PENNY LICKS: Sue Perkins and the ‘Deceptive Glass’ for Victorian Ice Cream
Second: children liking penny ice cream from a street vendor, date unknown;
Third: Sue Perkins tasting an original-style ice cream cone, GBBO (series 5, episode 2).
The Great British Bake-Off went back in time during their ‘Biscuit Week’ to learn about the Victorian invention of the ice cream cone. Before the biscuit cone (many of which were rolled so hot that they were more tubes than cones), nineteenth-century ice cream and gelato eaters took their scoops in penny licks, small glass cups provided by street vendors with the exact amount of glace for a penny. According to the V&A,
Extensive glass table services became increasingly popular towards the end of the 19th century, especially after press-moulded glass was introduced. This sturdy piece is blown and then further shaped by hand, with wheel-cut flat panels. It was probably made for use in a public café. [x]
But, as GBBO co-host and Super-sizer Sue Perkins remarked, ‘A penny lick off the street doesn’t sound like the most hygienic thing in the world.’ Indeed, as Sue went on to learn, the threat of cholera and other communicable diseases led to the outlawing of penny licks in 1899. Hence: the ice cream cone, an import devised by Italian-immigrant Antonio Valvona who patented his creation in Manchester in the 1890s.
With the advent of the cone by the early 20th century, gelato and ice cream fans could get, as Sue summed up, ‘All the fun, none of the typhoid.’
Two pen-and-ink sketches in a scrapbook of original and pasted collage works by an 1870s New England woman deemed by her publisher to be schizophrenic, based on the chaotic nature of her drawings and compilations. (The top image shows slightly macabre figures in the shape of the artist’s initials and the date of creation [March 1878]; the bottom contains floral motifs, many of which frame the pasted cartes-de-visite and magazine clippings of the scrapbook.) From the Johns Hopkins special collections.
Two paper cut-outs from a Valentines book by late-18th-century/early-19th century poet Elizabeth Cobbold, who hand-made images pasted with her own verses to friends at the turn of the 19th century. Some of the pages in the book contain pictures with blank spaces where Cobbold never inscribed the image, while other pages have clear signs that Cobbold made mistakes and re-pasted the paper to be able to re-write her poetry correctly. From the Johns Hopkins special collections.
More about Elizabeth Cobbold (1767-1824) from the Orlando Project.
Two pictures of a first edition copy of Jane Austen's Persuasion (published posthumously in 1817 with her early novel Northanger Abbey) from the Johns Hopkins special collections.
An opening page of an installment of Charles Dickens’s novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44). The Johns Hopkins special collections library has several Dickens novels in their original serialized format, including — this was news to me! — the dozens of newsprint pages of advertisements which preceded and followed the text of each volume!
For more info on what is known as ‘the last of Dickens’s picturesque novels’, see the Victorian Web overview on Martin Chuzzlewit.
Some images I took of the Johns Hopkins library’s copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer (1896). For more on William Morris, the creator of the Kelmscott Press, and the other elements of the Arts & Crafts movement, click here.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
THE GOSSIPING PHOTOGRAPHER AT HASTINGS: SEASIDE PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRANCIS FRITH (1864)
This glimpse of mid-1860s Hastings shows a scattering of ladies and men around on the waterfront. As the British Library entry explains,
The growth of inexpensive rail travel from the mid-19th century placed the seaside towns of the south coast within easy reach of the capital.
This led to their development as tourist resorts for an increasingly affluent middle class. As Frith noted in his photographic guide book to Hastings and its surroundings: ‘We came down from London Bridge in two hours and a half…cheap enough. You face the sea in your drawing-room at St Leonards, and occupy your five bed-rooms at six guineas a week…Whilst Jones has fine open quarters looking landwise for ten shillings a week’.
Frith was a pioneer in the field of travel photography, beginning his career with three trips to Egypt and the Holy Land between 1856 and 1860. In 1859 he founded his own publishing firm in Reigate, Surrey, which issued albums and postcards of views throughout Britain.
The firm became the largest of its kind in the 19th century, continuing to be run as a family business until 1971.
For more about Frith’s seaside photographs, including a copy of his 1864 The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings, see the British Library.
BEACH NAP: THE EDWARDIAN EYE OF ANDREW PITCAIRN-KNOWLES
Image: ‘Family asleep on sand; Auf den pier’ by Andrew Pitcairn-Knowles (c. 1900) [V&A]
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London / Cecil Beton Fund
As indicated on the V&A website, this image is one by “pioneer photographic journalist" Andrew Pitcairn-Knowles, whose turn-of-the-century documentary photographs — like this one of a huddled group in Blankenberge, the Belgian seaside town — appeared around 1900:
He specialised in sports and genre subjects in mainland Europe. The viewpoint Pitcairn-Knowles choose when taking this photograph makes everyday life on the beach seem intriguingly enigmatic. This photograph is difficult to read. Apparently taking a nap on the sand, the figures are hard to distinguish among the jumble of clothes.
For more of Pitcairn-Knowles’s pictures, see the V&A.