Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Coffin Cab at the London Transport Museum

Thursday, August 17, 2017
Loretta reports:

Even though they belong to the privileged classes, characters in my books often make use of public transportation, mainly for anonymity. I’ve put them in hackney coaches and hackney cabs (and, in the new book, A Duke in Shining Armor, in a wherry).

For Dukes Prefer Blondes, I researched cabs and coaches obsessively—and blogged about them, too, here and here—but my interest has by no means palled. So of course I was excited and delighted to find this model of an 1820 hackney cab at the London Transport Museum.

I think the model helps give a sense, as illustrations may not, of just how small it was. This one in particular would not have fit two people, and the information page on the museum's website says it had space for only one passenger. Certainly, it corresponds to the Cruikshank illustration, the first one shown in this blog post.

But Omnibuses and Cabs: Their Origin and History tells us the hackney cabriolets introduced in 1823 “had accommodation for two passengers.” Since my current books are set in the 1830s, I go with the roomier model, the one appearing in the second illustration in last year’s blog post.
Hackney cab

Still, the London Transport Museum’s earlier model does give the 3D view, and readers familiar with Dukes Prefer Blondes will, I hope, have a clearer idea what the real thing was like. For instance, we can see the apron that protected passengers from kicked-up dust and stormy weather. What the model doesn’t show are the curtains. Omnibuses and Cabs tells us, “The fore part of the hood could be lowered as required, and there was a curtain which could be drawn across to shield the rider from wind and rain.” The curtain isn’t visible in the London Transport Museum model.  Either it was a later development, too, or it’s lost in the blackness of the interior. I couldn’t be sure, then or now: It’s not easy to see into a black box, through a glass case, let alone take photographs of it.

Image: detail from James Pollard, Hatchetts, the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly

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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Turban for a Regency Lady

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Loretta reports:

On my recent trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum's Textiles and Fashion Department, this turban, and the various accessories* showcased with it, caught my eye. Judging by fashion prints, turbans and toques seem to have remained popular for decades. By the 1830s, they expanded, to match the extravagantly gi-normous hats and bonnets and sleeves of the era.

This one is not so extreme. Dated 1818-1823, it also offers a good example of the difference between a fashion print and the real thing.

As the information page at the V&A explains, British milliners did not know exactly how a turban was constructed. It’s possible that the real thing wouldn’t have been quite such a hit with the ladies, except, perhaps as fancy dress, as in this example.

But milliners did lovely things with the turban concept, adding feathers, jewels, lace, and the sort of floral decoration you can see on the V&A information page. I do suggest you enlarge the images at the site, which include a top-down view showing the level of artistry and craftsmanship involved.

Here’s an earlier Regency era turban, which is a bit more like a beret.

One thing that struck me about the turban on display: It seemed as though it would go well with 1930s style clothing, and probably several other fashion eras. Can we call it timeless?

*You can find out more about the fan here on its V&A page.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Lasting Legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

Sunday, August 13, 2017
Susan reporting,

Legacies are notoriously fickle things. They're difficult to create, and even harder to maintain.

Yet one New York woman's legacy still flourishes after more than two centuries. Built on kindness and a genuine concern for the welfare of others, the legacy of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854) continues today because the same challenges that faced many children in 1806 unfortunately remain a part of our society in 2017.

During her lifetime, Eliza Hamilton thought of the present, not posterity.  Born to privilege and married to Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasure, she still believed in helping others directly. She brought food, clothes, and comfort to refugees of the French Revolution, and to new widows after yellow fever epidemics. She took in a young motherless girls who'd no place to go, and the child became part of her own family for years. In 1797, she was one of the founders (with her friend Isabelle Graham and her daughter Joanna Graham Bethune) of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children.

When Alexander Hamilton died after his infamous duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, Eliza was grief-stricken, but refused to fade into genteel widowhood. Financial difficulties - Hamilton had left her saddled with many debts - forced her to seek assistance from family and friends to support herself and her children, yet still she continued to help others. Her late husband had begun life as a poor and fatherless child, and orphans were always to hold a special place in her heart - and her energies.

In 1806, Eliza, Isabella Graham, and Joanna Bethune founded the Orphan Asylum Society in the City of New York (OAS). Eliza was named second directress. The OAS began with sixteen orphans, children rescued from a harrowing future in the city's streets or almshouses.

But Eliza and her friends realized that these first orphans must be only the beginning of their mission. In the first years of the nineteenth century, New York had grown into the largest city in America with a population of over 60,000, crowded largely into the winding streets of lower Manhattan. the harbor had made the city a major port, and goods and passengers arrived from around the world.

While some New Yorkers prospered, many more fell deeper into poverty and disease, and it was often the children who suffered most. In greatest peril were children who arrived in the city as new orphans, their immigrant parents having died during the long voyage. Completely alone, these children were often swept into dangerous or abusive situations with little hope of escape.

Eliza and her friends would not abandon them. With each year, the OAS grew larger, and was able to help more children, yet the goals of the OAS never changed. Children were provided not only with food, clothing and shelter, but also education and the skills of a trade so that they cold become independent and successful adults.

In 1821, Eliza was named first directress (president), with duties that ranged from the everyday business of arranging donation for the children in her charge to overseeing the finances, leasing properties, visiting almshouses, and fundraising to keep the OAS growing. With her own sons and daughters now grown, these children became an extended family. She took pride in each of of them, and delighted in their successes, including one young man who graduated from West Point.

She continued as directress until 1848 when she finally, reluctantly, stepped down at the age of 91, yet she never lost interest in the children she had grown to love. When she died in 1854 at the remarkable age of 97 - over fifty years after her beloved Hamilton - The New York Times wrote of her: "To a mind most richly cultivated, she added tenderest religious devotion and a warm sympathy for the distressed."

The OAS that Eliza Hamilton helped found continues today. Now known as Graham Windham, it has evolved into an organization that supports hundreds of at-risk children and their families in the New York area. Times have changed - the 19th century's orphans are today's youth in foster care - but the mission remains true to Eliza Hamilton's original goals: to provide each child in their care with a strong foundation for life in a safe, loving, permanent family, and the opportunity and preparation to thrive in school, in their communities, and in the world.

"We serve the children who need us most," says Jess Dannhauser, president and CEO of Graham Windham. "It's a deep personal commitment for us. We don't turn anyone away. These are hard-working, courageous kids who want to make something of themselves and are looking for ways to contribute, and we're constantly adapting to discover the best ways to serve them."

Last week - August 9 - marked the 260th anniversary of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton's birthday. Although I completed writing I, Eliza Hamilton months ago, I've been thinking a lot about Eliza again lately, especially in a world that seems to have become increasingly selfish and uncaring, with little regard for those in need.

Not long ago, I visited the churchyard of Trinity Church in Wall Street, where Eliza and Alexander Hamilton are buried side by side. It's become something of a pilgrimage site for fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda's phenomenal musical, and Alexander's ornate tomb in particular is often decked with flowers and other tributes.

On this morning, Eliza's much more humble stone - where she is described only as her father's daughter, her husband's wife, as was common for 1854 - was notably bare, and I resolved to find a nearby florist. Before I did, however, I stopped inside the church itself. Near the door is a box for contributions to Trinity's neighborhood missions, and I realized then that Eliza didn't need another memorial bouquet. Her legacy instead continues in the example of her own selflessness, compassion, and generosity to others. With a whisper to the woman who'd lived long before me, I tucked the money I'd intended for flowers into the contribution box.

Thank you, Eliza, and may your legacy always endure.

Upper left: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, by Ralph Earl, 1787, Museum of the City of New York.
Right: Mrs. Alexander Hamilton miniature by Henry Inman, 1825, New York Historical Society.
Lower left: Grave of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. Photograph ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of August 7, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• A timeline of fashion history 1784-1970 through fashion illustration.
• A tale of two authors: Jane Austen and Germaine de Stael.
• Remembering Grace Darling, a true heroine who became a Victorian media sensation.
Emma Allison, a "Lady Engineer" at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.
• Remembering the 19thc Chinese script that only women could read.
• Sneaky: a recently declassified (by the CIA!) recipe for invisible ink from World War One.
• The complicated lives of the 18thc poor in England: going for a soldier.
• ImagePlaying cards from 1942 had important secrets.
• What the deuce! The curse words of Charles Dickens.
• Secret Versailles, after hours.
Soldier-printers' interjections of encouragement made on the American Civil War battlefield.
The Temple of the Muses: the biggest and cheapest bookstore in the 18thc world.
• What became of Charlotte Williams, the illegitimate daughter of the fifth Duke of Devonshire?
Image: Harvest knots, exchanged as tokens of love and courtship.
 Frances Folsom Cleveland: the 22-year-old FLOTUS as an 1880s Washington celebrity.
• Six of New England's most famous writers' houses.
• Did Alexander Hamilton (and probably Thomas Jefferson, too) hold this coin?
• Did French priests want to marry during the French Revolution?
• The Greenwich Village house for being the Louisa May Alcott House - but isn't.
• Found: a lunch box from 4,000 years ago.
Image: Mary Shelley's memorial album with locks of her friends' hair.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Video: The Apostrophiser

Friday, August 11, 2017
Loretta reports:

Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a way to connect today’s video to history, but no matter. “Nerdy,” I think, takes care of the category, although there might be some nerdy people who can pass an incorrectly punctuated sign in a calm and collected manner, perhaps shrugging or shaking their heads sadly.

They are not me. My hands itch to correct. But I do not, merely go on my way, grumbling or ranting, depending on whether I’m alone or in company.

But certain others take a more activist approach.

Here’s one gentleman who decided to make the world a safer place for apostrophes.

Youtube Video: Grammar vigilante - The 'Apostrophiser' Bristol's grammar nazi

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.
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