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Historical Facts: Victorian

The British laid 5,000 miles of rails in less then twenty years, a fact that led to British railway workers being paid three times the wages of other railway workers. Posted 8/15/2010

British Victorian nursemaids, who were often young girls, were so starved for affection that they often succumbed to “the scarlet fever,” a euphemism for falling for and being taken advantage of by a British soldier, whose uniform consisted of a scarlet-colored coat. Posted 2/01/2011

Clothing for a mid-Victorian woman weighed 200 pounds (the corset alone weighed 25 pounds).  This is why there were never any women survivors when the ship went down. 3/15/2011

19th century corsets reduced a woman’s waist by four inches and exerted anywhere from 25-80 pounds of pressure per square inch on her body. Posted 3/15/2011

The image of servants in black uniforms in frilly caps, starched aprons, and the like actually reflects a fairly short-lived reality.  Servants’ uniforms didn’t become routine until the rise of cotton imports in the 1850s.  Before then, the quality of clothes worn by the upper classes was so instantly and visibly superior to that of working classes, that it wasn’t necessary to distinguish servants with uniforms. Posted 4/01/2013

Contrary to popular belief Victorian brides did not have to wear white.  They could wear off white, ecru, dove grey, fawn silk, light blue, and light pink. Posted 6/15/2014

In the 19th century amateur accomplishment in art were considered an advantageous social refinement for a girl.  However, professional studies in life-drawing classes were feared to compromise a woman’s virtue by inflaming her passions and making her unfit as a wife and mother.  It was even considered improper for women artists to draw undraped statuary in mixed company. Posted 3/15/2015

Until electricity, ballerinas routinely perished when the muslin of their tutus caught fire from the gas lamps used to light the stage; the deaths were referred to at the time as the “holocaust of ballet girls.” (The remedy, flame-retardant fabrics, was seen by many as too ugly to wear.) Posted 12/15/2015

“Crinoline fires” killed 3,000 women between the late 1850s and late 1860s in England. Women would lose sense of the circumference of their skirts, which caused them to step too close to a fire grate.  The flames would be fanned by the oxygen circulating under their skirts and caused them to catch fire. Posted 12/01/2016

Rousing sleepers so they would not be late for work was the job of the knocker-up (or knocker-upper), who sometimes used a pole to tap at the upper-floor windows of his or her clients in order to avoid waking up the whole household, or neighbors. Posted 10/15/2019

During the 19th century, theatre and opera chairs had wire rungs underneath the seat so you could store your top hat during the performance. Posted 12/01/2020

During the Victorian era, skirt lifters became popular when ladies became more active outdoors. This device lifted long skirts, making it easier to walk up and down stairs, through muddy patches, and across weedy fields. The skirt lifter was attached to a belt or waistband of a skirt. Then a fold of fabric would be caught between the pincers, and a ratcheting mechanism would pull the device closed. Not only were they practical, but they were often used to create fashionable looped-over skirts that showed off a decorative underskirt. Posted 5/15/2021


A single place setting for a Victorian formal dinner consisted of 33 pieces of silverware, 10 glasses, a salt cellar, a knife rest, a charger plate, a bread plate, a butter pat, a name card and holder, a printed menu and holder, a bone plate, and a nut cup.  All other china would be brought out with each course. Posted 12/01/2010

In 1840 the Coal Act was passed forbidding women to be used as pit ponies in the mines. Posted 3/01/2011

To accommodate the place setting for a formal Victorian dinner, one needed three feet of table space per guest. Posted 9/01/2011


During the 19th century, 50% of England’s population was “in domestic service.” Posted 10/15/2011

By the 19th century, it was routine to take beds apart at least once a year and paint them with disinfectant or varnish to get rid of bed bugs.  Manufacturers often advertised how quickly their beds could be dismantled for this annual maintenance. Posted 8/15/2012

Victorian love letters did not end with ‘love,’ but more frequently simply with ‘ever your friend.’ Posted 2/15/2014


From the late 18th century to the early 20th century breadcrumbs were used to clean satin ballroom dancing slippers. Posted 5/15/2014

19th century etiquette stated that a gentleman never offered a lady his arm during the daytime.  However, in the evening it was appropriate for her to take his arm. Posted 12/01/2014

Victorian etiquette books stated that dresses with a low neckline should only be worn to dinners by candlelight. Posted 12/01/2015

Victorian etiquette books stated that when a lady crosses the street she should raise her dress a little above the ankle, holding together the folds of her gown and drawing them toward the right. Raising the dress with both hands exposes too much ankle, and is considered most vulgar. Posted 5/01/2016

During the 19th century, one-third of all mill employees were children. Posted 9/15/2017


Formal Victorian dinners consisted of 10-12 courses with 2-4 dishes per course and a different wine with each course. 12/15/2017

Victorian etiquette books stated that a true gentleman should always rise when a lady enters or leaves the room. Posted 4/15/2019

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks, writing intensely from about 9 AM to 2 PM every day, followed by long, brainstorming walks, as far as 20 miles. He penned it in black ink, with a goose quill. There was no outline, no first drafts. 12/01/2019

Victorian etiquette books state that a gentleman will always tip his hat to greet a lady. Posted 2/15/2021

In Britain, The Mandatory Schooling Act passed in 1880, making it compulsory to attend school for 5- to 12-year-olds. This was a real hardship for poorer families, because they lost the income the children were bringing in. Posted 9/01/2021

In 1870, the Marriage law in Britain was relaxed so that betrothals were no longer legally binding or blessed by the church, and they thus began to be called engagements.

Posted 6/2023

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