Going to the Sales in 1906

olivias-shopping-001Now that the January sales appear to be in full swing it might be valuable to take the advice of the pseudonymous ‘ Olivia ‘, a copy of whose ‘ prejudiced guide to the London shops ‘of 1906 cropped up in a pile of books. This chatty and opinionated, and possibly American-born, veteran of West End emporia, took retail therapy to new heights in her search for quality, elegance and good value. Here’s what she has to say about the vexed matter of sales.

The magic word that stocks our wardrobes, deletes our purses, disorganizes our routine, fascinates us, repels us, delights us, disappoints us twice a year regularly in London—for how much is it not answerable?

The ethics of sales are so disturbing, one time so morally and clearly good, the next minute so conspicuously disappointing and bad, that no woman, I believe is quite settled in her mind regarding them. 

Personally, I find it a delightful thing to buy a pretty piece of stuff ‘marked down ‘.Even when I can buy the same thing fresh and by the yard, and at the identical price, it never thrills as does that remnant with the wrong amount of yards, the torn edge, and the marked down price. There is no doubt we all love a bargain, even when it is only on paper.

This trait in our feminine character is fully appreciated by the shopkeeper. Therefore, there are sometimes disappointments to be encountered at sales. On the other hand, some of us attempt to remain level-headed in the matter, and are not to be won over. Continue reading

Press release for an early Coco Chanel Exhibition

coco-chanel-picFound in a box of ephemera — this press release from the Paris HQ of legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel announcing a forthcoming exhibition on a May 5th (possibly 1933) of over a hundred dresses made entirely from British materials.

The aim of this non-selling exhibition, which was to be held at 39, Grosvenor Square and would last a fortnight, was to promote co-operation between textile manufacturers and exclusive model houses in Britain and designers in Paris. The show was the result of a previous visit to London when Mlle Chanel had met with forty textile manufacturers. From the samples they had brought with them she had produced a collection that aimed to prove that’ it is possible to be appropriately dressed in British materials for a cloudburst at Ascot or a hurricane at Lords, as for a dead calm at Cowes, or a tropical spell on the Scotch moors.’

‘These dresses and their many accessories ’, the press release continues, ‘will be displayed by English girls, (including Mrs Ronald Balfour and Lady Pamela Smith), and as each dress appears, a card will be shown stating the name of the manufacturer of the materials employed. Continue reading

Odd photos bought online 1

Bought for the price of a cup of tea at eBay – the infinite online flea market, a photo of a jumble sale*, in England and likely to date from the earlier part of the 1960s. It is stamped on the back Salisbury Journal with a phone number ‘Salisbury 6933.’ The women are mostly wearing rain bonnets probably  because it was raining outside and possibly because it might rain (a fairly good bet most of the year in England, especially Wiltshire) or it may have been a fashion. The younger woman to the left with a transparentjumble plastic bonnet would indicate recent rain and also dates the photo in the 1960s, the rest of the women could come from the 1950s if not earlier. The goods displayed on the table are fairly meagre– some very basic bookends, a thermos flask without its cup, a lamp without a shade, a glass fruit juicer, some glass and tin jelly moulds, a cut-glass vase and one slim book. Some sort of raffle or tombola was also being offered (‘every card wins a bottle’.) The woman in the middle is obviously a keen and seasoned jumble sale shopper- she has three objects she may be buying from a box (a ruler, a chopping board and a wool hat or tea-cosy) and three bags ready for stuffing with bargains. Possibly she is holding these objects in order to be able to see or deal with things further down in the box. The lady to her left is either a friend or someone waiting to dive in…The woman behind in hornrim specs anxiously waits her turn – it is probably the very beginning of the sale, the first rush. Jumble sales still go on with bargain hunters, also online traders sourcing their wares , and people trying to help out the charity that has organised the event.

  • A sale of a mixed collection of things that people no longer want, especially in order to make money for an organisation, usually a charity. UK and Australian usage. In USA and Canada they are known as rummage sales.

Gillian Hills–Beat Girl

For someone brought up with the Beatles, it’s difficult to understand the attraction for teenagers of what came immediately before the Fab Four transformed pop music for ever. Here, for instance, is the back page Film Review promo for Beat Girlbeatgirl_poster a movie released in 1960 that purported to show ‘ squares ‘ what their ‘beatnik’ teenage sons and daughters were getting up to behind their backs. Starring the pop singer Adam Faith ( his film debut at the age of 18 ), horror star Christopher Lee, a young Oliver Reed and the fifteen year old bilingual starlet Gillian Hills, it was also the debut of John Barry, who went on to forge a glittering career in film music.

In 1960, most pop music fans were more interested in how teen idol Faith would cut it as an actor, than they were seeing ‘ the second Bardot ‘, as Roger Vadim hyped the fifteen year Hills, but looking back, it is odd that latter’s acting career never took off. Here was an actress, whose striking blonde beauty and obvious acting talent should have propelled her to greater things. In ‘Beat Girl’ Hills plays the ‘ bad girl ‘ Jennifer, the sulky-looking beatnik, who rejects the values of her respectable parents and lives for the kicks she gets out of dancing in night clubs and hanging out in milk bars. In the opening scenes of the film she is a pouting, free-spirited presence as she descends the stairs to the basement dance floor, where, seemingly oblivious to everything and everyone around her, she begins a freestyle dance routine. On her website ( which is worth a visit ) Hills describes the dance thus: ‘ my brain flipped, my feet followed and I was off’. As for her role as Jennifer, she saw it as a protest at her treatment by her Lycee in Paris, who expelled her for taking on a debut role in Vadim’s Les Liaisons Dangereux ‘.

 

‘I could vent my frustration, my disgust, the helplessness and despair, and the anger at what had happened to my life in the recent months.’

‘Beat Girl’ proved popular in Britain, but was banned in France. However, this did not prevent Hills from taking roles in a number of French films in the early sixties and from recording pop songs in French, including the annoyingly catchy ‘ Zou Bisou Bisou’ (1961), which was later used in ‘Mad Men’. But in Britain the film roles were small. She was a brunette in the cultish ‘Blow Up ‘(1966) and in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ she had a cameo. She also appeared occasionally on British TV.Gillian Hills pic

In 1975 Hills decided to stop making films and left for New York City to try her luck as a book and magazine illustrator. Judging from the artwork on her website, she appears to have genuine artistic talent too! At 72, Hills now lives in England with her husband Stewart Young, manager of AC/DC and Cyndi Lauper, among other artistes. [R.M.Healey]

 

 

How much do you know?

Found- How much do you know? The book of a thousand questions and answers. It was edited by Harold F. B. Wheater and published in London (Oghams Press, circa 1937.) It is part of a set of 10 practical self improvement books bought in a secondhand bookshop (Chapel Books, Westleton). Condition was way above average but the books are of modest value.

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Some of the information is very dull but at JOT we occasionally do dullness. Some info is very dated and some possibly erroneous - if the Ying Lo Ta Tien was 23000 books that would put it on a par with a printed out version of Wikipedia 2016 (in English). Possibly volumes were thin with big lettering...the first entry sounds like the luckiest accident ever and the one on Schubert is a tragedy and a terrible waste- what was sold for 8 shillings would probably now make £8 million.

What is the largest gold nugget ever found?

The 'Welcome Stranger', discovered by accident in Victoria, Australia, in 1869, through a cart making a rut in the ground. It weighed 2520 ounces.

What was the world's largest encyclopaedia?

The Ying Lo Ta Tien, or Great Standard of Yung Lo, compiled in China by order of the emperor of that name during the fifteenth century A.D. It consisted of 22,937 books and contained nearly 367,000,000 written characters. Only three copies were made; two perished when the Ming dynasty fell in 1644; the third (with the exception of a few volumes) was destroyed in the siege of the Legations at Peking (Peiping) by the Boxers in 1900.

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Camp I.Q. Check List

IMG_1445.JPGFound in The Camp Followers’ Guide! (Niles Chignon. New York: Avon Books, 1965) this groovy quiz to ascertain how camp you are – aimed at men and women. Some tastes have changed, some clubs have vanished…a ‘Yes’ to over half means you are fairly serious about being camp.

Camp I.Q. Check List

Are you fanatical about egg creams?

Do you collect Wold War II ration books, old buttons, music boxes, stereoscopes and Ball jars?

Do you use banana soap?

Do you prefer Mexican paper flowers to real ones?

Do you have a Thirties Modern Vanity designed by Carl Hammerstrom in redwood burl with rounded corners and a big oval mirror?

Do you have a Bevelacqua chair with chrome flat bar steel arms?

Have you see Gunga Din five times? Goldiggers of 1933, ten? The Devil is a Woman, fifteen? The Creation of the Humanoids, twenty?

Do you have toys in your bathtub?

Do you play with a jump rope, a Whee-lo toy, or a giant Japanese Yo-yo?

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How to walk – The rule of the pavement

From Correct Conduct, or, Etiquette for Everybody (M. Woodman. London: W. Foulsham 1922) this piece about the etiquette of walking and pavements. This is the world of the early Downton series or for older viewers The Forsyte Saga. The gentleman has to know what to do in complicated situations ‘…a man who meets his parlourmaid in the street is in a quandary’ – here tipping the hat is suggested (but no nodding…)

hatsoffThe rule of the pavement used to be to walk to the right. The “Safety First” Committee is endeavouring to induce public opinion to favour walking on the left. Instinct suggests the right, common sense the left. Pedestrians should appreciate the fact that this change is being made, and act according to their own dictates. 

When walking with friends, do not proceed along the pavement more than two abreast, and then take to single file on passing other people.

Always give way to perambulators; they certainly are a nuisance, but a necessary nuisance. When a lady is walking with a gentleman, she should take the inside. This is survival of the days when all roads were muddy and passing vehicles splashed those nearest.

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London A to Z (1953)

IMG_1381Found – this rare and attractive paperback guide to London published by Andre Deutsch in 1953 and illustrated by Edward Bawden. This extract of three entries gives the flavour
of the book. How many people raise their hats (head-gear?) when passing the Cenotaph in 2016? How many people still possess bowler hats and who could still call its football team ‘poor old Chelsea.’?

BOWLER HAT. The possession on of the correct type of bowler, hairy, not too large and curly-brimmed, is as essential to the young man about town as a pair of trousers. It is worn e either in the hand which is not carrying the rolled umbrella, or, sometimes, even on the head, tilted forward over the eyes at the angle adopted by villains in Victorian melodrama. The most London of all headgear…

IMG_1382CENOTAPH. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the simple and auster national memorial to the dead of the Commonwealth in both world wars stands in the middle of Whitehall.  It is the focal point of the nation’s morning on Remembrance Day. Men raise their hats when they pass it.

CHELSEA. Long famous as the home of artists, London’s nearest approach to a Latin Quarter, is now the favourite area of civil servants and businessmen as well.

An attractive and friendly place, which centres around the Kings Road and runs from Sloane Square down to the river, it’s studded with some very good cheapish restaurants, antique shops, drinking clubs. Both the men and women wear corduroy trousers. It also houses the Chelsea Football Club (at Stamford Bridge), long known as ‘poor old Chelsea,’ the despair and the delight – mostly the former – of its supporters.

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Fashionistas (1789)

[raw]

Found – a scrapbook of press-cuttings mostly from the Irish newspaper the Cork Gazette. This cutting dates from about 1789. They are mostly taken up with oddities, strange wagers (can a walking man cover 20 miles faster than a walking horse?*) horrible executions, feats, obituaries, a letter from Dean Swift, marriages of royals etc., This piece about current extreme fashions is an example of the  slightly sensational journalism of the time…

Fashion

This most whimsical of all human inventions has undergone, within these few years the most unaccountable changes imaginable, nor is she yet at rest but, with Protean wantonness, every day affirms the new form, leaving a gaping world in pursuit of her. One no sooner catches her, than she escapes, then presents herself under a different form, still more seducing and irresistible than the former.

One time she lets her head grow to the length of a cows tail, then cocks it – it sometimes flows loosely, and others nicely plaited and made into tresses – she soon prides in frizzing, and after that falls down by the ears, hanging like a pound of candles – her  present frolic is a crop, which for aught we know be soon metamorphosed into a shorn head.

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Son of the Sixties

Found - in Axle, a short lived magazine, from June 1963 this amusing and intriguing portrait of a sixties type (or archetype.) It was written  by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley the editors of the magazine. These 2 men, 23 at the time, went on to become successful pop music composers - hits included Dave Dee's Xanadu..In 1970 they even wrote a song for Elvis ('I've lost you'.)The reference to 'Dexadrin' is obscure- can find no trace of such a magazine, possibly ingested rather than read...

Son of the Sixties

Build: Tall; slim; muscular without exercise. Complexion: clear; permanently bronzed without sun or Man-tan; never sweats...Seldom laughs (but rare smiles are planned and dazzling - he was born in natural fluoride area). Hair: Black; well-combed, no dressing; styling suggests but never quite descends to more obvious fashions of the day (Frost, Como, etc.) Clothes: by John Michael and Marks and Spencer. Can wear white shirt for whole week. General appearance: Air of masculine competence cunningly offset by one or two ambiguous touches (name-bracelet, St. Christopher chain, pastel denim shirt); usual expression, mixture of Come-Hither and Come-Off-It; can appear alternately boyish and authoritative, a trump combination arousing maternal and subject feelings in women simultaneously, rendering him irresistible. Looks at best after all night party. Background: only son of fashionably separated parents (White Russian mother, Franco-Jewish father) whom he visited alternately in school holidays; discreet fostering of their sense of guilt won him ample allowance and Porsche at 18. Education: Attended Bedales where he swam on summer nights in nude and was encouraged extracurricular activities; he in turn encouraged extra martial activity of master's wife who fondly imagined she had done the seducing. Always the centre of any group, without responsibility of actual leadership...Scraped 3 G.C.E. passes and entered St. Martin's Art School where... he gained undistinguished diploma. Occupations: rejected father's suggestion that he should 'work his way up from the bottom' (in three years) in his costume jewellery business. After spell as bar steward on Azores run where he cut dashing figure in whites, found (with friend of girl friend's help) tailor-made niche as London P.R.O. for obscure but loaded mining venture in Pretoria which enables him to indulge twin ambitions of luxurious living and complete independence. Residence: From liberal expense account was able to set up basement flat in renovated Earls Court terrace, where he frequently throws lavish (but informal) parties that are unexceptionally tremendous successes and are usually raided. (But he has a way with The Law). Clubs: Discotheque, Le Gigolo, Muriel's National Film Theatre, La Poubellle, Rockingham, Ronnie Scott's (offer drinks at, but has never joined The Establishment). Takes: The Observer, Peace News, Dexadrin. Glances at: The Times, Daily Express, Izvetzia, Private Eye, Encounter, Town, Playboy, Paris-Match, Sight and Sound, his horoscope. Went through novel and poetry reading stage at 15; still studies reviews quite carefully. Listens to: Today (2nd edition), Pick of the Pops. Watches: Panorama, Tonight, Compact (for laughs and because he knows some of the cast very intimately), Points of View. Outlook: Intellectual inferiors regard him as unassumingly highbrow, while academics find his 'untouched originality' refreshing. Remarkably adaptable, is equally at home in company of Soho villains and company directors, pop singers and clergymen. Mixes everything from sex to drinks and generally likes neither straight. Believes in experience (hash-smoking, etc.) as a right rather than as anything wildly off-beat, but demands best in everything. A self-confessed dilettante, seeks to avoid type-casting; likes to confound admirers of both sexes by appearing in public with wholly atypical companions. An agnostic, takes pleasure in arguing case for Christianity and was cynical at attempts at compromise in Honest to God. Politics: Wouldn't vote in next election even if he were 21. Occasionally supports Committee of 100 demonstrations, but no longer marches ... Future: Middle-age. And then…?
(Excerpt)
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Hermann Sudermann—bearded wonder

 This is unusual, but perhaps not for its time. Back in 1906, when this postcard was sent from Berlin to a certain Seigfried Keiller, who was living in the Jewish ghetto of Gartenstrasse, Breslau, it would seem that celebs trusted the postal service to deliver signed photos of themselves safely. Not a likely prospect today!

Hermann Sudermann (1857 – 1928), a hugely successful novelist and dramatist in his day, was that celebrity, as one can see from the bottom of the card, where his scrawl of a signature appears just above his printed surname. We don’t know exactly when the card was printed, but he looks to be around his mid or late forties.  At the time Sudermann was at the height of his popularity. A German nationalist and an admirer of Nietzsche, his plays and novels found a ready audience, not only in his native land, but also in Japan and Britain, where, for instance, the English version of his drama Heimat, which played with the notion that the artist should be able to lead a freer moral life than the bourgeoisie, attracted actresses like Sarah Berhardt and Mrs Patrick Campbell. His plays also formed the basis of more than thirty films worldwide.

Sudermann died in 1928, but as someone who promoted nationalism and romanticized ideas of ethnicity, his popularity lasted right up the Second World War. However, with the defeat of Hitler and the cultural re-evaluation that accompanied the rebuilding of Germany, his work became distinctly unfashionable and today he is an almost totally forgotten figure.
     
Incidentally, it is interesting to speculate why Sudermann came to send a signed photo of himself. It is possible that Keiller attended a performance of one of his plays in the presence of the dramatist and that he approached him for an autograph. Sudermann may then have promised to do better than supply a signature and afterwards dispatched the signed postcard. Such a scenario seems more likely than the notion of Keiller looking up Sudermann’s address and number in the Berlin phone directory. But you never know!

[R.M.Healey]
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Angus Wilson and Evelyn Waugh – the tweed connection

Found - this enigmatic pair of pictures in a 1980s Japanese book on English literature. The book was in a box of foreign language books from the estate  of the novelist Angus Wilson. The inscription in Japanese is probably to him from an academic that he had met on one of his lecture tours to Japan in the 1960s. He had befriended Yukio Mishima while there and the great samurai stayed with him at his Suffolk cottage on a trip to England.

The notable item in the photo is that Evelyn Waugh and Angus Wilson appear to be wearing the same brand of tweed...it is possible that at the time in Japan it was assumed that all English novelists wore nothing but tweed..The connection between the two men,however, is slightly  deeper. Waugh was a great admirer of Wilson, especially his novel The Old Men at the Zoo which he vigorously defended in a long letter from his country pile Combe Florey to The Spectator in 1961, after it was attacked by their critic John Mortimer. Which novelist wore the tweed first is (so far) unknown.

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Making up is hard to do

A rare pamphlet (there is only one for sale on Abebooks), The Secrets of Making-Up, co-edited  by two old stagers, J. Ainsley Brough and George M Slater, is 70 pages of very useful advice on how to transform yourself into anything from a man of ninety to an octoroon. It seems to date from around 1922, but for some reason a typeface is adopted that was current c 1903. There are some wonderful photos of actors from the Music Hall and Revue, all demonstrating the transformative powers of grease paint and powder.

Although politically very much of its time (the N word is one of a number of dubious references), essentially this is a practical and modern guide. The humour—especially in a lively article on Revue and Vaudeville by Slater ( 1870 – 1949), a theatre manager and prolific writer of pantomimes, whose archive is now at the V & A—is genuinely funny, even slightly ribald. The ads at the back also contribute much to modern theatrical history.

Some tips:
1) An actor should ideally shave off his moustache, not cover it with 'goldbeater’s skin' , whatever that is,  if portraying a clean shaven person.
2) Stage Character make-up is useless for film work, and when wigs are used they must on no account have a ‘scalp join’ . No explanation is offered.
3) When portraying a Chinese or Japanese person, 'do not line under the eyes, as Chinese and Japanese have small eyes’. [RR]

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Arnold Bennett and ‘dressing apraxia’

Football fans among the Jot 101 community may remember the ridicule which greeted the failure of the childlike Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, to don a  simple training bib. Fans blamed the footballer’s apparent dimness , but his difficulties with clothing recall a syndrome known as  ‘dressing apraxia ‘,which, according to the consultant neurologist G. D. Perkin, writing in the British Medical Journal,  ‘are graphically described by the novelist Arnold Bennett in Clayhanger*

Bennett ‘s Journals reveals the novelist to have been interested in medicine as it concerned his own chronic poor health , some of the symptoms of which were neuralgic pains, headaches and insomnia, but also that of his  father, Enoch. Perkin argues that the ‘dressing apraxia’, clearly demonstrated in Darius Clayhanger’s inability to dress himself, was a reflection of Enoch’s own medical condition. Having failed to identify the disease responsible for the symptoms suffered by both men, Perkin final alighted on Pick’s disease, a rare neurodegenerative condition, a description of which he discovered in a French medical journal of 1928. As this disease is often familial, and according to Bennett’s biographer Margaret Drabble, it was reported to have killed two of his sisters, might  the symptoms suffered by Bennett suggest that he too may have been afflicted, though Perkin maintains that the Journals ‘nowhere support the possibility’.

Bennett’s sometimes frantic search for quack remedies for his chronic bad health occasionally placed him in further danger. Could it be that the ill-judgement, a product of the cognitive impairment brought about by Pick’s disease, caused the novelist’s own tragic death. In January 1932, while staying in a Paris hotel, Bennett refused to pay for mineral water in the restaurant and, ignoring the advice of the waiter that this was not a wise thing to do, downed a glass of tap water from the carafe. He was taken ill with typhoid and died two months later. [RR]

*For many months now he had helped Darius to dress, when he came up from the shop for breakfast, and to undress in the evening. It was not that his father lacked the strength, but he would somehow lose himself in the maze of his garments, and apparently he could never remember the proper order of doffing or donning them. Sometimes he would ask, “Am I dressing or undressing?” And he would be capable of so involving himself in a shirt, if Edwin were not there to direct, that much patience was needed for his extrication. His misapprehensions and mistakes frequently reached the grotesque. As habit threw them more and more intimately together, the trusting dependence of Darius on Edwin increased. At morning and evening the expression of that intensely mournful visage seemed to be saying as its gaze met Edwin’s, “Here is the one clear-sighted, powerful being who can guide me through this complex and frightful problem of my clothes.” A suit, for Darius, had become as intricate as a quadratic equation.