Boarding Houses for Victorian Cats: Holiday Care for the Family Feline

“It is during the summer months, when house holders leave town for their holidays, that poor pussy is forsaken and forgotten, and no provision being made for her, she is forced to take to the streets, where she seeks in vain to stalk the wily London sparrow or pick up any scraps from the gutter.”  The Book of the Cat, 1903.

Smoke and Orange Persians, Book of the Cat, 1903.

In the late 19th century, Victorian families embarking on their summer holidays often chose to leave their pet cat behind unattended.  This decision—likely motivated by the belief that, when left to their own devices, all cats will hunt for their supper—resulted in a profusion of half-starved cats wandering the streets in search of a handout.  The sight of so many cats in distress compelled some to take drastic action.  One lady in the west of England even went so far as to offer a holiday feline euthanasia service.  As a June 24, 1889 edition of the Gloucester Citizen reports:[…]Continue Reading

Fashion and Beauty Essentials for a 19th Century Summer Holiday

Individual Collage Images via MFA Boston and Victorian and Albert Museum.

In women’s magazines today, we often see lists of summer vacation “must haves.”  These lists usually include such hot weather essentials as swimsuits, sunscreen, and a romance novel or two to read at the beach.  But what about ladies in the Victorian era?  By the end of the 19th century, beach holidays were certainly on the rise.  However, our Victorian sisters met the heat without benefit of air conditioning, skimpy clothing, or sun protection.  What did they have instead?  In today’s article, we look at a few fashion, beauty, and novel necessities for a 19th century summer.[…]Continue Reading

The Victorian Demagogue: 19th Century Words on a Modern Day Danger

“No organist can manipulate the stops and keys of his instrument with more dexterity than the demagogue exhibits in playing upon the different weaknesses, errors, and absurdities of the untutored mind.”  
Kent & Sussex Courier, 1874.

The House of Commons by Sir George Hayter, 1833.
National Portrait Gallery)

The word demagogue is thrown around quite a bit in politics today, but the term itself is nothing new.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines a demagogue as a “political agitator who appeals to the passions and prejudices of the mob in order to obtain power.”  In the Victorian era, such a man was considered dangerous.  Philosophers, poets, and newspapermen alike sought to warn the public, reasoning that the better one understood the repertoire of a demagogue, the less chance the demagogue would have of success.  Their commentary is incredibly modern and (as in the case of a poem on demagoguery) occasionally quite humorous.  In today’s article, we look at a few of the highlights.

[…]Continue Reading

Victorian Sportswear: Tennis Fashions of the Late 19th Century

“As a nation we ought to welcome the healthy, hearty girl who can beat her brother in managing a tennis ball, in rowing a boat, and very often in managing a frisky horse.”
Ladies Home Journal, 1891.

A Rally by Sir John Lavery, 1885.

The game of lawn tennis was invented in the 1860s by retired British army officer Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.  He patented the game in 1874 and, within a few short years, lawn tennis had become one of the most popular sports for women in Victorian England.  Ladies played it at society garden parties and at tennis clubs.  By the mid-1880s, they were even competing at Wimbledon, leading the 1891 edition of the Wright & Ditson Officially Adopted Lawn Tennis Guide to declare that:

“Lawn tennis has done more to develop among girls a taste for outdoor sports than have all other exercises combined.”[…]Continue Reading

The Dogs’ Toilet Club: Bond Street Luxury for Victorian Canines

“The fact is, mere ordinary folk have not the remotest notion of the extravagant extent to which canine pets are pampered nowadays by their highly-placed mistresses.”
The Strand Magazine, 1896.

Portrait of a Maltese dog by Anonymous British Painter, 19th Century.
Portrait of a Maltese dog by Anonymous British Painter, 19th Century.

In 1896, an enterprising young lady named Mrs. Nugent opened a fashionable club for dogs at 120 New Bond Street in London.  It was called the Dogs’ Toilet Club and offered many services for the pampered pets of the wealthy and well to do, including grooming, pet sitting, veterinary care, and dentistry.  For those who wished to dress their dogs in the latest fashions, there was even a dogs’ tailoress who worked tirelessly to produce the finest in 19th century canine couture. […]Continue Reading

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