I lived in Nevada desert without benefit of air conditioning for 22 years. We lived on a generator and since we didn’t run the gen during the heat of the day, there was no way to cool down the house. We lived in the northern part of the state, so the hot, hot weather only lasted for three to four months and then it was time to get ready for the cold, cold months. I loved that house, and our isolation, but summer months could be trying.
To deal with the heat, we’d shut down the house by pulling blinds and keeping windows and doors shut after 10 a.m. We opened the house back up at 9 or 10 p.m. to let the cool(er) air blow through. Most importantly, we slept in the basement instead of our actual bedroom for at least two months every summer. I lived in loose fitting dresses. My husband, who hated shorts, wore shorts. Once the sun started to go down, we escaped the now super hot house and hung out in the shade of our favorite tree. And we drank a lot of water.
So how did people with no electricity for AC units and swamp coolers keep cool(er) in the Old West?
In the Southwest, Native Americans taught settlers to build homes with shady breezeways to keep air circulating. Wind and moving air was the one thing that could ease stifling heat. Some people soaked blankets with water and hung them over windows to create a swamp cooler effect when the wind blew.
Many houses were made with thick walls to keep out the heat–adobe houses in the southwest, and sod houses on the Great Plains. Also, people understood the benefit of cool earth. I’ve read of people that had “caves” or earthen places to escape to. I think I would have sat in the cellar, if I’d had one.
During the height of the summer, people slept outside if possible. If it was impracticable, or too dangerous to sleep outside, they would damped their bed sheets with water to cool them before going to sleep.
According to True West magazine, one shouldn’t believe all the pictures showing people in dark heavy clothing during the summer months. People wore lighter colors and looser clothing to deal with the heat when necessary.
And, of course, people tended to work in the morning and evening to avoid the super hot part of the day. They sought out shade and drank a lot of water.
Have you heard of any ways that people kept cool back before AC and electricity? If so, please share. I’m going fishing tomorrow (waving at Laura Drake) but will check in as soon as possible. I’m hoping to learn some stuff.
Hey, y’all! It’s an honor and a thrill to be back visiting you here at Petticoats and Pistols. You know, the name of this blog says it all. At least for me. Women can be feminine and still be downright dangerous.
My new book, A Scout for Skyler, from the Mail-Order Mama series, has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets The Beverly Hillbillies.
Yes, it’s a comedy, but my heroine, Priscilla Jones, was written as a serious tribute to some of the most amazing pioneer women in American history.
Over the years, my research has introduced me to some gals who defied expectations and overcame some impossible situations. Sometimes, it was life-and-death. Other times, it was a matter of life—hers, and how she wanted to live it.
As I was writing A Scout for Skyler, I had these historical figures in my head:
Of course, when we think of rough-and-rowdy frontier women, the first one to come to mind should be Calamity Jane. She lived in a man’s world. Smoke, drank, chewed, and fought with the best of them.
Orphaned at twelve, left to care for five brothers and sisters, Calamity did not shirk her duty. Most likely she did work as a prostitute early on to provide for the family. She left the lifestyle behind, though, by learning to shoot and throw a respectable punch. Everyone who knew Calamity did respect her courage and her kindness. She rescued a runaway stage from a Cheyenne war party and nursed some Deadwood residents back to health during a smallpox epidemic. The only thing Calamity couldn’t do was win Hickock’s heart.
Susan McSween watched her husband get gunned down in the street during the Lincoln County War. Livid over his murder by a US Army colonel in cahoots with the Murphy-Dolan gang, she stayed in town and hired an attorney to fight for justice. He was soon murdered, as well. Susan still didn’t back down or leave. She changed tactics. She figured out the best way to get back at the corrupt forces in Lincoln County was to hit them in the pocketbook.
Susan McSween was a shrewd businesswoman and she put all her efforts into frustrating her nemesis, James Dolan. Eventually, she became the Cattle Queen of New Mexico, at one point running nearly 5,000 head of cattle. Best of all, she outlived all her enemies.
And I thought of Nancy Hart, a patriot on the frontier of North Georgia. The Cherokee named her War Woman because she was fearless and an accurate shot (even with crossed eyes). Her real legend came about when she killed six British soldiers with their own guns.
I could go on and on. The women who built this country were tough, stubborn, and courageous. Suffice it to say, the things my girl Priscilla Jones does in A Scout for Skyler—she’s totally capable of them. Because real heroines have gone before her.
My hero, Captain Corbett, is an arrogant Scotsman who believes women should have babies not opinions. How well do you think an attitude like that would have gone over with the rough-and-tumble Calamity Jane, or the fiery, refined Susan McSween?
In A Scout for Skyler, all these ladies have a voice, and the story was a hoot to write. Talk about fireworks and sassy dialogue.
A Scout for Skyler is part of the multi-author series, Mail-Order Mama. All the stories are stand-alones but have one thing in common: the mail-order bride is a surprise. I hope you’ll check them all out.
To Provide against Carrying of Deadly Weapons (1881)
Section 1. It is hereby declared unlawful to carry in the hand or upon the person or otherwise any deadly weapon within the limits of said city of Tombstone, without first obtaining a permit in writing.
Section 2: This prohibition does not extend to persons immediately leaving or entering the city, who, with good faith, and within reasonable time are proceeding to deposit, or take from the place of deposit such deadly weapon.
Here we go again; as our politicians work on gun control legislation, it might surprise you to learn that there was more gun control in the Old West than there is in modern times.
According to Adam Winkler, professor and specialist in constitutional law at UCLA School of Law, Tombstone had stricter laws on carrying guns in public in the 1880s than it has today. “Today, you’re allowed to carry a gun without a license or permit on Tombstone streets. Back in the 1880s, you weren’t.” This was true of many frontier towns.
According to Stephen Aron, professor of his history at UCLA, the first law passed when Dodge City formed a government in 1878 was one prohibiting the carrying of guns within town limits.
Leaders and merchants considered restrictive gun laws necessary for encouraging people to move to their towns and bring families. This was considered a necessary part of creating a stable community, rather than a transient one.
Gun laws were passed quickly in the Old West. That was because they were instigated at the local level rather than by Congress. The Federal government stayed out of gun battles.
The laws did not ban guns. Owning a gun in the Old West was a matter of survival. The laws simply stated where and how you could carry them. Guns and knives were not allowed within town limits. Visitors were required to leave their weapons with the sheriff, livery or saloon upon entering town. They received a token which they would exchange for their guns upon leaving.
Some challenged the laws in court, but most lost.
Did the gun laws work? If we use Tombstone as an example, the answer would seem to be no. In his book on crime in the Old West, historian Roger McGrath concluded that it was widespread gun ownership that deterred criminality in these areas in which law enforcement had little authority or ability to combat crime.
Then as now, there are no easy answers, and the battle rages on.
Would it surprise you to know that Hollywood exaggerated crime in the Old West? Scholars have established that it was not as violent as most movies and novels would have us believe.
Having lived in Nevada for almost half of my life, I was very aware of the brief role camels played in Virginia City and Austin during the mining days, hauling salt and ore. What I hadn’t known was that camel-power had been experimented with many times over the course of US history. So I offer to you, a brief Camel’s in the west timeline.
First of all, camels are native to North American and spread to Asia via the Siberian Land Bridge during the ice age. Camels died out in North America, but thrived in the Old World where they were domesticated.
Camels have a metabolism and specialized body-cooling system that allows them to go days without water, and they eat vegetation that other animals pass up. They can haul large loads. A mule can pack 300 pounds, but a dromedary camel (one hump) can haul 600 pounds. They can lose 40% of their bodyweight without upsetting the fluid balance in their blood, and they can drink 25 gallons of water in one visit to the trough.
Camels first came (back) to North America is 1701 when a sea captain brought a pair to Salem, Massachusetts and displayed them as a curiosity.
In 1836, US Army Major George George H. Crossman suggested to Congress that they explore the use of camels in desert environments. In the late 1840s Major Henry Wayne believed that camels were better suited to the conditions of the American Southwest than horses and mules, due to their ability to go without water and to forage where other animals could not. He made a formal request to the War Department to import camels for the purpose of developing a camel cavalry.
Eventually, in the mid 1850’s Congress provided $30,000 for the purchase of 50 camels, and the hiring of 10 camel drivers. Major Wayne traveled to the eastern Mediterranean via a Navy ship, where he investigated the camel markets of Egypt. He eventually bought 33 animals, 32 of which survived the sea voyage to Texas. Forty-one more camels arrived in Texas in 1857.
Camels were stronger and had more endurance than horses and mules, and were used for various purposes, such as packing and road building, but horse traders feared that camels would put them out of business. Horses hated camels and anti-camel sentiment grew in Texas. When the Civil War broke out, the Texas camels purchased by the US Military were seized by the confederacy.
Camels that were used for military purposes in western forts were abandoned during the war as the troops moved east to fight the war. The camels scattered and became feral.
After the Civil War, camels were used to haul ore and salt in western mining areas, such as the Comstock in Nevada, and the Silver King in Arizona. The one drawback to camels was that their feet were suited to sand and soft earth, not the rocky paths near mining areas.
In 1875, Nevada made camel traffic illegal on roads due to the fact that camels frightened horses. This ended the use of camels in the mining areas. The animals were either set free or sold to circuses.
In the early1960s, a spoof article in a Nevada newspaper, The Territorial Enterprise, touted the results of a fictitious camel race in Virginia City. The editor of the San Francisco Chronicle reprinted the article believing it was genuine. The next year when the Territorial Enterprise once again mentioned an upcoming camel race, the editor of the Chronicle informed the editor of the Nevada newspaper that they were sending a team to compete. The camel races were born. Director John Huston won the first camel race on a camel borrowed from the San Francisco zoo. The tradition continues to this day.
Today, three-quarters of teachers in primary schools are women. It wasn’t always that way. Prior to 1850, teaching was primarily a male occupation. Men received an education, and women were taught how to run a household.
Industrialization changed all that. The new economy led men into business and better wages, creating a teacher shortage. This left the door open for women to step in.
It was a tough job. Teachers taught in one-room schools with as many as sixty pupils. Female teachers commanded less pay than their male counterparts, but the job did give women more independence.
In my book, Wooing the Schoolmarm, Miss Maddie Percy has come all the way from Washington D.C. to teach school in Colton Kansas. Instead, the feisty red-haired schoolmarm finds the town burned to the ground and her only shelter an isolated sod house belonging to widower Luke Tyler and his young son, Matthew. Never one to be deterred by setbacks, Maddie is soon making friends with the local Indians, setting up a tepee to live in, and finding her blood racing every time Luke comes near.
Luke Tyler has no room in his life for a woman—especially one as eccentric, spunky, and smart as Maddie Percy. His prairie farm life is too harsh, his memories too painful and his secrets too dark to give in to the feelings she has awakened in him. She might be stealing his son’s heart, but he is keeping his own out of reach. If only he could keep the sparks between them from igniting something as dangerous as lo
For a chance to win a copy of Wooing the Schoolmarm, tell us the challenges you’ve had with homeschooling during the pandemic or share a favorite memory of your early school years.
Happy Fall, y’all. I’m so pleased to be your guest blogger today. I love history, and one of my favorite parts about the writing process is doing the research required to ensure accuracy in my stories. I also like to try to find something that may not be widely known to keep the story interesting.
My family and I share our hometown of Griffin, Georgia, with a notorious gambler and gunfighter who’s also a dentist. I work only a block away from the location of his dental practice.
Doc Holliday is well known for his participation, along with Wyatt Earp, in the O.K. Corral gunfight in 1881. The battle itself lasted less than a minute. After almost 140 years, what do we still find so intriguing about the man? Multiple movies retell the story of the lawman, Wyatt Earp. But strangely, the character we’re most drawn to is a sickly dentist turned gambler and gunman known as Doc.
Pictured left Doc Holliday with Wyatt Earp and his brothers.
Perhaps the complexity of his character is the reason for his lingering appeal. His vibrant personality is rooted in contrast. Doc is critically ill but bold and gallant. He’s a deadly gunslinger and gambler, yet smart, educated, flashy, witty, compassionate, and loyal. Stir in a bit of vulnerability, a touch of vanity, and don’t forget a healthy dose of gallant southern charm to describe this critically ill man.
Born with a cleft palate on August 14, 1851, John Henry Holliday was fed by his mother with an eyedropper and a spoon.
The baby’s uncle, Dr. John Stiles Holliday, performed surgery, assisted by Dr. Crawford Long, the namesake of the Emory Hospital in Atlanta. The operation may have been the first time in history in which ether was used on an infant. He was schooled at home by his mother, who spent years training him to conquer his speech impediment. She also instilled in him Southern etiquettes, which would forever be part of his demeanor.
Two actors who played Doc Holliday, Stacy Keach and Jason Robards, were also born with the same condition.
Jason Robards played Doc in Hour of the Gun in 1967.
In 1864, his family moved to Valdosta, Georgia, where his mother suffered from consumption, now known as tuberculosis, and died when he was fifteen. Three months after his mother’s death, his father remarried.
John Henry Holliday, age ten
Holliday attended Valdosta Institute, where he received a classical education, and in 1870, nineteen-year-old Holliday left home to attend the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. He graduated five months before his twenty-first birthday. He returned to Griffin, Georgia, in 1872 to practice dentistry.
John Henry was soon diagnosed with consumption and, in 1873, ended his career as a dentist. Some say he didn’t want his family to see him deteriorate and die from the disease. Others suggest he went west in hopes that the climate would be beneficial to his lungs. Regardless, Doc took the train to the literal end of the railroad line—Dallas, Texas.
Holliday understood the gravity of his disease and most likely considered himself a walking dead man. Though a realist, he remained hopeful for a cure. Doc found comfort in whiskey and gambling.
Texas was full of guns, knives, and violent men, some of whom were suffering from post-traumatic stress from the effects of war. Doc reinvented himself—from a southern gentleman dentist to a dangerous gunman who’d killed more than a dozen men in various altercations.
Holliday traveled from town to town, following the money and gaining a reputation as both a gambler and a gunman. In 1877, Doc was involved in an argument, but instead of going for his gun, he used his walking stick. His serious wounds, compounded by worsening tuberculosis, spurred a change of scenery. His next stop was Fort Griffin, where he met Wyatt Earp, who ultimately saved his life.
Earp and Holliday became fast friends. Eventually, Doc would join Earp in the wild boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona. Due to recent silver strikes, the town was flooded with merchants and cash but short on law and order. By the end of 1880, Tombstone was embedded with organized rustlers and thieves called the Cowboys.
Val Kilmer as Doc alongside Sam Elliott, Kurt Russell & Bill Paxton as Virgil, Wyatt & Morgan Earp in 1993
On October 26, 1881. Tombstone City Marshal Virgil Earp deputized Holliday. Virgil asked Doc to carry his shotgun under his coat, and the four strode down the middle of the street to meet and disarm five members of the Cowboys near the O.K. Corral, which resulted in a thirty-second shootout.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment and you could win an ebook copy of WILLOW’S WORTH!
Telegraph operator, Willow Graham, has benefited from a unique lifestyle growing up with her grandfather at the livery. She’s independent and loves spending time riding and training animals. With her twenty-first birthday approaching, her family pressures her to return to the city and take up the lavish lifestyle her uncle has planned for her.
Her other alternative is to take her chances with a matchmaking agency’s recommendation and begin correspondence with a handsome farmer.
Leo Weaver is a man of many talents. Hardworking, he’s helped his father develop a successful farm. Loyal and giving, he volunteers as a deputy sheriff. Handsome and charming, he’s about to become the target of several well-meaning ladies in the community who have submitted his name for a new matchmaking venture.
Willow craves the outdoors. Leo loves community life and wants to live in town. Can a matchmaking agency help two independent people realize the opposing desires of their hearts?
Kimberly Grist is married to her high school sweetheart, Nelson, a former teacher and coach, now a pastor. They have three adult sons, one with Down syndrome, and they have a passion for encouraging others with family members with special needs.
I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a young girl; however, I began writing my first novel in 2017. Inspired by so many things life has to offer, one of which includes our oldest son’s cancer diagnosis, it’s especially gratifying to write a happy ending.
I believe you should come away refreshed and inspired after reading a book. In my personal life, I wear so many hats, working inside and outside the home. I work hard, try harder, and then begin again the next day. Despite my best efforts, sometimes life stinks. Bad things happen. I need and want an outlet, an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome. My stories are designed to entertain, refresh, and inspire you, the reader. They combine History, Humor, and Romance, with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun.
The old West had a shortage of everything except hard times and backbreaking work and there was sure plenty of that. Pioneer women took extra pains with all their belongings and to lose something as small as a button really was difficult to take.
Buttons have been around approximately 4,000 years with its history dating back to Egypt. Archeologists have unearthed them in ancient tombs and in archeological digs.
At first buttons were used entirely for decoration. Men and women both wore buttons to adorn themselves. King Louis XIV of France spent $600,000 a year on buttons and King Francis I once had 13,600 buttons sewn to a single coat. The First Duke of Buckingham had a suit and cloak covered in diamond buttons. Talk about extravagant.
From ancient times, buttons have been fashioned from pearls, shells, glass, metal, wood, bone and antler, precious stones, porcelain, and leather among other materials. It appears that our ancestors made buttons from everything imaginable that was available at the time. Buttons with images of angels on them date back hundreds of years.
But buttons were not just for clothing. They could be found on purses, bracelets, belts, and shoes and still can today. Early buttons showed beautiful artistry. Artists filled their time painting portraits and scenery on them. Europe became so button crazy the church denounced them as “the devil’s snare,” mainly because of women’s front-buttoned dresses. Ridiculous I know. Even the Puritans condemned buttons as sinful.
No one is quite sure when someone came along and fashioned the first buttonhole, but it was quite an accomplishment. Everyone jumped on the button wagon. It was so nice to able to make form-fitting garments that didn’t have to be secured with a belt, hooks, or other devices.
Sadly, decorative buttons have become a lost art. Today, most buttons are mass produced from inexpensive plastic.
Button collecting began in the 1930’s. The National Button Society was formed in 1938. There are thousands of collectors today. People collect all kinds and shapes and some of the prices fetched for a single button is outrageous. Recently, a button was sold in auction for $850. People are serious about their buttons.
The Smithsonian Institution has an extensive button collection as do many other museums.
Did you know that March13-19 is National Button Week?
Most of us have buttons somewhere, either in jars or in sewing baskets. I have a zip lock bag full of buttons that I’ve cut off clothes before I toss them in the trash. I always think I’ll need one for something.
A friend of mine plays a game of buttons with her grandchildren. She lets them choose from her button collection then tells them some wild story about where it came from and who wore it. The more outrageous story the better. Their eyes grow wide as they listen to the tales she weaves.
Do you have a stash of buttons? I have some very pretty decorative ones. Can you imagine wearing a piece of clothing that has over 13,000 buttons sewn on it?
Step back in time—how do you celebrate a barn raising in the Old West? A wagon train coming to town? A wedding? The end of a cattle drive? Or something as regular as a Saturday night?
The towns in the West were full of independent, rugged people, looking to make a mark on the world or at least on their own pockets. Town dances invited all to attend; cowboys and miners, outlaws and lawmen, bankers and merchants, cultured women and soiled doves. Dances were important to bring a community together for courtship and friendshipping. It was also a vehicle that mixed the social classes, giving people opportunities for advancing one’s class. America’s class system wasn’t as rigid as had been the countries of Europe and the attendees of the dances proved this especially in the West.
Immigrants found it easy to hoe-down with their neighbors as many of the dances originated in Europe and changed very little from the folk dances people already knew. The Polka was a favorite in the new West, but other common dances were the Quadrille, Grand March, Waltz and Scottish Fling. As dances evolved, new steps became incorporated and a dance master would call out the steps to keep the group in sync. This evolved into an American original, the square dance. It seemed to fit the American ideal of a mixture of people and ideas that work together to create a new culture.
In many western towns, women were scarce. And just as in Shakespeare’s plays, men would assume the female role. “Heifer branding” solved the problem as burly men would don a piece of fabric tied round their arm or strap on a bonnet or apron to take the place of the fairer sex and the party continued.
Hurdy-Gurdy Girls traveled to western towns in a group of several women, chaperoned by a married couple, often with children. They hired out for dances and then traveled on to another town.
Saloons found that dancing brought in more men and more money, and employed women as dance hall girls. These women were looked down upon by “proper” ladies, but they were not prostitutes as they were accused. Men would buy a dance ticket for a dollar, then spend it on a partner of his choice, dancing together for a quarter of an hour. The interaction allowed for dance and conversation with men starved for female companionship.
The women generally earned half the price of the tickets they claimed. If they took the man to the bar after the dance, they received a commission on the drinks as well. The dance hall girls could make more in a week than most men made in a month. They also made more money than the prostitutes did, and when given an opportunity, the soiled doves made their way into the dance hall ranks.
Towns also sponsored regular dancing events. In Albert Benard de Russailh’s travel journal, Last Adventure, published in 1851, he wrote of dances in San Francisco. “I am occasionally reminded of our balls at the Salle Valentine on the Rue St. Honoré. There is one important difference: Parisian rowdies often come to blows; but in San Francisco hardly an evening passes without drunken brawls during which shots are fired.”
Dance in the Old West is part of the mystique of the era and was as vital to building their culture, as it is today. It was used to release energy, bring together neighbors, socialize, and provide recreation. So come on out to the barn—let’s dance.
One lucky commenter chosen at random will receive her choice of one of Jo Noelle’s ebooks! To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on your favorite dance or your favorite dancing memory.
Photo Attribution Public Domain: American Vaudeville Museum Collection (MS 421), MS 421 Box 66 Folder 1, azu_ms421_b66_f1_pg034a003_m.jpg, courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections.
In the Old West, the terms rustling and rustler had several meanings. Livestock who forged well were called rustlers by cowmen; meaning the animals could graze or “rustle up” nourishment on marginal land. A horse wrangler or camp cook was also a rustler, but the most widespread and notorious use of the word referred to a cattle thief.
On the vast open ranges of yesteryear, rustling was a serious problem and punishable by hanging. At its peak, one of the largest ranches in the Texas Panhandle had over 150,000 head of cattle and a thousand horses. Obviously, thieves could drive stolen livestock miles away before a rancher learned he had animals missing.
The vast distances to town, hence law enforcement, often prompted ranchers to take actions of their own. Court convictions for rustling were difficult because of the animosity of small ranchers and settlers toward big cattle outfits. Many times, “vigilante justice,” hang ‘um first…ask questions later, was handed down by organized stockmen. Like horse thieves, cattle rustlers could be hanged without benefit of trial, judge or jury.
Today, even with detailed brands logged in books, registering with state officials, inspectors, and the meticulous paperwork involving transportation, not to mention a new era of branding technology to keep track of animals, ranches still face cattle rustlers…those dishonest people who want to profit from selling cattle without the bother of raising them.
No longer is a single head of beef stolen for food or an occasional Native American slipping off the reservation to provide for his family… it is big business. Modern day rustlers often sneak onto rural ranches at night, or on weekends when the owners are away, steal and sell cattle. An average calf can bring thousands of dollars on the open market; so multiply that by a trailer, or even a truck load, of cattle and you can see why it’s a profitable business for thieves.
Amid warnings that cattle rustling is on the rise in Texas, recently the state Senate passed a measure that would stiffen penalties for stealing farm animals, making theft of even one head of livestock a third-degree felony drawing up to a ten year prison sentence and a fine. Until the proposal is signed into law, a rustler can steal ten or more head of livestock and the punishment is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the law of the Old West … hang ‘um high and fast.
But was hanging always fast and efficient?
I delved into the subject of cattle rustling and the methods of rustlers while researching for Give Me a Cowboy where my Pinkerton Agent comes to the Panhandle to break up an outfit of rustlers. But I became interested in “vigilante justice” from my mother-in-law, who recently passed on at the age of 92. A story teller, she was reared in Clayton, New Mexico. One of her favorite tales was about the outlaw Black Jack Ketchum, the first man hanged in the town. His execution turned into a big town event, with the lawmen actually selling tickets to the hangin’. As history has it, the sheriff had to use two blows of the hatchet before the rope broke. Probably because of their lack of experience in “structured” hangings, coupled with the lawmen misjudging Ketchum’s weight and stretching the rope during testing, he was beheaded. Ketchum was buried at Clayton’s Boot Hill on April 26, 1901.
But my mother-in-law’s story only began there. Three decades later, when she was in grade school, Ketchum’s grave was moved to the new cemetery. Because her father was Clayton’s mayor, she witnessed the reburial. According to her, they opened the grave and she and her cousin touched the bones of Ketchum’s little finger. I’m sure in those days a casket did not weather well.
To me it’s so fascinating when history bridges time and touches our lives. Do you have a family story where history inserted itself into reality?
I’m giving away your choice of either hardback or paperback of either Give Me a Texan or Give Me a Cowboy to one of the commenters.
Ask our guest Jennifer Uhlarik that question. She’ll tell you!
Blacksmiths—those who work to shape metal into useful tools, decorative pieces, or bits of jewelry—have been around since our earliest history. In the Old West, a blacksmith was a highly valued member of any community, as at some point, most people would find a reason to visit his shop to have a new tool crafted or an old one fixed or restored. A well-trained blacksmith would earn good pay for his craft. But it might surprise you to learn that not all blacksmiths could do all types of metalwork. Quite the contrary. Some were very specialized in their skills while others had a rather broad ability to work in many areas. Here’s a quick primer in the various types of smiths:
Blacksmith—one who works with iron and steel. Going back to the Colonial days of America (and far earlier), blacksmiths made most of the metal tools anyone could dream of. Plows, hoes, shovels, door hinges, metal chains, and everything in between. Your typical village blacksmith had a wide range of knowledge and could work on lots of types of projects.
Farrier—a smith who shaped and fit horseshoes. Since the Industrial Revolution, horseshoes have been mass-produced, but before that, shoeing horses required someone with the skill to be able to shape the iron into the horseshoe as well as adhere them to the horse’s hooves. In addition, this type of smith would have to have knowledge of how to clean, shape, and trim the horse’s hooves. Many farriers were general blacksmiths, but not all blacksmiths were farriers.
Wheelwright—a craftsman who could create or work on wooden wheels or wagons and other conveyances. This included crafting the metal wheel rims and other metal parts of wagons, carriages, and the like.
Locksmith—someone who forged locks from metal. Initially, locks were made from wood, but as man learned ways to craft with metal, the locksmiths changed their chosen media. They would work for hours, cutting and filing small pieces to create the inner workings of the locks.
Gunsmith—one who designed, built, repaired, and/or modified guns. In addition, they might also apply decorative engraving or finishes to the completed firearm. Gunsmiths still have a place in modern society, working in gun-manufacturing factories, armories, and gun shops.
Bladesmith—as you might guess, a bladesmith was someone who used blacksmithing techniques to shape metal into knives, swords, and other bladed implements. In addition, this smith would have knowledge of shaping wood for blade handles, as well as some leatherworking ability for creating knife sheaths, etc.
Swordsmith—an even more specialized form of bladesmith, who worked only on swords.
Coppersmith (also known as a Brazier)—this craftsman worked mainly with copper and brass, creating anything from jewelry to plates/platters to sculptures and more.
Silversmith—a smith whose chosen metal was silver. An interesting tidbit about silversmithing: in this craft, the metal is worked cold, unlike iron which requires great heat. As it is hammered and shaped, it becomes “work-hardened”, and if it isn’t periodically “annealed” (heated to soften it again) the silver will crack and weaken.
Goldsmith—Closely related to a silversmith, a goldsmith worked with gold and other precious metals to create silverware, jewelry, goblets, service trays, and even religious or ceremonial pieces.
There are other types of smiths, but these are some of the most common.
For the most part, the skill, craft, and artwork of the blacksmith is a thing of the past, though you can find working blacksmith shops in some places today. Sometimes they are part of historic sites or living history museums, meant to show what life was like in a given time period. Others are meant to introduce today’s culture to the craft of blacksmithing through simple hands-on classes where you can make an easy project in a few hours. Most common in today’s culture, those with smithing skills work in jewelry designing/sales, the firearm industry, or as locksmiths.
It’s your turn: Did it surprise you to learn that not all smiths could do all types of work? Which type of smithing work intrigues you the most? Leave me a comment with your thoughts, and I’ll give one commenter a signed copy of my latest release, The Blacksmith Brides, with four fun romances all containing blacksmith heroes.
Blacksmith Brides: 4 Love Stories Forged by Hard Work
Hearts Are Forged by the Flames of Gentle Love in 4 Historical Stories
Worth Fighting For (1774—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) by Pegg Thomas
Talk of war has surrounded Meg McCracken, including her father and four brothers. Alexander Ogilvie doesn’t care about the coming war; his plans are to head west. When Meg comes to his smithy, sparks fly off more than the forge. But can they build anything during unstable times?
Forging Forever (1798—Cornwall, England) by Amanda Barratt
When the actions of Elowyn Brody’s father force her into a marriage of convenience with blacksmith Josiah Hendrick, she consigns love to a bygone dream. But as Elowyn comes to know her new husband, her flame of hope begins to burn again. Until heartache threatens to sever the future forged between them.
A Tempered Heart (1861—Charlottesville, Virginia) By Angela K. Couch
Buried under a debt that is not his own, Thomas Flynn’s only focus is gaining his freedom. He has learned to keep his head low and not pay attention to the troubles of others, until a peculiar boy and his widowed mother show him how empty his life has become. After years of protecting her son from slights and neglect of the people closest them, Esther Mathews is not sure how to trust the local blacksmith with her child…or her heart.
A Malleable Heart (California—1870) by Jennifer Uhlarik
A hard-hearted blacksmith finds acceptance with the town laundress. But when his past comes to call, will he resist love’s softening or allow God to hammer his ruined life into something of worth?
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 several 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.