Manly Pleasures?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a small, but curious item that wandered into the house with some incredibly interesting antique rings I purchased from a woman in the Midwest who goes under the moniker of @Witchyvintage, aka Paula Bates.

My Felix avatar on social media.

Paula (who is always @witchyvintage in my mind’s eye and ear, as I assume I am @deitchstudio to her, my little Italian Felix toy avatar her only image of me), has an Instagram account most notable in my estimation for really extraordinary vintage early American clothing.

There is something endlessly fascinating about seeing the shoes and dresses she presents for sale – some wearable and others fragile now and better suite for study. Sunbonnets that made the trip west, jackets with leg-o-mutton sleeves, capes and undergarments; cottons, silks and muslins.

The parade of boots she sells surprise me each time she posts them. Wear is evident on them, but they look remarkably well for having made the trip from the 1890’s. (My Nike spoiled feet scream in horror at the idea of wearing them, but they could easily be fashionable today.) I don’t need to own these (luckily for her there are others who feel different and she seems to do a brisk business), but I am addicted to looking at them and considering the lives these items have lived.

For sale on the Witchyvintage online store.

I have, on occasion, purchased jewelry from her, although less frequently than the folks in Britain I have written about (some of those posts here and here) or another favorite young woman in the Midwest who I have a soft spot for, @Marsh.and.Meadow, aka Heather Hagans.

During the shutdown period of the pandemic I found myself revisiting my interest in antique jewelry. Both because of its history (somehow objects with a past remind us that we have a future), and because buying it was putting a stake in the ground for the time I would start wearing jewelry again.

Ring purchased from Paula. I happened to have this screen grab from showing her which one I wanted. Lucky me, it came with this lovely box!

That time is slowly emerging now an my lapels are festooned with a collection of early 20th century insects, and rings sometimes adorn my hands again when I go out. A gold bracelet hallmarked 1895 sits from a vendor in Australia (@madamebrocante) on my right wrist. With a recent purchase of two rings (such indulgence! – I will write more about those another time after they have been fully considered for a bit), this interesting card was tucked in with a somewhat less compelling cabinet card shown below.

Cabinet card also included.

It is a bit larger than an average business card. Nothing is printed or written on the back. I can’t really imagine what purpose such a card might have served. And there is the obvious question of how is a woman’s hand reaching for a bird’s nest among flowers a manly pleasure? Am I missing some obvious or subtle Victorian symbolism? I love it, but it is a little hard to figure the guy who wanted to use this card.

As far as I can gather it is indeed a man’s calling card, although obviously lacking in a printed name – did they perhaps write their name on the back? Evidently, men’s cards were longer and thinner than women’s of the day, designed to fit better in a vest pocket. I especially liked the detail that if a caller left a card personally the right corner was generally folded down in as a way of denoting that the effort was made. A corner might be folded to indicate that he was there to see the entire family, and the litany of rules for unmarried women was intricate.

Kim and I both fell hard for this little item and we would like to find a way to get it and a few other of these tiny items up on our (very crowded) wall where we can admire them daily. Thank you Paula! A very nice bonus!