Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poster of the Week

Rhett and Scarlett stand out against lima-green backgrounds in this pair of hand-painted posters from 1939. 

 Images from

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Quotable Rhett Butler: The Fat Dutch Woman

After a long holiday, the Quotable Rhett Butler is back! We're also getting close to the end of this series, only two or three quotes left. So, this week and the next, we will have twin lines, pertaining to Britain's and France's involvement in the American Civil War (or, rather, lack thereof) and then it's time to say goodbye. But first, let's take a look at Britain and its queen:
"Why, Scarlett! You must have been reading a newspaper! I'm surprised at you. Don't do it again. It addles women's brains. For your information, I was in England, not a month ago, and I'll tell you this. England will never help the Confederacy. England never bets on the underdog. That's why she's England. Besides, the fat Dutch woman who is sitting on the throne is a God-fearing soul and she doesn't approve of slavery. Let the English mill workers starve because they can't get our cotton but never, never strike a blow for slavery."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XIII
By the time Rhett and Scarlett had this conversation, in the spring of 1863, the chances of England rising to help the Confederacy were indeed slim. But it hadn't always been like that. Indeed the Confederacy had all along relied on the hope that the European powers, France and England in particular, would recognize it as a legitimate state, separate of the Union, and come to its aid. And at some points early during the war (see the Trent Affair), it had seemed that it might indeed happen.

Arguments in favor of this outcome? Firstly, Europe (and especially England) was dependent on the cotton produced in the South. Secondly, Europe (and especially England) was not a great fan of successful extra-European states and in fact quite fancied the idea of a divided Union. And finally, the European aristocrats had a natural affinity with the refined Southern upper classes and an equally natural distaste for the more... democratic Northerners.

Arguments against this outcome? Firstly, the European states were a little busy with their own engagements (i.e. being passive-aggressive and occasionally aggressive-aggressive to each other at any given chance). Secondly, no self-respecting empire precisely enjoyed creating a precedent by supporting seceding rebels. Thirdly, if they were going to pick camps, the European states wanted to be absolutely sure they were siding with the winner.  Fourthly, Europe needed the South's cotton, but Europe also needed the North's cereals just as much, if not more. And, last but not least, there was the moral issue: neither France, nor England particularly wanted to be associated with chattel slavery at this point in the 19th century. 

During the first two years of war, when the odds were not so clearly in favor of the Union and the war was framed more in terms of States' Rights than abolition of slavery, England might have been persuaded to step in on the side of the Confederacy. By the spring of 1863, this was no longer an appealing political action. The Battle of Antietam in the autumn of 1862 had shown the Confederacy to be the underdog and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in January, 1863, had added a moral stake to the war. The Union had framed its actions as  a fight for human freedom, and no European government would want to be seen opposing such an endeavor.

It wasn't even, as Rhett suggests, that a minority at the top was opposed to slavery on moral or religious grounds. It was that, by this time in the 19th century, the public opinion was against it. While Queen Victoria* disapproved of slavery, in keeping with her desire to maintain a Christian kingdom, so did the British working classes, the same ones that were starving without the South's cotton. During the famous Lancashire Cotton Famine, the cotton workers in Manchester sent a letter that contained this passage to Lincoln:
"... the vast progress which you have made in the short space of twenty months fills us with hope that every stain on your freedom will shortly be removed, and that the erasure of that foul blot on civilisation and Christianity – chattel slavery – during your presidency, will cause the name of Abraham Lincoln to be honoured and revered by posterity."
--read more here
So, as you see, at this point in history a Confederate newspaper that still expressed hope for an English intervention was bound to addle anyone's brains... (Which we devotedly hope was Rhett's meaning with those first sentences there *cough*.)

*On a random note: Queen Victoria was of German origins, not Dutch. Her mother was the German-born Princess Victoria of Sexa-Coburg-Saalfeld. Americans used the word Dutch to refer to Germans, result of anglicizing the word "Deutsch."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Fashionable Rogue, Part 2: Rhett's Bonnet Scene Suit

Today we're pleased to bring you the second installment of our new three-part mini-series, The Fashionable Rogue, which explores some of the possible historical inspirations behind Rhett Butler's wardrobe in Gone with the Wind. Last week, we looked at Rhett's white suit worn during the burning of Atlanta. This week we're bringing you an earlier sartorial selection by Captain Butler--the gray suit and black jacket combo he wore to tempt Scarlett with bonnets and bangles and lead her into a pit to present Scarlett with a very generous gift from the Rue de la Paix.

You'll find the fashion plate and corresponding GWTW screenshots for comparison after the jump. Check them out and let us know what you think! 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rue de la Paix

This week's Rue de la Paix is devoted to Olivia DeHavilland, with two beautiful collages showcasing the gorgeous star. 

Beautiful Olivia

Beautiful Olivia

Friday, June 24, 2011

"As God is my witness..." - A Quote for Hard Times

Erin Blakemore, author of The Heroine's Bookshelf, is hosting a Margaret Mitchell Month over at her blog. We chimed in with the post linked below, check it out and be sure to take a peek at all the other entries too; they're great reading material! 
Thanks to Erin for organizing this great event!

Poster of the Week

Rhett and Scarlett share a moment of tenderness following Scarlett's nightmare in this Italian poster (date unknown).

Image from

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Fashionable Rogue, Part 1: A Rhett Butler Edition of Doppelganger Styles

It just isn't fair to let Scarlett have all the fun with the fashion plates. Rhett's bound to get jealous, being such a handsomely dressed man and all. So, in order to defuse Captain Butler's jealousy (always a scary thing), today we're pleased to unveil The Fashionable Rogue. This three-part mini-series will explore the historical styles behind some of our favorite scoundrel's costumes from Gone with the Wind--ala our earlier Doppelganger Dresses series, only this time it's all suits instead of silk dresses, of course. 

After the jump, you'll find our first lookalike style--Rhett's white suit and Panama hat combo worn the fateful night he piloted Scarlett out of Atlanta...and then abandoned her to join the army. Ah, rogues! They always seem to leave you when you need them most (and in this case, look impeccably dressed doing it.) Check out the fashion plate and let us know what you think! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rue de la Paix

In honor of Father's Day tomorrow, this week's collage features Rhett and his darling little girl Bonnie. Happy Father's Day to all our readers!

London Bridge

Thursday, June 16, 2011

All Things Military: Mr. Butler's West Point Education

We all know that, before embarking on his subsequent careers as rogue, gambler, blockade runner and - did I leave something out? - oh yes, Confederate soldier and devoted husband, Rhett Butler started out as a West Point cadet. And though he managed to get himself kicked out of the prestigious Academy (for drunkenness and "something involving women" nonetheless), we thought it would still be worthwhile to take a look at his time as a West Pointer. So here we are, ready and eager to explore what daily life would have been like for a 19th century cadet!

The Academy

By way of introduction, we'll start with a few words on the institution itself. The United States Military Academy was founded in 1802, but plans for such an establishment go back to the War of Independence, when the need for having a facility to train professional military officers first became obvious. The concept of a military academy, however, was seen as too elitist and too European by the newly-emancipated and always-democratic Americans.

Finally, after a few false starts, the Academy was formally established in 1802, as a national university with a focus on science and engineering. Its first years were a little uncertain, but after 1817, when Sylvanus Thayer became superintendent, the Academy, now consolidated and boasting of a reformed curriculum and stricter code of conduct, became the nation's leading civil engineering school.

View of West Point, United States Military Academy in the 19th century (1857)

Since it was designed to be an institution for all of America, the West Point Academy strove to maintain a mixed student body, with cadets ranging from aristocrats to farmers' son, and with at least one cadet from each of the congressional districts of the United States (the latter point having been established by law in 1843).  The entrance age varied a lot in the earlier years, with incoming cadets ranging from 14 to 20, to then center around the interval from 14 to 16.

Loosely speaking, Rhett could have attended the Academy somewhere between 1842 (when he was 14) and 1848 (when he was 20 and back in Charleston, raising trouble and getting thrown out by his father). He most probably attended it in the second half of this interval.

Getting In

The admission process to the Academy was not an easy one. First came the "bureaucratic" part. In order to be admitted to West Point, a young man had to be nominated by a member of the Congress. Enter anxious families writing letters and exerting their influence to secure the precious nomination. The level of exertion varied of course according to the family's social and economical situation. For a rich and well-connected family like Rhett's, this step wouldn't have posed any problems. Poorer families, on the contrary, went to great lengths to obtain nominations for their sons, all the more so since such an endorsement would not only give their offspring a rare chance to move up into the world, but it would also do so without considerable damage to the family's finances. A West Point education was free!

Once nominated, the young man aspiring to the honor of becoming a West Point cadet still had some hurdles to pass. Even though the admission requirements were kept to a minimum throughout the 19th century to ensure fair chances of getting in for those from a rural background, they still included basic knowledge of mathematics and passing a vision test that required candidates to tell whether a dime held up 14 paces away was showing head or tails. 

Studies, Exams and Daily Life

So, once in, what was our fictional cadet, Rhett Butler, supposed to learn at the Academy? The study program held two components considered complementary - and equally important - for a young man's education in the 19th century: military subjects and discipline, on one hand, and academic subjects, on the other.

When it came to the academic subjects, the first two years focused almost entirely on mathematics in the mornings and French in the afternoon. (The emphasis on French can be partly explained by the fact that the French were thought to have the leading textbooks in mathematics, engineering and military sciences.  The cadets needed to know French in order to be able to read their manuals.) After that, engineering and related subjects (mineralogy, geology) formed the core of the curriculum, along with drawing, that was an essential skill for both engineers and soldiers (think of the importance of drawing maps in battles).

You can see the daily schedule of the West Point cadets including all the classes they took in the table below. This schedule applied to all days with the exception of Sundays. Keep in mind the fact that the First Class is the final year, the class about to graduate, while the Fourth Class is the first year, the class of the junior cadets.

Employment of Time During the Day, at the United States Military Academy. The Regulations of the United
States Military Academy, 1839.
As you can glimpse from the above, the course of study was rather strict and demanding, accounting for a typically high degree of failure (sometimes even up to half of the class!) during the first two years. After the first two years, most people tended to fail because of scandals involving women and drinking. Cadets had no control over their schedule and little free time, with basically every minute from reveille to lights out mapped out for them.

But if you thought their life was surely uncomfortable enough... enter the examinations. At West Point, cadets were graded in every subject every day! The daily examinations (or "recitations") were conducted by a teacher and several instructors, who could be either recent graduates or gifted students from the senior years. According to their daily grades, the cadets were placed into sections suitable to their abilities (the first section having the top students, the next one the mediocre ones and so forth). Each section worked at a different pace and sometimes even after different textbooks. These sections were re-evaluated on a weekly or monthly basis. On top of the daily examinations, cadets were supposed to pass general exams in June and December.

You can see probably see now how West Point life would have put quite a strain on your average cadet. And what's a young man to do, faced with all these restrictions and the stress of perpetual examinations? Why, misbehave, of course!

Misdemeanors and Demerits

Cadets were not only ranked according to their grades, but also according to their conduct.  The slightest misdemeanor, from not folding one's bedding to sitting down on post, could earn one up to ten demerits. 200 of these black marks meant expulsion from the Academy. (Now, if sitting down on post earns one 8 demerits, anyone cares to place bets on how much "something involving women" was worth?) 

The demerits of the cadets from all the years (classes) were written down in a conduct roll, which was public information. And of course, the individual sheets of demerits were kept, since they affected the student's ranking. We know, for example, that Robert E. Lee managed to finish West Point with no demerits at all.

So that was our insight into life at West Point. And we have to say, after reading all this, we can sort of see how and why a rebellious young man like Rhett would manage to get expelled from the Academy, can't you?

Poster of the Week

This beautifully illustrated advertisement hails from 1940 and juxtaposes Rhett carrying Scarlett up the stairs against the duo's earlier escape out of Atlanta. In fact, one could say that here Rhett is merely attempting to save Scarlett from two of her greatest threats: Yankees and her fixation on Ashley Wilkes.

Image from

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gone with the Wind: In Word Clouds

Here's a silly little something that we put together and thought you might enjoy: Gone with the Wind as depicted in word clouds. We've broken the novel down in five charts, each one corresponding to five formal parts of MM's novel and representing the most frequently used words in that section of the book. Check it out: 

Part One 
(Beginning of novel through Scarlett's move to Atlanta)

Part Two
(The early Atlanta war years through spring 1864)

Part Three
(The Atlanta campaign and siege through Ashley's return to Tara)

Part Four 
(The Kennedy era through Scarlett's wedding to Rhett)

Part Five 
(Rhett and Scarlett's honeymoon through the end of the book)

So what do you think? To me at least, it's both very cool and sad to the the progression away from "Scarlett, Scarlett, Scarlett, Scarlett" as the most prominent words in the first four parts, to "Scarlett" and "Rhett" as words of equal prominence in the last part. A visual reminder that our heroine did eventually catch on, but much too late...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House: The Inspiration for Fayetteville Female Academy

Last week we looked at what life might have been like for Scarlett at the fictional Fayetteville Female Academy, and now we're pleased to explore the real life inspiration behind Miss O'Hara's school. As many of you may already know, Margaret Mitchell based her heroine's alma mater on the real Fayetteville Academy. Located in the Georgia town of the same name, Fayetteville Academy was actually a coed institution, one that was attended by Mitchell's grandmother, Annie Fitzgerald. The Academy was housed in antebellum mansion, which today is known as the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum. (If the Holliday name sounds familiar to you, you aren't imagining things--the house was built in 1855 by John Stiles Holliday, uncle to the infamous "Doc" Holliday, whose connection to GWTW you can find here.)

To get the inside story on Fayetteville Academy, we reached out to John Lynch, City Historian for Fayetteville, Georgia and curator of the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, who was kind enough to email us about the Academy's history and its relationship to MM, which we've excerpted for you:
"The academy was built and organized around the mid 1850's and was very popular with the surrounding planters and well-to-do people (which were not the majority).  They sent their children here due in part because of the reputation of the founding professors - George C., Morgan, and M.V. Looney (brothers). There really was no female academy although one was proposed in the 1840's and never came to be.  So the 1850's academy was coed.  Dr. John Stiles Holliday was one of the founding trustees of the academy and after building his home (present HDF Museum), he allowed some students and faculty to board in the house. One of the boarders was (at times) Miss Annie Fitzgerald (the grandmother of Margaret Mitchell).  To say the least the academy was the premier place in the county for educating young people.  Most of the other schools were one-room affairs that belonged to planters or wealthy farmers who built them for the use of their own children and surrounding neighbors' children.  We do have some information on a few of these.  Fayette County was not a very wealthy county as counties go in those days, although there were a few families of moderate wealth.  Most of the time these families tended to marry into each other...
"I should say that as far as local legends go there are numerous stories about M.M. and the people that lived around here.  Every family seems to have a story or connection to M.M. I would gather to say that about 90% of them or erroneous or greatly exaggerated.  However, Margaret Mitchell was very fond of Fayetteville and spent a lot of time here while helping the local woman's club in organizing the library. One of those ladies was Mrs. R.E.L. Fife (last owners of the HDF House).  She and her husband entertained M.M. at the home in 1937 at which time the young M.M. said the house "would make a good shot in the new movie GWTW.""
 --John Lynch, City of Fayetteville Historian and Curator of the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House 

We agree with MM that the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House would have made a good shot in GWTW. In fact, we blinked a few times upon seeing it ourselves, as it does remind us somewhat of Tara in the movie. Isn't it interesting to see how real life compares against reel life?

    The Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House. Image from                   Tara from Gone with the Wind. Image from


Rue de la Paix

This week, we've got "His & Hers" collages, one featuring the dashing Clark Gable and the other the enchanting Vivien Leigh. How glamorous they were! 

6. Clark Gable

12. Vivien Leigh

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Of Grandeur and Gifts: A Small Glimpse into Victorian Birthdays

Recently I stumbled across a cute little tibdit on Victorian birthdays and gift giving that made me smile--and naturally think of Gone with the Wind, of course:

"Birthdays were celebrated in grandeur and gifts between the family members became integral to the Victorian Christmas. The wealthy looked upon fatherhood largely to lavish gifts and paying of sons debts, while in the middle-class, gift-giving was looked upon one's financial capabilities. Unfortunately, the mother very often could not compete in the area of gift-giving, thus the act of gift-giving become symbolic as to the exclusive duty of the father providing for his children."

The quote above refers to Victorian England, but I couldn't help but think it had a nice parallel to Rhett and his approach to spoiling Bonnie rotten fatherhood. It's not hard to imagine Rhett going completely overboard in buying Bonnie birthday presents--and being rather generous to Wade and Ella too, for that matter. 

In fact, I often wish Gone with the Wind provided us more glimpses into how birthdays were spent in the Butler household. It would have be fascinating to see how Scarlett and Rhett celebrated each others' birthdays, for instance, both before and after their estrangement--or if they even knew each others' actual birthdays at all, given their mutual hesistancy to share personal details and Scarlett's secrecy over her exact age. I'd also love to see just how lavishly they celebrated the children's birthdays and what kind of gifts they bestowed. But, alas, we have so little to go on, beyond the few tantalizing details MM mentions about the day of Bonnie's birth.

So I'd like to turn it over to you all and get your thoughts. How do you think Rhett and Scarlett and family celebrated their birthdays? Or any other characters in GWTW for that matter?

Poster of the Week

Any guesses as to what state this Gone with the Wind poster is from? That's right, Hoosiers, you've got your very own piece of GWTW memorabilia! The other 49 states are now officially jealous of you.

Image from

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Puzzle of the Puffed Sleeves: What Scarlett's Wedding Dress Should Have Looked Like

"In the midst of this turmoil, preparations went forward for Scarlett's wedding and, almost before she knew it, she was clad in Ellen's wedding dress and veil, coming down the wide stairs of Tara on her father's arm, to face a house packed full with guests."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter VII

Back when the Doppelganger Dresses series in full swing, one dress I definitely hoped to feature was Ellen's and subsequently Scarlett's wedding dress. So I plugged the numbers to refresh my memory as to what year Ellen married Gerald O'Hara. (Ellen is 32 at the start of GWTW in 1861, meaning her wedding at age 15 was in 1844.) With the date in hand, I went off to search for fashion plates.....and found nothing that even remotely resembled the massive-sleeved creation that Walter Plunkett made for Scarlett's wedding to Charles Hamilton (shown right). 

That was very puzzling to me--that the 1840s dress silhouette appeared to bear no resemblance at all to the bridal style shown in the movie. But dozens and dozens of fashion plates later, I couldn't avoid that fact. Big sleeves were distinctly out in the 1840s. Dresses featured tight sleeves, perhaps with a few delicate puffs for decoration, but that was about the extent of it. 

To help you visualize what I mean, here's a good example of day and evening styles from an 1844 fashion plate:

Dress Styles from May 1844. Ladies' Companion.

So, what did Plunkett use as the inspiration for Ellen/Scarlett's wedding dress, since it definitely wasn't 1840s fashion? Not being able to figure out the answer to that question, I gave up my search and moved on to look for other doppelganger styles. But this mystery continued to bother me from time to time--until something recently jogged my memory. 

It's true that 1840s dresses eschewed giant sleeves, but this wasn't the case a decade earlier. In the early 1830s, enormous gigot sleeves were all the rage--much like the ones we see on Scarlett's wedding dress. A quick search of 1830s wedding dresses turns up styles much more akin to the dress in GWTW than anything from the 1840s: 

                   Wedding Dress, June 1834. La Mode.                                           Wedding Dress, June 1835. La Mode.

So there's our answer. It looks like Walter Plunkett based his design for Scarlett's wedding dress on 1830s bridal styles, not 1840s. But why? This intriguing note on the Harry Ransom Center's Gone with the Wind costume collection offers one clue

"Since Scarlett rushed into the marriage with Charles Hamilton, she would have had to use her mother's wedding dress. So Plunkett fitted the dress on Barbara O'Neil's (Ellen O'Hara) dress form. Consequently, the dress was a little too long and had large sleeves which was the fashion in 1834 when Ellen would have been married." (Emphasis mine)

So did Plunkett simply get his dates wrong and put together an 1830s gown instead of an 1840s one? It seems so. It's also possible that he was just uninspired by 1840s fashion and instead found a historical model more to his liking a decade earlier. Either way, it begs the question: what should Ellen/Scarlett's wedding dress have looked like, if done in actual 1840s style? 

You'll find the answer after the jump, where I've put together a gallery of bridal gowns, all from the year of Ellen's marriage in 1844. Would you rather have seen Scarlett wear a dress like one of these in the movie? Or do you prefer Plunkett's vision? 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Poster of the Week

This week, we're pleased to add Norway to our GWTW league of nations, with this charming poster circa the 1950s-60s. 

Image and poster information from

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