Umbrella Etiquette and Manners

umbrella etiquette
Rainy Weather and the Umbrella, Author’s Collection

“There is one piece of property, which is nobody’s property, or everybody’s property, or is not property at all—and that is, Umbrellas.” That was the opinion of one nineteenth century writer and to a degree it was true because no article was borrowed more frequently or returned less than the umbrella. In fact, it was noted over and over in etiquette books and articles printed in the nineteenth century:

Frequently a borrowed umbrella is never thought of by the borrower till after the weather clears up, the lender most probably suffering inconvenience for want of it. Often, it is detained till the next rain, when the lender has to take the trouble of sending for it. And then it is very possible it may not be found at all, some person in the mean time having nefariously carried it off. In such a case it is a matter of common honesty for the careless borrower to replace the umbrella with a new one, as…[an] empty expression of regret or unmeaning apologies will [not] be sufficient compensation for a substantial loss.

Although some nineteenth century people may have thought they did not need to heed the rules when it came to borrowing an umbrella, etiquette books disagreed. In fact, they also offered umbrella etiquette advice about the proper use and handling of an umbrella, even when not braving a storm. Continue reading

Jumbo the Elephant in America

Jumbo Being Put in Irons, Author's Collection
Jumbo Being Put in Irons, Author’s Collection

Jumbo had been housed at London’s Zoological Gardens for seventeen years when he was sold in November 1881 to P.T. Barnum, owner extraordinaire of “The Greatest Show on Earth.” It seems that almost from the start Jumbo instinctively knew something was happening and when Barnum’s agents went to get him, he refused to stir. When Barnum’s agents cabled Barnum that Jumbo refused to move and asked him what they should do, Barnum replied “Let him lie there as long as he wants to.”

Jumbo remained uncooperative for many days, and, in the meantime, a box with wheels was built to accommodate him. Eventually, the box was moved nearer and nearer to Jumbo until he got use to it. Then on 22 March 1882, Jumbo was loaded into the shipping box. Between the elephant and the box, it took sixteen horses to pull it to the wharf, and at the wharf, a throng of people were there offering tempting treats (cakes, dainties, and even champagne and oysters). They were also there to wish him well and see him off on his long ocean trip to America. Continue reading

Beadles of the 1700 and 1800s

Beadles: Parish Beadle by George Cruikshank 1827, Author's Collection
Parish Beadle by George Cruikshank 1827, Author’s Collection

Beadle, sometimes spelled “bedel,” is a term derived from the Latin word bedellus or the Saxon word bydel. A beadle in the Anglican Church was described in England as a parish constable, whereas in Scotland it described someone who assisted the minister during divine services. One description of an English beadle claimed that he was a “petty officer of police that may be said to have merged from the ancient parish crier.”

The beadle was appointed by the vestry and part of his job was to attend the vestry, execute the vestry’s orders, and inform parishioners about where and when the vestry would meet. Additionally, the parish beadle was a subordinate to the churchwardens, overseers, and constables, which meant the beadle’s job was multifarious. He kept order in the church during services, served as town crier delivering news, dispersed noisy urchins, strolled the parish, solved squabbles between parishioners, took drunks to the round house (jail), and, at Christmas time, knocked on each parishioner’s door and delivered the Bellman’s verse. Continue reading

Women’s Dress Fashions January 1867

Paletot, Author's Collection
Paletot, Author’s Collection

Between 1866 and 1867 several striking fashion changes occurred. The most striking was illustrated in skirts, which were now small, plainer at the front, and “of little fulness…at the back.” Among the cut most favored in 1867 was the “Princess” cut, a one piece cut with no seam that created a dress that was small at the top, tapered at the waist, and flared at the hips. This cut was as popular for morning wear as it was for evening wear. Trimmings for skirts also underwent changes. Whereas evening wear had frequently been trimmed with flowers in 1866, in 1867 that was rarely done, “except in small bouquets to loop up skirts, or to fasten some of the important parts of the lace trimmings.” The skirt trimmings that were fashionable in 1867 were both black and white lace, “ruching, narrow pipings…and pearl ornaments.” Additionally, evening dresses tended to have “skirts or basques pointed à peplum,” and Promenade Costume skirts were either short or looped up. Fashionable paletots for 1867 were “the Peplum style with pointed skirts” and trimmings included the elaborate “passementerie…[as well as] jet,…narrow bands of swans’-down and…fur.” Continue reading

Knife, Fork, and Spoon Etiquette in the 1800s

Knife, Fork, and Spoon Etiquette: RW-1699-x299-Table-Etiquette

“The knife and fork were not made for playthings, and should not be as such when people are waiting at the table for food.” This was one of the many gems of advice offered by nineteenth century etiquette experts who saw proper table etiquette as way to display proper breeding. Eating a meal in the 1800s was not a simple thing. There were rules to be considered, and it was noted that table manners were “like the hyphen-marks of grammar, which unite without confusing.” It was also why etiquette books advised people to avoid sinning against the simplest laws of table etiquette, as doing so not only displayed a want of breeding but also “actually annoy[ed] those about them … [with] their sins of omission and commission.” This also meant that proper etiquette needed to be observed when using the main instruments of dining, the knife, the fork, and the spoon. Continue reading

Jumbo the Elephant in England

Music Cover Illustration of Jumbo the Elephant
Music Cover Illustration, Courtesy of Library of Congress

As an adult, Jumbo the elephant was so immense that he was within five or six inches of the height of a railroad tunnel, which made his handlers wonder how they would transport him if he got any larger. But this immense elephant did not start out as a giant. He was, in fact, nothing more than a small, puny African elephant born in the French Sudan in the early 1860s. When the puny elephant arrived in France he was consigned to Paris’s Jardin des Plantes and languished there for several years attracting no particular attention, which was partially why Jardin des Plantes’s traded him to London’s Zoological Garden in 1865.

In England, Jumbo the elephant’s new keeper was Matthew Scott. Scott stated that when Jumbo arrived he was the size of a Shetland pony, and he also noted:

“I never saw a creature so woe-begone. The poor thing was full of disease, which had worked it way through the animal’s hide, and had almost eaten out its eyes. The hoofs of the feet and the tail were literally rotten, and the whole hide was so covered with sores that the only thing I can compare it to was the condition of the man of leprosy.”

Part of these sores could be attributed to rats that “by the hundreds … [gnawed] his hoofs, and … [snapped] viciously at his legs and tail.” It was under these circumstances that Scott served as doctor, nurse, and servant to Jumbo and “watched and nursed him night and day with all the care and affection of a mother (if it were possible for man to do such a thing),” until Jumbo was restored to perfect health. Continue reading

Hairstyles of 1870

Parisian Hairstyles of 1870, Author's Collection
Parisian Hairstyles of 1870, Author’s Collection

According to Peterson’s Magazine, hairstyles of 1870 were “not [any] less high upon the summit of the head than they were [the previous] … year; quite the contrary, only the chignon has disappeared.” Although the hairstyles might have been the same size in height, the back of 1870 hairdos were flatter and consisted of curls, plaits, or twists located at the neck. In fact, the back was often so low hairnets became fashionable once again, and in particular, “the variety [of nets] called ‘invisible’ … once more [were] called into requisition.”

Ornamentation of the 1870 hairstyles occurred at the front with bows universally worn at the time so that “no lady appears to fancy that her toilet is complete without one.” The bows often matched a woman’s dress and were made from wide ribbon with two loops, and arranged precisely as Alsatian women wore them. Sometimes the four-looped bows were narrower, but women found these four-looped bows “neither so pretty, nor so stylish-looking [as the more fashionable and wider two-looped bows].” Continue reading

Second-Hand Umbrella Sellers and Menders

Umbrella Sellers From an Engraving by François Séraphin Delpech, Author's Collection
Umbrella Seller From an Engraving by François Séraphin Delpech, Author’s Collection

It took some time for the umbrella, nicknamed brolly, gingham, or gamp, to become popular, but after it did, second-hand umbrella sellers and menders were in high demand. When ill-winds blew in, what other London street sellers lost in foul weather, the umbrella menders gained. The menders had two goals in mind: Repair or replace any broken umbrella, and, “wandering from street to street, with a bundle of old umbrellas and a few necessary tools under their arm, they inquire[d] for umbrellas to mend from house to house,” crying loudly,”‘Umbrellas to mend,’ or ‘Any old umbrellas to sell?'”

These umbrella sellers and menders quickly acquired the nickname “mushroom faker.” Additionally, as was usual, those who went by the name of mushroom faker, soon shortened it to “mush-faker” or “mushfaker.” The nickname was straightforward enough as an umbrella did resemble a mushroom with the “characteristic of being rapidly or suddenly raised, the mushroom itself springing up and attaining its full size in a very brief space of time.” As for the term faker, it was an old cant term that meant mend or repair, which was also a term others added, such as the person who repaired broken china who was called a “chaneyfaker.” Continue reading

Evolution of Women’s Hats From the 1700 to 1800s

Woman Wearing a Bergère Hat, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Woman Wearing a Bergère Hat, Courtesy of Wikipedia

There were remarkable transformations in hat styles from the 1700s to the 1800s. The hat changed to match empires, dynasties, and ages, but it did not take on a fashionable turn until the mid 1700s. It was at that time that women made popular the shepherdess hat, a wide-brimmed, shallow-crowned straw hats, known as a bergère. They were usually stiff crowned hats, made from straw, and tied under the chin. These hats had been worn since the early 1700s but took on a fashionable bent between the 1750s and 1760s. Rising hairstyles soon caused many of these hats to tilt forward to accommodate the ever rising hairstyles. As hairstyles became larger and larger, hats styles became smaller and smaller until they were discarded altogether for time. However, extremely large hats were soon introduced and sometimes completely covered the high coiffures. It was also around this time that the word “bonnet” began to take on the its modern connotation and began to describe a variety of new hats. Continue reading

Men’s Fashions Summer 1867

Henry Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon in a Morning Coat, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Henry Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon in a Morning Coat, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The favorite coat for the 1867 summer season was the single-breasted Morning Coat, and its name was derived from the horseback riding exercise gentlemen took in the morning in the nineteenth century. At that time, the Morning Coat was regarded as an informal form of half dress, and, gradually, it became an alternative to the frock coat for formal day wear or full dress. When Morning Coats were first produced, they tended to have waist suppression, meaning they were cut to slim the waist and widen the chest and hips, thereby achieving an hourglass shape. To further enhance this look, padding was used at the chest, in the back at the shoulder blades, and sometimes even in the hips. The coats also buttoned at the waist streamlining the look and presenting a long, fashionable flare line.

In the summer of 1867, Morning Coats were considered more advantageous than double-breasted coats because double-breasted coats had “too much material in front when unbuttoned, and if…buttoned up they [were] too warm.” However, double-breasted vests were also worn, although they were generally worn open. Morning coats and vests for summer 1867 were also made from blue, black, or Oxford mixed diagonals or twilled elastics. Buttons on both coats and vests were plain and edging was normally accomplished with braid or binding, although fancy stitching was sometimes used. Trousers for the summer remained narrow, and were available in a mixture of colors and patterns. Continue reading