Good beard, bad beard, red beard, blue beard: facial hair in Victorian Christchurch

Part the First

Movember is upon us once again, and to celebrate Undershaved Overgrown Archaeology brings to you a brief history of facial hair in Aotearoa. Movember is all about men’s health, and we’ve previously covered health in the blog before, both mental health and otherwise, so this week it’s all beards and moustaches. Gird your goatees for a hirsute history of facial hair in the nation, followed by a review of classic beards of old Canterbury.

Important Māori who wore tā moko necessarily removed their facial hair in order to show it off, and trimmed their tui tufts by plucking with mussel shell. They may also have shaved with razor sharp tūhua/obsidian, as it was otherwise used for cutting hair (McLintock, 1966; Robley, 1896). However, some of the earliest Pākehā imagery we have of Māori – drawings done by Sydney Parkinson, the Scottish botanical illustrator on Cook’s first voyage – show a range of facial hair and top knots. It is not clear if within 3-4 years the top knots would all be replaced with the same vague haircut of shaved back and sides, and a floofy combover on top – you Millennials know who you are.

This painting was evidently done before Pākehā got the hang of drawing moko. The guy in the upper middle is so fed up with this man-bun business. Image: Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771. Parkinson, Sydney, 1745-1771 :The heads of six men natives of New Zealand, ornamented according to the mode of that country. S. Parkinson del. T Chambers sculp. London, 1784. Plate XXIII.. Parkinson, Sydney, 1745-1771 :A journal of a voyage to the South Seas, in his Majesty's ship, 'The Endeavour'. Faithfully transcribed from the papers of the late Sydney Parkinson. London; Printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784.. Ref: PUBL-0037-23. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23044298

This painting was evidently done before Pākehā got the hang of drawing moko. The guy in the upper middle is so fed up with this man-bun business. Image: Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771. Parkinson, Sydney, 1745-1771 :The heads of six men natives of New Zealand, ornamented according to the mode of that country. S. Parkinson del. T Chambers sculp. London, 1784. Plate XXIII.. Parkinson, Sydney, 1745-1771 :A journal of a voyage to the South Seas, in his Majesty’s ship, ‘The Endeavour’. Faithfully transcribed from the papers of the late Sydney Parkinson. London; Printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784.. Ref: PUBL-0037-23. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23044298

During Pākehā settlement of Aotearoa, the beard was a fairly recent phenomenon, growing in popularity during the Victorian period along with changing ideals of masculinity, at a rate roughly equivalent to Queen Vicki’s bloomers. Like the modern hipster beard, the Victorian beard craze coincided with conflict in the Crimea. During the Crimean War (1854-1856), the British army relaxed their long-standing ban on beards – due to the freezing winters and difficulty in obtaining shaving soap – and servicemen were russian to grow them. Beards soon became a mark of those who had served, and the fashion subsequently spread across the British Empire. Beards could be seen on the patriotically named Mount Victoria in Auckland and Wellington, the proud imperial city of Victoria in British Columbia, the humble Victoria harbour in Hong Kong, and probably even on Lake Victoria. It is no surprise then, that on the rugged outskirts of Wikitoria’s empire, the beard held particular sway.

God Save the Queen

God Save the Queen

The beard was also considered healthy, and recommended by doctors. The face tangle was believed to filter out impurities in the air, and prevent sore throats.

A Lyttelton Times article relating a ‘stache survey provides insight into just why men of the 1860s chose the old dental duster as an accessory (Lyttelton Times, 27/4/1861: 5). Helpfully for you dear reader, I’ve put it into a table! (please send your thanks and appreciation monies to T. Wadsworth C/- Underground Overground).

Reasons for wearing a moustache, 1861.

Given reason No.
To avoid shaving 69
To avoid catching cold 32
To hide their teeth 5
To take away from a prominent nose 5
To avoid being taken as an Englishman abroad 7
Because they are in the army 6
Because they are Rifle Volunteers 221
Because Prince Albert does it 2
Because it is artistic 29
Because you are a singer 3
Because you travel a deal 17
Because you have lived long on the continent 1
Because the wife likes it 8
Because it acts as a respirator 29
Because you have weak lungs 5
Because it is healthy 77
Because the young ladies admire it 471
Because it is considered “the thing” 10
Because he chooses 1

The most common reason to wear a moustache was to impress the ladies, but there are also reasons of vanity (“to hide their teeth, to take away from a prominent nose”), and again, the perceived health benefits (“because it is healthy, because it acts as a respirator, because you have weak lungs, to avoid catching cold”). The association of moustache and military is also clear, with “because they are Rifle Volunteers” the second most common reason given for the old Magnum P.I. It is not clear if the two who responded “because Prince Albert does it” had further ornamentation for similar reasons.

Prince Albert of ‘Stache-Moburg and Goatee.

Prince Albert of ‘Stache-Moburg and Goatee. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

When the Victorians kept a stiff upper lip, they need to make sure it looked good. Moustaches were tinted and combed, and fashions changed. In 1883, a local purveyor of cosmetics said that “a year ago the fashion was to have the end stick out in a fluffy fashion, but now they want me to make it drop at the corners of the mouth” (Star, 29/8/1883: 4). There were of course products to keep it looking fresh. The below bottle of Rowland’s Macassar oil – found on several sites in Christchurch – is  described as “unsurpassed as a brillantine for the beard and moustaches, to which it imparts a soft and silky appearance” (Press, 16/10/1897: 11). We’ve also found bottles of “bay rum”, which formed part of a recipe to darken grey hair and beards (Otago Daily Times, 9/3/1915: 8).

Rowland’s Macassar Oil. Like most 19th century products, this is essentially snake oil, but without the fun of being made from actual snakes. Image: J. Garland.

Rowland’s Macassar Oil. Like most 19th century products, this is essentially snake oil, but without the fun of being made from actual snakes. Image: J. Garland.

Bay Rum. Don’t drink it, just rub it on your face and head. Image: J. Garland.

Bay Rum. Don’t drink it, just rub it on your face and head. Image: J. Garland.

But how to keep one’s soup strainer from acting in its name? On a site in Christchurch, we found a fragment of a cup with a “moustache protector”. This “yankee notion” kept one’s lip toupee clean of coffee by way of a protrusion within the cup, as modelled here by our own beard-having Hennessey (Star, 15/2/1878: 2).

In the midnight hour, he cried mo, mo, mo.

In the midnight hour, he cried mo, mo, mo.

Part the Second

In which we focus on the facial hair of the founding fathers of our fair city. We revisit some of the figures from Christchurch and the blog’s past and Tristan provides a highly subjective fever dream review of their moustaches and beards.

James Jamieson

The man:

James Jamieson carried on the proud Victorian tradition of Firstname Firstname-son and together with his brother William ran one of the leading construction companies in Christchurch, including the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Government buildings in Cathedral Square. We’ve talked on the blog before about Jamieson’s love of spreadable cheese long before Koromiko was a thing.

The moustache:

Jamieson grew the classic ‘walrus‘ moustache, and chose to draw maximum attention to it by banishing all other hair from his countenance. His care and attention in maintaining the structural integrity of his weighty moustache – enough to cause any lesser man to topple forwards – informed his construction style, and it is said[1]  that his own chrome-y dome inspired those of the basilica.

9/10

Draw your own conclusions. Confirmed Illuminati. Image: Photograph of Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament by Greg O’Beirne.

Draw your own conclusions. Confirmed Illuminati. Image: Photograph of Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament by Greg O’Beirne.

Charles Obins Torlesse

The man:

Nephew to New Zealand company agent Arthur Wakefield, Torlesse became a surveyor working under Captain Thomas, chief surveyor for the Canterbury Association. Torlesse made the very first sketch map of Canterbury in 1849, illustrating the vast plains and resources that would draw Pākehā settlers to the area (Montgomery and McCarthy, 2004). He is said to have made the first ascent of a Southern Alps peak – now Mount Torlesse – by a Pākehā. He was a pretty cool bloke, more (t) or less (e).

Sketch map of the country intended for the settlement of Canterbury. Charles Obin Torlesse, 1849. Image: Wikimedia Commons. (Attentive readers will note the originally intended location of Christchurch at the head of Lyttelton Harbour. Inattentive readers GET NOTHING).

Sketch map of the country intended for the settlement of Canterbury. Charles Obin Torlesse, 1849. Image: Wikimedia Commons. (Attentive readers will note the originally intended location of Christchurch at the head of Lyttelton Harbour. Inattentive readers GET NOTHING).

The moustache:

Torlesse sported what is known as ‘friendly’ mutton chops, as popularised by Lemmy from Motorhead, and the general Burnside, for whom sideburns are named (seriously). These are not the distinctly un-friendly sideburns worn by Hugh Jackman/Wolverine, Elvis, and every jerk from the 70s. Ever the surveyor, Torlesse surveyed himself 75% facial hair, leaving the lower lip and jaw free for you to swipe right on Chinder.

8/10

charles_torlesse

Charles Obin Torlesse. He’s seen some things. Image: Wikipedia Commons.

John George Ruddenklau

The man:

John George Ruddenklau, his name is my name too. Ruddenklau was one of Christchurch’s early success stories, being a self-made man who worked his way up from an hotelier in 1864 to a retired hotelier in 1869, and from Mayor of Christchurch in 1881 to a retired former Mayor of Christchurch in the late 1880s. Ruddenklau’s City Hotel was successful enough that it had its own brand of dinnerware, which we have found on other hotel sites in Christchurch.

Fragments of a saucer, teacup and mask jug (with beard!), decorated with the City Hotel pattern and the initials J. G. R. Image: J. Garland.

Fragments of a saucer, teacup and mask jug (with beard!), decorated with the City Hotel pattern and the initials J. G. R. Image: J. Garland.

The beard:

Old J.G. had the kind of dense ruggedy beard typical of big deal businessmen in the 19th century, modern hipsters, and, er, delicious mussels. This particular photo of sad Ruddenklau shows just how he kept it so lush: it was well watered by his mayoral tears. Poor, sad-looking Ruddenklau.

John George Ruddenklau, blinging it up. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

John George Ruddenklau, blinging it up. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Dr Alfred Charles Barker

The man:

Dr A.C. Barker was one of Christchurch’s earliest amateur photographers, and is responsible for many of the earliest photographs of our city. Here at Underlit Overexposed, we’ve used Barker’s photography to illustrate how useful even the most mundane details of these images are in terms of historical information. So feel free to continue to capture your messy room in the background of your selfies, or even better, just go take photos of street kerbs! For anyone that’s interested in either selfies or photographs as a historical resource in little old New Zealand, you can go here to listen to oral historian Rosemary Baird discuss that very thing.

The beard:

Speaking of selfies, Barker took a few himself.

Here, Barker poses nonchalantly with his camera equipment, while showing off some serious mutton chops. If Bigfoot photographic evidence was this clear, he would have his own talk show by now. But nobody would watch it because podcasts fill that place in society these days. Get with the future Bigfoot!

dr_a-_c-_barker

“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to shave the face, is just friggin silly”. Apologies to Tim Minchin. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

This photo shows Bigfoot later in life, with a big old beard. Or Barker, probably. By this stage, Barker’s beard is perfectly complimented by a faux-Shakespeare haircut, which you don’t see enough these days. “There’s many a man has more hair than wit” the bard said, but considering Barker’s beard, I’m not sure what that says.

Sir John Cracroft Wilson

The man:

Wilson was a pioneering figure in Christchurch, being a former British army officer in India, who brought a number of his Indian servants with him when he settled in Christchurch. Cashmere is named for Kashmir in India/Pakistan, where Wilson served, and the adjacent suburb of Cracroft is named for…something. I forget. We’ve talked about Wilson’s home, now gone, before, but Wilson’s stone servant’s quarters still stands, and small portion of a mighty drain built by WIlson’s Indian servants remains nearby. This is a rare example of a drain lined with dressed stone, because, well, the dude liked stone. And who can blame him.

Cracroft's stone-line drain. Image: K. Webb.

Cracroft’s stone-line drain. Image: K. Webb.

The beard:

Wilson lived into his blankety blanks, and had the rare opportunity to grow a solid white beard. But as can be seen in the photo, Wilson’s facia hair went beyond the simple Santa beard and itself slipped into the snowy fey realm from which that fatherly character came, becoming an almost imperceptible, ethereal beard-shaped hole between realities. Wilson’s ghostly beard and eerie floating face were perfectly suited to snow-bound late 19th century Christchurch. Wilson would prowl the snows, camouflaged by his beard, shielding his nose with his hand to sneak up on unknowing foxes and seals. Or I might be thinking of polar bears. It is now impossible to tell.

10/10

cracroft

Sir John Cracroft Wilson, slowly fading from this photograph. Quick, somebody play “Johnny B. Goode”. Image, Acland, 1975.

 

Show your support for Movember, by visiting its website. Show your support for moustaches in general by doing the finger guns to the next person you see with one. Pew-pew-pew!

References

Acland, L.G.D., 1975. The Early Canterbury Runs. Fourth ed. Christchurch, N.Z.: Whitcoulls Ltd.

McLintock, A.H., 1966. Stone Tools. In: An Encyclopedia of New Zealand. [online] Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Available at: <http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/1966/maori-material-culture/page-8>.

Montgomery, R., and McCarthy, K., 2004. The map that made Canterbury – or, how a little-known sketch map by Charles Obins Torlesse was transformed into Canterbury Association advertising in London. Records of the Canterbury Museum, 18, pp.51–65.

Robley, H.G., 1896. Moko; or Maori Tattooing. London: Chapman and Hall Ltd.

 

[1] By me, just now, completely unfounded.

So, hair’s the thing…

As one 19th century advertisement begins, “in every civilised country throughout the world the human hair is always found to be a subject of peculiar attention.” For centuries, millenia even, we have tugged and twisted our hair into unnatural and often physically improbable shapes, sought luxury and lustre through the addition of all manner of substances and continually attempted to find a tried and true way of stopping the damn stuff from falling out.

The resulting works of art, be they hirsute, sleek or more reminiscent of a desert than a forest, have then been viewed through the discerning and often judgemental eyes of society. Your hair can mark your status, your wealth, your nationality, your personality traits, your identity, whether you want it to or not. It’s no wonder, really, that the care and maintenance of hair elicits such effort from us, is it?

With this in mind, the following images showcase some of the evidence we’ve found – archaeologically and historically – for hair care in the 19th century. Some of it is weird and wonderful, some of it was probably a bit uncomfortable, and some of it we still use today.

Just to set the scene. Note the flattering description of red-heads and the character assassination of brunettes. Image:

Just to set the scene. Note the flattering description of red-heads and the character assassination of brunettes. Image: Mataura Ensign 21/12/1899: 3.

Rowland's Macassar oil, culprit of oily hair and even oilier upholstery everywhere. Macassar oil was a hair restorative and beautifier, first introduced during the late 19th century by a barber named Alexander Rowland. It's the reason for the term 'antimacassar', which refers to the piece of fabric thrown over the top or back of arm chairs to deal with the oily residue hair-conscious people were leaving on furniture all over the place. The advertisement mentions scurf, which is another word for dandruff (I did not know this prior to this post), as well as the restoration of "whiskers, mustachios and eyebrows". How versatile! Image: J. Garland.

Rowland’s Macassar oil, perpetrator of oily hair and even oilier upholstery everywhere. Macassar oil was a hair restorative and beautifier, first introduced during the late 18th century by a barber named Alexander Rowland. It’s the reason for the term ‘antimacassar’, which refers to the piece of fabric thrown over the top or back of arm chairs to deal with the oily residue hair-conscious people were leaving on furniture all over the place. The advertisement mentions scurf, which is another word for dandruff (I did not know this prior to this post), as well as the restoration of “whiskers, mustachios and eyebrows”. How versatile! Image: New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator 18/02/1843: 1, J. Garland.

May I direct your attention to the highlighted section, in which the application of electricity to the scalp is recommended as a cure for baldness.

May I direct your attention to the highlighted section, in which the application of electricity to the scalp is recommended as a cure for baldness. In all seriousness, though, some of these (maybe not the Venetian visor thing) are still used for the hair today, particularly the use of egg as a shampoo. Image: Tuapeka Times 6/04/1889: 2.

Bear's grease

Genuine Russian Bears Grease, made from (presumably) genuine Russian bears. Bears grease derived its popular reputation for hair care from the fact that since bears were hairy, rubbing their fat on your own head would also promote the growth of hair. Don’t be too quick to laugh, I’m sure similarly ridiculous misunderstandings of cause and effect are still around today. It was initially made from actual bears, although some later versions used anything from goose grease to lard as the base of the product. To promote the authenticity of their product, some hairdressers used to keep live bears, bear skins, or something that they could pass off as bear skins in the shop windows to convince customers that their bear’s grease was totally the genuine thing. Image: J. Garland.

The Toilet

Home remedies. While some of these might sound like risky combinations of chemicals (camphor!), many of them do actually have hair care properties. Sub-carbonate of potass is potassium carbonate, used to make soaps. Camphor, used to make mothballs and other pest deterrents, as well as embalming fluid, is also an active ingredient in anti-itch gels and various medicinal products applied externally. Still, maybe don’t try these at home. Image: Daily Southern Cross 5/12/1856: 3.

Dr Frampton's Pomatum, by Price & Co., Her Majesty's Perfumers. For those with unruly hair, unhealthy hair or hair that just won't stay on the head at all. Pomatum was a common hair product during the 19th century and well into the 20th century (also known as pomade). It was usually made of a scented grease or lard and used to smooth down the hair (or moustache, presumably). Articles towards the end of the century, when the use of pomatum had become slightly less widespread, speak disparagingly of resulting "locks saturated with strongly-scented grease" (Nelson Evening Mail 19/10/1882: 4). Image: J. Garland.

Dr Frampton’s Pomatum, by Price & Co., Her Majesty’s perfumers. For those with unruly hair, unhealthy hair or hair that just won’t stay on the head at all. Pomatum was a common hair product during the 19th century and well into the 20th century (also known as pomade). It was usually made of a scented grease or lard and used to smooth down the hair (or moustache, presumably). Articles towards the end of the century, when the use of pomatum had become slightly less widespread, speak disparagingly of resulting “locks saturated with strongly-scented grease” (Grey River Argus 31/10/1882: 4). Image: J. Garland.

Erm.

Erm. Maybe also don’t try this at home. Image: Southland Times 12/02/1885: 4.

Bay rum

A Bay Rum bottle, complete with label denoting it a “refreshing and invigorating tonic for the hair.” Bay Rum became increasingly popular towards the end of the 19th century, although it was in use from much earlier. Although primarily marketed as a hair product, it was also used for a variety of other personal grooming issues, from skin beautification to the relief of tired feet. Image: J. Garland.

potato dye

Some uses for claret and potatoes that you may not have heard of before…Image: Press 31/07/1896: 2.

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A hair comb, made from vulcanite or vulcanised rubber. Regular brushing and combing of the hair was one of the most frequent recommendations in 19th century newspapers and magazines for the encouragement of healthy hair. Not so unusual to us, this one. Image: G. Jackson.

One thing that was notably different to general hair care now was the recommended frequency of washing.

One thing that was notably different to general hair care now was the recommended frequency of washing. Most articles suggested that it be washed, at the most, once a week and recommended intervals of several weeks to a month as optimal. Shampoo was also not as integral to hair washing as it is now, with a lot of articles recommending various oil and water concoctions or simply the use of warm water. The considerations given to the health concerns of wet hair also speak to the differences between our lives now and the lives – and environment – of those in the 19th century, who did not have the luxury of heat pumps and hair dryers. Image: Auckland Star 17/03/1899: 7.

Alexander Barry's Tricopherous is probably the most common hair related artefact that we find on 19th century archaeological sites. Composes largely of alcohol and oil, it promised all manner of miracles when it came to the beauty and restoration of the hair, including the cure of baldness. It was, however, also used in place of pomatum as a far less greasy tool with which to style the hair. Image: G. Jackson.

Alexander Barry’s Tricopherous is probably the most common hair related artefact that we find on 19th century archaeological sites. Composed largely of alcohol and oil, it promised all manner of miracles when it came to the beauty and restoration of the hair, including the cure of baldness. It was, however, also used in place of pomatum as a far less greasy tool with which to style the hair. Image: G. Jackson.

less coffee more hair

To finish off, while I’m sure that “obeying the laws of health” can’t help but aid the vitality of your hair, as someone with very long hair who consumes their fair share of wine, tea and coffee, I have to say that the second paragraph is very definitely not true. Image: Star 6/02/1897: 3.

Jessie Garland 

In which monkeys have mirrors, battles are fought and hair is oiled.

In writing an introduction to this post, I found myself straying unexpectedly into alliteration. This happens sometimes. I decided to run with it.

So, as an aside from our accustomed analysis of antiquity, we’ve assembled an array of artefacts for the the amusement and appreciation of archaeologist and amateur alike. Enjoy!

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A lovely little milk jug recovered from one of our larger sites on Lichfield Street. We don’t often find jugs like these in such complete condition: we’re far more likely to find just the spout or part of the handle. Image: J. Garland.

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A Christchurch trade token, issued by Hobday and Jobberns, a drapery firm based at Waterloo House on Cashel Street. Tokens like these were used in place of government issued money for much of the late 19th century due to the shortage of actual currency in New Zealand during this period (Thomas & Dale 1950: 42-46). Image: J. Garland.

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A blue and white transfer printed saucer featuring three figures meeting under an arch. Unfortunately, no maker’s mark was evident on this piece, meaning we were unable to trace it to its original manufacturer. Image: J. Garland.

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A musket ball! This was a pretty unexpected find: musket balls are not common finds, particularly in the context of 19th century Christchurch. It probably wasn’t used for an actual musket, but may have been intended for a smaller calibre gun. Image: J. Garland.

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This ‘Pratt ware’ jar  is decorated with a scene from the Crimean war, featuring Sir Harry Jones, a well known British military figure. Sir Harry, who rose to the status of general, commanded the British forces and then the Royal Engineers during the Crimean war, having previously fought in several other campaigns, including one with the Duke of Wellington. Image: J. Garland.

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A beautiful gilt decorated and transfer printed candle holder, or ‘chamber stick’, as they were known during the 19th century. The cone feature to the top left of the vessel was there to hold the candle-snuffer, keeping it within easy reach. Image: G. Jackson.

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This wee bottle originally contained Rowland’s Macassar Oil, a hair restorative and beautifier. It was first introduced during the late 18th century by Alexander Rowland, a barber (a very expensive barber, apparently) based in St James, London. It was then marketed by his son, Alexander Rowland Junior, who did so to great success (Rowland 2013). Macassar oil was in use throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century and is the origin of the term ‘antimacassar’, referring to the piece of fabric thrown over the top or back of arm chairs. Apparently, antimacassars were developed in response to the oily residue people wearing the oil would leave on furniture. Who knew! Image: J. Garland.

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A teacup fragment, on which the image of a monkey examining itself in the mirror is displayed. Because, why not? Image: K. Bone.

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A wooden ruler found under the floorboards of a 19th century house in Christchurch, with “McCallums The Timber People” printed on the front. McCallum & Co were an Invercargill based timber company, who were established prior to 1864. By the early 20th century, the company was run by a partnership between William Asher and Archibald McCallum, with branch offices in Dunedin, Gore, Oamaru, Kelso and Winton (Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1905). They appear to have been purchased by Fletcher’s at some point during the 20th century. Image: J. Garland.

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A beautiful Alma patterned plate, found on a site on Armagh Street. There isn’t really much to say about this particular plate. I just think it’s pretty. Image: J. Garland.

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It can be pretty easy to forget that there was another British monarch between the end of George IV’s reign and the beginning of Queen Victoria’s time on the throne. There’s the Georgian period, then there’s the Victorian period and those seven years between them when William IV was the King of England get sort of forgotten about. This coin, a half-crown, was minted in 1835, during William’s reign, and it is his slightly smiling profile that adorns one side, jaunty hair and all. Image: J. Garland.

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The royal bust on this artefact isn’t quite as affable seeming as William IV’s. In fact, if I may say so, the smudges of dirt don’t do anything for the shape of her nose (a bit beak like, isn’t it?). This pipe celebrates Queen Victoria’s Royal Jubilee, which she had two of – one in 1887 (50 years) and one in 1897 (60 years). It’s unclear exactly which one this pipe is referring to. Image: J. Garland.

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And lastly, here is a teacup shaped like a barrel. Image: J. Garland.

Jessie Garland

References

Cyclopedia Company Limited, 1905. Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago and Southland Provincial Districts]. Cyclopedia Company Ltd., Christchurch. [online] Available at www.nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. [Accessed May 2015]

Rowland, R., 2013. Fifteen Generations of the Rowland Family. [online] Available at www.rowlandgenerations.org. [Accessed May 2015]

Thomas, E. R. & Dale, L. J., 1950. They Made Their Own Money: the Story of Early Canterbury Traders & Their Tokens. Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand, Canterbury.

Feminine, masculine, grounds for divorce: the social effects of wearing perfume in the 19th century

When it comes to personal fragrance (continuing on from our post a couple of weeks ago), exactly which perfumes and deodorants we choose to wear can reveal a lot about us, as individuals and as a society. How we define ‘smelling nice’, for example, can vary depending on factors like the identity of the individuals present, their gender, the strength of the perfume or the context in which it is worn. A strong perfume in an enclosed space (on a plane, perhaps, with no chance of escape) can be the opposite of nice, for example, and it’s no secret that there are noticeable differences in the smells deemed attractive for men and women. In truth, many perfumes can be said to reinforce gender distinctions, through socially acceptable or traditional notions of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ scents.

There’s a certain level of subjectivity – we do, after all, wear scents that we like personally – but perfumes are, unquestionably, involved in a wider social discourse in which the way we choose  to smell says something about who we are, whether we want it to or not.  Really, we only have to look at modern advertisements for perfumes and deodorants to see how much the way we smell is entangled with popular notions of, say, femininity or masculinity (and other aspects of social identity – wealth, status, elegance, refinement, desirability, etc). Whether those advertisements do this by choosing to challenge those stereotypes (Chanel, I’m looking at you) or reinforcing them (Old Spice, without a doubt), they’re still very much working from the basis that our personal fragrance is not just a fragrance.

Old Spice advertisement. The manliest of fragrances, apparently. Image:

Old Spice advertisement. The manliest of fragrances, apparently. Image: Riggs Partners.

People have been wearing perfume for a very long time, and it’s always been a marker of personal identity. In older societies, for example, perfume would have said something about the wealth of the wearer and their ability to afford frivolities like artificial scent. It still does, to a degree, just not for all perfumes: wearing an easily recognisable and expensive perfume today immediately implies that the wearer has a certain level of disposable income (or is willing to skimp on other things to afford it). Many perfumes today play to this, using images of wealth and luxury to see their fragrances (Dior, looking at you this time).

In the 19th century, perfume became inextricably entangled with gender. Some studies have suggested that the gender distinction in the perfume industry emerged out of early 19th century changes in society and social structure. With the growing prominence of the ‘bourgeoisie capitalists’ came a new set of social values, which included new perspectives on masculinity and femininity. In particular, one researcher suggests that “it was absolutely not done for men to spend their money on such ‘wasteful frivolities’. To put it bluntly, the modern (male) capitalist had better things to do, and with the exception of a small group of male artists and dandys [and there’s a stereotype all in itself], perfume became the exclusive domain of women” (Aspria 2005).

By the latter half of the 19th century, a brief scan of contemporary writing indicates that perfume was becoming more and more gendered, especially towards women. Although men did wear artificial fragrance (something that became increasingly acceptable in the early 20th century), perfume seems to have been a large part of the Victorian ideal of the proper, feminine woman (and, it follows, the absence of floral scents with an ideal of masculinity). It’s not so much that every perfume wearer was a proper lady, but rather that every proper lady wore perfume – of the correct strength and correct fragrance, of course. Lord help anyone who wore musk.

More than just a fragrance, the wrong perfume (musk, again, no surprises there) could even be blamed for the breakdown of a marriage, the transformation of “affection into aversion”, the “unwillllingness to marry which is one of those difficult questions which modern Governments at census times periodically have to consider .”

More than just a fragrance, the wrong perfume (musk, again, no surprises there) could even be blamed for the breakdown of a marriage, the transformation of “affection into aversion” and the “unwilllingness to marry which is one of those difficult questions which modern Governments at census times periodically have to consider.” Image: Hastings Standard 19/03/1904: 2.

There were numerous articles and advertisements in which various scents were discussed in correlation with certain feminine ideals, some even going so far as to describe the character traits found in women wearing particular scents. Significantly, all of these descriptions used terminology like ‘dainty’, ‘warm-hearted’, ‘unassuming’, ‘quiet temperament’ and ‘lovable if not very strong nature’ (ouch). One article described how “the suggestion of an ethereal atmosphere in which a slight and delicate fragrance has a part” immediately spoke of the wearer’s refinement, charm and a ‘gracious personality’.  Another writes that  “delicate odours, such as violet, heliotrope or orris root, are always permissible…a moderate use of a faint, suggestive odour, such as wood violet, for instance, is all in the way of a perfume that is allowable by a really refined woman.”

Article on the various character traits associated with the use of certain perfumes. Image:

Article on the various character traits associated with the use of certain perfumes. Image: Timaru Herald 31/03/1900: 6.

This positive ideal to which women were encouraged to aspire is reinforced again by descriptions of the negative image: the “superabundant use of the cheap stuff” is discussed in terms of “artificiality, vulgar and unredeemed [women]” (New Zealand Herald 19/09/1913:10). The claim that “a woman who saturates her belongings with strong perfumes…is likely to be mean-spirited, over-ambitious, strong-willed, but uncertain in temper” becomes an automatic judgement and dismissal of a person’s character, derived entirely from the way she smells. It simultaneously defines the identity of that person and reinforces the social ideal that is her contrast: the refined, demure, calm and content woman who only ever wears the appropriate level of perfume. It’s also, in a Victorian context, tied into the widely held belief in the importance of moderation and the physically, morally and socially debilitating effects of excess in any aspect of life.

Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the reality of life accurately reflected these social ideals as they were discussed in the written record (or vice versa), even if they were seemingly widespread. No matter what we read in historical accounts, we don’t know that people actually believed that perfume could develop character, that someone meeting a new acquaintance would smell roses and think “she must be imaginative and warm-hearted”, or that the ‘ideal of femininity’ discussed so often in writing was as prevalent or as valued in day to day life.

The archaeological record is important here, as another data set against which we can compare written information. The contrast allows us to tease out the similarities and differences between the ways in which people present themselves (and others) in writing and the ways they do so in the physical world. Even more importantly, we can examine why those differences exist: the disconnect between written and physical history can be as important in understanding human behaviour in past societies as the actual records themselves.

For example, despite the increasing popularity of perfumes in the written record towards the end of the 19th century, especially for women (the number of perfume advertisements increases exponentially in the 1880s and 1890s), we don’t find that many perfume bottles on archaeological sites here in Christchurch. And we have to wonder why. Is it because of something specific to Christchurch? Were people here less into perfumes than elsewhere in the world? Is it the result of other social behaviours: i.e. rubbish disposal practices, reuse of perfume bottles or other ways of obtaining perfumes?

We do know that it was possible to make your own perfumes. There were several recipes and detailed instructions available for the self-sufficient Victorian woman (they’re always directed at women) who wished to make her own fragrance. Perhaps this was happening in Christchurch? I don’t know. As an aside, there’s another ‘ideal’ perpetuated through these do-it-your own perfume instructions for women: as well as constructing and reinforcing a concept of femininity, they also touch on the ‘industrious woman’, part of the ideal of domesticity that was so prevalent in the 19th century.

Instructions on how to make your own perfumes.

Instructions on how to make your own perfumes. Most perfumes, as this article suggests, were alcohol-based, leading to several accounts of people drinking them recreationally. Image: Clutha Leader 8/01/1892: 7.

In another example, one might be inclined, given the large quantity of literature relating perfumes to femininity, to see perfume bottles on archaeological sites as an indication of the presence of women. Yet, many of the perfume bottles we’ve come across (and I’m only talking about the small proportion that can be identified to brand, here) are brands or fragrances that were used by men as much, if not more than, women. Eau de Cologne, in particular, is increasingly associated with the ‘masculine toilette’ in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although it’s certainly also used by women (Star 16/7/1904: 3West Coast Times 2/5/1907: 2) . Both Florida Water and the 4711 fragrance also appear to have been used by men as well as women.

Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Both of these appear to have been used as much by men as by women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Image: J. Garland.

What does this mean? Is it just a result of our sample? Maybe all the unlabelled, unbranded perfume bottles contained stereotypical feminine floral scents and we just don’t know. Or does it follow that notions of femininity and the ‘proper woman’ were different in Christchurch? That notions of masculinity were different? Are we seeing an example of a division between a social commentary largely derived from life and society in Britain and the distant reality of life in New Zealand? Am I speculating too much? Possibly. In truth (and we don’t have enough information to figure it out yet), the answer is probably more complex than any one of these possibilities. It usually is.

All the same, questions like these are an excellent reminder of how much the tangible things we use in our daily lives – like perfume – are connected to the intangible social constructs we navigate through every day, be they gender, personal identity or moral values. This material culture that we’re recovering from these sites, these pieces of broken glass, broken ceramic, broken rubbish – they’re more than just physical objects. They were part of a socio-cultural discourse – active agents in the construction, maintenance and transformation of human behaviour, of our social ideals and perceptions, especially regarding the perception of certain social stereotypes – in this case, the ‘ideal’ Victorian woman.

Basically, things aren’t ever really just things: they’re (in every sense of the word) artefacts of our lives, past and present, intrinsically entangled with who we are and, often, who we want to be.

Jessie Garland

References

Aspria, M., 2005. Sociologist Marcello Aspria: interview about perfume and gender. [online] Available at: www.boisdejasmin.com/2005/10/perfume_and_gen.html.

Aspria, M., 2005-2009. Scented pages. [online] Available at: www.scentedpages.com/default.html. 

Lindqvist, A., 2012. Preference and gender associations of perfumes applied on human skin. In Journal of Sensory Studies 27(6): 490-497.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at: www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Star. [online] Available at: www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

West Coast Times. [online] Available at: www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Everything’s coming up roses (and lilies and jasmine and violets)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man or woman in possession of natural body odour is most definitely in want of something to cover it up. At least, in today’s society, it certainly seems to be considered unacceptable to smell like unadulterated human in polite company (except in sporting situations or extreme, unavoidable situations – running from Godzilla comes to mind). In day to day life, we are expected to smell nice, or at least neutral, necessitating the application of a lot of perfume and deodorant in a never-ending crusade against the social iniquity of body odour.

It should come as no surprise to realise that this is not a new phenomenon, even if the use and popularity of perfume and deodorant has grown significantly in the past century. In the 19th century, certainly, the fragrance industry was a flourishing one. One (English) set of statistics from 1881, for example, claimed that Europe and British India consumed approximately 150,000 gallons of handkerchief perfume yearly (for something usually measured in drops, that is a LOT). Furthermore, English revenue from Eau de Cologne cashed in at around £8000 annually and the total English revenue from other imported perfumes at £40,000 per year, a fairly significant amount by the standards of the time (New Zealand Herald 27/08/1881: 7).

Perfume illustration and rhyme. Image:

Perfume illustration and rhyme. Image: Auckland Star 21/12/1929: 10.

The wonderfully named ‘scent farms’ on which the floral foundations of these perfumes were grown offer similarly substantial statistics on the provision of hundreds of thousands of pounds of flowers and blossoms to perfume distilleries throughout the world. One single distillery in France used approximately 100,000 pounds of acacia flowers, 140,000 pounds of rare flower leaves, 32,000 pounds of jasmine blossoms and 20,000 of tuberose blossoms in one year (Wairarapa Daily Times 26/03/1884: 2). I know, rationally, that these quantities must have been delivered and used over the course of the whole year, but I really can’t help imagining what that many flowers would look like delivered on the doorstep all at once (utterly delightful and horribly, traumatically allergy inducing, I think).

All of this perfume was eagerly and, in some cases, insanely, devoured by the bromidrophobic Victorian public (apparently, bromidrophobia is the fear of body odour – the things you learn in archaeology!). Contemporary accounts range from the faintly disparaging description of “the ballroom where the frou-frou of smart femininity exhales a violet fragrance” to tales of insane fads like the injection of artificial fragrance beneath the skin. To take it even further, one report on the “perfumes which ruin lives” recounts the stories of several people who inhaled or consumed perfume to the point of addiction, ill-health and death (Otago Witness 4/02/1897: 49).

Article on the popular fad of injecting perfumes subcutaneously. Image:

Article on the popular fad of injecting perfumes subcutaneously. Image: Auckland Star 11/03/1899: 2.

People didn’t just use artificial fragrance on themselves, however. Perfume was used to improve the smell of all manner of things, from clothing and handkerchiefs to notepaper and, memorably, butter. There were even perfume pills, made to be carried around in handbags and pockets as a neat and tidy repository of pleasant aromas. We’ve talked about the smells of life in the Victorian era here before on the blog, both inside and outside the house: in the perfumed accoutrements of daily life, there’s another smell to be considered (perhaps a response to some of the more unsavoury aromas people suffered through in the past).

Description of perfumed butter from 1894.

Description of perfumed butter from 1894. Image: Bruce Herald 19/10/1894: 3.

It’s interesting, then, considering the obvious popularity of fragrances amongst the Victorian population, to learn that we find comparatively few perfume bottles on archaeological sites here in Christchurch. They’re not rare, but they’re not common either. Those that we do find tend to be predominantly the products of European or English manufacturers, such as J. M. Farina, Eugene Rimmel and Piesse & Lubin. The one exception seems to be Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water, made in America.

Piesse & Lubin perfume bottle found in Christchurch.

Piesse & Lubin perfume bottle found in Christchurch. Piesse & Lubin were established in London in 1855 and continued to manufacture perfumes and related products into the 20th century. Image: G. Jackson.

Eugene Rimmel and Jean Maria Farina were both titans of the perfume (and cosmetics, in Rimmel’s case) industry during the 19th century. Rimmel was the son of a French perfumer, who moved to London in 1820 to manage a perfumery on Bond Street, before opening his own establishment in 1834 with his son (aged 14 at the time). The company became hugely successful, expanding from perfumes to sell a range of cosmetics, hair products and personal hygiene items: they’re still one of the biggest cosmetic manufacturers in Britain today (Rimmel 2015). As far as perfumes went, Rimmel sold a range of fragrances and related products, from perfume vaporisers and fountains to lavender water and “toilet vinegar”, advertised as a “tonic and refreshing adjunct to the Toilet or Bath, a reviving perfume and a powerful disinfectant” (Nelson Evening Mail 28/02/1884: 1). He secured a royal warrant for his efforts, being named as the official perfumer to both Queen Victoria and the Princess of Wales (Wellington Independent 10/04/1866: 3).

Rimmel bottle base found in Christchurch. Image: G. Jackson.

Rimmel bottle base found in Christchurch. Image: G. Jackson.

J. M. Farina, on the other hand, was famous as the name behind the ubiquitous Eau de Cologne, the fragrance that took its name from Cologne, Germany, the town in which the Farina family had been based since the early 18th century (Farina 2015). As it happens, one of the Farina bottles found in Christchurch, despite being associated with the family name, was in fact produced and named after the establishment of another Cologne based perfumery run by the Mulhens family. The famous 4711 eau de cologne was first made by Wilhelm Mulhens at the end of the 18th century and named for the building in which it was produced. However, before the 4711 brand was adopted in the 1880s, Mulhens marketed his fragrance under the Farina name, leading to some confusion and a lengthy battle with the Farina family (Newton 2013).

Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Interestingly, both the 4711 and the Farina Eau de Cologne seem to have had slightly more masculine overtones, with advertisements making note that – in contrast to Rimmel’s products – “the Prince of Wales has appointed, under Royal Warrant, Johann Maria Farina… to be manufacturer of Eau de Cologne for the Prince of Wales and his Royal Highness’s household” (Wellington Independent 19/11/1873: 3). The notion of perfume and fragrances as ‘gendered’ is a particularly interesting one, and something that I’ll talk about in more detail in next week’s post.

Contemporary descriptions of Eau de Cologne suggest that it had a strong citrus and bergamot fragrance, with one account listing the ingredients as “twelve drops each of essential oils neroli, citron, bergamot, orange and rosemary, along with one drachm of Malabar cardamoms and a gallon of rectified spirit” (Press 23/12/1887: 5). It seems likely that the 4711 had a similar fragrance, although the only description I could find just emphasised the particularly alcoholic base with which the cologne was made (Auckland Star 14/06/1890: 1).

Unfortunately, as far as the other perfumes go, unless the name of the fragrance is embossed on the bottle, we don’t know which ‘flavours’ of perfume were contained within them. Contemporary sources indicate that floral scents were popular, as they are today, with many manufacturers advertising fragrances like jasmine, rose, heliotrope, lily, etc. Others seem to have been specific to the 19th century, with one French company advertising a fragrance with the scent of ‘freshly mown hay.’ There’s even an advertisement for a ‘Geisha’ perfume.

A recipe for the 'celebrated lily of the valley perfume', one of the popular scents of the 19th century. Image:

A recipe for the “celebrated lily of the valley perfume”, one of the popular scents of the 19th century. Image: Lake Wakatip Mail 26/05/1893: 3.

Certain scents were frowned upon: musk was not well liked, with one 1891 article going so far as to suggest that “the King of Holland got a divorce from his wife because she used musk as a perfume. There are many people who think this sufficient cause…” (Oamaru Mail 1/08/1891: 3). And, amusing as that anecdote is, it’s symptomatic of a broader trend in contemporary (and modern) writing on the subject of perfume and the people who wear it. Several of the commentators that I came across talked of individual perfumes as an indication of a person’s character, particularly when it came to women. Even more than a sign of good or bad taste, a person’s perfume seems to have been seen (or sniffed, I suppose) as a manifestation of that person’s personality and place in life.

There’s something really interesting to be untangled here, in terms of how we – now and in the past – use personal fragrance as a way to define, maintain and reinforce individual and collective identity. Just think about how much your perfume says about you (or others): is it feminine, masculine, modern, old fashioned, cheap, expensive, designer, celebrity, professional, flirty, playful, down to earth, clean or any one of the other identity markers we use to describe the way we smell? It’s a really fascinating aspect of social behaviour but, for the sake of space and our attention spans, one that we’ll save for next week’s post.

Jessie Garland

References

 Auckland Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Farina, 2015. Farina: the birthplace of Eau de Cologne. [online] Available at www.farina1709.de.

Nelson Evening Mail. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Newton, D., 2013. Trademarked: A History of Well-Known Brands, from Airtex to Wrights Coal Tar. The History Press, Gloucestershire.

Oamaru Mail. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Otago Witness. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Rimmel, 2015. About Rimmel. [online] Available at www.us.rimmellondon.com.

Wairarapa Daily Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Wellington Independent. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.