Boodle’s: A London Gentlemen’s Club

William Petty, Lord Shelburne, a founder of Boodle's
William Petty, Lord Shelburne. Author’s collection.

Boodle’s was a club for gentlemen founded in London in 1762 by the future Marquess of Lansdowne and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, William Petty, Earl of Shelburne. It was established for like-minded men to meet, exchange, and discuss political issues and ideas. However, Boodle’s took its name from its head waiter, Edward Boodle, who also began to manage it shortly after it was opened.

The club originally opened at 49-51 Pall Mall, but in 1782, it moved into 28 St. James’s Street, a spot occupied by the Savoir Vivre club. Architect John Cruden designed the building in 1765, and it was soon cited as “the most interesting architectural object [on] St. James’s Street.”[1] Between 1821-1824, architect John Buonarotti Papworth made alterations to Boodle’s ground floor that included a comfortable reading room.

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Pomatum, Pommade, or Pomade

Ninon de l’Enclos, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Pomatum, sometimes called pommade or pomade, was a greasy substance or ointment that was scented or perfumed and used to give the hair a shiny, slick appearance. Pomatum also helped to keep a hairstyle in place. According to one source, it nourished, strengthened, preserved, and thickened the hair.

The name pomatum was “derived from pomum, an apple, because it was originally made by macerating over-ripe apples in grease.” Pomatum was created from fats, such as lard, tallow, or marrow, although by the late 1800s, “cocoa butter, cocoanut [sic] oil, castor oil, almond oil, spermaceti, … wax, and … vaseline” were used. Olive oil, poppy oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, and almond oil were also sometimes used in combination with meat fats.

Besides pomatums for the hair, there were pomatums for the skin (sometimes to aid wrinkles, redness, or pimples), as well as balmy pomatums for chapped, dried lips. Pomatums for the skin often included cucumbers, which was supposedly what the celebrated French author, courtesan, freethinker, and patron of the arts, Ninon de l’Enclos used in the seventeenth century. Lip pomatums included ingredients such as oil of almonds, virgin wax, and orcanette root with “drops of essence of rose.” Continue reading


knocker-up, knocker-upper

A knocker-up, sometimes called a knocker-upper, was a person who roused sleeping people. The term knocker-up was also associated with the term knocked-up, which meant tired. There was also the door knocker (generally composed of brass or iron) that people used when knocking at a door.

Knocking-up first started in England and Ireland before alarm clocks were affordable, reliable, or common. To accomplish the job, a knocker-up often used a trucheon or short, heavy stick to knock on a client’s door. To reach a high window, a long stick, often made of bamboo, might be employed, and at least one knocker-up used a pea shooter.

With all the noise the knocker-up made, knocker-ups soon learned “that while he knocked up one who paid him, he [also] knocked up several on each side who did not.” This resulted in the adoption of “long taper[ed] wands, like fishing-rods.” These wands were sometimes called a snuffer outer, which was also an implement used to extinguish gas lamps at dawn. Sometimes the wands were 15 feet long, but the advantage of these wands was that the knocker-up could tap, tap, tap and wake the paying customer rather than the non-paying neighbor. Continue reading

Hat Fashions for June 1897

Young Ladies' Hat, Author's Collection
Young Ladies’ Hat, Author’s Collection

Hat fashions for June 1897 were piled high with trimmings of “flowers, tulle, chiffon and other dainty and delicate decorations” that conspired to create an airy summer-like look. For this time period, one of the most popular of the summer hats was the straw hat. That was because straw was light and airy but also allowed for ornamentation.

Of all the summer hats, large hats held first place. Large hats “when not laden with blossoms [were] enriched with plumes … flowers and feathers.” Large hats were also popular because they were great at shading a woman’s tender skin from the sun.

As far as millinery ornaments, one new feature for the summer of 1897 was a ruche-like arrangement of flowers, but there was another popular ornamentation. That was bows. According to the famous Victorian fashion magazine, The Delineator,

“[Bows sometimes stood] erect in many loops above the crown … or arranged in fan fashion or full rosettes. Light, airy-looking aigrettes and Paradise feathers [also remained popular], while ostrich tips, stiff wings and brilliant buckles unite[d] in forming becoming adornment[s] for [the] chapeaux intended for promenade, carriage, reception or theatre wear.” Continue reading

Gloves and Flirting Language

Flirting Language: Flirtation, Author's Collection
Flirtation, Author’s Collection

Flirting has been done since Eve enticed Adam with the apple. The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary associated flirting with a lack of seriousness and attributed its origins to “conter fleurette,” an old French word that means to try to seduce by dropping flower petals. This is interesting as flowers were, and still are, given as a symbol of a person’s feelings and intentions. For instance, according to the book The Poetry of Flowers and Flowers of Poetry, a gift of white roses symbolizes “a heart ignorant of love,” coreopsis meant “love at first sight,” and Forget-me-nots indicated “true love.”

Just as certain flowers provided insight into a man’s intentions, a woman of the eighteenth and nineteenth century was also able to signal her feelings through the use of her gloves. Continue reading

Umbrellas and Their History in the United Kingdom

Umbrellas and their history
1795 Print of Sir Thomas Bond Bart Carrying an Umbrella, Courtesy of Library of Congress

In England, there was an occasional reference to the umbrella in the early 1600s with Robert Toft bequeathing in his will of 1618 “an umbrello of perfumed leather with a gould fryndge abowte yt which I broughte out of Italie,” Another reference to the umbrella occurred in 1624. At that time, a woman stated of her husband, “Now you have got a shadow, an umbrella, to keep the scorching world’s opinion from your fair credit.”

The umbrella became more familiar during the Restoration Period of the mid 1600s thanks to Catharine of Braganza. She was Charles II’s Portuguese bride, and she brought a parasol to shade her complexion from the hot sun. At the time, people still relied on their cloaks to protect themselves from the rain.

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Health Remedies, Preventatives, and Cures in the 1700 and 1800s

Four Humors, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Four Humors, Courtesy of Wikipedia

By the mid 1800s the germ theory — a belief microscopic organisms caused certain diseases — was beginning to take root. Some physicians thought the idea of tiny microorganisms too little to be seen by the naked idea fanciful. However, bacteriologists, chemists, surgeons, proponents of hygiene, and others interested in medicine became convinced the germ theory had merit and they developed, proved, and popularized it in North America and Europe from 1850 to 1920.

Before the germ theory was even a thought, however, physicians relied on the Humoral theory. This theory believed in balancing the four humors — blood (sanguine), black bile (also known as melancholic), yellow bile (choleric), and phlegm (phlegmatic). Physicians also used many unusual remedies and cures to help people. Some were benign, others outlandish, and some downright lethal. A mixture of these remedies and cures in the 1700s and 1800s are listed below. Continue reading

Tea Ware, Tea Sets, and Tea Equipage

Tea Sets,Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum
Tea Set, Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum

The elements of tea involved many props and pieces. The still life, pictured at the left, depicts the typical elements used for tea in the eighteenth century. It was painted by Swiss artist Jean-Étienne Liotard. Starting on the left-hand side and working around clockwise, the painting shows: teapot, tea caddy, two tea cups and matching saucers, slop bowl, sugar tongs and sugar bowl, cream jug, three tea cups and saucers, and in the center a plate of bread and butter.

Originally, teapots were porcelain but over time silver teapots became prized among tea drinkers. (An interesting side note about silver teapots is that although they were highly desired and kept the water hotter for a longer period of time, they had drawbacks: they were difficult to clean, retained the taste of previously brewed teas, and often affected the delicate nature of imported teas.) Teapots were initially small, but, by the 1750s, the grew and held dozens of cups of tea. In fact, at one point, teapots were so large, they were unmanageable. People also began to rely on bubbling and hissing urns to boil their water, and, once heated, it took a mere flip of the spout for the water to flow into the teapot. Continue reading

Macaroni, Maccaroni, and the Macaronis

Macaroni, Maccaroni, and the Macaronis: The Macaroni. A Real Character at the Late Masquerade.
The Macaroni. A Real Character at the Late Masquerade. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Before dandies, there were macaronis, or to be precise, maccaronis, as that was how it was originally spelled. But the original macaronis were not the masculine dandies made popular by the outspoken arbiter of fashion, Beau Brummell in the early 1800s, or even the effeminate macaronis that appeared near the end of the 1700s. The original macaronis had discovered the little known Italian noodle, which at the time was not just a dried flour noodle but rather a delicious tasting “mixture of flour, cheese, and butter.” They discovered it while on the Grand Tour and “had eaten macaroni in Italy with an affected zest, and returned home full of vices and follies.” These young men rejected the anglophile and his roast beef, and, instead, they embraced everything Catholic and Continental and called anything fashionable “macaroni.” The loose creation of an informal club known as the “Macaroni Club” was the result and was described by English historian Horace Walpole as “composed of all the traveled young men who wear long curls and spying-glasses.” But the macaroni of the early 1700s would evolve into something entirely different by the late 1700s. Continue reading

Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms for the1700 and 1800s – Letters X, Y, and Z

The following slang, euphemisms, and terms are for the letters X, Y, and Z and are primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.


XANTIPPE was the name of Socrates wife and she was described by Plato as a devoted wife and mother. However, over time writers begin to describe her as bad-tempered and shrewish, until eventually the word became associated with a shrew or scolding wife.

XOWYNE meant to shove.

XYSTER was a surgeon’s instrument used to scrape bones, similar to a rasp or a file. Continue reading