Little girls have enjoyed playing house throughout the years, and doll houses have always been a favorite.
R. Bliss Manufacturing Company of Pawtucket, Rhode Island made doll houses in the late nineteenth century. Rufus Bliss started out making wooden screws
and clamps for piano and cabinet makers, and later adopted modern technology to produce inexpensive miniature houses.
Made of wood and lithographed paper, the houses were affordable for middle-class parents to purchase for their children. Bliss printed its name on the lithographed bricks or wood either on the front or back of the house.
Designed in the Victorian style, the houses were simple in their construction, with no embellishments like working windows or shutters. All the trimmings were in the lovely lithographs.
The house opened to expose two to
four rooms. Larger models had an attic as well. Firehouses, garages and stables were also popular.
Bliss houses are highly collectable and can be seen in museums across the country. Occasionally one comes up for sale on ebay. There is a company making reproductions, which are lovely.
The house at the right measures 18x12x20 This one would go for about $1,400 today.
Did you have a dollhouse when you were a girl? I had a colorful metal one.
With several deadlines looming (and panic setting in) I’ve been immersed in the 1800s all month. Thanks to my ongoing series of books set during this fascinating century, I’ve been jumping around the various decades during my research. I’ve come across some fascinating information, discoveries really, about the “good old days.”
So, what were the most talked about events of the 1800s? Here’s a list of a few key moments and inventions in our American history, by decade.
Napoleonic Wars continue
Less than 5% of the world”s population lives in cities.
U.S. buys Louisiana Territory and New Orleans from France
Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore from Mississippi River to Pacific Ocean
Zebulon Pike explores Rockies and names peak in Colorado
1st Accurate Census
London’s Pall Mall lit by gas
Carbon paper invented
West Point Military Academy founded
First shoes made for left and right feet
Steamship “Savannah” first to cross Atlantic – in 26 days.
The kaleidoscope (invented by Sir David Brewster)
Sushi (bite-size fish on small mounds vinegary rice) in Japan
The Waltz and the quadrille are introduced in England
Stephenson”s Steam Locomotive
Food in tin cans patented in London by Peter Durand
Mr. Jeremiah Chubb”s detector lock
Professional Horseracing in U.S.
Gas Light Company of Baltimore-streets lit up
Mississippi Steamboat “Washington”; Double- decked
steamboat in Wheeling, VA;
Pawnbrokers in New York
Beethoven goes deaf
A high school established in Boston
Gas street lighting in Boston
Mr. Macintosh”s waterproof fabric
Lenses for lighthouses that cast light out to sea
Louis Braille”s writing system for the blind
Poem: “The Night Before Christmas”
Friction matches (“lucifers”)
W.A. Burt”s typewriter
Discovery of the Great Salt Lake
America”s first modern hotel opens with bathrooms-the Tremont House, Boston
First social fraternity -Kappa Alpha
Patents granted: The bellows, reaping machine, Colt”s revolving cylinder for guns, fireproof safe, diving suit, mechanical reaper, ice-making machine, the hand wrench, the “bed spring,” cotton seed planter, corn planter, phosphorous friction matches, the screw propeller, mechanical lawn mower, sandpaper
Jim Bowie”s Bowie Knife
Thomas Davenport”s electric motor
Mr. Macintosh”s galoshes and raincoats
The modern bicycle invented in Scotland
Samuel F.B. Morse”s telegraph and his Morse Code
A woman”s college at Mount Holyoke
Horse-drawn trolleys in New York
New inventions: pneumatic and rubber tires, the artificial leg, sewing machine, the dental chair, Venetian blinds, safety pin, telegraph ticker that prints letters of alphabet, method of taking photos with plates, blackboards in schools, rubber bands
Doughnuts with holes invented in Camden Maine
The sport of skiing in Norway
Tattooing of sailors in New York
The Smithsonian Institution
Solid eating chocolate
World”s first dental college in Baltimore
US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD opened
First Christmas cards, and printed Valentines Day cards
Ho-kay, that’s enough for now. I’ll finish the rest of the decade the next time I post. Stay tuned for more…
For those who have traveled through the Texas Panhandle, no
doubt you thought there’s nothing but prairie with yucca and mesquite splattered along the way plus windmills, wind generators, oil wells, and millions of cattle. If you’re lucky you might see a longhorn or a buffalo or two. Of course, if you’re near Amarillo, where I live, you might well have received a welcoming whiff of a feed yard, which in the summer time isn’t all that pleasant.
If you have spent any time in the area you most likely have visited the most astonishing natural phenomena in the Panhandle known as the Grand Canyon of Texas—the Palo Duro Canyon. It was formed by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. The water deepens the canyon by moving sediment downstream. Wind and water erosion gradually widen the canyon.
The Canyon itself is 120 miles long and in some places is twenty miles wide with a depth of more than eight hundred feet. Its elevation at the rim is 3,500 feet above sea level. The Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the United States behind the Grand Canyon, which is 277 miles long, eighteen miles wide, and six thousand feet deep.
Early Spanish Explorers are believed to have discovered the area and gave it its name, which is Spanish for “hard wood” in reference to the abundant mesquite and juniper trees. Humans have lived in the canyon for over twelve thousand years. Over the centuries it has been home to the Comanche Indians, trailblazers, outlaws, and the famous Father of the Panhandle, Col. Charles Goodnight.
On July 4, 1934, Palo Duro State Park was opened and contains over twenty-nine thousand acres of the scenic, northern most portion of the canyon. The Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930″s constructed most of the buildings and roads still in use by park staff and visitors. The individual cabins, known as the Cow Camp facilities, are still in existence and can be rented for a wonderful, rustic retreat.
But there’s nothing that fires up the imagination about what all went on in Palo Duro Canyon like the tales of the lost treasurers that is supposed to have been buried there. Historians have documented stories of gold being hidden by the Commancheros. And, then there’s an Army payroll that is supposed to have been absconded by outlaws and buried in their hideout. There’s more than one story about gold prospectors vanishing and their loot disappearing in the canyon. Another story has Indians killing Fergus Dooley, taking his horses, and finding some $40,000 in gold coins lying on the ground. Four of the coins are thought to have been found. The rest have not. So, did they steal all but a few coins or have these just resurfaced from being buried deep in the walls of the canyon? Another tale alleges that pioneers traveling through here long ago lost a cache of $20 gold coins that have never been found.
But, the most famous documented story didn’t take place when the Panhandle was wild and unsettled except by buffalo hunters and Indians, but took place when shiny gold coins fell from the sky over the canyon.
In the spring of 1949, a decade and a half after the scenic and history-rich park opened, gold coins literally fell from the skies deep into the canyon to a large crowd, estimated to be about a hundred thousand, who had gathered to take their chances at winning an all-expense-paid vacation to Havana, Cuba. Now, I must note here that at the time Havana was a wide-open party town and purportedly controlled by the American mafia.
Oh yes, and the ten thousand coins that rained down were “goldine” which is brass with gold-looking plating. One side of the prize coins bore the legend “Texas Palo Duro Canyon Treasure Hunt 1949”, while the other side featured the raised image of the park’s most famous landmark, the towering rock formation called the Lighthouse. A number had been stamped across the lower part of the Lighthouse and if it ended in a seven the finder could claim their prize by Labor Day 1949. Of the ten thousand dropped, only a thousand could be redeemed for prizes collectively valued at $10,000.00.
Of interest, the driver of each car that entered the park that day had to pay $.42 plus $.24 for each additional occupant except for children who only paid $.12 each. Today the rate is $5.00 per person, but educational groups are granted waivers.
Once the coins were dropped, then Governor Buford H. Jester cut a ribbon that triggered the twentieth-century “gold rush” and the earliest large scale effort to bring attention to one of the Panhandle’s major tourist destinations.
As soon as the visitors could drive down the steep road into the floor of the canyon, the treasure hunt began. Other than the grand prizes, finders had a shot at season passes to Amarillo Gold Sox Baseball team home games, a $250 diamond ring donated by a jeweler, and two registered quarter horses from Panhandle rancher, Glenn L. Casey.
An organization called the Palo Duro Canyon Booster Club sponsored the event and there was a publicity campaign in advance of and after the affair. I don’t believe it was ever revealed whose brainchild it was, but they hit a public relations home run. It has been reported, but I couldn’t find confirmation, that the organization’s Chairman, F.W. “Fist” Ansley thought up the idea.
Another explanation might be that since Braniff Airlines put up the top prizes, the pioneer aviation company no doubt played a role in the publicity campaign. In fact, it was later thought that the promotion came about because 1949 marked the centennial of the great California gold rush.
Over six decades later, park visitors occasionally find one of the coins; but unfortunately, though nice collectibles, they are no longer redeemable for prizes.
Have you ever visited Palo Duro Canyon or the Grand Canyon?
Since last night was Oscar night, with only Django Unchained representing our favorite genre, I thought I”d sing the praises of the mighty movie western for a bit. But I need your help. While there have been many westerns given an Oscar nomination, did you know only three have actually won Best Picture honors? Can you name them?
Based on the Edna Ferber book of the same name. It tells the story of the opening of the Oklahoma territory.
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Starring (and directed by) Kevin Costner, this was the first western to actually use Native American actors in Native American roles.
Clint Eastwood”s gritty, violent film. Eastwood also won Best Director honors and co-star Gene Hackman received the golden statue for Best Supporting Actor.
Now, I don”t know about you, but none of these make my top-ten list of favorite westerns–although I love the recreation of the Oklahoma land rush in Cimarron. So I searched for Oscar-nominated films and found all those movies I watch
time and time again:
The Ox-Box Incident (1943)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
True Grit (1969 & 2010)
The Shootist (1976)
3:10 to Yuma
There are many, many more; movies starring Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Clint Eastwood…far too many to list. And I haven”t even started on the list of musicals like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Oklahoma (1955), Paint Your Wagon (1969)…
I”ll stop now.
What about you? Is your favorite movie on my list? Was one of last night”s hopefuls a must-see movie? Or do you have a movie that I just have to try, that you know is bound to become another favorite. Western or not, I”m willing to give it a try.
Oops! Looks like I fell down on the job. I”m late getting Miss Lena”s winner drawn. But to tell you the truth I”ve been up to my eyeballs in snow and about to freeze plumb to death. But enough about me.
Miss Lena”s winner is…………….
Woo-H00! I”m dancin” a jig for you, Valri. You get your choice of one of the McKenna”s Daughters series.
Someone will contact you for your mailing particulars.
I know authors who really don’t like the research involved in making historical novels authentic to the time period. I am not one of those authors.
While writing my McKenna’s Daughters series, I found out a lot of things I didn’t know. And I love the minute details of life that I discover. I try to work them into the story. Here are a few of the things I found and used. Of course, there were a large number of other things, and this blog post couldn’t possibly hold them all.
In the prologues in both book one and book two, I had to research the Oregon Trail wagon trains, then choose the route that would work best for my story.
With Maggie’s Journey, book one, I researched the transcontinental railroad system, especially the part that was in the western United States. I had to figure out how long it would take to travel in 1885 from Seattle,Washington Territory, to Little Rock, Arkansas. The characters stayed in actual hotels of the time period in Denver,Colorado, and St. Louis, Missouri. They had to go east to St. Louis, then travel south-southwest from there to Little Rock.
I also had a hard time picturing Seattle in that time period. The adult reference librarian in the Seattle Public Library helped me find
websites that were gold mines of information that I needed. So almost all the streets, stores, hotels, schools, hospital, etc., were all part of the city in 1885.
For Mary’s Blessing, book two, I spent quite awhile researching Oregon City and Portland. There were a number of interesting things in the books I read. In that time period, some people trained goats to pull sleds. I found a picture of one such goat team. They were planning on using them to pull sleds to the gold fields in Alaska. I didn’t find any information about how successful they were with that endeavor.
I also had to research medical practices of the time period, farming practices around Oregon City, and transportation between Oregon City and Portland. I had the hero and heroine go from Oregon City and Portland by trolley. My editor questioned that, because the information she had said that the electric trolley wasn’t built until 1890. I found pictures of the trolley station and actual trolleys in 1885. The trolleys were pulled by horses or mules along the right-of-way where the tracks were later laid for the electric trolley cars.
With Catherine’s Pursuit, the book that released earlier this month, I found equally interesting details in San Francisco, which I used in the book. I also researched steamship lines of the day. There’s one on the cover, and the hero is a steamship captain. San Francisco had electricity and telephones in 1885, but Portland and Oregon City didn’t.
If you want to see what life was like in 1885 in Seattle, Portland, Oregon City, and
San Francisco, travel with my characters through these places and see how they lived.
The Yellow Rose of Texas has to be one of the most famous “Texas” songs ever written. However, as I started reading about its history, I was shocked at how much I didn”t know about the song.
As many folks songs do, The Yellow Rose evolved over time. The first recorded lyrics appeared in Christy”s Plantation Melodies. No. 2, a songbook published in Philadelphia in 1853. Edwin P. Christy was the founder of a minstrel group that performed in the blackface entertainment style that was popular at that time. Performers would create parodies with lively dance numbers, songs, and woeful ballads. The Yellow Rose of Texas was a perfect fit for this genre, with a lovesick singer who refers to himself as a “darkey” longing to return to “a yellow girl,” a term used to describe a mulatto, or woman of mixed blood. Here are some of the original lyrics:
There’s a yellow girl in Texas That I”m going down to see;
No other darkies know her, No darkey, only me;
She cried so when I left her That it
like to broke my heart,
And if I only find her, We never more will part.
Chorus: She”s the sweetest girl of colour That this darkey ever knew;
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, And sparkle like the dew.
You may talk about your Dearest Mae, And sing of Rosa Lee,
But the yellow Rose of Texas Beats the belles of Tennessee.
I had never heard these lyrics. They give a completely different meaning to
the song, don”t they? When the sheet music for the song was copyrighted in 1858, “yellow girl” was changed to “yellow rose” in the first verse and instead of the “sweetest girl of colour” in the chorus, it now read “sweetest rose of colour.”
The song became a huge hit, and by the time of the Civil War, it became a point of pride for the South and roused southern loyalties. Later in the century, the song’s notoriety led to its association with the yellow flowers, and in 1892, Governor James Hogg wore “the yellow rose of Texas” on the lapel of his coat during his successful reelection campaign.
It wasn”t until 1933 when Gene Autry recorded the song as a cowboy ballad that the lyrics we”re more familiar with came into being. They replaced “no other darkey knows her, no darkey only me” with “no other fellow knows her, nobody else but me.” The revised lyrics thus made the song racially neutral, and the “yellow rose” became symbolic of the attractive woman’s beauty, not her race.
As time went by, other lyrics transitioned as well. Eventually the first line of the chorus changed from “She”s the sweetest girl of colour…” to “She”s the sweetest little rosebud that Texas ever knew.” Dearest Mae is also sometimes swapped out with Clemintine. And instead of the yellow rose beating out the belles of Tennessee, she simply became “the only girl for me.” Wouldn”t want those Tennessee gals to get too riled, you know.
The tune changed as well. In 1955 Mitch Miller and his orchestra produced a new arrangement of the song to give it the sound of a Confederate marching song instead of a ballad. This version hit #1 on the charts and sold over a million copies. This is the version most people are familiar with today. Below is a 1955 performance of the song.
So, what do you think of when you hear The Yellow Rose of Texas?
Just before starting this blog, I was in the living room with my husband while he went through the cable directory deciding which movies to record. As he zipped through the channels, the Jeanette Oke “Love Comes Softly” series caught my eye.
“Oh, I love that,” I said to my husband.
“Do you want me to record it?” he answered in a resigned tone I know well. If a movie is on the Hallmark Channel, he’s not a fan.
“No. I”d rather be surprised when it just pops up.”
“Surprised? You’ve seen it how many times?”
“Well, a lot, but it’s not the same when it”s recorded.” For me, there’s something about stumbling on a movie and being happily surprised that beats watching a DVD any day of the week. If I own a movie, I tend not to watch it. But if it shows up out of the blue, I’m hooked.
Does anyone else do that? I sure do, and these are the movies that pull me in every time they’re on. Not surprisingly, they’re all westerns.
Pure Country with George Straight, Isabel Glasser, and Lesley Anne Warren. I can sing the songs and recite the dialogue. I know exactly when Dusty, a burned out country music star, is going to get knocked in the mud by a jealous bar patron, and I cringe every time his road manager sabotages his budding romance with ranch girl Harley Tucker. There’s no way I can turn this movie off before we get
to the big finale with George crooning I Cross My Heart. Sigh . . .
Electric Horseman with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. The movie is dated now, but the romance still holds up for me. You can’t go wrong with rebellious cowboy out to
save an exploited horse while putting up with a gutsy female TV reporter. One of my favorite scenes is where former rodeo star Sonny Steele rescues the horse Rising Star from being drugged and put on display. They’re both covered with lights and lit up like Christmas trees when Sonny rides into the sunset. Later, when Sonny and reporter Hallie Martin join forces to set the thoroughbred free, it’s a bittersweet moment for everyone.
I already mentioned the Jeanette Oke Love Comes Softly series. Marty, Clark and the numerous other characters are just delightful. It’s pure pleasure to watch a series that highlights courage, sacrifice and love. The first movie is my favorite, with the next two being tied for second place.
This is an old one . . . Rio Bravo with John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Walter Brennan is a western classic, but it also has some seriously cheesy moments. The singing-in-the-jail scene always makes me smile, maybe because it’s something unique to the era in which it was made. I enjoy that lighthearted moment.
And last . .. Anything with a horse or a dog on the Hallmark Channel will hook me in about five seconds. The sappier, the better!
What about you? Are there movies you just can”t resist, even if you’ve seen them a dozen times?