Friday, April 28, 2017

Hot Air Balloons

I've mentioned hot air balloons before on this blog but today I'm sharing the beginning of an excerpt that came out in 1822. The reason I'm posting this blog because of the science involved and the date of this publication. The 19th century is filled with science, which was built upon in the next century. The source of this excerpt is Elements of science and art: being a familiar introduction to...Vol. 1 pg 162. You can finish reading the excerpt here.

The air-balloon is a machine, consisting of a bag i filled with air, so light, that it, together with the bag, forms a mass which is specifically lighter than the common air of the atmosphere. A cubic foot of common air is found to weigh above 554> grains, and to be expanded by every degree of heat marked on Fahrenheit's thermometers, about l-50th part of the whole. By heating a quantity of air, therefore, to 200 degrees Fahr., you will just double its bulk, when the thermometer stands at 54 in the open air, and in the same proportion you will diminish its weight; and if such a quantity of this hot air be inclosed in a bag, that the excess of the weight of an equal bulk of common air, weighs more than the bag with the air contained in it, both the bag and the air will rise into the atmosphere, and continue to do so till they arrive at a place where the external air is naturally so much rarefied, that the weight becomes equal, and here the whole will float.

The power by which hot air is impelled upwards, may be shown by the following experiment. RolL up a sheet of paper in a conical form, and by thrusting a pin into it near the apex, prevent it from ur rolling. Fasten it then by its apex, under one of the scales of a balance, by means of a thread; and having properly counterpoised it by weights put into the opposite scale, apply the flame of a candle underneath, and you will instantly see the cone rise; and it will not be brought into equilibrium with the other, but by a much greater weight than those who have never seen the experiment would believe.

If the magnitude of a balloon be increased, its power of ascension, or the difference between the weight of the included air and an equal bulk of common air, will be augmented in the same proportion. For its thickness being supposed the same, it is as the surface it covers, or only as the square of the diameter. This is the reason why balloons cannot be made to ascend, if under a given magnitude, when composed of cloth, or materials of the same thickness.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Rapeseed Oil

In yesterday's post about pumpkin seeds the excerpt mentioned rapeseed oil so I did a little research on rapeseed. In the 19th century it wasn't used for food because it had a bitter taste. However it was useful as a lubricant for steam engines and other machinery. I found several sources that rave about the use of rapeseed oil to keep the machinery parts from breaking down. Today the Canola Oil is rapeseed oil that has been bred to a more pleasing taste for food consumption.

After pressing the rapeseed and removing the oil what is left is a cake, these were often feed to cattle.

Another use for rapeseed oil was in the production of soap.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pumpkin Seed Oil

With all the discussion and interest in Essential Oils these days, I thought this article in the American Farmer ©1828 at first they were discussing how pumpkin seeds affect horses then they went on to explain pumpkin seed oil and it's possible uses. Personally, I love the roasted pumpkin seeds we would have as kids after we cut out the Jack-o-lantern, it was part of the holiday. But one pumpkin for a family at Halloween wouldn't deal with the rich harvest of pumpkins and their seeds to the average farmer. Below is the excerpt:

On The Oil Op Pumpkin Seeds. To Dr. C. L. Setger, Northampton, [Mass.)
Your inquiries respecting pumpkins, which have lately reached me, I hasten to answer to the best of my knowledge.
I understood that pumpkin seeds were pressed like rape seed, and of course cold: when I added "or like flax seed," it was because I had never seen flax seed or linseed pressed warm after roasting, as you say it is done with you.
Pumpkin seeds, being very oily, and containing thin oil, require no heat to help the effect of the press. They will yield their oil to the press as easily as almonds, walnuts, and seeds of the melon tribe.
The Harmonists press this oil in the press used for rape seed oil.
I do not think that the pumpkin seed oil can be employed, like linseed oil, for painting. It is too thin and fluid, but it will answer in the instances where walnut oil is employed, being similar to it in that respect, although otherwise much sweeter and less desecative.
Pumpkin bread and cakes are much used in the interior of the state of Kentucky, as pumpkin pies in New England. The bread is made either by itself or mixed with corn meal, by kneading pumpkins either raw or boiled, and baking them immediately afterwards, without any addition of yeast It has, therefore, a great similarity to corn bread, and is eaten either warm or cold. It is very sweet and of a reddish colour: I cannot say it is very palatable to me, but those that are used to it like it well. You know that corn bread is not liked at first by many persons. I think that the best pumpkin bread is that made by uniting equal parts of corn meal and boiled pumpkins.
Respecting the cultivation of pumpkins, I can hardly give you any additional information. Their culture is well understood all over the country, and all the farmers know how to avail themselves of the facility which they have of growing among corn, without injury to either crop. I do not conceive that any positive advantage might result from their separate cultivation. But manures might be highly beneficial in either instance, and would increase the crops.
I remember the following additional uses which may be made of pumpkins:
1. The cakes, remaining after the oil is pressed from the seeds, are eaten greedily by cattle and hogs.
2. In Europe, they make good preserves of pumpkins, by cutting them in slices and boiling them for a long time in strong syrup of sugar.
S. In the south of Europe, a very good soup is made by mashed or diluted pumpkins with oil, butter, or broth. This dish is called Furlata in Tuscany. Rice is often added to it.
4. The hard skin of pumpkins, if uninjured, may be used for pails, buckets, baskets, &c. The pumpkins may be made to assume almost any shape, by being confined while young, in wooden or hard vessels, which they will fill gradually, moulding themselves to their shapes.
I remain, respectfully, yours, &c.
C S. RAFINESQUE, Professor of Botany and JYat. History. Transylvania University, Sept. 10, 1819.

Another use for pumpkin seeds was written up in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences Vol. 25 ©1854 Fresh seeds rubbed up with sugar and water were administered once an hour in four doses. The patient had been prepared with a light breakfast and dinner then fasted for the evening. The seeds were prepared and administered as mentioned above and within half an hour the patent passed a tape-worm measuring about three yards. A month later the patient left the hospital without any evidence of the return of the affection. Theophilus Parvin, MD

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Raisins have been around for hundreds and thousands of years but in 1876 William Thompson introduced the Lady deCoverly seedless grape at the Marysville District Fair (California). These are the same grapes we use today. They have a thin skin and are seedless. Sun-dried produces the dark raisins and oven dried and cured with sulfur produce the golden raisin.

Prior to this time the raisins included the seeds and had thicker skins but still delicious. Below I've included an excerpt from The Boston Journal of chemistry and popular science review Vol. 15-17 pg 79 ©1881:
How Raisins Are Made In California. — In Mr. Blower's vineyard, Yolo County, the grapes are allowed to remain on the vine until of a golden color and translucent. They are then picked, and put on wooden trays two by three feet in size, placed between the rows, sloping to the sun. When half dried they are turned by putting a tray on top, and by inverting them both are transferred to the new tray. When the new grapes lose their ashy appearance, and after removing the green ones, the rest are put into large sweat-boxes, placing sheets of paper between every twenty-five pounds of raisins. They are left there for two weeks, when the stems are tough and the raisins soft. The packing follows, in which iron or steel packing frames are used, the raisins being assorted, weighed, inspected, and made presentable.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sewing Machine & Button holes

The first attachment for the sewing machine to sew button holes was patented by Charles Miller of St. Louis, on Mar. 7, 1854. I've attached a link to a website The International Sewing Machine Collector's Society if you would like to read more about the over-edgers of the sewing machines.

Below is a copy of the patent that Charles Miller patented in 1854:
No. 10,609.—Charles Miller.—Improvement in Sewing Machines.— Patented March 7, 1854.
This invention relates to the adaptation of the cloth, or other material to be sewed, to receive what are termed the button-hole stitch, the whip-stitch, and the herring-bone stitch; and consists in giving the cloth, or other material to be sewed, a movement laterally to the direction of the seam, and in opposite directions alternately between every two stitches, in addition to the movement commonly given in the direction of the seam.

Claim.—Giving the cloth, or material being sewed, a movement laterally to the direction of the seam, between the successive stitches, or interlacings of the needle and shuttle-threads, for the purpose of receiving different kinds of stitches or seams.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Scarlet Summer Squash

One of my favorite vegetables is Summer Squash (Yellow), so I researched how it was prepared in the 19th century. The only recipes I found were for frying it. Personally, I've never had it fried. I like it steamed and served with salt and butter. However, I also enjoy the summer squash casserole I've had a various church dinners.

While I was searching for summer squash information I found this unique post:
"The scarlet summer squash is a new and beautiful flat variety, from France, of the acorn species, of a fine scarlet colour." Taken from The Farmer's and Planter's Encyclopedia of rural affairs ©1851.

Of the five books that reference Scarlet Summer Squash they basically repeated the sentence above. The earliest date was from 1841, the latest 1860.

My best guess is the vegetable is no longer in production. However, it would be interesting to find other references from local historical societies that explore the various crops raised in their areas. This will be one of those backseat topics. One that I will continue to note while researching other sources.

This Scarlet squash does have me curious. How did it taste? How well did it grow? Was the color a turn off? Or did this squash not reproduce well? How similar in taste is it to summer squash? Research! You can get lost in it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


My dad has a great collection of antique hand tools. Someday I hope to photograph them. Which brings me to today's post. It is a simple one giving you a link to another source. Handtools were an important part of our characters lives in the 19th century. Below is a link to the Davistown Museum page on Handtools. There is a good size list of various companies which are hyperlinked to individuals pages with information about the company and the products they produced. Further research can be done by looking for individual images for the company and the tool in question from other search engines on the internet.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

1884 Simple Interest Rates

From Houghtaling's Handbook of Useful Information ©1884

Simple Interest Bales.
FOUR FER CENT.—Multiply the principal by the number of days to run; separate the right hand figure from the product and divide by 9.
FIVE PER CENT.—Multiply by number of days and divide by 72,
SIX PER CENT.—Multiply by number of days; separate right hand figure, and divide Dy 6.
SEVEN AND THREE-TENTHS PER CENT.—Multiply by number of days, and double the amount so obtained. On $1(X> the interest is just two cents per day.
EIGHT PER CENT.—Multiply by number of days, and divide by 45.
NINE PER CENT.—Multiply by number of days; separate right hand figure, and divide by 4.
TEN PER CENT.—Multiply by number of days, and divide by 36.
TWELVE PER CENT.—Multiply by number of days; separate right hand figure, and divide by 3.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

1884 List of Legal Holidays in the United States

This list comes from Houghtaling's Handbook of Useful Information ©1884

Legal Holidays in the United States
FOURTH OF JULY—In all the States and Territories.
CHRISTMAS DAY—Dee. 25—in all the States and Territories.
THANKSGIVING DAY—(usually the last Thursday in Nov.) whenever appointed by the President of the United States, or Governors of the States—in all the States and Territories.
FAST DAYS—whenever appointed by the President of the United States, or by the Governors—in all the States.
NEW YEAR9S DAY—Jan. 1—in all States except Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
WASHINGTON9S BIRTHDAY—Feb. 22—in all States except Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas.
GENERAL ELECTION DAY—(usually on Tuesday after the first Monday in November)—in California, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina an l Wisconsin.
DECORATION DAY—May 80—in Colorado, Connecticut,Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, New .leruey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
GOOD FRIDAY—Friday before Easter Sunday—in Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the full moon, which happens on or after March 21st. If full moon happens on Sunday, Easier Sunday is the Sundaj thereafter.
SHROVE TUESDAY—the Tuesday preceedIng the first day of Lent—in Louisiana, and the cities of Selma, Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama.
MEMORIAL DAY—April 26—in Georgia.
MARCH 2—Anniversary of the Independence of Texas, In Texas.
APRIL 21—Anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, in Texas. JANUARY 8—Anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans,fought in 1815, in Louisiana.
FEBRUARY 12—Lincolu9s Birthday, in Louisiana.
MARCH 4—Firemen9s Anniversary, In Louisiana

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sinking John L. Avery

Disasters add conflict to a story and conflict is necessary to keep your reader turning the pages. Below is a real life account of the Sinking of the John L. Avery. The account gives the basics about the situation but there are gems in this account for me to learn from with regard to 'writing" and 'creating" a disaster for my characters. Such as, how many people were affected, the actual physical descriptions of the boat and the process of sinking. How the captain reacted, the passengers, etc. Enjoy.

The J. L. Avery, J. L. Robertson commander, was a new boat, built in the most substantial manner, and furnished with every necessary equipment for a first class passenger boat, being designed as a regular packet between New Orleans and Natchex. She left New Orleans, on her customary trip up the river, on March 7th, 1854. She stopped at Point Coupee and took in a large quantity of sugar and molasses; and on the 9th of the same month she passed the steamer Sultana, off Black Hawk point, forty miles below Natchez; and having left the Sultana, (with which she appears to have been racing,) about a mile astern, she struck what was supposed to be a tree washed from the shore by a recent freshet. A very large leak in the bottom of the boat was the consequence of this accident, and although the pilot immediately steered for the shore, the steamer sunk before she could get near enough to land the passengers. Mr. J. Y. Guthrie, an engineer, and the carpenter, were standing just forward of the boilers when they heard the crash—the boat at the same time making a sudden surge to one side. The carpenter immediately lifted the scuttle-hatch and leaped into the hold, but finding the water pouring in too fast to admit of any attempt at repairing the damage, he made haste to get out again, at the same time giving notice to the engineer that the boat had nagged. Mr. Guthrie, perceiving that the boat was going down, hastened to the engine, but before he got there, he was up to his knees in water. The cabin passengers were hurried up to the hurricane-deck. Soon after, the boat righted, and the hull separated from the cabin and sunk in sixty feet of water.

As the hull parted from the upper works, the surging of the waters caused the cabin floor to rise up against the hurricane roof, and six persons who remained in the cabin were dragged out through the skylights by Capt. Robertson and his two clerks. Mrs. Parmin, one of the six passengers rescued from that perilous situation, had her eldest child in her arms at the time, and was with difficulty prevented from plunging in again, as her babe was left asleep on the bed. But the situation of the deck passengers was the most calamitous; there was a large number of them crowded in their allotted place, where they were walled in by hogsheads of sugar, which would have prevented their escape, if escape had been otherwise possible. These unfortunate people were nearly all drowned.

There were many Irish emigrants on board, whose names were unregistered, and there is a great deal of uncertainty respecting the number of those who perished. Eye-witnesses testify that a large number of men, women and children could be seen drowning at one time. Of the twenty firemen on board, twelve were drowned. The second mate and another person launched the life-boat, but it was almost itnmedidiately upset, probably by the eager and ill-directed efforts of tho drowning people to get into it. The steamer Sultana, with which the Avery had been racing, promptly camo to the rescuo of the drowning crew and passengers, and was the means of saving some of them; but the number lost is believed to be at least eighty or ninety.

Mrs. Seymour, one of the cabin passengers who escaped, relates the following incidents of the wreck: party accounted for by stating that some unusual means had been used to get up extra steam, as the officers of the Avery were resolved to outrun the rival steamer, Sultana. Mrs. Seymour had retired to her state room for an afternoon nap, from which she was aroused by the concussion when the boat struck; and soon after, she found herself in the water. She was drawn up into the floating cabin by one of the waiters, named John Anderson, who, as Mrs. Seymour testifies, was instrumental in saving the lives of several other passengers. She states that her pocket-book, containing nine hundred dollars, which had been placed under her pillow, was lost. She also lost a manuscript which she was preparing for the press, and which she valued still more highly than her pocket-book.

Mrs. Seymour continues :—I cast my eyes upon the water, which was covered with fragments of the cabin. To these frail supports human hands were clinging, while many human voices were crying, "Save me ! oh, save me!" The water at first was dotted with human heads, sinking and rising, and then sinking to rise no more. A sudden splash drew my attention to the side of the boat, and I saw that a young lady, who had been drawn from the inundated cabin through the sky-light and placed in safety on the floating deck, in the delirium of the moment had plunged again into the water, from which she never again emerged. Several others followed her example, but appearing again on the surface, they were rescued by the waiter Anderson and two or three others of the boat's crew, who never slackened in their efforts to save human life. Two or three gentlemen leaped into the water and swam to land. A fine Texan poney, belonging to Mrs. Emerson, escaped from the deck, and endeavored to save himself by swimming. He reached the shore, but not being able to climb the bank, he fell back into the water and was drowned. In a faint but earnest tone, I heard a female voice say, " Oh, William, do save her!" On directing my gaze to the place from whence the voice came, I saw a woman sinking in the river. At the same time a child's voice exclaimed, "Oh, mother, he cannot save me!" I saw her fair hair, all wet, fall back from her young face as her little arms loosened their grasp on the neck of her brother, and the mother and her two children sank together.
Source: Fifty Years on the Mississippi ©1889

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sugar Beets

Below are some items of possible interest if you're looking for something a bit different in your story. The source for this information comes from "The Sugar-Beet Industry: by Harvey Washington Wiley ©1890. The author does state in his introduction that previous reports have been written on the Sugar Beet industry but were now out of print.

Some of the best places to grow sugar beets are: Coast Valleys of California, Coastal areas in Oregon & Washington, Certain parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michican, Northern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York.
Other states that have raised sugar beets are: New England, New Jersey, Delaware and Kansas.

Some reports indicate that summers are too hot in Kansas to have a high percentage of sugar.

For 25 years many attempts have been made to introduce the beet sugar industry into the United States.

Factories locations: Maine, Massachusetts, Delaware, Illinois and California financially disasterous with two exceptions One in Alvarado, California the other Watsonville, California.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Personal Hygiene 1880

I was reading through "Home Nursing, and how to help in cases of Accident" by Samuel Benton ©1880 and came across this informative chapter on personal hygiene. I've highlighted a couple of paragraphs that I can see myself taking advantage of in building conflict between characters. Enjoy!

In re-papering a room always take care to have the old paper removed; fancy living or sleeping in a room, as many people do, with the wall papers four or five deep, each one with the exhalations of a generation in process of decomposition. A separate bed should be provided for everyone in the house. Especially should children be prohibited from sleeping together, contaminating each other with their excretions from lungs and skin; it is even worse for a child habitually to sleep with a grown-up person, they only become pale and consumptive. Before getting into bed do not leave your day wearing apparel folded up in a heap, but separate each article so that it may be aired, especially those articles worn nearest the skin.

Under-linen and flannel should be changed at least twice a week; never wear any under-garment by day which is used at night. Always throw back the bedding, and expose it, especially the blankets, to fresh air and sunlight in getting up in the morning. Never fold up a nightshirt, but hang it on a peg to air, or spread it on the back of a chair.

Boys and girls, if left to dress themselves, will usually get out of bed, jump into their clothes, sponge their face and hands, and come down stairs. Children should be taught how to wash all over with soap and water, and rub themselves dry with a rough towel.

Tight-fitting clothes over the chest and round the waist must be prohibited.

Use stocking suspenders in preference to garters, but if the latter are used, always wear them above the knee; when garters are put on below the knee they hinder the venous current of blood towards the heart, and so engender swollen legs, varicose veins and ulcers. High-heeled boots and shoes alter the perpendicular line of the body, and cause fatigue, pain and deformity, also tight boots are a great mistake; to avoid corns and bunions wear boots which allow plenty of room for the toes, and for walking have thick firm soles.

It need only be mentioned with respect to corsets and tight stays, that these things should not be worn. Young growing girls should be encouraged to practise gymnastics on a small scale; it strengthens the spinal and other muscles, also increases the chest capacity. A trapeze and parallel bars can be erected in a dressing room or nursery, and dumb-bells supplied, at a very small cost.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Planting Corn

For most of our characters in the 19th century they enjoyed and needed to plant their own food. Corn was a staple in most homes and farms. Below are some brief tidbits about when to plant corn.

In a 1828 source it is recommended to plant corn on Long Island, NY from the 10th-20th of May.
In 1845 an individual began planting corn in April. Unfortunately it doesn't say where.
An 1854 also says from 10-25th of May.
In a 1895 source it recommends to plant corn when the white oak leaves are as big as a squirrel's foot or a mouse's ear. For New England and Middle states.

Of the various sources I read, most prepared the field by laying down the manurer a month before.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Etiquette & Manners

Etiquette & Manners is something often discussed on some of my of the writer loops I belong to as they pertain to the 19th century. Through Google books I've found a great source of books regarding such topics. Below is a list ordered by the year they were published. I've gathered this resource list over the past two years from Google Books. Hope it helps you in your search for proper behavior in the time period of your setting.

1832 Domestic Manners of the Americans
1835 Pencil Sketches
1837 The Young Lady's Friend
1839 Miss Leslie's Behavior Book
1842 Elegant Extracts
1843 Etiquette or, A Guide to The Usages of Society with a Glance at Bad Habits
1854 Etiquette Social Ethics and the Curtiousy of Society
1854 The Behavior Book
1860 The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manners
1860 The Hand Book of Etiquette
1866 Marine's Sensible Letter Writer
1868 Manners or Happy Homes
1870 Good Manners a Manual of Ediquette
1872 The Ladie's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness
1873 The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness
1884 Don't: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties More or Less
1888 Manners
1889 American Etiquette and Rules of Politeness
1889 Perfect Etiquette or How to Behave in social...
1892 Etiquette An Answer to the Riddle, When? Where? How?
1896 Social Etiquette or Manners and Customs of Polite Society
1897 Manners for Men
1897 Practical Letter Writing
1899 Twenty Letters in Letter Writing and Business

Monday, April 10, 2017

Manners in Speech

The excerpt I'm sharing today comes from the 1854 publication "Manners" by Miss Leslie. In the chapter Incorrect words. You can read the entire chapter at Google Books with this Link

When you mean that an article of dress (a bonnet or a cap) is neat and pretty, do not say that it is cunning. An inanimate object cannot be cunning. To be cunning requires some mind. We are sorry to say that we have heard females who, when they intend to be witty, talk of taking a snooze, (which means a nap,) and speak of a comic anecdote as being "rich," and of a man in faded clothes as looking "seedy." We have heard Philadelphia ladies speak of a "great big" house, or a "great big" ship; and there are still some who expect what has already come to pass—as, "I expect it rained somewhere last night" —"I expect she arrived yesterday"—"I expect he went to Baltimore." In all these cases the proper term is "I suppose," and not "I expect."
The word "mayhap" (instead of perhaps) is a positive vulgarism. It is of English origin, but is only used in England by very low people—and by English writers, never.