Victorian Inventions We Couldn’t Live Without Today | Meredith Sweetpea


A fine Victorian invention

We see lines at the electronics store when the new smartphone comes out, and frenzies at the toy store when a popular doll is sold out.  Miss Meredith Sweetpea was wondering what inventions Victorians made that we couldn’t live without today.


The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell and patented in 1876. He just barely Continue reading


The Halloween Cake | Victorian Holidays

Meredith Sweetpea talked about Victorian Halloween games that foretold the future in her last post, but perhaps one of the most important traditions for Halloween in Victorian times was the Halloween Cake or Ribbon Cake.

The Halloween Cake

It was tradition to cut the first slice at the stroke of nine by one person designated to be “Dame Halloween.”

Silence Around the Table

Everyone was to gather around the table in perfect silence, and the first word spoken after the initial slice was deemed to be prophetic, and Dame Halloween had the power to make it meaningful.

As the slices are cut and delivered, each girl searches for their charm. For those who found no charm, they were to take their cake home and on the next full moon, sleep on it for three successive nights.

This was a cake with a variety of little charms baked into it. The cake was sliced and served, and whatever charms each person received foretold their future.

Meaning of Charms in the Victorian Halloween Cake

  • Penny — Wealth or good fortune
  • Doll — Children
  • Key — Travel
  • Ring — Marriage
  • Thimble — Single life
  • Button — Forlorn sweethearts

Halloween Cake Poem

This little poem describes the tradition:

The ring for marriage within a year;
The penny for wealth, my dear;
The thimble for old maid or bachelor born;
The button for sweethearts all forlorn;
The key for a journey to make all right;
And this you will see next Halloween night.

The Meaning of Flowers | Victorian History

In her last post, Meredith Sweetpea discussed how the Language of Flowers began in the Victorian era, and promised to list a variety of flowers and their meaning in this post. Here is her promise fulfilled.

Flowers and their Meaning

  • Acacia – Secret love
  • Apple Blossom – Preference
  • Azalea – Temperance
  • Bachelor’s Buttons – Celibacy
  • Basil – Hatred
  • Pink Carnation – A woman’s love
  • Chamomile – Energy in Adversity
  • Daffodil – Regard
  • Daisy – Innocence
  • Dogwood – Durability
  • Fennel – Strength
  • Forget-me-not – True love
  • Goldenrod – Precaution
  • Holly – Foresight
  • Honeysuckle – Generous & devoted affection
  • Iris – Message
  • Ivy – Fidelity
  • Jasmine – Amiability
  • Lavender – Distrust
  • Lily – Purity
  • Marigold – Sorrow
  • Morning Glory – Affectation
  • Myrtle – Love & marriage
  • Narcissus – Egotism
  • Nightshade – Secrets
  • Oak – Hospitality
  • Oleander – Beware
  • Orange Flowers – Chastity
  • Pansy – Thoughtfulness
  • Periwinkle – Friendship
  • Primrose – Consistency
  • Quince – Temptation
  • Rhododendron – Danger
  • Single Rose – Simplicity
  • Sage – Domestic virtue
  • Sweet William – Gallantry
  • Thistle – Defiance
  • Tulip – Fame
  • Blue Violet – Faithfulness
  • Water Lily- Purity of heart
  • Wisteria – I cling to thee
  • Zinnia – Thoughts of absent friends

The Language of Flowers | Victorian History

When Meredith Sweetpea thinks of “Victorian,” she immediately pictures flowers…floral table settings, floral wallpaper, floral teapots and tea cups. So it wasn’t a surprise to learn that the Victorians assigned meanings to the types of flowers they chose.

First Flower Symbolism Book Published in 1879

The first flower dictionary was published by Mme Charlotte de la Tour in Paris in 1818, and became a sensation. Following that success, Victorian lady Miss Corruthers of Inverness, wrote an entire book about flower symbolism in England and the United States. It was published in 1879.

Flowers let Victorians express sentiments secretly

Victorian women used the meaning of flowers to communicate in the time of strict etiquette standards. Flowers let them share sentiments that propriety of the time would not allow.

The practice became very popular among lovers, and in flirtations.

A gentleman could convey his feelings by having his flower selection delivered to a lady’s home following a dinner party or dance.

Perhaps he sent Peppermint for warmth of feeling or Snowdrops for hope. Or perhaps he had acted badly and apologized by sending Field Lilacs for humility or Brambles for remorse.

Different flower colors and variations have different meanings

Even within a type of flower, different colors and variations could have different meanings. Take the rose for example. A deep red rose may signify bashful shame, a white rose can say, “I am worthy of you,” while red and white roses together signify unity. A Damask Rose may admire a brilliant complexion, while a Cabbage Rose is an ambassador of love.

Flower language could come through other means

The message didn’t have to come through live flowers, however, it could be delivered through a Valentine, a card, or an illustration. A personal gift such as a floral-embroidered handkerchief could also reveal feelings.

Flowers could foretell the future

Flowers could also foretell the future. If the name of the first flower you found in the wild happened to be a Buttercup, someone whose name started with the letter “B” would come into your life.

In our next post, we’ll list the flowers and their meanings.

–excerpted from Literary Liaisons

How Jobs Have Changed | Victorian History

Millions of workers today earn their living in occupations that didn’t exist at the beginning of the 20th century. On the converse, many made livings in occupations then that have fallen by the wayside.

Jobs that have faded since Victorian times:

  • Railroad employees (2,076,000 in 1920, 231,000 today)
  • Carriage, harness makers (109,000 in 1900)
  • Telegraph operators (75,000 in 1920, 8,000 today)
  • Boilermakers (74,000 in 1920)
  • Cobblers (102,000 in 1900, 25,000 today)
  • Blacksmiths (238,000 in 1910)
  • Watchmakers (101,000 in 1920)
  • Farm workers (11.5 million in 1910, 851,000 today)

New jobs that have been created since Victorian times:

  • Airline pilots & mechanics (0 in 1900, 232,000 today)
  • Medical technicians (0 in 1900, 1.38 million today)
  • Engineers (38,000 in 1900, 1.85 million today)
  • Auto mechanics (0 in 1900, 864,000 today)
  • Truck, bus, taxi drivers (0 in 1900, 3.33 million today)
  • Professional athletes (less than 5,000 in 1920, 77,00o today)
  • Electricians (51,000 in 1900, 771,000 today)
  • Optometrists (less than 5,000 in 1910, 62,000 today)

–Data source: U.S. Bureau of the Census

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