September 10, 2015

While I hate to link to Slate. . . .

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 3:08 pm

This critique of some Victorian wannabes brings up some good points:

On Vox Wednesday, Sarah A. Chrisman writes about the decision she and her husband have made to conduct their lives as if they were late-19th-century Americans. The couple lives in their home, which was built in 1888, without the benefit of 21st-century conveniences, eschewing refrigeration and modern electric lighting. They also wear period dress, happily pedal around town on reproduction bicycles, and clean their teeth with a toothbrush made of “natural boar bristles.”

There are many irritating things about this article. The irony of congratulating yourself on sticking to 1880s technology in a piece circulated on the Internet is an obvious place to start.

Yeah, you can kinda sorta get something of the flavor of a period but it’s extremely difficult to really live it in any realistic sense. As I found when I tried to Live Like The 1980s I found that there were myriad little things to consider, most of which would have — back then — been part of the everyday warp and weft of society. If one were to live 1880s style, for example, one would have very limited access to certain foods that we now take for granted: fruits and vegetables would only be available in certain times of the year depending on where you lived. As she mentions, medical care would have been extremely primitive as well.

I won’t decry the attempt too much, however, unless they’re really being smug about it. It’s an interesting exercise to try to do something like that (as I found out) and it can be kind of fun.


  1. Medical care: not just primitive but wrong. Post 1860s My great grandfather had 4 wives, 3 died after childbirth. Coincidence? He was wealthy and would have had the best doctors, from the university, where they would have been dissecting cadavers, and everyone knew that washing hands was just a superstition because disease was caused by humours and bad air. If Gt gfather was poorer maybe his first wife would have lived.

    Comment by bruce — September 11, 2015 @ 4:53 am

  2. Her: “I’m an old fashioned kind of girl.”
    Me: “Really? How old fashioned? Like to the 1950s when women had no control over their own bodies? Or perhaps the 1850s when women and children were ‘owned’ by the Pater Familias? Or maybe even the 1650s when women and children could be ‘bought’ and ’sold’ and wives could be killed with only a fine as punishment? Me I’m 10,000 BCE old fashioned where we manly men did nowt but primp and pamper and snort hallucinogens all day with our fellow manly men and the women did absolutely everything to sustain us and the ankle-biters.”

    Comment by George — September 12, 2015 @ 4:17 pm

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