Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Stage Makeup by Paty Jager

Now you're saying to yourself what's a western author doing talking about stage makeup?

The heroine in the fourth Halsey brother book, Doctor in Petticoats, has a disfiguring scar on her face from an accident when she was a child. Her family is prominent in society, and she refused to be hidden away. In fact, due to her accident, she became determined to be a doctor.

To find out how she could cover the scar when out in the world and not sheltered at home, I began researching stage makeup. In the late 1800's few people other than stage performers or prostitutes wore makeup in the U.S.

These are some facts I discovered.
Stage Makeup items available before 1850:
White face powder
India ink for drawing lines
Rouge (very bright red or pink)
Misc. artist’s pigment base powders, (like Bole Armenia aka “burnt umber” for a reddish brown tone)
Burnt cork (for dark brown/black)
Lamp-black (for mascara)
Burnt paper (for gray shadows)
Spirit gum
Wool crepe hair (for both facial hair and false noses)

A bit of history on makeup:
1850’s Germany – Mysterious invention of greasepaint (powdered pigments mixed with lard) by either German actor Carl Baudius, or Carl Herbert.
1864 England – a short book, The Guide to the Stage, Containing Clear and Ample Instructions for Obtaining Theatrical Engagements, by Leman Thomas Rede includes 2 and ½ pages of vague advice on applying powdered pigment makeup.
1870’s USA-Anglo-French actor, Charles Fechter, supposedly spreads the use of greasepaint to the US while on tour.
1873 Germany– Ludwig Leichner commercially produces non toxic ready-made greasepaint sticks. Leichner’s company goes on to be the main European theatrical makeup producer for over a century.
1877 England -The Art of “Making-Up” by Haresfoot and Rouge*, published by Samuel French, the first booklet in English on theatre makeup is printed, describing makeup application with powdered pigments. Suggested pigments in this booklet are 3 kinds of white, Dutch pink rouge, carmine red, and ruddy rouge, Mongolian brown, powdered blue, and chrome (yellow), and antimony (a metallic gray-black) used for shadows, which was toxic.

The 1890s saw incredible innovations in makeup, most of which are still in use today, including:
•Nose wax (aka “mortician’s wax” an item co-opted from the Victorian funeral industry)
•Black tooth wax (aka “cobbler’s wax” an item taken from the shoe repair industry)
•Emil Noir (black tooth enamel)
•Cold cream and cocoa butter
•Mascaro in multiple colors (a dark, soft makeup stick in a lipstick like holder that was used as both mascara and eyebrow pencil)
•Blue eyeliners
•Ladies liquid colors for arms and necks
•Paper Sticks for application of color (Tortillions - artist’s blending tools)
•Wig joining paste

For my heroine I use the 1850's version of lard and pigment powder. First because lard was easily accessible and the powder could be mixed to match her skin tone. Since the scar is lumpy, she can mold the the lard mixture around it and smooth it out to blend in.

This is why I enjoy writing historical books. The research. I dig deeper into areas that I would normally overlook to make my characters and story realistic. 

Blurb for Doctor in Petticoats:

Dr. Rachel Tarkiel gave up on love after a devastating accident and settled for a life healing others. She’s content with her situation until handsome Clay Halsey shows up and inspires her to want more.

Blinded by a person he considered a friend, Clay curses his circumstances and his limitations. Meeting the intriguing Dr. Tarkiel who shows him no pity, Clay begins to realize he is still a whole man and he can make his own happiness. 

Can their love overcome their internal fears and the obstacles life throws at them or will a mysterious man keep them apart forever


Tanya Hanson said...

Good one, Paty! I enjoy learning about earlier versions of our "stuff" today. My daughter took a stage make up class during college. I'll let her know about this cool post.

Ginger Simpson said...

I love your research posts because they are so helpful to those of us who also write in the genre. We musn't forget that those who didn't have rouge back in the day, tended to pinch their cheeks to redden them. *lol* Boy, I've used that scenario a few times. Of course in fiction, most are beautiful from the moment they wake up...long lashes, curly hair, and never ever have morning breath. *lol*

Ellen O'Connell said...

Was kohl not used in the U.S.? I feel like that's the reference I see most often in historicals, albeit in ones set in England. Wasn't lead a big problem in cosmetics early on? I have vague recollections of reading that anything white had lead in it in the good old days and lead poisoning was one more illness that shortened the lives of prostitutes.

Alison E. Bruce said...

Lead poisoning shortened many lives, mostly those of the rich. Using lead to whiten the face was common in ancient Egypt and Rome as well as Medieval Europe and onward into the 19th Century. Arsenic was also used to achieve a pale face - which was the fashion until the early 20th Century. No wonder Queen Victoria was against cosmetics. It would be like the modern ban of smoking in public places.

Paty Jager said...

Tanya, Glad I can be of help.

Ginger, LOL I agree, we tend to make our characters larger than life and beautiful.

Ellen, I didn't see any reference to kohl. And yes, lead was a huge killer as Alison said. That's why so many actors were sickly.

Alison, That is true. The book I have also talks about the arsenic as well as the lead that poisoned so many aristocrats.

Alison E. Bruce said...

Kohl was made with antimony - which is also poisonous. Another compound of antimony made the white makeup Egyptians used. I found a reference for using antimony in stage makeup to make black pigments. Maybe the term kohl wasn't popular in America at the time.

Talk about dying to be beautiful.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Paty, imagine using antimony willingly. Thanks for an interesting post.

Paty Jager said...

Thank you for commenting, Caroline.

Lyn Horner said...

Terrific post, Paty. I could have used some of this info when writing Darlin' Druid. Jessie, my heroine, had to be "made up" on her wedding day to cover a nasty bruise. The woman who helped her was a makeup artist for the Salt Lake Theater. I didn't go into her methods, but it might have been fun to add a couple tidbits. Thanks much!

Paty Jager said...

Lyn, I tend to over research. when I decide to use something in a story, I have to know a ton about it. I have your first book on my Kindle but haven't had time to read it between judging two contests and my CP's keeping me busy.

Lyn Horner said...

Paty, I have the same problem. Bunches of books on my Kindle and no time to read them, including a couple of yours. Ay, the joys and frustrations of being a writer.

Meg said...

Great research info, Paty! I love all this stuff.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks, Meg!