These items, commonly used until the beginning of the XXth century, are now forgotten... except at the castle of Meung sur Loire!
This item was used to powder leather gloves. It made them easier to put on. Its long neck reaches the end of the fingers. The powders, made of starch or talc, could be perfumed. The fingers of the gloves could also be enlarged with a long clamp called “demoiselle”. Delicate and white hands were a sign of belonging to the upper class. There were many recipes to refines one’s fingers (one of them was made with the milk of a gazelle in Charles Perrault fairytale, Donkeyskin).
This is a skirt lifter (1870-1875)
In the XIXth century, there were no tarmac surfaces. Garbage would litter the streets and the full skirted and very costly frocks of that time were easily soiled. Remember also that washing techniques were basic and garments were often kept for a long while. Inventing the 'Page' or skirt lifting device helped ladies to preserve the fabric of their delicate frocks and to maintain them in a cleaner condition.
This is a dental key to extract diseased molars, (beginning of the XIXth century).
This dental key called “clef de Garengeot” remained in common use until the first part of the XXth century. Tooth pulling was carried out by a range of people including barber-surgeons and travelling practitioners. Wealthiest people used to keep their own dental instruments in their travelling essentials.
This is a head lice scratcher (second half of the XVIIIth century)
“Women often preserved their elaborately designed hairdos for months, and lice and other pests were frequently attracted to the fat and flour used to style the hair. Long-handled instruments were designed to reach in and scratch the itches caused by the lice living inside the coiffure, or hairstyle, and it was not uncommon to see these scratchers laid out with the silverware for guests to use at fancy dinner parties.”
This was used to wipe feathers. Remember, a long time ago, people used to write with feathers. They were using a small cloth to clean it regularly or it used to get clogged. In the XIX century, the mass production of a bad paper which fibers are easily pulled out, and of cheap ink which tends to leave deposits. At this time spread metallic feathers, more aggressive for the paper than goose feathers. Cloth was then supplanted by these elegant feather wipers. They disappeared in the 20’s when the fountain pen replaced definitively the feathers.
This is called a “taille soupe” and was used to cut thin slices of bread (called “soupe”) to pour them in a potage (food cooked in a pot). In the XIX century a “soupe” was a slice of bread basted in hot bouillon or milk. But today, everybody has forgotten this meaning, a “soupe” is just a bouillon. A French expression says of something or someone completely soaked “soaked as a soupe” which means nothing if you don’t know that a soupe was a slice of bread!
Photography: Ambroise Lelevé, Eric Lelevé, Marie De Rasse
Texts: Elise Lelevé, Xavier Lelevé, Marie De Rasse
Translation: Lydie Gascuel
Château de Meung-sur-Loire