The Last Few Dog Days of Summer

Thanks to everyone who reads and interacts with me every day. I appreciate all your support. To ensure that I can keep up the pace, I’ve decided to enjoy the last few sultry dog days of summer with my family and relatives. That means I’ll be offline for a week and will not be blogging, tweeting, pinning, googleplus-ing, or Facebook-ing. I hope you too have some great plans for these last few summer days. See you on September 2 when I will return revived and ready to go anew.

William Brunskill – A Georgian Executioner

A Hanging Outside Newgate, Courtesy of Wikipedia
A Hanging Outside Newgate, Courtesy of Wikipedia

William Brunskill began his career as a hangman, working as an assistant to Edward Dennis. At the time, Dennis, was the principal and official executioner for London and Middlesex. During Dennis’s career — from 1771 to 1786 — one of his busiest days was 2 February 1785. On that day, Dennis was assisted by Brunskill and hanged 20 men. Dennis had an impressive record during his several years, as he was responsible for the death of 201 offenders. However, Brunskill would be responsible for more deaths than Dennis and his career would be nearly 30 years long — 1786 to 1815. Moreover, during Brunskill’s appointment as principal and official executioner, he executed an astonishing 537 convicted criminals. Continue reading

Mrs. Salmon’s Waxworks

Mrs. Salmon's Waxworks, Public Domain
Mrs. Salmon’s Waxworks, Public Domain

Before the famous Madame Tussaud’s there was Mrs. Salmon’s Waxworks that was owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Salmon. Mrs. Salmon made and sold toys — Dutch, English, and French — and was said to be highly eccentric, even sleeping in a burial shroud. Mrs. Salmon’s also had modelling skills and used them to create life-sized dolls that resembled living people. Her waxworks became an instant hit and were publicized in the Tatler of 1710 and mentioned several times in the Spectator.

Mrs. Salmon’s Waxworks’ were also distinguished by the sign of a salmon. Addison noted, “It would have been ridiculous for the ingenious Mrs. Salmon to have lived at the sign of the Trout, for which reason she erected before her house the figure of fish that is her namesake.” Mrs. Salmon, who later became Mrs. Steers, ran the business until she died in 1760, at which time a man named Clark purchased the business and when he died it went to his widow. Continue reading

The French Pouf

"Rose" Bertin, Courtesy of Wikipedia
“Rose” Bertin, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Mademoiselle Marie-Jeanne Bertin, or as she was called at court, “Rose,” gained fame as dressmaker and became known for creating complicated headdresses. These headdresses, also known as “poufs,” were called such because the hair was raised with pads, wool, false hairpieces, and pomade. Bertin’s rise to fame began in a millinery shop where through a stroke of fate she met the Princess of Conti and became responsible to create the trousseau for the richest heiress in France, the Duchess of Chartres. The Duchess then introduced her to Marie Antoinette, and before long Bertin became the Queen’s stylist and dressmaker.

Working with Léonard Autié, the Queen’s hairdresser, Bertin and Autié created some memorable teetering and towering poufs. Among the poufs designed were the pouf aux sentiments, pouf à la circonstance, pouf à l’inoculation, à loge d’opéra, and pouf à la Belle-Poule. Continue reading

How Regency People Passed Their Time

Regency Gamblers, Regency people
Regency Gamblers, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Regency people filled their free time with a variety of public and private amusements. Such amusements offered Regency people a mild form of exercise or allowed them to restore themselves after mental or physical exhaustion, as well as diffuse and share knowledge. In addition, in some instances, these activities provided jobs to individuals who might otherwise not be able to earn a living.

Among the public activities Regency people regularly enjoyed were games and tournaments, games of chance, lectures, rural festivals, and theatrical representations. Continue reading

Fifteen Things a Good Georgian Coachman Would Not Do

Georgian coachman

Coachmen were the people entrusted with the management of a person’s carriage and horses. It was important they be reliable, honest, and wise, as a traveler’s safety depended on these traits. For instance, when traveling in a coach, loose nuts and bolts occurred frequently. “A Careful Coachman” was said to be the person willing to check the coach every fortnight for any possible loose nuts or bolts and then screw them tight but also do it with such “care [as to] not to injure the Paint with the Wrench.”

There were also fifteen things a good Georgian coachman would not do. Here they are in their entirety. Continue reading

Daniel Dunglas Home – The Victorian Spiritualist

Daniel Dunglas Home, Author's Collection
Daniel Dunglas Home, Author’s Collection

Douglas Home, sometimes spelled Hume, and whose name was lengthened to Daniel Dunglas Home in 1855, was a famous eighteenth-century spiritualist born in 1833. As a youth, he immigrated to America and settled in Massachusetts, and while living there, he claimed he was surrounded by trivial noises. The noises he heard occurred when he was in bed and came from under tables when he was eating. However, perhaps, more surprising was his claims that there was also “animation in inert matter by which he was surrounded.”

Home’s friends dismissed his claims not believing that he saw inert matter move or that he heard unexplained noises. As Home was sickly and nervous, “they assured him that the marvels he heard were the mere effects of his disordered fancy.” This negativity caused Home to begin to wonder if he was indeed deluded, but it did not stop him from entertaining and amazing his friends with dancing chairs, roving tables, and turning chandeliers. Continue reading

The First Afghan War

Please welcome Victorian author Frances Evesham to my blog. Frances told me she can’t believe her luck, spending her days writing and collecting grandsons, Victorian trivia, and stories of ancestors. She’s fascinated by the Victorians and has written a second novel, a historical mystery titled Danger at Thatcham Hall. In it, Major Nelson Roberts is haunted by his experiences in the Kabul campaign, and, with that in mind, here is her post on the First Afghan War.

The Afghan Wars of the 19th century began in 1837, sparked by the concerns of British politicians over the Russian Tzar Nicholas I’s plans to expand his country’s influence into neighbouring India. Fed local information by Alexander Burnes, an explorer and writer in the 1830s, they decided the best course of action would be to depose the current Russian-friendly ruler of Afghanistan, Dost Mohammed. Their preferred replacement, Shah Shujah, Mohammed’s rival, was expected to maintain peaceful relations with Dost Mohammed’s old enemy, Ranjit Singh from Indian Punjab. Continue reading

Carriage Accidents and Remedies

The Runaway Coach by Rowlandson, Carriage Accidents
The Runaway Coach by Rowlandson, Public Domain

During the time of carriages, there were numerous reasons as to why accidents happened. The primary causes for accidents usually involved something related to drivers, roads, horses, harnesses, carriages, or riders and occurred for a variety of reasons that ranged from intoxicated drivers to wheels falling off to shying or bolting horses.

The following posts lists the causes of carriage accidents, some of which were deadly, and also offers some of the remedies people suggested or used to prevent future accidents. Continue reading

History of the Fashionable Coat, the Spencer

Lord Spencer by John Singleton Copley, 1800, Named for the Spencer coat
Lord Spencer by John Singleton Copley, 1800, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Spencer coat dates from the 1790s. It was originally a woolen double-breasted, short-waisted outer coat without tails that was “cut according to its cloth” and adopted by British military officers. Although there are varying elements in the story about exactly how the Spencer coat came about, most people claim the coat originated from a bet put forth by the British Whig and politician, George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer, who is also the person for who the coat was named.

Although the Earl was perhaps best known for his fine book collection, he was also known to indulge in a bet or two. One bet he indulged in occurred in 1795. While talking to friends, the Earl wagered he could create a useless and ridiculous coat that would become fashionable and be universally adopted. His friends being wagering enthusiasts thought it was a bet the Earl could not win, and they decided to accept it never thinking that such a coat would become fashionable. Continue reading