Victorian Hats

Throughout the half century, bonnets and hats, apart from sporting styles, were lavishly trimmed, and hair was invariably decorated with flowers, jewels or feathers for evening. Indoor caps were gradually discontinued, by the 1870s worn only, perhaps, with a tea-gown or breakfast jacket and by elderly ladies; servants and country folk wore them well into the 20th century. The variety of millinery styles throughout this period was enormous, and it is only possible to indicate the main shapes, which were dictated by the hairstyles. During the 1850s bonnets became shallower and set further back on the head, developing in the early 1860s into the spoon bonnet, which had a narrow brim close to the ears, rising vertically above the forehead in a spoon-shaped curve and sloping down behind to a very small crown, edged with a bavolet at the back. Bonnet strings (or ribbons) were wide, and often not tied but held by a brooch or pin under the chin, occasionally with a tiny bunch of artificial flowers. A curious addition to the bonnet between 1848 and 1864, appropriately called an ugly, was an extra brim resembling the front of a calash, made of half hoops of cane covered with silk and worn round the front as a protection against the sun; when not in use it could be folded flat. The most romantic-looking hat of the 1850s was a leghorn straw with a very wide brim dipping down at the back and slightly at the front and a high or low crown, trimmed with a lace or tulle veil, ribbons orflowers, or possibly all three; it appears to have been more popular in France and Germany, but was certainly adopted with slight variations in England and America for children’s wear.

With the massive arrangement of hair at the back of the head in the late 1860s and early 1870s, bonnets had to be worn further forward, the front curving fronijust above the hair-line to behind the ears where the ribbons were attached, the back cut away to allow the hair to flow freely. At this time hats were also perched on the forehead; a pillbox shape is sometimes referred to as a casquette, a name also applied to a hat following the lines of the Scotch glengarry cap. The Lamballe bonnet or plateau (named after the Princesse de Lamballe) might be classified as a bonnet or hat – worn in the same way as the pill-box, it closely resembled it but was more oval in shape and tied on by strings under the back hair or chignon or, when curved down slightly at the sides, would have ribbons tied in a large bow under the chin.

Small-brimmed hats, slightly wider in summer, toques and tiny bonnets set on top of the head above the close, high-dressed hair and fringe, helped to increase height in the late 1870s and 1880s; crowns rose, with a flower-pot shape appearing in the late 1880s. Trimmings, arranged to give a vertical line, could be elaborate and even bizarre: small birds, feathers, feather wings, aigrettes, beetles, flowers, fruit and vegetables intermingled with loops of fancy ribbon, velvet and/or tulle. Fur decorated some winter hats, and toques made of sealskin became very popular. At the same time, for country and sporting activities, plainer and rather masculine hats were in vogue. Boaters, introduced as early as the 1860s, continued to be worn, straight or tilted, into the 20th century. The Fedora felt hat, similar to a Homburg, was named after the heroine in a play by Sardou in which Sarah Bernhardt scored a success. Yachting caps were worn for sailing or at the sea-side. The tam-o’-shanter, for country wear, was a soft, round, flat cap or hat with no brim and a bobble in the centre of the crown; in the 1880s it might be made of velvet, plush, cloth or crochet; a knitted version became usual later.

During the 1890s, bonnets lost favour with the fashionable although still worn by some elderly ladies, even after 1900, and for mourning with a long crape veil. Hats became wider-brimmed, worn high on the head over the fuller hairstyle; even toques were often quite large, draped or ruched in velvet, silk or tulle. Trimmings, ribbons, flowers and feathers still emphasized a vertical line

Valentines Day Card History

Valentine greetings have been popular since the Middle Ages, a time when prospective lovers said or sang their romantic verses. Written valentines began to appear after 1400. Paper valentines originated in the 1500s, being exchanged in Europe and being given in place of valentine gifts and oral or musical valentine greetings. They were particularly popular in England. The first written valentine (formerly known as “poetical or amorous addresses”) is traditionally attributed to the imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans, in 1415. While confined in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt, the young Duke reportedly passed his time by writing romantic verses for his wife in France. Approximately sixty of the Duke’s poems remain and can be seen among the royal papers in the British Museum. They are credited with being the first modern day valentines.

By the Sixteenth Century, written valentines were commonplace and by the Seventeenth Century, it was a widespread tradition in England and other Western countries for friends and sweethearts to exchange gifts and notes on February 14. During the early 1700s, Charles II of Sweden brought the Persian poetical art known as the “language of flowers” to Europe and throughout the Eighteenth Century, floral dictionaries were published, permitting the exchange of romantic secrets via a lily or lilac, for example, culminating in entire conversations taking place within a bouquet of flowers. The more popular the flower, the more traditions and meaning were associated with it. The red rose, for instance, believed to be the favored flower of Venus, Roman Goddess of Love, became universally accepted to represent romantic love. Thus, the custom of giving red roses on Valentine’s Day quickly gained popularity.

Some time after 1723, the popularity of valentine cards in America began to grow with the import from England of valentine “writers.” A “writer” was a booklet comprised of a vast array of verses and messages which could be copied onto gilt-edged paper or other type of decorative sheet. One popular “writer” contained not only “be my valentine” types of verses for the men to send to their sweethearts, but also acceptances or “answers” which the ladies could then return. Late Eighteenth Century and Early Nineteenth Century valentines were often religious in nature and it is possible that the “Sacred Heart” often depicted on these cards eventually became the “Valentine Heart” with the customarily accompanying Angel eventually becoming “Cupid.” It is believed that the earlier versions of these religious valentines may have been made by nuns who would cut-out the paper lace with scissors. It is thought the process probably took many days since the cards had every appearance of being machine-made.

One popular style of early American card from 1840 to approximately 1860 was the “Daguerreotype,” a photographic process using old-time tintype in the center of a card surrounded by an ornametal wreath. Another was the “Mirror Valentine,” which contained a small mirror placed in the center to reflect the face of the recipient. However, the sending of valentine greetings in America did not become a true tradition until around the time of the Civil War (1861-1865) when valentine cards often depicted sweethearts parting, or a tent with flaps that opened to reveal a soldier. These were known as “windows.” In peace time, the “window” would be a church door opening to reveal a bridge and groom. Another Civil War valentine novelty was for the card to have a place for the sender to include a lock of hair. By the early 1800s, valentines began to be assembled in factories. Such early manufactured valentines were rather simplistic, composed of black-and-white pictures painted by the factory workers. Fancy valentines comprised of real lace and ribbons were introduced in the mid-1800s. Paper lace began to be introduced to the cards later in the 1800s, These valentines also contained delicate and artistic messages with pictures of turtledoves, lovers’ knots in gold or silver, bows and arrow, Cupids and bleeding hearts.

During the Victorian Era and its printing advances, Valentine cards became even more popular and the modern postal service of the age implmented the “penny post,” which made it easier to mail written valentines. (Prior to that time, postage was so expensive that most cards were hand-delivered and usually left on doorsteps.) Known as “penny postcards” (because they were mailed with a one-penny postage stamp), these valentine greetings were very popular from around 1890 to 1917. During this time, it was also considered “proper” to collect and display collections of postcards and trade cards in the Victorian and Edwardian parlor. Friends and guests would be invited to sit for hours, leafing through albums while they visited. This custom gained so much popularity that photographers, studios, printers and business continually strived for new and exciting subjects to satisfy a public which was anxious for innovative items in order to impress their acquaintances. To make their cards stand out, people often sought for real photographic postcards. As opposed to mass-produced lithographs, these were actual photographs made with a postcard-printed back. The photography studios frequently employed women to hand-tint and color the black-and-white images. Some of the best of these cards came from Germany…famous for its detailed and colorful lithography. Popular subjects included women, children, flowers and couples, posed and arranged in an effort to portray the idealized virtues of the Era. Indeed, it was in England that the first commercial-type valentine was produced on embossed paper, later perforated to make a lace-type design. Some of these cards contained tiny mirrors with the message: “Look at my Beloved,” while others were called “Cobweb Valentines” because the center could be lifted by a tassel to reveal a cobweb effect of paper and underneath, a picture of a couple or a romantic message.

Although pre-Victorian valentines are virtually unavailable today, but cards have survived over a century due chiefly to the fact that they began to be mass-produced around 1850. However, the majority of early Victorian valentines were customarily made by hand from honeycombed tissue, watercolors, paper puffs, colored inks, embossed paper hearts and exquisite lace. These were truly beautifully-created small works of art, often adorned with silk or satin (in addition) to lace, flowers or feathers and even gold leaf. Such fragile honeycomb designs remained the vogue until around 1909. Some of the most unusual valentines were fashioned by lonely sailors during this time…unique cards sporting seashells of various sizes employed to create hearts, flowers and other designs, or to cover heart-shaped boxes. Sailors also sent what were known as “Busk Valentines,” rounded long sticks fashioned from ivory or wood, somewhat resembling a tongue depressor but approximately five time longer. Upon these sticks, the sailor would carve hearts and other loving designs. The “Busk Valentine” was worn by the sailor’s sweetheart inside her corset. It was not unusual for a manufactured valentine of this era to cost as much as a month’s earnings, particularly the “proposal valentines” which were very popular and might contain the depiction of a church or a ring. In keeping with Victorian etiquette, it was considered improper for a lady to send a valentine greeting to a man.

Victorian Valentines History

The true origin of Valentine’s Day may never by known, since it is only legend that tells of the Christian martyr, Valentinus, who sent a letter of affection to his jailer’s daughter on the eve of his execution.  There is no historical evidence to back up the legend, as romantic as it is, but it seems the romanticism itself is enough to give credence to the origin of this holiday.  We do know, however, that the Romans celebrated the pagan festival of Lupercalia on February 14, commemorating the rural god Faunus, patron of husbandry and guardian of the secrets of nature. It is believed that birds chose their mates for the coming season on this day.

The earliest known (proven) valentines are poems, composed for the Valentine’s Day festivals for the courts of 14th-century England an France.  These poems celebrated ‘joyous recreation and conversation about love’. It is believed that this is when the custom of drawing lots for valentines began.  Girls drew boys’ names and boys drew girls’ names so everyone had a pair of valentines to choose from.  Whether the drawing itself resulted in many love affairs, or the lotteries were fixed in advance (which was not uncommon,) we shall never know.

By the 17th Century, lotteries were less common, and selections more deliberate.  It also became customary to present a gift along with the valentine card.  These gifts ranged from love-knots of plaited straw to the opulent jewelry showered upon royal mistresses.

By the mid-18th century, costly valentine gifts were being replaced by elaborate versions of written love messages.   Ideally, these were poetic compositions. But while the artistic embellished their poems with lace and drawings, the malicious embellished theirs with vulgar or cruel greetings which they sent to the ill-favored, long-unmarried or deformed.  Thus, valentines were usually sent anonymously.  Both to protect the giver and the receiver.

Valentine’s Day reached its height of celebration in the Victorian Era.

Valentine cards were more cherished that Christmas cards (which weren’t printed commercially until 1846), perhaps because of the sentimentality attached to them.  Due to this popularity, designing cards became a highly competitive market, with a vast array of motifs and verses.  Suddenly, cards were being produced in tens of thousands, from whimsy and slightly vulgar, to truly sentimental, their designs included lace paper, embossed envelopes, glass or metal mirrors, ribbons, dried ferns and fake advertisements, bank notes and marriage licenses.

Valentine cards were so popular that their production became a flourishing trade amongst cheapjack printers in central London.  Commercially printed valentine cards quickly superseded home-made offerings of earlier times.  They reached the height of their popularity during the 1870s and 80s.  Yet even though they were mass-produced, they still featured birds with real feathers, posies of dried flowers and spun-glass hearts, all trimmed with ribbons and gold lace.

Some valentines were so thick with embellishments, they came in presentation boxes. Some unfolded like fans, while mechanical valentines had levers or disks which made figures dance, hands move and birds flutter their wings.

The lyrics in these cards were as effusive as the decorations.  Whether sent by a steady beau or a secret admirer, these cards were unabashedly sentimental, pleading for affection and pledging undying devotion happily ever after.  Even men kept these tokens of affection hidden in their bureau drawers.

But as times changed, so did customs.  And as less became more on the advent of World War I, valentine cards became a dying art.

New Years History

New Year festivities are synonymous with partying and bad hangovers nowadays, but New Year is actually one of the oldest celebrations. It is first recorded as a major event in Babylon around 4000 years ago. The Babylonians knew how to throw a party, as celebrations lasted for eleven days, putting our modern excesses to shame.

The Romans celebrated new year in March until Julius Caesar re-worked the calender to begin on January 1, although in order to do so Caesar had to make the year 46BC last 445 days. The celebration of new year as a holiday has been popular in Europe for the last 400 years. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII re-established January 1 as New Year’s day with calendar reform.

The ancient Babylonians can also lay claim to the practice of setting New Year’s resolutions. A popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment, a resolution many in the countryside today can say is still valid. Those hoping to lose some weight after huge Christmas dinners aren’t in luck. A variety of foods also play a role in New Year celebrations, helping to pile on those festive pounds.

Many cultures believe ring shaped foods will bring luck, symbolising things coming full circle. The Dutch, for example, eat doughnuts for luck. In America black eyed peas are commonly eaten with ham, and in Scotland shortbread and whisky are ubiquitous. Spanish people eat 12 grapes with each chime of the bells, and in Japan a bowl of ‘year-crossing’ noodles are eaten. Many people are adamant their resolutions to lose weight will start the very next day, naturally
Read on

In different cultures. events on New Years day can have an effect on the luck for the rest of the year. In many Western cultures the first visitor to the home, or ‘first footer’, will bring luck if tall and dark haired. In Scotland it is common for people to go ‘first footing’ around friends and families homes, having a whisky in each along the way.

Strange New Year traditions can be found all over the world. In Ireland it was once tradition to bang Christmas bread against the walls and doors to scare away bad spirits. In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico a life-sized doll is filled with things that have bad memories associated with them, then it is dressed up in old clothes. At midnight, this ‘Mr. Old Year’ is set on fire.

Brazilians wear white clothes to symbolize peace for the coming year, and in Greece children leave their shoes out to be filled with gifts. In Scotland, New Year’s eve is known as Hogmanay and is a key party night across the country. Scottish poet Robbie Burns is also behind the song ‘Auld Lang Syne’, sung at New Year throughout the world.

Teddy Bear History

In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt traveled south to negotiate a border dispute between the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. During a break from the negotiations, Roosevelt accepted an invitation to join a hunting expedition in Smedes, Mississippi. After ten days of hunting, Roosevelt failed to spot a single bear. His hosts, hoping to please the President, searched the woods, found a small bear cub, tethered it to a tree outside Roosevelt’s tent, and cried “Bear!” to beckon the president. Roosevelt emerged from his tent, took one look at the frightened cub, and refused to kill such a young animal.

Newspapers reported the event. In the Washington Star, political cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman drew a caricature of Roosevelt with his hand upraised,
refusing to shoot the cud­dly bear cub. The caption read “Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” clev­erly referring to the unresolved border dispute.

Inspired, toy store owner Morris Michtom, a thirty-two-year-old Russian immigrant, made a stuffed bear cub and dis­played it alongside the political cartoon in his store window in Brooklyn to generate attention. When customers wanted to buy their own “Teddy’s Bear,” Michtom began making them, founding the Ideal Toy Company.

Meanwhile in Germany, Richard Steiff, a nephew of stuffed toy maker Margarete Steiff, similarly inspired by Berryman’s political cartoon, created his own stuffed bear toy. Launched at the 1903 Leipzig Trade Fair, Steiff’s bears also began selling quickly.

In 1906, guests at a White House wedding reception for Roosevelt’s daughter discovered tables decorated with Steiff bears dressed as hunters and fishermen as a tribute to the President’s love for the outdoors. While mulling over the possible breed of the animals, a wedding guest clev­erly labeled them “Teddy Bears.” In 1907 alone, Steiff produced more than 974,000 Teddy Bears.