Victorian advertising descriptions of Wayne – “Souvenir Booklet”

We are more than glad to welcome back the writer of this column, Emma C. Patterson, after a serious illness. Mrs. Patterson will continue her review of Wayne and Radnor Township’s past, gleanings which have revived and refreshed memories and have given to newer residents a glimpse into local history.

Previous articles in this series have described in detail the exterior appearance of the Wayne Estate houses as well as their architectural plans. The “souvenir booklet” which has given me much of my information has a few pictures of furnished rooms which are typical of those of some sixty years ago. Styles in furnishings change from period to period, but fortunately for the household budget, these changes are not so frequent as in clothes. Nevertheless, they occur. What to us of the middle of the twentieth century seems an ornate, over-crowded room was a satisfying one to the housewife of the last half of the nineteenth century. It was one she had planned and in a general way it was like her neighbors. It belonged to that period.

A combination bookcase and desk in one picture is heavy and carved in much detail. Chairs vary from the very fragile slender legged type to an overstuffed nail studded leather chair. There is even one platform rocker. Tables of various sizes occupy much space, most of them with lace trimmed covers reaching almost to the floor. Though the main lighting is from center-of-the-room electric chandeliers, there is also an oil lamp in the center of most of these tables. Portieres are heavy and fringed, pictures in ornate frames cover much of the wall space. One fireplace has a spinning wheel as its chief ornament. Every mantle and table has its knick-knacks in profuse abundance, even an open fan held upright in small stand in one instance.

And yet as one looks at these rooms of a by-gone era one feels the truth of a quotation in the booklet, “our dwellings to be pleasant to us must not only express creature comforts, but be a part of our lives – the better part. Home to be home should have comfort throughout and individuality in detail.”

Another quotation, this time from Cowper, gives a very cheery picture of what these interiors might mean, “Now stir the fire and close the shutters fast, let fall the curtains, whirl the sofa round, and, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn throws up a steamy column, and the cups that cheer, but not inebriate, wait on each, so let us welcome peaceful evening in.”

The booklet closes with the following paragraph written especially for it by Whittier Wendell, of Philadelphia, a cousin of Mrs. Margaret Wendell Hess, of Wayne, and the late Herman Wendell. It was written for the booklet at the especial request of Mr. Wendell:

“Wayne is a picturesque little town, nestled amid ideal hills, each one of which is an historic mile-stone to patriotic Americans, where the home-life is felt, seen and enjoyed in actuality. It seems hardly creditable that a half-hour’s ride from Broad Street will suffice to place us in the midst of so refreshing a contrast as it presents to city life. As the evening hours bring home the business men, the sombre walks become gay with moving bits of color; solitary pedestrians are quickly attached to merry groups; lingering partings take place at the hedge-bordered gate-ways, and childish trebles mingle harmoniously with the soft hour, while on every face is that unmistakable writing, ‘Home again.’ And such homes! To enter them has been my privilege, but to faithfully describe the ingenious combination of art and practicality therein, is beyond me.

“A prosy enumeration of the hundred and one things dear to housewifely eyes were possible, ‘tis true; I might tell of pantries, ample closets in unlooked-for spots, cunningly devised dust excluders, artistic windows, perfect blending in paper, tiles and plaster, unique surprises everywhere, but then the half is left untold, for the genie of the home is absent. It will not answer this enumerative call; one must approach more subtly, would be feel the blessing it sheds so markedly over Wayne’s dwellings. Whenever I think of this most delightful Philadelphia suburb, I feel Payne’s song piping to my pen, and it must dance.

“It was Confucius who said, ‘If I am building a mountain and stop before the last basketful is placed upon the summit, I have failed in my work; but if I have placed one basketful on the plain and go on, I am really building a mountain.’ The significance of this expression comes to me every time I set foot in Wayne, there is such an air of thoughtful determination to establish amid the natural surroundings so munificently provided, a Lilliputian city of Homes, worthy of the name. The water that the Wayneites drink is right from the hills, the air they breathe redolent and invigorating with mountain odors, and the recreation they enjoy innocent, healthful, and in touch with the times. Everything that the forethought and inspiration of artistic craftsmen can design is there, and the happy, healthful moral tone of the citizens shows with what appreciation the work is received.”