December 25, 2015

Victorian Christmas Traditions

written by Rosa Morgan

Salutations Gentle Reader,
There are so many jolly traditions ,which arise during Christmastide; let us examine a few.

Wreaths were once worn by ancient Romans on their heads to denote victory or social status. The circular shape, with no beginning or end, represents eternity and is now used for many different holidays, especially at Christmas.

Mold-blown colored glass Christmas ornaments were invented in the small German town of Lauscha. After a picture of Queen Victoria's Christmas tree was shown in a London newspaper decorated with glass ornaments from her husband Prince Albert's native Germany, Lauscha began exporting its products throughout Europe. In the 1880s, American F.W. Woolworth made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the United States.
When a man kissed a woman under the mistletoe, he would pluck a berry from the bush after each kiss. After all the berries were gone, it was bad luck to continue kissing under that bush. Keep in mind that kissing during the Victorian period was practically a marriage proposal!

Once upon a time a poor man did not have enough money to get his three daughters married. Saint Nick, passing through the village, heard of his plight and threw three bags of gold into their stockings hanging at the hearth to dry. After this singular occurrence, children all over the world hung up their own stockings, hoping for similar good luck.

Wishing Goodwill and Peace on Earth to All Men & Women.

October 31, 2015

Victorian Magicians

written by Rosa Morgan

Conjuring has been a part of mankind throughout history. Thieves used slight of hand to steal money, whilst cult leaders frightened their followers into obedience with their magic. However, it was during the Victorian era when audiences were able to enjoy the magicians' craft, which had reached its pinnacle. 

Robert-Houdin is widely considered the Father of Modern Magic. So convincing was his illusions, he was forced to reveal his secrets to the police, lest he be prosecuted for witchcraft! Watch Robert Houdin's Magic Orange Tree on YouTube, it is enchanting!

There have always been the curious who longed to see their future. The penetrating gaze of Bernardo the Seer divined wedded bliss for this young lass!

 Magicians were often associated with the occult and they often used the dark imagery in their advertisements.

John Nevil Maskelyne and George Alfred Cooke began their career by debunking other magicians. They were so successful at it, they created their own magic show at London's Egyptian Hall. As a side note: Maskelyne invented the pay toilet. Now that's some magic!

Posters for magicians are delightful works of art in themselves, but it is the magic itself that is the most intriguing. 
Check out these magic videos and hope you have a Happy Halloween!
Harry Anderson and the art of Chapeaugraphy

September 7, 2015

In Celebration of Labor Day

written by Rosa Morgan

For most of us, Labor Day is simply a reminder that summer is over, or we use it as an excuse to go shopping. I think we should give pause to remember the workforce that makes this country's daily operations possible. It's also intriguing to reflect upon the Victorian workers who seem to no longer exist or at least in much smaller quantities. Should we ask ourselves what future jobs will become extinct?

The Blacksmith; who shod our horses for our carriage. 

Mill workers, especially those under four feet tall, whose nimble fingers could more easily manipulate the dangerous moving parts.

We all relied upon our chimney sweeps who kept our stoves and fireplaces in top working order. 

How did we ever arrive at the right floor without the Elevator Operator pushing our buttons.

Our food would have spoiled had it not been
for the men delivering a block to our icebox.

Trains would have derailed without this worker swinging his lantern in the dead of night.

A spit shine gave us that extra lift to our step.

Traveling salesmen peddling their health giving elixirs, saved us a trip to the apothecary.

And thank heavens for the barber or dentist, who made house-calls.

August 28, 2015

Men's Millinery

written by Rosa Morgan

What a plethora of millinery to choose from! 

Is it true women fainted at the first sight of a top hat? Men will always look dashing in one, whether it be of beaver fur or silk. 

President Abraham Lincoln preferred the extra tall stovepipe style, which accommodated his important letters tucked inside.

The bowler hat was created in 1849 for the British soldier and politician Edward Coke, but if you are a "City Gent" working in the financial district, then it will suit you to a "T".

The Flat Cap is not just for driving horseless carriages or hunting expeditions. And whether you choose linen for warm weather or tweed for cooler months, you will always look dapperly relaxed.

The flamboyant Oscar Wilde is not the only one who can pull off the look of a fedora! The cape is optional.

And if you are going out for a jaunty stroll, then the straw boater is for you. Don't forget a crisp new collar and a walking stick.

Dear Sirs, there are many more hats to choose from: pork pies, newsboy, trilby, and more, but space and time does not allow further pontification. However, most importantly, always remember to tip your hat when meeting a lady and remove it completely if you stop to talk.

July 18, 2015

Victorian Mothers Breastfeeding

written by Rosa Morgan

Breastfeeding by the mid-1800s was not only encouraged by doctors as the healthiest method of feeding infants, but it was also a lauded symbol of motherhood and femininity.

Thus as photography became more accessible to the population, so did images of breastfeeding mothers become a fad in the U.S.

However, only a few short decades were to pass when the advent of baby formula brought new attitudes towards breastfeeding.

It was then considered uncivilized to breastfeed. Queen Victoria commanded her daughters not to partake in such an 'undignified' act. 

And a study in Boston found that 9 out of 10 poor mothers breastfed, but only 17% of wealthy mothers did.

Some mothers found wetnurses to feed their infants.

Thank heavens we have come to our senses and know that mother's milk, whenever possible, is the healthiest choice.

June 13, 2015

Cabinet of Curiosities

written by Rosa Morgan

If you are of a curious bent and like to collect, you might find yourself in possession of a plethora of oddities:

Birds and butterflies, which have come to their natural end, are always interesting, as you can study their winged anatomy, wondering at the beauty of flight they once possessed.

 Shells and fossils are a delight to examine.

An abandoned nest of robin's eggs with their exquisite blue or a collection of artificial eyes would provide hours of pondering. 

Perhaps, you've developed wicked skills
like pickling bats or taxidermy.

Eventually, you will need some place to put your treasures and that is where the Cabinet of Curiosities comes in. 

Old Worm, a Danish antiquarian from the 1500's, created a catalog  and made engravings for his specimens. From studying his collection, he concluded that unicorns don't really exist!
And that the magical horns he had bought, their price being more than their weight in gold, were actually from the narwhal.

So pry your eyes away from the screen in front of you and look to the wonders of the natural world, and maybe you too will start your own Cabinet of Curiosities.