Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1

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I suffer from severe chronic pain. Over the past twenty years, my pain gradually increased and Headache became Brain Fire. It’s inevitable, I believe, that my love for all things Victorian would intersect with my PAIN experience. Thus today’s post: Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1--"Brain Fire", image courtesy of University of Nottingham, styled by Kristin Holt.

“Brain Fire”, image courtesy of University of Nottingham, styled by Kristin Holt.

 

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Series

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How did Victorian-Americans treat a headache? What pain-killing substances were available, other than alcohol? What answers had science provided by the latter half of the nineteenth century?

We’ve heard about the social catastrophe of opium dens in Victorian America.

Where did “snake-oil salesmen” fit in?

Were any of these ideas accurate to history?

Research unearthed exciting answers. In upcoming posts, I’ll share middle- and late-nineteenth century beliefs about headaches. Causes. Prevention methods. Home remedies and patent medicines. Through this series of eleven different and interconnected articles, I’ll present the wide range of true-to-19th-century United States details.

Feel free to read this series of articles in any order you wish. Skip around to follow your interest. Each article contains links to the rest, as well as links to additional related posts. Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1.

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Kristin Holt | 11-Part Blog Article Series: Victorian-American Headaches

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Hat Makers

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What is a milliner?

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Kristin Holt | Definition: Millinery (Courtesy of Google)

Definition: Millinery (Courtesy of Google)

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Milliners design and make women’s hats. Nineteenth-century milliners often sold their creations in their millinery shop. The term “shop” applied to a place where goods were made (or repaired) and sold. A premise used for the sale of goods was called a store.

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Hats are to Blame

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The following snips come from a newspaper article: HATS AND HEADACHE. Published in the Austin American-Statesman newspaper of Austin, Texas (January 6, 1897), the article was credited to New York World.

Note the doctor’s awareness of weight upon the head as a headache-precipitating cause. Hats were an important part of a lady’s costume, and like her gloves, she wouldn’t leave home without it.

If heavy hats hats caused headaches, did the weight of ladies hair precipitate headaches, too?

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1-- Hats and Headaches, from the Austin American-Statesman of Austin, TX on January 6, 1897. Part 1 of 3.

1 of 3) Hats and Headaches, from the Austin American-Statesman of Austin, TX on January 6, 1897.

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Quote

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Kristin Holt | Quote from within 1897 newspaper article in The Austin-American Statesman: "... the less a woman's brain weighs the more does the hat she puts upon it." Victorian-American Headaches, Part 1.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1-- Hats and Headaches, from the Austin American-Statesman of Austin, TX on January 6, 1897. Part 2 of 3.

2 of 3) Hats and Headaches, from the Austin American-Statesman of Austin, TX on January 6, 1897.

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Price Comparison

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“Something ‘most magnificent’“, a hat mentioned in the final paragraph of this newspaper article, cost $19.

What cost $19 in 1897 would cost $578.67 in 2018. (latest year offered)

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~ The Inflation Calculator

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1-- Hats and Headaches, from the Austin American-Statesman of Austin, TX on January 6, 1897. Part 3 of 3.

3 of 3) Hats and Headaches, from the Austin American-Statesman of Austin, TX on January 6, 1897.

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Conclusion

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Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1.
This newspaper article (1897) represents a slice of Victorian-American thought. The revered doctor placed blame on the weighty hats upon feminine noggins. Can’t you see those stuffy milliners proudly balancing a creation upon the scale? What pride they must’ve felt, debunking the doctor’s claim. How can a six-ounce hat cause a headache?

We gather hints about 1897‘s fashions from descriptions. Plumes were stylish, and twists of velvet, too. Wings adorned some (see hat #8 in first fashion plate, below). Late nineteenth-century milliners adorned others with white felt braid. One “big hat” cast a shadow with an 8-inch brim. This specialty was for sale at an expensive NY millinery where all hats cost $10 ($300 today) or more. The beauty was loaded with a jet rope edge and jet around the crown. Quite a description!

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What did hats in 1897 look like?

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1-- Fashionable Millinery for sale in January, 1897. Image courtesy of GG Archives

Fashionable Millinery for sale in January 1897. Image courtesy of GG Archives. Note the “wings” in hat #8, lower right. “Wings” were mentioned within the 1897 article about women’s hat adornments currently in style.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1-- Women's Hat Designs, April 1897. Image courtesy of Fine Art America.

Women’s Hat Designs, April 1897. Image courtesy of Fine Art America. Easter bonnets? Notice the flowers (silk, paper, cloth?) are accompanied by greenery. Sometimes LOTS of greenery. And feathers. Twists of satin, too. And decorative braids. Wow.

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Did you know?

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Truly wide-brim, gargantuan hats worn by Edwardian-era ladies were significantly bigger than the “big hats” of the late 1890s.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 1-- the Big Hats of the Edwardian Era. Image: Courtesy of The Vintage News.

The Big Hats of the Edwardian Era. Image: Courtesy of The Vintage News.

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Invitation

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Have you seen similar complaints about hats?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts.

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Up Next

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Victorian-American Headaches: Part 2. Causes, Cures, Prevention (1890).

Kristin Holt | Victorian American Headaches: Part 2

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