Tag Archives: lucky charms

Tommy Atkins is a Fatalist: 1918

Good Luck Charms used by Soldiers in the Great War. The Wellcome Collection.

Good Luck Charms used by Soldiers in the Great War. The Wellcome Collection.


Many British Soldiers Carry Charms and Keep Mascots; Black Cats Favored.

Behind British Lines in France. The feeling of fatalism is strong among soldiers. Many hold the opinion that “if the bullet is not made for you you won’t be hit.” One soldier boasts that he knows he will come through the war all right, because during his latest battle, a large piece of shrapnel on which he found his own initial fell at his feet.

“It was made for me, all right,” he said, “but it missed the mark, so nothing else can kill me.”

Mascots and luck-bringers of various sorts are numerous in all the armies today. They are of great variety, although perhaps tiny rabbits and black cats made of “lucky” metal are encountered more frequently than anything else. Probably in most cases the lucky charm which a soldier carries is something sent him by his womenfolk in the homeland—a thimble, a ring, or a child’s trinket of some kind that has been passed down in the family as a luck-bringer.

Fear Number Three.

Among soldier’s superstitions, of which the British soldier has his full share, one of the most characteristic is connected with the number three.

“The third time is never the same,” is a proverb among the Irish troops. “The third anything is fatal,” is a common expression among the English country battalions. Soldiers have been known to refuse to take their third leave, feeling certain that it will be their last. A soldier’s third wound is said to be the one which must be most carefully attended to. A development of this same superstition prohibits the lighting of three cigarettes with one match.

Odd numbers, according to the British Tommy, are more likely to be unlucky than even ones, and thirteen is no worse than nine. Friday as an unlucky day has been dethroned, and there is no particular bad luck connected with any day of the week in Tommy’s estimation. Sunday, however, is preeminently a lucky day for battles.

White Heather is Lucky.

The lucky flower, by common consent, is white heather, and a piece properly tucked away inside the hatband is supposed to save the wearer from a fatal wound.

Some regiments regard certain decorations and medals as unlucky, not to the wearer, but to the regiment in general. One very well-known battalion objects strongly every time one of its number is awarded the Military Cross.

As regimental pets, black cats are regarded as the luckiest possession a detachment can have, and the arrival of a stray animal of this color at a gun-pit or dugout is an event of great importance. Everyone is bound to be lucky for some hours at least. To meet a black cat while marching up to the trenches puts every member of the company in the happiest humor. On the other hand, a black magpie flying across the line of march is a bad omen. To hear the cuckoo calling before breakfast is another bad omen.

Idaho Statesman [Boise ID] 20 February 1918: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Imperial War Museums shared five “lucky objects” from the Great War.

On the subject of regimental pets:


Some regiments possess curions mascots. The Royal Fusiliers for the last hundred years have kept a goat as the regimental pet, and the mascot of one of the Lancer regiments is also a goat, which they acquired some years ago in South Africa. This animal went through the Matabele war with the regiment, and though several times under fire escaped without a scratch. The 17th Lancers—the “Death or Glory” boys used to possess a large black bear with white markings, but she became bad-tempered, and so was presented not long ago to the Dublin Zoo. Star 11 September 1919: p. 6

To-morrow is Armistice Day, the 99th anniversary of the end of the Great War, reminding us that many “Tommies,” despite their charms and mascots, were not lucky enough to return.


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.


“I’m Not Superstitious, But–“: 1926

“I’m Not Superstitious, But—“

Nina Wilcox Putnam

America’s Only Woman Humorist [!!?!?!]

As Sir Walter Raleigh said, when spreading his coat over the mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth, “Step on it, kid, this is your lucky day and mine, too. I only regret that I have but one coat to lay down for my country.”

And how true it is that some things bring you luck, providing you believe they do, certainly was proved to me not long ago when I luckily picked up the telephone receiver on a busy wire and heard that the cook was leaving over at Miss Demeanor’s. I was lucky and quick enough to beat all the other ladies in Dinglewood to luring her.

The cooks, if any, which we have had this part year have positively caused a draft going through our kitchen, that’s how fast they went. And now, quite by accident, I run across the fact that this cook was leaving, so naturally I ran across and asked would she come to us, and she said she would, and so I went right on back home and scrubbed the kitchen floor, washed the windows, tied red bows on the kitchen curtains, moved the best easy chair, radio and five-foot bookshelf out there, also a few little other odds and ends into her quarters such as my long mirror, my best red room slippers, and etc. to make her feel thoroughly comfortable.

The Conquering Cook Comes

Well, the next morning, which was when we was expecting her, I fixed myself up as attractive as possible and sat down to wait for her. Pretty soon the doorbell give a loud ring, and my heart give a ditto leap, and I though, oh heavens, there she is and hurried to answer. Well, it was, actually she had showed. I took her bags and carried them upstairs and showed her her room, asked was there anything I could do for her, found she would fancy a little cake and tea, and then I left her in privacy while I went down to fix things up like she wanted, and while I was doing so, the bell rang again, and this time who would it be only that Mabel Bush, the one that’s married to Joe Bush of the Hawthorne Club.

Well, at first I thought where Mabel must have been shopping, on account she had something with her from pretty near every department of the Emporium. But no, she was merely going away for a coupula weeks and had brought some stuff she wanted to park with me while she was gone.

Say dear, she says when she had got her breath. I wonder would you mind taking care of my goldfish while I and Joe is out in Kansas visiting mother. He’s a real sweet little feller, ain’t you, Otto? See how cute he is, Jennie? And he don’t bite or anything unless he’s crossed. With that she hauled out one of the meanest looking goldfish I ever saw in my life. It gives me an awful funny look right off, but naturally I merely says why hello, Otto, nice Otto, pretty feller, of course I’ll take care of him, Mabel, what does he eat? Oh, fishcakes, she says, or any old thing. Now go to your Aunt Jennie, Otto, that’s the boy!

Mabel Dodges the Jinx

Well, I took his glass globe and put I on the table, a little uneasy over how the new cook would feel about another mouth to feed after I had told her there was only three in the family. But before I got a chance to go do any heavy worrying, Mabel had pulled a wild-looking fern out from a handbag, and set the poor helpless thing at my feet. ‘There!’ she says “I’m sure you don’t mind looking after that; all you got to do is water it once a day with double-filtered water, brush its leaves, pick the spiders and seeds off it, and give it a little sunshine.

Then before I had a chance to kick she was after me with another coupla bundles. “This is just the canary,” she says, “and here, my dear, is my peacock fan and my opal pin. Of course I’m not a bit superstitious, but I always say there is no use taking silly chances, and there have been three wrecks around mother’s neighbourhood lately, and I hate to leave them in the house in case burglars was to break in, so you don’t mind if I leave them with you, do you?”

Why Mabel Bush, I says, do you mean to tell me you are superstitious about taking them things with you? I says, why you ought to be ashamed of such ideas. I wouldn’t be so childish, why what harm can a father fan and few opals do? Well, she says, of course they can’t do any harm, I know that, so you really won’t mind keeping them until I get back? I says of course not, dear, but honest, I think you ought to take them along, just to overcome such nonsensical ideas.

Jennie Takes no Chances.

Well, Mabel wouldn’t insult my intelligence by taking them things off the place once she had brought them, so she left them and went on her way. And after she had done so, why I put the livestock around the dining-room, and then I didn’t quite know where to put that opal pin and Mabel’s peacock fan for safe-keeping. Of course I didn’t have the faintest feeling about keeping them in the house, even with a new cook there, so I left ‘em lay where she put them.

Then I picked up a pin off the floor, walking around so’s to make sure the point was towards me, and went out in the kitchen to ask Mary, the new cook, did she know anybody owning a second-hand black cat they didn’t need? Not that I really thought it would do any good, but some people have the idea a black cat is lucky, and while I personally myself certainly don’t believe in any such nonsense, why as long as I had the idea in my head I thought I might as well get a black cat to kinda counteract the idea of that fan and opals. Well, it seems Mary had a cat meeting my specifications up to her house and she offered to go right up and get it, but I wasn’t taking any chances of letting her out. So  says, oh no, don’t bother, I will go, where is it? And she says no. 13 West 113th St.

Luck Looks Up.

That number, of course, didn’t sound awful good to me, but I says to myself, now don’t be silly, it is a pure coincidence, you go get that cat just the same. So I did, and there was a ladder standing over the front door when I got there. Not that I minded this any more than poison, and naturally I hadn’t come all that long way in order to be turned back by a mere childish superstition. So I went under the ladder and knocked on the door and after a while somebody put their head out the window and says what do you want? And I says, Mary, that’s my cook, at least she was when I left home, told me her daughter had a black cat. And the party in the window says Mary’s daughter ain’t ever here Fridays, but I’ll get you the cat. So she done so in a bag, and my good luck started right away.

Well, anyways, I was lucky enough to get home alive and without being arrested in spite of the bloody murder that animal was yelling. And I was lucky with it another way, on account no sooner was that cat established in our home than I no longer had to bother feeding my goldfish. I didn’t haf to bury it, the nice kitty attended to all that.

Naturally, however, I had to replace Otto, so I ordered another poor fish of exactly the same pattern, ordered it kept down in the fish department of the Emporium until Mabel got ready to come back. It was just as well, anyways, on account the new cook claimed she never could of stood the noise it didn’t make.

Welcoming the Horseshoe

Now of course I wasn’t one bit superstitious about them opals being in the house, but I have to admit I commenced dropping tea spoons right after Mabel parked stuff with me. Not that I believe it really is unlucky to drop a spoon, but once I got the idea why I felt there wouldn’t be any actual harm in doing everything I could to counteract the thought. And so it was certainly rather cheering when Junior brought in a nice horseshoe with three nails in it. I had a good time gilding it up, and panting a few forget me nots on it, so’s nobody would think anything peculiar when I hung it up over the parlor mantel.

Ad nobody did, not even when by accident in hanging it, I happened to brush Mabel’s peacock fan off the mantel and into the open fire. I felt awful bad about this and what to do certainly was the question. It was one thing to page a new gold fish, but not a soul I knew kept even one peacock, and so he only thing I could hope for was that Mabel had her stuff well insured.

I wouldn’t want to lay the blame on any of Mabel’s belongings. I am not that kind of a fool, but it’s the truth that the very day I bought a picture postal of a peacock in order to make things up to Mabel the best I could, why somebody, the cat, so the cook said, left the dining room window open, let Mabel’s fern freeze, and of course, the only one of the same style our florist had in stock was twice as big and four times as expensive. But that didn’t matter so bad, because all I would have to do when she come back would be to say look, dear, what wonderful care I have taken of your plant, just see how it has grown and etc.

Worse and More of It.

Hot Bozo! As if that wasn’t enough the darn canary bird she had left on my hands commenced moulting. We could hear him at it every morning earl, and never once got dressed and down in time to stop him. So I had to go spend a couple or three dollars on hair tonic and after he drank the first couple of bottles he begun to look better. Just the same he had a distinctly shingle bobbed appearance by the time I got a letter from Mabel telling where she would be home in two days and if it wasn’t too much bother, would I mind ordering milk and ice, and loaning them a little coal, and running over to air the house and tell the furnace man to build a fire and ask the newspaper man to commence leaving the Morning Yell again. And she hoped it wouldn’t be too much bother.

So I done like she asked, and I addition carted all her stuff over for her—all, that is to say, except them opals. Look as I could, I wasn’t able to locate that pin any place. I stubbed my toe looking and every one knows that meant you’re going some place where you’re not welcome without that jewel? The cook got sore when I asked if she had seen the darn thing, and says well, if she wasn’t trusted, there was no use in he r staying any longer. So she took her bag, wages and departure.

And still I couldn’t find no pin, so I decided, well, that cook never would of left me flat like that and walked out unless she really had stolen it, after all! Not that I’m the least superstitious, but I might of known I wouldn’t have a minute’s luck with opals in the house. I don’t believe in any superstition in the world, but there has certainly been nothing go right since Mable left them stones here, and what and the world am I gonner tell her when I see her tomorrow?

One Superstition Left

Well, naturally there wasn’t nothing to do except tell her the truth. And so when Mabel come home and I was over there to her house with everything ready for her like she had asked, and she says how lovely and neighborly of you, dear, I’m afraid it’s been a terrible lot of bother. Why, of course I says, not in the least, darling. It’s been no bother at all. It’s been a pleasure. But, I says, I got bad news for you. I lost your opal pin, dear, not that I’m one bit superstitious, but it certainly brought me bad luck all the while it was with me and now it’s gone.

And she says, why Jennie Jules, she says, it was never there at all. I didn’t leave it there. I took it along with me after all, on account of the way you kidded me about being superstitious! And I give her one look. No! I says, meaning yes. So you never left it! I says. Well, I do guess there is one superstition I do believe in, after all, which is that when a person’s nose itches it means they are going to kiss a fool, and so, if you’ve got a mirror handy, I believe I’ll get the job over with right now.

The Sunday news [Charleston SC 17 January 1926

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Just in time for the 13th of the month, this whimsical account touches on just about every common superstition of the early twentieth century, as well as the problem of Keeping a Cook. Peacock feathers, opals, and black cats were all considered unlucky, although sceptics tried to reason people out of their fears of jinxes and hoodoos and fashion tried to trump superstition, all to no avail; some individuals still believe these articles to be problematic even to-day.

That rankly superstitious person over at Haunted Ohio has a theory, writing:

“Judging by the persistence of ‘superstitions,’ one wonders if, in the same way humans need certain vital gut bacteria and an exposure to dirt in childhood to maintain a healthy immune system, humans need a salutary dose of the illogical from time to time to top up whatever part of the brain it feeds.”

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 Hair for a Husband: A Bridal Superstition: 1895


Girls Who Seeks to Have Single Hairs Stitched Into Wedding Gowns.

One superstition that exists among sewing girls and their associates of Paris and New York, says the Sun, is that if the head dressmakers will stitch into wedding garments a single hair from the head of each they will become brides within a very short time after the maiden who wears the bridal outfit then in preparation. A young woman of experience and with a quick eye for what would interest the Sun’s reads said to a Sun reporter the other evening:

Let me tell you of this strange and yet pretty superstition which exists among some of the sewing girls in Paris and New York. I am more familiar with the superstition as it exists among the girls of some of the bigger dry goods shops in New York City, and so in this instance I will confine my story to them. When the sewing girls in the different apartments and the girls behind the counters learn that the house has received an order for a big trousseau they besiege the head dressmakers and ask them to stitch into the wedding gown especially a single hair from their heads. This hair is so fine that it is easily concealed and cannot in any way mar the beautiful wedding gown. The head dressmakers very often humor the girls.

“I know positively that this superstition exists and I know positively that in many wedding gowns, could they be picked to pieces, would be found many hairs stitched in. The girls, when they go home at night, tell their girl friends that a hair from their heads has been stitched into the wedding gown of Miss So-and-So, and the lucky one is immediately envied. She will be married very soon, her associates say.

“Many of the girls in the big shops secure bits of the wedding gowns of fashionable brides. They take them home and treasure them up. They make collections of them, and they point them out to their friends in the neighborhood, saying, ‘That was Miss So-and-So’s wedding gown,’ and so they go through the list. The sewing girl who possesses the greatest collection of these bits if a very important young woman in the eyes of her young woman friends. She is considered to be almost fashionable herself, because she is so near the throne. But by far the prettiest superstition that I have yet heard of is the one where a single hair from so many of these shop girls is stitched into these very expensive wedding gowns.

The Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 1 December 1895: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There is a very similar superstition reported from M. Worth’s atelier

There is an odd superstition in M. Worth’s workroom. When a wedding gown is being made there is a rush among the sewing girls to thread the first needle with a hair from their own head and pass it through the material. Whoever is first in this race will be the first to marry. Fresno [CA] Morning Republican 1 October 1905: p. 14 

Mrs Daffodil knows several persons working as curators in museum costume collections. One wonders if they have ever found evidence of this practice? With advances in the genealogical use of DNA, it might even be possible to identify the young lady donors. And, of course, armed with that knowledge and a rough date for the garment into which they were inserted, one might even be able to tell if the hair actually brought the hopeful seamstress a husband.

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.


Magical Jewels of the Monarchs: 1900-1906

Modern Talismanic Jewels

One of the best collections of stories concerning the magic of talismanic jewels in strictly modern times is contained in a chapter of Geo. H. Bratley’s “Power of Gems and Charms.” In it we read the following interesting paragraphs: “Emperor William of Germany [this was written in 1906] possesses a ring which has a very curious history. It is the talisman of the family. Legend relates that since the time of the Elector John of Brandenburg, every ruler of the House of Hohenzollern has, when dying, if possible, handed a sealed packet to his successor. This packet contains a ring in which is set a black stone that was dropped by an enormous toad upon the bed of the wife of the Elector immediately after she had given birth to a son, the toad afterwards mysteriously disappearing. The stone was zealously taken care of, and the father of Frederick the Great had it set in a ring. Schneider, the librarian of William I., declares that he witnessed the handing over of the precious packet by Geiling, the treasurer, to his royal master on his succession; and he further asserts that he read the full account of the stone to the Emperor, who fully confirmed it. The ring has ever since been worn by the head of the House of Hohenzollern. William II wears it on all great occasions, and he has great respect, like every Hohenzollern, for the curious old jewel. In the archives at Berlin are many documents of that time referring to it…

[The author then tells the story of the cursed Spanish opal, which we have previously visited in these pages.]

The Czar of Russia is said to be very superstitious [remember this was written in 1906] and to have great confidence in relics. He wears a ring in which is imbedded a piece of the true cross, and it is said to have the virtue of shielding its wearer from any physical danger. It was originally one of the treasures of the Vatican, and was presented to an ancestor of the Czar for diplomatic reasons. The value which its owner sets upon the ring is shown by the fact that he will never, if possible, move any distance without it. Some years ago he was traveling from St. Petersburg to Moscow when he suddenly discovered he had forgotten the ring. The train was stopped immediately, and a special messenger sent back in an express for it; nor would the Czar allow the train to move until eight hours afterwards, when the messenger returned with the ring. It is said that when his grandfather was so cruelly assassinated he had left the ring behind him. The Czar has also another ring with a more pleasant history to it; the story is both pretty and romantic. It is a plain ring and of a quaint Gothic design. The ring was given to Princess Charlotte of Prussia, daughter of Frederick William III., by her governess, while the princess was still a schoolgirl. On the inside of it in faint characters the words ‘Russia’s Czarina’ are just legible. Many years later Prince Nicholas of Russia, then without any hope of succeeding to the throne, saw and fell in love with the young princess, and, during dinner, on the first evening of their meeting, begged her to give him a little remembrance as a sign that his love was returned. ‘Pray give me that little ring,’ he whispered; and secretly it was handed to him. Eight years later the prophetic words engraved within the ring came true. Nicholas became Czar of Russia and Charlotte its Czarina. [Where were these rings during the bloody assassination in the Ekaterinenburg cellar?] [Mrs Daffodil’s note: This ring belonged to Czar Nicholas I. (d. 1855)]

But it is not only royalty who believe in the magic of charms, for we find the great composer, Haydn, had a ring which was his source of inspiration. Without the ring he could rack his brain in vain for melodies: with it the music would leap to his fingers. Mr. Rider Haggard, the novelist, wears a quaint signet ring which once adorned the finger of that Pharaoh who made Israel captive, and to this ornament the novelist ascribes many virtues.

The well-known jeweler, Mr. Streeter of Bond St., though not afraid to walk under ladders, spill salt, and do other unlucky things, always carries attached to his watch chain a small, quaint, sharply carved seal which was originally found in an Egyptian coffin. He has worn it for many years and would not be without it for anything.

The clever black-and-white artist, Mr. Austin Osman Spare, once picked up a golden skull bearing the word ‘One’ in opals. On the night he picked it up he dreamed that as long as he kept the trinket he would be lucky. So far his dream has come true. It is for this reason that he signs his drawings ‘One.’

Madame [Alice] Esty [the opera singer] never appears in public without a small green heart, which is attached to a delicate necklace of gold. She also values highly an antique topaz trophy, which she has converted into a brooch. This stone was once possessed by a famous Indian necromancer. By appealing to its power he was able to command the appearance of food and drink. One night he lay by the side of a suffering comrade on the battlefield. He himself was wounded by a dart. He heard his comrade moaning in an agony of thirst, and, taking the charm from his bosom, threw it to the side of the sufferer, saying, ‘Wear it near thy heart if thy parched throat would find relief,’ and fell back dead. The strange command was obeyed, and when at dawn the grateful soldier looked for his benefactor, no trace could be found.

Mrs. Nicholas Longworth’s [née Alice Roosevelt] favorite ornament is a beautiful jade necklace, which was given to her when she visited the Empress of China. The empress herself decorated Miss Roosevelt with the necklace, and told her that the linked bits of stone were very old; that they had been cut by an artist who had the reputation of being one-half wizard, and that the ornament would bring to its owner her heart’s desire. After her engagement to Congressman Nicholas Longworth was made public she confided to some friends that she believed there really was virtue in the necklace. The Jewelers’ Circular, Volume 83, Issue 1, 1921

Other rulers with protective talismans:

The Shah of Persia always wears a belt set with a superb emerald, to which he ascribes the same virtue as the Czar attributes to his sacred ring. The belt is filled with onion peelings, the object of which is said to be to move any would-be assassin to tears. When the late Shah visited this country he was never seen in public without his protecting belt and gem. He thoroughly believed that if he traveled without the emerald disaster would overtake him, and by a strange coincidence it actually did. It will be remembered that this Persian monarch was foully assassinated not many years ago, and it was a singular fact that he was not wearing the gem at the time.

King George of Greece possesses a talisman, which is also a grim reminder of an attempt on his life. Just at the conclusion of the war with Turkey he was waylaid and shot at several times, one of the bullets embedding itself in the box of his carriage. His Majesty’s escape was so miraculous that he had this bullet extracted and made into a charm for his watch-chain. He would not part with it for a kingdom, firmly believing that as it mercifully missed him when directed at him, it was designed to insure him immunity from assassination.

The Sultan of Turkey, who lives in constant dread of what has been described as the “happy dispatch,” would not be an Oriental if he did not believe in the efficacy of charms. His own particular talisman is said to be a richly bejeweled miniature dagger which he invariably carries about with him. Despite its virtues, however, he takes the precaution of insisting on one of his ministers tasting every dish prepared for him before partaking of it himself.

When the late German Emperor [Frederick III] was lying desperately ill at San Remo, a remarkable amulet was sent to him by the Sultan. It consisted of a string of nine stones of the size of hazel nuts, each of which bore an inscription from the Koran and had been prayed over by a Moslem priest. Accompanying this royal talisman was a letter assuring the Emperor that if he only wore it his health would be at once restored. [Alas, for Europe, the talisman did not work and his son, the blood-thirsty Kaiser Wilhelm, succeeded him.]

The Ameer of Afghanistan wears a beautiful gold ring, to which he ascribes the fact of his having survived so long the machinations of his enemies. He has been a good many times reported dead, but thanks to the magic of his golden ring he still lives to praise its protecting virtues.

No Chinese potentate has ever been without his precious amulet. It is recorded of a former Son of Heaven that his talisman was a bracelet which he wore upon his forearm. The result was that, when His Celestial Majesty was stricken with paralysis, the use of that particular arm was preserved to him, and he was able to issue his decrees as usual. But the full extent of the amulet’s mystic power was only revealed at the Emperor’s death. Three days after that event, when the priests were viewing the body, the removal of the bracelet was suggested. Instantly the hand was lifted up in deprecation at the proposal, which was thereupon abandoned. At least, so runs the story.

The talisman of the sorrow-stricken ex-Empress Eugenie is an artistically jeweled breastpin, fashioned in the shape of a clover-leaf. That has been her companion throughout her checkered career, albeit it has not always brought her happiness. She is said to have pinned it on her bosom before bidding farewell to her beloved son, the late Prince Imperial, when he left this country to meet his death in South Africa. London Tit-Bits 1900 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The belief in the magical properties of jewels is a constant in the history of mankind. Perhaps the confidence engendered by a talisman really does have a stimulating effect on the wearer, hence the saying, “Fortune favours the brave.”  Or, the obverse, as Mrs Daffodil has often found helpful: “Accidents visit the anxious.” There is certainly a magical correlation between jewels and personal attraction:  hence the plethora of diamond bracelets presented to chorus girls by wealthy older gentlemen, who instantly take on a new glamour as they pull a velvet-lined jewel-case from their pockets.

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.

Tales that Hang on Gentlemen’s Watch Chains: 1890




Men Help Themselves to Remember Incidents in Their Lives by Preserving Trinkets of Little Intrinsic Value

If a man could get all the stories suggested by watch charms worn in the city, he would have a book of narratives bigger than the Doomsday Book in London. Many a man who would disdain anything like weakness in personal adornment will wear a watch charm from one year’s end to the next when there is no possible excuse for it beyond some legend of which he alone is the possessor. One of the conductors on the Pennsylvania Road wears a miniature lantern with a red glass, and gold wire frame, in the center of which is a bit of phosphorescent light that glows brightly however dark the night may be. But a lantern in such a place is not especially remarked, for many men on the road wear them in one style or another. The story about this particular one would never come out if we waited for the conductor to tell it himself. But it has a story.

Years ago, when this same conductor was a brakeman, in the days when a brakeman was really expected to attend to the brakes even on a passenger train, there was a collision and four men in the sleeper were killed. That was serious enough, but it would have been vastly worse had it not been for the fact that this man, ten in a more humble position, heard the train coming behind him, clearly out of her time, snatched a red lantern and ran back there to give the warning. The engineer of the trespassing train saw him just in time to turn off the steam and put on the brakes, but he could not prevent the accident. Right at the prow of his engine, when the wreckers came to the place, lay a rich man who had long been an invalid, and who considered himself indebted to the brakeman for his life. He made him a present of the little lantern and now each Christmas he sends to the vigilant trainman, who has since risen to the ranks of the conductors, a present which marks in some measure the gratitude even a suffering man can feel for one who has saved his life.

A board of trade man, not often left on the wrong side of the market, wears a little gold grain of corn at the end of a pensile swing of his watch chain. It commemorates the fact that in a memorable squeeze which occurred some years ago he had a sudden inspiration that it would be a good time to sell at the very instant when all the men on the floor seemed raving crazy to buy. He unloaded all the corn he had on hand, and the very next turn of the dial showed a notable falling off. Things grew worse very rapidly, and before the day was done the corn pit was simply one crowd of howling, losing speculators. It seemed that none of them had been able to save a dollar, and this one man was nearly alone in the fortunate inspiration that had saved him thousands of dollars.

One of the best known men around the city hall wears a cluster of bear’s claws as his talisman. He ever talks about them, but when someone who knows he was once a Californian directs the conversation for him this man can tell of some very thrilling experiences in the Sierra Nevadas, not the least interesting of which is an encounter with a bear one morning when himself and wife were alone in the camp and when nothing but good luck and the courage of the woman in the case would have averted disaster for all of them. He lived to see the brute laid out cold and stiff in death, and then he drifted into a delirium that lasted for weeks. When he regained his strength he found the bear’s skin tanned and spread upon his rude bed in lieu of better covering from the bitter cold of the mountains. He lay there in his weakness and worked away at the claws till he had taken all of them from their proper resting place and when he recovered he had a watch charm made of them. He wears it yet, and is proud to say that he was never since been compelled to work for himself. From the day he reached the mines he has been called upon to serve the public in some capacity or another, and so long as that good fortune attends him he will never give up his bear’s claws.

One man, now at the head of a big baking establishment, has a common looking bullet swung to his chain. Some people think it is a homely sort of a thing to wear, and he does not quarrel with them, but if you ask him for the reason of such a strange fancy he will tell you it is because he owes all the good fortune he ever had in life to that lead bullet. Years ago, when he was a driver and hired to deliver bread for the firm that he has since bought out and made bigger than the founder ever believed it could be made, he was going his rounds, delivering bread, when he came to the home of a patron who lived away up-stairs in a dark court. Right at the door of the patron was another door which led to a dwelling that had long been vacant. The bread boy wearily climbed the stairs and was just about to deposit the regular order of bread on the table prepared for it the night before, when the door to the adjoining home was thrown open, and a man poked a pistol straight out and fired. The bread boy tumbled from the top to the bottom of the stairs, and when he reached the foot he heard the angry voice of the girl in the house he served scoring roundly the man in the newer domicile, who had fired the shot.

“What did you mean, shooting at him?” demanded the girl. “He is the bread man and he has as good a right to come here as you have.” The householder had never killed a man in his life, but he thought this early morning visitor could mean no good, and he shot at him. He was as badly frightened as was the bread boy, which he found out the true state of affairs, and came down to apologize. The girl, rather too thinly clad for the street came down also, and assured herself that her favorite bread man was in no wise the worse for the shot, though he had the bullet in his pocket where it had lodged after passing through his coat. He won the lady and she won a husband who might never have noticed her had it not been for the bullet that she thought had closed his career. So he wears the battered leaden thing, and every time he sees it he thinks how fortunate he was to get shot for a burglar and get saved for a friend in one and the same moment.

One of the tugboat captains who earns his employers a pretty penny every year, wears a rake—a regular farmer’s rake—on his watch guard. It seems a little out of place on so nautical a waistcoat, but it is there, and if you want him to he will tell you a story about it. He will tell you a much better and a longer story than this, but the facts are about the same. When he was a younger man than he is to-day, and was only an ordinary hand on the tugboat—for he has followed that business for the past fifteen years—he started with his craft one stormy night to tow in a large steamer that was lying in the lake and that had been disabled. There was a high wind on, and for some reason or another the tug refused to obey her rudder, a thing that tugs very seldom do. When they came near enough the steamer they tried to turn and get a line, but the little vessel refused to do anything of the kind and went jamb up against the bow of the bigger craft. She was slewed around so suddenly that every man aboard the tug, excepting the engineer was thrown into the lake. This particular fellow managed to fall right between the vessels, and as he rose from his involuntary bath he saw the tug and the tow coming together, with him between them. He saw no earthly chance to escape and had about made up what little mind he had left that the end was come, when he saw a rake reached down to him from the lower deck of the steamer. He grasped it without asking any questions and just as the two vessels crashed against each other he was landed safe on the bigger boat. He scrambled to his feet and saw that his rescuer was a young woman, not often seen on the lower deck of vessels, but who explained that she had been thrown down the stairway when the tug first struck. She looked over the side and saw the man in the water and reached for him with the first thing that came in her hand. Then she saw the necessity of lifting him out of the water and was frightened by the very gravity of the case into lifting him clear herself and giving him a chance to clamber on the boat. Did he marry her? Well, no. You see, she was already the wife of one of the passengers; but he thanked her with all of an honest man’s heart, and got a rake made of gold and hung it to his watch charm. Then he went to work again harder than ever, and has finally risen to a place where he says he can offer her a home if it should ever happen that she wants one.

A member of the city council wears a nugget of gold in his chain. It was taken by his father from the “Chimney diggings” in the days of gold mining up at Mount Shasta, Cal. “The old man knocked it out the very first thing he done when he went to work in the morning,” says the legislator, “and it was the only dime he made at the business all the time he was there. And it is the only thing any of his family ever made outside of a saloon in the world. That’s why I wear it and it’s why I won’t part with it. See?”

Chicago [IL] Herald 16 October 1890: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have previously read of the gruesome souvenirs and lucky mascots cherished by ladies; it is refreshing to see exhibited the more conventionally sentimental charms of the gentlemen.

Murderabilia for English Society Ladies: 1910

society ladies fascinated by the macabre


English Society Women Demand Gruesome Mementoes for Good Luck

London, Nov. 26. Mrs. William Northrop McMillan is in a great measure responsible for the craze which now prevails for gruesome objects as mascots. She vows she would rather part with her jewel case, her tiger skins or her priceless bric-a-brac than with her ghastly mementoes from the shambles of Benin. These include daggers, instruments of torture, and, most weird of all, the skull of a Benin chief, which has a prominent position over the writing table in her boudoir. “I take it everywhere with me,” she says.

Another strange mascot of hers is the blood-stained tusk of an elephant. When Colonel Roosevelt visited London this year he brought the McMillans several trophies of the chase obtained during his expedition in Africa. One they especially prize is the skin of a puff adder which they have mounted into a writing table lamp. Mrs. McMillan laughingly says that her husband has signed beneath the rays of this lamp some most important documents which have resulted in big financial successes for him, “though,” she adds, “of course, he won’t acknowledge that the lamp has anything to say in it, which is just like a man.”

The late Consuelo Duchess of Manchester had some strange mementoes which she believed were talismans of good fortune. The governor of the jail which the notorious Mrs. Dyer was imprisoned and eventually executed gave her a prayer book which the murdereress used while under sentence of death. This the duchess treasured possibly as an emblem of the repentance of the criminal. At any rate, her grace considered that it brought her happiness. For years the book rested on a table in her bedroom. King Edward was told by some mutual friend of this weird object and was annoyed with the duchess for keeping such a memento. Her grace, in a polite way, however, as was her wont, gave his majesty to understand that she was not to be interfered with in regard to her tastes, and up to the time of her death the book stood in its accustomed position. Afterward it and a few similar objects were promptly destroyed by her daughter-in-law, the duchess, who has a wholesome horror of anything of the gruesome order.

Among the most valued possessions of Mrs. Brown Potter is a richly ornamented silver amulet, which was worn by an Indian chief, who committed suicide because he had given offense to his deity. Since it came into her possession, Mrs. Brown Potter vows her fortunes have been steadily improving. On various occasions she has been offered considerable prices for this ghastly object, but she declines emphatically to part with it.

Some years ago Louise, Duchess of Devonshire and the late duke were walking on the seashore at Eastbourne when there was washed in at their feet the hand of a negro which apparently had been cut off at the wrist. On one of the fingers was a ring of Oriental workmanship. The duchess had this ring removed and has kept it as a talisman ever since. She has worn it at Monte Carlo when she has had on “a little bit” at the tables and also when she played bridge.

Hangmen from time to time receive letters from women of position offering them sums of money for locks of hair or buttons from the garments of their victims. They make the stipulation that these must not be removed until after the culprit is dead. It seems that in the lore of the superstitious the ghastly object has no significance if taken in life. Even more intensely appreciated is a coin which has been rubbed on the dead body of an executed. This, it is said, will bring almost fabulous wealth to the possessor. Those who gamble are ready with any price for such a memento. In England, at any rate, there are overwhelming difficulties in getting possession of such, indeed it is only the personal friends of the governors of the prisons where executions take place or the hangmen who can secure them.

It is not only the American tourists who have been going to see the home of Dr. Crippen in Hilldrop Crescent. Numerous society people have been going there with the object of securing a cutting from a plant or a bit of the wall paper from the room in which the murder is supposed to have taken place. The majority have had to content themselves with bits of mortar taken from the outer walls, as those in charge have emphatically declined to be bribed into giving even the merest trifles. It is said, however, that Mrs. Asquith, wife of the prime minister, has obtained the pen with which Mrs. Crippen used to write her accounts for the Ladies’ Theatrical Guild. It has a well-used nib, which no doubt makes it all the more valuable to its present possessor.

Georgina, Lady Dudley, a little while ago suggested to an important official at Scotland Yard the advisability of admitting visitors to see the house at Hilldrop Crescent at 40 cents a head and passing the money on to her for one of her charities. He, however, did not see the matter from her ladyship’s point of view.

“You prove yourself a lady of resource by your suggestion,” he said “I believe emphatically were I to do so it would result in more profits than the horse show.”

Columbus [GA] Daily Enquirer 27 November 1910: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:

Lord William Northrop Macmillan was born in 1872 in the USA.  He was a decorated soldier knighted by the King of England even though he was not British, for his role in helping to keep the British protectorate intact.  He built the Macmillan Castle in Kenya where he entertained royalty and celebrities such as Col. Roosevelt. The troops of Admiral Sir Harry Rawson captured and looted Benin City during the Benin Expedition of 1897 in retaliation for the defeat of a previous British attempt to invade the West African Kingdom of Benin. Benin was overthrown and much of the country’s art, including the famous Benin Bronzes, was destroyed or dispersed. Mrs Macmillan seems to have been the recipient of some souvenirs of the conflict.

Mrs. Dyer was Amelia Dyer, the notorious baby-farmer murderess, responsible for perhaps 400 infant deaths over a 20-year period.

Cora Urquhart Brown-Potter was an American society woman who took to the stage in spite of her husband’s objections and became a popular actress in Britain.

Dr Crippen was Hawley Harvey Crippen, hanged for the murder of his wife Cora.  He fled with his lover, Ethel Le Neve, after being questioned by the police, whereupon the authorities dug up a headless, armless, and legless torso buried in the basement of Hilldrop Crescent. Recent scientific tests have suggested that the torso found buried in the basement was not that of Cora and was, in fact, that of a male. Dr Crippen was the first criminal to be captured with the aid of wireless technology.

An interest in gruesome mementoes is scarcely confined to the higher ranks of society. Here is an article about macabre relics of war, love, and death. And essays on the post-mortem career of the head of President Garfield’s assassin Guiteau and on the interest the public took in hangmen’s ropes.