In my studies of vintage needlework magazines I have come across some startling and amusing anecdotes.
I have discovered that prior to the Civil War (1861-1865) in the USA, a married woman was considered "legally dead!" After the "I do" came, "She doesn't!" No right to her own person, no right to her own money (unless legally settled on her), no right to property nor even to her own children. The "man" got everything. Boy, have we come a long way, Baby!
I discovered through further reading that many improvements in the status of women were brought about through the venue of the women's magazines. Even suffrage was espoused in these early magazines. I learned that the first woman's magazine was called "Ladies' Magazine" and was published in Boston MA in 1828. The article also noted that this was the year Andrew Jackson became president. He was the first non aristocrat to do so. Though not an aristocrat, he still governed the nation as an autocrat; just as husbands ruled the roost at home.
That situation changed as more and more women read magazines. Sharing information on everything from etiquette to cooking to home remedies to needlework and even consumer goods, forged more informed and more confident generations of women. And advertising was responsible for spread of more magazines. Manufacturers of yard goods, threads, household products like soap and lotions found a venue of selling their products in the magazines. So, I guess, in part, the reason we can still find vintage tatting patterns is that needle artists also bought soap.
Whatever the reason we can all be glad that tatting was included in these vintage magazines. Although I have not yet been able to find the earliest tatting pattern in a woman's magazines. I am betting that it is in an issue of the "Ladies' Magazine" edited by Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879), widow of a lawyer, mother of five and editor of the magazine from its founding until it was absorbed by Godey's Lady's Book. Mrs. Hale continued as the editor of Godey's Lady's Book until 1877 when the magazine was sold to a Mr. Frank Munsey. Sarah died in 1879.
Biography of Mrs. Hale: http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/godey/hale.html
The earliest tatting pattern that I have found in the "Godey's Lady's Book" is from September 1857, pg. 266, in an article about children's clothing. http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/godey/fashion/p5709266.jpg It reads:
"How to Cut and Contrive Children's Clothing,
Trimmings for Children's Drawers.
Tatting makes one of the strongest trimmings; and, as it can be done at odd moments, in the dusk, and when visiting, it is a particularly suitable work for mothers. Most ladies are acquainted the stitch; therefore we will not profess to give it; but those who do not know it can refer to the article on Needle-work for all necessary instructions. We will, therefore, give only...
A Useful Edging.--Fill the shuttle, and on the end of the thread put a rug needle, which is used alternately with the shuttle itself. Begin with it, doing, five double stitches on the thread, picot, six double on the thread, picot, four double on the thread, *. Now take up the shuttle, do three double, join to the first (not the nearest) picot, six double, picot, three double. Draw this loop up and *, work with the needle a bar thus: four double, picot, four double. Drop the needle, and with the shuttle do three stitches, join to picot of the last loop, six double, picot, three double. Draw up this loop, *. Drop the shuttle, and with the needle do another bar. Then another loop, and again a bar. The fourth loop is made thus: Three double, join to the picot of the last loop, seven double, picot, two double. Draw this up, and work with the shuttle another loop thus: Two double, join, seven double, picot, two double. Drop the shuttle, and with the needle-work on the thread three double. Then do the point loop, three double, join, eight double, picot, three double. Drop the shuttle, and with the needle do a bar of 3 double. Then with the shuttle two double, join, seven double, picot, two double. Do the next loop with the shuttle, without a bar between, thus: Two double, join, seven double, picot, three double. With the needle, do a bar, of four double, and then join to the picot of the opposite bar; after which, do four more double. With the shuttle, do the next loop thus: Three double, picot, three double. Draw it up, and make another bar of four with the needle. Join to the centre of the opposite bar, do four more, then another loop with the shuttle, like the last; then another bar, then another loop, then a bar of four; join to the last picot of the last loop, ten double, picot, six double, picot, four double. Begin again at the mark *, and continue as before, only that, in the second, and all following patterns, instead of doing six double stitches in the center of each of the three first loops, you do three, and join to the opposite picot of the last pattern, before doing the other three of the set.
This pattern may be made of any depth required, by working between the two * * once, twice, or oftener [sic] extra; and, in the second half of the pattern, doing extra loops to correspond with them. For strength and neatness, this design excels any I know. It would also trim a dress for a little girl handsomely."
And the search goes on...