Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

The Adamses: “quite out of their element”

MARY HILL LAMAR wrote again from London to her brother Henry Hill in Philadelphia this time including a couple of catty remarks about John and Abigail Adams as well as Ann Willing Bingham and her husband, said to be the wealthiest man in America.

London, March 18, 1786. . . . Please make my affectionate compliments to my sister Mrs. Hill, with my thanks for the nice cranberries. Before this gets to hand you will probably see Mr. and Mrs. Bingham, whom I have not seen since their return from France, although I called twice after I heard of their being in London. I am told the extreme of the French fashion, or her own taste, has made great alteration, while on the continent, in her manners, &c. When I mentioned her own taste, it was because she appeared at the opera in a hat unlike anything that ever made its appearance there before or since; fond as they are here of the French fashions. She has been introduced to their majesties, by Mr. and Mrs. Adams, our American plenipo [plenipotentiary], who, by the by, the girls have been to wait on several times, with myself. We have had them to a party of cards and tea, and she has been asked a second time, but as they have not returned the compliment, I think it unnecessary to pay them any farther attention.

They seem sensible people, one and all, but quite out of their element. Mrs. Adams has been very handsome, but an indifferent figure, being very short and fat. Miss [the Adams’s daughter Nabby], by some, reckoned handsome. . . .

Excuse haste, and believe me, my dear brother,
Your sincerely affectionate sister,
MARY LAMAR

John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881 (Philadelphia: 1854), 260-61. Anne Willing Bingham (above) was the model for an early coin design. More than 23 million non-gold coins of Bingham were introduced into circulation from 1795 to 1808.

posted February 16th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Americans Abroad,Bingham, Anne Willing,Bingham, William,Fashion,Hill, Henry,Lamar, Mary Hill,London,Paris,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

A Quaker wedding: “the couple signed the certificate”

Among the events ANN HEAD WARDER attended during her visit to the United States in 1786-87 was a Quaker wedding. The diary entry is dated 1 mo. 9th, which in the Quaker notation means first month, that is January, on the 9th day. The year was 1787.

A dull wet morning and bad prospect for Elliston Perot’s wedding guests. . . . On entering [the meeting house] found most of the wedding company present, among whom I sat. Cousin Betsy Roberts first said a few words, then honest Robert Willis, soon after which Betsy appeared in supplication and William Savery followed with a long and fine testimony. The bride and groom performed, the latter exceedingly well, and the former very bad. Meeting closed early when the couple signed the certificate, the woman taking upon her her husband’s name. We then proceeded to Elliston’s house but a short distance from the meeting, where about forty-eight friends were assembled. We were ushered up stairs where cake and wine were served, and Joey Sansom in helping with two decanters of Bitters, and glasses on a waiter, spilt the wine over his sister’s wedding garments, much to his embarrassment. The next disaster was, that some of the fresh paint [on the chairs] ruined a number of gowns. At two o’clock we were summoned to dinner and all were seated at a horse-shoe shaped table . . . except . . . the groomsmen [who] waited on us. . . . We had an abundant entertainment—almost every thing that the season produced. After dinner we adjourned up stairs, and chatted away the afternoon, the young folks innocently cheerful and the old ones not less so. Tea was made in another room and sent to us. At nine o’clock we were called to supper, after which the guests prepared to return to their homes.

A lot of eating and drinking and visiting. I attended my niece’s Quaker wedding. The bride and groom signed the certificate as did all of the people who were present. An official document as well as a wonderful remembrance.

“Extracts from the Diary of Mrs. Ann Warder,” 58-59, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XVII, 1893, No. 1. The Quaker wedding dress illustrated, dated 1809, is from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The dress is beautiful in its simplicity, no added adornments or decorations as was the Quaker custom.

posted October 13th, 2016 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Clothes,Fashion,Marriage,Quakers,Warder, Ann Head

“a doll . . . dressed to show us the fashions”

ANNA PAYNE, Dolley Payne Todd Madison’s youngest sister, lived with Dolley until she married in 1804. Sarah “Sally” McKean, the daughter of a Pennsylvania politician, was one of a number of “belles” of Philadelphia and a friend of Dolley’s. She also befriended Anna. Sally’s letter to Anna which follows describes the fashions of the day in considerable detail. Note her mention of the “doll” sent from England dressed in the latest fashions. Wealthy women could have local dressmakers copy the styles in fabrics of their choice.

Philadelphia, June 10, 1796And now, my dear Anna . . . we will speak a little about Philadelphia and the fashions, the beaux. Congress, and the weather. Do I not make a fine jumble of them? . . . Philadelphia never was known to be so lively at this season as at present; for an accurate account of the amusements, I refer you to my letter to your sister Mary. I went yesterday to see a doll, which has come from England, dressed to show us the fashions, and I saw besides a great quantity of millinery. Very long trains are worn, and they are festooned up with loops of bobbin, and small covered buttons, the same as the dress: you are not confined to any number of festoons, but put them according to your fancy, and you cannot conceive what a beautiful effect it has. There is also a robe which is plaited very far back, open and ruffled down the sides, without a train, being even with the petticoat. The hats are quite a different shape from what they used to be: they have no slope in the crown, scarce any rim, and are turned up at each side, and worn very much on the side of the head. Several of them are made of chipped wood, commonly known as cane hats; they are all lined: one that has come for Mrs. [Anne Willing] Bingham is lined with white, and trimmed with broad purple ribbon, put round in large puffs, with a bow on the left side. The bonnets are all open on the top, through which the hair is passed, either up or down as you fancy, but latterly they wear it more up than down; it is quite out of fashion to frizz or curl the hair, as it is worn perfectly straight. Earrings, too, are very fashionable. The waists are worn two inches longer than they used to be, and there is no such thing as long sleeves. They are worn half way above the elbow, either drawn or plaited in various ways, according to fancy; they do not wear ruffles at all, and as for elbows, Anna, ours would be alabaster, compared to some of the ladies who follow the fashion; black or a colored ribbon is pinned round the bare arm, between the elbow and the sleeve. There have come some new-fashioned slippers for ladies, made of various colored kid or morocco, with small silver clasps sewed on; they are very handsome, and make the feet look remarkably small and neat. Everybody thinks the millinery last received the most tasty seen for a long time. . . .
Mind that you write me a long answer to this, and that very soon.
Your sincere and affectionate friend,
Sally McKean.

Sally McKean married the Spanish minister plenipotentiary to the United States, Carlos Martínez de Irujo, in 1798. After the birth of her third child she moved with her husband to Spain in 1808 from which she never returned. Anna Payne married Richard Cutts, a Massachusetts congressman in 1804. James Madison served as President Jefferson’s Secretary of State, was elected president in 1808 and served two terms. Dolley played a much more active role in public life than did her predecessors. She often served as Jefferson’s hostess and as the ‘first lady,” wearing her trademark turban, presided over grand dinners and entertainments in the redecorated public rooms in the presidential mansion.

See more information about Dolley Madison HERE. Sally McKean’s letter to Anna Cutts can be found HERE, pages 18-21.

posted September 29th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Cutts, Anna Payne,d'Yrujo McKean, Sarah (Sally),Don Carlos, Marques de Casa d'Yrujo,Fashion,Madison, Dolley,Philadelphia

“a turban in miniature”

In August, REBECCA STODDERT, writing to her niece in Bladensburg, Maryland, notes that she is sending her some examples of the latest fashions in Philadelphia. One way to convey information about new styles was to send copies in miniature, as in the case of the turban in this letter. Fashion dolls were also used, clad in the latest patterns which could be replicated by the recipient.
The heat is bothering Rebecca; she’s a hard lady to please and wants nothing more than to return her to state—Maryland.

My dear Eliza,—so favorable an opportunity presents itself, I cannot do otherwise than take the advantage of it by sending three pairs of silk gloves, a turban in miniature merely for you to see the fashionable way of pinning them up in Philadelphia, and a Spanish receipt for dressing tomatoes. . . . The turban was pinned by a young lady in the genteelest circle in the city. I give you this information that you may be the better satisfied of its being “the thing.” Pray let me know whether you have seen any pinned like it. Two pairs of the gloves, you will observe, are exactly like each other. The third pair differs a little on the back. Those I designed for you. . . . The other two pairs are for my cousins. . . .
It is said there is not a case of yellow fever in the city. . . . We had seven as warm days and nights as ever I felt, but a charming rain has cooled the air and settled the dust. . . . And the flies!—Oh, dear me! How I shall enjoy my dear native State when I get to it again. I am sure I shall never have a wish to set foot out of it.

Kate Mason Rowland, “Philadelphia a Century Ago, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, Volume 62, 1898, page 813-14.

posted May 9th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Fashion,Philadelphia,Stoddert, Rebecca Lowndes

A remedy for an earache!

Living in Philadelphia with her family in 1799 while her husband served as secretary of the navy, REBECCA STODDERT kept up a correspondence with her niece Eliza. Her letters included gossip as well as information about personal and domestic matters. And, in this letter, a remedy for an earache!

April 15, 1799My Dear Eliza,—I have been mending up the children’s old clothes to fit them for school. At length Harriet and Nancy go, and when I can get shoes for Richard he will go also. I suppose you are surprised at my saying “when I get shoes.” You will hardly believe that the difficulty of getting such things is greater here than in Georgetown, but so it is. . . .

After a passage in which Mrs. Stoddert writes about the elopement of the daughter of William and Anne Willing Bingham with a French count of “horrid character,” and penniless besides, she goes on to discuss other matters.

I hope long before this my acquaintances have been told it was a mistake about my hair being dressed. I declare, I would not have such a thing supposed for a trifle; notwithstanding I am the only person, almost, if not entirely, that has gone into company with straight locks. But then I have always made use of powder, and I was once under the barber’s hands to cut my hair. . . .

Harriet’s hearing is very near, if not quite, restored. I was advised by Mrs. Wolcott, the secretary of the treasury’s lady, to keep some of Grace’s hair, or any black person’s (as that was most efficacious), pretty moist with the best sweet-oil I could procure, constantly in the ear most affected. This I have done for a month with the greatest success. So much for old women’s receipts, as I suppose they would be called by the doctors. . . .

Grace was in all likelihood a free black servant or, more likely, a slave in the Stoddert household. While oil of some kind has been a common remedy for an earache this is the first time I have seen the recommendation that it be mixed with hair, in this case, of a black person.

Kate Mason Rowland, “Philadelphia a Century Ago, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, Volume 62, 1898, 809-10.

posted May 2nd, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Fashion,Illness,Medicine,Philadelphia,Stoddert, Rebecca Lowndes

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