Saturday 13 April 2024

Spring and a young man's thoughts turn to...


Courtesy of  The History Wrangler on FB

Greetings, here’s a little Alberta history for you! The first car in Alberta, also known as the ‘Horseless Carriage’ was purchased in August 1903 by Billy Cochrane, a British cattle rancher. Three years later, in 1906, he and Mr White made the first Calgary to Edmonton trip when there was a total of 41 licences cars in the province. Cheers! 🇨🇦 


Friday 22 March 2024

March Fashion Friday

 This month we have an interesting book found at the Internet Archive.

by De Valcourt, Robert
Publication date 1866 
"If a woman fancies that she looks better or
feels better in men's clothes, there is no reason
why she may not indulge in so harmless a fancy. It
is done freely and frequently on the continent of
Europe. The author of Consuelo, for years, wore
a masculine dress in the streets and cafes of Paris,
whenever she chose to do so. Miss Weber, an ex-
cellent and highly accomplished woman, in Belgium,
in all societies wears no other. Some American
ladies of late have done the same, in defiance of the
laws. We do not see that any moral or proper
legal question is involved in this ; or, if the dress is
neat and becoming, convenient to the wearer, and
pleasant to others, that it is a breach of good man-
ners. It is a simple question of good and evil. If
the amount of happiness, immediate or ultimate, is
increased by any costume, it is right to wear it."

The Publishers  of  the  "Illustrated
Book  of  Manners  "  have  much  satis-
faction in  offering  the  following  pages
to  the  public  inspection.

They  ask  more  than  a  cursory
glance  at  head  lines  and  engravings;
for  it  is  a  work  of  a  higher  use  and  greater  importance
than  any  one  would  be  likely  to  suspect,  from  a  slight
and  superficial  examination.

It  treats  of  a  subject  of  universal  interest  and  utility.
Every  man,  woman  and  child,  ought  to  know  how  to
dress,  act,  converse  and  respond  to  the  varied  demands
of  our  social  relations,  in  the  best  possible  manner.  Our
whole  life  and  society  needs  re-forming,  educating,  re-
fining, and  polishing,  to  bring  out  its  highest  use  and

Life  is  made  up  of  little  things;  little  acts,  little
courtesies,  little  enjoyments.  He  who  has  most  of  these,
gives  most  pleasure  to  others,  and  secures  most  happiness
to  himself.

Do  not  say,  these  things  are  trifles,  and  of  no  import-
ance.  It  is  worth  every  man's  study  and  effort  to  be  a
gentleman;  and  every  woman  should  try  to  be  a  lady,
particularly  in  a  country  where  public  gallantry  accords
to  every  one  that  designation.  The  many  things  which
combine  to  form  the  manners  and  guide  the  deportment
of  the  lady  and  gentleman,  greatly  increase  the  sum  of
human  happiness.

The  author  of  this  work  has  earnestly  endeavored  to
make  it  a  great  public  teacher,  and  reformer,  in  all  the
outward  decencies,  proprieties,  graces,  and  accomplish-
ments, which  fit  men  and  women  for  the  enjoyment  of
social  life;  and  as  society  is  a  natural  want  of  humanity,
and  the  source  of  all  his  most  exquisite  pleasures,  sure-
ly it  is  right  that  he  should  carefully  avoid  every  thing
that  will  interfere  with  social  happiness,  and  eagerly
cultivate  every  talent  and  accomplishment,  that  will
enhance  its  pleasures.

The  illustrations  have  been  selected  from  the  works  of
various  artists;  and  are  intended  to  contrast  grac*e  and
elegance,  with  awkwardness  and  deformity.  In  many
cases,  the  advice  of  the  text  is  enforced  by  a  picture  in
ludicrous  contrast;  and  the  intention  of  the  engravings
can  only  be  understood  by  the  careful  reader.  It  would
have  been  easy  to  fill  a  book  with  beautiful  designs,  but
these  would  not  have  taught  the  lessons  of  life,  which
it  was  our  intention  to  impress  vividly  on  the  mind  of
the  reader.

This  book  is  intended  to  be  read,  and  even  carefully
studied,  in  course,  from  the  first  chapter  to  the  last.
Some  chapters  may  be  more  worthful  than  others,  but
each  one  contains  its  Life  Lesson,  and  all  combine  in  one
harmonious  whole,  in  their  influence  upon  the  character
and  actions.  The  author  has  endeavored,  everywhere,
"  To  make  the  useful  pleasant,  and  the  pleasant  useful."

Tuesday 5 March 2024

March Book Tuesday

This month we highlight a fascinating look into Victorian history through a collection of fabric samples kept by a Victorian Lady.

H/T Penny Young on the Victorian/Edwardian Aficionados group on Facebook.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes: Secrets from a Victorian Woman's Wardrobe
by Kate Strasdin

The hidden fabric of a Victorian woman's life - from family and friends to industry and Empire - told through her unique textile scrapbook.

The Times

'The story of a singular woman... Kate Strasdin's forensic detective work has finally let Mrs Sykes - and her book - speak again' JUDITH FLANDERS

In 1838, a young woman was given a diary on her wedding day. Collecting snippets of fabric from a range of garments she carefully annotated each one, creating a unique record of her life and times. Her name was Mrs Anne Sykes.

Nearly two hundred years later, the diary fell into the hands of Kate Strasdin, a fashion historian and museum curator. Strasdin spent the next six years unravelling the secrets contained within the album's pages.

Piece by piece, she charts Anne's journey from the mills of Lancashire to the port of Singapore before tracing her return to England in later years. Fragments of cloth become windows into Victorian life: pirates in Borneo, the complicated etiquette of mourning, poisonous dyes, the British Empire in full swing, rioting over working conditions and the terrible human cost of Britain's cotton industry.

This is life writing that celebrates ordinary people: the hidden figures, the participants in everyday life. Through the evidence of waistcoats, ball gowns and mourning outfits, Strasdin lays bare the whole of human experience in the most intimate of mediums: the clothes we choose to wear.

'An extraordinarily rich record of middle-class Victorian life.. [a] fascinating book' Guardian


Friday 23 February 2024

February Fashion Friday

 This month we have some good fashion tips from the Moose Jaw Times of 1897.

Found at the Time Travellers Rabbit Hole on FB which is definitely worth checking out!

Oh and beware that "French effect" <shudder>.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Thursday 22 February 2024

Book Review and Recipe Test Feb 2024

 Here is another fine book review and recipe test from VSA member Marian Gibbard.

Tasty Precious!
The Victorian Society of Alberta

Book Review with Bonus Recipe Test

Title: How to Cook the Victorian Way with Mrs Crocombe
by Annie Gray and Andrew Hamm
Published:    2020

About the Book:
This is the companion book to the English Heritage YouTube series, The Victorian Way, and invites you further into Mrs Crocombe’s kitchen, exploring the culinary story of the real Avis Crocombe, head cook at Audley End in the 1880’s.  This is not just a collection of recipes and beautifully photographed food - it also presents the story of how Mrs Crocombe’s original kitchen notebook was rediscovered and returned to Audley End, some history of the site and fascinating social and practical information about the dishes and the ingredients used to prepare them.

The majority of the recipes presented are slightly modernised versions of recipes found in Mrs Crocombe’s notebook, with the addition of some additional period recipes that she would almost certainly also have prepared. All of the recipes include both mass (grams and ounces) and volume (cups) measurements, making it much easier for international audiences. Some of the recipes are repeats of those presented in the YouTube series, with minor variations and more detail in the cooking and preparation instructions.

The full text of Mrs Crocombe’s manuscript is transcribed as the final chapter of the book.

This is an excellent book - engaging, informative, lovely photography, and well presented recipes. I would recommend both the book and the YouTube series for anyone interested in Victorian country house cooking and culture.

Amazon link:

Recipe Trial:

For this review, I tried the ‘Swiss Baskets’ recipe (page 103 in the book, 25 December 2020 episode of the YouTube series).  The recipe is quite straightforward - basically miniature pound cakes made with lemon zest which are then garnished in an interesting manner.

I made a few minor adjustments due to what I had on hand; rose hip rather than red currant jelly, drained maraschino rather than candied cherries, omitted the Angelica stem garnishes, and used a NordicWare Multi Mini Bundt pan which makes six 0.3L cakes rather than individual dariole moulds. Using the Bundt pan meant that I didn’t have to cut a hole in the centre of the cakes myself. Heating the jelly in the microwave for about 30 seconds made it much easier to brush onto the cakes. Spooning the chopped pistachios over the cake surface produced the same effect as rolling them in the nuts and seemed simpler given both the shape of my cakes and the fact that two of them had broken when I was unmoulding them.

I then placed the cakes on individual serving plates and set them aside until just before serving time when the centres were filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream and garnished with a well drained maraschino cherry.

The end result was a delicious and attractive dessert that we agreed would be well suited to a special occasion dinner or tea time.  The preparation effort and time requirements were not onerous, and much of it could be done in advance. Next time, I would make smaller individual servings, or plan for the cakes to be shared - while not excessively rich, 1/6 of the recipe is still a large serving and could easily have been divided between two or more people.

In terms of taste and texture, these are most like a dense, old-fashioned lemon pound cake. The jelly adds a slight tartness and flavour burst, while chopped pistachios provide additional texture, colour and a sweet nutty flavour.  I think any slightly tart jelly could be used - apricot will likely be the next one I try.  The suggestion of using lemon curd to replace the whipped cream also generated much interest.

Overall, I think this is a crowd pleasing taste and presentation, easily modified to suit individual preferences or ingredients on hand, and one that has an excellent effort to wow-factor ratio.  Definitely something that I will make again.


Mrs Crocombe's playlist on YouTube:

Learn more about Audley End:

English Heritage’s Victorian England main page:

English Heritage’s Victorian recipe page:

Thursday 1 February 2024

February Book Tuesday er Thursday

 With Valentines Day quickly approaching this month's Book Tuesday (oops actually Thursday) has a special treat from 1900.

This marvellous collection of etiquette tips, poems, suggestions, manners, etc is a must have for anyone launching on the adventure of getting hitched, or not.

Available at the Internet Archive as a PDF file.


The Victorian Society of Alberta

The modern art of making love 
A complete manual of etiquette, love, courtship and matrimony
by James S. Wilson 1900


The desire to be married,— a desire from which we cannot rid ourselves, but nearly always follow, is so strongly imbued with our natural instincts, that we can surely doubt whether any man or woman on reaching maturity has ever been exempt from the feeling.
You will find it a strong characteristic which is held sacrea, and solemnized in the most serious manner by many of the wild and savage tribes of Africa. A great many of the different tribes of Indians within our own borders hold the rites of marriage more sacred and celebrate them more solemnly than do some of our civilized brethren.
Of all the institutions of the world, matrimony is the most important. On it the human race depends for perpetuation. It alone stands to-day with the least changes, from the beginning of time. Good marriages, happy marriages, ideal marriages will always be made. Indifferent marriages, unhappy marriages, bad marriages will always be made. But, by exercise of common sense, and even the discretion which we show in trivial matters, the latter kind of marriages need never exist.
If the advice given in "Selecting a Husband," and "Selecting a Wife:'* to be found in this little book, is closely followed there never need be unhappy marriages through fault of not understanding each other's charaters and tempers.



Friday 19 January 2024

January Fashion Friday

We hope everyone had a great New Years!
For this month's Fashion Friday we a have video by Prior Attire of getting dressed in a Second Bustle era dress. 

Note she is doing it all herself no maid required, upper middle and upper class ladies would have maids of course, but most modern ladies don't!

Here is a picture of Agnes Macdonald and John A. on their first trip across Canada on the new CPR showing Mrs Macdonald in such a dress.

The Victorian Society of Alberta









Watch the video at YouTube by clicking the title below.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

January ICE Book Tuesday

 Here is a special "Polar Vortex" supplementary Book Tuesday post from VSA member Marian Gibbard.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The Beautiful Snow: The Ingalls Family, the Railroads, and the Hard Winter of 1880-1881

by Cindy Wilson, 2020

Author’s website with additional background information:

Readers familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about her life as a settler in the 1880’s American West will recall the events of the cold, hard winter described in The Long Winter.  But how many of the events of the novel can be backed up with verifiable facts? How closely does the fictionalised winter of 1880-1881 align with actual historical, first hand data and accounts of life around the town of De Smet?

Cindy Wilson’s book, ‘The Beautiful Snow’, seeks out the answers to those questions utilizing local newspapers, railway archives and other primary sources.  The result is a fascinating and educational window into six months of (mostly winter) life for white settlers in what was then known as the Dakota Territory.

The book takes us through winter of October 1880 to April 1881 month by month, chronicling changes in the weather, events in various towns, and attempts by the various rail companies to continue with ‘business as usual’ or adapt to the changing conditions.  Excerpts from local newspapers, railway records, personal letters and other sources provide first hand accounts of the struggles and triumphs as people attempted coped with the uncooperative weather.

Supply chain issues, now so familiar to us in these recent times, caused just as much frustration and uncertainty then.  Communications suffered also, as the newspapers were unable to print and telegraph lines failed.  Rumours and speculation abounded, alternately stirred and discounted by the newspapers.  Travel was restricted, and at times dangerous, and yet people travelled anyways.  

There are multiple areas of interest covered by this book - the expansion of railways on the American prairies; winter frontier life and culture; the role of newspapers in settlement and boosterism; market forces, merchandising and the economy of the American West in the 1880’s; as well as the gaps and adjustments found between a fictionalised story and actual lived experience of a series of verifiable events.

I have found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.  It is not totally necessary to have read ‘The Long Winter’ by Laura Ingalls Wilder before reading ‘The Beautiful Snow’  but it would be helpful to at least be reasonably familiar with the events and characters.  Additional supporting information including more maps, the full text of some newspaper articles, relevant website links, and material for a book club study is found on the author’s website at

Additional reading:

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Amazon link:

Tuesday 2 January 2024

January Book Tuesday

 We hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years!

For the first Book Tuesday of 2024 we have a collection of love letters from the 1880s.
Not just anyone's love letters but those between Sam Steele, Superintendent in the North-West Mounted Police at the time, and his fiancee, soon to be wife, Marie de Lotbinière Harwood.

They had met in the summer of 1888 following his return to Fort Macleod from the Kootenay Valley. They fell in love and became engaged in October. Harwood came from a highly respected Quebec political and business family that could trace its roots to seigneurial families of New France; in December, she returned to Vaudreuil, QC to prepare for their marriage.

The book is the correspondence of the two betrothed between Oct 1888 and June 1889.
A fascinating look at the West from opposite sides of the country. 

Talk about long distance relationships.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The Engagement Letters of Marie Harwood and Sam Steele,
Oct 1888-June 1889

Edited by Connor J. Thompson
Published by the Historical Society of Alberta, 2023

In this book, Connor Thompson has transcribed, edited, and introduced the first months of their correspondence. The letters offer insight into the personal side of Sam Steele. Readers will be immersed in their expressions of love and affection. And as Steele and Harwood prepare for their marriage and future life at Fort Macleod, they discuss their families, their family business interests, politics and religious considerations, the social and political life within the NWMP, and the life and society of Fort Macleod, their intended home. Steele writes about the dances, dinner parties, social activities, and gossip at Fort Macleod. Harwood talks about her family’s perspectives on the NWMP, on her perception of life at Fort Macleod, and on their potential life together. At the same time, they discuss the potential for promotion with the NWMP, the political issues of the era such as the Jesuit Estates controversy, and business opportunities.

The collection will be invaluable to researchers, but it is also exciting and entertaining to just read these intimate, private, and enlightening letters.