Nº. 2 of  19

The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged victorian:

An 1880s poster for General Mite and Millie Edwards, a pair of little people who were exhibited around the world as “The Royal American Midgets”, likely due their popularity with European monarchs.
As I’ve said before, I don’t find so-called “freaks” odd in the slightest, I do, however, find it odd that people would pay money to go and stare at them, especially when “people” are royalty. As the poster shows, for example, Queen Victoria was especially fond of these demeaning spectacles, as demonstrated by her inviting General Mite, and other little people, Lucia Zarate and Commodore Nutt, over to Buckingham Palace for her family to have a good old gawp at. According to Her Majesty’s journal, on February 26th 1881, after having breakfast, she:

saw in the corridor some wonderful little dwarfs, called midgets Gen: Mite, the boy, is American, perfectly well proportioned, like a doll, said to be 16, & weighing 6 lbs. He has quite a nice little face, & was dressed like a young gentleman. The girl, Signora Zarate, is a Mexican, weighing little over 4 lbs, perfectly hideous & semi-idiotic, very dark, & with a face like Aztecs. She was smartly dressed, with a train! They walked up & down a long table, arm in arm. Commodore Nutt, an American (very ugly) came at the same time. He is an ordinary dwarf. - The pond in the garden is frozen over.

The poster seems to depict a subsequent visit with Mite accompanied by Edwards. Lucia Zarate, “appeared by special command three times before Queen Victoria and the Royal Family”, whilst perhaps the most famous little person of the era, General Tom Thumb, appeared twice before the Queen and met a three year old Edward VII during a 1844 tour.
[Thanks to Sir Cecil for providing the inspiration for this]

An 1880s poster for General Mite and Millie Edwards, a pair of little people who were exhibited around the world as “The Royal American Midgets”, likely due their popularity with European monarchs.

As I’ve said before, I don’t find so-called “freaks” odd in the slightest, I do, however, find it odd that people would pay money to go and stare at them, especially when “people” are royalty. As the poster shows, for example, Queen Victoria was especially fond of these demeaning spectacles, as demonstrated by her inviting General Mite, and other little people, Lucia Zarate and Commodore Nutt, over to Buckingham Palace for her family to have a good old gawp at. According to Her Majesty’s journal, on February 26th 1881, after having breakfast, she:

saw in the corridor some wonderful little dwarfs, called midgets Gen: Mite, the boy, is American, perfectly well proportioned, like a doll, said to be 16, & weighing 6 lbs. He has quite a nice little face, & was dressed like a young gentleman. The girl, Signora Zarate, is a Mexican, weighing little over 4 lbs, perfectly hideous & semi-idiotic, very dark, & with a face like Aztecs. She was smartly dressed, with a train! They walked up & down a long table, arm in arm. Commodore Nutt, an American (very ugly) came at the same time. He is an ordinary dwarf. - The pond in the garden is frozen over.

The poster seems to depict a subsequent visit with Mite accompanied by Edwards. Lucia Zarate, “appeared by special command three times before Queen Victoria and the Royal Family”, whilst perhaps the most famous little person of the era, General Tom Thumb, appeared twice before the Queen and met a three year old Edward VII during a 1844 tour.

[Thanks to Sir Cecil for providing the inspiration for this]

The Udny Church Morthouse
In the golden era of body snatching people became quite innovative when it came to protecting their deceased (see also), and one popular method for this was the morthouse. Many cemeteries throughout Scotland have a morthouse, which is usually a rectangular stone building used in the 19th century to house bodies until they were significantly enough decayed to serve no purpose to body snatchers.
The Udny Church Morthouse is unique, however, in that it contains a revolving platform on which the coffins would be placed. Each time a new body was deposited the platform would be turned slightly to accommodate it, and by the time the platform had made one full revolution the body would have reached the necessary stage of decomposition for a safe burial.
[Sources: Image | Scottish Churches | Cult of Weird]

The Udny Church Morthouse

In the golden era of body snatching people became quite innovative when it came to protecting their deceased (see also), and one popular method for this was the morthouse. Many cemeteries throughout Scotland have a morthouse, which is usually a rectangular stone building used in the 19th century to house bodies until they were significantly enough decayed to serve no purpose to body snatchers.

The Udny Church Morthouse is unique, however, in that it contains a revolving platform on which the coffins would be placed. Each time a new body was deposited the platform would be turned slightly to accommodate it, and by the time the platform had made one full revolution the body would have reached the necessary stage of decomposition for a safe burial.

[Sources: Image | Scottish Churches | Cult of Weird]

Victorian Murder Ornaments

Being, as they were, a rather macabre bunch, there was nothing entertained the Victorians like a good old fashioned murder. In fact, so enamored were they by tragic tales of gruesome slayings, they took to decorating their homes with ceramic figures depicting famous scenes from such events. 

Image 1, for example, shows the figures of infamous 19th century murderers Frederick and Maria Manning who together killed the latter’s lover. Image 2 is of William Palmer, aka The Prince of Poisoners, a Dr who was suspected of having numerous people including four of his own children. Image 3 shows two figures of James Blomfield Rush, the perpetrator of The Stanfield Hall double murder. Image 4 depicts a series of scenes from the particularly popular Red Barn Murder in which William Corder shot dead his mistress.

[Sources: Images: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 Cracked | My Staffordshire Figures | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty once again

Victorian Women Breastfeeding

At a time when when modesty was considered fundamental in women, the above images depict an unlikely fashion amongst mid-19th century mothers.

According to Gwen Sharp, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nevada State College, 'The use of wet nurses had never been as common in the U.S. as in Europe, and it became even less popular by the early 1800s; breastfeeding your own child became a central measure of your worth as a mother. 'Cultural constructions of femininity became highly centered on motherhood and the special bond between a mother and her children in the Victorian era.'

Given that the images are daguerrotypes - the first commercial photographic process - the subjects do not appear quite as at ease as their modern counterparts might. The women and their babies would have had to sit still for approximately ten minutes while the image developed on a silvered copper plate - presumably a challenge with small children involved.

(Source: Daily Mail)

Queen Victoria insists on staring at a bust of her dead husband during her eldest son and heir’s wedding photographs. 1863.

Queen Victoria insists on staring at a bust of her dead husband during her eldest son and heir’s wedding photographs. 1863.

(Source: Flickr / thelostgallery)

The Alexandra Limp and Other Affectations of Posture
In the 1860s, when Queen Alexandra, then the Princess of Wales, suffered a painful attack of rheumatism in her knee which, in time, resulted in a permanent limp, high society women London, keen as ever to stay on trend with the day’s fashion, began to sycophantically imitate it. It became ridiculously popular and was known as the Alexandra Limp, although it was ‘widely derided’ by, well, by anyone with any sense probably. John Stephen Farmer called it “an erstwhile fit of semi-imbecility” by “a crowd of limping petticoated toadies”.
Be that as it may, the fad was followed by a similar curiosity of posture in the USA, namely, The Grecian Bend, which saw women apparently go about their business whilst bent oddly at the waist. Albert Jones Bellows describes in a sighting in Boston:"She waddled a few rods past the store, and then turned round, smiling, or rather smirking, complacently on her ‘crowd of admirers,’ with an expression of face which seemed to say, … ‘All my torture is repaid by the admiration I excite.’"
[Sources: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (p.25) | Futility Closet  | Telegraph | Wikipedia]

The Alexandra Limp and Other Affectations of Posture

In the 1860s, when Queen Alexandra, then the Princess of Wales, suffered a painful attack of rheumatism in her knee which, in time, resulted in a permanent limp, high society women London, keen as ever to stay on trend with the day’s fashion, began to sycophantically imitate it. It became ridiculously popular and was known as the Alexandra Limp, although it was ‘widely derided’ by, well, by anyone with any sense probably. John Stephen Farmer called it “an erstwhile fit of semi-imbecility” by “a crowd of limping petticoated toadies”.

Be that as it may, the fad was followed by a similar curiosity of posture in the USA, namely, The Grecian Bend, which saw women apparently go about their business whilst bent oddly at the waist. Albert Jones Bellows describes in a sighting in Boston:"She waddled a few rods past the store, and then turned round, smiling, or rather smirking, complacently on her ‘crowd of admirers,’ with an expression of face which seemed to say, … ‘All my torture is repaid by the admiration I excite.’"

[Sources: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (p.25) | Futility Closet  | Telegraph | Wikipedia]

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]

Hysteria under Hypnosis
A series of photographs from the 1870s of a woman apparently “suffering” from female hysteria, that is, “a tendency to cause trouble,” whilst under hypnosis.

Hysteria under Hypnosis

A series of photographs from the 1870s of a woman apparently “suffering” from female hysteria, that is, “a tendency to cause trouble,” whilst under hypnosis.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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]

Nº. 2 of  19