July 18, 2013

Vintage video: instructions on making handbags

This instructional video from the 1920s is from the British Pathe's series Eve's Review - released for female audiences.

July 12, 2013

Doing laundry in the 1920s

The following is an excerpt from Christine Frederick's pamphlet You and Your Laundry. The pamphlet educated women on washing clothes, which took fifteen different steps.

The Right Way to Do Machine Washing

DO YOU soak the clothes when you use a machine?" "Is it necessary to boil them after washing?" "How long do you let the washer operate?" These are only a few of the many questions which women ask me about washing clothes the machine- way. Or every once in a while I still find a housekeeper saying: "I don't believe in washers, I just know they won't work, and the old way is good enough for me." Or perhaps again, "If you have to wash the flannels and colored things by hand, I don't think a machine is worth buying just for the white clothes."

All of these remarks prove that the women asking them are not fully informed as to the right way to machine-wash, and that they do not see the wonderful results guaranteed by such a cylinder washer as the THOR. But before answering all such questions and giving the clear, plain rules for successful machine washing in every case, I wish to "tackle" this point of the woman who is convinced that such and such a device or labor-saver "won't work."

Whenever I hear this negative comment so forcibly expressed, I am reminded of a friend who once bought a fireless cooker. She knew I had used a fireless successfully for many years, so she told me she was going to buy that identical make. I did not see her until several months later, when naturally I asked her how she liked the cooker she had purchased. To my amazement she replied that she had returned it to the manufacturer.

"What was the matter with it?" I questioned.

"Oh, it was defective," she assured me; "I put the cereal in at night and when I took the pot out in the morning it was cold and the oatmeal still raw. No one can make me believe you can cook in that cold box ! So I sent it right back to the manufacturer in three days."

Now my friend thought (and probably still thinks) that she bought a "defective" cooker, but I know that she had not learned to use that cooker right. And so whenever I hear a woman say that a certain well-tested device "won't work," I am certain that the device will work if the woman only understands and operates it intelligently. Over and over again I have found that all such "come- backs" about equipment arise because the worker buying it has not studied the mechanism, tested it, used a little patience and followed well-worked-out rules for its operation.

I am quite sure that when somebody told your grandmother that finer, and more even, and perfect stitches could be taken in cloth with a needle set in a strange machine operated by a wheel and belt, than she could make by hand, that she too, said that this new sewing machine ''wont work" — and it probably took some time for her to be convinced.

But you to-day know the perfection of sewing machine work, and even if you cannot obtain the smoothest results the first time you place your foot on the treadle, will you foolishly condemn so wonder- ful a labor-saver as a sewing machine and say that it "won't work?" Yet why do you repeat similar doubts about a washing machine, especially when you may not have used it the right way? 

Before you pass judgment on the THOR washer or exclaim that you "don't believe it will wash clean," or "can't see how it will wash without rubbing," etc., I have just one advice — give the THOR a fair trial, and operate it after well- tested directions. If thousands and thousands of other women have proved that the THOR gives perfect, satisfactory results over years of service, will the THOR not also wash your family's clothes successfully?

In the past years during which I have been a professional Household Efficiency Engineer, I have studied hundreds of tasks both in the factory and the home. From these experiments I have come to believe that there is always one best, one shortest, one easiest way to follow for any given piece of work. I like to call such a one best, shortest, easiest method a "standard practice." This means the set of directions, or practice of doing a task which is so good or perfect that it may really form a standard, and be followed over and over with the same perfect results. Just as we must follow a cooking recipe with its exact amounts, way of beating, tempera- ture and time in the oven to bake a perfect cake, so too, we must follow the exact instructions as to amount of soap solution, tem- perature of water, and time of operation of the washer, to secure perfect washing results. What a recipe is in cooking, a ''standard practice" is in the handling of a tuachine, or process of work. 

What, then, is this "standard practice," or right way to machine- wash clothes with a THOR washer?

Standard Practice for THOR Washer 

(THOR Washer, Two Wash Tubs, One Basket) 

1 — Look over clothing and remove spots and stains, sort and put to soak. (If the clothes are soaked over night, have the water as hot as you wish, but if the clothes are not soaked over night, do not have the water any hotter than you can bear your hand in. It is advisable to at least soak the clothes a few minutes before putting them in the machine.)

2 — Water can be heated in an ordi- nary wash boiler, if you have no hot water plant.

3 — Prepare soap solution to be used.

4 — Wring pieces for first load (table linen, etc.), from soak tub, putting into the machine only enough pieces to come to the level of the lifters (C-D) in the cylinder. Do not pack the clothes in tight. If the cvlinder is full, there will not be enough of a "drop." Put in hot water to just come below the two lifters (C-D).

Water must not come above "water line." Fasten both catches on the cylinder cover securely. Start the machine. Pour in soap solution as cylinder revolves. This will start the suds immediately. Close the cover of the machine in order to maintain heat of the water. This first cylinderful of clothes should run about 15 minutes.

5 — While the machine is washing the first load, wring the rest of the soaking clothes into a basket or to the top of the machine.

6 — Drain stationary tubs and fill with clean, fresh, warm water for rinsing. The rinsing of the clothes is very important, as all soap must be removed from the clothes.

7 — Prepare blue water (no directions can be given for preparing blue water, as bluing comes in so many degrees of strength). Use care that bluing is thoroughly mixed with water to prevent streaking of clothes.

 8 — Wring the washed clothes from the machine directly into boiler, if you are going to boil them; otherwise into the rinse tub. In wringing, always spread the clothes out so that the wear on the rolls will be uniform. Don't have rolls too tight. When usinp a power wringer, the tendency is to keep the rolls too tight, particularly in wringing linens. This should not be done as extreme pressure might injure the fabric and make it difficult for ironing. For large extra pieces, such as bed-spreads, blankets, etc., the tension on the rolls should always be greatly lightened.

9 — Put in the second lot of clothes and add enough soap solution to equal 1/4 cake or one tablespoon Hurley Soap.

10 — Prepare starch and put up lines.

11 — Proceed with second and third load same as first. (In the average family three loads will take care of the white clothes.)

12 — After the third cylinderful has been washed and wrung, draw out about one-fourth of the water, thus removing the sediment that has accumulated in the bottom of the machine. Add enough hot water to replace that drawn out and sufficient soap solution to make a good suds.

13 — The flannel load follows the last white load Water should be lukewarm, not too hot, or it is apt to shrink woolens. Wring loosely. Rinse in water of same temperature as wash water. Re-wring, pull into shape and dry in warm temperature, never cold or freezing.

14 — Colored load follows the flannel load and may be washed in the same water. Wring from washer into clear, clean water. Wring back to top of machine or into well-strained starch. Colored garments should be shaken out well, so that colors will not be likely to run into one another.

15 — If there are many black stockings, they may form a separate load. Always use clear, fresh, soapy water. Do not wash stockings in water from a white load, otherwise the lint from the white pieces will make stockings gray. Turn all stockings inside out before washing. Brown pairs, which often "bleed", or colored socks should be done by themselves. In washing white stockings, be careful that water is not hot. Hot water yellows white silk. Rinse all stockings particularly well, and hang up by the feet.

How to Arrange Your Washing 

Load 1 (White) — Tablecloths, napkins, doilies, dresser scarfs, aprons.

Load 2 (White) — Sheets, cases, face towels, shirt waists, brassieres, cambric night or underwear, children's dresses, white petticoats, handkerchiefs.

 Load 3 (White) — Cotton or mixed underwear, bath towels, kitchen towels, bed- spreads, covers, night wear, cotton crepes, all coarse meshed goods.

Load 4 (Flannel) — Night garments or underwear of flannel or outing flannel, petticoats, shirts, small quilts, children's woolen articles, blankets, all flannel finish or partly wool goods.

Load 5 (Colored) — Housedresses, men's shirts, rompers, children's dresses, aprons, all colored or partly colored goods of gingham, chambray, linen, etc.

I wish every woman to know also how successful is the THOR machine-way of washing those many articles which are included in our home furnishings, but which cannot be classed as ordinary washing. For instance, I had for years been in the habit of sending my bath mats and the small rugs used so commonly in sum- mer, to the commercial laundry. The charge at first was about 25 cents each, but gradually it mounted until it was a heavy item of expense. Also, the rugs were faded badly. The laundress refused to handle them, because the lifting and work were so heavy.

But when I bought my THOR washer, I tried to wash one of the small rag rugs just for experiment. What was my surprise to see it go thru the wringer as pretty and clean as the day it was new! Ever since I have included the washing of all mats, cotton rugs, etc., with no extra effort at all.

You and Your Laundry by Christine Frederic, 1922

July 6, 2013

The Southern Syncopated Orchestra remembered

Over the last couple of months, there have been tributes to the Southern Syncopated Orchestra which contributed to British jazz in the early 1920s.  In May, the first Blue Heritage Plaque, recognizing a member of the orchestra was revealed at the former London home of Barbadian tenor Frank Bates.  In June, the 23rd Annual Jamaica International Ocho Rios Jazz Festival also honored the Southern Syncopated Orchestra.

Several members of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra died after the S.S. Rowan sank on its way from Glasgow to Dublin on October 9, 1921.  After midnight, the Rowan had collided with the American steamer West Camak in heavy fog off Corsewall Point.  The passengers were below during the first collision, and after coming out on deck, the crew thought they could arrive in Dublin safely.  The West Camak sent out a distress call and fifteen minutes later, the nearly 6,000 ton Clan liner, Malcolm answered the call.  But in the fog, it collided with the Rowan, which “crumpled like matchwood” according to a survivor, and sank. It took about one minute for the S.S. Rowan to sink into the sea.  Around 35 passengers died - 8 or 9 of them were members of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra.  Some of the bodies were never recovered, including the body of Frank Bates who died in the disaster.  The tragedy made headlines in Britain and around the world, in part because the orchestra - which was well known in some music circles – had been on its way to continue a tour.  But within a year the orchestra broke up and Southern Syncopated Orchestra eventually faded from memory.

Footage of SS Rowan survivors, 1921:  "The men and women pose for the camera and laugh, many of them are from ethnic minorities. The camera pans across them all, they wave and smile."  [Watch video here]

Three other Blue Heritage Plaques honoring members will be unveiled in the future.  The members include trumpeter Joe Smith from Jamaica, flautist Bertin Salnave from Haiti, and Cyril and George Blake from Trinidad, pianist Mope Desmond (Caleb Quaye) from Ghana, and drummer Pete Robinson from America. Robinson also died in the disaster, and his body was recovered.  Mope Desmond died in a rail accident in 1922 and his funeral was attended by Haitian flautist and saxophonist Bertin Depestre Salnave.

Before the tour in Europe the orchestra was originally called the New York Syncopated Orchestra and the American Syncopated Orchestra after that. In March 1919, British promoter André Charlot organized for the SSO to perform in London.  About 24 instrumentalists and 12 vocalists arrived in June 1919.  The orchestra was signed on to perform two two-hour acts every day at the Philharmonic Hall, Great Portland Street, London from July 4 to December 6 1919.

The SSO became a part of the London club scene, though they weren’t popular in London at first.  Crowds reportedly numbered at twenty people or less.  The Southern Syncopated Orchestra eventually performed across Britain – its musicians smartly dressed in black tie.  Legendary jazz musician, Sidney Bechet came to Britain with the orchestra, helping to bring some publicity.  The Prince of Wales (later King Edward III) invited the orchestra to perform at Buckingham Palace on August 19, 1919 for around 100 guests.  They were a source of entertainment during the gloomy post-war years, and to commemorate the first anniversary of the armistice, the Victory Ball was hosted at the Royal Albert Hall on November 11, 1919.  The SSO was the headline act. While the SSO performed in Britain, Sunday observance laws made “entertainments” illegal, but “concerts” legal.  They typically performed in a concert arrangement, and since most spots were closed on Sundays, musicians usually tried to book “concerts” at other locations on Sundays.  This meant that London musicians could take the train to resorts on the southern and eastern coasts of Britain.  According to Bertin Salnave, the orchestra performed “on the piers every Sunday.”

Created by American composer Will Marion Cook in 1918, the orchestra had scores of members, with numbers between 36 and 46 at any given time.  There were at least three female members (Evelyn (Mary) Luke, and sisters Angelina De Caillaux and Santos “Santita” Rivera) and the musicians were from all over the world, including Africa, America, the Caribbean, and Britain.  Caribbean and African contributions to early 20th century music are a little less documented so I wanted to include the places some of those members were from or had ties to – Antigua, Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Sierra Leone, South Africa, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and Trinidad.  There was also a member, bassist Pedro Vargas, who was either from the Dominican Republic or Dominica depending on the record. The full list of musicians who played with the orchestra between 1919 and 1922 is likely to number over 110 members.  More names might be found when Britain’s 1921 census is released in 2022. Members also changed frequently, especially after squabbles began in 1920 between Will Marion Cook and George William Lattimore over who owned the SSO.

Other members who died at sea included Sierra Leonian vocalist, pianist, and organist Frank Lacton.  His body was found on shore on October 18, 1921.  There were also European members of the orchestra, like trombonist John (Herbert) Greer who was born in Ireland and died in the Rowan disaster.  Banjoist Charles (Henry) Macdonald who had South African and English ancestry also died.

Members like Cyril Blake and his brother George (Lionel) “Happy” Blake who were born in Trinidad survived the Rowan disaster and appeared in the October 14 Survivors Sacred Concert.  Other survivors who appeared at the concert included Jamaican trumpeter Joe (Joseph I.) Smith, and Sierra Leonian born, Jamaican raised trumpeter and conductor Egbert Emmanuel Thompson.  Violinist Frank Essien, who had Ghanian and Polish ancestry and Rupert Gaskin also survived and took part in the Survivors sacred concert, but they both died from tuberculosis in 1923 and 1926 respectively.  Tympanist Frank (Obediah) Kennedy, who was born in Sierra Leone and Ghanian member William Martin Ofori were both injured, but survived and made an appearance at the concert as well.  Evelyn (Mary) Luke, née Evelyn Dove was another survivor of the tragedy and she was listed as Miss E. Winchester for her appearance at the concert. She would eventually substitute for Josephine Baker at the Casino de Paris.

 Evelyn Dove

The earliest major review in Europe came from the conductor of L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet.  According to him the SSO played arrangements that were, “Extremely difficult, they are equally admirable for their richness of invention, force of accent, and daring in novelty and the unexpected.”  While the orchestra is remembered as a jazz band, a lot of the music they played wasn’t jazz, but Tin Pan Alley blues and St Louis Blues, spirituals, classical music, minstrelsy, ragtime, and plantation songs.

The history of the orchestra (and other black musicians who came even before the Jazz Age) pre-dates what is usually taught about Black British history by decades.  There were Black Britons in London before the S.S. Windrush landed in 1948.  Members and the children they had in Britain had to face prejudices other black immigrants would endure years later.

It’s believed that the Southern Syncopated Orchestra never recorded any music, which in addition to the tragedy, is why the orchestra faded from memory.  As the SSO slowly broke up, the musicians who left looked for work in Britain and the rest of Europe, joining and forming other bands.  Many of the members continued to tour and perform around the world, and some settled down in Europe as either citizens or residents.

If you want to have a look at passport photos of jazz musicians, including some members of the SSO, you can look at them here and here on Flickr.

Further Reading
Chronology of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra: 1919-1922
The Evolution of Jazz in Britain: 1880-1935 by Catherine Parsonage
Excerpt from Bechet and Jazz Visit Europe, 1919, by Ernest-Alexandre Ansermet
The First Real Critical Discussion of Jazz by Ernest Ansermet
"S.S. Rowan - Apportioning Blame for Sinking - Judgement of Lord Anderson."  The Glasgow Herald 20 Apr. 1922
Southern Syncopated Orchestra: The Roster