Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday Video: Grace Kelly's Royal Wedding, 1956

Friday, June 24, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Since June is the month of weddings, this seemed like the perfect Friday video for the season. The wedding of Oscar-winning American actress Grace Kelly to Ranier III, Prince of Monaco, had everything that celebrity-watchers crave: Hollywood and European royalty, a beautiful bride who gave up her movie-star existence for the love of her handsome prince. The fairy-tale analogies were unavoidable, and the world couldn't get enough. Beneath the near-constant glare of media attention, the two were wed in Monaco in a civil service on April 18, 1956, and in a religious ceremony a day later on April 19.

This short newsreel feature from British Pathé captures both the glamour and the frenzy that surrounded the wedding. What struck me most about it, however, was the breathtaking beauty of Grace Kelly, both as a woman and as a bride. She's also remarkably solemn, and I hope for her sake that later that day she was as happy and joyful as a bride should be, once she and her new husband were alone together away from the cameras.

If you received this post by email and are seeing a black box or empty space where the video should be, please click here to view the video.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Before Refrigerators: The Ice House

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Ice House 1817
Loretta reports:

Ice houses weren’t as rare in England as the excerpt from Ackermann's Repository for June 1817 makes one believe. Neither were baths, for that matter. And London did have its share of both. In the 17th century, King Charles II had not only one, but six ice houses built, including one for his mistress the Duchess of Cleveland.* You can read more about ice houses here, here, and here.

Photo of Duchess of Cleveland’s ice house scanned from Christopher Symon Sykes's Private Palaces.

Ice House Described
Ice House Described
*If you'd like to learn more about this remarkable woman, I highly recommend Susan Holloway Scott's (aka the other NHG) Royal Harlot.

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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Watch the Mantua-Makers Create a c1774 Dress in a Day

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Today is the longest day of the year. If you're an 18thc seamstress whose workday is determined by the light of the sun, it's a rare opportunity to make an entire dress in a day.

At least that's what will be happening today in the Margaret Hunter shop in Colonial Williamsburg. Beginning at 7:00 am and ending around 6:00 pm, a length of lovely printed cotton chintz will be transformed into a gown and petticoat much like robe à la françaiseleft. The eight women with the flying needles will be Janea Whitacre, mistress of the trade; Sarah Woodyard, journeywoman; Abby Cox, apprentice (all part of the Historic Trades program at Colonial Williamsburg); Rebecca Starkins, Adi Harris, and Kaila Temple, summer interns in the shop; Donna Brock, a CW volunteer; and Norah Worthington, resident costumer at the Baltimore School for the Arts, who will participate as part of a professional development exchange program.

Anyone in town with a Colonial Williamsburg pass will be able to visit the shop today and watch. For the rest of us, the dress's progress will be shown today on the Historic Trades Facebook page here. I'm told there will be streaming video as well as still photographs to show each step of pinning, cutting, and stitching to create the finished gown by the end of the day. Everything will be done entirely by hand, as it would have been done in the 18thc. (Just keep in mind that all this will be happening in Virginia time, in the Eastern time zone.)

For those of you interested in sewing along at home (you know who you are), Colonial Williamsburg is also offering this cotton chintz, right, exclusively on their website. It's a reproduction of an 18thc textile in their collection; for more information or to order, see here.

While making a dress in a day sounds like a grand-standing slogan, it wasn't that uncommon in the Georgian era. If a lady wanted a new gown to wear the day after tomorrow and had the money to pay for it, a mantua-maker and her seamstresses would be happy enough to oblige.

While suitable for drinking tea, calling on friends, visiting shops, or attending church, a gown and petticoat like this one wouldn't come cheaply. This is clothing for a wealthy, fashionable woman, or perhaps a successful woman working in the fashion trade who needs to impress her customers. Imported from India, cotton chintz printed in multiple colors was a luxury fabric, and could cost ten to fifteen shillings a yard, with a gown like this one requiring about ten yards of fabric.

By comparison, the cost of labor would only be about ten shillings. Labor was cheap in the 18thc, and that charge of ten shillings would be a set price, the same whether one seamstress worked for three days, or seven worked for one. The total dress could cost roughly £5-£8. The wages for a common seamstress? One-and-a-half shillings for a twelve hour day.

You can also watch a vodcast of the Colonial Williamsburg mantua-makers create a previous dress in a day: part one and part two.

Top left: Robe à la française, French, 1760s, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Bottom left: Photograph of Margaret Hunter Shop © Susan Holloway Scott.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Staying Happily Married for a Side of Bacon

Monday, June 20, 2016
Schweninger, Happy Family
Loretta reports:

One of my favorite tomes on my shelves is The Every-Day Book; or Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements etc., which the prolific William Hone published in 1826, and which was reprinted for many years thereafter.

In the entry for 20 June, he brings to our attention the custom of awarding a flitch (side) of bacon to a couple able to prove marital harmony a year and a day after the wedding.

The rather saccharine Victorian era image above left, a romantic imagining of a scene from the early 1800s, certainly is a strong contrast to Gillray's before and after matrimony images.

Dunmow Custom

Image: Carl Schweninger, Happy Family, via Wikipedia.

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.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of June 13, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Circassian bloom: cheek rouge for 18thc and 19thc ladies.
• "My present dreadful situation": the perils of fame as an 18thc actress.
Tabasco and the war against bland military meals.
Jane Austen's manuscripts are finally all digitized, and may now be viewed as a whole online.
Video: If you're a Regency era lady, a new spencer jacket is a great way to spruce up your look for summer.
• Converting Jews to Christianity in Regency England, 1809-1813.
• Lavish lace in the Martha Washington collection at Mount Vernon.
• What spilled ink and fingerprints reveal about medieval manuscripts.
Soldier newspapers in the American Civil War.
• Epic battles in medieval manuscripts: knights vs. snails.
Image: Pretty much all you need to know about Victorian children's literature.
• What did it mean to be called an Amazon during World War One?
• Why memes matter for feminism.
• America's mid-century rest stops were real roadside attractions.
• A Coney Island pie-maker invents the hot dog, 1870.
• Built around 1780, this Federal-style house in what is today Chinatown, NYC, managed to survive until the 1920s.
Image: Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his Chelsea home.
• Eight places associated with the wives of Henry VIII.
• Uncovered in Hyde Park: 165-year-old toilet remains from "spend a penny" exhibition.
• The Endicott pear tree: still alive in Massachusetts after nearly 400 years.
• Blood, controversy, and puddings in early New England.
• Changing concepts of time: art in a speeded-up world.
Image: Medieval church door in Gloucestershire believed to have been the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's entrance to Moria.
• They marched with torches: getting out the vote, 1840-1900.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.
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