Living History Lectures ~ Tames Alan

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

Random Historical Facts: Victorian and Edwardian

The British laid 5,000 miles of rails in less then twenty years, a fact that led to British railway workers being paid three times the wages of other railway workers.

Posted 08/15/2010

A single place setting for a Victorian formal dinner consisted of 33 pieces of silverware, 10 glasses, a salt cellar, a knife rest, a charger plate, a bread plate, a butter pat, a name card and holder, a printed menu and holder, a bone plate, and a nut cup.  All other china would be brought out with each course.

Posted 12/01/2010

British Victorian nursemaids, who were often young girls, were so starved for affection that they often succumbed to “the scarlet fever,” a euphemism for falling for and being taken advantage of by a British soldier, whose uniform consisted of a scarlet-colored coat.

Posted 02/01/2011

Clothing for a mid-Victorian woman weighed 200 pounds (the corset alone weighed 25 pounds).  This is why there were never any women survivors when the ship went down.

Posted 03/15/2011

In 1840 the Coal Act was passed forbidding women to be used as pit ponies in the mines.

Posted 03/01/2011

To accommodate the place setting for a formal Victorian dinner, one needed three feet of table space per guest.

Posted 09/01/2011

During the 19th century, 50% of England’s population was “in domestic service.”

Posted 10/15/2011

19th century corsets reduced a woman’s waist by four inches and exerted anywhere from 25-80 pounds of pressure per square inch on her body.

Posted 03/15/2012

The image of servants in black uniforms in frilly caps, starched aprons, and the like actually reflects a fairly short-lived reality. Servants’ uniforms didn’t become routine until the rise of cotton imports in the 1850s. Before then, the quality of clothes worn by the upper classes was so instantly and visibly superior to that of working classes, that it wasn’t necessary to distinguish servants with uniforms.

Posted 04/01/2013

Victorian love letters did not end with ‘love,’ but more frequently simply with ‘ever your friend.’

Posted 02/15/2014

Contrary to popular belief Victorian brides did not have to wear white. They could wear off white, ecru, dove grey, fawn silk, light blue, and light pink.

Posted 06/15/2014

19th century etiquette stated that a gentleman never offered a lady his arm during the daytime. However, in the evening it was appropriate for her to take his arm.

Posted 12/01/2014

Victorian etiquette books stated that dresses with a low neckline should only be worn to dinners by candlelight.

Posted 12/01/2015

In the 19th century amateur accomplishment in art were considered an advantageous social refinement for a girl. However, professional studies in life-drawing classes were feared to compromise a woman’s virtue by inflaming her passions and making her unfit as a wife and mother. It was even considered improper for women artists to draw undraped statuary in mixed company.

Posted 03/15/2015

Victorian etiquette books stated that when a lady crosses the street she should raise her dress a little above the ankle, holding together the folds of her gown and drawing them toward the right. Raising the dress with both hands exposes too much ankle, and is considered most vulgar.

Posted 05/01/2016

“Crinoline fires” killed 3,000 women between the late 1850s and late 1860s in England. Women would lose sense of the circumference of their skirts, which caused them to step too close to a fire grate. The flames would be fanned by the oxygen circulating under their skirts and caused them to catch fire.

Posted 12/01/2016

Edwardian butlers were advised that Champagne should be cooled in the following manner: Lay the bottle down in a basin and cover with a handful of broken-up ice. Sprinkle it with a little salt and cover it with a piece of damp flannel. Always begin chilling at least two hours before you intend to serve.

Posted 01/01/2017

Victorian etiquette books stated that a true gentleman should always rise when a lady enters or leaves the room.

Posted 04/15/2019

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks, writing intensely from about 9 AM to 2 PM every day, followed by long, brainstorming walks, as far as 20 miles. He penned it in black ink, with a goose quill. There was no outline, no first drafts.

Posted 12/01/2019

Formal Victorian dinners consisted of 10-12 courses with 2-4 dishes per course and a different wine with each course.

Posted 12/15/2017

The Married Woman’s Property Act passed in 1860.  It gave women the right to own property, but they still could not sell it without their husband’s permission.

Posted 03/01/2018

Rousing sleepers so they would not be late for work was the job of the knocker-up (or knocker-upper), who sometimes used a pole to tap at the upper-floor windows of his or her clients in order to avoid waking up the whole household, or neighbors.

Posted 10/15/2019

During the 19th century, theatre and opera chairs had wire rungs underneath the seat so you could store your top hat during the performance.

Posted 12/01/2021

Victorian etiquette books state that a gentleman will always tip his hat to greet a lady.

Posted 02/15/2021

The Dentist’s Act of 1878 established a register of dentists but failed to make it unlawful for people without qualifications to practice.  So long as the unregistered did not call themselves dentists, they could be “dental experts” and put up signs reading Dental Parlor or Dental Surgery.

Posted 01/01/2021

During the Victorian era, skirt lifters became popular when ladies became more active outdoors. This device lifted long skirts, making it easier to walk up and down stairs, through muddy patches, and across weedy fields. The skirt lifter was attached to a belt or waistband of a skirt. Then a fold of fabric would be caught between the pincers, and a ratcheting mechanism would pull the device closed. Not only were they practical, but they were often used to create fashionable looped-over skirts that showed off a decorative underskirt.

Posted 05/15/2021