Living History Lectures ~ Tames Alan

Historical, educational, hysterical. One costumed woman tells you like it WAS.

Random Historical Facts: 18th Century

During the 1770s wigs in Europe reached great heights—as much as 5 feet.  Constructed on a wire frame, flour was mixed with water for paste and was used to set the wigs in the current style.  The wigs contained built-in mouse traps for vermin control.

Posted 12/15/2010

In the 18th century, makeup was worn by both men and women.  That is why one embraced at a gathering, meaning having your neck kissed as a greeting.  Kissing of the lips was reckoned rude until the seduction was further along, and kissing cheeks wasn’t the mode, as it may rub off the paint.

Posted 05/15/2011

Wigs were taken off as a matter of course before fisticuffs: hence the expression “keep your hair on.”

Posted 10/15/2012

The term “middle class” was first coined in 1745. It first appeared in a book on the Irish wool trade.

Posted 11/15/2012

During the mid 18th century, women’s wigs reached such heights that women traveling in a sedan chair or coach were forced to squat on the floor.

Posted 03/15/2013

Thomas Chippendale was the first commoner for whom a furniture style was named; before him, the names faithfully recalled monarchies: Tudor, Elizabethan, Louis XIV, Queen Anne.

Posted 05/01/2013

One of the few physical requirements for joining the Continental army was that men had to have two teeth that met, so they could tear open the cartridge paper that was used to load a musket.

Posted 07/01/2013


From the late 18th century to the early 20th century breadcrumbs were used to clean satin ballroom dancing slippers.

Posted 05/15/2014

During the 18th century, the aristocracy lit their homes with chandeliers holding dozens of candles. This created a major fire hazard, as the wigs of the time, particularly for women, could reach anywhere from two to five feet in height.

Posted 12/15/2014

Yellow fever so devastated Philadelphia in 1793 that it lost its primacy as the main city of the young Union.

Posted 01/15/2015

In the 18th century, LeGros created the academie de coiffure, the first regular school of hairdressing, and students who completed courses there, women as well as men, were rewarded with medals said to have the value of diplomas.

Posted 09/01/2015

In the 18th century, a husband would not be responsible for debts contracted by his wife before her marriage if she married barefoot, wearing only a smock or petticoat, thus proving to all she brought him nothing. This applied especially when the woman was a widow and inherited debts from her late husband.

Posted 06/15/2016

How a woman managed her fan could determine her social class. “Women are armed with fans, as men are with swords,” wrote the Spectator correspondent in 1711.

Posted 05/01/2017

The first ever submarine attack happened in 1776. The Turtle was invented by David Bushnell, and was a one-person submersible vehicle that would allow the occupant to attach a powder keg to a British ship in New York Harbor.

Posted 07/01/2017

The official copy of the Declaration that still survives today was written on parchment, which is treated animal skin. But a couple of the drafts of the Declaration were written on hemp paper. In fact, up to 90% of all paper made before 1883 was made of hemp.

Posted 01/ 01/ 2018

The Statue of Liberty was inspired by the Roman pagan goddess, Libertas. Libertas is the Roman goddess of freedom, and she represents the freedom of action, freedom from restraint, and also signifies independence, personal rights, along with personal and social liberty.

Posted 07/15/2019

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day - July 4. Both men, who were present for the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, died exactly 50 years later in 1826.

Posted 07/01/2019

In America during the 1700s, yellow was the most fashionable color for a wedding dress.

Posted 06/01/2020

On the last day of December, 1759, Arthur Guinness somehow managed to get the owner of St. James Gate Brewery, with its attached 4 acres on land that made up the Guinness Brewery, to agree to a lease for up to 9,000 years for 45 pounds a month. Guinness is still brewed at St. James Gate, and the company still pays 45 pounds in rent each month.

Posted 12/15/2019

On August 2, 1790, the first national census was conducted in the United States.

Posted 08/01/2020


In the 18th century, clandestine weddings became very popular. It was fashionable to marry secretly, so many eloped to Scotland to avoid having the banns read, and to avoid having to pay the parish tax for entries made in the parish registry.  Gretna Green became a popular wedding destination, because it was located just over the border in Scotland, and anyone could perform a marriage there.  Legend has it the first person to do so was a blacksmith.

Posted 06/15/2021