Did you know that the American Valentine greeting card business was started by a woman in 1847? Not only that, but she ran her extremely profitable business out of her home and employed other women in assembly-line craftsmanship years before Henry Ford made the business model famous.
Esther Howland was a college-educated woman who also happened to be the daughter of a stationer and bookseller. The year she graduated from the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1847, she received an English Valentine from one of her father’s associates. At this time, such cards were imported from Europe and very expensive. They would only be available for the wealthy elite. Yet, as she looked at this card, her entrepreneurial mind saw possibilities. Have you ever found something in a store with an outrageous price tag and thought, “I could make that for a fraction of the cost”? Well, Esther not only had that thought, but she created a business plan.
She asked her father to order lace paper, paper flowers, and other supplies from Europe, then she set about creating her own designs. When she had a dozen, she presented them to her brother who reluctantly agreed to take them with him on his next sales trip. She hoped to receive perhaps $200 worth of orders. She received $5,000!
She dedicated a room in her home as her manufacturing shop, recruited her friends to help, and got to work. She would create the patterns for each piece of the valentine, then pass them off to the other girls to duplicate. Each one would be in charge of a certain piece of the multi-layered card. By 1849, the assembly line had been perfected and her business was born. She began to advertise and eventually expanded into the Christmas and birthday card market as well. Her basic cards sold for five cents. Her more elaborate designs containing hidden doors, ribbon trimmings, and gilded lace would sell for as much as one dollar.
In 1870, she incorporated the New England Valentine Company, but she continued running the business out of her home until 1879 when she moved it into a factory. She even allowed customized verse. All of her cards included four lines of poetic verse. However, if you fell in love with a particular card design but didn’t care for the verse, you could purchase The New England Valentine Co.’s Valentine Verse Book and simply cut one you like better from the 131 available in the book and paste it over the verse that didn’t suit. Clever woman!
********** GIVEAWAY **********
In honor of Valentine’s Day and clever women who create romantic masterpieces, I’d like to invite you to a Facebook party and offer a chance to win one of three fantastic Valentine prizes.
Sixteen fabulous historical authors are coming together to celebrate romance on Feb 13-14. We’ll be chatting live with readers during this party, and I’d love to see you there. My time slot is
7:00 pm CST on Feb 14th.
Americans didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day as we know it until the mid-1800s. By 1856, the practice of sending somewhat sappy cards had become so widespread that newspapers began to call the blossoming tradition a “social disease.” Conservative elements in society tried to stamp out the celebration because they considered such unvarnished expression of fondness evidence of “moral deterioration.” The February 1856 edition of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine included a cartoon depicting card-giving as crass and self-indulgent.
A “window” valentine, ca. 1864. Such cards were called window valentines because front flaps opened to reveal a hidden message or image.
A scant five years later, as the Civil War began, Valentine’s Day took on new significance. Cards often depicted sweethearts parting. Many incorporated flaps that opened to reveal soldiers standing in tents or couples at the altar. Some included a lock of the giver’s hair.
In addition to cards, songs of love and loss became popular with Civil War soldiers on the battlefields. At night, encamped on opposite sides of imaginary lines only hundreds of yards apart, men wearing blue and men wearing gray sang as one. Some of the songs were meant to keep sweet memories alive; many mourned happiness never to be.
The following are a few of the most popular love songs of the Civil War.
The Yellow Rose of Texas
A popular marching tune all over the Confederacy, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” dates to the state’s early colonial period. The first known transcribed version — handwritten on a piece of plain paper — appeared around the time of the Texian victory at San Jacinto in April 1836. In its original form, the song tells the story of a black man who has been separated from his sweetheart and longs to reunite with her. This YouTube video contains the modified version Texas troops actually sang during the Civil War, complete with references to “Bobby Lee” and Hood’s Texas Brigade…with one exception. By the time of the war, the phrase “sweetest rose of color” had been replaced with “little flower” in order not to imply white soldiers were pining for a mulatto woman.
“Aura Lea” (also spelled “Aura Lee”)
Most people today recognize the melody to “Aura Lea” as “Love Me Tender,” which became an instant hit when Elvis Presley sang the song during his first appearance on the big screen in the 1956 movie of the same name. The original, composed in 1861 by W. W. Fosdick (words) and George R. Poulton (music), is one of the happier songs of the era. Nevertheless, this song and “Lorena” (below) were banned in some camps because they tended to provoke desertion, especially among Confederates from 1863 forward.
The Rev. Henry D. L. Webster wrote the words to one of the most popular love songs of the Civil War in 1856 after his intended broke off their engagement. His friend Joseph Philbrick Webster composed the music. Western Writers of America listed “Lorena” as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time; an instrumental version appears in the iconic film Gone with the Wind.
Credit for the lyrics has been given to Marie Ravenal de la Costa and the melody to John Hill Hewett, though the story behind the song may be apocryphal. The version most generally accepted is that, in 1862, Miss de la Costa penned the words in the Atlanta church where she had gone to pray after receiving word of her fiancé’s death on the battlefield. She left the handwritten lyrics behind. One of the saddest songs of the period, “Somebody’s Darling” was as popular in the North as it was in its native South.
When I Saw Sweet Nellie Home
Also known as “Seeing Nellie Home” and “Aunt Dinah’s Quilting Party,” the original was composed by John Fletcher (music) and Frances Kyle (words) in 1859. In 1861, Otto W. Ludwig changed the words to create the strident Union ballad “Courage, Mother, I Am Going,” about a young man who believes he won’t return from a war he is morally obligated to fight. Needless to say, Confederates sang the original. The Union version faded into obscurity after the war.
Published by Stephen Foster in 1848, “Oh! Susanna” was popular with both bluebellies and graybacks, who viewed the words through entirely different cultural lenses. This version contains the original second verse, which is controversial (and potentially offensive) because of the language.
My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night
Published by Stephen Foster in 1853, “My Old Kentucky Home” speaks of love for home and family. The song became enormously popular with both armies during the Civil War—which was odd in the case of the Confederacy, because Foster’s notes on the original handwritten sheet music clearly indicate he intended the song to be an abolitionist anthem inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. (Foster was a staunch abolitionist.)
Just Before the Battle, Mother
One of the saddest Civil War favorites speaks of love not for a sweetheart, but for a young’s man’s mother. With words and music (1862) by George F. Root, “Just Before the Battle, Mother” was strictly a Union song. (The lead-in on this version, performed by the 97th Regimental String Band, is long. The words start just before the one-minute mark.)
The Picture on the Wall
A sad song more popular among the folks at home than soldiers on the battlefield (for obvious reasons), Henry Clay Work’s “The Picture on the Wall” (1864) is almost unknown today. During the Civil War, it expressed tremendous grief about the loss of both sweethearts and sons.
Annie Laurie (also spelled “Annie Lawry”)
Brought to America from Scotland around 1832, authorship of the song is unknown. By the time of the Civil War, the words had changed from the original Scottish. Because the song was so well known, it was one of the most often sung across the lines, despite — or perhaps because of — the haunting chorus: “For bonnie Annie Laurie, I’d lay me down and die.”
Composed in 1863 by Mrs. Parkhurst, the tune to “Sweet Evelina” is spritely even though the words come from the point of view of a young man fated never to marry the beautiful girl he loves. The song was incredibly popular among soldiers on both sides during the war but had all but disappeared by 1900.
Listen to the Mockingbird
Septimus Winner, using the name Alice Hawthorne, wrote the words to “Listen to the Mockingbird” in 1855 and set them to music composed by a guitarist friend. Despite the upbeat melody, the song tells the story of a man’s love for a young woman who has died. The tune was popular with both Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs. As an aside: In 1862, Winner was arrested and charged with treason after he published “Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, the People’s Pride.” The song protested Lincoln’s firing of Gen. George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Federal authorities released Winner only after he promised to destroy all remaining copies of the sheet music…but calling back the 80,000 copies that sold in the first two days after the song’s publication proved impossible. (McClellan was an exceptionally popular man.)
An excellent album called Songs of the Civil War contains renditions of some of these songs by artists including The United States Military Academy Band, Waylon Jennings, Richie Havens, Hoyt Axton, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Kathy Mattea, and Jay Ungar and Molly Mason (of “Ashokan Farewell” fame). It’s available from Amazon on CD and audiocassette, as well as in MP3 format and via Amazon’s PrimeMusic.
Powerful emotion breeds enduring art of all kinds. As heart-stirring as some of the music, poetry, paintings, fiction, and other art forms of the mid-1800s, let’s hope we don’t see another such prolific period for a similar reason ever again.
And speaking of Valentine’s Day…
Prairie Rose Publications is offering a token of its love to readers all week: Fourteen free novels, anthologies, and boxed sets. Who doesn’t love free? Let me tell you something: There are a passel of hunky heroes in that herd I’d love to snuggle up to on Valentine’s Day or any other day. Fourteen more novels, boxed sets, and anthologies have been discounted to 99 cents.
Y’all can find a list of the books here. Go take look if you’re of a mind to spend some time lost in love with sigh-worthy heroes and feisty heroines.
I’m waxing nostalgic today, pining for the days of yesteryear when good westerns were on practically every night of the week! Today, I thought I’d remember my favorite of them all, the western television series LANCER. It’s one of those shows that didn’t last long enough, and still has many, many followers in the fan fiction world who continue to write stories using these characters in just about every scenario you can imagine. If you’ve never explored fan fiction, it’s pretty amazing, and there’s a fan fiction group for virtually every movie and TV series that ever came down the pike.
Here’s a bit about Lancer, which was then, and still is, my favorite tv western ever—and that’s saying a lot, since I was a diehard western fan from a very early age.
But what can be more exciting to a pre-teen girl than an action–packed tv western with two handsome hunky guys and a ton of family angst? The answer is…not one thing. I was glued to the tv screen every week when Lancer took off, and it was a very, very sad day when they cancelled it.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it, in a nutshell, just so you can get the gist of the series:
Duggan stars as the less than admirable Murdoch Lancer, the patriarch of the Lancer family. Stacy appears as half-Mexican gunslinger Johnny Madrid Lancer. Wayne Maunder was cast as Scott Lancer, the educated older son (though he is younger than Stacy) and a veteran of the Union Army, in contrast to Stacy’s role of former gunslinger. Paul Brinegar also appeared as Jelly Hoskins, a series regular from season two after making a one off guest appearance during the first season. Elizabeth Baur (who later replaced Barbara Anderson in ‘Ironside’ from season five to eight) also was a series regular cast member as Murdoch Lancer’s ward Teresa O’Brien.
Pretty impressive! With the regular cast and the very solid and vivid portrayals each of them gave of their characters, and the stellar roster of guest stars, what’s not to love? I was eleven when LANCER made its appearance, and I thought I had never seen anyone as “cute” as half brothers Johnny and Scott Lancer. But “cuteness” was not what held my interest.
As the storyline went, Scott’s wealthy mother took him back to Boston, and he was raised as a moneyed gentleman. He served in the Civil War. Johnny’s story was different. His mother took him south of the border, to the territory she was most familiar with, and he was raised in border towns. Life was tough for him, being half white, and as we say here, “the boy run into some trouble.” So much trouble, in fact, that the Pinkerton man Murdoch Lancer sent to find him barely got there in the nick of time, as Johnny was facing a firing squad.
Murdoch offered his sons “listening money”—to come meet him, hear what he had to offer them, and then stay, or walk away. Of course, both Johnny and Scott decide to stay after this stormy encounter.
The mix of the characters, with Johnny having fended for himself most of his life, earning his living as a fast gun, and Scott being raised with everything money could buy, added to every plot and their general interaction. Scott had known hard times too, during the War, and he had to remind his younger brother of that from time to time. But their growing relationship as brothers, and the respect that they had for one another – and in time, for their father, was what made the show special. Growth of the characters and the way that growth was portrayed kept me glued to the screen week after week—though I couldn’t have told you that’s what it was at that age.
The show is not in syndication here in the States, at last check, but don’t despair! Here’s a link where you can catch season one, at least!
Johnny Lancer has been a “main character” in my imagination from the time I first saw the show. He’d lived a hard life, done some bad things, but was trying to make amends and have the life with a true family that he’d always wanted…and a place to belong. He was the youngest in his family, and so was I. His character portrayal resonated with audiences everywhere, so it was quite a surprise to learn that it was being canceled. Yet, today, there are still people who love the show and get together online to chat about it and the characters, and write more stories about them—many of which would make fantastic Lancer episodes if the show was still being written.
Do you have a memory of Lancer? Please share if you do! And if you don’t—don’t hesitate to click that link above and see what you missed!
What was YOUR favorite tv western from days gone by?
I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers who settled in Texas and Oklahoma after the Civil War. Since all my ancestors had big families not much was passed down to me.
But I have one metal music box that plays ‘Here Comes the Bride.’ I’ve always loved it. When I’m holding it, I can almost feel my grandmother’s hands around mine when she used to show it to me.
In researching my keepsake I discovered that the song was part of an 1850 Wagner opera called Lohengrin. The irony is that in the opera, the ‘Bridal Chorus’ is sung as the bride and groom enter the bridal chamber and the wedding party prepares them for their first night together.
I don’t really care about the opera, I just love holding it because I feel like I’m somehow touching base with those who came before. Maybe it’s because they didn’t have much that the few things that made it down to great-granddaughters like me are treasured so dearly. [The cookie “rustler” I caught (right) is another generation learning to love their own past.]
In the new series I’m working on, RANSOM CANYON, I keep turning back to family heirlooms and memories. The second story in this new series, RUSTLER’S MOON, centers around a necklace, handed down for generations.
This story is about learning to trust in love and I hope you’ll fall in love with the people in Crossroads, Texas, like I have.
One old man in this story touched my heart. He’s long retired and comes to Ransom Canyon every summer to search for a memory from his childhood. You’re going to love Carter.
Thank you all for joining me in this journey into modern day ranching and living in a small town. As we move though the books I hope you’ll begin to think of it as your hometown, as I do.
“On a dirt road marked by haunting secrets, three strangers caught at life’s crossroads must decide what to sacrifice to protect their own agendas…and what they are each willing to risk for love.”
You’re invited to an old fashioned Quilting Bee. Look at my quilt below and tell me how you would decorate a patch to add. It can be a picture, a resolution, a wish for the New Year or anything you want it to be. One lucky “quilter” can choose either a copy of Petticoat Detective or Undercover Bride. (Sweepstakesrules apply.)
I’m giving you each a blank patch to add to my quilt.
What would your patch say or what would it look like?
Someone is killing off the Harvey Girls and undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her—or before she burns down the restaurant trying.
To order my brand new release, Calico Spy, click here!
This is a repost from July, 2012. With the holiday weekend and my company, I failed to get a new post up. Enjoy!
Last time I told you about visiting the Arabia Steamboat Museum. During the tour I was enchanted by one tiny item. Not gold or diamonds or beautiful venetian glass. Discovered wrapped in wool and tucked at the bottom of a carpenter’s tool box was a porcelain or china doll only three inches tall – a Frozen Charlotte.
Manufactured from 1950-1920, the Frozen Charlotte dolls ranged in size from less than 1” to more than 18”. The one found on the Arabia had painted bonnet strings in a color similar to the garters to the left.
If your grandmother had a bathing baby doll in a little porcelain tub—that’s a type of Frozen Charlotte.
The doll was named for a popular American Folk Ballad, Fair Charlotte, which tells of a young girl (Charlotte) who froze to death on a sleigh ride because she refused to dress warmly. The Frozen Charlotte appeared as everything from a charm in a Christmas Pudding to the inhabitant of a doll house to the pampered favorite possession of many little girls.
Since our visit to the museum, I think of the Frozen Charlotte on the Arabia at odd moments. Who was it meant for? Was a hard-working carpenter who’d been earning money back East bringing a gift for his daughter in St. Joseph? Or perhaps a litle girl had wrapped her favorite doll in a bit of wool blanket and hid it at the bottom of her daddy’s tool box as a momento, a reminder that she was waiting for him at home.
Since I’m writing this on Halloween (though you won’t see the blog for a couple of days) I want to introduce you to a slightly morbid Victorian art form – hair wreaths.
Not flower or leaf wreaths for your hair; not even an ornament made to wrap around a woman’s bun. I mean hair—woven into wreaths. Hair of a deceased family member or close friend, to be precise. A little creepy, isn’t it?!
In the Victorian age, the hair of the deceased was woven into a wreath to hang in the house as a memento, a form of mourning. And, of course, they didn’t stop with wreaths. Hair was made into wearable ornaments–bracelets, brooches, pins, watch chains, even buttons. Godey’s Lady’s Book even included instructions on this art form.
Then Sear’s got into the act, advertising hair wreaths, with the caveat that the hair you receive may not be the hair you sent. With out the sentimental connection, the art died out.
Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
During Spring Break this year, my daughter and I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel with a group from her high school to Italy and Greece. What an amazing experience! Ancient ruins like the Colosseum and the Parthenon, gorgeous cathedrals like St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s basilicas, and artwork from paintings to sculptures to tapestries to mosaics that simply took my breath away. One of my very favorite statues was created by the incomparable Michelangelo. His depiction of Mary holding her son after he was taken down from the cross. It is called “Pieta” which means pity in Italian. Truly stunning.
Greece, of course, is also known for their statuary, and after seeing so many examples of classical art, I started wondering about some of the artists behind the statuary closer to home. As it turns out, one of the most talented sculptors of Texas heroes is a woman.
Elisabet Ney was a German-born sculptor who worked in Europe the first half of her life, perfecting her craft and becoming so accomplished, she was commissioned to create busts of such influential world leaders as Otto von Bismarck and King George V of Hanover (pictured with her in the portrait to the left). She was the first female sculptor admitted to the all-male Munich Academy of Art.
A stringent feminist, Elisabet wore trousers and rode astride like her male counterparts. She also despised the marital state, believing it to be a form of bondage for women. However, a young (and exceedingly patient) Scottish medical student named Edward Montgomery eventually wore her down. After 10 years, he finally convinced her to marry him in 1863. That same year, he contracted tuberculosis. After struggling with the disease for many years, Montgomery took a friend’s advice and moved to the United States in 1871, to a resort for consumptives in Georgia. In 1873, after the birth of two sons, the couple moved to Waller County, Texas.
In the 1880’s, Elisabet was invited to Austin by the governor of Texas, and her artistic career gained new life. In 1892 she built a studio in north Austin and began to seek commissions. Right away, she was commissioned by the Board of Lady Managers of the Chicago World’s Fair Association to create marble figures of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston to be on display at the World’s Fair. They can now be seen in the Texas State Capitol building.
Stephen F Austin
Upon her death in 1907, her husband sold her studio to Ella Dibrell, and per his wife’s wishes, bequeathed the contents to the University of Texas at Austin. Four years later, Dibrell and other investors established the Texas Fine Arts Association in Elisabet’s honor. Today, the studio is the site of the Elisabet Ney Museum.
This passionate, strong-willed woman left her mark on Texas that still exists more than 100 years after her death. What a lasting legacy!
I can barely draw a stick figure, so art like this always leaves me amazed.
What about you?
Have you encountered a particular sculpture or painting that touched you in some way?
Have you ever wondered about the life of the artist who created it?
Like several others have already mentioned here, I had a great time at the RWA conference in San Antonio last month. But I made it even more fun by tagging a family vacation on the front end. Hubby and I, along with three of our kids and our son-in-law, arrived in the city the Saturday before the conference and spent three days seeing as much of what San Antonio.
We visited a lot of cool places and I posted pictures of some of them on my facebook page if you’re interested in checking them out.
But the one I want to talk to you about today is the Buckhorn Museum. We arrived around 12:30 so we went to the restaurant area first to grab a bite to eat. And that’s when I discovered where the place got it’s name. There were horns and antlers displayed everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. I’ve never seen so many in my life. Then, when we went into the museum itself we found numerous displays of furniture that used horns as part of the construction. Curious, I took a number of photographs and then did a bit of research on the subject when I got home.
It seems that most of the furniture pieces were constructed by a gentleman by the name of Wenzel Friedrich. Mr. Friedrich was born in Bohemia in 1827. By 1853 he had made his way to Texas and settled in San Antonio.. A year later he married one Agnes Urbanek and together they had seven children. Their youngest son, Albert Friedrich, is the man who would one day found the Buckhorn.
Wenzel had several jobs after he traveled to Texas but eventually resumed his work as a cabinet maker, something he’d received some training in in his home country. By 1880 he had his own business and was listed in the city directory as a manufacturer of horn furniture. I couldn’t find anything that explained WHY he started making horn furniture, but apparently he was quite good at it. He received gold medals for his craftsmanship in a number of shows, including the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition of 1883, the New Orleans Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884-85 and the Southern Exposition of Louisville, Kentucky in 1886. And his furniture was prized overseas as well, making its way into the hands of such dignitaries as Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm I and Otto von Bismarck.
Wenzel passed away in 1902, but his furniture endures. Today you can find examples in museums throughout the USA.
Below are some of the pictures I took of this unusual furniture.
So what do you think? Do you like the look of these? Would you like to have pieces like this in your own home?
Hi Everyone! Rhonda Gibson here. It is such a joy to be back at Petticoats & Pistols! Thank you for having me.
I’m giving away either a print or Kindle copy (winner’s choice) so leave a comment!
In my current novel, HIS CHOSEN BRIDE, the hero loves working with wood and my heroine is an artist. It was a lot of fun learning about wood working and the art of drawing.
My father-in-law does woodwork and I love his pieces. Here are some pictures that helped me with my inspiration for Levi and Millie’s art.
What starts out as a simple birthday present brings Levi and Millie closer to romance and difficult choices for both of them.
You see, Levi has four mail-order-brides to chose from, Millie being one of them. Only, Millie has changed her mind and wants to open her own art store where she can sell her drawings and paintings. After all, she has a secret that leads her to believe that if Levi knew the truth, he’d never want to marry her.
While working on His Chosen Bride, I did a little research on painters, sculptors, portrait painters and illustrators during the 1800’s. I was very lucky to find a list of 19th century artists here. Each man and woman on the list helped to shape the artistic world today.
Feel free to browse through the names and see if there are any you recognize.
I can’t help but wonder what it was like to live during the 1800s and be an artist. Due to research, Millie and Levi helped me to see a small corner of these folk’s lives. I hope that by listing them here, that you will find their stories as well as Millie and Levi’s as interesting as I did.
Do you recognize any of them? If you were an artist, what kind would you want to be? A painter, sculptor, portrait painter or illustrator? Can you guess which one I’d like to be?
Thank you again for having me here. Warmly, Rhonda