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What Cheer Day preparations must begin in earnest now, no matter how distracting I might find orderly books or silk shoes (not in my size, alas: no last can be found). I already have clothes enough for a housekeeper, though I still crave a broadcloth Spencer and am working on a petticoat. I’ll hardly go outside that day, so why am I thinking bonnets– especially when I have a known bonnet problem?

One of my favorite resources for Federal era Providence is Julia Bowen’s diary. Born December 1, 1779, Julia’s diary records her life in Providence in 1799, when she was 19. She records the daily activities of the second set of Providence women– daughters not of the most elite merchants, like John Brown and John Innes Clark, but the Bowens, Powers, Howells, and Whipples. Distinguished, but not super-elite. Many of the entries are as prosaic and superficial as you’d expect from a young woman in late adolescence, and thank goodness they are, or we’d never be able to imagine life in such fine detail.

Julia got me thinking about bonnets with her entry of April 12:

found the Major & Citizen Sarah & C. Angell altering their cold scoops into Rosina hats, so busily were they employed that the Major could not go a visiting, which deprived me at once of the greatest pleasure I anticipated in my visit.

(She used code names for her friends; some we can decode, and some we cannot.)

I haven’t been able to decipher what “Rosina hats” were, but cold scoops I could handle: coal scoops.
That colloquialism fits not just fashion plates but extant coal scoops and buckets.

You just have to imagine them turned over.

The Gallery of Fashion, 1797, Bathing Place, Morning Dresses.

The Gallery of Fashion, 1797, Bathing Place, Morning Dresses.

I went for cold scoop, with a pasteboard brim and olive green taffeta brim and caul. The mannequin is a 3-D sketch, if you will, of what the housekeeper plans to wear this autumn. At least until she can figure out what a Rosina hat is.