Things Named for People: Cardigans to Wellington Boots

In the 1700 and 1800s there were a number of things named for people. Sometimes they were named for the inventor and sometimes a person made the item popular enough his or her name became associated with it. Among some of the things named for people include the cardigan, chesterfield coat, graham crackers, guillotine, Mackintosh raincoat, Melba toast, mesmerize, Napoleon complex, Payne’s grey, raglan sleeves, saxophones, and Wellington boots.

Cardigan — This sweater was modeled on a knitted wool waistcoat that British officers wore during the Crimean War (1853-1856) and was originally a sleeveless vest. It was named for the British Army Major General, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade, James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan. His legendary status as a war hero resulted in the garment becoming popular. Cardigans are knitted garments with an open front, commonly have buttons, and were modeled after the knitted wool waistcoat worn by British officers during the war.

Things named for people - James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan named for the cardigan

James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Chesterfield Coat — According to several sources, a tailor wanted to express the elegance and sophistication of the dandy George Stanhope, 6th Earl of Chesterfield of the 1830s and 1840s. The Earl led a lavish lifestyle, had a passion for horse racing, and was “a conspicuous figure in fashionable circles.”[1] The result was the chesterfield coat, a long double-breasted coat with no waistline seam that “featured a velvet collar and no side pleats, only a small vent in the back.”[2] The coat was extremely popular by the end of the Victorian Era.

Graham Crackers — Reverend Sylvester Graham was an American dietary reformer who believed in vegetarianism. He attracted many followers with his ideas and his followers became known as Grahamites. They consumed certain foods suggested by Graham, including a cracker he invented, known as the Graham cracker. If you are interested in learning more about Graham and his crackers, Madame Gilflurt wrote a post and you can read it by clicking here.

Guillotine — Among the things named for people is this dreadful apparatus for chopping off heads. It got its name from a French physician named Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who did not invent it and who also did not favor capital punishment. However, he knew he could not prevent capital punishment and so instead decided to support some humane way of killing people. While talking to the National Assembly about a more human approach to death, Guillotin referred to the guillotine and exclaimed, “Now with, my machine, I cut off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it!”[3] His exclamation turned him into the butt of jokes. Moreover, a humorous song also appeared, and, because of his statement, his name became forever tied to the fatal machine.

Mackintosh — The Mackintosh was a raincoat first sold in 1824 and named for its Scottish inventor, Charles Macintosh.* It was ankle-length, cut full, and made from a waterproof rubberized textile. Nonetheless, “although they were wonderful to guard against the omnipresent English rain, they were said to have smelled terribly, and mackintosh wearers often were not ‘admitted to an omnibus on account of the offensive stench [they emitted].'”[4] Macintosh merged his company in 1830 with Thomas Hancock of Manchester. Hancock then improved the waterproof fabrics and patented a method for vulcanizing rubber in 1843, which solved many of the problems associated with the waterproof Mackintosh.

Melba Toast — This dry, crisp, thin toast is named for one of the most famous Victorian operatic singers of her time, Helen “Nellie” Porter Mitchell, who used the stage name Madame Nellie Melba. The toast is believed to have been created by chef Auguste Escoffier in 1897 because Marie Louise Ritz, the wife of the famous hotelier César Ritz, complained about thick toast. At the time Melba was sick and staying at London’s Savoy Hotel. She began relying on Escoffier’s toast as a food staple and supposedly César Ritz named it Melba toast in a conversation with Escoffier.

Things named for people - Madame Nellie Melba named for Melba Toast

Madame Nellie Melba in 1902. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Mesmerize — A German doctor named Franz Anton Mesmer developed a new theory in 1775 that advocated a healing technique, known as animal magnetism. Mesmer believed that by looking patients in the eyes and touching them in certain spots, invisible magnetic forces could cure them. Thus, after his death, the word “mesmerize” came into use to describe hypnosis. Mesmer was also a Freemason “and founded at Paris, in 1782, a magnetic association or order, quasi-Masonic in its character to which he gave the name of the ‘Rit d’Harmonie Universelle.’ … It appears to have been both mystical and magnetical.”[5]

Napoleon Complex — Most people know that Napoleon Bonaparte was emperor of France and many think he was short because he was no more than five feet six or seven inches tall. Yet, he was slightly taller than the average Frenchman at the time. Part of the reason he was viewed as short had to do with British cartoonists who liked to portray him surrounded by his tall Imperial Guard. Because people thought he was short the idea of a Napoleon complex became prevanlent, but the idea wasn’t around during his lifetime. The term did not originate until the early 1900s, and it refers to a psychological phenomenon characterized by overly aggressive or domineering behavior where short men try to compensate for their small stature. If you want to know more about Napoleon’s height read “How tall (short) was Napoleon Bonaparte” by Margaret Rodenberg.

Payne’s Grey — Another of the things named for people is Payne’s Gray and if you paint or are familiar with watercolors, you’ve probably heard of the color. It was named for William Payne (1760-1830). He was an English watercolor and oil painter and his techniques turned him into a fashionable drawing master in London. Old-time painters pronounced his techniques “tricky,” but he did much to advance watercolor painting. In the process, he also became best known for creating a bluish grey compound named Payne’s grey.

Raglan Sleeves — These sleeves have a distinctive look and are among the things named for people. They extend in one piece from the underarm to the neckline, form part of the neckline, and create an undefined, casual look. FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, who was at one time military secretary to the Duke of Wellington, was supposedly the first to wear a coat with this type of roomy sleeve. He did so to accommodate his right arm as it was amputated after the Battle of Waterloo.

Things named for people - raglan sleeve for James Henry Somerset

Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Saxophone — Adolphe Sax was a nineteenth century Belgian musician and musical instrument designer. Sax created musical instruments from an early age and entered two of his creations into a competition at age fifteen. After leaving the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, he made improvements to the bass clarinet and created saxhorns. He also created other musical instruments and eventually he also developed the saxophone, which, in 1840, was named for him.

Wellington Boots — One of the best known things named for people takes its name from Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. He wanted boots to wear with the latest fashionable trousers of his time. So, he modified some hard-wearing mid-calf boots based upon the Hessian style. Because of his modification, the boots took their name from him. If you want to learn more about Wellington boots, click here.


*Many writers added the “k” and now “Makintosh” is the standard spelling.

References:

  • [1] Temple Bar, Volumes 47-48, 1876  p. 207.
  • [2] Condra, Jill, ed., 2008, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History, 2008, p. 44.
  • [3] Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal, Vol. 1-2, 1844, p. 219.
  • [4] Condra, Jill, p. 44.
  • [5] Woodford, Adolph Frederick Alexander, Kennings’ Masonic Cylcopaedia and Handbook of Masonic Archaeology, History, and Biography, 1878, p. 475.

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