The Longchamp Racecourse and Fashion Promenade

Attracting enormous crowds, by the late 1800s, the Longchamp Racecourse in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris had become one of the most fashionable public venues in France.

Spectating at the races was an immensely popular and socially prestigious pastime.

A place to see and be seen, Longchamp was like a giant stage to vaunt one’s social position.

The Races at Longchamps from the Grandstand by Giuseppe de Nittis, 1883

Attended by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie, who sailed down the Seine River on their private yacht to catch the third race, Longchamp Racecourse opened to the public on Sunday, April 27, 1857.

Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie
Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie

And it wouldn’t only be French Royalty who loved Longchamps—King Edward VII of Great Britain attended too.

The King's carriage leaving Longchamps with French Prime Minister Loubet and British King Edward VII, 1903.
The King’s carriage leaving Longchamps with French Prime Minister Loubet and British King Edward VII, 1903.

Enclosures were reserved for aristocrats and the well-connected and ladies were required to be escorted by a gentleman in order to enter.

The Races At Longchamp In 1874 by Pierre Gavarni (1846 - 1932)
The Races At Longchamp In 1874 by Pierre Gavarni (1846 – 1932)

But grabbing the spotlight was a new class of celebrity: the demimonde.

Supported by wealthy lovers, these were women on the fringes of respectable society.

The Races at Longchamp by Jean-Louis Forain, 1891
The Races at Longchamp by Jean-Louis Forain, 1891

Arriving alone, demimondaine were forbidden access to the enclosures but were as much of a spectacle as the races themselves.

Mixing with society women, they often shared the same couturier but appeared a little more chic.

1908 Longchamp

Attending the Longchamp races as the mistress of wealthy textile heir Étienne Balsan was a young Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

Although she didn’t quite fit the mold of a typical demimondaine, Gabrielle appeared in the loose, simple dress that would later influence an entire generation of “flappers” during the Roaring Twenties.

Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel

Paris had become the fashion capital of the world and it wasn’t long before designers realized that Longchamp was a goldmine.

Fashion houses outfitted models with their finest clothes, sending them to the races to show off the latest styles.

Ladies at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris 1908
Ladies at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris 1908

Join us as we travel back in time to the Longchamp Races from 1907 to 1935—a time of elegance and flamboyance that may never be repeated.

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Edwardian Photoblogging

Kensington and Chelsea Libraries in London, England, uncovered a series of images suggesting that the Edwardians might have been the world’s first photobloggers.

Amateur photographer Edward Linley Sambourne (1844 – 1910) was the chief cartoonist for the British satirical magazine “Punch” which was first published in 1841.

He captured a slice of Edwardian life in these amazing candid photographs.

Read more …

Young women walking to work in London; ladies and families strolling the boulevards of Paris; couples crossing the English Channel on steamships; friends enjoying the beaches of Kent and Ostende; and housemaids hard at work cleaning the steps to plush city townhomes.

Continuing the long, elegant lines of the late Victorian period, the Edwardian era was a time of transition in women’s fashion.

It would be the last time women would wear corsets in everyday life.

And as these images show, women were enjoying a new level of freedom from the rigid conventions of heavy ankle-length Victorian gowns and bustles.

Embracing leisure sports, the upper-classes drove rapid developments in more mobile, flexible clothing styles made of lightweight fabrics for more active lifestyles.

Women’s fashion would never look back.

“however far politicians were to put the clocks back in other steeples in the years after the war, no one ever put the lost inches back on the hems of women’s skirts.”

Oxford University historian Arthur Marwick.

As Oxford University historian Arthur Marwick (1936 – 2006) noted, “for, however far politicians were to put the clocks back in other steeples in the years after the war, no one ever put the lost inches back on the hems of women’s skirts.”

Sambourne’s hobby gave us glimpses into a past that looks oddly familiar.

It was 1905.

What is this woman thinking as she walks to work?

She had similar worries to most of us today—a to-do list as long as your arm, what to make for dinner, helping her little sister with her homework, whether to accept the advances of a work colleague who seemed like a true gentleman …

Apart from her hat, the practicality and style of her clothing wouldn’t change much for decades to come.

A young woman in Cromwell Road, London on July 12, 1905 in a stylish striped shirt with a belt and an ankle-length skirt

Think the Internet generation was the first to truly embrace mobile multi-tasking? Glued to a book on the walk to work in London, this woman reminds us of how much we rely on mobile devices today.

A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908

No need to look where we’re going—other people will simply adapt and move around us. As long as we don’t walk into a lamppost, we’re good to go.

This woman is a shop salesperson, walking along Kensington Church Street, on September 8, 1906
This woman is a shop salesperson, walking along Kensington Church Street, on September 8, 1906

Big hats with giant bows and cycling may not go together well today, but Edwardians made it work. Cycling was in vogue as the way to get around, but to be without one’s hat was sacrilegious.

Hats could be hazardous to one's cycling, 1908
Hats could be hazardous to one’s cycling, 1908
Two women engaged in conversation as they walk, 1908
Two women engaged in conversation as they walk, 1908

Sambourne used a concealed camera to capture candid moments. But it looks like this woman has an inkling that something is going on.

Is that a camera in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me, 1908
Is that a camera in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me, 1908

Few things in the Edwardian era were worse than being out-hatted. One had to keep a close eye on the competition.

On the lookout for photographers, 1908
On the lookout for photographers, 1908

Edwardians too had to suffer the inescapable feeling of incredulity at the various scandals of politicians and celebrities.

Shocking news
Shocking news

Imagine this woman is checking her iPhone. The little dog doesn’t seem too impressed.

A young woman carrying something. Can't be an iPhone, can it
A young woman carrying something. Can’t be an iPhone, can it
Two women talking carrying books, 1908
Two women talking carrying books, 1908
You've been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You’ve been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You've been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You’ve been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
Escorting the boys down tree-lined Cromwell Road
Escorting the boys down tree-lined Cromwell Road.
The wonderful thing about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn't do for portraits, 1907
The wonderful thing about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn’t do for portraits, 1907

More freedom of movement in Edwardian clothing allowed these women to put their best foot forward.

The brisker the walk, the better
The brisker the walk, the better

Be careful! Having a good sense of balance was important for wearing an Edwardian hat.

A young woman on Kensington High Street with horse-drawn buses in the background
A little more formally attired, 1906
A little more formally attired, 1906

Whistle while you walk to school with Mother. A charming picture of a happy moment in time, captured forever.

The wonderful thjg about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn't do for portraits, 1907
The wonderful thjg about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn’t do for portraits, 1907
Putting your best foot forward, 1906
Putting your best foot forward, 1906

Confidence. Perhaps for the first time in history, Edwardian women were free to project confidence and begin determining their own future.

Enhanced and colorized brings a little more life

We move to Paris, France. Higher hemlines were a feature of Edwardian skirts that afforded women greater freedom of movement, but at least one of these ladies prefers to lift her skirt to clear the puddles just in case.

Three women walk the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 1906

Arm-in-arm. What could be more perfect than an afternoon stroll around the Tuileries Garden in Paris?

A group of young women and children walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A group of young women and children walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906

Black mourning dress worn for months or years was a convention carried over from the Victorian era and still widely practiced.

Two ladies in mourning dress, Paris, 1906
Two ladies in mourning dress, Paris, 1906
A fashionable woman in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A fashionable woman in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
Two ladies climb the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
Two ladies climb the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
A parasol looks the part on the Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1906
A parasol looks the part on the Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1906

Notice the wheels on the horse-drawn cab. Inspired by the wheels of bicycles? These were interesting times—a transition from horses to automobiles was underway.

Paris in the Spring, 1906
Coming down the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
Coming down the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906

Time to see and be seen at the Place du Louvres.

Fashionable Parisians at Place du Louvres, Paris, 1906
Fashionable Parisians at Place du Louvres, Paris, 1906
Crossing the boulevard, Paris, 1906
A family walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A family walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906

A brisk breeze, sea air, and steam power.

This lady is aboard a steamer—a ship propelled by steam—crossing the English Channel to visit Ostende in Belgium.

Invented by Victorians, the steamship enabled the upper classes to see the world and as prices fell, the middle class were able to enjoy the occasional weekend getaway.

On board a steamer ship to Ostende, Belgium, 1906
On board a steamer ship to Ostende, Belgium, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906

Looks like this woman found a nice spot on the ship that was sheltered from the wind.

A respite from the wind on the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
A respite from the wind on the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906

Hitting the beach in Edwardian times was a very formal affair.

Getting a tan was still many decades away from becoming a fashionable or even desirous thing.

On the beach in Ostende, Belgium, 1906
On the beach in Ostende, Belgium, 1906
Dressing for he occasion. Beachwear, 1906
Dressing for he occasion. Beachwear, 1906

Hidden from gazing eyes, this woman enters a Victorian bathing machine to change out of her modesty.

Better get inside the bathing machine to change out of my modesty
Better get inside the bathing machine to change out of my modesty

Hats and coats against the wind.

No weather could prevent one wearing one’s hat.

That sea breeze can be quite bracing. Folkestone, Kent, 1906
That sea breeze can be quite bracing. Folkestone, Kent, 1906

Hold onto your hats, ladies!

Hold onto your hats! Holidaying in Folkestone, Kent, 1906
Hold onto your hats! Holidaying in Folkestone, Kent, 1906
You didn't see Dad anywhere, did you. Folkestone, Kent, 1906
You didn’t see Dad anywhere, did you. Folkestone, Kent, 1906

How do we get rid of that pesky photographer, Mr Sambourne?

How about we ask him to fetch a bucket of water and a brush and help us clean the steps!

You going to just stand there watching or fetch me some more water

And he’s off …

Thought that would do the trick.

Bye bye Mr Sambourne, and thank you for this incredible journey into the Edwardian era.

One step at a time. The tedious job of cleaning the porch steps, 1906
One step at a time. The tedious job of cleaning the porch steps, 1906

Vintage Baby Carriages of Bygone Times

The year was 1847 and Queen Victoria was pregnant with her 6th child, Princess Louise.

Hearing about a new type of baby carriage with three wheels which was pushed from behind, she couldn’t wait to see one.

“Albert!” she hollered, “come along, we’re off to the city to buy a pram”.

“A pram?” inquired Albert.

“Yes, yes, it’s a new type of carriage for our babies—you’ll love it!”

“Love it? repeated Albert.

“Yes, of course!” exclaimed the queen. “You know how you love inventions—well, this is one where the babies sit and you push”.

“I see”, said Albert, realizing what was coming …

An 1847 stroller from the John Leech Archives

Prams or perambulators date back to around 1733 when the Duke of Devonshire asked English architect and furniture designer William Kent to make a carriage for his children to keep them amused while they played in the grounds of Chatsworth House.

Equipped with a harness for a goat or small pony, Kent’s shell-shaped basket-on-wheels even had springs so that children could ride in comfort.

William Kent's Baby Carriage, c. 1733. Credit Studiolum
William Kent’s Baby Carriage, c. 1733. Credit Studiolum

Riding in goat-powered carts wasn’t new—children had been enjoying that since the early 17th century.

Three Children with a Goat Cart by Frans Hals, c. 1620
Three Children with a Goat Cart by Frans Hals, c. 1620

And it was still fashionable by 1890, as the grandchildren of the 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, would attest.

Major Russell Harrison and Harrison children outside the White House, 1890
Major Russell Harrison and Harrison children outside the White House, 1890

But what Kent’s design did was to inspire an entire industry of baby carriage manufacture during the Victorian era.

Starting out as three-wheeled versions that were typically pulled along by a Nanny, a later innovation allowed prams to be pushed, making it easier to keep an eye on the baby’s welfare.

Portrait of Henri Valpinçon as a child with governess by Edgar Degas
Portrait of Henri Valpinçon as a child with governess by Edgar Degas
Pram with three wheels from the period 1840-1850. Credit Antieke kinderwagen
Pram with three wheels from the period 1840-1850. Credit Antieke kinderwagen
The Champs-Elysees, view on the Arc de Triomphe by Francesco Miralles Galup (1848-1901)
The Champs-Elysees, view on the Arc de Triomphe by Francesco Miralles Galup (1848-1901)

Arriving from France, the wickerwork “Bassinet” style of pram allowed the infant to lie flat within a basket on a wheeled frame.

Pram with mattress and blanket that could be pushed or pulled c. 1866
Pram with mattress and blanket that could be pushed or pulled c. 1866

Royal patronage helped launch a fashionable craze among the well-heeled all over Europe and the United States.

So popular were prams in London by 1855 that the Rev. Benjamin Armstrong from rural Norfolk noted in his diary:

The streets are full of perambulators, a baby carriage quite new to me, whereby children are propelled by the nurse pushing instead of pulling the carriage.

Built of wood or wicker and held together with expensive brass joints, baby carriages were sometimes heavily ornamented works of art.

Pram design in manufacture from around 1858 - 1907. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Samuel Uhrdin
Pram design in manufacture from around 1858 – 1907. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Samuel Uhrdin
Pram design in manufacture from around from 1882 until 1919. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Samuel Uhrdin
Pram design in manufacture from around from 1882 until 1919. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Samuel Uhrdin
Promenade Baby Carriage, c. 1890. Credit Geolina163
Promenade Baby Carriage, c. 1890. Credit Geolina163

Patents for new innovations were registered on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1899, African American William H. Richardson patented a design for a reversible baby carriage, allowing the baby to face either forward or toward the person pushing the carriage.

US Patent for a reversible child's carriage
US Patent for a reversible child’s carriage

By the late Victorian era, many more people could afford a baby carriage and new coach-built luxury models came onto the market named after royalty—Princess and Duchess being popular names, as well as Balmoral and Windsor.

c. 1880s. An early wooden-bodied coach-built pram made by British pram manufacturer Silver Cross
c. 1880s. An early wooden-bodied coach-built pram made by British pram manufacturer Silver Cross

The Edwardians made perambulator design a fine art with elaborate decoration, improved maneuverability, rubber tyres, and protection from the elements.

1905 British Perambulator. Metal and wood frame, with leathercloth upholstery and reed-work decoration. V&A Museum
1905 British Perambulator. Metal and wood frame, with leathercloth upholstery and reed-work decoration. V&A Museum

And of course, babies were the big beneficiaries of all this innovation. Peekaboo!

Woman, holding umbrella, pushing baby in carriage equipped with rain cover
Woman, holding umbrella, pushing baby in carriage equipped with rain cover
Stroller used by the children of Crown Prince Gustaf Vi of Sweden. (Manufactured by Hitchings Ltd London. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury)
Stroller used by the children of Crown Prince Gustaf Vi of Sweden. (Manufactured by Hitchings Ltd London. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury)

It was definitely a baby’s world—even royal babies loved their pram rides to the park.

With a commanding position to see all the sites and a comfortable ride with someone else doing all the work, what’s not to love?

Two children of the Crown Prince of Prussia, 1907
Two children of the Crown Prince of Prussia, 1907

Waiting on them hand and foot, some siblings would go to great lengths to ensure the baby was as comfortable as possible.

c 1901. Sibling making adjustments to a pram's sun shade
c 1901. Sibling making adjustments to a pram’s sun shade

For the wealthier families, it was the Nanny’s responsibility to look after the children while the parents attended the many parties and functions on their busy social calendars.

1900. Child and Nanny walk in the Eilenriede Forest Park, Hanover
1900. Child and Nanny walk in the Eilenriede Forest Park, Hanover
1910. A pram ride in the French countryside
1910. A pram ride in the French countryside
1917. Children with their Nanny on the Paseo de la Concha, San Sebastian, Spain
1917. Children with their Nanny on the Paseo de la Concha, San Sebastian, Spain

Mothers who couldn’t afford or didn’t want a nanny could spend some quality time with their baby dressing them for an enjoyable pram outing.

Woman and infant posed with a baby carriage, 1913
Woman and infant posed with a baby carriage, 1913

Admiring glances and polite conversation from passers-by would be all part of the fun of owning a perambulator.

1913 Perambulator. Meissen, Germany
1913 Perambulator. Meissen, Germany

Top down, wind in the hair. Nothing quite like it.

1914. Baby Charmain, aged 7 months seated in an elaborate cane pram
1914. Baby Charmain, aged 7 months seated in an elaborate cane pram

Even fathers started to take an interest, but generally only those working in zoos.

Baby gorilla in a pram, 1917
Baby gorilla in a pram, 1917

With the arrival of the 1920s, new technology provided a way of helping to keep babies quiet—namely Radio.

Pram provided with a radio, including antenna and loudspeaker, to keep the baby quiet. United States, 1921
Pram provided with a radio, including antenna and loudspeaker, to keep the baby quiet. United States, 1921

And for the first time, babies in prams became movie stars.

The baby in the pram falling down the 'Odessa Steps' from the movie 'The Battleship Potemkin', 1925
The baby in the pram falling down the ‘Odessa Steps’ from the movie ‘The Battleship Potemkin’, 1925

Along came the 1930s and prams took on some design cues from automobiles, with shiny fenders, sports wheels, and even windows.

Baby carriage, Hungary, 1939
Baby carriage, Hungary, 1939
1930s German perambulator. Wickerwork with hardboard, wood, chromium plated metal, rubber composition. V&A museum
1930s German perambulator. Wickerwork with hardboard, wood, chromium plated metal, rubber composition. V&A museum

We’re only human and so you never know when we’ll be at war again. Best to be prepared with a gas-proof pram.

1938. Gas war resistant pram. Kent, England
1938. Gas war resistant pram. Kent, England

Fasten your seatbelts for the 1950s!

New lightweight convertible sports and luxury models entered the market.

1953 Baby Carriage. Credit Fortepan
1953 Baby Carriage. Credit Fortepan

“Mom, I think we left them for dust.”

A toddler in a lightweight sports pram, 1959
A toddler in a lightweight sports pram, 1959

Companies like A & F Saward and Silver Cross started building custom-made prams in the 1950s that were—and still are—the choice of British royalty.

1959 Baby's Royale pram made in England by A & F Saward. V&A museum
1959 Baby’s Royale pram made in England by A & F Saward. V&A museum
A period pram advertisement from the 1950s, produced by British pram manufacturer Silver Cross, portraying the classic British nanny and a Silver Cross coach-built pram
A period pram advertisement from the 1950s, produced by British pram manufacturer Silver Cross, portraying the classic British nanny and a Silver Cross coach-built pram
Modern Silver Cross Balmoral Coach-Built Pram wit a vintage style
Modern Silver Cross Balmoral Coach-Built Pram wit a vintage style


Frozen in Time: the Kaiser’s Home in Exile

At the end of World War I, the world desperately needed a scapegoat to help come to terms with four long years of human carnage.

And the widely disliked Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, was the man in the firing line.

WWI cemetery, Verdun, France. Credit Paul Arps_wilhelm
WWI cemetery, Verdun, France. Credit Paul Arps_wilhelm

As the eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria, Wilhelm was a first cousin of the British Empire’s King George V, who called him “the greatest criminal in history”.

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George proposed that the Kaiser be hanged.

After all, he had been responsible for the invasion of neutral Belgium and was instrumental in starting a war that killed tens of millions.

But since 1916—halfway through the war—Germany had become a military dictatorship under the control of Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his deputy General Erich Ludendorff.

Look at those faces. You didn’t want to mess with these guys.

Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff, 1916
Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff, 1916

Wilhelm’s role had been effectively relegated to awards ceremonies and honorific duties for the last two years of the war.

Deserted by his own military High Command, Wilhelm abdicated in 1918 and fled to the Netherlands, ending 400 years of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

Thanking the Dutch government for granting him asylum in the Netherlands, Wilhelm sent this telegram to Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands on November 11, 1918:

The events have forced me to enter your country as a private person and put myself under the protection of your government. The hope, that you would take my difficult situation into account, has not disappointed me, and I offer to you and your Government my sincere thanks for so kindly offering me hospitality. Best regards to you and yours.Wilhelm

Although article 227 of the Treaty of Versailles called for the prosecution of Wilhelm “for a supreme offense against international morality and the sanctity of treaties”, the Dutch government refused to extradite him, despite appeals from the Allies.

Settling initially in the 17th-century Amerongen Castle in the little village of Amerongen in the central Netherlands, Wilhelm called this home for two years before moving to nearby Doorn village.

Amerongen Castle, Netherlands. Credit Ben Bender
Amerongen Castle, Netherlands. Credit Ben Bender

And there it was. One day in 1920, while Wilhelm was househunting in Doorn, he spied the place he would call home for the rest of his life.

Doorn House, 1920. Credit German Federal Archives
Doorn House, 1920. Credit German Federal Archives

Owned by Dutch aristocrat Ella van Heemstra—mother of actress Audrey Hepburn—Wilhelm paid 1.35 million guilders for Doorn House.

Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Doorn House. Credit Zairon

Originally a moated 14th-century castle, Doorn House had been converted into an elegant country house in the 1790s.

Doorn House. Credit GVR
Doorn House. Credit GVR
Doorn House. Credit Ben Bender
Doorn House. Credit Ben Bender

The rear side view shows how deceptively large Doorn House actually is.

Covering 35 hectares with English-style landscaped gardens, the house was filled with antique furniture, paintings, silver, and porcelain from Wilhelm’s palaces in Berlin and Potsdam—30,000 pieces in all, requiring 59 train wagons to transport to Doorn.

Doorn House rear side view. Credit Zairon
Doorn House rear side view. Credit Zairon
Doorn House grounds and pond. Credit Ben Bender
Doorn House grounds and pond. Credit Ben Bender

Modest by what Wilhelm had become accustomed to, Doorn House was, nevertheless, deceptively large—this imposing building was just the entrance gatehouse that Wilhelm added to the property.

Entrance Gate House, Doorn House, Netherlands. Credit Zairon
Entrance Gate House, Doorn House, Netherlands. Credit Zairon

Once through the gatehouse, visitors would pass through more gates to cross a little bridge across a real moat.

Ornamental ironwork gates to bridge over the moat around Doorn House. Credit Basvb
Ornamental ironwork gates to bridge over the moat around Doorn House. Credit Basvb

The grounds even had an Orangerie used to protect tropical plants during the cold winter months.

The Orangerie ay Doorn House. Credit Basvb
The Orangerie ay Doorn House. Credit Basvb

The tasteful dining room once hosted an uneasy dinner with the powerful Nazi Party figure, Hermann Göring.

Dining Room, Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Dining Room, Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg

Now a museum, the rooms have been left unchanged since the time the Kaiser lived here.

Doorn House is frozen in time.

Dining Room, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Dining Room, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Dining Table centre display, Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Dining Table centre display, Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Dining Table detail, Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Dining Table detail, Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
The corridor between the men's and women's room on the 1st floor in Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
The corridor between the men’s and women’s room on the 1st floor in Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Doorn House bureau. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Doorn House bureau. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Living Rooms of the (German) Imperial Family at Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Living Rooms of the (German) Imperial Family at Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Study, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Study, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Bedroom, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Bedroom, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Bedroom, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Bedroom, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Bedroom, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Bedroom, Doorn House. Credit Zairon
Doorn House dressing table. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Doorn House dressing table. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Drawing Room, Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Drawing Room, Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg

Wilhelm even had the saddle that he sat on while working in Berlin shipped to Doorn.

Study room with saddle used by Kaiser in Berlin. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Study room with saddle used by Kaiser in Berlin. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Doorn House work table. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Doorn House work table. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Bedroom at Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Bedroom at Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Oddments on the desk at Doorn House. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Oddments on the desk at Doorn House. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Doorn House decorative mirror. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Doorn House decorative mirror. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr

The Doorn House collection includes snuffboxes and watches that belonged to Frederick the Great.

Snuffboxes at Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Snuffboxes at Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Mantelpiece clock at Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Mantelpiece clock at Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands bought this lamp as a gift for the exiled Kaiser and his wife.

Lamp donated by Queen Wilhelmina in House Doorn. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Lamp donated by Queen Wilhelmina in House Doorn. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg

A real water closet—a flush toilet inside of an armoire.

Toilet Closet. Credit Vera de Kok
Toilet Closet. Credit Vera de Kok
Teacups in carriage saucers. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Teacups in carriage saucers. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
The kitchen at Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
The kitchen at Doorn House. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Doorn House detail of ornaments. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Doorn House detail of ornaments. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Wilhelm's Cantonese ivory chess set. Credit Peter Nederlof, flickr
Wilhelm’s Cantonese ivory chess set. Credit Peter Nederlof, flickr

Wilhelm liked to surround himself with reminders of Prussia’s military hegemony.

Doorn House model soldier. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Doorn House model soldier. Credit Sebastiaan ter Burg
Some of Wilhelm's war regalia. Credit Ziko van Dijk
Some of Wilhelm’s war regalia. Credit Ziko van Dijk

From bombastic Emperor to elderly statesman in exile.

Aging mellows most of us, but was this the case with Wilhelm?

Wilhelm II in 1905 and 1933
Wilhelm II in 1905 and 1933

Shortly after moving into Dorn House, Wilhelm learned that his youngest son, Prince Joachim of Prussia, had committed suicide by gunshot.

Believed to be directly related to Wilhelm’s abdication, 29-year-old Joachim could not accept his new status as a commoner and fell into a deep depression.

Affectionately known as “Dona”, Wilhelm’s first wife, who had been his companion for 40 years, died in the spring the following year.

Empress Auguste Viktoria (1858-1921) and emperor Wilhem II (1859-1941) of Germany
Empress Auguste Viktoria (1858-1921) and emperor Wilhem II (1859-1941) of Germany

When Wilhelm received a birthday greeting in January of 1922 from the son of a recently widowed German Princess, he invited the boy and his mother to Doorn House.

Finding much in common with Princess Hermine, and both being recently widowed, Wilhelm proposed and the two were married in November, 1922.

The Kaiser with his second wife, Hermine, and her daughter, Princess Henriette, 1931
The Kaiser with his second wife, Hermine, and her daughter, Princess Henriette, 1931

Hermine remained a constant companion to the aging emperor until his death in 1941

The Kaiser and his second wife Hermione at Doorn House, 1933
The Kaiser and his second wife Hermione at Doorn House, 1933

It would appear that Wilhelm mellowed in later years and settled for a simple life.

He spent much of his time walking the grounds, chopping wood, and feeding the ducks.

Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany walking alone on his estate, with cane in hand, 1922. Credit Library of Congress
Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany walking alone on his estate, with cane in hand, 1922. Credit Library of Congress

There were some great things he had done for Germany.

He promoted art, science, public education, and social welfare.

He sponsored scientific research, helped modernize secondary education, and tried to position Germany at the forefront of modern medical practices.

But historians believe he lacked the personal qualities of a good leader at such a critical juncture in history.

Bluster, rhetoric, and martial swagger cloaked a profound emptiness, for ignorance and self-indulgence were his primary characteristics.Lamar Cecil.
superficial, hasty, restless, unable to relax, without any deeper level of seriousness, without any desire for hard work or drive to see things through to the end, without any sense of sobriety, for balance and boundaries, or even for reality and real problems, uncontrollable and scarcely capable of learning from experience, desperate for applause and successThomas Nipperdey.

Deeply antisemitic and paranoid about a British-led conspiracy to destroy Germany, he did, however, recognize the evils of Nazism:

Of Germany, which was a nation of poets and musicians, of artists and soldiers, Hitler has made a nation of hysterics and hermits, engulfed in a mob and led by a thousand liars or fanatics.Wilhelm on Hitler, December 1938.

Declining an offer of asylum from Winston Churchill when Hitler invaded the Netherlands in May of 1940, Wilhelm must have known the winter of his life was drawing to a close.

Doorn, Netherlands. Credit Ben Bender
Doorn, Netherlands. Credit Ben Bender

He died of pulmonary embolus on 4th June 1941, aged 82, just weeks before the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union.

What a time he had lived through.

A time when Emperors toyed with millions of lives like they were little more than model soldiers in a game of war.

Wilhelm’s dream of returning to Germany as monarch died with him in Doorn, where he is buried in a mausoleum in the gardens.

Mausoleum of Wilhelm II in the grounds of Doorn House, The Netherlands. Credit Basvb
Mausoleum of Wilhelm II in the grounds of Doorn House, The Netherlands. Credit Basvb
A man so various that he seemed to be,
Not one, but all of mankind’s epitome
Fixed in opinion, ever in the wrong
Was all by fits and starts, and nothing long.
English poet Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744)

The Light that Inspired the Skagen Painters

Skagen is a village in the northernmost part of Denmark.

From the late 1870s until the turn of the century, a group of Scandinavian artists descended on Skagen every summer.

It was the light that drew them.

A translucent light that merged the sea and the sky—especially during the evening “blue hour”.

Influenced by the “en plein air” techniques of French Impressionist painters like Claude Monet, they broke away from traditions taught at the academies and developed their own unique styles.

The long beaches stretched for miles and miles …

Listen to Claude Debussy’s haunting Clair de Lune as we travel back in time to late 19th-century Skagen through the eyes of the Skagen Painters.

Summer Evening at Skagen Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1899
Summer Evening at Skagen Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1899
Summer Evening on Skagen's Southern Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Summer Evening on Skagen’s Southern Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Nor moon nor stars were out.
They did not dare to tread so soon about,
Though trembling, in the footsteps of the sun.
The light was neither night’s nor day’s, but one
Which, life-like, had a beauty in its doubt;
And Silence’s impassioned breathings round
Seemed wandering into sound.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, A Sea-Side Walk
Summer evening at the South Beach, Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
Summer evening at the South Beach, Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, c.1900
Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, c.1900
Summer evening on the south Beach of Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
Summer evening on the south Beach of Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
The Skagen Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1882
The Skagen Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1882
Summer Day at Skagen South Beach by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1884
Summer Day at Skagen South Beach by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1884
Boat at Skagen's South Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1884
Boat at Skagen’s South Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1884
I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,
The fragile secret of a flower,
Music, the making of a poem
That gave me heaven for an hour
Sara Teasdale, I Have Loved Hours At Sea
A Stroll on the Beach by Michael Ancher, 1896
A Stroll on the Beach by Michael Ancher, 1896

Rendering light with paint in such a way that it makes you feel you are there and you need to squint at the sun’s reflections on the water.

Artists on the Beach by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1882
Artists on the Beach by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1882
The North Sea in Stormy Weather. After Sunset by Laurits Tuxen, 1909
The North Sea in Stormy Weather. After Sunset by Laurits Tuxen, 1909

One of the shared interests of the Skagen painters was to paint scenes of their own social gatherings—eating together, celebrating, or playing cards.

At Lunch by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1883
At Lunch by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1883

As if you could reach out and touch them, Krøyer’s characters are full of movement, full of life.

A breakfast. The artist, his wife and the writer Otto Benzon by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
A breakfast. The artist, his wife and the writer Otto Benzon by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893

The group gathered together regularly at the Brøndums Inn in Skagen, which still operates as a hotel today.

Filled with the paintings the artists donated to cover the cost of board and lodging, the Brøndums’ dining-room became the center of their social life.

The dining room from Branden's hotel, Skagen Museum. Credit Bengt Oberger
The dining room from Branden’s hotel, Skagen Museum. Credit Bengt Oberger

Can you feel the excitement in the air and hear the clinking of glasses?

Hip, Hip, Hurrah! by P.S. Krøyer, 1888
Hip, Hip, Hurrah! by P.S. Krøyer, 1888
The Actor's Lunch, Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, 1902
The Actor’s Lunch, Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, 1902
An Artists' Gathering by Viggo Johansen, 1903
An Artists’ Gathering by Viggo Johansen, 1903

Deep in concentration, an after-dinner game of cards continues into the small hours.

A game of l'hombre in Brøndums Hotel by Anna Palm de Rosa, 1885
A game of l’hombre in Brøndums Hotel by Anna Palm de Rosa, 1885

Many of the Skagen painters are depicted here enjoying Midsummer Eve celebrations on Skagen beach around a bonfire, traditionally lit to ward off evil spirits believed to roam freely when the sun turned southward again.

The painting includes Peder Severin Krøyer’s daughter Vibeke, mayor Otto Schwartz and his wife Alba Schwartz, Michael Ancher, Degn Brøndum, Anna Ancher, Holger Drachmann and his 3rd wife Soffi, the Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén and Marie Krøyer.

Midsummer Eve bonfire on Skagen's beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1906
Midsummer Eve bonfire on Skagen’s beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1906

Anna Ancher was the only one of the Skagen Painters to be born and grow up in Skagen.

Her father owned the Brøndums Hotel where the artists stayed during the summer months and she married Michael Ancher, one of the first members of the Skagen colony of artists.

Expressing a more truthful depiction of reality and everyday life, she was a pioneer in observing the interplay of color and natural light.

Harvesters by Anna Ancher, 1905
Harvesters by Anna Ancher, 1905
Harvest Time by Anna Ancher, 1901
Harvest Time by Anna Ancher, 1901
Sewing Fisherman's Wife by Anna Ancher, 1890
Sewing Fisherman’s Wife by Anna Ancher, 1890
They love the sea,
Men who ride on it
And know they will die
Under the salt of it
Carl Sandburg, Young Sea

Combining realism and classical composition, Michael Ancher painted heroic fishermen and their experiences at sea.

Becoming known as monumental figurative art, his strict training at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts was tempered by his wife Anna’s more naturalistic approach.

Painted in 1885, Michael Ancher’s ‘Will He Round the Point?” (below) earned him and the Skagen colony particular attention since it was sold to King Christian IX of Denmark.

Will He Round the Point by Michael Ancher, 1885
Will He Round the Point by Michael Ancher, 1885
Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
The Boat is Set in the Sea by Oscar Björck, 1885
The Boat is Set in the Sea by Oscar Björck, 1885
The lifeboat is driven through the dunes by Michael Ancher, 1883
The lifeboat is driven through the dunes by Michael Ancher, 1883
Fishermen on the Beach on a Quiet Summer Evening by Michael Ancher, 1888
Fishermen on the Beach on a Quiet Summer Evening by Michael Ancher, 1888

Life was hard.

A fisherman’s life was not an easy one.

Better to die surrounded by people who would give their life for you.

That’s what close-knit communities were made of.

The Drowned Fisherman by Michael Peter Ancher, 1896
The Drowned Fisherman by Michael Peter Ancher, 1896
Fishermen at Skagen by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1894
Fishermen at Skagen by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1894
Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with that there is Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Fishermen on the Beach at Skagen byPeder Severin Kroyer, 1891
Fishermen on the Beach at Skagen byPeder Severin Kroyer, 1891

The Skagen artists also painted each other and their children going about everyday aspects of life—collecting flowers, walking the dog, reading in the shade of the garden or inside the house, meal times with the children, and saying prayers before bed.

Anna Ancher returning from the field by Michael Ancher, 1901
Anna Ancher returning from the field by Michael Ancher, 1901
Portrait of my wife. The painter Anna Ancher by Michael Ancher, 1883
Portrait of my wife. The painter Anna Ancher by Michael Ancher, 1883
Summer Evening at Skagen. The Artist's Wife and Dog by the Shore by P.S. Krøyer, 1892
Summer Evening at Skagen. The Artist’s Wife and Dog by the Shore by P.S. Krøyer, 1892
Roses by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Roses by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Interior with poppies and a woman reading by Anna Ancher, 1905
Interior with poppies and a woman reading by Anna Ancher, 1905
Living room with light blue curtains and blue Clematis, 1913
Living room with light blue curtains and blue Clematis, 1913
Midday Meal in the Garden by Anna Ancher, 1915
Midday Meal in the Garden by Anna Ancher, 1915
The Benzon daughters by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
The Benzon daughters by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
Evening Prayer by Anna Ancher, 1888
Evening Prayer by Anna Ancher, 1888

The Tragic Story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911

This is the tragic story of how 146 immigrant workers—mostly young women—lost their lives in one of the worst industrial disasters in US history.

Popular in the Edwardian Era—the period of Downton Abbey and Titanic—the shirtwaist was a woman’s tailored garment with design details copied from men’s shirts.

Constructed of shirting fabric, sometimes with turnover collar and cuffs and a buttoned front, shirtwaists could be highly ornamented with embroidery and lace.

Shirtwaist designs from The Modern Priscilla, a needlework magazine, 1906
Shirtwaist designs from The Modern Priscilla, a needlework magazine, 1906.

One of the best-known factories making shirtwaists was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City.

Housed in the beautiful neo-Renaissance 10-story Asch Building, the iron-and-steel structure was said to be “fireproof” and attracted many other garment makers.

Russian immigrants Max Blanck and Isaac Harris set up shop on the top three floors of the Asch Building and hired 500 workers—mostly female Jewish and Italian immigrants, about half of whom were not yet twenty years old.

Owners Isaac Harris (hands folded, center) and Max Blanck with workers, 1910
Owners Isaac Harris (hands folded, center) and Max Blanck with workers, 1910

Working 52-hour weeks, workers earned between $7 and $12 per week, the rough equivalent of between $170 and $300 a week today.

But they were docked pay both for errors and the needles and thread they consumed, which was sometimes more than they were paid.

Overcrowded, with few working bathrooms and no ventilation, conditions ranged from sweltering in summer to freezing in winter.

Packed with inflammable objects, including clothing hanging from lines above workers heads and cuttings littering the floors, unsurprisingly, the Asch Building did not comply with several safety regulations.

Scrap cloth littering the factory floor
Scrap cloth littering the factory floor

With an improperly installed water hose, no sprinklers, a fire escape unable to withstand the weight of many people and dangerously dark stairwells, the Asch Building was a disaster waiting to happen.

In June of 1909, a fire prevention specialist sent a letter to the owners to discuss ways to improve safety in the factory.

It was ignored.

In addition, there was no limit set for how many workers could occupy each floor, leading to very cramped conditions.

Garment workers wearing shirtwaists
Garment workers wearing shirtwaists

Only one bathroom break was allowed in a 14 hour day, forcing many to find ways to relieve themselves on the factory floor, only exacerbating the already unsanitary conditions.

It seemed that nobody noticed and nobody cared about their plight.

Garment workers, 1909
Garment workers, 1909

Strike!

So the brave young ladies went on strike. They rose up to fight for change.

Supported by the National Women’s Trade Union League of America (NWTUL), the strike began in November 1909.

I have listened to all the speakers, and I have no further patience for talk. I am a working girl, one of those striking against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in generalities. What we are here for is to decide whether or not to strike. I make a motion that we go out in a general strike.Clara Limlich
Two women strikers on picket line during the Uprising of the 20,000 garment workers strike, New York City, 1910
Two women strikers on picket line during the Uprising of the 20,000 garment workers strike, New York City, 1910

20,000 workers walked off the job in an industry-wide strike that was the largest single work stoppage in the US up to that time.

Money talks, as they say …

Ann Morgan, daughter of the wealthy financier JP Morgan (who would later bail out the banks in the Wall St Crash of 1929), took up the cause of the garment workers.

Joined by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, the multi-millionaire American socialite and a major figure in the women’s suffrage movement, most small factory owners gave in to worker demands fairly quickly.

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, 1911
Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, 1911

But not Blanck and Harris of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

They hunkered down to play hardball.

Hiring prostitutes and ex-prizefighters to pick fights with the picketers, the police were bribed to arrest any who fought back and dragged them off to court bruised and bloodied.

Even judges were bribed to find picketers guilty.

But the women stood defiant.

Six Shirtwaist Strike women, 1909
Six Shirtwaist Strike women, 1909

By February of 1910, the union settled with the factory owners, gaining improved wages, working conditions, and hours.

The workers at Triangle failed to win union representation, making it very difficult to organize future protests.

Fire!

It was near the end of the working day on Saturday, March 25, 1911.

In a scrap waste bin under one of the cutter’s tables on the 8th floor, smoke started to rise, which quickly flared into a fire at about 4:40 pm.

Five minutes later, a passerby saw smoke coming from the 8th-floor windows and raised the alarm.

Meanwhile, a bookkeeper on the 8th floor telephoned upstairs to the 10th floor to warn employees, but there was no audible alarm bell and no way to contact workers on the 9th floor.

Several exits, two freight elevators, a fire escape, and a stairway down to street level were all blocked by flames.

The spectre of Death rises with the smoke and flames of the burning Asch Building as people jump and fall to their death, 1911
The specter of Death rises with the smoke and flames of the burning Asch Building as people jump and fall to their death, 1911

Another stairway down to Washington Place was the trapped workers’ only chance, but it was locked.

Managers made a habit of locking doors so they could check the women’s purses before they left each night.

It also made it easier for the foreman to control the workers’ break times. But where was the foreman? He had the key—and with it, their escape to safety.

He’d long since escaped by another route to his own safety.

Dozens took a stairway to the roof, but within minutes it collapsed under the heat and overload. Twenty people spiraled 100 ft to their deaths on the concrete sidewalk beneath.

Damaged fire escape at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company after the 1911 fire
Damaged fire escape at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company after the 1911 fire
I learned a new sound that day, a sound more horrible than description can picture—the thud of a speeding living body on a stone sidewalkWilliam Gunn Shepard, reporter

Operators of the elevator, Joseph Zito and Gaspar Mortillalo were the only heroes to be found and they made three return journeys up to the 9th floor risking their own lives to save others.

They had to be quick since the elevator rails started to buckle under the heat.

Some women desperately pried open the elevator doors and jumped into the shaft trying to slide down the cables. But their bodies fell, lifeless, onto the elevator car and made it impossible to make another return trip.

Suddenly, the reassuring sound of the firefighters rang out in the smokey air.

Horse-drawn fire engines in street, on their way to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, New York City March 25 1911
Horse-drawn fire engines in street, on their way to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, New York City March 25 1911

But their ladders were only long enough to reach the seventh floor and the workers were trapped on the ninth.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25 - 1911
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25 – 1911

Workers had no choice but to jump or burn to death.

Many jumped.

Crowds gathered, watching in horror as bodies came hurtling down to certain death.

Louis Waldman, a New York Socialite was sitting reading in the nearby Astor library,

I was deeply engrossed in my book when I became aware of fire engines racing past the building. I ran out to see what was happening … When we arrived at the scene, the police had thrown up a cordon around the area. Horrified and helpless, the crowds — I among them — looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street.

146 souls died that day as a result of the fire. 123 women and 23 men. Burns, asphyxiation, blunt impact injuries, or all three.

People and horses draped in black walk in procession in memory of the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, New York City
People and horses draped in black walk in procession in memory of the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, New York City

Justice

Did 146 people needlessly die in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire?

Some say it was a discarded cigarette butt that started the fire. Others that it was the engines running the sewing machines.

Owners Blanck and Harris had fled to the roof for safety when the fire began. They were initially charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. But a good defense lawyer can find holes in any case.

Max Steuer cemented his career reputation by successfully defending Blanck and Harris. He argued that witnesses were told what to say and that the owners didn’t know the exit doors were locked.

Commuted to wrongful death, plaintiffs were awarded $75 per victim in a civil suit. That was the going rate for the life of an immigrant factory worker in 1911.

Tragedy bleeds some and benefits others. The insurance company paid Blanck and Harris about $60,000 more than the reported losses, or about $400 per casualty.

Two years later, Blanck was arrested for locking the exit doors. He was fined $20.

A Tale of Two Sisters

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

This is the tragic story of two sisters.

Two beautiful Russian princesses who lived fairy tale lives.

Until one fateful day in 1918.

The Best of Times

To be a princess in Victorian-era Europe meant you were born with a silver spoon and you joined a set of elites—life’s lucky lottery winners.

Endless balls and parties, changing from one costume to the next.

Life was a dream, a fairytale.

Ball in Honour of Alexander II by Mihály Zichy, 1864
Ball in Honour of Alexander II by Mihály Zichy, 1864

Theatre, ballet, opera, concerts, sporting events, afternoon tea.

Such a hectic social calendar and so little time.

Performance at the Bolshoi Theater by Mihály Zichy (1827 - 1906)
Performance at the Bolshoi Theater by Mihály Zichy (1827 – 1906)

Wealthy noble suitors professed their love, proposed, and showered you with the finest gifts.

Ball at the Noble Assembly in 1913 by Dmitry Kardovsky
Ball at the Noble Assembly in 1913 by Dmitry Kardovsky

These were halcyon days enjoyed by the few. The best of times.

The Worst of Times

Being poor in 19th-century Europe was not something to be recommended.

To be a peasant in Russia was about as harsh as it could get.

But life was a game of chance and if you were that unfortunate, you were not alone.

Busy Time for the Mowers by Grigoriy Myasoyedov, 1887
Busy Time for the Mowers by Grigoriy Myasoyedov, 1887

Ninety-Five percent of Russians were poor peasants who owned no land.

They paid high rents to landlords who just happened to be members of the ruling aristocracy.

Living in little more than mud huts in villages cut off from the world, the illiterate peasants worked the land to scrape a living to survive and pay their rent.

Peasant Children by .Vladimir Yegorovich Makovsky, 1880
Peasant Children by .Vladimir Yegorovich Makovsky, 1880

When the Industrial Revolution came to Russia, poverty followed the people from the countryside to the cities.

Factories were dark, dirty, and dangerous.

Low wages and long hours kept the former peasants in their place and they were drawn to speeches by men with ideas on changing the world and the promise of a better life.

Vladimir Lenin at the Rally of Putilov Plant Workers in May 1917 by Isaak Brodsky
Vladimir Lenin at the Rally of Putilov Plant Workers in May 1917 by Isaak Brodsky

Against this backdrop were born two sisters—Princess Elisabeth, born 1864, and Princess Alix, born 1872.

They were part of a large noble German family of seven children.

The Hessian family in May 1875 (clockwise from far left)—Ella, Grand Duke Ludwig holding Marie, Alice, Victoria, Irene, Ernie and Alix in the center
The Hessian family in May 1875 (clockwise from far left)—Ella, Grand Duke Ludwig holding Marie, Alice, Victoria, Irene, Ernie and Alix in the center

But there was something connecting Elisabeth and Alix in particular.

It was as though they were marked by the hand of fate.

Four of the Hesse sisters (left to right)—Irene, Victoria, Elisabeth and Alix, 1885
Four of the Hesse sisters (left to right)—Irene, Victoria, Elisabeth and Alix, 1885

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine

Portrait of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, 1896
Portrait of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, 1896

Known as “Ella” within her family, Princess Elisabeth was named after St Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess herself and greatly venerated Catholic saint and patroness of the Third Order of St. Francis.

St Elizabeth, who was married at 14 and widowed at 20, built a hospital to serve the sick and became a symbol of Christian charity after her death just 4 years later.

The story of St Elizabeth would strangely touch the life of Princess Ella.

Stained glass from the Minorite Church (the Transfiguration Cathedral) of Cluj, representing St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Stained glass from the Minorite Church (the Transfiguration Cathedral) of Cluj, representing St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Growing up, she lived a modest life by royal standards, even though her father was from one of the oldest and noblest houses in Germany and her mother was Queen Victoria’s daughter.

She swept floors, cleaned her own room, and even accompanied her mother to care for soldiers at a nearby hospital when war broke out between Austria and Prussia.

Ella was charming and kind and considered to be one of the most beautiful of all the princesses in Europe.

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, 1887
Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, 1887

Frequently visiting his Hessian relatives and not failing to notice Ella’s beauty was her elder cousin, the young man who would later become the German Kaiser Willhelm II.

Writing and sending her numerous love poems, he fell in love with her and proposed in 1878.

One cannot help wondering how her life would have been different had she accepted.

Wilhelm II. Emperor of Germany, 1888
Wilhelm II. Emperor of Germany, 1888

Ella’s heart was eventually won by Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia—a choice her grandmother Queen Victoria did not approve of.

We must always listen to our grandmothers because they know things that we do not.

But such is young love.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, 1883
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, 1883
Everyone fell in love with her from the moment she came to Russia from her beloved Darmstadtone of Sergei's cousins.

They were married in June 1884 and at the wedding, fate also struck her little sister when she met 16-year-old Nicholas, the future Tsar Nicholas II.

Residing in one of the Kremlin palaces and a summer home outside of Moscow, they lived happily, hosting frequent parties.

Ella encouraged the young Nicholas to pursue her sister Alix, again much to the dismay of Queen Victoria, who somehow had a sixth sense for what was coming.

Grandmothers know.

Then on a cold February morning of 1905, Ella’s husband Sergei was assassinated inside the Kremlin by a Socialist-Revolutionary.

Sergei had previously rounded up 20,000 Jews and evicted them from their homes for no reason and without warning.

Devoutly religious, Ella herself prophesized that “God will punish us severely”.

It was just the beginning.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna as a nun after her husband's death, 1918
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna as a nun after her husband’s death, 1918

Consumed with sadness and guilt, Elisabeth became a devout nun.

Selling her possessions in 1909, she worked tirelessly for several years, helping the poor and sick in Moscow, often in the worst slums.

In 1916, Ella saw her sister for the last time.

The Murder of Elisabeth

It was July, 1918 when Lenin ordered the arrest of Elisabeth.

She spent a few days with other prisoners from Russian noble families before they were all carted to a small village with an abandoned mineshaft 66 ft deep.

Elisabeth was first.

She was beaten and hurled down the shaft.

Then the others followed and a hand grenade was thrown down to kill them, but only one man died.

According to one of the murderers, Elisabeth and the others survived the fall and after the grenade was tossed down, he heard Elisabeth and others singing a hymn.

Down went a second grenade and finally, brushwood shoved into the entrance and set alight.

After the revolution, her convent erected a statue of Elisabeth in the garden. It read simply:

To the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna: With Repentance.

Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine

Sixth child among seven and the fourth daughter, Alix was nicknamed “Sunny” by her mother and “Alicky” by her British relatives so as to distinguish her from her aunt, Princess Alexandra of Denmark who would become Queen of England as the wife of Edward VII.

Princess Alix of Hesse, 1881
Princess Alix of Hesse, 1881

Blossoming into a beautiful young woman with sparkling blue eyes and red gold hair, she was Queen Victoria’s favorite granddaughter.

The Queen had her in mind to marry Edward Prince of Wales’s eldest son, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, thus securing her a future position as Queen of England.

What is it about grandmothers just knowing what is best for us?

A very different course of events awaited Alix as she was destined to marry Nicholas, the last Tsar of Russia.

Alexandra Fedorovna by A.Makovskiy (1903)
Alexandra Fedorovna by A.Makovskiy (1903)

Alix fell in love with Nicholas in 1889 and Nicholas wrote in his diary:

It is my dream to one day marry Alix H. I have loved her for a long time, but more deeply and strongly since 1889 when she spent six weeks in Petersburg. For a long time, I have resisted my feeling that my dearest dream will come true.
Alix of Hesse and Nicholas II of Russia, 1894
Alix of Hesse and Nicholas II of Russia, 1894

Nicholas had to propose twice because at first Alix did not want to convert to Russian Orthodoxy but was assured by her sister Elisabeth that it was very similar to her German Lutheranism.

After their engagement, Alix returned to England and was joined by Nicholas where they became godparents of the boy who would become the first British monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne—King Edward VIII.

The last Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, spouse of Nicholas II
The last Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, spouse of Nicholas II

When Tsar Alexander III died in 1894, he left Nicholas as the new Emperor of Russia.

It was a whirlwind for Alix—she became Empress on her wedding day.

Shy and nervous, she was disliked from the beginning by the Russian people who saw her as cold and curt.

It set in motion a serious of events that would profoundly change the course of history.

Tsar Nicholas II with his family, Empress Alexandra, daughters Olga, Tatjana, Maria, Anastasia and son Alexej
Tsar Nicholas II with his family, Empress Alexandra, daughters Olga, Tatjana, Maria, Anastasia and son Alexej

Despite producing five beautiful daughters, the Russian people frowned upon her distaste for Russian culture and her inability to produce a male heir to the throne until Alexei, her little ‘sunbeam” arrived in 1904.

By this time, she had isolated herself from the Russian court, doting on her son and becoming a recluse.

She believed in the divine right of kings that it was not necessary to seek the approval of the people.

In a letter to her grandmother, Queen Victoria, her aunt wrote of her:

Alix is very Imperious and will always insist on having her own way; she will never yield one iota of power she will imagine she wields…Alix's aunt, German Empress Frederick

It was this thinking and her unwillingness to embrace her people that sealed her fate and that of her entire family.

The Murder of Alix

Dangerously weakened by World War I, Imperial Russia’s government could not bear the financial burden.

Mass hunger became the norm for millions of Russians who refused to accept it any longer and turned on their monarchy.

The entire family became prisoners in their own palace.

The provisional government hoped their foreign relatives might take them in.

Nicholas’s first cousin, George V of Great Britain, refused to offer the family asylum because the public sentiment was turning against royalty.

France was reluctant to accept them because the war with Germany was still raging and Alix was seen as a German sympathizer.

Hope abandoned the Romanovs.

The Bolsheviks seized power and moved the family to a more remote location.

It was Tuesday, 16 July 1918, a date that passed by peacefully without incident.

Nicholas walked with his daughters at 4 o’clock in the small garden.

Alix and Nicholas played cards until 10:30 and then retired to bed.

In the morning, everything changed.

Nicholas was shot in the chest several times and a bullet entered the left side of Alix’s skull just above her ear, exiting from the right side.

Their children were executed in a similar manner.

And that was the end of that.

Elisabeth and Alix were no more.

Two sisters caught up in the winds of change.

Two beautiful princesses whose lives were cut short because ideas changed.

And so it goes.

Why?

It is the oldest question known to mankind.

The mysteries of this world are often unfathomable.

But one thing is for certain.

The same question will continue to be asked until we find ways to live together in peace.

Castle de Haar—straight out of a fairy tale

Rising majestically above the trees, deep in the center of the Netherlands, the towers of Castle de Haar glisten in the morning sunlight.

This is no ordinary castle.

It is the largest in the Netherlands, and one of the most luxurious in Europe.

From Humble Beginnings

To go from this, in 1892 …

De Haar House, before restoration
De Haar House, before restoration

… to this, in 1912 …

Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Jan Koning
Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Jan Koning

… required big money. Rothschild money.

Castle de Haar. Credit Jim van der Mee, flickr
Castle de Haar. Credit Jim van der Mee, flickr
De Haar Castle near Utrecht Holland by Reijer Zwart on 500px.com
Sunset at Castle de Haar by Marcel Tuit on 500px.com

In 1391, the family De Haar was granted rights to the original castle and surrounding lands that existed on the same site as the current castle.

Changing hands to the Van Zuylen family in 1440, then burned down and rebuilt in the early 1500s, the castle had fallen into ruins by the late 17th century.

Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Daniel Mennerich
Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Daniel Mennerich

Eventually, De Haar was inherited by Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar.

Try saying that with a mouthful of Edam.

Etienne married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild in 1887—and the money connection was forged.

Restoration on a Grand Scale

20-years of restoration has created one of the world’s most beautiful and romantic castles.

Castle de Haar. Credit Bert Kaufmann, flickr
Castle de Haar. Credit Bert Kaufmann, flickr
De Haar Castle by Amit Kirpane on 500px.com

Fully financed by Hélène’s family, the Rothschilds, the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers  set about building 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms.

Well, you never know when you’ve got to go, do you?

Installing all the mod-cons of the late Victorian and Edwardian Eras, the castle had electrical lighting running off its own generator and steam-based central heating.

A large collection of copper pots and pans adorns the kitchen that was very modern for its day, having a 20 ft-long furnace heated with either coal or peat.

Castle de Haar Kitchen. Credit Arjandb

Decorated with fine detail throughout, the kitchen tiles have the coat of arms of both the De Haar and Van Zuylen families.

Castle de Haar Kitchen. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Kitchen. Credit Arjandb

Richly ornamented woodcarving reminiscent of a Roman Catholic church adorns the interior along with old Flemish tapestries and paintings.

Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bedroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bedroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar interior. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar interior. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Cuypers Room. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Cuypers Room. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bathroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bathroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bathroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bathroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar interior. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar interior. Credit Arjandb

Formal Gardens

Reminiscent of the French gardens of Versailles, the surrounding park contains many waterworks and 7000 trees.

Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Johan Bakker
Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Johan Bakker
Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Jan Koning
Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Jan Koning
Kasteel de Haar by Emiliano Quintela on 500px.com
De Haar Castle by dmarchitan on 500px.com
Rose garden at Castle de Haar. Credit Ewald Zomer
Rose garden at Castle de Haar. Credit Ewald Zomer

Elf Fantasy Fair

Attracting some 22,500 visitors every year, the Elf Fantasy Fair held in April at Castle de Haar is the largest fantasy event in Europe.

Next to fantasy, there are also themes from science fiction, gothic, manga, cosplay and historical reenactment genres.

Two fairies at the Elf Fantasy Fair at Castle de Haar. Credit Juvarra
Two fairies at the Elf Fantasy Fair at Castle de Haar. Credit Juvarra
Three participants in the Elf Fantasy Fair at Castle de Haar. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Three participants in the Elf Fantasy Fair at Castle de Haar. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Click to show Google Street View of Castle de Haar

Peleș and Pelișor – Castles of the Romanian Royal Family

Flanked and backed by majestic fir trees, Peleș Castle, sits atop a rise in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains near Sinaia, Romania.

Never intended as a fortress, it is a lavishly furnished and decorated 170-room palace, with 30 bathrooms covering 34,000 sq ft.

Inspired by Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Peleş Castle is a romantic blend of Neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival styles.

Constructed between 1873 and 1883 at a cost of 16 million gold Romanian coins (~$120 million today), major improvements continued until 1914.

Peleş Castle. Credit Camil72
Peleş Castle. Credit Camil72

Housing one of the finest collections of art in Eastern and Central Europe, consisting of statues, paintings, furniture, arms and armor, gold, silver, stained glass, ivory, fine china, tapestries, and rugs, it spans over four centuries of history.

The collection of arms and armor has over 4,000 pieces, divided between Eastern and Western war pieces and ceremonial or hunting pieces.

Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana PopescuPeleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu

Peleş Castle armory with over 400 pieces in the collection. Antoine Fleury-Gobert
Peleş Castle armory with over 400 pieces in the collection. Antoine Fleury-Gobert
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Mihai Raducanu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Mihai Raducanu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu
Peleş Castle interior. Credit Diana Popescu

Commissioned by King Carol I of Romania, his towering statue by Raffaello Romanelli overlooks the main entrance of Peleş Castle.

A statue of King Carol I by Raffaello Romanelli overlooks the main entrance of Peleş Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
A statue of King Carol I by Raffaello Romanelli overlooks the main entrance of Peleş Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros

When King Carol I was walking in the Carpathian Mountains of Sinaia in 1866, he came across the site of the future castle and fell in love with the scenery.

Carpathian Mountains of Sinaia, Romania, ca. 1895
Carpathian Mountains of Sinaia, Romania, ca. 1895

He commissioned a royal summer retreat and hunting preserve together with several other buildings and a power plant.

Peleș was the world’s first castle fully powered by locally produced electricity.

Peleş Castle. Sinaia, Romania. c. 1895
Peleş Castle. Sinaia, Romania. c. 1895

Peleș Castle was a truly European collaboration.

While Europe’s leaders eyed each other with suspicion and readied for war, ordinary workers from diversely different backgrounds worked together to build their palaces.

Elisabeth of Wied, the Queen of Romania, noted in her diary:

“Italians were masons, Romanians were building terraces, the Gypsies were coolies. Albanians and Greeks worked in stone, Germans and Hungarians were carpenters. Turks were burning brick. Engineers were Polish and the stone carvers were Czech. The Frenchmen were drawing, the Englishmen were measuring, and so was then when you could see hundreds of national costumes and fourteen languages in which they spoke, sang, cursed and quarreled in all dialects and tones, a joyful mix of men, horses, cart oxen and domestic buffaloes.”

Peleş Castle. Credit Bodor Istvan
Peleş Castle. Credit Bodor Istvan

Statues by the Italian sculptor Romanelli, mostly of Carrara marble, adorn the seven Italian neo-Renaissance terrace gardens.

Peleş Castle. Credit Mark Ahsmann
Peleş Castle. Credit Mark Ahsmann

Guarding lions, fountains, urns, stairways, marble paths, and other decorative pieces grace the gardens.

Peleş Castle. Credit Mihai Padurariu
Peleş Castle. Credit Mihai Padurariu

Visiting in 1896, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary wrote:

The Royal Castle amongst other monuments, surrounded by extremely pretty landscape with gardens built on terraces, all at the edge of dense forests. The castle itself is very impressive through the riches it has accumulated.

Peleş Castle. Credit Mark Ahsmann
Peleş Castle. Credit Mark Ahsmann

Accomplished as a writer under the nom de plume Carmen Sylva, Queen Elisabeth of Romania wrote poems, plays, novels, and short stories in German, Romanian, French and English.

Considered a dreamer and eccentric, she was once a favorite of Queen Victoria as a prospective bride for her son, the future Edward VII.

Said to be unmoved by her pictures, Edward chose Alexandra of Denmark instead.

Elizabeth, Queen of Romania, holding a feather fan and wearing a Sash and insignia, a diamond necklace and a small head band, 1881
Elisabeth, Queen of Romania, holding a feather fan and wearing a Sash and insignia, a diamond necklace and a small headband, 1881

Prince Carol of Romania first noticed Elisabeth in Berlin in 1861 and the two were married 8 years later in her hometown of Neuwied, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

They had one daughter who tragically died at age three. Elisabeth never got over it.

Ferdinand I of Romania
Ferdinand I of Romania

Failing to produce a male heir, the couple became estranged and King Carol adopted his nephew, and successor, Ferdinand.

Queen Elisabeth encouraged a love affair between Ferdinand and one of her ladies in waiting, Elena Văcărescu.

Doomed from the start, a marriage between Ferdinand and Elena would have been forbidden by the Romanian constitution.

Elisabeth and Elena were exiled while Ferdinand was introduced to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, his distant cousin Princess Marie of Edinburgh.

Married in January 1893, and with the birth of their son at Peleş Castle in October of that same year, Ferdinand and Marie would give meaning to the phrase “cradle of the dynasty, cradle of the nation” that the king had bestowed upon the castle.

The infant Carol would later become King Carol II of Romania and grow up under the thumb of his domineering great-uncle King Carol I.

Princess Marie (known as Missy) and her children, Prince Carol and Princess Elizabeth, 1895
Princess Marie (known as Missy) and her children, Prince Carol and Princess Elizabeth, 1895

In the early 20th century, Romania had a famously relaxed “Latin” sexual morality and Princess Marie pursued a series of love affairs.

Shy and weak, Ferdinand was easily overshadowed by the charismatic Marie, but fiercely resented being cuckolded.

Feeling that Marie was unqualified to raise the young Prince Carol, the stern King took him under his wing and thoroughly spoiled him.

Regarding the king as a cold, overbearing tyrant, Marie worried that he would crush her son’s spirit.

(Left) King Carol I of Romania with his nephew King Ferdinand and great nephew Carol II, 1905 (Right) King Carol I of Romania with his nephew and heir, Carol II, 1907
(Left) King Carol I of Romania with his nephew King Ferdinand and great nephew Carol II, 1905 (Right) King Carol I of Romania with his nephew and heir, Carol II, 1907

But life wasn’t so bad for Ferdinand and Marie.

Commissioned by the King and built within the same complex as Peleş Castle, the Art Nouveau style Pelișor Castle became their new home.

Pelișor Castle, Romania. Credit Dobre Cezar
Pelisor Castle, Romania. Credit Dobre Cezar

An accomplished artist herself, Marie made many interior design decisions for Pelișor and considered Art Nouveau an antidote to sterile historicism.

Creating her own personal style, she combined Art Nouveau with elements from Byzantine and Celtic art.

Pelisor Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
Pelisor Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
Pelisor Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
Pelisor Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
Pelisor Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
Pelisor Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
Pelisor Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
Pelisor Castle. Credit Gaspar Ros
The 'Honor Hall' stained glass ceiling and carved woodwork. Credit Curious Expeditions
The ‘Honor Hall’ stained glass ceiling and carved woodwork. Credit Curious Expeditions
Art Nouveau Door at Pelisor Castle. Credit Curious Expeditions
Art Nouveau Door at Pelisor Castle. Credit Curious Expeditions

As if foretelling the future, Queen Elisabeth held the private opinion that a Republican form of government was preferable to monarchy, writing in her journal:

“I must sympathize with the Social Democrats, especially in view of the inaction and corruption of the nobles. These “little people”, after all, want only what nature confers: equality. The Republican form of government is the only rational one. I can never understand the foolish people, the fact that they continue to tolerate us.”

But for these “little people”, Romania’s transition away from monarchy was neither rational nor romantic.

With the monarchy abolished in 1947, Romania fell under the iron grip of Communism and the castle complex became first a place of recreation for Romanian dignitaries, then a museum, and finally closed for most of dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu’s regime.

It wasn’t until 2006 that the legal ownership of the palace complex, including Pelișor, was returned to the heirs of the Romanian royal family.

At 95, King Michael I of Romania, the last surviving head of state from World War II, wishes Pelișor castle remain a home for his heirs.

Peleş Castle. Credit Radueduard
Peleş Castle. Credit Radueduard
Peleş Castle. Credit Munteanu Anca
Peleş Castle. Credit Munteanu Anca
Peleş Castle. Credit Mihai Padurariu
Peleş Castle. Credit Mihai Padurariu
Peleş Castle. Credit Gaspar Serrano, flickr
Peleş Castle. Credit Gaspar Serrano, flickr
Peleş Castle. Credit Mihai Padurariu
Peleş Castle. Credit Mihai Padurariu


A Slice of American Life in a Gilded Age by William Merritt Chase

William Merritt Chase was an American painter who thrived during America’s Gilded Age.

He is best known for his portraits and landscapes in the impressionist “en plein air” (painted outdoors) style.

He captured the domestic comforts of his own family and the blissful lifestyle of some of the wealthy.

While working in the family business, Chase showed an early talent for art, studying under local, self-taught artists in Indianapolis, who urged him to further his studies at the National Academy in New York.

Declining family fortunes cut short his training and he left New York to join his family in St Louis—working to help support them, but continuing his art.

Catching the eye of wealthy St Louis art collectors, Chase was sent on an expense-paid trip to Europe in exchange for some of his paintings and help in procuring others for their collections.

As one of the finest centers for art training in Europe, Chase joined the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where his figurative and impressionist loose brushwork began to shine.

Further travels in Italy rounded out his skills and he returned to the United States as one of a new wave of highly accomplished European-trained artists.

Seated, left to right: Edward Simmons, Willard L. Metcalf, Childe Hassam, J. Alden Weir, Robert Reid Standing, left to right: William Merritt Chase, Frank W. Benson, Edmund C. Tarbell, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Joseph DeCamp
Seated, left to right: Edward Simmons, Willard L. Metcalf, Childe Hassam, J. Alden Weir, Robert Reid Standing, left to right: William Merritt Chase, Frank W. Benson, Edmund C. Tarbell, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Joseph DeCamp

American statesman Samuel Greene Wheeler Benjamin once said of Chase’s style,

A noble sense of color is perceptible in all his works, whether in the subtle elusive tints of flesh, or in the powerful rendering of a mass of color. In the painting of a portrait he endeavors, sometimes very successfully, to seize character

Whether relaxing in the country, strolling in the park, playing with children at the beach, boating on a summer afternoon or simply contemplating life, his paintings show us a slice of American life at a beautiful time. A time tinted with gold. A Gilded Age.

Mrs Chase Playing the Piano by William Merritt Chase, 1883
Mrs Chase Playing the Piano by William Merritt Chase, 1883
Going to see Grandma by William Merritt Chase, 1889
Going to see Grandma by William Merritt Chase, 1889
The Actress Linda Dietz Carlton by William Merritt Chase, c.1879
The Actress Linda Dietz Carlton by William Merritt Chase, c.1879
Afternoon by the Sea by William Merritt Chase, c.1888
Afternoon by the Sea by William Merritt Chase, c.1888
Sketch for the Portrait of Mother and Child) by William Merritt Chase, c.1915
Sketch for the Portrait of Mother and Child) by William Merritt Chase, c.1915
Afternoon in the Park by William Merritt Chase, c.1887
Afternoon in the Park by William Merritt Chase, c.1887
Dorothy and Her Sister by William Merritt Chase, c.1900
Dorothy and Her Sister by William Merritt Chase, c.1900
Contemplation by William Merritt Chase, 1889
Contemplation by William Merritt Chase, 1889
Connoisseur - The Studio Corner by William Merritt Chase, c.1883
Connoisseur – The Studio Corner by William Merritt Chase, c.1883
Children Playing Parlor Croquet by William Merritt Chase, c.1888
Children Playing Parlor Croquet by William Merritt Chase, c.1888
Child with Prints by William Merritt Chase, c.1884
Child with Prints by William Merritt Chase, c.1884
Chase Homestead, Shinnecock by William Merritt Chase, c.1893
Chase Homestead, Shinnecock by William Merritt Chase, c.1893
Beach Scene - Morning at Canoe Place by William Merritt Chase, c.1896
Beach Scene – Morning at Canoe Place by William Merritt Chase, c.1896
In the Studio by William Merritt Chase, 1892
In the Studio by William Merritt Chase, 1892
An Afternoon Stroll by William Merritt Chase, 1895
An Afternoon Stroll by William Merritt Chase, 1895
Landscape Shinnecock, Long Island by William Merritt Chase, 1896
Landscape Shinnecock, Long Island by William Merritt Chase, 1896
Young Woman in Pink by William Merritt Chase , 1905
Young Woman in Pink by William Merritt Chase , 1905
Portrait of Miss Dorothy Chase by William Merritt Chase, c.1913
Portrait of Miss Dorothy Chase by William Merritt Chase, c.1913
Sunlight and Shadow in Prospect Park by William Merritt Chase, 1887
Sunlight and Shadow in Prospect Park by William Merritt Chase, 1887
Alice Dieudonnee Chase, Shinnecock Hills by William Merritt Chase, c.1901
Alice Dieudonnee Chase, Shinnecock Hills by William Merritt Chase, c.1901
The Sisters (also known as The Sisters - Mrs. Sullivan and Mrs. Oskar LIvingston; The Sisters - Mrs. Oskar Livingston and Mrs. James Francis Sullivan) by William Merritt Chase, 1905
The Sisters (also known as The Sisters – Mrs. Sullivan and Mrs. Oskar LIvingston; The Sisters – Mrs. Oskar Livingston and Mrs. James Francis Sullivan) by William Merritt Chase, 1905
Prospect Park, Brooklyn by William Merritt Chase, 1887
Prospect Park, Brooklyn by William Merritt Chase, 1887
Susan Watkins by William Merritt Chase, 1914
Susan Watkins by William Merritt Chase, 1914
Terrace at the Mall, Cantral Park by William Merritt Chase, 1890
Terrace at the Mall, Cantral Park by William Merritt Chase, 1890
Sunlight and Shadow by William Merritt Chase, 1884
Sunlight and Shadow by William Merritt Chase, 1884
Summertime by William Merritt Chase, 1886
Summertime by William Merritt Chase, 1886
The Song by William Merritt Chase, 1907
The Song by William Merritt Chase, 1907
Woman with a Large Hat by William Merritt Chase, 1904
Woman with a Large Hat by William Merritt Chase, 1904
Woman in Kimono Holding a Japanese Fan by William Merritt Chase
Woman in Kimono Holding a Japanese Fan by William Merritt Chase
William Launt Palmer by William Merritt Chase, 1887
William Launt Palmer by William Merritt Chase, 1887
Weary (also known as Who Rang) by William Merritt Chase, 1889
Weary (also known as Who Rang) by William Merritt Chase, 1889
Wash Day - A Back Yard Reminiscence of Brooklyn by William Merritt Chase, 1886
Wash Day – A Back Yard Reminiscence of Brooklyn by William Merritt Chase, 1886
Tompkins Park, Brooklyn by William Merritt Chase,1887
Tompkins Park, Brooklyn by William Merritt Chase,1887
Dr Benjamin Taylor by William Merritt Chase, 1902
Dr Benjamin Taylor by William Merritt Chase, 1902
Child on a Garden Walk by William Merritt Chase, 1888
Child on a Garden Walk by William Merritt Chase, 1888
The Blue Kimono by William Merritt Chase, 1898
The Blue Kimono by William Merritt Chase, 1898
Bessie Potter by William Merritt Chase, 1895
Bessie Potter by William Merritt Chase, 1895
Bank of a Lake in Central Park by William Merritt Chase, 1890
Bank of a Lake in Central Park by William Merritt Chase, 1890
The Birthday Party by William Merritt Chase, 1902
The Birthday Party by William Merritt Chase, 1902
August B. Loeb, Esq by William Merritt Chase, 1905
August B. Loeb, Esq by William Merritt Chase, 1905
At the Shore by William Merritt Chase, 1886
At the Shore by William Merritt Chase, 1886
At the Seaside by William Merritt Chase, 1892
At the Seaside by William Merritt Chase, 1892
A Long Island Lake by William Merritt Chase, c.1890
A Long Island Lake by William Merritt Chase, c.1890
The Little Garden by William Merritt Chase, 1895
The Little Garden by William Merritt Chase, 1895
The Lake for Miniature Yachts by William Merritt Chase, 1890
The Lake for Miniature Yachts by William Merritt Chase, 1890
Lady in White by William Merritt Chase
Lady in White by William Merritt Chase
Lady in Pink by William Merritt Chase, 1883
Lady in Pink by William Merritt Chase, 1883
Girl at a Bureau by William Merritt Chase
Girl at a Bureau by William Merritt Chase
A Friendly Visit by William Merritt Chase, c.1895
A Friendly Visit by William Merritt Chase, c.1895
Friendly Advice by William Merritt Chase, 1913
Friendly Advice by William Merritt Chase, 1913
For the LIttle One (also known as Hall at Shinnecock) by William Merritt Chase, c.1895
For the LIttle One (also known as Hall at Shinnecock) by William Merritt Chase, c.1895
The Fairy Tale (also known as A Summer Day) by William Merritt Chase, c.1892
The Fairy Tale (also known as A Summer Day) by William Merritt Chase, c.1892
End of the Season by William Merritt Chase, c.1884
End of the Season by William Merritt Chase, c.1884
An Early Stroll in the Park by William Merritt Chase, c.1890
An Early Stroll in the Park by William Merritt Chase, c.1890
Afternoon Shadows by William Merritt Chase, c. 1897
Afternoon Shadows by William Merritt Chase, c. 1897

A 5-Minute Guide to the House of Worth

Something wonderful happened to the world of fashion during the second half of the 19th century.

Beautiful gowns were no longer the exclusive privilege of the aristocracy …

The splendour of the Royal Court
The splendour of the Royal Court

… but were available to anyone with the wherewithal to display their finery on the boulevards, in the opera houses, and in café society.

The Boulevard at Night, in front of the Theatre des Varietes by Jean-Georges Béraud, 1883
The Boulevard at Night, in front of the Theatre des Varietes by Jean-Georges Béraud, 1883
The Staircase of the Opera by Louis Beroud
The Staircase of the Opera by Louis Beroud
La Patisserie Gloppe au Champs Elyssées by Jean-Georges Béraud , 1889
La Patisserie Gloppe au Champs Elyssées by Jean-Georges Béraud , 1889

It was a time to “see and be seen”.

Woman with Opera Glasses by Frederik Henrdik Kaemmerer
Woman with Opera Glasses by Frederik Henrdik Kaemmerer

And who was responsible for this change?

None other than the English entrepreneur Charles Frederick Worth, “the father of Haute Couture”.

Charles Frederick Worth. At ages 14, 30, and 69
Charles Frederick Worth. At ages 14, 30, and 69

Born in Lincolnshire, England, Charles Frederick Worth spent his early career working for department stores and textile merchants in London.

Besides learning all there was to know about fabrics and the dressmaking business, he would spend hours in the National Gallery studying historical portraits.

Portrait of Mrs. Sarah Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785
Portrait of Mrs. Sarah Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785
Mr and Mrs William Hallett (“The Morning Walk”) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785
Mr and Mrs William Hallett (“The Morning Walk”) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785

It was this time in London that would inspire his later works.

As the center of world fashion, Paris beckoned, and Worth found employment with the prominent textile firm Maison Gagelin, soon becoming a leading salesman, then dressmaker.

Quai du Louvre by Claude Monet,1867
Quai du Louvre by Claude Monet,1867

Establishing a reputation for himself and winning commendations at the expositions in Paris and London, news of Worth’s skills caught the attention of the Empress Eugénie, wife of Emperor Napoleon III of France.

Appointed court designer, Charles Frederick Worth’s success was all but guaranteed.

Portrait of the Empress Eugénie (1826-1920) by Franz Xaver Winterhalder, 1853, wearing a gown designed by Worth
Portrait of the Empress Eugénie (1826-1920) by Franz Xaver Winterhalder, 1853, wearing a gown designed by Worth

Soon after, he opened his own design house in Paris at 7 Rue de la Paix—first in partnership with Otto Bobergh and later as sole proprietor.

The House of Worth and Haute Couture were born.

House of Worth, 7 rue de la Paix, Paris, and Paris and Biarritz salons
House of Worth, 7 rue de la Paix, Paris, and Paris and Biarritz salons

Haute Couture is the fusion of fashion and costume.

It is wearable art.

And wealthy women of the 19th century would pay handsomely for it.

With seemingly endless social engagements, clients changed dress up to four times a day, some purchasing their entire wardrobes from Worth.

Elegant Soiree by Jean-Georges Béraud
Elegant Soiree by Jean-Georges Béraud

The House of Worth was known for showing several designs for each season on live models.

Clients would select their favorites and Worth would tailor-make gowns with elegant fabrics, detailed trimmings, and superb fit.

By the 1870s, Worth’s name frequently appeared in ordinary fashion magazines, spreading his fame to women well beyond courtly circles.

I told you it was a dress from Worth’s. I know the look.
I told you it was a dress from Worth's. I know the look

Combining colors and textures using meticulously chosen textiles and trims, House of Worth produced works of art.

That so many examples have survived in such good condition is testament not only to the popularity of Worth among wealthy patrons but also the quality of textiles insisted upon by Charles Frederick Worth.

What better way to celebrate the extraordinary House of Worth than the dulcet tones of Claude Debussy.

This is one of Worth’s earlier designs when he was still in partnership with Otto Bobergh under the name Worth and Bobergh.

Skirts of the 1860s were wide, full, and bell-shaped, supported initially by multiple layers of petticoats and later by crinolines made from graduated hoops of cane or steel.

1862. Evening ensemble. Silk. metmuseum
1862. Evening ensemble. Silk. metmuseum

As the 1870s got underway, the shape of skirts changed, with flatter front and sides and the fullness pulled back and supported behind by a “bustle”.

1875. Afternoon Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1875. Afternoon Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1877. Dinner Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1877. Dinner Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1878. Two-Piece Day Dress. Silk faille and brocaded silk lampas weave trimmed with lace, silk satin, and beads. philamuseum
1878. Two-Piece Day Dress. Silk faille and brocaded silk lampas weave trimmed with lace, silk satin, and beads. philamuseum
1878. Reception Dress. Silk, linen. cincinnatiartmuseum
1878. Reception Dress. Silk, linen. cincinnatiartmuseum
1882. Evening Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1882. Evening Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1883. Afternoon Dress. Dark blue satin; dark blue satin brocaded with bouquets of coral pink to rust colored roses and white stemmed flowers; petal pink chiffon; rust satin. Credit MCNY
1883. Afternoon Dress. Dark blue satin; dark blue satin brocaded with bouquets of coral pink to rust colored roses and white stemmed flowers; petal pink chiffon; rust satin. Credit MCNY
1887. Ball Gown. Silk, glass, metallic thread. metmuseum
1887. Ball Gown. Silk, glass, metallic thread. metmuseum
1888. Evening Gown. Silk, beads, metallic. metmuseum
1888. Evening Gown. Silk, beads, metallic. metmuseum

As the 1880s came to a close, the lines of skirts transitioned away from the bustle to form a clearer shape, but the sleeves swelled to enormous proportions, earning them the nickname “elephant sleeves”.

1889. Evening Dress. metmuseum
1889. Evening Dress. metmuseum
1892. Dinner Dress. silk satin with woven chrysanthemum pattern; large velvet gigot sleeves; lace decoration on cuffs and collar. KCI
1892. Dinner Dress. silk satin with woven chrysanthemum pattern; large velvet gigot sleeves; lace decoration on cuffs and collar. KCI
1893 Evening Ensemble. Silk, linen, metal. metmuseum
1893 Evening Ensemble. Silk, linen, metal. metmuseum
1893. Evening Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1893. Evening Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1893. Ensemble. Silk, jet, metal. metmuseum
1893. Ensemble. Silk, jet, metal. metmuseum
1894. Ball Gown. silk brocade with tassel pattern; two-piece dress with gigot sleeves; silk taffeta bow at breast; silk chiffon decoration at hem of skirt. Credit KCI
1894. Ball Gown. silk brocade with tassel pattern; two-piece dress with gigot sleeves; silk taffeta bow at breast; silk chiffon decoration at hem of skirt. Credit KCI
1894. Afternoon Dress. Silk faille set of bodice and skirt; silk lace and velvet bows at neck and cuffs; apron-shaped overskirt with silk fringe at front. Credit KCI
1894. Afternoon Dress. Silk faille set of bodice and skirt; silk lace and velvet bows at neck and cuffs; apron-shaped overskirt with silk fringe at front. Credit KCI
1895. Ball Gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1895. Ball Gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
“Lily Dress” evening dress, black velvet with application of ivory silk in the form of lilies, embroidered with pearls and sequins, 1896. © L. Degrâces et Ph. offre/Galliera/Roger-Viollet
“Lily Dress” evening dress, black velvet with application of ivory silk in the form of lilies, embroidered with pearls and sequins, 1896. © L. Degrâces et Ph. offre/Galliera/Roger-Viollet
1896. Wedding Dress. Silk, pearl. metmuseum
1896. Wedding Dress. Silk, pearl. metmuseum
1898. Evening Dress. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1898. Evening Dress. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1898. Evening Dress. Silk, cotton, metal. metmuseum
1898. Evening Dress. Silk, cotton, metal. metmuseum
1898. Evening gown. Silk. metmuseum
1898. Evening gown. Silk. metmuseum
1898. Ball Gown. Silk, rhinestones, metal. metmuseum
1898. Ball Gown. Silk, rhinestones, metal. metmuseum
1898. Evening Dress. Silk, rhinestones. metmuseum
1898. Evening Dress. Silk, rhinestones. metmuseum
1900. Ball Gown. Silk, cotton, metallic thread, glass, metal. metmuseum
1900. Ball Gown. Silk, cotton, metallic thread, glass, metal. metmuseum
1900 Evening Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1900 Evening Dress. Silk. metmuseum
1900. Evening Dress. Pale green silk chiffon and velvet; S-curve silhouette; appliqué of plant pattern; sequin and cord embroidery with water's-edge pattern. Credit KCI
1900. Evening Dress. Pale green silk chiffon and velvet; S-curve silhouette; appliqué of plant pattern; sequin and cord embroidery with water’s-edge pattern. Credit KCI

House of Worth gowns were worn by the very wealthiest of clients.  The dinner dress (below left) was worn by the wife of the great American banker J.P. Morgan, Jr.

At night, the stars in the evening dress (below right) would twinkle as the wearer moved and the light caught the different textures.

1900 & 1905. Silk, rhinsetones, metal. metmuseum
1900 & 1905. Silk, rhinsetones, metal. metmuseum
1900. Ball Gown. Silk. metmuseum
1900. Ball Gown. Silk. metmuseum
1901. Tea Gown. Silk. metmuseum
1901. Tea Gown. Silk. metmuseum
1902. Evening Dress. Silk, rhinestones, metal. metmuseum
1902. Evening Dress. Silk, rhinestones, metal. metmuseum
1906 Peignoir. Silk. metmuseum
1906 Peignoir. Silk. metmuseum
1910. Tea Gown. Silk, rhinestones, metal. metmuseum
1910. Tea Gown. Silk, rhinestones, metal. metmuseum
1911 Evening Dress. Silk, metal, glass. metmuseum
1911 Evening Dress. Silk, metal, glass. metmuseum
1916. Evening Dress. French. silk metal, rhinestones. metmuseum
1916. Evening Dress. French. silk metal, rhinestones. metmuseum
1918 Dinner Dress. Silk synthetic. metmuseum
1918 Dinner Dress. Silk synthetic. metmuseum
1925. Evening Dress. Silk, beads, metal thread. metmuseum
1925. Evening Dress. Silk, beads, metal thread. metmuseum
1930s Evening ensemble. Silk, plastic. metmuseum
1930s Evening ensemble. Silk, plastic. metmuseum
1940s. 'Féminité' dress and Ensemble. Silk, synthetic, beads. metmuseum
1940s. ‘Féminité’ dress and Ensemble. Silk, synthetic, beads. metmuseum

Charles Frederick Worth passed away in 1895 and The House of Worth remained in operation under his descendents but faced increasing competition from the 1920s onwards, eventually closing in 1956.

The House of Worth brand was revived in 1999 but failed to compete successfully in Haute Couture.

A 5-Minute Guide to Callot Soeurs Couture

When a young painting conservator from New York University happened upon some Louis Vuitton trunks in a 15th-century Florentine villa, she could not believe what was inside.

Undisturbed for almost 90 years were the most beautiful dresses she had ever seen, each with the label “Callot Soeurs”.

This was no ordinary find. Not many Callot Soeurs dresses have survived in such pristine condition.

They belonged to Hortense Mitchell Acton, an heiress from Chicago, married to Arthur Acton, a successful Anglo-Italian art collector and dealer.

Chicago heiress Hortense Mitchell Acton. Acton Art Collection - Villa La Pietra
Chicago heiress Hortense Mitchell Acton. Acton Art Collection – Villa La Pietra

Mrs Acton had been a valued client of Callot Soeurs from the moment they opened their couture house in 1895.

The Callot sisters—Marie Gerber, Marthe Bertrand, Régine Tennyson-Chantrelle, and Joséphine Crimont—rose to become the premier dressmaking house of the Belle Époque.

After losing Joséphine to suicide in 1897, Marie, Marthe and Régine continued to run the business.

Vogue magazine called them the Three Fates, and declared they were “foremost among the powers that rule the destinies of a woman’s life and increase the income of France.”

1920s. Green and Pink Silk. Passementerie tassels composed of rhinestones, pearls and beads that hang from either shoulder. Acton Art Collection - Villa La Pietra
1920s. Green and Pink Silk. Passementerie tassels composed of rhinestones, pearls and beads that hang from either shoulder. Acton Art Collection – Villa La Pietra

Among the first of the design houses to reject the corset, Callot Soeurs knew what women wanted—more freedom of movement, fluid lines, and exquisite detail.

In a male dominated business, the sisters stood out by including the word “Soeurs” (French for sisters) in their label.

For Hortense Acton, Callot Soeurs’ gowns were perfect for throwing parties at La Pietra—the Acton’s Florentine villa. She entertained everyone from Gertrude Stein to Winston Churchill.

La Villa Pietra. Credit sailko
La Villa Pietra. Credit sailko

Just how the dresses survived is somewhat of a miracle.

When the Fascists took over Italy, most of Mrs. Acton’s expatriate friends upped and left.

But not her husband. He was determined to stay, ride out the storm and look after the house and art collection.

1920s. Acton Art Collection - Villa La Pietra
1920s. Acton Art Collection – Villa La Pietra

Poor Hortense Acton stayed with him, only to be arrested and imprisoned. The villa and art collection were confiscated.

As if from a scene out of the Sound of Music, both Actons eventually managed to escape through Switzerland.

Perhaps overlooked … perhaps fate .. these incredible gowns somehow survived.

Today, they form part of a collection at La Pietra which was bequeathed to New York University in 1994.

1920s. Acton Art Collection - Villa La Pietra
1920s. Acton Art Collection – Villa La Pietra

Several other Museums house a collection of Callot Soeurs gowns, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris.

1915 Callot Soeurs. Silk, metal, pearl, metmuseum
1915 Callot Soeurs. Silk, metal, pearl, metmuseum

In each case, the collections show the signature elements of the house of Callot Soeurs: antique lace trimming, Orientalist textiles, lavish embroidery, and bead- or ribbonwork.

1914 Callot Soeurs. Silk, metal. metmuseum
1914 Callot Soeurs. Silk, metal. metmuseum
1914. Callot Soeurs. Silk, metal. metmuseum
1914. Callot Soeurs. Silk, metal. metmuseum

Exemplifying the fashion aesthetic of the time, this 1914 gown uses multiple layers and textures to give the appearance of an unstructured and spontaneous design.

1914 Callot Soeurs. Silk, metal, rhinestones
1914 Callot Soeurs. Silk, metal, rhinestones

One of Callot Soeurs’s greatest supporters was American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig, regarded as “the most picturesque woman in America.”

Ordering dozens of dresses at a time, she would design them herself and have them handmade by Callot Soeurs.

So exacting were her tastes that when she discovered her husband was having an affair with a poorly dressed woman, she sent the mistress to Callot Soeurs for new clothing.

She wore a silver Callot Soeurs dress for this 1911 Giovanni Boldini portrait.

Rita de Acosta Lydig by Giovanni Boldini, 1911
Rita de Acosta Lydig by Giovanni Boldini, 1911
1910. Robe du soir, Callot Sœurs, Paris. Satin, tulle, dentelle métallique, broderie de filé, lame or et perles. Coll. UFAC, don Debray
1910. Robe du soir, Callot Sœurs, Paris. Satin, tulle, dentelle métallique, broderie de filé, lame or et perles. Coll. UFAC, don Debray

In Marcel Proust’s second volume of “Remembrance of Things Past”, he asks his girlfriend, “Is there a vast difference between a Callot dress and one from any other shop?” To which she replied, “Why, an enormous difference. Only, alas! What you get for 300 francs in an ordinary shop will cost you two thousand there. But there can be no comparison; they look the same only to people who know nothing about it.”

1925. Callot Soeurs. Cotton, silk, plastic, glass. metmuseum
1925. Callot Soeurs. Cotton, silk, plastic, glass. metmuseum
1925. Callot Soeurs. Cotton, silk, plastic, glass. metmuseum
1925. Callot Soeurs. Cotton, silk, plastic, glass. metmuseum
1900 Callot Soeurs. Silk. metmuseum
1900 Callot Soeurs. Silk. metmuseum
1900 Callot Soeurs. Silk. metmuseum
1900 Callot Soeurs. Silk. metmuseum
1900 Callot Soeurs. Silk. metmuseum
1900 Callot Soeurs. Silk. metmuseum
1913. Woman's Lounging Pajamas. Callot Soeurs. Silk net (tulle) and silk satin (charmeuse) with metallic-thread passementerie and silk tassels. Credit LACMA.
1913. Woman’s Lounging Pajamas. Callot Soeurs. Silk net (tulle) and silk satin (charmeuse) with metallic-thread passementerie and silk tassels. Credit LACMA.
1911. Callot Soeurs. Silk, cotton, metallic thread, metal beads. metmuseum
1911. Callot Soeurs. Silk, cotton, metallic thread, metal beads. metmuseum
1911. Callot Soeurs. Silk, cotton, metallic thread, metal beads. metmuseum
1911. Callot Soeurs. Silk, cotton, metallic thread, metal beads. metmuseum
1911. Callot Soeurs. Silk, cotton, metallic thread, metal beads. metmuseum
1911. Callot Soeurs. Silk, cotton, metallic thread, metal beads. metmuseum
1908 Callot Soeurs. Silk, bead, linen, metal. metmuseum
1908 Callot Soeurs. Silk, bead, linen, metal. metmuseum
1915 Woman's Dress. Callot Soeurs. Linen lace and silk satin with silk-knotted fringe. LACMA
1915 Woman’s Dress. Callot Soeurs. Linen lace and silk satin with silk-knotted fringe. LACMA
Callot Soeurs, evening dress, 1909-1913. Silk satin metallic tulle and silk tulle. Collection UFAC © Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris photo Jean Tholance
Callot Soeurs, evening dress, 1909-1913. Silk satin metallic tulle and silk tulle. Collection UFAC © Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris photo Jean Tholance

Callot Soeurs often used delicate materials in their very feminine creations.

Renowned for their exquisite lacework, such as this black, imbricated leaf pattern overlaid on pale taffeta. Finely embellished with black and silver sequins and rhinestones, this dress was exemplary of fashions in La Belle Époque.

1909. Evening Dress. Callot Soeurs. Black lace, white taffeta, sequins and rhinestones. Museum at FIT
1909. Evening Dress. Callot Soeurs. Black lace, white taffeta, sequins and rhinestones. Museum at FIT

By the Roaring Twenties, Callot Soeurs had branches in Nice, Biarritz, Buenos Aires, and London.

Ladies’ Home Journal of 1922 wrote,

Callot probably has more rich clients than any other establishment in the world. They come from South America, from South Africa, and as far east as Japan.
1926. Women's dresses. Callot Soeurs. LACMA
1926. Women’s dresses. Callot Soeurs. LACMA
1910 Callot Soeurs. Cotton, Silk, metal. metmuseum
1910 Callot Soeurs. Cotton, Silk, metal. metmuseum

One of the twentieth century’s greatest designers—Madeleine Vionnet—was Callot’s head of the workroom, or première, before venturing out on her own.

She considered her time at Callot invaluable later in her career.

Without the example of the Callot Soeurs, I would have continued to make Fords. It is because of them that I have been able to make Rolls RoycesMadeleine Vionnet

And she expressed great respect for the house’s head designer, Madame Gerber.

A true dressmaker and a great lady totally occupied with a profession that consists of adorning women . . . not constructing a costume.Madeleine Vionnet
Madeleine Vionnet, evening dress, Haute couture winter 1935. Silk crêpe. Collection UFAC © Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Photo Jean Tholance
Madeleine Vionnet, evening dress, Haute couture winter 1935. Silk crêpe. Collection UFAC © Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Photo Jean Tholance

References

Transatlantic Modernities
Twenty One Dresses by the New Yorker
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gardens of the Gilded Age in 40 Glorious Images

Frances “Fannie” Benjamin Johnston, a pioneering female photographer from Grafton, West Virginia, was given her first camera by George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Company.

After a period of training with Thomas Smillie, director of photography at the Smithsonian, she toured Europe, learning from other prominent photographers to further her craft.

In 1894, she opened her own studio in Washington D.C. and was commissioned by magazines to take celebrity portraits, including Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington and even Alice Roosevelt’s wedding.

Well connected among the elites of society, from the late 1800s through 1935, she photographed the gardens of the rich and famous.

To the wealthy and class-conscious, gardens signified status and refinement in an ever growing industrialized America.

Deemed “the finest existing on the subject”, many of her meticulously composed images were hand tinted and were meant to educate the masses on how to beautify their yards.

What must be the sensations of a visiting Martian, when after thrilling to the matchless beauty of the New York skyline… the squalor and sordidness of many of our city districts…? (1922).Francis Benjamin Johnston

Francis Benjamin Johnston played a significant role in defining American landscape design.

Here are 40 glorious gardens from the Gilded Age.

Kenarden Lodge, John Stewart Kennedy house, Shore Path, Bar Harbor, Maine. Italian Garden, view from pergola
Kenarden Lodge, John Stewart Kennedy house, Shore Path, Bar Harbor, Maine. Italian Garden, view from pergola
William Albert Smoot, Jr., house, 220 North Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Rose garden
William Albert Smoot, Jr., house, 220 North Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Rose garden
Arnold Schlaet house, Campo Point, Saugatuck, Connecticut. Terrace
Arnold Schlaet house, Campo Point, Saugatuck, Connecticut. Terrace
Mrs. Francis Lemoine Loring house, 700 South San Rafael Avenue, San Rafael Heights, Pasadena, California. Terrace balustrade
Mrs. Francis Lemoine Loring house, 700 South San Rafael Avenue, San Rafael Heights, Pasadena, California. Terrace balustrade
'Las Tejas,' Oakleigh Thorne house, 170 Picacho Road, Montecito, California. View from swimming pool pavilion to house
‘Las Tejas,’ Oakleigh Thorne house, 170 Picacho Road, Montecito, California. View from swimming pool pavilion to house
'Senuelo,' Edward Ditmars Wetmore house, 1050 Channel Drive, Montecito, California. Path to rose garden
‘Senuelo,’ Edward Ditmars Wetmore house, 1050 Channel Drive, Montecito, California. Path to rose garden
'Villa Rose,' Joseph Donahoe Grant house, 2260 Redington Road, Hillsborough, California. Garden wall
‘Villa Rose,’ Joseph Donahoe Grant house, 2260 Redington Road, Hillsborough, California. Garden wall
'Uplands,' Charles Templeton Crocker house, 400 Uplands Drive, Hillsborough, California. View to porte cochère terrace with herbaceous border
‘Uplands,’ Charles Templeton Crocker house, 400 Uplands Drive, Hillsborough, California. View to porte cochère terrace with herbaceous border
'Inellan,' Walter Douglas house, Channel Drive, Montecito, California. Pergola at the Pacific Ocean
‘Inellan,’ Walter Douglas house, Channel Drive, Montecito, California. Pergola at the Pacific Ocean
Michael Cochrane Armour house, 962 Linda Vista Avenue, Pasadena, California. Native plant garden pathway
Michael Cochrane Armour house, 962 Linda Vista Avenue, Pasadena, California. Native plant garden pathway
'Laurelton Hall', Louis Tiffany Foundation, Laurel Hollow, Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Octagonal garden
‘Laurelton Hall’, Louis Tiffany Foundation, Laurel Hollow, Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Octagonal garden
'The Causeway,' James Parmelee house, 3100 Macomb Street, Washington, D.C. Fountain
‘The Causeway,’ James Parmelee house, 3100 Macomb Street, Washington, D.C. Fountain
'Gray Gardens,' Robert Carmer Hill house, Lily Pond Lane, East Hampton, New York. Sun-room overlooking walled garden
‘Gray Gardens,’ Robert Carmer Hill house, Lily Pond Lane, East Hampton, New York. Sun-room overlooking walled garden
'Il Paradiso,' Mrs. Dudley Peter Allen house, 1188 Hillcrest Avenue, Oak Knoll, Pasadena, California. Lower garden stairs
‘Il Paradiso,’ Mrs. Dudley Peter Allen house, 1188 Hillcrest Avenue, Oak Knoll, Pasadena, California. Lower garden stairs
'Waveny,' Lewis Henry Lapham house, 677 South Avenue, New Caanan, Connecticut. View from house terrace
‘Waveny,’ Lewis Henry Lapham house, 677 South Avenue, New Caanan, Connecticut. View from house terrace
'Beechgate,' Robert Carmer Hill house, Woodland Avenue, Englewood, New Jersey. View from flower garden to house
‘Beechgate,’ Robert Carmer Hill house, Woodland Avenue, Englewood, New Jersey. View from flower garden to house
'Thornedale,' Oakleigh Thorne house, Millbrook, New York. Lawn to pond
‘Thornedale,’ Oakleigh Thorne house, Millbrook, New York. Lawn to pond
'Drumthwacket,' Moses Taylor Pyne house, 354 Stockton Road, Princeton, New Jersey. Balustrade
‘Drumthwacket,’ Moses Taylor Pyne house, 354 Stockton Road, Princeton, New Jersey. Balustrade
'Rookwood,' Evelyn Russell Sturgis house, Gloucester Road, Manchester, Massachusetts. View to Atlantic Ocean
‘Rookwood,’ Evelyn Russell Sturgis house, Gloucester Road, Manchester, Massachusetts. View to Atlantic Ocean
'The Breakers,' Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, 44 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island. Loggia parterre
‘The Breakers,’ Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, 44 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island. Loggia parterre
'The Breakers,' Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, 44 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island. View of terrace and loggia
‘The Breakers,’ Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, 44 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island. View of terrace and loggia
'Weld,' Larz Anderson house, 151 Newton Street, Brookline, Massachusetts. Temple in water garden
‘Weld,’ Larz Anderson house, 151 Newton Street, Brookline, Massachusetts. Temple in water garden
'Thornedale,' Oakleigh Thorne house, Millbrook, New York. Pond at house entrance
‘Thornedale,’ Oakleigh Thorne house, Millbrook, New York. Pond at house entrance
Arnold Schlaet house, Campo Point, Saugatuck, Connecticut. View from house to sunken garden
Arnold Schlaet house, Campo Point, Saugatuck, Connecticut. View from house to sunken garden
'Beechwood,' Frank Arthur Vanderlip house, Scarborough, New York. Pergola
‘Beechwood,’ Frank Arthur Vanderlip house, Scarborough, New York. Pergola
'Boxley,' Frederick Winslow Taylor house, Northwest corner of Seminole Avenue and St. Martin's Lane, Chestnut Hill, Penn. Boxwood path
‘Boxley,’ Frederick Winslow Taylor house, Northwest corner of Seminole Avenue and St. Martin’s Lane, Chestnut Hill, Penn. Boxwood path
'Willowmere,' Rear Admiral Aaron Ward house, 435 Bryant Avenue, Roslyn Harbor, New York Iris beds
‘Willowmere,’ Rear Admiral Aaron Ward house, 435 Bryant Avenue, Roslyn Harbor, New York Iris beds
'Gardenside,' Frederick Augustus Snow house, Ox Pasture Road, Southampton, New York. View north to flower garden
‘Gardenside,’ Frederick Augustus Snow house, Ox Pasture Road, Southampton, New York. View north to flower garden
'Darena,' George Barton French house, Southampton, New York. Flower garden
‘Darena,’ George Barton French house, Southampton, New York. Flower garden
'Près Choisis,' Albert Herter house, Georgica Pond, East Hampton, New York. Blue and white garden terrace
‘Près Choisis,’ Albert Herter house, Georgica Pond, East Hampton, New York. Blue and white garden terrace
'Killenworth,' George Dupont Pratt house, Glen Cove, New York. Terrace steps
‘Killenworth,’ George Dupont Pratt house, Glen Cove, New York. Terrace steps
C'laraben Court,' Benjamin Stern house, Roslyn Harbor, New York. View from drive
C’laraben Court,’ Benjamin Stern house, Roslyn Harbor, New York. View from drive
Dr. Frederick Kellogg Hollister house, Lily Pond Lane, East Hampton, New York. Delphiniums
Dr. Frederick Kellogg Hollister house, Lily Pond Lane, East Hampton, New York. Delphiniums
'Westlawn,' Edward Tiffany Dyer house, Great Plains Road, Southampton, New York. Rose arbor and statue
‘Westlawn,’ Edward Tiffany Dyer house, Great Plains Road, Southampton, New York. Rose arbor and statue
Lathrop Colgate house, Bedford Village, New York. Trellis
Lathrop Colgate house, Bedford Village, New York. Trellis
'The Fens,' Lorenzo Easton Woodhouse house, Huntting Lane, East Hampton, New York. Bench
‘The Fens,’ Lorenzo Easton Woodhouse house, Huntting Lane, East Hampton, New York. Bench
'Thornedale,' Oakleigh Thorne house, Millbrook, New York. Lawn terrace and pond
‘Thornedale,’ Oakleigh Thorne house, Millbrook, New York. Lawn terrace and pond
'Armsea Hall,' Charles Frederick Hoffman Jr. house, Narragansett Bay, Newport, Rhode Island. Sundial
‘Armsea Hall,’ Charles Frederick Hoffman Jr. house, Narragansett Bay, Newport, Rhode Island. Sundial
Mrs. Francis Lemoine Loring house, 700 South San Rafael Avenue, San Rafael Heights, Pasadena, California. Flower garden
Mrs. Francis Lemoine Loring house, 700 South San Rafael Avenue, San Rafael Heights, Pasadena, California. Flower garden
'Mariemont', Thomas Josephus Emery house, 386 Greenwood Ave., Middletown, Rhode Island. View from summer house
‘Mariemont’, Thomas Josephus Emery house, 386 Greenwood Ave., Middletown, Rhode Island. View from summer house

Cléo de Mérode: the Dancer and Celebrity Glamour Model of the Belle Époque

At the age of eight, Cléo de Mérode (1875 – 1966) was already showing the talent that would make her a world renowned dancer of the Belle Époque.

Born in Paris to a Viennese baroness, she entered the Paris Opera ballet school at seven and made her professional debut at age eleven.

But it would be her beauty that stirred the public’s imagination, for Cléo de Mérode was, perhaps, the first real celebrity icon.

Before long, her dancing skills took second stage to her glamour, as postcards and playing cards around the world started featuring her image.

Cléo de Mérode, by Paul Nadar, 1894
Cléo de Mérode, by Paul Nadar, 1894

She was the talk of the town. Her new hairstyle was eagerly awaited and quickly imitated. Famous artists of the Belle Époque, like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Giovanni Boldini, and Félix Nadar queued to sculpt, paint, and photograph her.

Cléo de Merode, by Charles Ogerau, 1895
Cléo de Merode, by Charles Ogerau, 1895
Cléo de Mérode, 1897
Cléo de Mérode, 1897
Cleo De Merode at the Salon by Carlos Vazquez Ubeda (1869 - 1944)
Cleo De Merode at the Salon by Carlos Vazquez Ubeda (1869 – 1944)

Even royalty courted her. In 1896, King Léopold II, having watched her dance at the ballet, became infatuated with her, and rumor soon spread that she was his mistress. The king had fathered two children with a prostitute and her reputation suffered as a consequence.

Cléo de Mérode
Cléo de Mérode

But this was the Belle Époque, a time of unprecedented colonial expansion, the very dawn of modern celebrity culture. Such indiscretions were soon forgotten and Cléo de Mérode became an international star, giving performances across Europe and the United States.

Cléo de Mérode by Giovanni Boldini, 1901
Cléo de Mérode by Giovanni Boldini, 1901
Cleo de Merode, 1903
Cleo de Merode, 1903

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Her decision to dance at the risqué Folies Bergère cabaret only served to heighten her following. And when she met artist Gustav Klimt, whose specialty was female sexuality, a romance blossomed that inspired the 2006 movie Klimt.

Cléo de Merode by Reutlinger
Cléo de Merode by Reutlinger
Cléo de Merode, by Charles Ogerau, 1902
Cléo de Merode, by Charles Ogerau, 1902
Cleo de Merode, 1905
Cleo de Merode, 1905
Cléo de Mérode, 1910
Cléo de Mérode, 1910

Continuing to dance into her early fifties, Mérode eventually retired to the seaside resort of Biarritz in the French Pyrénées. In 1955, she published her autobiography, Le Ballet de ma vie (The Dance of My Life).

Biarritz, 1930s
Biarritz, 1930s

At the ripe old age of 91, the greatest celebrity of the Belle Époque was no more. Cléo de Mérode was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Her spirit still watches over her mother, interred in the same tomb.

Tomb of Cléo de Mérode, the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Credit Lebiblio
Tomb of Cléo de Mérode, the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Credit Lebiblio

Gone forever, but not forgotten.

Cléo de Mérode by Mariano Benlliure, 1910
Cléo de Mérode by Mariano Benlliure, 1910

How the Power of Pictures Helped End Child Labor in the United States

During the early decades of the twentieth century, child labor reached a peak in the United States.

American children worked in large numbers in mines, glass factories, textiles, agriculture, canneries, home industries, and as newsboys, messengers, bootblacks, and peddlers.

Social activism and political reform were sweeping across the country, and many states enacted laws to improve the conditions under which people lived and worked.

At the urging of prominent social critics, child labor laws were strengthened, age limits raised, and the work-week shortened—restricting night work and requiring school attendance.


Contains affiliate links The Art of the Piano by Fabrizio Paterlini.

When asked how old, she hesitated, then said “I don’t remember.” Then confidentially, “I’m not old enough to work, but I do just the same.”
One of the spinners in Whitnel Cotton Mfg. Co. N.C. She was 51 inches high. Had been in mill 1 year. Some at night. Runs 4 sides, 48 cents a day. When asked how old, she hesitated, then said "I don't remember." Then confidentially, "I'm not old enough to work, but I do just the same." Out of 50 employees, ten children about her size.
One of the spinners in Whitnel Cotton Mfg. Co. N.C. She was 51 inches high. Had been in mill 1 year. Some at night. Runs 4 sides, 48 cents a day. When asked how old, she hesitated, then said “I don’t remember.” Then confidentially, “I’m not old enough to work, but I do just the same.” Out of 50 employees, ten children about her size.

The National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) was formed in 1904 to promote “the rights, awareness, dignity, well-being and education of children and youth as they relate to work and working.”

But children were being exploited for cheap labor in secret, hidden from public view. So in 1908, the NCLC hired Lewis Hine as an “investigative photographer” to document working and living conditions of children across the United States.

Name: Jo Bodeon. A "back-roper" in mule room. Burlington, Vt. Chace Cotton Mill. Location: Burlington, Vermont.
Name: Jo Bodeon. A “back-roper” in mule room. Burlington, Vt. Chace Cotton Mill. Location: Burlington, Vermont.

Hine would gain access to factories under assumed identities—one day a bible salesman, another day a fire inspector, a postcard vendor, or even an industrial photographer saying he was making a record of machinery.

A little spinner in Globe Cotton Mill. Augusta, Ga. The overseer admitted she was regularly employed. Location: Augusta, Georgia.
A little spinner in Globe Cotton Mill. Augusta, Ga. The overseer admitted she was regularly employed. Location: Augusta, Georgia.

Undeterred by threats of violence and even death by factory police and foremen, if he couldn’t get inside a building, he would wait outside and photograph the children in groups as they entered or left.

488 Macon, Ga. Lewis W. Hine 1-19-1909. Bibb Mill No. 1 Many youngsters here. Some boys were so small they had to climb up on the spinning frame to mend the broken threads and put back the empty bobbins. Location: Macon, Georgia.
488 Macon, Ga. Lewis W. Hine 1-19-1909. Bibb Mill No. 1 Many youngsters here. Some boys were so small they had to climb up on the spinning frame to mend the broken threads and put back the empty bobbins. Location: Macon, Georgia.
Groups of workers in Clayton (N.C.) Cotton Mills. Every one went in to work when whistle blew, and I saw most of them at work during the morning when I went through. Mr. W.H. Swift talked with a boy recently who said he was ten years old and works in the Clayton Cotton Mill, also that others the same age worked. Here they are. I couldn't get the youngest girls in the photos. Clayton is but a short ride from the State Capitol. (The Superintendent watched the photographing without comment.) Clayton, North Carolina.
Groups of workers in Clayton (N.C.) Cotton Mills. Every one went in to work when whistle blew, and I saw most of them at work during the morning when I went through. Mr. W.H. Swift talked with a boy recently who said he was ten years old and works in the Clayton Cotton Mill, also that others the same age worked. Here they are. I couldn’t get the youngest girls in the photos. Clayton is but a short ride from the State Capitol. (The Superintendent watched the photographing without comment.) Clayton, North Carolina.

His photographs were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the US.

We can all relate to the plight of this little girl who stares longingly out of the window of a cotton mill, watching the childhood she should’ve had slip away.

Rhodes Mfg. Co., Lincolnton, N.C. Spinner. A moments glimpse of the outer world Said she was 10 years old. Been working over a year. Location: Lincolnton, North Carolina.
Rhodes Mfg. Co., Lincolnton, N.C. Spinner. A moments glimpse of the outer world Said she was 10 years old. Been working over a year. Location: Lincolnton, North Carolina.

Reminiscent of a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining, the little girl below probably thinks she’s done something wrong and can’t understand why Lewis Hine is asking her to stand still while pointing the camera at her.

… after I took the photo, the overseer came up and said in an apologetic tone that was pathetic, “She just happened in.” Then a moment later he repeated the information. The mills appear to be full of youngsters that “just happened in,” or ” are helping sister.”
A little spinner in the Mollahan Mills, Newberry, S.C. She was tending her "sides" like a veteran, but after I took the photo, the overseer came up and said in an apologetic tone that was pathetic, "She just happened in." Then a moment later he repeated the information. The mills appear to be full of youngsters that "just happened in," or " are helping sister." Dec. 3, 08. Witness Sara R. Hine. Location: Newberry, South Carolina
A little spinner in the Mollahan Mills, Newberry, S.C. She was tending her “sides” like a veteran, but after I took the photo, the overseer came up and said in an apologetic tone that was pathetic, “She just happened in.” Then a moment later he repeated the information. The mills appear to be full of youngsters that “just happened in,” or ” are helping sister.” Dec. 3, 08. Witness Sara R. Hine. Location: Newberry, South Carolina

We can probably all remember our grandparents saying “kids today don’t know they’re born”—we’ll probably say the same thing because each generation thinks they had it tougher than the current one.

But the young lads below really did have it tough. They worked the night shift from 5 pm to 3 am along with thousands of other children in the dangerous glass making industry.

Glass works. Midnight. Location: Indiana.
Glass works. Midnight. Location: Indiana.

Exposed to the intense heat (3133 °F) needed to melt glass, the boys could suffer eye trouble, lung ailments, heat exhaustion, not to mention constant cuts and burns.

Paid by the piece, they had to work as fast as they could for hours without a break. Many factory owners preferred boys under 16 years of age.

Boys at Lehr, Economy Glass Works. Location: Morgantown, West Virginia.
Boys at Lehr, Economy Glass Works. Location: Morgantown, West Virginia.

Eight-year-old Leo worked in a cotton mill and picked up bobbins for 15c a day. Already feeling the responsibility of contributing like the grown-ups, he said he didn’t do it just to help his sister or mother, but for himself.

Leo, 48 inches high, 8 years old. Picks up bobbins at 15 cents a day in Elk Cotton Mills. He said, "No, I don't help me sister or mother, just myself." Location: Fayetteville, Tennessee.
Leo, 48 inches high, 8 years old. Picks up bobbins at 15 cents a day in Elk Cotton Mills. He said, “No, I don’t help me sister or mother, just myself.” Location: Fayetteville, Tennessee.

Breaker boys worked in the coal mining industry. Their job was to separate impurities from coal by hand. It was midday when this photo was taken, and already the lads are covered from head to toe in coal dust.

Noon hour in the Ewen Breaker, Pennsylvania Coal Co. Location: South Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Noon hour in the Ewen Breaker, Pennsylvania Coal Co. Location: South Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Group of Breaker boys. Smallest is Sam Belloma, Pine Street. (See label #1949). Location: Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Group of Breaker boys. Smallest is Sam Belloma, Pine Street. (See label #1949). Location: Pittston, Pennsylvania.

A couple of the lads below muster a smile, while others are probably just relieved to get a few minutes respite.

Breaker boys in #9 Breaker, Hughestown Borough, Pa. Coal Co. Smallest boy is Angelo Ross, (See labels #1953 + #1951.) Location: Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Breaker boys in #9 Breaker, Hughestown Borough, Pa. Coal Co. Smallest boy is Angelo Ross, (See labels #1953 + #1951.) Location: Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Three-quarters of all child laborers worked in agriculture. Many of them were children of sharecroppers or seasonal workers who didn’t own their own land.

Paid by how much they picked, the only way for families to survive was for everyone in the family to join in with the work.

Jewel and Harold Walker, 6 and 5 years old, pick 20 to 25 pounds of cotton a day. Father said: "I promised em a little wagon if they'd pick steady, and now they have half a bagful in just a little while." Location: Comanche County, Oklahoma
Jewel and Harold Walker, 6 and 5 years old, pick 20 to 25 pounds of cotton a day. Father said: “I promised em a little wagon if they’d pick steady, and now they have half a bagful in just a little while.” Location: Comanche County, Oklahoma

Waking when it was still dark, families would pile into trucks headed for the fields where they would work until the sun went down, often without a break.

Fighting to stay awake, come rain or shine, the children would pick cotton until their hands bled.

Millie, four years old and Nellie five years old. Cotton pickers on a farm near Houston, Millie picks eight pounds a day and Nellie thirty pounds. This is nearly every day. Home conditions bare and bad. Houston, Texas.
Millie, four years old and Nellie five years old. Cotton pickers on a farm near Houston, Millie picks eight pounds a day and Nellie thirty pounds. This is nearly every day. Home conditions bare and bad. Houston, Texas

Frequently, the children lost weeks of schooling before the picking season ended and it was too late for them to catch up.

Four year old cotton picker. Children come out to this farm from the town to pick cotton outside of school hours. Ages range from four and six years (ages of the two youngest boys who pick regularly) up to fifteen and more. Two adults. Location: Waxahachie [vicinity], Texas.
Four-year-old cotton picker. Children come out to this farm from the town to pick cotton outside of school hours. Ages range from four and six years (ages of the two youngest boys who pick regularly) up to fifteen and more. Two adults. Location: Waxahachie , Texas.

Like agricultural work, cannery jobs were seasonal. Whole families would move on site for the season, living in squalid temporary quarters provided by the employers.

The day began at 3 am, with six- and seven-year-olds working alongside their parents. Payment was piecework and speed was everything.

Daisy helps at the capping machine, but is not able to “keep up.” She places caps on the cans at the rate of about 40 per minute working full time.
Daisy Langford, 8 yrs. old works in Ross' canneries. She helps at the capping machine, but is not able to "keep up." She places caps on the cans at the rate of about 40 per minute working full time. This is her first season in the cannery. Location: Seaford, Delaware.
Daisy Langford, 8 yrs. old works in Ross’ canneries. She helps at the capping machine, but is not able to “keep up.” She places caps on the cans at the rate of about 40 per minute working full time. This is her first season in the cannery. Location: Seaford, Delaware.

Shucking oysters at a seafood cannery, children might manage two four-pound pots per day while their parents filled eight or nine.

Piled up on the ground, the shells made it exhausting to keep a footing and their jagged edges cut into fingers.

The baby will shuck as soon as she can handle the knife.
Rosy, an eight-year-old oyster shucker who works steady all day from about 3:00 A.M. to about 5 P.M. in Dunbar Cannery. The baby will shuck as soon as she can handle the knife. Location: Dunbar, Louisiana.
Rosy, an eight-year-old oyster shucker who works steady all day from about 3:00 A.M. to about 5 P.M. in Dunbar Cannery. The baby will shuck as soon as she can handle the knife. Location: Dunbar, Louisiana.

Eighteen-hour working days were not uncommon and children using sharp knives were especially likely to hurt themselves toward the end of the day, when they were exhausted.

The salt gits in the cuts an’ they ache.
Shows the way they cut the fish in sardine canneries. Large, sharp knives are used, with a cutting and sometimes a chopping motion. The slippery floors and benches, and careless bumping into each other increase the liability to accident. "The salt gits in the cuts an' they ache." Location: Eastport, Maine.
Shows the way they cut the fish in sardine canneries. Large, sharp knives are used, with a cutting and sometimes a chopping motion. The slippery floors and benches, and careless bumping into each other increase the liability to accident. “The salt gits in the cuts an’ they ache.” Location: Eastport, Maine.

In vegetable and fruit canneries, produce had to be canned quickly before it wilted. Children would haul boxes to the weighing stations—some weighing between 30 and 60 pounds.

Salvin Nocito, 5 years old, carries 2 pecks of cranberries for long distance to the "bushel-man." Whites Bog, Browns Mills, N.J. Sept. 28, 1910. Witness E. F. Brown. Location: Browns Mills, New Jersey
Salvin Nocito, 5 years old, carries 2 pecks of cranberries for long distance to the “bushel-man.” Whites Bog, Browns Mills, N.J. Sept. 28, 1910. Witness E. F. Brown. Location: Browns Mills, New Jersey

In comparison, selling newspapers was relatively easy work and a good education in the ways of business.

Children would buy as many newspapers as they thought they could sell. Their own salesmanship came into play, but so did the drama of the headlines and how kind the weather was.

Most “newsies” attended school all day and had decent homes to go to at night. They were the lucky ones.

After midnight April 17, 1912, and still selling extras. There were many of these groups of young news-boys selling very late these nights. Youngest boy in the group is Israel Spril (9 yrs. old), 314 I St., N.W., Washington D.C. Harry Shapiro, (11 yrs. old), 95 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Eugene Butler, 310 (rear) 13th St., N.W. The rest were a little older., 12th St. near G [or C?] Sundays. Location: Washington (D.C.), District of Columbia.
After midnight April 17, 1912, and still selling extras. There were many of these groups of young news-boys selling very late these nights. Youngest boy in the group is Israel Spril (9 yrs. old), 314 I St., N.W., Washington D.C. Harry Shapiro, (11 yrs. old), 95 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Eugene Butler, 310 (rear) 13th St., N.W. The rest were a little older., 12th St. near G Sundays. Location: Washington (D.C.), District of Columbia.
Joseph Bernstein, 1518 Fifth St. N.W., a 10 yr. old news-boy who had been selling in saloons along the way, says he makes a dollar a day, sells until 8:30 P.M. Is a bright Jewish boy. Location: [Washington (D.C.), District of Columbia]
Joseph Bernstein, 1518 Fifth St. N.W., a 10 yr. old news-boy who had been selling in saloons along the way, says he makes a dollar a day, sells until 8:30 P.M. Is a bright Jewish boy. Location:
Tootsie, six yr. old news-boy, sells every day and Sunday for a young uncle who had to spend a good deal of his time driving Tootsie back on the job. Harry Murphy, 809 4-1/2 St., S.W., Washington, D.C. Location: Washington (D.C.), District of Columbia.
Tootsie, six yr. old news-boy, sells every day and Sunday for a young uncle who had to spend a good deal of his time driving Tootsie back on the job. Harry Murphy, 809 4-1/2 St., S.W., Washington, D.C. Location: Washington (D.C.), District of Columbia.

The National Child Labor Committee’s work to end child labor was combined with efforts to provide free, compulsory education for all children, and culminated in the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, which set federal standards for child labor.

References
Library of Congress
Smithsonian Institution
Wikipedia

Kylemore Abbey – the incredible story of an Irish castle on a lake

The year was 1871. Wealthy financier and Member of Parliament Mitchell Henry (1826 – 1910) was standing with his wife on the shores of a lake in County Galway, Ireland, admiring their new fairytale castle.

It had taken one hundred men four years to complete. But gazing across the lake at the castle’s reflection in the still waters, the couple knew it was worth the wait.

The fairytale dream

Their dream had been forged 16 years earlier when they honeymooned at this exact spot. Renting Kylemore Lodge, the Henrys had fallen in love with the bewitching beauty of the landscape.

Connemara. Credit Michal Osmenda
Connemara. Credit Michal Osmenda
Kylemore Abbey in County Galway on the beautiful west coast of Ireland
Kylemore Abbey in County Galway on the beautiful west coast of Ireland

Inheriting a sizeable fortune from his father, a wealthy cotton merchant from Manchester, England, no expense had been spared. Covering 40,000 square feet, with seventy rooms and made from granite shipped in by sea from Dalkey and limestone from Ballinasloe, it had cost £18,000 to build (about $3 million today).

Kylemore Abbet. Credit Hans-Peter Eckhardt
Kylemore Abbet. Credit Hans-Peter Eckhardt
Kylemore Abbey, Letterfrack, Co. Galway. Credit Jim
Kylemore Abbey, Letterfrack, Co. Galway. Credit Jim

But Mitchell Henry’s dream was bigger than Kylemore Castle. He gave up his career as a medical doctor to take over the family business and entered politics as Member of Parliament for Galway County.

With much of Ireland still recovering from the Great Irish Famine of 1845-52, Henry wanted to help the local community by providing work, shelter and a school. He drained thousands of acres of waste marshland, turning it into the productive Kylemore Estate and providing material and social benefits to the entire region.

Mitchell Henry, MP for County Galway 1871 - 1885
Mitchell Henry, MP for County Galway 1871 – 1885

Victorian Walled Gardens

Included as part of the Kylemore Estate were large, walled Victorian Gardens, with 21 heated glass houses and a 60-foot banana house, growing exotic fruit and vegetables of all kinds.

Ornamental garden surrounded by brick wall and six iron framed glass-houses
Ornamental garden surrounded by brick wall and six iron framed glass-houses

Tragedy strikes

Just four short years later, Henry’s wife Margaret suddenly died from a fever contracted in Egypt.

Overwhelmed by grief, he built a beautiful memorial church on the shore of the lake about a mile from the castle, where Margaret was laid to rest and where he would eventually join her.

Kylemore Abbey neo-Gothic church. Credit High Contrast
Kylemore Abbey neo-Gothic church. Credit High Contrast

Built from Caen sandstone with internal columns of green Connemara marble, the church is a scaled-down replica of the neo-Gothic Bristol Cathedral.

Neo-gothic church at Kylemore
Neo-gothic church at Kylemore
Kylemore in 1895
Kylemore in 1895

The Duke and Duchess of Manchester

What does an English Duke do when he finally runs out of money and cannot repay his gambling debts? Why, he elopes with an American heiress and escapes to a castle on a lake in Ireland.

Such was the next chapter in the story of Kylemore.

In 1903, Mitchell Henry sold Kylemore to William Angus Drogo Montague, 9th Duke of Manchester. A notorious spendthrift, Manchester succeeded his father in the Dukedom at the age of fifteen.

His excessive spending and gambling drained the family fortune, but as luck would have it, he met Helena Zimmerman, daughter of Eugene Zimmerman, a railroad magnate and major stockholder in Standard Oil.

Kylemore Abbey interior. Credit Textman
Kylemore Abbey interior. Credit Textman

Much to the chagrin of the locals, the Duke and Duchess were far more concerned with lavishly entertaining guests than they were in managing the estate.

While the Duke was away in Europe and America, often as a paid guest of wealthy Americans like media mogul Randolph Hearst, the Duchess was seen speeding along country lanes in her Daimler motor car—quite the site in 1900s Connemara!

Some say the Duke lost Kylemore in a late night of gambling at the castle, but one thing for certain is that after Eugene Zimmerman died, the money to fund a life of partying dried up, and the Duke and Duchess were forced to sell.

A sanctuary from war-torn Europe

Kylemore Castle’s next owners were a group of Benedictine nuns from Belgium who had fled the horrors of World War One.

Before the war, the nun’s home town of Ypres, with its 20,000 inhabitants, engaged in nothing more than the peaceful pursuit of making Valenciennes lace.

Valenciennes Lace. Credit Carolus
Valenciennes Lace. Credit Carolus

Then the war arrived on their doorstep.

Chateau Wood Ypres, 1917
Chateau Wood Ypres, 1917
Aerial photo of Ypres Belgium, 1917
Aerial photo of Ypres Belgium, 1917

The ravages of the First World War turned one of Belgium’s most beautiful and historic cities into nothing more than a ghostly shell of its former glory.

The ruins of Ypres, Belgium
The ruins of Ypres, Belgium

Escaping the devastation of their beloved Ypres—their home base for three hundred and forty years—the nuns settled into Kylemore Castle in 1920 and converted it into the working Kylemore Abbey.

Restoring the Kylemore Abbey’s Victorian gardens and neo-gothic church have been major projects aided by donations and the work of local artisans.

Walled Victorian Gardens. Credit Dolly442
Walled Victorian Gardens. Credit Dolly442
KylemoreAbbey garden. Credit High Contrast
Kylemore Abbey garden. Credit High Contrast
Kylemore Abbey. Credit High Contrast
Kylemore Abbey. Credit High Contrast

Kylemore Abbey continues to be a self-sustaining working monastery and the Victorian gardens are open to the public.

Mitchell and Margaret Henry can rest at peace knowing their dream castle is in safe hands.

Credit Michal Osmenda
Credit Michal Osmenda

References
Wikipedia.org
KylemoreAbbey.com
Mitchell-Henry.co.uk

Edwardian Dreams by Charles Courtney Curran

Charles Courtney Curran, 1909
Charles Courtney Curran

Charles Courtney Curran was an American artist best known for paintings of Victorian and Edwardian women in graceful flowing dresses set against expansive romantic landscapes.

Many American artists spent time in Paris in the 19th century, and Curran was no exception. Paris was the center of the art world. To experience Paris was considered essential to American artists with a dream—a dream to excel at what they loved to do.

It’s not difficult to see the influence of French Impressionists like Monet

The Promenade, Woman with a Parasol by Claude Monet , 1875
The Promenade, Woman with a Parasol by Claude Monet , 1875

His paintings are compared with fellow American Impressionists who also spent time in Paris—Mary Cassatt, Edmund Charles Tarbell, and Frank Weston Benson. And it’s not difficult to see the influence of French Impressionists like Monet—especially works like The Promenade, Woman with a Parasol (1875).

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Key Facts about Charles Courtney Curran

  • 1500 works in his career, mostly oil paintings, some watercolors and illustrations for magazines.
  • Born in Hartford, Kentucky in 1861 but grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, Ohio.
  • Trained at the Fine Arts Academy of Cincinnati, the National Academy in New York City, and Académie Julian in Paris.
  • Traveled extensively—living in Paris, frequently visiting Europe and even China.
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Imagine you are there gazing at the magnificent views from the heights of the Shawangunk Mountains in New York state.

The Gallery

Summer by Charles Courtney Curran - 1906
Summer – 1906
The West Wind by Charles Courtney Curran - 1918
The West Wind – 1918
Sunshine and Haze by Charles Courtney Curran - Date unknown
Sunshine and Haze – Date unknown
Sunny Morning by Charles Courtney Curran - 1916
Sunny Morning – 1916
September Afternoon by Charles Courtney Curran - 1913
September Afternoon – 1913
Lotus Lilies by Charles Courtney Curran - 1888
Lotus Lilies – 1888
Ladies on a Hill by Charles Courtney Curran - 1914
Ladies on a Hill – 1914
Among the Laurel Blossoms by Charles Courtney Curran - 1914
Among the Laurel Blossoms – 1914
The Edge of the Woods by Charles Courtney Curran - 1912
The Edge of the Woods – 1912
Ragged Clouds by Charles Courtney Curran - 1922
Ragged Clouds – 1922
Path of Flowers by Charles Courtney Curran - 1919
Path of Flowers – 1919
The Cabbage Field by Charles Courtney Curran - 1914
The Cabbage Field – 1914
Woman on the Top of a Mountain by Charles Courtney Curran - 1912
Woman on the Top of a Mountain – 1912
The Boulder by Charles Courtney Curran - 1919
The Boulder – 1919
The Hilltop Walk by Charles Courtney Curran - 1927
The Hilltop Walk – 1927
On the Cliff by Charles Courtney Curran - 1910
On the Cliff – 1910
On the Heights by Charles Courtney Curran - 1909
On the Heights – 1909
A Spray of Goldenrod by Charles Courtney Curran - 1916
A Spray of Goldenrod – 1916
Blue Delphiniums by Charles Courtney Curran - Date unknown
Blue Delphiniums – Date unknown
Peach Blossoms by Charles Courtney Curran - 1891
Peach Blossoms – 1891
May Breeze by Charles Courtney Curran - Date unknown
May Breeze – Date unknown
Summer Clouds by Charles Courtney Curran - 1917
Summer Clouds – 1917
Three Women by Charles Courtney Curran - 1894
Three Women – 1894
A Breezy Day by Charles Courtney Curran - 1887
A Breezy Day – 1887
In the Luxembourg Garden by Charles Courtney Curran - 1889
In the Luxembourg Garden – 1889
Lady with a Bouquet by Charles Courtney Curran - 1890
Lady with a Bouquet – 1890

Edwardian Fashion: A 5-Minute Guide

The Edwardian era was the period covering the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, and is sometimes extended to 1919.

King Edward VII in coronation robes

Edward loved to travel, setting a style influenced by the art and fashions of Continental Europe.

English socialite Vita Sackville-West and friends at Ascot, 1912

“A leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag.” —Samuel Hynes.

Reminiscing in the 1920s, after the horrors of world war one, the Edwardian era was remembered with nostalgia.

A bygone time of long summer afternoons and garden parties, basking in a sun that never set on the British Empire.

Garden party at Fort York, Toronto, Canada, c1909

Time for some Edwardian fashion fun.

Two French evening dresses from the Edwardian era (1901 – 1919) battle for your vote. Which one will win? Cast your vote to find out.

Dress A

c1905 Gala Dress. Silk tulle, machine woven silk in plain weave and satin. Silk ribbons, metal hooks. French, now owned by National Museum Norway.

Dress B

1909 evening gown with empire waist, short sleeves and fishtail hem; skirt is square sequins on net over satin fitted to fishtail. Callot Soeurs.

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Which dress do you prefer?

The Edwardian era marked a prominent turn in the direction of fashion for women.

Couturiers of Paris introduced a new columnar silhouette, with a distinctive “S” shaped curve.

It signaled the demise of the corset, which had been an indispensable garment of fashionable Victorian women.

The Edwardian era saw the full flowering of Parisian haute couture as the arbiter of styles and silhouettes for women of all classes.

Fashionable Londoners in front of Harrods, 1909