Laufmaschine, Nicknamed the Dandy Horse

Laufmaschine, nicknamed the dandy horse: Karl Drais
Karl Drais, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Karl Drais was a prolific German inventor who invented the Laufmaschine (“running machine”), nicknamed the dandy horse. Later, the Laufmaschine was called the velocipede, draisine (English), or draisienne (French). Drais’s first rode his horseless invention on 12 June 1817. The ride took over an hour, involved a distance of less than 5 miles, and began at Mannheim and ended at a coaching inn named Schwetzinger Relaishaus.

An account of the velocipede and its management was given by Drais and published in 1819. It is provided below (nearly verbatim) and begins with four points related to the machine’s properties: Continue reading

The Etiquette of Victorian Christenings

Mallory James

My guest today is Mallory James. Mallory has long been interested in the nineteenth century and set up her blog, Behind The Past, to indulge this passion. Her blog is made up of a series of how-to guides and lifestyle hints, aimed at any aspiring Regency and Victorian ladies and gentlemen. Here is her post on Victorian christenings:

Prior preparation is something of a watchword when it comes to event planning. If you make sure every little detail is perfect, then you should be able to carry off your event with ease. That is the theory, at least. The practice is often rather different. You can slice the crusts off little cucumber sandwiches with as much precision as you like, but there is still a high chance that you will be sheltering under a tree come lunchtime, bleakly looking on as the rain pours down on all sides. The same can be said for christenings. Your little bundle of joy might look positively angelic in their robes when the ceremony starts. They might also be red-faced and screaming by the end. And that is something which holds true both for us now and for our Victorian ancestors. Continue reading

Accused Glasgow Murderess Known as Madeleine Smith From the 1850s

Accused Glasgow Murderess Known as Madeleine Smith: Madeleine Smith
Madeleine Smith, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The accused Glasgow murderess known as Madeleine Smith was alleged to have killed Frenchman Pierre Emile L’Angelier (or Emile L’Angelier) in 1857. L’Angelier originally came from the Channel Islands, an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. The two began a secret love affair in 1855 that involved hundreds of love letters and clandestine meetings at her bedroom window. One of these clandestine meetings resulted in Madeleine losing her virginity to L’Angelier.

L’Angelier had left the Channel Islands to seek his fortune in Scotland in 1851. When he first arrived in Scotland, he lived in grinding poverty and depended on the charity of inn keepers. Eventually, he began working as a clerk at a warehouse and then began assisting a gardener as an apprentice for moderate wages. By steadiness and assiduity, he improved his lot over time. Continue reading

Battlefield Communication Using Drums and Drumming

Battlefield Communication Using Drums and Drumming
Related to America’s War of Independence, This Illustration is a Famous Depiction From the 19th-century Called “The Spirit of ’76” by Archibald Willard, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Battlefield communication using drums and drumming was an important military aspect of war, and this type of communication lasted well into the nineteenth century. During this time, the drum most popular among drummers was the ordinary drum that consisted of a wooden or brass cylinder with a skin head at either end, and described in the following way:

“The skins [on these drums] are lapped at their edges around a small hoop which encircles the cylinder, and a large hoop rests on this and presses it down in place. The large hoops at each end are connected by an endless cord, running through holes in their outer edges and zigzagging up and down the sides of the cylinder from hoop to hoop. Each loop of this cord is surrounded by a sliding leather brace, and by pushing these down, so as to draw the loops together, or up, so as to loosen them, the drum is tightened or slackened, and the clear, tense or harsh, loose notes produced.”

Although it might appear that drum beats were simple, every beat was actually regulated and it was only through “long practice” that perfection by a drummer was attained. Furthermore, to achieve this perfection it was claimed that the drummer had to possess “a quick and nimble wrist.” Drum beats were also regular in the number and the division of strokes that could be produced using the two sticks. Thus, one person noted that if all the drummers in the British Army were assembled together, they would all beat alike.

Different drum beats and rolls signaled different commands to the troops and there were various regulation beats that included the following:

Continue reading

Marriage of Lord Glamis and Miss Cavendish Bentinck

Cecilia Nina Cavendish Bentinck when the Countess of Strathmore by Mabel Hankey, 1923, Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Today’s guests are Sarah Murden and Joanne Major. They are are authors of several books, including “A Right Royal Scandal” that has just released in the United States. Here is their guest post.

Cecilia Nina Cavendish Bentinck was born in 1862. Her parents were the well-connected Rev Charles Cavendish Bentinck and his second wife, Caroline Louisa née Burnaby. At the age of 18-years, Cecilia Nina married Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis and the future 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and, in time, their youngest daughter Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon would become better known to history as Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

Our latest book, “A Right Royal Scandal,” takes a closer look at Reverend Charles Cavendish Bentinck and his wider family. Today we’d like to share a newspaper report on Cecilia Nina’s marriage with you. It’s from the Nottingham Evening Post, 18th July 1881. Continue reading

John Bellingham, Assassin of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval

John Bellingham, Assassin of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval
John Bellingham, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Russian ship Soleure (or Sojus) belonged to Solomon van Brienen and Vassiley Popoff, and it was lost at sea in 1803. At the time, it was insured through Lloyd’s of London. The ship’s owners filed a claim to receive restitution for their loss. Unfortunately, Lloyd’s of London received an anonymous letter alleging the ship had been sabotaged, and, so, they refused to pay compensation to the owners. At the time, John Bellingham was working in Russia as an export representative. Van Brienen believed Bellingham had sent the letter to Lloyd’s of London and, therefore, he and Popoff took retaliatory action against Bellingham by claiming Bellingham owed them a debt of 4,890 rubles. Continue reading

Nine Singing Rules for 18th Century Singers

The Note A or La, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Singing was a popular activity in the 1700s. One writer noted that when there was a large group of singers, the worst singer was often the person who got the greatest pleasure from the activity. To ensure people got the most pleasure out of singing, numerous song books were published. Among them was one that maintained when a person was in society, it was the person’s duty to be “conformable and good-humoured.” To accomplish that, there were nine singing rules for 18th century singers. Continue reading

The Turk: An Automaton Chess Player Hoax

automaton chess player hoax: Marie Theresa
Maria Theresa, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1767, an extraordinary automaton was designed. The inventor was a Hungarian gentleman named Wolfgang von Kempelen who promised the Empress Maria Theresa that he would construct an automaton within six months that would amuse, astound, and excite “the liveliest astonishment.” Six months later it appeared Kempelen had succeeded when he presented “The Turk.”

The Turk was a life-sized model with a human head and torso, wearing a Turban and dressed in Turkish robes. The Turk was seated behind a large cabinet with a chessboard placed in front, and it seemed able to beat any human opponent. However, in actuality, The Turk was an automaton chess player hoax because inside the cabinet was a concealed puppeteer described by one newspaper as a sort of “Jack-in-the-box.” The puppeteer by means of levers, moved the chess pieces and used strategy to win against his opponents. Continue reading

Duel at Chalk Farm Tavern: A Regency Tragedy

Dr. Stephen Carver

My guest today is Dr. Stephen Carver. He is a cultural historian, editor, and novelist. For sixteen years, he taught literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia, spending three years in Japan as Professor of English at the University of Fukui. He is presently Head of Online Courses at the Unthank School of Writing.

Stephen’s guest post is about a duel that occurred in 1821 at Chalk Farm.

On the night of Friday, February 16, 1821, two men faced each other across the field of honour, a wooded knoll beyond the Chalk Farm Tavern near Primrose Hill, to the north of a great chase that had yet to become Regent’s Park. This had been the scene of many duels; there were no neighbouring houses, just open fields hidden from the nearest road by a screen of trees. One of the men had left half a bottle of wine at the inn, telling the landlord he would be back to finish it later. It was a bright moonlit night, if a little misty on the low ground, and after the pistols were knocked and primed one duellist had called to the other: ‘You must not stand there; I see your head above the horizon; you give me an advantage.’ The seconds consulted and the men calmly changed their positions, once more facing off. Yet these were not soldiers or aristocrats, but men of letters, both well-known in the world of Regency journalism. Continue reading

Marguerite Power, the Countess of Blessington

Marguerite Power, the Countess of Blessington, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Countess of Blessington, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Marguerite was born in Ireland on 1 September 1789 to a small landowner named Edmund Power. Her childhood was not particularly happy because of her father’s controlling character, drunkenness, and poverty. Moreover, in 1804, at the tender age of fifteen, a compulsory marriage was forced upon her by her father.

Marguerite married a drunken English officer named Captain Maurice St. Leger Farmer. From the start, it was an unhappy marriage. Marguerite barely spoke of her marriage, although she once said that “she had not been long under her husband’s roof when it became evident that he was subject to fits of insanity.” Apparently, her father had been aware but concealed the information from her, and, in addition, according to Marguerite:

“[Her husband] frequently treated her with personal violence; he used to strike her on the face, pinch her till her arms were black and blue, lock her up whenever he went abroad, and … left her without food till she felt almost famished.”

It should therefore come as no surprise that Marguerite left him after three months of marriage. Moreover, Farmer was eventually imprisoned for debts and during that imprisonment, in October 1817, he died. He was involved in a drunken orgy and fell out the prison window.  Continue reading