Victorian Electric Traps for Rats and Cats

Victorian electric traps for rats and cats
Brown Rat, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Victorians had all sorts of problems and rats and cats were one of their biggest problems. For instance, on an island off Cornwall, known as Looe or St. George Island, one Victorian gentleman found rats overrunning the island. They were so bothersome that no matter how much effort people put into exterminating them, they reappeared. He stated that it was “not how to kill the rats, but how to annihilate them so effectually as to place the reappearance of even one of them altogether out of the question.”

Another Victorian country gentleman also found rats to be a problem where he lived. He wrote:

“What a veritable problem these rats are to those who lead a country life! … These wretches, as evening approaches, sally forth from their hiding-places … In winter they enter the outhouse and too often manage to munch the combs and devour whatever wax they can reach. Poison is sometimes tried, but poison is double-edge and may kill the wrong party.”

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Raising Turkeys for Market in the 1800s

raising turkeys
Bronze Gobbler, Author’s Collection

In the 1800s, turkeys were raised with the idea of the ultimate end: killing them and eating them. Turkeys were not exactly domesticated either. Apparently, when they were chicks they were nomads and when they gained locomotion they scurried away at the slightest provocation. They also had a habit of making beelines for distant haunts, which made them difficult to find when it came to selling them at market for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Continue reading

Richard Hoodless, The 19th Century Horse Swimmer

A Swimming Horse and Richard Hoodless
A Swimming Horse, Author’s Collection

There are all sort of heroes but one unusual hero was a nineteenth century farmer named Richard Hoodless who was living near the Grainthorpe coast of Lincolnshire. When he was not farming, he was “said to devote himself to the noble duty of saving human life.” His job was saving mariners from drowning, and he did so “without any of the usual apparatus for succoring ships in distress.” Rather, Hoodless accomplished his remarkable missions using nothing but courage and his horse.

Hoodless lived on a small piece of land that had been “rescued from the sea, and almost cut off from the adjacent country by the badness of the roads.” When stormy weather approached, it was a call for Hoodless to go to the top of his dwelling and peer through his telescope. There, whether it be night or day, he would watch approaching vessels, and when lifeboats could not be launched, he would come to the aid of those struggling at sea. Continue reading

Tales of Monkeys as Pets in the 18th Century and 19th Century

Title Page from Patterson's Book, "Notes on Petr Monkeys," Public Domain
Title Page from Patterson’s Book “Notes on Pet Monkeys,” Public Domain

Many people desired a pet monkey in the 1700 and 1800s. One nineteenth century gentleman claimed a pet monkey was “a mischievous beast … but affording so much amusement as to compensate for the trouble,” and another person wrote, “there is no pet which can be so interesting or amusing as a monkey.” Because of the monkey’s popularity, in 1888, Arthur Patterson published a book called Notes on Pet Monkeys and How to Manage Them. In the book besides noting how to choose a monkey, what to feed them, and how to care for them, Patterson wrote, “Persons who have a strongly-developed propensity for keeping of pets, have, in most cases, at some time or other included a monkey in their list of specialties; but with few exceptions, from some mishap or devilry on the part of the little imp, the fancy in that line has come to an abrupt, and, to the rest of the household, a very welcome termination.” Continue reading

Fattening Fowl in the Mid to Late 1800s

Ogden's offered advertising trade cards with a pack of cigarettes. This one comes from a set called poultry rearing and management and described methods to feed poultry using cabbages, Brussels sprouts, and other large root vegetables. Author's Collection.
Ogden’s offered advertising trade cards with a pack of cigarettes. This one comes from a set called poultry rearing and management and described methods to feed poultry using cabbages, Brussels sprouts, and other large root vegetables. Author’s Collection.

Fattened fowl were an extremely desirable commodity in England and France in the mid to late 1800s. Many attempts were made to fatten fowl not only because consumers wanted better meat but also because sellers found fattened fowl a highly profitable business. But it was not always easy to fatten fowl, even if they were the easiest birds to feed, even if they digested more than they could eat, and even if “every alimentary substance agree[d] with them [and they willingly spent] … the whole day long incessantly busied in scratching, searching, and picking up a living.” Continue reading

Work Horses in the Regency Era

Shire Horse, Work Horses, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Shire Horse, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Horses were an important part of earning a living during the Regency Era. One way horses helped out was hauling loads in and around cities, and they were also a vital necessity on farms because agriculture was still one of the main ways Regency people earned livings. Moreover, Regency people used different horses depending on the type of job they needed to accomplish: Some horses thrived in cold climates, others were better at hauling, and still others were better at plowing in hilly locations. Among some of the more common work horses used in the Regency Era were the Shire horse, the Suffolk Punch, Cleveland Bays, Clydesdales, and Garrons. Continue reading

The Learned Pig Toby

Learned Pig

The original Learned Pig, known as Toby and described as a “most extraordinary and singular phenomenon,” was a pig that could read, write, tell time, and do mathematics. Toby would also respond to commands and answer questions. He accomplished these tasks by using his mouth to select cards with letters written on them and then he would arrange the letters into words. Continue reading

How Georgians Trapped Foxes

Georgians Trapped Foxes: Common Fox (top) and Blue Fox (bottom)
Common Fox (top) and Blue Fox (bottom), Author’s Collection

The cunning fox has had a long history in England, and everyone from squires to dukes to kings have hunted the omnivorous animal. In fact, it was practically a standard amusement for the landed gentry to be yelling, “Tally-ho!” as they hunted the fox with its pointed, slightly upturned snout, upright triangular ears, and long bushy tail. But hunting on horseback with hounds was not the only way to capture a fox. There were also several other innovative ways that Georgians trapped foxed. Among some of the more popular trapping methods were those accomplished on foot with the use of guns, nets, or steel traps. Continue reading

Chunee, The Death of a Regency Elephant

Firing Upon Chunee, Public Domain
Firing Upon Chunee, Public Domain

In July of 1810, an elephant was purchased from a Captain Hay by a Mr. Parker and a Mr. Harris, proprietor of Covent Garden Theatre. They paid nine hundred guineas. The elephant, named Chunee, was “neither old nor full-grown.” He was purchased to perform in a grand pantomime known as the “Harlequin Padmanaba.” He was ridden by a Mrs. Henry Johnstone and praised as a stellar performer, roaring and performing with the best of them. Besides Chunee’s performances at Covent Garden, further public exhibits were arranged, and he was presented at the Royal Menagerie Exeter Change, referred to as the Change. Continue reading