The tale of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith is well known all over the world. The story of the native American woman, who saves the life of an English settler in Jamestown, Viriginia, still intrigues people after over 400 years.
Pocahontas was born in around 1595 as a daughter of Wahunseneca, the Chief of the Powhatans. The Powhatan had a population of about 25,000 and included over thirty tribes at that time. Women and men had seperate tasks in the Powhatan society, but both were equally important. Women were responsible for building houses, collecting water, farming, cooking and manufacturing everyting needed in and round the house. Also, they collected edible plants. Men were mainly responsible for hunting.
The English landed in Virginia in May, 1607 and called their settlement Jamestown. The new settlers and the native Powhatan didn't encounter before the winter of that year. But when Captain John Smith went on an exploration, he was captured by a hunting party of Powhatans. We don't know for sure what happened there - in Smith's first account of the event, written in 1608, he does not meet Pocahontas there, but in a letter he writes to Queen Anne in 1616, he writes that Pocathontas dramatically and selflessly saved him from being executed in a large feast. Historians suggest that the Powhatan never really wanted to execute Smith, and that he may have misunderstood what was happening to him. It is possible Smith later exaggerated the story towards Queen Anne to impress her.
Though not completely extinct (there are still lamplighters in London and Wroclaw), lamplighter is a typical profession of the past.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, city streets are illuminated. Before that, cities were completely dark – and only those who could afford a servant or a link boy could take a night walk safely. Although is not known for sure if the word's first public gas light got into operation in London or in Germany, the 1st of April, 1814, is generally regarded as the "birth date" of gas lighting. On that day, the old oil lamps around the St. Margaret's Chruch in London-Westminster were replaced by modern gas lamps. Following London, streets all over the world lit up very quickly.
Every single lamp had to be lit and put out by hand. As cities and villages got more laterns, more and more lamplighters were employed - each responsible for a certain area. The used a wooden ladder to climb up and open the glass doors of a latern. (Ever noticed a horizonal bar just below the lamp? That was for the ladder to lean against.) Then they used a long pole with a wick and a small hook attached to it to lit respectively to put out the flame.
Other duties of the lamplighters were to control and renew the candles and the oil when necessary, and as a result of their job, they often acted as watchmen.
During my research on this posts I found this curious bicycle you can see above, apparently used by lamplighters to ride from one latern to another. If they managed to balance 2 meter above the ground, that is.
By the way, I love that older job titles just described what the person did. No modality managers, environmental maintenance officers or whatsoever back in the days.
Being a pirate was not only men’s business. There were quite some ladies infesting the seas, more than we could probably guess. Two of them are very well known for their ruthlessness, however, and their names were Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Anne Bonny (1700) was born an illegitimate child of an Irish lawyer and his house maid. Her father was too ashamed of misstep to show himself openly with his daughter, but had grown fond of the girl. Therefore, he dressed her as a boy and told people she was the son of a relative he was taking care of. When Anne grew older, the family moved to South Carolina. What was the reason for their move is not known, it may very well be that the little secret was unveiled and the family wanted to escape rumors.
When Anne was about 18, she fell in love with a poor sailor named James Bonny, whom she married. The couple moved to New Providence in the Bahamas, where they lived in a pirates' lair. Anne enjoyed her life in between of seamen and was said to have an affair with pirate captain John Rackham, also known as “Calico Jack”. In 1718, Bahamas governor Rogers offered the Kings pardon to any pirate, and James turned informant. Anne was disgusted by this cowardly move and sailed off with her lover, Jack Rackham.
Chapbooks were small booklets that were sold by travelling peddlers or “chapmen” from the 17th to the 19th centuries. They were usually printed on a single sheet folded into small books of 8, 12, 16 or 24 pages and often illustrated with crude woodcuts.
The paper quality was rather bad, the type was often broken and it was no exception when the illustrations had no relation to the text. Therefore, the chapbooks were very cheap (costing one penny or less). Since printing matter was expensive in the 17th - 19th centuries, the target group of chapbooks, the working class people, usually didn’t care much for the poor quality – they were happy enough to be able to buy any amusement they could get their hands on.
The chapbooks covered a broad range of subjects – from manuals to romances, from crime stories to poems and from nursery rhymes to biographies of famous people. Few publishers created books especially for children.
The popularity of the folded books declined from the 1860s onwards. In that time, the offer of affordable printed material had expanded extremely. The chapbooks were not the sole option anymore and lost their popularity.
In the 19th century, books were still very expensive and a privilege only the mid- and upper classes could afford. But there were alternatives for the working class. Penny dreadfuls (originally called penny bloods ) were immensely popular in the United Kingdom that were first published in the 1830s. They were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and typically were eight pages. The text was divided in two columns and often accompanied by illustrations. The penny dreadfuls were serial literature, as it was common in that time (Charles Dickens, for example, published his books on serial basis as well, but the magazines he wrote for were much more expensive), Pages were filled, which meant it often happened that the last page ended with a half-sentence - and the reader had to wait a week to be able to continue reading.
The name of these prints is self-explaining: they cost a penny, and typically had sensational topics such as crime, ghosts of the supernatural. Popular stories that first appeared as a penny dreadful were Sweeney Todd or Varney the Vampire. The most popular series was written by George W. M. Reynolds, who drew his inspiration from the London slums. His Mysteries of London took a time span of 12 subsequent years; 624 numbers were published, selling up to 250,000 copies a week.
See more at British Library.
From the industrial revolution until the 1920s, British people paid "knocker ups" to wake them. These were a common sight in places where people worked in shifts or at unusual times: when the own sense of time was overstrained to rouse by themselves.
When the profession just began to evolve, knocker-ups used to rap or ring at the doors of customers. But neighbors complained – they were aroused unwantedly!
To avoid this kind of disturbance, knocker ups then started using a long stick to tap on their clients' bedroom windows: loudly enough to wake those who paid them, but silently enough for the people living nearby to stay asleep.
An interview with a female knocker up appeared in The Huron Expositor May 22, 1978. She tells she earned 30 to 35 shillings a week by serving around 30 houses or more a day.
As Mrs. Waters explains, knocker ups were also employed by people who did own an alarm clock – but just like today, people got used to the sound of it and either slept through it or just switched it off and continued sleeping.
Bethlem Royal Hospital, better known as Bedlam, is universally known as the most dreadful mental asylum you can end up in. At the same time, it was the world's first hospital for the mentally ill. Time to dive into the story of this famous, yet infamous, psychiatric institution.
From Bethlem to Bedlam
The institution was grounded in 1247 as a priory for the New Order of St. Mary of Bethlehem in the city London. It originally was intended as a place for the collection of alms to support the Holy Crusades, but benevolent monks would also provide housing for the poor and house the bishop, canons and brothers of Bethlehem if they visited. The priory so turned into a hospital in its British meaning: "an institution supported by charity or taxes for the care of the needy". In the centuries that followed, the hospital slowly separated from the Order of Bethlehem. King Edward III took control over the house in the 1370s. From that moment on, the hospital lost its religious bindings, and the managers were secularized crown appointees - the master nor the inmates wore the symbolic star of Bethlehem. In 1547, Bethlem was still in possession of the crown, but its administration was granted to the city of London. It is unsure when Bethlem began to specialize in the cure of the insane, but it is generally accepted that mentally ill resided in the house from 1377 on. From then on, Bethlem gradually converted from a general hospital to a specialized institution for the insane in 1460 - Bedlam was born.