Side Effects of Downton Abbey Obsession

As every Downton Abbey fan knows, season 4 begins shortly.  In one’s eagerness for the new season to begin, some strange side effects may start occurring.  Be aware that images unrelated to the show once seen will suddenly take on new meanings.  You’ve been warned…

Take for instance, this 1942 fiction illustration by Al Parker for the Ladies’ Home Journal.


by Al Parker for Ladies’ Home Journal, April 1942

Now imagine the bright red drapes are white, and suddenly, the Downton fan is reminded of Lavinia in her white nightgown right before she elegantly dies from Spanish Flu, with Matthew by her bedside.  Now, why Matthew is wearing that hat and scarf is another question, plus why is his hand so bloody?  Matthew doesn’t get bloody until the next season, because, alas, he dies too.

Too much death … let’s move on.

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by J. C. Leyendecker, for Saturday Evening Post, May 19, 1917

Ah, this Saturday Evening Post cover reminds one of Daisy and William, right before the war and before William, uh … dies.  At least Daisy’s getting to wear a nice dress.

But still, let’s try to find a character that doesn’t die.

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by Edward Penfield, for Colliers, October 10, 1914

That reminds us of … yet another character who dies … let’s keep searching …

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Prophylactic Toothbrushes advertisement from McCall’s, May 1930

Wait, that looks like Mary… getting dental work?  Perhaps her grief over Matthew’s demise caused her some tooth pain?  However, this does look way too happy for Mary (or for anyone going to the dentist).

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by Wilmont Emerton Heitland, for McCall’s, February 1929.

That’s better … Mary looks much more glum and somber now.

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by Etienne Drian, publication and date unknown

That gives us time to stop and wonder why exactly is Edith staring into the silver?  Carson the butler would not approve.

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Community Plate advertisement from Delineator, June 1929

Nor would Carson approve of this place setting advertisement.

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The ad mentions the soup spoon, but is it a bouillon spoon or just a regular soup spoon?  Plus, there’s no mention of the jam spoon, the grapefruit spoon, the melon spoon, or the egg spoon.  Who knows how many additional forks have been omitted besides the oyster fork and salad fork?

Now here’s an ad that should please Carson.

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Oh wait, this won’t work. Canned soup would never do.

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Campbell’s Soup advertisement from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1911

Plus, when is anyone at Downton ever silently critical?  Now let’s just let Carson go back to supervising the silverware and hope he never walks in on this …

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About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.