The Duel of Lord Camelford and Captain Best

Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford, was considered a notorious character, “a desperate ‘bruiser’ and duelist.” He was also a scrapper and was known to fight with his friends, which is exactly what happened when he and his “bosom friend,” Captain Best, ended up in a duel in 1804. Both men were considered fashionable young men about town and both were officers in the Royal Navy. They were also wagering enthusiasts, who were said to be “very courageous…first rate pistol-shots…[and] less than thirty years old.”

Their difficulties centered around an abandoned woman named Eliza Symons. She had formerly lived under Camelford’s protection. However, after meeting Best at the Opera and being attracted to him, she made overtures to him. He rejected her, and she became angry and abusive. She also decided to get revenge by “[setting] Lord Camelford at him.” To accomplish this she lied. She told Camelford Best had spoken disparagingly of him. Continue reading

Spring Bonnets 1878

spring bonnets 1878
Beret, Author’s Collection

The most popular spring bonnets in 1878 were the “French chip, soft English straws, and … rough fancy braids with a piping of velvet between the rows of braid.” They were popular because they were supposedly of exceptional quality and much more durable than bonnets of former seasons. White and black bonnets were equally fashionable, with straws being colored primarily in brown, black, gray, or ecru. Additionally, bonnet styles for middle-aged women were usually large with flaring brims filled in with lace frills.

The latest bonnets were also comfortable shapes, moderate in size, large in the head, and close-fitting in front. Crowns tended to be square at the top, low behind, and “finished by a straight curtain band, or one … indented in the middle.” Satin was the primary trimming, and beads were frequently used as a “special feature of spring garniture,” along with a variety of artificial flowers and feathers. Continue reading

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Georgiana Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Georgiana Spencer was born on 7 June 1757, the eldest daughter to John Spencer, (later the 1st Earl Spencer), and his wife, Margaret Georgiana Poyntz, an English philanthropist. Georgiana was noted from birth to display “promising symptoms of worth, and loveliness.” She was described as sweet, spirited, and engaging. On her seventeenth birthday the popular beauty married William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire. He was one of the centuries most eligible bachelor and a man, who although exceedingly knowledgeable, was stern, cool, and “incapable of strong emotion.”

The new Duchess of Devonshire soon found herself surrounded by politics and the political ambitious, with her inscrutable husband’s main enjoyment being spending time with his dogs, wooing his mistresses, and drinking with his friends. Nonetheless, his Devonshire House, in London’s west end, became the heart of political activism for the Whigs. In the center of it all was the Duchess of Devonshire who was viewed by her husband as little more than someone tasked with meeting social demands and producing children. Continue reading

Charles Jamrach – The Wild-Beast Man

Charles Jamrach Feeding His Animals
Jamrach Feeding His Animals, Public Domain

Johann Christian Jamrach was born in Hamburg, Germany, in March of 1815. His father was chief of the Hamburg river police but established a thriving trade as a dealer in wild and exotic animals because of his contact with sailors. In 1840, when Jamrach’s father died, Jamrach immigrated to London and took over his father’s business, which is why he was sometimes called “the wild-beast man.” His animal business then became the largest in the world and included a shop and museum.

Jamrach was known as Charles Jamrach in London and had one close rival. His name was Edward Cross. Cross was owner of a menagerie at Exeter Exchange on the Strand. Jamrach’s Animal Emporium, as it was known, was located in the East End on Ratcliffe Highway (later known as St. George Street), and he also maintained a menagerie on Betts Street and a warehouse stuffed full on Old Gravel Lane. Continue reading

Ville d’Orléans, the Mail Balloon of the Franco-Prussian War

Ville d'Orléans, the Mail Balloon of the Franco-Prussian War
The Balloon Floating Away in Norway, Public Domain

On July 19, 1870, Napoleon III declared war on Prussia, which resulted in the siege of Paris that lasted from September 18, 1870, to January 28, 1871. During this time, it was impossible to get mail out, until a plan was devised to use balloons. These balloon flights produced some of the most interesting tales related to the history of balloons and the mail. During this 133 day siege, 64 balloons were launched. Of these 64 balloons, a few were captured and two were lost after being blown out to sea. Among the balloons carrying the mail, one of the most interesting voyages was the 28th voyage, undertaken on the 67th day of the siege (24 November 1870)  by the balloon known as Ville d’Orléans, having been named for the town that had recently been liberated by the French. Continue reading

Popular Millinery and Millinery Ornament Terms for the 1870s

Millinery 1870s, Author's Collection
Millinery 1870s, Author’s Collection

aigrette—a French word used to denote the plume or feathery tuft on top of a bird’s head. “Hence the term came to…designate the long, delicate…feathers which being stuck upright in a lady’s headdress…[gave] a majestic appearance to the person.” The word also came to be associated with jeweled ornaments shaped as feathers and worn on a woman’s head during the eighteenth century, but, by the nineteenth century, almost any plume, even if flowers, were noted to be an aigrette. Additionally, during the nineteenth century, an aigrette was attached to a woman’s hat during the day and worn alone as a headdress at night.
Alsatian—refers to the Alsace region of France and was sometimes spelled Alsacian in the 1800s.
Alsatian bow—a flat, enormous bow with a loose knot. Continue reading

Vincenzo Lunardi – The Daredevil Aeronaut

Vincenzo Lunardi Ascending from the Artillery Ground
Lunardi Ascending from the Artillery Ground, Public Domain

Vincenzo (Vincent) Lunardi, known as the “daredevil aeronaut,” followed in the Montgolfier’s footsteps and gained fame as the first aerial traveler in England. He was also the person that initiated a ballooning frenzy because Lunardi, unlike the Montgolfier brothers, was not rich, and to offset the costs of his ballooning, it became a matter of necessity that the balloon pay for itself. His balloon was set to be released on 15 September 1784 at the Artillery Ground of the Honourable Artillery Company. Entrance to the event was one guinea for chairs close to the balcony, a half-guinea for seats behind the first row of chairs, and admission to view the construction of the balloon was four times the cost of the balcony chairs.

There were mixed feelings about Lunardi’s ascent. Horace Walpole the English art historian, antiquarian and Whig politician, thought the whole affair ludicrous. He wrote to the American educational reformer Horace Mann stating that “he would not stir one step or pay one guinea to see one Lunardi, an Italian, mount into the clouds.” Other people thought differently. The statesman and author Edmund Burke was excited about seeing the ascent, and he along with the British statesman William Windham, traveled to witness it. In fact, it seemed as if there was universal interest in the event because before “dawn … every available corner near the scene of the ascent had been taken possession of.” Continue reading

Regency Language of Cheats, Pickpockets, and Swindlers

Pickpockets of the Clergy, Public Domain
Pickpockets of the Clergy, Public Domain

Crime was rampant in the Regency Era, and some people attributed the increase to an upsurge in population, particularly of male youths, boys from 8 to 16 years of age. A committee established to look at crime noted that they believed the increase arose “from more active and general prosecution of petty crimes.”

Among the petty criminals that traversed London streets were the cheats, swindlers, and pickpockets. If you were not one of them, you were busy keeping an eye out to avoid them. However, it was not easy to deter or steer clear of them, as they always kept “a sharp look out to entrap the property of the honest part of the community, to take in and cheat the unwary, — to rob and perhaps murder the unprotected, to make prey of the unsuspecting.”

One way the cheats, pickpockets, and swindlers accomplished their goal was using a language not readily familiar to the general public. A few of the more interesting words, terms, and phrases they used are provided below: Continue reading

Georgian Hair – A Woman’s Crowning Glory and Its Care

Georgian hair
Marie Antoinette in 1785, Courtesy of Wikipedia

By the late Georgian era, gone were the towering headdresses. In its place was a woman’s natural hair, considered her crowning glory. With a more natural look and styles taken from the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, women attempted to achieve a gorgeous head of hair. Hair color was one of the most important aspects. Fortunately, if a women did not like the color of her hair, she could change it. Once a woman had the right hair color numerous tips existed for washing it. One writer advised it should be “occasionally well washed with soap-and-water,” although there were also critics who opposed hair washing all together. To keep the hair glossy and shiny, combing and brushing came next, and, according to one nineteenth century writer, “the oftener the comb and brush are subsequently used in the day, the better it will be for the luxuriance, smoothness, and set of the hair.” But brushing was not the only prerequisite to luxurious hair. Sometimes oil or pomade was added, and, if the hair was styled, there were curling tongs, crisping irons, or papillotes, small pieces of paper that curled the hair and were humorously called paper shackles by one writer. To preserve the hairstyle and ensure it lasted for more than a day, women often wore nightcaps. Continue reading

The Treadmill for Punishment

Treadmill for Punishment
Treadmill for Men, Public Domain

The treadmill, sometimes called a tread wheel and designed for English prisons, was introduced by a nineteenth century civil engineer, Sir William Cubbitt, in 1818. It remained in use until the second half of the nineteenth century. Cubbitt invented it to generate power for mills in the neighboring vicinity. However, at least one infamous treadmill was designed to grind grain and installed at Brixton Prison. This treadmill for punishment operated using both male and female prisoners, but each sex had their own treadmill, as the two sexes were not allowed to intermingle during their stair climbing activities. Continue reading