Tag Archives: canaries

Saturday Snippets: 10 August 2013: A chimney-sweep panic, mourning playing cards, a Woman in Black spectre, canine furniture, telephone girl hair fashions


Lately, while two men were employed in the interior of a family vault, a strange figure, black from head to foot, glided into the sepulchral mansion; the man whose eye first caught the spectre became instantly petrified with horror, his speech forsook him, and it was only by a vigorous effort that he could job the elbow of his fellow, and point to the object of alarm. Like the shock from the electric spark, the terror was communicated by the touch, but the symptoms were not so strong in the second as the first subject; taking courage, he addressed the ghost in a faltering accent, and said, “in the name of God, what is your errand to this world?”

“I have no errand: I was going past, and thought I would just look in.”

These grateful sounds instantly dispelled the illusion, and the workmen recognized in him the well-known voice of a neighboring chimney sweeper. Steubenville [OH] Herald 18 July 1817: p. 4 

The newest thing in mourning is that girls whom death bereaves of their accepted lovers may wear mourning. It consists, however, of no more than a black ribbon, where it loosely fastens her pretty gown in front, or it may appear in any part of the toilet. Another dainty fancy of these almost-not-quite widows it to dye their hair black. At all events, it was done in one case—that of a comment-courting actress. She had for several years bleached her hair to a light yellow, but on the death of her affianced husband she turned her hair to jet by means of dye, and in the same way blackened her eyebrows. Ah, well, if women were not peculiar, their mere beauty might become insipid to their adorers. Whimsicality makes them piquant. I saw two girls seated together and they wore such pretty dresses! One had an open album, and was gazing in sentimental grief at a photograph of her lately-deceased cousin.“Oh, I loved Jim very dearly,” she said, “and I mourn him as for a brother.” “Why don’t you put on mourning for him?” the other asked.“Because,” and she turned her tear-dimmed eyes on her friend, “my eyes are a light gray, and black would surely spoil their effect. Jim had exquisite taste in colors, and he would not, I’m sure wish me to wear anything unbecoming to my eyes.” St. Paul [MN] Daily Globe 22 January 1888: p. 12


Lock Haven Bug-a-Boo Met Its Match in a Plucky Girl

Special to The Inquirer.

Lock Haven, Pa., Oct. 3 For two weeks or more hundreds of men and boys, armed with revolvers, guns, dirks, and clubs, have been watching nightly for the human Will-o’-the-Wisp, called the Woman in Black, which has been bobbing up in dark places to frighten women and girls, and the police force has been augmented by several specials with the hope of catching the “spectre.” But it remained for a demure miss of sixteen to put the ogre to flight, and all she used was a hat pin.

When the “Woman in Black” stepped from a dark place last night and confronted a trio of girls, this miss stood her ground, and when she seized her hat pin the “Woman in Black,” who is believed to be a man, fled in the other direction. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 4 October 1899: p. 6

 An infantry private in a Delaware regiment has been “devilled” into quitting his company and wants redress, but cannot find a method. An indictment for militia’s mischief might lie. The Mt. Sterling [KY] Advocate 31 March 1891: p. 7 


Also They Must Quit Chewing Gum and Enunciate More Distinctly.

Chicago, Dec. 18. Puffs, rats, curls and also transformations—whatever they are—will be shorn from the heads of the thousands of telephone girls under a new rule just promulgated. They are also forbidden to chew gum during business hours.

The branch managers had reported that the operators spent too much time replacing loosened wisps of tresses when their fingers should have been busy with the plugs.

Here is the way the operators were instructed not to talk over the telephone:

“Numberpleeze.” “Phone’s takenout.” No fault is found with their enunciation of “Drop a nickel, please.” Fort Wayne [IN] Journal Gazette 19 December, 1909: p. 49 

Boston Mourning Cards.

The other day a very dainty young woman in black, with mourning veil so draped as to set off her shapely head and neck to advantage, entered a large stationery store on Washington Street, and said sweetly to a clerk behind the counter:

“Do you have all kinds of mourning cards?” “Yes’m; we have the cards, and can get them engraved for you.” “Oh, I don’t want the kind they get engraved—I want playing cards, you know.”

“Mourning playing cards!”

“Why, yes; don’t you think they would be real nice and tasty?”

The clerk was obliged to confess that the trade hadn’t yet reached the point of supplying playing cards with mourning borders for bereaved lovers of whist and poker, and the lady left the store disappointed. Boston Record Fresno [CA] Republican Weekly 11 March, 1887: p. 2


It is told of Charles Lamb, that one afternoon, returning from a dinner-party, having taken a seat in a crowded omnibus, a stout gentleman subsequently looked in, and politely asked, “All full inside?”

“I don’t know how it may be with the other passengers,” answered Lamb, “but that last piece of oyster-pie did the business for me.” Cyclopædia of Literary and Scientific Anecdote, edited by William Keddie, 1859 

Footstool May be Used as Dog Kennel

Paris, Jan. 2. The Parisienne’s love of canine pets has led to the invention of a pretty little piece of furniture. This is a small footstool of gilt wood, upholstered in material in keeping with the hangings of the apartment. The stool is hollowed and padded inside and is furnished with a small door in one side, and serves for a comfortable nook for a small dog. Parisian hostesses can thus keep pets with them when receiving friends. St. Louis [MO] Republic 3 January 1904: p. 12 

English Sparrows at A Dollar Apiece

Delaware, N.J. The residents of this section have been investing heavily in French canary birds, and now have as fine a lot of English sparrows on hand as they could wish for.

A couple of men came through here at few days ago and sold the birds at $1 apiece. They promised to return in ten days and refund the money if the birds were not satisfactory.

They left explicit directions not to give the birds a bath under a week, for fear they would take cold. When the bath was given, the coloring matter washed off, and a fine lot of sparrows was the result. New York World. Cleveland [OH] Leader 18 October 1903: p. 24

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The story of the Woman in Black “bug-a-boo” put to flight by a plucky girl reminds Mrs Daffodil of the “Woman in Black” panics so often found in the American papers and occasionally in those of the better-regulated British press. These panics were the result of sightings or visions of ghastly females in widow’s weeds, gliding around in the dark. They were often described as unnaturally tall (leading to a suspicion that they were really men) and had the ability to disappear inexplicably. There were a great many of them terrifying the populace in Pennsylvania in the 1880s through the 1910s.  Those scientists who study social movements would probably say that the apparitions were some visual manifestation of  financial crashes and coal-mining disasters. If one asked the inhabitants of Pennsylvania who had experienced these panics, they would delicately suggest that such scientists were talking through their hats and that everyone knew that the black-clad  creatures were actually modern banshees.

There is a chapter on the Women in Black in the upcoming book, The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past.

You will find the two-part post about a Woman in Black panic in Massillon, Ohio here and here.

Saturday Snippets: 13 July 2013: Corsets in court, naked gentlemen, naughty little kings, the Will tattoo, canine sagacity

From the V&A touring exhibition: Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion.

From the V&A touring exhibition: Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion.

 Slander Case. James Gosling, a dry goods merchant, doing business on Market Street, was mulcted in $1300 on Wednesday, by a jury in the District Court. Mr. G. sold two corsets to a Miss Lucy Morgan, and permitted her, as is the custom, to take them home that she might see if they would answer. It was found, on examination, that they would not suit, and they were sent back, but before they got to the store Mr. Gosling saw Miss Morgan in an omnibus at Hares’ Hotel, on her way to the railroad station, and , believing that she intended defrauding him, he called her a “rascal,” and said she had the corsets in her truck on the top of the vehicle. When he got back to the store he found them there, and Miss M. bringing suit against him for slander, obtained a verdict as above stated. Pittsburg Chron. Boston [MA] Traveler 16 November 1857: p. 2


The Small Monarch of Spain is Imperious and Obstreperous

If all the stories are true which are told about the little King of Spain, he must be a very willful little boy, indeed, and quite determined to have his own way in everything. One cannot greatly blame the little king for his waywardness, because the rules of his country are such that the word of the king is law, in many things, whether that same king be young or old, little or big. So little Alphonso must be pardoned if he is a “spoiled” child.

One day Alphonso and his governess were out driving, when suddenly the governess noticed that the little king was not acknowledging the salutes of his subjects.

“I am too tired to bow to them,” exclaimed he, pettishly, “and I am not going to do it.”

“But you must acknowledge their salutes,” insisted the governess, “because you are their king, and it is one of the customs for a king to bow to his subjects.”

“I shall not bow to them!” exclaimed Alphonso, loudly. “Then you cannot drive in the carriage with me,” replied the governess, kindly, but firmly for she feared that Alphonso would offend his subjects.

“Then you may get out and walk!” exclaimed the naughty little king. Then, calling to the coachman, he cried:

“Halt, Carlo! This lady wishes to go on foot.” Evening Star [Washington, D.C.] 12 November 1892: p. 9


 It is said that a woman, who had but a short time to live, had a five-hundred-word will tattooed upon her back to prevent any misunderstanding and to safeguard against forgery. The will was read before the woman was buried, by her attorney, in the presence of the relatives. Needless to say, there was no litigation, and the wishes of this astute Englishwoman were carried out. NZ Truth, 27 December 1924: p. 6

The Cat-o’-Nine-Tails in New York

Part of an east side family’s equipment is a small cat-o’-nine-tails. Not quite the instrument of torture used at Delaware’s three whipping posts, but a small affair, consisting of a short wooden handle and a few leathern thongs. The implement is designed for family discipline, and waved threateningly when east side children misbehave in the presence of their parents. All east side house furnishers sell the domestic cat-o’-nine-tails at 15 cents or less – New York Letter The Wichita [KS] Daily Eagle 15 July 1890: p. 6 

WHALEBONE CLOTH. – M. Schultz, of Prague, has taken out a patent for the manufacture of a kind of cloth from whalebone. We are informed that the cloth obtained by this process bears a strong resemblance to silk, and is particularly adapted for making cravats, under waistcoats, ribbons, &c. Freedom’s Journal [New York, NY] 1 August 1828

A little cake dipped in sherry wine will, it is said, restore the lost voice of a canary bird. That’s nice medicine. Albany [NY] Evening Journal 15 February 1870: p. 2


A frightful accident happened to the “Female Blondin” at Highbury Barn on yesterday evening. She has for some time past been engaged at this place of amusement, and was last night performing on the high rope, when she fell to the ground. She had gone through the greater part of her performance, having walked across the rope with a pole, wheeled a barrow along it, and walked across in a sack, when she started holding a pole loaded with fireworks, and Catharine wheel at each end. She had got three parts of the way across the rope, when the fireworks at one end of the pole seemed to give way and destroy her balance. She fell, but caught on the rope with her leg. Unfortunately, she was unable to support herself and the next instant she came down with a heavy thud on to the gravel walk beneath. She was of course taken up immediately, but was perfectly insensible, and when our reporter left not the slightest hopes were entertained of her recover.


This morning at eight o’clock Mr. Claremont, Mr. Saul, and Mr. King, met in consultation at Highbury Barn, and it was discovered that her chief injury is fracture of the neck of the femur (thigh-bone), but there are others. She was sensible, and at her own request has since been removed to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where she now remains an inmate. The unfortunate woman was to have performed tonight at Wolverhampton. There was but one feeling prevailed, which was, that the sooner these dangerous sensation exhibitions are put a stop to the better. Evening Star [London, England] 15 August 1862: p. 3  [Later reports stated that she could no longer practice her profession because of the injury.]


“Have you any children, madam?” inquired a sharp landlord of a lady in modest black who was looking at one of his houses, just finished and in perfect order.

“Yes,” said the gentle mother. “I have seven, sir, but they are all in the churchyard!”

A sign and the dew of a tear gave impressiveness to the painful remark, and without further parley the bargain was closed.

Her little flock were waiting for her in the churchyard around the corner, and were delighted to hear that she had found a snug house so speedily. The landlord says he shall never trust a woman in black after this. Anti-Slavery Bugle [New Lisbon, OH] 6 October 1855: p. 4 

CANINE SAGACITY The truth of the following instance of the sagacity of a dog, we can substantiate in every particular, and it is, we think, well worthy of notice. A little daughter of one of our prominent citizens has a well arranged baby house upon which she bestowed much care, tastefully dressing the various doll occupants thereof in the morning, and divesting them of their clothing at night. This practice she has followed for some months. The pet dog usually set by her at night, and superintended the work of preparing the dolls for bed. One evening last week the girl was away to tea, and did not return in season to perform the practical duties to the babies. The dog awaited her arrival until the dolls’ hour of retiring had passed, and knowing that they ought to be taken care of, he carefully went to work and undressed them—five in number—without injuring the dresses in the least. How he did it we know not, but it is a fact. [Nantucket Inquirer.] Mineral Point [WI] Weekly Tribune 5 July 1859: p. 1

“What impudence !” exclaimed Mrs. Shoddy. “Here is a man applying by letter for a situation as coachman, who signs himself ‘ Your obedient servant,’ and I have not even thought of hiring him yet.” Household Words Vol. 5, Charles Dickens, 1882

 The gentlemen disrobing for the bath in the evenings in the basement of the new Y.M.C.A. building, are certainly ignorant of the treacherous transparency of the ground glass windows by electric light, or they would hang a few curtains. Cincinnati [OH] Post 14 January 1892: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Even if it would have brought her into the clutches of the Holy Inquisition, Mrs Daffodil believes that she would have used the family cat-o-nine-tails on his insufferable little Majesty. The young King was Alphonso XIII [1886-1931], under the regency of his mother Queen Maria Christina of Austria, whom we have previously met in a post about a cursed opal ring.  King Alphonso lost his throne to a Prime Minister and a Republic, which perhaps would not have happened had he not offended his subjects by refusing to bow to them.