Tag: Regina Scott

Photographer on a Sidesaddle

with guest blogger Regina Scott.

 

I love researching for a new novel, finding those unique nuggets that are going to bring a character or setting alive. In my recent release, A Distance Too Grand, my heroine Meg Pero is a photographer who wrangles her way onto a survey of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 1871, only to discover the Army captain leading the expedition is the man she once refused to marry.

 

That doesn’t stop her. Meg’s used to being a woman in a man’s world. She followed her late father as he shot pictures of everything from a Civil War battlefield to Niagara Falls. Now she has to lug heavy cameras and deal with the harsh chemicals to prepare the glass plate negatives and develop the pictures. On such a rugged expedition, I thought surely she would ride astride.

 

Nope.

 

At that point in American history, except for a few daring or practical ladies out west, most ladies still rode sidesaddle. If Meg wants to be taken as a lady and a professional, she has to ride sidesaddle too. Which means, she needs a riding outfit.

 

And not just any riding outfit. For a two-month survey, Meg has one small trunk and two saddlebags in which to place all her personal belongings. If she wants to change her underthings, she has room for about two outfits. These outfits have to allow her to mount and dismount easily and climb into her photography van to set up her negatives. She must clamber over rocks, duck under trees, and venture out onto ledges to get the perfect shot. Nothing is more important to Meg than getting the shot.

 

Typical riding habits would not work. They were usually designed to look more like men’s wear, with tailored jackets and long, often tight sleeves. They also featured long skirts that could drape over the side of the saddle and hide the lady’s legs. Many of these skirts were so long they trailed on the ground when the lady was standing. All that would make it challenging for Meg’s work. 

 

However, as early as the 1830s, it was possible to purchase a riding habit that came with breeches or even trousers that were worn under a modest skirt. The short pants buttoned just below the knee. The longer trousers extended down over the boots and had a strap that went under the instep to keep them in place. If you look at this picture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can just see the hem of the trouser peeking out under the skirt on the right. Meg brings two such habits with her—one navy with brass buttons and one cream-colored version like what you see on the cover.

 

So, would you have been daring enough to wear breeches under your riding habit or even, ahem, ride astride? Comment below for a chance to win a print copy of A Distance Too Grand.

 

 

 

Regina Scott is the award-winning author of more than forty-five works of warm, witty historical romance. She and her husband live in the Puget Sound area of Washington State on the way to Mt. Rainier. Her fascination with history has led her to dress as a Regency dandy, drive a carriage four-in-hand, learn to fence, and sail on a tall ship, all in the name of research. You can learn more about her at http://www.reginascott.com or connect with her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/authorreginascott) or Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/reginascottpins

The Magical Music Box

by Regina Scott

 

If you’re like me, you’ve already been queueing up the Christmas music. There’s something special about the hymns, carols, and jingles written to celebrate the season. But in the west of the 1800s, music was a precious commodity, at any time. There are tales of families sacrificing to bring a piano on the Oregon Trail, stories of stampedes averted by a cowboy with a calming voice. If you could play an instrument or sing well, you were instantly popular!

 

Perhaps that’s why music boxes were so prized. First developed in the early nineteenth century in Europe by watchmakers, some early specimens were tiny enough to fit inside a gentleman’s snuff box. The mechanism was much like what you may have seen in a child’s toy—a cylinder with bumps equating to notes and a toothed comb that the cylinder rotated against to “ring” out the song. You cranked the mechanism to tighten a spring, which slowly unwound and stopped the motion of the cylinder.

People were entranced by the sound, and demand grew. Music boxes grew larger, fancier. Some came in tortoiseshell cases, others encased in fine wood. Sizes increased to tabletop and even as large as a grandfather clock. Companies found ways to swap cylinders, so you could play more songs. The number of teeth “playing” across the cylinder grew to over 300, providing a range of octaves. More springs meant the box could play for hours without rewinding.

Catalogs allowed you to pick from a range of music, from popular tunes to classical pieces and hymns. One piece even mimicked the sound of a bird singing. Supposedly Beethoven was particularly enchanted with the devices and composed music with them in mind.

 

At first the price for these boxes was high enough that only the wealthy could afford them. But after the Civil War, more reasonable boxes became available. These used less durable components, such as wooden or even paper rolls. Coin-operated versions were placed in railway stations for the public’s enjoyment. Pocket watches became musical, playing chimes to mark the hour. And people on the frontier ordered the boxes and gave them to those they loved. My hero Levi Wallin gives one to my heroine Callie Murphy in this month’s His Frontier Christmas Family. Callie loves music, but her family circumstances have prevented her from owning any kind of instrument. The music box becomes her prized possession.

The advent of the phonograph and player piano toward the end of the nineteenth century usurped the popularity of the music box. But examples continued to be created long afterward. The round music boxes in this blog post belonged to my great-grandmother and her sister, both of whom were born in the late 1800s. One was used to hold face powder—the original powder puff is inside.

 

Perhaps, like Callie, they loved music in any form, even from a magical little box.

 

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for an autographed copy of His Frontier Christmas Family, Regina’s new release.

 

Regina Scott started writing novels in the third grade. Thankfully for literature as we know it, she didn’t actually sell her first novel until she learned a bit more about writing. She now has more than thirty-five published works of warm, witty romance. She and her husband of nearly 30 years reside in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. Regina Scott has dressed as a Regency dandy, driven four-in-hand, learned to fence, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research, of course. Learn more about her at her website or connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Goodreads.

His Frontier Family

After taking guardianship of his late friend’s siblings and baby daughter, minister Levi Wallin hopes to atone for his troubled past on the gold fields. But it won’t be easy to convince the children’s wary elder sister to trust him. The more he learns about her, though, the more he believes Callie Murphy’s prickly manner masks a vulnerable heart…one he’s starting to wish he was worthy of.

Every man in Callie’s life chose chasing gold over responsibilities. Levi—and the large, loving Wallin family—might just be different. But she can tell he’s hiding something from her, and she refuses to risk her heart with secrets between them. Even as they grow closer, will their pasts keep them from claiming this unexpected new beginning?