Hat Fashions for August 1899

Hat Fashions for August 1899: Leghorn Hat, Author's Collection
Leghorn Hat, Author’s Collection

Hats have always always varied with the fashions, but even more than that, at least according to The Delineator, “modes in millinery run by no known law or rule, but come and go without rhyme or reason … so that no rule can be given by which the latest style of hat may be identified; that the hat be becoming is the only absolute requirement.” With no rules, the hats of August 1899 were large and excessively ornamented with chiffon, feathers, and gigantic unnatural-looking flowers. Tulle hats were particularly large and had a profusion of elaborate trimming, but it was the lavishly trimmed leghorn hats that continued to remain the most popular, being “twisted, dented, and variously fashioned to produce such essentially different results that their identity [was] almost lost.” Continue reading

Almack’s Assembly Rooms

Almack's Opening the Season, Public Domain
Almack’s Opening the Season, Public Domain

Almack’s Assembly Rooms, known merely as Almack’s, was a social club that opened in London on King Street in St. James and operated from 20 February 1765 to 1871. It opened to compete against the grand social affairs given by Teresa Cornelys, an opera singer and impresario, who hosted fashionable gatherings at Carlisle House in Soho Square. London’s high society, better known as the ton, a French word that means “taste” or “everything that is fashionable,” soon came to govern Almack’s. They also determined who was “in” and who was “out,” and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, those who wanted to be in were willing to go to great lengths to achieve it. Continue reading

Tea Rituals and Its History in England

Tea Rituals: Catharine of Braganza, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Catharine of Braganza, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Tea was not always a part of English history. In fact, the first tea drinking royal, was not even English but rather Portuguese. She was Catherine of Braganza, bride to Charles II of England, who, when she arrived on English soil, also carried a tea-chest filled with her treasured teas. Catherine soon invited female friends to her bedchambers to share this tasty tea. As tea drinking became more popular, high-born women, such as Madame de Staël, sometimes drank their morning tea with their friends abed and bare-breasted, and her bedchamber also served as spot to store and display the prized porcelain pieces that made her tea drinking possible. Continue reading

London Sewer Hunters

Henry Mayhew, Author's Collection
Henry Mayhew, Author’s Collection

Sewer hunters, often called toshers, were those people that ignored roguish odors to descend into London’s sewers and scavenge, pan, and retrieve “tosh,” which was the term for copper. During the 1800s the term tosher gained a much wider application than it does today. These long ago toshers also searched dumps, scavenged at the mouth of sewers, and worked the Thames shoreline.

Amazing as it may sound, toshers thought of themselves as a step or two above mudlarks — people who scavenged the Thames for coal, wood, or rope — because toshers scavenged for money, silver, or gold. According to Henry Mayhew, author of the multi-volume London Labour and the London Poor, toshers made a good living, earning about 6 shillings a day, which places them among the top earners of London’s working class during the Victorian Era. Continue reading

Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms for the 1700 and 1800s – Letter T

The following slang, euphemisms, and terms are for the letter T, and primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

TABBY was a reference to an old maid, as old maids were often compared to cats.

TACE meant to be silent or to hold your tongue.

TACKLE referred to a mistress or a man’s genitals.

According to Grose, the expression TAG-RAG AND BOBTAIL was used to describe an “assemblage of low people.” Continue reading

Hat Fashions for March 1898

Hat Fashions for March 1898: Young Ladies' Hat, Author's Collection
Young Ladies’ Hat, Author’s Collection

According to The Delineator, which was a women’s magazine founded by the Butterick Publishing Company in 1869, the cold winter was giving way to a balmy spring, and warm-looking felts and somber velvet hats were being replaced by a “profusion of flowers, gay ribbon, bright silk, and fancy-colored straw hats.”

This change of season was shown in the March millinery fashions of 1898. Victorian millinery fashions were a combination of winter and springs colors, ranging from black to green and from warm browns to purple. Fabrics used in these hats were also attempting to bridge the change in season, as they ranged from velvet and silk to chiffon and straw, with garniture being feathers, veils, velvet, aigrettes, and flowers. Continue reading

Common Ailments, Complaints, and Diseases

Bloodletting, Public Domain
Bloodletting, Public Domain

Ailments, illnesses, and diseases were a mystery in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Physicians were often baffled and did not have a clear understanding of microorganisms or how diseases were transmitted. They believed in the longstanding central principle of Western medicine, known as the Humoral theory, which believed in balancing the four humors—blood (sanguine), black bile (melancholic), yellow bile (choleric), and phlegm (phlegmatic). Among the ways to balance the four humors was bloodletting, which was thought to cure everything from acne to diabetes to indigestion and from nosebleed to scurvy. Unorthodox methods, such as bloodletting, however, often  failed. This lead to an investigation of other methods to “cure” patients, which eventually resulted in the germ theory that revolutionized medicine.

To help you understand the diseases people faced in the 1700 and 1800s, here is a list, in alphabetical order, of the more common diseases, ailments, and complaints. Continue reading

Tea History in the United Kingdom

Tea History: Catharine of Braganza
Catharine of Braganza, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Tea was not always a part of English history. However, it was destined to become a part once a small ad ran in 1658 in one of London’s weekly newspapers called the Mercurius Politicus. The newspaper announced the sell of the “China Drink called by the Chineans, Tcha, by other Nations Tay alias Tee … [at a] Cophee-house in Sweetings Rents by the Royal Exchange.” At the time, the English were fascinated with everything foreign from fabrics to foods, and when a Portuguese princess, Catharine of Braganza and bride to Charles II of England, arrived in London in 1662, besides her finery and thick accent, she also brought a casket of tea and quickly made tea drinking fashionable among the wealthy. Continue reading

French Fall Fashions 1867

French fall fashions for 1867 continued much in the same vein as earlier 1867 fashions. Creatively trimmed skirts ranged in length from the ankle to the floor, and paletots remained another popular part of a fashionable woman’s toilet. Colors for fall varied, although they were somewhat darker in color than the summer fashions. Fabrics for winter ranged from silk to alpaca to muslin. Ornamentation on toilets included such decorations as fringe, epaulettes, bows, bouillonne, and diamond-shaped lozenges. Bonnets and hats tended towards low, round crowns and were decorated with ribbons, lace, and flowers. Continue reading

Crossing Sweepers

Crossing Sweepers: Adult Crossing Sweeper
Adult Crossing Sweeper, Public Domain

In exchange for a gratuity, a crossing sweeper swept a path — known as a “broom” walk — ahead of pedestrians as they walked down the street. A job as a crossing sweeper was one step above being considered a beggar and the last chance for an individual to earn an “honest crust.” Those who performed the job of a crossing sweeper included not only children but also the infirmed, the elderly, and the limbless (similar to the one-legged crossing sweeper shown at the left). The author of Life in the London Streets: Or, Struggles for Daily Bread described crossing sweepers as “cripples, and old men and women, shriveled like dry wrinkled apples, who are just strong enough to give the public that real convenience, a clean crossing.” Continue reading