Fun Fact Friday

Coronets at the top of the spines of first editions of Emma and Mansfield Park

Jane Austen’s works experienced a resurgence in popularity during WWII.  According to novelist Rebecca West, Ms. Austen’s works  showed an“underlying faith that the survival of society was more essential to the moral purpose of the universe than the survival of the individual,” and faith that society would somehow survive was vital when war was waged on the home front, in British readers’ own very literal yards.  The fears that history may repeat itself, or that it already is, is something so many of us around the world are experiencing right now, and Ms. West’s statement about Ms Austen’s books demonstrating survival of society is something many cling to today.

One of her fans who remains well-known to this day is Winston Churchill.  According to Brian Southam in Jane Austen and the Navy, Mr. Churchill had stated, “What calm lives they had. . . . No worries about the French Revolution, or the crushing struggles of the Napoleonic wars. Only manners controlling natural passions as far as they could. . . .”  He is further rumored to have said, “antibiotics and Jane Austen got me through the war,” while others claim he stated, “antibiotics and Pride and Prejudice have cured me.”  I have not found a reputable source to back up either over the other.  However, it’s not hard to believe that something that could give one a mental reprieve would play a role in helping carry one through times of great stress.  Ms. Austen’s books were popular in the trenches of the world wars for helping transport soldiers back to simpler, more innocent times when such folderol was the height of drama.  One only had one’s heart to break, and a chance at love to lose, rather than far worse.

Perhaps these can help explain some of her enduring popularity for many of us today.  We can choose to ignore the societal issues of the regency era a lot easier than we can ignore the societal issues that pose real threats today, and in doing so, reading Ms. Austen’s works can take us to a sort of fantasy land of frolics and parties where can can consort with the busybodies or imagine being the strong lady waiting to be woo’d, while also having many peers in our modern regency societies with whom to bond over shared ideas and thoughts.  Her works have, and will continue to to be, a brief time of suspending concerns while we listen in to the gossip of another era.

Valentine’s Day cards and notes in the regency era

Though popularized in the Victorian era, Valentine’s Day had been celebrated for centuries prior.  Hand-made paper cards from the mid-17th century dot a few museums around the world, but this isn’t a comprehensive history on a holiday that is loved and loathed in equal (perhaps not-equal…) measure.  It’s about a certain era we all know and love.  That’s right.  The disco era.

Okay, not really, though women’s fashions did start to channel the regency.  That’s a post for another day.

By 1826, according to Hone’s Every-day Book, “Two hundred thousand letters beyond the usual daily average, annually pass through the twopenny post-office in London on St. Valentine’s Day.”  That’s quite an impressive amount of mail for the population of the time!  At the volume, the holiday was by no means new.  It was certainly much older than this era, but let’s try to focus on something other than poor mail clerks trying to handle nearly a quarter million letters, all by hand, on one day alone.

valentines_1797The earliest printed card known to exist is from January 1797, and was printed in the common method of plate dipped in ink, pressed on paper, and the resulting image painted by hand.  We have one John Fairburn of 146, Minories, London to thank for this treasure, and he is the producer. The text on the image to the right is difficult to read, but it states:

Since on this ever Happy day,
All Nature’s full of Love and Play
Yet harmless still if my design,
‘Tis but to be your Valentine.

Rather a sweet little poem.

But shortly before this, the popular type of card was one that, in many ways, brings back passing-notes-400px.jpgmemories for those of us in high school in the 90’s or earlier, back in the days when passing a note to a friend in class or when you didn’t have time to stop and talk in the hall, and instead had to do this thing called write a note by hand, and then fold it small enough to hand off.  Oh, the days before digital leashed, when a note was something tangible and personal, from the hand of a friend or significant other to yours.  They meant something.  They took a bit more thought since you couldn’t hit a back button.  And then they took a little time to fold.  Even the silliest one from a friend was something we wanted to keep because they meant something.

valentine-foldedWell, people in days of many yores ago appreciated the extra streps of a folded note too, something beyond the wax seal and stamp in place of licking a bitter envelope.

This charming painted heart note, known as a puzzle purse, took considerable time and effort.  At each step of folding, the giver had to draft his words, then paint the images he wanted.  Some of them are just so precious, including a small heart with a fairly detailed arrow.  You can read the entire text of the note, fold by fold, at this link from the Postal Heritage Museum.  It remained one of the more popular note types to pass to a lover for many decades to come.

If you would like to try your hand at a regency-esque Valentine that will bring a smile to even the most hardened of non-fans of this day, pull up a chair, a whole ream of paper, some wine for the headache you’re about to receive, and see if you can figure out this very complicated design.  This is the unfolding process of the 1790 puzzle purse above.  Surely the reverse must result in a how-to.


Or you can spare yourself the headache and try this simpler design popular from the Victorian era onward (this video shows the process easier, and this one shows several lovely ones), and ponder how much men and ladies of the regency era may have loved the romance of Valentine’s Day or loathed to participate.  There are some things that are unlikely to change, though, thankfully, someone devised an easier way to make a type of puzzle purse so that we may participate to some extent in this regency tradition.

Have a very happy Valentine’s Day, whatever you plan to do today.

Growing Pains

Salutations to our splendid fellow regency-lovers!  We here at the Oregon Regency Society’s non-existent headquarters would like to share with you some of the new changes you may have noticed over the past few months.

We have had a change of leadership which has resulted in a smaller group and has helped actions be taken faster when decisions are needed.  It also means we have fewer woman-hours with which to do it all.

Two of our biggest changes you may be able to see right away are this new website and that we are using the Facebook PAGE rather than the Facebook GROUP, and these are for some very good reasons.

The easier to address of these is our new website.  Our previous one was very convoluted, and it was difficult to find information that was needed.  Too much was on there, and often links would go to defunct sites.  All in all, it was just too overwhelming.  We needed something simpler, something where we were easier to reach (the new Contact tab at the top is rather nice) and could better present information.  We also wanted something that we get with this site: A mailing list.  Before, if you wanted to be on our mailing list, you had to email a member of the leadership, be added to a not-well-kept list, and when someone had time to send out information, which was rare to never, hope to have all the current members of the list.  This didn’t go well.

But now!  Now we have this nifty little widget on this new page, down at the bottom of every page, where you can choose to follow this site and automatically get updates.  When we post events, news, auctions, or anything else, those who follow this site will get it automatically.  This means you are less likely to miss information!  Most of the information posted to Facebook will be posts here that are automatically published there, which means that, whether or not you are even on Facebook, you’ll get the same information quickly and reliably.  Facebook might have more reminders of some things, but you’ll still have the pertinent information.

Speaking of Facebook, we have made the decision to use the PAGE rather than the GROUP (pages are run by various organizations and businesses with more structure to make sure that the organization of business’s announcements are easy to see, while groups are more like loose forums with less structure). When the ORS was newer, pages didn’t have the option for members to make posts anywhere, and so the two were set up.  Fewer members earlier on also meant that finding what you were searching for was easier.  But as time has gone on, information has become fragmented between an avalanche of a group and a confusing old website.

Since most banter has been on the group, the best way to try to alert members about events was to post there.  This created a massive problem.  New chit-chat posts buried important information, and we had a problem of members missing posts about events, and only finding out when photos were posted afterward.  How could be make sure everyone has a chance to hear about events when our posts were drowned out by the masses?  Understandably, this has led to many members feeling left out and hurt.  Yes, it’s true that there’s an events tab on the group, but realistically, how often do people click that tab?  If you missed the post about an event, you wouldn’t even know.  The group makes the ORS more of an online social club rather than an in-person (as much as we can) social club to get together and enjoy reenacting our fantasy version of a couple centuries ago.

To combat the problem of information being victim of an avalanche, we decided to use the PAGE instead.  In addition to events and other announcements being front and center, you can still banter there.  You can still make posts and share all the fun stuff you find.  We would absolutely love for the masses to share everything and chat and be willy, informative, inquisitive, etc.  Write a post in the “write something” box, and it posts to the Visitor Posts section on the righthand side.  Between the options of going to a group, seeing banter, and clicking an events tab, or going to the page, seeing the events, and clicking the visitor posts, the latter better suits the purpose of our group.  Chatting is still there.  It’s just not burying announcements and the information that we need to reach our members.

Further, the ORS page is now officially verified with Facebook.  What this means for you is that our posts will now start to appear more often in your news feeds, and higher toward the top.  This is a third, albeit smallest, way to increase visibility of our events and to help reach all of you.  The more interaction with this page, such as our valued members both near and far posting to this page and continuing conversations, our page ranking will go up, and our posts will be even higher and more frequent in your feeds.

We are aware that there is concern about what will happen to the Facebook group.  The group isn’t going anywhere.  It’s going to remain as it is, but we will cease allowing new posts soon.  The old posts will absolutely remain up.  There is a lot of information there.  You can still reply to those posts, still look back through the ORS’s history.  New posts will just need to do to the page.  Speaking of older information, we will be going through the old website’s blog and moving informative and sentimental posts to the new one.  Our goal is not to lose information, new or old, but to make presenting information more reliable, and easier for you to access.

Yes, there has been the question of why not have both page and group.  Well, many people encounter the group first, and unless we monitor every single new follower and make sure they also follow the page, then we run the risk of remaining in a situation where we have fragmented members with many relying on a page where events are buried.  This is detrimental.

A very recent example of how the group isn’t helpful is our recent auction.  We’ve had members express dismay that they missed out on that because they didn’t know.  They didn’t see it on the group, and don’t follow the page (yet).  The auction was announced at least once in the group, but new posts pushed it down and caused many members to miss seeing it.  Subscribers of this website and followers of the page saw it much sooner while others didn’t see it until spotting posts on other people’s walls about it.  The group didn’t succeed in informing those members.  The page, and emails to the 545 subscribers of this blog, did.

We want our members to have reliable information faster, and we now what hasn’t worked well for a long, long time.  We’ve had a broken system, and are trying our best to fix it.  Continuing to do what hasn’t worked isn’t going to fix anything.  Please give us a chance as we try this new method of website posts that automatically email to our subscribers and post to the page that is now verified and will show more often and higher in your news feeds.  And though we won’t have posts to the group much longer (we are on moderated status right now so we can reach out to those who are trying to post with the information needed about the use of the verified page), we hope you’ll continue to see that group as a resource about our history, be inspired by the photos and memories of past events, and start posting to the page.  Together, we can make this organization more robust than ever, and if these changes result in more reliable information for both members on Facebook and members who aren’t through our website subscription, then we will all win.


Fun Fact Friday

Today’s fun fact isn’t for the squeamish, nor the faint of heart.  No graphic details are in this post.

Dr. Liston in an 1845 calotype

In the days before anesthesia, a good surgeon was one who could amputate a thigh very quickly.  As you may be able to imagine (though who wants to?), losing a limb without pain relief was a terrible experience.  But the reason for trying to be as quick as possible isn’t due to lessening the length of the pain, but because the longer it too, and the more pain, the higher a chance the patient had of dying.  Pain caused a patient to thrash and tense, which resulted in more blood loss.  St. Bartholomew’s Hospital reported a full 1 in 4 patients died from amputations, though give the considerable pain, one might wonder how any survived.

One doctor was a minor celebrity of his day.  Dr. Robert Liston became a full-fledged doctor toward the latter end of the regency era, earning his title in 1818.  While practicing at London’s University College Hospital, he lost a mere 1 in 10.  This may have led to the conceit that resulted in the medical society to have him driven out of Edinburgh, though he was popular enough among the masses to have received a civic dinner before leaving town.  However, prior to that, he could finish an entire amputation, from first incision to clipping the sutures, in a mere two and a half minutes.

However, his extreme speed also led to the only surgery known in all of history to have a 300% mortality rate.  This is not a typo.  He was so fast that he sliced off an assistant’s fingers, with the assistant and patient both later dying, and slashing a spectator’s coat (they really let by-standers close in those days), which caused the spectator to died of shock.

Dr. Liston later went on to be the first doctor to perform surgery using anesthesia, in 1846, as well as locking forceps to lessen blood loss, and the Liston splint, both which are still used today.

If you would like to read more about surgery in the decades prior to that first ether-use in 1846 (if I, Aria, could watch my own right arm be operated on just two days ago…), then you may enjoy this post, by medical historian Dr Lindsey Fitzharris.

Spring Fundraiser 2017

(Update: The auction items can be found here: Spring Fundraiser 2017, with more information on the auction as it comes together!)

old-covent-market-garden-1825Hello to our dear members! As we are sure you are aware, our lovely little society is a not-for-profit organization.  This means we don’t have a large bankroll, which further means that kicking off events often means the leadership board funding deposits and down payments.  Quite the challenge!

Well, we’d like to do something different and host an auction via Facebook to help raise the funds needed to secure the venue for the annual retreat.  On the 10th-12th of February, we will host an album where our members and anyone who wants to bid can bid on various items donated by our supporters.  We already have jewelry and some clothing items, and possibly a few other items lined up.  We would appreciate any donations our supporters would like to offer in this auction.  Items wouldn’t need to be sent to us due to the short notice, unless you’d like to send them to us.  You could ship directly to the winner, who, at your choice, may be charged a shipping fee, which would be forwarded to you upon proof of shipping the item (photo of the shipping receipt).  If you would like us to take care of shipping, we would need the item to arrive to us by the 9th.

We would appreciate donations of regency clothing, accessories, gift cards, or anything related to the era that our supporters see fit to donate.  Please contact us if you’d like to help out with this. Unless requested otherwise, we would love to fully credit all item-donors.  Thank you kindly for your support in helping us bring you some fantastic events!

Pittock Mansion Picnic 2017

We are pleased to announce that our annual picnic at the gorgeous and historic Pittock Mansion is celebrating its tenth year!  This year’s picnic will be July 30th from 11am until 3pm.  This event is a FREE event.  It’s the perfect chance to get our toes wet in our wonderful little world, or to just come out and meet us!  In regency duds or modern jeans, all are welcome to picnic with us.  Just show up with a picnic, blankets to sit on or your own tables, and enjoy the afternoon as we play Graces and Alphabet Squares, a chat, a mingle game with a prize, perhaps a scavenger hunt, sew, read, play Marco Polo, and engage in general silliness and camaraderie.  RSVP’ing isn’t necessary, but if you’d like to, you can do so here.

Just a little notice: Last year, the day of our picnic was very busy, and parking became difficult to find.  If you have a lot of gear or want to park close, arrive as early as you can.  It’s fine to arrive before 11am.  Just remember to pack out what you pack in.  We like to show respect for this beautiful mansion, the fine people who work and volunteer there, and other wonderful patrons who help keep this historic property funded and available to us all.

If you’d like to visit the inside of the mansion, admission for that is separate and is payable to the mansion, not to us.  There are bathrooms available outside, as well as a small gift shop.  But if you want to see the inside of this mansion, please do take a tour!

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