Friday, January 30, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of January 26, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015
Fresh for your weekend reading pleasure: our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered for you via Twitter.
• The Waterloo hero, his daughter, her lover, and a duel: silver recalls a scandalous elopement.
• East Sheen Cemetery and the stunningly beautiful angel of death.
• Magnificent hauberk: ceremonial mail shirt of silvered and gilded copper, Transylvania, 1550-1600.
• Discovering Prince Demah, an 18th c. African-American artist.
• Nearly 150 years after his death, Robert E. Lee's descendants are still determined to keep his papers from historians.
• "Eat! Eat! Eat!" Those notorious early 20th c. tapeworm diet pills.
• Buying Queen Victoria's cast-off clothing, 1881.
Street names of London: wine, mutant swans...and Star Trek?
• Working class suffragists of the East End.
Image: Rosary bead from North France, c.1500: one side is Death, the other a pair of lovers.
• Tour Paris with the Marquis de Sade as your guide.
• The 1788 scandal of Fanny Apthorp never dies.
• Entertaining online costume resource: Le Costume Historique.
• The beautiful geometry of 18th c. forts built by the British in the American colonies.
• The London Frost Fair on the Thames, 1683-84.
• Dishonorable discharge: military ritual degradation & Dreyfuss in 1895.
Image: Ancient art deco style: Egyptian cosmetics case, 1279-1212 BC.
• A wealthy New York City family is tragically lost at sea in a steamship disaster after their daughter is presented at Court, 1854.
• A humorous guide to Victorian "railway phrases," many still relevant today.
• Sewing shrouds: the 19th c. girl shroud-makers of New York.
• Naughty nuns, flatulent monks, and other surprises of sacred medieval manuscripts.
Image: A cautionary 17th c. woodcut: a warning against the dangers of swearing.
• Gorgeous book covers from the Folger Library collection.
• The unfulfilled promise of the Crock-Pot, an unlikely symbol from the 1970s of women's equality.
• Dark arts: the painter Hans Holbein and the court of Henry VIII.
Barns are painted red because of the physics of dying stars.
Image: A gentleman's cabriolet, 1820-1830.
• Ingenious solution for writing scores: 1935 Keaton Music Typewriter.
• "You need not run; you are done for": a case of attempted wife murder & Victorian Broadmoor.
Sentimental jewels of colonial Australia.
• In honor of the 202nd anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, the NYPL selected their twelve most quotable lines.
• Just for fun: Is it safe to walk your dog in a blizzard? Charting the snow depth in Boston this week by dog-height. Stay inside, Fido!
• Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday Video: New York City in a Blizzard, 1902

Isabella reporting,

By now everyone has heard how New York City was braced for a monumental blizzard that never happened (though the people to the north who did get walloped would have appreciated NYC taking their share of the snow first.)

This short film, however, shows a storm that did materialize, over a hundred years ago. Filmed on February 17, 1902,  the clip offers a panorama of Madison Square, and with it, a sweeping impression of a busy city street at the turn of the 20th century.

Clearly there are no crosswalks or traffic signals, with people freely wandering about in the street, even if it means dodging street cars, horses, carriages, and dogs. Early into the clip, there's even a horse-drawn fire apparatus racing towards the camera, with the team of horses slipping in the snow. Snow is piled everywhere, and without plows, there are men with shovels - none of whom seem to be working particularly hard. Really, there's so much packed into these couple of minutes, that each time you watch it you'll discover something else.

New York City in a Blizzard, February 17, 1902, directed by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company. Library of Congress.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Windsor Castle in 1813

Thursday, January 29, 2015
Windsor Castle 1813
Loretta reports:

Like Princess Charlotte’s Warwick House, a number of royal residences have disappeared over time.  Richmond Palace, Nonsuch Palace, Carlton House, are just a few of these.  Windsor Castle remains, though, as does its allure.

Nowadays we’re unlikely to find vessels like these plying the river or cows placidly looking on from the shore.  Yet it’s likely the Regency-era painter would have romanticized the setting.  Maybe this stretch of river was a bustling place then, too, but bustling in a non-motorized fashion.

In any case, I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast the views—from 200 years ago, a bit less than 100 years ago, and recently (please click here)—from the river.

View of Windsor from Ackermann’s Repository January 1813.

Windsor ca 1890-1900
View of Windsor between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900 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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Intrepid Women: Zazel, The World's First Human Cannonball

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Isabella reporting,

Athletic derring-do in the past was usually something done by men, while the ladies watched and swooned. But there were exceptions. I've written about high-wire aerialist Bird Millman, and here's another: a Victorian teenager who, under the stage name of Zazel, became the world's first human cannonball.

English-born Rosa Maria Richter had been raised in an acrobatic family, and by the time she was fourteen she was already a seasoned performer on the high-wire. Zazel was the protégé of Canadian aerialist William Leonard Hunt, known as The Great Farini, and renowned for being the first to cross Niagara Falls on a high-wire. Always striving to create a more exciting act, Farini had created the prototype for launching a human through the air to land (with luck) into a woven safety net.

The newly opened Royal London Aquarium seemed to be the perfect venue for Farini's "cannon" (the satisfying explosion that thrilled audiences had little to do with the cannon's actual propulsion, which relied more on springs and luck.) Farini persuaded sixteen-year-old - some sources say she was only fourteen - Zazel to complete her usual aerial act with a spectacular finale.

The act debuted on April 2, 1877. Waving as she slid into the long metal barrel, Zazel was next seen to be shot seventy feet into the air to land in net. Posters featuring Zazel's act accentuate her slight figure flying over the heads of spectators, but the reality probably had more to do with sheer courage than grace. The danger was undeniable. The cannon's mechanism was unpredictable, and Zazel herself had little control of her flight or where she'd land.

Still, she became an instant celebrity, earning £200 a week to huge crowds in England and America, where she became one of P.T. Barnum's favorite performers. As was inevitable with a young woman in a skimpy (for then) costume, much was made of her physical beauty, with one writer advising that "her most perfect figure warrants repeated viewings." She posed for cartes de visite, right, to be sold as souvenirs. Some photographs featured her lying suggestively on a tiger skin, while others played to her youth and innocence, looking modestly down at a bouquet.

But while the audiences may have clamored for more, Zazel's time in the spotlight was short. A misguided launch sent her far from the safety net and crashing to the ground, where her back was broken by the impact. Fortunately she recovered, but her career was done. She wisely retired, and disappeared into less thrilling but safer obscurity.

The poster, top, makes it clear that Zazel is the star of the show, calling her the "Champion of the World." Not only is she shown flying through the air, but also dancing along the high-wire in various poses. The card, lower left, includes a poem from a love-struck admirer that reads in part:
                  POLICEMEN! I have lost my heart
                    Here in the Westminster Aquarium,
                  Since first I saw her rapid dart
                    Across the disper'd Velarium.
                  A form that Phidias might confess
                    As graceful as a young gazelle,
                  With raven hair, and ruby dress,
                   And winsome eyes, make up ZAZEL!

Top left: Selby, Pullman & Hamilton's 8 Shows: Zazel's Cannon Feat, 1881, lithograph, The Ringling Museum.
Right: Zazel, London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, late 19th c. Victoria & Albert.
Bottom left: Zazel, Standidge & Co. Lithography, c. 1870s. The Ringling Museum.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's a traveling chariot?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Loretta reports:

If you’ve read stories set in the early 1800s, you’ve probably encountered traveling chariots.  In Lord of Scoundrels, my hero and heroine travel in such a vehicle from London to Dartmoor. 
Between the town chariot and the travelling chariot, or post chaise, there was no difference in the design of the body. The nature of their use occasioned the alteration of name. The former was fitted with a seat in front, and generally furnished with a hammer-cloth; but this, in the case of plain chariots, was dispensed with. It was in all cases mounted upon a perch carriage, either with straight perch, or curved, with crane neck, and suspended upon whip springs, to be later on succeeded by the C spring. Many of these chariots were very elaborately finished; in some cases the bodies were made with quarter lights, having Venetian blinds, and a feature was made in the decoration of the panels by painting ornamental borders and floral wreaths thereon ...

The travelling chariot, or post chaise, was naturally of a plainer description than the town chariot. As already observed, the body was of the same design, and invariably fitted with a sword case, an excrescence, as it were, on the back, the access to which was gained from the inside of the body, and covered by the back squab. At first, the hind carriage supported a travelling case, which was afterwards displaced for a rumble. There was ample provision for luggage. In addition to a large boot, or box, fixed on the front carriage, there were imperials on the roof, and a bonnet case fixed between the front of body and the splasher. By removing these cases and substituting a driving seat, the travelling chariot was readily converted into a town chariot. The post chaise, it should be observed, was always driven by postilions.

Papers Read Before the Institute of British Carriage Manufacturers, 1883-1901

More images here, here, and here.

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