Thursday, January 31, 2008
It all started about 12 years ago when my family visited Gettysburg, where we met a few Civil War reenactors. My husband was fascinated and set about finding a reenacting group he could join. He toyed with joining his co-worker's Confederate group based in New Jersey, but didn't want to go that far for meetings. He continued his search and found a local Union group, the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment.
One of the requirements for male members of the group was to join the Sons of Union Veterans. Although members didn't have to have an ancestor who actually fought for the Union, it certainly was a perk. I think he got a special ribbon to wear.
My husband started research and found two uncles who'd fought for the Confederacy.
Wrong side. No perks there.
Besides, these Confederate soldiers weren't direct ancestors anyway. Continuing his research, he found Samuel Joseph Macateee, who not only fought for the Union, but was a direct ancestor. Ironically, Samuel was the younger brother of the two uncles who'd fought for the Confederacy.
He was sixteen when the Civil War broke out and living in Maryland with his family. After his older brothers joined the Confederate Army, his parents sent him north to York, Pennsylvania to live with an aunt, to keep him out of the war. Toward the end of the war, he joined the Union Army as part of Hampton's Battery.
So, while the American Civil War was said to have been a war of brother against brother, in my huband's family, it turned out to be the literal truth.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Today is my turn for Tuesday ten. I am, however, sick with yet another cold and my computer died last week. The new one I have has a super-sensitive touch pad that makes writing difficult. Of course I'll have to fix it, but it may take some time. Between those two things, I am not going to be as good a Tuesday-tenner as I would like. No references this time. This is more discussion time than information.
All right, on to ten things I love/hate about the era.
1.)Clothes--I love the clothes, from the beginning to the end of the era, most especially the ones for formal affairs. Silks and satins and velvets. . . .long dresses and lace. People dressed differently for different occasions, unlike today where unless someone specifically says "semi-formal attire" jeans and sandals are acceptable.
2.) Manners--People actually had them. Granted the U.S. has always been a little more, um, we'll call it independent in the manner category. In other words, we tend to dis things that are viewed as "prissy". I'm pretty certain that in the Old West, this occurred a lot more often than in the cities. Still, people said please and thank you, and held doors open and in most cases tried to be more polite.
3.) Furniture--I admit I wouldn't have it in my house, but I still love the furniture of the time, with all the swirls and roses carved in it. In my house though, which is constantly in chaos, it would just get lost in the mess.
4.) Wallpaper--These days our walls are generally painted--it's just easier. But in the Victorian period wallpaper was cheaper and everyone used it. Again, it was pretty intricate and in my chaotic house would just make the mess look messier. But if I could afford someone to clean my house--or could somehow learn to love cleaning it myself--I would have lots of Victorian wallpaper.
5.) Formality--In the Victorian era people said ma'am or sir, and used Mr and Mrs, even when referring to their own spouses. (I recently read something--don't remember where though--in which a woman was berate for not calling her husband Mr.). The only time people these days say Mr. or Mrs is when referring to an old friends' parents. Sometimes that's not even true. In the town we lived in when my kids were born, everyone referred to their friends' parents by their first name. Me, I like the formality. Yes, it does create distance, but it also shows immediately how close people are. I like it.
This may, by the way, be different in other sections of the U.S. (and other countries, of course). I believe people in the South are far more likely to use formalities, but I suspect even there it's relaxing.
6.)Dancing--Yes, we do still dance, but not nearly as much as I believe they did back then. In the Victorian era dancing, specifically the waltz, was the best way for a man to "get close" to a woman. Thus men were far more inclined to want to dance. And dancing was "easier" in that there were set dances, The Cotillion, the Waltz, The Quadrille, etc. You learned the steps, and you could dance. Today, it's mostly free-style, and those of us without rhythm (me!) do not dance. It's far too embarrassing. I would have back then, though!
7.) Food--The Victorians liked to eat. A lot. And, as I have blogged on before (I think) as the era progressed and the eating became more ritual, the fashions changed to allow for extra weight. By the end of the era women who had a good 10-15 extra pounds on them were envied. I have an extra 10 pounds on me. No one envies me for it.
8.)Travel--yes is took much longer, was expensive and often filthy, and uncomfortable for people without a certain financial means. But for others if wasn't--just look at the steamships being built at the time! All manner of luxury! I think slower travel allowed people to see more, and forced them to talk more to each other, to compel people to get to know people from different backgrounds. Today we take cruises for the purposes of vacation, which duplicates Victorian overseas travel to some extent. As for land travel, thought, well it's all about the plane or the car, isn't it? Few people take overnight trains. I think it's a real shame.
Two things I hate:
9.) Corsets--While they sort of "equalized" women, allowing the larger ones to squish their waists so that they too, looked wasp-waisted, I think they did women a great deal of damage. From what I've read women started wearing them in the early teen years, and I suspect they created the same sort of malformation that binding feet did in Chinese women. This sort of malformation would have created, I believe, a great deal if difficulty during child-bearing years. I wonder how many women might not have suffered or died in childbirth if they hadn't been forced by society to wear these things.
10.)Treatement of women--Of course I've discussed this a number of times, and how the laws were so unfair to women, even to the point that were a wife to divorce her husband (assuming she could actually get a divorce) she lost everything, including her children. Even if those children were from another marriage. The laws, though, were not special to the era, they were just more obvious because of the women who fought against them.
Well that's it. What about you? What do you love or hate about the era?
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I won Cynthia Owens’ Christmas contest, and in addition to a beautiful book bag, candles, bath salt and other great stuff, I finally got my hands on her book.
Sure, and she can write a fine tale that has one seeing the green, smelling the peat fires and hearing the pipes and fiddles of Ireland. As someone said to me recently, it is the emotions that are key in romance writing, and this book has it in spades! The characters feelings were just dripping off the pages in the last three or four chapters--no, those were the constant tears pouring from my eyes. Made it hard to read, but such a satisfying finish.
The other book I’ve read this year I feel a bit guilty about. I didn’t have time to read, you see, and I meant just to take a quick peek at the first page. But Denise Eagan hooked me immediately and never let me go. What a fantastic story, and funny and action-packed to boot. While it kept me up all night, the lack of sleep was well worth it. With apologies to my critique partners for my tardiness.
So, IN SUNSHINE AND IN SHADOW and WICKED WOMAN will go on my keeper shelf, right beside THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND by Caroline Clemmons. What a talented bunch I blog with!
Friday, January 25, 2008
One of the most famous alternate history writers is the Sci Fi guru Harry Turtledove. I'm currently reading (listening to) the first in his series, How Few Remain. In this, a key point during the Civil War changed - Lee's Special Order 191 wasn't lost as happened in the 'real' war, but was found before the Union Army could recover it. As a result, the South won the war and succeeded from the Union creating 2 countries; The Untied States of America and the Confederate States of America.
I think it's fascinating to read these changes, and to hear Mr. Turtledove's take on what could've happened. It has also had the effect of making me question what I know about history, and spend several hours looking up what really happened to key characters in the aftermath of the war, and what was going on 'here' in this timeline.
If you get the chance, give How Few Remain a try, or at least skim through it.
The year is 1881:
- Abraham Lincoln wasn't assassinated and is a for-the-workers speaker with leanings towards Marx and socialism. He's widely reviled by the north for losing the war.
- Stonewall Jackson lived to become the General-in-Chief of the Confederate Army. He's widely hated by the north for being such an excellent general, his reputation well deserved.
- General J.E.B. Stuart is now stationed in El Paso and commands a large garrison to protect the west and newly acquired Mexican territories bought from Emperor Maximilian.
- Colonel George A. Custer, is a cavalryman serving on the Great Plains far from Dakota Territory.
- Theodore Roosevelt is a young, brash Montana Rancher who formed Roosevelt's Unauthorized Regiment in response to a 2nd war between the north and south.
- Fredrick Douglass travels throughout the country witnessing the ongoing plight of the negro in the north and hoping to bring attention to the even worse plight of the slave in the south.
- Colonel Alfred Graf von Schlieffen is the military attache to the German Ambassador to the United States.
- Samuel Clemens is a newspaper editor in San Francisco.
- General Grant is a homeless drunkard who wanders the USA but is friends with Frederick Douglass.
- James G. Blane is now the president of the USA, while James Longstreet is president of the CSA.
- Germany supports the USA, while England and France are allied with the CSA.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Part II: The Bad Boys
Henry McCarty, better known as William Bonney. Even better known as Billy the Kid. Short, ugly and buck-toothed, Billy became a petty thief at a young age. He spent several years working as a cowboy in
Jesse James. Jesse’s father was a Baptist minister. His father died when Jesse and older brother Frank were young, and their mother remarried an abusive man. The Civil War broke out and the James’ sided with the Confederates. Jesse and Frank joined a band of guerilla soldiers and fought for the Confederates. When the
Cherokee Bill. Part Native American, part white, part Mexican and part African-American, Crawford Goldsby was the victim of racism from an early age. It’s widely believed this is what triggered the violence that would eventually consume him. Bill fell in with two brothers named Bill and Jim Cook. He was fiercely loyal to them, considering them the only true friends he’d ever had. One day, a sheriff came to arrest the Cook brothers for stealing some horses. Instead of the Cooks going to jail, Bill shot the lawman. The brothers were grateful and indoctrinated Bill into their gang, giving him the name Cherokee Bill. He joined them in numerous robberies and gunfights. The same year he joined the Cook gang, Bill learned his sister had been beaten by her husband. Bill hunted down, then shot and killed his brother-in-law. Several months later, Bill was arrested and sentenced to death for killing a train conductor. He was rescued by the Cook gang. A year later he was in trouble for killing again, and Judge Isaac Parker, a.k.a. “the hanging judge” sentenced him to death. That night, Bill killed one of the prison guards. Furious, Judge Parker had Cherokee Bill hanged the very next day.
Doc Holliday. Born into a wealthy Southern household, John Henry Holliday was another one who saw his family’s wealth lost—and his family destroyed—by the Civil War. Despite claims that John attended Baltimore College of Dentistry, there are no records to prove he ever did. More than likely, Holliday learned dentistry as an apprentice. Around 1870, John left
Black Bart. In 1875 a man wearing a flour sack over his head held up a Wells Fargo Stagecoach in
Before you can create your own Wild West characters, it helps if you know a little bit about the larger than life legends--good and bad--who populated the era and gave it its wild reputation. (Since this blog ended up being a bit long, I’ll post it in two parts.)
First up: The Good Guys.
Wyatt Earp. May as well start with the largest legend of them all. In 1875, tired of his career as a stagecoach driver twenty-seven year old Wyatt Earp moved to
Pat Garrett. Pat was raised the privileged son of a
Wild Bill Hickock. Perhaps one of the more colorful legends of the Old West, James Butler Hickock was born the son of a presbyterian deacon. After his father’s death fifteen-year-old, James got into a gunfight. He ran away to evade the law, ending up in
Tom Smith. Perhaps one of the lesser-known heroes, little is known about Smith’s early life. Born in
Bat Masterson. William Barclay Masterson was born on a farm in
I’ll be back a little bit later to post the second half of our Tuesday Ten—The Bad Guys.
Friday, January 18, 2008
I guess what started all of the endless hours of family research for Mother was when we discovered that we are descendants of Danish royalty on my father’s side of the family. She was certain her family tree must have interesting people to brag about as well. I remember when we were younger my Grandfather Madsen would never talk about the family. He would shrug our ancestors off as horse thieves and such. One day at a family reunion my father’s cousin let the facts out of the bag. Years and years ago when King Fredrik VIII came through a small town in Denmark, he noticed my great, great grandmother and wanted her in his bed that night. That was the beginning of this part of the family tree. Of course, we cannot prove this as the records are sealed, but there is a great family resemblance along the branches of the tree. Poor old King Fredrik VIII ended up dying in a bordello in Hamburg, Germany, as stories passed along through the ages go. He only reigned as king for twelve years.
When I heard the story, I had to laugh as I’d been telling my oldest daughter that she was a princess since she was a little girl. The child absolutely would not allow anything to be put under her mattress. I honestly say, it didn’t matter what I tried, she would know it was there. Hans Christian Andersen’s Princess and the Pea came to mind every time she would complain. When we heard about being of royal blood, she looked at me and acknowledged that I’d been right all along, she was a princess.
It’s fun to know where you’ve come from sometimes. It has been for us. I hope you’ll enjoy some of the stories as I can get them on my blog over the next couple of months. Oh, and by the way, the day my mother discovered she was a direct descendant of John and Priscilla Alden, who came over on the Mayflower, she felt vindicated. She did have someone that almost elevated her to the height and glory of our royal blood. (grin)
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
1. London - Start with the center of the Empire, the capital city. Even if you've visited every season of your life, there's plenty to do outside the social circle. If you don't want to crusade for the downtrodden, there are those balls and soirees. Then again, if you do want to help your fellow man, I hear they're offering tours of the local goals. Just remember: in 1889 they had a dock strike, so it's best you avoid travel by ship. But then there were so many other means by then.
2. Edinburgh - Take the train up to Scotland to avoid the docks. Let's face it, there's plenty of things to see and do up there. If you're not into history, there's hunting. And if you're not into that, mayhap a nice stroll about the countryside will refresh the spirits. Take a boat ride down the Caledonia Canal, then see the lochs that form 2/3 of the canal; Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy. I'd be wary of Loch Ness, however. I've heard of strange sightings there.
3. Cairo - Now that you've rested and relaxed, you want a little excitement! What better place than the bazaars of such an ancient city? With the Suez Canal is open, you can continue around Africa instead of safari-ing through the interior.
4. Interior Africa - The Dark Continent. It was called many things, and even in the late 1880s when explorers mapped everything and journalists and scientists spilled many secrets, there were still things left unexplored. I caution you, when traveling through Sudan - this is an Islamic State and the Sharia Courts preside.
5. South Africa - Natives of this beautiful tip of Africa include the Khoikhoi, San and Bantu. Their customs may seem strange to us, but what is this world if not diverse? Conditions are not what one would hope for when visiting a part of the Empire, but with the discovery of gold and diamonds, it's hard to find luxurious accommodations. But then you opted for the world tour, didn't you. I'm sure you're prepared for this.
6. India - Magnificent architecture, spicy foods, history dating back thousands of years, and all wrapped up with the British Army looking after you. What more can a traveler want? It's all here, the bazaars, the markets, the cooking that results in delicious food. Sure, there are a few malcontents, but what great colony doesn't have them?
7. Burma - traveling overland might be harder than my sea, but it's such beautiful country, everyone should experience it once. Railroads are hard to construct in this backland, but believe me, the Empire is working on that. Think of it this way, you can tell your friends you saw the colonies as they once were, not after all that newfangled construction. Magnificent Buddha temples, beautiful rivers, and lush mountainous forests please the senses and inspire the soul. Not to be missed.
8. Hong Kong - our final stop on the Asian tour is this once-small outpost in China. With their own grandiose buildings and outlandish costumes, this is a place guaranteed to bring out the poet in all of us. And the tea, oh heavens, the tea! And you simply must hire a (reputable) guide to take you to see the Wall. For barbarians, their building concepts are on scale with anything we could think of. One final word of warning - the Dens. Be very careful not to fall into the Dens. The stories I've heard...!
9. Canada - Tis a long trip to be sure, but that Australian territory is filled with convicts and their outlaw descendants. (Did you perchance read of Ned Kelly? Ask the steamship porter if they can find you a copy in the next port.) O' Canada, a beautiful and vast place. I'd recommend at least 3 weeks to properly see the entire stretch of it. French upstarts or not. Try the fishing off Prince Edward Island, take the Canadian Pacific Railway to the beautiful and temperate city of Vancouver. It's worth the time.
10. Caribbean - Our final leg of this Empire trip is the Caribbean. Your ship's captain will know where to go, there are so many wonderful places to explore. Bahamas, Bermuda, The Virgin Islands, Antigua, Jamaica, even Belize on the coast of Central America. Bring your parasol, ladies, the sun is blinding bright, but expect phenomenal food and colorful natives.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The story began when two men’s lives became strangely entwined and both died shocking deaths. Martin Allhoff, a native of Germany, and Robert Chalmers, a Scotsman, came to California during the rush of gold seekers hoping to strike it rich in the land around Coloma. They found some gold, but neither found great wealth.
Disillusioned with the difficulties of gold mining, bloody hands, broken bones and such, the two men decided to change occupations. Allhoff became a vintner and Chalmers an innkeeper.
Allhoff and his wife Louise enjoyed a prosperous life. He boasted that he had the best varieties of grapes, Concord, Cataawha, and Eden. Beyond the vineyards were his wine cellars, where the grape juices would be aged into multi-tasting delicacies. When he was jailed for alleged tax and liquor license violations, he brooded about the shame and disgrace he’d brought on his family and business. He committed suicide.
Robert Chalmers acquired the Sierra Nevada Hotel. He made a decision that was both unique and courageous for the gold rush country. In a region inundated with saloons and hotel bars, guests at his inn would be limited to teetotalers. No one came, the rooms remained vacant, the cashbox empty. In time he developed a small clientele of religious zealots and families seeking to protect their children from the influence of dens of iniquity all around them. He sponsored several civic affairs, but hardly any money came in.
He needed to look for more profitable means. He thought of the vast vineyards of his deceased friend, Martin Allhoff. His wife inherited the vineyards, winery, and cellars as well as all the other assets of her late husband. They married in 1869 and began a period of prosperity. As with Allhoff, Chalmers’ wines won special awards. In 1878, nine years after his marriage to Louise, he began his dream home. It would be called the Vineyard House. It became the home for his family, and a hotel considered the finest in all of Northern California. On April 4, 1879, a grand opening was held, and in all its pageantry, a large crowd partied and participated in the festivities. It became the meeting place of the elite, those who had found riches and wealth in the gold fields, and those who had it without the hardships of labor.
Former President Ulysses S. Grant visited and discussed the Civil War and Chalmers announced he’d been elected to the State Legislature. Then disaster struck. But unlike Allhoff, his started with a loss of memory. He’d say one thing and do another. He became short tempered, frightening his wife and children as well as the household staff. He would watch a grave being dug in the cemetery across the street from the mansion where Allhoff was buried. He’d go and lie in it, his arms crossed over his chest in the traditional position. His family and staff would have to restrain him and bring him home.
Several servants threatened to quit and, frightened for everyone’s safety, Louise had a cell with iron bars constructed in the basement. She convinced her husband that he should look inside, and once there, she locked the door behind him. There, alone, in the solitary world of his own demented illness, Chalmers drifted into the crazy darkness that he was destined for, without a worry of harming others. He writhed and moaned, cried out and banged his head against the bars which held him captive. Eventually he lost his eyesight and mumbled incoherently, as he moved about in this black, miserable cell. He was fed and checked on a daily basis, a chore no one in the family looked forward to.
In the end, he thought his wife was trying to poison him so he stopped eating. In 1881, he starved to death. After Louise died in 1900, strange occurrences started happening at Vineyard House. Robert Chalmers, although dead, refused to leave his home. A spirit, a part of his psyche, chose to be earthbound and stubbornly decided to remain at the mansion. Tenants complained of mysterious voices and sounds of ghostly footsteps and stomping that echoed along the corridors in what should have been the quiet hours of darkness. One boarder fled in the middle of the night so frightened he refused to say what he’d seen.
For many decades the Vineyard House was operated as a run-down rooming house and restaurant under a succession of owners. Ghost rumors abounded and the weird phenomena continued. Guests complained of hearing the rustling of skirts, metallic clangs and heavy breathing. One couple said they heard a group of noisy guests enter the front door and start up the stairs. Planning to complain, the couple opened their door to quiet the revelers. What they saw were three men in Victorian clothing who vanished before their eyes.
In 1975 a former restaurateur purchased the mansion and started renovations. Floors, stairs and balustrades were stripped to the natural wood. Walls were papered. Paint was applied where needed, which meant everywhere. They found forgotten furniture in the dark corners of the attic which helped their plan of refurbishing the mansion back to its original state.
No matter what plans the owner made for redecorating, it seemed to be predestined. “I’d painstakingly choose colors and wallpaper, paint and accessories,” he said. “My order would arrive in completely contrasting shades than what I asked for. This happened consistently. Imagine my surprise when thumbing through an old Vineyard scrapbook I found that the colors and fabrics that had been delivered matched the original Vineyard House décor. That’s when I began to realize somebody from beyond our world wanted to keep this house the way it was.”
He went on to say, “Strange things began to happen right after I purchased the mansion. A cup would be misplaced; a treasured bud vase would disappear and be rediscovered in some ungodly and most unlikely spot.”
Several old style wood coffins were discovered under the porch during the restoration – the homemade type, wider angled in the middle, held together with wood slots. It was known several prisoners who occupied the basement jail in the 1800’s had been executed, strung from an old oak tree the front yard of the Vineyard House. Another coffin was found in an old crawl space.
Today Robert Chalmers’ ghost bangs the walls when he’s aggravated. His spirit takes pride in annoying the guests that do not meet with his approval. His presence is felt throughout the house, including the basement, which when occupied, houses a downstairs dungeon-like pub, alongside the cell he once occupied. In life he was not a man sympathetic to the consumption of alcohol. “One night while tending the bar in the downstairs pub,” one of the owners said, “my customers and I were startled to see one cup in a series of eight hanging from nails on the wall begin to rattle by itself. It tweaked and moved while the others were still. A hollow silence fell over the place. Then, the cups started to bang and bump against the others in random disorder. Then as quickly as it began, the cups calmed and stopped. I thought it was over, but not the case. When I picked up dual shot glasses from beneath the counter, and wrists up, placed them together on the bar, I turned momentarily to grab the bottle to fill them. As I turned back, ready to pour, I saw the teetering and jumping of those two shot glasses, unaided by any human hands, proceed to slide across the bar to the waiting customer, empty.”
So many more sightings have happened over the years. Right now the place is empty, at least of mortals. I always look to see if Louise is standing at an upstairs window when I drive through Coloma, past the Vineyard House. Rumors that she walks the halls protecting her home still persist.
Information found in Nancy Bradley and Robert Reppert’s accounting in their book, “Gold Rush Ghosts.”
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Ah, the life of Clavell...if only we could all be so lucky.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
1.) There were quite a few subsets of Victorian Furniture. First, Traditional Early Victorian. These are early years in Victorian America, 1840-1850 and are fairly simple in design. The U.S. was yet to come into its own. It reflects, apparently, the American Empire form, with with some of the molding, medallions and details of later Victorian periods starting to show up. I couldn't find any examples of it on the internet. Does anyone have examples they might share?
2.) Gothic: 1840-1865. I used this furniture to delineate one of the villains in Wicked Woman, because the word and its connotations seemed to suit his personality. This furniture came with the Greek Revival fashion in architecture. This style was used in most kinds of furniture, although there aren't a whole lot of tables or sofas. From what I can see it was pretty ornate and had a lot of steeple type things.
3.) Spool turned--1850-1880 : This was the first factory manufactured and mass produced furniture in America. It's characterized by a sort of spool shaped design and was not particularly expensive. I imagine this is the sort of furniture that was most often found in middle-class homes, maybe even the Old West? I'm not sure. Nevertheless, it never caught on in Europe and so is particularly American. For more information on this specific kind of furniture, you can check out this website:
4.) French, Louis XV, 1845-1870. This is my favorite, the most ornate and the sort of furniture we typically think of when we think Victorian. Its typically carved in rosewood, mahogany or black walnut. This is the stuff with the grape leaves and roses carving and C & S shaped scrolling. Belter's furniture, which I did a post on earlier, was made in the Louis XV tradition. This pair is currently on sale at ebay for about $27000. http://cgi.ebay.com/OPULENT-VICTORIAN-J-H-BELTER-PAIR-OF-MERIDIENNES-CHAISE_W0QQitemZ270200281788QQihZ017QQcategoryZ63583QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
Some very pretty armchairs here:
5.) Renaissance, 1860-1875. This style was developed in Europe during the middle of the century. This sort of furniture included "tall arched pediments, semicircular arched panels, large carved cartouches, boldly done cornice moldings and cyma-curved or scrolled brackets." (Field Guid to American Victorian Furniture, Thomas H Ormsbee) I have no clue as to what any of that means and honestly, I can't see how it varies from the French Louis XV. Maybe because it looks sort of spiky as opposed to curvy. It is at this point that I am so, so glad I never elected to make a living dealing in antique furniture. I doubt anyone would take me seriously if I started describing furniture as spiky as opposed to curvy.
6.) French, Louis XVI, 1865-1875. Because one Louis is not enough? You got me. There's not a whole lot of description here, and it doesn't seem like it was very popular. This furniture apparently had "turned rosettes" and "fine incised and gilded straight lines or scrolls." Well okay but apparently the other Louis furniture had turned rosettes too. It seems like the only difference were the gilded straight lines? None of my characters will ever be a furniture dealers, although they may very well make fun of the furniture. . . .All right, let me see if I can find an example somewhere on the internet. Ah here's a website that might explain this all much better, and if someone can understand it, would you mind explaining it to me?
7.) There's this Eastlake furniture that I am going to skip over to get to the furniture I wanted to talk about to begin with--Turkish Furniture! 1870-1880. Yup, it was called Turkish and was the predecessor of the overstuffed furniture we use today. It really does look far more comfortable (although maybe not as pretty) as all the rest. I used it in Wild Card for that reason. It was often sort of rectangular with "plain or figured upholstery with corresponding fringe from the seat to floor". It had tassels too! It came in all sorts of material, plus, velour, tapestry and occasionally leather. They appear to be on the lower side of cost. Now let me see if there's an internet picture somewhere. . . . Yes! Here it is, one in leather:
And now for some specific pieces of furniture
8) Spool Turned Bed—Jenny Lind Bed. In use between 1840-1870, this kind of low rise bed is sometimes referred to the Jenny Lind Bed because if was in fashion at the time of her tours. Maybe she slept in them when touring? I don’t know. Seems kind of weird to me because there were a lot of things fashionable (I’m sure) when she touring which were not named after her.
9.) Washstand—although the well-to-do in urban areas had bathrooms in the late 1850’s, they weren’t widespread for many many more years. People used washstands instead (with the pitcher of water and bowl). They were freestanding chests with a back splash and sometimes an attached towel rack. Blogging about this turned out to be very useful to me today in my writing life because I wasn't quite sure where to place the water pitcher and bowl my heroine was using.
There's a really pretty marbled topped one here:
10.) Victorian table—contrary to what I knew when I started writing, coffee tables were not around until the very end of the century, and then probably only in Europe. When people got together for tea or coffee they’d use the typical Victorian table of a height between 27 and 29 inches. This has caused me a great deal of difficulty in writing because I’m used to the coffee table and have a difficult time picturing people drinking tea and coffee without one. I assume they held the tea in their laps, or used side tables. Unless it was a small tea party, where I believe they would gather around the pedestal table?
All right, I got all 10 in there, finally (blogger and my computer are fighting today). I have to say after writing this blog, I'm more confused about Victorian Furniture than I was before it. I really don't see the difference in quite a few of the styles. Which means that you'll probably be seeing more posts on it, because I get awfully irritated when I can't "get" something.
Assuming, of course, blogger and my computer will stop fighting.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Today is the day we announce the winner of the basket--I'll have it posted on this post by 9:30 est this morning (assuming no computer problems).
Sometime later. . . .
After a very scientific approach to choosing our winner (I wrote all the names on slips of paper and picked one out of a hat) we have our winner! Kimberly! Congratulations!
If you would please email Denise Eagan at email@example.com with your mailing information I'll get that basket right on out to you.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
In the first years of the war, the generals used the same battlefield tactics as was used in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, when the smoothbore musket was the only weapon available. Fired at 100 yards, these muskets didn't inflict much damage on troops.
Early Civil War troops were massed together in a frontal attack just as in earlier times. The old smoothbore musket still in use necessitated such tactics. Unfortunately, as the war progressed, so did the deadliness of weapons. The . . . "Civil War musket was rifled . . . It completely changed the conditions under which soldiers fought." http://www.civilwarhome.com/civilwarweapons.htm
Troops in a Napoleonic style charge could now be killed at a distance of half a mile. The new technology made the military formations of the past out of date and greatly increased casualties. But it took Civil War generals a long time to change
tactics to match the advanced weaponry of the times.
Small arms carried by soldiers included muskets, rifles, carbines (short barrel rifles), and handguns, that included pistols and revolvers. The principal small arms of both sides were the .58 caliber Springfield musket and .69 caliber Harpers Ferry Rifle. They were muzzle loading arms that fired the minie ball.
Revolvers were used by both sides. The most common were the 1860 Colt Revolver and 1851 Navy. "The Remington New Model and the Starr Army Percussion revolvers were also purchased in large numbers by both sides." http://www.civilwarhome.com/civilwarweapons.htm
The development of the rifle bullet known as the minie ball revolutionized warfare. It caused high numbers of deaths making the American Civil War one of the bloodiest wars.
"In 1848 . . . French Army Captain Claude F. Minie created a smaller, hollow-based bullet that could far more quickly and easily be rammed into the bore, expanding when the weapon was fired to catch in the rifling and be shot spinning out of the barrel. That spin made the minie ball . . ." http://www.civilwarhome.com/civilwarweapons.htm
Artillery also went through a technological transformation, beginning in 1861 with pre-Mexican War smoothbores not much different than those used in the American Revolution and ending in 1865 with the Gatling Gun, a precurser to the modern machine gun. http://www.civilwarhome.com/artillery.htm
These weapons forever changed the tactics of Civil War armies, ending with trench warfare around Petersburg, Virginia in 1864-65. This also led to the foxholes of the early twentieth century wars.
The technology of the 19th century was fast moving, leading to many inventions we use today. And the American Civil War changed the weaponry and battle tactics for all future wars.
Friday, January 04, 2008
I write historical because I love the adventure of an entertaining historical romance.
What part of the Victorian era/setting do you write in?
I write in the Victorian era of the 1880s wild west. My American Title Contest finalist book, SEDUCTION, which I've sold to Highland Press, takes place in Arizona in 1880.
What is it about the era that most intrigues you?
To be honest I think it's the men and horses that intrigues me most. There's just something about a confident western man riding a powerful horse. The growth of the railroads at that time created an atmosphere of new adventure and prosperity in the towns and cities. My family lived the old west in Texas just outside San Antonio.
Where do you get your information?
I have heard and read stories about my Texas and Montana families since I was little. In addition, I've researched old family letters, legal documents, and family histories as well as information from books and maps in libraries in Texas and Arizona. I have photos of my family from the 1860s on. The photos provide information on how folks dressed in those days, and what their homes looked like, inside and out. They decorated their western homes with Victorian furniture, and they wore the latest Victorian fashions. They also incorporated suitable western fashions depending on the need and occassion, whether for a cattle drive in Montana or a fiesta in Texas. I'm told my great grandmother in Texas wore a velvet riding gown when she rode her horse during holiday celebrations. The skirt draped over the horse all the way to the ground. My great grandfather wore a black frock coat, vest, black trousers and western style hat. My grandmother told us that he taught her how to swim her horse across the Medina River when she was little. They often rode together on day trips between towns.
What are you working on now?
I'm having fun with a contemporary werewolf story which takes place in Texas near the border with Mexico. Waiting in the wings is an 1870s Victorian werewolf story that I'm impatient to finish.
How many books have you written?
I've written three western historicals and a paranormal western historical novella.
Do you write outside of the Victorian era, genre?
Yes, as I mentioned above. Also waiting is a fully plotted paranormal which takes place in the past before ancient cultures developed in the New World.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
Challenges which I think most writers face. Enough rejections to paper my office space. ;-) Contests. The American Title Contest II in which my book Seduction finaled. The need to rewrite and keep my goal of publishing books readers will love foremost in my mind. All while taking care of normal family needs and expectations.
What is you writing schedule like?
Crazy! Any scheduled plans for writing and finishing a current work in progress inevitably take second place to requests from editors to read full manuscripts. So my writing schedule basically involves writing and polishing the latest request before mailing it. Ideally, being a night owl, I plan to work on a current wip by writing every week day while my husband is at the office. But with interruptions, in reality that schedule only kicks in when an editor requests the full. Whether it's writing, blogging or emailing with other writers and readers, my main goal is to accomplish something writing-related every day.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
It wasn’t woman’s work to host a picnic in the 19th Century. By 1850, they were a popular and coveted pastime.
Queen Victoria contributed to the popularization of picnics during her lifetime. When Victorian ladies and gentlemen wished to get away from the stricter settings, they meandered out to idyllic settings.
Gentlemen became the hosts, the purveyors of the fine fare, and the tour guides including for organized entertainments. Nearly any civilized activity was game as long as the host-gentleman led it.
Scenery was paramount. In fact, it was often held up as the reason for a picnic.
Fare was as important as when dining inside, but limited by convenience, of course. Chickens baked the day before were popular, as were dainty sandwiches (sans crusts).
Fresh fruit and pickled or deviled items accompanied the requisite bread and butter. Spices were toted along, especially salt and pepper and any that were popular. Desserts were compact and refreshing such as a loaf-cake or cookies.
Picnics were originally a pot-luck style with each guest bringing one dish. But, soon, the fare became something ladies would often oversee and the gentlemen would serve by waiting hand and foot on each guest.
Blankets were layered with cloths. Table service was china and silver, although each person’s setting might have their name etched or inscribed to keep things sorted out.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
and here's a link to a book:
Anyone have any interesting ideas on how to incorporate this tid-bit in a book?
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Can we stand another holiday-themed blog? I've read a lot, but there's always room for one more. Sure it’s a Tuesday Twelve, instead of our usual ten, but it’s in keeping with our Twelve Days of Christmas theme, so bear with me! (And you thought it would be another cowboy blog!)
Did you know 2007 was the priciest Christmas ever – that is, if you wanted to spoil your true love with an authentic Twelve Days of Christmas! This year it would set you back $78,100 for all 364 items, a four percent increase over 2006.
* One partridge in a pear tree 164.99
Pear Tree 149.99
Total Cost $78,100