Mary Smith using peas as an alarm clock. Courtesy of The Image Works
The modern worker rolls out of bed, groans, and turns off an alarm clock.
But industrial-era British and Irish workers relied on a different method for rising each morning. In the 19th century and well into the 20th, a human alarm clock known as a “knocker-up” (knocker-upper) would trawl the streets and wake paying customers in time for work. Armed with sticks—or, in the case of Mary Smith, a pea shooter—they tapped on windows or blasted them with dried peas.
During the Industrial Age, people toiled at unusual hours in mines or factories.
They could have used alarm clocks—adjustable versions had been invented by the mid-19th century. But they were still relatively expensive items, and unreliable ones, at that.
Whether they wielded rods or pea shooters, knocker-ups became familiar presences throughout the United Kingdom. Many of them were older, and woke people up professionally for many years—they often wouldn’t leave people’s houses until they were sure they were awake.
This photo is from 1930 and it is “The Hon Mrs Roland Cubitt dressed as ‘Three Candles’ in a costume made by L & H Nathan Ltd, for the Pageant Of The Superstitions, a feature of the ‘All Halloween Ball’.
Keep your sexy pizza rats, your sexy Snow Whites, your sexy hashtags.
The best Halloween costume ever belonged to this woman in 1930, who is clearly going as “a candleholder who’s sick of your goddamn bullshit.”
Apparently, Mrs. Cubitt was Camilla Parker Bowles’s grandmother.
The longer you look at it, the better this photo gets.
The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired two copy books by Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (1868-1940), the sister of W.B. Yeats.
In the 1890s, Elizabeth was living in London, teaching art to children and involved with the Royal Drawing Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
The Society’s director, Thomas Robert Ablett, wrote the introduction to her 1896 edition.
“Miss Yeats, who is the daughter of an artist and a skillful kindergarten mistress, has proved that she can make good use of the subject.
For several years her pupils’ brush work has obtained high awards at the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Drawing Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
In this volume, Miss Yeats gives her experience for the benefit of others, wisely choosing her subjects from the flowers of the field, so that any teacher may paint from the growing plants themselves, with the help of the advice freely given and the chance of comparing the results obtained by Miss Yeats”.