Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday video: Boston accent explained

Friday, September 19, 2014
Loretta reports:

I mostly shed my Wustah* accent sometime between high school and college, but it can pop up at times, startling me.  If I try to speak Wustah deliberately, though, I trip over my tongue.  It’s been a few centuries since high school, and while my present speech might be an acquired language, I’ve spoken it for longer than the original.

The Wustah and Boston accents probably sound the same to people from outside New England, but most natives can distinguish between them.  While this video (not as sharp as I’d wish, but the content compensates) stays rather more general, it points out some interesting links between the New England accent and that of certain regions of England.




After this, you might want to take a look at a previous post dealing with British Accents.

*Worcester, MA

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Elizabeth Bull's Embroidered Neckerchief, c. 1735

Thursday, September 18, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Earlier this summer I visited The Bostonian Society in Boston, MA to view a very special 18th c. embroidered wedding dress; my posts on the dress and the bride who made and wore it are here and here.

But that wasn't all I saw that day. Patricia Gilrein, collections manager and exhibitions coordinator at the Bostonian Society, had another example of Elizabeth Bull Price's embroidery to show me. Carefully laid in white preservation paper was this exquisite triangular neckerchief, or scarf, stitched about the same time as the wedding dress, in 1730s New England.

Made of fine green silk imported from China and embroidered with silk and metallic threads from Europe, this was another masterpiece of needlework art: the designs are perfectly composed and balanced, the colors still rich and well-chosen, and the embroidery itself is breathtaking. I was especially impressed with the serpentine border, a true test of any embroiderer's skill. The kerchief would have been worn around the shoulders of a gown with the narrow ends in front (much how women often wear triangular shawls today), and pinned in place to the bodice. It must have made quite an impression when it was new, with the metallic threads bright and sparkling by candlelight.

There's no question that time has taken its toll. The fine green silk cloth has deteriorated around the threads, with small holes and spots of wear that make the piece fragile, and the gold and silver threads have tarnished over time. But the quality of one woman's imagination, talent, and skill remains undiminished, and it's easy to imagine Elizabeth sitting beside a window for light, taking great pleasure in choosing her threads and patterns.

Many thanks to Patricia Gilrein, Kimberly Alexander, and the staff of the Bostonian Society for sharing their treasures with me.

Above: Neckerchief made by Elizabeth Bull Price. Collection of The Bostonian Society. Photographs copyright 2014 Susan Holloway Scott.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Furnishing your nursery in 1809

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Child's cot and nursery chair
Cot & chair description
Loretta reports:

One thing I noticed about the evolution of Ackermann’s Repository over the years:  In the early years of its publication, children appear occasionally in the fashion plates.  But in the later years they seem to disappear.  I wonder if this has anything to do with pregnancy being highly fashionable at one point, or whether it simply reflects one of those cultural swings of the pendulum.

I’ll leave you to speculate, while you contemplate placing a very special infant into a mahogany “cot-bed” tastefully draped in rich silk ...

Cot & chair description









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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Many Clothes Did an 18th C. Woman Own?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Isabella reporting,

There are many misconceptions flying around the internet about how many clothes an 18th c. woman owned. Between the two (false) extremes of "average women only had two outfits because they had to process and spin the fiber, weave the fabric, and make everything by hand" and "aristocratic women only wore a dress once" is the much more reasonable truth: women of every rank had their clothes made by professional seamstresses, and remodeled and refurbished older garments to keep up with the fashions. Much like today, the size of the wardrobe depended on the size of the budget.

And then, of course, there are the women of every age who just plain love clothes. Into this category I'd have to place Mrs. Ann Bamford.

This fascinating document, above, was recently posted on Twitter by the Lewis Walpole Library of Yale University. It's an "Inventory of wearing Apparel and other things the late property of the deceased Mrs. Ann Bamford," carefully itemized by a now-unknown clerk with very neat penmanship. Inventories such as this were made as part of settling the deceased person's estate.

This is only the first page of three, which I'm assuming means only one-third of her belongings are shown on this page. Even with just this first page to consider (and how I'd like to see the rest!), and that it likely represents a lifetime of clothes, it's clear that Mrs. Bamford must have been a stylish lady who enjoyed looking her best.

The variety of the items here is fascinating. Women's clothing at this time was complicated and full of detail, as the fashion plate form 1781, lower right, shows. To cut a fashionable figure, Mrs. Bamford owned at least a dozen gowns listed (a "night gown" is a style of dress at this time, not a garment meant for bed), ranging from brocaded silk to sprigged muslin. There's a "Goldlaced Jacket and Petticoat [of] Silk Grosgrain" which sounds very elegant,  and an equally stylish "Goldlaced blue Sattin Cloak." In fact there are quite a few cloaks listed, including five white silk cloaks, a "Green Sattin Cloak",  a "Black Sattin Cloak", and a "Gauze Cloak."

There are what we'd call accessories, "5 Handkerchiefs of different sorts for Wearing," "a Printed Muslin Shawle," and "A Black Velvet Bonnot," plus more personal garments, including "Three Pair of Stays" (corsets) and "A Pair of Pocket hoops." I'm also intrigued by "A Parcel of black Netting in a paper," which I'm guessing was how the netting was being kept from snagging.

There are also items that reflect how all 18th c. clothes were made to order: "One Brocaded Silk Night Gown, unmadeup" and "A Piece of Printed Muslin for a Gown," both that never were completed. I especially like that term "unmadeup" (having far too many handwork projects of my own in that same category), and I also like how the clerk was obviously corrected by whomever was doing the evaluating and dictating. You can almost hear that person crossly saying "no, no, not a NIGHT gown! Cross that out directly!" The clerk did have his problems with spelling some of the lady's wear, with "stomacher" phonetically spelled as "stummager."

I can't help but wonder what became of Mrs. Bamford's clothes after this inventory was done. Were they given to a sister, a daughter, or other relative? Was her lady's maid permitted to choose a few pieces as a memento of her mistress? Were they packed away and given to the poor, or sold into the thriving second-hand clothing market? I wonder....

To read the inventory more easily for yourself, click here to go to the Walpole's blog, and click again on the image to enlarge it.

Above left: Inventory of wearing Apparel and other things the late property of the deceased Mrs. Ann Bamford, manuscript, c. 1780? Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
Lower right: Robe blanche de Mousseline unie, fashion plate, c. 1781. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Crime in 1830s London

Monday, September 15, 2014

Oliver Twist scene
Loretta reports:

Isabella and I were talking recently about the differences in London crime fighting in the times of our respective books.   One of the things I’ve found so interesting about the mid-1830s is the evolution of London’s police.

The Metropolitan Police came into existence in 1829, in an unfriendly environment.  In 1830, when the first policeman was killed trying to break up a drunken fight, the coroner’s verdict was justifiable homicide.  The history of the force
Crime statistics 1838
is fascinating—and I’m likely to acquire way too many books on the subject—but for today, I only wanted to give you an idea of what they were dealing with. 
Crime statistics 1834-39
Some readers may be surprised at the number of executions.  Others may be unfamiliar with the name of the penal colony.  New South Wales I was aware of.  But I had to look up Norfolk Island.


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.


 
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket