tv Cosmetics of Early America CSPAN April 14, 2017 10:16pm-11:08pm EDT
what it was like to live in 18th century america and the world those people knew and the world that the revolution built. >> and then at 8:00 on the presidency, historians discuss the relationship between alexander hamilton and george washington. >> he is a horse whisperer. he himself is a person of volcanic temperament but he learns early on to control himself. he learns self-mastery he is this horse whisperer who calms the very high strung and very skittish and very fast hamilton and hamilton, when washington aren't around, gets into trouble. >> go to c-span.org. american history tv on c-span 3 continues with historian kate cannonond female beauty standards of the late 18th and early 19th century.
she talked about the ingredients of cosmetics, including toxins such as lead, mercury, acid and arsenic and the sideesques on women. from the daughters of the american revolution museum in washington, d.c., this is 50 minutes. >> we're going to have some fun today. i want to first introduce what we're going to be talking about. so the scope of my research here has been the ort of cosmetics and beauty care products that americans and of european decent were using in the 18th and early 19th century. so that is -- that's -- with any sort of research you have to be specific so i'm talking about the beauty standards present in western europe and in american of europe an decent. so if you have researched cosmetics of other cultures, i
would be delighted to hear your lecture. so we're going to be going in reverse order from the title. starting with what was beautiful at the time. so that is what the look that you're going for. now, in the -- a quick note on sources. it could be a little tricky to find information. so we've got -- we have portraits so you could see what people looked like or what they at least what they had their portraits painted at, as far as written material goes, it is a little tricky. because these things weren't really being produced commercially at the time. not yet. this is the 1700s. and so they tended to be hand-written recipes in people's homes. you sometimes find them slipped into cook books or will have miscellaneous stuff at the end.
there are a couple of books published at the time that really focused on these sorts of recipes. so it does require a little bit of detective work. but one of the sources ab decker or the art of preserving beauty from 1756 contained a fictional and perfectly beautiful woman. a description of this woman. so it is pretty well illustrated in this portrait, it is a detail of a portrait of queen charlotte of england. so charlotte here has very pale skin. that was the ideal for western europe and in america at the time. her skin is not just pale, it is hard to -- you can't tell in this picture, but the eidea was for glossy skin. there are recipes for a varnish
for the face or to give the face a luster. so whereas today everyone is like, no, get rid of all that oil, you can't have any shine. that was not true at the time. you wanted your face to be a little shiny. so she also has rosie lips an cheeks. that was very much an ideal. and sher hair in contrast to her skin, the eidea for hair was to be matte and not glossy. today you see shampoo commercials and she tosses her head and there is a light shimmering across the hair and they went in a for matte hair in the 1700s, so it is reversed. and so her hair is most likely powdered in this portrait. the powders were starch-based, most of them. sometimes they were colored.
you could -- for gray, like this, you could use wood ashes, for flax hair if you want to be blond, add yellow oaker. or one source said it may be tinged any color according to your fancy. and i've seen references to blue and pink. so, they are not trying to hide the fact that this is po-- powdr hair. it is supposed to look like this. if you don't want to powder your hair, if you would rather dye it in instead, the dye colors that you tend to see are black, brown, and gold. no red heads, sorry, that was not in vogue at the time. so moving on to her teeth, they aren't quite showing up, but the pearls there are a nis illustration. so the idea was to have white and perfect and nice smelling teeth.
that was the ideal. the sheer number of remedies against aching teeth, darkened teeth, teeth that had fallen out, et cetera, bad breath, plus the skeletal remains of the people of this time indicate that they usually had bad teeth. but they didn't want it. they knew this is bad. we would much rather have nice looking teeth. so that is straying a little bit into hygiene and not so much into cosmetics so i won't dwell on it. but that was the ideal. and on the same note, people wanted to smell nice. the -- again, this is a little bit of hygiene, but for cosmetics use, they had perfumes to try to cover up any odor. and they did wash. i would like to disspell that myth. it is not like nobody bathed. the idea was to smell nice. whether that -- whether what they considered smelling nice is
the same as what we in the modern day considering smelling nice, we'll never know because we can't travel back in time. i figure it is probably similar to the way if you travel to a different country, these days you may notice that they have different hygiene practices that you do one way or the other. and so my guess is that how it was at the time. that there was a standard of hygiene and smelling nice at the time, which may be different from what it currently is. but there are plenty of perfume bottles that exist to -- to support this fact. so these are two in the museum collection. the one on the left is glass and the one on the right is metal coated with enamel. they both date to the late 18th century. so, that is the look you're going for. so then the question is, who
exactly is wearing these and the -- and to what extent. and so that depends very much on who and where you were. so we have a continuum here. let's start on the left. the europeanaristock rassy is one end of the spectrum. these are all details. so she's got some really exaggerated cosmetics going on. she's not trying to hide the fact at all. that she has got rouge in the middle of her cheek and she has got hair powder and something on her lips there, she's got the works. so then to the middle of the spectrum there, that is english. so in england, their looking for the same sort of ideal, but it kind of toned down a little bit. you could still tell she's got her hair is powdered.
she's got rouge in the middle of her cheeks and this is fun, so modern day makeup, if anyone here is wearing blush, you probably got it up on your cheekbones. so in the 18th century, they put it right in the middle of the cheeks. other a big circle, like on the left or the upside down triangle shape like a yield sign in the -- which i love the profile, because you could really see that in the one in the middle. so then sliding back to the other end of the spectrum here is a woman in america and she -- she represents the most natural look of any of them. european visitors to america commented that the women just don't wear a lot of cosmetics around here. there is not to say that they didn't wear any at all, but they went in more for the natural look than the european look.
either on continental europe or in england. this is the whole -- the whole portrait that goes along with the -- with them. so if you want to see the context. i love her hair on the left there. it is quite something. so, that is the 1700s. 18th century. by the time the 19th century came along, the more natural look is definitely in. and that's not just in america, but in europe as well. so these are two portraits in the dr museum collection and you could tell, they do have rosie cheeks and rosys lips. they still have those going on. they have the pale skin. their fashionable brown hair. but the -- it is a little harder to tell if they are actually wearing cosmetics. they could be. but they've definitely got it --
if they are it is definitely toned down. and so it looks fairly natural. the main difference in the ideal form of beauty from the 1700s to the 1800s was that the powdered hair is no longer in. you still do see recipes for hair powder in the 1800s, but it doesn't have any color in it. it has -- it is just scented. like the previous entry could have scented hair powder, but it is just scented usually and so you never really see portraits of people with powdered hair, obviously powdered hair. so it is just for scent. think of it as like a dry shampoo, a little bit. so, to get these looks, people are using different tools. usually they don't survive, sadly. and neither do the original preparations. but portraits do. and here you see a madam putting
on her makeup in the morning. so she's got -- there is a cape around her shoulders to keep powders off of her clothes. and she's holding a square box with what looks like rouge in it and a nice little brush here. probably a camel hair brush. i've seen written references to camel hair brushes being used and then likewise reference to swan down puffs were a big -- a key item and so she's got one right down here in the corner. sometimes some of the tools do survive. i mostly talking about cosmetic use in ladies. but this is a gentleman's shaving kit in the dr museum collection. it has this little shaving brush down here that has lost all of
its bristles but it has a couple of razors in it and it is a shaving kit travel case from about the early 1800s. we also have a lady's combination lap desk and vanity. circa 1820. and so it is a lap desk, which you may be familiar with. but then it opens up and it has all of your little powders and potions and space for some scissors, for the hard-working lady on the go. so that is the look that you were going for at the time. and some of the ways that you could get that look, let's delve into the -- some of the fun stuff. so -- so what do i mean by bad versus good. so i -- the way i have grouped this, bad refers to things that
were morally unacceptable, and also things that were toxic. that you would be using. those two categories overlap somewhat but not totally. some of the things that were morally frowned upon don't hurt you and some of the -- some of them do and some of the things morally acceptable were fine and then some would kill you. so, this is -- so just keep in mind there is a little overlap here. so i'll start with the moral acceptability. now, what we call makeup today, they would call paint. there is a couple different terms. there is paint and then cosmetics. we'll come to cosmetics later. they weren't 100% consistent in the termainology and in general paint meant something bad. it is something that you are externally putting on your body that is going to stay there and
change the way you look. so like rouge, colored lip gloss, white -- like a skin whitener that you put on. those are all paints and those were generally frowned upon. somewhat in the 18th century, although they were more accepting of cosmetics use, of paints, again depending on who you were. the europeanaristock rassy was like, what is wrong with paints. theses are great. load them on. but by the 19th sscentury, ther was the idea it is not morally acceptable to change your appearance in any way like that. so it -- as it with everything, it changes over time and over geographic area. so there were -- there were some fantastic written quotes that
you could find against the use of paints. one of my favorites concerns, business oxide. so that is a white material that you would put on your face so that -- like you would use foundation today, but it is white. it is not like tinged to try to match your skin tone. so it is great. it is less toxic than lead. so that is nice. still not great. i wouldn't recommend that gow a -- that gow and use it. but it has a cute trick where if it is exposed to sulfur -- like sulfur gas, such as might be put out by a coal fire, it turns black. so there were all of these great warning tales to young ladies, usually featuring as its prime
protagonist/antagonist, who is a beauty who is then exposed as a cosmetics user. it is user paint when she is exposed to these fumes and then her face turns black. so one of them said it is from 1829, every person was of course alarmed by the sudden chemical change. but the lecture explaining the cause of the phenomenon and the lady received no further injuries then a practical lesson to rely more upon natural than artificial beauty in the future. so, that was an american source. another american source from 1833 warns us, the polish them, the tortoise shell combs by rubbing them with dry rouge matter but sifted magnesia does just as well and had rouge and perhaps they would by mistake put it upon their cheeks and instead of their combs and there
by spoil their complexion. even know the natural look is in, women are still using this stuff. otherwise there wouldn't be so much people decrying their youth. so those are -- if you want to go back to the 18th and 19th century and not be censured, you want a -- to avoid paint. if you want to not kill yourself, you want to avoid toxic things. so let's move into the ingredients that could you possibly use that would very much injure your health. so of course the big ones, heavy metals. we'll start with the upper left corner. that is front and center has to be white lead. that is used for hundreds of years. to whiten the skin. and it's lead.
it will poison you. it was part of the reason that it was used for so long is that it's very good at doing what it does. i've never tried it because i'm -- it is lead. i don't wan to experiment with lead. but i have heard from those who have carefully done some experimenting, modern day experimenting, that there is basically no substitute for it. it is really, really good. it gives you excellent coverage, it stays on. and so -- [ laughter ] >> so that is why it was used for so long. even though people absolutely knew what it did to you. so, excuse me. so moving up, upper right and we'll go clockwise so that is mercury. mercury sulfide, known as sibar
or vermilion and that is threat color used for rouge. don't do that. next its cousin below it is mercury chloride. and another form of mercury and you see it called in the older books and this is a clue, corrosive sub lum ate, don't put anything like that on your skin. it was used for topical washes and to take away pock holes. it would take away stuff, all righty. and last here is iron. and that is a stip tick water used as a wash. it is -- it is not like maybe as bad as the other ones but still not something that you should be putting on your skin. it is used in dyes a lot.
you'll also see it called green vitriol, it is confusing because there are things called vitriol. some are okay and some are not. and green is not okay. white vitriol was zinc sulfate and that is fine. you find that in modern-day stuff. so moving on to the heavy metals, we've got acids. so they tend to be used for things like tooth preparations for whitening the teeth. because it strips away the enamel. it would -- that would work. don't do that. and that -- that acid, you'll see called spirited vitriol, so another vitriol. don't use that one. so it is used for the teeth. also there is what is found to -- a recipe found to whiten the nails using sulphuric acid and muriatic acid is the older
term for it. in modern day we would call it hydrochloric acid. that is as useful as a dep illatory if you are not particular in what you are removing. so, and if the acids weren't enough, we have strong bases. like lye, potassium hydroxide, used for dyeing the hair blond. remember i said the blond hair, pretty much almost all of them involved stripping away the color of your hair, using lye or something similar. although i found this in a 1772 recipe to thicken the hair or make it grow on a bald part. that would be work. so, of course what you wonder, looking at all of these horrific things that people put in their makeup in their cosmetics, you have to wonder, did they know that it was bad for you? the short answer is yes.
the new receipt book from 1854 contained first aid for victims of poisoning, including every single item i just mentioned. so they absolutely did know it was bad for them. there were written warnings even part of the recipe, that would say things like, so here is step by step instructions an how to you make this, but don't because it is bad for you. or don't use -- my favorite, don't use it very often. oh, okay. great. so, in my -- also in any bad category are not just the poisonous things but the gross. so, for example, to take away freckles, this is from 1756, take the blood of a buck hair, dilute it in an equal quantity of the urine for the person who
for whom it is designed and filter it through a piece of linen. wouldn't harm you, but ew. and you see snail quite often and spanning fair amount of time. it starts out take as many snails as you please and beat them into mortar with a sufficient quantity of of the oil of sweet almonds. strain it and add a few other things and wash the whole in the water of frog spawn, and add a few drops of the essence of lemons in order to correct the bad smell. >> a few drops. >> yeah. so, other things that would actually smell good, but which i've also put in my bad category are what i call the big three. so there were three animal-based perfumes that were huge throughout -- or even earlier too, but the 18th and 19th
century and that is civic and musk and amber. they are all animal based. they don't -- they wouldn't harm you. some of them are still used in perfume now. but the first two, sivit and musk, you have to kill the animal to get the perfume, it is in a gland so i put it in the bad category, because i personally don't think it is right to kill an animal just for perfume. you are welcome to different and give your lecture differently. and then it comes from the sperm whale. now you don't have to kill the whale, the whale is fine. but i put it in the bad category because some of you are smiling, raise your hand if you know what ambergris is. yeah. a handful. so it is the diarrhea of diseased sperm whales. yeah. they poop it out and it floats around in the ocean changing chemically for a while until this washes up on shore
somewhere and if you find it, you are rich because perfume dealers will buy it for a lot of money. i still think it is gross so i stuck it in with the others in the bad category. it is also phenomenally expensive so i've never been able to get some of it myself to try. but apparently it smells very good. so, there you have it. the things that will get you killed or are just plain gross. so if you don't want to poison yourself and you want to follow societal expectations, what should you do? well, the answer to the moral question is basically clean living. so for example, the greatest charm of beauty is in the expression of a lovely face. so you all need to have good expressions on your faces. and i want to see those smiles. and another one, fresh air and
pure water are the best and only cosmetics that could be used without prejudice. all right. so we've got the expression of a lovely face and we've got fresh air and pure water. and then another one says you must obstain from all sudden gusts of passion, particularly envy, as that gives the skin a salo paleness. and you are like, all right, okay. so i have a lovely expression on my face, i am using freshwater, getting exercise, i am obstaining from gusts of passion, what happens if you still need a little bit more help. so that is where cosmetics come in. and those are different from paints. and unfortunately, there wasn't like a ministry of beauty terms at the time to dictate these. but for the most part, people used paints to mean what i
described before, something that you could visibly see, in general they used cosmetics to mean things like we would consider lotions, something that will sink into your skin. something that you would put on your skin, maybe leave it on for a little while and wash off, like if you've ever used a mask, those are cosmetics and those are perfectly fine. mostly. depends on who you ask. there is a few crotchetty people who complain about those too. but for the most part, those are all right. for example, here is a receipt from 1857 to soften the skin and improve the collection -- excuse me, the complexion. mix in a cup of milk and a flower of sulfur, it smells funny. it is till used in topical preparation today. so that is at least not too bad. let it stand for an hour or two and without disturbing the sulfur, rub the milk into the skin. it will keep it soft and clear. it should be used before
washing. so that is a cosmetic that would you be perfectly fine to use no one is coming after you for it and there is nothing in there that would really harm you unless you are allegic to sulfur, which i am, so i'm not going to be using that one. so those are the things that you could use and still be morally okay. also in my good category, i have the ingredients that won't just not kill you but would do what they say they would. because there are plenty of things in the recipes that rrnt going to hurt -- aren't going to hurt you but aren't going to help. so i want to focus on the things that would actually work. and when i refer to these ingredients as good or safe, i'm assuming this means unless you have an allergy. so don't just take what i say and then go home and write me angry letters when you have a reaction to something. so, unfortunately there is not a whole lot you could do in the --
in the realm of whitening your skin. like that would actually work. and be not harmful. zinc oxide gets used later than the period i'm talking about, in the later 19th century and that is one of the things that you find in natural sunscreen. so that is fine. but the period we're talking about, that is not really an option yet. so there were some washes, like the one i read that claim to whiten the skin but the harmless ones don't work. we'll say that. because the ones that do work are bleaching your skin. so don't do that. you're on safer ground with rouges and lip colors. now you've got a whole host of things to choose from. now remember these are considered paints. but they are -- i put them in our good category because they -- they're fine, in fact most of what i've got over here as a sample, use these.
so the upper left is an in spect that gives you a red or purple dye. upper right is al cannette root and that is my favorite for lip coloring. and alkanet. it is like the color of blood. and so it looks good on everybody. because the reason your lips have color to them is your skin is thin there and it is the blood showing through. and below it -- the two on the bottom are woods. they are brazil wood on the right and red sandalwood on the left. and they are they are used -- they are used in rouges. it is neat. i found one of them -- it has more of a purple tinge and it
looks good on people with cool complexions and the red sandalwood had an orange cast so it looks better on people with a warm complexion. so you have options at the time. it wasn't like -- you didn't have a drug store full of dozens and dozens of things but you did have some options at the time and people when traveling would so to specify if they were sent to buy ingredients, they did have to specify. so we are on safe ground with scents. most of those are not going to be harmful and are going to do what you want them to do. floral scents were popular. lavender was a good extent -- scent for men. at the time it was perfectly fine for men to smell like lavender. so the upper right there is -- it is showing a flower but the part you use is the root or the
oris root and that has -- so, it's called powder oris root is often called violet powder or in the period used oris root because it smells like violet. if you are new at researching cosmetics an you read violet powder and you order some violet flowers, that is why they don't smell good. it is -- that is when i learned, oh, when i say violet powder, they mean it has oris root in it and it just smells like violets. and if you don't like florals, you have plenty of options with the spices. so like nutmeg and mace and cinnamon and cloves. and the way you delivered these perfumes could be in an alcohol-base, or in like what we would consider a lotion. they called it something
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you've probably eaten this too. it's often used in cafeteria because it's a very stable oil that doesn't have much its own taste or smell and has a long shelf life so you've probably eaten some and didn't know it. how about oil of spirit or vit tree yol in toxic? how about nontoxic? you guys are right. that one is sulfuric acid. important to keep all the vit tree ole's straight. all about ola bomb in toxic in
safe? yeah, you know that as franken sense. sometimes it refers to other similar resins but basically franken sense. all right. ora mint, toxic? non -- nontoxic or safe? all right. that is arsenic. sometimes used as a did biller to. it will take stuff away all right. and lastly pearl white, toxic? safe? everybody's right. it depends on what you mean. so pearl white, e we refer to oxide of businessmouth which is the one i said at the beginning would turn black in some circumstances and it's not as bad as lead but you don't want
to be putting it on to your face. it can be referred to something that's actually made with pearls, that's fine that's not going to hurt you about you they both use the term pearl white so check on which one is being referred to before you try it. >> the europeans tended to use more cos met tics or paints in the colonies was that a function of cost or availability? it's cultural as far as i can tell. i haven't looked specifically into european use as much just as a comparison to what we were doing in america. my research is mostly focused on american use. but it appears to be largely cultural because we could get
that stuff here too it's not like we couldn't. all these ingredients were available at apotha carries. yeah. >> so i'm wondering with the use of these various products and cosmetic ingredients is this upper class or sort of like universally used through all strata? >> excellent question. so the more upper class you are the more likely you are to be using these. that's not to say that people who were at sort of a working class weren't doing things to -- to improve their appearance, but they're way less likely to be buying a lot of these ingredients were quite kprens e expensive. so the upper crest, they were way more likely to be using cosmetics. but the regular folks, too, like some of the cosmetics, not the paints, were using things like like soak some oat bran in water
and watch your face with that. that's the sort of thing that would be easy to do. there are letters that people would right to each other like oh i've got a bit of a sun burn cousin can you recommend something for me and kuz woin write back well my neighbor swears by this preparation. so they were definitely doing things, but it wasn't -- not using the more expensive of the ingredients. yeah. >> so what happens if you do use led? >> death i would assume. >> eventually die. so see, lead poisoning. actually, patty, do you happen to know the exact -- >> it's going to depend on age. at a young age you're going to develop severe mental disabilities at an older age within the neuropathy, which is the peripheral nerves or you can still get a brain change from the effect of lead and blood disorders from it.
>> i know she's got a medical background so i knew you'd be better to give like a succinct -- there's one account i remember from a little later, this is from the late 19th century where the society beauty had to -- lost the sensation in her arms. she -- she was paralyzed in her arms and she swore up and down that she didn't use any cosmetics whatsoever. and then it came out later, that she had been using a lead-based skin whiter and so that damaged the nerves had her arms. yeah, fun times. >> queen elizabeth used the whiter in to cover her poc marks. did that also last into the 17th and 18th century to use the white? >> so one of the reasons that the patches came about was to cover blemishes also. so they started that way but also as a -- i mean also just as a fad.
and so in the 17th century, you see people with patches like everywhere. it looks like somebody just splashed a whole bunch of them in your face. by the 18th century it's down to like one or two that were appropriate. and this is really for the upper crust. normal folks aren't probably going to be wearing patches and even if the 18th century not in the nine teeth because it had gone -- the fad had pretty much finished by the 19th century. so the great thing about these patches is not only can you indicate your political alliance or accentuate a certain feature, but if you happen to have a blemish some where are, that was totally intentional see, look, i have a patch on it. all right. any other questions? yes. >> i'm curious, in the portraits and especially with the advent of photography if that changed, were the painters actually capturing the way the woman
really looked or ideal lizing her and did photographerry make a difference in how women would do their faces? >> so glad you asked that. so, as far the painters, we would have to go back in time and ask them which unfortunately we can't do. with photographers noticed that women -- so photograph friday's 19th century so nobody's supposed to look like they have cosmetics on or paints i should say. but photographers started saying, you know, these women keep coming into my studio and then demanding to be made up because they want to look good in the photograph. and so i got some of my best res hiss for later 19th century cos mettics from books written for photographers to say, all right, which the people come into your studio and they don't like how they look and they want to -- they want -- they want do you
them up properly, here are some things you can use. so, yeah, even i do find that very interesting that even people who would ashoe any sorts of paints for the rest of their life, soon as they come into the photography studio, no, no, do me up, this has to look good. so if you're just dying to try anything, i have some samples here. thank you all very much for coming out and i hope we'll see you back sooen soon. we have a symposium coming up in the end of march and it's going to be all about costume based off of our current exhibit. so please do pick up some information. i have a clipboard here four record your e-mail address if you're interested in getting updates from us and so i'll be over here. thank you all very much for coming out.
[ applause ] this weekend on american history tv on c-span 3, saturday, at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures and history provident college professor jeffrey johnson on the 19 six teeth bombing at the san francisco's preparedness parade, the worst act of terrorism in san francisco history. >> well what happened next just after 2:00 p.m. about a half an hour into the parade the local press would deem the most pathetic results of the explosion and of the parade. >> and at 10:00 on real america, the 1915 film on the firing line with the germans. >> look in the back, he's kneeling with a pipe in his -- one of the few times you see a pipe, he's loading film in his
camera, that's what i think he's doing. and watch the guy there, he just got hit. >> sunday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on american artifacts we visit the portrait gallery of the second bank of the united states in philadelphia. >> inside what we have is a fine arts exhibit where we include portraits from the 18th and early 19th century to tell the story of what it was like to live in 18th century america, the world that those people new and the world that the revolution built. >> and then at 8:00 on the presidency, historic ians discuss the prenzsy on alexander hamilton and washington. >> he is a person of volcanic temperament but he learns early on control himself. he learns self-mattery and he's this horse whisperer who actually calms the very high strung, very skittish, very fast alexander hamilton. and hamilton, which washington
isn't around gets himself into a lot of trouble. >> for our complete american history tv schedule go to c-span.org. up next on american his history tv law professor marcia zug on the history of mail on brides in america. she says the 19th century california gold rush encouraged single women to move west and marry the state's bachelors. but she says when brides started coming from asia society's acceptance of mail-order brides plummeted. she is author of the book "buying a bride: an engaging history of mail-order matches". from the california historical society in california, this is an hour and ten minutes. >> hi. thank you so much for coming tonight. i want to thank patty and the california historical society and especially on this rainy da