Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Furniture Catalogue, 3

Sorry I haven't posted a blog for a while. Our families have been visiting us so we've been busy rediscovering Colorado. That's what you do when company comes. You take them to see things that you think will impress them. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's not. Anyway we took our son to see the Royal Gorge and found out that he is still afraid of heights, and I took my granddaughters mountain climbing and it gave them altitude sickness. I hope that doesn't mean no one will ever come to see us again. 

I miss the kids but it is good to get back to writing about my grandmother's scrap book, The Furniture Catalogue. A little more about my Grandmother, Victoria May Rosser Paul. She was born on March 31, 1877, and named after the Queen of England at that time, Queen Victoria. Her father had left Georgia after the Civil War and was headed west to join his brother Ed in Texas. Grandmother was born along the way near the town of Pittsboro, in "Calhoun County, Mississippi, three miles from the yellow bushy swamp" - that's the way she said it. Grandmother's family never made it to Texas, but settled instead in Indian Territory.  

Grandmother came from a wealthy family, and she was very beautiful as a young woman. As a child I never thought of Grandmother as pretty or as fashion conscious, but she was. Here is the youngest picture I have of her:  

                                          Victoria May Rosser Paul

My mother said that Grandmother had some very fancy dresses in her armoire which she never wore. They were poor by that time so she had no place to wear her dresses, but she could still put pictures of pretty clothes in her scrapbook:

Here are three other clippings that illustrate Grandmother's interest in fashion. They concern a Parisian fashion designer named Jean Philippe Worth who owned an exclusive store in Paris. Here is a picture of him: 

                                             Jean Philippe Worth

and another of his wife:

                                              Mrs. Jean Philippe Worth

There is also a clipping with a picture of the Marquise de Manzanedo, who, according to the caption under the picture, wore only muslin dresses during the War of 1870, because Worth's was closed. From his picture, it looks like Jean Philippe was called into military service.

                                         Marquise de Manzanedo

The "War of 1870" was the Franco-Prussian war. At that time France was ruled by Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was first elected president and then made himself Emperor. He was the last monarch to rule France. The Germans won the war, and thereafter became united under the King of Prussia, Wilhelm I. It gives me a strange feeling to realized that although the Franco-Prussian War seems like ancient history to us now, it was a relatively recent event to my Grandmother.

Grandmother's family was French, and she was interested in all things French. My mother said that Grandmother taught her about French history as a child.
While most of the clippings in the scrap book are just pictures and poetry, there are a few concerning "current events." Here is an excerpt from a poem about the brutality of the Germans during WWI. Grandmother was partial to poetry:

The German Soldier's Prayer:

The German soldier fell upon his knees
And prayed; and as he prayed, his words were these:
"Oh God, our unconditional ally, Ruler and Kamerad, who from on high
Viewest with delight the progress of our arms,
The ruined villages and wasted farms.
The starving people we have taught to hate,
Children we murder, girls we violate,
Bless this poor instrument of thy great will;
Oh Heavenly Kaiser, teach me how to kill!

Now when WWII has grown dim in our memories, it's hard to imagine how strong was the hatred of Germany during the first world war. My mother told me that when she was little there was a violinist from Belgium who lived in Pauls Valley named Professor Bruin. He gave lessons to her older brother Willie. She said "he was a Asweet old man, and everyone respected him,@ but he was investigated by the government during WWI for possible ties to Germany. I don't know what harm he could have done in Pauls Valley regardless of his sympathies.

Grandmother was a volunteer with the Red Cross during WWI and there was apparently anti-Red Cross propaganda spread by the Kaiser. Here is a poem about that:

Who Knows?

Under this caption the Sangamon County (Illinois) Chapter has printed and circulated the following satirical reply to the German propaganda stories against the Red Cross:

"Absolute knowledge I have none.
But my aunt's washerwoman's sister's son
Heard a policeman on his beat
Say to a laborer on the street
That he had a letter just last week
Written in the finest Greek
From a Chinese coolie in Timbuctoo
Who said the Indians in Cuba knew
Who got it straight from a circus clown
That a man in the Klondike heard the news
From a gang of South American Jews
About somebody in Borneo
Who heard a man who claimed to know
Of a swell female society rake
Whose mother-in-law will undertake
To prove that her seventh husband's sister's niece
Has stated in a printed piece
That she has a son who knows a Zulu chief
Who knows that Red Cross funds are not used for relief."

Finally there's a newspaper clipping about the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a contemporary of my grandmother. He was apparently quite an outdoorsman. The article is from Canada:

Conan Doyle on Hunting Trip

Edmonton, Alta., June 17. (It doesn't give the year) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the "Sherlock Holmes" adventures, who is accompanied by Lady Doyle, is camping in the Yellowhead Pass of the Canadian Rockies, west of here, the guest of Colonel S. Maynard Rogers, superintendant of the new national park, will attempt to scale Mt. Robson, 17576 feet above sea level, before returning to England, early in July.

He will also join Colonel Rogers and party on a big game expedition outside the reserve, making part of the trip in a canoe.

Although the author of the article got the elevation wrong - Mt. Robson is actually 12,972 ft. above sea level - climbing it is an impressive feat. You have to use special equipment to scale the cliffs, and even now, only about 10% of attempts are successful. Conan Doyle must have been quite athletic.   

                                                    Mt. Robson

The news recently carried the story that Conan Doyle was present at the first Olympic games held in England in 1908, when the current distance for the marathon was set. The winner of the race that day, Dorando Pietri, was so exhausted at the end that he fell five times during the last 350 meters and was helped back onto his feet by spectators. For that he was disqualified, and the medal was given to an American, Johnny Hayes. Conan Doyle, who was there as a reporter - he accepted the assignment because it would give him a better seat - helped raise money to help Pietri start a bakery in his native Italy, and Queen Alexandra presented him with a gilded silver cup to compensate for his Herculean effort. Doyle wrote:

"The Italian's great performance can never be effaced from our record of sport, be the decision of the judges what it may."