THE FRIVOLOUS SIDE OF EASTER TIME
Some of the Monster Eggs Made For Display This Year.
Comic Figures on Easter Egg Shells.
In these days of skilled confectioners the Easter eggs, natural and artificial, have become, some of them, veritable works of art, while all exhibit the skill and ingenuity of their manufacturers in the grotesqueness, beauty, or costliness of their designs. Nor will the outside of the Easter egg alone, however quaint or beautiful it may be, absorb the attention of the recipient; but eager fingers will at once seek to solve the mystery—what woman or child is there who does not delight in mystery of the kind of the breed of the chicken the egg will hatch. And the chickens! Well, you may expect to find anything from a bed room set to an Easter bonnet in your egg this year; for watches, rings, broches, clocks, studs, pins, gloves, sweetmeats, handkerchiefs, books, photos, and live birds are the names of but a few of the many delightful surprises which will await the egg openers.
Eggs in which presents are to be placed are made of papier-mache shells, and are usually covered with hand-painted satin. Of course where the giver is an artist, the value of the gift will be enhanced greatly if the painting is done by the same hand that sends the gift. Travelers sometimes bring in ostrich eggs to be painted and filled; and, at least one egg of the extinct great auk has passed through the hands of the confectioner. This egg would be a gift fit for a king, empty or filled, for the rarity of the great auk’s eggs makes them of very great value. But the record-breaker, in point of size and probably in costliness, was an egg made in London and sent to a South African millionaire’s bride. The shell of this giant egg was composed entirely of chocolate, and was nine feet long and eighteen feet in circumference at the widest part. It required seven men to carry it. A ton of superfine confectionery, an expensive and extensive wedding trousseau and numerous wedding gifts were all packed within the egg. The bill for the sweetmeats alone was $2,500 and the whole was insured for many thousands of dollars, before being shipped to Africa.
A few years ago a certain New York railroad magnate had a superb Easter egg made for his little son. It was a miniature carriage, the body being in the shape of a huge egg, enameled white, lined with white quilted satin, and drawn by a pair of exceedingly diminutive ponies. This is but one of the many Easter extravagancies indulged in by New Yorkers. Indeed, no city in the world buys costlier Easter eggs than does New York; and this fact has made its confectioners the most skillful of workmen in this department of art.
This year the display of Easter novelties is especially attractive, and includes many beautiful and quaint designs. There is the little Swiss carrier, with the egg in the pannier; and a very large and extremely wise-looking mother owl and her numerous family, with bodies made of delicious chocolate eggs, which is quite sure to please lovers of the odd. While a real chick, dressed to represent a milliner’s apprentice, with a great box of eggs in one hand and a bunch of fragrant flowers in the other, can, should the donor wish, deliver an expensive hat or bonnet in lieu of the eggs in the box. Another elaborate and costly affair is a very pretty egg, carried in a bamboo cab or jinricksha, and drawn by a team of four stately little storks. On the high seat at the back stands a fifth stork, who, with all the dignity of mien of a Fifth-avenue coachman, appears to be ready to drive the dainty equipage post haste to the home of the donor’s lady love. Of course the proper thing to do would be to drop a beautiful jewel into the egg before giving the coachman the address. Then there are rich cakes, in the form of magnificent eggs, iced and decorated in a most beautiful manner and bound, where the two halves are joined, with pretty ribbons.
But the quaintest and funniest of all are the Easter egg likenesses. These are made from hen’s eggs. The contents are first blown out and the shells weighted or balanced with fine shot, in such a way that they will always stand on end. An artist now takes the eggs and judges from their shapes what “character” to give each one. Then, with brush and paint, he proceeds to transform the eggs into ludicrous caricatures of, it may be, Mr. Gladstone, Grover Cleveland, Cecil Rhodes, McKinley or other notable characters. Now the funny thing is the behavior of these egg-men. Knock Grover Cleveland down; and, with his usual obstinacy, up he bobs, ready for another hit. Push Gladstone over; and the Grand Old Fellow jumps up so quickly and frowns so fiercely that one is quite sure he must have seen a Turk. Even McKinley cannot be downed; and the dude swaggers about furiously, and the clown rolls and tumbles around in a way to make the heart glad and the lips laugh. It is the fine shot, held firmly by wax to the bottom inside of the shell that enables these quaint little egg-men to accomplish these marvelous gymnastical feats.
The Easter egg novelties for children are more numerous and costly than ever this year. Beautiful and elaborate eggs made of satin or plaited straw, have hidden within them delightful surprises for the bright eyes of their owners to spy out. A doll’s complete trousseau, or a miniature tea or dinner-service, or a regiment of soldiers, or a boy’s tool chest, or countless games and mechanical toys of all kinds are apt to make the hatching of the eggs on Easter day an exceedingly enjoyable occupation for the children.
The Fort Wayne [IN] News 6 April 1898: p. 6
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The famous Imperial Russian Easter eggs are, of course, the most luxe example of the filled-Easter-egg genre. The bejewelled and enamelled objects were filled with surprises such as a clock-work elephant, a miniature coronation coach, or portraits of the Imperial children. Mrs Daffodil imagines that a child receiving a tool chest or doll’s tea-service would feel every bit as gratified by their Easter surprises as the Empresses and Dowager Empress, who, one fancies, must occasionally have tired of guilloché enamel and yearned for a simple box of chocolates.
A clockwork elephant by Faberge, the surprise from the Rose Trellis Egg, 1892
Mrs Daffodil does question the wisdom of shipping a 9-foot-long chocolate egg packed, not only with confectionery, but with a trousseau, to the torrid clime of South Africa.
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.