Fads Popular by Ancestors of Mid-to-Late 1800s

There were in the mid-to-late 1800s many what we today would consider unusual traditions, fads and practices by our ancestors. Here are a few to review.

If you located some photos of young children in the family photo album, there was a special reason and an unusual feature. There may have been a large black cloth-covered item behind a seated child in the photo. It well could be the child’s mother attempting to keep the child still and quiet while the long photo exposure time took place. Families especially wanted photos of their young children in the case that child did not live long enough to young adulthood. There were many childhood illnesses and infant mortality, having a photo of the child proved to be a great keepsake for the family.

Ladies of the 19th century loved to grow their hair very long. They then put the long hair up in elaborate coiffures. They also brushed their hair over 100 times at night.

During the 1860s and the American Civil War, having photos taken of loved ones became very popular. Also the practice for ‘mourning jewelry’. Hair from someone who had passed away was made into elaborate designs and produced into a necklace, a watch holder, a ring or a bracelet. Much of the decease’s hair was also made into a picture design that was then hung on the wall in the family home.

Spiritualism in the Victorian era was not considered at odds with Christianity and so people of many walks of life took to holding séances and using ouija boards in order to communicate with their departed family members.

A big form of entertainment in the late 1800s was parlor games. One especially popular was called ‘snap-dragon’ where a player attempted to snatch goodies from a bowl of flaming brandy. Yes, that could be very dangerous.

The Victorian era took fashion to new heights. Women wore crinoline dresses that stretched as wide as 18 feet across in the 1850s. Then by the 1870s, the puffy bustle was all the rage.

Another popular trend was for men and ladies to get tattoos. The ladies liked one of butterflies and birds. Even famed Winston Churchill’s mother, an American, Jennie Jerome, born in Brooklyn, had tattooed a serpent on her left wrist.

The carrying of a hand fan was important in the late 1800s, especially at social gatherings and parties. Ladies could ‘speak’ to a possible suitor with her fan. The fan signals weren’t hard to interpret: If a lady’s fan was shut, she didn’t like the suitor and wanted him to leave. If her fan was half-open, she was friend-zoning him. If the fan was open wide, she really liked him.

Photo: Parlor game ‘snap-dragon’

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Victorian Letter-writing

Victorian Etiquette and Moral Practices

Victorian Female Ancestors

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