I found this story in Nancy Armstrong’s Victorian Jewelry (1976).

In the 1850s and 1860s, as skirts widened, they had to be balanced by the lowness of the neckline on evening dresses. So evening gowns went from this in the 1840s:


where the neckline stopped not far under the clavicle, to this:


in the 1850s and 1860s, where you got more than a hint of cleavage. As such, jewelry and other fashions had to change to match these new bosom-baring styles.

In particular was something called a “bertha”, or “bertha collar”, which was a border around the low collar of a dress (it could either be fixed to the dress, or removable). It was “composed of ribbons, ruches, laces or embroideries and trimmed with flowers and feathers, giving play to any amount of flights of fancy” (60). Berthas had been around for a while, but they became more integral to formal wear for women at this time.

Some examples of berthas include:

Bertha berthamrbx20 db0a8a05d26aa61b9424c553f57e4258

“Quite the most unique was a bertha made for the Empress Eugénie of France, almost entirely from rubies, sapphires, emeralds, turquoises, amethysts, jacinths, topazes and garnets (the favourite nineteenth-century gemstones) linked together with the Crown Jewels.

“Certainly the general exposure of the neck and shoulders might have been startling to a newcomer and it is no surprise that a provincial, who was invited to a ball given in the Tuileries in 1855, said in disgust that ‘he had never seen such a sight since he was weaned’” (60).

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Victoria’s Bracelet

After my last post about those terrifying earrings, I thought we should do another post about ghastly Victorian jewelry.

I found the following in Joan Evans’s A History of Jewellery: 1100-1870 (2nd ed.), 1989, p. 179.

“The characteristic English trends were towards simplicity and sentiment. Queen Victoria wore classic parures on state occasions, but at other times favouring trifling sentimental jewels, such as a bracelet set with the first teeth of all her children”.


While I know ivory was widely used in jewelry at this time, and while I’m sure (or at least very hopeful) that Victoria’s jewelers would have cleaned up the teeth so there was nothing gross about them, I recall the horror of stumbling across my own baby teeth, which my mother had saved. Let me tell you, friends, that bloody teeth roots do not get any more charming with age, certainly not 15+ years of it.

An academic friend told me she heard that this was a gift Albert actually gave to Victoria, which strikes me as a lot more plausible, as Victoria notoriously hated pregnancy and babies, and wasn’t hugely fussed by her kids as they got older, although she did end up having closer relationships with some of them. The only person she seemed to be truly sentimental about was Albert.

If Albert did have the bracelet made, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d done something like this. In 1847, when their eldest daughter lost her first tooth (which Albert apparently yanked right from her mouth), Albert commemorated the moment by having this brooch made for Victoria:


Yep. That’s a tooth.

However, I can’t find any verification about the tooth bracelet. Does anyone have any information about that?

Frankly, I think Albert got the better end of the deal. He at least got a sexy private picture of his wife:


I bet you anything Victoria (who, per her own diaries, loved herself some sex) sent him this picture with the hope of getting one of her own. An ole painting of Prince Albert and his Prince Albert, if you know what I mean, wink wink.

And all she got was some lousy tooth jewelry.

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Victorian Earrings

Just a really quick post today, but something I ABSOLUTELY have to share with you. I discovered this in Clare Phillips’s Jewels and Jewellery (London: V&A Publications, 2000, pp.90-91) while doing some research for an article.

According to my research, Victorian jewellery got very playful at the mid-century. According to Joan Evans’s A History of Jewellery: 1100-1870,  2nd ed. (1970) (New York: Dover Publications, 1989):

“In the years after 1860 pettiness and silliness invaded the sign of jewels. Lizards, snakes, dragonflies and beetles were in fashion, and gold earrings were designed from daytime wear with such subjects as sitting hens, stable lanterns, barrows, windmills, lamps and watering-cans. They were often as much as four inches long” (180).

However, this photo of some 1872 earrings I found in Clare Phillips’s book is just TAKING THE PISS. There is silly jewelry, and then there is silly jewelry:

Bird Earrings 1

These are fucking taxidermied blue creeper [aka honeycreeper] heads with glass eyes.

The beaks point upwards toward FLIES. Mercifully not real flies, BUT STILL. They’re finished off with gold bead curtains at the bottom, each earring measuring almost 4 inches in length.

No matter how playful you’re feeling, who on earth would want severed bird heads and metal flies dangling off their ears?

Congratulations to this post, as this might be the creepiest of all the creepy Victorian things I’ve ever found.

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The Jukes Clan

I was first alerted to the Jukes clan by reading Christine Ferguson’s Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity, and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writing, 1848-1930 (2012). This is SUCH an interesting story about how academic research can help to inform public policy, for better or worse. Ferguson only makes passing reference to the Jukes clan, but this article from the NY Times has supplemented my understanding of what happened.

In 1874, a gentleman-sociologist (sociology being an up-and-coming field of study at the time) named Richard L. Dugdale volunteered to inspect prisons for the New York Prison Association. When he visited the Ulster County jail, he discovered that six of the current inmates were blood relatives (despite them not having the same last name).

He then dug a little deeper and investigated the 29 immediate male blood relations of these six men. Of the 29 immediate male members of their family, 17 of them had also been arrested, with 15 of them being convicted of crimes. So, in short, 66% of all men in this immediate family had been arrested, and 60% had been convicted of a crime, with 17% currently in jail. This is not including any of the women of the family, so I don’t know how that would change the numbers.

Dugdale decided  to publish his findings. Since he wanted to preserve the anonymity of the people discussed, and since they had different surnames despite being closely related, he made up the last name “Juke” to apply to the whole group of extended relatives.

“After culling data from the records of local poorhouses, courts and jails, Dugdale produced a book, The Jukes: A Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease and Heredity, in 1877.

Now I’m just going to copy/paste this shit from the article, because it’s super interesting:

“In it he claimed to have traced the family’s Hudson Valley roots back seven generations to a colonial frontiersman named Max, whom he described as having been born between 1720 and 1740, a descendant of early Dutch settlers, who lived in the backwoods as a ”hunter and fisher, a hard drinker, jolly and companionable, averse to steady toil. “He traced the branch that had produced so many criminals back to a woman he called “Margaret, the Mother of Criminals,” who had married one of Max’s sons.

“Presenting detailed genealogical charts with capsule descriptions of each member, whom he identified only by first name or code, Dugdale concluded that the family was chronically beset with all kinds of social ills. He estimated that their care had cost the taxpayers, through relief, medical care, police arrests and imprisonment, a total of $1.3 million (about $20.9 million in today’s dollars).

“In his analysis, he pondered whether heredity or environment was responsible for the family’s habitually degraded state.

“His study was hailed as a landmark work in social science, in part because it employed extensive field research to try to address the question of whether hereditary or environmental factors were more responsible for crime, poverty and other social ills.

For decades, many scholars overlooked the study’s faults, for example, the fact that Dugdale didn’t adequately specify his sources or explain his methodology.”

What’s really interesting is that radically different movements have cited the Jukes family as proof of the need for their own policies. Given the wide-spread social reform and series of utopian movements over the course of the nineteenth century, many people used the Jukes to illustrate that stronger social welfare programs (i.e., the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture debate) would break the cycle of uneducated poverty that led to criminality.

Around the same time, on the waaaaay other side of the spectrum, was the rise of various eugenics movements that believed that good or bad heredity and genetics are solely responsible for a person’s character (i.e., the nature side of the nature vs. nurture debate). When various proposers of eugenics or hard hereditarian discourses got wind of the Jukes clan, they also proposed what they deemed a social welfare program: complete and total execution and/or sterilization of the entire family, and of any other family like them.

What’s horrifying is just how prevalent the eugenics movement was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, leading into, of course, the atrocities of WWII. There were a depressing number of eugenics programs across North America and Europe (and I’m sure many other places, but these are the only ones I know of as specifically arising from these late nineteenth-century movements).

If nothing else, Dugdale’s study shows us just how important it is to do rigorous research with a stringently laid-out methodology and very clearly stated results. Even then, this can show how easily correlation can be misinterpreted as causation.

As far as I’m aware, the identity of the Jukes family/families has never been officially revealed, although there is an awful lot of speculation in Ulster County, NY, and Dugdale’s study has been pretty firmly discredited by pretty much all scholars in the sciences and social sciences.

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Easy Divorce

I am reblogging this really fun story from Futility Closet’s blog here.

“In 1892 … a law firm in the American West came up with the idea of a divorce papers vending machine. For a while, at least, legal divorce papers were items that could be bought from a vending machine in Corinne, Utah. A purchaser could insert $2.50 in coins, pull a lever on the side of the machine, and pick up his papers from a delivery drawer that popped open like a cash register drawer. Those papers were then taken to the local law firm — whose name was printed on the form — where the names of the divorcing couple were written in and witnessed.”

— Kerry Segrave, Vending Machines: An American Social History, 2002

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I’ve been reading H.J. Jackson’s Marginalia (2001) and found a really interesting story.

Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was rather famous, among other reasons, for his marginalia (his annotations in the margins of other people’s works). His insights were so amusing or engaging that friends even used to lend him their books for him to mark up. A number of his annotations have been published in edited collections.

Coleridge annotated so much that he eventually developed his own alphabet of symbols or abbreviations which serve as shorthand to indicate common problems: by way of just two examples, one symbol indicated that a passage gave him pleasure, another that it was the lowest form of writing.

(On a side note, I used to do a lot of work in theatre and this was common practice when auditioning people: you’d come up with a bunch of symbols beforehand that illustrate a variety of things: wrong looks, too quiet, overacting, perfect casting choice, etc. so that way you can jot down exactly what you think of a person without them being able to read/interpret it on your notepad.)


In 1801, Coleridge marked up the manuscript of his fellow-writer and friend(?) William Godwin‘s play, Abbas. There, too, “he adopted a set of symbols for common problems, ‘false or intolerable English’, ‘flat or mean,’ ‘common-place book Language,’ and ‘bad metre’.

“He did the same for a copy of Joan of Arc that he annotated in 1814. Joan is an epic poem, revolutionary in its politics, that had been jointly written by Coleridge and his brother-in-law Robert Southey and published in 1796. Nearly twenty years later, with a history of difficult family relations between them, Coleridge devised and used a shorthand system to criticize Southey’s part of the poem:

S.E. means Southey’s English, i.e. no English at all.

N. means Nonsense.

J. means discordant Jingle of sound – one word rhyming or half-rhyming to another proving either utter want of ears, or else very long ones.

L.M. = ludicrous metaphor.

I.M. = incongruous metaphor.

S. = pseudo-poetic Slang, generally, too, not English.” (28-29).

Ouch. There had to be some tense family dinners after that. Could anyone tell me what was the nature of their “difficult family relations” leading up to this harsh criticism?

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Bad “Anne of Green Gables” Covers

Like so many people of my generation, I grew up watching the 1985 CBC television movie Anne of Green Gables. As a deeply weird, ugly, dramatic child, I identified with Anne on a profound level. It also didn’t hurt that Gilbert Blythe’s little wink to Anne in the schoolroom, around 3:05 here, sent me ricocheting right into puberty:



Also, I don’t think there has been such an erotically-charged “smashing a slate over someone’s head” scene in all of film history.

The point is, I will forever have a soft spot for Anne of Green Gables, and, because I’m apparently a masochist, I decided to see all the wonderful ways in which art departments could mess it up.

On to the usual preliminary stuff, including a quick recap (in all fairness, I’m recapping the movie, because I haven’t read the book since I was about six):

Anne Shirley is a gawky, redheaded 12-year old orphan who’s lived with shitty foster families her whole life and is pretty much used for slave labor. She keeps her spirits up by living in a rich, imaginative world full of high drama with knights and poetry and shit. Also, her vocabulary is DOPE.

An administrative mix-up eventually sends her to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an elderly brother and sister who live together and think they’re getting a boy-orphan to help them on the farm. Matthew is kindly and chill with it, but Marilla, who is pretty much the prototype for Minerva McGonagall, is pragmatic, and tough, and not at ALL sure about this pubescent ginger chatterbox all up in her hizzy.

Eventually Anne wins everyone over through her relentless sincerity and novelty value, and Marilla says she can stay with them forever.

Anne’s story is full of gentle, Edwardian, Canadian adventures, like accidentally turning her hair green in an attempt to dye it black, and winning three-legged races, and making a “bosom friend”, Diana Barry, whom Anne accidentally gets drunk on what she THINKS is cordial, but is actually wine, and makes her puke in the rosebushes, and it is a scandal. A PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND SCANDAL.

And let’s not forget the puff sleeves. Puffs so big they could swallow the world.

Puffed Sleeves Movie Shot

God, the ’80s were a rough time to be alive.

Also, there is Gilbert Blythe, the surprisingly forward-thinking feminist hot guy, who picks on Anne a little bit, but only because he deeply respects her and sees her as his equal (not that I’m advocating the whole “you know a boy likes you if he’s mean to you” bullshit–Gilbert would never dream of being mean to someone or participating in that kind of nonsense). Did he good-naturedly tease the popular, vapid Josie Pye? NO. Because Josie Pye wasn’t worth his fucking time.

I think Anne resonates with most awkward teenagers. She spends all her time being dorky with her best friend and feeling like an outsider and wishing fervently that she could change everything about her looks, starting first and foremost with her red hair. But it’s okay, because when she gets older, her hair turns a bit more golden, and her smarts pay off when she becomes a New Woman teacher and writer (there’s a lot of riding around on bikes in fabulous waistcoats) and she and Gilbert TOTALLY get together, and I am convinced that they don’t wait until marriage to have sex.


Right, on to the covers.

Previous posts in this series include: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Moonstone, Dracula, East Lynne, Lady Audley’s Secret, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, Little Women, Jekyll and Hyde, Pamela, and Ivanhoe.

Usual disclaimers:

1.) These are all professional book covers instead of fan or amateur artwork (or at least I hope so). I’m more than happy to pick on marketing boards who thought these were good ideas, but I don’t want to pick on fans trying to express their love of books. If a fan cover made it in to this collection, then I’m very sorry and you are clearly a good enough artist to make me assume it was professionally done.

2.) I’m ridiculing the covers, not the book itself.

3.) I’m going to swear. A lot. If this isn’t your thing, then don’t read it.

Let’s start with the biggest abomination. What is the #1 worst thing they could screw up? Maybe . . . oh, I don’t know . . . the most visual thing that also drives a lot of the plot and characterization?

How about Anne Is Inexplicably Not Ginger?


I just

I can’t


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I don’t want auburn Anne. I don’t want titian Anne. And I sure as fuck don’t want burnt sienna Anne.

I want Pippi-Longstockings-ORANGE Anne. There is a reason her nickname is “Carrots”.

0 z2LWMG7twTvplAWn images1 images4

Brown. Their hair is straight-up brown. Get your shit together, guys. I cannot believe there are this many covers that get this element incorrect.



Not only is Anne a brunette, but she appears to be suffering from some sort of horrible wasting disease.


Then there is a category called Anne Is Inexplicably Hot.



That is Evelyn Nesbit. As you can read from my blog post on her here, Evelyn was the following:

1.) The most beautiful woman in America

2.) A deeply sexualized and sexually assaulted teenage model/actress with a 47-year old boyfriend

3.) A woman who was badgered into marrying a crazy, abusive millionaire, who then murdered her former 47-year old boyfriend very, very publicly (he shot him in the face during a fancy dinner at Madison Square Gardens), which dragged Evelyn into the “Trial of the Century”.

Which of these details is fitting for the gentlest of all gentle books?

0 HXrapAl-tBaLO_r1

Unless this is how Anne visualizes herself to be in her deepest fantasies, then this is completely inaccurate.


Goddamn it, guys, Anne doesn’t get hot and have gentlemen callers until Anne of Avonlea.


Look, that’s a valiant effort at producing a vaguely redheaded woman with a braid, but Anne was definitely not a simpering silent film star.


I don’t even know who the fuck this attractive 25-year old from 1958 is, but she better STEP OFF


Let’s talk about another weird trope I discovered in these covers: Anne is Inexplicably Half-Naked.


Anne is a girl smack-dab in the middle of puberty in 1906. She would not have worn skirts this short since she was about 4 or 5 years old, if EVER. And she sure as shit wouldn’t be wearing them with bare legs.


In 1906, this would have been indecent exposure.

I like that they managed to tap into a modern audience, though. She’s got some nice, beachy waves, a little hipster hat, and Uggs with bare legs. She’d fit right in at an indie film festival in Oregon.


Seriously, Anne, what do you have against underwear? If you keep flashing your nethers, Rachel Lynde will spread it all over the sewing bee.


Then there’s my favorite category, even if it is deeply thematically inappropriate: Anne is Inexplicably Murderous.






This is Anne’s Wednesday Addams phase, straight out of the pages of the Toast:

RACHEL: Well, Marilla
I can’t say I think she looks like much, but you always did know your own mind
ANNE [lights a cigarette]: funny
i don’t recall asking you what you thought about a fucking thing

Polish Cover--Anne-of-Green-Gables

This is the Anne who haunts Marilla’s dreams, driving her slowly mad with the relentless noise, noise, NOISE.


Finally, my catch-all category of General WTF-ery.


Anne of Green Gables: I’m Literally About to Piss Myself, Hurry the Fuck Up, Matthew


Lisa Frank had a hand in this cover. This was in her muted, post-90s period.


If Anne had been this cool and French, she would have ruled that goddamned school yard.


In which Matthew decides he’d rather have a boy-orphan after all, and Anne has an “unfortunate accident” falling out of the carriage.



I can’t believe I’m going to ask this

Is Marilla a 12-foot tall witch throwing a harpoon?


That’s all from me today. You may have noticed that I didn’t do a “Good Covers” section, but that’s because most of the covers I found were perfectly appropriate and nice, without any of them particularly blowing me away. Any book suggestions for future posts would be much appreciated!

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