5 Cultural Facts of the Victorian Era: Rosson House

Cinched waists, enhanced hips and behinds, fingers jammed into gloves, and petticoats. Top hats, waist coats, startched shirts, knickers, and leather shoes. This was the life of women and men in the Victorian period.

Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square in Phoenix, AZ was built in 1895.  The house had been lived in by 5 different owners in the past years. It has been carefully restored to its original beauty. Some of the furniture is original. Most of the furniture was matched as carefully as possible to the original.

We were guided by a very knowledgeable docent who provided us with some very interesting facts.

The importance of the door

Only very special and important guests entered the “parlor”. The front door of the parlor has eight panels. All eight-paneled doors were designated entrances of only the most important guests. A six-paneled was the entrance for family members and was located at the back of the house. A four-paneled door was the entrance for the maids, nannies, and other employees of the family. When a special guest came to he house the family would greet them by descending from the top of the spiral staircase.

Top hats and gloves

Men never left the house without their top hats. Women never left the house without gloves. The gloves were so tight. The women had to use a device that resemble a plastic pliers to open the gloves and shove their fingers in as fast as possible. Top hats were origianlly made with beaver and rabbit skins. The rabbit was worn by the upper class and the beaver by the working class. The beaver top hat became silk later on.

Clothing For Adults

Wedding attire by the groom and bride was not white. In the Victorian Era the bride and groom wore the best dress attire hanging in their closets. They did not buy a special dress just for the wedding. They had to be practical because it was expensive to have clothes made. Many brides chose dark colors to hide stains or any imperfections. They would were the dress for other occasions.

Women and men in the Victorian Era possessed at the most three pieces of clothing. Women had three dresses and the men one to two suits. Clothing was expensive and had to be made by hand. The material had to be imported. Women only had one maternity dress. They wore this dress everyday and for every pregnancy. Women’s clothes were protected by wearing aprons and petticoats.

Childhood

Children slept in the same room as their parents until they were about two years old or kicked out by a younger sibling.

They moved to a “big kids” room after leaving the crib. Four to five children would sleep in the same room. Children were allowed to play with their toys and friends in their rooms or in the attic. They were not allowed in the parlor or anywhere else in the house.

When boys became older they began to wear the “sailor suit”. This was the common clothing for most boys. Girls began to wear corsets at the age of eight. A girl of twelve could not have a waistline of more than ten inches. The corset was worn twenty-four hours a day. A softer corset was worn to bed.

Both female and male babies wore dresses. Snaps, zippers, and velcro was not available to help hold up pants for children. Most “kinckers” were held up by suspenders. It was much easier to change the diaper of a baby when they were wearing a dress. Families were not concerned about identifying the children as male or female when they were young.

Food Preparation

The kitchens were very small. Most people shopped more than once a week for staples. There was not much cupboard space. The stove was heated by wood and was small compared to the modern appliances we have in our kitchens. The main table was used for making bread, pastries, and cookies. The flour was stored in the drawers under the table. All food was cooked and prepared at home by the women in the family.

There was always the problem of keeping bugs out of the kitchen. The baked goods were stored in cupboard space with the outside having the design below. The bugs would try to fly into the cupboard . Their wings would get stuck with the spikes sticking out of the design. Unfortunately they were not successful in getting a taste of the goods inside.

The ice man was much in demand. He would pass by about two to three times per week. This sign would be left out on the back porch. The sign is now showing 100 lbs. The ice man would see the sign and bring the ice right into the kitchen and install it in the “ice box”. The ice was usually too heavy for the women to carry. Dried ice was first invented in AZ because the ice would melt so quickly.

Visiting the past always makes me so appreciative of my life now.

 

 

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Author: Carol Kubota

I have been an ESL, English as a Second Language, instructor for 40 years. I currently teach at Arizona State University. My passion is to travel and learn about other cultures and history. I would like to share this passion with others.

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