Dr Bob Nicholson Profile picture
Historian • Broadcaster • Victorian Pop Culture • Presenter of 'Killing Victoria' on @BBCSounds 🎙️ • Curator of @OldJokeArchive • Co-Director of @EHUNineteen
Phillip Sparrow Profile picture 1 subscribed
Sep 18, 2022 4 tweets 1 min read
In 1892, Answers magazine ran a competition inviting readers to explain the things that would make them happy. Lot of people dreamed of money and a country estate, but not this girl... Pity the 'little wife' who gets trapped in this man's fantasy
Jun 22, 2022 12 tweets 4 min read
In 1892, Answers magazine published an article predicting what the news would be like in a hundred years's time. Let's see how the Victorians imagined the 90s...

Thread 👇👇👇 Image Firstly, they accurately predicted the arrival of broadcast news! Or, at least, that it would be 'read out' to audiences thanks to the perfection of Edison's phonograph.
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Nov 17, 2021 18 tweets 6 min read
A quick digital research tutorial!

All of @galecengage's newspaper archives — e.g. The Times, Daily Mail, British Library Newspapers — have a built-in 'Term Frequency' search tool. You can access it at the foot of the archive's home page. /1 This allows us to 'distant read' the archive by graphing how often a particular word or phrase appeared each year. It's similar to google's ngram tool (books.google.com/ngrams) but for newspapers! /2
Mar 3, 2021 13 tweets 5 min read
In 1891, the Illustrated Police News published these reactionary cartoons bemoaning what they regarded as women's growing power to accuse men of sexual/romantic misconduct. There are striking parallels here with more recent responses to movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. This panel, for instance, ridicules the idea of men being publicly shamed by women.
Mar 3, 2021 10 tweets 3 min read
When notable Victorian murderers were sent to the gallows, the Illustrated Police News often printed vivid front-page illustrations imagining their tortured dreams on 'the night before the execution.'

Kate Webster was a maid who murdered & dismembered her mistress.

(1879) The imagined dreams of Charles Peace — infamous Victorian burglar and murderer — on the night before his execution.

— Illustrated Police News (1879)
Feb 28, 2021 4 tweets 1 min read
Spring is in the air, and I'm reading a Victorian newspaper devoted to adultery. Here, a 'guilty pair' of lovers are spotted playing a red-hot game of whist!

- The Crim-Con Gazette (1839) Image My favourite thing about these illustrations is always the face of the person observing the adulterers... Image
Feb 27, 2021 40 tweets 14 min read
Another crime against newspaper history features in the latest trailer for The Irregulars. It’s like a ‘greatest hits’ of ALL the worst mistakes documented in this thread. Image Honesty, it’s almost as if moaning about something on Twitter for three years has absolutely no real impact!?
Feb 20, 2021 12 tweets 5 min read
Here's a page from the 'Matrimonial News' (1870) — packed with the Victorian equivalent of online dating profiles. It's fascinating to see how people from this period described themselves and articulated their desires. Here's how the matchmaking process worked — a bit slower than swiping on tinder.
Feb 16, 2021 31 tweets 10 min read
If anybody out there still believes that the Victorians weren't interested in sex, allow me to present...

(c. 1850)

Thread 👇👇👇 They opened the first issue with a portrait of Lady Godiva — whose story features the original Peeping Tom — and an address to their readers, outlining their intention to "peep into every hole and corner where a 'thing or two' of a spicy nature is to be learnt." /2
Sep 25, 2020 12 tweets 5 min read
Blimey, here’s a useful source for historians and novelists working on the Victorian era. Typical incomes for various professions, “from the Queen down to Her Majesty’s meanest subjects.”

— Tit-Bits, 20 Oct 1883. Let’s take a closer look. Here’s the alleged annual income of several government officials in 1883. Interesting that the PM didn’t receive more than his cabinet members!
Sep 25, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
For Christmas 1884, Tit-Bits magazine set readers a bumper series of 48 different competitions. This entry won the prize for ‘The Best Game for an Adult Christmas Party’! I’m impressed — and slightly dizzy — after reading the winner of “The longest sensible sentence, every word of which begins with the same letter” competition.

Honestly, the Victorians were BUILT for stuff like this.
Sep 11, 2020 6 tweets 2 min read
I'm currently researching the consumption of 'American Drinks' (i.e. cocktails) in Victorian Britain. They were widely available and fairly popular from the 1840s onwards... but not everybody was a fan!
(1862) Image The term 'American Drinks' didn't always refer to alcohol. It covered a range of other exotic new drinks from the USA, usually involving sugar or ice. Ice cream soda (optimistically described here as 'healthy') seems to have become popular following the Paris Exhibition of 1867! Image
Sep 7, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
There’s something kinda melancholic about the vintage joke book that arrived in the post today. 777 laughs doesn’t seem enough for a lifetime... Image Mind you, it was published in December 1938, so that laugh count might’ve proven tragically true for a lot of readers.
Sep 3, 2020 4 tweets 1 min read
"While the husbands of neglected wives disport in the city with the queens of the chorus, Tarquin's shadow soils the silver sands of Newport."

— National Police Gazette (1884) Image Here's the accompanying article. Shadowy Tarquin stalking his negligee-clad prey in an Adamless Eden! Image
Aug 26, 2020 6 tweets 3 min read
In 1877, the Police News reported this extraordinary story of a celebrated Parisian dancer who, they claim, auctioned off her amputated leg to a Hungarian prince for the sum of 221,000 francs!

Amazing! But...

/1 Image The accompanying article claimed to feature extracts from Le Figaro, the Parisian newspaper, but I haven't been able to find any matching stories (though I can't read much French!). The IPN might've got her name wrong, but it's much more likely that they made it all up.

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Aug 26, 2020 6 tweets 3 min read
I'm collecting examples of nineteenth-century practical jokes. Some of them are very odd!

Here's an 'electric torture machine' that was supposedly installed in American bar-rooms. Customers were tricked into thinking it was a strength-tester...


— IPN (1877) Image The accompanying article reports that some people were left hanging, in the 'greatest agony', for upwards of FIVE MINUTES!

Honestly, I don't think the Victorians should've been trusted with electricity.

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Aug 24, 2020 24 tweets 8 min read
Victorian pantomimes sound amazing! Here's a scene from 'The Grim Goblin; or, Harlequin Octopus, the Devil Fish, and the Fairies of the Flowery Dell'.

Why do we keep bothering with Dick Whittington when we could have a demonic octopus?!

— Illustrated Police News (US ed., 1877) Image According to this report, it took fifteen men to operate the octopus. The monster was named 'Hic-Hac-Hoc'! Image
Aug 23, 2020 18 tweets 8 min read
Meanwhile, in nineteenth-century Kansas...

When a man "made some remarks derogatory to the character of Mrs Antonia Fell" she went after him with a pair of cowhide whips and administered a 'severe castigation'!

— Illustrated Police News (US ed., 1877) Image He fled into a drugstore; she whipped him in there too.

When bystanders interfered, she threatened to whip 'em.

If he took her to court? She promised to "give him another dose" of the whip so "that the court may see for itself how it was done, and save explanation."
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Aug 22, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
Watch out, neglectful husbands of Southern Indiana! In 1887, a group of 'wrathful women' vigilantes allegedly formed a 'Hickory Switching Club' in order to punish all the 'no-good specimens of manliness' who had let them down.

— Illustrated Police News (US ed., 1887) ImageImage The Illustrated Police News straddled the boundary between pornography and respectable print. So many of the scenarios depicted in the paper also appeared in 19thC erotica, and the illustrations were often framed with an unmistakably pornographic gaze. (1877) Image
Aug 22, 2020 7 tweets 2 min read
Mary Hager was NOT to be messed with!

— Illustrated Police News (1877) Image The accompanying story describes her as 'A BAD WOMAN', but, honestly, it sounds like George Bartley had it coming. Image
Aug 22, 2020 5 tweets 2 min read
'Spooning On The Sands'
— IPN (1885)

The American edition of the Illustrated Police News was packed with tales of illicit affairs and clandestine flirtations. They knew how to wring every drop of juicy drama from these stories! ImageImage I particularly enjoyed the saucy stage directions in this story. '(waist business)'! Image