Monday, October 24, 2016

Naughty Watches of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Monday, October 24, 2016
Loretta reports:

At a recent authors event, readers asked about the naughty watch a character buys in my book Lord of Scoundrels: Was this based on research or imagination?

If you Google “erotic watches,” you’ll know I wasn’t making this stuff up. So yes, the idea came from research—done in the days before Google existed, I ought to point out. These days, it would have been easier.

While I was aware of snuff boxes with erotic scenes inside the lid, the pornographic watch was news to me. I was especially intrigued to learn that watchmakers had been creating these devices as early as the late 1700s. This includes Abraham-Louis Breguet, a famous, highly-regarded watchmaker mentioned in Lord of Scoundrels.

Eric Bruton’s The History of Clocks & Watches offers a black and white illustration of a carriage watch, from which I developed the one in my book.
“It shows the time, day, date, and sidereal time, strikes the hours and quarters, and plays tunes on six bells. On the back a human figure in three parts keeps changing and below it some ‘curtains’ can be drawn aside to reveal an animated pornographic scene.” 
The watch was made in London in 1790.

Though it’s not like the watch shown in The History of Clocks and Watches, this one works more or less the same way: an innocent front, with an animated scene on the other side. Googling the subject will bring you quite a few examples, including one on YouTube—but I'll let you search, if you wish. I'm trying to keep this post at least somewhat family-friendly.

Image (not erotic to my knowledge): Chevalier et cachet watch between 1790-1799 (gift of Liz and Peter Moser, 2006), courtesy Walters Art Museum.

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 22, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of October 17, 2016

Saturday, October 22, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• How London's Foundling Hospital defied "gruel stereotypes."
• A 2,000 year old canister of ancient Roman face cream, including the finger marks of the user.
Emily Brontë's homely life.
• Shades of Victorian fashion: lilacs, lavenders, plums, and purples.
Black women, slavery, and the silences of the past.
Image: Lovely, evocative autochrome photograph taken in Longwood Gardens, 1915.
Male midwives and disobedient women in 18thc Britain.
• Ann Mead: the life and death of a teenaged nursemaid, 1800.
• Ominous illustrations of ventilation, 1869.
• Boston's Rat Day, 1917.
• Is this note passed between the lines at the Battle of Antietam stained with Civil War blood?
Image: Skilled needleworker Mary, Queen of Scots, embroidered this cat.
• George Washington's "racy" letter about a donkey goes on sale.
Signs of old London.
• Designer Ann Lowe: how a little-known black pioneer changed fashion forever.
Dance card from 1924 for an engineers' dance - check out the names of the dances!
• Famous illustrators depicting knitters and knitting - and here are some vintage photos of knitters, too.
Image: Appalling early 20thc anti-suffragette poster.
• Before George Washington became a general or a president, he tried his hand at poetry, with mixed results.
• In search of the lost mosque of Kew Gardens.
• A 1950s version of Yelp? The Gustavademecum, a NYC dining guide for engineers and explorers.
• The beautiful English romantic painting of Samuel Palmer.
Image: Little Egyptian faience model of a hedgehog,  made around 1300-1500 BC.
• Following the geometry of fire in the National Archives.
• The lighter side of 15thc magic.
• Monuments to some of the world's most pawsome cats.
• The history of the rural cemetery movement, which brought Victorians to picnic among the gravestones.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, October 21, 2016

(Un) Dressing Mr. Darcy

Friday, October 21, 2016
Loretta reports:

Writers as well as readers who’ve tried to work out the details of historical clothing generally appreciate a chance to see actual human beings wearing historically accurate attire.

Isabella and I have been fortunate in being able to call on the expertise of the tailors and milliners of Colonial Williamsburg. We’ve also posted what we’ve learned and seen there. Although I set my books in a later time period than the site focuses on, the historians there have The Knowledge of various eras, and have advised me on many points. But not everybody can consult with them while writing or reading a book. A demonstration like this one can answer a great many questions.

Though my current stories are later, too, than the time period recreated in this video, and the cut of coats and breeches/trousers change, as do hats, the principles apply.

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 20, 2016

An Englishwoman's Abolitionist Statement, 1827

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Today (especially during this election year) people wear a printed t-shirt to display their political allegiances and concerns to the world. In the 19thc, the abolition of slavery was an important and emotional social movement, and abolitionists found many ways to show their support their cause. Abolitionist motifs and slogans appeared on everything from jewelry to porcelain to printed scarves, handkerchiefs, and workbags like this one, newly acquired for the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

Although workbags originally were intended to carry a woman's sewing or embroidery (her "work"), by the 1820s they had become more general carry-alls for daily essentials, much like a modern purse. Most workbags were decorated with prettily embroidered patterns, but this one carried a more serious and somber message. Printed on the front is a copper plate image of an enslaved man in chains, while in the background others are being whipped by their master or overseer. Though this may seem somber for a lady's accessory, by the early 19thc the figure of a kneeling slave had become the unofficial symbol of the abolitionist cause.

A workbag like this was also viewed as a show of sympathy to the enslaved people themselves. While it might be considered improper or indelicate for a lady to become too deeply involved in a cause as sordid as abolition, it was acceptable for English ladies to demonstrate their emotional concern for those who suffered.

On the back of the workbag is printed an excerpt from William Cowper's 1784 poem on slavery, The Task:
   "Thus man devotes his brother, and destroys;
    And worse than all, and most to be deplored,
    As human nature's broadest, foulest blot; ––
    Chains him, and whips him, and exacts his sweat
    With stripes, that Mercy, with a bleeding heart,
    Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast."

According to the collection's label:

"Established on April 8, 1825, the Birmingham, England, Female Society for the Relief of British Negro Slaves, produced literature, printed albums, purses and workbags [including this one] for sale to help raise awareness of the cruelty to enslaved Africans and to provide money for their relief. These women, many members of the Society of Friends or Quakers, began one of the earliest Free Labor Movements specifically against the purchase of slave-made West Indian sugar. Identical objects and literature crossed the Atlantic and helped to fuel the American abolitionist movement."

Many thanks to Neal Hurst, Associate Curator of Costume & Textile, Colonial Williamsburg, for sharing this with us.

Workbag, made by the Female Society for the Relief of British Negro Slaves, 1827. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Forged Banknotes in the Regency Era

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
£1 Bank Note 1814
Loretta reports:

In researching Dukes Prefer Blondes, I spent some time looking up criminal cases. I was struck by the number of prosecutions for coining and forgery. That was why the short entry (shown below) in Hone’s Every-day Book about forged notes caught my attention.

I found an explanation at The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913.
Forgeries 1818

“Between 1797 and 1821, the period known as the ‘restriction’, new, primarily copper coins and, most importantly, inexpensively produced £1 and £2 notes were brought into circulation. The poor quality of these notes led to a spate of forgeries, which in turn led to a high number of prosecutions led by the Bank [of England] itself, for both forgery and uttering forged notes.”

If you’re curious about what old bank notes looked like, you can scroll down this page.
Bank of England 1809

You can look at a forged note from 1936 here.

And the Old Bailey website also offers a history of money & what it bought.

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

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