, and this fifty-cent piece has been punched. You see they have been abused. I can’t take them.”

“Abused,” said the old man. “Abused,” and he took up the fifty-cent piece and looked at it tenderly. “And you won’t take it on account of the holes. Heaven grant that I did not have to offer it to you. Years ago, when my first child was a little girl I punched a hole in this coin and strung it around her neck. It was her constant plaything. At night when she went to bed we’d take it off, but early at morning she would call for her watch. When our John—you didn’t know John, did you? No. Well, he used to come to town a good deal.”

“Where is he now?” asked the merchant, not knowing what to say, but desiring to show appreciation of the old man’s story.

“He was killed in the war. I say that when John was a little boy I strung this quarter around his neck. One day his watch got out of fix, he said, and he filed these notches in it. He and his sister Mary—that was the girl’s name—used to play in the yard and compare their watches to see if they were right. Sometimes John wouldn’t like it because Mary’s watch was bigger than his, but she would explain that she was bigger than him and ought to have a bigger watch. The children grew up, but as they had always lived in the woods they were not ashamed to wear their watches.

When a young man came to see Mary once she forgetfully looked at her fifty cents. ‘What are you doing?’ asked the young man, and when she told him she was looking at her watch, he took it as a hint and went home. After this she did not wear her watch in company.

Well, Mary and the young man married. John went off in the army and got killed. Mary’s husband died, and about two years ago Mary was taken sick. When her mother and I reached her house she was dying. Calling me to her bed, she said: ‘Papa, lean over.’ I leaned over, and, taking something from under her pillow, she put it around my neck and said: ‘Papa, take care of my watch.’”

The old man looked at the merchant. The eyes of both men were moist. “Do you see that boy out there on the wagon?” he said. “Well, that is Mary’s child. I wouldn’t part with this money, but my old wife, who always loved me, died this morning, and I have come to buy her a shroud.”

When the old man went out he carried a bundle in one hand and the “watches” in the other.

Little Rock (Ark.) Gazette.

The Abbeville [SC] Press and Banner 22 March 1882; p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Shrouds, strangely enough, could be purchased from one’s local dry-goods store. Here is a more light-hearted account of such a purchase: The Trousseau Night-dress.

Mrs Daffodil’s readers will, she hopes, excuse her from further comment, as she has something in her eye.

 

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.