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.

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.
 
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