Long boots and half boots, Hessians, Hussar, top boots, and for the ladies, low cut shoes or pumps – if you wanted them in the age of Hornblower, you went to the corner of Piccadilly and St James’s Street and the establishment of George Hoby, boot maker to George III. The king was not alone. The Iron Duke thought so much of the man that he worked with the bookmaker to modify a Hessian boot a bit higher up than was standard, and so created the Wellington.
Which gave him particular interest in the battles the Iron Duke was waging in Spain. He was fitting the Duke of Kent when news of the victory at Vittoria came in. “If Lord Wellington had had any other bootmaker than myself, he never would have had his great and constant successes; for my boots and prayers bring his lordship out of all his difficulties.” Continue reading →
Mrs. Crosby writes: “I am sure it was in exchanging modern ideas over the after luncheon coffee cups that they together with Miss Loundes and Miss Lewis (both as British as buns) brewed the scheme for instigation of a Girls Scout movement right there at Rosemary.”
Polly was chosen as the first initiate, and got the name Policumteenawa, signifying Little-Possum-By-the-Fire, or some such.
On the American east coast, the gold standard for radical lawyer has always been William Kunstler, classic show-boater and last best hope to the downtrodden and damned.
No surprise that the west coast should one-up him in the person of Gladys Towles Root.
She got into the mouthpiece business decades before the notion of women lawyers was credible – Adam’s Rib was nothing to her. Having endured law school and passed the bar, she was unable to join any firms in California. The woman thing again. Nothing daunted, she hung out her own shingle, a few blocks away from Skid Row and waited for trade. Continue reading →
I’ve heard it suggested that America could pay off its debt to China by giving them Alaska.
There’s a nice symmetry to this idea. After all, before the U.S. showed up, the place was part of the Russian Empire. In large part, this is thanks to A. A. Baranov.
Alaska was known to Europeans, vaguely, as far back as 1741 when Vitus Bering of Denmark made a note of the strait that bears his name. Captain Cook had a look-see, as did others (George Vancouver), but in general it was too far away from the world’s cash centers to garner much sustained interest.
This changed when the locals began offering passers by the local specialty. The entire coastline, it turned out, was crawling with fur covered critters, whose pelts were of a great deal of interest to colder cash centers. The market was insatiable, the supply seemingly inexhaustible. Ruble signs lit up in the eyes of the ambitious and there was, in effect, a fur rush.
Francois Coty is known for the cosmetics giant he created, and less happily for his politics, which in the France of the 1930s leaned considerably to the Right. But his real legacy may not be his political bent, nor yet his fabulous success in the world of cosmetics, but his innovations in the field of business.
For political historians Coty is the man who bought newspapers in France during the waning of the Third Republic, including the right wing L’Ami du Peuple, and who also flirted with Mussolini and his Fascist regime. The Manichean politics of the 30s have cast a long shadow over the rest of his life, and perhaps that is a shame, because the Ligurian Corsican from Ajaccio, was a great businessman. He became a multi-millionaire in a matter of two years after creating his first real perfume: La Rose Jacqueminot, and never looked back. Continue reading →
Really, you couldn’t make up a name like that and even if you did, no fiction editor worth his salt would let it pass. So, truth must step up where fiction dares not tread.
Poivre was the son of a Lyon merchant and was heading towards a religious career when the Society of Foreign Missions, impressed with a native talent of languages, sent him to China and Indochina to get his feet wet with a little evangelical work. Reports of his time there get somewhat murky (mysterious east and all that), a curious mixture of amusing anecdote and utter silence. One story goes that he landed in a Chinese jail through a misunderstanding with a local mandarin but learned enough Chinese while incarcerated to talk himself out of it.
On the utter silent part (or at least the Not-In-Front-Of-The-Servants part), is the fact that he was encouraged to leave the mission and indeed, from China altogether. Certainly he gave up the path towards the church. Continue reading →
“June 20 1772 Exhibition of bees on horseback! At the Jubilee Gardens, Islington, this and every evening until further notice (wet evenings excepted).
The celebrated Daniel Wildman will exhibit several new and amazing experiments, never attempted by any man in this or any other kingdom before. The riders standing upright, one foot on the saddle and one on the neck, with a mask of bees on his head and face. He also rides standing upright on the saddle with the bridle in his mouth, and, by firing a pistol makes one part of the bees march over the table, and the other swarm in the air and return to their hive again, with other performances too tedious to insert.”
There’s gratitude for you! Colonel Swan had been one of the original Tea Partiers (the early iteration, the ones who dressed as Indians and got on the boats), a veteran of Bunker Hill and other life threatening engagements during the revolution, a firm revolutionary from the beginning. Once in the money, he acted as surety for privateers, doing well by doing good. And for this James Monroe calls him a rascal?
All the stories that circulate about editrices of Vogue make a colorful mosaic of anecdotes. There are the tales of Anna Wintour’s dislike of elevators, and her consequent habit of being conveyed upstairs in makeshift palanquins by young lackeys, there are the ones of Jessica Daves, Vreeland’s predecessor in the top spot, who is reported to have said, “NO!” to a skirt three or four inches above the knee, very ill advisedly in 1962. But neither of these ladies, however idiosyncratic, was ever a patch on Vreeland, who was a walking agglomeration of eccentricities. Continue reading →
No picture of the fellow seems to have survived, which is appropriate, given the man’s furtive nature.
He was born in Freehold, New Jersey and was of an elevated enough class to be come a lieutenant in the American Revolution, serving as paymaster to a New Jersey Regiment. Salesmanship seems to have come naturally – he was allegedly able to talk some English prisoners of war into signing up.
With America’s tiresome British ties eventually cut, he went west. Land grants were something of an early GI bill perq for veterans, and the aftermarket proved an opportunity for the young and ambitious and unscrupulous. Imlay got a position as a surveyor, which made him well placed indeed for gaming the system. Continue reading →