Friday, March 16, 2018

Let's Bat That Around

A craze swept 1875 Seattle, a game of skill and stamina dating from ancient times. It was played from the fine houses on the hill to the logging camps in the woods. The game you ask?

Battledore and shuttlecock.

Likely the forerunner of badminton and popular in India and China, battledore and shuttlecock was far simpler. All one needed to play was a small racket made of wood either covered with parchment or strung with gut (the battledore) and a cork stuck with feathers (the shuttlecock). One could play alone, but it was commonly played in pairs.

The idea was to keep the shuttlecock in the air as long as possible, so you needed to take into account the height and reach of your partner and well as your own. You might also consider the wind, which could catch the shuttlecock and send it spinning away. Supposedly the record for number of hits in the nineteenth century was set in Somerset, England, at more than 2,000 times!

Battledore and shuttlecock was a children’s game during Regency England and well into the late 1800s. Jane Austen played the game with her nephews. As I was looking for pictures to accompany this blog, I stumbled across this one dating from the 1700s:

Supposedly, the satirical cartoon makes fun of ladies' fashions with feathers and hooped skirts. I couldn’t help wondering if there was a deeper meaning. Russia and England playing with France, for example?

Even though England embraced badminton beginning in the early 1870s and the game eventually made its way to America, battledore and shuttlecock remained popular on the frontier for some time.

I’ll give you something else that might be popular on the frontier—I’m guest blogging today on Petticoats and Pistols, a blog devoted to romancing the West, yesterday and today. Stop by and say hi. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Regency Fabrics, Part 18

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like.

Today’s three samples are from the March 1811 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is excellent: the page has been trimmed but is otherwise free of foxing and toning, and the fabric samples themselves appear to be in fine shape.

Here we go!

Nos. 1 and 2. A bright permanent morone printed cambric, calculated for the intermediate order of dress. This print will admit of repeated washing, without any detriment to its colours. Round dresses and wraps in this article should be constructed quite plain, or with lace cuffs and frills. It is sold by Messrs. Jones and Co. 179, Piccadilly.

My comments: I’m always fascinated by these print fabrics, because so few are shown in the dresses illustrated in the fashion prints often in the same issue; as much as I adore them for the eye candy they are, I have to conclude they aren’t as representative as we sometimes take them for. This cambric reminds me of cross between a modern quilting cotton and a chintz. The dye is a rich, slightly orange-ish red, almost as intense on the back of the fabric as the front; the printing is a little sloppy on close examination, but passes well enough.

No. 3. A green figured shot sarsnet, adapted for robes, spencers, pelisses, and mantles. The trimmings appropriate to this article are, fancy Chinese floss, Indian gimp, and thread lace. Jewellery ornaments must consist of diamonds, pearl, satin bead, or white cornelian. Sold by D. and R. Hodges, Henrietta-street, Covent-Garden.

My comments: I think I would have been a sarsnet fiend had I lived in 1811, though I'm not sure I could have supplied the diamonds that must be worn with this particular fabric. ☺ This is lovely stuff, beautifully silky in texture and with enough weight lent by the twill weave that it would drape beautifully as a dress. It seems perhaps a little light in weight for a pelisse or mantle, though I assume such garments would be made with a lining to add substance. The green is a little lighter than it might seem; the contrasting sheen of the off-white threads makes it appear a little darker.

No. 4. A beautiful regency shot sarsnet, a most fashionable article, for the same purposes as described in No. 3. The regency helmet cap, composed of white velvet or satin, and ornamented with the Prince’s plumes of white feathers, is an appropriate and  becoming head-dress with robes of this attractive material. It is furnished by Joseph Snuggs, 20, Henrietta-street, Covent-Garden.

My comments: Yup, totally a sarsnet fan here. This cream-colored sample is a little stiffer than No. 3, but of a similar weight and just as delightful to the touch. This fabric in particular would make a gorgeous gown!

Any thoughts on this month’s fabrics?

Friday, March 9, 2018

Four Little Known Facts about Wallin Landing

As I prepare to say goodbye to Wallin Landing, the setting for my Frontier Bachelors series, I thought you might like to know a few secrets as about the town. Here then are little known facts about the setting:

  1. It wasn’t originally intended to be. When I first started the Frontier Bachelors series, I had envisioned telling the stories of several of the Mercer Belles, those ladies from the East Coast who traveled west with Asa Mercer to civilize pioneer Seattle following the Civil War. But in the second book, Would-Be Wilderness Wife, I fell in love with the Wallin family and the little town they were trying to build on the shores of Lake Union. And so, what was originally planned to be a three-book series grew into an eight-book saga as each of the Wallin siblings met their match.
  1. The stories about it span nearly a decade. So that I could plausibly write about the last three siblings, two of whom were in their teens in Would-Be Wilderness Wife, I had to expand the timeline as well. The books now span from January 1866 to April 1875. Seattle grew by leaps and bounds during that time. So did Wallin Landing.
  1. The town grew with the books. If you’ve read the series, you’ve probably already noticed this one. With the advent of Frontier Matchmaker Bride, the little town has a post office (run by James Wallin), school (with Rina Wallin, his wife, teacher and Dottie Wallin, John’s wife, assistant), church (with Levi Wallin the minister), dispensary (run by Catherine Wallin, Drew’s wife), and general store (James again). Individuals serve the function of blacksmith (John Wallin), seamstress (Nora Wallin, Simon’s wife), music teacher (Callie Wallin, Levi’s wife), and medical professional (Catherine) besides farmer (Simon Wallin) and logger (Drew Wallin). Simon Wallin might even be called an architect of sorts. 
  1. Wallin Landing isn’t Wallingford. There is a neighborhood in Seattle called Wallingford. It is actually the location Pa Wallin wanted to build his town originally. I picture the town of Wallin Landing in the Westlake/East Queen Anne area of the Seattle area instead, across the lake and to the west of Wallingford.
Finally, I’m getting lots of mail from readers asking whether I will return to Wallin Landing one day. I hope so. A certain family friend needs to find his happily-ever-after, and there’s Gillian Howard, Ciara and Aiden O’Rourke, Frisco and Sutter Murphy, and the Wallin children who will need spouses in a few years. However, my current publisher is ending its historical romance line, and other publishers are notoriously leery of taking on a series started elsewhere.

This industry has taught me to beware of saying “never.” Things changes, rights are reverted, readers clamor for more. Wallin Landing will be sitting on the shores of Lake Union, waiting.

And so will I.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Matchmaker Meets Her Match?

It’s always sad to let a series go, but I’m delighted to send off Frontier Bachelors, and my time with Love Inspired Historical, with the story of Beth Wallin. Spunky Beth has cheered her brothers on, and kicked them in the behind, while they courted and married. Those of you who have been following the books may have noticed, however, that Beth has a secret. She’s been reacting strangely the last couple of books to her long-time crush, Deputy Hart McCormick. Here’s why:

She’d just turned one-and-twenty and had filed for her claim. That was what was expected of her, choosing one hundred and sixty acres that would augment the town her family was building at the northern end of Lake Union. She was proud to do it.

She was too proud.

She saw that now. A young lady on the frontier might accomplish much at such an important age—file for her own claim, pursue a career.

She didn’t have to look far. She’d admired Deputy Sheriff Hart McCormick since she was fourteen and he’d ridden out to Wallin Landing the first time. Tall, handsome, worldly even at the age of four-and-twenty then, he’d been the embodiment of the heroes in the romantic adventure novels their father had left her and her brothers. He was the knight Ivanhoe, fighting to save England; the dashing John Alden petitioning the fair Priscilla Mullins to wed. She’d smiled and primped and giggled at him every time he came near. He never seemed to notice.

But when she turned one-and-twenty, she became determined to make him notice. She was certain God had a plan for her life, and it included Hart McCormick. She just needed to give God a little help in moving things along.

She’d dressed in her best gown, a vivid blue with white piping, styled her pale blond curls to spill down behind her. She’d borrowed her brother James’s famous steel dusts and driven the horses in to Seattle to tell Hart how she felt. It hadn’t been hard to locate him. Then as now, Seattle consisted of a few business streets hugging the shoreline with residences and churches on the hillside above, backed by the forest from which they’d been carved. She could scarcely breathe when he’d agreed to walk with her. They’d passed the Brown Church when she’d stopped him, gazing up into his dark eyes.

“I admire you far more than any lady should,” she’d said, voice ringing in her ears. “I don’t suppose you might feel the same.”

He’d gazed down at her a moment, and she’d thought she would slide into the mud of the street, her bones had turned so liquid. She waited for his gaze to warm, his arms to go about her, his lips to profess his undying devotion. That was what happened in her father’s novels. That was the way she’d always dreamed it would be for her.

He’d tipped his black hat to her instead. “That’s mighty kind of you to say, Miss Wallin. But I have no interest in courting you. Best you go on home now.”


So, you can imagine Beth’s chagrin when the most important ladies in Seattle seek her out for her matchmaking skills and ask her to find Hart McCormick a bride.

Hart also has a secret, one that keeps him from ever giving his heart again. He may be Beth’s first matchmaking miss, unless they can both admit that she just might be his perfect match.

You can find Frontier Matchmaker Bride in print and e-book at fine retailers such as

An independent bookstore near you 
The Book Depository, free shipping worldwide 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Nineteenth Century Heroines: Taking Center Stage

File:The Old Bowery Theatre (NYPL b13476046-420759).jpgWhen Asa Mercer went east after the Civil War to entice young ladies to come west, he told them they would be bringing culture to the frontier. But the Mercer Belles I write about in my Frontier Bachelors series weren’t the only ones to make the rough-and-tumble West more civilized. This week’s nineteenth century heroine played a large role, in more ways than one.

Fanny Morgan Phelps was born in Sydney, New South Wales. We aren’t entirely sure when, but she had already made her American debut at Maguire’s Opera House in San Francisco in 1863 as an established actress under her maiden name of Morgan. She was tall and pretty, with an impressive figure and a commanding presence. Her contemporaries called her an Amazon, and some men found themselves so upstaged by her that they refused to play opposite lest she show them up.

Fanny could not only act but sing, specializing at first in shorter plays that highlighted her comedic talents. Reviewers did not seem to know how to take her, for she was called Irish, Australian, and Scottish at various times. Take this piece from the New York Clipper (courtesy of Music in Gotham: The New York Scene 1862-75) when she played at the Bowery Theatre in 1867: 
In personal appearance she is very prepossessing, and she has the power of covering up the deficiencies of those around her by her admirable rendition of characters in which she appears. Her singing is invariably encored…Her style is free, natural, and full of spirit, and at once wins the favor of her audiences.
Sometime during her first California performances, she met Ralph Phelps, a light comedian, who appears to have been some years her senior. He had debuted in New York 1845 and travelled to California in 1854. By the time Fanny joined the Ward Company in Victoria, British Territories, in 1863, she had married Phelps.

For the next 3 years, Fanny was the star of the company, delighting audiences with most of her performances (although a comedy that poked fun of Westerners was not well received, particularly as those in Victoria saw themselves as more educated, enlightened, and sophisticated than the frontiersmen in the Puget Sound area). Ralph was the theatre manager. But as depression loomed in the area, Ward decided to move his company to Portland. Fanny went along.

She didn’t stay there. She was willing to go wherever audiences had a yearning for the theatre. She played what were considered the smaller towns in the Puget Sound area at the time—Seattle and Port Gamble among them. She played at the larger Olympia, the state capital. In 1872, she is recorded as taking part in a benefit in Hawaii. One of the reasons the frontiersmen loved her was that she was willing to come where they were.

Sources say she leased the Theatre Royal in Victoria in 1874 for 11 months, under her own troupe called the Fanny Morgan Phelps Company. But I know she was touring during at least part of that time, for local papers herald her arrival in Seattle, where she staged the first full-length Shakespearean play ever seen in that frontier town, The Taming of the Shrew, on March 15, 1874, at Yesler’s Hall. In the upcoming Frontier Matchmaker Bride, Beth Wallin and Deputy Hart McCormick attend one of her performances. She stared in several plays before travelling north again. Popular actress Annie Pixley (at the left) shared the stage with her.

Along the way she lost Ralph but gained a daughter who she boarded out with a family near Vancouver. She later married a captain of the Royal Navy.

Fanny Morgan Phelps died in San Francisco in 1901, one of the most famous thespians of the West Coast. It was a role she was born to play.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Children of George III: Augusta

A sister (finally!) for the Princess Royal joined the royal nurseries at Buckingham House on November 8, 1768 in the form of Princess Augusta Sophia, much to the King and Queen’s pleasure.

By all accounts Augusta was a shy child; all the royal children lived sequestered lives, interacting only with members of the royal household. She (and in time her younger sister Elizabeth, to whom she would be close) shared their elder sister’s education at their mother’s knee, studying both academic and more “womanly” accomplishments—lessons which Augusta sometimes shirked in order to keep up a lively correspondence with her elder brothers, whom she dearly loved.  Like the Princess Royal, as she came to adulthood Augusta was a victim both of the political circumstances of the time and of her father’s unwillingness to lose any of his daughters to a foreign marriage. Augusta, who was reckoned quite good-looking by all accounts (her portraits are all charming) received proposals from both the King of Denmark and the Prince of Sweden—both of whom were rejected.

In 1799, when Augusta was 31, the King appointed a new aide-de-camp, an Anglo-Irish general who had served under Augusta’s brother the Duke of York. General Sir Brent Spencer made a strong impression not only on the king, but on his daughter. They seem to have fallen thoroughly in love; in fact, Spencer broke off his engagement to another young woman that summer. Over the next several years they maintained their affection, a period in which Spencer served under fire with high distinction in several military campaigns (and drove poor Augusta mad with worry.) When the king made his final descent into incapacity, Augusta evidently had very serious discussions with her big brother, the Prince Regent, as to whether she and Spencer might be able to contract a “private marriage.”

Unfortunately, the years of dealing with the King’s controlling behavior and his erratic health had soured the temper of the Queen, who continued to cling to her unmarried daughters even while behaving with capricious coldness to them; though legally Augusta could have received her brother's permission to marry, her filial feelings toward the Queen probably made her decide against such a course. Nevertheless, rumors abounded that they had indeed married, and on his death in 1828 Spencer was holding a miniature of Augusta.

And so Augusta lived her quiet life—she was a noted gardener in particular—much loved by all her siblings. She kept up that correspondence with them that she'd begun in childhood as well as with other friends (many former members of the royal household) that show her to have had a lively intelligence and a clear-eyed but kindly appreciation of their faults and foibles. She remained on good terms with Prinny when he became king, and was a favorite of William and his queen Adelaide.  She died in 1840 at the age of 71, a few months after attending the wedding of her beloved niece, Victoria, who seems to also have regarded her aunt with great affection.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Cool 19th Century Places to Visit: Second Bank of the United States, Philadelphia

People who love history throng to Philadelphia to ogle the Liberty Bell and tour Independence Hall. But there’s a little-known gem just a block or so away for those whose hearts belong to the nineteenth century. The Second Bank of the United States houses a portrait gallery with wonderful paintings from the late 1700s and early 1800s. And the building itself harkens to the pillared halls of the Regency.

The Second Bank was built in the Greek Revival style, beginning in 1819. It was completed in 1824. When I visited 18 months ago, I saw a number of style choices that reminded me of early nineteenth century England. For example, this window still uses the interior shutters visible in such notable mansions as Apsley House in London.

And doesn’t the pink passage near the main portrait display look just like the entryway to an aristocrat’s town house?

The portraits themselves are marvelous, depicting dress and accessories of the time. The hat!

Many of the portaits are by local artist Charles Willson Peale, who painted people he felt exemplified a self-sacrificing nature and were strong civic supporters. Some of the individuals are government or business leaders, but there is more than one lady in the bunch. Other portraits are by his son Rembrandt (Charles took his painting seriously, apparently), brother James, and British artists James and Ellen Sharples.

There’s another set of Regency paintings at the Second Bank, but I doubt many find it. The stone steps in front prohibit accessibility, so second entrance was created on the west side for those mobility impaired. It brings you in to a basement area, past brickwork I suspect is original and along some delightful life-sized drawings of early nineteenth-century ladies and gentlemen. Of course, I had to stop and visit.

The Second Bank is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Learn more about it at the National Park Service website.

I’m sure you can picture yourself here

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Recent Acquisitions: Full Dress for Assemblies in the Persian Style

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about my prints from Ackermann’s Repository: they were exquisitely engraved and colored, were of uniformly excellent quality during the twenty years of the journal’s existence, and are a total delight. But that doesn’t mean one of the other great publications of the Regency era, La Belle Assemblée, doesn’t have its moments as well.

One of those moments occurred in the December 1807 issue of the magazine, with the appearance of a plate titled Full Dress for Assemblies in the Persian Style.  I’ll let you admire it for a moment before we proceed.

The description accompanying the gown is curious, for it doesn’t seem to describe the dress very well in many particulars. One wonders if the colorist wasn’t given the description, and made her own decision about which colors to use. In addition, while the plate reads “Persian” style, the description heading reads “Parisian.” Oops:

A Ball Dress in the Parisian Style

A Neapolitan robe and petticoat, of white, or coloured satin, made quite plain. Armorial vest of white satin, beaded in gold stripes. A cestus [a girdle or belt] á-la-Cleopatra, composed of wrought gold and amethysts. Hanging sleeve, gathered in front of the arm, with brooches of the same. The hair confined from the roots, the ends flowing in irregular curls, leaving the forehead and temples exposed. An Indian casque of tissue, with amethyst ornaments. A long veil of gossamer gause, rounded at the end, and embroidered in a delicate border of silver, or silk, flowing from the centre of the crown, over the right shoulder, and forming a drapery in front of the figure by the attitude of the left hand. Pear earrings of amethyst or pearl. Necklace of pearl, with amethyst star in the centre. White satin slippers, edge with silver beading, and white kid gloves above the elbow.

I can’t help wondering what held on the fez-like hat (close-up above)—presumably some description of hairpin. And it would have been remarkably tedious to have to hold onto the veil for the entire evening to "form a drapery in front of the figure." This may have been a dress to wear to balls and assemblies, but probably not one to dance in. 

Nevertheless, whether Persian or Parisian, it’s a delight. Would you like to have worn this one?

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Long Road to the Vote in Washington Territory

When researching for the upcoming Frontier Matchmaker Bride (Beth Wallin’s story), I came across some Washington State history I didn’t know. In the United States, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution acknowledged women’s right to vote in 1920. But in some states and territories—Wyoming and Utah among them—women could vote much earlier. Washington Territory, alas, took a while to get there, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

It helped that prominent pioneers like Arthur Denny of Seattle and Daniel R. Bigelow of Olympia were willing to sponsor bills in the state legislature. The first failed by only one vote. The story goes that the man who voted against it had a Native American wife. If she wasn’t included, he wasn’t supporting it. A new voting law in 1867 specified that all white citizens had the right to vote (bet he didn’t vote for that one either). In theory, that meant women could vote. They tried in the next election. Except for a handful, their votes were summarily dismissed.

File:Portrait of Susan B. Anthony on her 50th birthday.jpg
In the early 1870s, women in the territory rallied around the national suffrage movement when no less than Susan B. Anthony made a western tour. One of her stops was at the home of Henry and Sarah Yesler in Seattle. I like to think some of my heroines in the Frontier Bachelor series attended, even though the local papers took jabs at the women. The local sheriff (and Deputy Hart McCormick) had to provide additional protection for the suffragettes because of rumored attempts by male agitators to stop them from speaking.

During her tour, Susan B. Anthony spoke before the territorial legislature. Perhaps because of her impassioned pleas, once more a bill was introduced. It too failed. And to make sure there’d be no more of this nonsense, the legislature passed a bill keeping territorial women from voting until the issue was decided at the national level.

But remember, Washington Territory was still largely composed of bachelors. Some were fiercely anti-suffragette, others fiercely pro. Bills were introduced and voted down in 1875 in the legislature, 1878 at the Constitutional Convention, and 1881 in the legislature again.

You would think when, in 1883, the legislature finally passed a suffrage bill, that that would be the end of it. However, in 1887, the Territorial Supreme Court overturned the new law on a technicality. It seems the title of the law didn’t accurately describe its contents. The legislature promptly passed a law with a better title in 1888, only to have that overturned by the court for failing to align with what the court felt was the true meaning of the Territory Organic Act—that votes applied only to males. When the territory voted on its state constitution, women’s suffrage was voted down again.

Suffragettes continued working, hoping to amend the Washington Constitution. Working with members of the legislatures, they drafted an amendment that, once signed by the governor, could be put to a vote of the people. Someone stole it! A woman found the correct amendment just in time for the governor to sign. Unfortunately, when put to a vote by the people, the amendment was voted down.

It wouldn’t be until 1910 that Washington women became eligible to vote, still well before the Nation but long after Susan B. Anthony, Sarah Yesler, and Beth Wallin campaigned for it.  

You can find more information on the long road to the vote from the Women’s History Consortium at the Washington State Historical Society, of which I am a proud member. 

And I can vote.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Accessories, Part 12: Wrapping up Shawls (see what I did there?)

Now that I've gotten that out of my system... ☺

I’m doing something a little different in this installment on Regency accessories: bypassing the images from fashion prints, lovely as they are, and looking at an example of two of the real thing.

These are a pair of 19th century shawls that I own. Alas, I don’t have an exact date for either, but the height of popularity for shawls like this peaked in mid century. Unfortunately, I also have no idea where they might be from. Originally shawls of this design, with their distinctive teardrop-shaped boteh designs (boteh means “shrub” in Persian), came from Asia, especially the Kashmir region, where they were woven from the warm, silky hair of goats, first wild, then as demand grew, domesticated. They soon became so popular across Europe that European manufacturers began to create their own “Kashmir” shawls. The best of these were manufactured in the Scottish town of Paisley, which in turn lent the name we know today to the design.

Both of these shawls are made of a fine wool; the dark one is especially smooth. The undecorated parts of both shawls are twill-woven.

The cream-colored shawl, with its designs of bluish-green, red, gold-brown, and black, is square, measures 66 inches along a side. Does it perhaps remind you a little bit of this one?

Or this one?

The dark shawl is definitely not in as good condition as the cream-colored one--it's splitting in places, mostly in the undecorated area in the center-- and had its fringe chopped off at some point. But the pattern of the weave is gorgeous; with the careful placement of its six colors (mostly red and orange with bits of black, green, cream, and light blue) it looks more like dozens of colors. This shawl, also square, is a bit larger than the other, measuring 70 inches on a side (it's folded into quarters here.)

This one is called to mind...though I suspect that the darker color palette on this shawl means it dates slightly later to the Victorian era, when darker colors were more fashionable.

I hope you liked a quick look at the "real thing."  We'll be moving on to an different Accessory sometime soon...

Friday, February 9, 2018

Nineteenth Century Heroines: Designing Love

Valentine’s Day is approaching. My sweetie and I are trying to determine how to celebrate. Millions of people from school-agers to senior citizens will be purchasing or making cards to share with loved ones. To a large part, this nineteenth century heroine made that possible.

Esther Howland was born in 1828 in Worcester, Massachusetts, into a family that owned a prosperous book and stationery store there. She graduated Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1847. After receiving a valentine from an associate of her father’s, she decided she could do better.

And she did.

Now, there were Valentine’s Day cards made before Esther started, but she was the first to create them on a commercial scale in America. She used lace, gold, and colored prints to bring her creations to life. For those who might not be able to express themselves sufficiently, she even published a valentine writer with suggested verses. (We covered those here.) 

Her work was so in demand she had to start her own business and hire friends, creating an assembly line. She designed, her employees copied, and together they produced valentines that were considered elegant, refined, and of the highest quality. Simple cards went for 5 cents each. The most elaborate, with secret pockets for engagement rings or personal messages, cost as much as $50 dollars!

She trained hundreds of women through the years, most of whom worked from home for reasonable wages. Esther herself worked from a wheelchair the last 15 years she was in the business. She died in 1904, unmarried but highly successful, having grossed more than $100,000 a year many years (an amount close to $3 million in today’s dollars). She is known by many as the Mother of the American Valentine.

She simply loved her work.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Fly the Friendly Skies...of the Aerostation Company?

I don't have a lot to say in this week's post, because really, there's not much I can add to this item from the July 30, 1825 edition of The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, a London publication that was a sort of Reader's Digest of the day, including snippets from other publications as well as original material. I've posted some amusing bits from them before; but air travel in particular seems to have been a popular theme with their editors, as this article demonstrates. I thought it would be more fun to show you the original, so here you go!

Well, that's one way to avoid the problem of airline food...

And speaking of technological advances, even history bloggers have to keep up with them. I'm happy to report that you can now find ALL my e-books for sale on GooglePlay...and that includes a short story I just released, just for the fun of it, titled Family Reunion. Of course you can also find Family Reunion in all the other usual sales outlets--Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo--as well.

Friday, February 2, 2018

More Than Pretty Pictures

File:Lyme Park 2014 01.jpgLast week I had the privilege of sitting in on a Regency architecture class given by the incomparable author Cheryl Bolen. Her collection of pictures illustrating both exterior and interior styles, as well as landscapes, are nothing short of brilliant. And you can find them all here on Pinterest. Cheryl has curated pictures of furniture, paintings, various rooms in the country houses and town houses of the rich and famous in England during the early years of the nineteenth century. She even has floor plans. Well worth the look.

And while you’re on Pinterest, might I recommend the following author's and their boards:

Joanna Waugh. Joanna has collected a number of interesting Regency era illustrations, including pictures of Almack’s, Regency performers, arts and crafts, and beekeeping. 

Cora Lee’s Regency Women’s Fashion. All of Cora’s boards are fun (she had me at Historical Dr. Who), but the fashion page is particularly top notch. 

Ann Glover’s Regency pastimes. You’ll find a wealth of information from author and blogger Ann as well, but I loved this board with some pastimes you might not have expected. 

And may I mention that I now have a Regency pets board, with portraits from the late 1700s and early to mid-1800s of people and animals? 

All in all, these are far more than pretty pictures. They are treasures to those who love to read, and write, about the nineteenth century.

Photo by Mike Peel (

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

1810, What a Year It Was...Except When It Wasn’t

Last week I mentioned that I had intended to write a post for my 1810 series about the celebrations in observance of George III’s fifty years on the throne. It was kind of a big deal—only three other monarchs since the Norman Conquest (Henry III, Edward III, and James I—and James only squeaks in because of his years on the throne of Scotland as James VI before he became James I of England) had been fifty years on the throne. I blithely assumed that the king’s jubilee took place in 1810—specifically, on October 25, which was the 50th anniversary of the day he became king on his grandfather George II’s death in 1760. But all my poking around into the events of 1810 made no mention of a jubilee celebration in 1810. Weird, I thought. Maybe it wasn’t celebrated because of the war, or...or something.

And so I continue to think...until last week's research into a darling Jubilee cloak print from La Belle Assemblee made me dig deeper and discover the real reason why there were no jubilee celebrations in 1810... Because they'd all happened in 1809!

I was able to find a fair bit of information about the jubilee observances themselves, but no explanation for why they were held at the start of the 50th year of his reign and not on the anniversary of his assession. The closest I've gotten to an explanation is that it was generally known that the king's health was not good, and it seems that many people were worried that he might die before the anniversary itself. Evidently plans for celebrations were a bit of a last-minute thing They needn’t have worried: in fact he lived for another ten years, outliving Queen Charlotte, though nine of those were spent in a twilight of dementia. By summer 1809 it looked as thought the poor old man would survive, so the tentative plans began to firm up (evidently the first sign of the impending celebrations was a sharp increase in the cost of candles, which were being hoarded for illuminations.)  Sadly, he would not be able to enjoy many of the spectacles that were eventually held in his honor, because his eyesight was almost completely gone by this time.

So how was the jubilee observed?

The King and the royal family attended a service of thanksgiving at Windsor, where the queen later threw a spectacularly splendid fete for the court. But there were plenty of less solemn observances all over the country: many of the nobility had oxen and sheep roasted and basically held barbecues for their tenants and workers, with games and races and bread and ale to go with the meat. Assembly balls for the middle classes in towns and larger villages and fireworks and illuminations in the cities were also widespread. After the fact many communities erected public monuments and statues in honor of the king's anniversary. And of course, there was merchandise. You can still buy George III Jubilee medals on eBay (yes, really), and for the wealthier souvenir hunter there were commemorative dishes, glassware, and my favorite, a child’s game celebrating the glories of the kings of England.

In a way it was probably a good thing that George's jubilee celebrations happened in 1809; by the actual anniversary of his accession in October 1810 he would be in even poorer health—on the verge of his final collapse (the Regency would be declared in January)—and his beloved daughter Amelia on her deathbed. I doubt anyone would have felt much like celebrating.

Friday, January 26, 2018

I'll Take the Dead Salmon, Size 10

Marissa’s post reminded me of how much I love the names of Regency colors. I quite agree that “aurora-colored” is quite evocative for the Jubilee cloak. According to Emily Hendrickson’s Regency Reference Book, aurora was the color of the sky at sunrise and became popular around 1791.

Like today, certain colors rose and fell in popularity. Pistachio, for example, was popular in 1819. Some were named for people (Wellington brown) or places (Egyptian brown).

Colors weren’t just for clothing, though. They typified wall coverings, upholstery, front door paint, and carriage lacquer, among others. Here are a few of my favorites. 

Pomona green—a warm green with yellow overtones (like those of the hat and coat of the lady at the left).

Coquelicot—the color of poppies (like her parasol)

Evening primrose—a deep yellow, brighter than mustard (like the wrap of the other lady)

Amaranthus—purple of a pink shade

Naccarat—a rosy orange

Celestial blue—like the sky on a summer’s day

Dead salmon—a dusky red. Yes, dead salmon truly was a color available in early nineteenth century England. I absolutely must use it in a story someday. Can’t you see the exchange?

“Oh, Sir Egbert, your house is wonderful.” Penelope gazed around with worshipful eyes.

Egbert fidgeted. In truth, he’d thought the house a little overdone when his architect had proposed the scheme. “Thank you,” he said with what he hoped was the proper humility.

“And that dusky red color on the divan is divine,” she continued. “I must have it for a new pelisse. What is it called?”

Egbert drew himself up, glad to have the answer. “Dead salmon. I think you would look very well in it.”

I think I would too.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Mystery of the Jubilee Cloak

It’s wonderful how one thing can lead to another in historical research.

Take this charming print from La Belle Assemblée which I recently added to my collection. The line at top calls it a Jubilee Cloak; it’s certainly a bright, celebratory color, isn’t it?  The bottom text reads “Published for La Belle Assemblee #52 by J. Bell, Southampton Str. Strand.”  No date was given, so I jumped on-line to see if I could track down when this print was published. I guessed it had to be 1810, because that was the 50th year of George III’s reign, and I hoped that the issue of the magazine in which this print appeared would have further information on his jubilee celebrations, because I had not been able to find any information elsewhere and wanted to write a post on his jubilee for my "what happened in 1810" series...a lack of information which seemed odd.

After a good deal of paging through scanned issues of La Belle Assemblée from 1810, I was stymied: there was no Jubilee Cloak in any of them. In fact, the “No. 52” implied that this was from an earlier issue. So on to 1809...and there it was, in the November 1809 issue, listed under “Fashions for December.” (There were also articles on “Authorities touching the actual existence of mermaids” and “Anecdotes of depravity in London from 1700 to 1800”, but that’s for another post.

So why wasn’t this listed in an 1810 issue, in which, strictly speaking, it should have appeared since 1810 would have marked his 50th year on the throne? We’ll discuss that—and the Jubilee—next week.

Oh—and the Jubilee Cloak itself? Here’s what La Belle Assemblée had to say:

A simple Village robe of white corded cambric, a walking length, with long sleeves; ornamented round the bottom with four rows of small tucks; made to sit high in the back, and over the shoulders, meeting in front with a gold broach; trimmed round the neck with vandyked ribband, and confined at the waist by a purple velvet girdle.  A Jubilee cloak, of aurora colored merino cloth; lined with royal purple silk, ornamented with gold braiding; tied at the throat with gold cord and tassels. A Turban hat, with a full plume of shaded down. Necklace and earrings of gold or coral. Shoes of purple Morocco. Gloves of York tan.

“Aurora colored merino”—isn’t that a lovely description? And the royal purple silk lining is most appropriate under the circumstances, don’t you think?

Friday, January 19, 2018

We Interrupt This Program...

For illness, alas. I won’t go into the details but a) I am slowly recovering, and b) I should be much better tomorrow (I’ve been telling myself that for nearly 2 weeks, but it has to be true sometime!).

So, being unable to sit at the computer for more than a few moments, I could not publish a post for you this week. Instead, I bring you Regency theater! This video shows how to dress a Regency lady. 

Hoping you are well, warm, and well dressed as well. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Accessories, Part 11: More Scarves and Wraps

We’re back for another installment in our fashion series on NineteenTeen focusing not on dresses and gowns (gorgeous as they are) but on the little things that complete a fashionable ensemble—hats, shoes, gloves, purses, parasols, and other accessories.

Our accessory of the week is the scarf or shawl, a particular favorite of mine (you don’t want to know how many scarves I own!) I’m not including fitted wraps or mantles (basically, colder weather wear) in this survey—we’ll look at those at a later date. In this era of no central heating, the shawl was a ubiquitous—and needed—garment. Ladies made a virtue of necessity by turning it into not only a fashion statement, but also a status indicator via expensive imported shawls from India, of silk and cashmere.

We’ll be seeing examples from 1822 through 1829. Look for lots of images rather than commentary, though I’ll try to supply original text if I have it—the point is to be able to examine multiple examples of each item. Images are drawn from my collection of prints from Ackermann’s Repository. Happy accessorizing!

Full Dress, January 1822, Ackermann’s Repository
Full shawl with decorative edging—embroidered or woven?

Evening Dress, July 1822 Ackermann’s Repository
Again, large shawl with decorative edging like that in the previous image

Walking Dress, August 1822 Ackermann’s Repository

Promenade Dress, December 1822 Ackermann’s Repository
From the accompanying text: “Long tippet and muff of chinchilla.”

Evening Dress, March 1823 Ackermann’s Repository
Appears to be a lighter weight shawl—silk?—in a tartan pattern.

Ball Dress, August 1823 Ackermann’s Repository
A light silk gauze wrap.

Evening Dress, September 1823 Ackermann’s Repository

Evening Dress, February 1824 Ackermann’s Repository
From the accompanying text: “...lace scarf...”

Morning Dress, March 1824 Ackermann’s Repository

Evening Dress, March 1824 Ackermann’s Repository

Dinner Dress, May 1824 Ackermann’s Repository
A very large (and elaborately drawn!) lace shawl.

Ball Dress, August 1824 Ackermann’s Repository
I can’t tell if those are beads on the fringe ends, or just knots.

Evening Dress, September 1824 Ackermann’s Repository
Another silk tartan shawl or scarf.

Evening Dress, January 1825 Ackermann’s Repository

Evening Dress, July 1825 Ackermann’s Repository
Another surprisingly modern-looking scarf with knotted fringe.

Morning Dress, August 1825 Ackermann’s Repository
Perhaps a wool tartan shawl here?

Evening Dress, January 1826 Ackermann’s Repository
I wish I had the text for this one, because the coloring on the scarf is very interesting. 

Evening Dress, April 1826 Ackermann’s Repository

Ball Dress, June 1826 Ackermann’s Repository
This shawl looks almost ombre dyed!

Evening Dress, July 1826 Ackermann’s Repository

Evening Dress, August 1826 Ackermann’s Repository

Evening Dress, December 1826 Ackermann’s Repository

Evening Dress, March 1827 Ackermann’s Repository

Dinner Dress, November 1827 Ackermann’s Repository
A pretty tartan gauze scarf.

Ball Dress, March 1828 Ackermann’s Repository
From the accompanying text: “...gauze scarf...”

Evening Full Dress, September 1828 Ackermann’s Repository
Another pretty lace scarf to end with!

Any shawls or scarves you'd fancy for your wardrobe?
To be continued...