Lincoln Discussion Symposium

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(12-10-2013 09:22 AM)LincolnMan Wrote: [ -> ]May we assume the purchases were Christmas gifts?

Good question, Bill. I have no clue.
I doubt that the corset material and the purple muslin were gifts unless Mary was giving them to another woman. However, one could never have enough handkerchiefs -- up until the invention of Kleenex! My grandmother had one whole drawer full of them and refused to use tissues until the day she died in 1965. My mother, and later I, spent a lot of time washing and ironing her handkerchiefs...

Most of the handkerchiefs listed here were probably for the men in the family, but women almost seemed to have contests as to how decorative their hankies could be. I have also seen some men's handkerchiefs that were as large or larger than dinner napkins.
The 1840 Workwoman's Guide states that Neck Handkerchiefs should be about a yard (36") wide, ladies pocket handkerchiefs are usually...(24.75" or 27") square, and handkerchiefs for gentleman are usually larger...(31.5" or 33.75"); generally men's hankies were about the size of a dinner table napkin!
Contrast the use of hankerchiefs then with now. Today, they are mostly decorative in nature- folded neatly in the front suit pocket of a suit jacket.
I just realized that the eight yards of muslin purchased was purple in color. That was Mrs. Lincoln's favorite color, so I bet she was having a new dress made. I believe that muslin was of better quality (more silk-like) then than it is now. This could well be Mary Lincoln's shopping list.
If these were Xmas presents, the Lincolns truly were last-minute shoppers. Hankerchiefs for everyone, wow. Hallelujah. But I second Gene on the gloves...
Willie had one of the first toy trains. Perhaps it had been a Xmas present?

Maybe Xmas at the Lincolns' was like Xmas at the Waltons':

In England, servants received on Dec.26 (Boxing Day) "Xmas boxes" with presents. Was this a tradition in the US, too?
Gifts in this era were more useful than glitzy. Children's toys ran the gamut from trains to dolls to spinning tops, toy soldiers, pocket knives -- all depending on the family income.

I believe that Boxing Day was unique to England and its colonies. In the South, household slaves would rush to be the first to greet their owners with Merry Christmas greetings in order to receive a special present. Later in the afternoon, rounds were made in the quarters to dispense gifts of food, clothing, material, etc. Again, the gifting depended on the economics of the plantation as well as the generosity.
I remember my great- grandmother talking about getting apples and oranges for Christmas during the Great Depression- and being thankful for the fruit. Perhaps gifts are relative to the day and age in which they are given.
I've heard the very same thing, Bill! My parents also talked about oranges in their stockings during the First Great Depression and being thankful for them! I, too think that things are relative to the times.

Re: "Boxing Day" - Here in Virginia, we celebrate Boxing Day by fox hunting and the hunt clubs have a "Boxing Day" meet at one of the famous plantations; i.e. either Shirley or Westover. My sister and I attend every year day after Christmas. It's a lot of fun....
(12-10-2013 02:27 PM)L Verge Wrote: [ -> ]I just realized that the eight yards of muslin purchased was purple in color. That was Mrs. Lincoln's favorite color, so I bet she was having a new dress made. I believe that muslin was of better quality (more silk-like) then than it is now. This could well be Mary Lincoln's shopping list.

Laurie, I have been thinking about your post and a thought came to mind. These purchases were made roughly halfway between Lincoln's election in November and the family's departure for Washington in February. Possibly the purchases actually had nothing to do with Christmas and were simply part of Mary's program of purchasing items to prepare the Lincolns for becoming the First Family?

But maybe my speculation is totally wrong. I know Mary was concerned with Abraham's appearance. During the first part of the inaugural train trip, Lincoln had worn what was described as a terribly bad hat and a very thin, old overcoat. By the time the train reached Utica, New York, Mary had seen enough. She had observed the shabbiness of her husband compared to the well-groomed politicians they had met along the way. Mary asked William Johnson, Lincoln's valet, to get her husband a better looking overcoat and new hat. This was accomplished, and Lincoln looked much better.
Sure the muslin was for a dress. I would second your assumption Mary prepared herself for the White House because she was looking forward to her new role. In January she went to NYC to order a new wardrobe. What I just wonder - would she have sewn the dress herself? I know she sew the childrens' clothes, but about her own ones I'm not sure. If I remember correctly she sew hoops into her dresses and similar when she was a teenager, but entire dresses?
Sewing was one of the "graces" that proper ladies HAD to know how to do in Mary Lincoln's time. She may not have been able to turn out stunning designs like Mrs. Keckly, but I would think that she made her day dresses, lingerie, etc. When it comes to the voluminous skirts and layers of ruffles and flourishes required for evening wear and formal gowns, however, Mary probably had help throughout much of her life -- in the early years of marriage, that would depend on how they were doing financially.

I should also add that once the patent war was over between Elias Howe and Singer in 1854, more and more home models became available. Repairs to a sewing machine show up in the Surratt ledgers, and we display an 1857 model in a little sewing/storage room at the top of the stairs in the historic house. Business was so good for Mr. Howe that he earned nearly $2 million by the year of his death in 1867. During the war, he actually equipped an infantry regiment and served as a private in it.

The home machines, however, mainly sewed straight seams, so ruffles and flourishes were still done by hand. They were still something that every woman of the 19th century dreamed of.
I recall reading the boys went sledding in winter. Maybe on Xmas their father had time to accompany them?
I can see Mr. Lincoln doing that.
I can too. Isn't there a reference to him enjoying pulling children of the neighborhood in wagons in good weather? I wondered about skating, also, but I just cannot imagine long, tall Lincoln mastering ice skates!
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