Friday, June 28, 2019

Camping with the Americans, the Pig War, Part 3

So, we’ve discussed the engagement between Britain and the U.S. that started with a pig, and we’ve talked about the highly civil camp the Brits built to the northwest on San Juan Island, so civil that they hosted the Americans for Queen Victoria’s birthday. This week I’m finishing the series with a little about American camp.

While the Brits were snuggled into a sheltered bay, American camp was on the southern end of the island, strategically overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. But that location was also in line with the prevailing winds, which can sweep through at an alarming clip. And, while the Brits were surrounded by forests, the American were essentially camping in a field.

That didn’t stop them from building. Materials from an abandoned installation on the mainland (Fort Bellingham) were brought in for officers’ quarters, an enlisted barracks, cookhouse, bakehouse, carpenter’s shop, school, hospital, and guardhouse. Soon, neat, white-washed buildings dotted the headland, in places surrounded by a white picket fence. As many as 30 buildings were erected.

But the sweeping winds weren’t the only things to trouble the Americans. The Brits had only two commanders during their time on the island. The Americans changed commanders 15 times, and the infantry companies stationed there changed 8 times. Their leadership complained about bootleggers in the area selling the men rot-gut whiskey, the consumption of which made them unfit for duty. When the Civil War began, some officers like Pickett resigned to go serve the Confederacy. Those soldiers who remained may have wondered why they were stuck on a peaceful island while their colleagues were fighting and dying. Some no doubt were thankful to avoid the battles. Others fretted about loss of friends, loss of ideals, and loss of opportunities for advancement. A soldier doesn’t ride for glory while standing in a field running bayonet drills to pass the time.

Though no battle was ever fought on San Juan Island, American camp lost 16 soldiers during the 14 years of the encampment. Half died of injury or illness, but three died by suicide. Still, their presence served its purpose. And when Kaiser Wilhelm, the arbitrator in the disagreement between the two nations, decided the island belonged to the Americans, there must have been a celebration.

Like the valiant soldiers at American camp, Marissa and I will be celebrating Independence Day next week, but look for posts from us the week of July 8.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Universal Advertising Sheet, Part 3

Let’s see what interesting shreds of personal and social history we can read about, courtesy this week of the Monthly Compendium of Literary, Fashionable, and Domestic Advertisements from the March 1, 1807 edition of La Belle Assemblée...

First, another Jane Eyre moment:

The attention of Parents and Guardians is requested. A Lady is desirous of taking ONLY TWO young ladies, from three to eight years of age, to instruct with every comfort and advantage of paternal Education; she does not propose giving any Holidays –Letters (post paid) addressed to A. Z. Post Office, Laytonstone, Essex, will be duly answered.

Well. I said this sounded like a Jane Eyre moment...but from whose point of view? No holidays? That seems a tad harsh for students of pre-school and elementary age, I think; A.Z. was quite the taskmistress.

These advertising supplements are full of ads for hair products (in this issue, there’s one for Russia Oil, for the growth of hair...but here’s one for a stylist, which I found interesting. Cropped hair was still quite fashionable, and would be yet for another few years:

Ladies’ Head Dress Maker and Hair Cutter, No. 6, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden,
has the honour to acquaint the Nobility and Gentry, that he has completed an assortment of elegant Head-Dresses; that need only to be seen to be approved of.
The Royal Crop is a specimen of superior elegance.
Ladies that honour him with their commands, will please to say, if for young, middle aged, or elderly Ladies. The price from two to five Guineas.
Gentlemen’s Crops made to a perfection in fitness very rarely to be met with, at two Guineas and a half.
The Nobility and Gentry’s hair cut with every attention to style and the improvement of their hair.
Ladies and Gentlemen will please to give their servants very particular directions to his house, as Vickery’s name is placed very conspicuously at shops in the neighborhood, with which he has no connection.
Vickery’s establishment, formerly of Bond-street, Bishopsgate-street, and Cheapside, (but now of Tavistock-street only) upwards of thirty years standing.

I suppose that if one was using too much Russia Oil, Mr. Vickery’s services would be frequently required... ;)

Now, this one is the most interesting of the issue:

The delicate and restrained condition which custom imposes on females, subjects them to great dis-advantages, —Mrs. Morris offers to remove them. Ladies or Gentlemen who have formed predilections may be assisted in obtaining the objects of their affection; and those who are unengaged may be immediately introduced to suitable persons; but she cannot assist applicants in any marriage if their characters are not irreproachable, and their fortunes considerable and independent. She will not admit any others.
Apply or address (post paid) at the Bow-window, next door to Margaret Chapel, Margaret-street, Cavendish-square. Ladies who require it, may be waited upon at their own houses.

Oh, my writer’s mind is teeming! Was Mrs. Morris a marriage broker? Did she have the Regency equivalent of an overstuffed Rolodex because she was perhaps a lady of once-high social status now fallen on hard times? Was she in the business of match-making for noveaux riches cits looking to marry into a higher social class?  What do you think?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Camping with the Brits: the Pig War, Part 2

A couple weeks ago, I started telling you about the Pig War, an engagement between Britain and the U.S. in my own backyard, and asked you who you’d root for. I must admit I felt more affinity for English Camp than American Camp when I visited San Juan Island recently. Maybe it’s the anglophile in me.

But look at that vista.

English Camp is situated on a sheltered bay at the northwest corner of the island. The beach leads to a wide meadow that served as a parade ground. The British marines and soldiers cleared that ground and built neat white structures such as a commissary, hospital, and enlisted men’s barracks as well as a solid blockhouse that still stands on the very edge of the stony shore. They also built fancier houses for the officers, surgeon, and commander on a bluff overlooking the water.

At one time, the western edge of the meadow contained the enlisted men’s vegetable garden, where they grew potatoes, carrots, and greens. But Captain Delacombe, the second commanding officer, insisted that it be moved elsewhere and replaced it with a traditional English boxwood-hedged garden so his wife could view it from her lofty veranda. One story claims the garden appeased her homesickness for England. She had come with him to these far shores, bringing their three children.

One of the things the Brits found when they first arrived was a huge mound of shells left by the Coast Salish people, who had lived on the space for generations before. The military men ground up the shells and used them to line the paths between buildings, further giving the space a neat, clean appearance. When the Marines proved fractious from the inactivity, their captain set them to work mining limestone and building kilns to burn it into lime, which was shipped back to England for use in making cement, mortar, and fertilizer.

The two sides were remarkably civil to each other. The Brits invited the American soldiers to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. The American’s reciprocated with a grand celebration on Independence Day. They’d host athletic contests and treat the community to a dance.

During the 13 years at the site, no men were lost that I have been able to find. But the story was different at American Camp. Come back next week to learn why.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Unexpected

Sometimes, life throws unexpected curve balls at you. Even if they’re not completely unexpected, those curveballs can mess you up...which can interfere with things like, say, writing blog posts.

Since I’m trying to juggle a curve ball or two right now (how d’ya like that for a mixed metaphor?) this won’t be much of a post; I hope life will be calmer next week. In the meanwhile, I offer this very unexpected print of fancy dress costumes (examples of which we've seen before) from an unknown French journal, probably ca. 1830 to judge by the sleeves and hairstyle of the lady wearing the “Danish” costume at left...

...but it’s the Indian costume at right that surprises and delights me. How about you?

Enjoy! And I hope next week will meet your usual expectations.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Marrying a Marquess

The final (for now) book in the Fortune’s Brides series arrived on online retailers this week and has already earned several five star reviews! I’m thrilled!

Never Marry a Marquess tells the tale of shy Ivy Bateman, who has always felt more comfortable behind the scenes than front and center. She is happiest caring for her family and baking sweet treats. She certainly never expected the wealthy Marquess of Kendall to propose marriage, especially a marriage of convenience. It seems his baby daughter needs a mother, and Ivy cannot deny the attraction of the role, or the attraction she feels for the handsome marquess.

Kendall had asked Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency to find him a particular sort of lady. His heart went to the grave with his first wife. Now, all he cares about is ensuring his frail daughter doesn’t follow it. Installing Ivy Bateman as his next marchioness will not disrupt his life or make him question his love for his dead wife. But as he comes to appreciate Ivy’s sweet nature, he begins to wonder about their future. When an old enemy strikes at Miss Thorn and all her ladies, a grieving lord and a shy lady must work together to save the day. In doing so, they might just discover that love, and a good cinnamon bun, can heal all wounds.

Here's a little taste:

Her eyes were brown, a lighter shade than his, and he had never noticed how thick her lashes were, like strands of gold against her cheeks. They fluttered now, and her skin turned pink, as if she recognized his attention.

He shifted, and her hand fell to the velvet of the carriage seat.

“You asked about the house earlier,” he said. Yes, that was the ticket. The weather, the estate. Anyone might have commented on them. There was nothing overly familiar about the topics. And he could look away without diving into her gaze.

“Yes,” Ivy said. She sat taller, as if gathering herself as well. “What’s it like? What do you love about it?”

There was that word, the word that could not be spoken between them. But it was perfectly fine to share what he admired about his home. In fact, it was remarkably easy.

“I think I appreciate the history of it most,” he told her. “The estate has been in my family for seven generations, but the first evidence we have found of a settlement dates back to Roman times.”

“Romans.” She seized on the word. “I’ve read about them. They were a mighty army that had swept across the Continent, across even England. Did they build a fortress on your lands?”

He removed his hat and tossed it across to the empty seat. “Not a fortress. We believe the area to have been used as a clay works.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Clay works? As in trade? I thought marquesses were supposed to be above such things.”

“We never practiced the trade,” he said with an answering smile. “We merely protected the remains of it. The first Marquess of Kendall conducted the initial investigation. My great-grandfather took it one step further, enclosing the ruins in an Italian villa, Villa Romanesque.”

Her brows went up. “An Italian villa, in Surrey?”

He imagined the owners of the neighboring estates had initially reacted the same way. “There are others—Marble Hill House, Nympton. In any event, my father and I have worked to ensure the remains are protected for future generations.”

She licked her lips, and now his gaze latched onto the rosy pink, as soft looking as petals. “Remains. Dead bodies?”

He jerked his gaze away. “No, no. No bodies. Whoever left this establishment moved on, as we found few belongings. The most marvelous piece is a mosaic pavement. I’ll show you when we reach the house.”

She nodded eagerly. “I would greatly enjoy seeing that.”

Perhaps as much as he would enjoy showing her. His passion, Adelaide had teased him. The only thing capable of taking him from her side for long. Until she had left his side forever.

Ivy was watching him expectantly. Had she asked him a question?

“Sorry,” he said. “Woolgathering.”

She titled her head to one side. “And what marquess gathers wool with the farmers?”

How easily she made him smile. “What else can I tell you?”

“An Italian villa sounds like a cozy home. How many rooms are there, all told?”

He frowned, skimming over the plans of the house in his mind. “Forty to fifty, I suppose, around the center plaza.”

She stared at him. “Forty to fifty?”

“Yes, nothing too ungainly. I know some of the larger country houses boast more than two hundred rooms, but I never saw the need for anything larger. I hope you don’t mind.”

She visibly swallowed. “No, I don’t mind. It sounds quite large to me. I would not want to clean so many rooms.”

Her voice had a breathless sound to it, as if she feared he might set her to such a task.

He waved a hand. “I leave the cleaning and maintenance to Mrs. Sheppard, our housekeeper. Though I imagine she will want your direction. You are the marchioness.”

All color fled. “Yes, I suppose I am.”

And she did not look the least bit happy about it.

You can preorder the book at fine online retailers and purchase in print at Amazon:


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ooh La La, La Belle Assemblée!

Now this is quite the light summer frock! May I present to you the Kensington Garden Fashionable Promenade Dress, courtesy of the July 1, 1811 edition of La Belle Assemblée?

There’s a great deal going on here, so let’s see what the description says...

“A round robe of white jaconot muslin, with a bodice of violet sarsnet, trimmed with rich silk Brandenburgs of Austrian green, a half pelisse of fine transparent muslin, with Bishop’s sleeves, fancifully tied with a green ribband. A Hymen hat of purple brocaded ribband and lace, ornamented with a green military plume; a Chinese parasol of purple sarsnet, shot with green; gloves and shoes of York tan.”

Well. The first thing that I noticed about this dress is the waistline: it falls more or less at the natural waist, which is unusual...but one thing I love about the clothes from these years is that they weren’t as strict as, say, the 1820s would be in terms of line and structure—so there was some room for creativity. The dark violet bodice contrasting with the soft white muslin of the skirt and half pelisse makes a striking statement; I wish it was possible to see how long the sleeves were under that pelisse. The frogging and tassels crisscrossing the bodice are striking as well, and rather emphasize the bust.

I don’t think I’ve run across a half pelisse before: it’s almost like an open cardigan, and seems to end in fanciful points. The sleeves tied with ribbon down the length of the arm is a style that will persist on and off now through the 1820s, until the enormous sleeves of the 1830s will make such a look impossible.

The hat is curious, I thought. The drawing is a little awkwardly done so it’s difficult to see exactly what is going on here; it looks rather like a box perched on the back of her head, but the green plume over the top of the forehead is quite dashing. And since this is a promenade costume, note the quizzing glass: one must see as well as being seen!

What do you think? Would you wear this on your next jaunt to Kensington Gardens?

Friday, June 7, 2019

Who Would You Root For? The Pig War, Part 1

One of my favorite bits of Washington State history involves a pig that brought the U.S. and England to the brink of war. The Pig War was "fought" on San Juan Island from 1859 to 1872.

You see, America and England had long argued over where the boundary would rest between the British Territories in North America (aka Canada) and the U.S. Territories. The decision was made to place the border along the 49th parallel north. But there was a problem when the line reached the West Coast. It would cut Vancouver Island about in half. The British didn’t want that. They had major trading posts and the burgeoning town of Victoria on that island. So, they negotiated that the boundary would run “in the middle of the channel” through the San Juan Islands and down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific.

Whoever wrote that line didn’t have a map handy. There are two major channels through the San Juan Islands: one lying to the east of archipelago, one lying to the west. The British thought islands were theirs. The Americans were determined the islands belonged to them. San Juan Island in particular became a kind of no-man’s land, hiding outlaws and smugglers who thought they would be free from any law there.

The Hudson’s Bay Company started a sheep farm on the island to further British claims. A handful of Americans started farms of their own. Then, one day, a pig belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company went rooting in the garden of an American settler. The American shot it. Hudson’s Bay threatened arrest and eviction. The Americans banded together and appealed to their government for support.

The Army sent George Pickett (before he became famous for his Civil War charge) and 64 infantrymen to protect the citizens. They landed on July 27, 1959. The British sent three warships totaling 62 guns, 400 Royal Marines, and 15 Royal Engineers to roust them out. The Americans refused to budge. A military leader on both sides negotiated a draw down of troops, so that the Americans agreed to no more than 100 soldiers, while the British made do with a single warship. The British commander was given strict orders not to fire unless he was fired upon first.

The Americans set up camp at the southeast end of the island on grassy fields that had belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company. 

The British built a fort on the northwest corner along a sheltered cove.

And there they stayed for 12 years while the two governments wrangled.

I’ll share more about American Camp and British Camp in the coming weeks. For now, who would you root for?

Besides the pig.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Children of George III: Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex

The sixth son (and ninth child) of King George and Queen Charlotte made his way into the world on February 16, 1773, at Buckingham House in London. Although very much a “middle” child in terms of birth order, Augustus would wind up very different from his eight brothers...but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

He was lumped in with his brothers Ernest and Adolphus, in the way that the children of this large family seemed to be grouped into subsets by their parents—there were only three years between the youngest and eldest of the trio. After leaving the nursery, the three were given their own house at Kew Green, near to their other siblings’ establishments. Augustus seems to have been an intelligent, bookish child, a tendency that was reinforced by the fact that he was subject to severe asthmatic attacks and could not lead as boisterous a life as his brothers.

In July of 1786 at age thirteen, Augustus was bundled off to the University of Gottingen with Ernest and Adolphus to perfect his German and to prepare for military service like their older brothers. But for Augustus, this was not to be; though he harbored romantic dreams of joining the navy, his health would not permit it...and thus he became the only one of George III’s sons not to have a military career.

Indeed, his asthma was sufficiently bad that it was decided that he should spend winters in a warmer climate, and so for the next several years he was shipped off to Italy to avoid winter cold. He enjoyed his Italian travels, soaking up art and architecture as well as sunshine. He had hopes of perhaps returning home and becoming an academic...but what happened instead was that he fell in love, at age twenty, with Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the Earl of Dunmore, who was traveling in Rome in the spring of 1793 with her mother and sister. Lady Augusta was some years his senior and, it seems, perhaps a tad on the predatory side...for by April, she’d gotten him to propose, and they were secretly married.

What Lady Augusta seems to have forgotten is that any marriage contracted by a child of the sovereign without his permission was immediately void. The couple returned to England and remarried there—by which time Lady A. was pregnant—but the result was the same. Eventually Augustus was sent back to Italy, his tail between his legs, while Lady Augusta was hauled before the Privy Council  where the marriage was declared invalid and the first of the king’s 50-odd illegitimate grandchildren was formally declared a bastard.

Augustus mostly continued to live abroad for the next few years, which included a brief reunion with Lady Augusta which produced a daughter (though some dispute that the child was the prince’s) until the continental situation and a certain French general named Napoleon made that impossible; thereafter, he moved into Kensington Palace and began to accumulate an enormous library. He was made a royal duke in 1801, and seems to have spend much of his time with his books and with patronage of various societies, from Masons to orphans’ hospitals to the Society of Arts, of which he became president. In 1806 he received custody of his children, and was a gentle, loving papa to them.

These years were quiet ones for him, for if he was unlike his brothers in not having a military career, he was also unlike them in being an avowed liberal Whig and spoke in Parliament in favor of many Whig causes, including Catholic Emancipation. He did not get on well with his eldest brother, the Prince of Wales (due in great part to his siding with Princess Charlotte in her marriage travails and with his estranged wife, Princess Caroline) and so kept to himself and his books until George IV’s death. Though his asthma eased, he remained something of a hypochondriac all his life, and insisted on wearing a black skullcap at all times to protect his head from drafts. With William’s ascension, he had more of a public life: William made him Keeper of St. James and Hyde Parks, and he was named president of the Royal Society in 1830 and was an active participant in its meetings.

In 1830, Lady Augusta Murray died, and a year later, Augustus was married again—once more without formal permission—to another earl’s daughter, the widowed Lady Cecelia Buggin, whom Queen Victoria later created Duchess of Inverness in gratitude to her uncle’s giving precedence to Prince Albert (and by the way, Augustus gave the bride away at Victoria's wedding.) Augustus and his second wife had a happy marriage for the next thirteen years, until Augustus was felled by an attack of erysipelas, a bacterial skin infection, in 1843.

On the whole, he sounds like the best of George and Charlotte’s sons (with the possible exception of his younger brother Adolphus). Unlike his brothers he was not a spendthrift (aside from his collector’s passion for books—his library exceeded 50,000 volumes!) and seems to have been a genuinely good—if at times eccentric—person.