Friday, September 20, 2019

Seeing Double, On Purpose

Did you grow up with one of these? I did. The ViewMaster came with little round cardboard frames holding celluloid squares of far-away places and famous people. You slipped the cardboard into the back of the viewer and held it to the light, and you saw a three-dimensional picture that transported you to another time and place.

But the ViewMaster was only one of a long line of devices. In the nineteenth century, such devices were called stereoscopes, and the pictures that you viewed were stereographs. Instead of being mounted on a circle, these cards came with a single image side by side. And they were hugely popular. At the peak of the craze, a sought-after stereograph card might be printed and sold more than 100,000 times!

Naturally, photographers were keen to have one of their images used. But a stereograph required careful composition. In the early years, a photographer would shoot two pictures, one slightly offset from the other. When viewed together, the pictures took on a three-dimensional aspect. By the middle of the 19th century, camera makers had devised a stereographic camera—one exposure, two offset pictures.

Some of the stereographs were of famous places like Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. Others showed architectural or engineering wonders like the Washington Monument or a famous courthouse. Local manufacturers might issue stereographs of nearby attractions. Other cards told a story through a series of photographs, like a courtship or a trip on a sailing ship.

Here are a few for your viewing pleasure. First, Westminster Abbey

 Then one called "The Penn."

Perhaps a cowboy?

Or a child?

And of course, there's always the self-promoting card. ;-)

What place or person would you want on a card for your collection?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Pass the Popcorn, Please

We’re getting closer to the release day for my new young adult historical fantasy, Evergreen...and yes, I’m excited, in case you were wondering. Excited enough that I just had to share this with NineteenTeen readers...

I hope it intrigues you just a little!* 

Evergreen will be out on November 5 both in print and in e-book from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and GooglePlay, as well direct from its publisher, Book View Café.

Friday, September 13, 2019

And Many More!

It’s that time of year again: NineteenTeen is having a birthday!

Time for party hats...

(Hey, we’re Nineteen-Teen. Our concept of party hats may be a little out of the usual way, but did you expect anything else?)

Time for balloons...

(What? Wrong kind of balloon? But latex and mylar are so, like, twenty-first century!

And of course, time for cake!

(Lots and lots of cake, please. Especially like this one, without frosting--just pure cakey goodness. Not very historical, but one must make sacrifices where chocolate is concerned.)

This year we’re celebrating twelve years of blogging. Yeah, twelve—we can hardly believe it ourselves. It’s been a busy twelve years: between us, Regina and I have posted one thousand, one hundred and fifty-seven times (including this post), with an average of just under a hundred posts per year.  

We’re writers; story is what we’re all about. But we’re also about the stories behind the story--and that’s where our history geekitude comes in. Sharing the stories behind the stories is what NineteenTeen is all about...and we thank you for listening to our stories for the last dozen years.

Have some cake. 💖 😊

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Happy Birthday to Us!

Twelve years blogging! Who could have imagined? (Well, perhaps the little girl in the Victorian birthday card here.) Marissa and I are honored and humbled that you’ve stayed with us all this time. If you are relatively new to Nineteen Teen, or if you simply like to reminisce, we thought we’d look back at some of our most popular posts and ask you what you’d like to see in the future.

Marissa is fabulous (though she won’t admit it) with detailing the fascinating, and sometimes tragic, lives of King George’s and Victoria’s children. This post on Princess Helena has the highest number of hits over the years. 

We’ve also brought you some tidbits of history, including one on the invention of matches (surprisingly, another of the top 10 posts of all time). 

And Marissa’s fashion forecasts, like this one for 1812, remain perennial favorites. 

So, in the coming year, what would you like more of?

What would you like less of?

What else can we do to amuse you and keep you informed about the marvelous nineteenth century?

Friday, August 30, 2019

100 Years and Counting: Grand Canyon National Park

File:ENTERING THE GRAND CANYON - NARA - 544313.jpgMy father instilled in me a love and fascination with our national parks. When I was a child, he took us up camping on Mt. Rainier nearly every weekend. At least once a summer saw us in the Olympics. I’ve since toured Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Yosemite, and the Redwoods, and I currently live forty-five minutes from the gates of Mt. Rainier.

But nothing prepared me for the Grand Canyon.

My family visited for the first time in 2016. The craggy cliffs fading into the distance, the sheer drops, the silence! It is an amazing place, and one I feel fortunate to be writing about in A Distance Too Grand, out in October.

People have stood in awe of the canyon for eons. The earliest human inhabitant of the area has been dated to 12,000 years ago, after the last Ice Age. Native Americans found ways to live among the rugged cliffs and thundering rapids. Missionaries, the U.S. military, prospectors, and lumberman made brief forays into the depths. Army lieutenant Joseph Christmas Ives, in his report of his exploration partway into the canyon in 1858, called the area “altogether valueless.” He predicted that his would be the last party of Anglo-Americans to visit this “profitless locality,” which would be “forever unvisited and undisturbed.”

I’m glad not everyone agreed.

Additional explorers, such as John Wesley Powell, lauded the majesty of the canyon. In 1893, President Benjamin Harrison protected the area as a forest reserve. In 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt added federal game preserve protections. But it wasn’t until February 1919 that President Woodrow Wilson would make the canyon and its branches a national park. About 44,000 people went to visit it that year.

Today, the park boasts more than five million visitors a year. That’s quite a party. Happy birthday, Grand Canyon National Park!

P.S.—Marissa and I will be off next week, partying ourselves. We will be celebrating Labor Day and the end of summer. Look for new posts the week of September 9th.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Retro Read: Meet Mrs. Fish

Summertime, and the livin’ is...well, in early twentieth century Newport, Rhode Island, it was crazily, ostentatiously over-the-top! Here’s a summertime blast from the past appropriate for the warm, hazy days of August (though it’s feeling kind of Septemberish on Cape Cod just now) and as a gear-up to Evergreen’s release in November. Enjoy!
One of the most interesting people I’ve “met” over the course of doing research for my non-nineteenth century book is Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, known as “Mamie” to her friends. Mamie Fish, along with her frenemies Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and Tessie Oelrichs, was one of THE leaders of Gilded Age society in New York and Newport—in fact, they were known as the Great Triumvirate.

She was born in 1855 to a prosperous but not particularly wealthy or socially prominent family. But little Marion (as she was christened), despite her lack of connections, married well—her childhood neighbor and sweetheart, Stuyvesant Fish, scion of an important and wealthy family. Mr. Fish was no rich idler; despite his inheritance, he worked his way up through the ranks to become president of the Illinois Central Railroad. He and Mamie were, unusually for their time and class, a devoted couple; even during the height of the social season, at least once a week Mamie made sure they dined alone at home together, usually on Mr. Fish’s favorite corned beef and cabbage. She was also an involved and loving mother to their three children, all of whom turned out shockingly normal.

If Mamie were to summarized in one word, that word would probably be "feisty". Though not a beauty nor very well-educated (it was said that she could barely read and sign her name), she made up for these defects with a quick intelligence and an even quicker wit. Born today, I could see her in politics or in entertainment; but the only career open to a woman of her class at the turn of the twentieth century was social lioness, and Mamie went for it with a vengeance. She was utterly fearless, and alas, tactless…and yet it became almost something of a badge of honor to have been insulted (and in one case, run over repeatedly) by Mrs. Fish.

She came to “power” as the former queen of society, Mrs. Astor (of The Four Hundred fame) was winding down her social career. But society had changed since Mrs. Astor’s heyday, and Mamie fitted the new freer, faster pace of society to a T. She flouted convention and never paid social calls, left parties she found boring (usually loudly announcing the fact), and went to bed if she found her own parties had grown dull. In fact, she often seemed to dislike entertaining, and once announced to her guests, “Make yourselves perfectly at home, and believe me, there is no one who wishes you were there more than I do!” To a collection of ladies arrived for a luncheon in their newest Parisian couture, she said, “Here you all are, older faces and younger clothes.”

With her friend (some called him her “court jester”) Harry Lehr, Mamie did her best to shake things up. Parties became even more elaborate and costly and outrageously themed. When an enemy of Mamie’s failed to invite her to a party given in honor of the Tsar’s brother, Mamie threw her own for the Tsar himself and stole away all her rival’s guests, eager to meet the Tsar…who turned out to be Harry in disguise. It was a huge hit, and the following day the Tsar’s brother told Mamie he wished he’d been there, too. On another occasion they threw a party for the mysterious Prince del Drago of Corsica…and the guests who arrived eager to rub shoulders with royalty found that the distinguished Prince was a monkey in evening dress. Yet when she invited Marie Dressler to entertain her guests at a party, the actress sat down to dinner first with Mamie as an equal—unheard of in that day and age. She enjoyed lambasting the snobbishness of society; her mansion in Newport boasted no marble panels or stained glass windows bought from French chateaux or Italian palazzi, but was built in Colonial Revival style and furnished with American art and antiques.

I can’t help thinking there’s something a little sad about Mamie—poorly educated, her obvious brains and wit wasted in parties and dinners--yet what other outlet did she have? I think this accounts for some of her outrageousness and her poking-holes-from-the-inside attitude. I also think that sometimes, she just couldn’t stop herself, as when her friend Alva Belmont came to her and angrily said, “I hear that you have been telling everyone that I look like a frog!” (which she rather did, if you look at her portraits…) Mamie demurred: “No, no…not a frog! A toad, my pet, a toad!”

Friday, August 23, 2019

Blast from the Past: Doggett's Coat and Badge

Life's been more hectic than usual lately, so here's a little blast from the past, 2012, in fact. I'm stilling trying to find Pickle Herring. Enjoy!

August could be a sweltering time in London in the nineteenth century. Anyone who could got out of town, to their country estates, to the seashore, to the Lake District. The Picture of London, which for many years was an annual volume of places to see and things to do in the capital, called the month a “dull season for amusement.” So what was a young lady or gentleman to do if the family chose not to rusticate?

On August 1, one might head to the Thames for the annual race called Doggett’s Coat and Badge. It had been instituted in the 1700s by Thomas Dogget, an Irish comedian who also jointly managed the Drury Lane Theatre. In keeping with the times, he endowed a wager: a crimson coat and a silver badge to the winner of a rowing race up the Thames, from The Swan at London Bridge to The Swan at Chelsea, a distance of 4 miles and 7 furlongs that could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to row, depending on the tide and the weight of the boat. 

Only six men could compete, and only if they were watermen within the first year of finishing their apprenticeships. You could put in your name and the Fishmongers Company, who had agreed to administrate the race, would draw the name of the six lucky rowers.

And not just any rowers. Watermen were like taxi drivers. Their job was the row people from one side of the river to the other in boats that ranged from sculls to heavy-bottomed wherries. Many had set routes or locations from which they rowed: Wapping Old Stairs, Westminster, and Putney, for example. One of the winners was from Pickle Herring. I want to find that spot. 

The Thames is a tidal river, meaning that the current and depth changes constantly over the day. Rowing upriver could be extremely challenging. People crowded the bridges, flocked to spots that overlooked the river, even thronged on larger boats and barges just to watch the prodigious feat.

The winner got his own parade and a banquet at the Fishmongers Hall. And the badge? It was a huge piece of silver, about the size of a dinner plate, that you wore on your upper right arm. It was engraved with symbols representing the House of Hanover, as Doggett had been a big supporter of King George.

The race is still run today, although generally in late July. This is the winner from 2010, Daniel Arnold, along with previous winners, courtesy of the Fishmongers Company's press release.

As you can probably tell, then as now, winning was considered quite the honor.

Especially if you were from Pickle Herring.