Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Provenance, A George IV Ladies Box and Aunt Evelyn

A very special box arrived on Sunday. Researching the provenance of the family heirloom, dating back to George IV, opened up a very welcome family detective mystery. 

The ladies travelling box, containing a writing compartment, jewellery draw, and ink pots, has been handed down to me by my paternal grandmother. Before then it was in her mum's attic for years in the 1940s. She had been given it by her Aunt Evelyn (Georgiana Evelyn Mary Cancellor, born in Reading 1867), my three times great-aunt.

And thats where the mists of time fog over and the mystery begins. Who gave Aunt Evelyn the box? Who first had the box when it was made during the reign of King George IV (1820-1830)? And who is the illusive H.E.P. of the initials on the box? Watch this space while I get my Scooby-Doo gear on and phone Velma for some help! 

Read the original blog post on my Lifestyle and Beauty Blog at:

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Material Culture: Family History through Heirlooms, German Character Dolls and Great-Granny

'George', 20-inch Kammer & Reinhardt mold 100 Baby doll
German character doll

1909 market the 'most significant event' in the history of the German doll industry in the 20th century. It was the year that Kammer and Reinhardt launched their character dolls with bisque heads, and at around this time my paternal great-granny, born 25th February 1901, was given one. Hers was named George and is in the photos above. In April of that year, New York importing firm and distributor of German dolls Strobel and Wilken Co. ran its first adverts in Playthings magazine for the character dolls. The dolls were inspired by the Munich Art Dolls of Marion Kaulitz, which had hand-painted composition heads. Kammer and Reinhardt trademarked the term Charakterpuppe, which became used industry-wide. The Character Dolls were advertised as 'produced from life models' and were 'modeled from living subjects' by famous artists. With 'real child-like faces', in contrast to the traditional 'dolly faces' of the time. 

The time is also significant in the life of my great-granny, whose father left the country after her mum died of cancer in 1906. She was shipped between relatives and family friends with her two brothers for the rest of her childhood. She would later write a scathing memoir called 'Living With Aunts'. Heirlooms like this can bring to life genealogical research in a way that black and white records often cannot.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Moving On: Amateur Archaeology and Victorian Rubbish

Who says moving on, moving house or growing up has to be difficult? So it turns out the Victorians had a thing for turning the ends of their gardens into their own personal landfills, which is remarkably convenient for amateur archaeologists. Before I moved out of my Victorian house I had the opportunity to dig up this fascinating assortment of pottery and glasswear, which provides a great snapshot of the lives of the early residents of the house. My finds included a souvenir Eiffel Tower lemonade bottle from 1909! Now, packed up in plastic storage in my new house, the results of my expedition into amateur archaeology serves as a perfect souvenir of my old house.
Old rubbish really can be an untapped historical resource!