Tag Archives: 1800s

Countess di Castiglione The selfie queen of Paris society

c. 1865-1894

Countess di Castiglione

The selfie queen of Paris society

by Alex Q. Arbuckle

c. 1867

IMAGE: ©RUE DES ARCHIVES/PVDE/GETTY IMAGES

When she first visited the photography studio of Mayer & Pierson in 1856, Virginia Oldoini had already become notorious in Paris society. Married at 17 to Italian Count Francesco Verasis di Castiglione, she had been dispatched to Paris to convince Napoleon III to support Italian unification — instead, she promptly became his mistress.

Their dalliance was brief but helped establish her reputation as a beautiful and enigmatic seductress.

She was enthralled with the study of her own beauty, and collaborated with photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson on over 400 self-portraits.

While Pierson operated the camera, the pose, dress, setting and angle were all conceived by the countess. She was also involved in post-production, directing the printing of the pictures and often painting on top of them herself.

The countess posed in the elaborate and luxurious gowns that she wore at court, reenacting her moments of greatest triumph. She soon expanded her oeuvre to include scenes and costumes inspired by theatre, literature and myth, and even rather voyeuristic shots of her bare feet.

As she grew older, she retreated from high society and became an eccentric recluse, living in an apartment with the curtains drawn, only venturing outside at night. She died in 1899 at the age of 62, but her extensive and distinctive record of herself endures.

c. 1865

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF / ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

The Countess with a child, possibly her son Georges.

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF/ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF/ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF/ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF/ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF/ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF/ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF/ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

The Countess with a child, possibly her son Georges.

IMAGE: CHRISTIAN KEMPF/ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1867

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

1894

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1895

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

c. 1865

IMAGE: ADOC-PHOTOS/CORBIS

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How to Fight Like a Victorian Gentleman Bartitsu, the Sherlock Holmes art of self-defense, is coming back.

CATHERINE TOWNSEND NOV 14, 2013

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Pierre Vigny and Edward Barton-Wright demonstrate walking stick combat. (The Bartitsu Society)
It’s sundown at a small park in Burbank and I’m dressed in head-to-toe black, carrying a big stick and ready to street fight, Sherlock Holmes style.

I’m not exactly a ninja—the closest I’ve been to hand-to-hand combat was fighting over the last cupcake at Thanksgiving. But even so, I have signed up to learn bartitsu, the esoteric and gentlemanly Victorian art of self defense.

Before I chicken out I spot my instructor, Matt Franta, a dapper gentleman in a three-piece suit. Franta’s bio describes him as an actor, fight choreographer, and stunt performer with black belts in tae kwon do and hapkido as well as experience in karate, judo, fencing, and kickboxing. He’s also a member of the International Knife Throwers Association.

Bartitsu was developed by Edward Barton-Wright, a British engineer who moved to Japan in 1895. After returning to London, just before the turn of the century, he created a mixed martial art hybrid, combining elements of judo, jujitsu, British boxing, and fighting with a walking stick.
The style was promoted to the middle and upper classes during a time when they were becoming increasingly worried about the street gangs and crime publicized by the tabloid newspapers.

“In this country we are brought up with the idea that there is no more honourable way of settling a dispute than resorting to Nature’s weapons, the fists, and to scorn taking advantage of another man when he is down,” Barton-Wright wrote in an 1899 edition of Pearson’s magazine.

It’s half historical recreation; half beating the crap out of someone with a cane.
“A foreigner, however, will not hesitate to use a chair, or a beer bottle, or a knife, or anything that comes handy, and if no weapon is available the chances are he would employ what we should consider are underhanded means.”

Over the next two hours, Franta talks about the history of bartitsu while patiently teaching me the basics of how to throw an opponent off balance with a series of punches, grabs and evasive moves.

“It was the first fight style that combined Eastern and Western techniques, and at the time anything from the East was considered very exotic,” he explains.

Basically, it’s half historical recreation; half beating the crap out of someone with a cane.

I’m beginning to see how this style of fighting would appeal to the fictional detective. After all, observing and adapting the best techniques to his advantage was one of Holmes’s signature traits.
Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Academy of Arms and Physical Culture was all the rage for fashionable ladies and gentlemen of the era. Franta explains how, behind club walls, they learned to battle “hooligans” from instructors like Professor Pierre Vigny, who honed his technique fighting thugs in shadowy corners.

Then, in 1902, the school closed its doors forever under mysterious circumstances. Several theories exist as to what happened: Some blamed Barton-Wright’s high fees; others believe that a badly-managed 1901 exhibition helped seal the club’s fate. The instructors moved on, and so did the general public—and bartitsu was in danger of disappearing forever.

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty struggling at the Reichenbach Waterfall. (Wikimedia Commons)

It survived through a single passage in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1903 Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Adventure of the Empty House. Holmes claimed that he defeated his archnemesis Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Waterfall using “baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me.”

“No one knows whether he misspelled it on purpose for copyright reasons, or because a 1900 London Times he may have used for reference has the same typo,” Franta said.

Tony Wolf, a fight choreographer, martial arts instructor, and self-described ‘walking bartitsu encyclopedia’, serves as editor of EJMAS: Journal of Manly Arts, a scholarly online journal focusing on the martial arts and combat sports of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
As a founding member of The Bartitsu Society, Wolf explains how he and other members spent years researching and compiling archival material of the era in order to “bring bartitsu back to life” and move it online.

“Then we created neo-bartitsu, which is really bartitsu as it might have been,” Wolf says.

There is no such thing as an accredited bartitsu instructor, and Wolf says that the group has worked hard to keep the art open-source and apolitical. Each instructor has his own blend of practical self-defense and historical recreation.

But they all feature the principles that Barton-Wright explained in 1899:

To disturb the equilibrium of your assailant.
To surprise him before he has time to regain his balance and use his strength.
If necessary, to subject the joints of any parts of his body, whether neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, back, knee, ankle, etc. to strains that they are anatomically and mechanically unable to resist.
Some of the unarmed combat moves are definitely old school. While modern boxing is known for close body contact, bartitsu boxing is a throwback to the mid-19th century punching style in which men circled each other in the ring.

“They didn’t have gloves or face protection,” Franta says. “In bartitsu, it’s about keeping your opponent at a distance.”

“The point of bartitsu was to avoid the fight if possible, and get your opponent to walk away rather than do damage,” he adds.
However, bartitsu students are taught to close and finish the fight with jujitsu techniques if necessary.

“The idea was that you use your opponent’s strengths against them. With the use of surprise,” director Guy Ritchie told Vanity Fair in 2009, explaining how bartitsu was incorporated into the fight choreography of the Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey, Jr.

“There’s all sorts of locks and chokes and various other techniques used to incapacitate someone. There’s lots of throwing hats at someone’s eyes, and then striking at them, if you can, with a walking stick.”

The movies helped propel what Wolf calls the “fringe of the fringe” movement into the spotlight, and attract a growing number of women.

The author learning bartitsu (Catherine Townsend)

Bartitsu aficionados come from all walks of life. Some study because they are fascinated with the daring tales of the Jujitsuffragettes, a hard-core group of women who trained in secret and helped protect leaders of the UK women’s right movement prior to World War I.

Others are followers of the steampunk movement. Victorian sci-fi influence has shown up everywhere from the Steampunk World’s Fair to the Alexander McQueen runway.
The author learning bartitsu (Catherine Townsend)
A Google search brings up dozens of clubs and meetup groups around the country with class titles including “Sparring with Sherlock” and “Kicking Ass in a Corset: Bartitsu for Ladies.”

But could an anachronistic art really protect me against a modern-day bad guy?
“A lot of the techniques are aimed at fighting hooligans,” Franta says. “But they weren’t always necessarily anticipating the challenges of modern hooligans.”

Wolf points out that students who hope to use bartitsu for present-day combat should keep in mind that it was originally meant for long-term study.

“It’s not something that you can pick up in a few classes, particularly if you’re more interested in real-world self defense than in historical recreation,” he says.

“Chances are your opponent isn’t going to be walking through the streets of a major world city twirling a parasol.”

But the classes do teach practical information about body awareness, how to target an opponent’s weak points and escape tactics that could come in handy in any situation.

Some instructors, like Professor Mark Donnelly have also posted YouTube videos that show how they have adapted parts of their training by incorporating umbrellas and baseball bats as an alternative to canes.

After several days of practicing my moves with the kitchen mop, I sign up for the four-week intro course. One day the skills taught to ladies and gentlemen of an earlier era could help me in a modern day battle for honor and glory.

At the very least, the elbow lock move called “A Good Way of Conducting a Person out of a Room” should come in handy with annoying party guests.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CATHERINE TOWNSEND is a journalist and private investigator based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Sleeping Around and writes regularly at The Love Detective.

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The Girl Who Told Abraham Lincoln to Grow Whiskers – 1860

c. 1860

The little girl who told
Abe Lincoln to grow a beard

“All the ladies like whiskers.”

by Chris Wild

c. 1846

Springfield, Illinois — Early portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

IMAGE: CORBIS

He would look better if he wore whiskers,
and I mean to write and tell him so.
11-YEAR-OLD GRACE BEDELL TO HER MOTHER, 1860

IMAGE: CORBIS

Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States in October 1860 at the age of 51. But a few weeks earlier he had been judged unequal to the task by 11-year-old Grace Bedell. Young Grace wrote to Lincoln pointing out what was, in her eyes, a serious defect: his lack of facial hair.

c. 1860

Half figure seated portrait of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States.

IMAGE: CORBIS

Oct. 15, 1860

Grace Bedell’s letter to Abraham Lincoln.

IMAGE: DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY, BURTON HISTORICAL COLLECTION

You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.
FROM GRACE BEDELL’S LETTER TO ABRAHAM LINCOLN, OCT. 15, 1860

IMAGE: CORBIS

Lincoln wrote back to Grace in the letter below.

(Some experts believe the letter’s spots are from snowflakes landing on the paper, as Grace hurriedly read the letter on her way home from the local post office.)

Oct. 19, 1860

Abraham Lincoln to Grace Bedell.

IMAGE: BENJAMIN SHAPELL FAMILY MANUSCRIPT FOUNDATION

Having never worn any whiskers, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin?
FROM LINCOLN’S REPLY TO GRACE BEDELL, OCT. 19, 1860

IMAGE: CORBIS

1858

Beardstown, Illinois — Believed to be one of the last photos made before Lincoln grew a beard.

IMAGE: BETTMANN/CORBIS

Less than a month after receiving Grace’s letter, Lincoln had a beard.

Nov. 25, 1860

The first photograph to show Lincoln’s beard.

IMAGE: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

On his inaugural train journey from Illinois to Washington D.C., Lincoln stopped in Westfield, New York (Grace’s hometown) and asked to meet her.

There was a momentary commotion, in the midst of which an old man, struggling through the crowd, approached, leading his daughter. Mr. Lincoln stooped down and kissed the child, and talked with her for some minutes. Her advice had not been thrown away upon the rugged chieftain. The young girl’s peachy cheek must have been tickled with a stiff whisker.
EDITION OF THE NEW YORK WORLD, FEB. 19, 1861

Nov. 8, 1863

IMAGE: CORBIS

“Gracie,” he said, “look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.” Then he kissed me.
I never saw him again.
GRACE BEDELL

In 2009, almost 150 years later, a Liz Bedell, then a 23-year-old staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives, was exploring the Library of Congress’ Lincoln bicentennial exhibition. She saw the original letter from Grace, and Lincoln’s reply, in a display case.

In the exhibition’s visitor log, she wrote: “I cried my eyes out when I saw the letter from Grace Bedell to Abe Lincoln — she’s my great-great aunt, and I grew up with the story not really believing it.”

“In fifth grade, I wanted to be president of the United States. My Grandpa used to tell me, ‘You can do anything you want. You can be president. Why, just look at your great-great aunt Grace Bedell. She couldn’t vote, but she put pen to paper.’”
LIZ BEDELL, 2009

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Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage designed a computer in the 1840s. A cartoonist finishes the project

Sydney Padua’s graphic novel tells the story of Babbage and Lovelace with a twist – they actually build their Analytical Engine.

To see a selection of extracts from the book, click here.

lovelace engine
200 years after Ada Lovelace’s birth, the Analytical Engine she designed with Charles Babbage is finally built, thanks to the imagination of Sydney Padua. Illustration: The Observer

‘Surely there must be a couple of new Ada Lovelaces lurking in this land?” exclaimed digital doyenne Martha Lane Fox last month, as she issued a call for women to turn their hands to tech – part of her new plan, dubbed Dot Everyone, for an internet-savvy nation.

It’s little wonder that the enigmatic daughter of Lord Byron has been put, posthumously, on a pedestal. Brought up to shun the lure of poetry and revel instead in numbers, Lovelace teamed up with mathematician Charles Babbage who had grand plans for an adding machine, named the Difference Engine, and a computer called the Analytical Engine, for which Lovelace wrote the programs. Then tragedy struck – Lovelace died, aged just 36. They never built a machine.

Ada Lovelace.

Pinterest
Ada Lovelace. Photograph: Getty

But now the mother of computing might finally have the chance to realise her own potential. As the eponymous stars of a new graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, the pair have been resurrected to finish what they started. “I guess it just seemed like a really stupid ending, that they didn’t build the machine,” says author Sydney Padua, a London-based computer animator. “Plus I really wanted to draw comics … and you can’t draw very good comics about dead people and their machine they didn’t build!” Having first illustrated the duo some years ago to mark Ada Lovelace Day, the annual celebration of women in science and tech, the comic’s huge popularity spurred Padua to develop the cartoons on her blog and ultimately unleash the book.

Exploring, then rejecting, the sad fate of Lovelace and her plans, Padua turns the tables on history, setting the aristocrat to work building a mechanical behemoth. The upshot is a pipe-smoking, jodphur-wearing steampunk technologist who would startle even Lane Fox. It doesn’t end there. Having built a technological masterpiece, a series of madcap escapades ensue in which Lovelace and Babbage are joined by a host of Victorian celebrities, from the ultimate client from hell, Queen Victoria, who demands the machine be used for fighting crime, to novelist George Eliot, who finds herself lost in its maze-like interior. “It really is very much about my own experiences in the labyrinth of computing,” says Padua.

But if the reborn mathematicians find building a machine something of a handful, they aren’t alone. In trying to present an accurate depiction of the analytical engine for an explanatory appendix (shown here), Padua discovered there was little to go on, and found herself rifling through the work of Babbage scholar Allan Bromley for design clues. “I just sat down, basically, with the Bromley papers and whatever of Babbage’s plans I could get my hands on through fair means or foul,” she says. The result is a shining feat of engineering that her dynamic duo would be proud of. A rip-roaring caper engulfed in footnotes of quotes, quips and illuminating asides (Babbage, Padua reveals, gained notoriety as the scourge of street musicians), the book does more than simply celebrate the genius of the first computer programmer, it encourages us to turn our imagination to technology – just as Lovelace did. And that’s an inspiration to us all.

The thrilling adventures of Lovelace and Babbage – in pictures

Sydney Padua’s new graphic novel, set in Victorian London, tells the story of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage’s attempts to invent the first computer, with cameos from George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

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American Cities at the Turn of the 19th Century

Photos of American cities from Civil War era to 1912…

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1878: Henri Giffard’s Captive Balloon, Paris

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c. 1890: Handguns decorated by Tiffany

Between about 1880 and 1905, Tiffany & Co. embellished a series of deluxe handguns for the nation’s leading firearms manufacturers, notably Colt, Winchester, and, most important, Smith & Wesson. The guns were either special orders for Tiffany’s well-heeled clientele or commissioned by the manufacturer as show pieces for display in exhibitions such as the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.Smith and Wesson .44 New Model No. 3 Single-Action Revolver, serial no. 25120

This New Model Revolver was a special order, recorded in the Smith & Wesson archives as having been shipped to Tiffany’s on November 11, 1888. Once in New York, the plain nickel-plated frame received a two-piece silver grip etched overall with scenes of a buffalo hunt.

During the late nineteenth century, Tiffany’s often used etching to render large areas of ornament, including complex and often charming pictorial compositions like this buffalo hunt. The revolver complements two other Tiffany-decorated Smith & Wesson firearms from the collection of Gerald Klaz that are already part of the Museum’s holdings, one exhibiting an embossed and martelé silver grip, the other with a grip in mokume, a Japanese-style laminated metal.

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Smith and Wesson New Model No. 3, .44 Caliber Double-Action Navy Revolver, serial no. 23060.

Exhibited by Smith and Wesson at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, this is an unusual example of Tiffany “jeweled” silver. The semiprecious stones suggest the influence of Islamic weapons, on which such stones were considered to have talismanic properties.

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Smith and Wesson .32 Single-Action Revolver, Serial no. 94421.

The grip combines three decorative techniques: repoussé, etching, and niello inlay. The revolver was shown by Smith and Wesson at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

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Smith and Wesson .44 Double-Action Revolver for George Jay Gould (1864–1923), serial no. 23402.

With the exception of the trigger and trigger guard, the steel parts are etched and silver-plated. The grip is covered in sheet silver, enclosing plaques of ivory. It also bears the initials, GJG, for George Jay Gould, (1864–1923), a wealthy financier and railroad executive.

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Smith and Wesson .32 Single-Action Revolver, Serial no. 17156.

The grip is sheathed in silver and etched with foliage around shaped panels inlaid with laminated metal that has a wood-grain pattern. This Japanese technique, called mokume (“wood grain”), was one of various metalworking forms explored by Tiffany and Company’s chief designer, Edward C. Moore (1827–1891). His experimentation with Japanese design elements and media helped to establish Tiffany’s international reputation in the 1870s.

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Smith and Wesson .38 Double-Action Revolver, Serial no. 70002.

The silver grip has a hammered surface popular in domestic silverware of the period. Its design reflects the elegant, whimsical style of Art Nouveau. The original design for the grip, dated 1883, is preserved in the Tiffany archives.

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Smith and Wesson .38 Caliber Safety Third Model Double-Action Revolver, serial no. 83097.

The flamboyant Art Nouveau grips recall French or Russian enameled silver. The revolver was shown by Smith and Wesson at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

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