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  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Scott View Post
    It is possible that the buttons were made of pressed or molded horn, which can look very similar to plastic.

    Good point, and I suppose that's possible. It's difficult to tell from the photos. But the buttons look very new to me, in terms of condition. One would think that if they were really over 100 years old, they would show some wear, especially on the sleeve cuffs. But the edges seem perfect and smooth with no scuffs, nicks, scratches, or anything else. They just strike me as out of place there, but I could be wrong! I'm just guessing here.

  2. #12
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    Tarheel,

    Such watch chains are quite common. The chain you are thinking of is the "Double Albert" chain, popularized by Victoria's husband. It features two "swags" of chain extending from the vest buttonhole, one going into the left pocket and the other into the right. Typically one side held the watch and the other had a similarly small metal item, such as match safe or box for holding silver dollars. There were also "Single Albert" chains, with a swag on just one side.

    What made them "Albert" chains rather than just generic was that they had an additional short length of chain that hung down from the buttonhole right at the front of the vest/belly. This was to hold an ornamental "fob." These often took the form of insignia representing one's business or social affiliations (Masonic emblems and railroad logos were popular), but might also be elaborate custom pieces of jewelry.

    A good antique gold or silver Double Albert is not a cheap purchase, although new ones of brass or steel are readily available on Amazon.

    My watch is on a fairly plain modern gold-plate chain, with one swag. But someday I dream of having the full Double Albert.

    Andrew

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingandrew View Post
    What made them "Albert" chains rather than just generic was that they had an additional short length of chain that hung down from the buttonhole right at the front of the vest/belly. This was to hold an ornamental "fob." These often took the form of insignia representing one's business or social affiliations (Masonic emblems and railroad logos were popular), but might also be elaborate custom pieces of jewelry.
    Since we're on the subject of pocket watch chains, thanks for that background information! I've long admired that look and attempted to duplicate it myself as shown below, but didn't know it was a named style. With this set, I wear both the watch and the metal ornament (a coin) in my upper waistcoat pockets because the chains are so long that they would droop very low if I wore them in the lower pockets. I use a small thistle as the ornament in the centre. It's a new chain, and I've been on the lookout for an antique one that I can afford.

    As for the watch chain in the museum that we're talking about, that is actually a human hair "mourning" chain in their photo. These were common at the time, and were twisted/braided from the hair of loved ones (usually after they died, but not always). It's a fascinating bit of history, and was very time-consuming to make. I'd love to have one like that in a vintage piece, but it would just be weird to wear the hair of someone I never knew or to whom I had no relation. I've considered making a new one from my wife's waist-length hair pulled from her brush. They used special hair receivers in Victorian times for this, and we have one. I just need to get her to start collecting it, LOL.

    As an aside, we currently have an entire framed wreath made of human hair from around 1891. The detail in it is mind-boggling.


  4. #14
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    What doesn't often get shown are watch straps.

    Like this



    Here the strap passes through a dedicated vertical "buttonhole" on the waistcoat

    Last edited by OC Richard; 8th May 19 at 07:09 PM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  6. #15
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    Tobus,

    I like your thistle pendant. And yours really is a thistle, and not the Prince of Wales's ostrich-feather crest, like we saw on that other recent thread

    I didn't catch that the museum display had a hair chain, but you are right that they were quite popular in their day. The Victorians had a real thing for knick-knacks and crafts, from shell items to taxidermy and all sorts of needlework. But the hair items are quite fascinating. I have certainly seen antique hair chains come up on ebay, although you note that you would feel a bit squeamish about wearing one. Back in Florida, I also have an old hair receiver, although I don't plan to attempt any crafts using my wife's hair (my balding head would provide little to work with).

    Richard,

    The straps are interesting. I have also seen them worn hanging down from the waist, although that seems to have been a Regency-era (early 1800s) look. I have seen the vertical buttonhole used for the "T-bar" on the end of a regular watch chain. I have wanted to add one to my vests, but the Chinese tailors just looked confused when I try to describe it. Since my current watch chain has a modern-style spring-loaded loop to connect behind a button rather than the T-bar, I haven't pursued the buttonhole further. But I think it's a really cool feature to have on your waistcoat.

    Andrew

  7. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingandrew View Post
    I didn't catch that the museum display had a hair chain, but you are right that they were quite popular in their day. The Victorians had a real thing for knick-knacks and crafts, from shell items to taxidermy and all sorts of needlework. But the hair items are quite fascinating.
    Indeed, people in that era spent amazing amounts of time crafting fine things. It's surprising what kinds of works can be accomplished when there's no telly or internet to draw one into a stupor. They still lived by the rule of "idle hands are the Devil's workshop" and kept busy, although the gossip circles amongst the women who crafted the hair jewellery pieces were quite legendary. But coupled with the craftworks, Victorians also had a rather morbid (in the true sense) fascination with death. Aside from the hair jewellery, there's also the queer practise of propping up dead people for family portraits that are intended to look like they were alive. The making of wearable items from parts of dead people just seems to go along with that. I don't know why it bothers me - I certainly don't think twice about items made from other dead mammals - but I just couldn't wear an item made from a person I didn't know.

    At any rate, I hope it's not too far off-topic, but here's a photo of that hair wreath we currently have as part of my wife's antiques inventory. The craftwork here is just exquisite.


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  9. #17
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    The wreath is really quite impressive.

    Living in a time before antibiotics and even before the idea of antiseptic medical treatments, the Victorians lived with the sudden deaths of family and close friends as a regular thing. The huge number of gravestones for young children in any 19th-century cemetery demonstrates the heartbreaking reality. This and the Romantic-era artistic fascination with the supernatural led to all sorts of ways of memorializing and coping with such losses. Certainly the hair mementoes are part of this, but it is really a key theme in Victorian art and popular culture.

    Edgar Allan Poe wrote that "The death of a beautiful young woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world." The huge number of sentimental "parlor songs" (think of "My Darling Clementine") and popular novels (remember the death of the angelic young sister in "Little Women" or Little Nell in "The Old Curiosity Shop"?) were in that same vein. The epidemic of tuberculosis caused high-profile deaths of many glamorous and talented people (Keats, Chopin, the Bronte sisters, which made such deaths themselves seem a bit glamorous. The emergence of the cemetery park adorned with elaborate monuments and landscaping and the Victorian fad for seances also fit into this pattern.

    As they say, "the past is a different country."

    Andrew

  10. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    What doesn't often get shown are watch straps.
    As I recalled it, I thought from about 1890-1920 ish, that the leather watch straps were usually worn in the breast pocket, with a T-bar in the lapel buttonhole. This was for your tweeds and hunting gear etc, when a gaudy gold chain on the waistcoat was less practical. But I may be wrong.

    Also I seem to recall thing the straps had a specific nameó thongs or something??
    PATRIAE INSERVIENDO CONSVMOR

  11. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by McCracken140 View Post
    ..........

    Also I seem to recall thing the straps had a specific nameó thongs or something??
    Perhaps the word you are looking for is "fob"?
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

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  13. #20
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    I've also seen the watch worn in the breast (hankie) pocket, tethered to the lapel buttonhole with either the chain or a leather strap, as a way to wear the pocket watch with a double-breasted jacket. Although vests were often worn under such jackets at one time (1920s-30s), it would have been tricky to access the vest pockets with the jackets buttoned, which they almost-always were. If you look at the "Jeeves and Wooster" TV show, you will see Bertie Wooster sporting his watch in this manner.

    I have worn my pocket watch in the breast pocket of my double-breasted tweed suit as an experiment, but it was definitely tricky with my current watch chain. I find it easier to wear my wristwatch with the double-breasted suit, although I love wearing the pocket watch any time I wear a vest (I have a couple of 3-piece suits as well as a couple of kilt jacket/waistcoat pairings).

    Andrew

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