Category: History – General

Game Day with Phyliss Miranda

 


Welcome to my Game Day…Favorite Book Titles!

I think we’ll have fun today.  Here’s the way my game works.  

Using the first letter of either your name or the state you live in (minimum of 5 letters),

finish it out with the title of one of your favorite books.

You can use abbreviations, if it’s a long state name, but no USPO codes ie: TX. 

You can also use another letter in the name, if it’s a hard one.   

If you can’t think of a title, here’s a hint. Click on the picture of any Filly and you’ll go to their website, thus her book list. 

This might give you some ideas.  Here’s mine:

  • T:  “The Troubled Texan” by Phyliss Miranda
  • E:  “The Extortionist”
  • X:  “The X-Files”
  • A:  “Ashes in the Wind” by Kathleen Woodiwiss
  • S:  “Spring Brides” by Pam Crooks

Have fun!

 

To one lucky winner, I’m giving away a $10 gift card to Bath and Body Works; and to another winner, an eBook copy of my latest Kasota Springs Romance,  “Out of a Texas Night”.

 



 

Updated: June 17, 2019 — 7:30 am

Who Was Calamity Jane?

Jennifer Uhlarik

Hi everyone. I’m celebrating this month! June 1 marked the release of Cameo Courtships, a 4-in-1 novella collection which I am part of. My story in the collection is Taming Petra, and my heroine goes by the name of “Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth.” Buckskin Pete is a buckskin-wearing, gun-toting, tomahawk-throwing tomboy, loosely modeled after Old West icon Calamity Jane.

If you’re like me, you know of Calamity Jane, but only in the most general way. So who was Calamity Jane?

She was born Martha Jane Cannary, on May 1, 1852, the eldest child of a gambler father and a prostitute mother. She had two brothers and three sisters. As the family traveled from Martha Jane’s birthplace in Missouri to Virginia City, Montana, her mother fell ill with pneumonia and died. A year later, her father also succumbed to death, leaving Martha Jane, who was just fourteen years old at the time, to take charge of her five younger siblings and support her family. The six siblings settled in Piedmont, Wyoming, where Martha Jane took whatever jobs she could find—from dishwasher, to waitress, to nurse, to ox-team driver, to sometimes prostitute.

 

As her younger siblings grew up and moved on, it freed Martha Jane to strike out on her own as well. In the 1870s, she is said to have acted as scout for the Army, an Indian fighter, as well as displaying excellent aim as a sharpshooter.

Calamity in a dress

When asked how she came to be called “Calamity,” she told the following story in a short biographical pamphlet. While working with the Army near Goose Creek, Wyoming, they were sent out to subdue an Indian uprising. On the way back to the post, they were ambushed about a mile and a half out. As she charged through the fray, being fired upon, she turned in time to see Captain Egan struck and reeling in his saddle. Jane turned back to help, caught the officer before he fell, and pulled him onto her own horse in front of her. Once safely back at the post and the captain recovering, he jokingly stated that he would dub her Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains, and she proudly wore the name from that point forward.

While the story is an entertaining one, several details call its credibility into question. For one, Calamity Jane was functionally illiterate, so she would have had to dictate such a story to someone else for the pamphlet. It’s possible she did just that. But in the story itself, she claims to have singlehandedly pulled a wounded and reeling man from him horse onto her own and held him in the saddle until they reached the safety of the army post. The likelihood of such feats of strength do cause one to question the story. Another alternative for how she came to be known as Calamity Jane is that she would warn any man who crossed her that he was “courting calamity” by doing so.

She is known to have had a kind and generous side. In Deadwood, S.D., she is rumored to have nursed the sick during an outbreak of smallpox. And she was also known to have helped those in need, providing food she’d hunted herself or given money to those unable to provide for themselves.

Calamity Jane at Wild Bill Hickok’s gravesite

Rumors link Calamity Jane to another well-known Western icon—James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok. Some rumors state they were friends. Others tout the pair were lovers. Calamity Jane herself stated that she and Wild Bill were married in 1873 and had a daughter, who was later adopted by another family. No marriage license has been found to support a legal union between the two characters. Of course, Wild Bill died by a shooter’s bullet in 1876, so any romance that may have existed lasted only briefly.

The later years of Calamity Jane’s life saw her become a hard-drinking alcoholic, often down on her luck, living life mostly alone. For a brief time, she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show as a storyteller and sharpshooter, but otherwise, she drifted from town to town. She died of pneumonia on August 1, 1903, at the age of 51. She and Wild Bill Hickok are buried next to each other in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.

My heroine, Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth, is loosely based on Calamity Jane—in their shared propensity to wear men’s buckskin trousers, their ability to scout and track, and their soft sides that enabled both to help those in need. Do you enjoy reading fictional characters you know are based on a true person from history, or do you prefer purely fictional characters that are wholly original? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for an autographed paperback copy of Cameo Courtships.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children. Check out her website and Facebook page or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

 

 

Updated: June 13, 2019 — 8:01 pm

3-D Pictures, 19th Century Style (Reprise)

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I’m afraid this month’s blog date sort of snuck up on me – a combination of dealing with my foot in a cast, a looming book deadline and planning an impromptu Disney vacation in a couple of weeks.  So I hope you will forgive me if I reprise an older post.  And to make it up to you, I’m offering 2 folks who leave a comment here their choice of any book in my backlist.

Did you know that the scientific principles behind 3-D movies had their first practical application as early as 1838?  That’s when Charles Wheatstone patented his reflecting stereoscope.   I’m sure you’ve all seen stereoscopes before, in pictures if not in actuality.  But do you know how they work?

Actually, they work in much the same way human vision works.  Because our eyes are spaced about two inches apart we see everything from slightly different angles.  Our brains, wonderful creations that they are, then process these into a single image with both dimension and depth.  Charles Wheatstone applied this principle to his invention, using drawings that were pairs of reverse images and a series of mirrors to create the illusion of a single three dimensional image.

In 1850, glass images were developed.  Though an improvement on the earlier drawings, the quality was low and the price was relatively high.

Queen Victoria took a fancy to the device when she saw one demonstrated at the Crystal Palace Exposition in 1851, and suddenly they were all the rage in Europe.  It was somewhat later before the fascination took hold in America.

These early stereoscopes were large, bulky and table mounted, requiring a large commitment of space as well as money.  But all of that changed a few short years later.  With the advent of photographic improvements, tintypes, daguerreotypes and flat mount paper became available, greatly improving the quality of the images.  Early attempts had photographers taking one photograph then slightly shifting the camera and taking a second.  The next evolution had photographers utilizing a rig that had two cameras mounted on it to take the twin photos.  Eventually an enterprising inventor created a camera with two lenses

Then, in 1862 Oliver Wendell Holmes and Joseph Bates created a compact, handheld viewer named the Holmes stereopticon and the popularity of stereoscopes exploded.  In fact, by the end of the century, in spite of their expense, you could find one of these devices in many middle and upper class parlors of the time.  The most popular slides were the travelogue type that depicted exotic landmarks such as the pyramids of Egypt and the closer-to-home scenic beauty of Yellowstone.   The marvels of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1892 and the St. Louis World Fair also made their way onto stereoscopic slides.  As Burke Long put it, “Mass-produced and relatively cheap, the integrated system of mechanical viewer and photographs became fashionable for classroom pedagogy, tourist mementos, and parlor travel to exotic places of the world.”  You could say that, as a form of entertainment, the stereopticon was the Victorian era’s equivalent of today’s video players. 

By the 1920s movies and the enhanced availability of cameras to the ‘common man’ began to supplant the stereopticon’s hold on people’s  interest.  But, believe it or not,  the stereopticon survives to this day.  The child’s toy View-Master, named one of the top 50 toys of the twentieth century, is a direct ‘descendant’ of the stereopticon, utilizing the very same principles.

 

So, did anything in today’s post surprise you? Do you have firsthand experience with a stereopticon? Did you play with a View-Master as a child? 

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for winner’s choice of one book from my backlist!

Updated: June 1, 2019 — 3:12 pm

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US

Howdy!
 
In May of 1996, I’d been writing for about 3 years for AVON Books.  My third book, PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN, was due to be released soon and I was at work on my fourth book, GRAY HAWK’S LADY.  Paul and I met in February of 1996 and were married in May of that same year.  So I thought I’d post a few pictures of that time period (we have very few pictures of our honeymoon due to the company where we’d taken the pictures to be developed losing them). 
Remember that time before digital pictures?  But come with me at least for some of the few images at that time period that we did manage to salvage.  Hope you will enjoy.  Please excuse if pictures are a little crooked.  We had to scan them in.
 
The first picture is of us on our honeymoon — I think we were in Las Vegas.
 
  The next picture was snapped shortly after we’d started dating and was taken at my brother-in-law’s home in LA.
 
Next is a picture of the beautiful scenery of Montana, where we honeymooned.  Although I’m in shadow, the mountains are clearly in view.  Of course, next is a picture of Paul, also snapped in Montana.  And the last picture was taken also in Montana, but at Paul’s mother’s house.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Also, let me wish a very Happy Anniversary to Starr Miller and her husband, who also celebrate their Anniversary in May.  Starr is a reader and also a very dear friend.
 
 
 
 
Hope you’ll forgive the spacing here.  The pictures are older and we had to upload them and well…etc., etc. 
 
Thanks so much for letting me take you down this journey of memory lane.
 
Updated: May 21, 2019 — 9:55 am

Santa Fe, Where History Collides With the Present!

After writing two books without much of a break, I decided it was time to get away. Actually, a good friend of mine twisted my arm. She kept talking about making adobe bricks in Santa Fe, NM and before I knew it, I told her I’d go along…just to keep her out of trouble. *wink*  But it didn’t take much persuasion. Despite being born in New Mexico and living there the early part of my life, I’d never been to Santa Fe or made real adobe bricks. And I wanted to go. Darn it, I earned the trip! 

So, on a recent Friday morning, we left Raton, NM and started down. These are buffalo we saw just outside of Cimarron.

                      

Then we meandered our way, enjoying the fresh air of the mountains. We met her parents for lunch in Española. I thought that would be a sleepy little town but it was pretty big. Lunch was excellent by the way. From there we wound around through several small communities to Chimaýo where there’s an amazing story. Sometime about 1810, a friar was performing penance when he saw a light bursting from a hill. He went up and found a crucifix. Three times a priest tried to take it to another place but it always disappeared and reappeared in Chimaýo so they built an adobe mission in 1816 and it quickly became known as a curative place. The sick and infirm came by the droves and claimed to be cured. They still do. The crucifix still resides on the chapel altar. The chapel is on the left and a children’s chapel on the right.

                                                 

Here’s camel rock, an usual rock formation outside of Santa Fe that we had to stop and take a picture of. 

We arrived in Santa Fe mid-afternoon and our first stop was the Loretto Chapel and it’s miraculous staircase that was built without nails (only wooden pegs) and has perplexed experts. The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom step. It has two 360° turns with no visible sign of support and the rare wood is not native to the American Southwest. Legend has it that a poor peasant appeared with a donkey and he only worked at night. When it was completed, he vanished without being paid.

In the center of Santa Fe is a beautiful park with the Hall of Governors building sitting across the street that was built in 1610 out of adobe. It looks exactly the same as it did when it was first built. Each Saturday, the Native Americans come with their jewelry and a large variety of other things they make by hand, spread a blanket and sell to the tourists. I loved this and bought several items.

The Palace of the Governors as it appears today. It is the oldest, continually occupied public building in the United States. Courtesy of Patricia Drury, Flickr-Commons

Then, we went down the street where they were making adobe bricks using the same method as their forefathers. Adobe is a mixture of clay, water, and straw. They let us try our hand and I found it a lot of fun. It’s a lot like working with dough. I had to pack it down firm into the form, being sure to get it into each corner. After I did that, they lifted the form and there was a brick. They leave it to dry for a week on each side and it takes about 6 weeks to get all the moisture content out of them. But an adobe building can last for hundreds of years. Each brick we made was four inches thick and weighs approx 25 pounds so a wall would be very solid.

                       

Drying Adobe Bricks

And of course, wagons on the Santa Fe Trail passed through here and provided a welcome stop where settlers could replenish their supplies and rest. They truly must’ve enjoyed it.

Art is everywhere in Santa Fe and it’s all beautiful. We ended our trip with a visit to the New Mexico History Museum and found so many interesting things there.

                                                     

Santa Fe was settled in 1609 by the Spanish and is the oldest capital city in the U.S. History is all around you as you walk through the streets. If you’re looking for an usual place to visit, this will be the one to come to.

Have you ever made adobe bricks or visited a place that seems lost in time? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card so leave a comment!

 

 

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Howdy!

Hope y’all had a great weekend and are biting at the bit to start the new week.  Well, at least happy to be getting back into the swing of things.

Hope you will all bear with me as I blog again about Grandfather George Randall.  George wasn’t actually any blood relation to my husband or me, but he was a good friend.  He lived with us for about 15-17 years, I can’t recall the exact number now.  And when we moved East, George, being family to us by then, came with us.

After George died, Starr Miller, a good friend and reader, did some research on some of George’s acting parts, and so I thought I would share some good memories of Grandfather George once again.

 

Over to the left here is a picture taken of George and me when we were traveling back from the Stars in the Desert celebration.  Although I don’t quite remember the date of this event, I believe is was somewhere in the late 90’s.

One would think I would remember his tribe, but I don’t exactly recall it.  Goodness, I do have to work on my memory.  I do believe that it might have been the Ojibway  or Ojibwe tribe in the Northern Mid-West.  George and I became friends when a friend of mine, Maria Ferrara, and I were working to establish a literacy project on the Blackfeet reservation.  That’s when I was introduced to George.

Off to the left is another picture taken when George and I were at the Stars in the Desert event in New Mexico.  And off to the right is a picture of George with Maria Ferrara when we were on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana.

The Following is a partial listing of some of George’s movies and television appearances.  This partial list was put together by Starr Miller and her family — many, many thanks to Starr and family for their work on this.

 
 
ConAir
Wakan – George appeared as Grampa White Owl
Durango Kids – George played the part of Doc
The Magnificent Seven TV Series – In this TV Series, his part was Shamon 
Yellow Wooden Ring – as Takota (I so love this name, Takota)
Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman – as Little Thunder
Scalps — we don’t know more about the part he play in this movie
The Indian in the Cupboard —  George played the part of the old chief who died suddenly
 

Off to the right here, is George — of course standing next to the pretty girl.  We used to kid George that he had a girl in every port (so to speak).  Indeed, once George told us a story about him patiently awaiting a bus, when a woman suddenly rushed up to him (one he didn’t know) and suddenly kissed him, right there in the street, stating she thought he was so handsome.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed the blog today.  A friend of George’s in the Los Angeles area, is putting together a “Go Fund Me” page in order to help pay for George’s Memorial and burial — or in this case paying the fee to obtain his ashes, since cremation was George’s wish.

We miss George in many different ways.  We don’t have the heart yet to go through all his things, and we still have the door to his room closed (as he liked it to be), in honor of him.  We also know that George is in a good place, and will bring much joy to those wherever he may be.

Would love to hear any comments you have today on the blog, any memories you have of your elders, or grandparents or of your dearly departed loved ones.  So be sure to come on in.  Also, in honor of George, I’ll be giving away a paperback book of SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, which is part of the Blackfoot Warrior Series.  It was really while working on the literacy project on the Blackfeet reservation where my husband and I became friends with George. 

Of course, all our rules for give-aways apply — they are listed here on our site over to the right of the page.  But please do come on in and if you please, share some of your own thoughts and experiences with me.

 

 

Updated: May 6, 2019 — 8:10 am

Ada Carnutt – U.S. Deputy Marshal

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Back in January I started a series of articles about 10 amazing women who paved the way for females in various branches of law enforcement. If you missed the prior posts you can find them here:

Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton Agent.

Phoebe Couzins, the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Marshal service.

Marie Owens – First US Female Police Officer

F.M. Miller – Female Deputy Marshal to the Indian Territory

 

This month I want to talk about Ada Carnutt, another trailblazing female Deputy U.S. Marshal.

Ada was the daughter of a Methodist minister and as such had a strong sense of ethics. Ada was 20 when the Oklahoma Territory opened to settlers and when her sister and brother-in-law moved there she joined them.

Shortly thereafter she took a job as the Clerk of the District Court in Norman, Oklahoma as well as that of Deputy Marshall to U.S. Marshal William Grimes.

The arrest for which she is best known occurred in 1893 when she was 24 years old. Marshal Grimes sent her a telegram with instructions to send a deputy to Oklahoma City to apprehend a pair of outlaws. The notorious duo, named Reagan and Dolezal, were wanted for forgery. Unfortunately all the other deputies were busy with other cases, so Ada decided to take matters in her own hands. She headed for Oklahoma City on her own and when she arrived she learned the two criminals were in a local bar. Unwilling to enter a bar unless absolutely unavoidable, she asked a passerby to go inside and ask them to step outside. She used the added incentive of asking that they be told a lady was waiting to have a word with them.

Apparently that did the trick because Reagan and Dolezal stepped out to see who this ‘lady’ might be. Ada proceeded to read the warrants and then declared them under arrest. The pair, who were well armed, thought it a joke and even allowed her to place handcuffs on them. However, their laughter soon turned to anger as they realized the joke was on them. Ada proceeded to take them in by train to the marshal’s office in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

The newspapers of the day did report the incident, noting her bravery and then ended it with a note that afterwards she went back to her favorite hobby, that of china painting.

The U.S. Marshals Service said of her “Like all deputies of her era, she had to be extremely tough and ready to face a wide range of situations.”

 

There you have it, another very brief sketch of the trailblazing life of a brave and ahead-of-her-times woman. What struck you most about her? If you’d already heard of her, did you learn anything new, or do you have more to add to her story?

I’m so excited about my new release that I’ve decided I’ll give a copy away to one reader who leaves a comment on this post.

THE UNEXPECTED BRIDE

Had she stepped out of the frying pan just to land in the fire?

Fleeing an arranged marriage, socialite Elthia Sinclare accepts a governess position halfway across the country. But when she arrives in Texas she finds more than she bargained for – more children, more work and more demands. Because Caleb Tanner wants a bride, not a governess. But marrying this unrefined stranger is better than what awaits her back home, so Elthia strikes a deal for a temporary marriage. She says I do and goes to work—botching the housework, butting heads with her new spouse, loving the children.

Caleb isn’t sure what to make of this woman who isn’t at all what he contracted for—she’s spoiled, unskilled and lavishes her affection on a lap dog that seems to be little more than a useless ball of fluff.  But to his surprise she gets along well with the children, works hard to acquire domestic skills and is able to hold her own with the town matriarchs.

Could the mistake that landed him with this unexpected bride be the best thing that ever happened to him?

You can find more info or get your copy HERE

 

Updated: May 5, 2019 — 8:08 pm

Book Women—The Depression’s Book Mobile

As a contemporary romance author, my research is different from historical authors. For the third book in my Wishing, Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy, my research topics included seizure treatment/causes, service dogs and veterinarian office software. As a result, I don’t often come across cool historical tidbits to share with you the way Petticoats and Pistols historical authors often do. But recently, I came across a Facebook post about librarians on horseback. Considering my love of books and horses, I couldn’t resist learning more.

The Pack Horse Library program was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration during The Depression. In 1930’s Kentucky, the unemployment rate was almost forty percent and around thirty percent of the state’s population was illiterate. The hope was The Pack Horse Library program would decrease both these statistics. In addition to these issues, the ten thousand square foot area of eastern Kentucky this program served lagged behind other areas in the state in terms of electricity and highways. Scarcity of food, education and few economic options compounded the problems.

Getting the program’s employees to these rugged, rural areas of The Appalachian Mountains where people with the greatest need lived proved challenging, too. Because of the terrain, horses were chosen as the mode of transportation. However, the most astounding aspect of the program was that most of the employees of The Pack Horse Library were women! Folks simply referred to them as “Book Women.”

After loading donated books, magazines and newspapers, these librarians set out on their own mules or horses and headed into the mountains. Not an easy task, even when the weather cooperated. But imagine how difficult and treacherous the trip had to be in snowy or rainy conditions. Often the terrain became so rugged or remote, even horses couldn’t travel, forcing the librarians to continue on foot, carrying the books! No matter how cold or bad the weather, these librarians persisted, covering one hundred to one hundred twenty miles a week. One librarian had to complete her eighteen-mile route on foot after her mule died. Now that’s dedication!

By 1936, these devoted librarians serviced over fifty-thousand families and one-hundred-fifty-five schools. But these women did more than provide books. They acted as a connection between these rural Kentucky communities and world. They tried to fill book requests, read to people who couldn’t read themselves, and fostered a sense of local pride. And all for a salary of twenty-eight dollars a month.

All photos from atlasobsura.com

The Pack Horse Library program ended in 1943 along with the WPA. War had pulled the country out of The Depression, but these strong, determined librarians had left their mark. They made a difference.

To be entered for the drawing to win a copy of Colorado Rescue, a looking sharp wine glass and the bracelet pictured, tell me what you love about libraries or share your favorite memory involving a library.

Updated: April 30, 2019 — 7:40 pm

First Woman Governor of Texas

Texas had the first woman elected governor in the United States, but she wasn’t the first woman to be governor. Marian A. Ferguson was better known as “Ma” Ferguson and elected in 1924 and inaugurated in 1925, which was two weeks after a woman became governor of Wyoming.

“Ma” Ferguson was married to former-governor James E. Ferguson, who was barred from running again after he resigned in 1917, just before he could be removed from office on corruption charges.

Interestingly enough, Governor “Ma” Ferguson is remembered for granting an average of one hundred pardons a month during her first two-year term of office, which was also marred by charges of graft and corruption.

Although she lost bids for re-election in 1926 and 1930, she served again from 1933 through 1935, when she fought the Depression with loans for cotton farmers and “bread bonds” to feed starving children.

One of Governor “Ma” Ferguson’s many full pardons went to “Buck” Barrow, who quickly took advantage of his release from prison to continue a life of crime. Buck and his wife got together with Buck’s brother, Clyde, and his girlfriend Bonnie Parker, who were already notorious criminals.
A few months later, in a shootout with police, Buck was killed, and his wife Blanche was capture. Bonnie and Clyde continued their crime spree.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were both Texas natives. They met in Dallas in 1930 and formed a criminal partnership that included jailbreaks, robberies, kidnappings, and murders.

Their crime-spree prompted a well-publicized nationwide manhunt that ended on May 23, 1934, when a group of lawmen ambushed the couple and killed them.

Since then, their short careers as lawbreakers have been popularized in films, songs, and movies. Even in the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco there is a display of exhibits related to their ultimate demise.

Tell me about your favorite outlaw real or imaginary!

To one reader who leaves a comment, I will give them an eBook of my latest Kasota Spring Romance Out of a Texas Night.

Updated: April 29, 2019 — 5:22 pm

Not Always by Choice: Mail-Order Brides

I love reading and writing mail-order bride stories set in the Old West.  I’m happy to say that next month my next mail-order bride story The Cowboy Meets His Match will be published. And boy, oh, boy, does that couple ever clash!

It’s hard to imagine a young woman traveling west to marry a man she’d never set eyes on. The original catalog-bride business grew out of necessity. The lack of marriageable women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War. The war not only created thousands of widows but a shortage of men, especially in the South.

As a result, marriage brokers and heart-and-hand catalogs popped up all around the country. According to an article in the Toledo Blade, lonely men even wrote to the Sears catalog company asking for brides. (The latest such letter received by Sears was from a lonely marine during the Vietnam War.)

In those early days, advertisements cost five to fifteen cents, and letters were exchanged along with photographs. Fortunately, the telegraph and train made communication easier.

Not all marriage brokers were legitimate, and many a disappointed client ended up with an empty bank account rather than a contracted mate.

For some mail-order couples, it was love (or lust) at first sight. In 1886, one man and his mail-order bride were so enamored with each other that they scandalized fellow passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad during their honeymoon.

Not every bride was so lucky. In her book Hearts West, Chris Enss tells the story of mail-order bride Eleanor Berry. On the way to her wedding, her stage was held up at gunpoint by four masked men. While signing the marriage license, she suddenly realized that her new husband was one of the outlaws who had robbed her.

No one seems to know how many mail-order brides there were during the 1800s, but the most successful matchmaker of all appears to be Fred Harvey.  He wasn’t in the mail-order bride business, but, by the turn of the century, five thousand Harvey Girls had found husbands while working in his restaurants.

Under what circumstances might you have traveled west to marry a stranger?

His first mistake was marrying her; his second was falling in love.

Amazon

B&N

 

 

Updated: April 20, 2019 — 8:56 am