Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Turnpike Gates Demolished

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Turnpike Gates
Loretta reports:

Some while ago, I reported my surprise at learning the Hyde Park Corner Tollgate was taken down as early as 1825. It was one of numerous traffic-slowing structures on the London roads, like Temple Bar (but more of that anon).

During my visit to the London Transport Museum, some clippings from the Illustrated London News gave me another little surprise: Hyde Park Corner Toll-gate might have gone away in the 1820s, but the majority of turnpike gates stayed in place for a long time afterward, in spite of decades of complaints, until the 1860s.

DEMOLITION OF LONDON TURNPIKE GATES.
This week has witnessed the abolition of turnpike toll obstructions upon fifty miles of road in and about London on the Middlesex side of the Thames. It was many years ago that the agitation for their removal commenced, and the Illustrated London News then took the lead in advocating this important matter of social and economical reform. We have therefore thought it worth while to engrave Sketches of some of the tollgates which have been so familiar to every Londoner's eye. and which, having partly disappeared in the last few weeks, are henceforward to be utterly demolished. The City-road gate and the Islington gate, which were situated amidst a dense population, with the gates of Kensington and Notting-hill, which barred free communication with the western suburbs and villages beyond, have been selected for these Illustrations. Under the “Metropolis Turnpike. Road Act Amendment" (which takes effect from the 1st of July), twenty-five toll-gates and fifty-six side bars are done away with. At Fulham. including Walham-green and Earl's Court, all the gates and side bans are removed; also at Kensington, Hammersmith, Notting-hill, Harrow-road, Kilburn, and Camden Town, the latter comprising the King's-road gate, High-street, Chalk Farm, and the Brecknock gate, as well as the gate in the road at Kentish Town. Further removals take place at Holloway, Islington, Ball’s Pond, Kingsland-road, Cambridge-heath, Hackney, Twickenham, and Teddington.  All the gates and side bars of the city-road are included. We congratulate the whole metropolis upon the abatement of this nuisance, and hope soon to record its total extirpation on the Surrey as well as the Middlesex side of the river.
—The Illustrated London News, 2 July 1864
Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.




Sunday, August 20, 2017

The "Keenest Sorrows" in August, 1804, After Alexander Hamilton's Death

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Susan reporting,

One of the more interesting books that I discovered in my research for my new book I, Eliza Hamilton was a solemn compendium with a monumental title: A Collection of the Facts and Documents, Relative to the Death of Major-General Alexander Hamilton: With Comments: Together with the Various Orations, Sermons, and Eulogies, that Have Been Published Or Written on His Life and Character. 

Published not long after Alexander Hamilton died from wounds incurred in his infamous duel with Aaron Burr in July, 1804, the book is exactly what that title says it is. Today's publishers often rush such titles to press to cash in on a topical event, usually branding them as "special souvenir collector's editions" and the like, but in 1804, this was unusual. Then again, the circumstances were unusual, too. The country - and particularly Hamilton's hometown of New York City - were stunned by news of a duel between the former Secretary of the Treasury and the current Vice President, and shocked by Hamilton's subsequent death.

The outcry was immediate. Even those who didn't fault Burr and felt that duels of honor still had their place between gentlemen (the practice was already illegal in New York), no one could deny the tragic waste of Hamilton's life, or the terrible effect his death had on his widow and young family. Charges of murder were filed against Burr, who had fled New York for the more sympathetic southern states. The city of New York was plunged into official, black-draped mourning. More pointedly, ministers deplored the sinful practice of dueling from their pulpits.

A Collection....was assembled by William Coleman, a former lawyer (and former law partner of Aaron Burr) who had been chosen by Hamilton in 1801 to be the editor of the Federalist newspaper, The New York Evening Post. Coleman himself was no stranger to duels; earlier in 1804, he had killed a man in a duel over a dispute with a rival newspaper.

Nor was Coleman an impartial editor. In the preface, he described Hamilton as "my best earthly friend, my ablest adviser, and my most generous and disinterested patron." He quickly put together the collection both as a tribute to Hamilton, and a defense of his friend's actions relating to the duel, and the book was published before the end of the year. A 1904 edition of A Collection.... is available to read for free online here.

One article in particular - from the August 29, 1804 edition of The Albany Centinel - touched me the most since it focussed on Eliza. Immediately following her husband's death, Eliza was so distraught that friends and family feared for her sanity. She did not attend the funeral, and soon retreated with her daughters and younger sons to her father's house in Albany. Yet by the end of August, she must have been beginning to appear again in public - though as this excerpt shows, her grief was clearly still painfully raw.

"On Sunday morning the afflicted Mrs. HAMILTON attended divine service in the Presbyterian Church in this city, with her three little sons [I'm guessing that this must have been her youngest sons, John Church, 12, William Stephen, 7, and Little Phil, 2.]

"At the close of a prayer by the Rev. Mr. Nott, the eldest boy dropped on his face, in a fainting fit.

"Two gentlemen immediately raised him, and while bearing him out of the church, the afflicted mother sprung forward, in the agonies of grief and despair, towards her apparently lifeless son.

"The heart-rending scenes she had recently struggled with, called forth all the fine-spun sensibilities of her nature – and seemed to say, that nature must, and will be indulged in her keenest sorrows – She was overpowered in the conflict, and likewise sunk – uttering such heart-rending groans, and inward sighs, as would have melted into mingled sympathies, even Burr himself.


"Both of them soon recovered – and while the little son was supported standing on the steps, yet speechless, the most affecting scene presented itself – a scene, could it be placed on canvas by the hand of a master, would be in the highest degree interesting and impressive. The mother, in this tender situation, fastened herself upon the son, with her head reclining on his left shoulder – the agonies so strongly painted on her countenance – her long flowing weeds – the majesty of her person – the position of both – and above all, the peculiarity of their trying situation in the recent loss of a husband, and a father – who could refrain from invoking on the head of the guilty author of their miseries, those curses he so rightly merits? The curse of living despised, and execrated by the voice of a whole nation – the curse of being held up to the view of future ages – a MONSTER, and an ASSASSIN."

Poor Eliza!

Above: Gold mourning ring, containing the braided hair of Gen. Alexander Hamilton, presented to a friend of Hamiltons by his wife in 1805. New-York Historical Society.
Below: Title page, A Collection of the Facts and Documents, Relative to the Death of Major-General Alexander Hamilton.... New York: Printed by Hopkins & Seymour for I. Riley & Co, 1804. Collection, University of California Libraries.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of August 14, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• How the entire small town of Katonah, NY was moved for New York City's water system - in 1897.
• Keyboards are over-rated: cursive writing is back, and it's making us smarter.
• An historian's dream: previously unknown cache of letters and papers belonging to 18thc Philadelphian Elizabeth Willing Powel discovered in the bottom of an old trunk.
• Decorating advice from Edith Wharton.
• The women's suffrage wagon of feminist & suffragist Lucy Stone.
• A scrapbook from 1723 tells the story of 36 men tried for piracy in colonial Newport, RI.
Image: White House's State dining room fireplace is inscribed with John Adams' wish: "May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof."
• Clothes as historical sources: what bloomers reveal about the 19thc. women who wore them.
• The impact of seeds, immigration, and nativism on California farms in the 1920s.
• How ballet dancers held their tights/stockings in place before elastic and lycra.
• Even in the 1700s, book clubs were really about socializing and drinking.
• Image: Joseph Paxton designed the Crystal Palace inspired by the "transverse girders and supports" of the giant water lily.
Aphra Behn: the first English woman to make her living as a professional writer was also a spy.
• The persistent presence of the 18thc female debtor.
Marie Maynard Daly: the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry made significant scientific discoveries towards combatting cardiovascular diseases.
• The royal twins of Versailles: Louise Elisabeth and Henriette of France.
Image: Coat worn by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, complete with pomatum stains on the back collar.
• Shameful rags or handsome clothes? The clothing of the 17thc poor in England.
• Everyone knows the music of Hamilton now - but what music did the real Alexander Hamilton listen to during his lifetime?
Just for fun video: Be brave, ducklings!
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, August 18, 2017

"The Most Elegant Expressions Used in the Art of Courtship", c1750

Friday, August 18, 2017
Susan reporting,

If your weekend reading includes our Breakfast Links round-up, then you've likely come across an article or two from the New England Historical Society's blog.

This week the NEHS featured one of the most popular books printed (and reprinted) in both 18thc England and America: A New Academy of Compliments: Or, the Lover's Secretary: Being Wit and Mirth Improved, by the Most Elegant Expressions Used in the Art of Courtship, In divers Examples of Writing... Letters, relating either to Love or Business.  No author is listed for this noble work, but then the entire book was probably cobbled together by the printer from multiple sources. Everything was fair game in those pre-copyright days, and there has always been a market for self-help books like this.

Although earlier editions exist from the late 17thc, there's one dated 1750 that's available free online for all of you who might need a little help in the social department. I'm sharing a few snappy responses for different social circumstances. But be prepared to study: these hot opening lines are every bit as wordy as the book's title.

To court a Gentlewoman on honourable Terms:
   MADAM, I account this to be the happiest day I ever had in all the course of my life, wherein I have the Honour of being acquainted with you.

To which the Gentlewoman replies:
   SIR, if I knew any thing in me worthy your Merits, I should think myself obliged to employ it in honouring of you. But finding nothing but Imperfection and Weakness, I believe the Knowledge of me will hardly yield you any content, much less Happiness. 

But perhaps the Gentleman isn't in pursuit of an honourable (and apparently pathetically insecure) Gentlewoman. Perhaps he'd rather "accost a Lady, and enter into Discourse with her."
   MADAM, I believe Nature brought you forth to be a scourge to Lovers, for she hat been so prodigal of her Favours towards you, that it renders you as admirable as  you are amiable.
 [Thus you may see how to speak to her. But here you must note that if it be a Lady to whom you had never spoke before, and with whom you are fallen passionately in Love, and towards whom you are resolved to continue your Love, you should proceed in this Manner]....

   MADAM, if you accuse me of Temerity, you must lay your own Beauty in Fault, with which I am so taken, that you must lay your own Beauty in Fault, with which I am so taken, that my Heart is ravished from me, and I am totally subjected to you.
[You may make Use of such Language, and pursuing your Intent, reflect always upon your Constancy; shewing by your Discourses, that you are truely in Love, and so discreet and faithful , that none can be comparable to you.]

So how does the Lady respond to all these Discourses? Apparently with inscrutable one-liners that sound like the 18thc version of the Magic 8-Ball, otherwise known as "Witty and ingenious Sentences to introduce and grace the Art of Well-speaking."

   SIR, I must enroll you in the Catalogue of my dearest Friends. You overcharge me with too great a Favour, in your condescending to pay me a Visit.
   SIR, the Ocean's not so boundless as the Obligations you daily heap on me. I'll lodge them in my Bosom, and always keep them in my Heart. 

And my personal favorite:
   SIR, Your Tongue is as smooth as Oil with courtly Flatteries. You have inflamed me with the Ardency of your Deserts. 

Still, as I read through this little book, I kept imagining aspiring heartbreakers of both genders struggling to memorize these suggestions. Perhaps the lady in the painting above has brought her own cheat sheet. How many of these would-be sweethearts were still rehearsing their drolleries in feverish whispers before the ball or the stroll in the park? And how many, finally (I hope!) abandoned the effort, and instead spoke plainly, from their own hearts?

Undaunted? Here's the direct link so you can make sure "the Virtues of your Mind would compel a Stone to become a Lover, and devote himself  your humble Servant."

Above: Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan van Reysschoot, 1740. Yale Center for British Art.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Coffin Cab at the London Transport Museum

Thursday, August 17, 2017
Loretta reports:

Even though they belong to the privileged classes, characters in my books often make use of public transportation, mainly for anonymity. I’ve put them in hackney coaches and hackney cabs (and, in the new book, A Duke in Shining Armor, in a wherry).

For Dukes Prefer Blondes, I researched cabs and coaches obsessively—and blogged about them, too, here and here—but my interest has by no means palled. So of course I was excited and delighted to find this model of an 1820 hackney cab at the London Transport Museum.

I think the model helps give a sense, as illustrations may not, of just how small it was. This one in particular would not have fit two people, and the information page on the museum's website says it had space for only one passenger. Certainly, it corresponds to the Cruikshank illustration, the first one shown in this blog post.

But Omnibuses and Cabs: Their Origin and History tells us the hackney cabriolets introduced in 1823 “had accommodation for two passengers.” Since my current books are set in the 1830s, I go with the roomier model, the one appearing in the second illustration in last year’s blog post.
Hackney cab

Still, the London Transport Museum’s earlier model does give the 3D view, and readers familiar with Dukes Prefer Blondes will, I hope, have a clearer idea what the real thing was like. For instance, we can see the apron that protected passengers from kicked-up dust and stormy weather. What the model doesn’t show are the curtains. Omnibuses and Cabs tells us, “The fore part of the hood could be lowered as required, and there was a curtain which could be drawn across to shield the rider from wind and rain.” The curtain isn’t visible in the London Transport Museum model.  Either it was a later development, too, or it’s lost in the blackness of the interior. I couldn’t be sure, then or now: It’s not easy to see into a black box, through a glass case, let alone take photographs of it.

Image: detail from James Pollard, Hatchetts, the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.
 
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket