Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Prairie Traveler, Arms

Below is an excerpt from "The Prairie Traveler" ©1859 regarding the types of arms one should bring on a trip across the plains and prairies. Along with some basic instruction of where to keep the weapons handy.


Every man who goes into the Indian country should be armed with a rifle and revolver, and he should never, either in camp or out of it, lose sight of them. When not on the march, they should be placed in such a position that they can be seized at an instant's warning; and when moving about outside the camp, the revolver should invariably be worn in the belt, as the person does not know at what moment they may have a use for it.

A great diversity of opinion obtains regarding the kind of rifle that is the most efficient and best adapted to Indian warfare, and the question is perhaps as yet from being settled to the satisfaction of all. A large majority of men prefer the breech-loading arm, but there are those who still adhere tenaciously to the old-fashioned muzzle-loading rifle as preferable to any of the modern inventions. Among these may be mentioned the border hunters and mountaineers, who can not be persuaded to use any other than the Hawkins rifle, for the reason that they know nothing about the merits of any others. My own experience has forced me to the conclusion that the breech-loading arm possesses great advantages over the muzzle-loading, for the reason that it can be charged and fired with much greater rapidity.

Colt's revolving pistol is very generally admitted, both in Europe and America, to be the most efficient arm of its kind known at the present day. As the same principles are involved in the fabrication of his breech-loading rifle as are found in the pistol, the conviction to me is irresistible, that, if one arm is worthy of consideration, the other is equally so. For my own part, I look upon Colt's new patent rifles as a most excellent arm for border services. It gives six shots in more rapid succession than any other rifle I know of, and these, if properly expended, are oftentimes sufficient to decide a contest; moreover, it is the most reliable and certain weapon to fire that I have ever used, and I can not resist the force of my conviction that, if I were alone upon the prairies, and expected an attack from a body of Indians, I am not acquainted with any arm I would as soon have in my hands as this.

The army and navy revolvers have both been used in our army, but the officers are not united in opinion in regard to their relative merits. I prefer the large army size, for reasons which will be given hereafter.

Below is a picture of an 1855 Colt Revolver the original picture comes from an antique arms dealers website. I'd also search for other Colt revolvers, it is more than likely that in 1859 the traveler would use a gun he or she purchased prior to the year they are traveling. Just my two cents.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Brett

While researching for my non-fiction book 19th Century Carriages & Wagons for today's writer, I discovered the carriage that was considered the RV of the 19th century. It was called 'The Brett." What made this wagon so effective was it had a long body and the seats were generally cushions or blankets. Some folks would set them on top of their luggage to sit up during travel, others would simply sit down with the cushion under the bottoms and across their backs. The driver would sit in front of the body and passengers could sit facing one another. At night they could spread out and sleep lengthwise because of the long body of the carriage.

Here are some pictures of a Brett.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Safety Pins

I love safety pins. I find them incredibly practice on a variety of levels. You probably are grateful too for this little invention but did you know they were invented in 1849 by Walter Hunt. He patented it in 1849. It was one wire coiled at one end with a clasped at the other. Sounds very similar to what we use now. Walter Hunt also built the first sewing machine in 1832.

Here's a link to a page on Walter Hunt that also has an image of the first safety pin designed.
Walter Hunt The Forgotten Genius

Unfortunately as smart as Walter was with his ability to invent, he wasn't very prudent with his financial abilities and sold his patent for $400 to a man he owed the same sum for.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

50 Largest Cities 1880, 1850

Below is a graph of the largest cities in America from census reports. 1880 is in the left hand column and 1850 is the right. Charleston, SC is highlighted showing it's decline from 1850 to 1880.

If you'd like to view the original source here is a link

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pilot Mountain

There are many grand places to see in America. One of these wonders is Pilot Mountain in North Carolina. In a book called "Mountain Scenery" ©1859 we find the general description of Pilot Mountain and location. I love the second to last paragraph in this excerpt because of the language used by the writer.

The Pilot Mountain is situated in the eastern end of Surry, near the line of that county and Stokes. It rises, an isolated pile, in the midst of a plain. No other mountain, or even considerable hills, being within many miles of it. It would seem as if the mountains, having concentrated all their strength, make in it a last desperate effort and die away. There is a hotel kept at the foot of the mountain, where many travellers resort in the hot season.
"The ascent of the mountain to the spring, an agreeable spot of refreshment, more than half way to the top, is so gradual that the visitor may proceed on horseback. From this spot the acclivity becomes steeper, until you reach the pinnacle, which presents an elevation of some two hundred feet The only pass to the summit is on the north side, narrow, steep, and laborious of ascent; yet it is considered by no means a difficult achievement. And the visitor is rewarded for his toil by an'enchanting prospect of the surrounding country and mountain scenery in the distance. The dense and widestretching forest appears dotted with farms and hamlets. The Blue Ridge reposes in a long line of mountain heights on the northwest. Eastward, in Stokes County, the Saura Town Mountains rise to the view,—some of whose summits exceed the Pilot in height.^ And the Yadkin River, flowing down from the hills of Wilkes, and washing the western base of the mountain, 'rolls its silvery flood,' in a mazy line of light, through the wilderness. The Pilot Mountain is nearly or quite three thousand feet above the level of the sea. Its position and form, not height, make it an object of interest.

"At a point on the road, between the Little. Yadkin and Mount Airy, the traveller may obtain the most singular, and, perhaps, the finest view of the Pilot. One end of the mountain is there presented to the beholder in its most perfect pyramidal form. Its vast sides are seen sweeping up from the surrounding forest, gradually approaching and becoming steeper, until they terminate at the perpendicular and altar-like mass of rock which forms the summit. It here gives an idea of some gigantic work of art, so regular, and so surprisingly similar are the curves of its outlines, and so exactly over the centre, does the towering pinnacle appear to be placed.

"It satisfies the eye, and fills the soul with a calm and solemn delight to gaze upon the Pilot. Whether touched by the fleecy clouds of morning, or piercing the glittering skies of noon, or reposing in the mellow tints of evening; whether bathed in the pale light of the moon, or enveloped in the surges of the tempest, with the lightning flashing around its brow, it stands ever, ever the same; its foundations in the depths of the earth, and its summit rising in solitary grandeur to the heavens, just as it rose, under its Maker's hand, on the morning of creation, and just as it shall stand when the last generation shall gaze upon it for the last time."

The Pilot Mountain is reached from Greensborough, or High Point, to Salem, by Clemmens & Co.'s line of stages; from thence by hired conveyance. Salem is a very pretty and quiet town, and will well repay a visit. The cemetery is a favorite walk, and will, probably, compare with anything of the kind in the South. A gentleman, who had travelled over much of Europe, once said that Salem reminded him more of a German village than any place he had seen in this country. There is a Female Institute of much celebrity and age in the place. The town was originally settled by the Moravians, and still bears many marks of their taste and public spirit.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Gentlemen's Hat

There are a wide variety of hats used during the 19th century. We see in our minds eye a top hat that Abraham Lincoln would use. The caps that those serving during the civil war wore and we even imagine the Stetson's hat from Texas fame (of course Stetson's shop was in Philadelphia, PA). Although he did invent the hat while in Colorado. Stetson retailed his hat business and by the end of the 19th century there were 150 whole merchants around the country.

Below is an excerpt from the Library of universal knowledge ©1880 and gives a brief description of how hats were made, specifically in the earlier half of the 19th century.

HAT, a well-known species of head-covering, which has assumed various characters. What we understand by a hat is a fabric of felt, or a silk material used as a substitute for felt. . .

The growing scarcity of beaver-fur led to attempts to substitute a cloth formed of silk plush, drawn over a pasteboard frame, about 1810. These were not very successful; and hats of wool or beaver-felt were common until about 1840. The high cost of beaver at length forced on the improvement of silk hats, and now the beaver is almost entirely superseded; while the fabrication of silk hats has been carried to great perfection not only in England, but in continental countries and the United States. The silk hat consist of a body and rim, usually made of two or three layers of cotton-cloth saturated with varnishes, to give the fabric stiffness, and make it waterproof. These are molded on wooden blocks according to the fashion of the day; and when the desired shape is produced, the whole is carefully furnished over with lac and dammar varnish, and, before dry, the fine silk plush is applied with great nicety, so as to prevent the seams being perceived; it is then trimmed with silk braid on the edge of the brim, and a silken band round the junction of the body with the brim; and the lining of leather and thin silk being put in, it is complete. Lightness, gloss, and durability are the prime qualities of the silk hat; and in these respects the hats of New-York manufacture deserve a high commendation. Very excellent hats are made in London, Paris, and Edinburgh; but they are heavier than those of America.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


The term means face to face in French. It is also the term used for a carriage built in the 19th century, originating in France, where the passengers sat face to face. In America these carriages found their way into Urban areas. They weren't as useful in the country or on the farms. They needed well developed roads for the type of wheels and suspension. Farm and country roads were rough and rugged and needed a different type of wheel and suspension for their wagons and carriages. Here is a link to Carolina Carriages with a Vis-a-vis you could hire today. In the later part of the 19th century they often sat up to 6 passengers plus the driver and for an extra seat one could sit next to the driver. However in the earlier part of the century they were a narrow carriage and could only sit two. The advantage to this was the passengers weren't jolted against one another and it tended to be warmer than larger coaches. It fell out of fashion for a few years around the mid-century then the reconstructed ones were larger and interest in them gained once again.

It's a great carriage to use in an Urban setting.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chimney Sweeps Health

Today we still have chimney sweeps and it is wise to clean your chimneys once a year. In the 19th century the need for workers in this field was high.

In The Hygiene, diseases and mortality book ©1892 published in London, we find this excerpt about the health issues chimney sweeps deal with.
Chimney Sweeps are a class by themselves so far as concerns the active cause of disease existing among them. In the chapter on the ' conditions of labour,' we have cited sweeps as a class of labourers who suffer physically and morally by the social position allotted them. They are to a certain degree Helots of society, placed under circumstances inimical to their social well-being and their health; and, from this cause, apart from the peculiar incidents of their occupation, we might expect them to occupy an unfavourable position in tables of comparative mortality, and such we find to be the case. Thus Dr. Ogle says their death-rates between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five, and also between fortyfive and sixty-five, arc excessively high, and their 'total mortality, as shown by their comparative mortality figure (1519), is 50 per cent. higher than the average' (op. cit. p. 56).
As to causes of death, the Table K indicates no marked difference between those prevailing among coal-heavers and sweeps. Those of the circulatory system are somewhat rare, and those of the digestive organs decidedly so. Phthisis and respiratory maladies stand much on a par in the two trades; the latter in a slightly lower ratio. But, in the matter of alcoholism, sweeps show a greatly higher percentage than coal-heavers; that is, as 206 to 13 per cent.
Moreover, sweeps are often troubled with skin (eczematous) eruptions, and their eyes suffer with the acrid soot, making them blear-eyed. It seems demonstrable, moreover, that the soot finds its way into the subcutaneous tissue, where it produces small patches, not removable by washing. From these the black particles can, it seems, make their way along the lymphatic spaces to more distant localities. (See remarks by Mr. W. G. Spencer, British Medical Journal, November 15, 1890.)
But the disease, par eminence, attaching to their calling is epithelial cancer. Dr. Ogle discovered, from his statistics, that' of 242 deaths of chimney sweeps, no less than forty-nine were due to some or other form of malignant disease. This gives 202 deaths from this cause to 1000 deaths from all causes; whereas the proportion of deaths from malignant disease to deaths from all causes, among all males from twenty-five to sixty-five years of age in England and Wales, is only thirty-six in 1000; so that, even if the total mortality of sweeps were simply equal to that of all males, their mortality from malignant disease would be more than five times as much as the average. But the mortality of chimney sweeps ... is 50 per cent. higher than the average, so that the liability of chimney sweeps to malignant disease is about eight times as great as the average liability for all males. These figures scarcely support the belief expressed by some authorities that improvements in the art and habits of sweeps have caused this disease to be comparatively infrequent among them.' Of the forty-nine cases of deaths by cancer returned, the scrotum and adjacent parts weje the seat of the lesion in twenty-three; in thirteen the organ affected was not stated; but in seven of them the malady was in internal organs, and the rest in the face, hip, orbit, palate, or neck.
The consoling belief that sweeps' cancer is becoming a scarce phenomenon, since the application of the special Acts of Parliament controlling their work, is also somewhat rudely shaken by Mr. Butlin, of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, who, in his work on Cancer, affirms that numerous instances are to be met with.

Monday, March 13, 2017


In the Herald of Health there is an interesting article about the problems of corsets and the harm they can do to the body. The article came out in 1869. The use of a corset during the 19th century changes from place to place and decade to decade. Also, corsets came in a variety of styles and in the amount of restriction it causes the body. They were front laced and a few back laced. The back laced corset is what we've seen through the eyes of Hollywood. The front laced was more practical for the single woman, or the frontier and farm woman. This article shows that by 1869 there was concern about the health issues from wearing a corset.

Below is the excerpt from Herald of Health©1869
And now for the corsets! Why are they worn? To improve the figure, many say. And yet some of the finest forms I have ever seen wore no corsets, but were supposed to do so because of the fine bust. In reference to these, I have been asked what corsets or shoulder braces they wore, the inquirer wishing to secure the same, because the chest was so complete in its contour. Now, the peculiarity with these very young ladies was that they had never worn corsets or been compressed, padded, or braced in any way, but had dressed loosely and taken gymnastics,
which aro better than corsets to improve the bust.

And Encyclopaedia Americana ©1830 has this interesting set of recommendations about wearing corsets.
We may conclude what we have to say on the use of the corset, by imbodying the whole in a few plain, general rules:—1st. Corsets should be made of smooth, soft, elastic materials. 2d. They should be accurately fitted and modified to suit the peculiarities of figure of each wearer. 3d. No other stiffening should be used but that of quilting or padding ; the bones, steel, &c., should be left to the deformed or diseased, for whom they were originally intended. 4th. Corsets should never be drawn so tight as to impede regular, natural breathing, as, under all circumstances, the improvement of figure is insufficient to compensate for the air of awkward restraint caused by such lacing. 5th. They should never be worn, either loosely or tightly, during the hours appropriated to sleep, as, by impeding respiration, and accumulating the heat of the system improperly, they invariably injure. 6th. The corset for young persons should be of the simplest character, and worn in the lightest and easiest manner, allowing their lungs full play, and giving the form its fullest opportumty for expansion.

If one wishes a fine figure, do not encase it in whalebone, so as to limit muscular motion, but rather encourage the free development of every organ within and without by appropriate action; that is, take in the most air possible, so as to make lungs full and free; throw shoulders back so as to make the chest broad and erect; give free play to all tho muscles, so that they will grow strong and support the body well without artificial aid.