A Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800’s

A book that I’d bought for my Regency research, only to find that it is all about America in the 1800’s. However – it’s none the less fascinating for that!

1. Bang-up – An overcoat

1842: A gentleman dressed in a dark colored fashionable bang-up with a tight-bodied coat, neck-cloth, breast pin, hair and whiskers to match. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, January 13 1842

“That gentlemanly looking man in the snuff-coloured bang-up: that’s Mayor Scott; he’s the very man.”

“How so?” cried a tall strapping fellow in in a white bang up. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, January 28 1842

Not sure if this coat pictured is a “bang-up” but I’m guessing it’s close.

2. Turkey: eaten throughout the century.

1800turkey1890: The turkey should be cooped up and fed sometime before Christmas. (Well, that would be useful..Erastes) Three days before it is slaughtered, it should have an English walnut forced down its throat three times a day, and a glass of sherry once a day.  The meat will be deliciously tender, and have a fine nutty flavor. Mrs Stephen J Field, Statesman’s Dishes and How to Cook them.

What surprises me about this, is that to import English walnuts and real sherry would make this a really expensive dish.  Apparently, the marinade had not yet caught on!

3. F.F.V. First Families of Virginia, of which many claimed to be members to gain special treatment, but eventually used in jest.

1850: He was the first of his race to acknowledge that he was not an FFV – Odd Leaves p178

1857: Mr Floyd, as everybody kows, as an FFV and the sould of honor accordingly. Harper’s Weekly.

1861: They must do better down in Virginia than they have done, or FFV., Instead of standing for First Families of Virginia, will get to mean the Fast Flying Virginians. Oregon Argus August 10.

Ah. Influence, it never changes…

4, Bloke Buzzer. A pickpocket who specializes in picking the pockets of men only.  (Moll buzzer being one that specializes in women only)1800pickpocket

5. Xs and Vs – Ten and Five dollar bills. Fives were also called V-spots.

1837:My wallet was distded with Vs and Xs to its utmost capacity. Knickerbocker Magazine. January 1837

6. Hard Times Tokens: a broad category that includes Civil War tokens (copperheads) Jackson cents, merchants’ tokens or storecards etc from around 1830-1845 and again  during the  American Civil War, from 1860-1865, by private individuals and busiensses to help make up for the severe coin shortage due to hoardings. Most tokens were about the size of a lardge cente (an oversixed  copper cent) and made of copper. They largely served as cents, although they legally called not be so called.

7. Brogans: heavy ankle-high work shoes, available ready-made and mass produced from the 1830s on. Slave brogans were purchased by the barrelful by Southern plantations.

1860s: Experience soon demonstrated that boots were not agreeable on a long march. They were heavy and irksome…good strong brogues or brogans, with broad bottoms and big, flat heels, succeeded the boots, and were found much more comfortable and agreeable, easier put on and off, and altogether more sensible. Carlton McCarthy, Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life, p20

8. Squaw Horse: A cowboy term for a useless horse. (hey! UNPC Cowboys!!)

9. lamp posts: Civil War soldiers described artillery shells in flight as flying lamp posts because to the naked eye they looked like elongated blurs.

Yeah. I don’t get it, either.

10. Pea-jacket: a Short, heavy, seaman’s jacket.  (that’s seaMAN’S). Also worn by boys from 1850 onwards.

This post has been brought to you by the useless information brigade!

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