Friday, April 30, 2021

1824 On Clothing, Make-Up, & Natural Beauty

James Fenimore Cooper, Notions of the Americans

1824 American Women - Their Clothing, Make-up, and Natural Beauty

It has always appeared to me, that manner in a woman bears a strict analogy to dress. A degree of simple, appropriate embellishment serves alike to adorn the graces of person and of demeanour; but the moment a certain line is passed in either, the individual becomes auxiliary to the addition, instead of the addition lending, as it should, a grace to the individual. It is very possible, that, if one woman wears diamonds, another must do the same thing, until a saloon shall be filled with the contents of a jeweller's shop; but, after all, this is rather a contest between bright stones than bright eyes...

I think the females of the secondary classes in this country dress more, and those of the upper, less, than the corresponding castes in Europe. The Americans are not an economical people, in one sense, though instances of dissolute prodigality are exceedingly rare among them...

The facility with which the fabrics of every country in the world are obtained, the absence of care on the subject of the future, and the inherent elevation of the character which is a natural consequence of education, and a consciousness of equal rights, cause all the secondary classes of this country to assume more of the exterior of the higher, than it is common to see with us. The exceptions must be sought among the very poorest and most depressed members of the community...

Now the fashion of the attire, and not unfrequently the material of the dress of an American girl of a similar class, differs from that of the lady only in quality, and perhaps a little in the air in which it is worn. As you ascend in the scale of society, the distinctions, always excepting those delicate shades which can only be acquired by constant association in the best company, become less obvious, until it requires the tact of breeding to trace them at all...The distinguishing feature of American female manners is nature. The fair creatures are extremely graceful if left to exhibit their blandishments in their own way; but it is very evident, that a highly artificial manner in those with whom they associate, produces a blighting influence on the ease of even the most polished among them...

In general they are delicate; a certain feminine air, tone of voice, size and grace being remarkably frequent. In the northern, eastern and middle states, which contain much more than half the whole population of the country, the women are fair; though brunettes are not unfrequent, and just as blondes are admired in France, they are much esteemed here, especially, as is often the case, if the hair and eyes happen to correspond.

Indeed it is difficult to imagine any creature more attractive than an American beauty between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. There is something in the bloom, delicacy, and innocence of one of these young things, that reminds you of the conceptions which poets and painters have taken of the angels...

Perhaps a great majority of the females marry before the age of twenty, and it is not an uncommon thing to see them mothers at sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen. Almost every American mother nurses her own infant. It is far more common to find them mothers of eight, or of ten children, at fifty, than mothers of two or three...

Even so common an ornament as rouge is denied, and no woman dares confess that she uses it. There is something so particularly soft and delicate in the colour of the young females one sees in the streets here, that at first I was inclined to give them credit for the art with which they applied the tints; but Cadwallader gravely assured me I was wrong; He had no doubt that certain individuals did, in secret, adopt the use of rouge; but within the whole circuit of his acquaintailce he could not name one whom he suspected of the practice. Indeed, several gentlemen have gone so far as to assure me that when a woman rouged, it is considered in this country, as prima facie testimony that her character is frail.

It should also be remembered, that when an American girl marries, she no longer entertains the desire to interest any but her husband. There is perhaps something in the security of matrimony that is not very propitious to female blandishments, and one ought to express no surprise that the wife who is content with the affections of her husband, should grow a little indifferent to the admiration of the rest of the world. One rarely sees married women foremost in the gay scenes. They attend, as observant and influencing members of society, but not as the principal actors. It is thought that the amusements of the world are more appropriate to the young, who are neither burthened nor sobered with matrimonial duties, and who possess an inherent right to look about them in the morning of life in quest of the partner who is to be their companion to its close. And yet I could name, among my acquaintances here, a dozen of the youngest-looking mothers of large and grown-up families that I remember ever to have seen.

Monday, April 26, 2021

1831 America's Grim, Determined Women

Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans. Written during her stay in America, 1827-1831

1831 America's Grim, Determined Women


There is a great quietness about the women of America (I speak of the exterior manner of persons casually met), but somehow or other, I should never call it gentleness.

In such trying moments as that of fixing themselves on board a packet-boat, the men are prompt, determined, and will compromise any body's convenience' except their own.

The women are doggedly stedfast in their will, and till matters are settled, look like hedgehogs, with every quill raised, and firmly set, as if to forbid the approach of any one who might wish to rub them down.

In circumstances where an English woman would look proud, and a French woman nonchalante, an American lady looks grim; even the youngest and the prettiest can set their lips, and knit their brows, and look as hard and unsocial as their grandmothers.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

1827 New Orleans' Quadroon Women

Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans. Written during her stay in America, 1827-1831

Quadroon Women in New Orleans, Louisiana. December 1827.

Our stay in New Orleans was not long enough to permit our entering into society, but I was told that it contained two distinct sets of people, both celebrated, in their way, for their social meetings and elegant entertainments.

The first of these is composed of Creole families, who are chiefly planters and merchants, with their wives and daughters; these meet together, eat together, and are very grand and aristocratic; each of their balls is a little Almack's, and every portly dame of the set is as exclusive in her principles as a lady patroness.

The other set consists of the excluded but amiable Quadroons, and such of the gentlemen of the former class as can by any means escape from the high places, where pure Creole blood swells the veins at the bare mention of any being tainted in the remotest degree with the Negro stain.
Female Quadroon (Quadroon, a name given to the offspring of a mulatto and a white.)

Of all the prejudices I have ever witnessed, this appears to me the most violent, and the most inveterate. Quadroon girls, the acknowledged daughters of wealthy American or Creole fathers, educated with all of style and accomplishments which money can procure at New Orleans, and with all the decorum that care and affection can give exquisitely beautiful, graceful, gentle, and amiable, these are not admitted, nay, are not on any terms admissible, into the society of the Creole families of Louisiana.

They cannot marry, that is to say, no ceremony can render an union with them legal or binding; yet such is the powerful effect of their very peculiar grace, beauty, and sweetness of manner, that unfortunately they perpetually become the objects of choice and affection. If the Creole ladies have privilege to exercise the awful power of repulsion, the gentle Quadroon has the sweet but dangerous vengeance of possessing that of attraction. The unions formed with this unfortunate race are said to be often lasting and happy, as far as any unions can be so, to which a certain degree of disgrace is attached.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

1828 Life on a Farm in Ohio

Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans. Written during her stay in America, 1827-1831

1828 Life on a Farm in Ohio. Spring 1828.

We visited one farm which interested us particularly from its wild and lonely situation, and from the entire dependence of the inhabitants upon their own resources. It was a partial clearing in the very heart of the forest.

The house was built on the side of a hill, so steep that a high ladder was necessary to enter the front door, while the back one opened against the hillside; at the foot of this sudden eminence ran a clear stream, whose bed had been deepened into a little reservoir, just opposite the house.

A noble field of Indian-corn stretched away into the forest on one side, and a few half-cleared acres, with a shed or two upon them, occupied the other, giving accommodation to cows, horses, pigs, and chickens innumerable. Immediately before the house was a small potato garden, with a few peach and apple trees.

The house was built of logs, and consisted of two rooms, besides a little shanty or lean-to, that was used as a kitchen. Both rooms were comfortably furnished with good beds, drawers, &c.

The farmer's wife, and a young woman who looked like her sister, were spinning, and three little children were playing about. The woman told me that they spun and wove all the cotton and woollen garments of the family, and knit all the stockings; her husband, though not a shoemaker by trade, made all the shoes.

She manufactured all the soap and candles they used, and prepared her sugar from the sugar-trees on their farm. All she wanted with money, she said, was to buy coffee, tea, and whiskey, and she could "get enough any day by sending a batch of butter and chicken to market."

They used no wheat, nor sold any of their corn, which, though it appeared a very large quantity, was not more than they required to make their bread and cakes of various kinds, and to feed all their live stock during the winter.

She did not look in health, and said they had all had ague in "the fall;" but she seemed contented, and proud of her independence; though it was in somewhat a mournful accent that she said, "'Tis strange to us to see company: I expect the sun may rise and set a hundred times before I shall see another human that does not belong to the family."

Monday, April 12, 2021

1829 Ohio George Washington's Birthday Ball

Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans. Written during her stay in America, 1827-1831

1829 Ohio George Washington's Birthday Ball

In noting the various brilliant events which diversified our residence in the western metropolis, I have omitted to mention the Birthday Ball, as it is called, a festivity which, I believe, has place on the 22nd of February, in every town and city throughout the Union. It is the anniversary of the birth of General Washington, and well deserves to be marked by the Americans as a day of jubilee...

The dancing was not quite like, yet not very unlike what we see at an assize or race ball in a country town. They call their dances cotillons instead of quadrilles, and the figures are called from the orchestra in English, which has a very ludicrous effect on European ears.

The arrangements for the supper were very singular, but eminently characteristic of the country. The gentlemen had a splendid entertainment spread for them in another large room of the hotel, while the poor ladies had each a plate put into their hands, as they pensively promenaded the ball-room during their absence; and shortly afterwards servants appeared, bearing trays of sweetmeats, cakes, and creams. The fair creatures then sat down on a row of chairs placed round the walls, and each making a table of her knees, began eating her sweet, but sad and sulky repast. The effect was extremely comic; their gala-dresses and the decorated room forming a contrast the most unaccountable with their uncomfortable and forlorn condition.

This arrangement was owing neither to economy nor want of a room large enough to accommodate the whole party, but purely because the gentlemen liked it better. This was the answer given me, when my curiosity tempted me to ask why the ladies and gentlemen did not sup together; and this was the answer repeated to me afterwards by a variety of people to whom I put the same question...

In America, with the exception of dancing, which is almost wholly confined to the unmarried of both sexes, all the enjoyments of the men are found in the absence of the women. They dine, they play cards, they have musical meetings, they have suppers, all in large parties, but all without women. Were it not that such is the custom, it is impossible but that they would have ingenuity enough to find some expedient for sparing the wives and daughters of the opulent the sordid offices of household drudgery, which they almost all perform in their families.

Thursday, April 8, 2021


Wordplay (but no fun at all) - Before the 20th century, the word sex did not refer to sensual pleasures, simply to the "other sex"

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

African American Schoolhouse by William Wallace Wotherspoon (American painter, 1821-1888)

William Wallace Wotherspoon (American painter, 1821-1888) Scene Outside Southern Schoolhouse (perhaps during Reconstruction).

Monday, April 5, 2021

19C American Women in Green - Spring is Here


Gilbert Stuart (American artist, 1755-1828)  Portrait of a young lady c 1803
John Trumbull (American artist, 1756 – 1843) Mrs. Theodore Dwight, Jr. (1805-1870) 1828
Richard Clague (1821–1873) Mrs Gueynard (New Orleans)
Irving Ramsey Wiles (American artist - 1861-1948) A Lady 1893

Sunday, April 4, 2021

18C & 19C Almshouses for People in Need in Maryland

Almshouses in Maryland

Almshouses, residences for the care and housing of people in need, once served as the primary institutions for the housing and care of the poor and homeless. Few, however, realize that the blind, lame, chronically ill, epileptic, developmentally disabled, and mentally ill also shared the same quarters. In addition to the resident population, the almshouse offered aid to the transient poor by providing a meal and temporary shelter.

Almshouses first appeared in Colonial America during the 1660s. Maryland founded its initial almshouses in the 1760s, with most counties setting up their own during the nineteenth century. Though the demographics of the inhabitants changed over time, these institutions persisted until the 1960s when government assistance programs made them obsolete.

Pre-Almshouse Poor Relief

During the Colonial period, poor relief in Maryland was coordinated on the individual county or local level. The Levy Court of each county supervised the payments for the care of the poor, the dependent, and the mentally ill. Persons without family or relatives to provide care were boarded with community members. In certain cases, a direct payment allowed the poor to remain within their own homes.

Founding of Almshouses

With a growing population, the need for assistance and the financial burden on the counties increased accordingly. In 1766 about 40 percent of Worcester County's expenditures went for housing the poor in private homes. Almost one-seventh of the families in Anne Arundel County received aid by the late 1760s. In 1765, a bill was proposed in the General Assembly to found institutions for the poor and "houses of correction" for the confinement of "vagabonds." Legislation finally passed in 1768 to establish the first almshouses in Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Worcester, Frederick, and Charles Counties.

Besides being places to aid the poor, almshouses served as a mechanism for social control by removing what the public considered undesirable persons from the greater community. The 1768 law gave unconditional power to the county's Trustees of the Poor "for.setting the poor to work, and punishing vagrants, beggars, vagabonds and other offenders." Inspired by a 1697 English law, the act stipulated that all almshouse residents must wear the letter "P" (for poor or "poorhouse") on their clothing under the penalty of whipping. Authorities in Maryland (as elsewhere in America) sometimes arrested and placed homeless or unruly people they considered a "public nuisance" in their almshouses.

Almshouse Settings

Almshouses were often located on the outskirts of a town or a rural part of a county on farmland of considerable acreage. The farm employed and provided food for the almshouse inhabitants (called "inmates"). Some almshouses featured a workhouse, where certain residents might weave cloth, sew clothing, or perform other labor to help pay for their upkeep. During the late 1830s, several Eastern Shore almshouses planted stands of mulberry trees, as habitat for silk worms, so that the almshouse farm and its residents might defray the cost of administration by harvesting raw silk. The Maryland climate ultimately proved hostile to the enterprise, and it was abandoned.

The county Trustees of the Poor or a grand jury empowered by the county circuit court periodically examined the conditions of the almshouse. The 1874 founding of the Maryland State Board of Health led to the first regular state inspections. Officials during the 1890s found that almshouse conditions varied in the different counties. Generally speaking, more modest accommodations were found in the less wealthy counties. Yet, fancy brick facades often hid the same troubling circumstances inside.

Lax administration characterized the sparsely furnished settings of most almshouses. Superintendents, often local farmers appointed through political influence, sometimes changed yearly. Inspections speak of the "almshouse diet," a subsistence diet of hominy or oatmeal as the daily fare for residents. A local doctor would call on an "as needed" basis only, with few medicines kept on the premises in case of sickness. Though most institutions in Maryland practiced racial segregation at this time, certain county almshouses did not bother because two separate buildings created an additional expense.

Reform movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries helped to improve conditions and remove certain individuals from the almshouse setting. Children were transferred to orphanages. A protracted campaign of some thirty years by the Maryland State Lunacy Commission prompted the state legislature to pass a law in 1910 to move the mentally ill into hospitals. Yet this left the developmentally disabled and epileptic individuals to languish in the almshouses.

Written by Robert W. Schoeberlein for the Maryland Online Encyclopedia.

Friday, April 2, 2021

19C Women Playing Tennis

Otto Henry Bacher (American painter, 1856–1909) Portrait of Mary Holland

George Goodwin Kilburne (English painter, 1839-1924) A Game of Tennis

Francis Sydney Muschamp (British artist, 1851-1929) A Game of Tennis

John Lavery (Irish painter, 1856-1941) A Game of Tennis

Leopold Franz Kowalski (French painter, 1856-1931) A Game of Tennis

John Strickland Goodall (British artist, 1908–1996) A Game of Tennis

Horace Henry Cauty (English genre painter, 1846-1909) The Tennis Match

Arthur Hacker (English Pre-Raphaelite painter, 1858-1919) The Artist's Sister 1882

John Strickland Goodall (British artist, 1908–1996) A Game of Tennis

Max Liebermann (German Impressionist Painter, 1847-1935) Tennis Player by the Sea

Tom Simpson (British artist, 1877-1964) The Tennis Party

John Strickland Goodall (British artist, 1908–1996) A Game of Tennis

James Wallace (British artist, 1872-1911) A Game of Tennis in Battersea Park

Max Liebermann (German Impressionist Painter, 1847-1935) Tennis Court with Players

Samuel John Peploe (Scotland artist, 1871-1935) Game of Tennis, Luxembourg Gardens, c 1906

Tom Simpson (British artist, 1877-1964) Edwardians at Tennis

Tom Simpson (British artist, 1877-1964) The Tennis Party, c 1930s

John Lavery (Irish painter, 1856-1941) Tennis

 Edith Hayllar (British Painter, 1860-1948) After Tennis