Friday, April 24, 2015

Just Another Day at the Fort

First, congratulations to Emily W.  She was the only one brave enough to hazard a guess as to the physical models for my hero James and heroine Rina in the upcoming Frontier Engagement.  Yes, indeed, I had Ryan Gosling in mind for James.  I had to look long and hard to find the face of the woman in my head for Rina.  Britain’s Harrie Hayes fit the bill.  Emily W. e-mail me at reginascott@owt.com, and I’ll let you choose from my author stash. 

This past weekend I had the privilege of visiting Fort Nisqually, a living history museum located in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Washington.  While some of the buildings actually date from the mid-1800s, the fort is a recreation of one that was built near the Nisqually delta by the Hudson’s Bay Company before Washington was a territory.  Last weekend the Fort hosted a special event that focused on sowing (planting, harvesting, cooking) and sewing (needlework, clothing, textiles).  There were dozens of reenactors going about their day-to-day duties in period clothing dating from the 1850s.  Many had specialties, in cooking, in clothing, in bonnets, in gardening.  And they were all willing to answer endless questions from an absolutely fascinated romance writer.

So, what did I learn from my visit?

Pioneers in Washington Territory had no need for horse shoes.  This is one of those palm-to-forehead moments.  Of course the horses didn’t need shoes!  As the blacksmith so eloquently put it, the closest paved road was in San Francisco (and I’m not too sure there were many there!).

Camas plants with blue flowers are edible; camas plants with white flowers are poisonous.  I had read about camas, a plant prized by Native Americans for its pulpy potato-like bulb.  It has more protein per ounce than a steelhead.  I had never seen one until this trip, and then I discovered them growing in the nature preserve near my home!

Wild sweet William (soapwort or saponaria) can be used to create a much nicer soap than boiling fat and adding lye. It smells good, and it’s a lot easier on the skin.

The British settlers still imported much of what they needed from England, including panes of glass for windows.  The glass would come in barrels packed in molasses. A favored clerk was appointed to unpack the glass; he got to keep the molasses!

As you can probably tell, I highly recommend a visit to the Fort if you are in the area.  On May 16 the members will be celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday.  August 8 and 9, there will be a live camp-in to recreate the historic visit of fur traders to the fort in 1855. You can learn more here

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Argh, Matey! Or, An Ackermann before Ackermann’s?

Okay, I believe we have by now established that I am perhaps just a little captivated by early 19th century periodicals...and perhaps just a little bit more captivated by Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts in particular, that popular magazine published between 1809 and 1829, a fascinating era in British social history. And ohmigosh, the fashion prints—they’re pure eye candy! The detail, the coloring, the descriptions—just delicious. Historical research isn’t always this much fun.

I recently obtained a new print for my Ackermann collection, an Evening Dress in pink with a yellow overdress with train (not my favorite color combination, but tastes change...). The text at the bottom reads “EVENING DRESS London published as the Act directs June 1803 by R. Ackermann, at 101 Strand.” The quality of the engraving is far below Ackermann’s later standards in the Repository: the details of the overdress are just sort of squiggled, and the headdress is rather shapeless; only the wearer’s face is carefully depicted.

But “Wow!” I thought. “An Ackermann fashion print from six years before he brought out the Repository! How awesome is that?” Well, pretty awesome, of course...but being who we are at NineteenTeen, I wanted to know more. Had Ackermann brought out other fashion prints before 1809?

So I did a little digging on line, and found prints in a similar style from 1803 from Le Miroir de la Mode, a short-lived publication by Madame Lanchester, a well-known London modiste who would one day serve as Ackermann’s chief fashion consultant for the Repository. The Lanchester prints are much larger and more finely detailed, which makes me think that what I have here is...well, a pirated copy of a print from Le Miroir.

Copyright law as we know it simply did not exist in 1803, and printmakers and booksellers constantly stole content and republished it. That uber-bestseller serial from 1820, The History of Tom and Jerry; or the Day and Night Scenes of Life in London by Pierce Egan, had been pirated within twelve hours of its first appearance in bookshops. Not bad, even by modern bootlegging standards.

Nor was an ocean any barrier to pirating: check out this print from the English The Court Magazine in 1833...


...and this print from the American Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1834:


So...ahem...might we have here a less-than-official version of Madame Lanchester’s work? Or does the text at the bottom of the print "publish as the Act directs" mean Ackermann had some sort of permission to reprint?  I don’t know for certain so I did a little more on-line searching, and see that while the term appears on many prints in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, I could not find an explanation of what it means. So was Ackermann a pirate? I don't know...but it's looking a little suspicious!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cover Reveal! Frontier Engagement

I mentioned a few weeks ago how interesting I found the fashion plates compared to what would have been practical for my frontier ladies to be wearing in 1866 Seattle.  The same goes for gentlemen.  The tall beaver hats, tailcoats for evening wear, and elegant waistcoats weren't exactly useful when mining for gold, chopping down towering fir and cedar, or harrowing a field for planting.  Here’s how those gentlemen tended to dress:


Rugged.  Easy to move in.  Durable.  Unless of course, you happen to be James Wallin.

As those of you who have read Would-Be Wilderness Wife know, James, the third Wallin brother, is a character.  He’s always teasing anyone he likes, he has a team of horses rather than the practical oxen of the period, and he favors fancy clothes, so much so that he occasionally wears his waistcoat logging.  So when I was asked for cover ideas for James’s story, Frontier Engagement (due out August 1), I advised my publisher to dress him up nicely, even if he is in the wilderness.  In fact, he needed to be dressed as nicely as the heroine, Rina Fosgrave, who has a rather, ahem, aristocratic background for a lady sailing on the Mercer Expedition.

I am pleased to reveal the cover for Frontier Engagement:


James Wallin's family is depending on him to find a schoolteacher for their frontier town. Alexandrina Fosgrave seems to be exactly what he needs to help fulfill his father's dream of building a new community. If only James could convince her to accept the position.

Alexandrina has traveled west to seek a fresh start, not to find a groom. But after she's stranded in the wilderness with James, he offers her his hand in marriage to protect her reputation. Both are afraid to fall in love, but maybe an engagement of convenience could make them reconsider… 

Want to guess the actor/actress I had in my mind for the physical characteristics of James and Rina?  The hero has a drive about him, and he’s been known to advise people about crazy, stupid love.  Though he’s starred in a period flick, he was a bit of a gangster.  The heroine, on the other hand, may be a little tougher to identify.  A Brit, she shares a first name with a certain popular boy wizard with a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. She’s a triple threat as a writer, actress, and comedienne, working in theatre as well as in film.

Who do you think I used?  Guess right and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win a free copy of a book from my author stash (which currently includes copies of The Bride Ship, The Wife Campaign, The Captain’s Courtship, and the hard-to-find earlier novel, Starstruck). 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Such Language! Part 14

More vocabulary shenanigans!

As in a previous “Such Language” post, instead of giving an illustrating sentence for each word, I’m listing the full definitions as provided in The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, just because they're so much fun as they are. Enjoy!

P.P.C.: An inscription on the visiting cards of our modern fine gentleman, signifying that they have called pour prendre conge, i.e. ‘to take leave,’ This has of late been ridiculed by cards inscribed D.I.O. i.e. ‘Damme, I’m off.’

Devil’s Daughter: It is said of one who has a termagant for his wife, that he has married the Devil’s daughter, and lives with the old folks.

To shew the lions and tombs: To point out the particular curiosities of any place, to act the ciceroni: an allusion to Westminster Abbey and the Tower [of London], where the tombs and lions are shewn. A lion is also a name given by the gownsmen of Oxford to an inhabitant or visitor. It is a standing joke among the city wits to send boys and country folks, on the first of April, to the Tower-ditch, to see the lions washed.

Punch: A liquor called by foreigners Contradiction, from its being composed of spirits to make it strong, water to make it weak, lemon juice to make it sour, and sugar to make it sweet.

Scraping: A mode of expressing dislike to a person, or sermon, practiced at Oxford by the students, in scraping their feet against the ground during the preachment; frequently done to testify their disapprobation of a proctor who has been, as they think, too rigorous.

Seven-sided Animal: A one-eyed man or woman, each having a right side and a left side, a fore side and a back side, an outside, an inside, and a blind side.

Ungrateful man: A parson, who at least once a week abuses his best benefactor, i.e. the devil. ☺

Friday, April 10, 2015

Drew Wallin's Cabin Stands Today!

Like many authors, I scour the internet for period-correct pictures to use as writing aids.  They help me envision how my hero and heroine looked, what they wore, where they lived, and how they lived.  I had chosen a very special cabin as my inspiration for the home of Drew Wallin, my hero in March’s Would-Be Wilderness Wife.  I’d never seen one like it.  It was originally built by David Denny in the late 1800s in Seattle, so I knew it was not only fairly close to my time period but also perfect for the frontier Seattle that is the setting of my story. He built it originally as a real estate office to interest people in land, coincidentally land that the Wallins would have owned. It was later used as a school and another business, and a rumor circulated that Chief Sealth, for whom Seattle is named, built it.

Yes, it was a lovely cabin.  I was happy to write about Drew living there.  What I never expected was to find it.  Here.  Now.

I was driving my husband to Federal Way to meet up with a friend who was taking him to a workshop.  “We’ll pass a park,” I said, nose glued to the map on my smart phone, “and then you turn left.”  Glancing up, I saw we were passing a park.

A park with Drew’s cabin sitting on the grass.

I gasped.  I choked.  “Did you see that?” I demanded of my husband.  “That cabin!  That was Drew’s cabin!”

“What cabin?” my husband asked.  “Am I supposed to turn left somewhere?”

I got him safely to his friend’s, then turned the car around.  All the way back, I kept watch, and when the driveway opened up for the park, I pulled in.  There it was, just as I remembered it.  It had to be a replica, right?  I mean, two-story log cabins from the 1800s don’t generally survive in our world.  And it hadn’t been built in Federal Way, nearly 30 miles south of David Denny’s claim.  How could it have made the trip? 

Scrambling up to the cabin in the early morning light, I peered into the windows.  A sign proudly proclaimed it the restored David Denny cabin.

I was stunned.  I was delighted!  It was as if a little part of Drew and Catherine had found its way into my world.

And now yours.  If you ever get to West Hylebos Wetlands Park in Federal Way, Washington, you can see it for yourself.  The cabin has been lovingly restored by the Federal Way Historical Society.  Drew’s box bed is missing, alas, but you can imagine them sitting around the hearth, planning the next day’s adventure.  I certainly did!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Regency Fabrics, Part 4

What fabrics were fashionable in July 1809? Let’s have a look!

As I have in previous posts on Regency fabrics, I’m looking at actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like.

Four fabrics are up for July...the overall condition is good, though fabric No. 4 seems to have some foxing, and I suspect the yellow in No. 1 has faded slightly.


No. 1 is a yellow-printed book-muslin, ell-wide, admirably adapted for ladies’ evening dresses, and furnished by Messrs. Smith and Co. 43, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: Very fine, open weave (book-muslin is a very thin fabric by definition), definitely requiring an underdress of some sort. The threads are not as even in thickness as I would expect for an upscale fabric. I can’t really picture this for evening wear—the pattern reminds me too much of 1930s quilt fabric, but that’s more my problem! By the way, an English ell was usually about 45 inches—so this would have been very close in width to a modern bolt of fabric.

 
No. 2, a striped muslin, or nainsook, 6-4ths wide, is an extremely elegant article for morning dresses, and was supplied by Messrs. Brisco and Powley, 103, New Bond-street.

My comments: Lovely stuff! The woven-in stripes are beautiful and delicate, the weave very tight and thread very fine, so that despite its overall lightness it seems fairly opaque. I'm not sure what "6/4ths wide" would work out to in modern terms--if anyone out there knows, will you please comment?


No. 3 is a printed cambric-muslin, 9-8ths wide. It is a highly-fahionable article, and uncommonly elegant, from the delicacy of its design and print, which we have authority to assure the public to be a permanent colour. It was furnished us by the same house as the previous pattern.

My comments: Another print that reminds me of 1930s quilting cottons! A slightly sturdier thread than the book-muslin, and therefore less sheer but still a nice, light weight dress fabric.


No. 4. This chintz, or shawl pattern marcella, ¾ wide, is a truly elegant and fashionable article for gentlemen’s waistcoats. It was furnished by Messrs. Richard Smith and co. 2, Prince’s-street, Leicester-square.

My comments: A heavy, almost quilted-feeling fabric, with both a printed pattern and a corded stripe pattern woven in. It’s not what we would call a chintz today, but definitely a pique (the alternate name of marcella). Very smooth and nicely woven.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, my dears!  I hope your Sunday is sunny and happy, with friends and family around you, no matter how you celebrate the day.

As I was looking for inspiration for this post, I discovered several lovely Victorian or turn-of-the-century Easter cards. These were given to friends or passed out as promotional material by various companies seeking good will.  Some, like the one at the right, were sentimental over spring. 

Others were playful.


Many followed the traditional story of bunnies and baskets.


And then there were a few that were downright odd.  My sons wanted to know why a bunny brought eggs.  I don’t know what they’d think about a lamb hatching out of one!


May all your animals behave in a suitably proper manner this Easter.