Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. June 27, 1857. Pg 64

The Horrors of Wearing a Hoop
Complaint of Mr. John Smith.

My wife has purchased a hoop!

I suppose I am not the only man in New York whose wife has committed a similar indiscretion. I suppose there are a great many mortals whose peace of mind is similarly shattered by these horrible apparitions of whalebone, steel and crinoline. Some of them are called skeletons, I hear. It's a very appropriate name, I am sure; though I would rather meet a real, bona fide skeleton and day, that one of these perpetual paradoxes, both bony and apoplectic. The powers of my mind are being weakened every hour. I can feel them giving way one by one. I am on my way to an insane hospital with fearful rapidity, and when I do collapse, the verdict will undoubtedly prove to be, "died of hoops!"

Mrs. John Smith bought her hoop at a fashionable establishment - one of the vastest an most spreading rotundities of the age; and I carried the monstrosity home, carefully done up in brown paper, with my better half exulting by my side. On the way one of the steel springs "broke loose on society," nearly putting out the eyes of a fat old gentleman and lady, directly behind us, and in consequence thereof I narrowly escaped the custody of a police officer, who lurked at the corner ready to spring out on the slightest provocation. Mrs. John Smith compelled me to return again in order to have the breach made good; she said it was all my own fault, and that I was a clumsy blockhead - and I suppose that is the fact, for I have learned to have no will of my own since the hoops came home. If Mrs. John Smith were to tell me I was a shorthorned Durham, I should take it for granted, and fall to eating grass immediately!

My wife invested herself in the hoops, directly upon arriving at home, and then triumphantly sailed forth again, to display her improved proportions on Broadway. That I shouldn't have complained of, if she hadn't insisted on my accompanying her, to show the world in general that she had conquered in the matter of "hoops or no hoops." I am a small man, besides, and being almost lost in the amplitude of my wife's attire, found it hard to carry on the process of locomotion. You would have thought the hoops were alive, and knew my secret abhorrence of them, by the spiteful way in which they thrashed and belabored my ancles at every swing of my wife's sweeping garments. I have used three bottles of Magical Salve on them since (the ancles, not the hoops), but without avail.

Words cannot describe the misadventures, the mal-apropos occurrences which my wife's everlasting hoops brought upon us during that journey down Broadway. They turned over two peanut stands and an apple establishment, onthree consecutive corners, but still swept on, regardless of the torrent of Billingate hurled after us by the irritated old woman who officiated as presiding genuius over the treasures. They tripped up any number of unfortunate masculines like myself, who found their heels elevated at an angle of forty-five degrees, and their new knox hats performing the office for Broadway which the Commissioner's hoes and scrapers ought to do, but don't, almost before they could realize that they had "stepped on a lady's train." They entangled a yelping poodle, and dragged him two squares, before his shrieking owner, (whom, by the way, I don't compassionate a bit, for her hoops were as enormous as my wife's own,) could rescue him from the fangs of the steel devourer. The very newsboys grinned significantly as we passed, and laid their grimy fingers on their stunted noses, shouting their convictions that "the comet had come, sure as blazes;" that "that are was a `oop as was a 'oop," and graciously recommending me, under the patronizing title of "little `un," to "climbup and not be afeared; I might just as well ride behind as not," together with many such observations, which however witty they may be, certainly don't help to restore one's self-possession and dignity under such embarrassing circumstances.
Our entrance into the various shop-doors was little short of a continuous miracle to me. How Mrs. John Smith ever compressed that balloon into the doors I am utterly unable to imagine. And the way it burst out again into full rotundity, to the terror of all bystanders, when relieved from the restrain, was at once awful and sublime!

I was much scandalized once or twice, by the determined manner in which it perked itself into the air when my wife bent down to examine the goods on various counters , giving a full view of all the "interior arrangements," namely, white flannel skirts, worked in "compound scallop," silk stockings, and high-heeled gaiters. Now I don't mean to say that my wife's ancles are not the very perfection of grace and symmetry, but I do mean to say that public opinion has a prejudice in favor of covering that particular portion of feminine loveliness, and consequently I was much shocked at the lawless defiance that the hoops bade to public opinion. But when I ventured to hint as much to Mrs. John Smith, in a modest whisper, she called me "an impertinent little thing," and filled my soul with consternation by the indignant arrows that darted from her eyes.

When we issued from Stewart's, and resumed our march down Broadway, the capricious hoops suddenly conceived a freak to amuse themselves in a most novel and curious manner. TAking advantage of and abrupt gust of wind, they turned a complete somerset over my wife's head, and the finest I knew, she was being propelled down the street, at a rapid rate, her head and face totally enveloped in the reversed hoop. I hastened to the rescue, and after many fruitless struggles, succeeded in restoring the demon article to its proper place, just as a vicioustempered boy, perched on a lamp-post close by had suggested, "Get a rope and pulley and you'll soon haul it down!"
We concluded to take the omnibus home, and accepted the proffered aid of a friendly policeman, to conduct us through the crowd. Here again we met with a mishap. On entering the omnibus, Mrs. John Smith's fashionable "high-heels" caught in one of the gaunt ribs of her hoop, and had it not been for the prompt aid of the Star, she must inevitably have fallen in the midst of Broadway. That bland official informed me, in reply to my thanks, that "ladies' hoops was the most troublesome part of his business, now-a-days." "But," added he, with a malicious twinkle in his eye, "they ain't so bad after all; they're better than all the street- cleaners to keep Broadway swept nice and neat!"

We took our places in the stage, pretending not to observe the suppressed merriment of its nmates. I secretly hoped that all these contretemps would serve to diminish the hoop-mania that seemed to possess my wife, but alas! that was a vain delusion. Not even the unmanageable behavior of the horrid thing all the way home could assume any given position, but protruded itself in a straight line, nearly to the top of the vehicle, amusing itself, every now and then, by knocking off old gentlemen's hats, discomposing old ladies' ostrich feathers, and creating a general hard feeling in the omnibus. Never was mortal man more relieved than I, when at length we entered our door.
But the aggravated horrors which attend these hoops in the house are no less depressing than the mishaps of out-door life. I'm sure that if Mrs. Job had worn a hoop, Job wouldn't have come down to posterity as a patient man! Our doorway is a moderately wide one-at least so I flattered myself before our women were transformed into walking balloons, but I have been obliged to have it enlarged several feet, and even now, Mrs. John Smith has to go through an elaborate engineering process to pass the threatening Scylla in safety.
The painters now at work on our humble establishment, are nearly reduced to a state of idiocy by the frequent frustration with which their labors meet. No sooner do they ornament our front door with a fresh coat of "graining," than Mrs. John Smith sweeps through, transforming their wavy lines and radiating "knots" to blank chaos, and bearing away novel styles of "fresco" on her silk flounces and rustling moire antique. The ferocity which their countenances assume, when she passes by, overturning pots of white-lead and china-gloss, and dragging brushes, pencils and all, in the stately flow of her compendious skirts, is truly appalling to a meek man like myself. Who knows but that we may be garotted on our own house, and all on account of the hoops!

My wife doesn't pretend to get down the basement stairs; they are altogether too narrow for the new developments. No, she descends the front steps, and sails down through the area, towing me in her wake, like a ship of war towinga satellite row-boat into port in her wake, like a ship of war towing a satellite row-boat into prot to the infinite delight of our opposite neighbor, a confirmed old bachelor, who takes a demoniac pleasure in the discomfiture of the crowd of juvenile youths, mostly belonging to the lower classes of society, who daily assemble to witness the spectacle, and add interest to the scene by their jocose but irreverent remarks.

The other evening Mrs. John Smith gave a soiree, as she calls it, and momentarily forgetful of the change in costume, invited as many as our rooms had been wont to contain, in the palmy days of old, before hoops were. Good gracious! The fearful collisions and concussions which made night horrible around our door! "When crinoline meets crinoline, then comes the tug of war!" Our parlors filled up rapidly-our entries became crowded, and the cry was still "they come!" Our street was full of disappointed fair ones in full-dress costume, and the uproar was so great that, in despair I fled down stairs to the coal cellar, and sat there all the evening,with my fingers in my ears, enlivened only by the companionship of the cat. I learned afterwards that one-half the guests had been obliged to depart, being unable to obtain an entrance. Since that, Mrs. John Smith has been teasing me incessantly to buy a larger house. Good heavens! am I to pander to the enlargement of these fearful nuisances?

Our domestic forces are all in confusion and anarchy, in consequence of these direful agents of ill. Bridget, the cook, though a patient and long-suffering daughter of Erin, is at length driven to desperation by Mrs. John Smith's visits to the kitchen. She cannot endure the knocking down of pots and kettles, the clang of frying-pan and trivet; the upsetting of various delicate gravies and elaborate sauces that inevitably follow my wife's daily descent to give orders! In the small whirlwind of agitated air that the hoops bring with them, nothing is safe. The spices she has so carefully ground and prepared take flight precipitately from the window in eddying clouds, perhaps to perfume some back alley with the odors of Araby the blest. Bridget's stiffly starched corn-colored aprons flutter down from the chairs and tables into the deluge of soapsuds with which she is anointing the kitchen floor; even the penny edition of "The Gallant Young Coachman," and "My Own Mary Ann," on the dresser, which she has just purchased to stimulate her poetical taste, go whirling out, through the basement windows, into the area, and become the prey of the next "wandering ministrel" that comes along with his barrel organ and monkey!
Wrought up to the highest pitch of wrath by this long series of persecutions, Bridget has at length given warning. With arms akimbo and flaming eyes, she has announced her determination "never to live in no house again where the missus wears such petticuts!" In vain does my wife strive to conciliate the offended feeling of Bridget - her noble rage is not to be appeased; and thus we are doomedto lose the paragon of cooks, of whom "we ne'er shall look upon the like again!"

The infection has extended even to the housemaid and errand girl. Our barrels are all falling to pieces, in consequence of those deluded menials having abstracted all the hoops, in emulation of their mistress. It was but yester-eve that I beheld these aspiring damsels dangling in the air the circular abominations connected by strands of sixpenny twine, and triumphantly exclaiming to the next-door girl, "Well, if this ain't every bit as good as missus's new skillington, I'll give up!"

Why, they haunted me constantly, these hoops! I could't enter the closet to get my new hat or coat, but an imprisoned "steel spring" flew in to my face, like an enraged serpent. Every corner was alive with the spiral coils. I could not sit down in my own easy-chair without being reminded by a sharp and far from agreeable sensation, that Mrs. John Smith had "just laid her hoop down there for a minute." They hung on the wall staring at me when I lay down at night; they grinned defiance on me when I arose in the morning - they brooded over my waking and sleeping hours like a perpetual nightmare!

When not in active use, my wife has frequenly made them officiate as dungeons - imprisoning little Johnny within their gloomy circumference, on occasion of his being "naughty." Many a time has o e of them stood by itself, a dreadful prison-house, in the centre, of the room, with my eldest-born wailing behind its steel ribs; a horrible Moloch both to him and to me!
It would by useless to enumerate the number of times my wife has been wedged in narrow passages and stairways, and with difficulty extricated; it would be useless to mention that she can't sit without her skirts overwhelming the whole vicinity , reminding one forcibly of the Nile overflowing its banks. It would be but labor thrown away to particularize the distressing consequences which followed a succession of morning calls received by my wife the other day. The servants flew to open the double doors, and soon afterwards I witnessed the triumphal entry of some half-dozen hemispheres (I can't call them anything else), the Herculean efforts made by the fair creatures to get near enough to kiss one another, and finally the tremendous sensation they created in being seated! In striving to pay my respects in an agreeable and off-hand manner, I became hopelessly entangled among the ladies' hoops, and the first I knew, I was struggling blindly in a miniature Maelstrom, experiencing very much the sensation of some poor mariner whose boat is wrecked amid a nest of icebergs, and who momentarily expects the fatal crash! but when after much disentangling and rending of silks and laces, I did escape, I made for the door with unexampled rapidity, painfully conscious the while of the scornful smile of my wife, and of the contemptuous regard of her visitors. A fine situation, truly, for a lord of creation!

My wife has left fragments of her dresses on every projecting angle, every nail and ever bureau-drawer handle in the house. That hoop must be of an affectionate disposition, for it attaches itself everywhere! It has caught fire from the grate a dozen times; it refuses to accommodate itself to any table or chair in the house; in short, it is a very demon!

I have spent hours in pondering how to be rid of it. I thought of appealing to Mayor Wood: I thought of the Metropolitan Police. Couldn't I memorialize Congress? or perhaps the State Legislature, whose finger is in every man's pie, unavailing; and finally, stung to madness, I determined to make a bold stroke for freedom, in propria persona. It took me some weeks to screw my courage up to the sticking point, and when at length I did approach the awful subject, it was with fear and trembling.

"Mrs. Smith," said I, timidly - good gracious, how the resolution was oozing out at the ends of my fingers! - "Mrs. Smith, my dear!"

My wife looked up from her work. She was engaged in repairing a damaged hoop. The sight of her employment gave new courage to my sinking heart, and I resumed in a still louder tone of voice,

"The fact is , my dear, I've made up my mind" - here I cast about for a politic way of introducing my subject, but finding none, pitched headlong into it - "I can't stand these hoops any longer, indeed I can't. I'm almost distracted with `em. And you must either do one thing or the other - give me up, or give the hoops up. Now consider which you will have, for we can't both exist in the same house!"

I considered this chef d'oeuvre of dignified and authoritative diction, and stood awaiting the answer in the most commanding position I could assume, notwithstanding my knees shook together, and my very heart stood still within me at the consciousness of my unwonted audacity.

Slowly my wife rose to her feet, spreading her hoop out into its fullest amplitude, and made answer in a tone of calm determination,

"Ill have both, Mr. Smith! I'll keep the hoops, and I'll keep you too!"

"But, my dear -"

"Hear me a minute, Mr. John Smith, if you please. I am a healthier woman than I was - I am a happier woman than I was. Look at the color in my cheeks, at the light in my eyes! Look at the comparative length of your doctor's bills. Just lift that hoop, if you pleas, and compare its weight with that of eight or ten heavy skirts. Which do you suppose is best for a woman to wear? Which do you suppose is the lightest, the coolest, the most healthy?"

I couldn't say a word - I was actually struck dumb.

"And now, my dear," she concluded in a coaxing tone, "you gentlemen may ridicule the hoop, and complain of them as much as you please, but we women can only know what a blessed invention they are to us. You may as well make up yourmind to admire them, for they will be henceforth among our fixed institutions, and we mean to keep our hoops and keep our husbands too!"

What could I do? I kissed my wife, and told her she was quite right; and then, with a sneaking consciousness of having been entirely conquered in full field of battle, slunk off to my office. It's of no use, fellow-sufferers! women have always ruled us, and they always will. Eve brought sin into the ancient world, and Euginie brought hoops into the modern world; we can but ease our mind by entering now and then a mild protest or two against the horrors of wearing crinoline!