Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Shipboard Ball

A dance on a ship, probably 1850s or 60s.

I was looking for uses of the the phrase "tripping on the light, fantastic toe," when I came across this description of  preparations for a ball on board a ship. I was amused by the idea of a bayonet chandelier. Several Civil War memoirs have mentioned using a bayonet to hold a candle. Apparently, building candlesticks and chandeliers from bayonets was more of a nineteenth century custom than I had realized.

The following lines are from an account of shipboard ball in the late 1830s:
On the following day our crew were actively employed from the earlier part of the day in fitting up and dressing the ship, for the purpose of holding a ball on board. The colors of different nations were tastefully arranged in gay festoons; those of America and England being placed in the most conspicuous situation in the centre. A kind of chandelier was arranged, formed of round hoops, covered with different colored bunting, and bayonets fastened to the same, pointed downwards, so that the upper parts of them were made to receive the candles, in the form of a candlestick. 

Every fanciful ornament that could possibly be mustered was put in requisition to give a coloring to the scene, which was picturesque in the extreme, more especially when lighted up on the quarter-deck, for the purpose of accommodating those of our visitors who felt inclined to amuse themselves on the light, fantastic toe. 

(Cruise of the Frigate Columbia around the world, under the command of Commodore George C. Read, in 1838, 1839, and 1840. By William Meacham Murrell, one of the crew. Boston Benjamin B. Mussey. 1840. p.139-140.)

A reproduction Enfield bayonet of the Civil war period.

An elaborate candlestick made of bayonets, French, probably from the 1870s.
A chandelier made of bayonets, Karlsborg, Sweden.

No comments:

Post a Comment