Tag: Victorian Era

The Etiquette of the Victorian Handshake: Advice on Opposite Sex Greetings

“Among friends the shaking of the hand is the most genuine and cordial expression of good-will.”

The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Etiquette, 1877.

Yes by John Everett Millais, 1877.

When we think of nineteenth century greetings, many of us naturally picture bows, curtsies, and subtle inclinations of the head. But these were not the only types of gestures with which to greet one’s friends and acquaintances. Fans of Elizabeth Gaskell will know that, in some cases, a handshake was equally appropriate. In her 1855 novel North and South, John Thornton, a northerner, regularly shakes hands with his friends. Southerner Margaret Hale, however, is unfamiliar with the custom. In one of the most memorable scenes from the novel, Gaskell writes:[…]Continue Reading

The Tottenham Station Railway Disaster of 1860

“Great injury was done after the engine ran up the platform. The brickwork was swept away, and a large portion of a wall was thrown down; in fact, one carriage was thrown completely through the platform wall by the violence with which it was hurled over the line.”

The Era, 26 February 1860.

First Class by Abraham Solomon, 1855.

On 20 February 1860, at seven o’clock in the morning, a passenger train belonging to the Eastern Counties Railway left Cambridge heading for Tottenham station in London. The train was quite full and, as it approached the station, it was travelling at a speed of thirty-five to forty miles per hour. The 26 February 1860 edition of The Era reports that, at approximately 10:20, “the train began to oscillate in a peculiar manner.” It was then that the passengers heard a loud crash as the train derailed. It ran off of the platform, hurtling through the brickwork with such violent force that one of the railway carriages was “thrown completely through the platform wall.”[…]Continue Reading

The Jersey Pug's Funeral; and Other Dog Funerals of the Late Victorian Era

“If this sort of thing keeps growing, it won’t be long before we shall hear of dog undertakers, and perhaps marble cutters who devote their time and talent to the construction of monuments to pet dogs. There is no calculating the extent to which infectious folly will go.”

The Saint Paul Globe, 25 November 1888.

Sous le Berceau by Eva Gonzalès, 1879-1880.

Of all the animals buried and mourned in the Victorian era, it was dogs who received the lion’s share of the funerary honors. The Hyde Park Dog Cemetery opened in London in 1881 and the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery in New York—the oldest pet cemetery in the United States—opened in 1896. One might think that this indicated a normalization of dog burial and mourning. However, as late as 1901, there were still those who railed against the idea of funerals for dogs, calling the practice ridiculous and absurd. One French bishop even went so far as to formally denounce the dog funeral fad in a religious publication, decrying “the lack of decent feeling on the part of modern society women.” 1[…]Continue Reading

A Passion for Auburn Hair: Victorian Views On Reddish-Brown Tresses

“Her friends call her hair auburn, but her enemies call it red.”

Sylvia’s Book of the Toilet, 1881.

Alice by Henry Tanworth Wells, 1877.

Auburn hair has long been admired for its beauty. In the sixteenth century, Titian famously painted beautiful women with hair of a reddish hue. While in his epic Regency era poem Don Juan, Lord Byron waxed rhapsodic about dancing girls, each having:[…]Continue Reading

The Scent of Violets: Perfume, Cosmetics, and Crime in the Late Victorian Era

“The fondness for violets increases with time, and many women of fashion will tolerate no other fragrance.”
American Soap Journal and Manufacturing Chemist, 1895.

The Nosegay Of Violets by William Worcester Churchill, 1905.

In 1893, a woman by the name of Margaret Gainer was arrested, charged, and ultimately sentenced to thirty days imprisonment for stealing a bottle of violet perfume from a hairdresser’s shop. The hairdresser had seen her take the bottle and slip it into her pocket, but when he gave her the choice of putting the bottle back or facing the consequences, Miss Gainer steadfastly refused to relinquish the violet perfume. Her motivation for the theft—and her subsequent unwillingness to part with her ill-gotten gains—is not entirely clear; however, I suspect it had more than a little to do with the late Victorian violet fad.[…]Continue Reading

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