And what is a Valerie?
My last blog entry was about Hedda Heijkenskjöld. What I didn’t include was the fact that she owned an exquisite Valerie, or at least, that is what Marie-Louise af Forsell wrote in her diary.
Marie-Louise af Forsell’s diary, 16 September 1847
During our absence, the family of Colonel Prytz from Malmö had come to visit. Nycander now wanted us to return the visit and I promised, therefore, to put on the gray silk dress on condition that we would then visit Dimanders in the afternoon. It turned out that the Prytzes had already left for Finland – but on our way there, Nycander recognized Tante Netta’s carriage in Jakobsgränd street with Adelaide Rütterskjöld in it. He mentioned to them that we intended to pay them a visit – and when we returned home, Tante Netta had already sent word that they would be home this afternoon.
Thus, at 6 pm, we took the same route as yesterday to Djurgården. To my delight, there were unusually few people at Dimanders, only Nymans, Mrs. Wijkander with Mamsell Eld (who soon left), Mrs. Göthe, and Mamsell Röhl, who was accompanied by the honorable Wirrman (who they had run into in the streets and asked to join) – and Liljewalchs who were, like us, “volunteers”.
The gentlemen played, to which Mrs. Dimander first requested our permission, and Mrs. L. (one of the decent Mamselles Strömberg), together with the girls Rütterskjöld and I, spent the whole evening in the parlor, conversing. It can easily be understood that I had fun, as my stocking was allowed to rest undisturbed in Hedda’s admirable valérie.
It can easily be understood that I had fun, as my stocking was allowed to rest undisturbed in Hedda’s admirable valérie?
When I read this diary entry, the last sentence was cryptic. What did it mean? First I imagined a group of teenage girls laying around, having so much fun, and one of them putting her foot (the stocking) on her friend’s lap.
Of course, that is not how teenage girls behaved in 1847. And especially not if they were wearing silk dresses and conversing in a parlor. And what was a valérie (or Valerie)?
Lost and found
This is where a Google search fails. There are zillions of famous women named Valerie. So instead, I reverted to searching for the term in the digitized Swedish newspapers during the mid-1800s. And that is where I found the Valeries. Actually, the Valeries all appeared in the lost and found columns of the papers. I found 15 notes of lost Valeries.
A Valerie was described in the newspaper ads as a large Reticule or a Pirate. Reticule (Swedish: Ridikyl) was the name of a handbag or purse during this time period. Most reticules were small drawstring bags. Pirates (Swedish: Pirat), on the other hand, were larger bags. Often they are mentioned in Swedish novels as belonging to older women and being large enough for carrying home leftover food from parties. Is that how the large reticule got its nickname? And if so, did young women who needed larger reticules for their sewing projects and books, resent their reticules being called Pirates and therefore started calling them Valéries?
The first ads for lost Valeries appeared in February of 1847. One ad stated that the Valerie contained sewing items. The other one described the Valerie as being made of Zephyr yarn, being green and yellow, and having a lock made of steel.
Then in March of 1847, someone lost a velvet Valerie in Stockholm:
The ad stated:
Lost on Sunday evening, the 7th of this month, between Fredsgatan and Stortorget, a Reticule or so-called Valerie of brown and white, checkered velvet, containing a cambric handkerchief with lace, a knitting stocking with a silver knitting holder, a key, a pair of gloves, and a pair of knitted silk gloves. A reward is promised if the finder submits these items to the coffin store in house No. 30 at Skomakaregatan.
There were other lost Valeries – crocheted in different colors, lined with silk fabric, and some containing locks. Most of them contained handkerchiefs and knitting or sewing items. One contained money; another one a gold watch chain. There were also gold thimbles, stockings, and confectioneries that the owners reported as the content of their Valeries.
Suddenly, the sentence “It can easily be understood that I had fun, as my stocking was allowed to rest undisturbed in Hedda’s admirable valérie,” made sense. The stocking Marie-Louise was talking about was probably a knitting that she would pull up if the party got boring. And we should all understand that she had so much fun that she never had to get her stocking out of Hedda’s Valerie.
Types of Valeries
I have not been able to find a single image of a Valerie. There are some images from the 1840-1850s in the Nordic Museum in Stockholm that are labeled Travel Bags. They are of the type with a metal frame rather than a pull string. The Valeries that had a lock would probably fall into that category. There is only one picture of a Pirate, although the museum lists having several Pirates in their collections. I imagine that some Valeries could have looked like these travel bags and others would have been large crocheted bags.
There are also advertisements for Valeries in the newspapers (without images), for Valerie-locks, and for mounting – I assume mounting the fabric to the hardware and/or stitching an embroidery to a leather purse.
Valeries in the Literature
One of the hits when searching on Valerie in the Swedish newspapers was a feuilleton about a love-sick, spice-merchant. It described what a lady would be expected to carry in her Valerie:
“Spice-merchant Mandell was overjoyed when he discovered that the lady had unusually small feet which mischievously peeped out from under the hem of her silk dress. She sat down on the bench, right in the place where the already love-sick, spice-merchant had taken up his post. She started looking in her Valerie that she had brought with her. Mandell thought to himself: Let’s see what she will pull out; probably a novel, or a poem, – no, it was a knitting of a stocking. She is homely and used to handicrafts, thought the spice-merchant, – so much better, she will keep an eye on the maids and make sure that things get done in the house. The lady was soon busy with her knitting and Mandell, who had steeled himself with courage and repeated the fine speech he had decided to deliver, now took the time to step forward and introduce himself to his beauty.”
(Sockerhjerta a prendre: En modern Stockholmshistoria. Stockholms Dagblad, 12 October 1847)
Besides the digitized newspapers, Kerstin reminded me of The Swedish Literature Bank, a website for digitized, classic, Swedish literature. She sent me a link to a novel where a woman puts a dead cat in the Valerie. Yes, you would need a large purse!
What else could I find there?
The famous Swedish feminist and writer, Fredrika Bremer, expressed in a letter to the likewise famous writer, Malla af Silfverstolpe, her gratitude on behalf of her mother for the Valerie that Malla had made when visiting them at Årsta.
Heijkenskjöld, Syster, ed. 1915. Sällskapslif och hemlif i Stockholm på 1840-talet: ur Marie-Louise Forsells dagboksanteckningar. Stockholm: Bonnier. (Translation of title: Social Life and Home Life in Stockholm in the 1840s: From Marie-Louise Forsell’s Diary Notes).
Last summer, I wrote about Augusta’s first love.
In the summer of 1845, Augusta turned 18. She had just finished her schooling in Stockholm and maybe her mother Anna thought it was time for her to meet a suitable young man. Why not at the most fashionable seaside resort on the Swedish west coast, Gustafsberg?
Well, did Augusta meet someone at Gustafsberg? Yes, she did fall in love but with someone not to her mother’s liking. At least, that is what comes across in the correspondence between Augusta and her best friend Lotten Westman. Who was he? Augusta and Lotten never mention him by name.
A couple of weeks ago, I found an 1845 newspaper announcement listing the guests who had arrived at Gustafsberg’s Spa at the same time as Augusta. I have been searching for some of those guests – maybe finding Augusta’s first love. Last week’s blog entry was about the family Salomon who arrived with two daughters and a son. Unfortunately, the son turned out to be only 14 years old.
This week, I decided to look up a Secretary T. Röslein from Stockholm.
Titus Vincentius Röslein
This time, I started my search for T. Röslein in the contemporary diary of Marie-Louise Forsell. And of course, Marie-Lousie knew him. His full name was Titus Vincentius. What a name!
Marie-Louise first mentioned meeting him and his sister Pellan at a dance hosted by Chamberlain Carl Henning Lützow d’Unker on 4 November 1845. Then, a month later, she invited the d’Unkers and four gentlemen to her home to celebrate Mrs. d’Unker’s birthday. But in addition to the guests, “the rather nice Titus Röslein came by himself.”
So now I knew that he was a rather nice guy and had a sister, Pellan. It was time to search the archives.
What I found in the archives
Titus was the only son of krigsrådet (royal military counsel) Carl Henric Röslein (4 March 1774 – 27 October 1840) and his wife Maria Charlotta Ericsson (8 Nov 1788 – 28 April 1877). Carl Henric was wealthy and had spent more than 20 years in England, Germany, and France in business and trade before, in 1814, he was hired by the Swedish crown prince, Carl Johan Bernadotte, in the prince’s private office.
The Röslein family lived close to the royal palace in Stockholm but spent the summers 1820-1829 at the bucolic Djurgården, at a house named Ludvigsro. In 1852, Ludvigsro was bought by Wilhelm Davidson, who renamed it Hasselbacken and opened a restaurant there. Kerstin has previously written about Davidson.
The siblings with the coolest names
But Titus was not the only child. There were 3 children born to Carl Henric and Maria Charlotta. And they were all given fantastic names:
- Titus Vincentius (4 Jan 1824 – 19 April 1855)
- Leontina Ebba Charlotta (? April 1825 – 22 May 1826)
- Peregrina Maria Petronella (“Pellan”) (16 May 1828 – 15 June 1859)
Sadly, all children died early in life. Titus and Pellan both died at age 31 from tuberculosis while the cause of death was not specified in the church record for Leontina – only that she was 11 months old. They all belonged to Klara parish.
There are no digitized portraits of the children and the only thing we know of Titus was that he was nice and that he was a secretary at the central bank (Rikets Ständers Bank). Oh, and he was inducted into the Order of the Innocence in January of 1847. Augusta had already been a member since 1844. Being a member allowed one to attend the most prestigious balls in Stockholm. So at least, by the age of 23, Titus became a member.
Could Titus have been Augusta’s first love?
- In the summer of 1845, Titus was 21 years old and Augusta was 18
- He was from a very wealthy family in Stockholm
- He belonged to the social elite in Stockholm
- He was nice
Possible Cons (in the eyes of Augusta’s family): Who knows? Maybe Titus’ father had been too controversial which could have affected the family name? A lot was written about him after his death in 1840, and there is a rather interesting biography of him in the national archives (in Swedish).
Despite all the controversies about Titus’ father, there is a rather sweet entry about him in another contemporary diary. Augusta’s acquaintance, Lotten Ulrich – whose father was the king’s private secretary and therefore also worked with Titus’ father – wrote the following in her diary in March of 1831:
”Alb. Åmansson said that when she visited us a couple of years ago, I was dressed to fence, that is, in a riding coat and green bombazine pants, holding the foil and in the en garde position, because I was going to have a fencing lesson, which I had every day with krigsrådet Röslein. Oh, how fun these lessons were! He always made me laugh out loud, even though the positions and the lunge etc. were so grueling that I could hardly move after the lessons.”
Lotten Ulrich’s Fencing Attire
I have searched for paintings or illustration of girls fencing in the 1820s but found little and then only from the late 1800s. Those pictures show women fencing in skirts. Maybe Lotten Ulrich was just lucky that Carl Henric Röslein was interested in teaching her fencing. How common was that in the 1820s?
And then, how did they decide on the appropriate attire for a girl? What did a ”riding coat” look like?
A riding coat, or a bonjour, was simply a short jacket suitable for riding (see picture below).
And the bombazine pants?
They were probably knee-breeches, like those men wore when fencing, but made of bombazine fabric.
And since I didn’t find any pictures, I made an illustration of how I think Lotten Ulrich might have looked during her lesson.
Östman, Margareta. 2015. Systrarna Ulrichs dagböcker – från Stockholms slott, Djurgården och landsorten 1830-1855. Stockholm: Carlssons. (Translation of title: The Ulrich Sisters’ Diaries – from Stockholm’s Palace, Djurgården, and the Countryside 1830-1855).
Heijkenskjöld, Syster, ed. 1915. Sällskapslif och hemlif i Stockholm på 1840-talet: ur Marie-Louise Forsells dagboksanteckningar. Stockholm: Bonnier. (Translation of title: Social Life and Home Life in Stockholm in the 1840s: From Marie-Louise Forsell’s Diary Notes).
In June last year, Kerstin and I were busy making 1850s swimwear for our summer sejour on the Swedish west coast. We tested that we could actually swim in the knee-long dresses and wide-legged pants without getting tangled in all the fabric. It was fine. Once I overcame the shock of the cold seawater and started swimming, I felt like a jelly-fish with the fabric floating all around.
The other important project was to make new parasols. In the past, we had used pretty, lace parasols imported from China. Kerstin had also made one before our first journey on Göta Canal.
But from fashion plates, we realized that these wide and flat parasols were not the kind that was used in the 1850s.
A friend of ours had also given us two antique silk parasols from the late-1800s. They were so pretty but also very delicate and fragile. What we needed were some new parasols that we could actually use on our travels.
The parasols of the mid-1800s were very small. They were actually the size of umbrellas that you can buy for kids. Also, the handles were much thinner than those of today’s umbrellas and they looked like they were going through the fabric, sticking out almost 4 inches at the top.
We studied the two antique parasols we had to see how they were constructed.
Kerstin and I kept our eyes open for material that we could use to make our own parasols. One day, I found cheap plastic kid-umbrellas that would be perfect.
We bought several, removed the plastic, and cut off the handle (Figure 2). But what could we use for a new handle? I looked for sticks and pipes and anything that would have the right dimensions. The first thing I found was an old TV antenna that had fallen down from our cottage’s roof (Figure 3). It was perfect. I cut it to the right length and figured out a way to connect it to the child umbrella (Figure 4). But what about the top part (the cap in Figure 6)? I needed a small pipe and looked around the house. Found it! The pipe that is part of a gaslighter (Figure 5) had the perfect dimension.
So this was my first attempt to make a parasol. I decided to make it in a cheap, thin, cotton fabric. I had some antique lace and bought some silk tassel. I also covered the handle with fabric.
My next parasol was going to be in silk fabric. Kerstin was also going to make one. We had already bought the child umbrellas, but we had no more TV antennas!
Back to square one.
We decided to go to Brisak, a store that has everything from clothes and outdoor furniture to kitchenware and kids’ toys. It was at Brisak I had found the child umbrellas. This time we were looking for some pipe or rod or stick that could be used for a handle.
We didn’t get far into the store before Kerstin headed to the isle of fishing gear. Maybe a fishing rod would work?
“Look!” she exclaimed. “I bet that will work!”
She had found a box full of kids’ fishing nets with telescopic pole handles. They were perfect! (Figure 1). They came in blue or hot pink, which didn’t matter as all we needed was the telescopic handle (of course, I still bought pink ones and Kerstin bought blue).
Back home, we started making our silk parasols. This time I paid more attention to the details of the antique parasols, for example, how the inside was also covered in silk fabric to hide all the metal parts. I used some ribbons from an Indian pillow and lace from a thrift store dress.
Kerstin made a beautiful blue one.
Satisfied with the results, we were now ready for our summer sejour on the west coast.
Today, on the International Women’s Day, I thought about Mrs. Brandt. A sought-after seamstress who didn’t leave many historical threads to follow. All her handiwork is long gone – dresses and shirts all worn out. The only traces of her are a few sentences in Augusta’s diary and in letters between Augusta and her mother Anna.
Mrs. Brandt in Augusta’s diary and correspondence
Mrs. Brandt was never mentioned with a first name. She was simply referred to as Mrs. Brandt, Branta, or Brandtan.
”Mrs. Brandt is here since yesterday, altering a few of my dresses.” (Augusta’s Diary, Loddby, 21 August 1850)
”We were at Krusenhof last Wednesday. Little Nann bought my red silk dress. Brandtan was there, sewing a whole outfit for their move to Stockholm, which is planned for Christmas and then, in God’s name, it is the end of that joy.” (Augusta’s Diary, Loddby, 28 November 1850)
”Soon after the New Year, I will take Branta here to help me sew Lejdenfrost’s shirts and also August’s. She is now with Thoréns in Qvillinge.” (Letter from Anna to Augusta, Loddby, Autumn 1852)
”Branta was here for two days and August and she did not get along. She had said something about him that he was angry about. She left 10 Rdr that I put in your seashell.” (Letter from Anna to Augusta, Loddby, 27 November 1852)
”Branta came out < ?> drunk and has now been in bed for 3 days. They have now taken her to Skärlöta to sew a wool dress for the wife and alter a coat that the wife inherited from her mother. We’ll probably berate her when she comes back; she’s really mean and wants to pit people against each other.” (Letter from Anna to Augusta, Loddby, Winter 1852 – 1853)
”Branta asked me to send you her regards, also Malla.” (Letter from Anna to Augusta, Loddby, Winter 1853)
”If you could let me know when in June you are planning on coming home because then we will need Branta and she is now sought after in several places.” (Letter from Anna to Augusta, Loddby, Spring 1853)
”… my Branta has sewn 1 ½ dozen shirts. And put new breasts and collars on a dozen and finished 6 quilts for you. This is easily said than done. Branta is now sewing on a cardigan for me and then she will sew your mantilla, which is well washed, and a little else she will sew for me. I have 14 days before she goes to Tåby where she will be until June 5th when she will be at your disposition.” (Letter from Anna to Augusta, Loddby, May 1853)
”We, Branta and I, are now stuffing your quilts. There will be 4 single-size quilts and 2 for the people. Lina is sewing your everyday sheets and Malla does nothing but ironing.” (Letter from Anna to Augusta, Loddby, Spring 1853)
Who was this traveling seamstress?
Kerstin and I have discussed Mrs. Brandt many times. When we are making our own dresses, we comment on how Mrs. Brandt would have worked at a time before sewing machines.
Mrs. Brandt was a traveling seamstress. She went from one family to the next, helping them make or alter clothes. And she helped with Augusta’s trousseau. Given this lifestyle and the fact that she was referred to as Mrs., she was probably a widow. A woman who had to make a living and stayed with various families as she did the work.
How do you search when all you have is a family name and an occupation?
Who was Mrs. Brandt?
Where do you even start searching for a seamstress whose last name was Brandt? And when that is all the information you have.
Google is of no help with so few unspecific keywords. Then there are the Household Examination Records kept by each parish, but then you would need to know in which parish she lived.
Kerstin and I discussed the dilemma this week. Should we just gang up on reading the household examination records for all possible parishes? Take one parish at the time. Mrs. Brandt would be in one of those church records.
Kerstin started with Kvillinge parish where Augusta lived. Then she read through all the records in Norrköping’s Hedvig parish. I spent an evening reading through all the records for Norrköping’s Johannes parish. By this time, we had found no Mrs. Brandt. I next opened up Norrköping’s S:t Olai parish household examination records and realized that the population was so large that the records had to be published in 7 separate books covering 4 city quarters: Strand, Norra, Dal, and Berg. Each book could have up to 400 pages of scribbly and crossed-over handwriting by some old pastor.
I was not going to read through those books. There had to be a better approach.
I racked my brain – what other archives existed that allowed you to search on names?
This was a long shot, would a seamstress appear in a local newspaper? I guess only if she died and her death was of interest to the readers. Would anyone care about a seamstress dying?
I decided to search within the Swedish Royal Library’s archive of daily newspapers. I limited the search to the years 1835 – 1870 and to the local newspaper, Norrköpings Tidningar. The search word was Brandt.
The search resulted in a lot of hits – traveling merchants named Brandt, some famous Swedish actress named Mrs. Brandt, a run-away delinquent boy with the name of Brandt, to mention a few. I read the results in chronological order. When I got to 1869, I found a good candidate! She was listed under the heading of Death:
Widow Katarina Brandt, 66 years, 11 months, and 22 days.
There was no more information. Just the single line with her name and age.
Back to the Church Records
With this information, I could now go straight into the chronological church records of Death and Burial. I just had to check every parish, but that was now a minor problem as I had a date and the records were chronological.
Sure enough, I found Catarina Brandt in Norrköping’s S:t Olai parish. The record affirmed what I had read in the paper. The only additional information was that she died of old age (66!!!), that her household examination record would be on page R22 in the household examination books, and that she actually died in Kvillinge parish and was buried there.
I of course checked the Death and Burial record for Kvillinge parish and found that she had been buried there. The only difference was the spelling of Katarina (K versus C) and that the cause of death was recorded as ”weakness”.
The Register of the Rest
With the information that her household examination record would be on page R22, I would now be able to find her in S:t Olai’s records. Page 22. But in which quarter: Strand, Norra, Dal, or Berg?
I checked page 22 in every book and didn’t find her. Then I realized that other entries had a prefix of S, N, D, and B. I assumed, and then confirmed, that they referred to the quarter. But Mrs. Brandt’s record was supposed to be on page R22 and there was no quarter starting with R.
What could R mean? In Swedish, I imagined it could mean Resterande (remaining) or Resande (traveling). I looked at the list of church books, but no book seemed to match. Then there was a book called Böcker över obefintliga (Books of Non-existent). On top of the first page was the title: “R=Restlängd (Rest Register). I flipped to page 22, and there she was.
According to the parish, Mrs. Brandt did not live within the parish anymore and didn’t attend S:t Olai’s church. But she had also not registered a move to any other parish. She was obviously traveling or staying with other people, or both. A likely traveling seamstress.
There was some additional information on this record. It stated that she was born in Ringarum parish on 11 December 1802 (I checked the parish birth records but didn’t find her on that date. However, the pastor had such horrendous handwriting that I could have missed it – see image). Her last household examination page was N197. And there was a note that she was a widow for the second time in 1833.
The Master Shoemaker – Clas Gustaf Brandt
Aha! Maybe Mrs. Brandt’s husband’s death was also announced in the paper, just like hers. I was back in the newspaper archives again. This time I focused on 1833. I included earlier years too, just in case there were other interesting hits.
The death was announced:
”That the master shoemaker, Clas Gustaf Brandt, through a terrible accident, died on Sunday, the 9th of June at the age of 33, tenderly mourned and missed by the surviving spouse and friends, is hereby reverently announced.”
And then there was an earlier announcement in the paper, in 1830, about a few houses that would be sold at auction. One was the house in which CG Brandt and his wife were living. As I now knew the year and the address, House No. 8 in Strand, in the block named Bakungnen, it was easy to find them in the household examination book. There they were, CG Brandt born 1800 and his wife Eva Catharina Hanqvist, born 1802. So now I had her maiden name too!
Finally, there were a few announcements in the newspaper by Mrs. Brandt. There she used Eva as her first name and C. as a middle initial. In May of 1833, she advertised flower seeds that she was selling on commission. And after her husband’s death, she wanted to settle his affairs and asked his former customers to get in touch with her.
And then the trail goes cold
Sometime after her husband’s death, she must have realized that she had to support herself and that she had the skills to do it. That is when the trail goes cold. She eventually ends up in the Register of the Rest in the Books of Non-existent. But the fact that her death was announced in the paper, 36 years after her husband’s death, means that she was well known in the community.
So despite having only circumstantial evidence, I conclude that Augusta’s Mrs. Brandt was Eva Catharina Brandt. And the next time Kerstin and I visit Kvillinge cemetery, we will certainly look for her grave.
But today, I wanted to tell the story of this forgotten woman who made exquisite dresses for young girls’ first balls, sewed beautiful mantillas for brides, and filled bridal quilts with goose down – all hand stitched. And in between, she made shirts for men and altered old hand-me-down clothes.
Cheers to Mrs. Brandt!