This past week, while working on a scene set in a general store, I got to wondering when cash registers might have been found in the Old West. I was surprised to discover that the cash register (called a Cashier at the time) was invented in 1879 by a saloon owner.
James Ritty (public domain)
James Jacob Ritty, owner of the popular Pony House Saloon in Dayton, Ohio, knew something was wrong. Buffalo Bill and John Dillinger were among his many customers and business was booming. Still he saw no profit. He was suspicious that his bartenders were dipping into the till but couldn’t prove it.
The problem was very much on his mind during a sailing trip to Europe. While studying the ship’s mechanics, particularly the counting mechanism that recorded the propeller’s revolutions, he got an idea; why not invent a device that would record a shop’s sales?
Upon returning to the states, he ran his idea by his brother, John, and after a couple of false starts, the two patented what became known as Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier.
Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier 1879. public domain
The machine had a clock-like feature that rang up sales, but no cash drawer. During each sale, a paper tape was punched with holes so that the merchant could keep track of sales. At the end of the day, the merchant could add up the holes. This was no easy task. Even though the machine was designed to record daily sales no greater than $12.99, the tally could be as long as twenty feet.
Their invention worked and Ritty’s profits rose, but it wasn’t fool proof. Without a cash drawer, money still turned up in the wrong pockets.
The brothers later added a cash drawer and the Cha-Ching sound that shop owners love to hear. (It’s thought that merchants came up with odd prices like forty-nine or ninety-nine cents, so cashiers would have to open the till to make change. This helped insure that all sales were recorded.)
The brothers opened a factory above the saloon. Running two businesses soon proved too much for James, and he sold his cashier business to a group of investors. Eventually, the company sold to John H. Patterson who renamed it the National Cash Register Corporation.
The Thief Catcher
By the 1880s, cash registers could be found in retail shops across the country. Though the new and improved registers aided bookkeeping and inventory chores, they were resented by clerks. It’s easy to understand why; the machines were called “thief catchers.” Honest clerks resented the implication and dishonest clerks missed the extra income.
But then, as now, enterprising thieves always found a way.
Speaking of thieves, do you always ask for receipts, even at fast food outlets? If not, you should. Dishonest clerks can do a lot with unclaimed receipts–and none of it good!
Hi folks, Winnie Griggs here.
Lately I’ve noticed several photos of early bookmobiles circulating on Facebook and it got me to wondering about the history of these literary vehicles. So of course I had to dive in and do a bit of research. Here is a little taste of what I discovered.
Bookmobiles have been around since the 1850s. It was during this period that the Perambulating Library made its appearance in the UK.
The US was a bit slower to implement this service. In 1893 Melvil Dewey led the effort to implement something called Travelling Collections. By 1899 there were 2500 of these travelling collections across the country.
In 1903 Wisconsin began using wagons to deliver books to schools.
It wasn’t until 1905 that the first US library, The Washington County Free Library, specifically designed a wagon to be used as a bookmobile. This effort was headed by Mary Titcomb who patterned it after the service in the UK. The wagon was driven by the library janitor, Joshua Thomas.
1912 saw the introduction of the first motorized vehicles, allowing the libraries to greatly expand their range of service.
The term bookmobile was first used in January of 1929.
The use of vehicles was greatly curtailed during the Great Depression, but that did not shut down the system. For example, women used pack horses in Kentucky, and in Mississippi a librarian used a house boat to provide mobile library services.
During the following years the number of bookmobiles in the country fluctuated as factors like wartime, the cost of fuel, and economic upswings and downturns impacted finances and materials.
The Everett County Public Library’s bookmobile (called Pegasus after the mythological flying horse) was purchased in 1924, making it the first bookmobile in Washington State. It was retired in 1950, then restored in the 1990s, making it the oldest still-operational bookmobile.
The state with the most bookmobiles is Kentucky.
Fun facts from around the world:
Zimbabwe utilizes a donkey-draw bookmobile that, in addition to providing books, also provides some technology services.
Kenya has the Camel Library Service with a collection of over 7000 books
Thailand has elephant-drawn libraries
Some coastal communities in Norway have their library needs met by itinerant ships
z z z z z
As for me, I have very fond memories of bookmobiles. The first elementary school I attended didn’t have a library so the bookmobile came by every other week. It was always a treat to step inside and see so many books in one place. And since I have always LOVED books and reading, it was even more magical to pick out one to take home with me.
What about you? Do you have any personal experience with a bookmobile?And what information in the post above did you find most surprising?
No, that post title isn’t also the title of an upcoming book. After all, I’m not sure it’d be flying off the shelves if it were. Instead, it’s a clue to today’s topic, that of farriers.
As you might expect from a long-running western series, many of my heroes in my Blue Falls, Texas series are ranchers and/or rodeo cowboys. Every now and then, I throw in a little something extra, too. That was the case for A Rancher to Love, which was book eight in the series. Tyler Lowe not only has a ranch, but he’s the local farrier — or the man you call when your horse needs a hoof trim or new shoes. When you think about it, farrier seems an odd word for such a profession. But not surprisingly, it’s because the term has its roots in other languages — this time French and Latin. It’s comes from the Middle French word ferrier,
meaning blacksmith, and the Latin word for iron, ferrum.
Although in the past, farriers did blacksmithing work as well, today the two professions are more distinct. Unlike podiatrists, farriers in the United States don’t have to have any formal education or certification. In fact, scary as it might seem, farriery is not regulated at all in the U.S. There are voluntary certification programs through three organizations — the American Farrier’s Association, the Guild of Professional Farriers, and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers.
By contrast, in the UK it is illegal for anyone to call themselves a farrier or to carry out any farriery work. This is so that no harm or suffering are endured by horses through the unskilled efforts of someone who isn’t qualified. They are organized as the Worshipful Company of Farriers and have been around since 1356!
While trimming hooves and shoeing (including for such special purposes such as racing) are the farrier’s main duties, they also take care of damaged or diseased hooves.
It was fun to write a different aspect of life surrounding ranching and the cowboy life, but next month I’m back to rodeo cowboys with the release of book number 12 in the Blue Falls, Texas series — Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy. Hero Jason Till is in hot pursuit of a national championship in steer wrestling.
Please welcome Lynnette Austin. Lynnette is filling in for Margaret Brownley, who is attending the Romance Writers of America conference. Lynnette is giving away a copy of Can’t Stop Lovin’ You. The winner will be announced on Sunday and can choose either print or eBook. (Contest guidelines apply). The book is available now both in stores and digitally.
Thanks for having me on Petticoats and Pistols today! I’m thrilled to be here and am celebrating the release of Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, the third in my Maverick Junction series. (BTW, while it’s fun to read the whole series, each book can stand alone.) Entering the drawing is as simple as leaving a comment. So pour yourself a tall, ice-cold glass of sweet tea and let’s chat.
Who doesn’t want to go home? Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey, even Luath, Bodger, and Tao, the three lovable fur-friends in The Incredible Journey fought against heavy odds to make that trip. It’s no different with Brawley O’Dell in Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.
When I started the first book of the Maverick Junction series, Annelise Montjoy, in Somebody Like You, was a sheltered heiress living in Boston. Where did her money come from? Texas oil wells! In a last-ditch effort to save her grandfather’s life, Annelise was forced to return to her Texas roots. She needed to return to the home of her ancestors. Once she did? She fell madly in love with those fields of Texas bluebonnets, the cowboy boots and the men who wore them—especially one very special cowboy.
The characters in our books all have back stories, things that have happened to them and shaped who they are long before we meet them on page one. The same goes for our settings. As I developed the town of Maverick Junction, Texas, I dug deeper into the roots of the oil finds there. Oil and Texas. Inexorably tied together. Yet until January 10, 1901, when the Lucas No. 1 well at Spindletop came in near Beaumont, Texas, the state of Pennsylvania was at the heart of the oil industry. Throughout the second half of the 1800s, it held the title as the leading oil producing state.
Having grown up in the Keystone state and later lived in Wyoming, I’m very familiar with the oil industry. In fact, in the mid-1800s Edwin Drake, the inventor of the process used to extract oil from deep in the ground, hit the first Pennsylvania gusher in Titusville, not far from my small hometown of Kane. This photo shows the early oil wells that sprang up in the fields around Kane in the 1800s. I can’t believe how many there were—and they’re taller than the trees. A veritable oil rig forest.
Even before the Beaumont find really kick-started Texas’ oil industry, it was no secret there was plenty of the black gold there. Native Americans in the area sometimes drank it for medicinal purposes, mainly to cure digestive problems. I wonder how that worked for them! The Spaniards, while they didn’t drink it, put it to good use both as waterproofing for their boots and caulking for their ships in the 1500s.
Until Spindletop, the oil finds in Texas were small and low-producing. With the coming of the big oil fields and refineries, cities like Houston grew from small commercial centers to some of the USA’s largest cities. Oil barrons, Annelise’s great-grandfather among them, became some of the wealthiest and most politically influential men in the country.
When the early settlers made the arduous trip out West, they often could never go home again. They literally gave up everything—and everyone—to go West, even as late as the early 1900s when men travelled there to work the oil fields. In my new release, Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, Brawley Odell moved away from small town Maverick Junction to live in Dallas, the big city. In doing so, he gave up the girl he loved. Now? He wants it all back—the small town, the life, and, most importantly, the girl. But has he stayed away too long?
When you think of Texas, what makes you keep
coming back for more stories set there?
Thanks so much for stopping by today! Hope to see you in Maverick Junction. I think you’ll like it there!
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Maggie Sullivan can’t wait to get out of Texas. Luckily, she just got the break she needed to make her big-city dreams a reality. But then Brawley Odell swaggers back into Maverick Junction, looking hotter than ever in his dusty cowboy boots and well-worn jeans. He’s the guy she still dreams of at night. The guy who broke her heart when he left her behind.
Fed up with city life, Brawley jumps at the chance to return home and take over the local vet’s practice—and get back to the smart, sassy woman he’s never been able forget. He couldn’t be prouder of Maggie’s new wedding-dress business . . . until he realizes it may mean losing her all over again. Determined to win her back, Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie that their one true home is with each other.
Brawley Odell figured his life wouldn’t be worth one plug-nickel the second he stepped foot inside Maggie’s shop. Too damn bad. He hadn’t driven the thirty miles from Maverick Junction to back out now. He was goin’ in.
After all this time, he’d come home…and she was leaving.
He grasped the brass knob and shoulder-butted the oak door. It flew open, the bell overhead jangling. Maggie Sullivan, all that gorgeous red hair scooped into a jumbled mass, stood dead-center in the room. Dressed in a skirt and top the color of a forest at twilight, she held a fuzzy sweater up in front of her like a shield. Those amazing green eyes widened as he stormed in.
“We need to talk.” He ignored the woman at the back of the store who flipped through a rack of tops.
He held up a hand. “Don’t speak. Not yet.”
Her mouth opened, then closed.
Anger boiled in him, but he needed to find some modicum of control. Taking a deep breath, he held it for the count of ten, then slowly released it. “Did you plan on telling me?”
Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing.
“You’re invited to New York City for a showing of your new line, and you don’t share that with me? I have to learn about it secondhand?”
“Last I heard this wasn’t about you, Brawley. In fact, my life, my business has absolutely nothing to do with you.”
His jaw clenched. “Anything that affects you is my business, Mags.”
She snorted. “Get real, Odell. You gave up any and all rights years ago.” Her head tilted. “Why are you even interested? You want to attend so you can show off your latest Dallas Cowboy cheerleader? Maybe order her trousseau?”
He shot her a deadly look, one that had made grown men back away.
Not Maggie. She actually took a couple steps toward him. The woman had no survival instincts. Another reason she had no business heading off to New York alone.
She tapped a scarlet-tipped finger on her chin. “Oh, that’s right. There’d be no trousseau for your honey, would there? Maybe a weekend-fling outfit for your date du jour? A one-night-stand set of lacy lingerie.”
“Shut up, Maggie.”
“Make me.” Her eyes flashed.
This time the look in his eyes must have warned her she’d treaded too close to the edge. She stepped back.
“You challenging me, Maggie?”
When she wet her lips, his gaze dropped to her mouth, followed the tip of her pink tongue as it darted out.
“Only one way I could ever get you quiet,” he said.
Her hand shot up. “Don’t even think about it.”
“No thought required. Been wanting to do this a long time now.” He closed the distance between them and dropped his mouth to hers. Fire. Smoke. Hell, a full-out volcanic eruption.
LYNNETTE AUSTIN, a recovering middle school teacher, loves long rides with the top down and the music cranked up, the Gulf of Mexico when a storm is brewing, chocolate frozen custard, anything by Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Thomas Rhett, and sitting in her local coffee shop reading and enjoying an iced coffee. She and her husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all their business, for better or worse. Writing for Grand Central and Sourcebooks, she’s published twelve novels and is at work on a new series.
If you’ve ever read a western novel or watched a western movie, no doubt you’ve run across a whole herd of quaint terms that add character to the story. Where did those terms come from, why did folks use them, and when were they popular?
Thomas Mitchell, Jack Buetel, and Walter Huston in The Outlaw (HowardHughesProductions, 1941) [promotional image]
Here are some of the words and phrases used to describe the bad boys of the Old West. Some of them are older than one might imagine. Western historical romance authors may be dismayed to find others are newer than they hoped.
Buscadero: gunfighter. From the Spanish buscadero, literally a searcher. The origin of the slang usage is obscure; possibly “seeking trouble.”
Bushwhacker: cowardly enemy who strikes from ambush. Americanism; arose c. 1809. Oddly, the verb “bushwhack” arose later, c. 1837. During the American Civil War (at least from 1862-1865), “bushwhacker” acquired a less-pejorative connotation, meaning any irregular who took to the woods to strike from cover and then vanish. The term was applied in equal measure to both friend and foe.
Cabrón: an outlaw of low breeding and even lower principles. In Spanish, the word means “goat.” Origin of the slang usage is obscure.
Cold-blooded: unfeeling, dispassionate, cruel. Arose c. 1828 from the old (1600s) notion that excitement increased human blood temperature. Reptiles have been called cold-blooded since about 1600, and the reptilian image also played into the description as applied to killers and other reprehensible sorts who acted without apparent regret.
Promotional flier for The Law and the Outlaw, 1913
Cold lead: from the mid-1800s until the 1920s, a bullet. About 1920, usage changed and “hot lead” became slang for bullets. The reason is unclear.
Cowboy of the Pecos: rustler, based on the notion safety could be found in the lawless area around Texas’ Pecos River.
Dressed to kill: double entendre meaning not only that a man wearing two guns most likely was a killer, but also that wearing a double rig (a holstered pistol on each hip) made it difficult for a gunman to do anything with either hand without implying a threat; therefor, dudes who adopted the practice were likely to be killed.
Dry-gulch: to ambush someone, particularly in a cowardly manner.
Get the drop on: to obtain a marked advantage, especially with the help of a gun. Probably dates to the California gold rush of 1849, when claim-jumpers sometimes seemed to materialize from the ether before hijacking a profitable claim at gunpoint. First documented appearance in print 1869 in Alexander K. McClure’s Three Thousand Miles through the Rocky Mountains: “So expert is he with his faithful pistol, that the most scientific of rogues have repeatedly attempted in vain to get ‘the drop’ on him.”
GTT: on the wrong side of the law. Short for “gone to Texas,” this usage dates at least to the Civil War, when deserters and other former soldiers from both armies — suddenly unemployed and inured to violence — migrated to still-wild, wide-open Texas, “lost” their names, and took up outlawry. (Originally, “Gone to Texas” was the phrase families ruined by the financial panic of 1819 painted on doors and fence signs before lighting out to begin anew in greener pastures south of the Mexican border.) In his 1857 book Journey through Texas, Frederick Law Olmstead noted that many newcomers to the state were suspected of having skipped out on something “discreditable” back home. Thomas Hughes, in his 1884 book G.T.T., wrote “When we want to say that it is all up with some fellow, we just say, ‘G.T.T.’ as you’d say, ‘gone to the devil,’ or ‘gone to the dogs.’”
Days on the Range (Hands Up!) by Frederic Remington
Gun: until the early 20th Century, cannon or long guns like shotguns and rifles. Handguns were called pistols or — after Samuel Colt introduced his first patented repeating revolver in 1836 — six-guns or six-shooters.
Gunman: shootist; gunfighter. First recorded use 1903 in a New York newspaper. (Gunsman, with an S in the middle, arose on the American frontier during the Revolutionary period.)
Gunslinger: No such term existed in the Old West. The word is pure Hollywood, from the early days of western movies.
Gun shark: gunfighter. Arose mid-1800s from the earlier (1700s) use of “shark” to indicate a voracious or predatory person, based on the reputation of the fish.
Heeled up: armed. Arose ca. 1866 from the 1560s usage of “heel” to mean attaching spurs to a gamecock’s feet.
Hogleg: large revolver. Originally referred to the Bisley single-action Colt (first manufactured 1894), but later generalized to any big pistol.
Holdup: a robbery. American English colloquialism, 1851. The verb “to hold up,” meaning “to stop by force and rob,” didn’t arise until 1887, apparently from the robbers’ command to raise hands. “Hold up,” meaning to delay, dates to 1837.
Hustler: thief, especially one who roughs up his victims. Arose 1825. Sense of “energetic worker” is from 1884; sense of “prostitute” dates from 1924.
Lam: to run off. U.S. slang dating to 1886; of uncertain origin. “On the lam,” meaning flight to avoid prosecution or consequences, arose c. 1897.
Jesse James’ Oath, or Tracked to Death by W.B. Lawson (Street & Smith Publishers, Dec. 1897)
On the cuidado: running from the law. From the Spanish warning ten cuidado, which means “be careful.”
Owlhoot: outlaw. “Riding the owlhoot trail” referred to a man who had left the straight and narrow to become an outlaw. One explanation of origin came from a man living in the Indian Territory of eastern Oklahoma around 1870. He claimed the name came about from the Indians in the area using owl hoots to signal danger or someone’s approach. Another tale indicates outlaws were called “owlhoots” because, when they were getting ready to ambush somebody in the dark, they would imitate the hooting of owls to signal one another.
Pecos swap: theft. Again, based on the reputation of Texas’s Pecos River area.
Pistolero: expert with a handgun. Adopted from Mexican Spanish, in which the word has the same meaning.
Rattlesnaked: ambushed (literally or figuratively) in a particularly devious or cunning way. Dates at least to 1818.
Safecracker (also safe-cracker): individual with a talent for liberating money from locked vaults. Arose ca. 1897, as a reference to robbers who used dynamite to thwart security boxes.
Shootist: expert marksman. Arose 1864.
Sidewinder: dangerously cunning or devious person. Arose American West ca. 1875 as a reference to some species of rattlesnakes’ “peculiar lateral movement.”
Stickup: robbery at gunpoint. Arose 1887 from the earlier (1846) verb “stick up,” meaning to rob someone at gunpoint. The phrase “stick up for,” meaning defend, is from 1823. The archaic noun “stick-up” arose ca. 1857 as a colloquial term for a stand-up collar.
Recently I came across a list of occupations that some experts say will be obsolete in the next ten years. Occupations on the line include postal workers, farmers, ranchers (yikes, we’re talking cowboys here!), cooks and cashiers.
Self-service checkouts are slowly taking over the stores and restaurants in my area. You can even check out your own books at my local library, and meter readers have gone the way of the dinosaurs. All this got me to thinking about occupations from the past that no longer exist. Here are a few that caught my eye:
Bone man public domain
Rag and Boneman
Following the great buffalo slaughter of the 1800s, bleached bones covered the prairies. It didn’t take long for homesteaders to figure out what the real money crop was. Bones were used for cosmetics, glue, lubricants and sugar cane filters. During the height of the bone trade, eastern processing plants purchased an estimated billion-dollars’ worth of bones.
Icemen made daily rounds in wagons, carts or trucks delivering ice for ice boxes.
Knocker-Upper (it’s not what you think)
How did workers get to work on time before alarm clocks? A knocker-upper banged on doors or windows to wake people at the appointed time. Some used peashooters aimed at second story windows. It makes you wonder who woke the knocker-uppers?
Gandy dancers 1917 source: wikipedia public domain
This jobs sounds more fun than it was. Railroad workers or gandy dancers, as they were called, laid thousands of miles of railroad tracks across the U.S.
Bloodletting was a popular method by which to treat disease or infection. Doctors used millions of leeches during the 19th century and let’s face it; someone had to collect those suckers.
Shyster lawyer (some people might argue that this profession still exists)
Wikipedia public domain
These workers lit gas streetlights with the aid of a long pole. In some communities, the lamplighter also served as night watchman.
Lectors were hired by factories to educate workers and eradicate boredom. They did this by reading newspapers and even novels aloud. Should a lector read anything too radical or controversial, he could expect to be tossed out on his ear. Hmm. Sounds like some college campuses today.
Do any of you remember milkmen? What about gas station attendants who used to pump gas, clean windows and check the tires? It wasn’t that long ago that people came to the door selling encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners. Most of us could probably do without the salesmen, but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone fill our tanks on occasion? I would also miss not having my mail delivered, and can’t imagine a world without cowboys. What about you? What profession or occupation do you or will you miss?