Seven Things I Love (5-24-2021): History Edition

  1. 1. This Patent Drawing – Which finally puts to rest the question over or under. I don’t mean to gloat but I KNEW IT and my Mamma never lead me astray.

From My Modern Met:

Over or under? This is the question that has plagued the Western world since the invention of modern toilet paper. It was in 1857 that New York-based inventor Joseph C. Gayetty developed the first packaged variety to be made widely available in the U.S. However, it wasn’t until 1871 that perforated rolls of toilet paper were invented. Seth Wheeler filed a patent for his innovative design for the first time that year, and he filed another for a refined version of his invention again in 1891.

The illustrated diagram from Wheeler’s 1891 patent sheds some light on how the toilet paper roll was originally intended to be used. According to the image, it appears that the dangling end was designed to hang over—rather than under—the roll. This may be a crippling blow to those who are of the persuasion that under is the way to go. Even so, if hanging your toilet paper roll under is wrong, they probably don’t want to be right.

Original Patent Drawing Puts an End to the Great “Over or Under” Toilet Paper Debate” by Arnesia Young; May 13, 2021; My Modern Met

2. These Videos about Women’s Clothing in History – They are all just too good. The first talks about how women’s clothing may actually have been created to help protect. The second gives the history of how standard sizes came to be and the motivations behind doing so (hint, it’s always money.) The third video is a fascinating history of why men traditionally wear pants and women traditionally wear skirts (or did they….)

And last but not least (and this is a a wee bit of a stretch but I’m including it) a video about the clothing in the show ‘The Nevers‘ – my current favorite television show, which can be seen on HBO Max. They’ve already aired the first half of season one (8 episodes) and will be airing the second half sometime in the fall I believe (another 8 episodes.) As the vlogger mentions, the show is extremely historically accurate with their costumes (and she should know, it is her area of expertise.) She takes the opportunity to bust the myth that clothing from that era was extremely restrictive. There have been anti-corset campaigns for some time. Certainly the extremely boned corsets that reshape the body are not/were not good, but for women of this era most weren’t wearing the tightly drawn or heavily boned corsets (like Scartlett O’Hara). Unless a woman was from a wealthy family she would have been quite active and probably wouldn’t have had the luxury of having a ladies maid.

3. This Article about the New Version of the Game ‘Oregon Trail’ – A fascinating essay where the author, who is a black historian, is in a battle between his longing for childhood nostalgia and truth-telling in history. Is there really any correct way to make a game about colonialization?

John Gast, “American Progress” (1872), oil on canvas, 12 3/4 inch x 16 3/4 inch
(image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, painting in possession of Autry Museum of the American West)

4. This Article on Book Curses – In medieval times, because books were handmade, written by scribes, and took a long time to make, they were rare and had great physical value. Most scribes and book owners did not have the financial means to protect their libraries with armed guards so instead they used words to fend off would-be thieves. Fortunately for them, most people believed in curses so it worked fairly well.

What I want to know is why don’t we use book curses today? They would look so nice on a bookplate. Even if most people don’t believe in curses anymore, at least it would remind them to keep their paws off of things that aren’t theirs.

I looked up some more and found one [here] that I am going to make into stickers so I can put it inside all my books:

Whoever steals this book
Will hang on a gallows in Paris,
And, if he isn’t hung, he’ll drown,
And, if he doesn’t drown, he’ll roast,
And, if he doesn’t roast, a worse end will befall him.

From a 15th century manuscript owned by Count Jean d’Orleans.
12th century Hell. Herrad von Landsberg/Public Domain.

5. These Articles about Coco Chanel and Her Nazi Connections – I’ve always been a huge fan of Coco Chanel so when I first read about this it made me extremely sad. The first article was from nearly a decade ago and appeared on MessyNessyChic. It was written about eight months after the book Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan was released. This was the first book to really include details about her involvement with the Nazis (not just that she was dating one) such as her code name, agent number, that she was included in nazi missions and worst of all, that she had taken advantage of her “Aryan rights” (meaning the seizing of Jewish-owned property and businesses.)

The second article was equally interesting. This one appeared on Forbes last year. The author is trying to determine if we can justify overlooking such a horrifying past in someone like Coco Chanel, whose left such a legacy. It’s an interesting question. I think this might be a good analogy – what if there was a building built by the nazis and after the war, all that remained was the foundation. So the French come and build a ground floor and the English build a 1st floor and the Norwegians build a 2nd floor (I’m doing the european counting of floors) and the Danish build a 3rd floor and so forth. And each floor is filled with beautiful things. But ultimately that base was built by nazis – should the entire thing be torn down and rebuilt? Should it be moved? I don’t think so.

BUT what I do think is that Chanel should stop avoiding Coco Chanel’s horrific history. I know that they think it can’t be good for PR but what they need to do is use it to help and get ahead of it. Just admit – we realize that our founder was a nazi sympathizer, possibly a nazi collaborator and our response is that we are appalled by the information as much as you are. Our founder was a talented woman and we cannot deny that Chanel wouldn’t exist without her genius but the nazi atrocities were unforgivable and that she was involved is a huge black stain on the origin of our company. They could put their money where their mouth is and contribute to a Holocaust organization.

My believe is that we should not be completely erasing bad history but instead we should be making it accurate and using it as a teaching opportunity.

6. This Article about How Women in the UK/Ireland Were Duped into Believing it was Bad to Drink Tea – Though it’s me who is saying that the women were actually duped. The article implies it but doesn’t come right out and say it. Neither does this one.

Here’s the situation – first and foremost, tea was considered expensive back then. So was sugar if you wanted to sweeten it (because milk and honey in tea just doesn’t work.) Right away men (husbands and fathers) were going to say that women shouldn’t be drinking something as expensive as tea.

Then there were the wealthy, who liked to feel that drinking tea was something the gentrified did, certainly not the poor.

And of course, there was concern that women who sat around drinking tea would have time to talk to one another and that could lead to anarchy.

Even without social media, the “powers that be” managed to get messages out that women shouldn’t be drinking tea – said it was “unhealthy”, it made you lazy, etc. And the worse part is that the poor, uneducated women were the ones that bought into the lies and helped spread it. Hmmmm, that sounds vaguely familiar.

c. 1900 The Glencar Tea House in County Leitrim

7. This ‘Self Portrait’ by Photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston – I was thrilled when I finally found out who this photo was of and what it was about. I’ve loved it for years! Taken around 1896 by the photographer herself, it is supposed to represent the “new woman.”

Here’s a great article about the photo and the photographer from Smithsonian.

Frances Benjamin Johnston could be both ladylike and bohemian, which abetted her career as a photographer. (Library of Congress)

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