Monday, December 25, 2006

Republic of Ezo 1868

It was a short-lived state formed by former Tokugawa retainers in Hokkaido, the northernmost, sparsely populated island of modern Japan. In 1868, they set up the Republic of Ezo, based on the American model, and elected Enomoto as its sosai. (Sosai means, roughly, "president" or "director-general".) These were the first elections ever held in Japan. Through Hakodate Magistrate Nagai Naoyuki, they tried to reach foreign legations present in Hakodate (the Americans, French, and Russians), but were not able to garner any international support for their new government.

The Republic officially ceased to exist on June 27, 1869.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tumbleweeds Began to Roll, Late 19th Century

From my writing journals:
Research for my Victorian era story led me to the former badlands around Nevada one year. With enough history for even the most jaded buff, I fell in love with its ghost towns and lineage from the Gold Rush.

I wasn’t jaded, yet, and couldn’t stop exploring. Nevada had a rich Victorian heritage, after all, intertwined with Wild West Lore. Whether wheedling my way into mayoral archives or librarians' secret stashes, I learned early on that there were more treasures hidden away in Nevada during the Victorian era than miner’s golden nuggets.

At last, I had to leave my Victorian research for more urgent matters. But, on the way out of one of the hilly regions, while admiring the view, a lone tumbleweed blew into my car. With nowhere to turn off of the narrow road, the colliding tumbleweed destroyed a tire and did some other damage, too. It took two days to find someone who could repair my car so I could leave the state.

I mused on that random tumbleweed for those two days. The years of the Victorian era are often synonymous with the era of the old-time Western. The tumbleweed has so often been merely the backdrop in Westerns set in the desert. Flashbacks from Spaghetti Westerns jumbled through my mind. In truth, the tumbleweed didn’t arrive in the West as we know it until around the late Victorian era, perhaps around 1870ish. Its seeds entered the West by piggybacking amidst the grains of some Russian immigrants.

I vowed, then, to watch closer for tumbleweeds, in real and in novelistic scenery...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Irish Emigration During the Victorian Era - Part II

Although the Irish immigrants arriving in America had come to escape hunger and oppression, they found that life for them didn't change all that much.
By the height of the potato famine, an Irish immigrant wrote home saying that, "My master is a great tyrant, he treats me as badly as if I was a common Irishman. Our position is one of shame and poverty."
Signs for employment were often followed by: "NO IRISH NEED APPLY". The new immigrants had to live in cellars and shanties. Their brogue and dress were ridiculed. They were also held up to scorn for their poverty and illiteracy.
The Irish held together and met intimidation with violence. Prayer and drink solidified them, helping them to survive life in the city. One newspaper was led to say about them, "The Irish have become more Americanized than the Americans."
"The Church played an integral part in their lives. It was a militant Church who fought not only for their souls but also for their human rights."
America needed the Irish. Men were needed for the heavy work of building bridges, canals and railroads. Women worked as maids, cooks and child caretakers. Irish immigrants needed these jobs to survive and they proved to be hard workers.
Although they never forgot their homeland, the Irish loved America. But they never lost their hatred of the English. This led them to rebel against anything they saw as oppression on the part of their new country. "In New York City during the Civil War, they rioted against the draft lottery after the first drawing showed most of the names were Irish."
The Irish, who'd suffered brutality back in Ireland at English hands were fierce warriors. They used brutal methods to fight back against the oppression of mine owners in Pennsylvania, forming a secret organization called the Molly Maguires. They also formed their own Irish Brigade during the Civil War.
As new immigrants of other nationalities later came to American shores, the Irish were finally hailed as an asset. They were fully Americanized. Hostility shifted to these new immigrants. The Irish finally found power and acceptance.
"In 1850 at the height of the Potato Famine, Orestes Brownson, a celebrated convert to Catholicism, stated, 'Out of these narrow lanes, dirty streets, damp cellars, and suffocating garrets, will come forth some of the noblest sons of our country, whom she will delight to own and honor.' "

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Victorian Christmas

In 1843 Charles Dickens (officially) published A Christmas Carol in England. All 6,000 copies sold out by the 22nd. That's the kind of sales I'd love to have. of course, the book was priced at 5 shillings, so profits were low. The story was originally written as a potboiler so he could pay off a debt, it's since become one of the most enduring Christmas stories.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker

Opened today in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Tchaikovsky didn't like the ballet, considered it a less successful piece.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Victorian Secret Service Agents & Spies: Flip Sides of the Same Hollow Coin, Part I

Secret service agencies were sprouting up from spy networks, by 1866, as well as from protection service agencies. Although secret service agencies were around in some form as early as Shakespeare’s times, they were often private enterprises hired out to governments and private houses of distinction, alike.

In Europe during Queen Victoria’s reign, protecting Prussia’s King Bismark became a concern. The Prussians used a Saxony intelligence master during the Victorian era, Wilhelm Stieber (1818-92) to set up the precursor to modern secret service agency models. He formed the Secret Field Police. Stieber had been operating as a spy to earn money for his education; he’d posed as an editor during the Great Exhibit or the World’s Fair of 1851. He effectively moved about many European countries, setting up and then taking down any number of spy networks, covering his tracks.

Prior to the Secret Field Police, Stieber had already masterminded intelligence networks in unheard of ways. In the 1850s, he noticed that certain men of high power and societal positions were frequenting prostitutes. He determined by surveillance that a great number of the prostitutes were spying on these men as they’d historically been noted to do, and some of the prostitutes had even garnered higher educations by the men who patronized them. Opportunistically, Stieber organized those spying prostitutes in his favor, ensuring they became police informants instead of underworld spies.

Another claim for Stieber’s genius in Victorian era intelligence work was his credited prediction of the rising power and influence of newspaper editors. An underpaid but powerful class, the editors were always short of cash to operate effectively in their field. By organizing editors worldwide to become informants for pay, Stieber had set up yet another unexpected resource for information gathering and spying.

No Saint, Stieber took full advantage of human depravity as prior to WWI, he set up at least one high-class bordello, himself, which only invited people of consequence. Once there, they where spied upon and oft times blackmailed if they stepped out of line with government objectives.

The EnemyWithin: A History of Espionage, by Terry Crowdy, ISBN 1841769339

What do you do...?

During the Holiday season, what do you do? Do you write? Do you even have time? Or do you take a 6 week break to get things ready? Does January 2 begin your writing year and November 20 end it?

I don't have to do much during the holidays that doesn't involve shopping and wrapping. OK, putting up decorations, too, though this year I'm behind on that. (One Snoopy Christmas dish and a bunch of neat looking, but lonely, icicles.) Luckily, no one wants my cooking, which is great for me, since I don't cook. I pick up my grandmom for our family gatherings, and bring myself and her. Everyone’s happy. No cleaning house, no baking and cooking and the frantic-ness that those who have to host go through.

Usually, I write, just like I normally do. This year, I'm lucky I can find time to sleep. And trust me I'm not getting enough of that, either. Six hours of sleep before heroically handling the hoards. I’m doomed.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Glasgow Subway

It opened in 1896, and is the third oldest subway system after the London Underground (January 1863) and the Budapest Metro (May 1896). Originally, it was a cable railway, but was later electrified. However, its one circular line has never been expanded. To this day, it is one of only three underground railways in the UK outside London. The other 2 are the Tyne and Wear Metro and Liverpool's Merseyrail. Unlike the London Underground, Glasgow Subway is not policed by British Transport Police.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Great Hunger (an Gorta M’or): Ireland 1845-1850

There are many fallacies about the Irish Famine. One of them is that there was no food to be had in Ireland at this time.

In truth, there was plenty of food in Ireland at the time. Many Irish families existed on little but the potato, mixed with a little milk or buttermilk and a few wild onions. But the other crops they grew, which included corn, rye, wheat, etc., was harvested and given to the landlords to pay the rent on their tiny cottages. Failure to do that resulted in their being evicted and their cottages “tumbled” (the thatch was pulled off and the walls knocked down).

Livestock also thrived during the Irish Famine. Aside from corn and grain, the other major export of Ireland during the Famine was livestock.

In Ireland Before and After the Famine, author Cormac O’Grada documents that in 1845, a famine year in Ireland, 3,251,907 quarters (8 bushels = 1 quarter)) of corn were exported from Ireland to Britain. That same year, 257,257 sheep were exported to Britain. In 1846, another famine year, 480,827 swine, and 186,483 oxen were exported to Britain.

Dr. Christine Kinealy, a fellow at the University of Liverpool and the author of two scholarly texts on the Irish Famine: This Great Calamity and A Death-Dealing Famine, says that 9,992 calves were exported from Ireland to England during "Black'47", an increase of thirty-three percent from the previous year. In the twelve months following the second failure of the potato crop, 4,000 horses and ponies were exported. The export of livestock to Britain (with the exception of pigs) increased during the "famine". The export of bacon and ham increased. In total, over three million live animals were exported from Ireland between 1846-50, more than the number of people who emigrated during the famine years.

In later years, the Great Hunger has been referred to as a” planned starvation,” an attempt by the British government to rid itself of the Irish population.'s%20Famine/bibliography.htm

First Atlantic Wireless Transmission 1901

Guglielmo Marconi, Italian physicist and radio pioneer, succeeded in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean. By doing so, he disproved detractors who believed that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less.

His all important record setting message? The Morse Code signal for the letter s. A little disappointing isn’t it. Eh, all in all, still impressive. The message did travel more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu, Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada.

Paradoxically, Marconi’s detractors were right. Radio waves could not follow the curvature of the earth. As it happened, Marconi's transatlantic radio signal had been headed into space, but reflected off the ionosphere and bounced back down toward Canada.

More experiments were needed, and much about the laws of radio waves and the role of the atmosphere in radio transmissions still remained to be learned. However, Marconi continued to play a leading role in radio discoveries and innovations during the next 30 years.

In 1909, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with the German radio innovator Ferdinand Braun. On the day of his funeral in 1937, all BBC stations were silent for two minutes as a tribute to his contributions to the development of radio.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, Governor 1872

P. B. S. Pinchback was the first African-American to become governor of a U.S. state. Pinchback, a Republican, served as the governor of Louisiana from December 9, 1872, to January 13, 1873. He was sworn in today, 1872

Not a very long term, 27 days, but all things considered, a first is a first. An immutable rule of marketing is ‘it’s better to be first than to be best’.

He was became the first elected African-American lieutenant governor at the death of Oscar Dunn. Upon the impeachment and removal from office of his predecessor, Republican governor Henry Clay Warmoth, for political corruption and for allegedly "stealing" the governor's office from the Democrat John McEnery, Pinchback was promoted to governor.

He was elected to both the House and Senate, but his elections were contested, and his white Democratic opponents were sworn in instead.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

La Fronde (The Sling) 1897

Activist Marguerite Durand founded the feminist newspaper, first published in France. Using her high profile name, she attracted notable Parisian women to contribute articles to La Fronde which was run and written entirely by women. Equality was an important message, so the current day was displayed according to calendars such as the French Revolutionary calendar, the Jewish calendar, and the Gregorian.

Extensive coverage on a broad range of feminist issues, including the rights of women to practice the profession they desired was the hallmark of the paper. Among those profiled were Jeanne Chauvin who demanded of the French government that they grant her the right to practice law, and Madeleine Pelletier who argued for the right to become a psychiatrist.

Circulation briefly reached a peak of 50,000, however, in September 1903, financial problems forced the paper to cut back to a monthly publication. It closed in March of 1905.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Irish Emigration During the Victorian Era - Part I

Since both my works in progress, Erin's Rebel and Katie Rose feature Irish immigrants at the time of the Civil War, and many Irish fought on both sides of this conflict, I've done research into why so many left Ireland both before and during the war years.
Both England and America experienced a large influx of Irish immigrants during the Victorian era. While some of this was due to the potato famine, a great deal of the problem began back in the mid-17th century, when Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland. Landowners who refused to give up Catholicism had their property confiscated and given to members of the English Army.
"Between 1841 and 1851, Ireland's population of 8 million had dwindled down to 6 million. An estimated half of these people left the country while the other million died."
One million emigrated to England and America, overwhelming both countries. American saw this surge of immigration between 1815 and 1845. The Irish had few technical skills, but were healthy and strong. They became a much needed source of cheap labor.
In England ". . . The Irish lived on the absolute fringes of Victorian society . . ." They became unskilled day laborers and street peddlers.
" . . . Thomas Malthus, noted English economist explained the earlier famines and starvation in Ireland as God's answer to overpopulation of those who refuse to show constraint . . ."
" . . . emigrating to America was not a joyful event . . . They left in droves on ships that were crowded, with conditions so terrible, that they were referred to as Coffin Ships."
English oppression had made their country unlivable for them. Their only hope was to escape. Poor immigrants were forced to settle in their port of arrival, having no means of moving on.
The offers of free land out west during this time period meant little to the Irish. The land back in Ireland had failed them, so they looked to other means of making a living in their new country.
In Part II, I'll talk about the ways the Irish found to not only survive, but to prosper in the new world.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New York Philharmonic Orchestra 1842

The first concert by the Philharmonic Society of New York took place today in 1842. Ureli Corelli Hill, was its first president, first conductor (1842–47) and a violinist.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Washington Monument completed 1884

The Washington Monument is a 550-foot obelisk and still stands in the middle of Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Mall.

Washington died in 1799. Ten days after his death, Congress began discussing a fitting and permanent tribute to the nation’s beloved first president. Their proposal to have Washington’s body entombed at the Capitol was firmly rejected by his widow, Martha. Finally, in 1835, the Washington National Monument Society sponsored a competition for potential monument designs. They wanted a memorial that would reflect Washington’s "stupendousness and elegance."

In 1848, South Carolinian architect, Robert Mills’ design was chosen. The site for the monument was chosen for its visibility from all vantage points around Washington, particularly from Washington’s grave at his estate, Mount Vernon, in Virginia.

The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848 by the Brotherhood of Freemasons. Construction began in 1848 and took 30 years to complete. Work was interrupted by the Civil War (1861-64) and at various points due to lack of federal funding.

Robert Mills died in 1854 and never saw the completion of his project. The monument officially opened to the public in 1888.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

1892 Sir John Thomas becomes PM of Canada

He was a lawyer and judge, from Nova Scotia, as well as Premier of Nova Scotia, and became the 4th Prime Minister of Canada. He was a Conservative who made his mark, as the Minister of Justice, in 1885 with his sentencing of Louis Riel. Riel was sentenced to hang for leading the 1885 North-West Rebellion. Ill with kidney stones at the time of Riel's execution, Thompson made his first major speech to parliament during the subsequent debate, arguing that anyone who encouraged aboriginal Canadians to act against the state could not escape justice.

Sir John had been Prime Minister of Canada for only 2 years when he died suddenly of a heart attack at Windsor Castle. He was in England because Queen Victoria had just made him a member of her Privy Council. He was the second of two Canadian prime ministers to die in office, and the first of three who did not die in Canada.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Whatever happened to the Mary Celeste?

The Dei Gratia spotted the Mary Celeste. She was sailing erratically but at full sail, though they were slightly damaged, near the Azores Islands. The ship was seaworthy with several feet of water in the hold, and the lifeboat and navigational instruments missing, with stores and supplies untouched. No one was on board.

On November 7, Mary Celeste sailed from New York harbor for Genoa, Italy, carrying Captain Benjamin S. Briggs, his wife and two-year-old daughter, a crew of 8, and a cargo of some 1,700 barrels of crude alcohol. The last entry in the captain's log shows that the Mary Celeste had been 9 days and 500 miles away from where the ship was found by the Dei Gratia. Captain Briggs, his family, and the crew were never found. The reason for the abandonment has never been determined.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

TR: Ardent Trust-Buster? Or moderate?

Classifying Teddy Roosevelt as moderate at anything is laughable, especially with the nickname: "Bully" Activist. Yet during his 1901 20,000-word speech on business conglomerations, he called on Congress to curb the nation's trusts. "[W]ithin reasonable limits." From a wealthy family, he wanted more conservative approaches to business, with policy that balanced free market principles with the "best interests" of the American public. Trusts could exist, but with carefully placed limits.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Battle of Tirad Pass or The Filipino Thermopylae 1899

A battle in the Philippine-American War, and fought in northern Luzon, Philippines. Commanded by a 23 year Tagalog, Brigadier General Gregorio del Pilar, a 60-man Filipino rearguard surrendered to the 500 Americans of the 33rd Infantry regiment under Major P.C. March. The Philippinoes were trying to ensure President Aguinaldo's escape. A Filipino soldier eventually betrayed them, revealing the secret passage to the mountain top from the rear.

Aguinaldo was able to elude arrest until March 23, 1901. He was captured at Palanan, Isabela.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I’m a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too? 1885

Though the exact date is unknown, but the US Patent office recognizes today December 1, 1885 as the official day Dr Pepper was served in Waco, Texas. It was formulated by pharmacist Charles Alderton in Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, but wasn’t introduced nationally until the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (The Saint Louis World's Fair).

You can visit the Dr Pepper museum in Waco, TX:

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Andrew Carnegie was born just before Victoria’s reign began. He moved from Fife, in Scotland, to Pennsylvania when he was thirteen years old, in 1840.

His first job was as a bobbin-boy in the factory where his father worked. He made $1.20 US per week. Week, mind you. During this time, he took advantage of Colonel James Anderson’s decision to open his library to working class boys every Saturday night. (Actually, he had to fight to get in, but that's another story.) Andrew was a great reader, and with over 4,000 volumes to choose from, he was a great borrower of Colonel Anderson’s books.

His second job was working in the telegraph office, for $2.50 per week. What a great improvement in wages! Soon, he became one of only three people to learn telegraphy by ear, enabling him to transcribe it without first writing down the dots and dashes. This brought him to the attention of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, who took him on at $4.00 per week. He was eighteen at the time. A rapid advancement through the company, profitable partnerships, wise investments, coupled with his natural charm and literary knowledge, meant that Andrew Carnegie became an extremely wealthy man. His next step was to use that wealth for others.

Mr. Carnegie built his first library in his home town of Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1883. It was followed by libraries throughout the United States, Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, Fiji, and Canada.

How different life would be today without our public libraries! While my town no longer has a “Carnegie Library” in service, several of the smaller towns in Ontario still use the building Andrew Carnegie built for them. It goes without saying that our current library system would not have come into existence without his libraries to run. For that, I am forever grateful.

The Ontario Library system is running a contest right now. The title is “Telling Our Stories” and if you’re an Ontario resident, you can vote for the stories you like the best. Everyone can read them. is the link.

At the time of his death, Andrew Carnegie had given away $350,695,653. While some of that money went to things besides libraries (Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Hall, etc.), the stories above highlight the incredible, continuing value derived from his investment.

Thanks, Andrew!

Folies Bergère stages first revue 1886

Once a much difference venue, today in 1886 the Folies Bergère introduced women in sensational (read: scandalous) costumes. The Place aux Jeunes debuted and the Folies Bergère became the premier nightspot in Paris because of it. Okay, because of their spectacular nude shows. Paris wanted strip shows, Paris got strip shows. Revues had as many as 40 sets, 1,000 costumes, and a stage crew of 200.

People were allowed to drink and socialize in the indoor garden, and the Folies Bergère became synonymous with Parisian carnal temptations.

Watch a video:
For those who read French:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Victorian Artist, Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Dubbed the Painter of Princes, the most sought after Victorian haute portrait artist was Franz Xaver Winterhalter, (b.1805-d.1873). He painted on commission and in duplicate. Europe's courts and aristocratic homes were filled with his paintings.

Much of Winterhalter's work is on display in museums worldwide, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His iconic style is recognizable. In essence, he captured his subjects' serene expressions and poses that speak of an era which idealized genteel ways.

(Portrait displayed, Madame Barbe de Rimsky Korakov)

The Meiji Constitution 1890

Also known as The Constitution of the Empire of Japan or the Imperial Constitution.

Japan’s first Diet also convened today, since it was a cavet of the constitution. Put into effect after the Meiji Renewal, this constitution provided a constitutional monarchy based on the Prussian model. Basically, the Emperor of Japan was ruler and exerted considerable political power, but he had to share that power with the elected diet.

This constitution lasted until the Japanese defeat at the end of World War II.

From Hirobumi Ito, Commentaries on the constitution of the empire of Japan,translated by Miyoji Ito (Tokyo: Igirisu-horitsu gakko, 22nd year of Meiji,1889)Hanover Historical Texts Project:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hawaiian Independence Day 1843

The Kingdom of Hawaii is officially recognized by the United Kingdom and France as an independent nation. They would "consider the Sandwich Islands as an independent state, and never to take possession, neither directly nor under the title of protectorate, nor under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed." Note how the U.S. didn’t join in on that statement.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Alfred Nobel Creates Prizes 1895

At the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, Nobel signed his last will and testament, and set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes. They were to be awarded annually and without distinction of nationality.

Rumor has it that an erroneous publication in 1888 of his obituary by a French newspaper, condemning his invention of dynamite, made him decide to leave a better legacy to the world. The obituary stated Le marchand de la mort est mort ‘The merchant of death is dead’; "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday."

The amount set aside for the Nobel Prize foundation was 31 million kronor or $4,223,500

Friday, November 24, 2006

Victorian Medicine

The Victorian era was a period of astonishing advances. In the field of medicine, introductions were made of both antiseptics and anesthetics, and the average life span increased.
Scientific thinking during this time changed from the miasma theory that was based on odors causing illnesses to an understanding of the role of bacteria. The standard of living improved as a result.
"By the end of the century Victorians understood the need for antiseptic surgery, anesthetics, and general cleanliness."
As far as treatments went, medical practitioners used opium, laudanum and chloroform. Surgical techniques advanced and became safer through the use of antiseptics, although many people still relied on herbal cures and ancient practices.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Franklin Pierce featured in the news today

Franklin Pierce was a Victorian mover & shaker who stood for both winning and losing causes.

A Day of Thanksgiving and Praise

On November 28, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln declared all government offices closed for a day of Thanksgiving. Magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale suggested that Lincoln make the day a nationwide observance. On October 3, 1863, Lincoln issued the following proclamation, setting apart the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving and praise.”

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Victorian Clipper Ship 1869

One of the last clipper ships to be built, in Dumbarton, Scotland, and the only one surviving to this day, the Cutty Sark stands now in drydock in Greenwich.

The Cutty Sark was destined for the China tea trade. However, she did not distinguish herself. In the most famous race, against Thermopylae in 1872, both ships left Shanghai on June 18, but two weeks later Cutty Sark lost her rudder after passing through the Sunda Strait, and arrived a week after Thermopylae, for a total passage of 122 days. Her legendary reputation is supported by the fact that her captain chose to continue this race with an improvised rudder rather than putting into port for a replacement. She still managed to be beaten by only one week.

Hart Crane's The Bridge immortalized Cutty Sark.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

1864 Hood enters Tennessee

Sherman's March Through Georgia

In a desperate attempt to draw Sherman out of Georgia, General John Bell Hood invaded Tennessee. It was a huge mistake.

The sad saga of the Army of Tennessee in 1864: In the spring, the army, commanded by Joseph Johnston, blocked Sherman's path to Atlanta from Chattanooga. During that summer, Sherman and Johnston fought a series of relatively small engagements as Sherman tried to flank the Rebel army. Johnston slowly retreated toward Atlanta, but kept his army intact.

Unfortunately for both the army and Georgia, Confederate President Jefferson Davis had seen enough territory lost to the Yankees, and in July 1864 replaced the defensive Johnston with the aggressive Hood. Hood made a series of attacks on Sherman outside of Atlanta that did nothing but diminish his own army's capabilities. After a one-month siege, Hood was forced to withdraw from Atlanta.

The invasion into Tennessee marked the start of a new campaign that was nothing but a disaster for the Confederates. Sherman took part of his force, cut loose from his supply lines, and began his March to the Sea. He sent the rest of the force under George Thomas back to Nashville to guard against Hood. Hood took the bait and charged toward Thomas in Franklin, Tennessee. It was a devastating defeat. But he didn't learn his lesson and continued on to attack Thomas at Nashville on December 15.

By the time Sherman made it to Savannah just before Christmas 1864, little remained of Hood's once-proud Army of Tennessee.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lord Melbourne Gave Fatherly Advice to the Young Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria sought out the advice, daily if possible, from William Lamb, the Second Viscount Melbourne, who was her real father figure. She kept a journal. Nightly, she’d inscribe his answers to her questions about life. A list of some of his sage advice is as follows:
· wives beaten by husbands are able to profit from the pity evoked
· mothers-in-law are not known to get along with daughters-in-law
· most marriages aren’t happy
· large dogs are dangerous as pets
· birds migrate by following the coastline

Eventually, Victoria’s role as monarch prohibited her from continuing correspondence with the then retired Prime Minister, for reasons of propriety.

Persons of Consequence: Queen Victoria and Her Circle by Louis Auchincloss ISBN #0394504275

Inventor of the Phonograph


Accidental invention. As with many things in life, Edison stumbled on one of his great inventions while working on a way to record telephone communication at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Because of this, he was dubbed "Wizard of Menlo Park."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Four Score and Seven Years Ago...

Most of us have heard those famous words, but I wonder how often anyone takes the time to reflect upon their meaning.

On November 2, 1863, many months after the battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) had ended, Governor David Wills invited President Abraham Lincoln to make "a few appropriate remarks” at the consecration of a cemetery for the Union war dead.

Lincoln accepted the invitation, probably viewing the event as an appropriate time to honor the war dead, as well as reveal his evolving thinking about the war, not merely as a fight to save the Union but as an opportunity to establish freedom for all those under the law.

On November 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Lincoln spoke the now-famous words. At the time, the President drew criticism because of the brevity of his comments. Yet those “few appropriate remarks” have gone on to be one of the most memorable speeches of all time:

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth.

Well said, Mr. President.

For more information on the Gettysburg Address or Abraham Lincoln, visit:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

First Time Zones

And we can thank railroad companies for that, telling us just how much power they had at their heyday. At noon today in 1883, the American and Canadian Railroads began using 4 separate time zones to differentiate between scads of local times.

Local time was based on "High Noon" in just about each town, and I can't even imagine the nightmare it was to travel from Boston to New York to Philadelphia and constantly resetting your watch. Worse than jetlag! But as railroads shrunk the time it took to get from town to town, this way of keeping time was a logistical nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times. All for the same train and each linked to a different local time zone.

So the companies divided the continent into four time zones, zones that are very close to what is still used today. Most Americans and Canadians quickly embraced their new time zones, since railroads linked them with the rest of the world. However, the federal government was different. It wasn’t until 1918 that Congress officially adopted the railroad time zones and put them under the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Suez Canal opens


French Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, attended the inauguration ceremony. It took 15 years to complete the 100 mile canal across the Isthmus of Suez.

In 1856, the Suez Canal Company was formed and granted rights to operate the canal for 99 years after completion. (WWII changed that.) At first forced laborers used picks and shovels. Later, when the Europeans arrived to work it, so did the dredgers and steam shovels. This may have been a coincidence. Labor disputes and cholera interrupted the work, and the 1869 date was actually 4 years behind schedule.

Ferdinand de Lesseps, its builder, would later failure at an attempt to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama.

Today, an average of 50 ships navigate the canal daily, carrying more than 300 million tons of goods a year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Most Victorian Crosses Won in a Single Day 1857

Siege of Lucknow or the First War of Indian Independence.

Sir Colin Campbell easily crossed the nearly dry Charbagh Canal and advanced on the Secundrabagh, which housed most of the rebels. After its walls were breached by covering artillery fire, the 93rd Highlanders, part of the 53rd Regiment of Foot, the 4th Punjab Infantry, and various other detachments stormed it. It was a horrific defeat for the rebels. According to Campbell, some 2,000 rebels died. Later that day, Campbell's forces also stormed the Shah Najaf mosque, only a few hundred yards from the British defenders of the Chuttur Munzil.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Deposed - Brazil's Last Emperor 1889

Actually, it was only Brazil's 2nd emperor, but Pedro II did have a 49 year reign. He was a good leader, and the economy grew and people prospered under him. Until he alienated certain sects of society (think the military and growing urban middle class). So the military decided they'd do a better job ruling than he would.

Pedro left for Europe and died in exile 2 years later.

There's actually more to it than that, and a very interesting story with Portugal's crown prince, Don Pedro, declaring Brazil an independent country under his rule. But he was a lousy ruler, and Portugal was probably lucky he wasn't their leader. Pedro I abdicated in favor of his 5 year-old-son. Who, it turned out at age 15, didn't inherit his father's bad-ruler genes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Moby-Dick published 1851

It was a total failure. While not his first, or his last story published, most of which were well received, Moby-Dick wasn't even a blip on the classic radar. What eventually made it a classic? I have no idea, that particular piece of information isn't to be found.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Railroads During the Civil War

As the most advanced form of transportation on land at that time, railroads were important to both armies during the Civil War. Railroads were used to transport troops, supplies and weapons. The armies also used them to gain information on enemy troops and for tactical missions, including close combat.
An advancing army often had to rebuild a railroad that the opposing army had derailed. Armies often fought over control of the rails.
Armed trains carried combat ready troops and artillery. The locomotive was placed at the train's center, so it could be protected. Flatcars were at the ends loaded with armed troops and artillery. Passenger or boxcars were in between.
Trains of the Civil War era were the precursors to "tanks, armored personnel carriers, engineer vehicles and self-propelled artillery."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Jack the Ripper kills last known victim 1888

Her name was Mary Jane Kelly. Jack the Ripper is the pseudonym of the unidentified serial killer (or killers) active in Whitechapel and adjacent districts of London in the latter half of 1888.The name is from a letter to the Central News Agency by someone claiming to be the murderer, published at the time of the killings.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Victorian Discoveries

1895: German physicist, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, observed the first X-Ray in his Wurzburg, Germany lab. He was trying to determine whether cathode rays could pass through glass and noticed a glow coming off a chemically coated screen.

He dubbed the ray ‘X’ because of the unknown nature of the ray. He won every German accolade, streets, towns, (probably babies) and honorary doctorates and memberships in learned German society. In 1901, he won the Nobel Prize in physics.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Canada's transcontinental railway completed 1885

Craigellachie, in the mountains of British Columbia, was witness to the last spike driven into Canada's first transcontinental railway. It took 5 years for the Canadian Pacific Railway to get the 4,600 kilometers of single track all connected. Several smaller lines were also conencted to the larger CPR, uniting the country as never before.

Believe it or not, it was completed 6 years ahead of schedule.

And for those in America, I hope everyone voted!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Congratulations, Mr. President...and Mr. President

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected the 16th president of the United States of America

In 1861, Jefferson Davis is elected the 1st president of the Confederate States of America

Both were natives of Kentucky. Lincoln was the first Republican elected with only 40% of the popular vote, but defeating 3 other candidates. Davis ran unopposed. Lincoln was a lawyer and a Whig representative to Congress before running for president in the heavily divided 1860 election. Davis attended West Point, served in the Black Hawk War of 1832, was a close advisor to then-General Zachary Taylor (former father-in-law) during the Mexican War, before becoming a senator and Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Victorian Fans Were Ever Popular

Nearly every woman owned a fan. Like many essential items during the 19th Century, the times dictated that fans be made as beautiful as possible. Fans were nevertheless just plain useful in many climes, as well as essential to pass along courtly secrets while whispering. Fan etiquette played an important role during Victorian functions.

This month, many of Queen Victoria’s fans and those of her family and contemporaries will be on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The collection can also be viewed online in their e-gallery. The article entitled Unfolding Pictures in Majesty Magazine, Vol 27 No 11 highlights some of the fans that will be on display in The Queen’s Gallery mid-month.

Empress Eugénie, wife-consort of Napoleon III of France, was from Granada, Spain where fans were used for everyday affaires and were known to always be in motion. Eugenie brought much of her rich Spanish heritage to the popular and dominant French court, including her love of fans. She was known for making statements with her fans, as were many of the ladies of her era, by matching the fans to ensembles or by wearing plain ensembles that made extravagant fans stand out.

Fans served many purposes. The rules dictated that fans remained closed while one was in the presence of a sovereign, so many fans displayed unique identifying embellishments along their sides. Monograms were popular as well as artwork of family and portraits of children of the fan’s owner. Symbols of rank were also appropriate to display on fans, or simply one-of-a-kind artwork. Prized and valuable fans were typically attached to a wrist to be dropped or retrieved, according to a lady’s purposes.

Due to their artistry, fans became a favorite collectible during the 19th Century. Even during church services, fans were noted to be constantly expressing their bearers emotions, especially in Spanish speaking countries and Colonies. Some regions designed their own signals around fan usage. In Puerto Rico, young ladies were known to flirt or otherwise indicate if they were or weren’t available for romance. The speed at which a fan passed across a lady's breasts was the clue. Other regions also utilized their own unique communications with fans.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Black Bart's last stagecoach robbery 1883

After 8 years of robbing stage coaches – but never passengers – Charles E. Bolton drops an important clue as to his identity and is captured shortly thereafter. Black Bart never shot anyone, and had a habit of leaving short poems, all signed, Black Bart, the Po-8. He was sentenced to 6 years in San Quentin, but served just over four. In actuality, he stole only $18,000.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Time Zones 1868

New Zealand officially adopts a standard time to be observed nationally.

Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +12 hours
Daylight saving time: +1 hour
Current time zone offset: UTC/GMT +13 hours

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gold Standard 1893

Gold or silver, silver or gold? For much of the 1800s, that was the question over which should be the basis for the nation's currency. Finally, in 1893, Congress voted to turn back the 3 year old Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which generated $155.9 million in Treasury notes. But then silver’s price declined, and in the Panic of 1893 people redeemed their cash for the higher-priced gold.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Congress admits Nevada as the 36th state 1864

With a population 20,000 less than the normal 60,000 required for statehood, Congress nevertheless admitted Nevada as the 36th state in the Union. They wanted the votes. President Lincoln's reelection apparently hinged on the support of the Republican-dominated Nevada Territory. Basically, on 40,000 people, who couldn't all vote.

Never let it be said that Congress doesn't know a gold mine when it sees one. Or in Nevada's case, the 1859 discovery of the incredibly large and rich silver deposits at Virginia City.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Gettysburg Ghost Stories

Happy Halloween!
Since the town and battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania both figure prominently in both my novel, Under the Guns, and my work in progress, Erin's Rebel, I thought I'd do a blog for Halloween on some of the spooky stories told about the area.
I've visited Gettysburg many times both as a Civil War reenactor and on family vacations and have gotten my share of goosebumps listening to the ghost stories that abound in that town and surrounding countryside, where so many lost their lives in 1863.
Thought I'd pass along a few links on haunted Gettysburg you can check out for yourself.

Second War of Schleswig (the Danish-Prussian War) 1864

While we fought our 'Great Civil War' (Abe Lincoln) , the second military conflict over Schleswig-Holstein succession question was being fought in Europe. It pitted Prussia and Austria against Denmark, who long controlled the two duchies. The disputes was against the Danish king who died without an acceptable heir. Acceptable to the German Confederation. And then there was the passing of a joint Danish/Schleswig constitution, which didn’t go over very well, either. German won, and in Denmark ceded control of both duchies.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Victorian Shopping - Macy’s opens 1858

After a string of seven business failures, Roland Macy finally hit the jackpot in 1858 when he founded his own department store, named R.H. Macy's & Co. The New York City store, located at 204-206 6th Ave and 14th street was a ‘fancy dry goods store’ and packed with a variety of useful products. It was an immediate success. Today, Macy's is the biggest department store in the world. The red Macy’s star apparently came from one tattooed on Mr. Macy’s arm (a tribute to the star that guided him when he was lost at sea).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Shoot-out at the OK Corral 1881

After years of feuding and mounting tensions, on this day in 1881, the “law and order” Earps and the “cowboy” Clanton-McLaurys engage in their world-famous shoot-out near the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, leaving three men dead and three more wounded.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Charge of the Light Brigade 1854

Lord James Cardigan led a charge of the Light Brigade Cavalry against well-defended Russian artillery during the Crimean War at the Battle of Balaclava. The British were actually winning when Cardigan received orders to attack. His cavalry gallantly charged down the valley and were decimated. They suffered 40% casualties. Later, it was learned that the order was the result of confusion and not given intentionally. Lord Cardigan survived the battle, and was hailed as a national hero in Britain.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

First Barrel Ride Down Niagara Falls 1901

Annie Edson Taylor, 63, was the first to take the plunge. While not the first person over the falls (and who knows how many were tossed over them against their will) she was the first to do it in a barrel. Poor and seeking fame and fortune, the Civil War widow and 2 assistants strapped herself into a barrel 5 feet high and 3 feet around. Leather straps and cushions lined the barrel to protect her. However, her 15 minutes of fame lasted only about that and there was no fortune for Annie. She spent the rest of her life working as a street vendor in Niagara Falls, and died there in 1921.

Monday, October 23, 2006

NYSE seats up for sale: 1869

The New York Stock Exchange put memberships up for sale for the first time in its 77-year history. They sold for $8000 (over $100,000 now). Today? Try $800,000.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Victorians Hosted State Balls and Informal Balls

Victorians were trendy. Their entertainments reflected their awareness of trends, and their societal need to keep apace.

Napoleon III ran his Imperial Court with a flare unseen for decades on the Continent. Off-the-Continent, the Imperial Courts in the Americas were following suit. In particular, because Napoleon III sponsored the Mexican Imperials of the Second Empire - the Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota - that court particularly complied with protocal.

Two types of grand balls were accounted for during the Victorian era; State Balls and a casual tradition that was dubbed "Empress' Mondays". Victorian era authors may find it useful to include either style of ball to suit their authorial machinations. They differed in some of the following manners:

State Balls
* were very grandiose
*sovereign hosts arrived by 9:30 p.m. as witnessed by a large audience of attendees
* held in ballrooms
* said hosts retired early for the night, by midnight
* balls often continued until 4 a.m.
* full orchestras played throughout the night
* all attendees wore ascribed court dress such as that worn by the lady-in-waiting displayed top right, Dona Sanchez-Navarre of the Mexican Imperial Court; essentially all women wore the same gown and all men wore the same court uniform or a military uniform with full decoration
* protocol was strict and ceremony was relied upon
* etiquette was strict
* public scrutiny was always of concern
* guest lists were a matter of politics
* visits of state dignitaries precedented state balls and determined when the ball was held
* displays of the latest technology were part of the entertainment, often part of the decor
* lighting at state balls was dimmed to enhance the display of attendee’s jewels
* physical appearances and beauty were irrelevant; the purpose of attending was political gain

Empress’s Mondays
* were less grandiose
*sovereign hosts started off the affaires around 10 p.m.
* held in Salons
* hosts remained at the ball throughout the night
* balls often ended by 2 a.m.
* partial orchestras played periodically, often hidden in the patios or gardens
* attendees wore trendy or traditional attire, often verging on a masquerade ball
* protocol was less strict and ceremony relaxed
* etiquette was relaxed
* balls were not available for public perusal
* guest lists were comprised of local Society, usually outside political arenas
* balls were warm and intimate, and held regularly on Monday nights
* décor was limited to the elegantly decorated Salons, and guests roamed the grounds
* lighting was normal
* guests might be invited simply for their charm or beauty

By Kristin-Marie

The World is Ending!

In 1844, Millerites, followers of William Miller (once a Baptist), believed that the end of the world, in conjunction with the Second Advent of Christ, was about to happen. They calledOctober 22 The Great Anticipation. October 23 became known as The Great Disappointment. Clearly it didn’t happen.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Victorian Women in Medicine

The medical profession of the 19th century didn't readily accept women into their ranks. The first school for nurses wasn't even established until after the Civil War.
Although women physicians were scarce in this era, they were not unheard of. Elizabeth Blackwell, born in 1821, was the first American woman to gain entrance to medical school. She was only admitted when her fellow classmates jokingly voted to accept her.
After her admittance, other women followed, including her sister, Emily, Maria Zakrzewska, Mary Putnam Jacobi and Ann Preston. Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania opened in 1850. This and other institutions of the time, including New York Medical College and Hospital for Women, devoted themselves to the education of women in the medical field.
It wasn't an easy road for women who sought to become doctors. In 1874, Edward H. Clarke wrote that women who earned an advanced education would develop "monstrous brains and puny bodies . . . [and] abnormally weak digestion."
In 1891, Mary Putman Jacobi wrote, "It is perfectly evident from the records, that the opposition to women physicians has rarely been based upon any sincere conviction that women could not be instructed in medicine, but upon an intense dislike to the idea that they should be so capable."
Women of the Victorian era had to work long and hard to be the very best in their class to overcome prejudices and establish their place in the world of medicine.

The Lady with the Lamp

In 1854, Florence Nightingale and a staff of 38 women volunteer nurses, trained by Nightingale and including her aunt, Mai Smith, went to the Crimean. Sidney Herbert (Secretary at War 1845–1846 and 1852–1854) authorized the expidation. The nurses landed some 545 km across the Black Sea from Balaklava, where the main British camp was based.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bela Lugosi born 1882

Born in Hungry, Lugosi established himself as a successful actor before immigrating to the US in 1921. He was a great success onstage in 1927, playing Dracula in the Broadway play, Dracula, and reprised the role in the 1931 film. Lugosi spent the next 20 years starring in horror films. He died August 16, 1956 and was buried with his Dracula cape.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Times change

A lot of things have got me thinking about how times have changed. In the last thirty years the way we do things has changed almost beyond recognition. Or at least, that’s what I thought at first.

On second glance, we don’t know the meaning of change. We still drive cars filled with gasoline to our homes in the suburbs. While we did send a man to the moon, that was in 1969–thirty SEVEN years ago. We haven’t sent anybody to explore a new terrestrial body since. We still cook with the same stoves (the first home microwave oven came out in 1952!) We still use the same power supplies we’ve been using for over a century. Really, the only thing at all different is our communications. Personal computers, the internet and cell phones may have changed how we do some things, but for the most part our lives remain the same.

Now lets take a look at the early Victorian era. These people had to deal with CHANGE. From 1838 to1868, the world turned upside down. A good horse, a stiffened sail and some heavy shoe leather suddenly had competition to fill our transportation needs. Railroads began to span the distances, and if you couldn’t go by train, chances are a steamship would move you in the right direction. People began to travel, and more and more often families were separated by many miles. But that was okay; we could communicate via telegraph!

If we forgot what our loved ones looked like, they could send us a daguerreotype photograph. If we wanted to tell the entire village something, we could put an article in the newspapers that sprung up once the rotary printing press was invented.

Our homes could be built with reinforced concrete, and we could even safeguard them with the invention of the cylinder lock.

Imagine how life changed with the steel plow, the refrigerating machine, and condensed milk. Now add pasteurization, the hypodermic syringe, and antiseptic surgery. If your brain wasn’t swimming by this point, you could take your first elevator ride.

But while these new inventions touched on almost every aspect of our daily lives, one change was bigger than all the rest. Charles Darwin published the Zoology of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle in 1838, then came out with The Origin of Species in 1859.

Even if you didn’t believe his ridiculous "Theory of Evolution" nonsense, you now had to THINK about it. Not even Galileo had so many people THINKING about the world they lived in. Life would never be the same.

(On the other hand, did I just read we've invented an invisibility cloaking device?)

Construction begins on the Sutro Tunnel in Virginia City, Nevada

In 1869, Prussian-born mining engineer, Adolph Sutro, began work on four-mile-long tunnel through the solid rock of the Comstock Lode. Miners sank shafts deeper and deeper into the rock in search of more silver and gold. The further into the Earth they mined, the more water they encountered. This had to be pumped to the surface at great expense.

Enter Adolph Sutro. With his nifty invention of horizontal drainage, mine water would drain through a tunnel, minus expensive pumps. Handily, these tunnels could also be used to move men and ore in and out, greatly reducing transportation costs.

Everyone agreed the tunnel would be a boon to the Comstock. But they worried that Sutro would use his tunnel to take control of the entire Lode, and progress was continually slowed because of that fear. It was only by securing European capital that Sutro able to complete the $5 million project in 1878.

Every bit as successful as promised, Sutro’s tunnel drained two million gallons of water per year, and greatly reduced transportation costs. Alas, by 1878, the richer sections of the Comstock Lode had been tapped out, and profitability declined. Sutro, however, sold his tunnel in 1879 at a extraordinary profit, and moved to San Francisco where he became one of the city's largest landowners and mayor from 1894 to 1896.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tuberculosis, the Victorian Scourge

The Victorian era was a time of great advances in medicine. But like in earlier centuries, people did die regularly of disease--cholera, influenza, measles etc. The one I find most fascinating is tuberculosis, or consumption as they called it back then.


Well for one thing, it was the leading cause of death in the U.S. in the 19th century. From the beginning of the century thru 1870, it was the cause of 1 in 5 deaths, or 20%! Compare that with the "scourge" of the late 20th century, AIDS, which is does not even hit the top 5 causes of death in the U.S.

Like those infected with AIDS, though, victims of tuberculosis could live a very long time. It was a wasting disease (thus the 19th century term consumption), its sufferers not dying within days or weeks, but living with attacks and remissions that could last for years or decades. It allowed those infected to get married, have children, and pass the disease on to them. Families, therefore, could suffer from the infection for 2 or even 3 generations, passing it from parent/grandparent to children. In fact, for much of the century, the physicians thought the disease was hereditary, not contagious. They believed that families had a predisposition to the illness.

We now know, of course, that tuberculosis is contagious, transmitted through the air. Why didn't people understand that back then, when it was considered likely with other illnesses, such as colds and influenza? I suspect that's because first and foremost, having the TB bacteria doesn't necessarily mean you will develop the disease. In fact, only 5-10% of the people who have the bacteria ever develop the disease.

Secondly, unlike diseases such as influenza or cholera, it can takes years to develop tuberculosis. You may have been exposed to it by a train passenger in 1850 and not develop symptoms for until 1855. Who could say, then, where you got the disease?

The majority of this information came from Living in the Shadow of Death, Tuberculosis and the social Experience of Illness in American History by Sheila M. Rothman

America buys Alaska from Russians for US$7,200,000 1867

Larger in area than all but 18 of the world's nations, Alaska is derived from the Aleut Alyeska, meaning "great country", "mainland" or "great land". During the 18th century, Spaniards explored the coast and settled there – Cordova and Valdez.

U.S. Secretary of State William Seward (Seward’s Folly), urged the US to buy it, and while the transaction was completed on April 2, it wasn’t until October 18 that the hand over was completed. Or, if you go by the Julian calendar, Saturday, October 7, 1867 in Russia. Take your pick. That wasn’t the only problem Alaska had that day:

“Russia still used the Julian Calendar in 1867, and the world had not yet been divided into standard time zones; thus, there was no international date line, and the day began in the morning instead of starting at midnight. So, while the American day now ends with sunset in western Alaska, the Russian day then started with sunrise in "eastern" Alaska. Thus, Friday, October 6, 1867, the day before the physical transfer of ownership, was followed by Friday, October 18, 1867—which was Saturday, October 7, 1867 in Russia. The change in date was due to America bringing the Gregorian Calendar to Alaska, while the lack of change in day resulted from Alaska's shift from being the starting point of the Russian day to being the ending point of the American day.”

Get all that?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Rose by any Other Name...

Have you ever received a rejection that included the words “not what we’re looking for at this time?” A rejection just can’t get more vague than that. You’ve done your homework, you’ve studied your craft, your critique partners loved the story and characters– so what does “not what we’re looking for” really mean? If only editors could take the time to explain themselves rather than just hand out form letter rejections.

And have you ever wished there was a publisher who actually wanted those stories that the others “aren’t looking for?” Maybe you have a story that’s a bit quirky, one that’s set in an era that isn’t selling well at this time, or maybe it features the old no-no of athletes or rock stars as heroes or heroines.

Meet The Wild Rose Press, a new and exciting small electronic and print publisher. Our titles span the sub-genre spectrum from sweet to sensually erotic and are available in all lengths including short story, novella, category and single title.

At The Wild Rose Press, where I am senior editor over the historical lines, we like to say “we help writers grow”. Not only are our editors willing to work with an author if they like the story or the characters, but we welcome those works that the bigger houses don’t want. Certainly that isn’t to say we publish works that are unpublishable because of poor writing skills or lack of an actual story, but we do enjoy finding new and different ideas. And we never hand out “form” rejections; each editor makes every effort to let the writer know what did and didn’t work for her. Most of us even take the time to include helpful suggestions in our rejection letters. Best of all, we have an entire “greenhouse” on our site full of articles on the nuts and bolts of writing to help writers at all levels of their career, from the beginner to the polished professional.

Each month offers new articles, interviews with authors and editors and lots and lots of new releases. I hope you’ll stop by our garden at and visit us soon!

The Open Championship was first played on October 17, 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club

The inaugural tournament (commonly known as the British Open) was restricted to professionals. Those original eight played three rounds of the twelve-hole course in a one day. Willie Park Senior won with 174, beating favourite Old Tom Morris, by two strokes. Poor Willie won no money. In 1861, the tournament was opened to amateurs – eight joined the ten professionals.

It was only in 1863 that a purse was awarded - £10 or about $50 at the time. However, the winner didn’t even get to keep the money! It was shared between the second, third, and fourth placed professionals. The Champ got to keep the belt for a year. In 1864, Old Tom Morris won the first Champion's cash prize of £6 (today it’s about $11). Today? £720,000 or $1,335,753.82.

Monday, October 16, 2006

First residential college for women in England est. 1869.

The College for Women, was located at Benslow House, Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, England. Relocated northwest of the centre of Cambridge, next to the village of Girton it became Girton College in 1872. The first students were called The Pioneers. Girton enjoys the rare distinction of having a song written by Gilbert & Sullivan named after the College: “Oh, maiden rich in Girton lore.” (Utopia ,Limited 1893). Their motto is: "Better is wisdom than weapons of war"

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Chiricahua Apache leader Victorio is killed Tres Castillos Mountains south of El Paso, Texas 1880

Determined to resist the loss of his homeland, Victorio began leading his small band of warriors on a long series of devastating raids against Mexican and American settlers and their communities in the 1850s. Finally, in 1869, the U.S. Army convinced Victorio to accept resettlement on an inhospitable patch of sunburnt land near San Carlos, Arizona, also known as Hell's Forty Acres.

Farming nearly impossible, and the conditions were deplorable. So Victorio decided this new reservation was unacceptable and moved his followers to more pleasant grounds at Ojo Caliente (Warm Springs). Unfortunately, this made him once again an outlaw in the eyes of the U. S.

In 1880, a combined force of U.S. and Mexican troops finally succeeded in tracking him down, surrounding them in the Tres Castillos Mountains. The Mexican soldiers sent the Americans away, and proceeded to kill all but 17 of the trapped Apaches. The exact manner of Victorio's death remains unclear. Some claimed an Indian scout employed by the Mexican army killed him. According to the Apache, Victorio took his own life rather than surrender to the hated Mexicans. Regardless, Victorio's death made him a martyr to the Apache people and strengthened the resolve of other warriors to continue the fight. The last of the great Apache warriors, Geronimo, would not surrender until 1886.

Victorio's sister was the famous woman warrior Lozen, Dexterous Horse Thief.

The character of Sierra Charriba, in Sam Peckinpah's film Major Dundee (1965), played by Michael Pate, was based off of Victorio.

New Victorian Era Saint

Hot off the press, a Victorian era nun is sainted...


Friday, October 06, 2006

Civil War Nurses

In both my young adult novel, Under the Guns, and my current work-in-progress, a time travel romance set during the Civil War, Erin's Rebel, my heroines assume the duties of nurses both on the battlefield and, in the former, a Washington hospital.
At the time of the Civil War, nursing as a profession didn't exist for women. The armies used soldiers, appointed to serve as nurses for their fellow soldiers. It wasn't until the war escalated that women, who wanted to help the war effort of their respective sides, left their homes to nurse the wounded. Women living in towns near where battles were fought volunteered their homes and their nursing abilities. Also laundresses and cooks, already with the armies, were often pressed into service as nurses as needed after a battle.
These nurses had no formal training. Most used the skills they'd obtained caring for family members. Many were married, middle-aged women who either had husbands, sons or both serving in the army.
Sophronia Bucklin was a unusual nurse because she was single and very young at the time she served. She was born in 1846, so would have been only about 15 or 16 when the war started. After the war, she wrote a book of her experiences, In Hospital and Camp, published in 1869.
In a quote from that book: "Could I ever suppress the shuddering that passed over me, as I entered the low wooden house, in which on rude benches lay the cold white corpses of three men? Miss Clark uncovered the face of the man who died last, and told me this story--of the wife and three children in the far West, who were yet to know how it had gone with their soldier. He was wounded in the second battle of Bull Run, and had been under her care for ten days.
"A cloth saturated with blood lay over a bench, and I was wrought upon by sadness of the scene, and the echoing of many groans coming from the wards, that I only desired to hasten away from the dreadful place, and forget that it was man against his brother man, who was causing this awful destruction."
Bucklin, Sophronia E. In Hospital and Camp. Philadelphia: John E. Potter and Company, 1869.
In Louisa May Alcott's Hospital Sketches, she relates: "I am free to confess that I had a realizing sense of the fact that my hospital bed was not a bed of roses just then, or the prospect before me one of unmingled raptures. My three days' experiences had begun with a death, and, owing to the defalcation of another nurse, a somewhat abrupt plunge into the superintendence of a ward containing forty beds, where I spent my shining hours washing faces, serving rations, giving medicine, and sitting in a very hard chair, with pneumonia on one side, diphtheria on the other, two typhoids opposite, and a dozen dilapidated patients, hopping, lying, and lounging about, all staring more or less at the new "nuss", who suffered untold agonies, but concealed them under as matronly an aspect as a spinster could assume, and blundered through her trying labors with a Spartan firmness, which I hope they appreciated, but am afraid they didn't."
Alcott, Louisa May. Hospital Sketches. Boston: James Redpath Publishers, 1863.
Adelaide W. Smith was a independent volunteer who offered her services to help in the hospitals. In her book about her experiences, she wrote this dedication.
"To the Boys in Blue 1861-1865; and to those brave women, who, with smiling faces and breaking hearts, sent them forth to save their country and their homes, while they themselves toiled in fields and elsewhere, waiting to welcome home too many who never returned; and to that band of heroic devoted women, many of whom left luxurious homes for the discomforts and privations of hospital life, and died, self-sacrificing patriots of the war, this true story is affectionately dedicated. Adelaide W. Smith."
Smith, Adelaide W. Reminiscences of an Army Nurse during the Civil War. New York: Greaves Publishing Company, 1911.
Source: In Hospital and Camp: The Civil War Through the Eyes of It's Doctors and Nurses by Harold Elk Straubing: Stackpole Books; copyright 1993 ISBN:0-8117-1631-7
Links with more information: