Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book Review: 19th Century Fashion in Detail

This is one pretty, pretty book.

The introduction is an 8-page overview 19th century fashion--each 10-15 year period gets four paragraphs describing the fashionable silhouette of the time, and discussing changes in garment construction, textile manufacturing, etc.  Other than a short glossary and reference list at the end (~4 pages), the rest of the book is beautiful, close-up images of original period garments.  The cover is a one such example. Most garments have a two-page spread: a generous half-page written description with context for the item's construction and use; front and back line drawings of the whole garments (like you'd see on the back of a pattern envelop); and a then full-page color image of one detail. A few garments--mostly jackets and vests, but also some dresses--share two or three pieces over two pages. 

Both men's and women's garments and are included, though women's dresses seem to predominate. The pieces are grouped thematically rather than chronologically, so there'll be some flipping around if you're trying to see a particular time period.  Even within the nine chapters/divisions, there is no attempt at chronological ordering.  The number and type of garments varies with the theme: for example, the first chapter (construction techniques) features thirteen women's dresses, five outer garments, and one bustle; the embroidery section shows a man's coat and a man's vest, as well as a woman's shawl, woman's coat, and nine dresses or dress parts.

The main strength of this book is all the eye-candy. It's a lovely tribute to the craftsmanship of 19th century tailors and dressmakers.  The pictures are inspiring, and will help the historic sewist by suggesting color combination, printed fabric designs, trims, and illustrating the exquisite construction details of period garments; the line drawings help to reveal the underlying construction of the gorgeous items in the photographs*.  That being said, as each garment only gets one detail shot, so more resources will be needing if one is attempting to actually reproduce a specific garment.  While it would be nice to see more pictures of each garment, I'm not sure if that would actually improve this book, or just make it unwieldy.

*Many historic garment books seem to go for either photographs or for line drawings and scaled drafts of pieces; this volume makes a decent attempt at bridging the divide.  Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques, does something similar, but emphasizes the construction a bit more.

Stars: 5

Accuracy: All original garments, with intelligent and useful commentary.

Overall Impression: Many gorgeous examples make this a pleasurable and useful book.  It will make a lovely addition to most historic fashion libraries, and if you're dying for some close-ups of the pieces in the V&A collection, this is the book for you.  If  you're trying to make historic clothing, this is a good book for inspiration and contains helpful images of interior construction, but you'll want additional patterning and construction references.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Awesome Repro Shoes

My New Year's resolution might just have to be learning how to make these amazing chopines.  And then developing an impression in which to wear them.  Perhaps Mistress Franklin's gambling establishment needs a Venetian courtesan...

Friday, December 29, 2017

Musing About Research, Advice, and Asking Questions

Interesting thoughts yesterday from Wolf in Ivy: Will This Work?...A Rant.  I liked the emphasis on material culture as a tool for story-telling. That is, after all, a major component of living history: the "stuff", and what we're doing with it is distinguishes living history from other ways of presenting.

Anyway, I'm mentally filing this near Liz's ever-relevant Progressive Questions on my "living history philosophy" reading list.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

15th-16th Century Purses

Taking advantage of the winter holidays to research and plan for the summer reenacting season.  I would definitely like to upgrade my 16th century gear for next summer, and some sort of a purse would be a very useful addition.  So, here's what I've been able to find of surviving original purses:

I. Frame Purses

The Museum of London has many medieval purse frames in their online collection, although I could not find any dated to the 16th century.  The number of different styles is impressive.

German 16th century purse The Met.
Silk purse with iron frame. German? 16th Century. The Met.

16th century Italian purse frame, The Met.
Purse Frame, Italian, late 16th century. From The Met.

16th century German velvet purse with tassels and metal frame, The Met.
Velvet purse, German, 16th century. In The Met.

15th-16th century leather European purse with frame, The Met.
Leather purse with iron frame. 15th-16th Century.
The Met.

15th-16th century velvet European purse with frame, The Met.
"Game Bag" with iron frame, drawstring closure, and tassels.
15th-16th century. The Met.

And an English example (again, slightly earlier):
15th century English purse frame. Victorian and Albert Museum.
Purse Frame. English. Late 15th century. In the VAM.

II. Drawstring Purses.

First, a nice, simple leather purse:
16th century Leather purse. British. The Met.
Leather Purse, British, 16th Century. From The Met.

And then there are the host of lovely embroidered purses:

Embroidered Heraldic Purse, c.1540.
Victoria and Albert Museum.
They have a French purse similar shape, dated c.1600.

British embroidered purse sweet bag. 16th century.The Met.
Embroidered purse or "sweet bag", late 16th century.
British. In The Met.
The VAM has a few similar ones dated c. 1600.
Spanish "Gaming Purse" with drawstring closure. c. 1575-1625. 
Woman's embroidered drawstring purse, 16th century.

"Hit or Miss" beaded drawstring purse, c.1628. VAM.
See also the "Gift of a Friend" purse.

III. Other.

This purse belonging to Cardinal Wolsley's purse is rather different from the others. It has a front flap, a lock, and belt loops:

Purse own by Cardinal Wolsley, c.1500-1529. UK National Trust

The VAM also has a few early 17th century purses with novel designs. Though outside the scope of this exercise, I found them an interesting development in what comes next.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I Need This

Purple ombre triped silk dress, late 1850s, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Dress, c.1856-1858. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The stripes. The double-pointed bodice. The tassels. (No, seriously, click through and look at the close-ups, they're amazing).

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Dinner

Now that we've all had a chance to digest, here's my current references for Christmas dinners c. 1840-1865.
Preparing for Christmas (Plucking Turkeys)
by Francis William Edmonds, 1851. The Met.

Bills of Fare

Several dishes recur in descriptions of Christmas dinner: Turkey, plum pudding, and mince pie are almost universal, with American sources frequently adding pumpkin pie.  When circumstances permit, just about every type of seasonable meat joins the list--lamb, beef, pork, chicken, venison--along with a wide variety of sauces, puddings and cakes, gingerbread, cheese, fruit, nuts, and even the occasional winter vegetable.

Family Christmas and New Year dinner plans, Godey's, 1860
Christmas and New Year's Dinners
Godey's, January 1860
The Godey's dinners, published in the January 1860 issue for use at Christmas '59, are verbatim copied from Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt Book (1850): 
Christmas dinner.--Roast turkey; cranberry sauce; boiled ham; turnips; beets; winter squash--Mince pies.
New Year's dinner.--A pair of roast geese with apple sauce; smoked tongue; turnips; cole slaw; winter squash--Plum pudding.
They offer a more extensive list for the next year:

"Christmas and New Year's Dinners" in Godey's, Dec 1860.

A Shilling Cookery for the People (London/New York, 1854) offers a modest Christmas dinner of boiled turkey, vegetable soup (made from the turkey water), roasted potatoes, and plum pudding.  By pre-boiling the pudding, the whole meal can be made with a single pot.

An 1856 Peterson's story, "Two Christmas Dinners" (p. 358), includes Turkey soup, fish with anchovy sauce, roast turkey with cranberry sauce, browned potatoes, plum pudding (served flaming, of course), and nuts for/with dessert.

"Christmas and Its Customs" (Godey's 1855) describes food prepared on Christmas eve: "...besides the customary mince-pies and plum-puddings, there was a large cake called the yule-cake, overspread with leaves and ornaments....In the meanwhile, a table was spread in the kitchen, covered in pork-pies, bread and cheese, elder wine, and ale" [for the carollers who would appear near midnight].  "Apples, nuts and gingerbread" are also mentioned as popular Christmas treats.

An extensive Christmas spread in 1843:
The oven was hot from morning till night and almost from night till morning. There was baking of pound cake, and plum cake, and sponge cake, and Christmas cake, and New Year's cake and all sorts of cake that could be found in the cook book. Then there were ovens full of mince pies and apple pies and custard pies and all sorts of pies. The greatest display of pies however was of the pumpkin tribe. There were pumkin[sic] pies baked on large platters for Christmas dinner and others on large plates for breakfast and supper a month afterwards and others still in saucers for each of the small children. In the next place there was a pair of plum puddings baked in the largest sized earthen pots, and Indian pudding,s and custard puddings to match. And then the roastings that were shown up on the morning of Christmas were in excellent keeping with the rest of the preparations. Besides a fine sirloin of beef, two fat turkeys were roasted, two geese and a half a dozen chickens. And then another half dozen of chickens were made into an enormous chicken pie and baked in a milk pan. A query may arise perhaps in the mind of the reader why such a profusion of food should be cooked up at once for a single family and that family too not unreasonably large though respectable in number for it did not count over sixteen including domestics hired help and all. This is a very natural error for the reader to fall into but it is an error nevertheless. This array of food was not prepared for a single family but for a numerous company to be made up from many families in the neighborhood.
--Way Down East OR Portratures of Yankee Life (1843)
A royal Christmas dinner contains "as many as sixty turkeys" for family, court, and servants, and always includes "a baron of beef, an immeasurable pie, and a boar's head, two or three brawns, and a large woodcock pie", among other dishes. (The Illustrated London Cookery Book 1852). The same book gives the components of a stereotypical English Christmas dinner as goose, roast beef, and plum pudding.

[The "baron of beef" being "two sirloins roasted and brought to the table undivided", which is "a favorite dish in England at Christmas". Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea (New York, 1860).]

Practical American Cookery and Domestic Economy (New York, 1860) instructs that roast turkey (with stuffing, gravy and oyster sauce) should be served with mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, dressed celery, pickles, and stewed apples; also tongue or cold boiled ham for a large party, and mince pies if served at Christmas--pumpkin and apple if at Thanksgiving.

For more ideas about seasonal menus, see Mrs. Beeton's December Bills of Fare for plain family dinnersparties of 6-18, or for a ball supper for 60 persons in winter.

Poverty & Charity

Plum-pudding is no dish for the dog-days, but its suet blunts the keen tooth of winter. Nor is it a mere sentimental sympathy that makes the wish to give the poor a good Christmas dinner. Scant fare makes cold more bitter.
--The Ladies' New Book of Cookery, New York, 1852
The Christmas hamper is a staple of period fiction. Fans of Little Women. and A Christmas Carol will remember it: the charitable main character delights in delivering a Christmas meal (or the ingredients for one) to poor neighbors.  Some of these meals are described in useful detail.

In "The Christmas Letter" (Godey's, 1856), a young woman, with the aid of her generous fiance, provides a Christmas meal for her poor aunts:
The search into the hamper is presently re-newed. It contains an acceptable stock of grocery, inclusive of tea, sugar, and other things; then come a great plum-pudding, only partially to boil to be quite perfect; a goose to stuff and roast; a grand piece of sirloin already cooked; a pigeon-pie; a boiled ham, tartlets, mince-pies, fruit for dessert, four bottles of; wine, and something a little stronger for punch." [Pippins (apples) and filberts (hazel nuts) from the fiance's family estate are included with the provisions.]
A widow and her three children are presented with "A chicken, plum pudding, four pies, bread and some cakes--these were for the Christmas dinner" in Merry Christmas: A Christmas Present for Children and Youth (Boston, 1854).

A different "a poor washerwoman with three children" receives a basket which "contains a turkey...two pies, a peck of potatoes, some currant jelly...and some oysters" for their Christmas dinner in the story "How Effie Hamilton Spent Christmas" (Godey's, Philadelphia, 1857).  The title character makes similar gifts to all of the poor people she can find, including with the dinner baskets personalized Christmas trees for the families with children, special food for invalids, and other treats such as wine, oranges, and white grapes.

Illicit Christmas charity appears a gifts of gin and brandy brought to prisoners by their friends--these supplement the beef, strong beer, tobacco, and plum pudding provided by the establishment and its' official donors. Meanwhile, the turnkey dines on "a magnificent piece of beef." ["Christmas With John Doe" Household Words (London, 1851).]

In 1857, the Girls' Lodging House in New York City served turkey and ham for Christmas Dinner.

Indigent persons without these gifts might make a dinner of bread and cheese.  In the story "Christmas Day In the Bench" (The National Magazine, London, 1858), the cash-strapped main character makes a stew of woodcocks, rump-steak, carrots, and turnips; an 'apple charlotte' of apples, sugar, and bread-and-butter; purchases mince pies; and finishes the meal with a few pints of beer and wine.  This feeds three adults and three children.  When the promised Christmas hamper arrives--weeks late--it contained beef, turkey, sausages, mince pies, pudding, and sherry (all spoiled save the last).

Charles Dickens, describing Christmas in various places and circumstances, describes typical meals among England's poor:
The commonest dinner in the poorer houses--in some parts of the country--is a curious sort of mutton pie. The meat is cut off a loin of mutton and reduced to mouthfuls and then strewed over with currants or raisins and spice, and the whole covered in with a stout crust. In some places, the dinner is baked meat and potatoes; in too many cottages, there is nothing better than a morsel of bacon to flavour the bread or potatoes. But it may be safely said that there is more and better dining in England on Christmas day than on any other day of the year.
--"What Christmas Is In Country Places" Household Words (London, 1851)

Foods in Season

"COD-FISH: In highest season from October to the beginning of February; in perfection about Christmas." (The Ladies' New Book of Cookery, New York, 1852; seconded in Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery for Private Families, London, 1864)  The latter also states that the "John Dory" [fish] is in season from Michelmas to Christmas. Lamprey is also apparently best around Christmas-time (The Modern Housewife, London, 1851)  Hints for the Table (London, 1859) concurs about ling, cod, and dory being in season at Christmas, while the Hake is in season from Michaelmas to Christmas; it also maintains that the lamprey is, in fact, quite costly at Christmastime.

Milton oysters "approach the meridian of their perfection about Christmas", having come into season in May. (The Housekeeper's Manual, London, 1859)

"Welsh Beef. -- It will keep for 2 months in winter, and will be found useful amid the Christmas fare in the country" (The Ladies' New Book of Cookery, New York, 1852) Veal is supposed to be good from Christmas to mid-summer, but cheapest at the end of that time frame (The Cook and Housewife's Manual, Edinburgh, 1862).

"Mutton is in its greatest perfection from August to Christmas" (The Improved Housewife, Hartfield, Connecticut, 14th edition 1851); The Virginia Housewife (1860), concurs. However, lamb is rarely served at Christmas, except for "house lamb", which is in season from Christmas until April (being more delicate near Christmas and more flavorful later, according to the The Modern Housewife).

Turkey is in season at Christmas--the hens are supposed to be boiled, the toms roasted.  
Hints for the Table suggest aging turkeys for 2-3 weeks to make them taste more like game. Other birds, including goose, are also consumed.  The Cook and Housewife's Manual maintains that "geese are in perfection from Michaelmas to Christmas" (though elsewhere, it is indicated that geese are best in summer and again at Michaelmas)*.  Nonetheless, goose pie is repeatedly named. Dickens describes elaborate goose pies being prepared in England:
"The goose pie alone is an achievement to be complacent about; even the most ordinary goose pie; still more a superior one with a whole goose in the middle and another cut up and laid round; with a fowl or two, and a pheasant or two, and a few larks put into odd corners; and the top, all shiny with white of egg, figured over with leaves of pastry, and tendrils and crinkle crankles, with a bunch of the more delicate bird feet standing up in the middle"
--"What Christmas Is In Country Places" Household Words (London, 1851)
Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea describes a 9-foot meat pie, containing rabbit and ten types of birds, which was supposedly made in England in 1770 (see page 127); Hints for the Table describes another elaborate 13th century meat pie recreated in 1836 (page 66).

Eggs are most expensive around Christmas, and cheapest at Easter, according to The Cook and Housewife's Manual.

Venison is "in perfection about Christmas" (Mrs. Goodfellow's Cookery As It Should Be, Philadelphia, 1865).

Cured "chine of pork" is "generally used at Christmas" (Illustrated London Cookery Book, 1852; The Practical Housekeeper (New York, 1857) repeats this observation.

*The Cook and Housewife's Manual also mentions poultry being cheapest in cities in the summer and in rural areas around Christmas; there may be few different ideas of seasonality under consideration.


A Christmas dinner, with the middle classes of this empire, would scarcely be a Christmas dinner without its turkey... --Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management

Plum puddings are not only confined to British publications like The Young Housewife's Daily Assistant (London, 1864), The Housekeeper's Manual (London, 1859) or The Corner Cupboard (1858) [three Christmas pudding receipts, see #36-38].  Sarah Josepha Hale includes a "Christmas Cottage Pudding"in both The Ladies' New Book of Cookery (New York, 1852) and in Modern Household Cookery (London, 1854); Godey's (Philadelphia, 1860) also has pudding receipts, likewise The American Matron (Boston, 1851), and Practical American Cookery and Domestic Economy (New York, 1860).  Hints for the Table (London, 1859) recommends using duck eggs in Christmas puddings.

Cookery: Rational, Practical, and Economical (London 1855), has advice for serving its plum pudding, whether baked or boiled:
It is a custom in England at Christmas time, to ornament the plum pudding with a sprig of holly stuck into the top and after pouring a quantity of spirits over it, to set fire to this in the dish, and serve it blazing. Although this fiery sauce may amuse a Christmas juvenile party, yet the pudding is thereby spoiled for those who dislike the spirit flavour. It is therefore better omitted, so that each person may help himself or not as he pleases to a small quantity of brandy or other liqueur with which to flavour his pudding. Caudle sauce is also sometimes taken with plum pudding, though it is oftener preferred plain.  
A good plum pudding will keep (if not eaten) a very long time. Slices of it broiled or merely re-warmed before the fire, are excellent.
Christmas Plum Pudding, illustration from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861)

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (London, 1861) has recipes for Christmas Cake, Christmas Plum Pudding, and A Plain Christmas Pudding for ChildrenOther dishes recommended for Christmas include the aforementioned Roast Turkey and Turkey Soup ("a seasonable dish at Christmas"), while the boar's head is named as a traditional dish (no receipt given).

As previously noted, A Shilling Cookery for the People (1854) has recipes for boiled turkey, vegetable soup, roasted potatoes, and plum pudding.

In December 1860, Godey's publishes "Receipts for Christmas", including five Christmas plum
 puddings or cakes, pumpkin pudding, three types of mince meat, lemon cake, lemon gingerbread, seed cake, queen cake, imperial gingerbread, soft cruellers, and pound cake.  The following page contains instructions and recipes for preparing poultry and game. Three years earlier, the December issue of Godey's Christmas Receipts included mince pie, twelfth cake, Christmas pudding, buns, Sally Lunn, mince meat, and a receipt for pickling meat; more poultry instructions follow.

Francitelli's A Plan Cookery Book for the Working Classes (London, 1852): "Let us hope that at Christmas, or some other festive season, you may have to dress a fowl or turkey for your dinner." which follows with the receipt for roast fowl and gravy (#16), and also a Christmas plum pudding (#95) 

The Practical Housekeeper (New York, 1857) has receipts for Christmas Ham, Christmas Cake, Christmas Pie [goose and tongue], and Mince Meat Pies for Christmas.

Goose pie--baked well in advance, in a standing crust--apparently used to be common at Christmas. Now, you make it the day you serve it. (Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book, Philadelphia, 1857).  Her Lady's New Receipt Book (1850) includes a "French Raised Pie" of game or poultry, which can be made as a Christmas present and mailed.

The Modern Housewife or Ménagère (London 1851) describes Plain Roasted Turkey With Sausages (#378) as a Christmas dish.

Modern Cookery for Private Families (London, 1864) has receipts for Ingoldsby Christmas Pudding, The Author's Christmas Pudding; and a French fruit tart called Christmas tourte ala chatelaine.  Intriguingly, the instructions for a "common apple pudding" requires additional boiling if made after Christmas--possibly this is due to ingredients aging?

The Cook and Housewife's Manual (Edinburgh, 1862) gives receipts for ox-head soup (or Hessian Soup and Ragout), head and shoulders of cod, English Christmas goose pie, mincemeat and mince pies, Trinity Christmas plum-pudding, Scotch Christmas buns, and wassail bowl.

How to Mix Drinks (1862) includes six receipts for egg nog, noting that "Egg Nogg is a beverage of American origin, but it has a popularity that is cosmopolitan. At the South it is almost indispensable at Christmas time, and at the North it is a favorite at all seasons."  The Illustrated London Cookbook (1852) has a receipt for "Egg Flip or Egg Hot" (#1616).

To Be Continued...

P.S. A few seasonable receipts I have tried: Christmas Cake, Plum Pudding, New Year's Cookies, Twelfth Night Cake, and Roast Fowls.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Victorian Christmas Trees

We've already discussed making decorations for them, so here's my collection of mid-19th century images and descriptions of Christmas trees

Its branches spread wide over the table on Christmas Eve, and its lights shine and twinkle right merrily; and among its green leaves hang toys and presents for every one of the family.

The Christmas Tree engraving for Godey's 1855
The Christmas Tree, Godey's, December 1855
In the early 1830s-1840s, American and British magazines describe the Christmas tree as a German invention, which requires explanation.  By the mid-1850s, the practice has apparently become familiar with the reading audience.
This is performed with great ceremony and mystery, on Christmas Eve, by the elders of the family without the knowledge of the younger members. They deck a large evergreen with presents of various kinds: to toys, bonbons, and such trifles, are added things of more value and use--working materials for the girls, knives, &c. for the boys, and books of amusement and instruction for both. Little tapers are attached to the branches of the shrub; and at break of day the children are roused from their slumber, and when all are ready (for no one is allowed to enter singly) they are admitted into the room where the illuminated tree greets their eyes. Great is the anxiety of the young party to see who has been provided for, since the idea they are taught to entertain is, that these tempting objects are bestowed by an invisible agent, as a reward for good children, and that the naughty and ill-conducted will find no share allotted to them...
Queen Victoria family Christmas tree. Godey's 1850.
The Christmas Tree. Godey's, 1850.
Very similar to the image of Queen Victoria and her family with a 
Christmas tree, which first appeared in Illustrated London News in 1848.
Godey's repeated it with a short story, "The Christmas Tree", in 1860. 
For the benefit of those of our readers who are not acquainted with the beautiful descriptions of the Chritmas-tree in Mary Howitt's and other modern works and translations, we will just say that the one in question was a young fir-tree, placed in a large tub gaily painted for the occasion. Its branches were hung with tiny tapers, cut paper, oranges, apples, bunches of raisins, figs, bonbons, and other showy and delicate trifle,s besides more solid ornaments, in the shape of pretty and suitable presents for the children, young people, and servants.
--"The Christmas Bride" The Illustrated New York Journal (1854)
In 1855, Godey's ran a brief history of the Christmas tree (in the 1850s-pop-history-just-assert-things-are-true genre).
Frontispiece engraving A Leaf From A Christmas Tree (1852)
Frontis to A Leaf From A Christmas Tree (1852)

Chymical, Natural and Physical Magic (1858) offers instructions for setting up a Christmas tree:
 First provide a young fir tree capable of being planted in a good sized flower pot. This being done set it upon a box or anything else that will give elevation so as to form a pedestal. The pedestal and pot must be decorated with leaves of the season and the mould covered with moss so as to give everything a neat appearance. At each branch or prong of the tree a small wax taper is to be fixed upright; these tapers should be of as many colours as you can get. Suspended to each branch and at every point that is accessible we are to hang anything and everything that we consider will please our party. Toys for children, sweets for youth, love mottoes and kisses for our third age, and a few crackers for the fun of the thing. When the company comes the tapers are to be lighted and preparations made for the fair distribution of the good things growing on the tree, taking care that there is sufficient fruit for all visitors. A kind of lottery or wheel of fortune is made by numbering a quantity of cards to match your company, they being put into a basket or reticule. Each person is to dip a hand into the lucky bag and withdraw one card. According to the number upon it the rotation of choice from the tree is decided. This plan gives general satisfaction, and few leave your house but will remember in after years your Christmas tree. (p. 121)
A manger scene at the foot of the tree is also possible:
Oh! such a grand and glorious Christmas Tree as never eye of child beheld. Its lower branches spread nearly touching the rose-strewed carpet, just above a wonderful little group of tiny figures which represented the manger, and the wondering large-eyed cattle, the worshipping shepherds, and the holy mother and child. Above these lower branches the glorious tree bore on every bough its harvest of shining Christmas fruit. Tiny toys and trinkets hung glittering from every point; fairy baskets and boxes heaped with sugarplums and dolls, more exquisitely dressed than any Paris beauty, for the girls; trumpets, drums, and swords for the boys; sweet-smelling, sweet-tasting, and deep-coloured oranges, red-cheeked waxen-looking apples; beautiful gold and silver balls lovelier than any fruit but that which grew in Aladdin's orchard; little crystal bells ringing and tinkling with every movement of every branch; gay artificial flowers of every hue, making the great Christmas Tree look as though a blossom from every plant that ever grew had suddenly bloomed in the warm atmosphere upon its dark green boughs. High up above the shining toys and trinkets blazed the cross in green and white and red and yellow tapers. and on the topmost branch of all hovered the heavenly image of the Christ child.
--"The Christmas Tree" in The Christmas Tree and Other Tales (1856)
In a departure from the evergreen, "A Christmas Tree for Christ's Children" has a potted orange tree decorated for Christmas: 
A Christmas Orange-Tree
A Christmas Tree for Christ's Children (1859)
The Tree was a real growing orange-tree, which Mr Oldham had had brought in from the conservatory and had real oranges growing upon it, though only very small ones except one or two which were riper than the rest; and besides there were sweetmeats of all kinds and a great number of beautiful fancy figures all hung round in the branches; and then there were wax lights all burning in the tree, and the light from them was reflected from the figures, and the crystals of sugar on the sweetmeats, just like bright diamonds, so that the children, one and all, declared they had never seen any thing half so pretty.
--A Christmas Tree for Christ's Children (1859)

Christmas--Gathering Evergreens/ The Christmas Tree
Engravings by Homer Winslow, Harper's, December 25, 1858.
Courtesy of The Met.
"For there on the table in the centre of the room was a great Christmas tree, lit up with a number of wax tapers of various colours and hung with toys and Christmas presents--a toy or a sweetmeat for every one of us young and old. The joyous cries and exclamations of the children, and the happy looks of the elders of the party quite pleased dear Aunt Harriett and we were speedily dancing and singing round the table like youths and maidens round the maypole in the olden time. Presently we were all very busy in seeking each one for himself the present or toy which bore his name. There were dolls and embroidery work and tiny looking glasses and bon bon crackers and gilt crochet pins and jewellery for the little ladies; and watches and tops and guns and flags and little steam coaches and painted balloons of glass and sweetmeats in gold papers and I don't know what besides for the merry and eager little boys."
--The Christmas Tree (1856) p. 3
Apples are another possible decoration (with or without gilt paper to cover them); the tree in that story also is adorned with "colored tapers, sugar lambs with red ribbons round their necks, doves with red heads and tails ,storks with red bills, hearts with red darts inflicting crimson wounds, and rosy lyres with golden strings." [Christmas Eve" in Holly and Mistletoe (1860) . p. 71-75.]
The room was brilliantly lighted up with coloured lamps hanging from the ceiling and the walls, and gaily festooned with green leaves and coronets of holly-berries and mistletoe. There was no furniture in the room, but in the centre, on the floor, there was placed a gigantic Christmas Tree, whose topmost branches almost reached the ceiling. It was loaded with toys and presents, and dazzling with light, which proceeded from a multitude of little tapers hung about among the dark fir branches in all directions; and numerous little glass globes, sparkling with various metallic colours, that made them look like balls of gold and silver, added to the beautiful effect...all--men, women, and children--commenced searching about among the branches for the toys and presents that bore their names...for an hour or more the fun continued, till nearly every one in the room had possession of a bon-bon in gilt paper, or a toy watch, or a box of sweetmeats, or a bundle of crackers, or something of that kind. There were sugar-frosted fruits and sweetmeats, with mottoes slily concealed inside, for the ladies and gentlemen; and little dolls, and little tops, and little coloured balls, and all kinds of toys and confectionery for the boys and girls, with numerous other things for which I can find no names.
---"The Christmas Tree and The Toys That Jenny Hung Upon It" in The Christmas Tree by G. F. Parton (3rd Annual, 1858)
Franz Kruger's Father and Son Picking Christmas Trees
 Father and Son Picking Christmas Tree
Franz Krüger (before 1857)
I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were rosy-checked dolls, hiding behind the green leaves; there were real watches (with movable hands, at least, and an endless capacity of being wound up) dangling from innumerable twigs; there were French-polished tables, chairs, bedsteads, wardrobes, eight-day clocks, and various other articles of domestic furniture (wonderfully made, in tin, at Wolverhampton), perched among the boughs as in preparation for some fairy housekeeping; there were jolly broad-faced little men, much more agreeable in appearance than many real men--and no wonder for their heads took off, and showed them to be full of sugarplums; there were fiddles and drums; there were tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes, sweetmeat-boxes, peep-show boxes, all kinds of boxes; there were trinkets for the elder girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels; there were baskets and pincushions in all devices; there were guns, swords, and banners; there were witches standing in enchanted rings of pasteboard, to tell fortunes; there were teetotums, humming-tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers, smelling-bottles, conversation-cards, bouquet-holders; real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts crammed with surprises; in short, as a pretty child, before me, delightedly whispered to another pretty child, her bosom friend "There was everything, and more."
--"A Christmas Tree" in Household Words, ed. Charles Dickens (1851)
"The Christmas Tree" from Christmas Poems and Pictures (1864)
Punch's facetious "Crinoline Christmas Tree" must also be mentioned.

Christmas Morning (1844) by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller. Via the Athenaeum.

Friday, December 22, 2017

1850s Christmas Crafts

Christmas Eve: Bringing Home the Holly
Peterson's Magazine, December 1860
"Aunt Sophie's Visits"--a story in the December 1857 issue of Godey's--describes decorating a tree in home-made ornaments: strings of 'parched-corn', painted egg-shells, wax lemons, nuts covered in gilt paper, lace-bags of sugar plums, and "a variety of funny things...made of wire and different colors of sealing wax."
This "ornamental lamp cap", from Godey's, 1858,
is "extremely suitable" for Christmas trees.
It was a fortnight before Christmas and we were already deeply engaged in preparation for the merry season. Green boughs with which to decorate the rooms were being made into festoons and garlands and in a sly corner the Christmas tree was waiting its hour of triumph. Ellen was hurrying to finish a picture of Santa Claus to hang over the Christmas tree and May was practising incessantly 'Let us love one another' at the piano forte, while little Harry entered with even greater zeal if possible into the preparations for the festivities. Seated in his little chair, which, with show of secresy was turned with its back to the room, he was working with his jack knife on a present for mother which, from occasional glances, I judged would be a little wooden vessel.
--"The Second Wife"  in Peterson's Magazine, 1856

The What-Not (1859) has instructions for making Christmas Paper Roses, useful for decorating the classroom or ballroom, or even the tree. They are said to look very pretty when made up in white, pinks, reds, and yellow and interspersed with evergreens.

Alternatively, real roses can also be preserved in wax for Christmas use (The Little Girl's Own Book,1847).  Mrs. Child also recommends that little girls follow the German custom of "making boxes, baskets, needle-books, &c" as presents for their parents, brothers and sisters.

And the magazines oblige with instructions for Christmas presents. Peterson's, in December 1857, announces that "Our Work-Table department is full, this month, of articles suitable for Christmas-gifts: some economical, some more costly, some adapted for presents from children to parents, others between wife and husband, others between friends and lovers. Thousands of fair fingers will be busy in consequence."  Instructions are offered for a fancy basket, 'mama's work basket', Bible (book) markers, a crochet purse, a beaded bracelet, knit cuffs and muffs, embroidered table cover, a beaded elbow pillow, a lace and ribbon collar, and several embroidery patterns. 

Berlin Work Pattern,
Peterson's, December 1860
The very beautiful Berlin wool work pattern ,which is given printed in colors in the front of the number, may be used for a variety of purposes. In fact, it is on this account that we have selected it for this month, as it comes in just in time for those who wish to make up Christmas and New Year's Gifts. Worked on canvas of a moderate fineness with single Berlin wool, it will serve for a sofa pillow, foot stool, bag, &e. Worked on a coarser canvas in double Berlin wool, which would have a beautiful effect, it would then be admirably adapted for an ottoman, fender-stool, &c. The white and yellow may be worked in filoselle which would very decidedly increase the richness and brightness of the pattern. We may here say that Christmas gifts worked by the giver are always more cherished than those which are purchased and for a very natural reason
--Peterson's December 1860 (p. 480-1)

That is in the December issue, and so, supposedly, available at the beginning of November, which gives a little more time for finishing. presents.
Christmas Purse, Peterson's, Dec. 1859
To be worked in crochet.
Christmas Slipper (embroidery pattern)
Peterson's, December 1860
Don't try this at home: Mackenzie's Five Thousand Receipts (Philadelphia, 1854) has "exploding pastils" for Christmas.  The pastils (balls or cones of dried gums with scent) are typically burned like incense to perfume a room; the holiday twist adds gunpowder to the mix, so that the resulting "unexpected report terrifies some [of the company], whilst it amuses others."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Games and Activities, 1850s

Christmas is the time for indoor games. --The Christmas Tree (1859)
A Child's Party at Christmas (Cassell's, 1862)
"...January is so severe as entirely to put a stop to all farm operations These long holidays are principally spent in attending shooting matches, dances, and card parties. With the young people a favourite amusement of the season is playing for pins with tee totums on a tea board. Childish as this game may appear, I assure you I have seen a party of grown up people play at it for hours with the greatest enjoyment."
--A Story of a Family Party (1852)

The Christmas Bag or "Christmas Balloon" is a sort of pinata.  For additional 'fun', fill the bag with flour instead of prizes.  Or, do three in a row, with a succession of sugar plums, sewing supplies, and finally the flour. For a truly grand experience, why not add a Christmas Tree lottery, fortune-telling and a theatrical?

In Frederick Lee, Or, The Christmas Present, the children spend Christmas day with music, riddles, conundrums, stories and games (including the card game Pope Joan and Dr. Busby).

Fireside Games (1859) contains parlor games appropriate "at merry Christmas-time, or on a wet day in the country, or in the city too, for that matter, or on a winter's evening, when the fire is burning cheerily, pussy purring on the hearth, and the lamps lighted..." [This was apparently borrowed from The Sociable (1858).]

The What-Not (1859) gives instructions for some Christmas Games:

Find the Ring: Like Hunt the Slipper, but with a ring on a string held by the group. The ring is slid along this string from person to person, while the person in the center of the group tries to guess who has it.

Porco: Like Blindman's Bluff with a Wand (the groups makes a circle around one person, who is blindfolded and holds a stick): the blindfolded person pokes someone in the circle and makes animal, the person being poked has to echo the animal noises, and the blindfolded one tries to guess who it is.

Games Played in A Christmas Carol are :

Blindman's Bluff : This game exists in several variations, all with a blindfolded  person trying to guess which member of the group they have caught/hit with a stick/sat on.

I Love My Love With an A: An alphabetical game, with each person in turn coming up with a name, gift, flower, occupation, adjective, etc., that start with the same letter.

How, When, and Where: Possibly the same game as "Entree" aka "How do you like it, When do you like it, and Where do you like it".  The whole group chooses an item, and one person (who does not know it) attempts to discover the item by asking everyone those three questions about it.

Yes and No: Basically "20 Questions"--one player asks yes/no questions to determine the item selected by the rest of the group.

[See The Sociable/Fireside Games for full rules to the first three; the last appears in Round Games for All Parties (1854).]

In 1850, Charades is supposed to be a new Christmas game, replacing "cards, blind man's bluff, forfeits, and hunting the ring". (Acting CharadesGodey's repeats this claim, verbatim, in 1854.

The Christmas Tree (1859) and  Christmas, It's Customs (1860) are both working from the same list, with games of:

Plum Pudding: A variation on twirl the trencher, in which players much keep a wood plate spinning while telling a story about kitchen implements

The Game of Real Life/The Author: A storytelling game in which everyone plays a character or object mentioned int he story.

Messengers: Each player must make up a story about a place he/she claims to have just come from (with forfeits for repeating someone else or saying something impossible).

The Bar of Justice: A blindfolded player must face four "judges", each charging him/her with a crime made up by another player; the blindfolded player must guess who made up each charge, and whoever is correctly identified gets blindfolded next.

Composition/How: One player asks the group a series of questions (example: "What goes in a plum pudding?"); players must answer the question, paying a forfeit for failing to do so or for repeating an answer.  The questioner can ask a new question when she/he thinks there are no more answers to give (and pays a forfeit if someone comes up with another answer to the previous question).

Double Meanings: The group picks a pair of words that are homophones.  One person, who does not know the words, tries to determine them by asking questions, which are answered for the two definitions of the words.

Shadow Bluff: (As seen on Victorian Farm!) Players stand behind a sheet, casting shadows with any props they can find.  One players attempts to identify each shape.

The Knight of the Whistle: A blindfolded obstacle course.

The Corner Cupboard (London, 1858) claims that the "variety and number [of Christmas games] is so great that they would fill a moderate volume", but suggests Hunt the Slipper, How do you like it Where do you like it? When do you like it?, The Gig, The Traveller, The Menagerie, Shadow Buff, and The Blind Pointer. It further offers rules for:

The Knight of the Whistle: A different version than before--here, the knight has a whistle attached to his/her back with a string (without knowing it), and the rest of the party tries to blow the whistle without being caught by the knight.

Catch the Ring: See "Find the Ring"

Bindman's Bluff:  The basic version, in which all the players are free to move about the room, while the blindfolded person attempts to catch one and guess who it is.

The Dutch Concert: Each player imitates an instrument, and the group "plays" a simple tune. The game leader can switch to any other player's instrument, and that player must assume the leader's previous instrument, paying a forfeit for each mistake.

The Harmless Duel: The two duelists attempt to blow a soap bubble into the other's face.