Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Money Exchange Rates

I've been searching for historical money exchange rates for the 19th century. Below is a link that will convert the British Pound to the American dollar. Link You select the year and time period you're looking for and it will convert. This has been a very helpful link with regard to the cost of carriages from the 19th century to American dollars.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Yes, you read that title correctly. The Dishwasher was invented in 1850 by Joel Houghton but it didn't work very well. In 1886 Mrs. Josephine Cochran made the first practical dishwasher. In the 1893 World's Fair Mrs. Josephine Cochran won the highest prize for "best Mechanical construction." Restaurants and hotels were the first purchasers. Her company eventually became a part of KitchenAid.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Here's a link to a website that gives some history behind Memorial Day and yes we began to celebrate it during the 19th century. Memorial Day History The site also has a great list of referring sites as well.

In 1870 The Army produced a record of ceremonies over the graves of the fallen soldiers. The National Memorial Day

In 1897 Michigan produced a small book for a suggested program for their schools in observance of Memorial day. Memorial Day

Please note that the practice started in the South before it became a National holiday and it was commonly known as Decoration Day.

Friday, May 26, 2017


I stumbled on this word while working on my 19th century Wagons & Carriages book. Apparently it is an Irish expression used in relation of the death of an individual and said as a lamentation over the dead.

I came across this while reading an excerpt from "The Barouche Driver & His Wife" ©1807. ON a quick search you can find in Google books 66 results of the word. I didn't take the time to see if several of those were repeat books, as is often the case with Google Books.

I mention this tidbit because of it's unique nature for Irish characters and it's relationship to 19th century use.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


A question was raised about the treatment of burns in 1850. I found a source from 1845, A Family Medicine Directory, that had several references about treating burns and scalds. One passage I found particularly interesting was about the use of Laudanum for the treatment of the burns. Here is the excerpt:

Laudanum...In burns, a piece of lint, soaked in Laudanum, and kept applied to the pained parts, and repeatedly moistened with the Laudanum, allays the pain, and affords great comfort to the sufferer. Beyond these simple maladies, Laudanum should never be applied without medical advice. When Laudanum has been taken as a poison, immediately excite vomiting, by giving ten grains of Sulphate of copper, dissolved in a wine glassful of pure water.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mountain Men Diaries

Today's tidbit is a link to a great resource. The website is sponsored by the American Mountain Men. The Library has numerous diaries ranging in dates and locations of the Rockies and California. Here's the link to Library of Fur Trade Historical Source Documents

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

U. S> Public Debt is Zero

In 1835 it was the only time in the history of our country. I stumbled upon this little tidbit and thought with our current federal debt this was an interesting tidbit. In 1835 Andrew Jackson was president, his nickname was Old Hickory. He has since been praised for his stance and protection of Individual Liberties and democracy. However, he's equally rebuffed for his position on Indian Removal and Slavery.

I don't know enough as to why the government was able to propose a zero balance on the public debt but it could make for an interesting comment or two for our characters set in 1835. Also, this budget was set on Jan. 8, 1835.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Weights & Measures for Cooks

Continuing with yesterdays post on Measuring cups I found this description in Houghtalings Handbook of Useful Information ©1884

Weights and Measures for Cooks, eto.
1 pound of Wheat Flour is equal to 1 quart
1 pound and 2 ounces of Indian Meal make 1 quart
1 pound of Soft Butter is equal to 1 quart
1 pound and 2 ounces of Best Brown Sugar make 1 quart
1 pound and 1 ounce of Powdered White Sugar make 1 quart
1 pound ol Broken Loaf Sugar is equal to 1 quart
4 Large Tablespoonfuls make 1/2 gill
1 Common-sized Tumbler holds 1/2 pint
1 Common-sized Wine-glass is equal to 1/2 gill
1 Tea-cup holds 1 gill
1 Large Wine-glass holds 2 ounces
1 Tablespoonful is equal to. 1/2 ounce

A gill is (according to the Free Online Dictionary) a unit of liquid measure equal to 1/4 pint or 4 ounces. With regard to dry measure it is equal to 1/4 of a British Imperial pint. Which in today's measurements would be 1/2 cup.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Measuring Cups

This is not a thorough study on measuring cups during the 19th century. However there are a few tidbits to be aware of.

For example in the 1810 The New Family Receipt Book they don't have a measurement of one cup. They refer to a common tea cup, ordinary tea cup, one coffee cup.
I have found images of (Victorian) pewter measuring cups on the Internet. I've also found tin measuring cups dating back around 1840.
The earliest cookbook that I found any measurements for was in the 1830 Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry Cakes and the measurements were in pounds, ounces and quarts, pints. However there do have "A tea-spoonful of salt." The only cup measurement was again a tea-cup. 1/2 pint I started to referenced around this time as well, but never referred to as one cup.

By the end of the century I found glass measuring cups available as well as some high end copper and brass measuring cups.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

U.S. Camel Corps

On March 3, 1855 congress appropriated 30,000 to develop the U.S. Camel Corp. The idea was that camels might be better suited for the SW. Wikipedia has a nice overview of the project and process.

The Camel Corp never really developed because of the camels dispositions.

You can read an early account regarding The Camel: his organization, habits and uses ©1856 Chapter 17. The following chapter speaks on matters for the use of camels with the military.

Can you imagine being one of the men responsible for bringing in camels?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lightning Jars

These came into existence in 1882. The inventor was Henry William Putnam. The fruit jar had a glass lid that had a clamp to hold the lid in place. One of the reasons they became popular was because no metal contacted the food. The metal clamps made it easier to seal and remove thus the name "Lightning".

Mason Jars

John L. Mason was an inventor and tin smith. In 1858 he invented the Mason jar. First he created a machine that could cut threads into the lids. This made it practical for the jar makers to make a threaded top on the jars. His patent was granted on Nov. 30, 1858.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

1858 & 1859 Illinois Crop Failure

Well I couldn't walk away from the passage in yesterday's post regarding the crop failing in 1858 in Illinois. I believe I've mentioned here that one of my ancestors was born on the prairie, her mother died there and she and her father returned to New England a few years later. With the loss of his wife and the failure of his crops, I can see my ancestor returning home. But enough about my ancestors.

There was a huge crop failure in Illinois in 1858 that caused some issues with bank failures. As one report put it, "business was completely paralyzed owing to the economic crisis." The crop failure in Illinois in 1858 was so profound that even though 1859 was good it wasn't good enough and the economics of the state of Illinois didn't turn around until the second half of 1860.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Prairie Farming

Many stories today are set in the prairie states and many of our ancestors were farmers. I stumbled upon this book, "Prairie Farming in America" by Sir James Caird ©1859 A large portion of the material covered centers around Illinois. In the book he talks about the various soils and the crops that can be grown in the area. One of the problems in Illinois was that it was difficult to grow wheat. The author states "The open prairie country is so windswept in winter that snow seldom lies long to any depth, and the young wheat is thus left unprotected to the frost. Should it escape that, it is liable to be thrown out by the rapid changes of weather in spring,--and if it fortunate enough to escape both, it is sometimes destroyed, as it was last year, by its enormously rapid growth in forcing summer weather, growing as it does almost on a muck-heap. ... The growth is too rapid, the vesicles of the stem burst, and the ear does not fill."

This passage tells me two things. One is the obvious wheat doesn't grow well in Illinois. Two, in 1858 there was a problem with the wheat crop. Which if I was setting a story in Illinois in 1858 that tidbit would have me scrambling for what happened? Did the event affect other crops? etc.

Here's a

Friday, May 12, 2017

Candle Making

Candles and candle making was actually different in various areas of the country. In other words, what were the natural resources in the area to make candles with. I read in the slave narratives hosted at the library of congress, that when they ran out of candles they would burn pine knots. In New England, where I grew up, I loved bayberries and wondered how they got the waxy covering off those tiny berries to make candles with them. Paraffin wax was introduced in 1850 changing the second half of the century and the last quarter with the introduction of the light bulb.

This excerpt gives you the names of several types of candles then goes on to explain in detail all six types. (which I've given you a link for)
CANDLES AND CANDLE - MAKING MATERIALS. Source: A manual of domestic economy: Suited to families by John Henry Walsh ©1874
249. Candles, As burnt in the present day, may be grouped into four classes, namely,
1st, those made from bees-wax, known as wax-candles;
2nd, neutral fat, as spermaceti, tallow, and stearine candles;
3rd, fat acid, known as stearic-acid candles;
4th, composite candles, being a mixture of stearic acid and neutral fat;
5th, the various candles obtained from natural petroleum, and its artificial imitation paraffin;
6th, the new material for candles known as Ozokerit, and only sold by the Messrs. Field, as a patent compound. The substances from which these are made are wax, spermaceti, tallow, palm-oil, cocoa-nut oil, petroleum, and paraffin.

If you would like to read in full detail about the process for each of these candle making types here's a link to the source.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


I'm closing the week out with yet another post from The American Frugal Housewife ©1835. I find this book helpful in two ways, one it has some great information for my 19th century characters. 2, in our day and age where gas prices are sky rocketing, I feel it is important to be as economical as possible and this book is Mrs. Child's work on the topic of economics. I believe the passage below gives the reader a peak into the heart of Mrs. Child and her views of economics.

The other day, I heard a mechanic say, ' I have a wife and two little children ; we live in a very small house; but, to save my life, I cannot spend less than twelve hundred a year.' Another replied, ' You are not economical; I spend but eight hundred.' I thought to myself,—' Neither of you pick up your twine and paper.' A third one, who was present, was silent; but after they were gone, he said, 'I keep house, and comfortably too, with a wife and children, for six hundred a year; but I suppose they would have thought me mean, if I had told them so.' I did not think him mean; it merely occurred to me that his wife and children were in the habit of picking up paper and twine.

Economy is generally despised as a low virtue, tending to make people ungenerous and selfish. This is true of avarice ; but it is not so of economy. The man who is economical, is laying up for himself the permanent power of being useful and generous. He who thoughtlessly gives away ten dollars, when he owes a hundred more than he can pay, deserves no praise,—ho obeys a sudden impulse,. more like instinct than reason: it would be real charity to check this feeling; because the good he does may be doubtful, while the injury he does his family and creditors is certain. True economy is a careful treasurer in the service of benevolence ; and where they are united, respectability, prosperity and peace will follow.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Britannia Ware

The American Frugal housewife ©1835 I ran across an entry on how to treat Britannia ware. (Britannia ware should be first rubbed gendv with a woolen cloth and sweet oil; then washed in warm suds, and rubbed with soft leather and whiting. Thus treated, it will retain its beauty to the last.')

This made me wonder what exactly was Britannia ware and it's origins. My search resulted in an article written by Stephen Hall for the Historical Society in Beverly, MA. In the article Mr. Hall tells not only some of the history involved with the process of who created Britannia ware but also shares some of the folklore surrounding the invention. Unfortunately when I first posted this post back in 2011 the article has since disappeared from the internet. There is a note from the Beverly Historical Society on their timeline of Beverly History:
1812 The War of 1812 closed Beverly Harbor to trade First Britannia ware made in America in the shop of Israel Trask (160 Cabot Street, ruins of a kiln can still be seen in the backyard.)

However I did find the piece from "The Plough, the Loom, and the Anvil ©1856

The business of making Britannia-ware in our country has grown to great proportions, and its growth is still increasing in magnitude. Very much the largest establishment for this important business we suppose to be in West Meriden, Ct., owned and operated by the " Meriden Britannia Co." The establishment, whilst it has a oneness, nuiy properly be divided into three more distinct factories. One is north of the depot, where steam power i< used, and where the ware made is mostly cast, and for. common use. Immense quantities and diverse qualities of ware are turned out of this shop, exciting the admiration of even traveled persons. Another factory is "over east" some three miles, where water power is used, and where1 ware is both cast and "spun up" in largo quantities, and some of it admirable qualities. Up stairs and down, through many stories, are ponderous machines and multitudes of men, actively at work upon ware in some stage of its construction, from the rough ingot to the burnished vase or tankard. But the largest factory is " down in Wallingford," whero more men are employed, and where all the ware is either roiled, pressed and run up, or is the product of all three processes of manufacturing. In this factory the perfection of the art of making this ware is seen. With engines and machines, newly invented and constructed, with many men of great ingenuity long applied, with ample means and facilities, an immense quantity of culinary and purely ornamental wares of astonishing excellence i3 thus turned out into the American market. Each factory has its manager. Silver plating and burnishing are done only at this place. The burnishing hall is large, and the large company of men engaged in it furnishes some of the finest countenances in the State. • These three manufactories, under the name of " Meriden Britannia Co." are the largest establishment in this business on this continent. It has, too, ite "commercial gentleman," who is constantly visiting towns and villages in all the latitudes and longitudes of our country, effecting sales to persons of taste and refinement, as well as to those who use this ware in common life. "Where does our ware go to?" asks the manufacturer, astonished at the quantity demanded. "Where dots all the Britannia ware come from?" asks the million of users and admirers. We cannot say where it all comes from, but we can say, that immense quantities go from the large establishment of the Meriden Company.
End Quote

You can do a quick search of Images for Britannia Ware and discover that is was pewter plates, cups, tea sets, etc.

Quite a while back on one of my historical writer's email loops I'm on, I was reflecting upon the death of Osama Bin Laden and how wars in my life time effect me and apply this to our characters with regard to the wars our characters have lived through. Britannia ware is a result of the war of 1812. The old adage "Necessity is the Mother of invention." holds true time and time again.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Setting Color in Fabric

I stumbled upon this interesting tidbit while reading The American Frugal Housewife ©1835. Personally, I've never heard of this before and found it fascinating. Their are two examples below, one is for carpet fibers and the other for material for clothing.

When a carpet is faded, I have been told that it may bo restored, in a great measure, (provided there be no grease in it,) by being dipped into strong salt and water. 1 never tried this; but 1 know that silk pocket handkerchiefs, and deep blue factory cotton will not fade, if dipped "in salt and water while new.

An ox's gall will set any color,—silk, cotton, or woollen. I have seen the colors of calico, which faded at one washing, fixed by it. Where one lives near a slaughterhouse, it is worth while to buy cheap, fading goods, and set them in this way. The gall can be bought for a few cents. Get out all the liquid, and cork it up in a large phial. One large spoonful of this in a gallon of warm water is sufficient. This is likewise excellent for takfng out spots from bombazine, bombazet, &jc. After being washed in this, they look about as well' as when new. It must be thoroughly stirred into the water, and not put upon the cloth* It is used without soap. After being washed in this, cloth which you want to clean should be washed in warm suds, without using soap.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Statue of Liberty

The corner stone for the statue of liberty was laid July 5, 1884 on Bedloe's Island a military post. I believe most of us know that the statue was a gift from Franc, but were you aware that it was often referred to as Barholdi's statue? The statue was built in France then dismantled and shipped to New York. After several months, nearly a year and a half of reconstruction and touch ups the statue was dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886.

From "A Standard History of Freemasonry" ©1899 we have this account of that day:
We are assembled here to-day in the face of you all to erect a statue representing liberty enlightening the world, a work of art grand in its conception and birth. As Auguste Bartholdi sailed into the bay of New York, a few years ago. the sight of the great city before him was grand, but grander the thought which found lodgment in his mind, of placing at this entrance to the continent, something that would welcome to these shores all who love and seek liberty, and the thought at this time crude though grand, gave birth to this statue; grand in its figure—colossal in size; grand in its practical use—lighting the storm-tossed mari
ner to a safe harbor, and grand in its very name and the significance thereof—"Liberty Enlightening the World:" "liberty" of thought, of conscience, of action, that true liberty that is not license, but which finds its highest development in obedience to constituted authorities and law; "enlightening"— how necessary enlightenment to true liberty and the highest appreciation thereof; "world"—yes, to the whole world does our continent open its arms and bid it welcome to the blessings of liberty.

From the "History of the city of New York" ©1896 we also have this excerpt:
This statue, at present adorning the entrance to the inner harbor of New York, is much larger than was the Colossus of Rhodes ; the figure is one hundred and sixty-two feet in height, and from the top of the pedestal the head-dress reaches an elevation of three hundred and twentysix feet. The pedestal is a rectangular shaft placed in the parade of the star-shaped granite fortification known as Fort Wood. The weight of the entire structure is forty-eight thousand tons. The work of constructing the pedestal was done under the supervision of Gen. C. P. Stone, engineer-in-chief. The tiara upon the head, and the torch carried aloft as a beacon in the right hand, are illuminated by electricity.
Because it admirably embodies the spirit of the statue, we append the sonnet written by Emma Lazarus.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek tame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose Hame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. Front her beacon hand
Glows world-wide welcome ; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin-cities frame.
" Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp !" cries she
With silent lips. " Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, —
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, tome.
1 lift my lamp beside the golden door! "

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Napkin Folding

Folding napkins is not a new art, in fact, I've heard it mentioned in many volumes written during the 19th century. Below is an excerpt about Folding napkins for waiters in fine restaurants and hotels. Many of the napkin arrangements can be found at How to Fold Napkins also known as Serviettes.

From The Steward's Handbook ©1889

In our talk about waiters it is several times mentioned that there are w hat are called good tables to which the best or most deserving waiters are allotted. In the case of a Paris cafe it is shown that these best tables are only reached by slow promotions and delinquent or absentee waiters are invariably placed at the bottom or worst tables when they return to work and have to progress to the better places slowly. The meaning of good tables is that they are occupied by guests who pay their waiter well; the worst tables are those frequented by, let us say, "dead-heads," or by some sort of customers of whom little or nothing is to be expected. It is precisely the same in our hotels and perhaps most markedly the case in pleasure resorts where families take up their summer or winter residence, occupy the same tables through the season and pay their waiter well. The headwaiter gives such tables as favors to the waiters he likes the best, and if he does not like a waiter he can keep him down to a table where he cannot make a dollar. The best way a waiter can help himself and make it so the headwaiter cannot afford to keep him down is to learn to be a boss napkin folder; if he is the best folder in the dining room he has a big advantage; he will be always needed, and needed at the best tables. Perhaps the reason of this is not plain to all, it is because the best guests expect all sorts of elegant little attentions and must not see the next table to them faring better than they. The waiter brings in various things upon folded napkins and if he could not produce ornamental effects that way he could not be in such a position. When, for example, he brings in the various cut cakes, macaroons and bonbons, he provides himself with, say, the "Chestnut Pocket" on page 8 or the "Heraldic Rose" and cross, page 14, not caring for the cross but opening up the pockets and filling them with the handsomest and most delicate confections he can obtain at the pantry or fruit room. The cheese and crackers he brings in another pattern; the table he has already furnished with such a pattern at each plate as the "Flower Basket," page 20, or what not, while his rival at the next table may be trying himself to do something still better These attentions are practiced by the waiters because it pays them to do so; the people at the good tables appreciate them, and moreover, they expect them and the head waiter is obliged to find waiters who can meet these expectations. Some of the handsomest folds are cabable of many changes; the "Heraldic Rose" when opened up is known as the "Boston Fold," the "Flower Basket" with the points up is known as the "Saratago Fold," but several of these might as well be called the "Tip Catcher," the "Remember Me," the "Christmas Gift Collector," etc.

Napkins there must be at every dinner in every hotel of the least pretensions to elegance and it is a waste of a grand advantage not to make use of them for ornamental effects by employing the more imposing forms of folding them for setting on the table in readiness for the dinner. The use of the napkin to hold the dinner roll or piece of bread is a fashion of private table-setting and for caterers for private parties, but the piece of bread to each plate is not a hotel custom, it is not suitable. The flat folds of napkins instead are used as above named to bring pretty things to table in and to hold buttonhole boquets or the menu. Where the napkin and the art of folding shows up the grandest is in the hotel dining room with its fifty tables, its hundreds of plates, its long white rows of Pyramids, Hamburg Drums, Tulips, Palm Leaves , Double Fans; Columns, Crowns, Mitres, any of them, the taller the better, all alike, of course, on each day but changed in form every day. That indeed is a sight that is pleasing alike to hotel man and guest and for good reason; it is a scene of real beauty and symmetry of forms and distances, pleasing by its whiteness and intimation of cleanlines and purity. It is something much too ornamental and satisfactory to be lost to a dining room for want of a knowledge how to fold napkins.

Learn the folds by using good stiff white paper, the size is of but little consequence. The apparent difficulty of following the diagrams . 1 and directions vanishes after one trial, and when the folds CS (A have been carried out with a sheet of paper a stiff napkin VI yi can be tried with a better chance of immediate success. Duji Some of the forms which require a hot iron for every fold are hardly practicable for use in hotels except for special Y*# party occasions, but there are plenty of easy forms that do Y not consume much time and some of them produce as good

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fashion Harper's Bazar

Harper's Bazar began publishing in 1867 and is still a leading magazine regarding fashion. What is extremely valuable, to people like me, is the images that produced in their magazine whether they were clothing or hair styles. It gives folks like me a visual of what they are referring to. So, I'm going to share one of the most valuable resources I've found for Harper's Bazaar Magazine with images of the entire magazine from 1867 to 1900. I believe you'll also find this a valuable resource.

Hearth Home Page


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The House of Seven Gables

The House of Seven Gables written by Nathaniel Hawthorne was published by Ticknor, Reed and Fields, Boston, MA 1851. The original house that Hawthorne used as the backdrop for this story is still standing in Salem, MA. It was a museum I visited once many, many years ago. And of course there was that show called Bewitched that had an episode "shot" there. I do believe they shot the exterior and the rooms were probably Hollywood stages. In either case, the novel dealt in part with the history of the Salem witch trials as well as the change that comes with romance. I bring this novel up, not only because it was written during the 19th century but also the historical aspect of the novel that Hawthorne had researched while he wrote his novel. Admittedly, the history he based a lot of the novel on was the tales passed down for many generations within his own family.

In 1883 a collection of Hawthorne's works were compiled and below is the introductory note giving further insight into the history around the novel.
In September of the year during the February of which Hawthorne had completed "The Scarlet Letter," he began "The House of the Seven Gables." Meanwhile, he had removed from Salem to Lenox, in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, where he occupied with his family a small red wooden house, still standing at the date of this edition, near the Stockbridge Bowl.
"I sha'n't have the new story ready by November," he explained to his publisher, on the 1st of October, "for I am never good for anything in the literary way till after the first autumnal frost, which has somewhat such an effect on my imagination that it does on the foliage here about me — multiplying and brightening its hueo." But by vigorous application he was able to complete the new work about the middle of the January following.
Since research has disclosed the manner in which the romance is interwoven with incidents from the history of the Hawthorne family, "The House of the Seven Gables" has acquired an interest apart from that by which it first appealed to the public. John Hathorne (as the name was then spelled), the greatgrandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne, was a magistrate at Salem in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and officiated at the famous trials for witchcraft held there. It is of record that he used peculiar severity towards a certain woman who was among the accused; and the husband of this woman prophesied that God would take revenge upon his wife's persecutors. This circumstance doubtless furnished a hint for that piece of tradition in the book which represents a Pyncheon of a former generation as having persecuted one Maule, who declared that God would give his enemy "blood to drink." It became a conviction with the Hawthorne family that a curse had been pronounced upon its members, which continued in force in the time of the romancer; a conviction perhaps derived from the recorded prophecy of the injured woman's husband, just mentioned; and, here again, we have a correspondence with Maule's malediction in the story. Furthermore, there occurs in the "American Note-Books" (August 27, 1837), a reminiscence of the author's family, to the following effect. Philip English, a character well-known in early Salem annals, was among those who suffered from John Hathorne's magisterial harshness, and he maintained in consequence a lasting feud with the old Puritan official. But at his death English left daughters, one of whom is said to have married the son of Justice John Hathorne, whom English had declared he would never forgive. It is scarcely necessary to point out how clearly this foreshadows the final union of those hereditary foes, the Pyncheons and Maules, through the marriage of Phoebe and Holgrave. The romance, however, describes the Maules as possessing some of the traits known to have been characteristic of the Hawthornes: for example, " so long as any of the race
were to be found, they had been marked out from other men—not strikingly, nor as with a sharp line, but with an effect that was felt rather than spoken of — by an hereditary characteristic of reserve." Thus, while the general suggestion of the Hawthorne line and its fortunes was followed in the romance, the Pyncheons taking the place of the author's family, certain distinguishing marks of the Hawthornes were assigned to the imaginary Maule posterity.
There are one or two other points which indicate Hawthorne's method of basing his compositions, the result in the main of pure invention, on the solid ground of particular facts. Allusion is made, in the first chapter of the "Seven Gables," to a grant of lands in Waldo County, Maine, owned by the Pyncheon family. In the "American Note-Books " there is an entry, dated August 12, 1837, which speaks of the Revolutionary general, Knox, and his land-grant in Waldo County, by virtue of which the owner had hoped to establish an estate on the English plan, with a tenantry to make it profitable for him. An incident of much greater importance in the story is the supposed murder of one of the Pyncheons by his nephew, to whom we are introduced as Clifford Pyncheon. In all probability Hawthorne connected with this, in his mind, the murder of Mr. White, a wealthy gentleman of Salem, killed by a man whom his nephew had hired. This took place a few years after Hawthorne's graduation from college, and was one of the celebrated cases of the day, Daniel Webster taking part prominently in the trial. But it should be observed here that such resemblances as these between sundry elements in the work of Hawthorne's fancy and details of reality are only fragmentary, and are rearranged to suit the author's purposes.
In the same way he has made his description of Hepzibah Pyncheon's seven-gabled mansion conform so nearly to several old dwellings formerly or still extant in Salem, that strenuous efforts have been made to fix upon some one of them as the veritable edifice of the romance. A paragraph in the opening chapter has perhaps assisted this delusion that there must have been a single original House of the Seven Gables, framed by flesh-and-blood carpenters; for it runs thus: —
"Familiar as it stands in the writer's recollection — for it has been an object of curiosity with him from boyhood, both as a specimen of the best and stateliest architecture of a long-past epoch, and as the scene of events more full of interest perhaps than those of a gray feudal castle — familiar as it stands, in its rusty old age, it is therefore only the more difficult to imagine the bright novelty with which it first caught the sunshine."
Hundreds of pilgrims annually visit a house in Salem, belonging to one branch of the Ingersoll family of that place, which is stoutly maintained to have been the model for Hawthorne's visionary dwelling. Others have supposed that the now vanished house of the identical Philip English, whose blood, as we have already noticed, became mingled with that of the Hawthornes, supplied the pattern; and still a third building, known as the Curwen mansion, has been declared the only genuine establishment. Notwithstanding persistent popular belief, the authenticity of all these must positively be denied; although it is possible that isolated reminiscences of all three may have blended with the ideal image in the mind of Hawthorne. He, it will be seen, remarks in the Preface, alluding to himself in the third person, that he trusts not to be condemned for "laying out a street that infringes upon nobody's private rights . . . and building a house of materials long in use for constructing castles in the air.'' More than this, he stated to persons still living that the house of the romance was not copied from any actual edifice, but was simply a general reproduction of a style of architecture belonging to colonial days, examples of which survived into the period of his youth, but have since been radically modified or destroyed. Here, as elsewhere, he exercised the liberty of a creative mind to heighten the probability of his pictures without confining himself to a literal description of something he had seen.
While Hawthorne remained at Lenox, and during the composition of this romance, various other literary personages settled or stayed for a time in the vicinity; among them, Herman Melville, whose intercourse Hawthorne greatly enjoyed, Henry James, Sr., Doctor Holmes, J. T. Headley, James Russell Lowell, Edwin P. Whipple, Frederika Bremer, and J. T. Fields; so that there was no lack of intellectual society in the midst of the beautiful and inspiring mountain scenery of the place. "In the afternoons, nowadays," he records, shortly before beginning the work, "this valley in which I dwell seems like a vast basin filled with golden sunshine as with wine;" and, happy in the companionship of his wife and their three children, he led a simple, refined, idyllic life, despite the restrictions of a scanty and uncertain income. A letter written by Mrs. Hawthorne, at this time, to a member of her family, gives incidentally a glimpse of the scene, which may properly find a place here. She says: "I delight to think that you also can look forth, as I do now, upon a broad valley and a fine amphitheatre of hills, and are about to watch the stately ceremony of the sunset from your piazza. But you have not this lovely lake, nor, I suppose, the delicate purple mist which folds these slumbering mountains in airy veils. Mr. Hawthorne has been lying down in the sunshine, slightly fleckered with the shadows of a tree, and Una and Julian have been making him look like the mighty Pan, by covering his chin and breast with long grassblades, that looked like a verdant and venerable beard." The pleasantness and peace of his surroundings and of his modest home, in Lenox, may be taken into account as harmonizing with the mellow serenity of the romance then produced. Of the work, when it appeared in the early spring of 1851, he wrote to Horatio Bridge these words, now published for the first time: —
"' The House of the Seven Gables,' in my opinion, is better than 'The Scarlet Letter;' but I should not wonder if I had refined upon the principal character a little too much for popular appreciation, nor if the romance of the book should be somewhat at odds with the humble and familiar scenery in which I invest it. But I feel that portions of it are as good as anything I can hope to write, and the publisher speaks encouragingly of its success."
From England, especially, came many warm expressions of praise, — a fact which Mrs. Hawthorne, in a private letter, commented on as the fulfilment of a possibility which Hawthorne, writing in boyhood to his mother, had looked forward to. He had asked her if she would not like him to become an author and have his books read in England.
G. P. L.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fashion History

I stumbled on this little gem of fashion history and thought I'd share it with all of you. The Chronicles of Fashion from Elizabeth to the early part of the 19th century ©1845 I believe this little book gives great insight into the development of the Victoria era and why fashion played such an important part during that period.