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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Turban for a Regency Lady

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Loretta reports:

On my recent trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum's Textiles and Fashion Department, this turban, and the various accessories* showcased with it, caught my eye. Judging by fashion prints, turbans and toques seem to have remained popular for decades. By the 1830s, they expanded, to match the extravagantly gi-normous hats and bonnets and sleeves of the era.

This one is not so extreme. Dated 1818-1823, it also offers a good example of the difference between a fashion print and the real thing.

As the information page at the V&A explains, British milliners did not know exactly how a turban was constructed. It’s possible that the real thing wouldn’t have been quite such a hit with the ladies, except, perhaps as fancy dress, as in this example.

But milliners did lovely things with the turban concept, adding feathers, jewels, lace, and the sort of floral decoration you can see on the V&A information page. I do suggest you enlarge the images at the site, which include a top-down view showing the level of artistry and craftsmanship involved.

Here’s an earlier Regency era turban, which is a bit more like a beret.

One thing that struck me about the turban on display: It seemed as though it would go well with 1930s style clothing, and probably several other fashion eras. Can we call it timeless?

*You can find out more about the fan here on its V&A page.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Lasting Legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

Sunday, August 13, 2017
Susan reporting,

Legacies are notoriously fickle things. They're difficult to create, and even harder to maintain.

Yet one New York woman's legacy still flourishes after more than two centuries. Built on kindness and a genuine concern for the welfare of others, the legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854) continues today because the same challenges that faced many children in 1806 unfortunately remain a part of our society in 2017.

During her lifetime, Eliza Hamilton thought of the present, not posterity.  Born to privilege and married to Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasure, she still believed in helping others directly. She brought food, clothes, and comfort to refugees of the French Revolution, and to new widows after yellow fever epidemics. She took in a young motherless girls who'd no place to go, and the child became part of her own family for years. In 1797, she was one of the founders (with her friend Isabelle Graham and her daughter Joanna Graham Bethune) of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children.

When Alexander Hamilton died after his infamous duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, Eliza was grief-stricken, but refused to fade into genteel widowhood. Financial difficulties - Hamilton had left her saddled with many debts - forced her to seek assistance from family and friends to support herself and her children, yet still she continued to help others. Her late husband had begun life as a poor and fatherless child, and orphans were always to hold a special place in her heart - and her energies.

In 1806, Eliza, Isabella Graham, and Joanna Bethune founded the Orphan Asylum Society in the City of New York (OAS). Eliza was named second directress. The OAS began with sixteen orphans, children rescued from a harrowing future in the city's streets or almshouses.

But Eliza and her friends realized that these first orphans must be only the beginning of their mission. In the first years of the nineteenth century, New York had grown into the largest city in America with a population of over 60,000, crowded largely into the winding streets of lower Manhattan. the harbor had made the city a major port, and goods and passengers arrived from around the world.

While some New Yorkers prospered, many more fell deeper into poverty and disease, and it was often the children who suffered most. In greatest peril were children who arrived in the city as new orphans, their immigrant parents having died during the long voyage. Completely alone, these children were often swept into dangerous or abusive situations with little hope of escape.

Eliza and her friends would not abandon them. With each year, the OAS grew larger, and was able to help more children, yet the goals of the OAS never changed. Children were provided not only with food, clothing and shelter, but also education and the skills of a trade so that they cold become independent and successful adults.

In 1821, Eliza was named first directress (president), with duties that ranged from the everyday business of arranging donation for the children in her charge to overseeing the finances, leasing properties, visiting almshouses, and fundraising to keep the OAS growing. With her own sons and daughters now grown, these children became an extended family. She took pride in each of of them, and delighted in their successes, including one young man who graduated from West Point.

She continued as directress until 1848 when she finally, reluctantly, stepped down at the age of 91, yet she never lost interest in the children she had grown to love. When she died in 1854 at the remarkable age of 97 - over fifty years after her beloved Hamilton - The New York Times wrote of her: "To a mind most richly cultivated, she added tenderest religious devotion and a warm sympathy for the distressed."

The OAS that Eliza Hamilton helped found continues today. Now known as Graham Windham, it has evolved into an organization that supports hundreds of at-risk children and their families in the New York area. Times have changed - the 19th century's orphans are today's youth in foster care - but the mission remains true to Eliza Hamilton's original goals: to provide each child in their care with a strong foundation for life in a safe, loving, permanent family, and the opportunity and preparation to thrive in school, in their communities, and in the world.

"We serve the children who need us most," says Jess Dannhauser, president and CEO of Graham Windham. "It's a deep personal commitment for us. We don't turn anyone away. These are hard-working, courageous kids who want to make something of themselves and are looking for ways to contribute, and we're constantly adapting to discover the best ways to serve them."

Last week - August 9 - marked the 260th anniversary of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton's birthday. Although I completed writing I, Eliza Hamilton months ago, I've been thinking a lot about Eliza again lately, especially in a world that seems to have become increasingly selfish and uncaring, with little regard for those in need.

Not long ago, I visited the churchyard of Trinity Church in Wall Street, where Eliza and Alexander Hamilton are buried side by side. It's become something of a pilgrimage site for fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda's phenomenal musical, and Alexander's ornate tomb in particular is often decked with flowers and other tributes.

On this morning, Eliza's much more humble stone - where she is described only as her father's daughter, her husband's wife, as was common for 1854 - was notably bare, and I resolved to find a nearby florist. Before I did, however, I stopped inside the church itself. Near the door is a box for contributions to Trinity's neighborhood missions, and I realized then that Eliza didn't need another memorial bouquet. Her legacy instead continues in the example of her own selflessness, compassion, and generosity to others. With a whisper to the woman who'd lived long before me, I tucked the money I'd intended for flowers into the contribution box.

Thank you, Eliza, and may your legacy always endure.

Upper left: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, by Ralph Earl, 1787, Museum of the City of New York.
Right: Mrs. Alexander Hamilton miniature by Henry Inman, 1825, New York Historical Society.
Lower left: Grave of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. Photograph ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of August 7, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• A timeline of fashion history 1784-1970 through fashion illustration.
• A tale of two authors: Jane Austen and Germaine de Stael.
• Remembering Grace Darling, a true heroine who became a Victorian media sensation.
Emma Allison, a "Lady Engineer" at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.
• Remembering the 19thc Chinese script that only women could read.
• Sneaky: a recently declassified (by the CIA!) recipe for invisible ink from World War One.
• The complicated lives of the 18thc poor in England: going for a soldier.
• ImagePlaying cards from 1942 had important secrets.
• What the deuce! The curse words of Charles Dickens.
• Secret Versailles, after hours.
Soldier-printers' interjections of encouragement made on the American Civil War battlefield.
The Temple of the Muses: the biggest and cheapest bookstore in the 18thc world.
• What became of Charlotte Williams, the illegitimate daughter of the fifth Duke of Devonshire?
Image: Harvest knots, exchanged as tokens of love and courtship.
 Frances Folsom Cleveland: the 22-year-old FLOTUS as an 1880s Washington celebrity.
• Six of New England's most famous writers' houses.
• Did Alexander Hamilton (and probably Thomas Jefferson, too) hold this coin?
• Did French priests want to marry during the French Revolution?
• The Greenwich Village house for being the Louisa May Alcott House - but isn't.
• Found: a lunch box from 4,000 years ago.
Image: Mary Shelley's memorial album with locks of her friends' hair.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Video: The Apostrophiser

Friday, August 11, 2017
Loretta reports:

Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a way to connect today’s video to history, but no matter. “Nerdy,” I think, takes care of the category, although there might be some nerdy people who can pass an incorrectly punctuated sign in a calm and collected manner, perhaps shrugging or shaking their heads sadly.

They are not me. My hands itch to correct. But I do not, merely go on my way, grumbling or ranting, depending on whether I’m alone or in company.

But certain others take a more activist approach.

Here’s one gentleman who decided to make the world a safer place for apostrophes.



Youtube Video: Grammar vigilante - The 'Apostrophiser' Bristol's grammar nazi

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.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Recreating the 18thc "Ruins of Rome" Wallpaper in the Schuyler Mansion

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Susan reporting,

When Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) began building his estate near Albany, NY in 1761, he was determined to make it a suitable home for his growing family as well as for his stature as a gentleman of wealth and property.

Called The Pastures, the brick house was to be elegant and substantial in its Georgian symmetry, and sit grandly on eighty acres high on the hill overlooking the Hudson (or North) River so that visitors coming to Albany from New York City would be sure to see it first. Twenty-eight-year-old Philip wanted his house to be as impressive inside as it was commanding from the exterior, and while the house was being built, he combined a business trip to London with something of a decorating spending spree.

I've already shared the dramatic wool-flocked wallpaper that Philip bought, replicas of which can be seen today on the walls of the house (now called the Schuyler Mansion.) But even more impressive was the scenic wallpaper he bought for the upstairs and downstairs halls. Unlike most 18thc wallpaper which was block-printed, or "stampt", this paper was painted entirely by hand in tempera paint in shades of grey - en grisaille was the term - to mimic engraved prints. In fact, the entire scheme of the papers was an elaborate trompe l'oeil to represent framed paintings and cartouches, all custom designed for the walls and spaces they would occupy.

This was, of course, extremely expensive, and as much a sign of Philip's deep pockets as his taste. The wallpaper he ordered featured romantically scenic landscapes by the Italian painter Paolo Panini, and was called "Ruins of Rome." The "Ruins of Rome" wallpaper was so rare and costly that there are only two examples of it known to survive in America: in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, MA, and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, which has installed the paper taken from the now-demolished Rensselaerwyck, the home of Stephen Van Rensselaer II, also near Albany. (Yet all status and expense is a matter of degrees; the scenic wallpaper was inspired by aristocratic rooms like this one from Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, UK, which features real Panini paintings in gilded, carved frames and Genoese cut velvet on the walls.)

But for colonial New York, the wallpaper was grand indeed. Philip became a general during the American Revolution, and the wallpaper formed the first impression of the house's many illustrious guests during that era, including Benjamin Franklin, the Marquis de Chastellux, and George and Martha Washington, as well as gentlemanly British "prisoners" such as Major John Andre and General John Burgoyne.

Oh, and there was that one other young officer who ended up marrying the Schuylers' second daughter Elizabeth: Alexander Hamilton. (Eliza often returned to The Pastures throughout her married life, and the house is something of a secondary character in my new novel, I, Eliza Hamilton.)

Tastes change, however, and cities and families change, too. After General Schuyler's death in 1804, the family sold The Pastures, and the land around it was divided and developed. Albany grew to surround the house, which passed through various owners before finally being purchased by the State of New York and opened as a historic site in 1917.

The scenic wallpaper had long been removed. But over the last few years, the state's Peebles Island Resource Center, led by Rich Claus and Erin Moroney, has painstakingly recreated a high-quality digital reproduction of the "Ruins of Rome" based on the wallpaper from both the Lee Mansion and the Van Rensselaer installation in the Met, but redesigned to fit the Schuyler Mansion's walls and woodwork as perfectly as the original once did. The new wallpaper was completed and hung as part of the Mansion's centennial celebration this year. As you can see from these photos, it's a glorious recreation, ready to impress modern visitors just like their 18thc counterparts.

Many thanks to Danielle Funiciello of the Schuyler Mansion, and social, cultural, & architectural historian Judy Anderson (former curator of the Jeremiah Lee Mansion & author of Glorious Splendor: the 18thc Wallpaper in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion)  for their help with this post.

The Schuyler Mansion is open for tours; please check their Facebook page or call for days and hours.
All photographs ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Execution Bell at St. Sepulchre-Without-Newgate

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Loretta reports:

Though my book Dukes Prefer Blondes, with its barrister hero, was published last year, my interest in the 19th C English criminal justice system has by no means diminished. During my stay in London, I’d planned to visit many of the sites mentioned in the story and look for inspiration for a future story. My husband and I started the investigation with a London Walk titled “Crime and Punishment.” Our guide on this occasion was Richard III (no, not that one: this was not a ghost walk).

Along with many other crime-associated sites, some of which I’ll write about eventually, Richard III took us to the Church of St. Sepulchre Without Newgate.

Standing so close to Newgate Prison and the Old Bailey, the church featured in public executions, and its bells tolled on the fatal day.

The night before was rather more macabre. Round about midnight, the St. Sephulchre’s clerk would travel across the street through a tunnel, to stand outside the condemned prisoner’s cell. There the clerk would ring the handbell pictured here, and recite to the prisoner the following comforting ditty:

All you that in the condemned hold do lie,
Prepare you, for to-morrow you shall die;
Watch all, and pray, the hour is drawing near
That you before the Almighty must appear;
Examine well yourselves, in time repent,
That you may not to eternal flames be sent.
And when St. Sepulchre's bell to-morrow tolls,
The Lord above have mercy on your souls.
Past twelve o'clock!


St. Sepulchre Watch-House
There seems to be some disagreement about when this practice ended. The plaque in the church says it “died out in the early part of the 19th Century.” The London Encyclopedia tells us it ended in 1744.

The church was deemed to need a watch-house, to deter grave-robbing and, possibly, escapes. What we see today is a complete rebuild of the original 18th century structure, which was destroyed in WWII.

You can read more about the church here at the London Historians blog.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Spoils of War...in a Patchwork Quilt

Sunday, August 6, 2017
Susan reporting,

When I was little, my godfather spoke often about a Meissen porcelain platter that he'd hidden in his knapsack during the last days of World War II. He'd guarded it fiercely, refusing to let it out of his sight until he could bring it home as a trophy of the war. He assured us that it had belonged to Hitler, and had been part of the Führer's own dinner service.

To be honest, I don't remember the actual platter itself. Had my godfather sold it? Did it failed to survive the Atlantic crossing back to New York? I don't know. But even then it was clear to me that the real significance of the platter to my godfather wasn't its intrinsic value, but that it represented a piece of the enemy that he'd won and kept, a trophy to be proudly discussed and marveled over for the rest of his life. It was tangible proof that when he'd fought for his country, he'd been among the victors.

Of course, my godfather wasn't alone in this. No matter how much officers frown and governments try to outlaw looting, soldiers have always brought home "souvenirs" from their battles and their enemies - the infamous spoils of war.

I thought of that earlier this year when I first saw these baby shoes, cut from the red wool of a captured British uniform coat during the American Revolution, and I thought of it again when I saw the quilt, above, on display at Winterthur Museum. Although the quilt is believed to have been made in the early 19thc, a family heirloom from the American Revolution dominates the patchwork pattern. The unusual scarlet shape in the middle is a man's 18thc red wool cloak. The larger semi-circle would have wrapped around the wearer's shoulders, while the smaller semi-circle would have folded back around the neck into a collar. The cloak would have been worn over another coat as an extra layer of warmth and protection during a harsh winter.

Family tradition says the cloak was captured from a British soldier by an ancestor fighting in the northern campaigns, where the weather was coldest, during the American Revolution. The cloak was then likely passed down through the next two generations, and probably with a tale or two attached as well. Winterthur believes the quilt was most likely made by Myranda Codner Patterson (1808-1881) around the time of her marriage to Thomas Patterson in 1828. From there, the trail becomes a bit more hazy. There were several ancestors in the Codner and Patterson families who were the right age to have fought with the Continental Army, but it's unclear which one might have actually captured the cloak.

No matter. When Myranda (or whoever else might have made the quilt) began to cut her patchwork pieces, she left the bright red wool cloak untouched, and instead incorporated its geometric shape into her design. It's easy to imagine the stories that surrounded the quilt after that. Imagine being a child tucked beneath it, and hearing about how your brave ancestor plucked this very cloak from the shoulders of a wicked redcoat officer. Imagine touching that red wool as you drifted off to sleep, and dreaming of hard-fought victories won for the sake of liberty and America.

Much like my godfather and that Meissen platter.

Above: Quilt with inset 18thc men's cloak. Possibly made by Myranda Codner Patterson, possibly Ohio, early 1800s. Winterthur Museum. Photo courtesy of Winterthur Museum.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Shameless Self-Promotion: Read the First Chapter to I, ELIZA HAMILTON

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Susan reporting,

Later this week, my publisher, Kensington Books, will post the first chapter to my new historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, on line.

But subscribers to my mailing list are reading it now - and you can, too. Simply click here to join my mailing list and you'll be sent an instant link to the preview. I promise your information won't be shared with anyone else, nor will I fill your inbox to overflowing. You'll only hear from me perhaps 2-3 times a year with important news or offers, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.

Hey, even George Washington has HIS copy....

Breakfast Links: Week of July 31, 2017

Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Everything you've ever heard about chastity belts is a lie.
• Joys and sorrows: Lewis Hine at Ellis Island.
• Sketches from a journey across Europe in 1817.
• So how many miles in a month did the old wool spinners cover with a walking wheel?
• The truth about John Quincy Adams' skinny-dipping and reporter Anne Royall.
• Did the invention of the sewing machine mean liberation or drudgery for 19thc women?
Image: Witnesses: three chestnut trees at Hougoumont bear musket ball scars that prove they were there in 1815.
• On-line exhibition: Victorian Valentines: Intimacy in the Industrial Age.
• Mapping Dante's Inferno, one circle of hell at a time.
• America's first woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell.
Image: Navigate your way around the Roman city of Londinium c AD50 with this interactive map.
Fashion's attics: in Italy, designers maintain their own archives both for preservation and inspiration.
• "Picturing Places", a new online resource from the British Library, helps to visualize the Georgian past with images from their collection.
Benjamin Franklin's London.
Image: Medieval Italian colored glass drinking horns.
• What Shakespeare's house looked like in 1737.
• The lost young love of John Quincy Adams.
• Did Jane Austen develop cataracts from arsenic poisoning?
• Over 120 years later, this garden of glass flowers is still blooming.
Image: Just for fun - the cover of Enlightened Bride magazine.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, August 4, 2017

From the Archives: A Glimpse into the Edwardian Past

Friday, August 4, 2017

Susan reporting:

This isn't a single video, but a series of short, silent clips pieced together. The description notes that it's also been "enhanced," with the focus sharpened and the speed made consistent. That said, it's a wonderful slice of Edwardian life, a medley of street scenes, factory-dominated landscapes, amusement parks, family scenes, dockside farewells, and holidays at the beach. The caption on YouTube says the clips were mostly shot in London, with some perhaps from Cork, Ireland as well.

Much like one of our earlier Friday videos from 1895, the people here may have been arranged before the camera, but no one is acting. Seeing how everyone walks, how their clothes move and how they carry themselves, the carriages and wagons and early motor cars - it's as close as we'll get to being able to look backwards in time more than a hundred years.

Several things stood out to me while watching this:
    1) Everyone dressed much more formally then, no matter what the occasion.
    2) Boys and men have always been willing to stick their faces in front of a camera.
    3) Wherever the people in the last scene are, it's an incredibly happy crowd. So many smiles!
    4) The women's hats are fantastic, and so are the men's moustaches.

What do you notice?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fashions for August 1852

Thursday, August 3, 2017

August 1852 fashions
August 1852 fashion description
Loretta reports:

Last year, in my 1850s fashion post, I lamented the dearth of complete magazines, with fashion plates, online for the Victorian era. It seemed that Godey’s was about all there was, with one or two Petersons. Since then, I’ve found a nice collection of the London and Paris Ladies’ Magazine of Fashion on Google Books. The magazine is rich in fashion prints. For August 1852,  I chose Plate 1 because it shows a court dress, which tends to be quite a different fashion species from other clothing, even evening dress. While the plumes tend to give it away, court dress also stands out in prints like these because it’s so elaborate.  This one is clearly so, dripping with jewels.

Plissé refers to fabric with a pleated or puckered finish. Interestingly, the Merriam- Webster dictionary lists a “first known use” of the term in 1859,” yet here it is in 1852. I’ve had this same experience many times, finding earlier usages in 19th century books online than the OED or M-W list.

Barège is a thin fabric made of silk and cotton or wool.

To compare and contrast actual dresses with prints, you might want to look at some early 1850s fashions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online costume collection here, here, and here.

Images from The London and Paris Ladies' Magazine of Fashion, ed. by Mrs. Edward Thomas, via Google Books.

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, August 1, 2017

Seeing the Emotion in the Words of a Handwritten Letter, 1797

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Susan reporting,

One of the most challenging aspects of writing historical fiction is trying to remove all the fusty layers of time and interpretation to capture the immediacy of the past. Whenever possible, I look to primary sources - letters, diaries, journals - that give voices to long-gone people. Seeing those original words reprinted in a book or on-line is useful, of course, but being able to see the originals of those same letters can take research - and inspiration - to an entirely different level.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to see first-hand one of Abigail Adams' more famous (or more infamous, depending on your perspective) letters now in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Abigail was no fan of Alexander Hamilton, nor was her husband, John Adams. As young as the American republic was in1797, vitriol, name-calling, and backstabbing were already part of the political system, and there were few rivalries more bitter than the one between Hamilton and Adams. Each had many reasons, and both were right: Hamilton believed he'd been shut out of the government he'd help create during George Washington's presidency, while Adams felt that Hamilton had undermined his attempts to win a second presidential term himself. Each accused the other of unseemly ambition, and both were justified there, too.

As can be expected, Abigail supported her husband, and loathed Hamilton. The Adamses had always been frank in writing to one another about politics, and her (low) estimation of Hamilton echoed his own. The letter that she wrote in late January, 1797, begins calmly enough, with notes of the weather and the "pain and anxiety of Seperation." Then she launches into gossip she'd heard regarding Hamilton, followed by her own appraisal of his character, only to realize at the letter's end what she's written:

"Mr. Black told me the other day on his return... that Col. H[amilton] was loosing ground with his Friends in Boston. On what account I inquired. Why for the part he is said to have acted in the late Election. Aya, what was that? Why, they say that he tried to keep out both Mr. A[dams] and J[efferson], and that he behaved with great duplicity....that he might himself be the dictator. So you see according to the old adage, Murder will out. I despise a Janus....it is my firm belief that if the people had not been imposed upon by false reports and misrepresentations, the vote would have been nearly unanimous. [Hamilton] dared not risk his popularity to come out openly in opposition, but he went secretly cunningly as he thought to work....

"Beware of that spair Cassius, has always occured to me when I have seen that cock sparrow. O I have read his Heart in his wicked Eyes many a time. The very devil is in them. They are laciviousness itself, or I have no skill in Physiognomy.

"Pray burn this Letter. Dead Men tell no tales. It is really too bad to survive the Flames. I shall not dare to write so freely to you again unless you assure that you have complied with my request."

Obviously, John Adams didn't obey Abigail's request. Read as transcribed here, her words are indeed "bad," but to see them as she wrote them in the original letters showed exactly how angry she was.

Compare the delicacy of Abigail's greeting in the same letter, right, with the closing paragraphs, lower left. (As always, please click on the image to enlarge.) By the time she reached "Beware of that spair Cassius..." she was driving the pen across the page, her letters growing darker, wider, and less formed as she pressed the nib of her pen furiously across the paper. How much more powerful - and revealing - those words are in their handwritten version!

Many thanks to Sara Georgini, Historian and Series Editor, Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, for showing this letter and others to me. Excerpt from letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, January 28, 1797, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Above left: Abigail Adams by Jane Stuart (after Gilbert Stuart), c1800, Adams National Historic Park.
Right & lower left: Excerpt from letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, January 28, 1797, Massachusetts Historical Society. Photo by Susan Holloway Scott.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Octavia Hill, Victorian Social Reformer

Monday, July 31, 2017
Sargent, Octavia Hill 1898
Loretta reports:

In the course of our stay in London, we took a number of guided walks, during which I discovered dozens of interesting people, including several intrepid women.

Our Old Marylebone Walk (which propelled us to the Wallace Collection in very short order), introduced me to, among others, Octavia Hill. She was a social reformer whose work puts her in a class, I think, with Florence Nightingale. You can read a detailed biography of her here at Wikipedia, and some of her writing here.

Having written about the Ragged Schools in Dukes Prefer Blondes, I was, naturally, intrigued to learn she’d started her work by making toys for Ragged School children.  But I was more impressed by her ability to get things done. Like so many Victorian reformers, she had, apparently, a will of iron—a necessary character trait, although not necessarily one that endears a person to everybody. Still, she got things going, and by all accounts, her houses were successful.

But social housing wasn’t her only achievement. Believing that city workers should have access to green spaces, she campaigned to save several suburban woodlands from development. And while she may have been shortsighted about women’s suffrage and other social reforms, the heart of her work lives on, in the National Trust and various housing organizations, in the U.K. and the U.S.

You can read more about her here.

Image: John Singer Sargent, Octavia Hill, 1898  





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, July 29, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of July 24, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Heels, flats, and ankle straps: shoes in Jane Austen's world.
• Gorgeous memento of a forbidden love: the Maria Fitzherbert jewel.
• The Witch of Berkeley meets the Devil, and medieval hilarity ensues.
• Herbal folk cures from County Donegal.
• What did a "Welsh comb" mean to 18thc men (and why blame the Welsh?)
Image: The gold rosary Mary Queen of Scots carried to her execution.
• Washington's Wormley Hotel, the premier late-19thc gathering place for politics, diplomacy, and social elegance.
• No "King of Kings": how and why American revolutionaries changed the Book of Common Prayer.
• Capitol ghosts.
• Removing the Dauphin from his mother, Marie Antoinette.
• India's lost historic "party mansions."
• Why you can't ever call an enslaved woman a "mistress."
• Image: Some Anglo-Saxon women wore crystal balls on their belts -amulets of the sun and purity, but their true meaning is a mystery.
• Fifteen rare color photographs from World War II.
• Virtual "unrolling" of ancient scroll buried by Vesuvius reveals early text.
• Liberty Poles and the two American Revolutions.
• The mystery of Sappho.
History is the intersection of what actually happened and how we perceive it.
• Letters written to loved ones after Gettysburg reveal the pain of those left behind.
• Food photography over the years.
• Martha Gunn, 18thc Brighton celebrity and "dipper."
• A Roman glass bowl that was imported to Japan - in the 5thc.
Image: Just for fun: Gloria Gaynor's iconic "I Will Survive" as a Shakespearean sonnet.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Still Fishin'

Sunday, July 23, 2017
Our fishin' trip continues - but never fear, we'll be returning to blogging next week with a fresh batch of Breakfast Links, and new posts to follow.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore our individual blogs for much more about our books and the stories, history, and research behind them:

Loretta's author blog.

Susan's author blog.

See you next week!

Left: Fishing by Daniel Ridgway Knight, c1890, private collection

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gone Fishin'

Friday, July 14, 2017
It's the middle of July, and we feel a bit of fishin' is in order. 

Loretta is continuing on her Grand Tour abroad, and Susan is heading off to the 18thc and Colonial Williamsburg. Seems like as good a time as any to take a short break from blogging and general social media-ing. Look for us to return later this month. 

Enjoy your summer!

Elegant Ladies Fishing by Georges-Jules-Victor Clarin, c1900. Image via Sotheby's.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The "Art & Mystery" of Cutting an 18thc Gown

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Susan reporting,

An 18thc mantua-maker (dressmaker) seldom shared the "art and mysteries" of her trade with her customers. It was hard-earned knowledge and skill, gained through an apprenticeship that might have lasted seven years, and it also benefited the business to keep a bit of alluring, magical mystery to her fashionable creations.

For the last five years, Sarah Woodyard, journey-woman in the mantua-making trade, Margaret Hunter Shop at Colonial Williamsburg (shown here in the floral short gown), has been studying different theories of cutting out 18thc gowns - the most important part of the "art and mystery" of dressmaking - and has agreed to share some of her research here.

There was, of course, no single way of cutting out an 18thc gown. Various mantua-makers would have devised methods that worked best for them, and even at the Margaret Hunter Shop, each mantua-maker has a favorite technique. However, Sarah's study of extant garments made her realize the importance of the linen linings in construction and fittings and, in best 18thc style, led her to develop her own favorite method. The technique is simple. Using linen, a less expensive fabric, the lining is cut out and used to establish the fit of the bodice and to "build' the outer garment on top of the lining. The lining becomes both the guide for the creation the gown, and the base for its structure. Not only would this method preserve the more costly outer fabric from being damaged by a slap-dash cutting mistake, but it was also an easier way to control the large amounts of fabric that created the volume of a sack or common gown.

The technique was also a time-saver for both a busy customer, and a mantua-maker determined to make the most of her sewing time. At every price point, women's clothing in the 18thc was fitted and cut on the individual body rather than on a dressmaker's form, ensuring a custom fit. By fitting just the lining on the customer, the rest of the gown could be cut and stitched without her presence until one more final fitting.

In these photographs, Sarah is shown fitting the plain linen lining for a polonaise jacket and matching petticoat on Aislinn Lewis, one of the blacksmiths at Colonial Williamsburg. This ensemble was one of Sarah's final apprenticeship projects completed to prover her skill and move up as a journey-woman. Sarah only required Aislinn for a fitting in the morning to cut the lining, and another in the afternoon for a sleeve fitting. That was all; Sarah was able to hand-sew and complete both pieces - made from pink changeable silk - in about thirty-six hours, including all the trimmings.

The same technique could be used to construct a gown for a woman unable to come in person to the mantua-maker's shop. For women who lived far from town, travel could be prohibitively difficult, and in many families the men traveled to town on business, while the women remained at home with the children.

The trade card, bottom right, for London mantua-maker M. Giles offers the same services for "Ladies residing in the Country [who] may be fitted in the exactest manner by sending with their Commands a Gown or Pair of Stays which fitts them."

As the advertisement shows, a woman could still have new clothing made by sending either an existing gown or a pair of stays to her mantua-maker. Stays were the 18thc version of a corset; no only were they, too, custom-fitted, but over time they assumed the shape of the wearer's body, and could serve as a good replica of her upper torso. Either way, the mantua-maker could use the existing garment to copy and cut a new lining as a pattern, and built a new gown from the lining out without an in-person fitting - and once again, fashion triumphed.

All photographs by Fred Blystone. Used with permission.
Trade card, 1770s, London, British Museum.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Albania's Bizarre Bunkers

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Loretta reports from Europe:

The one previous time I was in Albania, it was a strictly Communist country, ruled by Enver Hoxha (pronounced Hoe-jah).  We young visitors--the first group allowed in who were not born there--were carefully shielded from the dark side of his rule. I can't remember if anybody asked about the strange mushroom-shaped structures on the mountainsides, on beaches, and various unexpected places.  I remember hearing about them later, from Albanian immigrants, who laughed (this was years later), though it wasn't funny at the time.

You can read about the bunkers here and here.

Though we saw at least a dozen in the course of our journey through Albania, this was most often when we were in the car, which is why I have so few photos.  This includes a fascinating group that were under covers while the road they sat by was under construction. One of my cousins joked, "They don't want them to get cold." It was one of the few jokes in Albanian I actually understood, and I think my laughter gratified him.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Eliza Schuyler & Alexander Hamilton: Love, A Miniature Portrait, & Fine Needlework, 1780

Sunday, July 9, 2017
Susan reporting,

True love, a war-time memento, and virtuoso needlework: inspiration doesn't get much better for me than that! This elaborately embroidered mat was stitched by a young woman in Albany, NY in 1780, specifically to surround the miniature portrait of her fiancé. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

The mat is worked in silk and metallic (now tarnished) threads, with metallic bobbin lace (also now tarnished) framing the miniature. The lace may have been a costly import - perhaps it had originally trimmed a gown - or it may have been worked by the young woman herself. The harmony of the design, the elegantly shaded colors, and the precision of the stitches all indicate that she possessed considerable skill with her needle as well as a flair for design.

There's also little doubt that this was a labor of love whose sheer exuberance (imagine how brilliant it must have been when the colors were still fresh and the metallic threads glittered!) threatens to overwhelm the tiny miniature, which is less than two inches in height. You can just tell that the young woman was dreaming of her beloved with every stitch she took. Perhaps she even kept the miniature nearby as inspiration.

Who were these two sweethearts? The needleworker was Elizabeth Schuyler, 22, and her fiancé was Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton, 23, who was serving in the Continental Army as an aide-de-camp to Commander-in-Chief Gen. George Washington. In 1780, the American Revolution was dragging through its sixth year, with no resolution in sight. The war had brought these two together - they had become engaged during the army's winter encampment earlier in the year - just as it also kept them apart during the summer and fall. Both had hoped for a quick wedding, but Alexander's military duties forced them to postpone their marriage until shortly before Christmas, 1780.

While Alexander was occupied with the war, Eliza had returned to her parents' home in Albany. They corresponded frequently, and though her letters no longer survive, his are filled with love and impatience. At one point during the summer and fall, she begged for him to have a miniature portrait of himself painted for her as a keepsake.

In this era before the constant imaging of cellphones, miniatures were the only small and portable reminders of a loved one's face available, much as daguerreotypes would a century later during the Civil War. In war-time, when a violent death or disfigurement could occur at any time, the significance of these mementos rose significantly. Enterprising American artist Charles Willson Peale held sittings in his Philadelphia studio as well as traveling to encampments during the war, painting miniatures of dozens of soldiers for the sum of $28 a piece - a not insignificant amount to young men in an army which was often late paying them.

Alexander had himself painted twice by Peale: once earlier in the war wearing his uniform, and this one that he sent to Eliza, where he is shown a blue coat and a red waistcoat, with his auburn-red hair elegantly powdered and curled. In a letter discussing their coming wedding, he offered to wear either his uniform or civilian clothing for the ceremony; he left the decision to her. Perhaps he had himself painted as a civilian to reassure her that he wouldn't always be a soldier, and that peace would come. It did, but not until after Alexander had fought heroically in the last major encounter of the war, the Battle of Yorktown, in 1781. To her joy, he survived unscathed, and came home to her - a home that always included this portrait and the needlework around it.

Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, to be published in September, 2017, by Kensington Books.

Above: Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by Charles Willson Peale, c1780. 
Mat embroidered by Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, c1780. Both from the collection of the Office of Art Properties, Columbia University Libraries. Image copyright Columbia University Libraries.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of July 3, 2017

Saturday, July 8, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Before she was famous: Jane Austen in the newspapers.
Dolley Madison, Washington's first power hostess.
• "Full fathom five the poet lies": the death of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
• Everything has its history: a timeline of American burlesque.
• The dandies of White's in the Regency era.
Video: Rembrandt's self-portraits from age 22 until his death at age 63 in 1669.
• The dragons are back on the Great Pagoda, Kew Gardens, London.
• A treasury of historic clothing: undressing the royal and aristocratic funeral effigies in Westminster Abbey.
• An 1804 Regency recipe for Pomade Divine.
• The odd link between Thomas Hardy, the Man with Two Heads, and Mary Shelley.
Video: This writing table once belonged to Marie-Antoinette.
Image: Entertaining (and we hope posed!) c1900 photo of young women fooling around with firecrackers.
• Newly discovered schoolboy sketches by John Leech, illustrator for Charles Dickens.
• Even Founding Fathers can have their hearts broken: on the road through Europe with Gouverneur Morris.
• How did Word War One recruitment posters persuade Americans to enlist?
Image: Metal & leather convertible straight-backed steamer trunk, c1890.
• Searching for stolen Nazi gold and treasure in the mountains of Poland.
• The medical history of rhubarb around the world.
• Friends in grief: Martha Washington and Elizabeth Willing Powel.
Image: A silk textile curtain sewn into a 13thc Bible to protect the delicate gold leaf illumination.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

A Bit of Quick Shameless Self-Promotion: Enter to Win an ARC of "I, Eliza Hamilton"


Susan reporting,

Yes, I'm shamelessly self-promoting on this lazy July afternoon. But aren't you curious about what these two handsome gentlemen have found so intriguing?

My new historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, won't be published until September 26, but my publisher is hosting a contest to win an Advance Reading Copy now. Skip on over to Goodreads (you can also log in with a Facebook account) and enter before midnight Wednesday, July 12,  for a chance to win.

Good luck!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Friday Video: New York City in 1911

Friday, July 7, 2017
Susan reporting,

Because of copyright & ownership issues that prohibit embedding, you'll have to click here to watch today's video, but it's well worth it. This is another of the wonderful travelogues produced in the early twentieth century. This one was made by a team of cameramen with the Swedish company Svenska Biograteatern, who traveled around the world making films. Now in the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art, the museum's description of the eight-minute travelogue is worth repeating:

"Opening and closing with shots of the Statue of Liberty, the film also includes New York Harbor; Battery Park and the John Ericsson statue; the elevated railways at Bowery and Worth Streets; Broadway sights like Grace Church and Mark Cross; the Flatiron Building on Fifth Avenue; and Madison Avenue. Produced only three years before the outbreak of World War One, the everyday life of the city recorded here - street traffic, people going about their business - has a casual, almost pastoral quality....Take note of the surprising and remarkably timeless expression of boredom exhibited by a young girl filmed as she was chauffeured down Fifth Avenue in the front seat of a convertible limousine."

My favorite parts include the hats on every man (summer straw boaters, derbies, and everything in between) and woman (stupendous creations, with drifts of ribbons, flowers, and veils.) I also liked how, when the ferries dock, the vehicles that disembark are all drawn by horses. But I was most surprised by how little the cityscape has changed in the last century. Except for dodging trucks and taxis instead of horse-drawn wagons, in many ways walking the sidewalks of New York is still much the same experience it apparently always has been.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Meanwhile in Albania...

Thursday, July 6, 2017
Loretta reports:

I'm on the road, with terrific internet connections but little time for posting. There's been so much to see and do. Here are some things I've seen during my too brief time here. I plan to post in more detail after I'm home.

Castle of Gjirokaster.

Ancient city of Butrint. (This is just one tiny section of the excavation.)

Doorway of second school in which Albanians were finally educated in their own language. This is in Pogradec. 

Archaeology Museum in  Durres.

A little gorgeous scenery.



 
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