Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Never Doubt a Duke

Sounds like a good title for a blog post, doesn’t it? It’s also the title for my new release. This is one of those books of your heart. It has no publisher home (Edwards and Williams is my own imprint). It was blessed with a fabulous editor, a wonderful proofreader, and a talented cover artist. And now it’s out in the world.

After spending the last ten years following her late husband on campaign, the irrepressible Jane Kimball finds herself badly in need of a position to support herself. Marriage holds no appeal; she’s not likely to find a husband like her Jimmy again. But when Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency offers her a post with the Duke of Wey, Jane feels drawn to help the lonely widower with his three daughters. He may seem a bit aloof, but Miss Thorn’s cat Fortune approved of him. Why should Jane doubt a duke?

Alaric, Duke of Wey, commands his staff, his tenants, and the halls of Parliament, managing vast holdings in England and across the seas. Why is it he cannot manage his own daughters? As an old danger rears its head, he comes to rely on Jane’s practical nature, her outspoken ways to navigate the waters of fatherhood. And when necessity dictates he take a wife, thoughts turn to an unlikely governess who might make the perfect bride.

Here’s a little taste:

Jane Kimball was the only person in the schoolroom as the duke and his butler entered. She was standing by the worktable, wiping a slate with a cloth.

“Everything all right?” Alaric asked.

As if the butler expected a confrontation, he faded into the background.

Mrs. Kimball glanced up at Alaric. “Lessons have been cancelled by a fit of pique. I had the effrontery to introduce arithmetic. Her Grace is consoling them with tea and cakes.”

She didn’t seem angry, though she certainly had a right to be. In fact, she seemed a bit downcast. Her dark eyes were shadowed, and her usually upright frame slumped. He moved farther into the room.

“I approved of the introduction of that subject,” he reminded her.

“You did. And I said I’d deal with Her Grace. I failed, at least for now.” A smile crept into view. “Don’t worry, Your Grace. This is no more than a skirmish. I refuse to surrender so soon in the engagement.”

She could not know the armament arrayed against her. No one bested his mother. His father had chosen his bride well. His mother wore the dignity and grace of a duchess like a coronation robe and exerted her power as a scepter.

“Focus on the girls,” he advised. “They are your calling.”

She stacked the slate with two others. “If only I could convince Lady Larissa that there is more to life than her come out.”

He pressed a hand to his chest in mock dismay. “No! How can you possibly say so?”

Her mouth twitched. “Perhaps because I’ve lived so much longer than she has.”

“Yes, I can see that you are ancient.”

She gave it up and grinned. “Takes one to know one, Your Grace.”

No one talked to him the way she did. He liked it. But as he grinned back, she sobered.

“Truly, if she has the idea that the only thing of any importance in her life is her come out, what has she to look forward to beyond it? If that is the best she has to experience, I feel very sad for her future.”

Put that way, so did he. “A come out is an important event, but I wouldn’t want her to focus on it to the exclusion of all else.”

“Too late,” she said. “But we may be able to get through to her.”

We? How surprising to meet someone who assumed he had a part in his daughter’s lives. His late wife Evangeline had held them close, convinced him it was in their best interests. His mother had stepped smoothly into the void his wife had left. With his father held up as the very essence of a duke, he had attempted to fill the same role. He had never questioned his duty.

Perhaps I should.

Dangerous thought. The House of Wey was built on centuries of tradition. Every role, every action was codified in the hearts and minds of his family, his staff, his tenants. He had been proud to step into his father’s shoes, for all he wondered about his ability to fill them. Perhaps that’s why he hadn’t argued against his arranged marriage to Evangeline. A duke’s daughter herself, she’d known exactly how to fit into his world. At times, her rigid adherence to tradition had eclipsed his own.

But she was gone now. And nothing he’d tried so far has helped his daughters.

He offered Mrs. Kimball his arm. “What say we make the first attempt at persuasion now?”

She stared at him. “It was fairly clear I wasn’t invited to tea.”

“Neither was I,” he said. “But they are my daughters, and they are your responsibility. It’s time we made that clear.”

She regarded him a moment more, then came to lay her hand on his arm. “Right beside you, Your Grace.”

Why did he have the feeling that was right where she belonged?

You can find Never Doubt a Duke in ebook at online retailers, with print available through Amazon:


Friday, May 18, 2018

Dressing the Bride, 19th Century Style

This weekend will see a royal wedding. I wasn’t invited. That’s okay. I’m too busy writing. But in case you’re in the mood for weddings, I thought you might enjoy a few nineteenth century wedding gowns to ogle.

The one on the right dates from around 1816. Love the clumps of roses along her hem, and isn’t the headdress lovely?

Here's 1824. Love the shine of the material and the way the leaves above are echoed below.

Ah, 1827. Seems crimping was in—the hair, the collar, the sleeves. Not sure I’d wear this one.

About ten years later. Less crimping. Love the graceful collar.

Early 1840s. Simple and elegant, but I can’t decide if the color is on purpose or darkened with time. It is a museum piece, so I’m thinking the apricot was a choice.

1850s. Love this one—the embroidery, the train. I’d wear it in a heartbeat.

1860s, and a royal wedding! This is Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

1870s. Ah, the crimping is back. But I like this one. So sleek and so fussy at the same time!

1880s. Yards of material and very fluffy. Can’t decide.

Finally, 1892, fitted design and tons of lace.

Which is your favorite?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Newer Additions to My Collection 1813, Part 2

More eye candy from my collection, featuring the second half of 1813. Soooo pretty!

June’s Promenade Dress is “A plain morning gown, of fine cambric or jaconot muslin, with long sleeves, and front cut low at the bosom, appliquéd with lace; a shirt of the same, with a full gathered frill round the throat. A Pomeranian mantle of jonquille satin, trimmed round with a deep white lace. A provincial bonnet, composed of jonquille satin and Chinese cord, confined under the chin, and ornamented on one side with corresponding ribband, a cluster of flowers on the other. A sash of jonquille ribband, tied in front of the waist. Gloves and half-boots of pale lilac or jonquille kid. Parasol either white or pale lilac.” However, I confess to being a little perplexed by this description, as the mantle depicted is blue while “jonquille” is  yellow. A miscommunication between the magazine and the colorists?

Love this Ball Dress, also from June’s issue! “A Grecian round robe, of lilac or apple-blossom crape, worn over a white satin petticoat. A satin bodice, the colour of the robe, ornamented with white beads and drops, à la militaire; the same continued down the front of the dress; short Circassian sleeves, with similar ornaments; a deep Vandyke trimming of lace, or lilac Angola silk, round the bottom of the robe. An Indian turban, of silver frosted crape, decorated with pearl or white beads; and a bunch of spring flowers beneath, blending with the hair over the left eyebrow. A necklace and locket of large pearl, or the satin bead. Ear-rings and bracelets en suite. White satin slippers, trimmed with a narrow silver fringe. White kid gloves. Fan of ivory, decorated with coloured feathers. Lemon-coloured or white scarf, with rich embroidered ends of gold and coloured silks.  Hmm—another color confusion there, as that is definitely a blue scarf!

Tassels seem to be the thing for 1813, as here’s another Morning Walking Dress featuring a mantle adorned with them. Her bonnet, of a slightly wider, flatter shape is quite fetching too. And notice the ring around the top of her parasol, to help keep it closed when it’s furled. (July)

August’s stunning Evening Dress has an interesting description: “THE VITTORIA OR WELLINGTON COSTUME, FOR EVENING DRESS, is composed of Venetian crape, placed over a white satin underdress; a treble row of shell-scalloped lace ornaments the feet, above which is seen a border of variegated laurel. A bodice and Circassian top sleeve of Pomona green satin; the bosom interspersed with shell-scalloped lace, and correspondently ornamented. Shoulders, back, and bosom much exposed. Hair in dishevelled curls, with variegated laurel band in front, and a transparent Brussels veil thrown across the back of the head, and descending irregularly over the back and shoulders. A chain and cross of pale amber earrings, [sic] and bracelets of pearl. Slippers of white satin; gloves of French kid; and fan of carved ivory.  The name of the dress is presumably  in honor of Wellington’s June victory over Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jourdan in the Battle of Vittoria, a victory that would prove decisive in the Peninsular War and pave the way for the coming invasion of France itself.

Also for August (and covering a great deal more than the previous dress) is this Morning or Domestic Costume, consisting of “A petticoat of jaconot or cambric muslin; with a Cossack coat, or three-quartered pelisse, of lemon-coloured sarsnet, with Vandyke Spanish border of a deeper shade. Full sleeves, confined at the waist with a broad elastic gold bracelet; confined, also, at the bottom of the waist, with a ribband en suite. Foundling cap of lace, with full double border in front, confined under the chin with a ribband the colour of the pelisse, and tied on one side; a bunch of variegated carnations placed on the left side. Gloves and Roman slippers of lemon-coloured kid.” I’m not quite sure why the pelisse is not tinted yellow, as her slippers just peeking out from under her gown are.

This Evening Costume from September has a very interesting sleeve and bodice treatment, don’t you think?  And the bust was definitely emphasized in most of the evening dresses we’ve seen this year. I wonder if the lace veil was pinned into her hair, or left loose so that it could be used as a scarf if the night was chilly?

Finishing off 1813 is this Morning Dress from November, “A fine cambric or jaconot muslin round robe, a walking length, with round bosom, a demi height; long sleeves, and shirt, with deep fan frill of vandyke lace: the dress ornamented at the bottom, to correspond. A spencer of Peruvian green velvet or satin, with Spanish slashed sleeves, and deep cuffs of vandyke lace, to correspond with the frill of the shirt, which rises above the spencer, confined at the throat with a pearl or other suitable broach, from which are suspended tassels and cord. The spencer appears unconfined in front, and is lined with white satin, decorated with small cord and buttons. The hair disposed à la Madona, flowing in loose curls on the crown of the head, a small spring of barberry in front. The Swedish slouch hat is worn with this dress in the out-door costume: it is composed of the same material as the spencer, lined with white satin, and ornamented with a curled ostrich feather. Half-boots of velvet, or kid, the colour of the spencer. Gloves, a pale lemon color.”  I do wish we could have seen the hat, and gotten the full effect of this charming costume!

And that wraps up 1813...what dress do you think you would have liked the best?

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Family Legacy, in Pictures

If you look at my family tree on my mother’s side, you will see a lot of sons and relatively few daughters. I am the only granddaughter, the only niece, and one of a few great-nieces. In my family, that means one thing: I inherit stuff. I have my grandmother’s china set she built piece by piece through the Depression, my great-great grandmother’s porcelain bowl she brought with her from the old country. They are easy to notice, full of memories. My great-great aunt left me her postcard albums, and it was only recently I realized what a treasure they are.

Most date from the early 1900s, so are 100 years old or more. They show a world few have seen these days.

Take the one above. That is Multnomah Falls, in the Columbia River Gorge. I’ve visited many times, driven past it many more. According to the USDA, more than 2 million people come to view the falls each year. Here’s a similar photo from 1982. 

My husband spotted the difference right away. The bridge crossing the river is missing in the original picture. It was built in 1914, 5 years after that photo was taken.

Here’s one from Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909. (And the exposition is a post all on its own—dibs!). This one is near to my heart because the buildings and land for this world fair because the current home of the University of Washington, my alma mater.

Then there’s an entire series of ones taken of family members. Around the turn of the century, it was possible to take pictures yourself and have them printed on postcard stock. On the back, this one reads: “Bringing in the hay this year. That’s me at the top of the stack.”

Yes, I inherit stuff. But, thanks to my aunt, I have been given a piece of history.

1982 photo of Multnomah Falls by Andolent at https://www.flickr.com/photos/anoldent/2271492340/.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Regency Fabrics, Part 19

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 four samples are from the June 1811 issue of Ackermann’s. The overall condition of my copy is good: the page itself is most free of foxing and toning, but at least one of the samples has picked up some offset from the facing page.

No.. 1 An imperial striped gauze, for evening or full dress; which is becomingly ornamented with white or amber beads, thread-lace, or narrow wreaths of flowers. To be had of Messrs. Coopers, 28, Pall-Mall.

My comments: Oh, this is pretty stuff! It’s more open-work or net than gauze, and would be stunning over a colored slip or underdress. It’s somewhat stiff but the texture is smooth and silky and reflective—definitely an evening dress sort of fabric.

No. 2 Barrosa lace, for the same order of costume; admitting only trimming of lace, white beads, or silver; and worn over slips of white satin or sarsnet. Sold by Mr. Threshar, 15, Cheapside; and may be had of any colour.

My comments: I don’t think it’s as pretty as No. 1 nor as dressy in appearance--it has a matte appearance, for one thing, cotton rather than silk. It’s very airy and light, not as stiff as No. 1.

No. 3. An entirely novel printed muslin, entitled the regent’s plume; from the house of William Bowler & Son, of King-street, Cheapside, by whom it is vended to all the fashionable houses in town and country. The same pattern is to be had on azure and jonquil grounds. The union of colours is quite unique, and their effect particularly attractive and pleasing; at the same time it is reasonable in price.

My comments: It’s a little difficult to judge how attractive and pleasing this fabric is, as the print is almost entirely gone in my sample--you can just see some very faint signs of it. So I did a little research, and found a slightly better preserved piece. The Prince of Wales feather form the pattern; I suppose it’s fun enough for a morning dress, but the fabric itself is thin and not evenly woven, so I’m reading a little more of flattery than truthfulness into the effusive description.

No. 4. A mourning printed cambric, of an entire new pattern. There needs n comment on the appropriation of this article, which speaks decidedly for itself. To be had of T. and J. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-Garden.

My comments: More 1930s quilting fabric! No, not really, but it would fit right in on a vintage quilt (down to the Le Moyne star pattern!) I assume this would be for a morning mourning dress—daywear rather than evening. The fabric itself is much sturdier and finely woven than No. 3.

Any thoughts on this month’s fabrics?

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the Fourth be With You: Regency Style

I couldn’t resist. It isn’t every year that this awesome holiday falls on the day I’m slated to blog. Today is Star Wars Day, and I’m a fan. So, I went digging to see if there were any associations between Star Wars and the Regency period. What I found amazed me.

Now, I would love to post the pictures on this blog, but I couldn’t find a way to ask permission. So, I will point you to this link instead and describe just one of the wonderful portraits of Star Wars characters in Regency garb: Kylo Ren, all in black, in a double-breasted coat, patterned waistcoat, and cravat. Be still my heart!

I wasn’t the only one moved. Two cosplayers were inspired to take these pictures live. Nicely done! 

And it turns out there’s actually a thing on Tumblr of Regency Reylo (Kylo Ren and Rey romantically involved, in Regency garb). Who knew? 

May the Fourth inspire you to go and be creative too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Cover Reveal: Introducing Between Silk and Sand!

I am delighted, excited, and generally over the moon to unveil the cover of my upcoming young adult fantasy novel, due out on July 31, 2018 from Book View Café. May I please present...

The best-laid plans, even of princesses, can go awry...very, very awry.

Seventeen-year-old Saraid of Thekla is on her way to marry the ruler of far-off Mauburni. But she’s not sobbing into her silk-curtained litter at the thought of leaving home, because she has plans—and The Book. She’s studied this ancient treatise on the art of kingship for months to make herself the ideal queen for her adopted country. Once her new husband sees that, he’ll fall madly in love with her. It will all be perfect. She knows it.

But The Book is silent on what to do when one’s journey across a cursed desert wasteland is halted by a mysterious young warlord. Cadel has plans of his own—plans that don’t include her going to Mauburni. As she begins to unravel his secrets, Saraid will have to put aside The Book and trust her own wisdom—and her heart—to navigate the treacherous shoals of politics and power and become the queen she yearns to be.  

Between Silk and Sand (stop by my website for more info and a sneak peek at the first chapter! ) is my first young adult novel in...well, a long time. It’s been a long time coming, too—I wrote the first incarnation of this story as my very first book back in 2003. It’s almost unrecognizable as that book I wrote so long ago (which is a good thing, believe me—that first effort was terrible!), but it’s a story I had to tell...and now, here it is. Regina wrote a few weeks back about how important a writer’s friends can be. Without the friends who read parts or all of Between Silk and Sand and gave me their honest, thoughtful opinions and then pushed me to not give up, this book would never have happened...and to all those friends, this book is dedicated.

And isn’t the cover gorgeous? I cannot thank Book View Café’s Dave Smeds enough for his beautiful work on it—it truly sings.

Between Silk and Sand will be available at all the major on-line retailers—Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and GooglePlay (all of where it can be pre-ordered--link for Amazon coming shortly)--as well as, of course, Book View Café’s own online store (which you really need to check out if you haven’t already because there’s a wealth of good reading there) and in print from your favorite bookstores. You can also add it to your want-to-read list on Goodreads here.

I'm so excited! I hope you'll check out my pretty new book!

Friday, April 27, 2018

What’s a (Poor) Lady to Do?

We have, over the years, discussed the activities and challenges of the young lady of the Regency period, as well as her somewhat limited career choices. Novels abound of gently reared ladies having to make do when circumstances conspire against them. My Fortune’s Brides series features gentlewomen down on their luck, so I’ve been doing some pondering as to what the actual choices were for such women, particularly those who are not looking to marry and would prefer not to lower her status terribly. Here are a few ideas:

  • Governess—The old standby. If you’ve survived a Season or two, if you learned some history and science along the way, perhaps another language such as French, you probably have what it takes to teach other young ladies. A slight variation on this would be a finishing school teacher, but those were somewhat rare in the Regency (even though I’ve given my heroines that profession in at least two stories 😊).
  • Nanny—I see this frequently, and I’ve certainly used it myself, but I haven’t found too many contemporary sources claiming a young lady who had been raised for finer things took it upon herself to become a nanny. Still, if you had a motherly instinct, if you were raised with many brothers and sisters, and if you were willing to be seen as a servant, you might be able to handle this position.
  • Housekeeper for a relative—this is a difficult one. Technically, a housekeeper is a servant position, although higher on the servant food chain. But if you served a relative who was willing to treat you more like family so that the role was more of chatelaine, this one might do.
  • Lady’s maid—another difficult one. Again, you are a servant, and chances are you won’t be mixing socially with the upper crust. But if you are a dab hand at sewing, know your way around a cosmetic jar, and have a good ear, you could do well here.
  • Companion—another old standby. Families seem to have a plethora of aged female relations who require someone to fetch and carry, to share confidences, to help with daily care and entertainment. And there’s always the off chance that said relative will be kind in her will.
  • Assistant—I’ll be using this one in my fourth Fortune’s Brides series, but it is a challenging one as well. Secretaries and personal attaches were generally men serving men. A lady really cannot spend time alone with a gentleman. But say a prominent lady, who doesn’t want to claim her age requires a companion or needs specialized skills? Perhaps.
  • Sponsored artist—Sometimes your gift could be your livelihood. Wealthy patrons might sponsor a painter, a musician, or a composer. Most of these sponsored positions went to men, and it would look odd for a lady to be sponsored by a gentleman. But, under the right circumstances, I could see a woman sponsoring another woman.
So, what do you think? Have you heard of other ways for an impoverished young lady to keep her head and her dignity above water?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

1810, What a Year It Was: the (Final) Madness of King George

We’ve talked about the some of the most noteworthy public events of 1810, from literary to sporting to true crime...but perhaps the most momentous was what happened in its final months: the descent of George III into permanent debilitation.

Everyone’s heard of “mad King George”, and doctors and medical historians have derived endless hours of diversion from trying to figure out just what it was that the poor man suffered from. The most recent thinking seems to be that he was indeed suffering from some form of mental illness, perhaps aggravated by arsenic poisoning (arsenic was commonly used in medical treatments of the day) and not porphyria, a metabolic disease. No matter the cause, the last months of 1810 would also be his last months as reigning monarch.

First, a little history: the king’s first confirmed demonstration of mental illness began in the fall of 1788, when various physical symptoms (rash, rheumatic pains, gastric distress, and fever) manifested, quickly followed by delirium, hysteria, and mania. He talked for hours on end, making grandiose, delusional plans and pronouncements until he was out of breath and foaming at the mouth. Though his physical symptoms eased, his behavioral ones did not (on November 17 he talked for nineteen straight hours), and between his ministers and his family, plans were made for a regency to rule in his stead...a plan that fell through when, early in the new year, he began to recover and was able by March to call himself mostly recovered.  He seems to have suffered a brief relapse in 1794 (though not as severe as the 1788 illness) and again in 1801. After that point, his condition seems to have remained highly fragile, with more relapses and recoveries occurring over the next few years.

By October 1810, George III was 72 years old and suffering from cataracts and painful rheumatism. He’d been devastated by the deaths of two of his children in the 1780s, while they were quite young. But now it appeared that he would be facing the death of an adult child—one whose very existence had helped him over those earlier losses.  Princess Amelia, his youngest daughter, had been a semi-invalid for years, probably suffering from tuberculosis, and by this time, was on death’s doorstep. The king’s poor eyesight had perhaps cushioned him somewhat from the truth—he could hardly see how ill she was—but toward the end even that could not shield him from the reality of his daughter’s condition. As her life ebbed, his old, familiar symptoms began to reappear: nervousness and excitability, over-talkativeness, sleeplessness. In her last week of life, he too slipped away into a twilight world, and was too ill to comprehend that Amelia was dead.

The king had realized, early on, that he was in for another period of illness, and instructed his physicians that he was not to be entrusted to any “medical man specially engaged in the department of insanity,” but the doctor who had looked after him in earlier periods, Robert Willis, was brought in to consult. Poor George had days when he seemed almost normal over the course of November and December, but enough bad days encouraged the revival of the Regency bill that had first been drafted (and nearly passed by Parliament) back in 1789.  Everyone—his family, servants, and ministers—waited with bated breath to see what would happen. More lucid days in January occurred, but while there were hopes that he would once again recover, the Regency bill was voted on and passed Parliament, with George’s knowledge, at the end of the month, and Prince George became Regent with limited powers, to be reviewed in one year’s time (presumably in case the king recovered.)

However, it became clear through the spring that recovery was unlikely: while he still had periods of lucidity, the king slipped inexorably into his delusional world, talking and giving commands to people who weren’t there, and seemed to forget his affection for his family. The lucid periods became fewer, and in the fall it was expected that at the one-year anniversary of the Regency Act in January 1812, the regency would be made permanent. Poor King George would hang on for another eight years, growing blinder and sicker, until his death in 1820.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Regina Scott Returns...to the Regency

I’m baaaack.

Back in the Regency, that is. For nearly 2 years, all my new releases have focused on frontier Seattle. While I loved getting to delve into local history, and there are more stories calling, I have missed my beloved Regency England. That’s why I’m over the moon delighted to let you know that the first book in my new Regency-set series, Fortune’s Brides, is up for preorder now and will release May 18.

After spending the last ten years following her late husband on campaign, the irrepressible Jane Kimball finds herself badly in need of a position to support herself. Marriage holds no appeal; she’s not likely to find a husband like her Jimmy again. But when Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency offers her a post with the Duke of Wey, Jane feels drawn to help the lonely widower with his three daughters. He may seem a bit aloof, but Miss Thorn’s cat Fortune approved of him. Why should Jane doubt a duke?

Alaric, Duke of Wey, commands his staff, his tenants, and the halls of Parliament, managing vast holdings in England and across the seas. Why is it he cannot manage his own daughters? As an old danger rears its head, he comes to rely on Jane’s practical nature, her outspoken ways to navigate the waters of fatherhood. And when necessity dictates he take a wife, thoughts turn to an unlikely governess who might make the perfect bride.

You can preorder at fine online establishments:

In honor of this new release, I’m running a cover reveal Rafflecopter giveaway through April 28. Enter to win an e-book copy of all five of the stories in my Uncommon Courtships series. 

Regardless, The Unflappable Miss Fairchild, the first in that series is free on all online retailers through April 28. 

It’s good to be back.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ackermann Goes Holographic!

Okay, not really. But this is really cool—you’ll see.

As well as publishing the Repository of Arts, we know that Mr.Ackermann designed carriages and owned a print store where he sold prints, paper, and art supplies. He advertised his paper goods at times just as he did those delicious fabric samples we look at occasionally, but most of those ads seemed to occur in earlier issues of the Repository (both of the ones we’ve seen were from 1810.) So imagine my delight when I ran across this paper sample page featuring BRUNELL’S PATENT METALLICK PAPER.

Shiny, isn’t it? It doesn’t scan very well—it looks more like metallic camouflage than anything else—but it was evidently pretty snazzy stuff for the time.  The gold and bronze-colored papers at Nos. 1 and 2 have help up quite well, but the red one at No. 3 evidently didn’t get along well with the tissue paper covering this plate—it more or less dissolved the paper, which in turn left a cloudy haze on that sample. No. 4, in dark brown, also survived well and bears a good resemblance to tortoise shell.

So what is this stuff?  Happily, the original text is present, and reads:

The ornamental crystalization [sic] on tinned surfaces, exhibited in many shops, being confined in its application to articles of the japanner’s trade [japanning being a European form of Asian lacquering], it became a great desideratum to have a similar result elicited on a substance, which, like paper, could be easily employed in covering articles of almost any description.

The metallic paper which is now offered to the public, is the produce of a new discovery made by M. J. Brunel, Esq., F.R.S. &c.

The matchless beauty of this substance, the character  and variety of its crystalization, exceed in effect and brilliancy what has yet been obtained on tin plates, over which it possesses an additional advantage in the dimensions of the sheets, which can be made as large as 4 feet by twenty inches.

It has already met with a most favourable reception on the Continent, where it is likely to open a new channel for British industry. The Report made before the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, &c. in Paris, on the 10th Feb. last, by their Comité des Arts Chimiques, is evidence of the opinion entertained there of this discovery as an article of trade....
This metallic paper is now used by skilful artists with great success in decorating apartments and furniture. R. Ackermann, at his Repository of Arts, has introduced it with great taste into a variety of fancy work, where it displays an uncommonly novel and rich appearance. It is sold, in various shades, as seen by the annexed patterns, in sheets of the following sizes and prices: Large, 23 by 19 inches, 6s.; small, 19 by 11 ½ inches, 3s.—Nothing but a strong paste made of good flour is required to fasten it to wood, paper, &c. &c.

It’s fun, isn’t it? But what’s even more fun—and interesting--is the man who invented this pretty stuff. M. J. Brunel was Marc Isambard Brunel, a French engineer born in 1769 who fled France during the Revolution, went to New York and became an American citizen before returning to France to marry his English sweetheart and moving with her to England. He was responsible for all kinds of engineering feats—from inventing a machine that could make pulley blocks for the British navy to, eventually, building a tunnel under the Thames (on which project he was aided by his 18-year-old son who would become an even more famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.) 

Queen Victoria would eventually knight Papa Brunel for that feat, but it was still in his future...he would first work on a series of not-very successful ventures and wind up in debtor’s prison for a couple of months (and was bailed out by the government when they heard that he was negotiating moving to Russia to work for the Tsar.) I can’t help wondering if this paper might have been one of those projects that led to his stint in King’s Bench Prison...but I also can't help wondering if the enthusiastic crafters of 1819 weren't head over heels with it.

What do you think?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Cool 19th Century Places to Visit: National Building Museum

I discovered this gem recently when I traveled to the nation’s capital. The National Building Museum is run by a non-profit organization set up by Congress. The red-brick façade appears solid and sturdy, but if you look closer, you can see a marvelous frieze showing every type of regiment in the Union army, all valiantly marching around the outside. Still, nothing prepares you for what awaits inside.

What is now the National Building Museum was originally completed in 1887 to house the Pension Bureau, those hard-working individuals attempting to manage the claims of the hundreds of thousands of men who had served the Union in the Civil War. The order from the government was clear—besides allowing for processing these claims, the building had to have a grand central space for use in civic and social functions. Accordingly, the central space was patterned after an Italian palace, with columns sweeping four stories into the air and a fountain playing in the center. This space was used for a number of inaugural balls in the 1800s.

I was fortunate enough to arrive on a day when tours were being given, so I received an inside look at this wonderful national treasure. Here are some of the high points.

As they were restoring the building, they discovered that part of the director’s suite had this marvelous painted ceiling. It has been cleaned and is being refurbished. It reminded me of the Regency.

A thin metal track runs along the entire ceiling of the walkway along the tippy top floor. Our guide said that when papers must be moved from office to office, the workers would place them in a basket, hook the basket up over the track, and push it along over their heads by use of a paddle until they reached the right office. I stared at her, amazed. They were the first paper pushers!

At the very top are alcoves to house the busts of those who had served in the Civil War. Unfortunately, when the director appealed to the Smithsonian for busts, he was refused. The National Building Museum purchased multiple sets of 8 busts to represent those involved in buildings (architects, builders, etc.). Those are now placed randomly to fill the holes.

The walkway around each floor is edged with columns that are apparently hollow. This is known because someone carved a hole in one. A special camera was brought in and inserted into the hole to confirm materials, only to find that the column was filled with copies of the Declaration of Independence, newspapers from the 1880s, and other documents. More digging through the director’s papers from the time led to the discovery that he had intended several of the columns as time capsules. He’d reasoned that the building would not stand forever, and, when some future people tore it down, he wanted them to know about the people from long ago who had built it.

The various displays in the building are well worth the price of admission, but it should be noted that the building itself, the museum shop, and the café are open to the public free of charge. You can find the National Building Museum at 401 F Street NW in Washington, D.C. It is open from Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. For more on its illustrious history, see https://www.nbm.org/about/historic-home/

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Newer Additions to my Collection: 1813

It’s been a while since I started doing (and finished up) regular Fashion Forecasts here...and one corollary of that is that I’ve since acquired a lot more prints for any given year. Since the last time we looked at fashions in the year 1813 was back in 2010, I thought I’d post some more prints from my collection...because, eye candy.
All prints are from Ackermann’s Repository, many with the original descriptions. Enjoy!

An Evening or Opera Dress—note the opera glass in her hand!—from February is “A round robe of mull muslin, or crape, over satin or sarsnet, with long sleeve and low front, bordered at the bottom and on the bosom with a rich brocade ribband, or embroidery of coloured silks. A patent net neck-kerchief, edged with lace round the throat. A sash of pale Russian flame colour, tied negligently in front of the waist. The hair flat on the sides, and in waved curls in front, divided in the center of the forehead, and confined in full curls at the back of the head, with an apparent stray ringlet falling on one shoulder. Neck-chain, ear-rings, and cross, of blended gold and pearl. A Cossack cloak, or mantle, of pale Russian flame-coloured cloth, with arched standing collar, finished with a coloured border, corresponding with the dress; lined with white sarsnet, and confined occasionally at the throat with a correspondent cord and tassel. Satin slippers, the colour of the mantle; and gloves, a pale primrose.”

What a wonderful cloak on this Morning Dress for February! “A plain cambric robe, made high in the neck, with plaited fan frill and long sleeves, finished at the bottom with a border of fancy tucks or needle-work. A Prussian hussar cloak, of Sardinian blue velvet, or superfine cloth; lined and edged with pink satin, and finished at its termination with a variegated ball fringe; large hood, or cape, lined and trimmed to correspond; the points finished with rich cone tassels, and confined at the throat with the same. A Moorish turban hat, composed of Sardinian blue velvet and sable fur. A muff of spotted ermine. Blue kid half-boots; and gloves a pale tan colour.”

March’s Half Dress features “A round robe of coloured sarsnet, or muslin, spotted with amber; drawn frock bosom; and long, full sleeves, tied twice at the wrist, at regular distances. A tucker of lace, or plaited net. A cap à la Russe, composed of white satin and lace, confined with a ribband round the head, terminating in bows and ends on one side. Hair in disheveled curls. Necklace and cross of amber beads. Gloves and shoes of lemon-coloured kid. Spanish capuchin, or lapelled cloak of white or stone-coloured kerseymere, embroidered with a rich border, in chenille and silk.”

Also from March is an Opera DressA round low dress, of fine India muslin, the bosom composed entirely of needle-work and lace beading, and a correspondent border round the bosom; and confined round the waist with a sash tied in front. A robe pelisse, of fine amber-coloured cloth, or satin; bordered round in shaded brown chenille, with deep and rich corners. The pelisse lined throughout with white satin or sarsnet; and trimmed entirely round, and at the wrists, with a full swansdown border. A white satin hat, of the Spanish form, turned up with three rows of white beads or pearl; a curled ostrich feather waving towards one side. A neck-chain and cross of the satin bead, with earrings en suite. Gloves of white kid; and slippers of satin, the colour of the pelisse, trimmed with fringe. A fan of ivory, or crape, decorated with fancy feathers."

April brings a very frilly Morning Dress, for which I don’t have the text...but did I mention it was very frilly?  And perhaps ruffled as well?  Note the cap, daintily decorated with three rows of scalloped lace.

If April’s Morning Dress was all about ruffles, May’s Morning Dress is all about cute little tassels around the collar and capelet...but I do confess to being more distracted by the little dog...or is it a miniature heraldic lion?

We’ll do more of my 1813 acquisitions in a week or two. Got any favorites among these?