Saturday, August 27, 2016


Spectacles or Eyeglasses had no standard for a long time in their history. In 1833 William Beecher of Southbridge, MA. had a small jewelry and watch making business. He also felt the New England ingenuity could produce a better product. What he and four others made were standard spectacles with different lenses and the customer would pick a pair that best improved his or her eye sight.

This type of eyeglasses were the only kind until much later in the century.

Another tidbit is that sunglasses (tinted lenses) were out in 1880. Prior to 1875 the tinted lenses were used for medical purposes.


In the 19th century sponge harvesting in America started in Key West. After storms sponges would wash up on the beachs. This begin the business of harvesting sponges, which became one of the largest industries on Key West in the 19th century, in 1849. As it became an industry a fleet (about 350 boats) called "Hook Boats" soon filled the docks and shores. These hook boats were long and thin, the spongers would stand in the boat and use long poles with holes to pull the sponges from the reefs. this industry grew quickly eventually reaching 1400 men.

Sponging on Key West ended by the end of the century with the Spanish American war going on in 1898 and sponges being nearly all gone the spongers moved up to Tarpon Springs to continue their harvesting.

Library of Congress

On April 24, 1800 the Library of Congress was established with a grant of $5000.00. Originally it was established as a legislative library.

"The Library of Congress was established as the fledgling legislature of the new Republic prepared to move from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. On April 24, 1800, Pres. John Adams approved legislation that appropriated $5,000 to purchase "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress." The first books, ordered from London, arrived in 1801 and were stored in the U.S. Capitol, the Library's first home. The collection consisted of 740 volumes and three maps.

"On January 26, 1802, Pres. Thomas Jefferson approved the first law defining the role and functions of the new institution. This measure created the post of Librarian of Congress and gave Congress, through a Joint Committee on the Library, the authority to establish the Library's budget and its rules and regulations. From the beginning, however, the institution was more than just a legislative library, for the 1802 law made the appointment of the Librarian of Congress a presidential responsibility. It also permitted the president and vice president to borrow books, a privilege that, in the next three decades, was extended to most government agencies and to the judiciary. A separate law department was approved in 1832, along with an appropriation to purchase law books under the guidance of the chief justice of the United States." taken from the library of Congress. Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress.


From the Student's Reference Work Vol.2 by Charles Belden Beach ©1893

Violet, a class of well-known plante, found mainly in temperate regions. There are over 200 species, which are sometimes divided into stemless and leafy-stemmed violets. The common violet, found wild in the United States in pastures and woods, has heart-shaped leaves and flowers usually light or dark violet, though there are white and yellow varieties, the round-leaved violet, found in the northern woods with yellow flowers ; the sweet white violet, the larkspur violet, arrow-leaved violet, Canada violet, etc., are among the many varieties. The English violet is'prized for its fragrance, and is cultivated extensively for winter bouquets. The most showy and popular variety of the violet is the pansy, or tricolor, which has been introduced from Europe. Its irregular shaped flowers, with their beautiful coloring, in white and shades of purple and yellow, are among our commonest garden flowers. They are said to have been first raised about 1810 by Lady Mary Hennett from a common weed. They are called pansies from the French word " pensées " (thoughts), "heartsease," ''none-so- pretty," "love-in-idleness," "Johnny- jump-up," and "kiss me at the garden gate."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Burr & Hamilton Duel

July 11, 1804

In the early morning hours, Burr & Hamilton sat down in separate boats in Manhattan and rowed across the Hudson river to Heights of Weehawken, NJ. This location had long been a popular dueling ground. Both men agreed on the location because dueling had been outlawed in NY.

Burr reached the site first with his second, William P. Van Ness. Ness started clearing the underbrush for the duel. The weapons arrived separately to prevent them being used on the river. Burr & Ness arrived at 6:30 AM, Hamiliton, his second, Judge Nathaniel Pendleton and Dr. David Hosack arrived a few minutes before seven.

Lots were cast to choose position. Two shots was the preferred arrangement. Hamilton fired first into the air. Burr fired back and hit Hamiliton in the lower abdomen. Hamilton died the following day.

Burr fled to South Carolina but soon returned to Washington. His political career apparently over he went out west and became involved with a filibuster to establish the Louisiana territory as it's own empire. Burr was charged with treason and later acquitted. Years later he returned to NY was tried and acquitted for his role in the duel. He died in NY and never apologized to the Hamilton family.

Bogus Butter

Houghtaling's Handbook ©1887

What Bogus Butter is Made of.

There are 17 patents on imitation butter. The Letters-patent state that the following ingredients are used in making imitation dairy products: Sugar or lead, bisulphate of lime, salt-petre, borax, boracic acid, salieylic acid, orris root, cottonseed oil, vegetable oils, bitaric acid, bicarbonate of soda, nitrate of potassa, glycerine, capsylic acid, cuparic acid, alum. capsic acid, sulphite of soda, cows' udder, commercial sulphuric acid, castor oil, either caustic potash, carbonic acid, sulphuric acid, castor oil, chalk, clippery elm bark. caul, oil of sesame, oil of sunflower seeds, olive oil, curcumine, turnip seed oil, broma chloralum, chlorate of potash, nitre, oil of sweet almonds, oil of peanuts, peroxide of manganese, stomach of pigs, sheep or calf, nitrate of soda, bennie oil, gastric juice, mustard seed oil, nitre acid, dry blood albumen, sugar, bulyric acid, bicarbonate of potash, chloride of sodium, canstic soda, corn starch, coloring matter.
No, thank you, we don't want any in ours.
End of quote.

I'm with the author, I prefer the real thing.

Fatal Boiler Explosion

This comes from "The Winfield Courier" Nov. 1885


EVANSVILLE, IND., November 19. A terrible boiler explosion occurred at Richland City, Spencer City, Indiana, ten miles west of Rockport, at two o'clock yesterday afternoon, by which two persons were killed and five wounded, one probably fatally. The boiler of a grist mill belonging to S. F. McLaughlin, in exploding, was lifted from its bed and passed through the walls of the mill and then through the store of McLaughlin, killing Mrs. McLaughlin, thence through a blacksmith shop, killing Charles Fisher, who was working at the anvil. The anvil and the body of Fisher were carried some distance, and the shop was demolished. The boiler then passed through a barn sixty feet distant, and was stopped by striking a large oak tree over 300 feet from where it started. McKinney, township trustee, was struck on the head by a brick, but not seriously hurt. Hildebrand, Jones, Bennett, and Fortune were scalded, the first named probably fatally.
End quote

I thought it important to post this news tidbit to show some of the dangers that happen when working with steam.

Motions of the Earth

Taken from "Things Not Generally Known" by John Timbs, David Ames Wells ©1857


The motion of the earth around the sun in round numbers is 68,805 miles per hoar,—so that while we are reading, or cogitating npon this statement, we are at the same time whirling along at a velocity of more than a thousand miles a minute, and nineteen miles between two beats of a pendnlnm, or in a second of time. The motion of Mercury in its orbit is much greater, being upwards of 100,000 miles per hour. If we are disposed to regard this as a rapid motion round the sun, what must the inhabitants of Neptune, who travel only three and a half miles a second, think of us, who are whirling round the sun at six times the speed of Neptune!


The Earth is believed by all astronomers to have, at this moment, not two motions only, but three !—one round its axis, which one can make evident to the very eye; another round the sun ; but what of the third? A most remarkable, and equally mysterious fact; that the sun and all his planets are moving with prodigious velocity through space at the rate of a hundred and fifty millions of miles a-year, towards a particular point in the heavens, a star [X] in the constellation Hercules!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ohio River Canals

Hi all,

I thought I'd pass on this interesting link of history regarding the Ohio River Canals. I've copied the opening paragraph from the web page to give you a taste of the author's page. Ohio's Historic Canals

Ohio's 1000-mile network of navigable canals, constructed between 1825 and 1847, provided a system of economical transportation where none had previously existed. The young state with its isolated frontier economy was transformed almost overnight. The canals opened many markets for its agriculture and industrial products, and attracted thousands of immigrants to the state. Today only a few of the deep excavations, the high earthen embankments and the massive structures of timber and cut stone are left to remind us of our debt to those who built Ohio's first transportation system.

Ohio River

From The Youth's Companion, Or an Historical Dictionary, by Ezra Sampson ©1816

OHIO RIVER, a fine river of the United States of America, which has its source in the Allegany mountains, and is called the Allegany, till its junction with the Mononeahela, at Pittsburgh, where it first receives the name of Ohio. It measures in all its meanders but little short of twelve hundred miles in length, and falls into the Mississippi. It is an excellent river for navigation with large boats, except at the rapids or falls, which are four hundred and eighty-two miles from its confluence with the Mississippi. It is one of the most delightful rivers in the world, whether we consider it for its meandering course through an immense region of forests, for its clean and elegant banks, which afford innumerable pleasant situations for cities, villages, and improved farms, or for its gentle current, clear waters, and smooth bosom which truly entitle it to the name originally given it by the French, of La Belle Review; or the beautiful river. It is a quarter of a mile wide at Pittsburgh.

End Quote

I don't know about you all but I find that references like these are very telling of the time period and what was important to the people of that period. Note that the canals weren't constructed until 1825 - 1847 for this river.


From the Student's Reference Work Vol. 2 by Charles Belden Beach ©1893

Vinegar is a weak form of acetic acid, generally produced by fermentation of the juices of fruit, and varying in flavor according to the material from which it is made. In Great Britain vinegar is usually made from malt, which is fermented in casks, which are three-quarters full, with holes for the entrance of air. They are kept at a

certain temperature (about 70°), and the process may take weeks or months. The vinegar is then filtered and cleared. What is known as the German rapid process consists in pouring the malt or fermented wort in a shower on to shavings in a cask, and drawing off the liquid and pouring it in again, repeating the process until the vinegar has the right degree of acidity. Wine vinegar is largely made in France, and other wine producing countries from the poorer wines, and the lees or settlings of the wine vats. It is white or red, according to the color of the wines used. In the United States cider vinegar is considered the best, and the process is essentially the same as that used in making malt vinegar, warmth and exposure to the air being the two necessary conditions. Homemade vinegar is often produced by putting what is known as the vinegar plant or "mother "into a weak solution of sugar or molasses. The vinegar plant is found in old vinegar barrels and is a fungus growth similar to the yeast plant. The word vinegar means sour wine. See Fermentation.

The Largest Steam Hammer in the World

From Houghtalings Handbook ©1887

The largest steam hammer in the world has been made at Pittsburgh, Penn. It is used for forging steel plates of enormous thickness and size, is ten feet square, and strikes a blow of 200 tons. The anvil block upon which its fearful impact decast upon the foundation it now rests on and it took the molten contents of six cupolas to make the block. When it was cast the Pittsburgh Fire Department sent six steam engines to the scene and kept them there for a week, or until all danger that the fearful mass of molten iron might burst its bonds or by its exploding gases fire the neighborhood, had ended. It took nearly six months for the anvil to cool so that the sand mold might be dug away, and even then workmen could not touch it with their hands.

Further research shows that the largest steam hammer was built in 1891 by Bethlehem Iron Works. I don't know if this is the same one that is mentioned in Houghtalings Handbook but there is at least a 4 year difference between the two.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Underground Railroad Churches

Hi all,

The Underground railroad was made up of houses and churches where slaves could find a place to hide and continue on their way to freedom. Here's a link to one such church in Detroit Michigan. Second Baptist Church

I've dealt with the subject of slavery in some of my historical books. When researching Lizzy's Hope, I read all I could find, at the time, from former slaves that was written during that time period. It was quite an eye opening experience. To understand how they thought of themselves and not what we've been taught today. It bode well to my characters and I received quite a few compliments from African Americans who read the book. If you're writing during this time period or about this subject, I'd encourage you to read as many books as possible by black authors during that time period.


In researching family genealogies I've discovered the valuable uses of censuses. But in the 19th century there were very new. The first census in the U.S. was in 1790.

2nd 1800 It counted Men under 10, M10 & Under 16, M 16 & under 26, M 26 & Under 45, M 45 & up as well as the same for Females. It also listed the Names of Heads of families
3rd 1810
4th 1820
5th 1830
6th 1840
7th 1850 This census marked a change they attempted to count every member of the household including women, children & slaves.
8th 1860 This census counted American Indians
9th 1870
10th 1880 This census allowed women to be enumerators.
11th 1890 Announced that the frontier region of the U.S. no longer existed. So, it was no longer needed to track westward migration. This census was also notable for the use of the tabulating machine, reducing the time to tabulate the census from 7 years to 2.5.

The First Gold Rush

There's several "First Gold Rushes" in America but I believe this one is the first.

In 1799 a 12 year old boy named Conrad Reed found a 17lb gold nugget on his family farm in North Carolina. This nugget was used as a doorstop for years. In 1802, John Reed took the nugget to a jeweler and discovered that it was gold. He wasn't paid well for this nugget but John quickly learned the true value of the gold and a lot more gold was found on the family farm.

Gold mining quickly became a major industry in North Carolina. during the first half of the 19th century gold mining became the number one occupation in North Carolina, surpassing that of farmers.

Gold mining back then was little more than picking the nuggets off the land, then by the middle of the century shafts were dug when they discovered that gold came in veins.

The Charlotte house a mint. It was the first mint to mint gold from America in the U.S.