Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sir James Tillie's Strange Interment

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Sir James Tillie's mausoleum
Loretta reports:

Looking for a suitable historical topic for Halloween that didn’t involve burning nuts or bobbing for apples, I found myself considering the subject of earthly remains and what to do with them. In Sir James Tillie's case, it was definitely not the usual thing.

A drawing of his mausoleum, along with the same exact account of his ideas for his dealing with his corpse, appeared in various 19th C magazines over the years, like the 1828 Gentleman’s Pocket Magazine and the Ladies’ Pocket Magazine of 1837.

Other versions of the story appear in An Illustrated Itinerary of the County of Cornwall as well as this one from The Monthly Review 1803:

"Mr. Tilly, once the owner of Pentilly-House, was a celebrated atheist of the last age. He was a man of wit, and had by rote all the ribaldry and common-place jests against religion and scripture, which are well suited to display pertness and folly, and to unsettle a giddy mind; but are offensive to men of sense, whatever their opinions may be; and are neither intended nor adapted to investigate truth. The brilliancy of Mr. Tilly's wit, however, carried him a degree further than we often meet with in the annals of prophaneness. In general, the witty atheist is satisfied with entertaining his contemporaries; but Mr. Tilly wished to have his sprightliness known to posterity. With this view, in ridicule of the resurrection, he obliged his executors to place his dead body, in his usual garb, and in his elbow chair, upon the top of a hill, and to arrange on a table before him, bottles, glasses, pipes, and tobacco. In this situation he ordered himself to be immured in a tower of such dimensions as he prescribed, where he proposed, he said, patiently to wait the event. All this was done; and the tower, still enclosing its tenant, remains as a monument of his impiety and prophaneness. The country people shudder as they go near it.”

Lady's Magazine

You might also enjoy this version (please scroll down) by Sabine Baring-Gould in his 1906, Book of Cornwall.

And then there was the discovery of human remains on the site, as reported by the BBC a few years ago.

Photograph: Mausoleum of Sir James Tillie of Pentillie Castle by Rod Allday. Creative Commons license. You can get more information about the building here at Images of England.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A "Knitted Gift" Made by Eliza Hamilton in her Nineties, c1854

Sunday, October 29, 2017
Susan reporting,

For those of us who knit, embroider, crochet, and sew, October is the get-serious month for finishing handmade gifts for the coming holiday season. But as hectic as that can be, there's also a special satisfaction in putting a bit of yourself into something you've created, a one-of-a-kind memento that links the giver and the recipient in a way that a purchased present never can. If you're a "maker," you understand.

My guess is that Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854), the wife of Alexander Hamilton, and the heroine of my new historical novel I, ELIZA HAMILTON, understood this, too. For 18thc American women of the elite class like Eliza, handiwork could be as practical as mending worn garments or stitching baby garments, or as extravagant as embroidery incorporating imported gold lace and silk thread. While nearly all women of Eliza's generation and social rank would have been taught at least rudimentary sewing and fancier needlework, for some it became a form of self-expression as well.

The objects these women created were a way that they proudly shared themselves, their accomplishment, and their love with friends and family. Often the most treasured of heirlooms are the quilts made in honor of a marriage, a tiny smocked infant's dress, or an embroidered mourning picture commemorating a lost parent.

Although there are no surviving written records of what needlework meant to Eliza, I suspect that it was important to her, and that not only did her practical and industrious nature mean that she was seldom without some bit of handwork, but also that she excelled at it. I've already shared examples of her needlework executed while she was in her early twenties: this embroidered mat that surrounds her future husband's miniature portrait, and the embroidered handkerchiefs that she made for their wedding. These are the work of talented stitcher who clearly relished her time with her needle.

This knitted pillow cover, however, tells a much different story. The cover is believed to have been made around 1854, shortly before her death at age 97. Although Eliza was said to have been sharp-witted to the very end of her long life, it's evident from this that age had taken its toll on her eyesight. It's telling that she chose to knit the cover rather than embroider. Knitting is a more forgiving craft that embroidery, and the repetitive motions of knitting are less demanding than the precision of a needle through linen.

Yet as a knitter myself, I look at this pillow cover and see what a challenge it must have presented. There are dropped, repeated, and twisted stitches, stitches that are mysteriously increased and others that disappear. The colored stripes aren't consistent, the rows irregular and misshapen. Instead of neatly mitering the corners and making a single, shaped square, the piece was done in strips that were sewn together, with woven ribbons sewn over the seams (perhaps by someone else helping with the completion?) to soften the awkward joinings. But despite all the mistakes, what I see most is the elderly Eliza's determination and persistence to make something special for an acquaintance, no matter how difficult the actual execution must have been for her.

Fortunately the recipient understood, too. Britannia W. Kennon (1815-1911) was the great-granddaughter of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, wife of George Washington. Britannia is a fascinating woman in her own right, and deserves a future blog post of her own. In 1848, Eliza and her daughter Eliza Hamilton Holley moved from New York to Washington, DC, and rented a house on H Street owned by Britannia. The three women, sadly, had much in common. All three had been widowed at relatively early ages: Eliza's husband Alexander had died at age 48 (approximately; his birthdate is uncertain) of wounds suffered in his duel with Aaron Burr in 1804; Sidney Holly had died in 1842 in his early forties, and Britannia's husband, Commodore Beverley Kennon, had been killed in a shipboard explosion in 1844, less than two years after their marriage.

Britannia took the legacy of her family's past seriously. The elegant house in which she lived, Tudor Place, had been built by her parents with an inheritance from George Washington, and the furnishings included many pieces that had belonged to the Washingtons at Mount Vernon. Britannia arranged and displayed these objects at Tudor Place, taking care to record the details about each on hand-written paper tags.

Eliza's knitted pillow cover joined Britannia's collection. Perhaps it earned its place there because Eliza, long before, had been friends with Martha Washington, or because her late husband's numerous accomplishments gave luster to her own name by association. Perhaps, too, Britannia cherished the cover simply from respect and regard for Eliza herself. Preserved with the pillow is a small clipped paper, right, with Eliza's signature - "Elizth Hamilton", and on the back is a label in Britannia's handwriting: "Made by/Mrs. Alexander Hamilton/a short time before her/death, for Mrs. Kennon."

Today Tudor Place Historic House and Garden is a National Historic Landmark, and open to the public; see their website here for more information. Eliza's "knitted gift" is now part of Tudor Place's collections. Information for this post came from unpublished sources from the Tudor Place archives, and from an annotated edition of Britannia W. Kennon's reminiscences that currently being compiled for future publication. Many, many thanks to Curator Grant Quertermous for his generous assistance with this post. And thanks, too, to Hannah Boettcher, Public Programs Coordinator, Museum of the American Revolution, for suggesting that I seek out Eliza's pillow cover.

Above: Pillowcase, made by Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton before 1854. Linen, wool. Courtesy of Tudor Place Historic House & Garden.

Read more about Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton in my latest historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, now available everywhere. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of October 23, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The ghost of Kit Carson: women's history along the Santa Fe trail.
• Medieval graffiti: demon traps, spiritual landmines, and the writing on the wall.
Emily Dickinson, poet and baker.
• "The Hatpin Peril" terrorized men who couldn't handle 20thc women.
• Inside London's sumptuous Drapers' Hall.
Image: This 1770s porcelain macaroni's wig bag is bigger than the archway (though not perhaps his fashion sense.)
• What does the painting Surrender of Lord Cornwallis have to do with author Edith Wharton?
• Final telegraph transmissions from on board the Titanic.
• Explore the diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman, a 30-something single woman living with her aunt in Regency England.
George Washington's mausoleum: Congressional debates over the work of monuments.
• Video: "I remember the interior of that cabin": how the curators at Monticello used a diary to furnish a reconstructed slave cabin.
• The "petting parties" of 1920s flappers that scandalized many Americans.
• Death takes wing: birds and the folklore of death.
• The poet Shelley's spyglass, found in the wreck of his boat.
• Eradicating smallpox: history in objects.
Image: A daunting to-do list from Thomas Edison's 1888 journal.
Lord Nelson's lasting legacy in London.
Eliza Ross, the forgotten female "burker," who, with her partner, had murdered her 84-year-old lodger to sell her body to anatomists, 1831.
• Skull cup associated with Lord Byron heads to auction.
Image: Princess goals: Prince Margaret's morning routine, 1955 (from the book Ma'am Darling by Craig Brown.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday Video: Strip Tease on a Trapeze, 1901

Friday, October 27, 2017

Susan reporting,

Today we think of Thomas Edison (1847-1931) as a masterful inventor of practical things, like the light bulb, that changed the world. But he was also a shrewd businessman who wasn't afraid to apply his inventions (like the motion picture camera) to pure entertainment. He gave the people what they wanted, and his short films included boxing cats, kissing couples, and this film featuring Charmion, one of the more famous vaudeville stars of the early 20thc.

Charmion was the stage name of Laverie Vallee (1875-1949), who not only dazzled audiences with her trapeze acts, but also with her well-developed muscles. In an era where the ideal woman was soft and round and confined by her corset, Charmion was a "strongwoman" who struck the same exaggerated poses as strongmen to show off the well-defined muscles in her arms, shoulders, and backs.

This short film shows her most famous act, performed on a trapeze. Beginning in full 19thc street dress, Charmion energetically sheds them all while on a trapeze, piece by piece falling away (I suspect an early version of Velcro in use) until she's left in nothing but a flesh-colored acrobat's leotard. This was hot stuff in 1900, and the humorous reactions of the two men who are nearly overcome in the balcony probably weren't that far off from from reality for some audiences.

And yes, this being 2017, not 1901, all two minutes are now entirely suitable for viewing at work.

If you receive this video in an email, you may see only an empty box or a blank space where a video should be. Click here to view the video.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Funeral Etiquette in the Early 19th Century

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Graves at Kensal Green Cemetery
Loretta reports:

At some point early in my career, someone informed me that women did not attend funerals in early 19th century England. However, while researching funerals recently, I learned that there was disagreement on the matter.

The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment of 1833 (a French work translated into English) offers this:
When we lose any one of our family, we should give intelligence of it to all persons who have had relations of business or friendship with the deceased. This letter of announcement usually contains an invitation to assist at the service and burial.

On receiving this invitation, we should go to the house of the deceased, and follow the body as far as the church. We are excused from accompanying it to the burying-ground, unless it be a relation, a friend, or a superior…

At an interment or funeral service, the members of the family are entitled to the first places; they are nearest to the coffin, whether in the procession, or in the church. The nearest relations go in a full mourning dress. It is not customary at Paris for women to follow the procession; and, nowhere do they go quite to the grave, unless they are of a low class. A widower or a widow, a father or mother, are not present at the interment, or funeral service of those whom they have lost. The first are presumed not to be able to support the afflicting ceremony; the second ought not to show this mark of deference.

The Gentleman’s Quarterly Review of August 1836 takes a different view. Regarding the Rev. W. Greswell’s Commentary on the Order for the Burial of the Dead, the reviewer has this to say:

We hope the hints relative to the nonattendance of females of the higher classes at funerals, will produce its due effect; it is a direct avoidance of a great Christian duty, which too often arises from selfish and effeminate motives of indulgence. Mr. Greswell ought, however, to have considered that if the females do not attend the funeral of their departed relatives, like the male mourners, yet they bear a far greater share previously in their attendance on the sick and dying ; and show a tenderness and firmness that the other sex cannot always boast: thus they are often incapacitated by distress, added to watchfulness, weariness, and even sickness, from attention to these last duties. This is a sound and legitimate cause of absence; but it is the only one.

*Originally published in France.
Photograph Photo copyright © 2017 Walter M. Henritze III
Clicking on the image will enlarge it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Diamond Rock Octagonal School, 1818

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Susan reporting,

Education was important to the first generations of Americans after the Revolution. True, there were a great many things to be sorted out by the new country - everything from minting money to debating a standing army to creating public works for safe drinking water. But the ultimate success of the Revolution and the new government that followed would depend on citizens who could think and make important decisions for themselves. Literacy was key.

Among those who recognized the need for education was John Adams, who wrote the following in a 1786 letter:

"But before any great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of Education and knowledge must become so general as to raise the lower ranks of Society nearer to the higher. The Education of a Nation, instead of being confined to a few schools & Universities, for the instruction of the few, must become the National Care and expence, for the information of the Many...."

The same belief was expressed on every level of early American society, and not just in the affluent and sophisticated coastal cities. While only twenty miles from Philadelphia, the Great Valley region of Chester County was still farms and forest in 1818. Yet in that year, a group of thirty-four individuals from the Great Valley came together to subsidize the creation of a school for the local children.

To be sure, thoughtful citizenship wasn't the only reason for the school. Being able to read, write, and cipher were important skills for farmers, too, and being able to read the Bible was as important as reading newspapers. Education was also seen as "improving," a way to better one's self and rise higher in the world. What parents - then or now - don't want that for their children?

None of these individuals founding the school would have been considered wealthy. The original subscription list shows that only one contributor paid thirty dollars, with the majority offering between three and five dollars, and one subscription of only fifty cents. But together, they raised the amount necessary to build a single-room schoolhouse: $260.93. Members of the community continued to contribute, whether in money to pay the teacher's salary, or by offering a spare room for the teacher's lodgings, or by cutting wood to burn for heat during the winter months. From the beginning, the school was considered a "free school", without a religious affiliation, and open to all boys and girls in the area.

The little schoolhouse still stands today, upper left, and is known as the Diamond Rock Octagonal School. Its single room is in fact an octagon, a forward-thinking design for schools at the time. Windows supplied light from every direction, and heat came from a wood-burning cast-iron stove, lower left, in the center of the room. The teacher's tall desk, upper right,  stood nearby, where he or she (the list of teachers between 1818 and 1864 shows the post was nearly equally divided between women and men) could survey the students.

And what a task that must have been. Students sat on backless benches, divided by age and ability into groups that faced one of the eight walls for study and assignments. When it was each group's turn to be taught, they would swivel around on their benches to face the teacher. Their ages ranged from small children to young adults, and during harvest and planting seasons, the older students would be kept home to help with crops. Tradition says that at its greatest capacity, the school could accommodate sixty children - a staggering number in a single room, and a testament to the dedication and adaptability of those early teachers.

The schoolhouse remained in use until 1864, when newer, more modern schools were built nearby. Over time, the little building fell into disrepair, and late 19thc photographs show that it had deteriorated into a roofless shell. Around 1915, the  artist Wharton Esherick became involved in the restoration of the school and used it as his studio for several years. He added the concrete floor, and was also responsible for the diamonds in the shutters and the iron work on the windows and door.

The school soon found another savior in Emma W. Wersler, a local woman whose mother and sister attended the school and was a descendent of one of the original subscribers. She supervised the school building and its restoration, and arranged for original artifacts - books, the teacher's desk and chair, the wooden buckets for drinking water, lower right - that had been scattered when the school closed to be returned for display. In 1918, the school reopened as a museum and historic site.

Overseeing the maintenance of the school was the Diamond Rock Old Pupils Association, which also served as an alumni group for former students. These included three physicians, two ministers, and a congressman - ample proof that "improvement" could in fact take place in a one-room schoolhouse.

For more information about the Diamond Rock Octagonal Schoolhouse, including hours when it is open to the public, visit the website here.

Many thanks to Susanna Baum for her assistance with this post.

Photographs ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Visit with the late Duke of Sussex

Monday, October 23, 2017
Tomb of Duke of Sussex at Kensal Green Cemetery
Loretta reports:

In my recent post about London’s Kensal Green Cemetery, I mentioned the Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). This son of George III made the place fashionable by deciding to be buried there rather than at Windsor. In life, as in death, Prince Augustus Frederick went his own way.

Though he was a big guy—six foot three and burly—he wasn't hale and hearty. Yet the asthma that plagued him also helped make him “the most consistently Liberal-minded person of the first half of the nineteenth century.” His brothers championed the Whigs in youth, but mainly in rebellion against their father. When he no longer had power over them, their politics went the other way. Not so with Prince Augustus.

Thanks to the asthma, he spent much of his early life abroad and had no military career. He matured free of the influences that shaped his brothers’ politics. Equally important, he had far more time to cultivate his mind. He became a person who supported abolition of the slave trade, Catholic emancipation, parliamentary reform, and many other progressive ideas. These views won him the hostility of, basically, the entire Establishment, including his brothers. They cost him financially, too.

On the other hand, he wasn’t unlike his brothers when it came to women. At age twenty, he fell madly in love with Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the Earl of Dunmore, and married her, in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act, which required the monarch’s consent. King George III refused, and a decree was issued, annulling the marriage.

Nonetheless, the prince stuck with his woman...until he had to choose between getting the title Duke of Sussex—with £12,000 per annum—and her and their two children. In 1801 he chose the title and money. By 1806 he was bringing legal action to prevent her calling herself the Duchess of Sussex. (She was given a lesser title instead.) By 1809 he took the children to live with him. Still, he didn’t remarry until 1830, after she was dead. The second marriage, to Lady Cecilia Buggin, was problematic, too, until Queen Victoria recognized it in 1840 and made the lady the Duchess of Inverness.
Duke of Sussex , Knight of the Order of the Thistle

The Queen adored her uncle: “When he was dying she drove down in tears to Kensington Palace in an open carriage to inquire for him, although she was hourly expecting the birth of her third child.”

He went his own way in death, too, and it wasn't only in the choice of burial site. In keeping with his very progressive views on dissection, he gave directions in his will for his body to be opened and studied “in the interests of science.” In keeping with his ideals, his is a modest tomb. (So modest that we apparently forgot to take a picture of it.)

For the bulk of this post, and the quotations, I’m indebted to Roger Fulford’s Royal Dukes. When online sources proved unsatisfying—especially regarding the duke’s personality—I remembered this very enjoyable book.

Images: The tomb of Prince Augustus Frederick, Kensal Green Cemetery
Photo by Stephencdickson, Creative Commons license

G.E. Madeley, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex wearing the robes of a Knight Companion of the Order of the Thistle.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of October 16, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Advice for English ladies in India, 1847.
A handy guide to vampires from the Royal Armouries.
• The spinster's numeration table: a guide for 19thc men.
• Blowing a cloud: pipes in Georgian London.
Image: Forget Gatsby: F.Scott Fitzgerald's legacy is secured by this note in which he conjugates the verb "to cocktail."
• Striking images by portrait photographer Olive Edis,  who was commissioned to document the women's war effort in France and Belgium during World War One.
• How Eleanor Roosevelt and Henrietta Nesbitt transformed the White House kitchen.
Talking corpses: how even in death, women's testimony was considered less credible than men's.
• Conservation of Queen Victoria's petticoat.
Image: Print showing the interior of a fashionable London haberdashery in 1825.
• Among the rarest and oldest books in Horace Walpole's collection: two 16thc books of swan marks.
• How a gilded-age heiress became the "mother of forensic science."
• The whimsical world of garden follies.
• Heroin, opium, mercury, and cocaine were among the ingredients in Victorian medicines that "soothed" the nation's children.
• ImageWomen's Home Defence Corps, 1940.
• To dine at Kew: the meals of George III.
• Napoleon's "Kindle": the miniature traveling library that he took on military campaigns.
• First look at the newly restored York Mansion House.
• In Boston in 1765, there was one tavern for every 79 adult men; the importance of taverns.
• Just for fun: Sky-high modern paper wigs inspired by 18thc excess in fashion.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Video: Frankenstein, according to Thug Notes

Friday, October 20, 2017
Loretta reports:

If you have not already discovered Thug Notes, and don’t have a problem with Language for Mature Audiences Only, you might want to check out the videos. Host Sparky Sweets, Ph.D., takes on the classics, summarizing and analyzing them, “original gangster” style, in about five minutes.

As part of my Halloween countdown, I offer his take on Frankenstein.

Video: Frankenstein - Thug Notes Summary and Analysis

Image: still from YouTube video

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be. To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

From the Archives: Finding Conjugal Bliss in Dr. Graham's Celestial Bed, 1781

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Susan reporting:

We TNHG are generally very good at remembering things that happened two hundred years ago, but during the last ten - not so much. Sometimes it takes a reader to jog our memories about old posts that are worthy of a return appearance. Many thanks to Alun Withey for reminding me of this post that first appeared back in 2011!

Exploiting the love-lives of the rich and famous is hardly a new pursuit. From ancient times, charlatans have offered exotic, expensive potions to increase flagging libidos and unusual regimes designed to restore the magic to chilly marriages. One of the most infamous of these is Dr. James Graham (1745-1794), a self-proclaimed physician, self-promoter, and inventor (Wikipedia luridly categorizes him as a "sexologist") who captured the imagination of English society in the 1780s – and a good deal of their money besides.

Like all good quacks, Dr. Graham had a splendid gimmick, and his was the Temple of Hymen in Shomberg House in Pall Mall, a kind of overwrought clinic for his unusual treatments. His most profitable speciality was improving conjugal sex and fertility, and he found a clamoring audience among the upper classes whose survival depended on producing healthy heirs. Many of his customers were weakened by venereal disease and general dissipation, but that didn't stop Dr. Graham from making the same outlandish guarantees that often appear today in spam folders. His celebrity clientele included politicians John Wilkes and Charles James Fox, aristocrats such as the Duchess of Devonshire and the Duke of Richmond, and courtesans like Elizabeth Armistead and Mary Robinson.

While his treatments varied from elixirs to mud baths, the centerpiece of the Temple of Hymen was the Celestial Bed. This over-sized bed (it measured nine by twelve feet) could be tilted for an optimum angle, and was supported by glass rods that could permit the bed and its occupants to become so charged with static electricity that it gave off a greenish glow. Decorative automata, a pair of live turtle doves, and lush bouquets of fresh flowers were also features of the bed. Adding to the ambiance was a mattress stuffed with a special mixture of sweet-smelling herbs and hair from the tails of the most rampant English stallions, while a special celestial pipe organ played music calculated to inspire love-making. For the next three years, until Dr. Graham's extravagance landed him in prison for debt and bankruptcy, there were plenty of couples eager for the experience.

The price of a magical night in the Celestial Bed? An astonishingly steep fifty pounds. Did it work? Perhaps – though who wanted to admit that it didn't?

In honor of Valentine's Day, 2011, the Museum of London is recreated Dr. Graham's Celestial Bed as a special adults-only exhibition. For more information about this, as well as more detailed descriptions of Dr. Graham's claims, see here – though be forewarned that this post, like the exhibition, is probably best not read at work.

Above: The Celestial Bed, with the Rosy Goddess of Health reposing thereon, unknown artist, English School, 1782, private collection.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

London's Kensal Green Cemetery

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Loretta reports:

I’ve posted before about the garden cemetery movement, and the development of municipal cemeteries in response to overcrowded and squalid burial grounds. Thanks to my husband, I discovered in London The General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green—more generally known as Kensal Green Cemetery. There, in the course of a tour, I discovered the burial places of many persons I’d learned about while researching my books. One of these was the famous Regency-era equestrian Andrew Ducrow, whose tomb I blogged about.

Today we’ll take a look at this beautiful cemetery itself.

Interestingly, like Worcester’s Rural Cemetery, it got started thanks to a lawyer, George Frederick Carden. Like so many others in the garden cemetery movement, he was inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.  Unlike many others, though, Kensal Green, London’s first commercial cemetery, is still run by the original company, the General Cemetery Company, under its original Act of Parliament. In the beginning, however, business looked a little shaky. Though it opened in 1833, it wasn't exactly overwhelmed with customers. Then in 1843 the Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex—one of King George III's many sons—decided to be buried there because Windsor’s burial facility apparently gave him the creeps. Thenceforth Kensal Green became THE place to be planted.

Detail of the second monument

Our fabulous tour guide
It's true. Though not nearly as well-known today as Highgate Cemetery, Kensal Green was, until shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the most fashionable cemetery in England. Everybody who was anybody wanted to be buried here.

Like Highgate, sadly, it could use some TLC. Monuments, like Ducrow’s, are crumbling. The Friends of Kensal Green have been working to research and restore the monuments. It was one of these Friends who led our walking tour, and his love of the place was clear. If you are in London, I strongly recommend you take one of their Sunday tours. Along with the amazing variety of monuments, the stories about the famous and less so, there’s abundant nature—the plantings, the birds and other wildlife—to create a very special refuge from the bustle of the metropolis.

For more of the story and the denizens of the place, please visit the Friends of Kensal Green website and the Kensal Green Cemetery website.

All photographs copyright © 2017 Walter M. Henritze III.
Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Visiting the c1765 Schuyler Mansion in Albany, NY

Sunday, October 15, 2017
Susan reporting,

This weekend I visited one of my favorite historic houses, the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, NY. Originally known as The Pastures when it was built in the 1760s, the large brick house was built by Philip Schuyler (1733-1804), who was one of George Washington's original four generals during the American Revolution, a state senator, and a successful business entrepreneur.

The Pastures was surrounded by nearly a hundred acres of orchards and formal gardens, and filled with costly furnishings imported from London. Guests (who included George and Martha Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin, and Francois Alexandre, the Duc de La Rouchefoucauld-Liancourt) remarked both upon the house's grandeur and the Schuylers' warm hospitality.

Philip Schuyler's grand house remained in the family for only a single generation, however, and was sold by his children after his death. The house passed through numerous owners, and in the late 19thc it became the home of the St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum Society, serving as a dormitory for orphans. In 1911, the diocese sold the house to the State of New York for $40,000. A Board of Trustees (including three women) oversaw the house's preservation and restoration. Renamed the Schuyler Mansion, the house opened to the public on October 17, 1917, fittingly on the anniversary of the British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga.

Now operated under the auspices of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP), the Schuyler Mansion has celebrated its centennial as a historic site this year in grand style with projects that have included restoring the steps leading to the house's front door; recreating the "Ruins of Rome" scenic wallpaper in the halls (see my earlier blog post here, and another about the elaborate wool flock wallpaper found in several of the rooms); restoring Schuyler family silver and china for display; replacing the roof and repairing exterior woodwork; and restoring and reupholstering an elegant set of 1790s chairs and sofa that had belonged to the family.

The Schuyler Mansion was also the childhood home of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, the heroine of my new historical novel I, Eliza Hamilton. The house was also the site of Eliza's marriage to Alexander Hamilton and the birth of their first child, and she continued to return to it frequently through her parents' lifetimes.

This weekend the house welcomed Schuyler Family descendants (as well as this non-family-member.) With the shutters opened to the bright autumn sunshine, the rooms and furnishings were beautiful; the 18thc Schuylers would have been proud.

While the Schuyler Mansion's visitor season is winding down, the house is open for various tours and events and by appointment throughout the year. See the house's Facebook page for more information.

Many thanks to Jessie Serfilippi for the private tour, and thanks, too, to the Friends of Schuyler Mansion and the Schuyler Family reunion for welcoming me so warmly to their events this weekend.

All photos ©2017 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of October 9, 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Neshobe Island, the Algonquin Round Table summer home in Vermont.
The Vikings were never a pure-bred "master race," but a blending of people and cultures.
The United Order of Tents, a secret society of black women founded to help women escape slavery, and still active today.
• Working out the Early Victorian way.
• The chic and imaginative world of shop window displays.
Catherine Hogarth Dickens, the forgotten wife of Charles Dickens.
Image: Beautifully beaded 1925 dropped-waist dress by Callot Soeurs.
• Nineteenth-century workers photographed with the tools of their trade.
Mary Steward's escape from Gloucester's city gaol, 1799.
• Early 20thc postcards from London's Petticoat Lane.
• The monsters of East L.A., and why the folklore and ghost stories we tell matter.
Cholera and its suggested remedies in the mid-19thc.
Donuts and apple cider: an autumn marriage made by autos and automation.
Image: Her poor husband, having to eat vegetables...advertisement, 1934.
• A drop of water that fell into Lake Superior in 1826 is just now leaving the lake.
• The myth of mummy wheat.
• "Lines of women slaving away, hopelessness on every face": Liverpool's Magdalene Laundry at Kelton House.
Americans in Paris, c1905: The Chinese Umbrella restaurant.
• Victorian bereavement bling.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Video: Dressing an 18thc Lady, Continued: The Busk

Friday, October 13, 2017

Susan reporting,

Last month I shared a video from the Lady Lever Art Gallery and National Museums of Liverpool that demonstrated how an 18thc elite woman was dressed for her day.

Many of you were mystified by one particular wardrobe feature: the busk.

You weren't alone. According to Pauline Loven, the costume historian, costumer, and heritage film producer who created the costumes and contributed the historical background for the first video, the purpose of the busk perplexed many viewers - so much so that this second, shorter video was made to offer further explanation. Both videos were directed by Nick Loven for Crow's Eye Productions.

For examples of several antique busks, see this post from our archives.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Whittall Mills: Survivors of the Industrial Age

Thursday, October 12, 2017
No. 1 Brussels Street

Loretta reports:

Like most cities, my hometown has lost large chunks of its architectural heritage, for a variety of reasons.* Recently, I was surprised and heartened to discover that one large mill complex has managed to survive—not every single building, but most of them—thanks to local business people as well as our dedicated preservationists. Not long ago, under the auspices of Preservation Worcester, Breanna Barney gave a group of nerdy Worcester history people a talk and tour of the Whittall Mills in South Worcester.

Tower of No. 1 Brussels Street
Until I attended Ms. Barney’s talk, I didn’t realize that this area was a British enclave. Matthew J. Whittall, ** an Englishman from Kidderminster, had been working in the carpet industry since he was fourteen. At the invitation of George Crompton, who was building a factory to make Brussels carpets, Whittall came to the U.S. in the early 1870s. In 1879, during the global depression, when he found himself unemployed, he decided to go into business for himself. He returned to England, bought eight Crossley carpet looms, and brought them back to Worcester, along with a cousin and a group of Kidderminster carpet weavers.

He was not without strong competition, but by 1901 he’d won, becoming south Worcester’s largest employer. His well-regarded carpets were in Pullman train cars, the Manhattan Opera House, the new Worcester City Hall, and President McKinley’s White house. A sample advertisement is here.

Ms. Barney described him as a paternalistic employer—and this article (which I found after the talk), describing the development of this area, tells a similar story. According to Ms. Barney, in 1910, for instance, business was so good that “Whittall gave weavers an advance in wages.” Furthermore, they would work only 58 hours a week but get paid for 60 hours. This wasn't common behavior among U.S. industrialists, so far as I can ascertain.
No. 6 Brussels Street (front)
No. 6 Brussels Street (side view)
In the course of my own internet search, I learned that, along with his many contributions to South Worcester, Mr. Whittall made a large donation toward a new chapel in his home town of Kidderminster. I believe it’s safe to call him a philanthropist—all the more reason to be glad his buildings, with his name on them, survive.

Rottman’s Furniture & Carpet Store, across the way, contains under one roof several of the complex’s other buildings. In one place, a round tower juts up. It’s part of a Whittall competitor’s 1884 spinning mill (eventually absorbed by Whittall), and the original spiral staircase is still there, inside the furniture store, as Ms. Barney and her colleagues discovered for themselves.

Rottmans aren’t the only ones in the complex who appreciate these old brick structures and have used their imagination to give them new life. The buildings on Brussels Street house a coffee shop, a realty company, and several other businesses.
Rottman's Furniture & Carpet store
I am indebted to Ms. Barney for sharing with me her Powerpoint Presentation, (I only wish I had space to cover more of her beautifully researched talk), and to Preservation Worcester for its public education program of talks and walking tours about Worcester’s built environment and its people.

*More blogs on Worcester’s lost and surviving places here, here, here, here, and here.

**bio of Whittall and photos of his suburban mansion here.

Photos copyright © 2017 Walter M. Henritze III

Please click on images to enlarge

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Rings for Mourning General Alexander Hamilton, c1804

Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Susan reporting,

As I've written here before, the sudden death in 1804 of Gen. Alexander Hamilton from wounds suffered during his infamous duel with Col. Aaron Burr shocked a country, and left his family and friends reeling. Overwhelmed with grief, his new widow Elizabeth was too distraught to attend the funeral.  She struggled to face life without the man she'd loved and supported, and told others that she longed to die as well. Not only was she left with seven surviving children -  the youngest still a toddler - but she also inherited her husband's considerable debts.

And yet, despite all this, the rituals of death and mourning were observed by the grieving family. Mourning clothing was ordered and worn; Eliza continued to wear a version of the same high-waisted black mourning dress for the rest of her long life. Calls and letters of condolence were received and answered. Before the general was buried, Eliza would have cut and saved locks of his hair.

Hair was among the most precious and treasured of mementos in the 19thc, a lasting link to the deceased. As I shared here, strands of Hamilton's hair were still being given to admirers by his son decades after the general's death. For the family and closest friends, the hair became the centerpiece of mourning rings.

These are two surviving examples of mourning rings ordered by the family to honor Hamilton shortly after his death. The ring, above, was presented by Eliza to one of her husband's friends. Made of gold with a double shank band, the ring includes a braided swatch of Hamilton's hair, preserved under a crystal. Now in the collection of the New-York Historical Society, the ring has survived with its original dome-topped presentation box, covered in red leather and lined with blue and white velvet.

I haven't seen the ring, bottom, in person, but spotted it on an online auction house site. This ring, also gold, features the precious hairs loosely wound together beneath a bevelled crystal, and surrounded by bands of white and black enamel. According to the description, the ring was worn as a pendant, suspended on a ribbon through the gold link added to the ring. The ring was said to have descended directly through the Hamilton-Schuyler family, and is believed to have been worn either by Eliza herself, or one of her daughters.

One thing that I find interesting about both rings are the inscriptions inside. Both are engraved with Hamilton's name, the date of his death, and his age at his death: "46 yrs. 6.mo.", which would make his birth year 1758. Most modern scholars, however, believe that he was born in 1757, or even 1755. Why the discrepancy? The current theory is that Hamilton was self-conscious about entering college at an age older than most of his classmates, and may have shaved a few years from his age before he arrived in New York to begin his studies at King's College. In any event, it's intriguing to think that his wife either didn't know the truth herself, or chose to perpetuate the incorrect date long after it would have mattered.

For more about Eliza Hamilton's life after her husband's death, see this post.

Above: Mourning ring in box, maker unknown, 1805, New-York Historical Society; photo courtesy of N-YHS.
Below: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton's Family Mourning Ring, maker unknown, c1804, Clifton & Anderson Art & Antiques; photo courtesy of Clifton & Anderson.

Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my latest historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, now available everywhere.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Gilded Fan in the Gothic Style

Monday, October 9, 2017
 Loretta reports:

The Regency/Romantic era fashions in the V&A Museum included, along with the turban and fan I showed you a while ago, this rather more elaborate fan. As you can see (and probably see better if you enlarge the image at the V&A collections website, it’s quite elaborate, with three entire scenes painted with gouache, and the gilded, lacy sticks. The museum classifies this as Gothic Revival—and I’ve noticed that the Gothic seems to be revived rather frequently, in architecture and fashion, right up to our own time. The museum explains also that the fan sticks "were further embellished with crocketing - small projections along the points - inspired by the gables and spires of Gothic churches.”

Dated between 1820-1840, it does strike me as the sort of accessory I’d expect post-Regency, when fashions started becoming more ornate and showy. Certainly I have no trouble imagining one of my 1830s characters wielding such a fan, while one of my Regency ladies would be more likely to be fluttering something like the one in my earlier blog post, shown here at right. This one, too, can be enlarged and examined in more detail at the V&A website here.

Photographs courtesy me.
Please click on the images to enlarge.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of October 2, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Vice wars: New York City's scandalous censorship past.
Paul Revere's midnight ride - by day, in a car.
• Aboard the Dashing Wave: a passenger's journal from a 1859 clipper ship.
• Women who went to war in 1861: the Civil War vivandieres.
• Which side would you choose? Family ties and the British occupation of Philadelphia during the American Revolution; part II here.
• "How many stamens has your flower?": The botanical education of Emily Dickinson.
Image: Late 3rd-early 2ndc BC gold earrings with pendants of flying Nike with torch.
• Why did the great Gilded Age mansions lose their luster?
Image: Fanny Brawne's fashion notebook.
• Forgotten wartime doughnut heroines.
• The first monument in New York's Central Park wasn't to a general or politician, but to a German poet.
• The myth of Robert E. Lee and the "good" slave-owner.
Image: "The cruel seas, remember, took him in November," 1592.
Marie Duval, the pioneering 19thc cartoonist that history forgot.
Paisley shawls from a visit to the Paisley Museum (original article is in Spanish; even if you don't read Spanish or have a translation feature, the photos are stunning.)
Poconos & Catskills resorts (think Dirty Dancing) idyllic in 1960s postcards compared to abandoned disrepair today.
Nellie Bly, intrepid journalist.
Image: The New York City house where Louisa May Alcott lived while writing Little Women.
James MacLaine, the gentleman highwayman.
Thomas Carr of Lincoln, dealer of almanacks and...fish.
• Inside an iconic 1977 Playboy Bunny uniform.
Video: Truly amazing video: how fourteen wolves changed the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Save the Date: Booksigning & Talk for I, ELIZA HAMILTON on October 14

Susan reporting,

Next Saturday, October 14, I'll be speaking and signing books at 1:00 pm in the McChesney Room of the Schenectady County Public Library, 99 Clinton Street, Schenectady, NY.  For more information, please call the library: 518-388-4500.

If you'd like to order a book for me to sign AND receive a 20% discount, please call the Open Door Bookstore (they'll be handling the book sales for the signing) by October 10: 518-346-2719.

This is a special signing for me because it's in the Schenectady-Albany area. My heroine, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, was born in Albany, and her family's house - then known as The Pastures and now The Schuyler Mansion - still stands.

Hope to see you there - and especially if you're a blog-follower, please be sure to introduce yourself!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Video: Sparkly Little Pink Coat by Balenciaga

Friday, October 6, 2017
Loretta reports:

On a blog post a while back, I offered some images from the Balenciaga, Shaping Fashion exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Today’s video will give you an idea of the level of artistry and amount of work that went into one element of making a single garment displayed in the exhibition. After you view it, I strongly recommend you take a look at the closeups of the pink, feathery coat on the V&A website.

You might also want to take a look at some of the other V&A videos dealing with the exhibition. They’re short, and, among other things, provide some glimpses of the Conservation Department and its work, which I had the rare privilege of visiting, thanks to a thoughtful friend from London.*

The image above left is a still from the video, since nowhere, in the thousands of photos my husband and I took during this year’s travels, could I find one of this particular item. But then, none of our photos, shot through glass, would have been nearly as crisply close up as those on the V&A website.

*I mean you, Betsy!

V&A video: Lesage and Balenciaga, via YouTube

Clicking on the image will enlarge it, but it will be fuzzy.
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