Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Break

Monday, November 24, 2014
Thanksgiving issue, Puck 1905
Loretta and Susan report:

This year, as we’ve done previously, the Two Nerdy History Girls will be taking a break, to spend time preparing for and enjoying Thanksgiving with our families.

As always, we’ve so much to be grateful for—and that includes you, our faithful readers and nerdiness devotees.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Puck cover image courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of November 17, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014
Hot off the Twitter griddle for you! Our weekly round-up of fav Tweets with links to other blogs, web sites, articles, and images.
• Proof of an early world economy: Roman glass plate has been discovered in a 5th c. A.D. Japanese tomb.
• More than a genteel pastime: Regency-era sketches of the UK, painted by Lady Anne Rushout (1768-1849) of Wanstead Grove.
• Studying a rare extant 18th c. robe de cour bodice in Sweden.
• Making the best of bad parchment: delightful inspirations of imperfections in medieval parchment.
• No, no, no! The Victorians did not invent the vibrator.
Image: The first bathing machines in England were introduced in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, in 1735.
Portable soup, as supplied by Mrs. Dubois to the Royal Navy, 1756.
• Saving one of Italy's oldest cities from crumbling away.
• Poignant and unsettling: finding a mental asylum's cemetery for young patients hidden in the woods.
• Ancient Egyptian book of spells is deciphered.
Image: Charles Dickens reading to his two daughters, 'Mamie' and Kate, at their Gad's Hill home, 1865.
• A gentleman and his purse: newly identified 17th c. portrait of Sir Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage.
• Children in mourning, and mourning a child through early modern history.
• One of Napoleon's two-pointed hats auctioned for $2.2 million at the Osenat auction house this week.
• The soldier and the quack: medical blackmail in Victorian London.
Image: From the collection of The Fan Museum: a lace fan, c. 1890, with Faberge guilloche enamelling and goldwork.
• Years of suffering for an 18th c. newlywed wife: treating the "Rheumatick complaint" of Mary, Countess of Chatham.
• After the harvest: a bountiful November feast in medieval Europe.
• "Deluded by his hypocrises": Lady Mary Radclyffe Stanhope Gell (and her shoes.)
• A slideshow about reading instruction in the U.S., 18th-20th c.
• Fascinating look at how the Museum of London stores the remains of medieval Londoners - and what can be learned from them.
• "Bringeth down the menses": a short history of abortifacients.
Image: Tremendous atmosphere in this 13th c. chapter house turned 19th c. chapel at Newstead Abbey, Notts.
• The 1739 Infant in the Well and unwed mothers in the 18th c.
• Women's indigo-dyed pocket hoops c. 1750s-90s - linen fabric and baleen/whalebone for shaping.
• The bloody history of chocolate.
• Squeezed in between the mansions: New York City's lost 1869 Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue.
• An American icon, especially in the 1950s: the saga of Davy Crockett's coonskin hat.
• Oseberg wooden Viking ship head, found in Norway and dated to 825.
• Unusual 18th c. ceiling decoration shows Death blowing bubbles.
• Men and women in gardens, in 17th c. prints.
• Gallery views of "Death Becomes Her" exhibition of mourning wear currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
• Feather crowns and witch wreaths.
• A streetcar cow-catcher for pedestrians, as described in Scientific American in 1894.
Snuff and snuff-boxes.
• Vintage mugshots reveal some of Australia's earliest women criminals.
• Just for fun: Elizabethan superheroes.
• And more superheroes for more fun: Batman shares our sentiments exactly.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Video: Stop Looking at Your Phones

Friday, November 21, 2014

Isabella reporting,

With Thanksgiving just around the table, I can't be the only one who is trying to mandate a "no phones at the table" rule during the meal. Apparently I have historical precedent on my side – or at least this amusing parody of Downtown Abbey. This is one sketch from the The Britishes, a parody collection currently appearing on DirecTV, and I think I may have to hunt down the rest of the episodes. Or at least I will as soon as I take this call....

(Warning: there's a tiny bit of Adult Language here that may make this video NSFW.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Queen Victoria proposes to Prince Albert

Thursday, November 20, 2014
Prince Albert
Loretta reports:

On 23 November 1839 Queen Victoria announced her engagement to Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg.  The story, as told in Gillian Gill’s We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals is interesting, indeed, for Her Majesty was in charge.

“She imposed upon Albert a series of tests and ordeals.  The prince had to beg through family intermediaries for an invitation to come to England to see the Queen.”  The invitation was quite a cool one, apparently.  Then, “After Victoria had looked Albert over and decided that, indeed, he was the husband she was looking for, her first impulse was not to clasp her beloved in her arms but to go into delicious conclave with her prime minister over how exactly she should propose and what arrangements would have to be made for the wedding.”

England wasn’t happy about her choice.  Albert was foreign and poor.  Caricatures, insults, and mocking poetry ensued. Parliament voted him an allowance of only £30,000, though in the 17th century, Prince George of Denmark, Queen Anne’s spouse, had received £50,000.

Victoria is engaged
I’ve clipped from a lengthy memoir in the 1839 Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, which, along with detailing his pedigree, gets in a few subtle digs about the Saxe-Coburg family’s amazing success in marrying English royals.  Leopold, King of Belgium by this time, had been “a simple major in the Austrian service” when he married Charlotte, Princess of Wales (only legitimate offspring of King George IV).

For more dish on Victoria & Albert, I highly recommend (again) We Two.

Illustration: Prince Albert, a print "after George Baxter, 1804–1867" made after 1855.  Image courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the captions will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Indispensable Objects for Dressing a Wig, c.1750-80

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Isabella reporting,

Sometimes everyday objects from the past are instantly recognizable to modern eyes, while others are completely mystifying. I'm guessing that for most of us today, the two objects above would fall into the mystifying category. Both appeared as part of the talk "Fashionable Fittings for Hair Care and More" from the Head for Fashion conference this past weekend, Colonial Williamsburg; they were displayed by Amanda Keller, assistant curator of historic interiors & household accessories, Colonial Williamsburg.

If you'd worn a wig in late 18th c. England or North America, you would likely have recognized at least one of these peculiar-looking objects. They're both forms of dispensing powder to a dressed wig or hair. (For more about 18th c. hair powder, see here.) The gentleman in the print, lower left, is on the receiving end of a similar device, and looks none to happy about it, either.

The object, lower left, is a wig bellows. The accordion-like section is made of leather. At the larger end is a turned wooden cover that was removed to fill the bellows. At the smaller end is a metal cap with a fine mesh screen. While the leather of the bellows has now stiffened with age, it once must have given a quite satisfying whoosh of fine powder, a snowy dusting that would have been the finishing touch to the coiffed head of a well-dressed gentleman or lady.

The second object, above right, is a wig carrot, named for its resemblance to the vegetable.  It, too,
was used for dusting a wig with powder, but through a slightly different technique. Like the bellows, the end has a fine metal screen with a cap that unscrews for filling with powder. The carrot, however, relies on the lung power of the hairdresser, who would blow through the narrow tip to scatter a find spray of the powder through the other end. The carrot is made of turned wood, while its tip is made of horn.

While I'm sure an 18th c. hairdresser would be able to identify modern curling irons and hair rollers – both are similar in shape to their Georgian counterparts – imagine how amazed (and delighted) he would be by a blow-dryer. All the power of the wind in your hand!

Above: Wig Bellows & Wig Carrot, mid 18th c. England. Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
Below: The Englishman in Paris, by Jno. Collet, 1770. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket