The Ladies' Tea Guild

Friday, December 28, 2012

Yay! New history research project!

ca. 1840 silk dress in the Metropolitan
Museum of Art.
O.k., I've been volunteering in the Collections Center at the history museum where I'm on staff (in a different department) off an on for the past few years (mostly during the summers), but steadily once a week for the past 6 months.  I'm assisting the Registrar in various tasks having to do with restoring, labeling, identifying, photographing, storing, and making records for various artifacts in the collection.  All very cool because I, as a part-time volunteer, get to work directly with the artifacts with very little supervision (the perks of working with a small museum that is underfunded and understaffed, and yet has a huge collection to maintain).  The Registrar knows of my interest in and experience with historic textiles and fashion history, so he's assigned me to work primarily with the textile items that need processing and care.  It's been really fun and interesting!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

An Old Christmas Greeting
Sing hey! Sing hey!
For Christmas Day,
Twine mistletoe and holly,
For friendship glows
In winter snows,
And so let’s all be jolly.
-- old nursery rhyme

May you and yours have the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Victorian Christmas customs, ca. 1855

CHRISTMAS AND ITS CUSTOMS.  By Caroline A. White.  (from Godey's Lady's Book, December 1855)
THERE is something so congenial to human nature, so absolutely necessary to the health of mind and body, in the relaxation which festivals afford, that we do not wonder at the unwillingness which Sir Isaac Newton tells us the heathens felt to part with their holidays ... During the continuance of this antique feast, every one interchanged presents with his neighbor; their houses were decorated with evergreens and laurel; no criminal was punished; no arms taken up; the very slaves were permitted to sit at the table with their masters, in allusion to the happy equality which was supposed to have existed during the reign of Saturn; nay, banquets were sometimes made for them, at which their masters served—a custom whose shadow still lingers with us in the yule feast once common in the baronial halls of England, and not yet quite exploded from them.
We know of hospitable hearths, whose yeomen-proprietors annually preside at a supper given to their laborers, or, if this part of the business be deputed to their bailiff or foreman, at least make their appearance amongst them, to utter the old-fashioned but hearty “Much good may it do you!” and to give and receive the gratulations of the season.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Home remedies for the common cold, ca. 1870.

Image from ClipartETC.

Aaargh!  With the changing weather -- the usual autumn winds, and unusual amounts of rain -- it's cold season again at The Cup That Cheers!  That means another seasonal foray into the antique domestic manuals and cookbooks for advice.  The following tips come from the Excelsior cook book and housekeeper’s aid, from 1870.  Beware the liberal use of paregoric (opium) and other dangerous ingredients!

If feverish, bathe the feet in warm water, take some hot herb tea, or hot lemonade, but use no spirits, as this will only increase the fever.  Get up a perspiration, and be careful about exposure the next day.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)