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

1897 Godey's Lady's Book Looks Back on the Tradtions oF Easters Past

GODEY’S LADY’S BOOK, April, 1897, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The first celebration of Easter, the oldest of the Christian festivals, antedates the dawn of the third century. The ancient Christian year began with this period, and not with Advent, the Resurrection having been, to the early church, an event of greater importance and solemnity than the Nativity.

All the ceremonies attending the observance of Easter were at first exceedingly simple, but in the early part of the fourth century a decided change was brought about by Constantine. He instituted vigils, or night-watches, for Easter eve, at which the people remained in the churches until midnight. The tapers which it had been customary to burn at this time were displaced by huge pillars of wax, not only in the churches but all over the Imperial City, so that the brilliancy of the night exceeded the light of day. Easter Sunday was observed with all the pomp and imposing accessory that could be devised by a ruler naturally fond of display.

Easter Eggs

The Resurrection festival was early made coincident with that of the heathen goddess of spring, and on the new faith and its observances were grafted many pagan traditions. One of them was the use of eggs as symbols of Easter. The egg has been for thousands of years the emblem of reincarnation. The Egyptians held it sacred as the emblem of the renovation of the human race after the Deluge. The Persians, who celebrate their New Year at the vernal equinox, present one another with appropriate gifts, among them being colored eggs. The Jews accepted the egg as a symbol of their departure from Egypt, and at the feast of the Passover it was placed on the table with the paschal lamb. Thus it was natural that the early Christians should have adopted it as an emblem of the Resurrection and a future life.

On this day their salutation was, “Christ is arisen,” to which the person addressed answered, “Christ is arisen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon,” a custom which is still retained in the Greek Church. In Greece the courts of justice were formerly closed, alms were distributed, slaves were freed, and the people gave themselves up to rejoicing and feasting in honor of the day.

Gathering Eggs

Dancing was, during many centuries, a religious ceremony. In the temples of Jerusalem, Samaria, and Alexandria, the enclosure still known as the choir was devoted to this ceremony; for, according to the teaching of some of the early fathers, dancing is a part of the ceaseless worship of the saints, angels, prophets, and martyrs. The pious enthusiast and statesman, Cardinal Ximenes, revived the Mozarabic liturgy in the Cathedral of Toledo, and at the Easter festivals the worshippers danced decorously in both the choir and the nave. The custom was discontinued about the middle of the seventeenth century.

In medi√¶val times it was the practice of many Continental clergymen to illustrate their Easter sermons with what were termed “Fabul√¶ Paschales,” in which the sacred incidents of Scripture, in order that they might be more intelligible, were mixed with frivolous tales. These, like the miracle plays, owed their origin to the rude and uncultivated state of the laity.

Superstition was the mother of many curious customs, which began with Maundy Thursday and ended with Easter Wednesday. In some of the rural localities of England loaves of bread are baked, even yet, on Good Friday, and put by for medicine, for it is believed that a small portion grated in water and given to a person suffering with various ailments will work a certain cure. The non-eating of cross-buns was also believed to place the house of the non-eater in danger of being burned down. All fires were put out on Easter eve, for good-luck and other blessings. The fires were relighted with consecrated flints, preserved in the churches especially for that purpose. The flint signified Christ, and the flame the Holy Ghost, and fire obtained in this manner was held to prevent the effect of storms.

Easter Morning

It was also said that people ought to put on some new article of dress for the first time on Easter Sunday, or they would have no good fortune in love affairs during the year, and would, besides, be liable to various illnesses.

On Easter Monday the young men in the Yorkshire villages had a custom of taking off the young girls’ shoe-buckles. On Easter Tuesday the young men’s shoe-buckles were taken off by the young women. On Wednesday they were redeemed by little pecuniary forfeits, with which were purchased materials for a “Tansy Cake,” with dressing. Tansy is supposed to have been the “bitter herb” used by the Jews at the feast of the Passover, but the Christians cleverly disguised its bitterness with sugar, spices, etc. The ancient idea is to-day embodied in the mint-sauce which generally accompanies the spring lamb to modern tables.

Formerly the spurs of travelers were confiscated by jokers during Easter week, and their owners were compelled to redeem them with a small sum of money.

“Lifting” or “heaving” is a very old custom. It is emblematic of our Savior’s Resurrection, and the accompanying kiss is said to be in remembrance of His kissing His disciples. A party of gayly dressed, ribbon-decked young women sallied forth carrying a chair with arms, back, and legs decorated with rosettes. They seized a youth and placed him in the chair. He was held fast by some and by the others raised above their heads three times, then kissed by each girl. This observance took place on Easter Tuesday, and was intended as a punishment for a somewhat similar practice indulged in by the men the day before.

The origin of the sepulchre rite is not known. It probably had its rise in the old mystery plays which were often performed in the churches. Some of the characteristics of this ceremony would lend support to such a theory. However, at first it consisted only of the burial of the cross, and not of the blessed sacrament. The object of the custom was the strengthening of the faith of the ignorant and of converts. The first sepulchres were recesses at the side of the altar, closely resembling tombs. Frequently the altar-tombs of great persons were used as the resting-places of the carved, painted, and gilded structures of wood which, in the smaller and poorer churches, did duty in lieu of a permanent receptacle.

The temporary structures, though in use only two days in each year, were as ornate and costly as the funds of the parish would permit. They were usually covered with gold-leaf, and no sepulchre was complete without its hangings, pall, and lights. The tapers, blessed for the occasion, were generally thirteen in number, to represent Christ and His disciples. The central taper of the group was always very large. One used as late as 1557, in the abbey church of Westminster, is said to have been three hundred pounds in weight. In earlier times representatives in iron, timber, and cloth, of God, His angels, and the devil, were a portion of the furnishings of an Easter sepulchre. Frequently to these were added effigies of knights, with weapons in their hands, to guard the sepulchre from Good Friday until Easter morning, the real work, however, being done by watchmen, paid and victualled for that purpose. One account of the “properties” of a certain Easter sepulchre mentions that the angels were provided with perukes as well as wings.

After the solemn adoration of the cross, sometimes known as the “creeping” ceremony, the cross, which had been wrapped in a winding-sheet, was brought to the recess or tomb, and placed therein, to the singing of appropriate antiphons.

There is another tradition to the effect that, after the adoration of the cross, and before it was wrapped in its winding-sheet, it was washed with wine and water, and the ablution given to the priests and the people to drink.

Only in the process of time did the host come to be buried with the cross. The precise period when the addition was made is not known, but it was prior to the thirteenth century. In those days the belief prevailed that the Lord’s second coming would be on Easter eve; hence, in many localities the sepulchres were anxiously watched through the night preceding Easter Sunday, until three o’clock in the morning, when two aged monks would enter and remove the symbol of the Resurrection, which was held up before the worshipping audience during the chanting of the anthem “Christus Resurgens.” It was then carried to the high altar, where a procession formed, with lighted tapers, old men bearing a canopy of velvet over the symbol. The procession then made a circuit of the exterior of the church, all singing, rejoicing, and praying, until, coming again to the high altar, their precious burden was placed there, not to be removed until Ascension-day.

Friday, April 2, 2021

1883 Godey's Lady's Book On Coloring Eggs

This recipe from the April 1883 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book published in Philadelphia, uses gelatin alongside natural colorings and flavorings to produce jewel-like egg shaped treats in four colors instead of a simple boiled egg with a painted shell.


■One ounce of gelatine
■One quarter of a pound of sugar
■One pint of cold water
■Three-quarters of a pint of boiling milk
■Yolks of two eggs
■Two tablespoonfuls of grated chocolate
■Bitter almonds
■Twelve emptied egg shells

Soak in a bowl a one-ounce package of gelatine for four hours with a pint of cold water; when thoroughly dissolved add to it a quarter of a pound of white sugar and three-quarters of a pint of boiling milk; stir over the fire until well mixed.

Strain and divide into four parts.

One part leave white.

Into another part stir in two large tablespoonfuls of grated chocolate, previously well dissolved, and made into a smooth paste.

Into another stir the beaten yolks only of two eggs.

Into the fourth part put enough cochineal to make it a bright red color.

The chocolate mixture should be flavored with vanilla, the yellow with lemon, the white with rosewater, and the red with some bitter almonds, boiled in a piece of muslin.

The yellow portion should be heated long enough over the fire to cook the egg.

Rinse out twelve egg shells, which should have been very carefully broken at the end so as to leave the shape of the egg as perfect as possible.

Fill the egg shells with the various mixtures, and set them upright in a shallow pan of flour, to keep them steady, and leave them until the next day.

Make some nice clear wine jelly, and lay it in a glass dish, broken into sparkling pieces; break away the shells very carefully, and arrange the colored eggs alternately on the bed of jelly.

This is a very economical dish, and is always much liked.