Month – March 2011

Wincester 1866 Repeating Rifle – aka The Yellow Boy

Winchester (U.S.) Model 1866 Lever Action Rifle (repeater/ breech-loading/ black powder/ cartridge ammunition)

Last time we discussed the Winchester 1873 Repeating Rifle. Today, I want to introduce the precursor to that rifle – the Winchester 1866 Repeating Rifle, aka The Yellow Boy.

The Yellow Boy got its name because of the shiny brass frame. The design improvements over the original Henry repeating rifle ensured the Yellow Boy’s success. In 1866, Nelson King, an engineer with Winchester Repeating Arms, patented a spring load gate for ease of loading cartridges into the side of a spring-fed, closed-end tube attached under the barrel. The tube held fifteen bullets. Add the one in the chamber and you could pull the trigger sixteen times before reloading.

The 1866 Yellowboy lever-action rifle was a marked improvement over the Henry rifle. It was the first true cowboy lever-action rifle, and the first rifle widely carried in a cowboy-style saddle scabbard.

Both the “Henry and Winchester Model 1866 “Yellow Boy” rifles found a ready market on the western frontier. The Indians referred to these arms as “many shots,” and “spirit gun,” which showed a measure of awe and respect for the products of the New Haven-based company. Many warriors were able to obtain these arms for themselves, and more than twenty of them were used against George A. Custer’s 7th Cavalry and their single-shot Springfield carbines at the Little Bighorn in June, 1876. Winchester repeaters also found favor with miners, homesteaders, ranchers, lawmen, and highwaymen.”

Winchester produced the Yellow Boy as a musket, a carbine (shorter barrel, often around 19”) and a rifle with a barrel up to 24 ¼”.

Some 150,000 Yellow Boys were produced from 1867 to 1892-93. The carbine version of the 1866 Yellowboy was a hit worldwide. Chief Sitting Bull had one; the forces of Benito Juarez used the rifles in Mexico; the Turkish Army used the new Winchester Yellowboy against the Russians; and settlers in the U.S. bought thousands for frontier use. Based on its popularity and performance, the “Yellow Boy” earned the title of “the gun that won the west.”

The Yellow Boy’s popularity with Native Americans as well as the general shooting public continued its production well after the introduction of the more powerful Model 1873 Winchester began.

The Yellow Boy is still popular in Hollywood. The Yellow Boy appeared in many of the Spaghetti Westerns, and, more recently, TomChaney (Josh Brolin) carried one in the new release of True Grit.

Winchester chambered it for the .44 Henry Flat round, or a flat nosed bullet. Though it didn’t have a lot of power for a rifle, the Henry Flat had already been proven in combat.  The Flat was a rimfire cartridge, which means the hammer strikes the rim of the cartridge, not the center. It wasn’t until near the end of production–when the 1876 Centennial Rifle was being produced–that Winchester developed a .44 center-fire cartridge for the 1866 rifle.

Here’s a tidbit that might come in useful in your plot – No dust covers were used on the 1866.  This did permit dust and other debris to enter the action, which meant misfiring or not firing at all–which can put the shooter in a real tight spot.

Next time — the gun that started it all: The Henry Repeating Rifle.

Susan Marlow Stakes Out a Spot


Hello Darlings,

Miss Susan Marlow has staked out a spot in the Junction for her visit on Saturday.

The Fillies are always glad to have Miss Susan come to chat a while. This go ’round Miss Susan will talk about the history of the county fair. Lord have mercy, I didn’t know it started in the 1700’s! It’s been around for a long spell. She’ll tell us about some interesting facts.

And Miss Susan is giving away a copy of her new children’s book called ANDI’S FAIR SURPRISE. You’ll want to get your name in the hat for that.

So don’t hang back all shy-like. Saddle up on Saturday and ride our way.

Western Movies for 2011–Old, New and Alien

Which TV westerns would you like to see made into movies?  There’s one in the works that I just found out about. I saved that info for last, because this blog started out on movie westerns for 2011, a mix of cross-genre and traditional approaches that says a lot about the changes in our culture.

To me, the most interesting mash-up is Cowboy’s and Aliens, maybe because my husband is a big Sci-Fi fan.  The bigger the monster, the better.  You can’t have too many giant ants crawling toward your hometown. Neither can you have too many zombies threatening to take over every person on Planet Earth.  I thought of him when I was googling stuff for a recent blog. A movie poster came up for Cowboys and Aliens.  I thought it was hilarious.  Surely someone was joking . . .


The movie comes out in July 2011 and it stars Daniel Craig, my favorite James Bond by far. It also stars Olivia Wilde and Harrison Ford, who is forever etched in my mind as Han Solo, space cowboy extraordinaire. The idea originated as a 2006 graphic novel. Created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Voley, Cowboys and Aliens mixes the western and science fiction genres.          

 Here’s the write up from IMDB:  “A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way.” I love this!  My husband won’t be able to resist the alien spaceship, and I’m on board with the cowboys.

Cowboys and Aliens isn’t the only cross-genre western to be in the movie theaters.  Has anyone seen Rango?  It’s out now, and I confess I haven’t seen it. Johnny Depp is the voice of Rango, a chameleon who ends up in the town of Dirt.  There he meets a community of desert creatures in need of a sheriff. The story is full of classic western-isms.  A bank gets robbed. Someone cuts off the water to the town.  A grizzled old cowboy gives Rango much needed advice and wisdom. And, for course, there’s a duel.

Rango is a western . . . it’s also a cartoon and an alternative reality story.  What an interesting mix!

I’m pretty much a purist when it comes to western movies.  True Grit (both the old and the new) is more my style, but I’m excited about these cross-genre movies. Not only are they crossing lines in terms of “story,” they’re crossing into places where westerns will find new  fans.  Both movies will have video games, and Rango is bound to make a splash with children.

It all bodes well for the western genre.  But I’m most curious to see is what it does to western traditions.  I can’t help but think of Gene Autry’s “Cowboy’s Code.”  I hope the new movies reflect those values, because that’s what makes the western genre great.

I just did some more googling and found something else.  It looks like The Big Valley is coming to the big screen with a story about Heath, the Barkley son played by Lee Majors. Filming is on hiatus, but it’s supposed to be finished this year. With Lee Majors (as Tom Barkley, the father) and  Aidan Quinn (not as Heath, but he’s the lead), I’m all for it!

 Has anyone seen Rango?  Who else is eager to see Cowboys and Aliens? Any thoughts on The Big Valley?  All this movie talk, and now I’m in the mood for popcorn!


What has made our heroine into the person she became for the purposes of our story?  What occurrences in her life have shaped her personality?  And how do we decide on the balance between what we, as the writer know about our heroine vs. what the reader needs to know?

Obviously, we don’t have room to tell the reader all that we, the writer must know about her.  Nor would the reader be as enthralled with that deluge of information as we are.  It’s not necessary for the reader to know every single thing—yet, as writers, one of the hardest parts of creating believable characters is giving them a past, and knowing how much of that history we need to go into.

In my novel, Fire Eyes, one thing we learn about the heroine, Jessica, is that she married young.  She thought she was marrying for love, but as it turned out, she grew to understand that she was not in love with Billy, nor he with her—at least, not in the way she had always dreamed of.  This is a huge issue with her after Billy dies.  She tells Kaed, “The next time I marry, it will be for love.”  This shows how much it means to her, because her existence as a single mother is not easy, and the threat of Fallon is still there.

There are many reasons for her to hold onto that dream so tenaciously, but I didn’t have room to talk about in the novel. Her life before Billy was not easy, and marrying Billy was just the ‘icing on the cake.’  But rather than me tell you about Jessica, how about letting her describe her background to you? 

My name was Jessica Lea Beckley.  That was before I married Billy Monroe, when I was only seventeen.  I thought I was in love with Billy.  He was handsome in his own way.  I was glad when he started courting me, because he was the only boy my father seemed to like.  Once he started coming around, it seemed like word got out we were ‘a couple’—and the other boys quit coming by.


That suited Pa just fine though.  I was the only girl in a family of boys—four older brothers and one younger.  My ma died when Mitch was born, and somehow, Pa always seemed to blame him for it.  I had to come between them many, many times.  Pa was always heavy-handed.  Mitch was determined to prove to Pa that he was worthy.  He ran off when he was sixteen.  Said he wanted to be a marshal.  We never heard from him again.  I missed Mitch more than my other brothers.  He was always special to me.  But Mitch is dead now, killed by Andrew Fallon’s men.


They killed my husband, Billy, too.  I did what I could to save him, but he was just hurt too bad.  Most of what I did was just making him comfortable as he slipped away.  It took him two long days.   Even though I didn’t love him, I was sorry for not being able to save him.  Something really sad was this.  Billy never wanted to be touched—he wanted to do all the touching—what little of it there was between us.  How I would yearn for him to just hold me sometimes!  But it wasn’t in him.  Still, just before he died, he opened his eyes a little and said, “Jessica, would you please just hold my hand awhile?”  Even then, I knew I couldn’t touch him the way I wanted to—just pull him close and hold him.  I took his hand in mine, and he smiled.  It wasn’t long after that, he passed.


Somebody had to bury him, and there was no one but me to do it.  Me, two months gone with our baby. But I lost it, too, when I buried Billy. Nearly died myself, from bleeding, but my good friend Rita, and her husband, Wayne, took me in and cared for me.


In an odd twist of fate, after Rita had her baby girl, she was bitten by a copperhead a few weeks later.  Wayne waited too long to come for help, and Rita passed.  If Wayne had come sooner, I might have saved her.  I think he knew it, too.  Not long after that, he asked me to marry him.  It made sense, me with no husband, him with no wife and trying to care for little Lexi.  But I didn’t love him, and he didn’t love me.  I had to keep true to my promise I made myself, to only marry for love.  A few days later, he showed up at my door with the baby, asking me to take her.  I felt sorry for Wayne, but I was glad to see him go.  Gladder, still, that he left me precious Lexi.


It was good to leave home.  Sometimes I think my pa just wanted me there to cook and clean.  I wanted my independence, and maybe I saw Billy as my ticket out of there.  I’ve never been back, even though it’s less than a day’s ride from here.  Pa was a hard man to deal with, and I was glad to see my older brothers marry and leave, one by one, too.


I’ve always felt bad about not saving Rita and Billy.  I’m a healer.  Had to learn that, being raised as I was with all those boys. They were always getting hurt somehow.  I believe things happen for a reason, though.  If I hadn’t gone through those hard years of growing up where I did, I wouldn’t have been able to save Kaed Turner when Standing Bear dumped him on my porch.  He was hurt worse than Billy, but he had more to live for.  I wasn’t enough for Billy, but to Kaed, I was everything.


Remember when I said that I wouldn’t marry again except for love?  Kaed’s the best man I’ve ever known.  When I look at him, I see love in his eyes—for me—every time.  But more than just the love, I see understanding.  And that’s just as important, I’ve learned, because, love can be many things to many people.  Kaedon Turner knows my soul as well as my heart. We’ve both suffered loss and despair.  But now, we have each other. And when he says, “It’ll come out all right,” I know it’s true.


And now, you know what I knew when I created Jessica Monroe Turner.  A lot goes into making up a heroine’s personality–a lot that the writer must know about her.  This knowledge makes the heroine a well-rounded person to the reader, although you, as the writer, might not be able to include everything.  Still, snippets of conversation and insights will provide for a deeper look into the heroine’s character.  What about your heroines?  How did you manage to convey their backstory to the reader?

To order Fire Eyes or any other Cheryl Pierson short story or novel, visit Amazon at the link below:

Book Tours — A Thing of the Past?

With the invention of social networks, along with the closing of many of our major bookstore chains (Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, Crown, BookStar), it seems as though live tours might become a thing of the past.  Interestingly, these past 18 years as a writer has seen me doing tours around the country as I promote my latest book.  But again, with more and more bookstores closing, and with more attention swinging to ebooks, the book tour (physical book tours — where one visits stores all across the country) might become a thing of the past.

If this is to be, I thought I’d take this opportunity to take you on the last tour with me.  So here we go…

My last book tour was last year in April 2010.  This time I did the tour locally (often I travel all over the country), and I was promoting my newest release, SENECA SURRENDER, as well as last year’s release, BLACK EAGLE.

The tour began really with a drive out to the Hemet area, where I signed all different kinds of my books (back titles as well as newer titles) and donated many books to the Walk for Cancer Cure.  To the right and below are some pictures of that event.  Heather Bennet put the entire event in order and Heather is here with me in the picture to our immediate right.

To the left here is a picture of a romance readers group that meets at a Barnes & Noble in the Redondo Beach area.   Next to the left is a picture of the signing done at a Barnes & Noble in the Manhattan Beach area.  Directly below here in the middle is a picture taken at the booksigning at the Orange County Romance Writers meeting…always a favorite of mine.  Interestingly to the left is a picture taken on the day when I was blogging at Coffee Time Romance.  Now, these networking places I do believe are going to take over the physical demands of touring in person.  However, for me something is lost in the change over.  I have loved going on tour because it give me a chance to meet readers face to face.  But I digress.  To the right here is a picture taken at Cameron Books in Hemet.  To the right in the picture is another picture of Heather Bennet, who kindly showed up at the bookstore, bringing friend, Melissa Keith, with her.  To the left here and below is a picture taken with two customers at Russo’s Bookstore in Bakersfield.  And to the left is another picture taken at the same store.  This was a wonderful booksigning, by the way, though I did have to drive somewhat of a distance to go to it.

To the left here is a relaxing moment at home after the booksigning.  Probably what might not be talked about very much is how draining booksignings can be — I’ve never understood quite why.  All I know is that the touring tends to make me quite tired — and for that first month that the book is out, the signings are all important. 

To the left here is a picture of the booksigning that took place at the Romance Writers Meeting for the Los Angeles Chapter.  By the way, unfortunately this wonderful bookstore (Barnes & Noble) has just closed, sad to say.

Just below that picture and more directly to our right is a picture taken at the booksigning at Sunshine Books in Cerritos.  I love this bookstore.

To the left here is a picture taken of another author’s booksigning that I attended right in the middle of my own tour.  I loved her book, by the way and her name is Catherine Bybee.

Off to the left here is a picture taken at a beautiful bookstore in La Quinta.  This was really a discussion group and was one of the most fun times I’d had during the tour.

The tour ended with a booksigning/lecture in Second Life.  Off to the left here is “me” in Second Life — now this I found interesting — as it was a sort of “live” booksigning and yet it was online and conducted via an avatar.  Sometimes I can’t believe I learned how to do this.  It was challenging for me (cause I’m not all that computer lit), but thanks to Denise Fleischer, it was really fun!  Off to the right here and below is a picture snapped at a Booksigning in San Diego at the Borders there.

To the left and below is another picture of “me” or rather my avatar as I did the booksigning on Second Life.

I do believe that we’ll be seeing more and more “tours” online in the future.  But I’m hoping that the days of the life book tours don’t ever end.  There is something very exciting and special about meeting your readers face to face.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of a tour.  I had hoped to memorialize it on this blog.  Now, I should tell you all that I will be on the road all day on Tuesday and won’t be anywhere close to a computer.  Hopefully, when my traveling settles down, we’ll go back to the regular blogs where I’m able to do give aways — but for now, please bear with me.  This Tuesday is a full traveling day for me.  I will be reading and responding to all your posts as soon as I’m able, so please come on in and tell me what you think of touring.  Do you prefer life tours — meeting the author face to face?  Or do you prefer online tours?  Come on in and leave me your thoughts.

The First Western Movie Star

129 years ago today Maxwell Henry Aronson was born.  Max eventually changed his name to Gilbert M. Anderson, but you would probably know him better by the name of the character he played in over 300 films – Broncho Billy.

Anderson was a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  He drifted into acting, working first as a photographer’s model and newspaper vendor before moving into work as a vaudeville performer.  In 1903 Anderson landed a role in The Great Train Robbery by claiming he could ride a horse like a Texas Ranger.  When it turned out he could hardly climb onto a saddle, he was demoted to ‘extra’ and ended up playing several minor parts in the film.  The resulting 10 minute movie found an enthusiastic reception from the general public, and Anderson was hooked.  He decided to make his career in the fledgling moving picture business.

Anderson formed a partnership with old friend George Spoor and together they created the Essanay Company (the name is a play on the first letter of each of their last names “S and A”).  This company was destined to become one of the early film industry’s predominant studios. 

At first Essanay made comedies, but Anderson couldn’t forget the success of The Great Train Robbery and soon he focused on Westerns.  But where Anderson really differentiated himself, is that he was one of the first to realize that the public needed a ‘star’ to latch on to, a central character they could really focus on.  But at that time (1909) the big names of the stage were reluctant to risk their careers on the new medium of film.  So Anderson decided to take on that star role himself, creating the character of Broncho Billy from ideas he collected for the most part from popular dime novels.  Anderson wrote and directed most of the movies himself and within five years he had filmed over 300 one or two reel movies featuring his new character.  Most of these films were distributed simultaneously in the U.S. and Great Britain.  And while Anderson was not especially dashing, audiences liked Broncho Billy for his bravery and virtue.  As a side note, Essanay studios also filmed many Charlie Chaplin shorts, including The Little Tramp.

In 1915 , Anderson’s final film in the Broncho Billy series, Broncho Billy’s Sentence, was released.  He turned to writing for a while and then later attempted a comeback.  But by then more dashing actors such as William S. Hart and Tom Mix had taken over the hearts of film viewers.  So he made comedies for a while before finally retiring from film.

Some of the milestones in his later years:

  • 1958 – Received an honorary Oscar as a “motion picture pioneer, for his contributions to the development of motion pictures as entertainment.”
  • 1965  – he made a cameo appearance at age 85  in a modern Hollywood Western called The Bounty Killer, his first talking picture.
  • 1998 – posthumously honored with his image on a U.S. postage stamp.
  • 2002 – posthumously inducted into the National Cowboy Hall Of Fame
  • Anderson also has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

Gilbert Anderson died in his sleep in 1971 at the age of 90 at a sanitarium in South Pasadena, Ca.  He was cremated and his ashes were placed in a vault at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.

Western Movie Couples by Stacey Coverstone

Throughout movie history, sexual chemistry has made the screen sizzle and pop whenever the right two stars are cast together.  This chemistry, combined with realism and believability, makes for a romantic memory that will stay with the viewer long after the movie is over.

We all have our favorite romantic onscreen couples.  Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh carved their place in film history as the roguish Rhett Butler and Southern minx, Scarlett O’Hara.  In a contemporary cinema favorite, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan revived old-fashioned romance in Sleepless in Seattle when their characters finally meet on top of the Empire State building.

 There are many examples of romantic couples in classic and contemporary movies, but what about in the western genre?  As a western romance author, I started thinking about the romantic relationships featured in my favorite western movies and realized there are many.   Here are my top ten most romantic couples found in western movies:

 10.  Alejandro Murrieta/Zorro (Antonio Banderas) and Elena Montero (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in The Mask of Zorro.  Most romantic scene: Zorro enters the barn and is surprised by Elena, who challenges him to a fencing duel while dressed in her underwear. They rip each other’s clothes as they battle wits with their swords.  He plants a big kiss on her and asks, “Do you surrender?”  “Never,” she answers.  When he slices her clothes and they fall off, they kiss again and Zorro leaves Elena in a love daze.


9.  Monte Walsh (Tom Selleck) and Martine (Isabella Rossellini) in Monte Walsh.  Most romantic scene:  Monte knocks on Martine’s door after being months away on the range. Her smile widens.  “You need a haircut,” she says.  “I didn’t want to waste any time,” he replies. While kissing her passionately, Monte sweeps Martine into his arms and carries her to the bed.

8.  Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) and Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo) in Quigley Down Under.   Most romantic scene: Matthew rides away on his horse, leaving Cora behind, and then stops at the top of the hill and looks back at her with his hand thrown over the saddle horn. You need to watch the movie to understand why this simple gesture represents romance of the purest kind.

 7.  Conn Conagher (Sam Elliott) and Evie Teale (Katherine Ross) in Conagher.  Most romantic scene: Evie walks through the swinging saloon doors to find Conn beat up.  “Mr. Conagher, I think you should come home now,” she says.  Showing her one of the notes he’s found stuck in tumbleweed, he asks if she wrote it.  “I was lonely,” she admits.  “I had to write someone.  There was no one.”  Conn replies, “There was, Evie.  There was me.” They kiss, and it’s the perfect Happy Ever After ending.

6.  Joseph Donnelly (Tom Cruise) and Shannon Christie (Nicole Kidman) in Far and Away.  Most romantic scene: Joseph and Shannon have been thrown out of the boarding house. It’s winter and they are walking the streets, starving.  They enter a grand house and pretend the home is theirs, they are married, and they love one another.  As the snow falls outside the window, they share their first kiss.

 5. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) and Stands With Fist (Mary McDonnell) in Dances With Wolves.  Most romantic scene:  Stands With Fist boldly enters Dunbar’s tipi.  It’s dark, but the fire is glowing.  She stands in front of him and her deerskin dress slides off her shoulders and falls to the ground to reveal she is naked. No words are spoken as he takes her in his arms and lays her down.

 4.  Lewis Gates (Tom Berenger) and Lillian Sloan (Barbara Hershey) in The Last of the Dogmen.  Most romantic scene:  Lillian tells Lewis she’s staying with the tribe.  “What would you say to a goodbye kiss?” he asks.  She replies, “I’d say it’s about time.”  After he gives her a peck, she complains, “You call that a kiss?” and lays a big one on him. Lewis rides off on his horse, only to stop and gallop back. He jumps off his horse, grabs Lillian and kisses her passionately.

 3.  Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) and Pilar (Elizabeth Pena) in Lone Star.  Most romantic scene: Pilar finds her childhood sweetheart, Sam, waiting for her outside in his car and tells him to follow her.  It’s late.  They go to her mother’s closed diner and slow dance in the dark to a Mexican song Pilar selects from the jukebox.  “The other day you asked why I came back,” Sam whispers to Pilar.  “I came back because you were here.”  Chris Cooper plays a man burning with desire for his woman, which is why this scene ranks #3 in my romantic picks.

2.  Johnny Gault (Tim Daly) and Rebecca Yoder (Naomi Watts) in The Outsider.  Most romantic scene:  Johnny rides up to the cabin on his horse to tell Rebecca the boys are already in the field.  “I know,” she says.  “I sent them there.”  She takes his hand and leads him inside to her bedroom.  This love scene is so beautiful, with him gently removing her cap and dress, and her taking off his gun belt and lightly touching the scars on his back. The fact that Johnny is a hardened gunfighter and Rebecca is the sweet member of a strict religious sect makes their forbidden love even more intoxicating.  Plus, Tim Daly is really hot in this role!

1.  Drover (Hugh Jackman) and Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) in Australia. This romantic couple rates #1 for me because their chemistry sets the screen on fire from the moment they meet.  Most romantic scene:  There are so many romantic scenes between these actors in this movie, but one of my favorites is when Drover surprises Sarah by showing up at the ball, looking so handsome, clean-shaven and in a white dinner jacket, and they end up kissing in the rain.

 Who are your favorite romantic onscreen couples?

Stacy is giving away one ebook to one lucky commenter, winner’s choice of her novels which can be found at  Stacey is an Honorable Mention Winner for 2010 Best Western Romance and a CAPA Nominee for 2010 Best Historical Romance.

Say Cabbage!

 Stories that Inspire…


Margaret Brownley



Sage advice for photographers from…


A Vision of Lucy

(Available for preorder)     


  • When photographing stampeding cattle, charging bulls or blazing   shoot-outs, use a fast shutter speed

  • Brides, take pity on your photographer.  Matthew S. Brady and his helpers were able to record the entire War Between the States with little more than 1100 photographs.  Half that number should satisfy most brides.

  • Doctors, do not look at the camera like it’s a patient needing help through death’s door.  Such a pose will speak ill of you, and it won’t do much for your practice, either. 

  • A man imagines himself more handsome than his photograph; a woman believes herself more homely.

  • While posing for a photograph spinsters should avoid looking desperate or deprived.  A serene smile will show that your circumstances are by choice and not for lack of beauty or character.


I loved writing about old time photography and have nothing but awe for the brave souls who first took camera in hand.  It wasn’t just men who battled unwieldy equipment and exploding chemicals in the name of art.  Women were also photographers and a few even made a name for themselves.  It was these early female photographers who  gave me the inspiration for the heroine of my book, Lucy Fairbanks. 


Cameras and Babies: an Odd Combination

 Since female occupations were not listed on the census until 1870, it’s hard to know how many professional women photographers existed in America before that time. We do know, however, that some, like Julia Shannon of San Francisco, owned their own studios as early as 1850.  Julia took the family portrait to new heights when she shockingly advertised herself as a daguerreotypist and midwife. No one appeared to be shocked when male barbers and blacksmiths offered photographs with their other services. 


Women had an advantage over male photographers, who were often confounded by female dress. This explains why one photographer advertised in 1861 for an assistant, “Who Understands the Hairdressing Business.”  Women also had a few tricks up their leg of mutton sleeves—or rather their skirts.  Elizabeth Withington invented a “dark thick dress skirt” to use as a developing tent when she traveled.   


Those cheerless faces in early photographs were partly due to vices that held heads still for long periods of time, but that wasn’t the only reason.  A tightly controlled mouth was once considered a thing of beauty.  In her essay “Why We say ‘Cheese’: Producing the Smile in Snapshot Photography,” Christina Kotchemidova, an Assistant Professor in Mass Communication at Spring Hill College, wrote that photography was once the domain of the rich. Smiles were worn only by peasants, children and drunks.  She then goes on to explain that fast shutter speed, dental care and cultural changes began a process of “mouth liberalization.”


Photographers used all sorts of devices to hold a client’s interest.  One even had a trained monkey. Another photographer had a canary that sang on command.  Mechanical birds were a favorite gimmick and “Watch the birdie” became a familiar refrain in studios across the country.


                                                        What Will it Be?        Prunes or Cabbage?

Magazines and newspaper ran ample advice for posing.  An 1877 edition of The Chicago Inter-Ocean advised women with large mouths to say the word “Flip,” although one photographer preferred the word “Prunes.” If a small mouth was the problem the word “Cabbage” would make it appear larger. And, yes, some photographers really did give children laudanum or chloroform to keep them still.


Not everyone was enamored with cameras.  One dog owner put up a sign warning “photographers and other tramps to stay away” after his dog had an unfortunate run-in with a tripod.


Did photography have a bearing on the suffragette movement?  Indeed, it did, but it appeared to be more of a detriment than a help.  The photographs of militant suffragettes or women dressed in bloomers did more harm than good,  If you think America was tough on suffragettes, think again. The women’s rights movement was considered the biggest threat to the British Empire.  According to the National Archives the votes-for-women movement became the first “terrorist” organization subjected to secret surveillance photography in the world. 


Photography has come a long way since those early daguerreotype days.  One can only imagine what the brave souls of yesteryear would think of today’s “aim and click” cameras.  Now days you can’t even drive down the street without having your picture taken. But as Miss Gertrude Hasslebrink in A Vision of Lucy would say, “Never leave the house unless you’re ready for your close up.”


Meet the Ladies of Rocky Creek

                                      A Lady Like Sarah                                             



Suitor for Jenny


A Vision of Lucy

Stacey Coverstone: Saturday’s Guest


Hello Darlings,

Miss Stacey Coverstone is next up in our list of guests. Unless I’m mistaken this is her first time to visit.

The dear lady has an interesting subject in mind: onscreen movie kisses. She lists her top ten and believe it or not she mentions some of my favorites. I bet she’ll also have some of yours on her list.

Miss Stacey will give away an e-copy of her new book called LUCKY IN LOVE.

So walk, run, or hitch a ride on Saturday.

Just be sure you make it to the Junction!

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