Alexis Soyer was a nineteenth-century celebrity chief. Born in Mieux-en-Brie in France in 1810, Soyer fled to England during the French Revolution of 1830. He quickly became a public figure, publishing books like The Gastronomic Regenerator: A Simplified and Entirely New System of Cookery and The Modern Housewife or, Ménagère.
Posts from the ‘Advent Calendar 2019’ Category
By Abigail Gomulkiewicz
This pendant is a salamander set in gold with blue enamel. The salamander’s body is formed from a baroque pearl and it holds an emerald in its mouth. Although the provenance is unknown, the salamander imagery was something quite often gifted by men at court to Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). In fact, the salamander actually appears in more offerings than the oft-studied phoenix or pelican. Mr. Thomas Hennage, for example, gave a gold jewel tablet with a salamander in opal on it while Charles Smythe presented a small salamander jewel with rubies, diamonds, and pearls. Mr. Carmardenn also offered a silver and gilt bodkin with a salamander pendant in mother of pearl.
By Meg Roberts (@megeroberts)
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as industry and population swelled, an enduring fear of ‘idleness’ as a morally corrupting and irresponsible vice took on new significance in both Britain and America. This fear could almost be described as an obsession. Across print and material culture throughout this period, the indolence of ‘idleness’ was contrasted with the aspirational diligence of ‘industry’.
By Savannah Pine (@savannah_pine)
Robert Fitzwalter’s seal-matrix is a typical early-thirteenth-century seal-matrix. Its imagery proclaims his identity through an equestrian figure brandishing a sword, which represents that he was a part of the elite warrior class, and through a shield displaying his coat-of-arms (a fess between two chevrons), which signifies his membership within a familial group. However, in contrast to other elite laymen’s seal-matrices, Fitzwalter placed another man’s coat-of-arms on his seal-matrix – the mascles arms depicted on the shield which is underneath the horse’s neck. That heraldic device belonged to his ritual brother, Saer de Quincy, earl of Winchester.
By Maggie Kalenak
Botanical specimens like the ones pictured can be found in archives all over the U.K., delighting the unsuspecting reader by tumbling out of 19th century envelopes. Whether to a family member, friend or sweetheart, flowers and leaves were frequently tucked into letters to further personalise the experience of their recipients. In the 1870s John Sibree from Yorkshire sent his fiancee, Cissie, leaves he pressed in order to share autumnal walks with her despite their long distance relationship. In return she would send her responses in envelopes full of violets, their fragrance scenting the paper, giving John a full sensory experience and building their intimacy by creating shared experiences through their floral exchange.
By Martin Crevier (@Crevier__Martin)
This carving of a Sphinx came to the British Museum in 1896 from Haida Gwaii, a Pacific archipelago off the coast of what is today the Canadian province of British Columbia. The artist, Simeon Stildha (1799-1889), was a chief of the Haida people, the islands’ indigenous inhabitants.
This wooden wheelchair was the often invisible, but invaluable, aid to President Franklin Roosevelt during his years of political prominence. Cobbled together from a standard kitchen chair with bicycle wheels attached, this wheelchair was designed to be discreet, light and mobile. Unlike the bulky and obtrusive counterparts of its time, this wheelchair allowed FDR to somewhat conceal the lower body paralysis he had experienced since the age of 39. It sits today at the Home of FDR, the National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York.
The Second Boer War of 1899-1902 is renowned for raising popular imperialist fervour to new heights in Britain. Extravagant public rejoicing marked key turning points in the conflict. Most notoriously, uproarious celebrations followed the Relief of Mafeking in May 1900, even coining a new term in the English language. Historians continue to debate the extent and significance of this public display of jingoism – or ‘mafficking’.
By Alex White (@alex_j_white)
Travel literature can be invaluable to historians studying the dynamics of migration, tourism and cultural difference. However, they can be equally useful for shedding light on the interests and preoccupations of their own authors. This is certainly the case with Gandhi’s Guide to London, an unpublished booklet from 1893 written for Indian students intending to study in Great Britain.
By Kate Schneider (@sonicteeth)
We fondly remember the hostess trolley as a relic of the 1970s, trundled ceremoniously into the dining room for special occasions, with its misted-up Pyrex dishes filled with damp Christmas dinners and near-sliceable gravy kept warm for hours before serving.
Early-nineteenth-century playing cards can tell us much about politics, society, and culture in the early American republic. These woodcut cards, engraved on paper and then water-coloured, served several functions. They represented a continued interest in ‘diversions’ like gambling in post-colonial society, where dice and card games of various fashions formed a key part of social interactions at home and in taverns alike.
“Female Pills” that claimed to help with menstruation, indigestion, pain relief, hysteria, depression and sallow skin have been sold in Britain and the United States since the eighteenth century. Dr John Hooper’s Female Pills, patented in 1743, was one such product that was still being advertised and consumed well into the twentieth century.
In the late nineteenth century, celluloid combs were all the rage. ‘Few women consider their hair properly dressed nowadays unless they have at least three combs’, declared one newspaper in 1900. An artificial thermoplastic first registered in 1870, celluloid’s easily mouldable nature made it a cheap replacement for more expensive materials such as ivory and tortoiseshell. However, as the same article went on to advise, ‘it is wiser to save up one’s money for the purchase of real tortoiseshell than to trust the cheap and perilous celluloid.’
By Wonik Son
Japan’s re-entry into tourism after World War II began on the day that sovereignty was restored, seven years after defeat. In 1952, the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB), the Japanese government’s corporate arm tasked with promoting and facilitating travel to the country, published two tourist books, a Pocket Guide and an Official Guide. The Pocket Guide’s introductory message is dated as 28 April 1952 – the day the Treaty of San Francisco, which formally ended the American occupation of the Japanese mainland, took effect.
By Nicolas Bell-Romero (@NicoBellRomero)
‘So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: ‘From my cold, dead hands!’
This seemingly innocuous teapot has a seditious past. Painted with an image of Charles Edward Stuart (known to his supporters as “Bonnie Prince Charlie”), this was a Jacobite object. The Jacobites were those who, following the “Revolution” of 1688-9, when James II fled Britain and was replaced as monarch by William and Mary, supported the return of the exiled Stuart monarchy to the British throne. This support made them treasonous criminals in the eyes of the Hanoverian Protestant state. As a result, they had to keep their written communication to a minimum, and destroy much of what they received. Jacobite objects were often used as an alternative means of communicating politically and demonstrating loyalty to the Stuarts.
By Walker Schneider (@WalkerSchneider)
Today crime-fighting relies on massive criminal databases. In the United States, this practice can be traced back to Gilded Age New York City and the Rogues’ Gallery, the great-grandfather of modern criminal databases. Deep within the New York City Police Department’s headquarters on Mulberry Street, the Rogues’ Gallery was a hulking mass of dark polished wood that stood five feet tall and four feet wide. Its two doors opened to reveal large wooden panels that could be flipped through like pages in a book. Each panel held a hundred photographic portraits of known criminals from around the world.
by Lucy Inskip (@lucyskippin)
Rather than finding the most outlandish historical object from a heritage site or online collection, I looked to my own bookshelf for an interesting piece of history. I bought this vintage Oxford coloured postcard print from Antiques on High whilst reading History at Oriel College, University of Oxford (2016-2019). It is from an original watercolour drawing of Oriel, by Alfred Robert Quinton (1853-1934).