In modern times, winter is equated with Award Season, by which “entertainment” is the implied prefix. It is a big to do, with all the trappings of media glitz and glamour. But let us not delude ourselves, it is basically a fashion show with burst of speeches and toasts. Interestingly, the “average” ball of the wealthy Victorian outshines these modern award gatherings. It pique my interest in awards of the 19th century variety. Research shows that most awards were given to men; hardly surprising given the era, and those few which were bestowed upon women were routinely females of rank and nobility. Women were either born or married into their categories. Men, in addition, to status often times received awards due to merit on the battlefield, science, literature (poetry is one of the oldest form of literary awards!), and other pursuits.
The oldest “egalitarian” award (in the 1800s, specifically) I came across, was the John Scott Award established in 1816 (which continues to be handed out to this day).
The John Scott Award is given to “the most deserving” men and women whose inventions have contributed in some outstanding way to the “comfort, welfare and happiness” of mankind.
The recipients may be male or female of any class from anywhere in the world. The first notable female listed (and the only one listed by name in the 19th century) was a Mrs. Frances Jones in 1830 for “the improvement of the apparatus for making patent Lint.”–I do not even know what that means. I was unable to find a portrait of this award recipient, but imagined, if the JSA hosted their version of the Oscars that I year, Mrs. Jones, might have worn something that was the height of fashion on the red carpet, without piece of lint present.
Another award, the Thorvaldsen Medal (established in 1837) was awarded to Anna Maria “Elisabeth” Lisinka Jerichau-Baumann in 1858. The medal is handed out as the highest distinction of visual arts from the Royal Danish Academy. She was 39 at the time of this honor. One must remember 39 was essentially obsolete or close to it during the Victorian era for a woman. Her paintings are remarkable! Below is her self portrait at the time of her honor.
What would she look like outside of her painter’s smock and at the awards ceremony? I envision something a bit avant garde, given she is an artist. Perhaps something wild on the red carpet to get those tongues wagging . . .
Let us be honest, every 19th century ball was a red carpet event. Makes me wonder, what our current celebrities would wear in during that time period to the 1800s award ceremony. What would YOU wear, dear readers?