Nº. 1 of  17

The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged nineteenth century:

Bronte Juvenilia

After the death of their mother in 1821, the four surviving Bronte siblings, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne, created what their father called, “a little society among themselves.” The elder two wrote stories and plays about fictitious lands called Glass Town and Angria, which now constitute what is known as the Bronte Juvenilia, and the younger two played along. 

Around twenty of these manuscripts took the form of miniature books, each around just two inches tall, inscribed in intricate handwriting and carefully sewn together by Charlotte. Example one, above, contains around 4000 words on 19 pages and includes scenes which anticipate Charlotte’s later work, including the famous scenes from Jane Eyre in which Bertha attempts to murder Rochester by setting fire to the house. 

[Sources: Harvard Magazine | The Guardian | See Also]

Victorian Dress Lifter
Basically tool kits masquerading as jewelry, “chatelaines" allowed Victorian women to keep quotidian essentials at the ready, in the graceful style the era demanded. Consisting of functional pendants attached to a clip, these accessories were worn at the waist. 
The above artifact would be hung on the chatelaine alongside other day-to-day necessities such as make-up, pencils, needles, and perfume. Women relied on these little tongs to hoist up their skirt hems when crossing dirty streets.
[Source: Country Living | See Also]

Victorian Dress Lifter

Basically tool kits masquerading as jewelry, “chatelaines" allowed Victorian women to keep quotidian essentials at the ready, in the graceful style the era demanded. Consisting of functional pendants attached to a clip, these accessories were worn at the waist. 

The above artifact would be hung on the chatelaine alongside other day-to-day necessities such as make-up, pencils, needles, and perfume. Women relied on these little tongs to hoist up their skirt hems when crossing dirty streets.

[Source: Country Living | See Also]

Lady Revivers
As aforementioned, Victorian women were, for one of a number of possible reasons, frequently afflicted by fainting fits. Whilst indoors this might be easy enough to remedy, however, a sudden fit whilst out and about might prove more perilous. Thus, Police constables of the era were equipped with small vials of smelling salts in small containers adorned with a crown - called Lady Revivers - to revive women in the streets.
[Sources: BBC | See Also: io9]

Lady Revivers

As aforementioned, Victorian women were, for one of a number of possible reasons, frequently afflicted by fainting fits. Whilst indoors this might be easy enough to remedy, however, a sudden fit whilst out and about might prove more perilous. Thus, Police constables of the era were equipped with small vials of smelling salts in small containers adorned with a crown - called Lady Revivers - to revive women in the streets.

[Sources: BBC | See Also: io9]

Legend of the Hartlepool Monkey        
During the Napoleonic Wars the French were, for obvious reasons, persona non grata throughout Britain. Indeed, it was such concern about French infiltrators and spies that provided the basis for the legend of the Hartlepool Monkey.

Some time in the early 19th century a French warship was supposedly wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool in North East England. The only survivor was a monkey, dressed up in French military uniform apparently for the purpose of entertaining the doomed crew. 

Not knowing what a Frenchman might look like, the Hartlepool locals assumed they had apprehended one, and held a trial for him in the town centre. Unsurprisingly, the monkey was unable to answer their questions and was duly sentenced to death by hanging.

There is also another, more sinister, interpretation of the legend which states that the survivor of the wreck might not have been a monkey at all, but rather a French boy employed as part of the ship’s crew, “After all, the term powder-monkey was commonly used in those times for the children employed on warships to prime the cannon with gunpowder.”

[Sources: Monkey Hanger | Hartlepool | This is Hartlepool | Many thanks to itcouldbeamazing/itcouldbepeachy, who you really should be following]

Legend of the Hartlepool Monkey 

During the Napoleonic Wars the French were, for obvious reasons, persona non grata throughout Britain. Indeed, it was such concern about French infiltrators and spies that provided the basis for the legend of the Hartlepool Monkey.

Some time in the early 19th century a French warship was supposedly wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool in North East England. The only survivor was a monkey, dressed up in French military uniform apparently for the purpose of entertaining the doomed crew. 

Not knowing what a Frenchman might look like, the Hartlepool locals assumed they had apprehended one, and held a trial for him in the town centre. Unsurprisingly, the monkey was unable to answer their questions and was duly sentenced to death by hanging.

There is also another, more sinister, interpretation of the legend which states that the survivor of the wreck might not have been a monkey at all, but rather a French boy employed as part of the ship’s crew, “After all, the term powder-monkey was commonly used in those times for the children employed on warships to prime the cannon with gunpowder.”

[Sources: Monkey Hanger | Hartlepool | This is Hartlepool | Many thanks to itcouldbeamazing/itcouldbepeachy, who you really should be following]

Jack Black, Her Majesty’s Rat-catcher
By the mid-19th century it was well understood that rats carried diseases, however, sanitation within large cities still left a lot to be desired and rats infested sewers and homes alike. As a result, rat-catching could prove a rather lucrative profession. Rat-catchers would capture rats by hand, often with specially-bred vermin terriers, or traps, and payment would be high for catching and selling rats to breeders.
Most famous amongst these rat-catchers was Jack Black: rat-catcher and mole destroyer by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Black is best know through his interview in Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. 3, where he tells of his work and experiences.
Black cut a striking figure in his self-made “uniform" of scarlet topcoat, waistcoat, and breeches, with a huge leather belt inset with cast-iron rats. He was reported to be “the most fearless handler of rats of any man living”, on one occasion, at a public display, placing half a dozen rats taken directly from the sewers inside his shirt while delivering a sales pitch on the rapid effects of rat poison. His face and hands were covered in scars from bites and by his own account there were numerous occasions on which he had almost died from infection following being bitten.
When he caught any unusually coloured rats, he bred them, to establish new colour varieties. He would sell his home-bred domesticated coloured rats as pets, mainly, as Black observed, “to well-bred young ladies to keep in squirrel cages”. Beatrix Potter is believed to have been one of his customers. The more sophisticated ladies of court kept their rats in dainty gilded cages, and even Queen Victoria herself kept a rat or two. Black also supplied live rats for rat-baiting in pits, a popular mid-Victorian pastime.

[Sources: Wikipedia (Jack Black) | Wikipedia (Rat-catcher) | History House]

Jack Black, Her Majesty’s Rat-catcher

By the mid-19th century it was well understood that rats carried diseases, however, sanitation within large cities still left a lot to be desired and rats infested sewers and homes alike. As a result, rat-catching could prove a rather lucrative profession. Rat-catchers would capture rats by hand, often with specially-bred vermin terriers, or traps, and payment would be high for catching and selling rats to breeders.

Most famous amongst these rat-catchers was Jack Black: rat-catcher and mole destroyer by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Black is best know through his interview in Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. 3, where he tells of his work and experiences.

Black cut a striking figure in his self-made “uniform" of scarlet topcoatwaistcoat, and breeches, with a huge leather belt inset with cast-iron rats. He was reported to be “the most fearless handler of rats of any man living”, on one occasion, at a public display, placing half a dozen rats taken directly from the sewers inside his shirt while delivering a sales pitch on the rapid effects of rat poison. His face and hands were covered in scars from bites and by his own account there were numerous occasions on which he had almost died from infection following being bitten.

When he caught any unusually coloured rats, he bred them, to establish new colour varieties. He would sell his home-bred domesticated coloured rats as pets, mainly, as Black observed, “to well-bred young ladies to keep in squirrel cages”. Beatrix Potter is believed to have been one of his customers. The more sophisticated ladies of court kept their rats in dainty gilded cages, and even Queen Victoria herself kept a rat or two. Black also supplied live rats for rat-baiting in pits, a popular mid-Victorian pastime.

[Sources: Wikipedia (Jack Black) | Wikipedia (Rat-catcher) | History House]

No Nose Clubs
Worn by a mid-19th century women who lost her nose to syphilis, an STI which can cause the bridge of the nose to collapse, the above contraption is testament to an era when sexual promiscuity was far more abundant than the Victorians would have liked us to believe. 
In fact, so common was it to encounter a noseless fellow that people began to form clubs, as The Star reported in a February 1874 article entitled “The Origins of the No Nose Cub”:

Miss Sanborn tells us that an eccentric gentleman, having taken a fancy to seeing a large party of noseless persons, invited every one thus afflicted, whom he met in the streets, to dine on a certain day at a tavern, where he formed them into a brotherhood … This club met every month for a whole joyous year, when its founder died, and the flat-faced community were unhappily dissolved. 

It is questionable whether Miss Sanborn’s account is entirely true, although a version with little variation also exists in A Compleat and Humorous Account of all the Remarkable Clubs and Societies in the Cities of London and Westminster (1756) by Edward Ward. Whatever their veracity, however, there seems to be little doubt that these clubs existed as places where those who had “unluckily fallen into the Egyptian fashion of flat faces” might "show their scandalous Vizards" without fear of mockery.
[Sources: Prospect Magazine | The Telegraph | Papers Past | Science Museum | Edward Ward]

No Nose Clubs

Worn by a mid-19th century women who lost her nose to syphilis, an STI which can cause the bridge of the nose to collapse, the above contraption is testament to an era when sexual promiscuity was far more abundant than the Victorians would have liked us to believe. 

In fact, so common was it to encounter a noseless fellow that people began to form clubs, as The Star reported in a February 1874 article entitled “The Origins of the No Nose Cub”:

Miss Sanborn tells us that an eccentric gentleman, having taken a fancy to seeing a large party of noseless persons, invited every one thus afflicted, whom he met in the streets, to dine on a certain day at a tavern, where he formed them into a brotherhood … This club met every month for a whole joyous year, when its founder died, and the flat-faced community were unhappily dissolved. 

It is questionable whether Miss Sanborn’s account is entirely true, although a version with little variation also exists in A Compleat and Humorous Account of all the Remarkable Clubs and Societies in the Cities of London and Westminster (1756) by Edward Ward. Whatever their veracity, however, there seems to be little doubt that these clubs existed as places where those who had “unluckily fallen into the Egyptian fashion of flat faces” might "show their scandalous Vizards" without fear of mockery.

[Sources: Prospect Magazine | The Telegraph | Papers Past | Science Museum | Edward Ward]

Colonialism and postcolonialism fascinate me. I studied it quite a bit at Uni and it was the main theme of my dissertation, where I came across the concept of ‘the mimic’ in postcolonial society, that is, ‘one [who] copies the person in power (be it their actions, attitudes, clothes or whatever) because one hopes to have access to that same power oneself’ [Source].

With that in mind, I find it particularly interesting how the Herero tribe of Namibia have completely undermined this notion by adopting the dress of their 19th century German colonisers as an act of defiance and way of memorialising their ancestors who were massacred in the name of Empire.

Victorian dress was first introduced to the Herero people in the mid-19th century and they quickly began to accessorise it with vibrant colourisation and such features as the cow-horn headdresses worn by the women above. Then, in the 1904 war with their colonisers Herero men claimed the military uniforms of dead German soldiers and these outfits now constitute the Herero’s traditional dress. Anthropologist Dr Lutz Marten said: ‘Wearing the enemy’s uniform will diminish their power and transfer some of their strength to the new wearer. This is in part assimilation to European culture, and also in part appropriation, a coming-to-terms with, and overcoming of history and the colonial experience,’ he said.

Namibia has a particularly bloody colonial history, about which more can be read here, however, the fact that there were around 80,000 Herero people when the Germans arrived, and just 15,000 when they were finally defeated, demonstrates how close an entire culture came to being completely destroyed.

Drapetomania, or the Disease Causing Negroes to Run Away
Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity. Cartwright described the disorder – which, he said, was “unknown to our medical authorities, although its diagnostic symptom, the absconding from service, is well known to our planters and overseers” – in a paper delivered before the Medical Association of Louisiana that was widely reprinted.
He stated that the malady was a consequence of masters who “made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals”.In Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race, Cartwright points out that the Bible calls for a slave to be submissive to his master, and by doing so, the slave will have no desire to run away.
In addition to identifying drapetomania, Cartwright prescribed a remedy. His feeling was that with “proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented.” In the case of slaves “sulky and dissatisfied without cause” – a warning sign of imminent flight – Cartwright prescribed “whipping the devil out of them” as a “preventative measure”. As a remedy for this “disease,” doctors also made running a physical impossibility by prescribing the removal of both big toes.
While Cartwright’s article was reprinted in the South, in the Northern United States it was widely mocked. A satirical analysis of the article appeared in a Buffalo Medical Journal editorial in 1855, whilst Frederick Law Olmsted, in A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States (1856), observed that white indentured servants had often been known to flee as well, so he satirically hypothesised that the supposed disease was actually of white European origin, and had been introduced to Africa by traders.
[Read "Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race," by Dr. Cartwright here | Image Source | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

Drapetomania, or the Disease Causing Negroes to Run Away

Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity. Cartwright described the disorder – which, he said, was “unknown to our medical authorities, although its diagnostic symptom, the absconding from service, is well known to our planters and overseers” – in a paper delivered before the Medical Association of Louisiana that was widely reprinted.

He stated that the malady was a consequence of masters who “made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals”.In Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race, Cartwright points out that the Bible calls for a slave to be submissive to his master, and by doing so, the slave will have no desire to run away.

In addition to identifying drapetomania, Cartwright prescribed a remedy. His feeling was that with “proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented.” In the case of slaves “sulky and dissatisfied without cause” – a warning sign of imminent flight – Cartwright prescribed “whipping the devil out of them” as a “preventative measure”. As a remedy for this “disease,” doctors also made running a physical impossibility by prescribing the removal of both big toes.

While Cartwright’s article was reprinted in the South, in the Northern United States it was widely mocked. A satirical analysis of the article appeared in a Buffalo Medical Journal editorial in 1855, whilst Frederick Law Olmsted, in A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States (1856), observed that white indentured servants had often been known to flee as well, so he satirically hypothesised that the supposed disease was actually of white European origin, and had been introduced to Africa by traders.

[Read "Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race," by Dr. Cartwright here | Image Source | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

(Source: Wikipedia)

Vinegar Valentines

Known as ‘Vinegar Valentines’ these mocking cards, which date from the 1840s to 1940s, were used to tell someone how you did not love them. Yes, that’s right! For almost as long as Valentine’s Day has been an insufferably sappy day celebrating romantic love, it’s also been a day for telling everyone else exactly how much you don’t love them—with an anonymous poem sent via post.

Annebella Pollen, a lecturer in art and design history at University of Brighton, first discovered Vinegar Valentines when she was researching a project on love and courtship … In the back of a stationer’s sample book from 1870, she discovered 44 cheap, single-sheet, insulting Victorian Valentines with a comic sketch and a few lines of verse.

According to Pollen: “often they were sent anonymously. They were to say “Your behavior is unacceptable.” For example, there are quite a few cards that mock men with babies on their laps as being henpecked—the kind of thing now we would think was a man doing the right thing by taking his share of child care. But these cards were specifically designed to make the man seem emasculated and disempowered by being left holding the baby. Or there’d be images of women holding rolling pins, threatening their husbands.

The people sending such cards were usually not either one of the couple. It wasn’t the wife sending to the husband or the husband sending to the wife. It was somebody outside, looking in at their relationship and saying, “This doesn’t conform with what’s expected.” In that way, they did enforce social norms. Sometimes they seemed to be saying, “Change your behavior, or else.” There’s almost this threatening element to them.”

You can see loads more of these, and read a full interview with Pollen, here. See also, last year’s Valentine’s Day oddment.

Sin-Eater
Up until the late 19th century various villages throughout England maintained a curious ilk of beggar known as a sin-eater. These men would be summoned, naturally by the lure of a handsome pay cheque, to eat bread, partake of alcohol and recite ritual over a fresh corpse, in the belief that by these means the sin-eater would take into his body the sins of those who had died without chance to repent. The sin-eater would receive his pay and the deceased would enjoy an easy ascension to the heavens.

An account of Richard Munslow (d.1906)[1], the last sin-eater of England, reads thus:


By eating bread and drinking ale, and by making a short speech at the graveside, the sin-eater took upon themselves the sins of the deceased. The speech was written as: “I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.

In Funeral Customs (1926) Bertram S. Puckle tells of a Welsh sin-eater in 1825 who, “Abhorred by the superstitious villagers as a thing unclean … cut himself off from all social intercourse with his fellow creatures … he lived as a rule in a remote place by himself, and those who chanced to meet him avoided him as they would a leper. This unfortunate was held to be the associate of evil spirits, and given to witchcraft, incantations and unholy practices; only when a death took place did they seek him out, and when his purpose was accomplished they burned the wooden bowl and platter from which he had eaten the food handed across, or placed on the corpse for his consumption.”[2]
Unapproved of by the church the practice faded out towards the end of the 19th century.
[Image Source]

Sin-Eater

Up until the late 19th century various villages throughout England maintained a curious ilk of beggar known as a sin-eater. These men would be summoned, naturally by the lure of a handsome pay cheque, to eat bread, partake of alcohol and recite ritual over a fresh corpse, in the belief that by these means the sin-eater would take into his body the sins of those who had died without chance to repent. The sin-eater would receive his pay and the deceased would enjoy an easy ascension to the heavens.

An account of Richard Munslow (d.1906)[1], the last sin-eater of England, reads thus:

By eating bread and drinking ale, and by making a short speech at the graveside, the sin-eater took upon themselves the sins of the deceased. The speech was written as: “I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.

In Funeral Customs (1926) Bertram S. Puckle tells of a Welsh sin-eater in 1825 who, “Abhorred by the superstitious villagers as a thing unclean … cut himself off from all social intercourse with his fellow creatures … he lived as a rule in a remote place by himself, and those who chanced to meet him avoided him as they would a leper. This unfortunate was held to be the associate of evil spirits, and given to witchcraft, incantations and unholy practices; only when a death took place did they seek him out, and when his purpose was accomplished they burned the wooden bowl and platter from which he had eaten the food handed across, or placed on the corpse for his consumption.”[2]

Unapproved of by the church the practice faded out towards the end of the 19th century.

[Image Source]

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