25 April 2013

Curiouser and curiouser!

I'm on a roll this week.

Through the grace of another blogger, The Costumer's Closet, we now have access to Harper Bazaar magazine's treasure trove of past issues. And I mean past issues as in from 1867 to 1900. Digitized. The back issues are from the Cornell University's Mann Library collection. The website is called the Home Economics Archives.  Hearth - a collection devoted to "preserving the Core historical literature of home economics before 1950. The digitization was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2001-2003. You can see them here:


So, I immediately thought of my great grandmother Minnie Mailman Mack, whom I really only know by name and date and a few records. Once again, I really wish that I a) found my passion for genealogy much earlier in my life; b) had been more interested in history when I was in school; c) paid closer attention to my surroundings when I did have a chance to visit her hometown in Nova Scotia; and finally, d) got to know my Mack family relatives that were still living when I was younger. Luckily, I can make the most of what is available now and trust that in the future more resources will be available.

For now I have to imagine what Minnie was like. And today I received a wonderful gift in my blog reader in the form of Harper's Bazaar digitized magazines. I know that Minnie arrived with my grandfather and his siblings in Boston on May 6th, 1896 on the steamship "Boston".

I know that Harper's Bazaar, being a magazine for fashion and fashionableness (yes, well, it should be a word) was probably not the real world that Minnie and her children were stepped off the boat and onto firm ground into. It probably had some gems of value though, so I looked at the May 2, 1896 issue. Imagine - looking at the pages of a magazine that was published the very week that my great-grandmother arrived!

[Well the whole process has a lot of magic in it, but let's ignore the machinations for a bit].

I'm pretty confident that Minnie was not wearing the same kind of clothing that is on the cover. All the same, probably trying to make a good impression on her new host country, she was probably wearing her good outfit. I didn't stop to read the articles - a very bad habit of mine - but did go straight to the advertising pages to see what the masses were being lured into purchasing to make their skin soft, and to look fashionable.

Ivory soap! And a host of other "beauty" products. And bicycles. Big hats are in. Black is the new black. Extract of beef, Eye Water and Vin Mariani for the health. Waltham watches to keep time with. Van Camp's Boston Baked Pork and Beans made in Indianapolis, Indiana, for heaven's sake. Breakfast Cocoa from Walter Baker and Co. from Dorchester, Mass.

I'm thinking I will be spending a lot of time with Harper's Bazaar trying to construct the world as Minnie knew it. Do you know any other periodical that was published around this time in Boston?

I'd love to know about it.

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