Friday, September 19, 2014

Gloves: Would you prefer to wear a Glof or a Handschuh?

Elizabeth I's Coronation Glove (WCG)

What we name a thing can influence it far more than we think. Take gloves. Gloves were such an important fashion accessory that there was and is a Worshipful Company of Glovers, a guild for what we now consider a seasonal fashion accessory, and even that I would suspect only in the northern climes.

James VI/I's (?) Gloves (WCG)
The word glove comes from Old English, think in terms of Anglo-Saxon. Old English is Germanic in origin, but differs from modern German. The break between the modern and the old languages is why we have ‘horses’ (Old English/Proto-Germanic) not ‘Pferds’ (Modern German). The same holds true for ‘gloves’ (Old English/ Proto-Germanic) rather than ‘Handschuh’ (Modern German).  The singular of ‘gloves’ in Old English is ‘glof’, but the modern singular of ‘gloves’ is ‘glove’ not ‘glof’.’ This fascinates me as glof/gloves falls into the word group that includes roof/rooves and hoof/hooves, which are plurals out of Beowulf and must be a bear (another idiomatic nightmare) for foreign speakers of English. The plural of roof and hoof is now so unusual that my spell check questions rooves and hooves. (Language intrigues me as much as history)

 Charles I"s Gloves (Dents)
The word ‘glof’ means, “to cover the hand or palm,” just as the word ‘handschuh’ means “a shoe for the hand, or a covering for the hand.” However, “glof’ has not real meaning in the modern lexicon, whereas ‘shoe’ does. Perhaps if we thought of gloves in terms of ‘handshoes’ we might view them with more excitement as a fashion accessory. (I do realize the Teutonic heaviness of the word, but just go with me for a bit.)  Certainly hats have the Ascot and weddings, shoes have every evening event and then some, but what do gloves have anymore, except shoveling snow, handling objects in museums and hospitals, or serving take-out food?  How the mighty have fallen.

 Victoria's Coronation Glove (WCG)

A pair of QueenVictoria's Gloves (Dents)
Which brings me to Dents, the Glovers, located in Warminster, Wiltshire, UK.  This summer, I met John Roberts, of Dents, while he vacationed in the US. I knew of Dents so we had an interesting conversation. They have a museum,,  devoted to gloves and are connected with the Worshipful Company of Glovers,  Dents is still using machinery and patterns from the nineteenth-century. Much as their counterparts in shoes are doing in Northampton. Hmm, is there a pattern here? Yes, they make modern gloves and happily are churning them out as I write. Some shoes, like gloves are meant to be snug on the first wear, then over time conform to the owner’s shape. There are finger stretchers for gloves just as there are toe and side stretchers for shoes. (A must for the non-bespoke glove and shoe wearer.)  Gloves come in sizes like shoes and hats. To determine your size wrap a tape measure around your hand, but do not include the thumb. Your size in inches would be something like this; 9.25 inches measured would be a 9.5, or large. You round up to the nearest inch or half inch. I am clueless concerning cm, but it must be similar, I'm just not sure of the size markers. Dents includes a size chart and how to measure on the trade side of their website. That being said, enjoy some of the images from Dents and The Worshipful Company of Glovers collections.

George V's Coronation Glove (WCG)
Elizabeth II's Coronation Glove (Dents)

Gloves From 1600-10 (WCG)

Gloves from 1685-1700 (WCG)

Close-up of gloves from 1685-1700 (WCG)

Gloves from 1625-35 (WCG)

Close-up of 1625-35 Gloves (WCG)

Ribbon Trimmed Gloves 1660-90 (WCG)

Close-up of Ribbin Trimmed Gloves 1660-90

Late 18th century Cloth Gloves 

Jeff Hopper is a Consultant, Historic House Steward and Social Historian

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lilly Belle's Going Away Dress, mid-1870s

"…Avoid, as intensely vulgar, any display of your position as a bride
whilst traveling.”
--The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette…by Florence Hartley

The dress in collections prior to proper display with bustle & appropriate underpinnings
Lily Belle – her name seems the personification of this frothy, embellished “going away” dress, with detachable train and silk fringed wrap. At present, we know little about Lily Belle Folsom Ayres.  Indeed, were it not for the garment’s survival in the textile collection at Strawbery Banke Museum (, her life might not have surfaced, being submerged “beneath the footnote.” It is likely that she was a descendant of the Folsom family of Exeter, New Hampshire. Dripping with fringe, tassels, cording and passementerie, the lavish layers of pleats and ruching, and exquisite tailoring, combine to create a sumptuous dress that was surely a sight to behold as the newly wed Mrs. Ayres, began her wedding trip. Where did the couple travel and in what manner of conveyance, we do not know. Whether by rail car, steamship or carriage, one suspects she was prepared for perambulations, bridal visits, receptions and teas, if the dress is any indication.

Detachable train
It was stylish for the mid- 1870s, appropriately luxurious for a “going away” dress.  Lily Belle's garment was also versatile – the train was detachable via buttons so the dress could easily be transformed for walking or a promenade. It is likely that the dress came with an additional bodice or jacket to complete the ensemble and, once again, add to flexibility.

The patterned gold silk of the bodice, as well as accents of gold on the cuffs and skirt were eye catching. The bodice emphasized her form, with a shimmering sensuality, interplaying with the rustle…swish… glide of the skirt and train. Indeed, it is interesting to note that despite the dark taupe - a color deemed appropriate for travel- accented with baby blue fringe, the sparkle of gold might have been perceived by some as too ostentatious.  One wonders if it would have met with the approval of Florence Hartley, for example, that purveyor of Victorian etiquette when she notes If you are going to travel, have a neat dress and cloak of some plain color, and a close bonnet and veil. Avoid, as intensely vulgar, any display of your position as a bride, whilst traveling.”
(The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette…by Florence Hartley, courtesy Project Gutenberg:

Enjoy the details of this fabulous going away dress, housed at Strawbery Banke; photos courtesy Bridget Swift.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Architecture, Artisans & Apples - Jackson House (c.1664) Cider Day, Portsmouth, NH

Saturday, September 6, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Jackson House, 76 Northwest Street, Portsmouth, N.H. 
Free to Historic New England members, $6 nonmembers, $3 children

The historic orchard of the c. 1664 Jackson House comes alive during this early fall festival with music, children's games, crafts, and seasonal refreshments. Help grind apples and press cider. Watch artisans demonstrate their craft. Tour the oldest house in northern New England. Farm animals from Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm will also make their yearly visit to the house. 

Our dear friends, Master & Mistress Spencer will be visiting with a picnic lunch - stop by and say hello! ( 

Via Portsmouth Herald
Jackson Hill Cider Day offers look at the past
By Suzanne Laurent
September 03, 2014 - 2:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — Just off Maplewood Avenue sits the oldest existing wood-frame house in all of New Hampshire and Maine, overlooking a fragrant apple orchard.

The Jackson House (circa 1664) was built by Richard Jackson, a woodworker, farmer and mariner.  "They called those who built houses 'housewrights' back then," said Kathy Somssich, who is in her 14th year as a guide for the house overseen by Historic New England. "Seven generations of the Jackson family lived in this house."

Each September since 1995, the Jackson House has hosted a harvest festival in the orchard that slopes down to the outlet of North Mill Pond into the Piscataqua River.

This year's event will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6.

Please call 603-436-3205 for more information. Purchase tickets now

Monday, September 1, 2014

End of Summer Labors…

Whether your labors find you on a farm, in a factory, office or kitchen, today we salute those past and present who work to secure family and community.

4H Canning Club, 1920s, Arizona

From the 1929 Home Canners' Yearbook

Friday, August 29, 2014

Of snuff boxes and wedding tokens….treen shoes

Image, courtesy of Bonham's
A colleague recently called my attention to this charming fruitwood token of a Victorian boot, up for auction at Bonham’s. ( According to sources, this may well be a wedding or love token. Certainly, the significance of shoes with nuptials is a long standing one, and, on this particular example, the object has the added detail of the heart on the toe. Given the "style" of the wedding boot, with its low heel, "spat-like" toe treatment and the ornamented boot top, it would be appropriate to the mid or late19th century. However, the treen shoes, while giving a sense of their respective time period through styling, wood type and details, are imaginative. 

Treen – which literally means "of a tree" -- is a generic name for small handmade functional household objects made of any number of types of wood. Not being too familiar with this type of collectible, I did a bit of searching and found a number of absolutely delightful treen snuff boxes in past auctions at Bonham’s and in museum collections. The use of treen snuff boxes will parallel its popular use, with late 18th-mid 19th century examples. Several are featured below.

E.H. Pinto (1901-1972) brought scholarly attention to the now highly collectible treen. Pinto began collecting when he was a boy and wrote the definitive book on the topic. The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery purchased his collection of over 7,000 items in the 1960s.

Thank you to my colleague, James Burrough, Director, The Real Wood Furniture Company, for calling my attention to the Victorian love/wedding token at Bonham’s.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Concealed Shoe on the Cusp of a New a Century

This part of New England, where I live, and  Northampton UK share a rich history of shoe making. The Northampton Museums and Art Gallery maintains a collection of shoes both touted and obscure. The touted shoes can, through elegance or notoriety, elicit an immediate positive response, but what of the obscure shoes, the concealed shoes, the well worn shoes hidden in a wall? Worn shoes have been hidden in the recesses of houses for centuries, a practice designed to protect the house and its inhabitants from evil. As shoes have been discovered some communities have noted their existence and recorded the information. Happily for anyone interested in concealed shoes, the Northampton Museum in the UK keeps an index of concealed shoes from several countries from around the world. The curators compiled a list of categories and attributes of the shoes discovered over the years. It's worth a look at the the whys and where's:

So what does this custom have to do with New England? Well, you never know where a custom may fall. Our house was built in 1914-15 so it’s on the cusp of its centenary. Over the years we’ve removed some questionable bits and added our own. A number of years ago we converted the house from a two-family house to a single-family house. Never a large house, the rental apartment could not fit the larger furniture many people owned, which made our decision a little easier.  One of the tasks was the replacement of the ground floor front door leading to the upstairs unit with a window. Each apartment had its own entrance, so one needed to go. As I removed the door frame from the wall frame a workman’s shoe fell from the space between the studs and hit the floor. Usually these voids have broken plaster keying and bits of wood from the construction, but this time a shoe!

It startled me, as we have never found anything in this house other than what should be--no treasures, no forgotten documents, just a house, which is fine by us. So the falling shoe was the first artifact discovered in the house. When I retrieved the shoe from the floor, I looked inside and there was a label describing the shoe as, “The Elite Shoe” manufactured in Brockton (MA?).  A utilitarian shoe for a working man, with a hint of style provided by the punched leather detail. Did the shoe manufacturer decide this touch make it an elite shoe? We may never know.

The beauty of the discovery was not the quality of the shoe but the connection it provided with the past. A modern shoe transformed to become part of a centuries old tradition--a good luck token from the builders. It may have been left to protect the house form evil, but how intriguing that it still occurred in the early twentieth-century, not just the fifteenth-century.

Such a simple, utilitarian and delightful reminder of the power we invest in articles of clothing, which occasionally transcend time and perhaps even space.  For the record another concealed shoe has been found in another old house.

Jeff Hopper: Consultant, Historic House Steward and Social Historian

Saturday, August 16, 2014

For Your Bookshelf: "From the Elegant to the Everyday: 200 Years of Fashion in Northern New England

If you were not able to visit the exhibition at the Saco Museum, Saco, ME., you can now purchase the publication "From the Elegant to the Everyday…" by Saco Museum Director and exhibition curator, Tara Raiselis. This will be a welcome addition to your library with many little known or never before exhibited costumes, drawn from numerous New England repositories.


Previous posts on the exhibition include a discussion of Revolutionary War patriot, Samuel Cutts and his suit