Category Archives: 19th Century Life

Eat, Drink, and enjoy the lagniappe*

on November 15, 2020

I hope you saw Friday’s PLW post where I shared historic holiday menus and recipes.

Not for the first time, I researched and wrote more content than I could include in that post. But in the spirit of holiday giving, today I’m sharing what I couldn’t include. Here goes…

 

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861)

Although author Isabella Beeton was decidedly British and did not celebrate Thanksgiving (which became an official American holiday in 1863), she and other Brits (like Dickens’s fictious Scrooge) certainly celebrated Christmas with gusto.

“In December, the principal household duty lies in preparing for the creature comforts of those near and dear to us, so as to meet old Christmas with a happy face, a contented mind, and a full larder; and in stoning the plums, washing the currants, cutting the citron, beating the eggs, and MIXING THE PUDDING, a housewife is not unworthily greeting the genial season of all good things.”

Mrs. Beeton also recommends (at paragraph 1005) turkey for Christmas dinner: “A noble dish is a turkey, roast or boiled. A Christmas dinner, with the middle classes of this empire, would scarcely be a Christmas dinner without its turkey; and we can hardly imagine an object of greater envy than is presented by a respected portly pater-familias carving, at the season devoted to good cheer and genial charity, his own fat turkey, and carving it well.“

Perhaps the best part of Mrs. Beeton’s book were her glorious illustrations of 19th century dining, which I couldn’t resist sharing here.

*Hopefully, you know by now that lagniappe is New Orleans-speak for “a little something extra”.

 

More great quotes about photography…

on July 11, 2020

Yesterday’s links essay on Paper Lantern Writers featured some great quotes about photography, including this one:

“There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” – President Abraham Lincoln

There were, in fact, so many great quotes about photography and being photographed that I couldn’t used them all. But I would like to share them with you.

“The two most engaging powers of a photograph are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
– William Thackeray

“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
– Diane Arbus

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” 
– Eudora Welty

“When you photograph a face… you photograph the soul behind it.”
– Jean-Luc Godard

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”
– Imogen Cunningham

 

vintage cameras

Photo from the Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection, via the Library of Congress.

“May I secure your likeness?”

on July 9, 2020

“May I secure your likeness?” is a quaint, mid-19th century way to ask if you can take someone’s photograph.

It’s also the name of my first Links Essay for Paper Lantern Writers.

 

GREAT links in this essay for readers, writers, & historians.  I hope you enjoy them.

My Favorite Historical ZOOM Backgrounds

on June 28, 2020

We’re all on ZOOM these days, right?

I ZOOM in from my home office, which unlike everyone else’s beautifully-bookshelfed office, is really not that attractive. (No, I’m not going to provide photographic proof!)

So I often use the ZOOM virtual backdrop option and these are my favorite backgrounds so far:

Since I didn’t have a beautifully-bookshelfed background naturally, I went looking for my own bookshelf image. I found it in The Library at Edith Wharton’s The Mount.

 

When I feel like I want to be outside, I choose this Canal Street postcard. It’s not quite FANNY NEWCOMB’s 1889 New Orleans, but it’s close. 


Those are my two favorite virtual backgrounds. What’s yours? 

Just in time for Saint Valentine’s Day…Stinky Vinegar Valentines!

on February 14, 2020

The feast of Saint Valentine of Rome was designated in the year 496.

The date? February 14th, of course.

About 900 years later, Saint Valentine and his feast day (already celebrated with food, drink, jousting, poetry, singing, and dancing) somehow became associated with romance, passion, and love.

And so began the need to send Saint Valentine’s greetings—letters, cards, and books that were chock full of flowers, hearts, rhyming verse, sly suggestions and outright innuendos, and plump cherubs, puppies, and babies!

During the 19th century—when my historical mystery Fanny Newcomb & the Irish Channel Ripper is set—cards and postcards celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day reached a new height of romantic expression.

But in the mid-19th century and continuing into the mid-20th century, many valentines took a darker, meaner, and even stinkier turn for the worse.

What? You haven’t heard of Vinegar Valentines?

Bitter, caustic, and often downright nasty, Vinegar Valentines were created to offend and insult the recipient.

Vinegar Valentines consisted of two elements: first of all, they had graphics that included slimy animals like snakes and slugs or grotesque caricatures of men and women. Secondly, these missives included a rude rhyme or mean quotation.

And although my Fanny Newcomb would never ever, ever-ever-ever send out a Vinegar Valentine, I still thought you’d like to see a few stinkers for yourself.

The Serpent

The Saleslady

The Suffragette

Mr. Bald Head

(and I admit it! I’m glad that there were Vinegar Valentines for men also!)


 

The Surgeon

(A Civil War Vinegar Valentine)

 

Fortunately, Vinegar Valentines went out of style long ago, and today I can wish you a very happy Saint Valentine’s Day with a sweet postcard full of hearts and happy thoughts!

Happy Valentines Day from FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER!