Downton Abbey, a drama that recently ended its second season on PBS about the English aristocracy and their servants during the Edwardian era, has become a cult hit in the United States. A great deal of its appeal is nostalgia for an elegant way of life unfamiliar to most of us. And there is likely not a woman alive who has not wished for a lady’s maid (of a nicer sort) than the dour and scheming O’Brien, lady’s maid to Lady Grantham (Cora Crawley). Ladies’ maids were part seamstress, masseuse, hairdresser, beautician and secretary. Unlike the rest of the servants, they reported directly to the lady of the house rather than to the housekeeper or butler, which set them apart from the others.
As Downton Abbey makes abundantly clear, a strict hierarchy ruled "below stairs" too. The butler, housekeeper and ladies' maids were at the top. Because of the close nature of the relationship between the lady of the house and her maid, maids were carefully selected. According to The Lady’s Maid: Her Duties and How to Perform Them, a manual published in 1870,
The Louisiana Historical Newspaper Archivehas proven to be an invaluable source for research for me. Currently, I am writing a historical novel set in New Orleans during the Civil War. Before access to this digital newspaper archive, I was able to find vague references to events that happened in the city during this period, but not many details. Once I started perusing the local daily newspapers of that era, I was able to find the missing key I needed to give my novel weight. For instance, several books and websites state that Mardi Gras did not occur during the Civil War. Yet local newspapers reveal that while there were no parades, Mardi Gras balls were held in 1862, 1864 and 1865, leaving 1863 the only year in this span with no mention of festivities.
Carla Mulford, Dept. of English, Penn State University
In December 2008 an essay about one of Benjamin Franklin’s cleverest hoaxes was published in The Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Written by distinguished Franklin scholar Carla Mulford, “Benjamin Franklin's Savage Eloquence: Hoaxes from the Press at Passy, 1782” was awarded the prestigious William L. Mitchell Prize from the Bibliographical Society of America on January 27, 2012. As explained in the Bibliographical Society's press release, Dr. Mulford’s article...
Source: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association (Dec. 2008)
The Connecticut Webster on Slavery
By Joshua Kendall, author of The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture
The pure-bred New Englander revered the Constitution. Though the eloquent statesman hated slavery, he sought to eradicate this evil without destroying the union. Division was anathema to him, as could perhaps be guessed from his ancestral name, Webster, which means “uniter” in Anglo-Saxon. And some three score and eight years before the outbreak of the Civil War, whose 150th anniversary we commemorated last spring, he advocated a moderate course designed to steer clear of bloodshed.…(read article)
International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) 2010 Award Finalist in the Culinary History category
Between the years 1998-2008 my large research team had the good fortune to be funded by a generous grant from Mars, Incorporated, to investigate the culinary, medicinal, and social history of chocolate.1 Our initial research focused on chocolate-related information from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and the transfer of medical-related uses of chocolate into Western Europe. Between the years 2004-2008 our research shifted to the introduction, distribution, and social uses of chocolate within North America. To this end we paid special attention to cacao/chocolate-related aspects of agronomy, anthropology, archaeology and art history, culinary arts, diet and nutrition, economics, ethnic and gender studies, geography, history, legal and medical issues, and social uses.