Monday, November 30, 2015


So, I stumbled on to this tidbit while working on some 1887 fashions. A penwiper is exactly what the name implies. They were made to wipe the ink off the pens and keep your pen nibs clean and the area where you're writing clean. Below is an image of a Penwiper from 1887 Peterson's Magazine with the directions to make one. Can't you just see one of your historical characters making this for a Christmas gift?

This fan-shaped pen wiper consists of four pieces of thin cardboard cut to shape, and covered on the outside with embroidered black satin, and on the inside with black cashmere. The leaves are black cloth, pinked out at the edges.

Friday, November 27, 2015

No Post today

Hi all,

I am recovering from hosting a wonderful family reunion, 60th Anniversary Party and Thanksgiving so I'm taking the day off. And no, I'm not shopping, hehe.

I trust your holiday was filled with the love and blessings of family and if you were alone I pray that the Lord blessed you abundantly yesterday and the days to come in preparation for Christmas.

In His grip,

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Another Perspective on the Old New England Thanksgiving

Please note that this excerpt was how Thanksgiving was celebrated during the first part of the 19th Century. Also note that Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until Lincoln declared it in 1863.

The excerpt comes from "The Guardian" ©1875
Thanksgiving reared its honest November head far above all others, at the one genuine, crowning festival of New England. We looked forward to it full half a year, with bright anticipations; and with fond remembrance we looked back upon it through the other half. The scattered children were all to come home that day. For months ahead, with wise house-keepers' prudence, the appropriate sacrifices were prepared. The whole year had been fruitful that there might be one lavish day, and that the only lavish day, on which there was no injunction of economy. There was no word about saving, but every exhortation to eat, and eat again in welcome. That lavish day was Thanksgiving. The harvests were all in, and were safe; and surely, it was right, before settling down to the narrow path of economy again, to offer up the bounteous firstfruits of the year.
Every man was his own caterer. The barnyard and the cellar were the markets. The geese were selected and put in training weeks and weeks before. The turkeys were appointed. The coops of chickens and ducks were set apart. The sucking pig, and the other delicacies were marked down. Nothing was too good for Thanksgiving.
The housewives conferred together. Bills of fare were made up as solemnly, almost, as protocols and treaties. It was the central day. Everything revolved around Thanksgiving. Everybody was caught and used in preparing for it. Did not our children's hands ache in grinding, and our arms ache in pounding spices? Did not we chop mince-meat until we began to wish that there were no mince-pies? Did not we pare and core? Was not the kitchen,
for weeks before, the scene of laborious preparations? And was not every interference met with the remark, " Get out of the way! If you cannot help, you must not hinder. Thanksgiving is coming, and cannot be put off!"
How glorious was that Sunday morning, when, after the sermon, with suitable state and solemnity, the great white sheet was unfolded, and the Governor's Proclamation was read from the pulpit. The great sermon being ended, then followed this little sermon. How we listened, without thinking much of the sentences! Afar ofT were smelled the dinners which were to be served up on that crowning day.
The day before was almost too much for us. It well-nigh exhausted our nervous sensibility. Half the night before was spent in preparations. The first half of Thanksgiving was a holy day, and the last half was a holiday. The morning might not be used except as Sunday, with no sleds, no guns, no skating, and no shouting. Cooking was the only secular employment permitted on Thanksgiving-day morning. All except servants and cooks were expected to go to church. The service generally was very much like the Sunday service; but sometimes it was a vent for all the little odds and ends of the year which it was not thought convenient to preach at the regular service on Sunday. Frequently Thanksgiving was a political safety-valve. It was a kind of ground on which the minister was allowed to express himself on public affairs. It was, however, an education; and the discussions kept alive, often, through the whole year, among the families of the people, great questions of State.
No sooner was meeting dismissed than instantly, like a flash, all was changed. Anything now was admissible; wild capers, running, tumbling, snow-balling, and what not? Everybody's face was turned homeward.
The impatient hour that elapsed between reaching home and the great event—how did we live through it? At length all came in. The wonderful table was stretched out. The long " blessing" was said. And the assault commenced. There was an endeavor on the part of every conscientious child to eat something of everything. Tne onslaught was made with great energy; but the reluctant surrender could not be long delayed, and with deep regrets at their want of capacity, the children One by one fell off; and the illusion of the year was ended.
I say, again, that no man will ever know the true flavor of a New England Thanksgiving of the olden time who has not known something of the frugality required by the honorable poverty of those times. Men were not brought up so easily that no effort was required on their part. Almost everything that a boy had he earned. In my own case, until after I was fifteen years old, I do not believe I ever at one time owned twenty-five cents in money. I do not remember ever to have received from my father the amount of more than six and a quarter cents, the old Spanish coin. Whatever I owned, of knife, or sled, or other plaything, I earned. Gifts were few—except the gifts of nature; and they who lived in those days lived with the understanding that they must think out, and plan out, and work out everything that they had. And though it was hard, it was not harder than the anvil is to the sword, or the grindstone is to its edge, that makes it a trusty instrument in the day of battle. No man can know the genuine flavor of the old New England Thanksgiving who has not known something of the untiring work and rigid seclusion which belonged to that day, and of the very narrow bounds within which amusements were confined.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, the people were cheerful. They were earnest; they were solemn; they lived unsmiling men, too often, under a sense of fearful responsibility ; but there was, after all, in their suppressed natures, and especially in their home-life, a depth and fervor of enjoyment which is almost without exposition, and which is hardly known to those who live in the midst of the affluence and advantages of the present day.
Some may fancy the fire of prosperity to be designed rather for comfort than for trial; rather to refresh than to search us; but scarcely anything more clearly demonstrates the falseness or soundness of religion; it is to grace what fire is to gold.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Change in Thanksgiving toward the end of the 19th Century.

Here's an excerpt from The Connecticut Magazine ©1896 from a story titled In Satan's Kitchen. This is toward the end of the 19th Century and the tidbit shows the change from the Traditional New England Thanksgiving celebration which was a day of fasting, prayers and sermons then followed with a meal.

"Thursday of that week came the time-honored festival of Thanksgiving, when, according to New England custom, Jane Maria cooked up " vittles " of certain sorts enough to last until the middle of March. The preparations began Tuesday night. A basket of apples was brought from the cellar, and Margaret was invited to join the " paring bee," which consisted of Aunt Jane, Uncle Reuben and herself, but the hapless girl cut her fingers, which bled so that she was unable to render much assistance, and, after a vigorous scolding for her carelessness, she was told she could go to bed, " kas yer aint no count here." Margaret gladly availed herself of the privilege, although it was early evening, and she wept far into the night, while down stairs the paring, halving, and quartering went on until an enormous chopping bowl, the proportions of which would astonish the housewives of to-day, was filled to its brim with meat which had been "biled " during the day, and with the apples pared during the night in preparation of the "mince-meat," which was to make the pies that were to last till the "middle of March."

Long before daybreak the next morning Margaret was wakened by the vigorous strokes of the chopping-knife, which announced the continuance of the active preparations for the occasion which, as it seemed to her, must awaken anything but sentiments of thanksgiving. Later, she was invited to lend a hand in the chopping while the pumpkin was prepared for more and other pies, all of which caused Margaret to wonder if their diet was to consist of pies until the middle of March. Jane Maria declared that Margaret's chopping " don't mount to no morn'n a baby's." But Margaret's arms, all unused to such labor, ached keenly, and by nightfall she was too tired to stand.
She had yet to learn, however, that " Thanksgiving" preparations were only just begun. As the darkness came on Uncle Reuben came hurrying in after his lantern. A big boiler of water was put to heat on the stove, and soon Margaret heard outside the shrieks and yells of the poor victims who die for humanity on "Thanksgiving Day." Uncle Reuben's later appearance with the headless fowls, which he threw upon the table to await the scalding and picking process, was more than Margaret could stand, and in the midst of it all she fainted and sank to the floor. She was promptly treated to a vigorous dash of cold water and packed off to bed by her irate aunt as soon as she " cum to." Margaret was on the point of giving up eating if it must be done at such a sacrifice of life as she had witnessed on two occasions.

What a contrast this to the quiet and happy celebration of " Thanksgiving" by the colony of New Englanders living in Oakland, gotten together to keep alive the remembrances of youth and home, and to perpetuate the time-honored day,— occasions when the abundance, variety, and freshness of Pacific coast fruits vied for prominence with the songs of New England. Margaret remembered one of these songs in particular."

Monday, November 23, 2015

A 19th Century Thanksgiving menu

In prep for this Thanksgiving holiday. I thought some Thanksgiving tidbits from the 19th Century would be in order.
This tidbit comes from Dr. Chase's Third, Last and Complete Receipt Book and Household Physician. ©1887

Thanksgiving is almost here, and how shall we celebrate the day?, I for one believe in the old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner. The following bill of fare may be of use to some of your readers:
Oyster Soup. Celery, Pepper Sauce. Roast Turkey, with Currant Jelly. Baked Potatoes. Mashed Turnips. Roast Pig. Carrots with Cream. Baked Beans. Chopped Cabbage. Pumpkin Pie. Plum Pudding. Apples. Nuts. Cheese. Tea and Coffee.
For the table I prefer a white cloth with fancy border, and napkins to match. A dash of color livens up the table so, in the bleak November, when flowers cannot be had in profusion. Casters in the center, of course, flanked by tall celery glasses. At each end, glass fruit dishes filled with apples and nuts. A bottle of pepper sauce near the casters, and a mold of jelly by the platter of turkey, and small side dishes of chopped cabbage garnished with rings of cold : boiled eggs. The purple cabbage makes the handsomest-looking dishes. Serve the soup from tureens into soup dishes, handing around to the guests. After this comes the pi├Ęce de resistance, “Thanks iving turkey.” A piece of dark meat with a spoonful of £ and one of white with a bit of jelly and a baked potato (I should prefer a spoonful of mashed) should be served on each plate, leaving the other vegetables to be passed afterward with the roast pig. After this the salad, and then the '' should be taken away and the dessert served. Then come the apples and nuts, the tea and coffee, well seasoned with grandpa's old-time stories, grandma's quaint sayings and kind words and merry repartees from all.
Below I give some recipes for these old-fashioned dishes, hoping they may because to some young housekeeper, preparing, perhaps, her first thanksgiving dinner:
Oyster Soup.–Pour the liquor from 1 qt. of oysters, set over the fire with
1 pt. of boiling water; skim when it boils up, and add 1 qt. of sweet milk; when it again boils up, stir in 2 tea-spoonfuls of butter rubbed in 1 of flour; then add the oysters, and salt and pepper to your taste; let it boil only a minute or two, and serve in a hot tureen. See, also, that the soup dishes are well warmed before sending to table.
Roast Turkey.—Make a stuffing of moistened bread-crumbs, rubbed smooth, with salt, pepper and powdered ": Fill the breast and body, and sew it up with a needle and coarse thread. Put in the oven in a pan with a little water, basting it often. A turkey weighing 12 lbs. should roast at least 3 hours. Having washed the heart, liver and gizzard, boil them an hour or so in a saucepan; to make the gravy chop the # fine; put them back in the water in which they were boiled; add flour, rubbed smooth, in a little water; boil a minute or two, and serve in a gravy boat.
Roast Pig.–Sprinkle inside with fine salt an hour before it is put into the oven; cut off the feet at the first joint; fill it very full of stuffing, with plenty of sage in it; tie the legs; rub it all over with butter to keep it from blistering; baste very often while roasting. It will require about 2% hours to roast. Make gravy as for other roasts.
Carrots with Cream.—Boil very tender with plenty of water, when done slice into a saucepan with a gill of cream; let them boil up once; salt and pepper to taste, and serve in hot nappies (side dishes).
Boston Baked Beans.—Take # of white beans, wash and soak over night in 2 or 3 qts of water; in the morning pick them over and boil until they begin to crack open; put them in a brown pan; pour over them enough of the water in which they have been boiled to nearly cover them. Cut the rind of a pound of salt pork into narrow strips; lay the pork upon the top of the beans and press down nearly even with them, bake some 4 or 5 hours.
"Pumpkin Pie.—Stew a kettle full of pumpkin and press it through a colander. For a quart of the stewed pumpkin use about a pint or a little more of sweet milk, 2 cups of sugar, 3 eggs and a tea-spoonful of ginger; bake in a crust in a deep pie plate.
Remarks.—The plum pudding will be found in another part of the book; also salads, sauces or any other thing that may be desired upon Thanksgiving, or most other important occasions.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tug of War

Primarily during the 19th Century this game was played by the men and boys. It wouldn't be proper in most circles for the women to join in. That does not mean you can't have a heroine participate but you would need to make it a very compelling reason for her to do such a thing.

This is an exceedingly lively game, giving exercise to the muscles of the chest and arms. It is played by two parties, as nearly equal in numbers and strength as can be mustered ; one party takes hold of one end of a strong rope, while their antagonists take hold of the other; each party then strives to pull the other over a line chalked or marked on the ground for the purpose, and those who are so pulled over, being made prisoners, lose the game.
In this game two leaders should be appointed, who must calculate the powers of their own side, and concert plans accordingly. The leader of either side should have a code of signals, in order to communicate with his own friends, that he may direct them when to stop, when to slacken, or when to pull hard. So important is the leader's office, that a side with a good leader will always vanquish a much superior force which has no commander to guide it. For example, when all the boys are pulling furiously at the rope, the leader of one side sees that his opponents are leaning back too much, depending on their weight more than on their strength. He immediately gives the signal to slacken, when down go half the enemy on their backs, and are run away with merrily by the successful party, who drag them over the mark with the greatest ease. Or if the enemy begins to be wearied with hard pulling, a unanimous tug will often bring them upright while they are off their guard, and, once moved, the victory is easily gained. No knots are to be permitted on the rope. In the school-boy game of tug of war the game is not to be considered as won unless the entire side has been dragged over the line.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Arranging Bouquets

Floral Arrangements have always been an art in my humble opinion, an art that I'm not that great at. I have improved over the years but when I see the arrangements the local florist puts together, well mine pale in comparison. However, our 19th Century Characters and Ancestors took great skill in making this bouquets for their homes, or to go courting, etc.

Below is a tidbit from the Detroit Free Press ©1881.

It seems an easy thing to make a bouquet as one looks over the garden and sees the beautiful flowers. But after all it is a difficult matter, and one sometimes forgets that flowers have their affinities and preferences as well as the human race. Above all give them room and not crowd them. When flowers are massed heavily together all lose their beauty.

When you cut the flowers for bouquets, provide yourself with a tin basin or dish having a little water in it. Cut them, never pull or break them; it bruises the stems and hastens decay. Flowers will keep best if gathered at night; the early sun seems to wilt them. Stand the flowers up in the dish and put those of one kind together, then when ready to arrange them you can easily tell what materials you have to work with, and avoid tumbling them over. The water prevents them from wilting, for flowers carried in the hand will wither in a short time.
When a flower is of good size and a fine one, it will look more beautiful if arranged by itself, the single flower among sprays of fern or feathery grasses, than if put among other flowers. Flowers are difficult to arrange in a shallow dish unless wet moss has first been put in; the flower stems can then be imbedded in the moss, and it will help to preserve them. If a shallow glass dish is filled with white sand and made up into pyramid form (as can easily be done by wetting it), and the flowers arranged in it, commencing with the tiny fine ones at the top, and filling out with larger ones as the base is reached, the effect will be beautiful, and if the sand is kept damp the flowers will keep fresh many days.

Some of the holders for flowers are very pretty; they have a saucer at the bottom and a slender single vase in the center; the lower one can be arranged as a flat bouquet, and with a single lily and fern sprigs or grasses in the vase, what can be lovelier! The white day lilies, their yellow centers, are very beautiful, and a single one will perfume the whole room with its fragrance.

Colors should be chosen wisely; pinks and scarlets should not be included in the same arrangement, and large flowers should not be mixed with very small ones. Yellow can be used sparingly, and white to blend the colors. Green should be used to separate the colors, as a bouquet not softened by grasses or vines is very glaring in its effects. Button-hole bouquets should always be small—conspicuous for their beauty, not size. A single geranium leaf, with a rosebud, a tuberose, or two or three small flowers put together with a leaf of green, is very pretty for these, as almost any flower is beautiful.

In selecting vases for flowers get those of a light or neutral color; cut glass, of delicate shape and color, are prettiest. Never put flowers in heavy vases, unless large sprays of flowers are selected, and then a tiny, delicate bouquet and vase is much prettier than these large, massed bouquets in heavy vases. A spray of ferns with a single rose or bud, or a saucer of ferns and pansies is much prettier than a large bouquet even if composed of beautiful flowers.

For small vases a very good way is to clip the flowers off and put them in carelessly as they come, then they will look natural; too much arrangement often spoils the looks of a vase of flowers. For either hand or vase bouquets do not put too many colors together.

For vases and bouquets of any sort there should be plenty of white for the foundation. Where stemless flowers are used, like a tuberose or a single geranium, stems can be made by putting the ends inside of straws and then wiring them in ; when arranged in the bouquet the straw cannot be seen", but the flowers can be kept fresh by absorbing the water. A pretty arrangement is to take a spike of scarlet gladiolus, with its brilliant coloring; arrange it with feathery grasses and gleams of white feverfew here and there and you will have a lovely spot of. coloring for some dark corner. Again, petunias and morning glories are difficult to combine with any flower, but give them a wide-mouthed vase and a few leaves and they are positively graceful. All lilies are prettiest if no other flowers are mixed with them.

It is generally understood that perfect whiteness is indispensable in all flowers used for bridal purposes, rendering jessamine, orange blossoms, gardenias, white carnations, white azaleas, amongst the flowers in most general use. And although white should predominate in the wedding bouquet, a few flowers of delicate tint may be sparingly used. Amongst exotics, the orchid class of plants, those tinted with pale mauve and blush rose, are most useful for such bouquets, The style of flowers should have some analogy to the age of the bride. Thus a bouquet composed of nothing but orange buds is appropriate for a young bride in her teens, whilst full-blown flowers are equally well fitted for a wearer of more mature age.

When cut flowers have faded, either by being worn a whole evening in one's dress, or as a bouquet, by cutting half an inch from the end of the stem in the morning, and putting the freshly-trimmed stalks instantly into quite boiling water, the petals may be seen to come smooth and resume their beauty, often in a few minutes. Colored flowers, carnations, azaleas, roses and geraniums, may be treated in this way. White flowers turn yellow. The thickest textured flowers come up the best, although azaleas revive wonderfully. Another very good mode of renovating cut flowers is to place them in water under a glass shade. For keeping flowers in water, finely-powdered charcoal in which the stalks can be stuck at the bottom of the vase, is excellent; it preserves them surprisingly, and renders the water free from any obnoxious qualities.

If you would keep flowers for evening wear, you must be up early, and gather them before the sun is on them, and, if possible, while they are still wet with dew. Place them in water in a shady place, and just before they are wanted cut a short piece off the stalk with a sharp pair of scissors—a knife will not do; then, if possible, keep them in one of the tubes used by gentlemen for their button-holes; if not, seal the ends of the stalks. Some persons can wear natural flowers much better than others; if the skin is hot and damp they will soon fade, and only hard-wooded plants should be chosen. For azaleas, scarlet geraniums, etc., a drop of gum should be planted in the center of each flower to keep them from shaking.

Or this: Mix a tablespoonful of carbonate of soda in a pint of water, and in this place your bouquet; it will preserve the flowers for a fortnight. This is a fact worth knowing, as in warm weather flowers fade and wither rapidly. Sprinkle the bouquet lightly with fresh water, and then put it in a vessel containing soap-suds; this will keep the flowers as freshly as if first gathered. Then, every morning take the bouquet out of the suds and lay it sideways, the stock entering first, into clean water; keep it there for a minute or two, then take it out and sprinkle the flowers lightly by the hand with water, replace it in the soap-suds, and it will bloom as fresh as when first gathered. The soap-suds need changing every three or four days. By observing these rules a bouquet may be kept bright and beautiful for a long time. The natural color of flowers may be preserved for any length of time by dipping them for a moment in clear glycerine. When the glycerine dries the various tints are seen almost as bright as before the flowers were plucked. Also a good way is to lay them in wet cloths; take them out of the vases at night, sprinkle with cold water and then wrap them in cloths made very wet with cold water. The weight of the cloth will not crush the most delicate flowers, while it keeps out the air and prevents their falling to pieces or opening still more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

1830 Fashions

These are English November fashions from 1830 original source. Thanksgiving wasn't a part of English traditions so whether or not these were worn in the USA in the fall of 1830 I leave to your imagination. Followed by the descriptions given in the magazine.

Evenino Dress.
A Dress composed of pale lemon coloured gaze popeline, over a white satin one. The corsage, cut very low, is open before and behind; the lappets are embroidered in a light but rich pattern in white floize silk. The unde+corsage is made square, and arranged in small longitudinal plaits: the sleeves form two bouffants, one immediately above the elbow; the other reaching half way to the wrist, where it terminates in a deep tight cuff of the material of the dress. The skirt is decorated with a single flounce, which comes as high as the knee, and is finished round the border in an embroidery of detached sprigs of foliage in white floize silk. An embroidery also in white silk, of light bouquets, surmounts the flounce. The head-dress is a crape hat: the colour, a new shade of rose noisette. The inside of the brim is decorated with a noeud of gauze ribbon to correspond, on the left side, and with cogues on the right; two very large noeuds of ribbon are placed, one at the top of the crown in front, on the right side, the other at the bottom upon the brim. A bouquet, consisting of light sprigs of flowers, is inserted at the side between the knots. Necklace, gold and emeralds; ear-rings and bracelets, gold finely wrought.

Dinner Dress.
A Crimson satin dress, the corsage, cut very low round the bust, is disposed in front in drapery folds, which meet in the centre, and form a demi losunge. A gold enamelled pin, beautifully wrought, fastens the folds in the centre of the bosom. Long and very wide sleeves of gaze de soie, over short ones of crimson satin; the sleeve is terminated by a mani-hette a la A'hion of the same material. The head-dress is a beret, composed of shaded blue gauze: it is of a very light
and novel form, and ornamented only with a very broad gauze ribbon to correspond, which is fastened in two short bows, with ends that fall nearly to the knee, on the left side. Ear-rings of massive gold, of the pear form. The bracelets are, one of black velvet with a gold clasp, the other of gold chains.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ox Tail Soup

This is an old soup that was much more common than it is today.

Oxtail Soup.—Take two oxtails; cut them into joints, and cut each joint into four pieces; put them into a pan with two ounces of butter, and fry them for ten minutes. Slice two onions, one turnip, two carrots, and a dozen outer stalks of celery, and fry in the same butter, with three slices of bacon cut up fine; fry to a light brown. Turn the ingredients into a saucepan with a quart of stock or ham water, and boil quickly for half an hour, then add two more quarts of stock, a bouquet of herbs, two bay-leaves, a dozen whole peppers crushed, a few cloves, and salt to taste. Simmer until the meat is quite tender; then take it out; strain the soup; skim off the fat, and thicken with two ounces of flour. Return the meat to the soup; add a tablespoonful of Worcestershire, and a cupful of sherry, and serve with grated rusks.
Source: Fifty Soups ©1884

Ox-tail Soup.—Ox-tail soup is made from ox-tail soup stock, as its name indicates. Ox tail soup stock is made as described for beef soup stock, except that ox tail is used instead of beef, and when boiled down to a proper consistency is drawn off into a copper kettle, where pieces of ox tail, vegetables, and seasoning are added, and the whole brought to the boiling point. Ox-tail soup in which is found pieces of bone perfectly bare, or meat in shreds or covered with white specks, is not desirable, because the ox tail from which the soup stock was made was not fresh, or because it was not made from oxtail soup stock but from beef soup stock, and that the added pieces of ox tail were cooked to pieces in order to give the soup a more decided ox-tail flavor.
Source: Handbook of Subsistence Stores ©1896

Ox-Tail Soup, No. 1.—Cut one ox-tail into joints, and fry brown in good drippings; slice four onions and two carrots, and fry in the same when you have taken the pieces of ox-tail out. When done tie them with parsley and thyme in a mosquito net bag and drop into the soup kettle. Put in the ox-tail and three pounds of lean beef. Grate over the meat two carrots; pour four quarts of water over the meat, and boil slowly for five hours. Strain and season, thicken with brown flour wet with water, boil awhile longer and pour up. Pick out the small joints of the oxtail; put in the tureen, and serve one or two on each plate.
Ox-Tail Soup, No. 2.—Wash well and wipe with a cloth a fresh ox-tail; cut into pieces an inch long, dividing the thick part; boil for twenty minutes; drain off all the water; then put them in a soup kettle with three carrots, three bunches of celery, one onion, and a little parsley, a blade of mace, two teaspoonf uls of salt, some pepper, and one quart of clear stock; boil and carefully remove all scum as it rises; then let it simmer until the meat is done; lift out the pieces of ox-tail; strain the soup, and if it is not clear and bright, it can be clarified by using the whites of two eggs beaten to a froth; cut three carrots and two turnips into any small, fancy shapes you may wish, trying to get them the same size; put them in a saucepan and pour the clear stock over them; simmer until the vegetables are tender; heat the pieces of ox-tail, pour hot soup upon them, and serve as hot as you can.
Ox-Tail Soup, No. 3.—Cut a well-dressed ox-tail into several pieces; add two pounds of lean veal, four carrots, three onions and thyme. Fry the ox-tail in butter until brown, remove from fryingpan and put in two carrots and the sliced onion, and brown also. When these are done, tie in a bag with a bunch of thyme and drop in the soup kettle. Lay the pieces of ox-tail in, and cut the meat in small pieces; grate over them two whole carrots, and add four quarts of water with pepper and salt. Boil six hours slowly; strain a little while before serving and thicken with two tablespoonfuls of flour. Boil ten minutes longer and serve immediately.
Source: Housekeepers' and Mothers' Manual ©1895

Ox-Tail Soup.
It is made of the same stock as the above. Take two ox tails and parboil; be sure to notch them with a knife at the joints before you put them in the water to boil; when tender take them out, and strain the water through a sieve. When the soup is to be served, joint them and put them in; let them boil ten minutes, and season according to taste.
To make Ox-Tail Soup another way.
Take two pounds of the fleshy part of an ox hough, and two ox tails notched at the joints, and put them on in a pan, cover with water, add one tea-cupful of whole rice, and a little salt, skim carefully as it comes to the boil, and let it boil slowly for two hours, then take out the tails, let it boil one hour longer, taking care that it be not too much reduced. Strain through a hair sieve, skim and return to the pan, cut the tails quite through where they have been notched, dividing some of the larger pieces, add to the stock, boil slowly for half an hour, and season to taste.
Source: The Practice of Cookery and Pastry ©1862

Ox-TAIL SouP.—Two ox-tails, if properly stewed, with a couple of pounds of gravy beef and a bone of ham, will make an excellent soup. Cut the tails into joints, and boil very gently for several hours in a sufficient quantity of water, with the beef and ham, carrots, turnips, and celery, two or three onions, a piece of crust of bread, a bunch of sweet herbs, a clove or two, and some peppercorns Take out the tails when tender, and let the beef.
boil four hours longer, then strain the liquor and remove the fat in the same manner as for clear gravy soup. If made without ham-bones, or other flavoring ingredients, it will require the addition of a little ketchup, or some of the prepared sauces, and a glass of wine, with a moderate quantity of cayenne. Add the tails and some pieces of carrot and turnip cut into fancy shapes.
When thickened ox-tail soup is preferred, proceed in the same manner as above, and thicken the broth with brown roux.
Source: Mrs Ellis's Complete Cook ©1870

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Folly of Housecleaning by a Bachelor

Here's a very different take on housework and cleaning from a bachelor's perspective. It's a fun read, enjoy!

As a bachelor who has lived with various married brothers, I want to enter my protest against the senseless practice of house-cleaning. Cannot housewives see that the act is an admission of poor house-keeping ability? A well-kept house is clean. This is an axiom. And if it is clean, where is the need of house-cleaning?
I am not the first man to cry out against this practice. I remember to have read numerous articles by the funny men of the press directed against this vice, but to me the affair has no funny side. Is it humorous to have to move all your belongings from one room to another in a vain effort to escape the deadly ravages of the housewife? Is it a joke to have to eat your meals on the gas-stove and do your writing on the stationary tubs while your wife and the maids are rubbing imaginary dirt from the dining-room and sweeping it from your study?

A woman with the fever of housecleaning upon her is not responsible for her acts. There is no woman living who is so sweet-tempered that she can go through an attack of housecleaning without turning—her temper. There is no man alive who is so angelic that he can avoid giving his wife offense while she is under the fell influence of the national disease. Does a man tell you he helped his wife put up or take down the dining-room stove without any hard words? Trust him not, he is fooling thee, as Longfellow was in the habit of saying.

A soft answer turneth away wrath, but not when you are helping your wife take up the matting. She will bowl over your soft answer with words hard enough to drive tacks. If a young man instead of trying to find out the quality of his fiancee's temper by taking her to the theatre and to evening parties, would visit her at her home when she and her mother are roaming unshackled all over the house in the last stages of house-cleaning, marriage would not be so lightly entered into, nor would divorces be so disgustingly prevalent.

Nor is a woman to be blamed for becoming infuriated over the process of house-cleaning. A man may be in Wall Street during a panic, he may be the overseer of a gang of incompetents, he may be superintendent of an insane asylum, but he will never have any experiences so trying to his temper as the useless but seemingly inevitable experience of house-cleaning.

I picked up a paper this morning, and in the local notes was the report of an accident to a young woman. She had smashed her thumb while housecleaning. Is a clean house worth a flattened thumb? Are spick-and-span rooms worth the alienation of a husband's affections?

What is it to the minister that his wainscoting looks fresh and clean, when the style of his sermon has been muddied by many interruptions? Why s hould the poet be proud that his wife has polished the legs of the piano and brightened the hands of the clock, when the feet of his poem have been so injured that they limp under the stern eye of the reviewer? What is it to the domestic man that his bedroom is sweet and fresh while the wife of his bosom is hag-worn and soured by the process?

House-breaking is less of a crime than house-cleaning. It is less insidious. It is attended with fewer hard words, with much less noise and displacement of dust, and it is accomplished by an avowed enemy of society instead of by the companion of your life-journey. And it is vastly more successful—from the burglar's point of view at least.
I knew a man in Chicago who made a practice of never marrying until after his prospective wife had finished her annual house-cleaning. As a consequence, his marriages were singularly happy ones.

But the most diabolical kind of house-cleaning is that form which attacks some women who have had generations of thrifty and neat forebears, but who themselves are anything but neat. With these women house-cleaning is an involuntary act. They go through the motions, they have all the symptoms in their most aggravated form; the husband eats in the kitchen; the wife's temper is lost beyond hope of a clew; and in spite of all the house is not clean. They are like the dog who turns around thrice before lying down—he knows not why; or the hen brought up on a macadamized floor, who scratches as hard as did her ancestors in the garden.

Women who in other respects are singularly open to reason, and whose minds are as progressive as a game of euchre, will stand up for this habit with all the narrow-mindedness of a backwoods woman. Ask any woman of your acquaintance whether she believes in cleaning house, and she will look at you as though she thought your sanity in doubt. Then ask any married man, and he will tell you that the vermiform appendix is not moreuseless than house-cleaning. With this difference of opinion between the sexes, it is easy to fancy the bitter' words that are laid to the credit of a couple that have been married sixty years, and whose house has been devastated three-score times by the whirlwind of house-cleaning.

Spring would be the most delightful season of the year if house-cleaning were abolished. To the house-cleaner the odors of the woods and fields appeal in vain; sweeter to her is the smell of soap and patent cleansers. The tender grace of the adolescent maple leaves is as nothing while the walnut leaves of the extension-table need scouring.
Happy is that man whose wife never allows her house to get dirty, for tohim house-cleaning shall be unknown, and the passage of the lives of the twain shall be as unruffled as that of two leaves on the bosom of a placid stream. And the address of that wife shall be found in the directory of the millenium.—Charles Battel Loomis, in Harper's Bazar.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday the 13th

There wasn't much to be found on the Friday the 13th from the earlier parts of the 19th Century. Yes, it dates back to the middle ages but it wasn't until the later part of the century that some of the superstitions began in earnest. You will find more references to the superstitions in European literature. But since this page is primarily for those researching for 19th Century American purposes I've restricted my tidbits to the USA

This tidbit comes from the Sanitary & Heating Age ©1894
Americans are the least superstitious people on earth, observes a Buffalo (N. T.) daily, but they cling to more fool notions than are good for them. Friday and the number 13 are still made to serve as excuses for disaster, and that by people who know better. Evil things were predicted of the third trial race for the America's cup because it was to be sailed on a Friday and the 13th of the month. In the horrible disaster at Battle Creek, the fact is brought out that both of the colliding trains consisted of 13 cars. Such reminders are constantly being made, in great things and small. People will say they do not believe in any malign influence attached to Friday or to the numoer 13, yet tbey go on in an asinine way to associate them with any misfortune to wh:ch they can be hitched. There is probably very little, if any, deliberate instruction given to children as to what are evil days and numbers and signs generally; yet the folly persists, generation after generation. Selfpropagated, the popular superstitions have nersisted since the beginning of history. Reason and the spirit of the day are against them, but they stick. Experts in folk-lore and the evolution of nations may have profound explanations for this; but on the face of it it looks as if mankind enjoyed holding to anything which could occasionally be made to do duty as a reason for disasters which really are due to human carlessness, selfishness and lack of foresight or of knowledge.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


I wonder if you've thought much about an Aquarium in your historical novel. If not, here are some tidbits from The Detroit Free Press ©1881 about Aquariums

The fresh-water aquarium, or drawing-room fish pond, is a pleasing and interesting ornament for a city or suburban town. It is cheaply and easily made, and requires but little care. Comparatively tew persons can adorn their homes with costly pictures and statues, but almost anyone with a love of nature and art can have an aquarium, fulfilling in miniature realities the glowing and poetic water legends of Northern and Oriental climes. It is the expression of the cultured taste, more than the embellishment of wealth, that makes a charming home.
A tank for a fresh-water aquarium may be constructed of four plates of glass, with a large piece of slate, marble or metal for the bottom; or the tank may be made wholly of metal and set like a large sink in a bay or oriel window; or one may be constructed of a seamless bowl or tub, either earthen or wooden; if the latter, all seams (providing a seamless one cannot be obtained) must be made water-tight by the use of a cement manufactured for the purpose, and sold as "aquarium cement." No lead or paint must be where the water can touch it. The placing of this bowl will call into use your artistic fancies; it may be surrounded upon a stand with earth and rocks, among which may be planted the drooping vines of the house plants and others that may suggest themselves, though not surrounded with plants so thickly as to darken the pool, for fish enjoy a little sunlight—but do not broil them.

These can be procured from brooks and ponds near at hand. A good way to plant them is to tie a small pebble to the roots or base of stems and sink them below the surface of the bed. The arrangement of the plants should be made with regard to the best effect, the smallest plants being placed in front and the tallest in the center or at the back of the tank.

A tank of water-plants can be made quite as ornamental as a fernery, while the fish, snails and mussels prove very attractive to all beholders, old as well as young.

Among the best varieties of water-plants are: Arrowhead, a very common plant in brooks and creeks, which has white flowers with golden centers and arrowhead-shaped leaves; eel-grass is a very popular plant for aquaria, as its habitat is in slow-moving waters; waternymph, a slender, thread-like plant, with knot-like lobes ; water-feather, a lovely little plant, a gem for the aquarium; water-cress, water-millfoil. After all the plants are arranged, throw in a few lemna minor, or duckweeds, which are tiny, stemless, floating plants that harbor minute insects that are delicacies for the fish.

The plants should be planted in good soil, in saucers or similarly low dishes, then procure some coarse gravel, sand, fine sand, white gravel or pebble stones, a few common rough stones, and three or four larger ones, with which to construct a miniature arch, placing the closed ends of .the arch toward the ends of the tank, in order that the fish may not hide themselves beneath, as they will be sure to do. Place a layer of the coarse sand over the bottom, then the saucers containing the plants upon the sand; construct the arch firmly by the use of a little cement, and so arrange the balance of material that when finished the bottom will be one of apparent sand and gravel, with mounds, ridges, etc. A few small shells of the most ordinary kind will add to its picturesqueness.
The tank is now ready for the water. Fill about one-quarter full and let it stand for a day, then dip out a part of the water and replace with fresh. This treatment must be continued from day to day until the water in the tank shall be clear and clean; ordinary soft water—brook, spring or pure cistern—required. Fill the tank within about two inches of the top, and it is ready for the fish. The smaller they are the larger the number that may be put together.

After the plants and rocks are arranged the former must have time to become accustomed to their new home before the fish are put in. A fortnight is none too long for the aquarium to remain tenantless. If a green film overspreads the glass it shows there are too many plants for the water, and they have had too much light, It is a good plan to paste thin green paper on all sides of the glass up to the water-line, excepting in front, even when the fish are put in, because it subdues the light, and gives the fish a more natural home, and makes it more healthful.
In selecting fishes for the aquarium, gold and silver fish will of course have the first choice, and after that the minnows. The beauty of these fish, their habits and the management they require are too well known for an extended notice in a necessarily brief article. The perch is a suitable fish for a fresh water aquarium, for a reason that may not be well known. It is one of the few fishes that may be trained, and made to show its docility by taking food from the fingers. The pike, which is the shark of fresh water, may be put into an aquarium with gold fish and perch, but not with other fishes. Even with the gold fish it is not fully to be trusted, as when hungry it has been known to eat its own species.

The trout is a handsome fish, with its crimson, spotted sides, but, like the pike, it must be well fed and kept away from smaller fishes. The eel may be used with safety—a small one, and frogs may be kept with larger fish.
The merot may also be added to the happy family, notwithstanding the antipathy against it on account of its resemblance to the lizard; it is perfectly harmless. During the breeding season it exhibits a variety of shining colors—orange, olive, green, with a mottling of brown and scarlet. The water spider is a curious insect, and, if possible, should be secured for the aquarium. It spends the greater part of its time beneath the water, coming to the surface to seize its prey, and to obtain a fresh supply of air for its sub-aquatic home. Reclining figures of plaster may be added, and if the tank be a large one, an artificial island of stones, mosses and ferns, with a siphon fountain, may be in the middle.

Feed your fish all the worms, meat or fish spawn that they will eat. Take great care to take all that they do not eat out of the aquarium; any decayed meat or vegetables in water have the same smell to fish that it has to you in the air. Two snails added will act as scavengers.

Do not handle the fish, but take them out with a net made of mosquito netting. An aquarium properly stocked and managed is hardly any trouble, and it affords a great deal of pleasure.

Never feed the fish crackers or other food, for it fills their gills and suffocates them. With the above hints, nearly every one can make a home for the fish and keep them, if they do not neglect them, for many years.
The best position for an aquarium is in a window looking towards the east, where it will not have more than two hours of the morning sun. If such a location cannot be given, put it in a southern window, but shade from the noonday sun. A western or northern aspect is never desirable for an aquarium. The temperature is also of importance. It should range from 45 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water becomes too warm the fish will die. If it freezes, the tank may burst.

Take a bell glass that will hold about two gallons of water , and set it into a box two feet long, twelve inches wide, and eight or ten inches high, or of any dimensions desired. Fill the box with a mixture of silver sand, leaf mold and earth, placing your inverted glass in the center of the box; around this place ferns and lycopodium; cover the box with glass, so that it will be nearly air-tight, to retain the moisture. The plants will require water about once a month; in the bell glass make a thick bed of sand, pebbles and small shells, and fill with perfectly pure water, and two gold fish or minnows, and a few aquatic plants, as they, under the action of the light, consume the carbonic acid gas given forth by the fish, and restore to the water the oxygen necessary to the maintenance of life. Snails are useful also to act as'scavengers to consume the vegetable matter thrown off by the plants, and render it unnecessary to change the water so frequently, which would otherwise become greenish and untransparent. A change once a week will keep the fish in good health ; but an aquarium fairly established with a proper proportion of plants and fish will preserve its healthfulness without change of water, more than to fill it upas the water evaporates. A still more desirable plan is to invert the bell glass in a thick block of wood, in any way that will hold it firmly; the block may be planted, and decorated according to taste, and may be made very ornamental; then for "stocking" follow the directions given above.

For a marine aquarium the "sea coast" affords many a "treasure trove," the sea anemones, those strange and fascinating existences, half fish and half blossom, may be found on the coast of Maine. Each shore has its specialty. The bay abounds in sea weeds of a lovely tint. while the beaches are rich in shells—all of which contribute to make an aquarium an object of interest and source of enjoyment. They should be kept in a cool place—never exposed to a burning sun or the heat of a fire. Too many should never be crowded into one glass. A few branches of box should be kept in the globe for them to rub against, which should be changed once a week. Many persons fancy that gold and silver fish need no food. It is true that they will subsist for a long time with nothing but-water when it is pure and frequently changed. They are best pleased with such diet as bread or biscuit; but these should be given sparingly, lest, turning sour, they corrupt the water. They will also feed on the aquatic plant called lemna, or duckweed, and also on small fry. Fine gravel should be strewed at the bottom of the vessel that contains the fish; and they should be fed on bread and gentles, and have their water frequently changed.
You can easily tell when a fish is falling off in his health by observing him frequently coming up to the surface of the water for air. This shows he has not sufficient power in his gills to extract the air from the water. He also looks dull, and his motions are languid; a hazy or cobwebby appearance likewise seems to envelop his body, and perhaps some of the scales will drop off. When a fish goes into this unhealthy state, he should be immediately removed from the others, who should have fresh water given them several days in succession. The best remedy for diseased fish is to put them into a pond for a few weeks; and it is especially necessary for female fish, which, if not so treated, frequently die for want of spawning. A fish is sometimes saved by being placed in a little artificial dam, made from some running stream in a garden, for two or three days; but their diseases are at all times very difficult to remedy. The best way is to prevent them by precautionary measures—plenty of room and pure water.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

1859 Hand bags, purses & slippers

Below are some images from an 1859 publication of women's handbags, purses and slippers.

Christmas Purse
Knitting Bag
Curried Winter Shoe
Ladies Slipper

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Crab Soup

I love making hearty soups and it's been fun going through some of the old cookbooks and finding different recipes. Here's some Crab soups. A different variation on seafood soups.

Crab Soup.
Boil a quart of milk, and thicken it with a table-spoon of flour, rolled in butter, pepper and salt. Boil and pick 8 crabs, and when the milk comes to a boil put in the crabs. Just before serving, stir in a cup of cream. Let the soup boil for 20 minutes after adding the crabs.
Source: The Queen of the Kitchen ©1874

Open and cleanse of the deadmen's fingers and sand, 18 young fat crabs, (raw), cut them into 4 parts and extract the meat from the crabs and the fat from the top of the shells; scald and skin 12 fine, ripe tomatoes; squeeze the pulp from the seeds and juice; chop fine; pour boiling water over seed and juice, and after straining it off, use to make the soup, adding more water, if required; stew in soup pot, one large onion and one clove of garlic in one spoonful of butter and two of lard; then put in tomatoes; after stewing a few minutes, add the meat from the claws, then the crabs, and lastly, the fat from the top shells; sift over it grated bread or crackers; season with salt, pepper, (black or cayenne) parsley, sweet marjoram, thyme, half teaspoonful of lemon juice and the peel of a lemon; pour in water in which seeds were scalded, and boil moderately for one hour. Firm and flaky fish prepared in the same way, make delicious soup. I use twelve good sized crabs, and think more lemon juice an improvement.
Source: The Creole Cookery Book ©1885

Three pints of milk to one dozen crabs, 3 pound ofbutter, in about a tablespoonful of flour. Let the milk boil, put in the crabs, picked, then the butter and flour. Season with pepper and salt If the crabs are large and fat, it will take two quarts of milk.
Source: 265 Choice Recipes ©1883

Crab Soup.
Pour large crabs, carefully picked in as large flakes as possible. The fat from the backs laid aside to mix with the butter. One quart of new milk, a "grate" or two of nutmeg, mace, a tea-spoonful of butter, salt, black and cayenne pepper. Mix the fat from the backs with the butter, and stir in. Simmer twenty minutes.
Cream is always an improvement, stirred in just before serving.
Three quarts of milk make a large tureen.
Crab Soup.
Boil one quart of milk, a small part of an onion, and a little parsley cut fine; then add the picked meat of six crabs. Boil five minutes. Rub a table-spoonful of flour with the same of butter; soften with the hot milk, and add half a pint of cream, one egg beaten up, salt and cayenne pepper. Boil for one moment before serving.
White Crab Soup.
Six crabs to a gallon of water. Crack the legs and the fins and put them in the water, with the fat from the backs. Season to your taste. While the above is boiling—say about an hour and a half—pick a plateful of the crabs, and, after draining off the water from the legs "and fins, put it back in the pot with the prepared crabs, and let it boil a full half hour. Pour a half pint of milk in the tureen, and serve.
Seasoning: A slice of fresh middling, pepper, and, if you like it, a little onion, quarter of a pound of butter, a small table-spoonful of flour rubbed in the butter.
Source: Fifty Years in a Maryland Kitchen ©1881

Monday, November 9, 2015

Housing for the Poor

I stumbled upon this document and thought how interesting it could be to have a historical character either a member of the 'poorhouse' or an overseer at the said establishment. I'm going to post some tidbits but the link for this is Executive Documents, Minnesota ©1895

Some Tidbits:

Dodge County Poorhouse was visited Jan. 31, 1804. The number of paupers is small. The total number in 1892 was eight and in 1803 ten; the average was in 1892 3.7 and in 1893 4.4. The house Is not very convenient, But it answers for the small number. It was reasonably well kept.

The Freeborn county poorhouse was visited July 31, 1894, with John C. Ross, chairman of the board of county commissioners. There were five paupers, three men, one woman and a feeble-minded girl nine years old, for whom application had been made for admission to the School for Feeble-minded. The largest number of paupers at one time during the past year was seven.
The overseer receives $300 per year and found. He provides a team, and the county pays all hired help. The county has seven cows and nine hogs.
The house appeared reasonably clean. The beds were supplied with clean sheets and pillows. The bedding was all clean, but there were some bed bugs.
A pauper reported that the food was good and abundant and "no cause for complaint." The paupers appeared clean and well cared for. There are no provisions for bathing. The matron said, "they do not bathe very often; I do not know how often."
Chairman Ross said that the poorhouse was a preventative of pauperism because It led people to make extraordinary efforts in order to keep them out of the poorhouse.

Hennepin County Poorhouse was visited April 11, 1894. There were sixty-seven paupers—fifty-nine men and eight women. The largest number at one time during the winter was sixty-nine. M. H. litis became superintendent Feb. 1, 1893.
The laundry, bakery, etc.. are located in the basement. This is a nuisance and they should be removed. Ex. Docs. Vol. in—84
Several years ago a portion of the county farm was sold, leaving only forty acres; but the county has foreclosed Its mortgage on ninety acres more, which will probably revert.
The house was found in good order. The beds and bedding were clean, the beds had been treated with Paris green to destroy vermin, which is very effective, but rather suggestive, ttoT: to say picturesque.
The bill of fare was reported as follows: Breakfast, bread, sometimes butter, coffee, potatoes, sometimes meat or hash, sometimes griddle cakes; dinner, fresh meat, bread, vegetables, soup about twice a week, cabbage, beans, carrots, etc., tea, pie or puclding once or twice a week, sometimes doughnuts; supper, bread, tea, syrup, sometimes mush and milk or fried potatoes. Milk on draught at all meals for all who like it. Excellent white bread is furnished with rye bread and occasionally corn bread. Codfish or other fish Is provided on Fridays. Sugar is put into tea or coffee before serving.
The inmates appeared comfortable and well clad. Their clothing was clean and the whole administration was satisfactory.

Nicollet County Foorhouse was visited May 3, 1894. There were ten paupers, eight men and two women. The largest number at one time during the past year was thirteen.
The buildings have been newly painted. A tubular WfcU. 273 feet deep, had been sunk and a tank-house built, costing about $480. The farm is well stocked with high grade short horns. The overseer makes butter, which he sells at eighteen cents per pound the year round.
The overseer receives $400 per year and furnishes a hired girl. The county furnishes outside help. The overseer furnishes horses and wagon. The county pays all other bills. The farm contains 231 acres, of which eighty acres are under cultivation.
The beds were supplied with clean bedding and appeared to be free from vermin, but the bed-rooms were littered up with the clothing and other effects of the paupers, resulting in an untidy appearance and an accumulation of dust and dirt.
The women's room was neat and clean. The rooms had been neatly kalsomined. This house is inconvenient and poorly adapted to its purpose. The furniture is primitive in character and in bad repair. The floors are badly worn and most of them need renewal.
The overseer reported the following bill of fare: Breakfast, bread and butter, coffee, with sugar and milk, potatoes, meat (salt), sometimes oat meal, milk on draught; dinner, about the same as breakfast, with pudding or pie three or four times a week, beans occasionally, sometimes other vegetables; supper, nearly the same, sometimes meat, eggs quite often, sauce usually, tea seldom. "They won't drink it"

Winona County Poorhouse was visited June 27, 1894. There were twenty paupers, eleven men, six women and three children, aged fourteen months, eighteen months and twenty months, respectively.
The beds and bedding were clean. The floors and woodwork were moderately clean. The overseer's wife, with one woman, does all of the sewing, cooking and housework for the overseer's residence and the almshouse, except what can be done by the pauper women, whose help is not valuable. A pauper reported the following bill of fare: Breakfast, bread and butter, coffee, with sugar and milk, potatoes; dinner, fresh meat, potatoes, bread and butter, vegetables in season, occasionally pie or pudding, soup three of fou" timse a week: supper, bread and butter, tea, sauce. The fcod was reported well cooked and abundant.
A new wing twenty-eight by thirty-one feet has been added to the overseer's residence, with a good kitchen, laundry and pantry, greatly increasing the convenience of the house. In the second story are two good bed-rooms with closets. The plastering in the poorhouse has been repaired, but the soft wood floors are a nuisance.
This house is a disgrace to Winona county. The dining-room and two of the bed-rooms are in a damp basement. There is no suitable provision for ventilation and insufficient provision for separation of the sexes. There is no provision for bathing paupers. No officer sleeps in the building and the paupers are not locked in. Scandals have repeatedly occurred. There is no suitable provison for sick or infirm paupers. The house is a complete liretrap and in case of fire there would probably be a loss of life. Winona County needs a new poorhouse.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dinners, State Dinners, Manners of

In my house, we use manners but we do not have many formal dinners, in fact over 41 years of marriage I think we might have had one possibly two. But our historical characters were quite particular about what to serve, how to serve, how to act, etc. Enjoy this tidbit from The American Code of Manners ©1880

It is strange that the Russians, so lately redeemed from barbarism, have taught the world how to serve a dinner. All diplomatic dinners, all state dinners, and most fashionable dinners, are served d la Xime; which means that nothing appears on the table to eat, but all is handed by the servants from a side table or from behind a screen.
General Washington probably carved his own turkey, even at a state dinner, but President Hayes does not know at all what he is to have for his dinner until he looks at the menu by his side, which was laid there by his butler.

The dinner-table is merely a splendid picture, which remains a picture to the end, unless some one is so unlucky as to overturn a glass of claret on the table-cloth. The epergne or centrepiece in England is generally a splendid piece of silver, covered with flowers and fruits, with a "hot house pine" somewhere in it or about it. Fine candelabra and vases are at either end, and dishes, holding sugar plums and dried candied fruit, are at the lour corners. Very handsome pitchers of glass, holding wine, and elegant decanters are allowable. In fact, everything ornamental is allowed, and nothing that can by use become unseemly is admitted to such a dinner. We all know how disorderly, at certain moments, a dinner looks at which the carving and helping at table are allowed. In the dinner d la Rmse the table always looks well, for the plate before each guest, constantly renewed, is alone responsible for any viand. The company enter, as we have said, the host first, with the lady to whom the dinner is given, and his guests follow, each gentleman standing behind his lady's chair until the hostess has entered and taken her seat. They find before them oysters or clams on the half-shell, on majolica plates, with bits of lemon in the centre of the plate. The servants pass red and black pepper and salt. These are removed and two soups are passed, so that each guest has a choice of soups. These removed, two choices of fish are offered to each guest, and so on, through an elaborate dinner of from ten to sixteen courses, the table meanwhile remaining a beautiful, fresh thing, with flowers and fruits and charming objets d'art to look at. The butler should always place the principal dish for a moment before the hostess, that she may signify by a nod If she is pleased with it.
Books of etiquette sometimes elaborately tell people how to use a napkin and how to hold a fork. But it seems incredible that in the nineteenth century anybody can be ignorant of these simple customs. If there is such a person, let him know that it is not etiquette to pin a napkin up to his coat, or to spread it over his breast. It shonld be across his knees, convenient to his 1 hand. The fork should always be held in the right hand for eating oysters, peas, or anything that is to be conveyed to the mouth, and only transferred to the left hand when meat is to be cut, and it is needed to steady the morsel.
In Europe, particularly in Germany, very wellbred people still eat with the knife; but in this country, in France and England, it is semi-barbarous to bring the knife in contact with the lips. It often shocks well-bred Americans to see a German princess carry cauliflower, peas or potato salad to her delicate mouth on the point of a silver knife, hut such a sight is possible. It is very ugly, and should be avoided here.
The custom of serving dinners d !n Rome should prevent any one from asking for a dish a second time; indeed, this is never done at a state dinner. There is little need of it.
We have spoken of the epergne. The fancy now, in this country, is to replace the high ornaments by low baskets of flowers, and to do away with everything which prevents conversation across the table. Low dishes of majolica, crystal and silver are liked by some. Very many opulent hostesses have the table entirely covered with flowers, and only a space left for the plate, knives, forks and glasses of each guest. This is very beautiful, especially in mid-winter, and for a round table, which is very sociable, it is quite charming. But the high epergne is very stately, and makes a table always look well. A pretty and simple Epergne, which holds flowers for every day, is always a charming object.
Be very careful to avoid mistakes as to the hour of a dinner. Five minutes grace was all that General Washington allowed, and we could follow his example in this as in larger things. A half hour's delay spoils the fish and makes the cook lose his temper. One great " diner out," in New York, always carries his invitations with him, so that if he seems late or early he may dofend himself in his own eyes by glancing at it in the hall.
A small boutonniirc or bunch of flowers awaits him with a card in an envelope, which tells a gentleman, before entering the parlor, which lady he is to take in to dinner. If he does not know her, he must whisper this to the hostess, who will present him to the lady.
At a dinner, forget all animosities. If you are seated next to your deadliest enemy, talk and laugh and make yourself agreeable, to spare your host and hostess annoyance. Everybody is bound to be as agreeable as he can for the benefit of the whole mass.
Be careful, if you have not experienced servants, to instruct them in everything before dinner. Have plenty of side tables and sideboards, where the extra dishes, knives, forks, plates, spoons and glasses may be found. Have extra napkins at hand to replace one which may be stained with wine. No condiments should ever be put on a table except salt, of which every guest should have a little private silver cell before him. After the meats and game, a servant should go with a crumb scraper, removing the crumbs, and another with a silver salver to remove all the glasses, except those for sherry or Madeira, or a goblet for ice water, all ladies liking ice water in America.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Kerosene And it's many uses

Below are some excerpts with regard to Kerosene and Kerosene Lamps. I like the first one because the author admits that it isn't a fun task to take care of a kerosene lamp. I have cleaned a few in my day and it is a messy job.

ANOTHER disagreeable feature of household work is the care of kerosene lamps, for even where houses are supplied with gas, reading-lamps are often preferred on account of their steady white light. By exercising great neatness in handling the oil, and Keeping all cloths and trimming implements on a large tray exposed to the air but little odor of oil will be perceptible. After trimming the lamps turn the wicks down below the top of the burners to avoid the slight overflow of oil which makes the tops of the lamps greasy when the wicks protrude.
After the lamps are filled do not stand them in a warm place lest sufficient gas be generated to cause an explosion, over the stove, for instance, or upon the hot mantelshelf, and do not continue to burn a halfempty lamp for the same reason. It seems almost incredible that any one should attempt to fill a lamp while it is lighted, or in the immediate vicinity of a flame, but frequent accidents attest the necessity for this caution. Remember, then, that heat generates from the oil a volatile gas which ignites at any neighboring flame, and ex
filodes with most disastrous consequences, t is not the oil which explodes. A lighted match can be thrown into good oil without causing an explosion. In case of an accident by the ignition of gas from spilled kerosene oil do not attempt to quench the flames with water; it only provides additional fuel for them. Either smother the fire with woolen carpet or heavy woolen cloth, or throw sand or dry flour upon it to absorb the oil and destroy the evolution of gas from it. Some fire grenades and hand fire-engines contain a chemical composition which quenches flame upon contact with it, but there is safety in the flour and woolen cloth.


Many think that a bright steady light from a kerosene lamp is the best artificial light for the eye.
Rub the teakettle with kerosene, and a beautiful polish may be obtained with a dry flannel cloth afterward.
Kerosene is excellent for cleaning windows. Add a very little to each dish of water used. It will prevent sticking when judiciously used in boiled starch. It will remove rust from steel and iron tools. Kerosene is excellent for chilblains.
Rub stoves and the pipe with it before storing.


Lamp chimneys can be washed easily by holding them over the nose of the tea-kettle when the kettle is boiling furiously. This will make them beautifully clear. Of course they must be wiped with a clean cloth.

Many of these are the same as the above but there are a few differences and additions.
Kerosene—Its Uses.
Oil-cloth is much brightened if rubbed with kerosene. Iron and polished steel, knives, etc., may be kept from rusting by wiping them over before putting them away with a cloth which has been soaked in a little kerosene. Kerosene brightens silver. Lamp chimneys cleaned with newspaper which has been dipped in kerosene look much clearer than when washed in any other way. In washing clothes a tablespoonful of kerosene greatly helps the rubbing. Rusty flat irons should be rubbed with kerosene. Dirty paint is best cleaned by rubbing with a cloth wetted with kerosene. It is also good for sore throats: pour some on flannel and wrap the throat round with it. It also heals cuts and chilblains.


Kerosene will make the tin tea-kettle as new. Saturate a woolen rag, and rub with it. It will also remove stains from clean varnished furniture.


To Kerosene Lamps. These aro so much used that a few hints on their management will no doubt be acceptable. There are very few common illuminating substancss that produce a light as brilliant and steady as kerosene oil, but its full brilliancy is rarely attained, through want of attention to certain requisite points in its management. By following the directions here given, the greatest amount of light will be obtained, combined with economy in the con. sumption of the oil. The wick, oil, lamp, and all its appurtenances, must be perfectly clean. The chimney must be not only clean, but clear and bright. The wick must be trimmed exactly square, across the wick-tube, and not over the curved top of the cupola used to spread the flame; after trimming, raise the wick, and cut off the extreme corners or oints. A wick cannot be trimmed well with ull scissors; the sharper the scissors, the better the shape of the fame. These hints, simple as they appear, are greatly disregarded, and the consequence is a flame dull, yellow, and apt to smoke. The burners made with an immovable cupola, and straight, cylindrical chimneys, require especial care in trimming; the wick has to be raised above the £ and has therefore no support when being trimmed. A kerosene lamp, with the wick turned down, so as to make a small flame, should not be placed in a sleeping room at night. A wick made of felt is greatly superior in every way to the common cotton wicks.


To Keep Kerosene Lamps from getting greasy. The upper part of a kerosene oil lamp, after standing for a short time, frequently gets oily, from the condensation of the vapor of the oil. This will be greatly, if not entirely prevented, by taking a piece of felt and cutting a hole in it so as to fit exactly around the socket into which the burner is screwed; trim the felt off so as to leave a rim about $ inch wide, and place this felt ring on the socket.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

1872 Women's Fashions

Last week we shared some 1872 Men's Fashions. This week we're sharing some 1872 Women's Fashions. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Chicken Soup

I've come to use the term of Jewish Penicillin for Chicken Soup whenever I'm starting to come down with a cold. It's a great remedy and works really well. However, the term was not used during the 19th Century so be careful in your historical novel not to call Chicken Soup by that name. What is interesting is that Chicken broth was often used for the 'invalid' during that time period.

Below are some recipes for Chicken Soup.
Chicken Broth for the Invalid.—Procure a dry-picked Philadelphia roasting chicken; cut it in halves; put one half in the ice box; chop the other half into neat pieces; put it into a small saucepan; add one quart of cold water, a little salt and a leaf of celery; simmer gently for two hours; remove the oily particles thoroughly ; strain the broth into a bowl; when cooled a little, serve to the convalescent. Serve the meat with the broth.
Chicken Soup.—Take three young male chickens; cut them up; put them in a saucepan with three quarts of veal stock. (A sliced carrot, one turnip, and one head of celery may be put with them and removed before the soup is thickened.) Let them simmer for an hour. Remove all the white flesh; return the rest of the birds to the soup, and boil gently for two hours. Pour a little of the liquid over a quarter of a pound of bread crumbs, and when l8 CHICKEN SOUP, NO. 2.
they are well soaked put it in a mortar with the white flesh of the birds, and pound the whole to a smooth paste: add a pinch of ground mace, salt, and a little cayenne pepper; press the mixture through a sieve, and boil once more, adding a pint of boiling cream: thicken with a little flour mixed in cold milk; remove the bones, and serve.
Chicken Soup, No. 2.—Cut up one chicken, put into a stewpan two quarts of cold water, a teaspoonful of salt, and one pod of red pepper; when half done add two desert spoonfuls of well washed rice : when thoroughly cooked, remove the bird from the soup, tear a part of the breast into shreds (saving the remainder of the fowl for a salad), and add it to the soup with a wine-glass full of cream.
Clam Broth.—Procure three dozen littleneck clams in the shell; wash them well in cold water; put them in a saucepan, cover with a quart of hot water; boil fifteen minutes ; drain; remove the shells ; chop up the clams, and add them to the hot broth with a pat of butter; salt if necessary and add a little cayenne; boil ten minutes, pour into a soup tureen, add a slice of toast, and send to table. This is the mode adopted when we do not have a clam opener in the house.
Source: Fifty Soups ©1884

Brown Chicken Soup.—Cut up a nicely dressed chicken. Put it in the pot with water to cover it, which must be measured, and half as much more added to it before the soup is dished. Keep it covered tight, boiling slowly, and take off the fat as fast as it rises. When the chicken is tender, take it from the pot, and mince it very fine. Season it to the taste, and brown it with butter, in a spider, or dripping pan. When brown, put it back in the pot. Brown together butter and flour, and make rich gravy, by adding a pint of the soup; stir this in the soup, and season it with a little pepper, salt, and butter. Be careful the chopped chicken does not settle, and burn on the pot. It will be well to turn a small plate in the bottom of the kettle, to prevent this. Toast bread quite brown and dry, but don't burn it, and lay the toast in tho tureen, and serve it with the soup; stir the chicken through it, and pour it in the tureen.
White Chicken Soup.—Prepare the fowl, as in brown chicken soup, with the same quantity of water. When tender, remove it from the pot, and put into the soup a half teacup of washed pearl barley. Mince the meat fine, season it, and make it into balls with egg and flour, the size of marbles. Season the soup with salt, pepper, and butter. If the barley has not thickened the soup sufficiently, add a little flour stirred in water. Ten minutes before dishing, drop in the meat balls. The soup must be kept only boiling hot, or the balls will break in pieces. Toast bread lightly, or use cracker to crumb in the soup at the table. Celery and sour pickles give relish to chicken soups. Rabbits, squirrels, or birds, can be made into either white or brown soups.
Source: The Housekeeper's Encyclopedia ©1861

The flesh of the fowl from which the stock is to be made, should, with the exception of the breast, be cut into small pieces, and the bones broken. The breast, with the skin as perfect as possible, should be placed in the pot whole, on top of the prepared material, and removed as soon as tender. To each quart of stock, when strained and skimmed, add an ounce of rice, and let simmer three-quarters of an hour, then add the breast of the chicken, cut in dice, a little minced parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Plain chicken soup is much improved if about a pound of round steak be cut up and cooked with the fowl.
To this soup add a pint of sweet cream, thicken with flour, and flavor highly with celery, and the product will be a much admired white soup— cream of celery soup;—or if the celery and cream be omitted, the addition of half a teaspoonful of curry powder will transform it into a choice Mulligatawny soup.
Source: Soup & Soup Making ©1882

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thoughts on House Designs

Below are some excerpts from "Convenient Houses, with Fifty Plans for the Housekeeper:"©1889 I enjoy reading the thought processes that folks during the 19th Century thought about with regard to designing and maintaining a house.

THERE is a definite relation between the work of the housekeeper and that of the architect.
The floor-plan of a house has a definite relation to house keeping requirements, which is not fully appreciated. The difference between a good floor-plan and a poor one may make the difference of three or four tons of coal in the heating of a house during the winter. It may influence the keeping of a servant, the wages to be paid, or may control the necessity for one or more than one. It makes more difference to a man who lives in a house that costs two thousand dollars or three thousand dollars, as to whether he burns seven or ten tons of coal in warming it, than it does to the man who lives in a ten-thousand-dollar or twelve-thousand-dollar house as to whether he burns fourteen or twenty tons. The cost of fuel is of more importance to a man of moderate means than to one of wealth. Then in the matter of service: it is difficult to keep a good servant in a bad kitchen, or in a badly planned house where there is a vast amount of sweeping and other work to be done every day Those who plan factories and mills arrange them with reference to the saving of labor. The idea in saving labor is to save money.
The architect may do a great deal for the housekeeper by making his mouldings and interior wood-work so that they will not catch dust, and can be readily cleaned. Some of our friends, who have studied the artistic qualities of house-building to the exclusion of all other considerations, will say that a regard for housekeeping requirements, in the matter of interior decorations and construction, is placing too great a limit upon their work. They will say that beauty and general artistic qualities are not always consonant with the means which will make easy housekeeping, — that they are limited by such considerations. This need not be so; it is simply a question of ingenuity and thoughtfulness. One may be careless of utility, and make very beautiful things. Another may be thoughtful and careful as to housekeeping requirements, and design something quite as beautiful and attractive as the former.

If you would like to read more here's a link to Convenient Houses, with Fifty Plans for the Housekeeper